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Stanford Cardinal-Washington Huskies Betting Angles and Pick

Ace handicapper Preston Johnson, aka the Sports Cheetah, analyzes the high-stakes Stanford-Washington matchup from a betting perspective.
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NO. 7 STANFORD CARDINAL AT NO. 10 WASHINGTON HUSKIES (-3.5, 44.5), Fri., 9 p.m. ET

How big is this? Not only will it probably decide the Pac-12 North, it's only the fourth meeting ever of Top-10 teams at Husky Stadium.

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Stanford usually outmuscles opponents, but the Cardinal might be hard-pressed to do that against a Chris Petersen-led team that's strong on both lines of scrimmage.

Washington QB Jake Browning has accounted for 15 touchdowns against two interceptions, while Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey has rushed for 436 yards and three scores in three games. Both stars will come up big. This one could hinge on whether Stanford QB Ryan Burns -- who's thrown for just 132 yards per game and three touchdowns -- can build on the game-winning drive he led last week at UCLA.

Stanford has won seven of the past eight meetings and four straight road games dating to last season. Washington has covered five of its past seven games and responds well (15-7 ATS) following an ATS loss. (The Huskies did not cover in last week's OT win at Arizona).

SPORTS CHEETAH'S TAKE

It wasn't pretty for either school in Week 4, but both the Huskies and Cardinal got wins in the final minutes to keep their undefeated seasons alive. Now they meet for, in all probability, the right to represent the North division in the Pac-12 championship game.

These two teams have given us fantastic games recently.

In 2012 the Huskies defeated a 12-win Cardinal team that went on to win the Rose Bowl 17-13 at home. In 2013 the Huskies fell just short on the road, 31-28, against an 11-win Cardinal team. In 2014 the game went down to the wire in a 13-13 tie before Stanford scored a touchdown with three minutes left to seal the victory. I expect nothing less this time around between two of the nation's Top 10 teams.

Remember that the Cardinal are coming off a late and fluky cover at UCLA after battling USC the week prior. This Stanford schedule is brutal. Fortunately for the Huskies, they get to play in front of their home crowd and draw Stanford in a tough spot.

It will be interesting to see how Washington coach Chris Petersen addresses the Xs and Os in this particular matchup. Defenses have been loading the box to stop McCaffrey, forcing Burns to make plays -- and it was working. Until that final drive against the Bruins, that is, when Burns led a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to put Stanford ahead for good.

LINE MOVEMENT

This line opened at Washington -3.5 or -4, depending on your book. Heavy action on the Cardinal pushed it down to -2.5, then Washington backers showed up and pushed it back to 3. According to SportsInsights, nearly three-quarters of the bets are on Stanford.

"It's difficult to forecast where the number will end up because the line has been bouncing around quite a bit," said Scott Cooley, odds consultant for BookMaker.eu. "We've been as high as -3.5 and as low as -2.5, but we're currently back to the opener of -3. There are smart clients on both sides of this one, and right now it's tough to tell what's positioning and what isn't.

"But I don't expect we'll see anything less than -3 come gameday, and we'll probably need Stanford when it's all said and done."

The total has fallen a half-point, to 44.5. The Under is 9-3 in these teams' last 12 meetings.

LAST WEEK

The Cardinal were extremely fortunate to cover at UCLA. They scored on a 42-yard fumble return as time expired to win 22-13, covering the 3- or 3.5-point spread for all backers. In any case, Stanford has covered each of its lined games this season, and all three have stayed Under.

The Huskies needed overtime to win 35-28 at Arizona, failing to cover the 16-point number. They're 2-2 ATS and three of their games have gone Over. The 35 points marked Washington's lowest output this year.

SELECTION

College football guru Josh Nagel and senior analyst Larry Hartstein released plays on this game early in the week. I may have an official pick soon. Get all SportsLine expert plays on Stanford-Washington here.

Preston JohnsonSports Cheetah