Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/1/16

As I mentioned yesterday in the NFL flavor of Mythical Picks, last week was about a bland as an oatmeal pizza in terms of picks. I made 18 selections for NCAA games; the record for the week was 9-9-0. That brings the season cumulative record to 35-30-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Auburn +3.5 against LSU. Auburn wins outright.
    Arkansas/Texas A&M OVER 49. Total score was 69.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    Army – 14 against Buffalo. Buffalo won outright in OT.
    Army/Buffalo OVER 50.5. Total score was 43 even with OT.

Time and tide wait for no man; the next weekend with its slate of NCAA football games approaches. That means I shall press forward with more Mythical Picks; but before I do, I must remind everyone. There is no inside information contained herein; no one should consider anything written here as authoritative. Most importantly, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this week or any other week. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do something like that:

    You sprinkle sugar on your pillow to have sweet dreams.

General Comments:

I have to begin with an apology. Last week, I said that the Linfield College Wildcats would host Lewis and Clark College for Homecoming Weekend. Actually, Linfield did not play last week and will host Lewis and Clark this weekend in McMinnville, OR. The Wildcats are 1-1 for the year as they seek their 61st consecutive winning season in football. Go Wildcats!

A couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times taking note of my “fixation” with Linfield College football. Here is what he said:

“If you want a player to go along with your Linfield fixation, here’s one hidden up here in the Pacific Northwest too: wide receiver Cooper Kupp of Eastern Washington, who has put up staggering numbers playing against Pac-12 schools in each of the past four years – on the road, of course. Eastern has put up at least 42 points in each game and Kupp has scored 11 TDs and amassed over 700 receiving yards in the four games. He won a D-2 national player of the year award last year, so it’s not like he’s an unknown, but his games against Pac-12 teams have been amazing:

2013 EWU 49, #25 Oregon State 46: 5 catches, 119 yards, 2 TDs
2014 Washington 59, EWU 52: 8-145-3
2015 #7 Oregon 61, EWU 42: 15-246-3
2016 EWU 45, Washington State 42: 12-205-3

“His grandfather was ex-NFL lineman Jake Kupp and his father (can’t remember his first name) was a QB at Pacific Lutheran who did battle with Linfield a few times. This guy is like the Steve Nash of the Pacific NW – overlooked by all the big schools.”

Going into the 2016 season – Kupp’s senior year – he had caught 311 passes for 4764 yards (15.3 yards per catch) and 56 TDs. In three games this year – the first of which was a win for E. Washington over Washington State – he has caught 29 passes for 379 yards and 5 TDs. He is listed at 6’ 2” and 215 lbs. I will likely not get to see him on TV here on the East Coast unless E. Washington gets into the FCS Championship Tournament and plays an east coast team but that sort of size and those receiving stats say that he ought to get plenty of consideration in next year’s NFL Draft.

Last weekend’s games started on Thursday night with Clemson beating Georgia Tech handily. That was the first win for Clemson at Georgia Tech since 2003. The score was 26-7 but that does not really explain the dominance here. Georgia Tech’s offensive output for the game was a total of 124 yards. Meanwhile, the Clemson offense began to show signs of life in this game running up a total of 442 yards.

It was not a good week of college football in the State of Georgia last week. The other major football program there – the Georgia Bulldogs – were minced by Ole Miss. The score of that game was 45-14; and like the Clemson/Ga Tech game – the score does not really reflect how badly Georgia was beaten. Ole Miss gained 510 yards on 61 plays. Do the math here; that is 8.4 yards per snap. Georgia ran 81 plays and averaged less than 5 yards per snap. With 5 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, the score was 45-0.

    Oh, by the way, Georgia Southern also lost last week to Western Michigan by a score of 49-31.

    Perhaps the last time Georgia had such a bad weekend, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops were on the march?

Memphis beat Bowling Green last week in a game that was anything but a nail biter. The score was 77-3 and here are some numbers from the game:

    Memphis QB, Riley Ferguson, threw 6 TD passes and ran for 1 TD. Looks to me as if Memphis has a replacement for the recently graduated Paxton Lynch…

    Memphis gained 635 yards. Bowling Green gained 235 yards

One other thing to note from that game … Bowling Green also gave up 77 points earlier this year to Ohio State. Somehow, I do not think “Lucky Sevens” is a popular game on the Bowling Green campus these days.

West Virginia beat BYU 35-32 last week. BYU’s record dropped to 1-3 and that probably makes some of the alums unhappy. However, the Cougars have covered against the spread in all four of their games; so if the alums are “getting down” on BYU each week, perhaps the alums are quite satisfied. In college football, there is winning on the field and there is winning at the sportsbook. Optimally, a team will do both…

Houston needed a big win to hold the attention of the CFP Selection Committee because they did not have a quality opponent on the schedule for last weekend. They got the big win they needed crushing Texas St. 64-3 on the road.

Buffalo beat Army 23-20 in OT dropping the Cadets’ record for the year to 3-1. Check the Worst Picks from last week above; I got everything wrong about this game. Army dominated on the field gaining 444 yards of offense to 264 yards for Buffalo and Army had a chance to win in the final seconds but missed a short field goal. Here is an unusual stat from the game:

    There were 9 fourth-down conversion attempts in the game.

    Army was 4 for 6 on fourth down conversions

    Buffalo was 2 for 3 on fourth down conversions.

Louisville beat Marshall 59-28 and Lamar Jackson threw for 417 yards and 5 TDs in the game. The Marshall passing game was anemic at best; they threw the ball 21 times and completed 9 passes for a total of 59 yards. Louisville gained 682 yards and Marshall gained 185 for the game. Louisville turned the ball over 3 times in the game and still won by 31 points.

UCF beat Florida International 53-14 last week and FIU responded to that drubbing by firing head coach Ron Turner. Yes, Ron Turner and Norv Turner are brothers. Ron Turner had been at FIU since 2013 and his record there – including this year’s 0-4 start – was 10-30-0. Let me say politely that a record of 10-30 with C-USA opponents is not a glowing entry on one’s coaching résumé.

Florida led Tennessee 21-0 in the first half but Tennessee dominated the second half to win the game 38-28. Tennessee is now 4-0 for the season and this win is significant because Florida had the top ranked defense in the country going into the game. Coming back from the 3 TD deficit is difficult against almost any team but doing that against a good defense is even more impressive.

Auburn beat LSU 18-13. Les Miles got fired after the game; Gus Malzahn gets to keep his job at least for the time being. Let me just say that this was a close game primarily because neither team played very well. Auburn’s 18 points came on 6 field goals.

Alabama beat Kent St. 48-0. Nick Saban is a Kent St. alum so perhaps he took pity on the Golden Flashes. Alabama did not score in the 4th quarter of the game and played plenty of subs. Here is a measure of the dominance:

    Kent St had 5 first downs in the game.
    Kent St. had a total of 140 yards on offense.

Mississippi St. beat UMass 47-35. Seriously, Mississippi St. allowed UMass to get 35 points in a game. UMass actually led at the half 14-13.

Kentucky beat South Carolina last week 17-10. That has to sting if you are a South Carolina fan. This is the third straight loss for the Gamecocks against Kentucky and it gives South Carolina 2 conference losses already this year. Going into this game, Kentucky had given up 131 points in 3 games (43.6 points per game); South Carolina managed to get 10.

Wisconsin beat Michigan St. 30-6 and shut Michigan St. out for the second half. The Spartans had more yards and more first downs in the game but Wisconsin scored 3 INTs and was efficient when they had to be:

    Wisconsin converted 7 of 16 third down conversions
    Wisconsin converted 2 of 2 fourth down conversions

Michigan pummeled Penn St. 49-10. Michigan ran up 515 yards on offense and held Penn St. to only 191 yards of offense. There isn’t a lot more to say here, right? Well, Michigan intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and sacked the Penn St. QB 5 times. This was a beatdown.

