The Hotline contends that Oregon should be favored by more than six points against UCLA, that the line is artificially low due to the 49-3 loss to Georgia — a result that carries no relevance within Pac-12 play.
Put another way: Remove that game from Oregon’s resume and substitute a standard season-opening opponent (Group of Five or FCS). Imagine the Ducks had played a team like Bowling Green, which was UCLA’s opponent in Week One.
In that case, the Ducks would be 6-0 instead of 5-1 and ranked in the top five or six instead of No. 10.
And under those circumstances — normalized circumstances, not Georgia-ized circumstances — the Ducks would be a more substantial favorite over UCLA than six points.
His response: “The Ducks’ (power) rating would be at least two points higher by playing a lower level FBS team or FCS team” instead of carrying the 46-point loss to Georgia on their resume.
Here’s how White’s power ratings see the Ducks in the two different scenarios …
How would a normalized Week One opponent — and presumptive victory — have impacted the point spread on Saturday?
White’s conclusion: “Yes, if Oregon won Week One against a weaker opponent and was undefeated, the line for this game this week could have been Oregon -7 or maybe -7.5.”
Instead, because of a blowout loss to an opponent the likes of which no Pac-12 team has faced, the Ducks are six-point favorites.
From a handicapping perspective, that difference is significant. Because a touchdown decides so many games, odds makers are wary of moving a betting line from one side of seven to the other. It would take a chunk of cash for the line to shift from -6 to -7.5.
In our estimation, the difference would be justified. The Georgia result is an outlier, masking Oregon’s true value in the UCLA game and against every other team on its schedule.
That has played out, for the most part, in the five games since the opener:
Opponent: vs. Eastern Washington
Line: Oregon favored by 27.5
Outcome: Oregon won by 56
Opponent: vs. Brigham Young
Line: Oregon favored by 3.5
Outcome: Oregon won by 21 (ahead by 31 entering the fourth quarter)
Opponent: at Washington State
Line: Oregon favored by 6.5
Outcome: Oregon won by 3
Opponent: vs. Stanford
Line: Oregon favored by 17.5
Outcome: Oregon won by 18 (ahead by 28 with five minutes remaining)
Opponent: at Arizona
Line: Oregon favored by 13.5
Outcome: Oregon won by 27
Granted, UCLA is the best team the Ducks have faced since Georgia by a significant margin. And as White pointed out, the Bruins are “coming in with revenge from last year’s home loss.” (A three-point defeat.)
That said, this is ninth-ranked UCLA’s most difficult assignment by order of magnitude. To date, the Bruins have played one road game — against lowly Colorado, no less.
But let’s flip both scripts, not just Oregon’s.
Imagine the Ducks, not UCLA, had opened the season with a victory over Bowling Green, and the Bruins, not Oregon, had been blown off the field by Georgia.
Oregon would be 6-0 and ranked No. 5 or 6.
The Bruins would be 5-1 and likely hovering around No. 20.
In that case, the Ducks might be a double-digit favorite, which is exactly how we see the game.
Oregon 35, UCLA 24.
To the picks …
Last week: 4-1
Five-star special: 4-3
(Of note: After a slow start, the Hotline is 13-3 against the spread in the past three weeks, so ride the picks — or avoid them at all cost.)
Spreads taken from BetMGM
Game totals in parenthesis
All times Pacific
Idle: Arizona, Utah, USC and Washington State
UCLA at Oregon
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on Fox
Line: Oregon -6 (total: 69.5)
Comment: In addition to the context above, consider the total: 69.5 points. Both teams are averaging more than 40 per game, and both quarterbacks (Oregon’s Bo Nix and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson) are playing efficiently. But Oregon owns a stout defense loaded with blue-chip recruits, and UCLA’s unit is not quite the turnstile Oregon faced last season. The coaches will plan for a close game, avoid high-risk situations and run the ball as often as possible to limit the other team’s possessions. In other words, the Under is tempting. Very tempting.
Arizona State at Stanford
Kickoff: 1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Line: Stanford -3 (total: 55.5)
Comment: Typically, we would favor the team with two weeks to prepare over the team coming off a cross-country trip. But the victory at Notre Dame undoubtedly boosted Stanford’s confidence. Had the Cardinal properly defended the final pass against Oregon State, it would have a two-game winning streak and be favored by more than three points this week. Quarterback Emory Jones is scheduled to start after recovering from a concussion, but look for a quick hook — and backup Trenton Bourguet — if he struggles.
Colorado at Oregon State
Kickoff: 5 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Line: Oregon State -24 (total: 50.5)
Comment: Classic letdown situation for the Beavers following their win over Washington State and facing a second-rate opponent. Meanwhile, CU will bring a morsel of momentum after its first victory of 2022 and beat OSU last year in Boulder (in double overtime). The Beavers should have the game in hand late, but that’s a few too many points. (With a run-heavy approach, they aren’t built for blowouts.) The Under is tempting given OSU’s stout defense — USC managed just 17 points in Corvallis — and Colorado’s extremely limited playmaking. The Buffs have yet to score more than 17 points in regulation.
Washington at Cal
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Line: UW -7.5 (total: 56.5)
Comment: The visitors just scored 49 points and possess one of the most dynamic aerial attacks in the country. The hosts have scored 22 points in their past eight quarters (plus an overtime period). Should be an easy call, right? Absolutely. And that call is … the Bears, who have won two of the past three meetings and play well at home. (Last loss in Berkeley: Oct. 2, 2021.) Meanwhile, the Huskies are 0-2 on the road this year and deeply flawed defensively — even Cal should score a few touchdowns. Also, the teams have a recent common opponent: UW beat Arizona 49-39, while Cal dispatched the Wildcats 49-31.
Straight-up winners: Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State and Cal
Five-star special: Oregon. We couldn’t devote that much space to the case for the Ducks being undervalued and not make them the five-star special.
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