College Football Expert Predictions: Stanford Cardinal at Oregon Ducks
Stanford Cardinal at Oregon Ducks, Saturday September 22, 8 p.m. ET
Washington has been assumed to be the Pac-12 North winner for months now. But they have lost a game already - a nonconference game, but still a game - and have covered only one spread, so other teams perhaps have more hope now than they might have otherwise. Stanford is unquestionably the second-best team in the conference, and Oregon is making a surprising charge to prove that they could be third-best. The winner here will still be a significant underdog to win the division, but they will have a major advantage over the team that loses here. So, you could think of this as almost a divisional semifinal - at least it could turn out that way if things turn out as expected in the conference, which is never guaranteed in the often-crazy Pac-12.
Stanford at Oregon Betting Storylines
When you think of Stanford you think of Bryce Love, the all-world running back, above all else. And that is more complicated heading into this game than it normally was. Love was held out of the team's last game due to an injury - what kind of injury is unknown because teams like to keep stupid secrets sometimes. He's reportedly back now, but we can't know how healthy he is going to be. And it is also very tough to figure out what kind of defense he is going to be facing. Oregon has had a Top 5 run defense nationally to date, but their schedule - Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State - has hardly been the toughest in the country. Have they allowed less than two yards per carry because they are immensely talented at defending against the run? Or are they just being flattered by facing weak run attacks and will they be exposed by Love and company here? It's a question that will define how this game ultimately turns out. Love looked quite strong against USC in the second game he played, but in the opener against San Diego State he was, somewhat surprisingly, a non-factor. Last year he was a stone-cold lock to succeed, but this year it isn't nearly so clear - and that makes this team tougher to handicap.
While the weakness of Oregon's schedule so far makes it tough to judge their run defense, it also makes it tough to judge starting QB Justin Herbert. He is getting some Heisman buzz - at least as much as a guy can get when Tua Tagovailoa has been awarded the trophy already in the eyes of many. He is second nationally with 12 touchdown passes, so the attention makes sense on the surface. But he has thrown four picks and completed only 56.8 percent of his passes, and that has come against defenses that are barely a shadow of what he will see here, so it feels like it would be a mistake to be too confident in what we will see from him here. Stanford's defense is No. 1 nationally in points allowed with just 7.7 per game, and USC's J.T. Daniels, one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the country, had a very long and frustrating day when he faced the team. You can put me in the column of people who don't expect a big game from Herbert.
Stanford at Oregon Odds and Betting Trends
This line has bounced around a bit in early betting action. It opened with Oregon favored by a point and a half, and now it is Stanford that is favored, with the latest number sitting at two points . Two-thirds of bets have been on the Cardinal, so we could see more line movement - though it will take a lot for the number to go to or through the key number of three. The total opened at 56, and after climbing as high as 59 it has settled back at 56.
The Cardinal are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall and have the same record against teams with winning records. They are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven games overall, though. Oregon is a dismal 8-21-1 ATS in their last 30 games overall and just 6-13 ATS in their last 19 conference games.
Stanford at Oregon Predictions and Picks
This line feels like a gift, and that is a real concern to me. I hate when things seem too straightforward - I don't trust it, and I wonder what I am missing. But while playing at home is an advantage for Oregon, it isn't enough. Stanford's defense is going to shut things down. And their offense will be more than solid enough - especially if Bryce love is ready to go. Oregon is a team dealing with their third coaching regime in three years. And while they have looked good so far, it is a lot to ask for them to be up to the challenge of facing a team as well coached as Stanford is. The Cardinal are a confident pick here - and I'd jump on it before the key number of three comes into play.
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