Iowa beat Rutgers 14-7. Two weeks ago, Iowa lost to Division 1-AA North Dakota State; last week they beat Rutgers by 7 points. I wonder which game is more embarrassing… Rutgers had more total offense and more first downs in the game here – and still managed to lose at home.

UNC beat Pitt 37-36. Pitt’s run defense was very good; it held UNC to 28 yards on the ground. However, the Pitt passing defense was bad last week and has not been good all year. In the last 2 games, Pitt has given up 993 yards in the air. I suspect the defensive backs’ coach at Pitt will be taking some Xanax as he looks at the film for this game. Pitt ran the ball well here gaining 281 yards on 55 carries.

Duke went to South Bend and upset Notre Dame 38-35. In Duke’s 2 games this year against Division 1-A opponents, they had scored a total of 27 points; the Notre Dame defense gave them 38. The game was about as close on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard. Consider:

    First Downs: Duke 24 Notre Dame 24
    Time of Possession: Duke 30:35 Notre Dame 29:25
    Offensive Plays: Duke 74 Notre Dame 74
    Total Offense: Duke 498 Notre Dame 534
    Interceptions: Duke 1 Notre Dame 1

Here is one stat that was a bit lopsided:

    Fumbles: Duke 0 Notre Dame 4 (lost 2 of them).

UVa got its first win of the season last week beating C. Michigan 49-35. There were seismic shifts in this game. Virginia led 28-0; then C. Michigan tied the game at 28-28; then Virginia took command again. One stat for the game might be a bit ominous for UVa fans. C. Michigan had 402 yards passing in the game. That does not bode well for UVa once ACC conference games hit their schedule. Several teams in the ACC have potent passing offenses.

Baylor beat Oklahoma St. 35-34. Oklahoma St. had 30 first downs in the game while Baylor only managed to get 20. However, Baylor ran up 517 yards of offense to 466 for Oklahoma St. The reason here is that Baylor executed big plays all day long. Baylor averaged 8 yards per snap compared to 4.6 yards per snap for Oklahoma St.

Out west, Oregon lost to Colorado 41-38. Maybe Colorado is actually a good football team this year. Their record is 3-1 and that loss was to Michigan in Ann Arbor. This is the second loss this year for Oregon.

Stanford beat UCLA 22-13. With 6 minutes left in the game, UCLA led 13-9. Stanford scored to take a 16-13 lead with 24 seconds left to play and then got a Scoop-and-Score for another TD as time expired. This game was closer than the score might indicate.

Utah beat USC 31-27. USC led 27-17 after the first play of the fourth quarter and then gave it up. Leading 27-24 late in the 4th quarter, USC coach Clay Helton elected to punt on 4th and 3 from the Utah 37 yardline. That did not work; Utah got the ball and marched the field for the winning TD. USC is now 1-3 for the season and 0-2 in PAC-12 games. That is not something that USC fans are used to seeing. There have been whispers that Coach Helton is on a hot seat out there despite the fact that this is the first year of his contract. Losing a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter of a conference game is not going to cool down his seat very much.

Arizona St. beat Cal 51-41. The Total Line for the game was a measly 81 points and these teams blew by that comfortably. To give you an idea of the offensive dominance in the game, the teams combined to run 173 offensive plays (almost 3 plays per minute) and gained a total of 1091 yards (6.3 yards per snap). Arizona St. was 10-20 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down conversions. Cal was 7-17 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down conversions.

    In 4 games this year, the Cal defense gave up 31 points to Hawaii in the opener. Since then they have given up 139 points in the next 3 games.

    Arizona St. is 4-0 this year – not necessarily thanks to their defense. In those 4 wins, the defense has allowed opponents to score 137 points (34.25 points per game).

Looking forward to a couple of things this week:

    After Texas St. was crushed by Houston last week (see above), they play down a bit in class this week taking on Incarnate Word. Playing against “big guys” such as Arkansas and Houston, Texas St. was outscored 106-6. From here on out, they are paired with teams of similar stature.

    Florida Atlantic and Florida International (see above) square off this week. This game almost surely has implications for the SHOE Tournament. For the moment let us consider this the Bottom-feeder Bowl.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were only 4 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in all 4 of them. That brings the season record for favorites covering to 23-16-0.

Alabama, Houston, Louisville and Temple covered.

This week we have 4 Ponderosa Games.

Rutgers at Ohio St. – 38 (60): This should be ugly.

La-Monroe at Auburn – 32.5 (56): Remember that Auburn won last week without scoring a TD. Here the spread is 32.5. What does that say about La-Monroe?

Rice at So. Mississippi – 24 (59): Rice is 0-4 losing by a cumulative score of 157-73. So. Miss is 3-1 outscoring opponents 165-79.

Kentucky at Alabama – 35 (57): I doubt last week’s win over South Carolina will mean a whole lot here. If you think Kentucky can win, the Money Line odds stand at +13,000 this morning…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Toledo at BYU – 3.5 (52.5): As mentioned above, BYU has covered in all four games this year. BYU has lost its last 3 games to Utah, UCLA and West Virginia by a total of 7 points. Toledo is not on a par with those teams and BYU is at home. I’ll take BYU to win and cover.

(Fri Nite) Stanford at Washington – 3 (45): This is a heavyweight match in the PAC-12 North. Stanford has injuries in its defensive backfield and Washington can throw the ball a bit. Normally, in low scoring games I prefer to take points. Nonetheless, I make this a venue call and I’ll take Washington to win and cover at home.

Buffalo at BC – 18 (39): BC scored 42 points last week against Division 1-AA Wagner. Earlier this year they scored 26 against UMass. In their other two games against real opponents they scored a total of 14 points. And they are favored by 18 here? I’ll pass…

Memphis at Ole Miss – 14.5 (67.5): The Total Line opened at 64 and has been climbing slowly during the week. Both teams can score; there is not a lot of doubt about that. I think this one will be a shoot-out. I like the game to go OVER.

Tulane – 2 at UMass (42.5): This game has great significance for the upcoming SHOE Tournament…

K-State at W Virginia – 3 (54): K-State is 2-1 this year but those wins are over piddling opponents (Missouri St. and Florida Atlantic). W. Virginia is not an elite team, but they are more than a few rungs up the ladder from the schools K-State has beaten. I like West Virginia at home to win and cover here.

UVa at Duke – 3.5 (62): Virginia is suspect on pass defense (see above); Duke likes to throw the football. UVa has lost 16 consecutive road games; this game is in Durham NC. I like Duke to win and cover.

Notre Dame – 10 at Syracuse (74): The spread here opened at 13 points and fell to this level almost immediately; Meanwhile, the Total Line opened at 69 and shot up in about 48 hours. I do not understand what is going on here so I’ll forego a selection. But the game is still interesting because of these large line moves.

Florida Atlantic – 6.5 at Florida International (53): The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (consisting of Me, Myself, and I) is focused on the outcome here…

E. Michigan at Bowling Green – 2.5 (66): Bowling Green has given up 77 points to 2 different teams this year and they are a favorite in this game? I would not bet on this game with your bankroll.

Miami (FL) – 7 at Georgia Tech (53.5): Miami had a week off to allow freshman QB, Brad Kayaa to absorb the whole offense while Georgia Tech got stuffed by Clemson (see above). I do not think Miami is back to the very top rung of college football that it inhabited 20 years ago, but Miami is a good team and it is getting better. I like Miami to win and cover on the road.

Wisconsin at Michigan – 10 (45): I can’t remember where I saw this stat so I cannot cite the source but Michigan leads the nation in tackles for a loss and in QB sacks and the Michigan defense has held opponents to 6 for 50 on third-down conversions. That makes them tough to deal with anywhere and this game is in Ann Arbor. I’ll take Michigan and lay the points.

