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Week 9 Pac 10 Betting Preview

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Oregon and Arizona State are on a crash course for a Pac-10 showdown, but this week is no pushover

Oct 26, 2007

By Jason Brough
Bodog Nation Contributing Writers

USC and California had their chances. They blew 'em. Now, two other Pac-10 teams are climbing the ladder in search of a national title. No. 5 Oregon (6-1) and No. 7 Arizona State (7-0) are the top-ranked teams in the conference. This weekend, they take on the sides that were supposed to be in their places.

Born to Run

They say teams that run the ball are boring to watch. "They" obviously didn't watch the Oregon Ducks last weekend against the Washington Huskies.

Oregon racked up a school-record 465 rushing yards in its 55-34 victory over the helpless Dawgs. As painful as it was for the fans in Seattle to watch, they still had to be impressed by the ground attack that ran where they wanted whenever they wanted.

Up the middle? Big gain.

Outside and around? Big gain.

Time and time again, the Ducks ran it down Washington's throat and all the way to its feet. Running back Jonathan Stewart gained 251 yards on 32 carries with two touchdowns. His counterpart. Andre Crenshaw. went 113 on 15 with two scores as well. Quarterback and Heisman candidate Dennis Dixon went 99 yards on 12 with a TD. The only thing that stopped them was the end zone.

"It's really, really unbelievable," Oregon left tackle Max Unger said. "It's a pretty unbelievable feeling when you see the [defensive] line and you can choose what runs you want to do. That's never really happened before."

"I don't think there is a better offense in the country right now," Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer said of the Ducks, who are averaging 550.9 yards and 46.6 points per game.

Oregon's offense will face a much sterner test Saturday in Eugene when the No. 9 USC Trojans (6-1) visit Autzen Stadium. The Huskies are a young squad that, without a lot of depth, grew tired as Saturday's game wore on. USC boasts one of the best defenses in the country, one that was on national display last Saturday as the Trojans blanked Notre Dame 38-0. The Irish gained just 48 rushing yards on 30 carries, good (actually, bad) for 1.6 per attempt.

"I love this challenge," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. "This may be the best offense we've ever seen. Nobody's been able to slow them down. We've got to find a way. I think we're ready to turn the corner. You can just feel it. We're getting better, we're getting stronger."

Oddsmakers like the Ducks by a field goal, and that's a noteworthy betting line. USC has not been an underdog to a Pac-10 opponent since Nov. 17, 2001, against UCLA, a game which the Trojans won 27-0.

For Oregon, Saturday marks the first of back-to-back games against top-10 teams that reside in their conference. Next week, the Ducks host the Arizona State Sun Devils in a game that's setting up to determine the best of the Pac-10.

Saturday, Oct. 27 - The Big Games
Time (EST) College Football Point Spreads TV
12pm No. 6 West Virginia (-6) at No. 25 Rutgers ABC
3:30 p.m. Nebraska (+21) at No. 17 Texas ABC
3:30 p.m. No. 9 Florida (-8.5) at No. 20 Georgia CBS
8 p.m. No. 1 Ohio State (-4) at No. 24 Penn State ABC

Speaking of the Sun Devils…

Coach Dennis Erickson might not be the most popular guy in Idaho after ditching the Vandals in December, having spent just 10 months with the program. However, he's feeling plenty of love in Tempe.

Erickson, who won national titles at Miami in 1989 and 1991, has guided the Sun Devils to a 7-0 start in his first season with the school and is threatening to lead the team to its first Pac-10 title since 1996.

It's easy to say ASU hasn't beaten anyone yet; their best win was probably as a nine-point favorite on Oct. 6 at Washington State where they won 23-30. All their other games were double-digit lines in their favor.

On Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium, the home team is a three-point favorite against No. 18 California, a team that's fallen completely off the map after losing back-to-back to Oregon State and UCLA. The Golden Bears (5-2) were ranked second in the nation prior to their shocking loss to the Beavers.

But if you believe Cal coach Jeff Tedford, the Bears won't be quitting anytime soon.

"We have stumbled two weeks in a row now," he said. "We just have to regroup. We are not going to just pack it in. There is so much parity in this conference."

As for Erickson, the veteran coach is saying all the things you’d expect a veteran coach to say. Namely, take it one game at a time.

"I'm happy we're 7-0. I'm happy that we're recognized," said Erickson. "As we started out the year, I told our players we just have to get to 1-0, then we have to get 2-0, and that's all we've ever focused on here. That's all we're focusing on now, to try to win our eighth game somehow and then go ahead and go from there."

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