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Duck the Odds, Week 4: Ducks Make First Return to the Palouse Since 2010

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BURNING QUESTION: Who around the country is actually good at footballing?

Steve Dykes

Last Week's Results:

Rusty: 5-10 (Last Week); 13-26 (Overall)

Rusty's Hits: Wyoming +43.5, Missouri -10, West Virginia +3.5, Nevada +15.5, Nebraska -10

Rusty's Misses: Virginia Tech -11, Louisville -7, Georgia -5.5, Illinois +14.5, Tennessee +20.5, UCLA -7.5, Penn State -3.5, Arizona State -15.5, USC -17, Notre Dame -28.5

Sean: 7-8 (Last Week); 17-22 (Overall)

Sean's Hits: Wyoming +43.5, Missouri -10, East Carolina +11, West Virginia +3.5, Nevada +15.5, Nebraska -10, Purdue +28.5

Sean's Misses: Louisville -7, Georgia -5.5, Illinois +14.5, Tennessee +20.5, UCLA -7.5, Penn State -3.5, Arizona State -15.5, USC -17

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Eh, we're doing ok. Rusty and I discussed that a lot of the "top" games of the week are not by any stretch of the imagination games that you should wager on. Sometimes it's really hard to take a position with confidence. SO CUT US SOME SLACK OKAY.

Some more takeaways:

(i) Take note of East Carolina. Shane Carden & Co. can ball.

(ii) Is Virginia...gulp....good at football?

(iii) UCLA looked weird. USC looked weirder. Arizona State didn't take care of biz last week at Colorado, and is now without the services of their bell cow Taylor Kelly.  PANIC TIME IN THE PAC-12 SOUTH? YOUR THOUGHTS.

This Week's Picks

Better slate this week. Good matchups. The theme emanating from the college football analysis community so far is that no one is actually that good at the "playing football" thing. With that in mind, I've been cautious so far and taking the points when there are any doubts, but I think some trends are starting to emerge so we can start to actually lay points on favorites with some confidence. To the picks!

Home Teams in CAPS

Sean: Oregon (-23.5) over WASHINGTON STATE

How weird is this: the last time the Ducks played in Pullman, Nate Costa ran for one touchdown and threw for another.  That was 2010. Time warp!

All my instincts tell me this is a shootout game where you take the points.  However, all my instincts about Washington State ever have been wrong.  The Ducks' defense is pissed off about the show-boaty-ness of Connor Halliday's 89 pass attempts last year, and the Ducks offense will be churning up big - nay, enormous - gains on the ground. I loved Tako's take on the situation, especially his prediction that the all-time rushing yards in a game record is in peril, and I don't disagree. I'm laying the points here.  It's conference time and I'd bet that Don Pellum and his defense is sick of the trend of letting Wazzu hang around. LAY EM.

Rusty: Oregon (-23.5) over WASHINGTON STATE

This spread seems fairly large to me but there’s a few things that will change the game drastically.  The biggest influence on scoring are turnovers.  Cougar quarterback Connor Halladay loves throwing picks.  There is a legitimate shot that Dargan breaks the Oregon record for most interceptions in a game.  Washington State will keep this game uncomfortably close through the first half before Oregon does Oregon things and dominates.

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Sean: Auburn (-9) over KANSAS STATE

Hate laying points on the road. I pure, straight, hate it. Especially in a weird Thursday night matchup against a well-coached team. But I think Auburn is the real deal. And I think K-State, while scrappy, is in trouble here. There's been some commentary that K-State's Bill Snyder, with a bye, has had 2 weeks to prep for Auburn's offense. Well, he had a month to prep for Oregon's offense (basically identical) in the Fiesta Bowl, with a more talented team, and couldn't cover the spread. Lay the 9 and watch Auburn's defense be the difference maker.

Rusty: Auburn (-9) over KANSAS STATE

A matchup of top 25 teams goes down in Manhattan, Kansas.  Auburn played Arkansas well at the beginning of the season and I only mention Arkansas as a worthy opponent because of how they manhandled Texas Tech on the ground.  The offense will score a lot and the defense will do just enough.

