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Duck the Odds, Week 7: The Smoke Clears (?)

Is the chaos over? Or will it keep chaos-ing?

More strips. Fewer bows.
More strips. Fewer bows.
Jonathan Ferrey
Rusty: 6-7 (Last Week); 31-45-1 (Overall)

Rusty's Hits: Arizona +23, Notre Dame +2, Auburn -7.5, Baylor -16.5, Ole Miss +6, Mississippi State -1.5,

Rusty's Misses: Texas Tech +12.5, USC -11.5, Oklahoma -5, UCLA -13, Oregon State -7.5, Washington State -4, Michigan State -8.5

Sean: 7-6 (Last Week); 39-37-1 (Overall)

Sean's Hits: Arizona +23, Notre Dame +2, Arizona State +11.5, Baylor -16.5, Mississippi State -1.5, Utah +13, Colorado +7.5

Sean's Misses: Texas Tech +12.5, LSU +7.5, Oklahoma -5, Alabama -6, Washington State -4, Michigan State -8.5

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PAN. DE. MONIUM. Some takeaways from last week:

(i) The Pac-12 is a mess. A goddamn mess. Oregon, USC, UCLA, Washington State all go down as home favorites.

(ii) We now live in a world where, entering week 7:

(a) Arizona is the only undefeated Pac-12 team, and:

(b) CAL IS LEADING (LEADING!!!!) THE PAC-12 NORTH.

(iii) The epicenters of college football over last weekend were the states of Mississippi and Arizona. Please take a moment to allow that to sink in.

(iv) Two teams that were picked by at least some savvy national commentators - our Ducks and UCLA - now find themselves in what everyone else is calling a "Playoff Elimination Game" in early October.  Kooky.

(v) Um, Auburn looks pretty, pretty good.  And, ipso facto, so does Kansas State.

(vi) Big 12's balance of power shifted with TCU's home win over Oklahoma, and now this week's TCU at Baylor matchup looms large to start making sense of the playoff contenders in the Big 12.

Sidenote: I'm picturing myself in 2006 reading that last sentence and being absolutely mystified, as follows:

What is a Baylor?

Playoffs? Don't talk about - playoffs!?

TCU? Big 12? Does TCU stand for Texas Can Upset?

This Week's Picks

What's in store for Week 7 after a crazy nutso Week 6? No idea. But we'll try to forecast it anyways!

Home Teams in CAPS

Sean Says: Oregon (-3.5) over UCLA

OH GOD. I HATE THIS. Ducks fans have looked to this game all offseason, expecting it to be a battle of 5-0 titans of the Pac-12 ready to assert their dominion over the conference and blaze a trail to the inaugural College Football Playoff. But now, it's just - oh, sorry, Hundley just got sacked again - now's it's a matchup of 4-1 teams coming off of shocking home losses and needing a W to survive in the national picture.

So who has the survivor mentality? Who is ready to - oh, sorry, hang on, Mariota just took a sack - to show up and play like they're supposed to play?

I'm going to rely on the "pick the worst unit on the field and bet against it" strategy in this one. And I have to go with UCLA's defense. While Oregon at least has the potential to make some key stops (see Michigan State game), UCLA has yet to stop....anyone.  Even when they "crushed" Arizona State, they benefited a lot from turnovers and gave up a million yards.

Ducks-colored glasses are one, but Oregon has not lost back-to-back games since 2007 (3 straight). Think about that. I think they pick themselves up, find a way to get some production out of their OL, get back to running the ball, and grow up a little bit. This pick is whether or not Oregon is still a top-10 team, or a pretender. Let's sort it out. Lay the points.

Rusty Says: UCLA (+3.5) over Oregon

This is the most potent offense that Oregon has faced thus far.  Brett Hundley might be a level below Mariota, but with Mariota hurt it’s questionable.  Hundley is a guy that can beat our defense almost by himself with how the Ducks have played in recent weeks.  He can make all the throws and exploit the defense the way Solomon did.

