Oregon at Nebraska
Saturday, 12:30 am PT - ABC
CRIS Opener: Nebraska -3 O/U 70.5
CRIS Current: Nebraska -3 O/U 74
From 2010 to 2014, Oregon closed as an underdog only once (53-30 win at 7th-ranked Stanford as +2.5 dogs in 2011). They were the clear class of the PAC-12 and garnered a ton of respect in the betting markets. Last season, however, was the first time since 2007 the Ducks failed to win 10 games. And what we remember last was an embarrassing bowl game loss to TCU in which Oregon blew a 31-0 halftime lead. Heading into this season, the Ducks weren't the first choice to win the PAC-12; in fact, they were priced third behind both Stanford and Washington. And through the first two weeks of the season, the downgrading looks to be correct with Oregon posting lackluster wins and pointspread failures against weaker foes Virginia and UC Davis.
Nebraska has that "well oiled machine" look after blowout wins and easy pointspread covers over Wyoming and Fresno State. The two wins have helped the Cornhuskers make a sizeable power rating jump. Last season, Nebraska finished 43rd according to Sagarin. This season, they've skyrocketed to 22nd and quickly bypassed Oregon who dropped from 20th to 33rd. It makes it seems as if this is a matchup of two programs heading in completely different directions but I think it is far too early to call for Oregon's demise and Nebraska's meteoric ascension. For starters, there is still a class difference both from a conference perspective (PAC-12 > Big Ten) and a speed/athleticism (Oregon > Nebraska) standpoint. Last season, the PAC-12 North was rated the second strongest conference/division in the country behind the SEC West and Oregon played the 18th-ranked SOS and was able to post a +1.27 ypp advantage over league opponents. Meanwhile, Nebraska played in the 8th-ranked Big Ten West and had the 42nd-ranked SOS. They probably deserved better than their 6-7 record with a handful of close losses but still outgained Big Ten foes by only +0.18 ypp. That's a huge gap in performance and again, it came with Oregon having a "down" season.
Oregon has been tremendous in the role of an underdog with outright wins over Arizona State, Washington, and Stanford a season ago as well as a pointspread cover in a 31-28 loss at Michigan State. The gap between this two teams/programs isn't as massive as it was 2-3 years ago but I'll still side with the stronger pedigree catching points. A few market indicators suggest +3.5 may be available before game day.