Kansas State is one of the most boring teams in college football.  They are so fundamental and so disciplined that they always keep games close.  I don’t think they have the athletes to keep this game close.  The Wildcats are starting a lot of walk-ons and low-starred opponents out of high school.  There just isn’t that much talent.

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Sean: Utah (+5.5) over MICHIGAN

I promised some friends that I would not bet on the Big Ten for the rest of the year. It will be a commitment, but the hardest part of the journey is the first step.

Michigan can't stop anybody. They weren't even close to covering the spread at home against a woeful Miami (Ohio) team last week. They have zero home field advantage and are facing a dangerous Ute squad that is playing with its hair on fire right now. (Not literally, though; I think that having your hair on fire is a misdemeanor in Michigan.) Take the points, because Utah can score, Michigan can't, and Michigan can't play the defense offense football. Plus, take the points in a shootout. 30-27 either way.

Rusty: Utah (+5.5) over MICHIGAN

Michigan is really bad.  Their offensive line is really bad.  Devin Gardner is struggling at quarterback.  Maybe Hoke does not spring eternal in Ann Arbor.  In the lone competitive game they’ve played, they were embarrassed by the Fighting Irish.  They are 101st nationally in passing yards and 80th in points for.

Utah is coming off a bye and we last saw them beating a Fresno State team that is decent.  The Bulldogs aren’t great, but they aren’t bad.  Travis Wilson is balling out this year and has 446 yards through the air and 6 passing touchdowns through two games.

I like the Utes to get to Gardner early and often and force a couple turnovers en route to a straight-up win.

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Sean: Hawai'i (+7.5) over COLORADO

I should lay points on Colorado...why? Hawaii is better than advertised and has covered the spread against both Pac-12 opponents this year. They're scrappy. Don't be surprised if the Rainbow Warriors lead the game in the third quarter.

Rusty: Hawai'i (+7.5) over COLORADO

The Buffs lost to Colorado State convincingly before just getting by UMass in shameful fashion.  Arizona State rushed for 223 yards without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly during the latter part of the game.  Colorado State rushed for 266 yards in the season opener.  Joey Iosefa is going to have a field day. 

I have a real soft spot for the Rainbow Warriors from Hawai’i.  The Warriors don’t play on the road with the same tenacity that they do on the island but this week they’re playing Colorado.  Colorado is bad but I like them to win but not cover.

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Sean: ALABAMA (-14.5) over Florida

Lay em. 'Bama is going to crush these dudes. The Gators just gave up 30 points to Kentucky and does not have what it takes to score points in Tuscaloosa.  Alabama's quarterback group, despite the controversy over the depth chart, has been extremely effective.

Rusty: ALABAMA (-14.5) over Florida

Florida needed triple overtime to top the Kentucky Wildcats.  Kentucky is on the way up but there’s no reason for the game to be as close as it was.  The offense looks bad and the defense is lacking.

The Gators gave up 369 yards through the air and even benefited from being +2 in turnover margin.  Alabama is going to be able to run and pass against the Gator defense.  Most importantly, the Tide will work with a lot of short fields.

Saban and the Tide are going to dare Florida to throw.  Jeff Driskel leaves a lot to be desired at quarterback and once Demarcus Robinson is locked down he’s going to struggle to get through his progressions.  Once Florida is one-dimensional it’s going to get ugly.

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Sean: FLORIDA STATE (-16.5) over Clemson

I had a response written out when Florida State was a 20.5-point favorite, and then the Jameis Winston suspension news came out, which dropped the line to 16.5. I think my logic still holds true, even with Jameis out for a half.  I just don't think this new distraction is any bigger than prior distractions. Jameis is a constant distraction.  He is a complete loony toon. But it hasn't been a problem thus far for FSU, who is 16-0 with him under center.

