Free Expert NCAA Football Picks: Arizona Wildcats at Oregon Ducks Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/30/2014
Arizona Wildcats at Oregon Ducks, Thursday Oct. 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
We have a much more compelling matchup awaiting us for Arizona at Oregon than you might think if you just looked at these two rosters on paper. Both teams are unbeaten through four games, so the prospect of a first loss for one squad is always exciting. Both teams are more than capable of scoring points in bulk, too, so chances are good that you'll be rewarded for staying up late with a fun game to watch. Most significantly, though, there is a great revenge angle in play. Last year Oregon imagined that they were en route to yet another BCS berth, but Arizona had different ideas. In one of the most shocking results of the entire season, Arizona thumped the Ducks at home 42-16. An MCL sprain for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota did the offense no favors, but the defense was just plain awful on the day as well. It derailed one team's season and created tremendous long-term momentum for the other.
Arizona at Oregon Betting Storylines
Arizona has been winning but not in a way that is good for the hearts of their fans. They needed a massive comeback and an impossible last-second Hail Mary to beat lowly Cal to open conference play and barely got by Nevada and UTSA. It hasn't been dominant by any means, and they are just 1-3 ATS. That's the same betting record as the Ducks, though, and they were just as lucky as Arizona to escape their own conference opener without being upset by the Cougars. The final score of 38-31 was flattering there, but they had won much easier in their first three games. Now both teams have had 12 days since their conference-opening scare to get back on track and get ready for this one.
Mariota was banged up last year in this game. He's healthy now, but he won't be for long if the Oregon offensive line doesn't get on track. Mariota was sacked seven times by Washington State, and he was left to scramble for his life on several other occasions. Arizona knows firsthand how effective of a strategy disrupting Mariota can be - really the only way to slow down this potent offense - so you can be sure that Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will be aggressive up front in this one to test the Oregon offensive line.
The quarterbacks are the story in this game on both sides. Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon has been brilliant so far. He is averaging 363.5 passing yards per game, has 13 touchdowns and just three picks, and handled the pressure of the fourth-quarter comeback against Cal like a seasoned vet. Of course, he is taking a massive step up in class here, and he will be facing a caliber of athletes unlike anything he has seen before. He's also likely to see a whole lot more pressure - especially early on - than ever before. If he handles this as well as he has other challenges then he's really going to vault into the national consciousness. He'll be helped by facing an Oregon pass defense that has been just awful this year - their 315.3 passing yards allowed per game is just 119th in the country.
Arizona Wildcats at Oregon Ducks NCAA Football Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Ducks favored by 22.5 points. There has been slight upwards pressure, with 23.5 available in spots, but it seems unlikely that it will move too far beyond the key number of 24 barring a major development - especially since a small majority of bets have come in on the Wildcats. The total sits at 70 points.
The Ducks have gone "under" the total in their last four Thursday games and in their last four games following a bye week. Arizona is 0-6 ATS in their last six games following a straight up win. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings against the teams.
Arizona Wildcats at Oregon Ducks NCAA Football Predictions and Expert Picks
It is obviously dangerous to underestimate what the Ducks are capable of - as the Michigan State Spartans learned in the second half of their encounter this year. Oregon also gets to return home where they are especially tough after their trip to Pullman last time out. Still, I just can't shake the feeling that they are giving up too many points here. With Oregon's offensive line and their secondary not matching up as well against the Wildcats as would be ideal, Arizona has the chance to put up some points in this one. The Ducks should win, but I'm willing to bet that it will be closer than the spread indicates. I'll wait until closer than game time to find the biggest spread I can - hitting that key number of 24 would be a real treat, though I certainly wouldn't pay for the extra points or so.
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