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Ducking The Odds: Week 9 of the 2017 College Football Season

Rusty and Sean make their weekly picks against the spread as we enter the final third of the season.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

WELL LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK! Maybe I’m getting the hang of this. Maybe this is the time the broken clock is right twice in a day.


Rusty’s Record: 28-21

Sean’s Record: 28-21

Last Week

Rusty’s Record: 6-1

Sean’s Record: 3-4


Common Games

S: Penn State at Ohio State (-5)

Dang. Expected Ohio State (-3), Penn State (-1), or something in between. This is a surprise.

I think Vegas knows something. I think the nature of college football is that as soon as you know something, you know nothing (Jon Snow). Of course Clemson will kill Syracuse, right? Of course Auburn will close out LSU! Washington will definitely go on the road and beat Arizona State - no doubt.

Ohio State by 10. The shakeup continues.

R: Penn State (+5) at Ohio State

Ohio State might have solved the problems that were exposed in their win over Indiana, which was much closer than the 49-21 score indicates, and their 31-16 loss at home to Oklahoma. The last three weeks they saw a 56-point win over Rutgers, a 62-14 win over Maryland, and a 56-14 win over Nebraska on the road.

At this point I’m a firm believer in Penn State. This is really more a reflection of how highly I think of Penn State rather than just the specific matchup we have. I think Penn State is going to win this straight up. Saquon Barkley is going to have a great game and further improve his Heisman odds.

Penn State’s head coach, James Franklin, is taking no prisoners this year. He ices kickers to preserve shutouts in lopsided wins, has Barkley take extra plays during games to help break records, minimizes Pitt’s football program after a win, and then really poured it on against Michigan. He’s game planned well this year and I know is really looking to send a message.

The team that wins this game will probably go to the college football playoff. The PAC-12 has pretty much removed itself and as long as the conference champion out of the Big-10 has one loss then they will make it in. Or maybe just a one loss team from the conference will make it in regardless of if they even make the conference title game, since that’s what happened last year. I think Penn State’s offense is too dynamic to be stopped and the defense is fast enough to keep up with Ohio State’s offense.

S: Utah at Oregon (+3)

I hate the three-point line in general because it means Vegas has essentially punted. I hate it because I always think I should take the underdog. Which means I have to take the Ducks here.

Two basic thoughts: 1) The Ducks are going to figure things out offensively, right? 2) The Utes’ defense is suddenly average, and their offense is suddenly trashy.

The Ducks defense will keep Utah off-tempo. A few forced turnovers and maybe a special teams play will make things easier on Burmeister and the offense. The staff need to pilot this offense to 28+ points. I think this is the time.

I am in Eugene this week visiting family and will be in Autzen for this one. So do your thing, Ducks.

R: Utah (-3) at Oregon

I’m not sure how anyone can pick Oregon to cover anything. I would take Utah as 7-point favorites. Actually, I would take them as 10-point favorites. Oregon is facing a defense line that has earned the nickname “Sack Lake City” and Burmeister has a 15% sack rate.

Ultimately, Burmeister has a few years to improve and become the star we all thought he could be at the beginning of the season. Right now, he’s a true freshman who is playing like he should be redshirting, which is what he was supposed to do this season. The offense is completely one-dimensional and I don’t’ think the coaching staff has much faith in him at this present moment.

Utah is going to be able to shoot every gap hard knowing that over 80% of the time the Ducks are going to run it. Oregon’s offense made a good adjustment by using motioning receivers really well. However, if the Ducks’ rush offense struggled to get points against UCLA, who has maybe the worst run defense in the country, how are the Fighting Ducks going to fail to take full advantage of UCLA’s defense and then suddenly outperform their history when they take on an above average rush defense.


NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon State Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Conference Uncommon Games

S: Stanford (-20.5) at Oregon State

Yeah, Stanford has figured things out. After their now-trademarked slow September, the Cardinal found a rhythm on offense and figured things out defensively. And they just got a bye week to get things even tighter. The Beavs played a spirited game against Colorado, but good luck stopping Bryce Love and blocking that murderers’ row defensive front. Stanford by a lot.

R: Stanford (-20.5) at Oregon State

Oregon State lost the head coach that was supposed to bring the program to a national contender. On his way out he blamed his assistant coaches for the team’s performance. I for one, thought that the Beavers were going to get even worse. Two weeks ago, the Beavers were one made field goal away from sending their game against Colorado into overtime.

I think the Beavers gave their best punch two weeks ago when facing Colorado. The team and coaches felt disrespected and that was their game to show them that the narrative about their team was wrong. They played very well, but I’m not sure they can get as up for this game mentally as they did against Colorado, especially against a team like Stanford.

