Friday night is prep-football night in America, but ever since Boise State made TGIF into “Thank God for Idahoan Football” in the 2000s, the college game is TV-entertainment stop #1 for those who don’t trek to a neighborhood stadium.
There’s an “NCAAification” going on in High School football of which the dark side is “recruited” powerhouses and ESPN broadcasts geared to promote a specific Power-5 recruit. (Not to say it wasn’t a blast watching Christian McCaffery play for Valor Christian and light up the field on 3 units.) But the good side of the NCAA-lite vibe is that underdogs bother heavy favorites more often. Prep football and blow-outs have always gone hand-in-hand, with local fans able to yawn and predict outcomes prior to most Friday nights. That’s changing now as modern coaching methods infiltrate rural and urban schools alike while scientific scheduling gives more and more traditional cupcakes a fighting chance on “any given Friday.”
It raises the issue of how college football has changed, and continues to change, for the better. 15 years ago you couldn’t have made the comparison, “prep school underdogs tend to keep scores closer these days, just like so many mid-major and low-end Power-5 teams do.” If mid-teenagers had begun waging more David vs Goliath epics back then, you would have had to say, “I’m all about Friday nights now. Those Saturday games are too lopsided.” But in 2019 an FBS vs FBS win “is a win is a win” in many respects. No one is an automatic-out.
Oregon used to blow-out Colorado pretty bad in Eugene and in Boulder, and those who are staying home (and perhaps gambling) this Friday night deserve some type of optimism for an entertaining late scrum on TV. So many Ducks-over-Buffaloes snoozers in the early 2010s might cause stubborn “long-term trend”-style bloggers to lean to Oregon before the teams kick-off at Autzen Stadium. Something is causing a massive betting rush on the Ducks, whose point spread has ballooned by a TD + XP since opening.
But Colorado’s 41-38 win in Eugene back in 2016 may have been an omen of insecurity in the Oregon program in the wake of Chip Kelly’s departure. The Ducks are still swift, dynamic, and talented…but more prone to the “big” upset than in the fast-break offense years during which the team simply out-lasted exhausted Pac-12 rivals who weren’t 2-deep elite at every position.
Does CU’s point spread for Friday deserve consideration based on line-movement alone?
Who: Colorado Buffaloes at Oregon Ducks
When: Friday, October 11th, 10 PM EST
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR
Lines: CU (+21) at Oregon (-21) / O/U Total: (57)
Justin Herbert would trade all the mainstream media hype in the world for a mean defense, and it appears as if Mario Cristobal may have build an imposing front-7 in Eugene. Oregon gave up around 5 yards per carry but intercepted Bo Nix twice while inside LB Troy Dye tore up the field in a 27-21 loss. Since then the Ducks are 4-0 and have given up a grand total of 22 points in 16 quarters.
The Oregonian praised the Duck D after a recent 17-7 defeat of California but cautioned that the offense wasn’t great and the opponent was unprepared:
Against a backup quarterback, overmatched skill position players and what quickly became a depleted offensive line, Oregon’s defense feasted.
The No. 13 Ducks forced seven three-and-outs, brought down Cal quarterback Devon Modster for four sacks, intercepted him twice and forced two missed field goals in a 17-7 win over the Bears at Autzen Stadium. “Today the motto was ‘empty your tank,’” said defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who had two sacks. “You never want to go into a game and leave it in the game half full. I guess we played with no regrets and we played to the fullest.” It was the latest tremendous display by a defense that’s quickly asserting itself as a top 10 unit and one Oregon desperately needed given how out of sorts its offense was in a scoreless and turnover-happy first half.
On the weekend since then, Oregon pounded Stanford 21-6 and held K.J. Costello to nearly 50% misfires and 0 touchdowns while Herbert was steady and solid on short passes and occasional deep shots.
Colorado clearly doesn’t offer-up the defense that Oregon can, and the Buffaloes’ 2 losses were to marginal opponents in Air Force and Arizona. But a pair of stirring wins over competent Power-5 outfits Nebraska and ASU have Boulder buzzing. Steven Montez just won’t leave campus (can’t imagine why) and was excellent in the win against Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils, and 5’8″ speedster K.D. Nixon made history with a catch-and-run spanning 96 yards in the overtime win over NU. There was some semblance of a worthy Buffs’ pass rush against Nebraska.
Nixon has been injured, however, and may not play on Friday night.
I like CU against the spread on general principle – Oregon hasn’t been scoring prodigiously in Pac-12 games and Colorado hasn’t been blown away in any Power-5 meeting. In fact, the Buffaloes have held their own.
But I’m also feeling the Over for a specific reason – CU’s solid rush and weaker secondary will lead to Herbert scrambling and either making big plays, going down, or coughing up the ball. Feast-or-famine on Oregon drives means a “longer” game, more possessions, and more short-field opportunities for both sides.
Take the Over (57) or Buffs-to-cover on Friday night.