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Stanford vs. Oregon

Betting Line: Oregon -7 o/u 66

10/2/10

The Oregon Ducks had a great year in 2009. They earned a trip to the Rose Bowl after winning the Pacific 10 with their final victory coming over Oregon State in the "Civil War" game. It was tough to gauge how much they would fall off this year with the loss of QB Jeremiah Masoli. So far, it appears they are even better. The Ducks are 4-0 and ranked #4 in the nation. They have blown out most of their opponents, but they have their toughest test to date this week when the Stanford Cardinal travel to play them. The Cardinal are also 4-0 and ranked #9 by the AP. Both of these teams have looked unstoppable, but something has got to give. Oregon is a 7 point favorite.

In the second game of the year the Cardinal traveled to play the UCLA Bruins. They exited the game with a 35-0 victory. Since that win the Bruins have returned to crush #7 Texas. That flatters Stanford. The Cardinal also won in South Bend when they traveled to face Notre Dame. Playing at Oregon isn't going to affect their game.

QB Andrew Luck powers the Stanford offense. Until last week he had been nearly perfect, passing for 4 TDs and 207 yards against Wake Forest. He had 69 rushing yards in that game. If Oregon doesn't watch him, Luck will burn them for yards on the ground. Luck is a Heisman candidate, but everyone has a bad game occasionally. He tossed 2 INTs against Notre Dame and had only a single TD. He will have to revert to his previous form for his team to beat the Ducks.

Stanford's running game has been shared by several players. The best running option is arguably Luck, but the best RB on the team is sophomore Tyler Gaffney. He had 76 yards and 2 TDs against Wake Forest. The Cardinal have been getting at least 160 yards per game on the ground so far in 2010.

Until last week's game against Arizona State, the Ducks had been outgaining opponents by massive amounts of yards. They produced 720 total yards against New Mexico en route to a 72-0 win, and outgained the Lobos by 613 yards. They outgained Tennessee by 115 with 447 yards of total offense. The run is doing an excellent job of setting up the pass in Oregon. Sophomore RB Lamichael James is one of the best in the game at what he does. In three games he has 475 yards and 4 TDs on 58 carries.

Sophomore QB Darron Thomas has done an excellent job stepping into the starter role. The only glaring weakness he has is throwing INTs. He's thrown a single INT in three of his first four games. He has made up for that with 822 passing yards and 10 TDs. The Oregon offense can get points in many different ways, but both have to be efficient to win this game.

Other than last week when they allowed a massive 597 total yards, the Ducks defense has been top notch. Although they allowed a huge amount of yardage, the Ducks defense grabbed 4 INTs, including a pick 6. If they hadn't performed so well in the secondary Oregon may be 3-1 instead of 4-0. They have sacked opposing QBs 11 times. 

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Stanford's defense has produced 15 sacks in just 4 games. They will have pressure on Duck's QB Darron Thomas the whole game. The Cardinal have stifled the run in almost every game this year. This will be their biggest test of the young season, but conversely it will be biggest test yet of Oregon's offense.

When was the last time Stanford had a game of this magnitude? This handicapper has been at it for 30 years and can't remember a bigger game than this for Stanford. On the line is the Rose Bowl and, dare to dream, a  National Championship.

You have to be careful as a handicapper not to get caught up in any teams recent success. Last thing you want to do is jump on the bandwagon too late. But we see no reason not to jump on Stanford's back here. This team has been the classic "team on the rise" in every sense. They won just 1 game in 2006. Harbaugh took over and they won 4, 5 and then 8 last year. In winning 8 last year, they were extremely competitive, beating some big time teams including USC and this Oregon Team while playing others very close.

Last year this game was a shootout with Stanford winning 51-42, holding on after jumping out to a 31-14 halftime lead. Both teams are largely intact from a year ago. Absolutely no  reason to expect anything but a close game, decided late. Both defenses have improved from a year ago and the offenses are once again in sync.

Lastly, a point about home field advantage. It's a common misconception by rookie handicappers to assume that home field advantage in football is 3 points. Not true. In fact home field advantage in college football can be anywhere from 0 points right up to 8 or more in some cases. Oregon enjoys one of the biggest home field edges in college football. Probably close to a touchdown. This game opened up Oregon -4.5 and has been bet up to -7. Which means the oddsmakers feel Stanford would likely be a 1 point favorite on a neutral field.

This game is an opportunity Stanford football won't get very often. Expect them to take advantage of it. This is a capable team. Stanford +7
 

 

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