By REED NELSON
I’m guilty officer, but I have an explanation.
Why was I traveling 105 in a 65 zone? Whew, why WASN’T I traveling 105 is the better question. Because there was no one else on the road, I’m often hasty in my actions, I had handicapped this particular region and figured a speed hound like yourself wouldn’t be patrolling this desolate strip of Pac-12 highway, I did it last week and got away with it, the number 105 is more aesthetically appealing than 67. The list goes on. The point is, I never thought I’d get caught.
And caught is what I got this week. After a stellar Week 3, one that catapulted me to +.500 territory for the season, I crashed back to earth in dramatic, wrong-side-of-the-shutout fashion. 0-5 (2-3 straight up).
I’m now an underwhelming 11-15-1 on the season (28-10, no spread), but I can explain myself.
Saturday was a nightmare. Oregon State, a team picked by exactly no one, not only covered against a suddenly impotent UCLA team, but won.
My nightmare came true in freakish fashion in the Washington State-Colorado game, USC covered the spread for the first time in two weeks (after faltering to Stanford and Syracuse) and Oregon covered the spread for the first time all season and it came in what was supposed to be their most competitive game.
My only defenseless action came in the form of a homer pick. I have no excuse for taking Utah and the points, I can only ask for your forgiveness.
Elsewhere, Oklahoma fell, LSU stumbled and Florida State played (arguably) their best game since a guy named Wienke kept his AARP card taped to his helmet. It was tough week for the gambling community, especially those who laid points.
The Top 25 went 8-11 against the spread, and the “losers” included Alabama, LSU, Florida State, West Virginia and Ohio State. In fact, the only Top Ten schools to cover this week were Oregon, South Carolina and Georgia.
So pardon me for being, well, awful. Let’s roll.
Oregon State 27, UCLA 20 — Of all this weekends upsets, this game won the “Out of Left Field” award. Oregon State, a team with a fan base as rabid as most, couldn’t even get an endorsement from Beaver hosts on 95.3 The Fan last week. ‘Wisconsin is awful,’ you’d hear. ‘Wait until they play a real team.’ Well, they played a real team, and they looked unbelievable. Especially their run defense. They held Jonathan Franklin to just 45 yards on 12 carries. UCLA QB Brett Hundley looked awesome (of course), but he was just inches too long when coverage did finally break down in the second half. It was Oregon State’s game, from start to finish. Sean Mannion played like his last name was Manning instead, tossing for 379 yards and two TDs on 24-35 passing. And that UCLA defense that looked unbelievable the last two weeks? Mannion made them look like pylons, as he completed intermediate passes at will. My pick: UCLA (-7).
Colorado 35, Washington State 34 — I have very little left to say about this pair. Watching either team is to witness an exercise in futility matched only by the American Education System itself. Watching Jon Embree and Mike Leach coach against each other is like watching two flies collide repeatedly in mid-air. It’s like watching a drunk trying to outwit a Juke Box, like watching two stray, three-legged dogs duke it out over a bone. No Washington State didn’t cover, but I still was, dare I say, a bit prophetic? “… 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.).” So at least I have that. My pick: Washington State (-20).
#13 USC 27, California 9 — USC covered. Finally. And I, of course, rode the wave of short-lived performance and recent results to the tune of a miserable defeat. Sure, a made field goal from Cal kicker Vincenzo D’Amato would have covered, but he made 3 of 4 as it was, which is a feat that seemingly deserves a helmet-sticker in today’s game. The game in a word? Underwhelming. On both sides. Coming off a crushing loss to Ohio State, it looked like Cal was on the comeback trail. QB Zach Maynard played well, Keenan Allen flashed his oft-discussed brilliance, and coach Jeff Tedford smiled once or twice. But then they managed to muster just 205 total yards against USC. Matt Barkley, coming off his worst start as a Trojan (0 TDs, 2 INTs against Stanford), threw two more picks in addition to his 192 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that will effectively eliminate him from Heisman contention. The one bright spot for either team was USCs effective ground game, which could be a problem for the Ducks down the road. But after three straight weeks of taking USC and laying the points (1-2 in those weeks) I decided to take the points and cheer heartily against Crazy Lane. Just pick against me. For your sake. My pick: Cal (+16.5).
#3 Oregon 49, #22 Arizona 0 — Seriously. Just pick against me. Last week, I took Arizona and the points and got burned by literally half a point. The spread was 49.5, the game finished 63-14. This week? Not even close. I hate RichRod more than I hate the Godfather, Pt. 3, but that somehow still didn’t deter me. I went looking for basketball players in a pygmy colony. Know this: Oregon’s defense is much, much better than they have been given credit for. Their secondary has appeared to adjust to John Boyett’s loss the same way a blind man adjusts to having no sight: His other senses just get that much better. Oregon’s line, linebackers and corners have stepped up to the point where Boyett’s absence has become more of a “Can you imagine how good Oregon’s D would be if they had Boyett” instead of the initial, “Holy Shit. Holy Shit. Holy Shit. We’re screwed,” sentiment that was prevailing in the hours following his surgery announcement. Against Arizona on Saturday, sophomore corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had two picks, including one he took 54 yards to the house. Troy Hill took another interception 29 yards for a score, and Kiko Alonso had an interception as well. Oregon’s defense picked off QB Matt Scott three times and backup QB B.J. Denker once while holding Arizona to just 244 yards passing. Their four interceptions on Saturday matched Boyett’s 2011 total. Do they miss him? Would a boat in port miss an anchor? Absolutely. But they’ve found ways to get by. I have not. My pick: Arizona (+20).
Arizona State 37, Utah 7 — No explanation, excuse or otherwise here. Picked with my heart and — even worse — bought into my heart’s exuberance. Consider me fooled. And consider Todd Graham a Top 5 coach in the Pac-12 already. He almost came back to beat Missouri, and in their three wins, ASU has handled the opposition like garbage that needs taking out. Saturday evening was a joke. Taylor Kelly threw for 326 yards and three TDs as a formerly stellar Utah defense ceded over 512 yards. Utah’s offense mustered just 209 of their own and never stood a chance. Watch out for ASU in the Pac-12 South, but by saying that, I’ve now said that about three different teams in four weeks. In other words, the South is wide open. My pick: Utah (-7).