Louisville – 2 at Clemson (68): The spread opened with Clemson as a 2-point favorite but it flipped as the week wore on. I think that Clemson has the kind of defense that might be able to keep Louisville’s Lamar Jackson from running wild; the Clemson defense is fast and athletic. DeShaun Watson and his cohorts on the offense for Clemson have not performed the way people thought they would but there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball. I’ll take Clemson plus the points here and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

UNC at Florida State – 10.5 (69): I think both teams will move the ball and score against the other team’s defense. I like this game to go OVER.

Tennessee – 3 at Georgia (52): This is a test for the Tennessee coaching staff. The Vols beat Florida last week for the first time in forever in an emotional game. The team is looking toward a shot at the SEC East slot in the SEC Championship Game; they are better than Georgia but not if they let down and start to think this is a piece of cake. I will bank on Butch Jones and his assistants to have Tennessee ready to play. I’ll take Tennessee and lay the points on the road.

Texas at Oklahoma St. – 2.5 (70): Texas had a week off to prep for this game while Oklahoma State had a tough game at Baylor last week losing by 11 points. I like the freshman QB for Texas, Shane Buchele; I wish I liked the Texas defense nearly as much. By the same token, the Oklahoma St. defense is not nearly an elite unit giving up about 6 yards per offensive play. I’ll take the rested Texas squad here plus the points.

Arizona St. at USC – 10.5 (65): Short and sweet here … USC needs to win this game at home badly but that line is FAT. I’ll take Arizona St. plus that basketful of points.

Baylor – 17 at Iowa St. (60.5): I do not understand this line at all; I would have expected Baylor to be a much bigger favorite here – other than the fact that they are actually traveling outside the State of Texas which is a rarity for that program. I’ll just pass on this one and see what happens here…

Oklahoma – 3.5 at TCU (70): Neither team’s offense is reliably good – or bad. I think the defenses will come to life in this game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Finally, if you have read these things over the years, you know that I enjoy finding players with unusual names. BYU has a defensive tackle named Handsome Tanielu. Trust me, my parents never considered naming me “Handsome”.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/2/16

Last week was about as bland a week of Mythical Picking as you could have. I made 16 NFL picks and the record for the week was 8-8-0. That brings the season record to 29-20-0.

    [Aside: The reason the entire week of Mythical Picking was bland is that I also made 18 NCAA picks and that record was 9-9-0. Hard to get more plain vanilla than that…]

Meanwhile, in Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games, the coin had a perfect week going 2-0-0 and bringing the Coin’s record for the year to 3-1-0.

The Best Picks from last week were:

    Broncos +3 against Bengals. Broncos won outright by 12 points.
    Raiders +2 against Titans. Raiders won outright by 7 points.

The Worst Picks from last week were:

    Steelers – 3.5 against Eagles. Steelers lost outright by 31 points.
    Texans – 1.5 against Pats. Texans lost outright by 27 points.

Boring as last week’s selections were, I shall continue to make these selections in upcoming weeks. As usual, I want to remind any reader that he/she should not use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to something like that:

    You go to an LA Clippers game to get your hair cut.

General Comments:

Last week’s games began with the Texans/Pats game where the Pats were down to their third-string QB who had never seen the field in an NFL game. Not to worry, Pats’ fans; Jacoby Brisset managed the game while the defense pitched a shutout and the result was sufficiently satisfying that Bill Belichick was caught on camera smiling on the sidelines BEFORE the time ran out in the 4th quarter. That happens about as often as a total solar eclipse. The Pats special teams were also dominant. When they were not pinning the Texans inside the 15-yardline with a punt, they were forcing fumbles and recovering them deep in Texans’ territory. The Texans did not snap the ball in Pats territory until 1:15 was left in the third quarter.

That was the good news. The bad news is that Jacoby Brisset injured his thumb late in the game. Word is that both Brisset and Jimmy Garoppolo (injured shoulder) practiced with the team on Tuesday of this week. In vintage Belichick fashion, however, neither QB threw a pass during the portion of the practice session that was open to reporters. It was noted however that Brisset had his thumb and wrist taped during the practice. Who will be the Pats’ QB this week? Maybe they will exhume Babe Parilli …?

The Dolphins beat the Browns 30-24 in OT. Frankly, the Dolphins were fortunate to win this game. The Browns had a chance to win with a final second field goal from 46 yards out but the ball was hooked so far to the left that you could call it a Vladimir Lenin attempt. The kicker who missed that try was Cody Parkey and he was signed by the Browns about 24 hours before the game because the Browns regular kicker injured his leg in practice on Saturday. How typical of the Browns…?

The Browns had another “Cody” in the game; Cody Kessler started as a rookie QB for the team; and while it may look as if he lit it up by putting 24 points on the scoreboard, a closer look will tell you that the Browns’ first offensive TD came in the 4th quarter. As the game went to OT, Cleveland won the toss and elected to kick off; had the Dolphins scored a TD, that would have ended the game. Instead the Browns forced a punt – but could not do anything on offense giving the ball back to the Dolphins…

Oh, and I have to mention Terrelle Pryor here. In the game he threw passes, he ran the ball from scrimmage and he caught passes. More importantly, he did all those things more than once in the game. Too bad he wasn’t the place kicker on the final 46-yard attempt …

The Skins beat the Giants 29-27. On Friday before the game, here is what Bob Molinaro had to say about this game in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Sorting it OUT: Is it too soon to call Kirk Cousins “embattled?” That’s one of the cliché adjectives the media hang on struggling quarterbacks. In two Redskins losses, Cousins was 1 for 8 with two interceptions and zero touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. Now he goes to the Meadowlands, where last Sunday, the Giants held Drew Brees’ Saints to 13 points. At the same time, the Giants’ offense failed to score a touchdown. I’m picking Gruden’s guys in this one. Not because I think they’ve got their act together, but because the Giants aren’t good enough to run off three in a row.”

That is what you call “prescience”. The Giants were just not good enough to win three in a row. The Giants turned the ball over 3 times and committed 11 penalties costing them 128 yards. That is bad play; there is no other way to describe it. Kirk Cousins had a fine day throwing for 296 yards and 2 TDs. Haters will say that those numbers are not up to the standard one expects from a “$20M QB”. The correct answer to those haters are the words famously ascribed to the late Al Davis:

“Just win, Baby.”

The Giants are 2-1 for the season and all three of their games have been decided by 3 points or less. That has surely kept Giants’ fans on the edge of their seats for the full 60-minutes…

The Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18. Recall last year; the Cards were in the NFC Championship Game; now they are 1-2 in 2016. They lost their opener at home to the Pats who started a QB that had only taken a kneel-down snap in the NFL; last week, they lost to a team that had been 0-2 by 15 points. The Cards’ offense was their selling point last year. Bruce Arians was a great play-caller and the team has pass-catching weapons all over the place. Well, last week, not much of any of that was on display. The Cards amassed a total of 348 yards on offense. If that sounds OK to you, recall that the same Bills’ defense allowed the Jets to amass 493 yards of offense just the week before. Carson Palmer was awful here:

    26 of 50 for 261 yards with 0 TDs and 4 INTs. AND he was sacked 5 times.

Here is a sentence from the summary of this game that gives you an idea that the Cardinals’ offense was AWOL last week:

“The Cardinals combined for just 2 yards net offense and no first downs on their first five possessions.”

The Vikes beat the Panthers 22-10. Recall last year; the Panthers were in the NFC Championship Game with the Cards and then went on to the Super Bowl; now they are 1-2 in 2016. Their losses have come against two of the best defenses in the NFL – the Broncos in Week 1 and the Vikes last week. Here is how dominant the Vikes were on defense:

    Sacked Cam Newton 8 times
    One of those sacks resulted in a safety.
    Panthers’ total offense was 304 yards.
    Vikes intercepted 3 passes.

Meanwhile, the Vikes’ offense did nothing spectacular by any means but what it did was important. It did not invent ways to lose the game. The offense only generated 211 yards of offense but Sam Bradford threw for 2 TDs and did not turn the ball over even one time.

