Nothing like blowing a big lead to bring someone back down to Earth.
Saturday night, going into the big-time match up between No. 7 Stanford and No. 20 Oregon, the Top Dawg was rolling. At that point, I had hit underdogs Army, Purdue, and Kentucky, while dominating performances by favorites Michigan, Texas, West Virginia, and Notre Dame had my Week 4 record at 7-2. Then, disaster struck.
Oregon’s Ducks, led by Justin Herbert, the top quarterback prospect in America, was standing on the goal line, first and goal from the one yard line, leading 24-7. There was just under 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter and the game was turning into a rout. But this is college football. And, if you are a true fan, then you know that anything can happen. In this case, “anything” did happen. Oregon fumbled but then recovered. Then, on the next play, Oregon’s center snapped the ball over Herbert’s head, Stanford recovered an returned it 95 yards for a touchdown. 31-7 turned into 24-14 just like that.
The rest was history. Oregon went from a top-10 team to a team who struggled to finish off a sure-win against a top-10 opponent. In doing so, the Ducks their season up, and blew the single best Saturday I ever have had picking college football games. While 8-2 sounds a heck of a lot better than 7-3, it was how I picked the 8-2 that matters most to handicappers.
You see, I have thought for two years that Herbert is the best player in college football. 6’6, 247 lbs, with a rocket of an arm, the kid is way more athletic than a guy that big is supposed to be. Sandwiched between injury and the East Coast media bias, Herbert was my Heisman Trophy favorite from Day 1. Saturday night, when most of the East Coast media was out having a beer or entertaining their kids, he didn’t disappoint. How good was he? When they were on the goal line, up 24-7 in the third, he was 25-27 against one of the best defenses in college football. I felt like the best player in America could dominate a game. What I didn’t count on is muffed center snaps, official turning back an obvious touchdown, and Oregon’s coaches flat out choking game and clock management.
Make no mistake about it. Herbert won’t win the Heisman and Oregon won’t win the national title. But, on Saturday, they had a chance to make a statement, and in blowing the opportunity to do so, they blew up a potentially great season and, in doing so, screwed up a monumental day for the Top Dawg.