Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/17/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks could have been better but they were still ever so slightly mythically profitable. The record was 9-8-0 bringing the season record to 46-44-3.

The “Best Picks” last week were two OVER bets. I took Iowa St/Texas Tech to go OVER 73 and the total was 97 and I took TCU/Kansas State OVER 63 and the total was also 97.

The “Worst Pick” from last week was taking Oklahoma – 16.5 against Texas and watching Texas win the game outright.

No one should consider anything written here as worthy of consideration when it comes to choosing a side in making a real wager on a real college football game where real money is on the line. Anyone doing that would be just about this dumb:

    He/She thinks a thesaurus is a well-spoken dinosaur.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats ran their record to 4-0 (2-0 in conference) with a massive 77-10 win over Pacific University (Oregon). One more win will keep their streak of winning seasons alive; Division III teams play 9 game schedules. This week, the Wildcats go on the road to face Willamette University. The Bearcats are 1-3 on the season but 2 of their 3 losses came at the expense of a total of 7 points. Go Wildcats!

Maranatha Baptist University had last week off to prepare for this week’s road game against Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND. Maranatha Baptist is 0-5 as is Trinity Bible College. If you have been following my quest to find the polar opposite of Linfield as a Division III team to follow, you know that Maranatha lost to Finlandia two weeks ago. Well after Trinity plays Maranatha, Trinity plays Finlandia and then Finlandia and Maranatha play each other again. This is getting much too complicated…

Last week, the Wake Forest/Boston College game set back college football about 75 years. The final score was 3-0 but that only begins to tell the tale of ineptitude in the game. Consider just a few stats:

    There were 18 punts in the game combined.
    There were 5 fumbles (4 of them lost) in the game combined.
    Each team had akin INT.
    The total offense for both teams combined was 412 yards. (Wake had 142)
    BC got 5 first downs by penalty in the game.
    Combined passing stats were 17-45 for 183 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

If you have concluded that the team to make the last mistake would lose that game you would be correct because BC botched the end-of-game possession in epic fashion. I will try to summarize:

    BC is losing 3-0 as the clock is winding down. They have the ball at the Wake Forest 1-yardline with a first down and no timeouts.

    The ball is snapped with 18 or 19 seconds on the clock and the play call was a run.

    The runner never got close to the end zone. That is not good.

    What is even worse is that BC could get lined up to spike the ball and stop the clock and if you watch the final seconds of that game expire (Google is your friend) your eyes will get very wide and your jaw will drop. It looks like a Keystone Kops flick.

I enjoy defensive games more than most folks do. That was not a defensive game as the 3-0 score might intimate; that was a blunderingly inept game.

Last week we saw Steve Spurrier resign and Steve Sarkisian get fired. It was not a good week for coaches with names beginning with the letter “S”. [Yes, I know Randy Edsall was fired too but including him in the sentence above does not fit the narrative…] There was another college coach firing last week that received far less attention than the others. North Texas fired Coach Dan McCarney last week right after the Mean Green lost to Portland State 66-7. Portland State is a Division 1-AA school; earlier this year, Portland State beat Washington St. by a TD in the opening game of the season. Nevertheless, that loss dropped North Texas to 0-5 and the school decided to “go in a different direction”.

Division 1-AA schools rise up and beat Division 1-A every once in a while. Many folks recall when Appalachian St. went to Ann Arbor and beat Michigan 34-32. That was about 10 years ago and it is often mentioned as one of the great upsets of all time. However, note that the score differential was 2 points; in most Division 1-AA victories over Division 1-A teams, the score is close enough that the loser still considers that it has a shot to win sometime in the second half. Not so last week in the Portland St./North Texas game:

    Portland State led 45-0 at the half.
    Portland State led 59-0 after three quarters.
    Portland State outgained North Texas 670 yards to 198 yards.

I do not have the time or the inclination to do the research to find out if this is the biggest butt-kicking ever administered by a Division 1-AA team to a Division 1-A team; suffice it to say that this was so monumental a rout that it justified firing the North Texas coach on the spot.

Oh, by the way, in another exemplar of the minimal importance one should attach to coaching changes in mid-season, North Texas played their next game last night. They did a lot better than they did against Portland State where they lost by 59 points; last night they only lost by 27 to W. Kentucky.

In a more uplifting piece of news last week, the nation’s longest losing streak came to a halt. Columbia beat Wagner 26-3; prior to that game, Columbia had lost 24 games in a row; their last win was in November 2012 over Cornell. Columbia has been known to go on losing streaks before. Back in the 1980s, they once lost 44 games in a row – the longest losing streak on record in college football. The losing streak that ended last week did not come close to the school record on the college football record.

Texas beat Oklahoma 24-17 and that ought to quiet down the “Fire Charlie Strong” chorus for at least a week. That victory was the first win for Texas over a ranked team since Charlie Strong took over the program. Here is a measure of the dominance in the game:

    Texas had 313 yards rushing
    Oklahoma had 67 yards rushing.

More importantly, there were no humongously embarrassing gaffes by any of the Texas Special teams units in the game; that seemingly had become a refrain for the Longhorns this year. It would be far too much of a feelgood story to say that Texas has turned the corner and is on its way back to greatness on the basis of one dominant win. Upcoming for Texas are K-State, Iowa St. and Kansas. Texas is 2-4 today; after those 3 games they should be 4-5 at the worst. Oh, and Baylor is still down the road for them later this year…

TCU and Kansas State went on an offensive bender last week. K-State led by 18 at halftime but TCU rallied to win 52-45. TCU QB, Trevone Boykin, had an amazing second half running for two TDs and throwing the winning TD pass in the 4th quarter. In the opening game of the season, TCU beat Minnesota 23-17. In the five games since that one, TCU has gone over 50 points in every game averaging 56.6 points in those 5 games.

Tennessee beat Georgia for the first time since 2009 last week. Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury on his first carry of the game and Chubb is more than just a really good RB; he is what makes the Georgia offense go. Georgia led 24-3 in the first half and managed to lose 38-31. The Vols ran up 512 yards of total offense on a Georgia defense that has not looked nearly that bad all season long. Some folks may want to ascribe this loss to the hangover sustained from the clobbering that Alabama put on Georgia 2 weeks ago; I think it was more about the loss of Nick Chubb. And, that has implications for Georgia and the SEC East going forward. More on that later…

Florida beat Missouri 21-2 last week. If ever there was a game that deserved the label “winning ugly” this would be it. There were 18 punts in the game and at one point there were 7 consecutive 3-and-outs. The Florida offense last week – and truth be told all season long – has been a unit using training wheels. It has been the defense that has carried the team to its 6-0 record. And the job for that defense just got harder because starting QB, Will Grier, will sit out a 12-month suspension imposed by the NCAA because he flunked a PED drug test.

Look at the SEC East today:

    Florida leads with a 4-0 record.
    Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Vandy all have 2 losses already.
    South Carolina is irrelevant here.

Florida’s next two games are against LSU and Georgia. If they lose both, all of those 2-loss teams in the SEC East become “contendas” again.

Michigan pitched its third consecutive shutout last week beating Northwestern 38-0. Michigan returned the opening kickoff for a TD; that was an omen; the score was 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and the game was clearly over at that point. Northwestern is an unbalanced team; they have a good defense and a sub-standard offense. Consider these stats:

    Total offense for Northwestern was 168 yards.
    After the first quarter, Northwestern never snapped the ball in Michigan territory.

Ohio State beat Maryland as expected by 3 TDs but that margin might be a bit deceiving if you are grading on the style points scale. The score of this game was tied in the second half. Maryland is not nearly good enough to be tied with the #1 team in the country in the second half…

Out west in the PAC-12, Utah beat Cal 30-24. Jared Goff’s NFL résumé took a hit in the game because he threw 5 INTs in the game. [He has only thrown 4 INTs for the season until last week.] I have been impressed by Utah’s defense since their opening week win over Michigan and last week it looked even better than it did then. However, Utah also has a running back who is not getting a lot of attention in a year when Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb and Ezekiel Elliot have dominated headlines. Devontae Booker carried 34 times against Cal and gained 222 yards; he is one tough runner.

Utah now leads the PAC-12 South standings; USC and UCLA had been considered the co-favorites in that division but both of them now have 2 conference losses; Utah is undefeated. Arizona State has 1 loss and Arizona St and Utah play each other this weekend…

Interesting fact that may or may not have any significance:

    In PAC-12 Conference games this year, the road teams are 10-5 straight up.
    Is that a trend that might continue or just an anomaly based on a small sample size?

Oregon – like USC – has two losses at home already this year. Last week, Oregon lost at home in double over-time to Washington State – the “other Division 1-A team” that Portland State defeated this year. Sitting at 3-3 with at least 3 tough games remaining on the schedule, the question is whether this year represents a “precipitous decline” in Oregon football or “an implosion”. Chip Kelly has been gone sufficiently long that virtually none of his recruits are left on the team – and coincidentally, the team is not nearly as successful as it was then. Coincidence – – or causality?

UConn beat UCF last week 40-13; the game is of no real consequence except that it means that in starting out this year with an 0-6 record, UCF has managed to lose to an impressive array of lower-tier football programs to include Florida International, Tulane, Furman and now UConn…

The alums at Central Michigan are probably not thrilled by the team’s 2-4 record this year. However, sports bettors – or “punters” as they are known in the UK – love C Michigan because they are 6-0 ATS (against the spread). Just saying…

Conversely, the alums at Michigan State have to like the team’s 6-0 start but the fact is that Michigan State is 0-6 ATS…

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 4 Ponderosa Games and the record for favorites covering was 2-2-0.

Baylor and Ole’ Miss covered. Interestingly, both teams covered 45-point spreads

Mississippi St. and Ohio St. did not cover.

For the season the cumulative record for favorites covering Ponderosa spreads stands at 22-25-0.

Once again, this week, we have 4 Ponderosa Games

E. Michigan at Toledo – 28 (60): Oh swell… A MAC game that looks as if it will be a blowout. Remind me not to set my DVR to record that one…

New Mexico St. at Georgia Southern – 30.5 (65): You read that right. This is not Georgia or Georgia Tech that is the 30.5-point favorite here…

Purdue at Wisconsin – 24 (50.5): I am sure the coaches and players care about the outcome here. As for me…

Texas Tech – 31.5 at Kansas (78): This line opened at 28 points and has been climbing steadily all week…

The SHOE Tournament Teams:

It is still too early in the season to start ranking the teams that will earn their way into my imaginary SHOE Tournament at the end of the year to determine the single worst Division 1-A football team in the country. However, it is getting to be the time to identify about a dozen teams that have made themselves known to the SHOE Selection Committee (me). In alphabetical order, here are teams that might be known eventually as the SHOE Team – the Steaming Heap Of Excrement for 2015:

    E. Michigan
    New Mexico State
    North Texas (see above)
    Texas – San Antonio

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Houston – 20 at Tulane (58): I do not see either defense being able to stop the other guys reliably so I like this game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) UNLV – 6.5 at Fresno St. (50): These are two bad teams. It is a Game of Interest because the loser will surely go on the SHOE Tournament Watch List and the winner may not be excluded from that list either.

USF at UConn – 2.5 (45): These are two bad teams. They are not bad enough to be considered at this time as SHOE contenders but they are still bad. If you took the family and friends of the players and coaches out of the stands for this game, might there be less than 2500 folks there?

BC at Clemson – 16 (35.5): After Wake Forest shut out BC last week, no one should expect BC to have an offensive explosion against a Clemson defense that is at least as good as Wake Forest’s. BC does play good defense, so I do not expect Clemson to get into 30s here. The question is if BC can get into double-digits. Because that Total Line is incredibly low, I’ll take the game to go OVER and hope BC can score 10 points here.

Iowa – 1.5 at Northwestern (41.5): Iowa plays very good defense particularly against the run. Michigan showed last week what a really good defense can do to Northwestern (see above). Iowa is not as good on defense as Michigan but they will prevent the modest Northwestern offense from doing a lot of scoring or a lot of clock control. Moreover, they may a bit of a “hangover” on the Northwestern side from the shellacking they took last week. I like Iowa to win and cover on the road here and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Alabama – 4 at Texas A&M (53): This should be a great game to watch; both teams are ranked in the Top 10. The Aggies have had 2 weeks to prep for this game and I suspect that the coaching staff has mentioned to the team the results of last year’s game with Alabama when The Tide won 59-0. The game sets up this way:

    Alabama relies on its defense
    Texas A&M has scored 28 or more points in every game this year.

