This is a good set of games in the Pac-10, and a really boring set of games everywhere else.
Oregon (-6) @ Arizona
Preseason Pick: Arizona
This is a great game, not quite for all the marbles (the winner still needs to win out to make the Rose Bowl), but pretty darn close. The winner is in the driver’s seat, and the loser is essentially done in the Rose Bowl hunt. At first glance, this game resembles Oregon’s last road game, at Stanford, which they lost. The Ducks are once again playing well, they are once again around a touchdown favorite on the road, and they are once again playing a team with a lot more offense than defense. If Arizona can get Nic Grigsby back, they’ll have the weapons to keep up with the Ducks (whose defense is starting to look fairly vulnerable), and unlike Stanford, they actually have a decent home-field advantage. Oregon is only 2-2 on the road, with wins over UCLA and Washington, and losses to Boise and Stanford. That’s not a record that inspires confidence against a tough Arizona team.
On the Other Hand:
Oregon is still a really good football team, and is still better than the Wildcats. They have a great offense with a boatload of weapons, and while their defense has been a bit spotty lately, it’s still generally been better than Arizona’s. Other than Boise, no one has come close to stopping them, and the Wildcats hardly look like they’re going to be that team. And in a track meet of a game, the team with the better weapons and the better defense is the favorite and deservedly so.
Bad things seem to happen to the Ducks on the road. Boise dominated them, Stanford won fairly easily, and lest we forget, UCLA walked into the locker room with a halftime lead. Yes, the Ducks are the better team, but they’re not so much better that they can overcome their overwhelming tendency to struggle away from Autzen. They’ll need a bunch of big plays to pull out the win, and I don’t think they get it.
@ Arizona 42, Oregon 38
Cal @ Stanford (-7)
Preseason Pick: Cal
For the first time since Jeff Tedford got to Cal, they find themselves an underdog in the Big Game against Stanford. Their best player, Jahvid Best, is out injured, their defense has struggled all year (though played well last week), Kevin Riley is tremendously inconsistent, and Stanford is red-hot, coming off of an upset of Oregon and then a thrashing of USC in the Coliseum. If both teams bring their “A” game, you have to expect Stanford to win. Their defense is lacking, but their offense is virtually unstoppable, and their special teams (especially their return game) are very strong. Toby Gerhart has played himself into Heisman consideration, and will almost certainly find himself in New York City as a finalist if he finishes strong against Cal and Notre Dame. Andrew Luck is already a good quarterback and has only gotten better as the year goes on. And this team will be fired up to keep their hot streak going and to avenge the beating Cal laid on them last year in Berkeley.
On the Other Hand:
It feels like it’s time for letdown for Stanford, after two consecutive upset wins, especially last week at USC. It’s hard to come up with a big win, it’s really hard to do it twice, and it only gets tougher every week that you try and keep it up. If the tank is empty, they could very well lose this game. And on Cal’s side, they may well have turned the corner with last week’s win over Arizona. Stanford can score on them, but they can also score on Stanford. If Kevin Riley has a good day, if they win the turnover battle, and if their defense plays half as well as it did against the Wildcats, they are very capable of pulling the upset.
This could be a classic letdown game, not to mention another example of the Ewing Theory (Cal playing better in the wake of the Best injury). However, I just don’t think so. Stanford isn’t going to take lightly a team that’s beaten them six of the last seven, and it’s hard to read too much into Cal’s win over Arizona (who sucks on the road) in game that was largely decided on a single dumb play by the other team. An upset could happen, a close game could happen, but Stanford is the better team and it’ll probably show in the final score.
