Washington State Cougars at Oregon Ducks Expert Picks with Odds and Predictions
Washington State Cougars at Oregon Ducks, 8 p.m., Saturday Sept. 23
While Oregon is licking its wounds, Washington State is flying high. I know it is generally the other way around with ducks and cougars - especially THESE Ducks and Cougars - but that's how backwards things have gotten between these programs over the past several years.
No. 11 Washington State heads to Autzen Stadium to take on Oregon at 8 p.m. on Saturday in a key Pac-12 North clash. The Cougars are a slim two-point favorite and the total is set at 61.5.
Perhaps nothing signifies Oregon's slide from national powerhouse to Pac-12 afterthought than this series; Oregon was favored by between 31 and 40 points over the Cougars five straight years between 2009 and 2013. Now they enter this weekend's game unranked, a home underdog, and trying to avoid a third-straight loss in this series.
Washington State at Oregon Betting Storylines
The Ducks are dealing with a slew of injuries after last week's Pyrrhic blowout win over California. Starting quarterback Justin Herbert fractured his collarbone and is out for several weeks. Backup Taylor Alie also left the game in the fourth quarter, paving the way for third-stringer Braxton Burmeister to make his debut. Alie and Burmeister have both been taking reps this week, and there is no clear indication who will be making their first career start on Saturday.
Starting running back Royce Freeman, receiver Dillon Mitchell and linebacker Kaulana Apelu are also day-to-day for the Ducks.
The Cougars, on the other hand, are coming off a huge upset of then-No. 5 USC last Friday in Pullman. Fourth-year starting quarterback Luke Falk leads the nation's No. 2 passing attack, and Mike Leach's Air Raid offense is No. 19 in the country in yards and No. 21 in scoring at 41.0 per game.
Scoring has not been a problem for the Cougars since Leach has come to town. But the real stars of Wazzou's resurgence have been the defense. Washington State is No. 11 nationally in total defense and No. 7 against the pass. They're giving up just 20.2 points per game due in part to their 12 forced turnovers.
However, this is Washington State's first road game of the season after five home tilts. The Cougars did win their last trip to Autzen in 2015 but had lost eight straight to Oregon prior to these two upsets the past two seasons.
Washington State at Oregon Odds and Betting Trends
Oregon has been a small home underdog since the line opened. The Ducks started at -1.0 and are now -2.0 due to the fact that nearly 80 percent of the betting action has come down on the Cougars. The total has seen the steepest movement. It opened at 67.5 but, due to Oregon's quarterback situation, has dropped to just 61.0.
The total drop is somewhat surprising given how high scoring this series has been. The two teams combined for 84 points last year and 83 the year prior. They've gone 'over' in five of the last six and seven of the last nine meetings. The 'over' is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Oregon. But that's par for the course: the 'over' is an unbelievable 49-17 in the Ducks' last 66 home games.
Washington State is 14-6 ATS in its last 20 Pac-12 games and they have dominated this series, going 7-0 ATS in the last seven meetings. However, the Cougars were underdogs in all seven of those matchups. Oregon is just 3-9 ATS in its last 12 conference games and 5-12 ATS in their last 17 home games. The Ducks are just 5-13 ATS in their last 18 games overall.
Washington State at Oregon Predictions and Picks
This line looks like a bit of a trap. And I expect it to continue to grow Wazzou's way. But Washington State has been hot and Oregon is sliding after a loss at Arizona State and last week's injury-riddled victory. Momentum means something, and one side clearly has it.
Washington State hasn't beaten Oregon three straight times since 1982-84. And the Cougars are in a killer letdown situation after that tight win over USC last week. Oh, yeah, and there's that whole first-road-game thing. But Oregon isn't close to 100 percent. And in a matchup of Falk, statistically one of the best and most accomplished Pac-12 quarterbacks of the past 15 years, and a random Ducks quarterback making his first start, I would have to go with the visitor in this one.
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