Rusty and I both did better last week. The Fighting Ducks of Oregon did not. I will stop talking about that.
From this point on in the season, there should be good in-conference matchups every week. This weekend is no different: proving tests loom large for Stanford and Washington, Wisconsin, Louisville and Clemson, and Utah. And, of course, we will find out just what the h-e-double-hockeysticks is going on with our Ducks.
Let’s do this.
S: Stanford at Washington (-3)
This is a real barometer for the Huskies, who find themselves they haven’t been in a loooooong time: the Top 10.
Stanford is down its two starting corners, and Washington has shown some serious speed on the outside on offense. But Stanford is Stanford. They’ll play stifling defense, run their standard crock-pot offense, and try to out-methodical whatever team they have on their schedule.
Washington’s defense didn’t look great against Arizona, but it’s really built to play well against a traditional offense like Stanford, as opposed to whatever newfangled stuff Rich Rod is running.
I may live to regret this, but I’ll take Washington. Stanford has to be beat up after that game of attrition vs. UCLA last week (BODY BLOW THEORY WARNING), and Washington’s WRs will get behind the Stanford secondary at least once. Lay the 3 in what could be Washington’s “hello America” win (as much as it pains me to say it).
R: Stanford (+3) at Washington
The hype machine comes to an end. Washington has played three terrible teams and was pushed to the brink against Arizona out in the desert. The Huskies also benefitted from three turnovers. So far, receivers Chico McClatcher and John Ross have separated themselves from the rest of the team. Quarterback Jake Browning has had a solid start to the season throwing 70.5%, 904 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal have proven themselves thrice this season with wins over Kansas State, USC, and most recently UCLA. Stanford’s rushing attack has averaged 5.3 yards per carry and Christian McCaffrey is the team’s leading rusher and receiver.
S: Wisconsin (+10.5) at Michigan
Michigan put a serious whuppin’ on Penn State last week, and they have looked great all year. (And, somehow, Michigan scored 8 home games this season: this is their 5th straight!) But man, Wisconsin really showed me something with their defense last week at East Lansing, and definitely showed me that they have a passing game with a pulse with Alex Hornibrook, the freshman, at quarterback.
10.5 is a lot of points to lay on Michigan, and this is just the kind of game that Wisconsin can ugly up and keep tight. So I’ll take the points. And I do so fully understanding the possibility that Michigan could win this thing by 30.
R: Wisconsin (+10.5) at Michigan
The Badgers have impressed against LSU and Michigan State. Getting two scores against the Wolverines seems like a good value pick. The defense has been getting the job done. They have only allowed 37 points on the year while giving up only 17 in a single game.
Michigan is coming off a decimating win over the Nittany Lions, 49-10. But the week prior Wolverine struggled with Colorado until the Colorado starting quarterback was injured and the backup struggled against a top defense. Yeah, the same quarterback took it to Oregon through the air and on the ground the next week.
I like getting so many points with a Wisconsin team that has shown they can dominate on the road. Both teams play very slow so there won’t be too many possessions to score. I’m seeing a score like 17-10.
S: Louisville at Clemson (+1)
Man. What a dream mid-season matchup. Two excellent teams, two elite quarterbacks, two solid defenses. Nothing to pick apart with either squad, other than perhaps Clemson’s less-than-diamond-shiny start with some inferior opponents. But I must give the edge to the home team here. Louisville has elite talent, and its offense has been unstoppable, but Clemson has been there before. Give me the home squad in Death Valley, and get your popcorn ready.
R: Louisville (-1) at Clemson
I’m completely on board the Lamar Jackson train. Jackson has won my heart and he has had one of the most impressive starts of any college football season. Louisville was last season shredding Florida State in a fashion that no one else has… except for Oregon in the Rose Bowl, which was great to hear the commentators point out. Bottom line, Louisville has done what a dominant team should do against every opponent that they play.
Deshaun Watson led the Tigers over a spread-covering win over Georgia Tech. Clemson has struggled to put teams away with 6-point wins over both Auburn and Troy. Going against a team that is so solid on both sides of the ball will be too much for the Tigers, even in Death Valley.