After 2 moderately boring wins against Oklahoma State and the Citadel, I think Florida State is ready for their damn closeup and is about to murder Clemson.  Clemson got out-physical-ed in the opener vs. Georgia, especially on offense. KEY STAT: Clemson had 15 total offensive yards in the second half. FIF! TEEN! And as we saw last weekend, Georgia's D is not that great.  FSU's is. They had two easy games to work out the kinks followed by a bye week, and I think they're ready to uncork one on Clemson. Recall last year that FSU, with approximately the same talent level, won by about a billion points on the road at Clemson. Clemson is just way worse than they were last year, and have to go play in the Doak. Lock it up.

Rusty: Clemson (+16.5) over FLORIDA STATE

Jameis Winston continues to be one of the leading players in the country in "what was he thinking" moments per week.  Winston will only sit out the first half, which is a comical punishment doled out by Florida State given the context of the situation, so Clemson has one half to make their magic.

I’m not convince the Seminoles are that great so far.  They struggled against an inexperienced Oklahoma State squad in the season opener and there was nothing to write home about in their win against the Citadel.

Clemson doesn’t have to worry about Todd Gurley running the football so their secondary creates a better matchup against the Seminoles than they did against the Bulldogs.  This spread is simply too large to lay the points.  I like Florida State to win by a couple scores.

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Sean: Virginia (+14) over BYU

I thought that UVA's week 1 stymie'ing of UCLA was a fluke. Then I saw UVA take down Louisville. This defense is legit. BYU also looks legit. I think UVA can keep it ugly and keep it to within 14 points.

Two sub-points here:

(i) This is a bet on whether BYU can handle the spotlight of national attention, because oh boy does it have it right now. A sexy (as much as a Mormon college can be "sexy") pick for the playoff.

(ii) This is also a bet on whether UVA is a real upstart, or a pretender (see Virginia Tech, September 13, 2014). I think they're for real. They've recruited well, have an "us against the world" mentality, and are well-coached. A good defense takes you a long ways and helps you play well on the road. In the ACC, that's half the battle. I cautiously have faith in the Hoos 'til they collapse.

Rusty: Virginia (+14) over BYU

The Cavaliers made plays against UCLA in the opening weekend.  They took advantage of mistakes that UCLA made rather than letting UCLA shoot itself in the foot alone.  Last week they topped the Louisville Cardinals with the help of benefiting from four turnovers.  The Cavaliers really frustrated Louisville quarterback Will Gardner.

BYU is a rushing behemoth.  The ran over Texas but needed some magic to hold off Houston last Thursday.  Their defense is solid, allowing only 14 points a game.  The Cougars need to be perfect in order to have any hope of being in the playoff discussion.  By perfect I mean they not only need to win every game but win almost every game in convincing fashion.

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Sean: San Diego State (+10) over OREGON STATE

SDSU is a good program. Oregon State might be one of worst in Pac-12 over last few years of holding, defending, and increasing a lead. 10 is a lot of points to lay on a team with a bunch of question marks. ESPECIALLY when we are yet to see the Annual Beaver Collapse Against a Lower-Level Opponent (trademark pending)! SDSU will be amped up and ready for the challenge. (If one were to be gambling, this game might be worth a buck on the moneyline as well.)

Rusty: OREGON STATE (-10) over San Diego State

San Diego State was last seen losing to North Carolina two weeks ago.  Oregon State was last seen almost letting Hawaii get away with a win on the island of Oahu two weeks ago.

We don’t know a lot about either of these teams.  Sean Mannion is an NFL-ready quarterback but without the help of a rushing game and Storm Woods he’s not going to make it super far this year.

San Diego State comes in very balanced on offense but isn’t spectacular at anything; much like how Oregon State is "meh" to "fine" on both offense and defense.

This is the time of the year where Oregon State starts turning up their performance and getting their legs under them.  Considering the game is at home I like the Beavers to cover.

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Sean: Mississippi State (+9.5) over LSU

This just in: the Mississippi State Bulldogs can score. Finally. LSU sports a comeback win over Wisconsin, but had some serious trouble containing Wisconsin's mobile quarterback.  Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is a talented scrambler and could give LSU's young defenders some trouble. 9.5 is a lot of points to take here. I just don't think LSU's young team commands that kind of respect yet. Take the 9.5.

Rusty: LSU (-9.5) over Mississippi State

The Bulldogs have been an interesting team to follow the last few years.  They’ve had the excitement around their coaching and individual players but haven’t been able to reach their potential.