The Aggies’ defense can be exploited by a good running game and Ezekiel Elliot is a very good RB. The question here is if the Aggies can run on Alabama enough to keep that defense guessing. I like Alabama to win and cover here.

Florida at LSU – 7 (45.5): Here is another SEC game pairing highly ranked teams. This may not be an “artistic game” but it is very important for Florida if they want to stay firmly in control of the SEC East (see above). The Florida defense has been dominant this year but they have not yet seen anyone like Leonard Fournette across the line of scrimmage. Florida yields only 99 yards per game on the ground; Fournette averages 205 yards per game rushing. Can Florida keep him under some semblance of control? That is the essential question for this game. I think defense is the order of the day and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Missouri at Georgia – 15 (46): The loser here is pretty much out of the SEC East race; it will be that team’s third conference loss. Missouri plays without their suspended starting QB; Georgia plays without RB, Nick Chubb. Missouri’s chance to win rests with shutting down the Georgia running game and forcing whatever QB Georgia puts on the field to win the game throwing the ball most of the time. I think this will be a low scoring game so I’ll take Missouri plus all those points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Oklahoma – 4 at K-State (54): Short and sweet here… I like this game to go OVER.

Michigan St. at Michigan – 7 (42): Here is another game with two ranked teams that ought to be a good one; this rivalry may not be as intense as the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, but it is still an emotional game every year. Michigan State has not played well despite winning every game this year; last week, they escaped against Rutgers and no one would confuse Rutgers with Michigan. Michigan has been on a roll since that opening loss to Utah and as of last week they looked like a superior football team. I fully expect Michigan’s shutout streak to end here but I think the Michigan defense will be the dominant unit in the contest. I’ll take Michigan and lay the points.

West Virginia at Baylor – 21 (76): Baylor scores points by the bushel (see above); their “closest tussle” was a 63-35 win over Texas Tech; that is a 28-point win just in case your calculator batteries are low. West Virginia has lost its last two games and has turned the ball over 9 times in those two losses; if they do that here, they might lose to Baylor by 50 points. West Virginia is not a scoring machine in the same conversation with Baylor, but this is not a team that rarely finds the end zone either. I think there will be lots of scoring here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Vandy at South Carolina – 2.5 (43): No way would I bet on this game but it is interesting to see how South Carolina reacts to the new coaching situation there. Neither offense is any good; both defenses are just good enough to stifle the opposing offense. Over/Under for punts in the game is around 16…

Arizona St. at Utah – 6.5 (55): Arizona St. is the team in the PAC-12 South with only 1 conference loss. A win for Utah here would give them a 2-game cushion in that division; a win for Arizona St. would put them in first place in that division because they would have beaten Utah head-to-head. This may not be a great rivalry game like Michigan/Michigan St. but this is a very important game. I love the Utah defense but I am not in love with the Utah offense. That line looks fat to me so I’ll take Arizona St. plus the points.

Arizona – 7.5 at Colorado (67): Colorado can score points and the Arizona defense is not nearly the strength of the team. Meanwhile, the same situation obtains in reverse. That leads me to take the game to go OVER.

TCU – 20.5 at Iowa St. (73): The spread started out at 22 points and has been dropping. That means there was an excess of “Iowa State money” hitting the windows. There is no way that I think Iowa St. has a defense that is going to hold TCU to anything significantly less than 50 points. Therefore, if I believe that Iowa St. can get 3 TDs in the game, it will go OVER. That is exactly what I believe; I like the game to go OVER.

USC at Notre Dame – 6 (61): This is an interesting match-up having nothing to do with college football tradition or anything like that. USC comes to South Bend to play a rivalry game with new leadership on the sidelines. Coaches always say they need to rid the team of distractions; well, this week will be a test for the new coaching structure at USC. Notre Dame is 5-1 for the season; their loss was to Clemson in a monsoon. However, Notre Dame has not played much of a schedule outside of Clemson. Wins over Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass and Navy are nice but they are not compelling. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like USC plus the points here.

Penn St. at Ohio St. – 19 (48): Normally, when I think a game will be low-scoring I like to take the points – especially if there are 19 of them to take. However, in this case I am loathe to do that because I am not sure that Penn St. will score more than 10-12 points. I do think the game will stay UNDER so I’ll take that. However, I will pass on any bet against the spread.

Oregon at Washington – 3 (60): This is a big rivalry game and Washington has been on the wrong side of the score for more than a few years now. Oregon is not the team it has been (see above) but I don’t think that Washington deserves to be favored here. I think Oregon will win the game outright so I’ll happily take them with the points here.

Finally, here is a college football observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Regrouping: Cardale Jones, so special for Ohio State in his three starts at the end of last season, has been pretty ordinary this year. He might be wondering if he made a mistake by not turning pro last winter when his stock was through the roof. With rare exceptions, no quarterback coming off a spectacular season has ever enhanced his draft prospects by returning to college.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/18/15

Well, last week’s Mythical Picks were more than just a little bad; they stunk. The record for last week was 5-9-1 bringing the cumulative record for the year to 40-38-2. Even the coin used for Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games had a bad week. The coin went 0-2-0 taking that record down to 4-5-0 for the season.

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking Philly and giving 4.5 points to New Orleans and seeing the Eagles win by 3 TDs.

The “Worst Pick” from last week – other than my choice to make Mythical Picks in the first place – was taking Washington/Atlanta to go OVER 47.5 and seeing the game go to OT with no prayer of that happening.

I shall, however press on… As I do that, I must remind everyone that nothing herein should be taken as information of value should you be contemplating a real wager on a real NFL game this weekend involving real money. These are Mythical Picks and nothing more. Here is how stupid you would have to be to rely on information here as the basis for a real wager:

    You might hurt yourself watching the move, The Exorcist, because you might mistake it for a workout video.

General Comments:

Something very unusual happened in the Cowboys/Patriots game last week; if you recorded the game on your DVR, go back and watch for this in the first half. There were two consecutive punts in the game on which there were no flags thrown. Two in a row… If you subscribe to the theory that one element of “news” is the reporting on things that are out of the ordinary, that pair of plays ought to be part of the headline for the gamers written about that contest.

Speaking obliquely of the Cowboys, does anyone besides me recall all of the Jerry Jones bluster and bravado 3 weeks ago when he lavished praise and confidence on Brandon Weeden right after he learned that Tony Romo had a broken clavicle and would be out for 2 months or so. He said basically that Weeden was an outstanding QB with one of the best arms in the NFL and that the Cowboys would not miss a beat with Weeden at the controls. I wish someone at ESPN had the cajones to sit Jerry Jones down and play that tape back to him. Here is reality:

    The Cowboys are 0-3 with Weeden as the starting QB. Weeden himself has lost 11 straight NFL games as a starter.

    The play-callers for the Cowboys cannot have much faith in his very strong arm because they rarely if ever call a play that calls for him to throw the ball more than 10 yards downfield.

    Weeden led the Cowboys to a loss against the Saints where the Cowboys scored 20 points in an OT game. That is the lowest number of points allowed by a miserable Saints’ defense so far this year.

Last week, the Cowboys never found the end zone against the Patriots. That was not a fluke; the Cowboys’ offense was inept. At one point in the first half, the Cowboys had four consecutive 3-and-out possessions… This week, the Cowboys have a Bye Week and the announcement has already come that they will be going to Matt Cassel as the starter next week when they return to action.

A year ago, the Pats struggled in their first several games and some folks began to express the opinion that Tom Brady was over the hill and that perhaps the Pats ought to think about a demotion for him. All Brady did then was to lead the Pats to a Super Bowl win – aided and augmented to be sure by Pete Carroll’s boneheaded play-calling near the goal line in the final 2 minutes of that game. This year, the “nominally washed-up” Brady is doing this:

    Completing 72.5% of his throws
    Passing for 374 yards per game
    Scoring 37.25 points per game.

Every QB in the league would wish to have those stats when they are considered “washed-up”…

And that story brings me to comment on a question posed to Broncos’ coach Gary Kubiak in a news conference earlier this week. Peyton Manning is not having a year that anyone has come to expect from him based on past performances; he has not looked good while he has been underperforming expectations. Nonetheless, someone asked Coach Kubiak if he had thought of benching Peyton Manning in favor of Brock Osweiler. Even ignoring the data presented just above, just let the thought process that produced that question wash over your existence. Kubiak had the perfect answer; he said:


I am not suggesting that Peyton Manning will get to a point where he starts putting up stats like the ones we came to expect from him 5 years ago; I think he is indeed on the downside of his career. Nonetheless, he is on the downside from a peak that is well beyond what is reasonable to expect from a QB whose only meaningful action has been in exhibition games or in mop-up situations.

Last week, the Broncos beat the Raiders 16-10 despite scoring no offensive TDs; a Pick Six late in the game set them up for the win. In that same game, the Raiders’ kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, had a field goal blocked and also missed what for him is basically a chip shot (40 yards). I hope no one would look at that poor game and begin to suggest that Janikowski is washed-up…

If you want to believe in conspiracy theories, think about the cabal that must be going on in NFL Headquarters to humiliate and frustrate the pro football fans in the State of Florida. There are three teams in the state – no state has more than that – and all three of those teams are bad. Moreover, the Bucs and the Jags have been bad for an extended period of time; the Dolphins on the other hand have been bland and mediocre for an extended period of time which is almost as bad because apathy is almost as bad as depression for the fanbase. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel composed a short song on this topic to be sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice:

Three bad teams; three bad teams;
See how they lose; see how they lose;
They fire their coaches; they miss their kicks;
Jameis Winston just threw four picks.
They’re a football version of the New York Knicks;
Three bad teams…

The Dolphins did not have the opportunity to soil themselves last week because they had a Bye Week and were busy doing the old Oklahoma drill for their new interim-coach Dan Campbell. Moreover, one of the other of the “Three bad teams” had to win last week because the Jags and Bucs played each other. The Bucs won the game 38-31 despite the fact that Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles, threw 4 TD passes in the game. If the Jags are going to lose games where Bortles performs like that, they may be consigning themselves to a record in the vicinity of 2-14. By the way, this was Lovie Smith’s first home win since taking over the Bucs last year; as of now, his home record stands at 1-10.

It is Quick Quiz time… Which team has been the most disappointing this year based on what they did last year?

    A. The Ravens
    B. The Lions
    C. The Seahawks

Last year, the Seahawks were about one yard away from winning a second consecutive Super Bowl game. This year they start off 2-3 and they have lost 4th quarter leads in all three losses. Last week, they sacked Andy Dalton 4 times (he had only been sacked twice in the first four games) and created a defensive TD. However, in the 4th quarter, with the Seahawks leading by 14 points, the Bengals rolled over the Seahawks as if they were a middling college team. In addition, the Seattle offense went dormant at the end of the game too. On the Seahawks last 6 possessions of the game, they were forced to punt. The Seahawks have been disappointing but they are not the worst offenders on my list…

    [Aside: In their last 20 home games, the Bengals are 17-2-1 straight up.]

Last year, the Ravens were 10-6 and a wild card team in the AFC Playoffs; they advanced in the playoffs beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh and then losing to the Patriots by 4 points. This year, they start off 1-4 losing their first two home games; what is even worse is that in all 4 losses this year, the Ravens have led in the 4th quarter. Last week, they allowed a team they have dominated for a long time – the Browns – to come into Baltimore and take an OT win home. The Ravens’ defense gave up 457 passing yards to Josh McCown. John Harbaugh had been 13-1 against the Browns going into that game. The Ravens have been more disappointing than the Seahawks, but they are still not at the top/bottom of my list…

Last year, the Lions were 11-5 and were the first wild-card team in the NFC Playoffs; they lost to the Cowboys by 4 points in the opening round. This year, the Lions start out 0-5 – they are the only winless team in the NFL by the way – and they found it reasonable to bench Matthew Stafford last weekend in favor of Dan Orlovsky. Seriously, they did that… The Lions’ average margin of losing this year is 11 points; since Week 1, they have not scored more than 17 points in any game. On defense last week, Carson Palmer torched the Lions’ defense going 11-14 for 161 yards and 3 TDs. Meanwhile, on the ground the Lions’ defense allowed 187 yards on only 25 carries. This level of noisomeness is a team-wide phenomenon; they stink in all phases of the game. It is too early to contemplate the Lions equaling their 0-16 showing from 2008 but if they start to look as if they are just going through the motions, they do not necessarily have the reserves of confidence to change that vector heading. To this point in 2015, the Lions are the most disappointing team in the league.

The Detroit News reported that only about 1000 fans stayed in the stadium to see the end of last week’s 42-17 shellacking at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. WR, Golden Tate moaned about that and the lack of energy in the stadium saying that the fans in Detroit had turned their backs on the team.

