This was my first losing weekend of the year. I made a lot of square bets last week betting on heavy favorites and letting my bias for the Ducks blind me. The logical thing would be to knock off the heavy favorite bets in my wild card picks. So of course I didn’t do that at all and went back to the well that has served me so well this year. HERE WE GO!
Rusty’s Record: 21-15
Sean’s Record: 23-13
Rusty’s Record: 2-4
Sean’s Record: 4-2
S: Oregon at Stanford (-10.5)
Yeah, based on what I saw out of the Oregon offense last week - inability to throw the ball down the field, inability to protect the passer, predictable running game - I don't have a lot of confidence against Stanford's defense. Stanford's defense would be totally fine to keep 7 defenders in the box, and sneak in a strong safety to make 8 as soon as a run is obvious. They'd love to go toe-to-toe and make it a run-game game. And that's not great news for Oregon.
I love - like, really love - what the defense has done. They've become more efficient, better against the pass, better at creating turnovers, better at tackling. The yards-per-play measure (my favorite overall stat to measure defensive success) has seen an almost miraculous uptick: 115th nationwide last year; 14th this year! Wow. (Also, did you know that the Oregon defense has the most sacks in the country?)
But if the offense can't sustain drives, and has more than five 3-and-outs, it puts the defense in a tough position to corral Stanford's running game for long drives. I think Stanford can score 30 points even with the defense playing great. I don't know if Oregon can score 3 touchdowns.
Stanford by 14. And I hate - pure straight hate - saying that.
R: Oregon at Stanford (-10.5)
Oregon is going to have all of its weapons back on offense this weekend. How effective and how healthy they are has yet to be determined. Alie is more experienced at quarterback and has shown that he can run an offense at an average level. Burmeister is probably much improved after his first start. Either way we may see an improvement.
Stanford’s secondary is the strength of the defense and the Cardinal coaches are going to have no problem putting them on islands against our receivers and stacking the box whenever Royce Freeman is in the game. The Cardinal did lose to San Diego State and USC, but that was before they realized they need to run the ball 40 times a game and throw it as little as possible. Since their adjustment they’ve been running with little problems and have a lot of explosive games. This is a game where Stanford is going to slowly creep away with a big lead and win by 17 points.
Conference Uncommon Games
S: Washington State (-13.5) at Cal
Cal all of a sudden can't run the ball - at all. They're 123rd in yards per rush and rushing yards per game. That's bad news if you're trying to sustain drives and keep the ball away from an excellent Washington State offense. And, when Cal tries to drop back, Washington State will get after the quarterback: 4th overall in sacks with that nasty defensive front, led by defensive tackle (and all-American Name Award Winner) Hercules Mata'afa.
Haven't seen enough out of Cal in recent weeks to trust them to cover this. WSU can cover by 20 points here.
R: Washington State (-13.5) at Cal
Cal is coming off a loss to Washington that ended near midnight on the west coast. They’re coming off two losses and some of the magic that was with them at the start of the season has worn off. Maybe coaches have been able to figure out what they’re doing and thus have better game plans. Maybe they’re facing tougher competition now.
Washington State is much better than anyone is giving them credit for. I certainly underestimated just how good they were before they played Oregon. I hate to say it but Washington State really performed well in all three phases of the game and controlled the line of scrimmage on defense. I see them doing more of the same this weekend and forcing a lot of turnovers with Cal’s turnover-prone offense.
S: Utah at USC (-12.5)
This feels like an oddly high line for the vaunted Utah defense. That's why I'm laying the points. If USC commits to the run at home, I think they can sustain drives and control the clock. Utah's offense is in kind of a tailspin. I watched a good chunk of Utah's home loss to Stanford, and Utah's offensive game plan was dreadful. Their QB was running for his life, and they couldn't really get positive rush yards against Stanford. USC's defense is good enough to do the same. USC can win this thing by 14 easily at home.