Their wins are over Southern Miss, UAB, and South Alabama.  They’re going to have a significant adjustment period when trying to get up to the gear the Tigers are operating at.  So far they’ve rushed the ball well and scored points while playing good defense but those were compiled during mediocre at best opponents.

The Tigers haven’t allowed a touchdown since week 1 and they hose Mississippi State in a night game at Tiger Stadium.  With Hilliard and Fournette in the backfield and Dural out wide, LSU is going to score points.  This is going to be a long, slow, certain win and cover for the Tigers.

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Sean: NEBRASKA (-7) over Miami

I think Miami is traveling to Lincoln at the exact wrong time. Nebraska is fresh off of a dominating road performance over Fresno State and returns home to face Miami's freshman quarterback Brad KaayaDuke Johnson, Miami's beast of a running back, provides some dependability in the backfield, but I think a road test in Lincoln is too much for an offense still seeking an identity. Give me the Huskers.

Rusty: NEBRASKA (-7) over Miami

The Hurricanes continue to be untested.  Their wins are over Florida A&M and Arkansas State with their lone loss to Louisville in the season opener where Miami looked ineffective on offense.

Nebraska has also been less than fantastic and needed some serious magic in a punt return late screen pass play to top McNeese State in week 2.  Nebraska runs the football really well averaging 324 yards per game.  They have the potential to score a lot of points and their defense will do just enough to win and cover.

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Sean: WEST VIRGINIA (+7.5) over Oklahoma

2012 matchup in Morgantown: 50-49 Oklahoma. 2013 matchup in Norman: 16-7 Oklahoma. Two weird results in a new Big 12 rivalry. This is a night game in Morgantown against a Mountaineer team that has seriously found its offensive stride. Scary prospect for a top-5 team with something to prove. (That's Oklahoma.) I think the Sooners win this one, but I think this will be an escape-with-a-win/shootout type of game.  Coach Stoops on the road at night is not a pretty history. The worst unit on the field is probably WVU's defense, but weird things happen in Morgantown, and I could see some weird turnovers or special teams stuff give an unforeseen edge to the Mountaineers. If I'm wrong, then I'll back off of my suspicions about Oklahoma and go ahead and crown their ass.

Rusty: WEST VIRGINIA (+7.5) over Oklahoma

The Sooners were extremely impressive in their performance against Tennessee last week.  They caused double-digit negative plays, which will be a big key this weekend when they take on the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Many, including myself, put all the burden on quarterback Trevor Knight coming into this year.  I felt that the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama was because Knight played so well and that if Knight didn’t play well this year Oklahoma wouldn’t meet expectations.  The defense might be doing enough to make Knight’s impact negligible to the point that he won’t lose the Sooners any games.

The Mountaineers are led by Trickett at quarterback and receiver Kevin White.  White had 9 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown against Alabama in the season opener.  The issue with the Mountaineers is that their defense is porous and that’s really putting it nicely.  They gave up 37 to Maryland last week.

I think this game will be competitive through the first half and West Virginia will score a backdoor cover.  Morgantown will be going crazy during this game so it is must-watch TV.

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Sean: California (+9.5) over ARIZONA

Why would I lay points on an Arizona squad that can't stop anybody? Zona keeps getting big point spreads and I don't know why.  The total points is set at 71. In what is sure to be a shootout, take all those points. 45-42 someone. Let's call that someone Calizona.

Rusty: California (+9.5) over ARIZONA

The Bears travel to the desert for a night game to take on the Wildcats.  Cal looks noticeably better than last year.  Goff is 38/56 for 510 yards and 7 touchdowns coming off a bye week.  Receivers Powe and Davis make it hard to lock down one offensive threat.  Cal is dangerous this year.

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon leads an offense that is 20th nationally in rushing and 24th nationally in passing.  Without Kadeem Carey, Wilson is doing a lot of the heavy lifting and he’s already rushed for 449 yards on 64 carries. 
I like Arizona to win but California to cover, making just enough crazy plays to score late for the spread.