    Memo to Golden Tate:

    This team has been awful for an awfully long time.

    In 2015, the Lions as a football team owe the fans a lot more than the fans owe the Lions. Hashtag – reality…

The last 5 times the Titans and Bills played each other, the Titans came away with the win. They led last week 10-0 in the third quarter – and then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory losing 14-13. The Bills had a measly 209 yards of offense against a mediocre defense and still managed to win the game. That stat tells you something about the Titans along with the fact that this is the second game in a row where the Titans have been at home and led by double digits in the second half and lost straight up. Not good…

No Rex Ryan team has ever been confused with one that is disciplined and business-like and methodical. However, they may have outdone themselves last week. On the opening kickoff of the game, the Bills recovered a fumble inside the Titans’ 10-yardline – – except – – the Bills were flagged for being offside on the kickoff and got to kick off one more time.

The Colts started and played Matt Hasselbeck at QB for the entire game and beat the Texans 27-20. Is it time to revise the thinking that the Texans have a dominant defense that can carry the team to contention despite a lack of quality at QB and WR? I know they have JJ Watt on defense and he is indeed an excellent player, but the rest of the unit seems awfully ordinary to me. Oh and for the record, Jadeveon Clowney still has not recorded a sack in the NFL. Last week against the Colts he was more AWOL than anything else.

With the Skins losing in OT to the Falcons in Atlanta last week, the Skins now have a record of 1-16 in their last 17 road games. In the game, the Falcons missed 2 field goal tries and the Skins missed 1. Late in the game when the Skins lined up to attempt a game-tying field goal to send the game to OT, play-by-play announcer Chris Myers said:

“It’s been hit or miss for kickers today.”

    Memo for Chris Myers: It is pretty much hit or miss for kickers every day and on every kick…

Coming into the game, the Skins led the NFL in rushing yards and the Falcons’ defensive unit was not near the best in the league stopping the run. So, when the Skins gained a total of 55 yards rushing, one has to wonder how that happened. The Falcons did not “load the box”; they just beat blocks and hustled to the ball all day long. Speaking of running the football, Falcons’ RB, Devonta Freeman is really good; the Falcons gained 176 yards rushing in the game.

The Bears beat the Chiefs 18-17 with another 4th quarter comeback for 2 TDs led by Jay Cutler. The Bears are not going anywhere this year but the Chiefs’ season is done and cooked. Even with Jamaal Charles healthy and involved, the Chiefs offense was merely adequate; Charles’ knee injury puts him out for the year and the Chiefs down for the count. To date the Chiefs have played a murderous schedule losing to the Broncos, Packers and Bengals prior to last week’s loss. There is a common factor here:

    The Broncos, Packers and Bengals are all undefeated teams.

This would be the part of the schedule where one might have expected the Chiefs to “get going”. Not now…

The Packers beat the Rams; that is not shocking news. What is “shocking” is that Aaron Rodgers threw not one but two INTs in a game at Lambeau Field. The last time he threw an INT at home was a little more than 3 years ago. The Packers’ defense played well here grabbing 4 INTs (one was a Pick Six) and sacking Nick Foles 3 times. The Rams defense held the Packers running game to a meager 44 yards in the game. Meanwhile Rams’ rookie RB, Todd Gurley ran the ball 30 times for 159 yards.

The Giants got a late TD to beat the Niners 30-27 and no one can blame this defeat on Colin Kaepernick. The Niners’ defense was a no-show here allowing the Giants to amass 525 yards of total offense for the day. Eli Manning was 41-54 for 441 yards and 3 TDs. Earlier in the week before the game, a reporter asked Jim Tomsula the same question put to Gary Kubiak in Denver; had he thought of benching Colin Kaepernick. Coach Tomsula showed great restraint in not laughing out loud or addressing the questioner as “You asshat…” Look at the depth chart in SF and you will see that the backup for Colin Kaepernick is Blaine Gabbert. Ladies and gentlemen, that is ALL you need to know.

The Eagles’ offense came to life last week – – or perhaps it marched up and down the field efficiently and effectively because it was the Saints out there trying to play defense. Watching most of the replay of the game, it was not clear to me what the more important factor here was. The Eagles scored 39 points and had 519 yards of total offense; that is not shocking for a “Chip Kelly offense”. What was surprising was that the Eagles held the ball for just over 34 minutes in the game; that is not commonplace for a “Chip Kelly offense”. The Eagles’ defense had 5 sacks and forced 4 turnovers; Fletcher Cox had a highly productive day for a defensive end recording 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Yowza!

Earlier in the week before the game, Terrell Owens went on sports radio in Philly to flog his new book and told the folks tuned into that program that he could still help the Eagles’ offense and that he was definitely available. For the record, the Eagles are more likely to sign me to a contract to play WR than they are Terrell Owens and I am 72 years old and run the 40-yard dash in about 3 minutes. I wonder if Chip Kelly played that radio segment for the offense as a reminder that if they could not get the job done, there was a guy out there who might come in and “shake things up”. Were I the coach, I would probably have done that…

The Saints are on the edge of an abyss – sort of like the Lions and the Chiefs. Their defense is giving up an average of 400 yards per game and 3 of their previous opponents were:

    Tampa Bay – with a rookie QB
    Carolina – not an offensive juggernaut
    Dallas – with Brandon Weeden at QB.

As if that were not bad enough, the Saints’ offense is no longer the bright light that it was. The biggest scoring output this year is 26 points (in the win over the Cowboys) and the Saints are only averaging 20.6 points per game. The Saints have some potentially winnable games down the road, but not if the team comes apart at the seams.

The Games:

Taking a breather this week are:

    Dallas – They will use the two week stretch to get Matt Cassel coached-up and ready to try to “hold the fort” until Tony Romo might be ready to return to the field.

    Oakland – They will use next weekend to pull for the Packers at home to beat the Chargers because that would give the Raiders sole possession of second place in the AFC West.

    St. Louis – They will use the two weeks to try to goose the offensive point production. So far this year, the Rams scoring is very close to that of the Niners, Lions and Bears in the NFC. For the record, that is not a good thing…

    Tampa – They will take two weeks and bask in the comfort of a win last week and the knowledge that they are a full game ahead of the Saints in the NFC South.

Before going through the individual games, the Curmudgeon Committee of One that has the responsibility to identify the most interesting games of the week and the Dog-Breath Game of the Week had a difficult time this week. There are several interesting games and there is a plethora of bad games.

(Thurs Nite) Atlanta – 3.5 at New Orleans (52): Hey, at least it is a divisional game. Hey, if the Saints lose here, they can join a bunch of other teams who will swear that they are not going to toss in the towel for the season – but the season is over in reality. The Falcons remained undefeated last week but did not look all that good in doing so. My memory tells me that getting 3.5 points with the Saints at home is a gift from the gods but then I wonder how the Saints’ defense is going to stop Devonta Freeman and Matt Ryan. So how about a trend or two:

    Falcons won in New Orleans last year. Last time Falcons won two in a row in New Orleans was in 2001/2002.

    The underdog in this rivalry is 9-3 in their last 12 meetings.

This is purely a hunch. I’ll take the Saints plus the points because they are at home and because they are clearly the more desperate team.

Denver – 4 at Cleveland (42.5): The spread for this game opened at 6 points. I wonder if the drop is due to a recognition of the offensive greatness of Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns. Could be… However, Denver has the top defense in the NFL at the moment and I am not ready to believe that Browns are a top-shelf offensive team. I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points here and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Cincy – 3 at Buffalo (42): The spread for this game opened as a “pick ‘em” game. Had it stayed there I would have had to say that I had no idea why that was the case. The Bengals are undefeated; the Bills struggle to run the football; the Bills young QB is hobbling and they may need to play EJ Manuel here. Yes, the Bills are at home but they are 1-2 at home so far this year. Here are two of the more meaningless trends I have seen in a while:

    Bengals are 1-7 against the spread in their last 6 road games in Week 6.
    Bengals are 18-7-1 to go OVER in their last 26 games in October.

I like the Bengals to win and cover on the road.

KC at Minnesota – 4 (44): I have a hunch this will be a most uninteresting game given the plodding Chiefs’ offense and the Vikes’ methodical mode of play. With Jamaal Charles on IR, I think the Chiefs are cooked. Their defense may keep them close in some games but if it has not yet dawned on the rest of the squad that they are “playing for pride”, it soon will. I like the Vikes at home to win and cover.

Houston at Jax “pick ‘em” (43.5): As a definite candidate for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week, do I really have to pick one of these teams? The answer is that I must because I cannot declare this a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game without violating the well-established and never-violated protocols for such games. The Texans are marginally better on offense and defense statistically so I’ll take the Texans here even though they are winless on the road this year.

Chicago at Detroit – 3 (43): Yes, I triple-checked this line and the winless team is indeed a field-goal favorite here. Clearly what we have here is a contender for Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Neither of these teams is remotely relevant this year. However, there is a motivational factor here for Matthew Stafford. He was benched last week in favor of Dan Orlovsky; he will be back in the starting role this week and he may feel the need to demonstrate that last week was an aberration and not an omen. (Stafford leads the NFL in INTs with 8 so far this year; continuing at that pace, he may well be riding the bench at some time later this year despite his $50M contract extension.) The Lions need Stafford to be engaged and aware because they really do not run the football very well at all; like it or not – and like Stafford or not – the Lions’ offense centers on throwing the football; the Lions are dead last in rushing yards in the NFL. I’ll take the Lions at home to win and cover here.

After making that selection, I went to find a trend that was in favor of that selection simply because taking an 0-5 team and laying points gives me a knot in my stomach. Here is what I found:

    Bears are 4-12 against the spread in their last 16 games against the AFC North.

That takes care of that…

Washington at Jets – 6.5 (40.5): Kirk Cousins has a proclivity for throwing INTs; the Jets’ defense has feasted on teams by forcing turnovers. The Skins have a corps of mediocre/interchangeable receivers and this game will give Skins’ fans a hint regarding something they probably want to know:

    Since the Jets like to line Darrelle Revis up on the opponent’s best WR, fans can look to see who the Jets’ defensive coaches think is their best WR – because it is surely not an obvious choice.

I think the key to this game is the Skins ability to rush the passer in order to force Ryan Fitzpatrick to make quick decisions. If they can do that, they may get a couple of turnovers to give their offense a short field to navigate. People nag Kirk Cousins about his propensity to throw INTs; he has thrown 6 of them this year as opposed to 5 TD passes; not so good. Then again, consider Ryan Fitzpatrick; he has thrown 7 INTs this year as opposed to 6 TD passes; also not so good. I see a low scoring game and a fat line. I’ll take the Skins plus the points.

Arizona – 3 at Pittsburgh (44): This is my 1-Star Game of the Week. Bruce Arians used to be the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and his departure from that town did not involve a totally positive relationship with the fans. This could be an interesting game. The Steelers have a short week coming off the Monday Nite game last week; the Cards have to fly east and start early in the day. Ben Roethlisberger practiced on Wednesday this week; if he is ready to play to an extent more than standing like a statue and throwing the football, he will make a big difference. If the Steelers have to play Michael Vick for 60 minutes, I think the Steelers are in deep yogurt. I’ll take the Cards and lay the points on the road and I also like the game to go OVER.

Miami at Tennessee – 2 (43): This could be the Dog Breath Game of the Week – but the Dolphins are temporarily interesting because of their new coach and his “tough guy methods”. Other than that, the game does not matter a whit. The Dolphins have had two weeks under a new coaching regime that stresses “toughness” to prepare for a bland Titans team with a rookie QB. The stats say that the Titans’ offense is better than the Dolphins’ offense (by 36 yards per game) and that the Titans’ defense is better than the Dolphins defense (by a whopping 116 yards per game). I am going to go against all of that and take the Dolphins plus the points here because I think they are going to play differently this week then they did in their first 4 games.

Carolina at Seattle – 6.5 (41): In Detroit we saw the winless team installed as the favorite; here we have the undefeated team as the underdog. This is Bizarro World week in the world of NFL betting lines. The Panthers had their Bye Week last week to get ready for this game but the Seahawks loss last week clearly makes them the more desperate team here. A loss here gives the Seahawks 4 losses already and they have not played the Cardinals yet. They would greatly prefer not to have that situation obtain. The coaches do not want players looking ahead so perhaps the Seahawks players have not done so; but if they have, they probably recognize that the upcoming schedule is a lot softer than the one they faced already – having to play the Rams, Packers and Bengals on the road. Carolina is good and the Seahawks are not nearly as good as they have been for the last two years; nonetheless I like the Seahawks at home to win and cover here.