@ Stanford 31, Cal 21
Arizona St @ UCLA (-5)
Preseason Pick: UCLA
This is a hugely important game for both teams, a “win and you’re in” for UCLA, and a “lose and you’re out” for ASU. Both teams are 2-5 in the Pac-10, with wins only over the Washington schools. Both teams are supposed to be defense-first, but have had surprising struggles stopping other offenses at times this year. Considering this game is in LA, it’s unsurprising that the Bruins are favored. Both teams tend to be better at home than on the road, and to boot UCLA got a nice confidence boost last week in Pullman, while ASU got their teeth kicked in last week at Autzen. Some of it is a mirage, but the Bruins offense was at least able to play well and boost confidence, and in a desperation game, confidence can be the biggest difference. Moreover, ASU’s coaching staff has made a number of questionable decisions over the past few weeks. If it turns into a tight game, to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if they did something that costs their team the game.
On the Other Hand:
ASU has very quietly started to have occasionally good moments on offense, and still does seem to have a slightly better defense. Unless the Bruins have an unusually great day passing the ball, they’ll have to run it to win, and that should play into ASU’s strength. Moreover, while ASU may have the lead in poor coaching decisions, UCLA has hardly been immune (see: Cal loss).
I don’t trust either of these teams in this game. At home, I give the slight edge to UCLA, but this’ll go down to the wire and will probably decided by a mistake, either a penalty, a turnover, or a particularly dumb decision by one of the coaching staffs.
@ UCLA 21, Arizona St 17
Oregon St (-31.5) @ Washington
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
Oregon St is clearly capable of blowing the doors off of the Cougars. However, with the Civil War coming up, I doubt they’re going to be putting a whole lot of effort into running up the score, and I suspect the Cougars won’t be completely awful against the Beavers’ second team.
Oregon St 42, @ Washington 13
National Games of the Week:
Just a totally awful week for interesting national games. There are three mildly interesting Big Ten games (Ohio St – Michigan, Penn St – Michigan St, Wisconsin – Northwestern) that I briefly thought about adding to the list, but that conference is so awful it’s almost impossible to care about a game that isn’t two of their best four teams (Ohio St, Iowa, Penn St, Wisconsin) playing each other. Unfortunately, there isn’t much anywhere else either.
Air Force @ BYU (-10)
I have to ask, is BYU even better than the Falcons? Maybe… but I don’t think it’s by very much, and even at home, 10 points is simply too high, especially BYU having a big game against Utah coming up next week. This one goes down to the wire.
@ BYU 35, Air Force 31
LSU @ Ole Miss (-4.5)
Just a hunch, but I think the Rebels win easier than anyone seems to expect.
@ Miss 31, LSU 17
Kansas St @ Nebraska (-16.5)
Something has to be third on this list, so I guess it’s this one. 17 points is just too much. Nebraska wins, but they get pushed.
@ Nebraska 31, Kansas St 20
Kentucky +9.5 @ Georgia
This line should be slightly less than a touchdown instead of slightly less than 10. Georgia has a better SEC record, but when they’re off, they’re really off, and Kentucky has had a strong tendency to hang around their opponents, even when they lose (except for Florida and Bama, but those two are in a league of their own). Moreover, I’d expect Georgia to have at least started prepping for Georgia Tech’s option offense, which should dull their preparations for this game a bit.
Iowa St +14 @ Mizzou
These teams are both massively up and down, which means that I wouldn’t be surprised at a 30 point Tiger win, or a 14 point Iowa St win. However, 14 points is a lot to be laying for a team that can’t be trusted from one week to the next.
Tennessee -17 vs Vandy
The Vols do a great job of slapping around lesser teams, and Vandy definitely fits into this category. I doubt Lane Kiffin decides to call off the dogs until the margin has been inflated severely.
Rice +6.5 vs UTEP
UTEP is 1-4 on the road, including losses to Memphis, Tulane, and SMU. With nothing much to play for (they’re already out of the bowl picture), they could very easily lose on the road to a Rice team that has actually shown some signs of life the past couple of weeks.
Pac-10: 48-16 SU, 23-25-2 ATS
National: 18-15 SU, 16-16-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 32-25-2
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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