No. 3 Oregon Ducks (6-0 SU, 2-4 ATS) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1 SU, 5-1 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 9:00 p.m. EST
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: U of O -9.5/ASU +9.5
Over/Under Total: 68.5
The leader in the PAC-12 North will travel to meet the leader in the PAC-12 South when the 3rd-ranked Oregon Ducks make the trip south to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe to play the Arizona State Sun Devils in a primetime showdown Thursday Night on ESPN.
For Oregon, Thursday’s game will be another chance to prove to the nation (and BCS voters) they are for real and not a product of an easy “home-cookin'” schedule. Despite a, 52-21, victory over Washington last time out October 6th in Autzen Stadium, the Ducks were still leapfrogged by Florida in the opening BCS poll this week and it has instantly added pressure on the Ducks for a victory this week over the Sun Devils on the road to gain some clout for the pollsters.
Now 5-1 for the year and one of the biggest surprises of the PAC-12 season thus far, Arizona State used the Colorado Buffalos as a proper tuneup game last Thursday night on ESPN, 51-17, so they have the luxury of already being on a set routine for a Thursday-Night game night. They’ll need all the help they can get, as first-year coach Todd Graham and the Sun Devils face the first game of a four-game gauntlet of a PAC-12 schedule (UCLA, at Oregon St., at USC to follow this week) that will let everyone know if they’re contender or pretender.
The way the oddsmakers and the betting public have reacted to the point spread for this game indicates that not many people expect the Sun Devils to be legit. The oddsmakers set the opening number with Oregon as 10-point favorites, and after a little initial run on the home underdog drove the point spread down to minus -9.5, the run stopped quickly at 9.5 and has even gone back up to -10 at a few online sportsbooks.
The over/under total opened at 68.5 at has yet to move in either direction, except at Legends where it went up the hook to 69 to try and lure bettors in on the under for what looks to be a PAC-12 shootout.
Everyone is expecting a big shootout because the Ducks and Sun Devils have two of the highest scoring offenses in the land. Oregon has been thee elite offense in the country for a few years now, and their 52.3 points per game average is 2nd in the FBS, but the Sun Devils are experiencing a offensive resurgence under coordinator Mike Norwell and new head coach Todd Graham’s system they brought from their days at Tulsa, scoring 40.5 points a game.
The game will also feature a plethora of strong running backs. Everyone
is aware of what Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas and Oregon can do on
the ground (302 ypg – 4th), but the Sun Devils have a bunch of runners including
D.J. Foster, Marion Grice and Cameron Marshall that put up 188 yards a game
on the ground (42nd) in the Sun Devil’s new spread-option scheme.
Where this game will turn is on defense, or better stated, which defense is able to stop the “fastbreak” offense of the other team. On paper, it looks like Arizona State might be better equipped to stop the Ducks since they rank 8th overall in total defense (273 ypg) and 9th in scoring defense (14.2 ppg), but then you look at who they’ve played so far this season (teams are a combined 11-22 SU this season) and those numbers lose a little of there luster.
The Ducks have won seven straight games in the series with Arizona St., including a 41-27 win last year in Eugene as (ironically) 14-point favorites (push). The Ducks last three trips to Sun Devil Stadium have turned out well too, winning by scores of, 42-31 (in 2010), 54-20 (’08) and 48-13 (in ’06) while going 5-1-1 ATS during the seven-game streak.
The past four seasons the game has gone over the total, but the highest number they’ve faced as a closing total has been 66.5 (last year). The last time the total approached 70 (closed at 68.5 in 2005) the game fell well short of expectations with a final score of 31-17 to start the Ducks seven-game run. The over is also a strong 4-1-1 in the last six games played in Sun Devil Stadium in the series.
Other betting trends to note are the fact that the Ducks have historically had some issues playing on Thursday Night, going 2-5 ATS in their last seven attempts. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are historically a good PAC-12 team (13-6-3 ATS in last 22 PAC-12 games) and strong at home (13-6-1 ATS in L20 at Sun Devil Stadium).
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Coach Graham has the Sun Devils going in the right direction and tons of bettors are going to be going to bed Thursday night with empty wallets when ASU gives the Ducks a run for their money. It wouldn’t even surprise me to see the Sun Devils win this game straight up. Take ASU plus the points.
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