A few years ago, during the Dave Wannstedt era at Pitt, I picked the Panthers. As with most games during the Wannstedt era, Pitt was struggling along (Did he ever win a game against the spread? If he did, I don't remember it).
Then came Wannstedt's halftime interview.
I generally don't pay any attention to those things, but this time I did. And the first mundane question caused Wanny to start running his hands through his hair and I'm not sure what language he was speaking, but it wasn't English. And at that moment, I gave up on Pitt covering. No shot, boys. The memory of Wanny speaking gibberish and running his hands furiously through his hair still haunts me.
So last week, my pick of Arkansas to cover against Alabama was already going tremendously awful, and then this happened:
You won't find this in any gambling book but trust me, you don't want to be riding with the coach who is giving one of those halftime interviews.
I ended up hitting on Notre Dame and Texas A&M last week, lost on Tennessee, got a frustrating push with Missouri, and there was the Arkansas debacle. On to this week's picks:
Cal (+16.5) over USC: We're still in small sample size territory, but what exactly has USC done to deserve this kind of respect? The Trojans beat up Hawaii (meh), let Syracuse hang around for four quarters — the same Syracuse that's a pick 'em this week against a Minnesota team without its starting quarterback — and then they got blasted by Stanford. Meanwhile, Cal probably deserved to win at Ohio State last week. If you're taking USC, you're putting your money on preseason hype and reputation. Oh, and you have Lane Kiffin's foolproof approach of gaining a competitive edge by not talking about injuries. That worked out smashingly last week.
Michigan (+5.5) over Notre Dame: Last week Notre Dame was in a good spot, undervalued because it was coming off a sluggish performance against Purdue, but that was easy to explain. After a great performance against Michigan State, the pendulum has swung. Let's look at it this way — Notre Dame was getting 5.5 points last week at Michigan State, and is now giving 5.5 points at home to Michigan. That's an 11-point swing. Take out the 3-point edge for home-field advantage in each of those games, and ask yourself if you think Michigan State is 5 points better than Michigan on a neutral field. I don't either. Someone's overvalued here.
Oregon (-22.5) over Arizona: Oregon has been messing with us. In each game, the Ducks have taken a big lead and then downshifted. By the time Chip Kelly lets up this week, the backdoor cover won't be open. Remember, Arizona came very close to losing at home against Toledo earlier this month.
Florida State (-14) over Clemson: I know those points are tempting. Clemson has some outstanding talent. But Florida State's defense is downright nasty. I'm sure that group has been reminded all week about what Sammy Watkins did to it last year. There's a revenge angle, and you're taking the better team at home.
Utah (+6.5) over Arizona State: When a quarterback gets hurt, the spread moves. Sometimes it isn't warranted. Jordan Wynn's injury was tough news for Wynn, but I don't think Utah panicked much when it had to go to Jon Hays. He played most of last season when Wynn was out. There was great value on Utah against BYU last week and there's good value here too. Ride it while you can.
Last week: 2-2-1