Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
I’m flying solo on the picks this week, with Jim Vallet somewhere in the Pacific Ocean as I write this, with his wife on a cruise to Ensenada.
As I was watching the 49ers/Rams game Monday night, the first thing I thought of was Jim when a fan ran onto the field carrying some kind of device that was emitting pink smoke. The ESPN cameras stayed focused on the two teams as they huddled near the line of scrimmage, but it didn’t take long for video of the encounter to hit Twitter. There, I saw the guy being chased by stadium security, and he made the mistake of running in front of the Rams’ bench. One player, Takkarist McKinley, began to chase him, but it was Bobby Wagner, the linebacker who was a big part of the naming of the Seattle Seahawks defense the Legion of Boom.
Wagner leveled the dude, but it wasn’t near the ferocious hit it could have been. I considered the guy lucky that it wasn’t worse, but Tuesday, stories came out that he is filing assault charges.
Hopefully the Santa Clara authorities won’t let those charges go anywhere, because the dude got what he deserved.
I’m disappointed that Jim is gone on the week that happened, because I know Jim would have had a far wittier take.
Anyway, on to the picks, where last Sunday’s two losses left me feeling like the one that got trucked by Bobby Wagner.
Nevada (-3 ½) over Colorado St.: Even with all the dudes he took with him from Reno to Fort Collins, Jay Norvell has a bigger rebuilding project in front of him at Colorado St. than Ken Wilson has at Nevada. After all, Nevada beat Colorado St. 52-10 last year. I know most of the guys who accounted for that 52 are gone, but Devonte Lee and Toa Taua are still on Virginia Street, and if the Nevada quarterbacks don’t give the game away with mistakes, Lee and Taua will win it.
East Carolina (+3 ½) at Tulane: I expected a big game out of East Carolina last week, and I got it, with a 41-7 halftime lead. I think they’ll keep the offense rolling, even with running back Rajai Harris out for the year with an injury he suffered last week. Running back is East Carolina’s deepest position, and their big-play back Keaton Mitchell should return this week after missing last week. With this line, the defense just needs to make one stop more than Tulane makes, in what should be a shootout.
Northwestern (+10 ½) over Wisconsin: I’m going back to the well again with Northwestern too. They lost 17-7 last week getting 25 ½ points from Penn St. This time they can actually win the game, not just cover it.
Illinois (-3 ½) over Iowa: Sometimes it’s hard to believe what you’re seeing when a bad team starts to get good, or when a good team starts to decline. Both of those are happening in this matchup. Illinois is a program on the rise under Bret Bielema. And Iowa is regressing under Kirk Ferentz. Illinois has the defensive chops to match Iowa, and a much better offense.
Washington St. (+13) at USC: USC has rolled through the early part of its schedule, with one exception – in a game where Oregon St. absolutely didn’t back down. Washington St. isn’t going to back down either. They are among the national leaders in sacks and tackles for losses. They can keep USC down enough for quarterback Cam Ward to work some of his magic. Even something along the lines of a 31-21 loss gets the money, and I’m thinking it will be closer than that.
Browns (+2 ½) over Chargers: When the Browns get their running attack going, like they did with 171 yards two weeks ago against the Steelers, they’re a handful for any NFL defense. The Chargers gave up 156 rushing yards to the Jaguars two weeks ago and 131 to the Texans last week. The Browns will run the ball well here, keeping it away from Justin Herbert, and their pass rush will make it a rough day for him. With all their injuries, I’m not sure the Chargers are the better team right now.
Dolphins (-3) at Jets: Seeing Zach Wilson start out 3 for 13 passing last week against the Steelers was exactly what I expected in his first game back from injury, but kudos to him for turning it around with two good fourth quarter drives. But it was three interceptions by Steelers rookie QB Kenny Pickett that kept the Jets in the game. The Dolphins will bounce back from their Thursday night loss to the Bengals, and Teddy Bridgewater isn’t that much of a drop off from Tua Tagovailoa, and he still has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle to get the ball to.