The Raiders beat the Titans 17-10. I guess the Raiders decided to be sure that they packed their defense for this trip. In the first two games, the Raiders had allowed more than 1000 yards to opposing offenses; last week, the Raiders’ defense generated 3 turnovers, held the Titans to 2-for-12 on third down conversions and limited the Titans to 10 points. [Aside: One other possibility is that the Titans’ so-called “exotic-smashmouth offense” is a mirage…] I think the conclusion to draw is that Marcus Mariotta and the Titans’ offense cannot turn the ball over 3 times in a game because it is not good enough to overcome that many setbacks.

Home field is supposed to provide an advantage in the NFL. It would seem that the Titans have decided not to go along with that plan. In their last 18 home games, the Titans are 2-16.

Sebastian Janikowski set an NFL record in this game. His 52-yard field goal in the second quarter was the 53rd time he hit one from 50 yards or more. Until then, he had been tied with former Broncos’ kicker, Jason Hanson for the most long-range field goals. Janikowski has been in the NFL 17 years – all of them wearing silver and black.

The Ravens beat the Jags 19-17. I picked the Jags to win the AFC South; I am now ready to pronounce:

    The Jags are dead.

Blake Bortles loves to throw INTs in the first quarter; he leads the league for his career in that category; that puts the Jags in a come-from-behind mode where he throws a lot to get them back in contention. Sadly, that usually leads to him throwing a pick or two in the 4th quarter to lose the game. I do not want anyone to infer that I think the Ravens are nearly as good as their 3-0 record might indicate. This game was a tire fire; here are some of the happenings in the FOURTH QUARTER of this game:

    4 INTs by the two teams
    1 blocked field goal
    1 muffed punt.

    Can you spell, “YUCK”?

The Jags venture across the pond to London this week to play the Colts. A loss for the Jags would put them at 0-4 with their BYE Week coming next. In the past, teams that have gotten on their flight home from London at 0-4 have gotten off that flight with a fired head coach. Remember Joe Philbin and the Dolphins last year? How about Dennis Allen and the Raiders from a couple of years back? If the Jags lose that game – particularly if they lose it and look ugly doing it – I think there is a good chance Gus Bradley will be looking for work next Monday morning.

The Packers beat the Lions 34-27. The Packers led 31-10 at the half with Aaron Rodgers throwing 4 TD passes in the first half. At that point, the Packers put in on cruise-control. The Lions meanwhile had to try to come back by throwing the ball thereby producing some skewed stats:

    WR Marvin Jones had 205 yards receiving all by himself
    Lions as a team had 50 yards rushing on 23 attempts.

    Not exactly a “balanced offense” …

The Chiefs beat the Jets 24-3. If you need to label this game, call it the “Ryan Fitzpatrick Meltdown Game”. Here are some of the lowlights:

    Jets turned the ball over 8 times
    Of those 8 turnovers, 6 were INTs thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
    Of those 6 INTs, 4 of them came in the 4th quarter of the game.

    Can you spell “YUCK”?

By the way, those 8 turnovers by the Jets are not even a club record. Back in 1976, in a game against the Patriots, the Jets found a way to turn the ball over 10 times. You guessed it; the Jets lost that game too…

There is a cautionary note here for Chiefs’ fans, however. The Chiefs forced 8 turnovers; two of these turnovers resulted in TDs (a Pick Six and a Scoop-and-Score). And with all of that, the Chiefs only managed to put 24 points on the scoreboard. That is unimpressive … I know; a win is a win. However, the likelihood of such largesse coming to the Chiefs more than once in a season is small.

The Seahawks beat the Niners 37-18. Before the game began, here is Tweet from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“#49ers Breaking News: Kaepernick on DL with anthem knee”

Well, that did not happen, but it was about the only bad thing that did not happen to the Niners as they were dominated in this game; there is no way to sugar-coat that. Russell Wilson had to leave the game in the 3rd quarter with a “mild knee sprain” and it fell to rookie Trevone Boykin to play out the string here. Wilson has been in the league since 2012 and last week was the first time he has missed an offensive snap for the Seahawks.

This makes two weeks in a row that the Niners have lost by exactly 19 points. Those losses have been total team losses; the defense has underperformed and the offense has underperformed. After the Niners shut out the Rams in Week 1, there was probably some glimmer of enthusiasm in the Bay Area that – perhaps – the Niners would be mediocre instead of bad. After the losses in the last two weeks, there is probably some hope in the Bay Area that the Niners will turn out to be merely bad and not dreadful.

Here is what Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had to say about the Niners in the aftermath of this debacle:

“If you could see any cause for hope for the 49ers in this one, you probably think Monday night’s presidential debate will be a stirring exchange of intellectual thought and political genius.”

Having mentioned the Rams above, they beat the Bucs 37-32 last week. Remember, the Rams had not scored a TD in either of their first two games this year despite the fact that they had won one of those games. Against the Bucs, they score 37 points making you shake your head as you try to figure out how that happened. The team stats do not point to a Rams’ victory:

    First Downs: Bucs 30 Rams 18
    Total Offense: Bucs 472 yards Rams 320 yards
    Turnovers: Bucs 2 Rams 2
    3rd Down Conversions: Bucs 8 for 16 Rams 6 for 13

Even more confusing, put these individual stats next to one another and wonder:

    Case Keenum: 190 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (and it was a Pick Six)
    Jameis Winston: 405 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

    Case Keenum was on the winning side…

After 3 weeks, the Rams and Seahawks are tied for first place in the NFC West at 2-1. After the game, Jeff Fisher did a very good imitation of Bill Belichick in his post-game interview saying:

“When you score points, which we did, you’ve got a chance.”

The Broncos beat the Bengals 29-17 last week. This puts the Bengals down at 1-2 for the year and leaves the Broncos undefeated at 3-0 even with Trevor Siemian playing QB. I sure did not think they would look this dominant in my pre-season analysis. Perhaps John Elway knew what he was doing in refusing to offer Brock Osweiler anything in the neighborhood of $18M per year to play QB in Denver? Oh don’t forget that he also jettisoned Mark Sanchez just as the season started assuring that Siemian would be the starter for a while in 2016. The Bengals led this game at the end of 3 quarters and Trevor Siemian led the team back to a win throwing for 312 yards and 4 TDs.

The Colts beat the Chargers 26-22. The game was a nail-biter; Andrew Luck hit T. Y. Hilton with a 63-yard TD pass in the final 2 minutes to win the game. The Chargers suffered 3 self-inflicted wounds in the final two minutes to invent a way to lose this game.

    1. They gave up that 63-yard TD pass to give the Colts the lead.
    2. They lost a fumble after that.
    3. They lost another fumble after that.

Philip Rivers was 29-39 for 330 yards in this game which is not a bad day at the office. However, he got just about nothing in terms of support. The run game generated a total of 37 yards for the day on 17 attempts – and Rivers gained 2 of those yards by himself.

The Eagles beat the Steelers 34-3. Say what? At halftime, the score was 13-3 and it sure seemed as if this would be a game that went down to the final possession or two in the 4th quarter. Not so; the Eagles scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter and shut out the Steelers thereby leaving the winner of the game in no doubt. The Steelers came into the game averaging 31 points per game and the Eagles’ defense dominated. Ben Roethlisberger had one of his bad days here going 24-44 for 257 yards with 1 INT and a lost fumble. He was also sacked 4 times.

Meanwhile, Carson Wentz was poised and workmanlike all game long. He was 23-31 for 301 yards and 2 TDs – – and he has now gone 3 full games without an INT or a fumble.

Granted that the Steelers were well behind in the game and had to throw to try to catch up, but the Eagles’ defense held the Steelers to 29 yards rushing for the game. Oh by the way, the last time the Steelers won a game in Philadelphia was back in 1965. The coach of that Eagles’ team was Joe Kuharich. Several years ago I did a couple of Topical Rants where I offered up my 10 worst NFL coaches of all time. Joe Kuharich was on that list…

The Cowboys beat the Bears 31-17 last Sunday nite. The Cowboys entered the game with an 8-game losing streak at home. They had no trouble winning this one. The score was 24-3 at halftime; and in the first half, the Cowboys had 19 first downs to the Bears 4 first downs. Ezekiel Elliot had his best game of the year gaining 142 yards on 30 carries.

The Bears are a marginal squad. In this game, they had Brian Hoyer throw the ball 49 times. That simply will not work; if the Bears do that, they might go winless for the year.

The Falcons beat the Saints 45-32 in what looked like a college game at times. The Saints cannot play defense. I know they have injuries to deal with on that side of the ball, but still… The Falcons averaged 7 yards per play on offense and it was a perfectly balanced 7 yards per play – – 7 yards per rush and 7 yards per pass. In addition to providing only minimal resistance, the Saints’ defense produced exactly ZERO turnovers in the game. The Saints have now allowed 96 points in 3 games; I wonder how Drew Brees feels before a game realizing he probably needs to put 5 TDs in the books for the team to have a shot at winning – – and even that is not guaranteed…

The Falcons lead the NFC South as of today with a 2-1 record and face the Panthers this week. The Falcons defense is nothing to write home about. They have given up 91 points in their 3 games and surrendered 474 yards of offense to the Saints.

Before I get to the games for this week, let me make a few general statements:

    Cam Newton has been taking a beating in these early games. Yes, the Broncos and the Vikes have exceptional defenses; yes, Cam Newton is a very large and very strong man. Nonetheless, something has to change either with the OL or with the play calling. This kind of physical abuse is not sustainable…

    How long a leash should Chip Kelly give Blaine Gabbert this week? Politics and “optics” aside, Gabbert and the offense have not been able to come close to “getting it done” in the last two weeks. The Niners have been “wolf ugly” in those games.

    The Jets need to get things going in a different direction right away. Their record stands at 1-2 and they lost badly last week. Upcoming on the schedule are:

      Seahawks at home
      Steelers on the road
      Cardinals on the road

      If the Jets play the way they did last week, they could be 1-5 at the end of that stretch…

The Games:

This week starts the season of BYE Weeks for NFL teams. This week we have two teams inactive:

Green Bay preps for 2 straight games against NFC East teams (Dallas and Giants)

Philly preps for 2 straight road games (at Detroit and at Washington)

(Thurs Nite): Miami at Cincy – 7.5 (44): Both teams are 1-2; I get that. Last week, however, the Bengals lost to a very good Broncos team and led at the end of the 3rd quarter. Meanwhile, the Dolphins needed OT to beat the Browns. Using a baseball analogy here because the Browns’ Front Office now houses a bunch of baseball analytics people in positions of authority, the Browns are a Triple A team. The loser of this game will likely be behind the 8-ball in terms of their division so I expect the teams to play as best they can given the short workweek. I wish that hook was not on top of the full TD in the spread – – but it is indeed there. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Bengals at home to win and cover.

(Very Early Sun Morning) Indy – 2.5 vs Jax (48.5) Game is in Wembley Stadium in London: The spread here opened at 1 point and has been expanding as the week progresses. Might it go to 3 points by game time? This is a division game between two significantly flawed teams. The Jags give the ball away far too often and the Colts’ defensive and offensive lines stink. If the Jags cannot score meaningful points against this defense, there should be roster repercussions, coaching repercussions and front office repercussions. At the same time, Andrew Luck ought to be able to light up this defense – – if that offensive line can keep him in a vertical posture for much of the day. I think this will be a high scoring affair so I’ll take the game to go OVER – – without any conviction. Remember I said I would make a pick in every game…

Cleveland at Washington – 7.5 (46): This spread opened at 10 points; it went down to 9 points almost immediately and you can find it at 7.5 points at many sportsbooks as of this morning. I have no idea why Cleveland is taking that much money here; I also doubt the spread will get as low as 7 by game time. When the schedule was announced, I thought this game had an interesting angle to it because it would represent the return of RG3 to FedEx Field. Well he may return to FedEx Field but it will be in street clothes. The Browns are a bad team and this is a second consecutive road game for them. I think the Skins will pound them down; I’ll take the Skins to win and cover.

Buffalo at New England – 4.5 (No Total Line): Not knowing who will play QB for the Pats as of this moment makes any pick in this game at this time nonsensical. However, without a Total Line, I cannot summon the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol to my rescue. Therefore, this is purely a guess based on the presumption that the Pats will have a QB other than Julian Edelman for the game. I’ll make it a venue call and take the Pats to win and cover.

Seattle – 3 at Jets (40): This is a desperation game for the Jets (see above). This game makes the Seahawks fly 3 time zones to play an early game with a QB who suffered a “mild knee sprain” last week. Meanwhile, the Jets’ QB has to blank out last week’s 6 INT debacle. The Seahawks’ weak unit so far this year has been their OL; the most dominant unit for the Jets has been their DL. I think the Jets can win this one outright so I’ll take the Jets plus the points here.

Carolina – 3 at Atlanta (50): A win for the Panthers assures them of a tie for the lead in the NFC South. Yes, this is a road game for them; however, the Falcons’ defense is not nearly what the Vikings’ defense was last week or what the Broncos’ defense was in Week 1. The Panthers should also have revenge on their mind here since their only regular season loss in 2015 came in this building against this team. I like the Panthers to win and cover here and I like this game to go OVER.

Detroit – 3 at Chicago (47): Here is the Dog Breath Game of the Week. I had to pick between this one or the Saints/Chargers game for that “honor”; it was a close call. The Bears have plenty of injuries to deal with and they did not have a great roster to start with. As of this morning, I have no idea if Jay Cutler will be active for the game or what level of proficiency he may have given an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand. Cutler at his best can be Matthew Stafford’s equal; Brian Hoyer is not up to that level. I am calling this one a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Bears plus the points. Why not, these are only Mythical Picks…

Tennessee at Houston – 6 (41): The spread for this game is all over the place. It opened at 6.5 points; as of this morning it is as high as 7 points at one sportsbook and as low as 4.5 points at one other sports book. You can find it at every level between those two extremes; I picked the spread that is at more sportsbooks than any other. And no, I have no idea where all these spreads will wind up. There was a report yesterday morning that said that JJ Watt re-injured his back last week and that the Texans put him on IR meaning he cannot play for at least the next 8 weeks. The Titans will bring their run-oriented offense to the game; can the Texans without Watt stop it? That pretty much sets the storyline… I think this is going to be a low scoring game so I’ll take the Titans plus the points here – – and hold my breath.

Oakland at Baltimore – 3 (46): The Raiders played in Tennessee last week, flew back to Oakland and now fly to Baltimore for another early game. Amelia Earhart didn’t fly that much. This is purely a venue call – and a jet lag call; I’ll take the Ravens and lay the points.

Denver – 3 at Tampa (44): The Broncos played in Cincy last week, flew back to Denver and now fly to Tampa for an early game. They did not have the same air miles as the Raiders so their jet-lag hurdle is not as high; moreover, the Broncos are playing at a higher level than the Raiders are at this point in the season. I also think the Broncos are better team than the Bucs and that defense should be able to force turnovers from interception-prone Jameis Winston. Even on the road for a second straight week, I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points.

Dallas – 2.5 at SF (46): The Cowboys’ coaching staff has seen the Chip Kelly offense plenty of times in the past; they will be ready for it. By now, teams have 180 minutes of film to review on Dak Prescott so if he has a fundamental weakness, now is the time where defenses will begin to probe/exploit that. I am sure he is not a “perfect QB” but I am confident that the Niners’ defense is not the unit that will expose him and de-pants him. I like the Cowboys to win and cover on the road.

New Orleans at San Diego – 4.5 (53): This game “lost out” in a photo finish for the Dog Breath Game of the week. Neither defense is very good – and the Saints’ defense is downright awful. I think there will points galore here and the team that has the ball last has a good chance to win it all. Even at this elevated Total Line, I’ll take the game to go OVER.

LA at Arizona – 8 (43): The spread for this game is all over the place. It opened at 9.5 points and now ranges from 9 points to 7.5 points. The spread I used here is the one at the greatest number of sportsbooks. The Rams’ defense is good and that means the Cards’ offense will have to play differently than they did last week (see above). The Rams’ offense is not nearly as good as the defense so that means the Cards’ defense needs to show up and keep them in check. Bruce Arians needs to get those messages through or the Cards will find themselves in a 2-game hole in their division early on. I will bank on Arians’ communication skills here and take the Cards to win and cover at home.

(Sun Nite) KC at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (47): My guess is that the Steelers’ coaches have been less-than-laudatory in their discussions with Steelers’ players this week based on the Steelers’ no-show last week (see above). The Chiefs got 8 turnovers last week including 6 INTs off Ryan Fitzpatrick. In case the Chiefs do not already know this:

    Memo to KC Chiefs: This is Ben Roethlisberger you are playing this week. He is a better QB than Ryan Fitzpatrick. You best not count on getting another 6 INTs. Oh, by the way, Le’Veon Bell will be in the backfield this week too…

I like the Steelers to win and cover here.

(Mon Nite) Giants at Minnesota – 5 (43): The Vikes’ defense will have to continue to carry the team here because the Giants’ defense is good enough to keep Sam Bradford and his cohorts in check. For the second time this week, I will go to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Giants plus the points. The coin has been right 75% of the time so far this year; who am I to argue with that?

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

Thoughts On LSU Firing Les Miles …

Earlier this week, I mentioned that LSU fired Les Miles as the head football coach. I am a firm believer that players are more responsible for winning and losing individual games than are coaches and that coaches are more responsible for the overall direction/philosophy of the program than are players. That is why it makes little sense to me to fire a coach because of a bad loss – on the last play of a game in this case. Moreover, I see the potential for parallels here that might not be attractive to LSU fans. Consider:

    Frustrated by a downturn in football fortunes, Tennessee fired Phil Fulmer in 2008. Phil Fulmer had won a national championship at Tennessee in 1998. The only other coach to do that for Tennessee was Robert Neyland who did it 3 times in 1938, 1950 and 1951. Tennessee football since Fulmer left town has seen 3 head coaches and a cumulative record of 42-44. That is pure mediocrity.

    Frustrated by a downturn in football fortunes, Michigan fired Lloyd Carr in 2007. Lloyd Carr had won a national championship at Michigan in 1997. The sainted Bo Schembechler was the coach at Michigan for 21 years and coached 296 games there; Saint Bo won exactly ZERO national championships. In fact, Saint Bo was 5-12 in bowl games. After Carr left, the next two coaches led the Wolverines to a cumulative record of 46-42. That is pure mediocrity. And that led to the hiring of Jim Harbaugh who seems to have set the Michigan program on an upward vector once again.

Now to the present…

    Frustrated by the failure of LSU to win championships – and particularly frustrated by the fact that former LSU coach Nick Saban has been winning a bunch of them at Alabama, LSU fired Les Miles in 2016. Les Miles had won a national championship at LSU in 2007. The only other coaches at LSU ever to do that were Nick Saban (2003) and Paul Dietzel (1958). Miles overall record produced a winning percentage of .778 and that is a higher winning percentage than either Saban produced (.750) or Dietzel produced (.651). What is next for LSU football? We shall see …

In NFL news, Greg Hardy was arrested once again in suburban Dallas. During a routine traffic stop, police found cocaine in Hardy’s car and a packet of cocaine in his wallet. Hardy proclaims his innocence saying that he had been at a party and was paying for everything there and that is how his wallet got passed around to other folks. As to the bag of cocaine in his car, his explanation is that someone at the party gave it to him and he did not know what it was. Remember, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law …

Greg Hardy hopes someday to get another chance to play NFL football. The fact that Jerry Jones – the Father Flannigan of the NFL now that Al Davis has joined the original Father Flannigan in the cosmos – refused to sign him to a contract this year tells you that Greg Hardy is “radioactive” at the moment. And that decision was taken prior to this arrest.

When I read the reports of this incident, I was not surprised at all to note two things:

    1. Hardy’s agent refused to comment.

    2. Hardy’s agent was Drew Rosenhaus.

Speaking obliquely of the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Business Journal reported that the Cowboys are the only NFL team with an estimated value from Forbes that is above $4B. The Cowboys are valued at $4.2B in 2016; the next most valuable franchise is the New England Patriots at $3.4B; the least valuable NFL franchise is the Buffalo Bills at $1.5B. If you care to see the estimated valuation of all the NFL franchises, here is a link.

Staying with the NFL for now, reported that Lady Gaga will be the headline performer at the Super Bowl in February 2017. I always look forward to this annual announcement because it lets me know which “artist” I will be ignoring during the halftime of that game. While I could not pretend to be knowledgeable about Ms. Gaga at all, I do know that she once wore a dress made out of meat to some sort of ceremony and that enraged the folks at PETA. Everyone here knows that I have little time for PETA and its members because they trivialize their activism with nonsense. Therefore, anyone who can piss off PETA gets a gold star from me.

I also recall reading something that is another “plus” for Lady Gaga. I recall that the Chinese government has blocked her from citizens in China because she was considered a “hostile entity” (or some similar description) because she met with the Dalai Lama. The only thing I know about her music is that she once did a duet with Tony Bennett which had to have been one of the great cross-generational events of the decade.

As the MLB season draws to a close, you have precious little time left to get to a park to sample some of the outrageous food offerings that are still out there.

    Go to a Cleveland Indians game and get a hot dog with bacon, pimento mac-and-cheese, ketchup, and Froot Loops. That sandwich has two violations:

      Ketchup on a hot dog is never permissible.

      Froot Loops is miserable as a cereal; what makes anyone think it belongs on a hot dog.

    Go to a Detroit Tigers game and get a BratPop. This is pure simplicity. You take a bratwurst, put it on a stick, dip it in batter and deep-fry it. Probably best served with a side order of Zocor.

    Go to a San Diego Padres game and get Poke Nachos. This is a cross-cultural monstrosity consisting of nacho chips covered with jalapenos, edamame, pickled ginger, scallions, kimchee, shishito peppers and avocado cream.

Finally, consider this commentary from Brad Rock in the Deseret News recognizing a nexus between politics and sports:

“Mark Cuban has offered to pay $10 million to charity if allowed to interview Trump for four hours.

“Cuban, a former Trump supporter, apparently got upset when he heard The Donald plans to build a wall around Germany to keep out Dirk Nowitzki.”

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

The MLB Season – Down To The Wire

The MLB regular season has only one week to go and there are lots of things about the playoffs leading to the World Series that remain undecided. Five of the six division winners are mathematically decided; the Red Sox lead in the AL East is such that they will lose that title only if they lose all of their remaining games and the Blue Jays win all of their remaining games. Could happen – – but I would not bet on it. The situation in the AL Central is not locked in but the Tigers are in even more dire straits than the Blue Jays. The Tigers need to win their last 7 games AND have the Indians lose their last 7 games to forge a tie there. Could happen – – but I would not bet on it.

The Wild Card slots are a totally different story.

    In the National League going into last night’s games, the Pirates and the Marlins were still mathematically in contention. I acknowledge that here for completeness but both teams are hanging onto playoff hopes in pure desperation.

    The Mets, Giants and Cardinals remain the three most likely teams to produce the two wild card teams in the National League. I said back before the season began that the schedule maker had been nice to the Mets giving them the Marlins and Phillies as the two final series of the year. The Mets can finish off the Marlins and should be able to deal with the Phillies. I like the Mets chances to get into the playoffs

    The Giants have stunk it up since the All-Star break playing .375 baseball since then. Nonetheless, they are on the brink of getting into the playoffs which is what they will need to do if they want to continue their “even-year World Series Champion” string. The Giants are at home for the rest of the year hosting the Rockies and then the Dodgers.

    The Cardinals finish with 7 games at home. In any normal year, I would just pencil the Cards into a wild card position because they are normally a good team at home. Not this year… They entered last night’s games with a home record of 33-41. Only Atlanta and Arizona have worse home records in the NL. The Cards have 4 games with the Reds (not a good team) and then 3 with the Pirates who ought to be out of the running by that time.

    The National League should be interesting going to the wire…

    If the National League has the potential to be “interesting” then the American League shapes up to be “potentially outrageous”. The Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Astros and Mariners are within shouting distance of one another. The Astros and Mariners can settle their differences mano a mano with a 3-game series in Houston. If either team executes a sweep here, they will stay alive and kill of the other team. If they split, they will likely doom both sides.

    The team with an interesting schedule wrinkle is the Orioles. They finish the season with all 6 remaining games on the road against the Blue Jays and the Yankees. Here is the rub:

      The Orioles are 50-31 at home and only 35-40 on the road. That is the worst road record of all the “contenders”

      The Orioles are only 36-34 against the AL East.

    As of today, the Orioles would claim the second wild card slot but if they play poorly on the road against AL East opponents, they could get caught by one of the teams currently on the outs.

    Of course, what I would prefer to have happen would be a 3-way tie in the NL and then a 4-way tie in the AL just so we can all see some extra baseball games. Could happen – – but I would not bet on it.

The Atlanta Braves have been “hot” – sort of – since the call-ups at the beginning of September. The Braves are 13-9 in September and they are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Why bring that up? Well, the race at the bottom to see who gets the #1 overall pick in the draft looked like it would go to the Braves 3 weeks ago. Now they have ceded that position to the Twins who have had one of the more miserable seasons in 2016. The Twins have already lost 100 games – with 6 more to play – and no other team in MLB can possibly lose 100 games for the season. However, now the Braves are in danger of dropping even lower in the draft pecking order. Here are the standings in the race for the bottom as of last night:

    Minnesota 56-100
    Atlanta 63-92
    Arizona 64-91
    Cincinnati 65-90
    Tampa Bay 65-90
    San Diego 66-90

Here in Curmudgeon Central, we always enjoy watching the bottom of the standings almost as much as we enjoy watching playoff races as they come down to the wire.

Finally, since I have been on the subject of teams suffering some baseball futility this year, consider this comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald about a game between the Twins and the Astros earlier this year:

“The Twins-Astros game in Minneapolis was rained out on Umbrella Night. The Twins’ new Director of Irony called it ‘The greatest night in sports history.’”

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

RIP Jose Fernandez And Arnold Palmer

I do not intend this to be a maudlin morning, but things happened last weekend that were not uplifting. José Fernandez – the Miami Marlins’ pitching ace – died at age 24 in a boating accident that also claimed the lives of two other people. Fernandez was only 24 and arrived in the US to start a baseball career as a Cuban defector. The accident that took his life involved a boat probably traveling at high speed hitting the rocks of a jetty in waters near Miami. Authorities say there was no evidence of drug or alcohol involvement here.

Rest in peace, José Fernandez.

Arnold Palmer died on Sunday at the age of 87. Everyone who reaps benefits from the PGA Tour should show up at his funeral/celebration of life service. Arnold Palmer made golf a television sport; before him it was a curiosity on TV; his charisma and his daring style of play – feast or famine – drew millions of followers that came to be known as Arnie’s Army. In terms of being the media focus for golf, he was Tiger Woods before anyone even thought of Tiger Woods.

Rest in peace, Arnold Palmer.

I found the following e-mail in my inbox this morning from a former colleague who now lives in southern California and who is an avid LA Dodgers fan.

“It’s been an emotional week here. Vin Scully’s last game at Dodger Stadium just ended, appropriately with the clinching of the NL West. Each player, as he came to bat, took off his cap and waved good-bye at Vin in the broadcast booth. I’ve been listening most of the year, and I can tell you that he has sounded better than ever, but he seems at peace with his decision. Half of southern California is in tears. It’s not a death, but it feels like one.”

Vin Scully started in broadcasting in Brooklyn as part of a radio team for the Brooklyn Dodgers that was led by Red Barber. [Aside: Ernie Harwell was also part of that team. If you compile a list of the “10 best baseball broadcasters”, I assure you that all three of these folks would be on the list.] Scully has been at the microphone for 67 years.

Bonne chance, Vin Scully.

Three coaches in college football lost their jobs last weekend. LSU fired head coach, Les Miles, and offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, after losing to Auburn 18-13. Miles had been on the hot seat for a while in Baton Rouge; he was almost fired last year after LSU suffered a 3-game losing streak for the first time this century. LSU is 2-2 this year; Miles’ firing demonstrates the “What Have You Done For Me Lately” nature of college football in the SEC. Miles started at LSU in 2005; here is what happened on his watch:

    One national championship

    Overall record of 114-34 (Winning percentage = 77.2%)

    Winning percentage is the highest in school history (higher than either Nick Saban or Bill Arnsparger)

Ed Orgeron – formerly the head coach at USC and at Ole Miss – takes over the team. Orgeron’s overall record as a head coach is 16-27 (winning percentage = 37.2%); obviously, that sort of performance will not satisfy the folks at LSU.

The fact that Cam Cameron was also fired along with Les Miles does not come as a shock. LSU’s offense has been disappointing for the last year or so and if the frustration built to the point that the school – and its boosters – were willing to pony up the money to fire Miles, it is pretty clear that Cameron would also get the ax.

Paying off a fired head coach at a major college football program and then hiring another one is not a cheap proposition. Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald recently had this comment in one of his columns that will give you an idea of the sort or money we are talking about here:

“New University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds is expected to receive a 6.3 percent pay raise to $510,400. No, no, no! It’s just wrong when the president of a major university earns almost one-fifth as much as the head football coach.”

The third college football coach to be shown the door over the weekend was Brian VanGorder – defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. The Irish had CFP aspirations at the beginning of the season; their record now stands at 1-3 and they lost at home last weekend to Duke. That was bad enough but they lost to Duke by giving up 38 points to a team that has struggled to score against opponents of far lower stature than Notre Dame. VanGorder will be replaced by Greg Hudson who has been a defensive coordinator at Minnesota, E. Carolina and Purdue.

    Good News: Hudson has been a defensive coordinator before so he knows what the job entails.

    Bad news: His defenses in the past have not done very well at all. His best defense was at E. Carolina in 2006 when it ranked 59th in the country. In two years 2009 and 2015, his defense ranked 100th or worse in the country.

Finally, since I mentioned Brad Dickson above, let me close here with another of his observations related to college football:

“Johnny Manziel has reportedly re-enrolled at Texas A&M. I look for him to drop out after Oktoberfest parties are completed.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 9/24/16

Last week was not a good week of Mythical Picking for college football. The record for the week was 7-9-0 bringing the cumulative record for the season down to 26-21-0.

The Best Picks of the Week were:

    Army – 4 against UTEP. Army won the game 66-14
    Michigan St. +7 against Notre Dame. Michigan State won outright.

The Worst Picks of the Week were:

    Florida St. – 1 against Louisville. Louisville won the game 63-20
    BC + 6 against Va Tech. BC lost by 49 points.

Nothing above should tempt anyone to think of these Mythical Picks as authoritative or in possession of some precious inside information. Lest that message not be sufficiently clear, let me be more direct. No one should even think of using any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money. Anyone dumb enough to do that …

    … is also dumb enough to think that a semi-colon is what a person has after intestinal surgery.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats took a long trip to Texas to play Mary Hardin-Baylor and Linfield came up very short in the game. The score at halftime saw Linfield trailing 24-20 which is not an insurmountable obstacle; however, the second half was disastrous for the Wildcats as Mary Hardin-Baylor won the second half 42-7 making the final score 66-27. That gives Linfield a 1-1 record so far this year as they commence conference play against Northwest Conference opponents.

This week is Homecoming Week for Linfield and they will host the Lewis and Clark Pioneers. Lewis and Clark bring an 0-2 record to the game and have been outscored 56-20 in those two contests. Go Wildcats!

In last week’s commentary on college football here, I made a passing mention of Texas Tech’s rather miserable defensive record last year. I said that I was too lazy to go and look up the stats, but that I would be shocked to learn if more than 5 teams in the nation (out of the 128 Division 1-A teams) last year had given up more points per game than did Texas Tech. As usual in circumstances such as these, I got a rapid response in an email from the reader in Houston who is a Sports Stat Guru. Let me give you the details; he refers to these teams that allow loads of points as “The Usual Suspects”:

    128th Kansas 46.5
    127th SMU 45.5
    126th N Mex St.45.0
    125th Tex Tech 43.6
    124th Idaho 42.5

My intuition was correct; there were not 5 teams that gave up more points per game than Texas Tech last year but now that I look at that list of 5 teams something else comes to mind:

    Two of the teams (Kansas and Texas Tech) are in the Big 12 – one of the Power 5 conferences.

    Two of the teams (New Mexico St and Idaho) are teams that have been asked to leave the Sun Belt Conference at the end of this season. Before anyone asks, I am not sure what would be a “step down” in prestige from the Sun Belt Conference in Division 1-A football.

Before the games last week, I probably would have said that the best team in the Big 12 in terms of College Football Playoff potential was Texas given that it had a showcase win over Notre Dame and Oklahoma had a loss to Houston on the record. Well, last week Texas lost to Cal, Notre Dame lost again and Oklahoma lost its second game of the year – convincingly. So I don’t know who the Big 12 contender might be this year.

    Oklahoma St has that loss to C. Michigan to deal with. Yes, I know that the loss was due to an officiating error; however, in order for C. Michigan to win on a miracle last play of the game, that means Oklahoma St. wasn’t that much better than C. Michigan on that day. That is not something the Selection Committee is likely to look upon with favor.

    TCU already has a loss on the books. Losing to Arkansas is not nearly as bad as losing to C. Michigan but it was still a home game for TCU.

    K-State has already lost to Stanford in Week 1.

    Baylor is 3-0 to date but has not played any team of consequence yet – – as is the custom in Waco prior to the onset of conference play.

The scheduling in college football for last week provided an unusual circumstance. The Top 3 teams in the rankings all played other ranked teams and all of the Top 3 were on the road. Here is how all that turned out:

    Top ranked Alabama fell behind Ole Miss 24-3 and then stormed back to win 48-43. Actually, that game was not as close as it might look. Ole Miss got two late scores (a TD followed by an onside kick) to make it look like a nailbiter. Actually there was a stretch in the middle of the game where Alabama prevailed by 45-6.

    Third ranked Ohio State pummeled Oklahoma 45-24. People had been “worried” about the lack of experience on the Ohio State team; from what I saw last weekend, these “inexperienced players” can play the game. This makes two losses at home for Oklahoma and I think you can write them off completely in terms of the CFP.

    Second ranked Florida State did not fare so well in their visit to Louisville. The Cardinals beat the Seminoles badly by a score of 63-20; this was an old-fashioned ass-kicking. I had everything wrong about that game. I did not think that the Louisville offense and Lamar Jackson would be able to dominate the Florida State defense. Here is what actually happened:

      Louisville had 521 yards on offense
      Louisville averaged 6.8 yards per carry on 46 rushing attempts
      Louisville’s 63 points came on 9 TDs
      Lamar Jackson ran for 146 yards and 4 TDs
      Lamar Jackson threw for 216 yards and 1 TD

Please welcome Lamar Jackson to any discussion involving the Heisman Trophy for 2016…

With regard to Louisville, circle two dates on your calendar:

    1 October: Louisville plays Clemson at Clemson

    17 November: Louisville plays Houston at Houston

I said last week that I was not sure how the Oklahoma State team would respond to getting screwed over by the officials the week before that. Well, they responded quite well, thank you. Oklahoma St. beat Pitt 45-38 and Cowboys’ QB, Mason Rudolph set a school record throwing for 540 yards in the game. Pitt should have gotten the message that Oklahoma St was ready to play because on the first play from scrimmage, Rudolph completed a 91-yard pass for a TD.

Cal beat Texas 50-43 and the Texas defense gave up 568 yards. That is not a good showing at all for Texas…

Up in the Big 10 part of the country, there was a mixed bag of results.

    Michigan came back from a 21-7 deficit in the first half to beat Colorado 45-28. Not bad…

    Michigan State beat Notre Dame 36-28 and dominated the Irish defense rushing for 260 yards. Notre Dame is now out of consideration for the CFP. Not bad …

    Nebraska beat Oregon 35-32. There is a quirkiness to this win. Oregon tried 5 2-point conversions in the game and failed on 4 of them and lost the game by only 3 points. Not bad …

    Ohio State dominated Oklahoma. Not bad at all…

    Wisconsin beat Georgia St by only 23-17. With 12 minutes to play, Georgia St led the game 17-13. I know a win is a win, but Wisconsin was a 35-point favorite here. Not so good …

    Iowa lost to North Dakota State (Division 1-AA) at home by a score of 23-21. The game was close but the win for N. Dakota St was not a fluke. They beat Iowa the way Iowa usually beats other teams. They held Iowa to 34 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) while amassing 239 yards rushing (4.9 yards per carry) for themselves. Bad, bad loss…

      [Aside: It would appear as if N. Dakota St. is still pretty good despite the departure of Carson Wentz for the NFL…]

In some SEC action:

    Tennessee beat Ohio 28-19. Considering that the Vols were 27-point favorites, this was not such a good showing.

    LSU beat Mississippi State 23-20 despite getting shut out for the entire second half. The next meeting of the “Hang Les Miles From The Sour Apple Tree Society” had to be postponed.

    Florida squashed North Texas 32-0. Here is what I mean by “squashed”:

      Florida held North Texas to 66 yards passing. That was the good news…
      Florida held North Texas to minus-13 yards rushing.

Miami beat Appalachian St. 45-10 and may have found themselves a QB in the process. Brad Kaaya threw for 368 yards and 3 TDs in 3 quarters of action.

Va Tech crushed BC 49-0. The BC offense was virtually non-existent gaining a total of 124 yards and amassing the grand total of 6 first downs in this game. Please note that BC had 6 first downs and Va Tech had 7 touchdowns in this game. Adding insult to injury, BC had 124 yards on offense and they were penalized 93 yards in the game. Here is a stat I ran across:

    The last time BC scored more than 17 points in a conference game was in November 2014.

The three Service Academies are off to a cumulative start of 8-0. Air Force had last week off but the other two Academies did well:

    Army ran their record to 3-0 stomping on UTEP 66-14. Army ran the ball 69 times for 419 yards and added 174 yards passing on top of that. Army’s start might make you start thinking about Army in a Bowl Game in December. Army last went to a Bowl Game in 2010. Since then, Army’s cumulative record has been 14-46. This is a significantly different start to a season for the Cadets.

    Navy beat Tulane 21-14 and their record is also 3-0 so far this year. Looking at the game stats it would appear that this game was closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field. For example, Navy converted 9 of 14 third down attempts while Tulane only converted 2 of 12.

Upcoming this week we will see ranked teams playing other ranked teams and ranked teams hosting credible opponents. Here are some of the game that look interesting:

    No. 19 Florida at No. 14 Tennessee.

    No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 8 Michigan State.

    No. 7 Stanford at UCLA.

    No. 17 Arkansas at No. 10 Texas A&M.

    Oklahoma State at No. 16 Baylor.

    No. 12 Georgia at No. 23 Ole Miss.

    Penn State at No. 4 Michigan.

    No. 18 LSU at Auburn.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week, we had 11 Ponderosa games on the schedule and the record for favorites covering was 5-6-0. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 19-16-0.

Arkansas, Florida, Kansas St., NC State and Washington St. covered.

Arizona, Baylor, Georgia Southern, TCU, