College football picks: Ducks-Huskies play 1st top-10 matchup; angsty games for ND, USC, Miami, A&M

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Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, center, throws the ball against Stanford during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

The week after the biggest Big 12 game matched a couple of soon-to-be Southeastern Conference teams, the Pac-12’s marquee matchup is between teams that will be in the Big Ten in 2024.

Maybe new Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti will show up at Husky Stadium in Seattle for No. 8 Oregon at No. 7 Washington on Saturday, similar to the way SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey attended the Red River Rivalry in Dallas.

A case can be made this is the most significant Ducks-Huskies game in the 107-year history of their series. It is the ninth matchup where both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25 but it is the first with both in the top 10.

Washington won a thriller last year in Eugene with two late scores after Ducks quarterback Bo Nix injured his foot.

“It can serve as a motivator or it can get you down,” Bix told reporters this week. “It’s one I’ve been looking forward to just because of last year and how it ended.”

Hard to say the winner takes control of the Pac-12 because the conference is so deep, but it’s a big one for the league, College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy races.

Nix’s Washington counterpart, Michael Penix Jr., is leading the nation in passing yards at just a under 400 per game.

Ducks-Huskies is clearly the most intriguing game of Week 7. The others are laced with angst, involving one or both teams with fans feeling anxious about where this season is headed.

No. 8 Oregon (plus 2 1/2) at No. 7 Washington

The Oregon defense has been much improved this season, portal bolstered by former Alabama CB Khyree Jackson and former Fresno State S Evan Williams. They like to play man-to-man but how aggressive will they be against the best receiving trio in college football? Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan have combined for 79 catches for 1,378 yards and 15 total touchdowns.

LINE: Washington by 2 1/2. PICK: Oregon 34-27.

No. 10 USC at No. 21 Notre Dame (minus 2 1/2)

The Trojans, who have not won in South Bend, Indiana, since 2011, come in undefeated but wobbly after three straight weeks of competitive games against second-tier Pac-12 teams. The defense is shaky again and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is facing more pressure than last year. At least they haven’t lost two of three like Notre Dame.

LINE: Notre Dame by 2 1/2. PICK: Notre Dame 38-28.

Texas A&M (plus 3 1/2) at No. 19 Tennessee

To fire coach Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M would have to pay a $77 million buyout before Dec. 1. After that, it drops to a mere $68 million, give or take a few million.

We bring that up because in Year 6 of Fisher’s tenure A&M, the Aggies could be headed for another season where they’re out of championship contention before Halloween. Volunteers fans are generally feeling good about their program, but optimism is fleeting in the SEC.

LINE: Tennessee by 3 1/2. PICK: Texas A&M 28-23.

No. 25 Miami (plus 3 1/2) at No. 12 North Carolina

Coming off one of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the program, the Hurricanes still have an opportunity to be an Atlantic Coast Conference contender. Miami plays all three unbeaten ACC teams, starting with the Tar Heels and QB Drake Maye.

The Tar Heels have beaten Miami four straight, but the ‘Canes could really use a cleansing victory.

LINE: North Carolina by 3 1/2. PICK: Miami 27-24.

Iowa (plus 9 1/2) at Wisconsin

The winner of the Heartland Trophy takes pole position in the Big Ten West, which is going out with a whimper in the conference’s last season with divisions. The Iowa offense slogging along at 21.8 point per game — including defensive and special teams touchdowns — is now being led by backup QB Deacon Hill.

LINE: Wisconsin by 9 1/2. PICK: Wisconsin 23-16.

The rest of Saturday’s games involving ranked teams and FBS foes, with lines by FanDuel Sportsbook:

No. 1 Georgia at Vanderbilt (plus 31 1/2)

Since losing to Vandy in 2016, Kirby Smart’s first season as coach, the Bulldogs have won five straight by an average of 40 points … GEORGIA 42-14.

Indiana at No. 2 Michigan (minus 33 1/2)

Wolverines defense is excellent and stays fresh, facing only 52 plays per game … MICHIGAN 49-10.

No. 3 Ohio State (minus 19 1/2) at Purdue

Spoilermakers time? Purdue has 17 victories as an unranked team against top-five teams, including the Buckeyes’ last visit in 2018 … OHIO STATE 42-20.

Syracuse at No. 4 Florida State (minus 17 1/2)

Seminoles have lost only one of 14 meetings since the Orange joined the ACC … FLORIDA STATE 38-17.

UMass at No. 6 Penn State (minus 42 1/2)

Good week for the Nittany Lions to build some confidence in the offense … PENN STATE 59-14.

Arkansas (plus 19 1/2) at No. 11 Alabama

Tide has won 16 straight in the series and the Hogs are in danger of spiraling toward a bleak season … ALABAMA 31-14.

No. 14 Louisville (minus 7 1/2) at Pittsburgh

Cardinals RB Jawhar Jordan is averaging 7.51 yards per carry, tops among Power Five players with at least 80 carries … LOUISVILLE 28-17.

No. 18 UCLA (plus 3 1/2) at No. 15 Oregon State

Led by twin brothers Gabriel and Grayson Murphy on the line, Bruins have the nation’s No. 1 defense … UCLA 23-20.

California (plus 13 1/2) at No. 16 Utah

Utes DE Jonah Elliss, son of former NFL DL Luther Elliss, leads the Pac-12 in sacks with 7 1/2 … UTAH 28-17.

North Carolina State at No. 17 Duke (minus 3 1/2)

Status of Blue Devils QB Riley Leonard (ankle) is uncertain at best … DUKE 24-20.

Arizona at No. 19 Washington State (minus 8 1/2)

Second straight road game vs. a ranked team for the Wildcats … WASHINGTON STATE 35-24.

Auburn (plus 11 1/2) at No. 22 LSU

Good test of the theory that LSU’s defense can make any offense look good … LSU 34-24.

No. 23 Kansas (minus 3 1/2) at Oklahoma State

Jayhawks have not won consecutive games against the Cowboys since 1994 … KANSAS 31-24.

Missouri (plus 2 1/2) at No. 24 Kentucky

Interesting matchup of teams trying to be second-best in the SEC East … MISSOURI 24-23.

TWITTER/X REQUESTS

West Virginia at Houston (plus 3 1/2), Thursday (@JeffCampbellWV): Former Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen faces his former school for the first time … WEST VIRGINIA 21-18.

Tulane at Memphis (plus 4 1/2), Friday (@PackripMahoment): Longtime rivals meet in a big early AAC matchup … TULANE 27-26.

Wyoming at Air Force (minus 10 1/2), (@EZembeck): Falcons have won 10 straight games overall and are probably one more victory away from being ranked for the first time since 2019 … AIR FORCE 34-20.

Georgia Southern at James Madison (minus 4 1/2), (@BrandonOCook): JMU can’t actually win the Sun Belt East because it’s still in FBS transition, but it’s shaping up to be a fun race with the Dukes as a factor … JAMES MADISION 35-24.

Florida (plus 2 1/2) at South Carolina (@BZSEC): Another angsty SEC game, especially for the Gators … FLORIDA 26-21.

Ohio at Northern Illinois (plus 6 1/2) (@CBFriedman): Huskies RB Antario Brown has 432 yards rushing in the last two games, but the Bobcats have the stingiest run defense in the MAC … OHIO 27-23.

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RECORD

Last week: Straight-up — 12-7; Against spread — 9-10.

Season: Straight-up — 102-34; Against spread — 59-76-1.

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