S: North Carolina at Florida State (-11)
Florida State is tough to pin down. North Carolina has been above-average, but not incredible. Florida State out-scored a talented USF team last week, and looks like it’s on the mend. UNC has a good squad, but I get the feeling that Florida State is going to boat-race these guys.
R: North Carolina at Florida State (-11)
This was a really tough game to pick because I believe very strongly Florida State will win, especially with the game at home. Tar Heel quarterback Mitch Trubisky has thrown for 1306 yards, 10 touchdowns, and no interceptions. North Carolina has been able to put up points but Gene Chizik’s defense has struggled to keep teams away. They dropped the season opener to a Georgia team that has been underwhelming so far.
Deondre Francois has played well for a freshman. He was clearly rattled against a great team, Louisville, on the road. Having the game at home will be huge for him. Florida State has shown that they have an explosive offense that can go on big scoring streaks. I like Florida State to pull away in the second half.
S: Tennessee (-3.5) at Georgia
I may regret laying points on the Vols, but that second half comeback against rival Florida last week was a real turning point for this hyper-talented squad. Georgia lacks any meaningful pass game, and Nick Chubb has been beat up and not that effective. Tennessee is trending up, Georgia is trending down, and I think UT has better players at nearly every position, especially on defense. Give me the Vols. I think they win by 10.
R: Tennessee (-3.5) at Georgia
The latter half against Florida was really the Volunteer squad that we have been expecting for years with Butch Jones at the helm. Tennessee is very talented and hopefully, for the sake of covering this one pick, has finally put it all together and will top Georgia this week. There is a threat of looking ahead because following this game the Volunteers have to play at Texas A&M before hosting Alabama in back-to-back weeks.
All you really need to know about this Georgia team is that they only beat Nicholls by two points and it took until the last couple minutes for Georgia to put the game away. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has played like a freshman throwing for 52%, 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, and has been sacked nine times. Tennessee will be able to exploit the one-dimensional offense and win by at least a touchdown.
S: Utah (+1) at Cal
Utah has won the benefit of the doubt at this point. Kyle Whittingham can flat-out coach, and his teams are consistent, even when under-talented. I think the Utes have something special at QB this year with Troy Williams. Cal has a win against Texas on its resume, but it is not capable of playing any meaningful defense. Utah is nothing if not defensively consistent. Even if Cal has a 10-point lead going into the 4th quarter, is that lead safe? I think not. Give me the road team.
R: Utah at Cal (-1)
Cal has drastically over-performed the start of the year. They are halfway to covering the 3.5 season win total over/under that Vegas set to start the year. The Golden Bears will be scoring a lot of points this game. They have yet to score less than 40 points in a game. Cal will give up a ton of points but I don’t think Utah will be able to keep pace. Davis Webb, a grad-transfer, is one game shy of 2000 yards, has thrown for 18 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions.
Both Utah lines are great. The Utes ran over the top of USC and the receivers perfectly executed offensive pass interference nearly every play without drawing a penalty. The concern Cal should have is the Utah pass rush up the middle and collapsing the pocket from the front.
S: Texas (+2.5) at Oklahoma State
Surprised, frankly, that Okie State is favored here. Not impressed with the Cowboys so far, who let a mid-major game slip away and couldn’t keep pace with Baylor last Saturday night. Texas has the better shot here, and this is a measuring stick game for Charlie Strong’s Longhorns. This is a game that Texas should win. Let’s watch and see.
R: Texas (+2.5) at Oklahoma State
I think the loss to Cal might have been a good thing for the Longhorns when looking at the bigger picture this season. Texas enters conference play and after being embarrassed by the Cal offense they learned about their flaws and can correct them. The Longhorns have had no problem putting up points with the 18-wheeler formation and using tempo effectively. Charlie Strong also learned that swapping quarterbacks nearly every play doesn’t work well.
Oklahoma State is coming off a two score loss to Baylor. The Cowboys are really 3-1, with their first loss coming against Central Michigan when the Chippewas scoring on the last play of the game when they shouldn’t have been awarded the play to begin with. When Oklahoma State is held below 30 points they lose and I think the Longhorns can work some magic.
