Can’t pick a winner? Find a loser!

Sep 24, 2002 8:14 AM

   In trying to pick winners, it’s often helpful to identify a loser and subsequently play against that team every week (with qualifications, of course).

   Among the teams that seem to qualify, so far, are Tulsa, Louisiana-Monroe, Kansas, Eastern Michigan, Akron, Rutgers, UNLV and Army.

   For the season, these eight teams are a wretched 3-23 against the spread (ATS). For more losers, check out GT’s Dirty Dozen on page 26.

   This week, we’ll throw a new team into our flea-bitten hat, the (gulp!) Nebraska Cornhuskers.

   While pigeon-holing the ’Huskers into such a dismal collection may sound like heresy, consider that over the past five years, Nebraska is a lackluster 31-33 ATS, while the team was a stellar 39-21 in the previous five seasons.

   This year, Nebraska will continue its slide, but not simply against the spread-Big Red will begin to flow red ink in the form of losses. It begins this week at Ames, Iowa.

   Nebraska at Iowa State -1: The Cornhuskers have won nine of the last 10, and most haven’t been close — Nebraska has won by an average of 41 points over the last seven meetings. But Iowa State is primed to break the string, and they have the firepower to do it with quarterback Seneca Wallace and a corps of talented receivers. The Cyclones win this one going away.

   Texas Tech —8½ at New Mexico: Even though Texas Tech is coming off a heart-breaking overtime loss to North Carolina State, they should bounce back against a mediocre New Mexico squad. If the Lobos couldn’t stop New Mexico State’s Paul Dombrowski, they won’t slow down Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury. Take the Red Raiders and go for the green.

   Iowa at Penn State -8: Even though Iowa is improved, Penn State is hot. The Lions broke open a tight contest against Louisiana Tech with a 28-point outburst over an eight minute span, and in the process launched a new weapon, backup quarterback Michael Robinson. Penn State actually has the ability to score quickly, which they should do, early and often.

   Air Force at Utah -9: In its upset over California, Air Force rushed for 295 yards. They should be able to move the ball against the Utes, who had a tough loss against Michigan last week. Also, the Academy has won the last two meetings against Utah, and the dog has covered the last five contests. Make that six in a row.

   Kentucky at Florida -19: Last week Florida dominated Tennessee, which didn’t help its cause with five turnovers in an undisciplined and uninspired effort. Meanwhile, Kentucky rang up 510 yards and 44 points against a stout Middle Tennessee State defense. The Gators could be a little flat this week, and they’ll have their hands full with 300-pound Wildcat quarterback Jared Lorenzen. Even though Florida has covered seven of the last eight meetings, Kentucky gets the money in this one.

   Syracuse at Auburn -11½ : The Auburn running attack, led by Carnell Williams’ 106 yards, pounded Mississippi State last week. They should be able to do the same against Syracuse, who will have a tough time getting untracked against the Tigers’ smothering defense. Auburn should win by three touchdowns.

   UCLA -14 at San Diego State: The Bruins defense appears to have sprung a leak. Last week, Colorado-which had a total of 61 yards against USC-rushed for 325 yards against the Bruins, and the previous week Oklahoma State amassed nearly 450 yards of offense. A defense so porous can’t lay two touchdowns on the road, even to a hapless WAC team like San Diego State. Taking the points is the play.

(Last week’s selections were 2-4-1. For the season, 12-10-1)