San Diego at Green Bay – 10 (50): The Chargers have a short week after playing last Monday and have to go on the road where they are not nearly as good as they are at home. I do not like laying double-digit points but I just cannot believe that Aaron Rodgers is going to throw 2 INTs again this week in Lambeau Field. I’ll take the Packers at home and lay the points.

Baltimore – 2.5 at SF (44): The Curmudgeon Central Committee of One (namely me) who decides on the Dog-Breath Game of the Week bypassed all of the candidate games cited above and bestowed the ignominy on this one. Back on Feb 3, 2013, these two teams met in the Super Bowl game; that was not ancient history; Al Gore had already invented the Internet. In the span of 32 months, these teams have devolved to this… The Ravens give away games after holding 4th quarter leads with regularity. The Niners find themselves in this situation as reported by Gregg Drinnan in his blog, Keeping Score:

“Last week, Jed York, the owner of the San Francisco 49ers, tweeted: ‘I have a few tickets left for the game Sunday. Let me know if you can make it. #FaithfulFanTix”’. . . Jake Echanove, a 49ers fan, tweeted this response: ‘I can’t give my tickets away either, Jed.’”

The Ravens are 53 yards per game better on offense here and the Ravens are 29 yards per game better on defense. I think the most important stat here is that the Ravens’ defensive vulnerability has mainly been their pass defense but the Niners’ pass offense ranks somewhere between meager and pathetic (178 yards per game). Having cited all those stats, how can I feel comfortable taking a team that has played as badly as the Ravens have on the road and laying points? The answer is that I do not want the Niners here unless I get a TD’s worth of points. Holding my nose, I’ll take the Ravens to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) New England – 7.5 at Indy (55): This is my 3-Star Game of the Week. This is the Post-Defleategate Game between these two teams and my suspicion is that the Pats will be pissed when they take the field. The Pats have won the last 6 games between these two teams and a couple of them have been rather lopsided. Tom Brady will want to leave an exclamation point on the field as punctuation for the game when he gives his calm and controlled after-game press conference. I really would prefer not to have the hook on top of the 7 point spread, but it is there. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Pats to win and cover at Indy and I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) Giants at Philly – 4 (49): This is my 2-Star Game of the Week. This is a very interesting and potentially important NFC East game. The Giants lead the division but the Eagles have struggled mightily to this point in the season and only trail by a game – and they can make up that game right here at Lincoln Financial Field on MNF. I think both teams will play well here and so I will turn the game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Toss protocol. The coin says to take the Eagles to win and cover.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Farewell To The Ol’ Ball Coach

Yesterday, I mentioned 3 football coaches who had been fired recently; and as I posted that rant, I learned that Steve Spurrier had resigned as the head football coach at South Carolina. While this year’s South Carolina team is not doing well, Steve Spurrier leaves college football with a distinguished record of 228-89-2 and a national championship. At the collegiate level, he has been successful in taking downtrodden programs and making them winners. He did that at Duke, Florida and again at South Carolina. He also had a successful run in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits but his venture into the NFL coaching for Danny Boy Snyder was well-short of successful.

I always liked Spurrier for his willingness to throw out zingers with regard to his opponents. He did it with the guise of humor, but inside his comments were barbs. He famously called Florida State University – Free Shoes University; he pointed out that winning in the NFL was more difficult than winning in college because there are no Vanderbilts in the NFL. When a fire in the football dorm at Auburn reportedly destroyed 20 books, he said that the real tragedy here was that 15 of them were not colored yet. However, my favorite of his quips was the reason he gave for wanting to play Georgia early in the season:

“I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”

Steve Spurrier put winning teams on the field without making college football out to be something equivalent to life and death. If for that reason alone, I will miss him as part of college football. Good luck to the Ol’ Ball Coach.

With Steve Spurrier out of college football, there is a little less “good stuff” around to take the edge off the stupidity injected therein by the NCAA. LSU’s outstanding running back, Leonard Fournette grew up in New Orleans and survived Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of that disaster. This year, a hurricane delivered serious flooding to South Carolina such that the LSU/South Carolina game that had been scheduled in South Carolina had to be moved to Baton Rouge. Fournette wanted to take his game-worn jersey and auction it off with the proceeds going to the relief efforts in South Carolina. Even before the game happened, Fournette wrote and released a moving letter expressing sympathy and prayers for the folks in South Carolina going through what they were going through.

And so, what did the NCAA do? They told him he could not do that because that violated one of the NCAA’s precious rules about special benefits for a student-athlete and amateurism. Seriously, that is what the grand overseers of collegiate athletics said; these are nominally the adults in charge here. That ruling lasted only a few hours when someone in the NCAA hierarchy came to his/her senses and convinced the nominal adults-in-charge that the NCAA already had enough black-eyes according to the public at large and needed to think about this one just a bit more.

At the end of the day, Fournette was informed that he could indeed auction off his jersey for this charitable purpose. The NCAA did this in a formal statement but that formal statement did not include any of the following as it should have:

    1. Start off with the phrase, “After further review…”

    2. An admission that its initial reaction was a stupid knee-jerk.

    3. An opening bid for the jersey up for auction or – – even better – – an offer to match whatever the final bid was so that the charitable contribution here would be doubled. Sigh…

This next story has been around for a while and I have refrained from comment because it has too many twists and turns that I do not understand. I have been waiting for some clarity here but since it involves FIFA, that is not likely to come about. FIFA announced that Sepp Blatter was going to be “provisionally suspended” for 90 days and then Blatter announced he would appeal that “provisional suspension”. Set aside the fact that I have no idea what distinguishes a “provisional suspension” form an “actual suspension” or a “sky-blue sleeping artisinal suspension”. “Suspension” to me is like a light switch; one is either suspended or not.

Moving on… Joining Blatter in this “provisional suspension status” are UAEFA President Michael Platini and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. If you think that makes this matter any clearer, it does not. Let me explain:

    Because Blatter is “provisionally suspended”, he “is not allowed to represent FIFA in any capacity, act on the organization’s behalf, or communicate to media or other stakeholders as a FIFA representative.” So, one might think that is what the meat of a “provisional suspension” is.

    Well, then the same ought to apply to Messr. Valcke, right? The problem with that logic is that Valcke was fired from his position a month ago. So, if he had already been fired, de facto he would not have been able to do any of the things that Blatter is forbidden to do. So, what does the ‘provisional suspension” add here?

Another interesting twist in the story is that Platini is now implicated in the same scandal/bribery allegations that have resulted in these “provisional suspensions”. Until now, Platini had been one of the folks on the inside track to be elected to replace Blatter as the major domo of FIFA. Oh swell…

The one thing in all of this latest FIFA mess that makes total sense are reports that FIFA took these actions to sever ties with Blatter et al. because several sponsors including big-time sponsors like McDonalds and Coca Cola urged FIFA to do so. The lesson here is the same one that Deep Throat indicated to Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate scandal:

    Follow the money…

Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle summed all of this up succinctly:

“Can’t wait for the Sepp Blatter biopic: ‘The Line on Ethics: Bend It Like Blatter.’”

Finally, a coach in another college sport is under scrutiny today. Rick Pitino has not been fired as the basketball coach at Louisville but he and his program are squirming under the microscopes of multiple investigations stemming from claims that basketball recruits had escorts hired for them as part of the recruiting process. These allegations come from Katina Powell’s book, Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen. I do not want to pile on here based on allegations made in a book I have not read and do not plan to read. I prefer to wait for the stage play based on the work of literature here. May I suggest that the title of the stage play be:

    The Best Little Whorehouse in Louisville

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

A Tale Of Three Football Coaches

With apologies to Charles Dickens, the topic today seemingly represents only the worst of times. Today, I want to talk about 3 football coaches who find themselves in a less-than-happy place.

A week ago, the Miami Dolphins fired Joe Philbin as the head coach and named Dan Campbell as the interim coach there. Only 6 months ago, Philbin got a contract extension from Dolphins’ owner Steven Ross which means that his termination has a bit of a soft landing; nonetheless, he is no longer a member of the rather exclusive fraternity of “NFL Head Coaches”.

Dan Campbell said that the Dolphins’ team needs to be challenged more. OK, he is there with the team and I am not – but at his first practice he got the players to do the old Oklahoma drill. [Google is your friend…] The best players on that team are making millions of dollars and their continued ability to pull down that sort of coin is dependent on them having healthy muscles and joints with which to carry out their athletic instincts and capability. Question for Interim Coach Dan Campbell:

    How often do you think you can pull off practices like that before your “best players” make sure you do not become the permanent coach?

Dolphins’ owner, Steven Ross is very much into the publicity splash associated with things he does. He sells off small ownership pieces to celebrities to get his name in the papers and to get celebs identified with the team. Many folks think he will try to make a splashy hire here and will forego the chance to put in a call to fellow-owner, Danny Boy Snyder to find out just how well that works out. Don Shula is not coming out of retirement; neither is Bill Parcells; they would be “splashy hires” but that is not happening. Ergo:

    How long until the rumor has it that Nick Saban will be returning to Miami to tend to “unfinished business” there?

Philbin was fired after Game 4 this season when the Jets dominated the Dolphins in a London Game. That makes two years in a row when the first London Game did not work out very well for an NFL coach. Last year, the Raiders fired Dennis Allen after the Raiders were blown out in the London Game. Ironically, the team administering that blow-out was the Dolphins coached by … Joe Philbin. If that is the start of a trend, Todd Bowles had best hope that he does not have to play in London in Week 4 next year.

So, are there any other NFL head coaches who might not be around to see the end of this season with their current teams? The answer is probably not – but if pressed I would offer these two up for consideration:

    Jim Caldwell: The Lions are 0-5 and their Bye Week comes in Week 9. This is a franchise that knows all too well about the horrors of 0-16. Between now and the Bye Week, here is the Lions schedule:

      Vs. Bears – Lions are a 3-point favorite at the moment
      Vs. Vikes – Lions likely to be underdogs here
      At Chiefs – without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs are eminently beatable

    Jim Tomsula: The Niners are 1-4 and their Bye Week comes in Week 10. He was dealt an impossible hand but there is no way that the GM and the Team President who is the son of the team owner will take the fall here…

At the collegiate level, Maryland fired Randy Edsall over the weekend. Make no mistake; he was not highly successful at Maryland and he was not always the most sociable fellow in the room. Please do not interpret even a syllable of what follows as any kind of argument that Maryland should have kept him on. The geniuses in charge of athletics and administration in College Park, MD put assistant coach Mike Locksley into the interim coach position. At his introductory press conference, Locksley said directly that there were a few things that were going to be done differently around there.

That is as it should be; when a new guy takes over – and in the deep recesses of his gut hopes that maybe this could turn into a permanent gig – he needs to do things differently and put his stamp on the program lest the changes turn out to be positive and he seemingly has nothing to do with those changes. So, let us take a cursory look at Mike Locksley’s history in football coaching:

    He has been an assistant coach/offensive coordinator at 7 schools since 1992.

    Starting in 2009 and lasting until the 4th game of the 2011 season, he was the head coach at New Mexico where he compiled a record of … wait for it … 2-26.

    One of those 26 losses was in a game against Sam Houston State. That was the loss that cost him his job there.

    One of his assistant coaches at New Mexico alleged that Locksley jumped on him and attacked him at a “contentious staff meeting”. That allegedly happened early in Locksley’s tenure there. The school suspended Locksley for 10 days without pay for that incident.

    An admin assistant at New Mexico filed an EEO discrimination complaint against Locksley asserting age and sex discrimination. The complaint was eventually withdrawn.

The geniuses who run things at Maryland had best hope that whatever things need to be done differently in the football program there involve strategic decisions on the sidelines and not fisticuffs among the coaching staff…

Yesterday, USC fired head coach Steve Sarkisian. Recall before the season began, Sarkisian had an embarrassing situation in front of USC fans/boosters where he appeared to be drunk. His explanation was that it was all caused by a mixture of prescription meds and an adult beverage at the event and he said he was going to be evaluated to take care of any problems he might have. Then the season began…

According to reports, Sarkisian – in the midst of divorce proceedings – had to attend to “family matters” last Saturday evening and all did not go well. There was a practice scheduled for Sunday but Sarkisian was not there; according to a report, a player told ESPN’s Shelley Smith that Sarkisian “showed up lit” for team meetings on Sunday afternoon.

The first announcement from USC was that Sarkisian would be on an indefinite leave of absence; that happened on Sunday evening. Yesterday afternoon, the announcement came that USC had fired Steve Sarkisian.

USC is not doing well on the field this year as measured by USC standards but this termination really does not reflect a “coaching problem”; Steve Sarkisian clearly has things going on in his life that have nothing to do with football that he needs to resolve. It would seem to me that separating himself from the pressures and demands of being the head football coach at USC would have to give him a better chance to take the time to deal with those things in his life and to make them better.

    Godspeed, Steve Sarkisian…

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-football coach Lou Holtz, to the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, on the state of his golf game: ‘While a lot of people want to shoot their age, I’m trying to shoot my weight. If I gain 5 pounds, I think I can do that.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Chase Utley/Reuben Tejada

With regard to Chase Utley’s “illegal slide” which happened also to break the leg of Mets’ shortstop Reuben Tejada, I have seen hundreds of slides that were way off second base where the runner could not have touched the bag if he still had a bat in his hand – – and there has been no ruling of an “illegal slide”. Utley’s slide was “violent” in the sense that he intended to make significant contact with Tejada prior to a throw to first base – and indeed he made that contact. However, from every angle of replay that I have seen, it appears to me that Utley can easily touch second base with his left hand as he slides through the play.

Suspending Utley for two games in NY might be a good idea simply from the perspective of maintaining order at those games but I am not so sure it is a good idea from the perspective of baseball history and the baseball rules. As I understand the rule here, an important aspect of the “illegality” is contained in the phrase “away from the base”. I cannot see where Utley was “away from the base” and a suspension here sets a precedent that I doubt baseball wants to set i.e. the violence of a collision or the outcome of a collision has an effect on the determination of “guilt” in the matter.

Utley will appeal the suspension and MLB will make its determination “posthaste”. That by itself is a departure from the normal for MLB which usually would take 8 days to determine if it was raining outside…

Whilst on the subject of baseball, consider the career stats of these two players:

    Player A: Played 17 years; BA .273; OPS .891; 5 All-Star Games; Career WAR 2.51

    Player B: Played 21 years; BA .297; OPS .937; 14 All-Star Games; Career WAR

“Player A” is Jorge Posada and he has a plaque in centerfield in Yankee Stadium as of this year. “Player B” is Alex Rodriguez. Just saying…

Looking at the final MLB standings for the 2015 season, several things stand out to me:

    1. The Phillies had a negative run differential of 155 around the time of the All-Star break and no one else was nearly that bad. However, the Phillies did NOT wind up with the worst run differential for MLB this year. The Braves cratered in the second half of the season to finish at minus-187 while the Phillies staggered home at minus-183. By the way, the next worst to those two were the Tigers and the Reds both at minus-114.

    2. The Rangers won their division despite having a run differential of only +18. Compare that with the division winning Blue Jays who had a run differential of +221.

    3. The Dodgers and the Giants had identical road records (37-44). The Dodgers run differential was +72 and the Giants run differential was +68. Nevertheless, the Dodgers finished 8 full game ahead of the Giants in the standings.

Here is a stat I ran across somewhere but did not record where I saw it. My guess is that I saw it in a magazine at my doctor’s office because it was hand-written on a piece of paper from a note pad with the logo of a drug company on it.

    David Ortiz is one of only 4 players in baseball history to have 3 World Series championships and 500 home runs. The other 3 players are Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth.

Moving right along, you have probably read reports about a confrontation between Matt Barnes and Derek Fisher. Here is how Scott Ostler summed it up in the SF Chronicle last weekend:

“Matt Barnes beats up Derek Fisher because Fisher is dating Barnes’ estranged wife, Gloria Govan. Can’t blame Fisher. Since Barnes is dating other women, Fisher assumed Govan had cleared waivers.”

I think there is another angle at work here:

    Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher to coach the Knicks specifically because Fisher was steeped in the triangle offense and could teach the triangle offense to the Knicks.

    Perhaps – I said PERHAPS – Fisher was merely finding out how things work in a different sort of “triangle”.

In the past, I have summarized here the futility of the national soccer team of San Marino which always enters the qualifying rounds for the European Cup and, more often than not, exits the qualifying rounds having been demolished by other sides. In this year’s qualifying rounds, the Sammarinese side managed to score a goal in an away game against Lithuania. San Marino did not win the game but this was their first goal in an away game since scoring one against Latvia in 2001. By the way, San Marino did not win that game against Latvia 14 years ago either.

In any event, the “away goal” was such an anomaly that the entire bench for San Marino emptied and ran onto the pitch to join Matteo Vitaioli in his celebration of this rare event. Such a team display on the pitch and away from the team area on the sidelines is not acceptable in soccer but according to reports, the referee did not issue warning cards to any of the celebrants from the sidelines. He probably recognized the rarity of what he had just witnessed and wanted to take in the moment for himself…

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about the last crop of folks inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame:

“Eleven new members were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame: Dikembe Mutombo, John Calipari and nine people I care about even less.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/10/15

Last week was another middling week of Mythical Picks; the record was 10-9-0 bringing the season total to 37-36-3. The “Best Pick of the week was taking Iowa +7 points and seeing Iowa win the game straight up. The “Worst Pick” from last week was taking Minnesota +4 points and watching them get shut out by Northwestern to lose by a meager 27 points.

Undaunted, I shall soldier on… Nonetheless, no one should read these words of deathless prose and think even for a moment of using the content here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    You would be dumb enough to try to kill a fish by drowning it.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 3-0 last week by crushing Lewis and Clark College by a score of 73-0. This week, Linfield hosts the Pacific University (Oregon) Boxers in a Northwest Conference game. Pacific brings a record of 3-1 to this game. Go Wildcats!

My rapid search for a miserable D-III team to follow in juxtaposition with Linfield appears to have been too hasty. My “discovery”, the Finlandia Lions, had been steamrollered and left for dead in their first three games but rallied last week to defeat Maranatha Bible College by a score of 30-14. Finlandia won a game – – but they left behind a winless Maranatha squad that lost to a team previously outscored 272-9. Therefore, I shall track the fortunes – or misfortunes – of Maranatha Bible College at least until Halloween. You may recall from last week that in an unusual twist of scheduling Finlandia and Maranatha will meet again on Halloween.

The Maranatha Sabrecats’ record now stands at 0-5; they have been outscored for the season 223 – 41. The team has this week off to prepare for their next game which will be on the road in Ellendale, ND a week from Saturday.

Last week, Ohio State rallied to beat Indiana by a slim 7-point margin. Other than Ezekiel Elliot who ran for 275 yards, the team just seemed to be going through the motions. Cardale Jones never seemed to get into anything resembling a comfortable zone in the game. At the end, it was the Ohio State defense that stopped Indiana and preserved the win. Ohio State did not look like the best team in the country last week.

Two weeks ago, Alabama lost to Ole Miss and many pundits/analysts left them dead and buried. Last week, they went to Georgia to take on a team that looked like the favorite to win the SEC East; Georgia was favored in the game. Alabama manhandled Georgia 38-10. There is no really polite way to put it; this was an organized ass-kicking. The fact that Georgia can still win the SEC East means that they should be motivated to play hard in the rest of their games, but this game was so lopsided that people who vote in polls will need to remember it in the coming weeks. People had been saying that Alabama’s offense was not what it was supposed to be due to a weakness at QB. Well, folks, Georgia has some QB issues of its own:

    Starter Greyson Lambert played the first half. He was 10-24 for 86 yards. Late in the second quarter he went to the bench, took off his helmet and looked like a lost puppy.

    Reliever Brice Ramsey took over in the second half. He introduced himself to the contest by throwing a Pick Six.

Meanwhile in other SEC action, Florida beat Ole Miss by the same 38-10 score that Alabama dropped on Georgia. At kickoff time, Ole Miss was ranked #3 in the country; they sure did not play that way last week. The Florida defense looked very fast and very strong; Gator’s QB, Will Grier, had a “decent day”.

    He was 24-29 for 271 yards and 4 TDs. That will do…

Speaking of teams that have had “up days” and “down days” this season, consider Oklahoma. Earlier this year, the Sooners gave up 600 yards to Tulsa. Last week, they held West Virginia to 24 points and recorded 7 sacks.

Meanwhile, Va Tech lost at home to Pitt by a score of 17-13. In the game, Tech managed to accumulate the grand total of 101 yards on offense. The Hokies record is now 2-3 and things are not looking good at all in Blacksburg…

In Big 10 play, Michigan recorded its second consecutive shutout beating Maryland 28-0. Since losing its opening game to Utah, Michigan has allowed the next 4 opponents a total of 14 points. It is a well-established fact that if a team shuts out the opponent, the team will not lose the game. Last week’s win was indeed a dominant defensive performance:

    Total Maryland offense was 105 yards.

    Maryland rushing stats were 26 carries for 29 yards.

    Maryland had 15 possessions; on 10 of them they went 3-and-out.

Maryland’s record is deceiving at 2-3. The wins have come over Division 1-AA Richmond and a bad USF team that has not beaten a Division 1-A team yet this year. Meanwhile, the 3 losses on the record have been embarrassing:

    Lost to Bowling Green 48-27
    Lost to West Virginia 45-6
    Lost to Michigan 28-0.

Bowling Green and West Virginia sped up the game and Maryland could not keep up. Michigan did not play frenetic football; they just overpowered Maryland which raises the question:

    If they cannot keep up with the “speed teams” and they cannot stand up to a “power team”, just what kind of team are they built to beat?

Rumors are circulating that Coach Randy Edsall is going to be fired early next week after a game against Ohio State in Columbus where Ohio State is a 33-point favorite because the Terps have next week off. If those rumors turn out to be correct – and I have exactly no inside info to add to the mix here – here are my reactions:

    Changing the coach will not cure the talent deficiency on the field. The new coach will have to be a miracle worker to get the Terps to bowl-eligibility this year.

    A firing in mid-season will make the suits in the institution in College Park feel as if they are powerful and that they have done something to “address the situation”. In reality, the team will continue to flounder.

    If they do fire Edsall, someone ought to remind those folks in the administration that it was they who gave randy Edsall a 3-year contract extension – wait for it – in June 2015. How smart where they then if they have to fire him now and pay him for three years not to darken their doorsteps?

I am not in favor of rumor-mongering and find mid-season removals for coaches feckless. Nonetheless, I wonder if the folks in Tennessee have begun to take a look at Butch Jones’ accomplishments there. Tennessee beats teams that tend to reside under the left side of the bell curve and does not beat teams that are generally good ones. Consider the Vols performance under Jones:

    Overall record is 14-16 which is neither horrible nor really good.

    Only 5 of the 14 wins have been against SEC teams. That is not good.

    Of the 5 SEC wins, the opponents were Kentucky (twice), South Carolina (twice) and Vandy. That is not the crème de la crème of the SEC…

Tennessee is 2-3 this year; the wins came over Bowling Green and W. Carolina; 2 of the 3 losses are to SEC opponents with Georgia and Alabama up as the next two events on the schedule. It would not be shocking to see Tennessee lose 6 SEC games this year.

In a Big 10 conference game, the nominal #2 team in the country, Michigan State, edged out a pretty mediocre Purdue team by a field goal. For the record, Michigan State is 5-0 straight up this year and 0-5 against the spread this year. For some Michigan State alums, that is not satisfactory…

Northwestern continued its undefeated season shutting out Minnesota 27-0 last week. Minnesota is not an offensive juggernaut, so one could downplay this accomplishment but you need to look at Northwestern’s “body of work” this year. The Northwestern defense is really good.

    In 5 games, Northwestern has not given up 20 points in any game.

    In 5 games, Northwestern has given up a total of 35 points.

    Stanford and Duke were two of Northwestern’s opponents in those games.

