Not only did I nail last night’s pick on Rutgers — which scored the outright upset at South Florida as a 7½-point underdog, my fifth straight winner —but I got multiple glimpses of the Jay Cutler Face as the Bears quarterback did what he does best — pout, throw interceptions, pout some more, throw his teammates under the bus — in Chicago’s ugly loss to the Packers. All in all, a very enjoyable night.
Now to this UNLV-Washington State contest. I’m not going to lie: This line move on the side in this one has me more confused than a Kardashian in a library. Why has money — and sharp money at that — been pouring in on UNLV all week, sending this point spread from 11 to 8? The Rebels did, in fact, lose 17-14 last week to Division I-AA Northern Arizona, at home, in a game they led 14-0 in the first quarter, right? So where’s all this wise-guy confidence in UNLV coming from? (It can’t all be because the Cougars likely will be without starting quarterback Jeff Tuel, who has been average at best so far). Whatever the answer, I’m no longer all that confident in my pick on Washington State from this week’s Going for Broke column, especially since I got stuck laying a terrible number.
On the other hand, the total intrigues me. Sure, Washington State got over this number all but itself in last year’s 59-7 rout of the Rebels. But if results from the first two games are any indication, the Cougars are really struggling to pick up the nuances of new coach Mike Leach’s precision, quick-passing offense. Wazzu managed just six points and 224 yards in a 30-6 season-opening loss at BYU, then last week against I-AA Eastern Washington, the Cougars managed just 355 yards in a 24-20 win. Meanwhile, the Rebels’ offense has basically consisted of running back Tim Cornett (he’s accounted for 268 of his teams’ 435 yards of offense); in fact, UNLV has punted for more yards (656) than its offense has produced.
Take out the two overtime touchdowns they scored in the opening loss to Minnesota, and the Rebels have scored 21, 14, 17, 14, 9, 13 and 14 points in their last seven contests. Hell, in regulation time, they’ve been held to 17 points or fewer in 11 of 14 games since the start of last season. Bottom line: Both teams’ defenses are ahead of the respective offenses at this point, and I’ll be surprised if this game sees more than 45 combined points.
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆
Thursday’s Result: Rutgers (+7½) at South Florida (Win)