S: UCLA (PK) at Arizona
I really feel like this is a make-or-break game for Jim Mora at UCLA. Arizona hasn't played a single competent quarterback so far this year. Obviously Josh Rosen is much more than competent. Arizona has played super well this year, I just like the matchup for the Bruins here. UCLA can outscore these guys, and probably defend Arizona's brand of spread run-game. UCLA can win a shootout. I like them to win on the road.
R: washington (-16.5) at Arizona State
So far Arizona State’s big win is against Oregon in week 4. They beat a team that played absolutely terrible and was unprepared for their defense and their offense in the first quarter of the game. After a bye they dropped their game against Stanford 34-24. Like most teams, the Sun Devils gave up nearly 10 yards per carry to Bryce Love and the Stanford offensive line.
washington has really good players, has played well every game, and has been prepared for every game. This line is very low for teams that are so far apart. The huskies haven’t given up more than 16 points in a single game and have scored at least 30 in every outing. I think washington is going to roll through this team like every other conference opponent.
R: Colorado (-12.5) at Oregon State
This line has surely moved since it was first listed. The Beavers are an absolute train wreck right now. The only way I would get nervous about this line would be at Colorado -21.5. Gary Andersen left because he was over being the head coach and put the blame on himself for “hiring the wrong (expletive).” I don’t think this is a scenario where the team is going to band together and prove all the doubters wrong.
Colorado has regressed more than I thought they would, but even they should be able to win by at least 13 points. The Buffs are 3-3 after giving up over 300 yards on the ground to Arizona’s backup quarterback. The Beavers don’t have the same quarterback threat and have the Beaver defense has been awful most of the season (Although their first half against Washington was impressive).
Uncommon/Wild Card Games
S: Georgia Tech (+7.5) at Miami
Bad matchup for Miami here. Georgia Tech can obviously run the everloving hell out of the ball. Miami has a very good defense, but they aren't great against the run: about 57th overall in terms of yards per play. I really like that I can get that hook over 7: I don't know that Georgia Tech can win, but they can definitely keep it close. So take those points.
S: Missouri at Georgia (-29.5)
I have no reason to not lay points on Georgia right now. Their defense is scary good. Their offense is balanced and super efficient. They are 6-0 and also undefeated against the spread. Missouri is on the brink of disaster. In their three games against good defenses (South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn) they have laid eggs: 13, 3, and 14 points. I expect that to happen here. And I think Georgia can lay 50 on these guys, especially between the hedges. Lay the points until Georgia stops rolling.
R: Missouri at Georgia (-29.5)
Missouri is just terrible. Their lone win is over Missouri State and they’ve given up at least 35 points in every game. Their run defense is atrocious. They are in the 100s for every defensive five factor at Football Study Hall. Against the run they rank 94th in efficiency and 116 in explosiveness.
Georgia’s strength is running the football. Their defense has been great all year. Purdue would have covered this spread. Georgia is in the top 10 for defensive efficiency, explosiveness, rushing success rate, and rushing explosiveness. For Missouri to make this competitive against a team like Georgia would take a miracle. This one is going to get ugly early. Missouri won’t be in this game at any point in time.
R: Clemson (-13.5) at Syracuse
The Orange topped Pitt at home in their last game, and their coach Dino Babers see no reason as to why they can’t be the team that upsets Clemson this regular season. For them to do that they would have to have a great defense and be able to control the clock in order to shorten the game and limit the number of total possessions.
Clemson let me down for the first time this season when they didn’t cover against Wake Forest, whose stingy defense extends beyond their big game against Florida State. They travel to Syracuse, where they will play in a dome with a modest amount of crowd noise. The Tigers are on a different level than Syracuse and their defensive line is going to dominate the line of scrimmage. Syracuse is going to have to throw, thus lengthening the game, and over time the Clemson team is going to pull away very quickly in the third quarter. I like Clemson, big.