If you’ve watched a USC football game in the last three years, you’ve seen Lane Kiffin pacing the sideline while clutching a colorful double-sided laminated sheet. The presumption is it’s a play chart, not the breakfast menu from Denny’s. But after watching Kiffin’s masterful play-calling late in the fourth quarter of last week’s USC-Notre Dame showdown, we need to second-guess that presumption.
To rewind: A 53-yard pass play and consecutive pass-interference penalties on Notre Dame gave the Trojans a first down at the Irish 1-yard line with about four minutes to go.
The score at the time: Notre Dame 22, USC 13. The significance for me: Notre Dame minus-6 was last week’s top play.
I should’ve started sweating like Oprah eating ghost chili peppers in a sauna—except I knew Kiffin would come through. Sure enough, he perused his menu, passed on the pigs in a blanket and Moons Over My Hammy, and ordered up three runs up the middle (including consecutive quarterback sneaks), followed by a play-action pass to the fullback that fell incomplete.
Ballgame, ticket cashed, fourth straight winning week secured.
Now, you’d think someone on the USC sideline informed Kiffin that Notre Dame’s stout defense rarely allows rushing touchdowns (only 11 in the last 30 games). And you’d think Kiffin knew the one advantage his team has over the Irish is speed (which, you know, is kind of negated when you run up the middle). But Kiffin, God bless him, remained true to his bullheaded ways, and in doing so capped a downfall that saw his talented squad go from preseason No. 1 to 7-5 and unranked.
Thankfully, we get one more chance to bet against the Trojans (3-9 against the spread) in a bowl game. Unfortunately, we likely have to wait till New Year’s Eve (USC is projected for the Sun Bowl). Thus, I’ve got to keep my bankroll above sea level for another month.
Well, there’s one sure way to achieve that goal! On to this week’s selections (Note: all odds are as of Nov. 27) …
$220 on Bengals -1½ at Chargers: Yes, I’m killing it in college football this year. Yes, it seems like I haven’t delivered a profitable NFL week since September … of 2010. And yet I cannot help but use Cincinnati as my top play. Here’s why: The Bengals are on a three-game straight-up and ATS winning streak (prevailing by the combined score of 93-29); they’ve won three of their last four road games (by seven, 17 and 22 points); and the Chargers have lost three in a row, six of seven and haven’t defeated an opponent not named the Chiefs since Week 2. During the 1-6 slide, San Diego lost 7-6 to the Browns (after having two weeks to prepare!), and blew second-half leads to the Saints, Broncos, Buccaneers and Ravens (with Baltimore converting a game-saving, fourth-and-29 on a dump-off pass!).
I’m now completely convinced Norv Turner is pulling a George Costanza and trying to get fired. If only the Chargers had a Super Bowl trophy that Turner could tie to his car bumper and drag around the stadium parking lot …
$110 on UCLA +8½ at Stanford: Brilliant move by UCLA last week, lying down at home against Stanford in the regular-season finale to avoid having to play at Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game (the Bruins already had clinched a spot in this contest; Stanford had to win). Sure, the Cardinal are 6-0 at home, but only one of those victories was by more than seven points. The Bruins—who had won five in a row prior to the 35-17 loss to Stanford—have been a ’dog just twice this year, winning outright both times.
$110 on Boise State -9½ at Nevada: Boise State has won eight of nine, with the last six victories by an average of 25.8 points. Nevada has dropped three of its last four, including two straight at home. And then there’s this: The Wolf Pack have failed to cover in seven straight games, part of an overall 2-9 ATS mark, including 0-5 ATS at home. (Hell, even the Rebels finished 8-5 ATS. Hey, congrats UNLV fans—you finally beat Reno!)
Best of the Rest: Georgia +7½ vs. Alabama ($77); Nebraska -3 vs. Wisconsin ($55); TCU +6½ vs. Oklahoma ($55); Oklahoma State-Baylor UNDER 86½ ($44); Lions -4½ vs. Colts ($66); Texans -6 at Titans ($55); Seahawks +3½ at Bears ($44); Vikings +8 at Packers ($44).