Last week, Illinois beat Nebraska 14-13. That is not a misprint; it actually happened. The last time that happened was in 1924 and Calvin Coolidge was the President. When Nebraska fired Bo Pellini at the end of last year, the nominal reason was that Nebraska was tired of only winning 9 games in a season; they wanted a “return to glory”. So, how’s that working out in Lincoln? Well the Cornhuskers have wins over South Alabama and Southern Mississippi; they have lost their other 3 games; they will need to “win out” to get to 9 wins this year. That is not happening…

By the way, the winning TD for Illinois was caught by WR, Geronimo Allison; for the record, Geronimo was an Apache and not an Illini. There are several other interesting player names on the Illinois roster:

    Chunky Clements is a defensive lineman
    Jihad Ward is a defensive lineman
    Man Berg is a wide receiver – – and the most interesting name – –
    Jeff George, Jr. is a freshman quarterback

Clemson beat Notre Dame 24-22 in an absolute deluge. The Notre Dame receivers had a particularly tough time catching the football; I counted 4 passes that hit receivers squarely in the hands that were dropped. Nonetheless, it was an exciting game to watch…

In Big 12 action, TCU pounded the bejeepers out of Texas winning by 6 TDs. After two straight weeks of special teams’ screw-ups, you would think that the Texas special teams units would have been drilled to do what they need to do. And if you thought that, you would have been very wrong. Not that it would have changed the outcome of this rout, but here is what the Texas special teams “accomplished” last week:

    Missed two field goals
    High snap from center resulted in a safety for TCU

Moreover, here is a tidbit from last week’s game that ought to make the Texas fans a bit upset. TCU scheduled Homecoming for the Texas game; schools often schedule homecoming around a football game they expect to win so that the alums who show up can go home feeling good and proud and – hopefully – generous with regard to the university. Texas has been a national champion and a contender for the national championship many times and now they are considered a potential Homecoming opponent. Sic transit gloria mundi…

Baylor and Texas Tech demonstrated that it is possible to play 60 minutes of football without playing defense. The final score was 63-35. You may recall that the Total Line for that game was 88 points (and 88.5 at one Internet sportsbook) when I did last week’s Mythical Picks. I do not recall ever seeing a Total Line that high – and these guys went over that number by 2 scores. Baylor QB, Seth Russell accounted for 6 TDs by himself – running for 2 and throwing 4 TD passes. At halftime, the score was 49-21. At that point, the teams were on pace to score 140 points in the game. They must have gotten exhausted in the second half.

The PAC-12 is inscrutable this year. Arizona St. had lost badly to Texas A&M and then lost to USC; a win for the Sun Devils over Cal-Poly was nothing to write home about. UCLA had been beating up everyone and so, naturally, Arizona St. went to UCLA and beat UCLA. Makes sense, right? Then, last night USC lost a second game to Washington. That sets up a big game this weekend (see below).

UCF lost by 14 points to Tulane last week dropping their record to 0-5. Looking at their schedule, there are not a lot of teams down the line that are significantly weaker than Tulane. They get UConn this week and USF much later this year. Other than that… It is going to be a long year for college football in the Orlando area…

Auburn has tossed D’haquille Williams – a really good WR – off the team. This is not a suspension; he is gone. Auburn has had more than a few problems with its passing offense this year so ditching a talented WR is not something you would expect them to do. Of course the explanation for this move was “violation of team rules”; my suspicion is that it was either a monstrous violation or the accumulation of a load of other violations that got them to this point.

Speaking of suspensions, Missouri QB, Maty Mauk remains suspended for this weekend’s game against Florida. Freshman Drew Lock who started against S. Carolina last week will be under center again this week. Mauk’s suspension is “indefinite”…

I mentioned Tennessee and their problems winning SEC games above. Last week, the program was in the news for a player suspension situation; WR, Pig Howard, was suspended for “violation of team rules”. Not to worry, the Tennessee roster is not devoid of great names even if Pig Howard is not dressed for the game:

    Shy Tuttle is a defensive lineman; he need not be shy about getting to the opposing QB.

    Joe Young is a running back; if he runs over a defender, I would give him the nickname “Mighty Joe Young”.

    Colton Jumper (linebacker) and Will Jumper (TE) are from the same high school so I assume they are related. But shouldn’t they be on the basketball team?

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week, we had 4 Ponderosa Games and the favorite covered in only 1 of them. That brings the season record for favorites covering to 20-23-0.

Boise St. covered.

Appalachian St,. LSU, and Penn State did not cover.

This week, we again have 4 Ponderosa Games:

Maryland at Ohio St. – 33 (54): Maryland is currently +7000 on the money line. That money line is much lower than I would have expected it to be.

Troy at Mississippi St. – 30.5 (56): Troy is +5500 on the money line. That too is surprisingly low… Mississippi St. has not run the ball well this year; if they cannot run the ball in this game they are probably in deep yogurt against the SEC teams remaining on their schedule.

New Mexico St. at Ole Miss – 45 (66): There have been two very large line moves for this game. The spread opened at 40.5 and has been expanding all week; it could be higher by game time. Meanwhile, the Total Line opened at 71.5 and dropped very quickly to 67 and then has inched down to this level. I mention this only because I cannot imagine there is enough interest in this potential blowout to bring in enough money to move either line that much – let alone both of them. By halftime, I suspect many of the Ole Miss alums will have repaired to their vehicles in the tailgate area to down a cocktail or three.

Baylor – 45 at Kansas (79): The spread opened at 38 and has expanded all week by a full TD. More interesting than the outcome of this game will be to watch how close Baylor comes to taking the game OVER all by themselves.

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) NC State at Va Tech – 3 (45.5): Neither team is very good but I just have a sense that the wheels are falling off the wagon at Va Tech to a greater extent than they are at NC State. Tech has 2 wins this year over Furman and Purdue – unimpressive. State has wins over Troy, E. Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama – equally unimpressive. Purely a hunch here; I’ll take NC State plus the points.

Oklahoma – 16.5 vs. Texas (59): [Game is in Dallas] I said above that Oklahoma is as unpredictable as any team this year from week to week but we seem to be able to count on Texas to find ways to embarrass themselves week after week after… That is a lot of points but I think Oklahoma is a lot better than Texas. I’ll take Oklahoma to win and cover.

Indiana at Penn State – 7 (55): Indiana only lost to Ohio St. by 7 last week and Penn State struggled against Army despite being a 25-point favorite. This line looks like a set-up to me. However, I suspect this will be a defensive game; so just for fun, I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Duke – 12 at Army (47): Sometimes teams take time to adjust to Army’s options run offense because defenses see it so rarely. However, Duke already saw it against Georgia Tech so they should be prepared for it from the start. Here is a trend stat for those of you who like such things:

    Duke is 8-2-1 against the spread in its last 11 games on the road.

I think the Duke offense shows up big here; I like Duke to win and cover on the road.

Illinois at Iowa – 10.5 (46): Both teams won conference games last week as underdogs. If Illinois is going to get any business done on offense, it will probably be by throwing the ball because Iowa has an outstanding run defense. Iowa is not an explosive team, but they are steady. I like Iowa at home to win and cover.

Wake Forest at BC – 7.5 (37): Last week there was a Total Line at 88 and I had never seen one that high. Here the Total Line is similarly minuscule but not the lowest one of the week (see below). I have a feeling that if you like to observe and dissect the nuances of “the punting game”, this is the game for you. No pick here but a prop bet on the OVER/UNDER for number of punts in the game might be interesting…

Arkansas at Alabama – 16 (48): Arkansas likes to run the ball with a power running attack; that is not likely to work well against Alabama. However, I see this game as a defensive game and not a runaway so that is an awfully fat line. Just a hunch, but I’ll take Arkansas with those points.

Washington St. at Oregon – 17 (71): I am surprised by both of these teams this year. Washington St. is better than I thought they would be and Oregon is not as good as I thought they would be. Having said that, I do not see this as a defensive game so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Georgia – 3 at Tennessee (59.5): The Vols could surely use a win over a good SEC team (see above) and they host Georgia here the week after Alabama disemboweled Georgia at home. Georgia can surely use a win here too; they can still win the SEC East because they still have Florida on the schedule even if no one else can find a way to beat Florida. Neither team has a reliable quarterbacking situation so the comparison here would seem to be the running game and the run defenses. That gives Georgia the edge so I’ll take Georgia and lay the points.

Miami at Florida State – 9 (51): Back in the day, these teams would both be in the Top 5 and this was the game that would set up the winner to be the national champion. Not this year… Miami fans want to fire Coach Al Golden; Florida State is undefeated so far this year but they have only been able to crush Texas State in the manner that FSU fans used to expect. That line looks fat to me so I’ll take Miami plus the points on the road.

Northwestern at Michigan – 7.5 (34): A top-shelf matchup here… That is a stunningly low Total Line for a college or an NFL game but indeed these are two excellent defensive teams and neither one is scary on offense. I can imagine this game ending with a 13-9 score either way; I can also imagine this game getting both teams to 20 points or so. I think that a spread of more than a TD is too big to pass up in this game; I’ll take Northwestern plus the points.

Georgia Tech at Clemson – 7 (54.5): Will Clemson suffer a let-down after beating Notre Dame last week? I think that is the only real question here because Tech has shown that it is “vulnerable” this year. I will not make a pick here because I have a creepy feeling about this game. Clemson might blow Tech out of the stadium by 4 TDs – – or Clemson might “pull a Clemson” and lose outright…

Cal at Utah – 7 (61): Perhaps the best game of the weekend. Cal is 5-0 and Utah is 4-0; raise your hand if you saw that coming back in August. I surely did not. Cal QB, Jared Goff, is getting a lot of publicity as the top QB for next year’s NFL Draft; he needs to be sure that he does not come to believe that those press clippings make him invincible because Utah has a good defense. I like this game to go OVER.

UConn at UCF – 2.5 (39): Here is a team that UCF might actually beat this year (see above). Do not bet on this game and do not bother watching it either. It is interesting here because soon I shall start checking to see what teams belong in the SHOE Tournament…

Florida – 3.5 at Missouri (40): Florida beat Ole Miss last week in a big game in Gainesville. This is a young team and now they go on the road with potentially swelled heads. Missouri has a good defense but will be without starting QB, Maty Mauk (see above). I like Florida to win and cover even on the road here and with it being Homecoming Weekend for Missouri.

Syracuse at USF – 2 (47.5): Short and simple here… Syracuse is not very good on the road and out of their dome. USF is not very good anywhere. I have no idea where 48 points will come from so I like the game to stay UNDER.

TCU – 10 at Kansas State (63): Short and simple here… I think both teams will be able to score on the opponents’ defenses. This is the best opponent either team has seen all season. I like this game to go OVER.

Iowa St. at Texas Tech – 10 (73): Tech’s offense has shown that it can score points in bundles; State’s defense does not seem to be able to throttle that back. Tech’s defense has not shut down anyone recently. I like this game to go OVER.

Michigan St. – 13.5 at Rutgers (54.5): Why is the spread here so low? Is it because Rutgers had last week off to prep for this game? Big deal. Is it because folks think State will ignore this opponent because Michigan is up next? Possibly. I do not know if Michigan St. is indeed a Top 5 team as it has been in the polls all season long, but I do know that Rutgers is a hot mess. I’ll take Michigan St. to win and cover here purely because they are the much better team.

Wisconsin at Nebraska – 1.5 (49): Both teams lost last week as solid favorites. However, Wisconsin lost to a better team (Iowa) than Nebraska did (Illinois). I’ll take Wisconsin plus the points here.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 10/11/15

Last week was mythically profitable; the record for the Mythical Picks was 10-6-0 bringing the season record to 35-29-1. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip games did not fare nearly as well seemingly regressing to the mean. The coin’s record was 0-2-0 bringing the season total for the coin to 4-3-0.

The “Best Picks” last week were:

    1. Taking the Giants and getting 5.5 points; the Giants won the game straight up.

    2. Taking the Rams plus 7 points; the Rams won the game straight up.

The “Worst Pick” last week was taking Jax/Indy OVER 47 and watching the game stumble into overtime with the score in the 20s.

Despite last week’s mythical profitability, no one should consider using any information here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do such a thing:

    You think frostbite is what happens if you cross Count Dracula with Frosty the Snowman.

General Comments:

The “Worst Pick” from above – along with one other pick from last week – demonstrate the reason why it usually pays to wait until much closer to game time to make a wager than is possible here. I made those picks late Wednesday night last week for games that would not happen until Sunday. Consider:

    I took Jax/Indy to go OVER 47 because the coin told me to do that. At the time, I thought Andrew Luck would play but it became apparent that he would not later in the week. Had I known that, I would not have needed to rely on the coin; I would have taken UNDER simply because I would have thought OVER was not likely.

    I also took Washington/Philly to stay UNDER 46.5. I took that because the weather forecast was monsoon-like and there was even talk of postponing the game. On a sloppy field, I thought the UNDER was a good idea. Well, the rain barely materialized and the game still stayed UNDER – because of the ineptitude of the Eagles’ offense for most of the game.

So I was “lucky” in guessing correctly in mid-week on half of those two Mythical Picks last week. However, had I actually bet those two games with those results, my “lucky” status would not have been nearly so “lucky”. The books would have had me for the vig…

Since I mentioned the Eagles/Skins game just above, it was the game televised in the early time slot where I was last weekend. What an awful game! For the first half, the Eagles could not get out of their own way and the Skins could not go three plays without committing a penalty. For a brief moment in the second half, the Eagles’ offense came to life and they took a 4-point lead into the final two minutes – whereupon they gave up a 90-yard drive for a TD leading to a 3 point loss. DeMarco Murray had exactly one good run in the game; this is a guy the Eagles signed for 5 years and $40M with $21M guaranteed. DeMarco Murray is still a good back; what his season with the Eagles so far shows is that a good running back is as much a product of the OL in front of him as anything else. The Eagles’ OL stinks.

