Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, September 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM
Heading into the first week of the 2012 college football season, you’d have thought that the Pac 12 had become the SEC Pacific. Both USC and Oregon were getting consideration for the national championship (particularly Southern Cal), and the launching of a new TV network was all media pundits could talk about. Hey, the Longhorn Network still has no viewers…but the Pac 12 Network is going to make a splash! Especially when USC outshines Alabama and LSU!
Well, there was a splash last weekend. But, it was more of a belly flop than anything else. From top to bottom, the league had trouble playing to Las Vegas expectations. Even the victories of Southern Cal and Oregon were pointspread covers for their opponents. The further down the ledger you got, the uglier things looked.
A brief recap…
POWERS WIN, BUT DON’T COVER
Both USC and Oregon got off to fantastic starts in their national TV games against Hawaii and Arkansas State respectively. Each sent messages to the nation in the first 30 minutes…before raising questions about depth in the second 30 minutes. Both were very big favorites against demonstrably inferior opposition. In context, neither looked as impressive as Alabama did because the Tide was dominating a Big Ten contender on a neutral field by a margin comparable to what USC and Oregon were doing at home vs. relative creampuffs.
NON-COVERS FOR PROJECTED CONTENDERS
There’s a list here, so let’s just run the list:
*Stanford: The Cardinal almost lost outright to San Jose State as 26-point favorites. They were neck-and-neck through the fourth quarter against a team that probably ranks around 100th best in the nation heading into the season. And, it’s not like this was one of those turnover fluke games where Stanford was dominant in the trenches but had a few miscues. Stanford didn’t turn the ball over once! San Jose State won total yardage 288-280. Andrew Luck isn’t there any more. Jim Harbaugh isn’t there any more. And, it’s now very tough to make the case that Stanford is a top 25 caliber team (as many pollsters and Preseason prognosticators had projected). Oh, Stanford’s offense didn’t even score the pointspread! They were laying -26, and only scored 21 points.
*Washington: The Huskies had trouble shaking San Diego State, managing only 21 points in a game they were favored to win by 16. Total yardage was a virtual dead heat at 328-327 for the Huskies. If not for turnovers (a 3-1 advantage), Washington may have lost this one outright instead of settling for a 21-12 decision. This was supposed to be a team that could compete within the Pac 12 even if a tough non-conference schedule hurt their overall record (a trip to LSU is on tap this week). Of course, if the whole Pac 12 is disappointing, then Washington doesn’t lose any ground!
*Arizona: If you didn’t stay up late Saturday Night, you may not be aware that Arizona had to go overtime to beat Toledo 24-17 as 10-point underdogs. This is now three double digit favorites who had to sweat their fourth quarters. Arizona did have good yardage though, as a bad night on turnovers and third downs prevented them from turning a massive 624-358 yardage advantage into an easy win. At least there’s some hope here. Being a couple hundred yards better than Toledo gives you a chance to impress when you clean up the miscues. Stanford and Washington are currently lacking that high end potential.
*Utah: We could have put this game up with USC and Oregon, because Utah won comfortably while not covering a very high spread (41-0 as a 43-point favorite over Northern Colorado). Utah isn’t in the national title discussion though, so we’ll keep them down here with the other “overpriced favorites.” To this point in the discussion, the Pac 12 is 0-6 against the spread with many teams that the media was optimistic about.
There was too much Pac 12 hype even before the Pac 12 Network started! Looks like oddsmakers sure bought into it. And, it’s about to get worse…
Three teams lost in embarrassing fashion, two of whom were clear favorites entering the game.
*California: The Golden Bears were -12 point favorites over Nevada, and were a popular selection for many handicappers because Nevada has such a poor history vs. teams from major conferences. That California spread seemed LOW to people. Instead, the Bears were outplayed all afternoon in a 31-24 loss that saw them outgained 449-359. Yes, Zach Maynard missed early action because of a rules violation. But, the defense wasn’t supposed to be this vulnerable…and Maynard isn’t any sort of one-man team. Now that Nevada has moved to the Mountain West, the Pac 12 is back to having troubles vs. Mountain West teams!
*Colorado: Speaking of that, Colorado lost outright as a 6-point favorite to Colorado State of the Mountain West. They gained only 245 yards against what’s likely to be a poor defense in the process. The Buffaloes were a longshot to contend in the Pac 12 this year. They may only be the equivalent of a mid-level team in the newly watered down Mountain West at the moment.
*Washington State: Let’s not forget last Thursday’s debut for Mike Leach and the Cougars. Washington State wasn’t favored like Cal and Colorado were. But, their loss was possibly more embarrassing because it came on national TV in a spot that was supposed to make a splash for the conference. Leach is one of the new coaching hopes who’s supposed to bring the league up to speed with everyone else. Instead, his team was outplayed emphatically in a 30-6 loss as a 13-point underdog.
We’ve talked about nine teams to this point…and they’re 0-9 against the spread! That would be it for non-covers. We finish with the limited good news.
THE ONLY TWO TEAMS THAT COVERED THE SPREAD
UCLA and Arizona State both won easily last Thursday Night against very outmatched opposition. UCLA beat Rice 49-24 as a 16-point favorite, rolling up 618 yards of total offense in the process. Arizona State knocked off Northern Arizona 63-6 with more than 550 yards of total offense. Now, it could turn out that Rice and Northern Arizona are so bad that those results won’t mean anything down the road. UCLA will be tested this week by Nebraska in a Saturday Night TV game. Arizona hosts Oklahoma State in a late night start. THOSE will be the games that tell us what we need to know about UCLA and Arizona…and perhaps the true depth (or lack of depth) for the full Pac 12 as well.
We’re looking at 2-9 against the spread. Who did we leave out? Oregon State had its game with Nicholls State postponed because of hurricane Isaac. They’ll get their 2012 wakeup call this Saturday at home against Wisconsin.
For now, the Pac 12 has been extremely overrated by Vegas oddsmakers and the market in general. Lines have clearly adjusted this week to those first game results. It’s very important that handicappers monitor the league’s performance on the fly because of all the volatility this year. We have new coaches all over the place. We have coaches on hot seats in other spots. We have TWO potential league and national championship teams who may not have the depth it requires to go the distance. Volatility in the market means MONEY for handicappers who can stay ahead of the curve.
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Back with you Wednesday in the NOTEBOOK to preview Dallas at the NY Giants in the official kickoff to the new NFL season. Last week was frantic, and now the NFL is about to join the fray! Make sure you’re GETTING THE MONEY all season long with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!