The fact remains that Oregon State has one of the worst rush defenses in the country. They rank in the 100s in rushing defense according to S&P+ and now they’re tasked with defending one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the country. I don’t think Oregon State will be in this game for long.

S: USC at ASU (+3)

Trojans are beyond beat up. They can’t run the ball, Sam Darnold is having confidence problems, and the defense can’t stop the run. Sun Devils are playing as good as anyone in the country with two of the most impressive Pac-12 wins of the year in consecutive weeks. This just feels like a USC trap. I don’t know if the Trojans really will lose two consecutive games with this much talent. But wouldn’t that be the most USC thing ever?

R: USC at ASU (+3)

The Sun Devils are playing better than almost every team in the country. The team that showed up for the first three weeks of the season would get absolutely rocked by the ASU squad that showed up the last two weeks. Utah was coming off a tough loss to USC on the road but Arizona State dominated the game from start to finish. ASU forced four turnovers and held the Utah passing attack to 4.4 yards per pass.

USC is a team that is free falling. They’ve had a ton of injury issues they have dealt with. They come in wounded to this game after losing to Notre Dame 49-14. USC was only able to muster 76 yards on the ground while giving up 8 yards per carry to the Irish.

USC has been in some dog fights the last few weeks and it has to be wearing them down. Arizona State’s defense has been forcing a lot of mistakes and USC is a team that is already prone to them. I think the Sun Devils come away with a win in what has been one of the most surprising teams of the season.

S: UCLA (+17) at washington

Not much of a read here, but this is just a tonnnnn of points to take in a game between two fairly talented teams. Sure, UCLA’s defense has, for the most part, been as stiff as an Applebee’s margarita (read: not stiff).

But they’ve recruited well, and those young defenders grew up to stifle Oregon’s offense last week. And I’m just too gun-shy on Washington after watching them look listless against Arizona State last week. I don’t think UCLA is getting blown out here. Take the points.

R: UCLA at washington (-17)

UCLA and Jim Mora got a win they desperately needed against Oregon. Even though they came away with the win the defense still gave up over 250 yards on the ground to a team that was entirely one-dimensional and the defense knew it.

Jim Mora might have bought himself some more runway for the season but now they face what is, unfortunately, the best team in the conference. Washington ran into a team that is red hot a couple weeks ago so they’ll have extra motivation heading into this one. They need to win out if they want a shot at a playoff spot.

Just look at the coaching matchup. Jim Mora is going against Chris Petersen. Petersen is also coming off of a bye week. This one is going to be pretty one-sided for all 60 minutes.


NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Wild Card Picks

S: Oklahoma State at West Virginia (+8)

This is a stellar Big 12 matchup. And I haven’t seen enough from the Okie State defense. Although I doubted what Will Grier would bring to WVU after his much-publicized transfer from Florida, he’s been a steadying presence for the Mountaineer offense. Both teams will move the ball, and both will score. Anytime I get over a touchdown in a game like this, I’ll take the points. Watch out for a fun one in Morgantown.

S: Georgia (-14) at Florida

Almost everything I know about college football tells me not to lay points on a favorite in a rivalry game.

But, everything *else* I know tells me that the Florida Gators are 100% verifiable trash.

Georgia has been too consistent offensively, too fun-loving and disruptive on defense to not doubt. Also, the Bulldogs have been on the wrong side of this rivalry for too long.

I don’t like laying this many points in a rivalry game. But Georgia smells blood in the water. (I know bulldogs aren’t sharks, but just let this metaphor work for me.)

R: Georgia (-14) at Florida

Florida may have a really good defense but the offense isn’t doing them any favors. The Gator offense has been absolutely terrible the last few years. Their offense lacks any explosiveness and the defense has been susceptible to explosion plays. The Florida offense is going to get Georgia a lot of drives in great field position and probably a few turnovers that get turned into easy scores.

Georgia is the 4th best team according to S&P+ while Florida is 59th. The Bulldog offense is explosive, which matches up well against Florida, and they’re a top-25 rushing and passing team. The Gators aren’t going to be able to key in on one facet of the offense because Georgia can get the job done in multiple ways.

R: Georgia Tech at Clemson (-14)

I’m making the assumption here that Kelly Bryant is going to be healthy. Clemson is coming off a loss to Syracuse where they simply were not the better team that night, but I think that could refocus the team. Maybe they bought too much into the headlines. Maybe they thought it would be easy the rest of the way. Regardless, they’re taking this game very seriously.

Some of the benefits of running a triple-option are mitigated when the other team is coming off of a bye. Georgia Tech has gotten some good wins this year, but none over a defense near the same level as Clemson. The Yellow Jackets have been blown out the last two years by Clemson and I think it happens again.