Only a fool would buy what Rick Neuheisel is selling now. When he took over as UCLA football coach three years ago, he was arrogant and full of bold talk.
Neuheisel’s photo was featured in newspaper advertisements with the headline, “The Football Monopoly in Los Angeles is Officially Over.”
And he was right about the demise of Pete Carroll at Southern California. But the cocky Neuheisel has been humbled as his rebuilding project with the Bruins has gone terribly wrong.
“This could be an epic bad season at UCLA, and in that case you have to wonder if Neuheisel is going to be able to stick around for next year,” The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall said. “I could see the Bruins being an underdog in every Pac-10 game except for Washington State.”
UCLA, 0-2 after an embarrassing 35-0 loss to Stanford, is a 3-point home underdog to Houston on Saturday. The line takes into account that Cougars star Case Keenum, one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, is questionable to play after suffering a head injury last week.
Several handicappers, including Bryan Leonard (footballwinners.com), are on Houston.
“There is simply no way UCLA can exchange scores with this Houston offense regardless of who gets the call behind center for the Cougars,” Leonard said. “Grab this number now, because if it’s announced that Keenum is back, the line will shoot even higher.”
If Keenum doesn’t start, Cotton Turner is the pick to replace him. Turner is a huge dropoff, but he played well enough in the Cougars’ 54-24 victory over Texas-El Paso last week, and he can lean on big-play running back Bryce Beall.
“I think UNLV has had better quarterbacks the last few years than UCLA,” Marshall said.
That’s not saying much considering the quarterback who started the Rebels’ opener already has been switched to defense. UCLA’s Kevin Prince, bothered by arm and back injuries, completed 6 of 12 passes for 39 yards against Stanford.
Neuheisel’s act has gotten old. Undeterred, he said in a lame sales pitch there is “still reason for optimism” and “no reason to throw in the towel.” UCLA is a desperate home ‘dog with few winnable games left on the schedule. This could be one, if Keenum is out.
The Bruins still must play at Texas, California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona State. An optimist might predict a 3-9 season.
Leonard pointed out UCLA is 3-8 in its past 11 regular-season games, with none of the losses by fewer than seven points.
UNR coach Chris Ault is similar to Neuheisel in one way this week. Ault is a home underdog. But he has a great quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, running his Pistol offense.
California is a 2-point favorite over the Wolf Pack today, and Marshall said he leans to the Golden Bears, off a 52-7 victory over Colorado. UNR has lost eight straight times to BCS conference foes.
“(UNR) is the quintessential bully,” Marshall said. “They have mercilessly pounded teams that can’t handle the Pistol. But the Pistol doesn’t seem to work quite as well, and they can’t seem to get Kaepernick loose as well, against stronger defenses.
“For all of Ault’s winning since he returned to the sidelines in 2004, he has yet to beat one of these big boys. … The Wolf Pack is tough against teams they can beat up, but I don’t think they can beat up Cal.”
By most accounts, Las Vegas sports books took a beating Saturday. The betting public took right sides with Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma as home favorites and Michigan as a road ‘dog.
MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood described the day as “real rough,” and said one bettor hit a $100 10-team parlay for $70,000.
John Avello, sports book director at Wynn Las Vegas, said he’s trying to be the first in the world to post opening lines for college games. He put up this week’s numbers around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, close to when the M Resort opened college lines.
■ CLOSING NUMBERS — Alabama put a 24-3 whipping on Penn State to help put me at 3-2 for last week and 7-4-1 for the season. Here are five plays for Saturday (home team in CAPS):
(-10) over Brigham Young; WASHINGTON (+3) over Nebraska; UTAH STATE (+5) over Fresno State; Notre Dame (+3½) over MICHIGAN STATE; Unlv (+7) over IDAHO.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He also co-hosts the “Las Vegas Betting Line” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and kdwn.com.