Should No. 9 Oregon be on upset alert?

NCAA Football

Last week was one of those weeks where, for the most part, I have no regrets about my process despite bad results. I’ve had a few bad weeks and have a record below .500 for the first half of the season, but I’m going to keep firing. There’s still a long way to go.

I’m confident I can get back on track this week and carry that over to the rest of the season.

Last week: 2-4

Overall: 18-22-1

(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)

Time: 10:30 p.m. (Friday) | Line: Oregon -14 | Total: 54

I think the perception of Oregon is still skewed by that win over Ohio State. The Ducks are dealing with a ton of injuries, including the loss of star running back C.J. Verdell. The passing game, which ranks No. 90 nationally, is limited with Anthony Brown at QB. 

Cal is a better team than its 1-4 record suggests. Cal’s first three losses were all against quality opponents and came by an average of 4.6 points. Coming off an ugly performance against Washington State and a bye week, I expect a strong effort from a veteran team.

There are also a few trends that make me like Cal to cover the spread. The Golden Bears are 18-8-1 against the spread as an underdog under Justin Wilcox, including an 11-4 mark as a road dog. As a double-digit underdog under Wilcox, Cal is 8-3 ATS. On the other side, Oregon is just 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games as a double-digit favorite, including 0-3 this season.

Pick: Cal +14

Oregons' Anthony Brown throws against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
Oregons’ Anthony Brown throws against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Time: Noon | Line: Nebraska -4 | Total: 48

Nebraska was close to getting a signature win over Michigan last week. The game went down to the wire, but a late fumble allowed Michigan to kick the winning field goal. That’s a tough thing to rebound from, especially going on the road for a sleepy 11 a.m. kick.

Nebraska’s offense skews toward the run, and Minnesota’s run defense ranks No. 5 in the country. The Gophers are allowing just 77 rushing yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry. If the Huskers can’t run the ball, that puts more pressure on QB Adrian Martinez to deliver in the passing game. That hasn’t worked out very well during Martinez’s career.

Speaking of the pass game, Minnesota has attempted only 90 passes this season. Only three teams have fewer attempts in the country: Army, Air Force and Navy. Minnesota is down to its third-string running back but will still lean on the ground game and try to control the ball and limit possessions.

Nebraska is the better team, but I have not done well picking short road favorites. The under feels like the safer play.

Pick: Under 48

Time: Noon | Line: Arkansas -4.5 | Total: 53.5

Other than that weird Georgia State game, I’ve been impressed by Auburn this season. Bryan Harsin’s group went down to the wire at Penn State, had a comeback win at LSU and had some decent moments last week against the mighty Georgia defense.

Auburn played Georgia way tougher than Arkansas did. Auburn actually moved the ball and should have scored more than 10 points. The Tigers had some costly drops and couldn’t convert in the red zone. They couldn’t run the ball on Georgia, but they’ll have much more success against Arkansas.

After playing Penn State and LSU, Auburn won’t be intimidated by this road environment. I’ll take the points. 

Pick: Auburn +4.5

Time: 3:30 p.m. | Line: UNC -7.5 | Total: 62.5

I think this line is a bit of an overreaction to Miami QB D’Eriq King being out. After a slow start, Tyler Van Dyke played pretty well in King’s place against Virginia. Miami should have won that game, but missed a chip shot field goal at the buzzer.

Miami is slowly integrating some of its young guys into more significant roles on both sides of the ball, and I like this spot for the Hurricanes after a bye week. North Carolina is too inconsistent and its defense just hasn’t played well. 

Pick: Miami +7.5

Time: 3:30 p.m. | Line: Baylor -6.5 | Total: 50.5

I’ve been surprised by how much better Baylor has played from Year 1 to Year 2 of the Dave Aranda era. A big part of that turnaround, in my opinion, was Aranda’s decision to hire Jeff Grimes as his offensive coordinator. Grimes came from BYU, addiing intrigue to this matchup.

Baylor blew out West Virginia last week, but I think that was more of a reflection of WVU than how good Baylor’s offense is. Baylor opened the year with wins over three terrible teams and then averaged only 5.2 yards per play in games against Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

I think BYU can contain Baylor enough to keep this within the number. BYU lost to Boise State last week, but a lot of Boise State’s points came off BYU mistakes. The Cougars turned it over four times, turned it over on downs twice, had nine penalties and were terrible in the red zone. BYU will be better this time. 

Pick: BYU +6.5

Time: 3:30 p.m. | Line: Pitt -5 | Total: 57.5

Virginia Tech probably should have beaten Notre Dame last week. It was a physical game that the Hokies ended up losing on a last-second field goal. Now they have to turn around and face a Pitt team coming off a bye that is anxious to prove it is one of the best in the ACC.

Pitt’s offense has been on fire this year with senior quarterback Kenny Pickett leading the way. Virginia Tech’s offense is averaging just 4.9 yards per play, the worst in the ACC. Pitt’s defense isn’t very good, but I just don’t think the Hokies will be able to keep up with Pitt over the course of 60 minutes.

Under Pat Narduzzi, Pitt has a 23-10-1 ATS record on the road, including a 10-3 mark as a road favorite.

Pick: Pittsburgh -5

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) works against Georgia Tech during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) works against Georgia Tech during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Time: 7:30 p.m. | Line: Ole Miss -2.5 | Total: 82

I know both of these offenses have been on fire, but a total of 82 points? Really?

The Ole Miss defense wasn’t terrible before last week’s shootout win over Arkansas and I think the oddsmakers are overrating Tennessee after the Vols ran wild over two of the SEC’s worst teams.

I have to believe there will be a few stops somewhere in this game. 

Pick: Under 82

Time: 10 p.m. | Line: Pick ‘Em | Total: 50.5

Utah’s offense looks so much better since it made the switch from Charlie Brewer to Cam Rising at quarterback. The Utes came off a bye week and dropped nearly 500 yards in a win over USC last weekend.

I think there will be more room for success against Arizona State. ASU only allowed 10 points against Stanford, but the Cardinal moved the ball into ASU territory on 10 of their 11 possessions. Perplexingly, David Shaw opted to punt four different times from ASU territory. Stanford also turned it over twice and turned it over on downs two other times inside the ASU 50.

I’m envisioning a game that’s in the 28-24 or 30-27 range. 

Pick: Over 50.5

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