9/25/2009 12:00:00 AM
USC's loss last week to Washington has thrown the Pac-10 race wide open and made this weekend's contest in Oregon between the Ducks and Bears one of the top game's on the Saturday slate. Jeff Tedford has No. 6 Cal in the driver's seat for the conference title right now, but that could change in an instant on the plastic grass at Autzen Stadium where Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is thinking upset.
Suppose they gave a football game and nobody came?
Security checks are being tightened for some of Saturday’s matchups, due to heightened tensions surrounding the G-20 summit, plus the ongoing terrorism probe that recently led to the arrest and questioning of three people. For example, fans will not be allowed to carry bags or purses (unless they have a note from their doctor) into Michigan Stadium to watch the Wolverines play the Indiana Hoosiers.
So here’s the futuristic scenario: the Wolverines and Hoosiers playing in a large indoor TV studio, with all the fans watching at home instead on their big screens. It’ll happen for security reasons, as well as environmental and social. I give it about 15 years.
No. 22 North Carolina at Georgia Tech (-2½, 45)
Saturday, Sep 26, 12:00 p.m. (ET)
Here’s another reason to move indoors: the weather. Thunderstorms are expected over Atlanta, which was already hit by massive rainfall and flooding earlier this week. That’s part of the logic behind the total dropping from 47 points at the open to 45 points as we went to press. Consensus reports had 96 percent support showing for the under – likely coming from sharps this early in the week.
The Tar Heels also bring one of the best defensive lines in the nation to Bobby Dodd Stadium, and they match up very well against a Tech offensive line that was squashed by Miami (-4) in last week’s 33-17 loss. This is the weak link in the otherwise proven flexbone offense run by Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson, who came over from Navy and guided his new team to a 9-4 record (7-3-1 ATS) last year.
But at least the Jackets can still run the ball. The bigger problem has been going in the other direction, so Johnson is making some defensive changes for Saturday, switching from the 4-2-5 to the simpler 4-3 and giving LB Julian Burnett his first career start. This is an important switch against a Tar Heels offensive line that isn’t exactly world-class, either. Third-year QB T.J. Yates (five TDs, three INTs) has yet to establish himself after missing much of last year to a broken ankle, but he did play well in last week’s 31-17 victory over East Carolina (+8.5) to nail down UNC’s first payday of the season.
The Yellow Jackets are favored by 2.5 points on the betting odds and pulling in 71 percent support according to the consensus numbers. North Carolina has won the last five meetings ATS, and the Heels are 10-2 in their last 12 games as underdogs of a field goal or less.
No. 6 California at Oregon (+5½, 55½)
Saturday, Sep 26, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
The Golden Bears are moving up the national rankings after three straight wins SU and ATS, each one going over the posted total. The Ducks looked like their goose was cooked after losing to Boise State (-3.5) and barely getting past Purdue (+13), but they got back on the right track with a key victory over Utah (+3.5) to wrap up the non-conference portion of the schedule. Now it’s time for the real deal.
The UNC-GT matchup may be about defense, but not these guys – and the weather in Corvallis is expected to be suitably warm and sunny for a high-scoring affair. There’s a big total of 56 up on the board with the Bears favored by 5.5 points. Cal has won and covered each of the last three meetings, and 80 percent of the betting public thinks the Bears will make it four in a row. The over is drawing almost 90 percent support.
As hot as California is right now, playing at Autzen Stadium is no picnic. The Ducks are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games as home dogs. And coach Chip Kelly is one of the sport’s most gifted offensive minds, running a spread formation that has led the Pac-10 in scoring each of the past two seasons. Cal’s underrated defense will be put to the test Saturday.