One other offseason move by the Eagles is not working out very well either. They signed Byron Maxwell as a free agent to an even bigger contract than Murray. Maxwell cost the team 6 years at $63M with $25M guaranteed. What it looks like to me is that offensive coordinators on other teams have singled Maxwell out as the guy they want to go after as a foundation piece to their game plans. And it is working out for those offensive coordinators…

With regard to the Jags/Colts game, the Jags’ kicker missed 2 field goal attempts in OT that would have won the game. Yes, they were long tries (48 yards and 53 yards); nevertheless…

The Chargers beat the Browns by a field goal late in the game. The Chargers’ kicker had botched the try but the Browns – in what seems to be typical Browns’ fashion – were offsides on the kick. That gave the Chargers one more try which was good. In high school science classes, you learn about “Brownian motion”; that kind of game result and the incidents leading up to it ought to be labeled “Brownian ineptitude”.

In Chicago last week, the Raiders got a late field goal to take the lead in the game. Then the Bears’ offense came to life – led by Chicago pariah, Jay Cutler – and they drove the field to get their own field goal leading to the first win of the year. The Raiders saw their 2-game win streak go the way of all flesh in Chicago…

Not only did the Dolphins lose to the Jets in London last week, they lost their coach too. Dan Campbell will be the interim coach of the Dolphins for the rest of the season; if it is true that teams reflect the demeanor of their coach – I do not believe that but some say it is so – then perhaps it was Joe Philbin’s fault that the team looked so listless in that loss. The Dolphins were going through the motions and not much more. Fundamentally, the Jets dominated both lines of scrimmage and the game was a fundamental ass-kicking.

As badly as the two free-agent signings mentioned above are working out for the Eagles, they are stirring examples of unmitigated success compared to the signing of Ndamukong Suh for 6 years at $114M with $60M guaranteed. Somewhere in his mansion on the Potomac River, Danny Boy Snyder is thinking that another couple of months like the last month and people will cease to remember his signing of Fat Albert Haynesworth for $100M with $40M guaranteed…

The Rams beat the Cardinals last week. In 4 games this year, the Rams have beaten the Seahawks and the Cardinals, they have lost to the Skins and they lost to the Steelers by scoring only 6 points. If you can make sense of that, get back to me…

The Falcons are on a roll; they routed the Texans last week. In the game, the Falcons recovered 3 fumbles and returned 2 of them for TDs.

The Bengals are also on a roll; they beat the Chiefs by 2 TDs last week in an unusual game. The score was Bengals 35 and Chiefs 21. However, the Chiefs’’ 21 points came on 7 field goals and not 3 TDs. The Chiefs had 461 yards of offense and scored on 7 possessions but never got into the end zone. That does not happen often…

The Vikings lost a close game to the Broncos last week. In that game, Adrian Peterson carried the ball 15 times and Teddy Bridgewater threw the ball 41 times. That is not a good idea on any level and it is a particularly strange mix of plays given that Bridgewater was sacked 7 times. After you figure out what is going on with the Rams and get back to me on that one, try to figure out what was going on in this game…

The Packers beat the Niners 13-3. Colin Kaepernick was sacked 6 times in the game and the Niners are only averaging 12 points per game this year. The next lowest scoring team (Jags) averages 15.5 points per game.

I mentioned above 3 free agent signings that are not working out all that well for the teams that acquired said free agents. Well, the Packers had a free agent signing that is working out beautifully; they signed James Jones for 1 year and $850K with none of it guaranteed. Jones is averaging more than 18 yards per catch and 1 TD per game this year. Not bad for a guy not making all that much more than a sixth round pick who is on special teams…

The Lions were hosed by an incompetent call made by an official in perfect position to make the correct call. The NFL official explanation is that the official saw the play but did not think that the ball was batted out of the end zone intentionally. If that is the case:

    That official and Stevie Wonder are the only people on Planet Earth who came to the same conclusion.

The Games:

There are 4 teams with Bye Weeks this time around:

    The Dolphins try to rid themselves of jet lag and the memories of a beat-down by the Jets in London last week.

    The Jets also get a week off.

    The Panthers will remain undefeated this weekend.

    The Vikings are 0-2 on the road and 2-0 at home; this week they will not change either of those records.

(Thurs Nite) Indy at Houston – 3 (43): The line here would seem to indicate that Andrew Luck will either not play or will play in some sort of diminished state of health. It has been a while since the Colts lost a game in the division so seeing the Texans – a 1-3 team being outscored by 8 points per game this year – as a favorite of any kind is a surprise. The Colts’ defense held the Jags’ offense down last week; the Texans’ offense is slightly better than the Jags’ offense so the Colts’ margin for error seems to be small. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Texans and lay the points.

Jax at Tampa – 2.5 (42): Without question, this is the Dog Breath Game of the Week – and the dog has just finished eating some unknown carcass it found by the side of the road. The Jags are 1-3 and they are being outscored by 11.25 points per game on average. The Bucs are 1-3 and they are being outscored by 11.25 points per game on average. Is there an echo in here…? There are two seemingly powerful trends at work here – if you believe in trends:

    Jags are 6-0-1 in their last 7 games after scoring less than 15 points the week before.

    Bucs are 11-1 to stay UNDER in their last 12 games against opponents with losing records.

You may be sure that I am only reporting those trends and not unearthing them from a mountain of data. Jameis Winston may play like a reincarnated John Unitas this week – or he might throw a Pick Six and 2 other INTs in the game. Blake Bortles is not likely to play exceptionally well, but he is less likely to self-destruct. I cannot believe I am about to do this, but I’ll take the Jags plus the points here.

Buffalo – 2.5 at Tennessee (42): The spread opened at 4 points and has dropped slowly to this level. No, I do not understand why that is the case – unless someone knows that LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins are not going to play much in the game for the Bills. Statistically, the teams are very close; neither one has an experienced QB under center; the Titans had a week off last week while the Bills were losing to the Giants. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bills and lay the points on the road. Why not?

Cleveland at Baltimore – 6.5 (43): The Ravens are not in spectacular position right now, but think of how deep in the muck and mire they would have been with a loss last week. The Browns are – – the Browns. Were it not for the Jags/Bucs game above, this might have been the Dog Breath Game of the Week. I am not impressed by the Ravens’ offense this year; they are all of 9 yards per game better than the Browns’ offense which is not good. This is going to be a low-scoring game so I’ll take the Browns with that generous helping of points.

Washington at Atlanta – 7 (47.5): Both teams have pleasantly surprised their fans so far this season. The Falcons average almost 35 points per game; the Skins’ defense is better than it was last year but is hardly an elite unit. Meanwhile, the Skins’ offense has shown signs of real life at times this year. I like this game to go OVER.

Chicago at KC – 9 (45): The Bears scratched out a win at home over the Raiders last week. This week they go on the road to play a team that is better than the Raiders. It sure would be a good thing for the KC faithful if the Chiefs could find the end zone this week (see above). The Chiefs have played the Broncos, Packers and Bengals so far this year; this is not a Bye Week for them, but it is close. I like the Chiefs at home to win and cover.

New Orleans at Philly – 4.5 (49.5): Here you have two struggling teams and one of them will be left for dead by the side of the road at the end of this game. If the Sam Bradford iteration of this Eagles’ offense cannot move the ball and score on the Saints’ defense, the Eagles’ defensive unit should sue for divorce on the grounds of non-support. So far this year, the Eagles only average 6.2 yards per pass attempt and that is not good; however, the Saints defense allows opponents 9.4 yards per pass attempt and that is very bad. The last time the Eagles beat the Saints was in 2007; I think they will reverse the recent string of losses here. I like the Eagles at home to win and cover.

St Louis at Green Bay – 9 (45.5): The Total Line opened the week at 47.5 and has dropped steadily to this level. The Packers average about 10 points per game more than the Rams and the Packers allow about 5 points per game less than the Rams so far this year. If you are wondering why the Rams are 9-pooint dogs despite their tough defense, that is might be the reason. The Rams surprised the previously undefeated Cards last week in Arizona as 7-point underdogs; this week…? The biggest difference here is that the Packers average 95 yards per game more on offense than do the Rams; that is a lot. I like the Packers to win and cover at home and I like the game to go OVER.

Seattle at Cincy – 3 (43): The Seahawks have a short week after their Monday-night miracle win over the Lions. Add to that the fact that they play an out-of-conference opponent here after a 2000 mile flight across 3 times zones. Now consider that the Bengals are on a roll at 4-0 and lead the AFC North by 2 full games already and you can see why the Seahawks are the underdog here. However, I have a hunch that they might play a bit better than they have shown so far this year – particularly if their OL can do some business to allow the backs to run the ball a bit. I’ll take the Seahawks plus the points here.

Arizona – 2.5 at Detroit (44): Historically, the Cards are not a great road team, but in recent times, they have been much better on the road. The Lions are not a good team and if what they need is someone to grab them by their throats to rally them, Jim Caldwell is simply not that guy. I like the Cards on the road to win and cover here.

New England – 8.5 at Dallas (49): In a sense, the cavalry has arrived to “save” the Cowboys; Greg Hardy is back from suspension as is Randy Gregory. If the Cowboys are to have even a meager chance at winning this game, they will have to pressure Tom Brady and given how their DL has played recently, that would not happen without either of those players. So, can they apply real pressure or will they just be storylines? The Cowboys are 0-2 with Brandon Weeden as the starting QB; the Pats had an extra week to figure out how to confuse him even more than they would have normally. I like the Pats to win the game but that spread is not a comforting one. I shall seek the wisdom of the Curmudgeon Central Coin. The coin flips say to take the game to go OVER.

Denver – 4.5 at Oakland (43.5): The Raiders lost to the Bears in Chicago last week and the Broncos are much better than the Bears. Yes, the game is back home in Oakland, but the Broncos’ defense is not exactly a walkover for the Raiders’ offensive unit. I think the Raiders are overmatched; I like the Broncos to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) SF at Giants – 7 (43): The Niners are a bad team traveling cross-country to play a team that is not as bad as they are. However, that is about all I can say about the Giants because I do not think they are a good team. The trends point in one direction here:

    Niners are 1-8-1 against the spread in their last 10 games.
    Giants are 6-2-0 against the spread in their last 8 games.

I am confident the Niners can score more than 3 points this week but I am not confident that they can score 20 points here. Thus, I’ll take the Giants and lay the points.

(Mon Nite) Pittsburgh at San Diego – 3 (45.5): The Chargers are 2-2 despite being outscored by 14 points in those 4 games. The Steelers are also 2-2 and have outscored their opponents by 21 points in those 4 games. The problem with looking at those stats is that the Steelers ran up some of those margins with Ben Roethlisberger under center and he is not going to be there on Monday night. Two suspended players return to action here; the Chargers gat Antonio Gates back and the Steelers get Martavious Bryant back from too. I think Philip Rivers is better than Michael Vick and the Chargers are at home where they are 2-0 for the season. I like the Chargers to win and cover here.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Cutting Out Slack Time…

I watch a lot of sporting events on television for the simple reason that I enjoy doing that. So, my complaint of the moment has nothing to do with some underlying dislike for the TV product. Rather it has to do with maintaining interest.

I have never suffered from ADHD; I do not have the problem of a short attention span. Nonetheless, too many games on TV take too long to finish. MLB has recognized that they do not want a significant fraction of their 9-inning games to take almost 4 hours. They have tried to infuse the game with a couple of “speed-up rules” which have not materially changed the game nor which have caused the majority of games to drop down close to the 2-hour mark. More can be done, but give MLB some credit for doing something. Now let me tell you two other sports that need some “fixing”…

College football games – and I do love college football – are getting longer and longer and… For a college football game to take 3 hours and 45 minutes is not unusual anymore; some games hit the 4-hour mark. The typical NFL game takes 3 hours and 15 minutes and while that does not sound all that much shorter than a college game, remember that both games are played to a 60-minute clock so the question is why such a big difference in duration. Here are two ideas:

    1. In college, the clock stops on every first down until the crew sets the chains. In a game where there are 50 first downs recorded between the two teams, that might add a full 10 minutes to the game’s duration. If the clock ran while the crew hustled to set the chains and resume play, that would save the down time plus it would result in fewer plays in the game and potentially fewer first downs to stop the clock. I think the rules mavens for college football ought to take a close look at this issue.

