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Duck the Odds, Week 12: Utes in the Mothership

I'm coming aboard to pick Pac-12 games (and other notable games) against the spread every week for the rest of the year. This week, Oregon hopes for a bounce-back win as it hosts Utah, the Beavers and the Cougars go to the desert looking to stay competitive in the Pac-12, and Washington and Stanford both go to LA looking for big wins.

Jonathan Ferrey

The staff here at ATQ was generous enough to bring me aboard as a writer, and I am very excited to be a part of the squad.  I reviewed the variety of content ATQ already publishes and considered the ways I could contribute: Snarky humor? X's and O's analysis? John Canzano fan newsletter? Lane Kiffin jokes? In doing so, I realized that the degenerate gambler demographic is not receiving the attention it deserves. And that's where I come in!

So for the rest of the college football season, I'll be bringing you a humble amateur's take on the point spread for every Pac-12 game. We'll also look at games around the country that Ducks fans should be interested in.  Because if we are to "Eat Our Enemies" we must also - all together now - "Bet [On] Our Enemies."

Now (*disclaimer!*) these picks are all, of course, For Entertainment Purposes Only (tm). (I'm looking in your general direction, Gamblers Anonymous member Brent M. No, that's too obvious. We'll call him B. Musburger.)  But if people DO want to make it interesting, I am told by some that there is an app for that.

And now, onto the picks. Two items before we start:

-Picks this week are on a 1-to-5 Mike Belotti "Staches" confidence-o-meter.

...And away we go.

The Pac:

--> Washington @ UCLA (-2.5) (3-Stache Pick)

Sarky Sark and the Husky Bunch roll down to the Rose Bowl to take on #13 UCLA in a Friday night matchup. Washington looked great in its 59-7 home win last week...over Colorado. UCLA had an unlikely hero - freshman linebacker/running back/slash Myles Jack - push them to a road victory over a plucky Arizona team.

On paper, this looks like a real even matchup: both teams with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball who have recovered nicely from losses earlier in the year. But I want everyone to repeat after me: "Sark...on the night...on a get to 7 wins."

Seven-Win Steve knows that he's gotta win 2 out of the last 3 to get that elusive 8th win. Not a given: he has this trip to UCLA, a road game in Corvallis, and the Apple Cup left on the schedule. Don't you think there's a teensy chance that Sark is pressing, and not quite ready for the spotlight?

On the Xs and Os side of things: can Washington's offensive line match up against a mean, nasty UCLA front seven? Can they keep Price upright long enough to allow him to throw one of his patented game-deflating picks? (I jest. Or do I?) Can they stop a newly-invigorated UCLA run offense, and Hundley, behind a young but capable offensive line?

There are too many ways for the House of S[ ]ark to lose this game. Lay the 2.5. Mora will out-duel Sarkisian to push the Bruins to 8-2.

--> Oregon State @ Arizona State (-14) (2-Stache Pick)

This is a big line. But I think it's warranted. Yes, the Sun Devils barely escaped with a win at Utah. Yes, we're not really sure what they're made of yet. But I think we're figuring out what the Beavers are made of: Reser's chili cheese dip. They looked pretty good over the first half of the year (after the EWU debacle), but lost a winnable game against Stanford, and then got their clocks cleaned by USC. And after going to Arizona State, they've got Washington and then a road trip to Autzen. Yikes.

The Beavers have really struggled to protect Mannion when facing good defenses. He was beat senseless by the Stanford front, and forced into a ton of bad throws by USC. Those woes should continue in Tempe where Will Sutton, while having a quieter year than he did 2012, can still wreak havoc. The Beavers' offense is too one-dimensional and dependent on pass blocking to be trusted on the road.  I don't see the Beavs suddenly finding a ground-and-pound running game on the road in the desert. The fact that this line is big suggests the oddsmakers think the Sun Devils can impose their will, and I'm inclined to agree. 14's a lot to lay, but the Beavers are on life support and might get knocked out by a talented ASU squad that has been phenomenal at home.

