Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli doesn't remember much about last year's meeting between the Ducks and Boise St. Broncos. A late hit put him on the sidelines early with a concussion, and Boise St. went on to a 37-32 win that wasn't really that close. Tonight on the Smurf Turf in Boise where the home team sports a 50-game, regular season win streak, Masoli & Co. would like to give the Broncs a loss they won't forget.
Time to shake off the football betting rust, because college pigskin is back with nine games on Thursday night. Apparently bettors aren’t the only ones who need to refresh their skills, because oddsmakers were way off in their initial assessment of the biggest battle on Thursday night’s schedule.
Most sportsbooks opened No. 14 Boise State as 6.5-point home chalk for their showdown with No. 16 Oregon on the smurf turf on Thursday night, but the public was having none of it. You’d think a team with 50 consecutive regular season wins on its home field would get a little more respect, especially after the Broncos rolled into Eugene and knocked off the Ducks last season.
Boise State has been bet down to 3.5-point favorites at most outlets, although it’s available at 13 and 14 at a few select locations. Wagering on the spread has evened out after some furious action on Oregon after the line was released, so expect the number to stay right there up until kickoff barring some late money by wise guys.
The Broncos’ 37-32 win as 10-point underdogs at Autzen Stadium last year didn’t come without controversy. Ellis Powers knocked Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion after a late hit, and Oregon never recovered. Masoli finished 3-of-4 for 27 yards, and the backup duo of Darron Thomas and Chris Harper couldn’t carry the load, combining for three interceptions.
Oregon did score 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to make the score respectable, but it wasn’t nearly enough to spoil the payday for Boise State backers. Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore threw for 386 yards with three touchdowns against the Ducks, who did manage to dominate the ground game in the loss. Oregon ran for 227 yards in Masoli’s absence, and held Boise State to only 38 yards rushing on the other side of the ball.
Running the ball figures to be the Ducks’ strength under new head coach Chip Kelly, who was promoted from offensive coordinator following Mike Bellotti’s entry into the athletic director’s office. Jeremiah Johnson is gone, but LeGarrette Blount should be able to pick up the slack and then some. Blount shared the load with Johnson last season, when Oregon finished second in the country in rushing yards per game (280.1) and seventh in scoring offense (41.9 PPG).
You have to like the Ducks’ chance of covering on Thursday night, because of Masoli’s health and their ability to run the ball. It won’t help that senior wide receiver Rory Cavaille (shoulder) is missing the opener, but Masoli still has stalwart tight end Ed Dickson at his disposal. Expect Kelly to use a heavy dose of the running game and short passes to Dickson in an attempt to slow down Moore and the Broncos on their blue turf.
Boise State hasn’t had back-to-back dominating seasons since 2003-04, but it’s poised to do so this year. The Broncos return 12 total starters from last year’s squad that went undefeated in the regular season before their 17-16 loss as 3.5-point pups to Texas Christian in the Poinsettia Bowl. Moore is back, and Boise State doesn’t have anything challenging on the schedule after Thursday night. The challenge for the Broncos will be to remain profitable in the face of the long odds they’ll see on a weekly basis after going 8-3-1 against the number (12-1 SU) last season.
Oregon (10-3, 7-6 ATS in 2008) should be a tougher team this season, if only because of Kelly’s hard-nosed attitude on the sidelines. If the Ducks get by the Broncos, this could be the year they knock off USC at the top of the Pac-10. The Trojans’ vaunted defense should take a step back, and as talented as Matt Barkley is, he’s still a freshman quarterback. Oregon has a tough schedule with games against Purdue, Utah, California, and USC – but all of those contests are scheduled for Autzen Stadium.
The total for the Oregon-Boise State showdown opened at 63.5 points, but was set at 64 at most venues through Wednesday night. The Broncos are 3-8 O/U in their last 11 games in September, while they’re 4-11 O/U in their last 15 non-conference matchups.