By REED NELSON
Is crashing back to earth a sport?
This isn’t an attack on Felix Baumgartner’s amazing feat — if it were, the safe distance of a week-and-a-half would be beneficial in avoiding the wrath of a dude who had the stones to jump out of a balloon suspended about 90,000 feet higher than most planes fly — but rather an exercise in clarity.
Because, you see, if it is a sport, then I’m an All-Star. I’m like this week’s Baumgartner, the modern day Joseph Kittinger, the unfortunate end to a hypothetical involving Chevy Chase and a skyscraper, or, more simply, South Carolina1.
But it also seems fitting that, during the same week in which the Red Bull Stratos allowed a man to safely fall 24 miles to the earth’s surface, my winning streak would come crashing down, and in a much less graceful fashion.
Coming into the weekend I was riding a hot streak, 11-4-1 in the previous three weeks, and was feeling good. But after going 2-3, I can imagine I feel only slightly better than how Johnny Depp felt after seeing Dark Shadows’ 38 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. I can do wrong, and it turns out I can do so very easily. It’s almost as if I have a gift.
The tanking aside, however, my record still sits a tick or two over .500 against the spread this season, at 24-22-2. And just like last week, I’d be in serious playoff contention if I were in the Eastern Conference of the NHL, except that the NHL doesn’t exist at the moment and the Eastern Conference is on the wrong side of the “Fact or Fiction” battle.
No excuses from this guy, though. Just mounds of self-deprecating rhetoric. Without further ado, I give you… The Dirty Dozen, Week 8.
#3 Oregon 43, Arizona State 21 — I wrote a quick takeaway after this one wrapped with an Entourage-ish fizzle on Thursday night, and the biggest thing that we learned in this drubbing was this: Oregon is still untested, but it is most certainly not their fault. They’ve just been much, much, much… much, much, much better than anyone that has come within their buzz-saw grasp. The Ducks hammer opponents by an average of 30.9 points per game. The Oregon offense is averaging 51 points per game. Say what you will about their first three games, but they beat Washington and Arizona, both ranked, and then traveled to Arizona State, a supposedly solid bunch that was reduced to nothing more than tackling dummies before Jesse Palmer could down a burger. If anything, people don’t the Ducks enough credit for their slash-and-burn offense. My pick: Oregon (-7).
#20 Stanford 21, Cal 3 — Somehow Stanford was laying just three points against Cal on Saturday, a team whose offense has more personalities than Charlie Baileygates (or would it be Hank Evans?). And what ended up happening? Stanford did what Stanford does (they ground out a win over a weaker opponent), and Cal’s offense couldn’t get out of did a King Dome Implosion impression, managing just 217 total yards on offense, and just three yards on the ground. Three. Any time AP Style demands that you type out a numeral, and that numeral happens to be representative of total rushing yards, whomever that sentence happens to be about doesn’t stand much of a chance. Stanford had the ball for nearly 62 percent of the game, which was enough to keep Cal scoreless in the second half. Oh, and apparently both coaches decided that scoring was overrated in the second half and we all might be better without the excitement. Huck it… Chuck it… Foo’balllll. My pick: Stanford (-3).
#10 USC 50, Colorado 6 — New rule: If I pick USC, bet the opposition. A second new rule: If I take the opposition, bet USC. I’m 2-5 this season when betting a game in which USC is involved, and one of those wins came against Hawaii. I think Lane Kiffin hates me. Yes, me personally. If one of my readers is Lane Kiffin —which is about as likely as Bobby Valentine winning the mayoral election in Boston — then I have a message: Lane, I can’t figure you out. Some days you are the weirdest, most awkwardly self-entitled jerk of a coach in the conference (even if Jim Mora Jr. is hot on your heels). Some days, you try to ban the LA Times from covering your team, because, well, you know, it was just… because… never mind. And some days, you make awesome College GameDay commercials for ESPN, and almost totally redeem yourself. But then I remember that you coach for USC, and that I generally dislike you — and USC — and the realization that my fanhood would never work out whacks me in the face like a Monte Kiffin corner blitz. Sorry (yes, I’m still under the assumption that Kiffin is reading. Sorry, my bad. That Mr. Kiffin is still reading). But at least by taking Colorado (-41) this week, the 50-6 game stayed intense until the very end (a field goal would have pushed!). My pick: Colorado (-41).
Arizona 52, Washington 17 — I’ll be honest: I missed this game due to the OSU-Utah game that started half an hour after this one, but the general perception I’ve gotten from the highlights and recaps is that these two teams are like the middle children of the Pac-12. Sometimes they’re up, sometimes they’re down, but for the most part they just beat up on each other and then go unnoticed by the rest of the conference. Sure, Washington has every right to be disappointed with the road drubbing, but this wasn’t going to be their year anyway. Arizona’s offense and defense managed to link up for the first time since the middle of September, and bowl hope is not lost in RichRod Land. My pick: Washington (+7.5).
#8 Oregon State 21, Utah 7 — This one was heartbreaking. After two straight back-door covers, Utah finally met their spread-busting match. Not that it wasn’t fraught with gambler’s tension, nor was Utah ever in danger of getting blown out, their offense was just anemic. My scientific formula — a calculation method that was constructed with the aid of a bag of Taki’s, a can of 79-cent Snapple Iced Tea, a homer’s attitude and a sketchy internet connection — failed me. I think the Taki’s might have been the issue, but I can’t be certain. All I know is that I was two garbage time scores away from another 4-1 week. Swagger has been reduced to just a trillion, down from a few ticks over a thousand, trillion. My pick: Utah (-9.5).
Against the spread: 24-22-2.
On the moneyline: 47-12.
- I wonder if Steve Spurrier questions his Florida-bashing pre-game tactics. 37-6 is a pretty steep number in what is supposed to be the SEC. Screw a conference, that is just plain absent of parody.Jump