If this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, then why am I more depressed than Oscar Goodman at the sight of an empty gin bottle? No, it’s not because I went 6-2-1 last week and yet cleared only $77 (seriously, this is getting ridiculous; I’m 21-11-2 over the last four weeks, and I’ve lost $234!). Rather, my melancholy stems from the news that the Minnesota Vikings fired coach Brad Childress, which comes just two weeks after the Dallas Cowboys gave Wade Phillips his pink slip.
Childress and Phillips not only were like personal ATMs for sports bettors, they provided an endless source of unintentional comedy for columnists looking for an easy laugh. (Stevie Wonder can manage a clock better than Brad Childress! Wade Phillips looks more lost on the sideline than Kirstie Alley in a health-food store!)
I’m really going to miss those guys. Which brings me to my wish list for Santa Claus this year: contract extensions for Norv Turner, Chan Gailey and Mike Singletary (oh, and a big winning week between now and New Year’s Day would be nice, too!).
On to this week’s picks (with my bankroll now at $4,383).
$660 (to win $600) on SAN DIEGO STATE (-24) vs. UNLV: Just what UNLV needs: another road game, this one against a pissed-off opponent that’s blown double-digit leads the last two weeks against teams ranked third (TCU) and 25th (Utah) in the nation (two losses by a combined nine points). Not only that, San Diego State can play the revenge card after squandering a 24-14 lead to the Rebels last year and falling 28-24. Well, payback figures to come easily for the Aztecs, as UNLV is 0-5 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) outside of Las Vegas. Cumulative results: Opponents 215, Rebels 44.
San Diego State, which is 6-2 SU and 7-1 ATS the last eight years in this rivalry, is averaging nearly 34 points per game, while UNLV is averaging 18.5. Take out the Rebels’ two wins over Wyoming (42-16) and New Mexico (45-10), and they’ve put up just 13 ppg.
$220 (to win $200) on ARIZONA STATE (-13) vs. UCLA: Arizona State has just two victories against major-college competition, and one of those was a 42-0 home rout of Washington State, which is 4-31 since the start of the 2008 season. So for the Sun Devils to be giving away nearly two touchdowns this week is proof positive that UCLA is about as functional as Charlie Sheen’s liver. The Bruins are coming off a 24-7 loss at Washington in which they produced just 163 total yards; they’ve been outgained by 243, 292, 284 and 158 yards in four of their last five contests (losing all four); and they’ve tallied 65 total points in those five games.
As for Arizona State, if there was a tough-luck award this season, the Sun Devils would be the unanimous recipient. They’ve lost four games (to Stanford, USC, Oregon State and Wisconsin, all Top-25 teams at one juncture this season) by a combined nine points. The last time UCLA traveled to Tempe it got whacked 34-9. Expect a similar result here.
$220 (to win $200) on BUCCANEERS (+7½) at Ravens: Some things in life you just can’t explain: the reality-TV craze; the public’s continued hypnotic-like infatuation with The Beatles (yeah, I said it!); and the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A team that was projected to win just six games prior to the season eclipsed that mark four days before Thanksgiving with a 21-0 shutout at San Francisco. The Bucs arrive in Baltimore at 7-3 SU and 6-3-1 ATS—cashing in each of the last four games—and they’re 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS on the road (all as an underdog). The Ravens have an identical 7-3 record, but seven of their 10 games have been decided by a touchdown or less. That includes two narrow come-from-behind home wins (and noncovers) over the Browns and Bills.
BEST OF THE REST: Vikings (+2½) at Redskins ($55); Utah (-9½) vs. BYU ($44); Nevada (+14) vs. Boise State ($44); Seahawks (+1½) vs. Chiefs ($33); Browns (-11) vs. Panthers ($33); Minnesota (+16) vs. Iowa ($33); Auburn (+4½) vs. Alabama ($33).