The Rams took a huge step Thursday toward winning the NFL’s battle for Los Angeles.
When Dick Vermeil coached the Rams to their only Super Bowl victory in 1999, Sean McVay had just turned 14. Now he is 31 and the youngest head coach in NFL history. He is wise beyond his years.
It’s clear McVay has been able to get the positive results out of quarterback Jared Goff that Jeff Fisher, who was fired after last season, could not. Goff went 22 of 28 for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against a decent 49ers defense.
McVay also made an excellent move in hiring Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator. Two years ago, Phillips orchestrated the Denver Broncos’ defense that devoured Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
How about all those shots of McVay sitting back on an ice cooler Thursday night studying his offensive play chart? He was paying no attention to what was happening on the field because he knew Phillips could be trusted running the defense.
Rams general manager Les Snead deserves credit for signing perhaps the most important free agent during the offseason — 11-year left tackle Andrew Whitworth. This move greatly impacted the Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, Whitworth’s former team. His work protecting Goff’s blind side partially explains why the Rams are 2-1 and the Bengals 0-2.
The only thing the Rams failed to do was cover the 2½- to 3-point spread. It was a fun game to watch, but don’t get too carried away. As my VSiN running mate Ron Flatter posted on Twitter: “#LARvsSF was entertaining. But that does not mean it was good.”
College football menu
Clemson sustained a major loss when place-kicker Greg Huegel suffered a freak injury that will sideline him for the season.
At the end of Wednesday’s practice, when teams rehearse the two-minute drill and rush the field-goal team out at the end, a defensive player rolled up on Huegel’s kicking leg, tearing his ACL.
Huegel booted two field goals last week against Louisville, including a career-long 49-yarder. He was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award last year. His replacement is junior Alex Spence.
Clemson is a 33½-point home favorite Saturday against Boston College.
Alabama travels to Vanderbilt, which is getting 19½ points. The Commodores have not allowed many points this season, but obviously this is a huge step up in class from wins over Middle Tennessee, Alabama A&M and Kansas State.
We should get a better idea of where Alabama is at this point. Having failed to cover two spreads after dismantling Florida State in their opener, the Tide are poised to flex their muscles again.
Conference play begins throughout the country Saturday, and the Big Ten and Pac-12 have grabbed our attention.
Southern California travels to Berkeley to play vastly improved California. The Golden Bears have won at North Carolina and defeated visiting Mississippi. So beware backing the Trojans and laying the 17.
I’m also leaning toward UCLA catching 7 at Stanford. I’m suspicious about the Cardinal after last week’s loss to San Diego State. I am not alone, as that line moved from 7½.
In the Big Ten, Purdue is a live underdog, getting 10 points at home against Michigan. The results that Jeff Brohm is getting in his first year mean that if any marquee jobs open up in the Southeastern Conference, he’s going to be at the top of the list. He will become the poster child for college coaches on the rise if the Boilermakers defeat the Wolverines.
But buyer beware: This is a situation in which I have watched Jim Harbaugh drop the hammer. Remember the game at the Los Angeles Coliseum eight years ago, when Harbaugh and Stanford beat Pete Carroll and USC 55-21? Here’s some advice for Brohm: Don’t go up to Harbaugh after the game and ask, “What’s your deal?”
Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His show on the Vegas Stats & Information Network can be heard on SiriusXM 204 and livestreamed at reviewjournal.com/vegas-stats-information-network.