#2 Oregon Ducks (8-1) -12.5, 67 O/U at Arizona Wildcats (4-6) +12.5, 67 O/U Arizona Stadium, 9 PM Eastern, Thursday
by Badger of Predictem.com
The Oregon Ducks, ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings, will try to keep their national title game hopes alive on Thursday when they travel to play the Arizona Wildcats on ESPN. Both teams are coming off of bye weeks, so the action will be fast and furious in this Pacific 10 Conference showdown.
The Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) are riding a wave of success recently, as they knocked Arizona State from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 35-23 victory on November 3rd, one week after drilling USC, 24-17. In fact, if not for a disputed fumble into the end zone in their only loss of the season (31-24 to California), we could be talking about the undefeated and No. 1 ranked Oregon Ducks.
Arizona (4-6, 3-4) has also been playing some really good football of late, winning two straight games including a 34-27 victory over UCLA on November 3rd. The Wildcats are also surging at the end of the season because their head coach, Mike Stoops, was recently given a vote of confidence from the university that he would not be fired at the end of what has become another disappointing season.
The game opened with Oregon as a 12.5-point chalk, with a 67 total for over/under bets. The money line has Arizona listed as a +330, with Oregon at a whopping -425.
Oregon is in the top five in the country in just about every offensive category. Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon at quarterback, the Ducks rack up huge yardage (510.6 ypg 5th overall), mostly on the ground (272.2 ypg -5th) with running back Jonathan Stewart, and they put numbers on the scoreboard at an alarming rate (42.8 points per game 5th).
At 398.5 yards per game and 28.5 points per game, Arizona is no slouch on offense either. The Wildcats are definitely a passing team though, as quarterback Willie Tuitama throws the ball for 316.4 yards per game, the 9th best average in the country.
It is the defense that has stepped it up a notch for the Ducks during their recent surge up the BCS standings. Ranked only 74th overall, the Ducks defense held a potent USC team to just 14 points (their lowest output this year), and harassed Arizona State so much that they finished the game with nine sacks. The defense will miss linebacker John Bacon though, as Bacon blew out his knee in the Arizona State victory and is out the rest of the year.
Arizona should be better on defense then they are, considering Stoops was the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma before running his own show with the Wildcats. Overall the Desert Swarm as they used to be called is 48th in the nation (365.9 ypg), but it has been the secondary that has given up big plays and big yardage at 233.8 yards per game. That may be a reflection of the pass-happy Pac-10 though, and not necessarily the ability of the Wildcats d-backs.
Its not surprising that Oregon has been successful at covering the number all year. The Ducks are also 8-1 ATS, including a 3-0 ATS record on the road. With the prolific offense, youd think the Ducks would go over the total often, but that is not the case. The Ducks have only gone over the total in four of their nine games, but thats what happens when you have to cover totals like 69, 73 and 64.5 week in and week out.
Arizona is less successful at covering, going 4-6 ATS on the season with a 2-2 mark at home. They are better at covering the total, going 5-4 on the season (including 3 of their last 4 games) and 3-1 at home in Arizona Stadium.
Because of the extra bye week to prepare, both teams come into the game healthy. The forecasters are predicting rain during the day, but the storms are supposed to have moved on by kickoff.
The spread for the game is starting to drop to 12 and even some 11s in some of the offshore sportsbooks, so the early money is being put on the home underdog. The total of 67 is remaining steady.
Badgers Pick: With the way the Ducks have been scoring all season, its easy to think the Dixon-led offense is going to just open a can of whoop-ass on the Wildcats. Plus, I just dont think Arizona is good enough to stay in the game very long. I like the Ducks to cover the big number here, although it maybe the back-door variety late in the game.