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UCLA a lame ‘dog in Pac-12 title game

LOS ANGELES — High winds knocked out power and wreaked havoc in this area into Thursday morning, and while the damage was unfortunate, a positive event took place this week when UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was finally swept out of town.

A phone conversation with Jay Rood, MGM Resorts sports book director, began with us trading weather reports.

"What a disaster," Rood said, when the topic shifted to today’s Pacific-12 Conference championship game.

Routinely blown out this season, the Bruins (6-6) backed into a phony league title game because of NCAA sanctions against Southern California. The Trojans skunked UCLA 50-0 on Saturday, effectively ending the Neuheisel error and setting up an embarrassing and ridiculous championship scenario.

Oregon is a 31½-point home favorite over UCLA, and Rood said the early ratio of dollars wagered is 20-to-1 on the Ducks.

Bettors are showing little to no interest in backing the Bruins, just like last week when USC was a two-touchdown favorite.

"We just got buried. That was just straight USC money. We couldn’t get anyone on the other side. Even the sharps were on USC," Rood said. "This time, we’re just going to get straight Oregon money."

UCLA also served as a punching bag in losses to Arizona (48-12), Utah (31-6) and Texas (49-20). One problem with Neuheisel is he showed up talking big and came up woefully short. He was full of optimism, but also full of something else.

Another problem with Neuheisel is he never developed a big-time quarterback. So with a 21-28 record in four years, he coaches the Bruins for the final time today, and it should get ugly.

The Ducks crushed the Bruins 60-13 at Autzen Stadium last year. There is no need for a rematch, but there is one, and it’s either bet Oregon or pass.

I can’t recommend taking a shot with a lame ‘dog, a week after so many underdogs suffered a historic post-Thanksgiving slaughter. Most bettors who took the points last week also took a beating, which has been sort of a theme in college football.

Louisiana State, a 12½-point favorite, triggered the landslide by punishing Arkansas last Friday. In 14 other key Saturday games, many of them rivalries, the favorites also covered. Here was the rundown:

■ Michigan State (-6) over Northwestern, Georgia (-6) over Georgia Tech, South Carolina (-4) over Clemson, North Carolina State (-12) over Maryland, North Carolina (-13) over Duke, Alabama (-21) over Auburn, Oregon (-27½) over Oregon State, Virginia Tech (-4) over Virginia, Wisconsin (-14½) over Penn State, Florida State (-1½) over Florida, Washington (-9) over Washington State, Mississippi State (-17) over Mississippi, Stanford (-7) over Notre Dame and, of course, USC over UCLA.

To top if off, UNLV was another underdog many of us jumped on at plus-16. The Rebels raced to a 14-0 lead and found a way to lose, 31-14.

Veteran handicapper Wayne Root (Winningedge.com) admitted to his worst Saturday ever. Similar to Root, I was on five of those ‘dogs and lost with them all. My only winner was Wisconsin.

"I’ve never in my 26-year career seen anything like that," Root said in an email. "Favorites dominated like nothing I’ve ever seen. In virtually every key betting game, the favorite won, the ‘dog lost."

Rood said the sports books avoided taking a beating from the public, however, partly because Ohio State covered as a 7-point underdog in a 40-34 loss to Michigan.

"It wasn’t pretty, but we survived," Rood said. "It wasn’t like a killer. Luckily, it was a light handle day."

I’ll play two favorites Saturday: Brigham Young (-7½) at Hawaii and Oklahoma State (-3) over Oklahoma.

Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson has been cleared to play against the Warriors, who are not dealing so well with the absence of their senior quarterback, Bryant Moniz.

"BYU is playing only its third game in five weeks, while Hawaii is playing for the ninth straight week and the 13th time in the past 14 weeks. Injuries have severely hampered the Warriors’ offense," said handicapper Jim Kruger (VegasSportsAuthority.com). "Hawaii has lost three of its past four games, two of those at home, and was outgained in the three losses by 429 yards."

Key personnel losses, especially leading receiver Ryan Broyles, also have hurt the Sooners.

"The injuries to Oklahoma are too much, and although there isn’t a kid on Oklahoma State’s team who knows what it’s like to beat the Sooners, this is the Cowboys’ year," said Oklahoma-based handicapper Jack Ross (TheFatJack.com).

The moral of the story is there are few victories to be had when backing ugly ‘dogs, and nobody should be surprised if Neuheisel and the Bruins get blown out again.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the "Las Vegas Sportsline" weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.

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