College Football Picks: Cal at Oregon Game Preview and Betting Prediction

Doc MosemanCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2011

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24:  Runningback LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks walks off the field before the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Wildcats 56-31.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If you want a reason other than betting purposes to watch Thursday’s ESPN college football game, do it for the Oregon uniforms. The Ducks will unveil yet another new ensemble, and I’ve seen them. They are quite awesome. At least in a “retro there’s what looks like Donald Duck on the shoulder pads kind of way.”

Anyway, you shouldn’t need a reason to want to watch the No. 9 Ducks, who for my money are the most entertaining college team around. For example, in their last game, a 56-31 beatdown of Arizona on Sept. 24, all but one of Oregon’s touchdown drives was less than three minutes in duration. Of Oregon’s 27 offensive drives resulting in touchdowns this season, 12 have lasted 1:39 or less and five have lasted less than a minute. That’s just crazy. Heisman candidate LaMichael James rushed for a school-record 288 yards (12.2 yards per carry) against Arizona and broke the Oregon mark for career rushing TDs with No. 42 and 43. The Ducks have now won 13 conference games in a row.

Cal, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season on the same day—making this relevant just because neither team is on a short week—falling 31-23 at Washington. Bears QB Zach Maynard threw for a career-high 349 yards, but only one score. WR Keenan Allen had one of the biggest days in school history with 10 catches for 197 yards and a school-record 90-yard TD reception.

Cal at Oregon Betting Storylines

Oregon was mostly shut down in its opening loss against LSU, but it appears to have things back to normal. The Ducks are averaging 52 points (tops in the country) and 533.73 yards a game. James leads the nation in rushing as he goes for a third straight game with at least 200 yards rushing. Cal's rushing defense has allowed only 78.25 yards per game, ranking second in the Pac-12 and ninth nationally.

Last year, no team played as well defensively against Oregon as the Bears (all due respect to Auburn in the national title game). Cal held Oregon to just 377 yards in a 15-13 loss, the best defensive performance against the Ducks all season and lowest point total of the year for UO. James was held to 91 yards on 29 carries, only a 3.1 ypc average. His averages of 104.5 yards and 4.2 per carry in two games against the Golden Bears represent his lowest versus any conference opponent. Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that would have given Cal a 16-15 lead and might have knocked then-No. 1 Oregon out of the national title picture.

You might remember that game because it appeared that a Cal player, after looking to the sideline, basically collapsed on the field like he was shot in an obvious effort to slow Oregon’s no-huddle offense. Later in the season, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi was suspended for a game for admitting that he instructed the player to go down.

If Cal is going to have a shot here, Maynard will have to have a big game. And he might. Oregon's defense is allowing opponents an average of 389.5 yards, ranking the Ducks 77th in the nation. But that’s part of being Oregon in that the defense is on the field so often because the offense scores so quickly.

Cal leads the all-time series with the Ducks, 39-32-2, but Oregon has won 10 of the past 15 meetings, including two straight. Eight of the last 11 games between the two schools have been decided by 10 points or less.

Cal at Oregon Betting Odds and Trends

Oregon has opened as a 24-point favorite with the total at 62.5, according to college football odds. The Ducks are 2-2 ATS this season, 1-1 at home. Cal is 2-2 ATS, with both ATS losses coming on the road.

The Bears are 1-4 ATS in their past four as a dog. The Ducks are 1-5 ATS in their past six Thursday games. The ‘over’ has hit in 16 of Oregon’s past 20 home games. But the ‘under’ is 4-0 in the past four between these schools overall. Cal has covered in four of the past five.

College Football Picks: Cal at Oregon Betting Predictions

There’s clearly no doubt that Oregon wins its 19th straight home game and ninth in its past 10 at home vs. Cal. The Ducks are averaging 49.5 points per game during their 18-game streak at Autzen Stadium, so how can you not take the ‘over’ here (it has hit in three of four games for both teams)?

Cal is kind of all or nothing. When the Bears lose, they do it in style. Seven of their past 13 losses have come by 21 points or more. Still, 24 points seems like about a touchdown too many. Take Cal and the points.

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