It can’t be official until we know the closing line on the Colorado-Oregon football game this week in Eugene, but right now, it’s on track to have the biggest point spread in the history of the Pac-10/12. The Daily Line run by the Times had it at 45 1/2 points Wednesday morning (after it nosed up to 46 in Tuesday’s paper; somebody out there must have had unshakeable confidence in the Buffs).
My research on this wasn’t exhaustive, but I think it covers enough of the polar extremes in the history of the league to say with confidence that if the line doesn’t dip any more, it will be the biggest in history.
In the past generation (and a little more, in the case of Oregon State), I focussed in on five periods of extreme success or futility:
1. OSU’s long, long period of losing spanning the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
Biggest spread I could find in that stretch was the Beavers’ 42 1/2-point underdog role to Washington’s national-title team in 1991. The Huskies won 58-6.
2. Washington’s dominant run in the early ’90s.
The 1991 team’s biggest spread was that aforementioned OSU game. It reflects the power of that squad that it also had three other 30-point-plus spreads against Pac-10 teams in ’91.
3. USC’s dynastic years under Pete Carroll.
I found three instances of 40-point-plus spreads during that run: Washington State was a 45-point ‘dog at USC in 2009, which is apparently tied for next-highest to this week’s Colorado-Oregon game (the Cougars played it competitively, losing 27-6 in Jeff Tuel’s debut game). The year before that, in ’08, USC was a 42 1/2-point favorite in Pullman (and covered by almost four touchdowns, 69-0). And of course, there was the 41-point spread over Stanford in 2007, with the Cardinal winning for the biggest upset, at least by the spread, in the history of college football.
4. The bottomed-out Washington State teams of 2008-09.
Those two USC spreads were the biggest involving the Cougars. It’s mind-boggling to recall that in each of those years, WSU had five Pac-10 games of 30-point spreads or more. Particularly shocking, in retrospect, was a 41-point underdog role to Arizona — in Pullman — in 2008.
5. Washington’s winless season in 2008.
The Huskies were a 45-point underdog at USC (and lost 56-0), so that, along with the USC-WSU game in 2009, was the co-standard-bearer until the CU-Oregon game came along.
A footnote: Imagine being favored by six touchdowns on the road in a league game. The 1991 UW-OSU spread, and the USC-WSU line in 2008, represented just that, and in the general sense, are even greater than the 45-point numbers. In other words, if the favorites in those games had been playing at home, the line likely would have been 49 or 50 points.