The time has come for a HIGH CONVICTION PICK. The Sun Belt let me down on Tuesday night, but the Oregon Ducks will rise to the occasion. Some of you may recall that I referred to these picks as Golden Picks last year in honor of Miami’s new coach. Given their lack of success, I retired that name. I will simply call this the Pickens Game of the Week. I sincerely apologize to Chip Kelly for putting this extra stress and pressure on his shoulders, but I’m confident his team can handle it. Thursday night college football finally has a game worth getting excited about and I encourage everyone to watch the Ducks validate their current spot in the polls.
Oregon -8 at Arizona State THURSDAY – ESPN – 9pm
Throughout the week, I’ve been hearing about how this game is going to be difficult for Oregon. Arizona State’s defense is statistically among the best in the country. ASU’s speed on defense is supposed to be a significant challenge for Oregon’s spread attack. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota hasn’t faced a difficult road game and his composure under pressure will be tested. Arizona State has a great turnover margin at home and might force Mariota to throw into tight coverage. While these points are worth noting, I think people don’t understand how significant the gap between these two teams is. ASU’s defense has played well, but hasn’t faced anyone with talent on offense other than a 3-4 California team, a game they won by just 10. ASU has had the luxury of starting fast at home, jumping out to early leads against inferior opponents. That won’t happen tonight. QB Taylor Kelly hasn’t been forced to lead his team from behind much, and the one time he did, the Sun Devils fell short at Missouri. Chip Kelly has been successful against the Sun Devils and his team is always focused on the road. I recognize that Oregon’s schedule thus far has been mediocre, but their track record of consistency the past few years as a program is second to none. Only teams with months to prepare for Chip’s offense are able to find ways to neutralize it. The Oregon defense is not getting enough credit so far. This unit is the best in the Chip Kelly era and I expect them to force the Sun Devils into 3rd and Long situations often. The Ducks will open up an early lead by utilizing their speed at RB/WR to take the pressure off of Marriota. De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner both have monster stat lines tonight and the Ducks win by 14+ points.