By REED NELSON
Greetings from McCall, Idaho, folks. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s fine; it’s only like the capitol city of the Middle of Nowhere. I was driving all night, got in around 3 a.m. local time, rested my eyes for just a moment and now I’m back at it for your reading pleasure. My apologies in advance if this appears to be penned at an ungodly hour (but it totally was).
Today — right now even — is supposed to showcase the best collection of matchups that college football has had to offer thus far in 2012, as eight ranked teams square off in four games: #18 Michigan at #11 Notre Dame, #10 Clemson at #4 Florida State, #15 Kansas State at #6 Oklahoma and #22 Arizona at #3 Oregon (hey, that’s here!).
Great day of football, right? Wrong. Those four games are all kick off in a three-hour window, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m PST. Bah, Humbug.
Instead of stacking these games like a wonderful set of Ratings Jenga, allowing for the systematic deconstruction of the day’s events, we are left with the equivalent of Yahtzee!, Sorry!, Boggle and Hungry Hungry Hippo if, centuries down the line, they somehow produced an amalgamated ADHD-addled offspring, that was really hectic, hard to play and not nearly as fun as it should be.
Look, I get the argument: The marquee matchup of the day should be placed in primetime. He’s my retort: If they’re all in primetime, how is one considered a marquee? And how on the Duck’s Green Earth am I supposed to watch the second halve’s of both Michigan-Notre Dame on NBC (kickoff at 4:30) AND Kansas State-Oklahoma (4:50) on FOX, while staying tuned for Clemson-Florida State (5:00) and Arizona-Oregon (7:30)? I can’t. Even if tape my eyelids to my forehead, mainline coffee and run two TVs at once, I am going to miss something huge. Pencil it in, sure as shit, I will miss something huge. I have no idea what it could possibly be, nor will I do myself the disservice of attempting to figure it out. Just know that on Monday, I will have missed one of the best plays of the week while not missing a moment of televised action.
Spilled milk, I suppose, but enough of the griping. I’ll just enjoy this evenings games in the same manner I enjoy the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, which is to say that I’ll probably get more frustrated trying to keep up with the action than anything else.
The Pac-12 is coming into focus, it’s the first week of exclusive conference play, and SNL is back baby! Time for the Dirty Preview, Week 4:
Oregon State (+7.5) at #19 UCLA (-7.5), O/U 51.5, 12:30 p.m. — Mike Reilly’s bunch shocked the world two weeks ago, knocking off then #13 Wisconsin 10-7 in the most excruciatingly dull game of Week 2. Since then, however, Oregon State has played precisely zero minutes of football and Wisconsin has barely beat an underrated Utah State squad. The win still matters for the Beavers, but not nearly as much they probably hoped a win would coming into the season. UCLA, on the other hand, has been a machine. Jonathan Franklin is slowly building Robert Griffin III-like Heisman credentials (you know, the one that says that stats matter, and the gaudiest matter the most?), while freshman QB Brett Hundley has continued his revelatory start. Jim Mora Jr. now has to corral the Bruins ego, make sure they don’t drop winnable games. After USC’s loss last week, UCLA can take the wheel in the Pac-12 South1 with a dominating win over OSU, which is well within their capabilities. OSU’s defense looked great against Wisconsin, but that is one dimensional attack (poor Monte Ball) without a star QB. UCLA, Wisconsin is not. They should cover the touchdown-plus spread. Who I’m taking: UCLA (-7.5) with the Under. AA.
Colorado (+20) at Washington State (-20), O/U 58.5, 1:00 p.m. — This is a nightmare. I’m serious. I’ve had actual bad dreams about betting this shitty game. In the dream, there’s always an undersized bookie, his name is Louie Nickels, and he always has an ice pick in his breast pocket. His buddy, Bobby Bats, carries, naturally, a baseball bat. I’m in the hole like Keanu Reeves in Hardball, and I throw cash I don’t have on a few games. I split the first four, of course, two and two, and somehow my day is riding on Washington State. Because this is a nightmare, my somnambulist feet make their way back to Louie Nickels and double-down on the WSU game, laying the points taking the over. Then, naturally, Colorado wins, outright, by one point, I lose, and proceed wake up right as Bobby Bats raises his namesake menacingly over my knees (If anyone can sleep through a knee-capping, dreaming or not, bravo. Not me. No way. Not my chair, not my problem, that’s what I say.). I have to pick a winner, I suppose… Hmmmmmm. Just kidding. This game is the nightmare I discuss for, like, a hundred reasons, the worst being that no matter what, I either have to trust Jon Embree (yuck) or Mike Leach (gross). That means I’m breaking my cardinal gambling rules in Week 4. Mike Leach, you mean, mean man. Oh, there’s a game too. Colorado might be the worst team in the FBS and trusting them to cover even a 20-point spread on the road is like trusting my pet hedgehog to vacuum the apartment while I’m out, maybe do some dishes. Stay away. I wish I could. Who I’m taking: Washington State (+20) with the Under, A.