--> California (+2.5) @ Colorado (2-Stache Pick)

I really want to like Colorado. I live in the freaking state. But that 59-7 shellacking at the hands of Sark and the Seven-and-Fives (I can keep Washington-themed band names coming all day) really makes it hard to commit to the Buffs.

However, I equally dislike Cal. They've got next to no momentum, next to no defense, and are coached by a grown man named "Sonny."

But in the battle of "bad" vs. "bad," I'll take the more talented "bad." Cal is, of course, notorious for under-performing with great recruits.  But I'll take those good recruits against the dudes that the Buffs trot out on the field. Cal has scored 28 points in each of the last two games. If they can do that again, I think the Bears win this game outright.

--> Stanford @ USC (+4) (2-Stache Pick)

David Shaw this week on USC: "I don't know if anybody has played better in the last month." And how. After ridding themselves of the scourge known as Lane the Bane, USC is on a 4-1 streak and 4-1 against the spread. Coach O has 'em playing looser and more confident. They've got what should be recognized as an elite defense (only exception: their wet paper bag impersonation during the Arizona State game). They've got an improving quarterback with lots of speedy dudes around him.  And they have a 62-28 win at Cal last week (featuring three special teams touchdowns) in which they seemed to remember: "Oh yeah, we have really good players."

Now, as much as I hate to say it, Stanford is....Stanford. They're going to do that thing they do. But as the guys at Solid Verbal always say: the letdown spot is strong. Coming off a program-affirming win over Oregon, Stanford now has to go to a hostile Coliseum to face a team that's starting to think it's pretty good, and has the talent to back it up.

Stanford should - "should" - win this game.  But they've got to be sound in all three phases of the game. Keep in mind: they've only done that a couple times this year. Don't think the Trojans can't win this one outright. Or at least keep it close. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so let's take the points and the Trojans here, and see if they can unseat Stanford and put Oregon back in control of the Pac-12 race.

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

Mike Leach and the Swing-Your-Swords have had a tough stretch, getting beat down by Oregon State, Oregon, and Arizona State in consecutive games after a promising 4-2 start. All signs point to another rout at the hands of RichRod and the 'Cats.

Call it Lloyd Christmas-ian...buuuuuuut I'm gonna go with my instinct on this one.

Arizona hasn't exactly played lights-out defense in Pac-12 play, and isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard either. Zona is elite at exactly one position group: running back. End of list. They'll win this game, but don't expect them to stop Wazzu from putting up yards and points. When you can't really trust either defense, take those big spreads.  Let's see if the Cougs can harness some of that early-season magic and keep it tight in Tucson.

The Ducks:

--> Utah @ Oregon (-26) (4-Stache Pick)

Utah has played only 3 road games this season, and only 2 games outside the state of Utah. They had a nice 7-point win on the road against BYU, but got defensively demolished by USC, losing 19-3, and couldn't keep up in Tucson, going down 35-24. They're coming off of a real nice performance against Arizona State, except they blew the lead and blew the game, losing by 1. They've been labeled as one of the most up-and-down teams in the country. Now they have to go to Autzen.

Guys and gals, I'm gonna be honest with you: a 26-point line scares me here. But remember: Oregon is 6-2-1 against the spread this year, and has already covered 5 different 20+-point spreads. I know the team's psyche is injured, but recall what happened last season after the Stanford loss: Oregon went on the road and crushed a then-#15 Beavers team by 24. I think the Ducks' defense is angry after being maligned all week (just like after the Wazzu game). I think Travis Wilson throws some picks.  I think Frost finally reintroduces DAT to a place called THE OPEN FIELD.  I think Mariota is ready to play after all the speculation about his health. In short, I think Oregon gets their groove back. They get a big bounce-back win and cover the 26.