Like I said in the podcast, this game will come down to Oregon’s defensive line.  If they are able to take advantage of UCLA’s weak offensive line and sack Hundley more than five times Oregon will win this game.  The weak Bruin line has been their undoing in their losses.

Tackling in space will be key for both, and all else being equal, the team that tackles in space better will win.

Sean Says: Washington State (+17) over STANFORD

List of teams Stanford has had offensive success against: (i) Cal-Davis, (ii) Army (who lost to YALE), and (iii) end of list.

If anything is law by now, surely its that no Pac-12 team can be trusted with a double digit spread. Sure, Stanford won by a billion points last year in the Palouse (55-17). But none of that matters anymore. Nothing matters anymore. And if that sounds dramatic, WELL IT IS. Haven't you watched what has happened this year in the Pac-12? Name a touchdown-plus Pac-12 favorite that has covered a spread against a Pac-12 team this year. Name one. (Actually, there is one: USC over Oregon State, Week 5.)

Until someone separates themselves, I'm taking the points. Plus, it's Stanford. Go Cougs.

Rusty Says: STANFORD (-17) over Washington State

I like Stanford in this game for a few reasons.  First, Washington State doesn’t have a defense.  Second, Stanford’s defense matches up well against passing attacks.  They handled the Notre Dame Fighting Irish offense well and forced Golson into making some uncharacteristic mistakes.

Sean Says: Texas (+14.5) over Oklahoma (in Dallas, TX)

Last year, Oklahoma came into this game 5-0, Texas 3-2, and the Sooners were a 14-point favorite. Next scene: Oklahoma loses 36-20.  This year, 4-1 Oklahoma meets Texas 2-3 as a 14.5-point favorite.

Texas had a defensive pulse last week vs. Baylor. OU is coming off of an awful showing at TCU. This is a rivalry game. Texas won going away last year.  This is a de facto national championship game for Texas. All reasons that Texas will cover this spread. Take the points.

Rusty Says: Texas (+14.5) over Oklahoma (in Dallas, TX)

TCU might just be really good, but Oklahoma was shown to not be the super-team I thought they were.  Rivalry games are always tough though and even though I like the Sooners to win I don’t think they’ll cover.

Texas played Baylor extremely well.  It was a one-possession game for most of regulation.  Last year, the Longhorns beat the Sooners in a game that flipped the season for both teams.  I think Texas will hold on for a cover but a moral win for Charlie Strong.

Sean Says: GEORGIA TECH (-4.5) over Duke

When it came time to choose games to pick this week, I looked at this matchup and kind of grimaced, but then realized: "This is a 5-0 team facing last year's division champ." ACC Football 2014, it's Fantastic (TM)! So we'll pick it.

Give me the home favorite. Duke has not had the same magic they had last year. Georgia Tech is disciplined and reasonably talented, and Duke really struggled in their last appearance at Miami.

Rusty Says: GEORGIA TECH (-4.5) over Duke

We are living in a world where the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech, the Rambling Wreck, is one of the last undefeated teams still playing and Duke is a viable ACC championship contender.  The end is near.

Tech has actually been throwing the ball more than ever while still being a top running team.  They’ve made second half adjustments to pull away late and shut down the opposition’s offense.

Sean Says: Tcu (+10) over BAYLOR

Gimme TCU. Sure, they're prone to a let-down spot after a huge, program-lifting win over Oklahoma at home. But defense irons out inconsistencies. And TCU's defense is crazy elite. And Baylor just had trouble with Texas's defense last week, with Bryce Petty going 7-for-22. Between those factors and TCU's offense having a pulse this year, I'm taking the points and look for TCU to keep it tight in Waco.

Rusty Says: Tcu (+10) over BAYLOR

Who would’ve thought that the biggest game in Texas on the weekend of the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma.  This game will determine who is in the drivers seat for the Big-12 title game.

