Free Football Pick: Oregon vs Arizona
Oregon Ducks (5-2 SU, 2-5 ATS) vs. Arizona Wildcats (3-5 SU, 4-4 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date and Time: Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 10:30PM EDT
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
By: Loot Levinson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ORE -9.5/ARIZ +9.5
Over/Under Total: 61
The Oregon Ducks come to Tucson to battle the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night in a Pac-12 battle. Neither team had a good time of it last week, with Oregon failing to build momentum after beating the Huskies the previous week, falling to Washington State, 34-20. Arizona has seen things get away from them after dropping their second straight, losing to UCLA, 31-30. After taking some lumps on the road the last few weeks, they return home, but might be up against it with the Ducks this week.
Oregon: Not Ready for Primetime
The Ducks have made strides and are now a program on the rise. After beating Washington, however, they were unable to follow it up, showing they are still a work-in-progress. And it’s not that they merely didn’t win, being that WSU is a good team and perhaps underrated. But it was the lethargic way they played, a bizarre development after having to dig so deep to beat the favored Huskies the prior week. They fell behind 27-0 at the half to the Cougars and it didn’t look like a football-related collapse as much as it looked like a mental issue. They just didn’t look ready to play. They eventually worked their way somewhat back into the game, but could never overcome the slow start.
Some of their issues are defensive in nature. There are times when the secondary looks to be a full-level beneath what a top Pac-12 team should have. Washington State’s Gardner Minshew ate up this Oregon “D” with gusto and they even out-rushed the Ducks and that’s a really bad sign. For all of Arizona’s current issues, they do have some athletes to unleash offensively, both aerially and on the ground. And that’s especially true if Khalil Tate (day-to-day) is ready to return at QB after missing some time, as he looks like he might. He gets a lot out of RB JJ Taylor and ball-catchers Shun Brown, Shawn Poindexter, and Tony Ellison.
The Variance of Oregon
Already this season, we’ve seen many different manifestations of Oregon, both in terms of their strengths and weaknesses on the field, in addition to their overall level of energy. With the Ducks, it can flip right in the middle of a game. Against Stanford, they were shot out of a cannon, only to wane and let Stanford stage an unlikely comeback to win the game. Against Washington State last week, it was the opposite dynamic, with the Ducks looking like mummies in the first half, before turning on the juice in the second half—to no avail. We see an offense that is diverse and effective, with a nice run-game and an NFL-style QB in Justin Herbert who stands above his Pac-12 peers. But then you see them get stymied for an entire first half against Washington State. You don’t know what to get from one week to the next.
Still, if you were looking to pinpoint a time when the Oregon offense could jump up a bit, this would tend to be the spot. The defense of Arizona looms as a constant sticking-point and a barrier for them to really build anything substantive with this program. They don’t do anything right and even big point spreads are rendered moot on the basis of this defense’s incompetence. Right now in particular, it seems to be getting really ugly, as injuries have made them have to dig even deeper into the barrel. They’ve given up a combined 73 points in their last two games, with the opponents being Utah and UCLA. That doesn’t bode well when about to take on an Oregon team that is probably irritated and looking to get back on the right foot.
What Can Arizona Do About It?
It might even be understated at this point how bad Arizona is. One has to imagine Kevin Sumlin will find some answers eventually, but he’s really up against it in terms of personnel limitations, especially on defense. On one hand, they won two conference games already, losing two others by a combined five points. They’re 3-2 ATS in the Pac-12 this season. But there are degrees in this conference. And the way they’ve been walloped by the better offensive teams they’ve faced portends ominous results this week.
Against the run, Arizona is pretty bad and they get worse as the game wears on. You might have a nice amount of points, but it’s funny how it’s never enough when the team you have is evaporating late in games, with opposing backs encountering minimal resistance. Look for Oregon’s cabaret of backs, guys like CJ Verdell (questionable), Tony Brooks-James, and Travis Dye to all shine on Saturday. That opens up things for the arm of Herbert and his big targets like Johnny Johnson, III, Dillon Mitchell, Jaylon Redd, and Jacob Breeland.
Lay the Points on the Road Favorite
There might be some value here on Oregon. The feeling on them is that they’re not a complete product, but they just might look like one this week against Arizona. Oregon’s deficiencies come exponentially more-to-light against a higher class of opponent. The Ducks are still stocked with entirely too much firepower for teams like Arizona. And the Wildcats don’t seem to be getting better and are dealing with some injuries in key spots. It’d have been better for them in a lot of ways if Oregon had just beaten Washington State last week. Now, Arizona will be facing a version of Oregon that is extra eager to get back on the right track, get ranked again, and make a run at something big this season. I see them getting it done on Saturday with the big win and cover.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Oregon Ducks minus 9.5 points.