California (+15.5) at #13 USC (-15.5), O/U 58.5, 3:00 p.m. — USC is coming off a major letdown on the road, Matt Barkley is coming off his first touchdown-less performance of his Trojan career and Lane Kiffin’s sanity was a major topic in this week’s sport’s talk TV and radio circuit’s alike. All is not well in Los Angeles, but panic they won’t. Cal, on the other hand, is just 1-2 and coming off a heartbreaking near-upset last week. But for the first time in 2012, Cal looked really good last week against a ranked Ohio State team. Zach Maynard was finding half-brother Keenan Allen, Brendan Bigelow ran WILD, like De’Anthony Thomas wild (4 carries, 160 yards and two touchdowns. Yikes.) And the defense wasn’t totally lost out there, even in the face of (arguably) the nation’s most exciting quarterback, Braxton Miller. Covering at the Horseshoe last week is huge. I’m doubling down. Cover for me Cal. Who I’m taking: Cal (+15.5) with the Over, AA.
Utah (+6.5) at Arizona State (-6.5), O/U 50, 7:00 p.m. — Are you happy now Utah fans????? After a week of humiliating highlights, none of which actually featured the football game (Note to Pac-12: Utah’s receiving core is filthy. Like a roll-in-the-mud, pour-an-oil-drum-of-dirt-over-your head type of filthy. QB Jon Hays isn’t bad either, in fact he’s been a nice surprise, but it’s not like we’re confusing him with Elway or anything. Utah’s receiver’s have just been that much better than the DBs they’ve been running up against. See: Anderson, Dres; Christopher, Devonte; Scott, Kenneth.) I hope you’ve learned your lesson. If you haven’t, I’ll break it down Spark Notes* style: Utah fans, for whatever reason, like to rush the field. We have since I was in school there. In fact, during our Sugar Bowl run in ’08, we rushed the field four, count ’em, FOUR times (home wins over UCLA, Oregon State, TCU and BYU all somehow deserved our fanaticism). Of the four, two were sort of warranted (TCU and BYU) and only TCU was really a shocker. But it made us look, dare I paraphrase Max Hall, a bit classless. We had totally misconstrued the point of rushing the field. It’s not for just any big win, it’s for landmark wins, massive upsets in giant rivalries or a rivalry reclamation (If Miami-Florida State, for instance, stays one-sided for a few straight years, the overthrow is fine). Point, blank, period. (In ’08, the win over BYU put Utah into the BCS hunt, a justified rush)Beating BYU for the 5th time in six years? Give me a fucking break. You know how much people thought of us? Utah’s fans made ESPN’s “Come on Man!” and “Not Top Ten” and earned “Three Jeers” on Sportsnation. In summation, the nation finds our antics about as stupid as I do. The lesson? Keep it in your seats. Especially after holding off a 25th-ranked BYU team that should have been Dead. In. The. Water. Utah should have been penalized, and I’m happy the refs made an example of our ridiculous actions. But a win’s a win, Choke on that BYU. Moving on. ASU-Utah, huh? Arizona State showed some moxy last week, mounting a near-17-point fourth-quarter-comeback against Missouri, in Columbia. Larry David time. “That being saiiiiiidddddd…” I like Utah and the points in this game on the road. Arizona State doesn’t have the same kind of star-power that U of A has, which means big plays should be kept to a minimum. And given that Utah has Star Lotuleilei plugging the middle and the 28th ranked scoring defense in FBS around him, points should be at premium this game. Who I’m taking: Utah (+6.5) with the under, AA.
#22 Arizona (+21.5) at #3 Oregon (-23.5), O/U 79.5, 7:30 p.m.— Nothing to be said about this one that hasn’t been covered here. Oregon to win, Arizona to cover the spread. Who I’m taking: Arizona (+21.5) and the Over. AA.
- Not a joke. UCLA has win over a ranked opponent and zero conference losses. USC has no wins over ranked opponents and a conference loss. Somebody’s closer. Jump