Baylor has been one of the most innovative teams of the last few years and is led by Heisman contender Bryce Petty.  The Bears needed a strong defensive performance to beat Texas last week because of early Petty struggles.

TCU’s balance on offense and defense, which was exhibited in their win against Oklahoma last week, is what will keep the Horned Frogs in the game and close throughout with a good chance of winning.

Sean Says: MISSISSIPPI STATE (+3) over Auburn

I'm really tempted to take Auburn in this game because of Gus Malzahn's experience in big games, but I can't bet against Mississippi State right now. Look at what they've done. They've got more momentum than any team in the SEC and have looked dominant on both sides of the ball. The offenses are the same on both sides of the ball, so there won't be much that the Bulldog defenders haven't seen in practice.

Besides all that, you don't pick a road favorite in the SEC. Hail State.

Rusty Says: Auburn (-3) over MISSISSIPPI STATE

These teams are mirror images of each other.  Both are led by strong quarterbacks, Auburn with Nick Marshall and Mississippi State with Dak Prescott.

The matchup to watch is the improved Auburn defense against the improved Dak Prescott.  If Prescott balls so hard that people want to fine him then the Bulldogs may come away with the win.  He’ll be helped by Josh Robinson who is one of the more athletic running backs we’ve seen with the size he packs and expert abilities in turning the corner.  
This will be one of the most exciting games of the day showing some of the most innovative coaching minds in the country.

Sean Says: ARIZONA (+3) over Usc

Teams USC has covered the spread against: Fresno State (Mountain West team), Stanford (plodding, pro-style run-based offense), and Oregon State (plodding, pro-style pass-based offense). Teams USC has not covered the spread against: Boston College (hurry-up spread option offense) and Arizona State (hurry-up spread option and passing offense).

I've said it before, I'll say it again: USC's defensive depth (or lack thereof) is tested by hurry-up offenses. Same logic applies here. Surprised to get Arizona as a home dog and I'll take them here in front of a frothing Zona Zoo.

Rusty Says: ARIZONA (+3) over Usc

Two of the best offenses take on each other in the desert.  Solomon played with the poise of a veteran in Autzen last week and their defense showed that they can make plays.

USC had what we thought was a strong pass defense before they took on Arizona State but the Sun Devils threw over 500 yards including a Hail Mary at the end of the game for the win.

Arizona, in my opinion, is just a better team.  They execute better, have better coaching, and the home field advantage.

Sean Says: Washington (+3) over CAL

You know what, Cal's been a really nice story. Nice to see them score dazzling touchdowns and get after other Pac-12 teams after a woeful period. But I really think miracle after miracle and big finish after big finish has taken enough out of the tank for Cal that they're not ready for Washington's defense. Washington has a talented defense that is off a bye and knows that the conference is wide open. Look for Washington to limit Cal's chances, control the clock, and ugly up a game to cover the 3.

Rusty Says: CAL (-3) over Washington

This game is going to be ugly.  Maybe not like watching UCLA’s offensive line and Oregon’s offensive line play against each other ugly, but ugly nonetheless.

It’s going to be interesting seeing Washington take on the Cal defense who can’t seem to stop anyone, but Washington has been very inconsistent at times this year.  Also, weird stuff happens in Berkeley.

The Cal offense will score a lot of points.  They’re simply too good to not. I’m excited to see how Shaq Thompson, the LB/S/CB/RB, will make his presence known during the game.

I like Cal to win because there will be points and they’re the home team at the Berkeluda Triangle.

Sean Says: Georgia (-3) over MISSOURI

Give. The Ball. To Gurley. [End of plan.] If Georgia does that, they win this one. I am still really confused about Missouri's loss at home to Indiana (yes, THE Indiana), and if their "best" win is against South Carolina, I'm not sure how impressed I am by that. Georgia may be finally figuring themselves out and primed for a run. But I know that Georgia has had problems in the secondary against good passing teams, and Mizzou is definitely that. I'm also hesitant to lay points on a road favorite when weird stuff can happen.