    2. Unlike baseball where a retarded pace of play directly adds time to the game duration – think of all those batters who need to adjust their gloves and cups after every pitch and all those pitchers who need to stare down every batter on every pitch – the pace of play in most college football games is plenty fast. For many teams the pace is truly frenetic. However, that frenetic pace produces more plays per game which produces more points per game which leads to more commercial breaks which makes the telecast take close to 4 hours. I do not advocate rules to impair teams that play up-tempo; I do not want college football to return to the Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” mode. So, I have to file this in the bin of “problems identified for which I have not figured out a solution”…

Basketball games – both college games and NBA games – also take longer than they need to. Particularly in college games, the final 3 minutes of a game might take 20 or even 30 minutes to complete. The issue is the number of timeouts that each team has and the number of game delays that officials allow such that coaches create “unofficial timeouts.” Here the rule makers can have an immediate effect on the problem and the “competition committee folks” who create points of emphasis for the officials can also.

    Given that each team will get 4 clock-driven timeouts per half, each team does not need 5 timeouts to call at their discretion. In fact, they really only need 2 per team. Right there, you could effect a time savings of 10 minutes per game. One other benefit would be that with only 2 timeouts per team, you would get far fewer timeouts called after grabbing a loose ball on the floor.

    Moreover, substitutions for players who have fouled out need not take a full minute with the players going over to the coach for instruction. The sub should be on the court and the game should be resumed in 10 – 15 seconds and none of the players on the floor who have not fouled out should be allowed to go over to the bench for instruction.

    One more change will speed things up. On a two-shot foul, there will be no substitution allowed after the second free throw even if it is made.

I think those changes could save a total of 12-15 minutes per game.

Another time-waster which produces no competitive action or compelling viewing is the habit of every foul shooter strolling around and slapping hands with every teammate after every free throw attempt. A very simple rule change here would cover this problem. No free throw shooter may leave the circle on multiple shots; no players in the marked lane positions may leave that position on multiple shots and no player on the shooting team can enter the circle where the shooter is or reach into the circle. Moreover, the official needs to take the ball and put it at the disposal of the shooter a lot faster than they do it now. There could be another 5 minutes of time savings here in a game where 40 foul shots take place.

I do not think that any of my suggested changes radically alters the games in question or makes a mockery of them. And I do think there are time savings to be harvested from all of them.

Anyone who watched the end of the Lions/Seahawks game on Monday Night Football realizes that the official in the end zone on the “batted ball play” botched the call. The ball should have – by rule – gone to the Lions with a first down on the Seahawks 1-yardline with about a minute to play. That does NOT mean that the Lions would have won the game; please recall what happened to the Seahawks with the ball at the 1-yardline in the final minutes of last year’s Super Bowl game. However, it does harken back to another low-point in the annals of NFL officiating.

Remember back in 2012 when the NFL and the officials could not agree on a new CBA and the league used “replacement refs”. That substitution ploy ended after a blatantly bad call in the end zone on the final play of a game on MNF in Seattle. That play has come to be known as the “Fail Mary” play; I wonder how history will recall and label the one last Monday night. Perhaps, KJ Wright will be known as “Batman” for the rest of his career?

Finally, with the MLB playoffs set to go into full swing, here are two comments from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times that seem appropriate:

“A 108-year-old message in a bottle washed up off the German coast.

“Turns out it was a very prophetic epistle from a title-hungry Cubs fan: ‘Wait’ll this year!’”

And …

“A Roman lead scroll from the year 3 A.D. — unearthed in England three years ago — has a curse written on it, researchers now say.

“Talk about prescient: It mentions 25 cubs and a goat.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

The NFL In London

Last week, as the good folks in London prepared to experience their first NFL game of the 2015 season, a couple of political figures across the pond expressed their desire to see an NFL franchise housed in London. George Osbourne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the UK; the analogous position here in the US would be Secretary of the Treasury. Last week, Osbourne said he hoped the NFL would put a team in London within the next 5 years. After meeting with NFL moguls and team owners last week, he said:

“The real prize, the touchdown for London, would be to get a team based here. I want London to be the global sporting capital.”

There will be 3 regular season games in London this year; the Jets and Dolphins played there last weekend; the next game there will be on October 25 when the Bills and Jags seek to entertain the London crowd; I am sure Rex Ryan is already working on something provocative to say then. I have not been a huge enthusiast of putting a team in London purely for logistical reasons but if I assume those logistical barriers can be overcome/ameliorated sufficiently, here are two things Chancellor Osbourne said last week that I found very positive; first:

“I am supporting the NFL to bring one of their 32 teams to London permanently and will work with them to make this happen.”

The positive part of that comment is that he is talking about bringing an existing team to London and not an expansion team; the NFL does not need to expand. In other remarks, Chancellor Osbourne said that he and his departments were looking at any sorts of barriers that might make putting a team in London more difficult. While one might think that would mean finding money to build a new stadium for an NFL team, other events would indicate that his message was less mercenary and more constructive.

The NFL already has a deal in place to play two game per season at the new stadium already under construction for the Tottenham Hotspurs of the English Premier League. That deal runs for 10 years and is scheduled to start in 2018 when the new stadium is finished. Wembley Stadium has housed NFL games for about a decade now and there are no plans to tear it down. The facilities to house the games would seem to be in place.

I must admit that I get off the train at the point where Chancellor Osbourne says that a study indicated that the 2 NFL games in London last year contributed £32-million (about $48-million) to the local economy. I never believe those studies that set out to figure the value of a sporting event to a city/region nor estimates of future revenues to be generated. They are always hugely over-stated and assume the rosiest of scenarios. However, on balance, Chancellor Osbourne’s statements were positive.

Chiming in was the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who expressed his “high hopes” for a permanent NFL team in London in the near future. And so, with all of this pomp and circumstance flavored with “high hopes”, I started thinking about how the NFL might accommodate all of this stuff in the context of its existing 32 teams. Remember, it is pretty clear that Roger Goodell and the suits on Park Avenue would love to tap more deeply into the revenue streams that would exist in a city as large as London.

I think the resolution lies in all of the posturing and gesturing that has gone on with regard to putting a team back in LA. There are three teams poised to move to LA because they have “stadium issues” in their current locales. The overriding issue is that each plays in a stadium that not nearly as posh as it might be meaning there are dollars being left on the table by those teams. There is no way on the planet that the NFL is going to put all three of those teams in LA. Moreover, there are two teams in Florida (Jax and Tampa) that are not drawing well in their home venues. Therefore, the NFL has a pool of 3 definite teams one of which could move to London and 2 others that would likely make more money for the owners in London than they do in Florida.

My suggestion here:

    Stan Kroenke (Rams’ owner) wants to build a downtown stadium in LA. The league should get behind that move with one condition.

    The Spanos family and Mark Davis (owners of the Chargers and Raiders) want to build a stadium they would jointly occupy in Carson, CA. The league should tell all these folks that the league is not behind this plan at all.

    The condition for Mr. Kroenke is that his stadium has to be the home for 2 teams in LA until such time as one of the two teams proves to be financially not viable there. He can pick his “partner”; he can be the owner of the stadium and arrange a lease with that “partner” but he will only get league support if he has a “partner”. That puts 2 teams in the LA market in a stadium that an NFL owner wants to build anyway.

    The California team above who is not selected as Kroenke’s “partner” would have to make a choice rather quickly. That “outcast” team would have 4 options:

      1. Stay where they are

      2. Move to St. Louis in the vacated stadium there.

      3. Move to London

      4. Finalize a deal to move elsewhere in record time.

The beauty of my suggestion is that it scratches the immediate itch of getting at least one team – and preferably two teams – back into the LA market posthaste. Moreover, it gives the “outcast” team some maneuvering room to find a way to upgrade the facility that it plays in. What it does not do is to provide any answers to the attendance problems and the fan apathy that exists for the two Florida teams – unless of course the “outcast” team above moves to St. Louis or stays put. In that case, either of the Florida teams could become the new London Whatevers. Consider that Jacksonville has a population of less than 900,000 folks; Tampa/St. Petersburg has a population of about 800,000; London has a population of about 8.6 million.

Finally, here is a comment by Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding a different sporting event housed in London:

“According to a report, seven London Marathon winners in 12 years recorded suspicious blood scores. Henceforth the London Marathon will be known as ‘The Tour de France Without The Bikes.’ ” .

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

Confused By A Court Ruling…

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the Ed O’Bannon/NCAA lawsuit last week saying that the NCAA rules which restrict payments to athletes violate antitrust laws but it also found that the District Court Judge was wrong in ruling that athletes could receive $5K in compensation for the NCAA using their likenesses to generate revenues. Normally, at this point, I would try to expand upon that statement; but to be frank, it seems self-contradictory to me. Even worse, people who have written about it have claimed that the Appeals Court decision is a victory for both sides. I do not understand that either.

I barely know how to spell Sherman Anti-Trust Act but it sure does seem to me that the NCAA is a “combination in restraint of trade” and I do recall from my high school history classes that such entities are forbidden by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. I will stand corrected if someone argues that it is not the NCAA that is the “combination” here but it is the various conferences that are amalgams of NCAA members that are the entities doing the “restraining”. So, if indeed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that NCAA rules are somehow in violation of the anti-trust laws, I do not see how that can be a “victory” for the NCAA. Here is a portion of the ruling from last week:

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules. In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”

To me, that sounds as if the court is telling both sides that they lost. The NCAA has a new set of standards to operate under and the athletes get scholarships as their ”compensation” for going to a school and playing sports there. That sounds to me as if neither side got what it wanted out of this matter. In fact, it sounds as if the athletes lost some important ground in terms of seeking payment for their services by colleges:

“…in finding that paying students cash compensation would promote amateurism as effectively as not paying them, the district court ignored that not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs.”

Frankly, it is a bit sad to me to learn that it took folks at the appellate level of the Federal Judiciary to figure out that not paying the players is the essence of amateurism…

Surely, this is not over and there will be more to come from this lawsuit. Hopefully, the next ruling will be a tad clearer for those of us who are interested in sports but not steeped in the legal construct of anti-trust law. Here is a summary article from last week; perhaps it will make things clearer than I can make them here

I am not one who goes to a sporting event and revels in the antics of team mascots. To my mind, the best of the mascots rise to the level of “mildly annoying”. Those comments set the stage for my reaction to a story from last week about Ragnar the Viking. He is the guy who rides his motorcycle out in the stadium during Minnesota Vikings’ games; his costume consists of furry boots and vest, a metal helmet with horns and a huge beard. I guess the word I would use to describe him – never having seen him in person – would be “harmless”. Last year, the Vikings paid Ragnar $1500 per home game ($12K per season) for his services; this year, Ragnar wanted a raise to $20K per game ($160K per season). You need not get out your calculator to realize that is more than a “cost of living increase” in percentage terms. Also, not surprisingly, the Vikings did not accede to his demand and unless there is some kind of negotiated settlement, the Vikings will have to go forth this year without Ragnar and his motorcycle.

At some point, I suspect that someone will write some kind of sappy story about how a certain element of attending Vikings’ games has been missing now that Ragnar is not on the premises. When you read such a story, please recall the numbers here and ask yourself:

    If you owned the Vikings, would you pay a mascot $160K a season – and more if the team has a home playoff game or two?

I do not think I need to spell out what my response would be…

Picking up on another story from last week, the Washington Nationals fired Matt Williams as their manager because the team did not come close to living up to expectations for this season. Williams just finished his second year as manager of the team and – interestingly – he was the NL Manager of the Year in 2014. Juxtaposing the two seasons, one might draw different conclusions:

    A. Williams got awfully stupid awfully fast in 2015 to go from “Manager of the Year” to “Expendable Scapegoat of the Year” – – or – –

    B. “Manager of the Year” is pretty much a meaningless honor despite that significance that the folks who vote on it attach to it.

The entire coaching staff for the team has also been sent packing but the GM who assembled this team of underachievers is still in place and the activist owner of the team has not yet figured out neither the manager nor a single coach ever blew a lead in the 7th or 8th inning to lose a game and that the players were responsible for each and every runner left in scoring position all season long.

With regard to the MLB playoffs:

    Take the OVER in games between the Rangers and the Blue Jays.

    Take the UNDER in games between the Mets and Dodgers when Kershaw or Grienke pitch for the Dodgers.

    I will go with an avian World Series – Blue Jays versus Cardinals.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding baseball records:

“I’m sorry, but there are too many records in Major League Baseball. The other night a game was halted to announce a player just tied the mark for most stolen bases on a Thursday by a guy named Gary.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………