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Utah clings to outside shot at CFP

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Utah opened as a 6.5-point favorite over Oregon at Circa Sports in Las Vegas for Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game.

The Utes clinched the Pac-12 South on Saturday with a 45-15 rout of Colorado as 28-point favorites. They’re hoping a big win at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara will earn a bid to the College Football Playoffs. That will depend on what happens in other conference title tilts.

Georgia is the most vulnerable target above the Utes, opening as a six-point underdog to LSU in Saturday’s SEC championship game in Atlanta. It’s assumed Utah must win and Georgia lose to snare a bid.

Oklahoma would match Utah’s 12-1 record if both win this weekend. The Sooners opened as 10.5-point favorites over Baylor in the Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas. 

The Pac-12 has made two appearances since the Final Four structure began. In 2015, Oregon (-7.5) beat Florida State 59-20 before losing to Ohio State 42-20 as a six-point favorite. In 2017, Washington ( 12.5) lost to Alabama 24-7. 

USC’s hopes for Pac-12 divisional and league titles were dashed when Utah crushed Colorado. The 8-4 Trojans are waiting to find out where they’ll play their bowl game. UCLA stumbled to a 4-8 season, put out of its misery by a 28-18 home loss to California in a market toss-up. 

Head coaches Clay Helton of USC and Chip Kelly of UCLA entered the week dealing with multiple media reports about their immediate futures. Helton and USC performed much better against market expectations. USC surpassed its Regular Season Win projection of seven victories while also going 6-5-1 against the spread. UCLA fell short of its six-win target and went 4-7-1 ATS. 

College coaches who have already been fired after failing to meet win projections: Barry Odom of Missouri after a 6-6 record against eight projected wins, Charlie Strong of South Florida after a 4-8 record against six projected wins, Matt Luke of Ole Miss after a 4-8 record against five projected wins and Steve Addazio of Boston College after a 6-6 record against 6.5 projected wins. Also, Texas fired defensive coordinator Todd Orlando after going 7-5 against nine projected wins. 


Other Notes

— USC and UCLA bounced back in college basketball Sunday after disappointing stretches. USC (-1.5) beat Harvard 77-62 to finish third in the Orlando Invitational. That ended a four-game non-cover streak for the Trojans. UCLA (-22.5) beat San Jose State 93-64. That followed the Bruins finishing sixth in the eight-team Maui Invitational last week. 

— In the NFL, the Rams opened as 2.5-point home underdogs in Sunday’s rematch against Seattle. You don’t often see a team get more points at home than it did on the road barring major injuries. The Rams closed 1.5 in Seattle on Oct. 3. 

Home-field advantage is typically worth three points in the NFL. That would mean a six-point adjustment from one site to another. Instead of laying 4.5 points at the Coliseum, the Rams are a bigger dog because of a dramatic change in perceptions. Seattle carried a 9-2 record into its Monday night matchup with Minnesota. The Rams are on the fringe of the NFC wild-card race at 7-5 thanks to poor offensive showings against quality defenses. 

The Chargers opened as 3-point favorites in Jacksonville despite losing another heartbreaker Sunday in Denver to fall to 4-8 straight up, 3-7-2 ATS. Jacksonville has struggled badly its last four games. The Jaguars are 0-4 straight up and ATS, missing the market by a combined 73 points on a total scoreboard loss of 129-47 to Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Tampa Bay. 

— In the NBA, the Lakers missed the spread by 20.5 points in Sunday’s 114-100 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks as 6.5-point favorites. That dropped the Lakers to 2-5 ATS in their last seven games despite a gaudy 17-3 straight-up record this season. The Lakers will play three road games in four days beginning Tuesday in Denver. That’s followed by a Wednesday night encounter in Utah and a Friday road trip finale in Portland. 

The Clippers will begin a six-game trip Friday in a much-anticipated battle with Eastern Conference favorite Milwaukee. Bettors should know the Clips are 1-6 ATS their last seven road games. 

— In the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings enter Monday night’s head-to-head meeting with 11 wins in 27 games. Each scored a recent win over the previously red-hot New York Islanders. Each surrounded that win with losses to other teams (the Kings with a San Jose “Shark Sandwich” that would have made Spinal Tap proud).

Bettors backing the Kings every game would be down three units against the money line but more than eight units on the puck line, which uses a goal “spread” of 1.5 at varying prices. Those backing the Ducks every game would be down almost five units against money lines but only one on the puck line. 

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