This game will be dictated by the first quarter. If Georgia can get out front or keep pace, and is able to run the ball, they win.  If Mizzou jumps out and scored 10 in the first quarter, and Georgia is forced to go away from the run, then Mizzou can win the damn thing. If I'm undecided, I'm betting on the team that did not lose to Indiana at home. Look for Gurley to go over 200 yards in this one as the Bulldogs crank out a 7-point win in Columbia.

Rusty Says: Georgia (-3) over MISSOURI

Georgia has finally figured out that if Todd Gurley gets the ball 20 or more times in a game, good things tend to happen.  He had 28 carries in the win over Tennessee and 25 carries in the win over Vanderbilt.

Both teams had a bye last week so come in fresh.  Georgia has performed better in their last few games but the key will be to slow Tiger quarterback Mauk who has thrown for 1110 yards and 14 touchdowns but is only completing 56% of his passes.  By keeping the Tigers in obvious passing situations I expect Georgia to win and cover.

Sean Says: CLEMSON (-11.5) over Louisville

Tough pick. Louisville is 4-2 against the spread, Clemson is 5-1.  Clemson might have the best defense in the ACC. Louisville is still sneaky good and well-coached. I think I'll lay points on Clemson. They are on a streak right now and look better and better each week. They can score and defend. And I like that they're at home. I'll lay 11.5, but won't feel great about it.

Rusty Says: Louisville (+11.5) over CLEMSON

Louisville’s lone loss was a 23-21 drop to Virginia the third week of the season.  Since then the defense hasn’t allowed opposing offenses to score more than 10 points, which is big when Bobby Petrino is coaching the offense.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has continued to play well since his loss to Florida State and has been a game changer at the quarterback position.  I think Clemson will score enough to win but won’t be able to separate enough to cover.

Sean Says: TEXAS A&M (-3.5) over Ole Miss

Aggies ain't dead. Ole Miss was SUPER A MILLION EXCITED to beat Bama last week, and now they have to go to College Station and chase around A&M's guys for a whole game. A&M didn't look great on the road at Mississippi State last week, but I think that's more a product of MSU being out-of-nowhere awesome than A&M being suddenly bad. Give me the home team in a let-down spot for Ole Miss, and we may see the return of Dr. Bo Throwin' Picks, which could be an A&E reality show.

Rusty Says: TEXAS A&M (-3.5) over Ole Miss

I think we’re going to see the Dr. Bo that we’ve come to know and love in this game.  It’s hard to get up for two consecutive big games and the Rebels might be celebrating the win still and relaxed.  Traveling to College Station is no easy task.

The "body blow" theory is also in play here because Alabama is a bruising team.  The Ole Miss defense matches up well with the Aggie offense but the Aggies are going to get just enough of a boost at home and come out with some real fire after last weeks loss.

Sean Says: ARKANSAS (+10.5) over Alabama

Guess which of these teams is 5-1 against the spread? Not Bama. In fact, over the last 8 games, stretching back to last season, Alabama is 2-6 against the spread. And somehow, they're STILL getting a lot of points on the road against a very good power team that has also showed an ability to defend.

Sure, sure, Alabama wants to bounce back, but my question is: do they really have superior talent anymore? Not if the last 8 games have anything to say about it. I feel pretty confident about this one that Alabama is rolling into a potential upset in Fayetteville, or at least a close win. Take those points and Woo Pig Sooie or whatever.

Rusty Says: ARKANSAS (+10.5) over Alabama

Alabama has to recover from a deflating loss to Ole Miss where it was tough to decide whether Ole Miss won the game or Alabama handed it away because of mistakes.

Arkansas gave Texas A&M trouble in the passing game and their defense should match up well with Alabama.  The key to slowing the Tide is by limiting Amari Cooper, something that the Rebels did very effectively last week.

When Arkansas has the ball they are going to play smash-mouth football, which doesn’t target the Tide defense where they are weakest, in the defensive secondary.  That’s why I like Alabama to win but Arkansas to cover.