Potential Bowl Opponents:

The Ducks' bowl destination obviously became a lot more cloudy once the clock hit :00 last Thursday night. However, if the Ducks win out, their most likely destination would be Miami for an Orange Bowl tilt with Clemson. But keep in mind: a bid for the Rose Bowl is still alive and, strangely, depends on what USC is able to do to Stanford on Saturday night. So here's an attempt to pick teams that the Ducks COULD face in a potential BCS game: Clemson, B1G contenders, and for fun we'll throw in potential Big-12 champs in case the Fiesta Bowl is in play:

--> Georgia Tech @ Clemson (-10.5) (5-Stache Pick)

Clemson is over the beatdown administered by Florida State, posting back-to-back road wins over Maryland (40-27) and Virginia (59-10).  Georgia Tech has played well at times this season in games where they stick to their triple-option scheme, keep it close, and stay in control of the game.  I don't think Tahj Boyd and those talented receivers let Tech control squat.  And it'll get even worse if Tech is forced to play catch-up and air it out. Lay those points and watch Clemson roll at home Thursday night.

--> Michigan State (-6.5) @ Nebraska (4-Stache Pick)

This is a tough line. Two considerations:

i) Somehow, some way, the Huskers are on a little roll (an embarrassing roll, but a roll nonetheless) after beating Northwestern on a Hail Mary, and beating Michigan because of Michigan being its gyro-made-of-crap self.

ii) Michigan State's defense has flattened every single offense it's faced, except for Indiana, and sits at 8-1 despite inconsistent offensive play.

Now, two questions:

(i) Is Nebraska the worst 2-loss AQ team? (Big competition being Duke and Cincinnati.)

(ii) Should 1-loss Michigan State and their mutant defense be up in the top 10 with Auburn, Clemson, and A&M?

Mull those over. Now, no mistake about it, Michigan State is winning this game. Nebraska has too little on offense to be able to consistently move the ball and score points. The  2-Stache question here is whether Michigan State can score on the road and win by a TD. I think the answer is yes. Every win has been by 12 points or more, and I think they've got a lot of confidence offensively after scoring 29 on Michigan. (Hey, in the B1G, 29 points is a lot!) Lay the points, call it 21-13.

--> Texas Tech @ Baylor (-26.5) (3-Stache Pick)

I've learned to stop worrying and love the Baylor Bears. These dudes laid some doubters to rest (me included!) with an impressive 41-12 win over Oklahoma last Thursday. Now they welcome the Red Raiders to town, who have proved all the doubters right with three straight losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and K-State. I would try to give the Red Raiders some credit, given their 7-0 start, but here's the thing: they don't play - how do you say - "the defense." That's a bad thing when you're on the road playing the best offense in all of college football. Baylor's on a roll (9-0, 8-1 ATS), Tech is not, and this could seriously be a 65-30 win for Baylor.

--> Oklahoma State @ Texas (+3) (2-Stache Pick)

After getting absolutely de-pantsed in back-to-back weeks against BYU and Ole Miss, the 'Horns all of a sudden find themselves at 7-2 and 6-0 in the Big 12 after scoring a clutch OT win in Morgantown last week.  They now come home to face the 8-1 Cowboys, who have also fared well against the spread (6-3).

Mack Brown keeps pulling rabbits out of hats and orifices unknown to score Big 12 wins, and I think his little magic show continues in Austin on Saturday. Oklahoma State has played well so far this year (apart from the weird loss to West Virginia), but now face Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma to end the year. I think Texas is coming into its own, and keeps on this weird little roll, or at very least keeps the game real tight at home.

--> Ohio State (-32.5) @ Illinois (+33) (1-Stache Pick)

This might be the least-exciting game of the entire weekend. I'm including South Alabama at Navy in that analysis. (No offense to any Jaguars or Midship-persons out there.)

I'm having trouble believing Ohio State can stay hungry and keep beating the socks off crappy B1G opponents. However, they are fresh off of a 63-14 win over Penn State and a 56-0 blanking at Purdue. So, there's that. Doesn't a real boring 48-14 win sound about right here? Anyone? Bueller?


Stay tuned for a review of how we did, and next week's Duck the Odds picks.