S: Arizona at UCLA (-13)
This line is higher than I expected in favor of UCLA. With all that talent and experience UCLA has, it should be that high. And that’s why I’m taking it. Vegas knows that this Bruin team is talented enough to rout Arizona at home, even after letting it slip away from Stanford last week. So I’ll tentatively lay points on UCLA here, notwithstanding Arizona’s nice performance vs. Washington late Saturday night.
R: Arizona (+13) at UCLA
The Wildcats pushed top-10 ranked Washington to overtime last week and they shot themselves in the foot multiple times. That result is funny when compared to the struggles Arizona had week 2 against Grambling when they needed a streak of 28 straight points to win. If Arizona had lost it would have been the biggest upset, in terms of the Vegas spread, in college football history.
I think UCLA will win this game but will give up points. There is a legitimate chance that Arizona can win but the depth UCLA has on both sides of the ball will keep them one possession ahead throughout the game. The Bruins have dropped both of their games to good teams and only beat BYU by 3 on the road. They almost beat Stanford but couldn’t finish and Stanford marched down the field with ease for the game-winning score.
S: Arizona State (+8) at USC
Can’t lay points on USC right now. Can’t do it. No idea what I’m getting on either side of the ball, no idea what the locker room is like right now after limping to a 1-3 start. Plus, Arizona State can score like few teams can. Take the points. And watch for the Sun Devils to pull this one out.
R: Arizona State (+8) at USC
A common theme this week is that high-scoring teams are two-score underdogs against teams that are good but not great. One of those good but not great teams is the USC Trojans. They lost a close game to Utah on the road, with a very weird lack of penalties on the Utes’ obvious offensive pass interferences, and a 17-point loss to Stanford on the run. Freshman quarterback Sam Darnold made his first start of the season and threw for 69.2% and 253 yards.
Arizona State has scored 44 points or more three times this year and were able to pull away late against other high-scoring teams Texas Tech and Cal. This will be a shootout and USC has had some issues finishing drives off. Getting eight points is a big advantage this Saturday.
S: Oklahoma at TCU (+3.5)
Don’t know what to make of either team, or really anyone in the Big 12. OU has had a bye week after their beatdown at the hands of Ohio State, and TCU has been up and down so far. I’ll be contrarian and pick the home ‘dog here. I still think TCU has a good core of experienced talent, and I think that OU is still searching for an identity. I’ll take the points and look for TCU to take the driver’s seat in the Big 12.
R: Oklahoma at TCU (+3.5)
We last saw Oklahoma getting absolutely crushed by Ohio State. Ohio State is a death machine but there is no shame in the Sooner’s season opening loss to Houston. Oklahoma has struggled with the loss of their top receiver and haven’t been able to get firing on all cylinders. The Sooners do have a bye week headed into this game but there are still a lot of question marks to give up more than field goal. There is a possibility that Oklahoma has an eye on Texas next week, a team that had a laughable upset over the Sooners last year.
TCU lost their only good matchup against Arkansas in week 2 in double overtime. Transfer quarterback Kenny Hill has also been a slight disappointment throwing four interceptions to six touchdown passes and has made some very poor choices passing. TCU’s defenses have always been none for speed and head coach Gary Patterson almost always has a well-prepared team. I like that they are getting points at home.
S: Oregon (-1) at Washington State
Gather around, and let me tell you a story. Last year, when WSU played in Eugene, my wife and I were on a Colorado getaway with our then-8-month-old daughter and my parents-in-law. We were holed up in a hotel room with a connecting door to the neighboring room (with the sleeping baby), watching the debacle unfold on Pac-12 Live on my iPhone. I will never forget the feeling of all of us huddling around the phone, watching the 4th quarter lead melt away, and watching things go seriously south in overtime. It was awful.
SO YEAH WE HAD BETTER WIN THIS FLIPPING GAME.
R: Oregon (-1) at Washington State
This is a homer pick and I really don’t have to explain that.