It’s likely that three quarterbacks will be called in the first 10 picks of the next NFL Draft. Two of those prospects — Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington’s Jacob Eason — will duel Saturday in Seattle. The Pac-12 Conference is irrelevant in the College Football Playoff debate, but NFL scouts will be bird-dogging this showdown.
Herbert fits the profile of a No. 1 pick. He has 69.1 percent completions with 17 touchdowns and has tossed only one interception in 194 pass attempts.
The Ducks’ defensive numbers are just as impressive. Oregon has held its past five opponents to a total of 25 points. Still, none of the offenses from Nevada, Montana, Stanford, California and Colorado were led by a quarterback as talented as Eason, who helped the Huskies to a 51-27 win at Arizona last week.
Washington, 16-1 straight up at home since the beginning of the 2017 season, is a home underdog under coach Chris Petersen for the first time since 2015, a span of 28 games. This is a revenge game for Petersen, who made a rare tactical mistake near the end of a 30-27 loss at Oregon last year.
Herbert and the Ducks got some bad news after their 45-3 victory over Colorado last week. Tight end Jacob Breeland, the team leader in receptions (26), yards (405) and receiving touchdowns (six), suffered a season-ending left leg injury.
The Huskies, the Pac-12 preseason favorites, can play the spoiler role and crush Oregon’s slim playoff hopes. I’ll go with the superior coach getting points on one of the nation’s strongest home fields. While a majority of books have dropped to 2½, Washington plus-3 is still available.
Seven more best bets for Week 8:
343-Purdue-IOWA (Under 48):
Four of the nation’s top five scoring defenses are from the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes rank fifth by allowing 10.2 points per game. Star wideout Rondale Moore remains out for the Boilermakers, who will be lucky to find the end zone more than once with freshman quarterback Jack Plummer. This should be similar to Purdue’s 35-7 loss at Penn State two weeks ago.
349-Kansas (plus-21½) over TEXAS:
The Jayhawks covered the teams’ past three meetings while losing by seven, 15 and three points. This could be a flat spot for the Longhorns, who lost two more defensive starters in the loss to Oklahoma. The Texas defense ranks No. 126 in passing yards allowed (310 per game) and No. 74 in scoring (27.8 points per game).
Kansas coach Les Miles recently made an offensive coordinator switch to Brent Dearmon, who’s unveiling a new hurry-up offense. The Jayhawks, big ‘dogs off a bye, want to play fast. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will put up points, so bet on a high-scoring game.
Play: Half-unit each on Kansas and Over 62½.
374-SOUTH CAROLINA (plus-5) over Florida:
Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who suffered a sprained knee in the upset at Georgia, will start. This is a tricky spot for both teams, but it’s not a good spot for the Gators to be laying more than a field goal on the road. Florida is off back-to-back games against Auburn and Louisiana State with Georgia on deck.
380-MISSISSIPPI STATE (plus-18½) over LSU:
Joe Burrow is not slowing down, at least not yet. Burrow has completed 79.6 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and three interceptions, and LSU has scored 42 points or more in all six games. But off the Florida game and with Auburn and Alabama on deck, the Tigers might be a little too flat to lay this many points on the SEC road.
395-Tulane (plus-4) over MEMPHIS:
Little-known coach Willie Fritz has the Green Wave at 5-1 and on the brink of the Top 25. Tulane was a 14-point ‘dog in a 40-24 victory over the Tigers last year. The Wave, led by dual-threat quarterback Justin McMillan, has a strong rushing offense and the Memphis defense is allowing 181.5 rushing yards per game.
422-PENN STATE (-7) over Michigan:
The Nittany Lions allow 8.2 points to rank No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense behind Wisconsin and Ohio State. Penn State’s defensive front could dominate this matchup against a soft Wolverines offense. Jim Harbaugh has been favored in 19 of his past 20 games, but he’s a big ‘dog here for good reason. The home team won in a blowout in this series the past three years. With the number finally dropping to 7½ at most books, buy it to 7 as insurance in what could be an ugly game.
423-Air Force (-3) over HAWAII:
How about some late-night action? The ball-control offense led by quarterback Donald Hammond makes the Falcons a tough matchup for the Hawaii defense, which just allowed 59 points at Boise and will have trouble stopping the run. Air Force is likely to win the turnover margin. Cole McDonald has thrown nine interceptions, and the Warriors’ rushing attack has been weak.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread