Duck the Odds, Week 14: The Apple Cup is Potentially More Interesting Than The Civil War and I Want to Throw Things

TWO HATS, STEVE? - Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Can Steve Sark and the Seven-Win Dwarfs get off the schneid and win that hard 8?


The Standings:

Last Week: Pac-12 Picks: 2-4; Other Picks: 3-1; Overall: 5-5; Mustache Margin: +4.

Overall: Pac-12 Picks: 5-7; Other Picks: 7-3; Overall: 12-10; Mustache Margin: +11.

This Week:

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! This year I'm thankful that at least in the wake of an embarrassing Ducks defeat, no one punched Byron Hout. That we know of. #PrayForByron.

After a weird, weird Week 13 that saw Baylor and Oregon's shiny offenses get clobbered and Arizona State and Stanford seal spots in the Pac-12 Championship game (yawn), a lot of the drama has been taken out of the Pac and the Big 12. Nevertheless, our journey continues, and there are definitely some intriguing matchups with some value. LET'S GO.

(Reminders: (i) Lines are from Las Vegas Insider's Consensus Picks; (ii) Picks are on a 1-to-5 Mike Bellotti "Staches" confidence-o-meter. Obviously more "Staches" is good. In all contexts.)

The Ducks:

--> Oregon State (+21.5) @ Oregon (1-Stache Pick)

There's a lot of "womp-womp" to go around for both fanbases, including, but not limited to: (i) Beavers are bowl eligible, but limp into the Civil War at 6-5 following 4 straight Pac-12 losses; and (ii) 42-16.

But want to hear a REALLY weird/depressing stat? This is the first Civil War since 2007 when a BCS berth is not on the line.

Regardless of all the historical shiznit, jeez, this is a tough line to pick. And if I weren't pressed into service for ATQ to make the call, I'd stay a mile away from this game, because I have zero idea what to expect from either squad.

But a good rule of thumb: when you have no idea what to expect from a game, and it's a rivalry, cautiously take double-digit points. Ducks SHOULD win here, but there's an equal chance of the game being an ugly slopfest or a shootout. Taking points is good in both cases.

The Pac:

--> UCLA @ USC (-3.5) (4-Stache Pick)

I think after what USC has been through and the talk they've heard about UCLA passing them up, Coach O and the Trojans are ready to give UCLA the beat down.

It's become the Xs-and-Os-thing-that-everyone-knows, but UCLA's offensive system is just not that creative. You have decent zone coverage on the back end and tackle the swing pass for 3 yard gains, you're golden against this crew. USC is playing steady, consistent offense, and has the talent on defense to tangle with any team in the West. And they're finally healthy.

UCLA is talented on both sides of the ball, sure, but I just see too many ways for UCLA to blow it in what's sure to be a packed Coliseum. And now that USC has realized that their talent is competitive with anyone in the country, there lots of ways for USC to control the game: running game, defense, Lee & Agholor, etc. USC gets the big LA win, and moves to 10-3, thanks to the "go to Hawaii, get an extra home game" rule. (Yep, learned that rule this year. It's a thing.)

As much as it scares me to admit that USC might be "back," I think they just might be. ASU, Arizona, and UCLA's window to assert themselves in the South may be rapidly closing.

--> Notre Dame @ Stanford (-14) (3-Stache Pick)

I just have the feeling that Stanford's secondary will make Tommy Rees pay. Why? Because EVERY good secondary has made Rees pay. Notre Dame has an unreliable pass game, and extraordinarily pedestrian rushing numbers (79th in yards per game). Not a great formula for success on the road, and that's kind of how Notre Dame's season has played out. Let's power-rank their road appearances: (1) 45-10 win over Air Force, (2) 31-24 squeaker over the PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (emphasis supplied because they're terrible), (3) 41-30 loss to the MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (samesies), and (4) 28-21 loss to Pitt.

I know what Stanford's defense can/will do, I'm pretty sure I know what Stanford's offense can/will do, and as long as they call plays like they did against Oregon/Cal/UCLA, I think they cruise at home, 31-14.

--> Colorado (+16.5) @ Utah (2-Stache Pick)

This line started at 14, but sprung upward in Utah's favor. Regardless of how "bad" Colorado is, can you tell me exactly *why* Utah is favored by three scores over, well...anyone?? Utah's last win was over Stanford on October 12, and it sits at 4-7 (1-7). Guess who else sits at 4-7 (1-7)? The Buffs.

The last time Utah hosted CU, the Utes were a 22-point favorite, and a win would have put them into the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. The Buffs waltzed in and won outright, 17-14.

Utah is fresh off a demoralizing trip to the Palouse where they failed to play what I like to call "the defense," and now we expect them to come home and win by 17? Not saying CU wins this game, but 16.5 points seems like a lot to lay on a Utah team that hasn't looked good in a LONG time. Take the points, and see if CU can get some positive momentum going into the offseason.

My mind says: --> Washington State @ Washington (-14)

But my body says: --> Washington State (+14) @ Washington

In other words:

The 4th straight Seven Win Steve potential is HILARIOUS, and I would LOVE to see Wazzu take the Apple Cup and join Washington at 7-5, especially with how well Leach and the Cougs have done recently.

But you can't ignore what Washington just did to Oregon State. (ICYMI, Washington led 48-0 at the start of the 4th quarter en route to a 69-27 road win.) The Beavers have a strikingly similar offensive attack as Washington State, and UW was able to crush OSU defensively. The Huskies have one of the best rushing attacks in all of football, and super-recruit QB Wrecking Ball (aka Cyler Miles) is doing enough to help them have some success through the air. While the Cougars have had some nice wins recently, it's been in spite of their rushing defense, not because of it. They could get gashed on the ground by Sankey & Co. here.

Even though I'd like to stay professional, I just gotta root for WSU here. What's more, this is a rivalry game, and only one of the the last five had a differential of more than 7 points. Root for weirdness, for the sweet, sweet taste of Husky Tears, and for my favorite Twitter trends: #SevenWinSteve and #FireSark. LET'S GO COUGS: Washington State +14 (1-Stache Pick).

--> Arizona @ Arizona State (-13) (1-Stache Pick)

Another very tough pick. Both programs are coming off colossal wins - over Oregon at home and knocking off UCLA on the road - and looked impressive in the process. ASU is a two-score favorite at home, and they've played fantastic in Tempe this season. Arizona is a sexy pick here, but we have to remember that in their win over Oregon, EVERYTHING WENT RIGHT. All the bounces and penalties went in their favor. They didn't turn the ball over. Oregon dropped a ton of passes. It would take basically all of that happening again for Zona to knock off the Sun Devils, and Graham's boys are rolling right now. I'm very confused about how to feel about this line, but I have more faith in ASU than in Arizona. Let's cautiously lay the points and see what these two squads are made of.

Elsewhere:

With Oregon's bowl chances looking like either the Alamo or the Holiday (EXASPERATED SIGH), we'll keep our focus on the upper-middle Big 12. But still worth looking at the potential B1G representative in the Rose Bowl, and a couple big SEC battles will set up the BCS picture.

--> Ohio State (-14) @ Michigan (4-Stache Pick)

Give me a reason to bet on Michigan right now. They have looked "good" in exactly two games: wins over Notre Dame and Minnesota. They've looked groggy and inconsistent in every other contest.

I don't love Ohio State either, but I think they're eager to prove something here, and are just way better at every position than Michigan. It's not a complete blowout, but I just don't really see a scenario where Michigan can score enough points to keep it within 20. Laying the points on road is usually risky, especially in a rivalry game, but I think the Buckeyes are ready for their closeup.

--> Baylor (-12.5) @ TCU (3-Stache Pick)

TCU sits at 4-7 overall and 3-8 against the spread after being a sexy offseason pick to win the Big 12. (Wait a minute: did I just call TCU sexy?) TCU has has had decent showings the past two weeks, beating Iowa State and almost beating Kansas State on the road, but no one would say they "look good" lately. (Kind of like the end of Madonna's career.)

Despite last week's weird JV-team-impersonation, Baylor can still put up 50 in this game. I think TCU finds itself in the hole early, and will throw picks and make bad decisions trying to dig out. With very little home field advantage to speak of, I think TCU will be unable to stop Baylor's run game and will almost certainly give up big plays in the pass game.

I think 12.5 is low. Lay the points, even though Baylor has been up-and-down on the road this season.

--> Texas A&M @ Missouri (-3) (3-Stache Pick)

Despite being 9-1-1 against the spread this year, Missouri keeps getting single-digit spreads. Now, this IS Texas A&M coming to town, and you can't disregard their ability to score. But I've got a bridge to sell you if you think A&M stops Missouri from scoring 40. And despite not getting much noise, Mizzou's defense is excellent, and will be able to get after Manziel. Couple that with the fact that this will only be A&M's fourth road game of the year ([poundsign]SECScheduling), I think Mizzou wins this by a TD and clinches a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

--> Minnesota @ Michigan State (-14.5) (2-Stache Pick)

It all came crumbling down for Minnesota last week as the Golden Gophers couldn't muster a single offensive point at home against Wisconsin. They've got a much sterner defense awaiting them in East Lansing, and Michigan State wants that Rose Bowl bad. Minnesota is a nice story this year, but they ain't keeping it close with Sparty. I'm laying points on Michigan State's defense til they prove otherwise. Call it 31-10.

--> Alabama (-10.5) @ Auburn (2-Stache Pick)

Money's coming in on Alabama, and for good reason. The Roll Damn Tide are 7-4 against the spread, and only failed to score 30 points twice: both Mississippi schools, both double digit wins. Auburn's had a magical run to land at 10-1, and have been by all accounts, the the luckiest team in major college football. (If sappy Ben Folds songs aren't your thing, don't click that link. And also: grow a soul, you monster.)

I'd love to pick with my heart and pick Auburn to get the upset, but my problem is this: the Tigers live and die in the run game and in special teams, and have an unreliable pass game. You want to bet against Bama in that kind of battle? The fewest points Bama has given up (other than the A&M shootout) was 17 to LSU. Even if we grant Auburn 24, Alabama is pretty good at scoring points, too.

I'd really like to see Auburn give em a game here. And I hope they do. But I think Bama's too consistent and too good against the run to let Auburn have their way. I'll lay the points on the Tide.

--> Texas Tech (+5.5) @ Texas (1-Stache Pick)

Shit. I have no idea. You just can't peg Texas down, and I have no clue which of the several available manifestations of Texas Tech will show up. The only rule I can think of is to take the points in a shootout, since I don't really trust the Longhorns' defense to stop Tech's passing game (especially superfreak Jace Amaro). But for all practical purposes, STAY AWAY.

--

Stay tuned next week to see how we did, and for lines for the conference championship games and odds-and-ends Big 12 matchups.

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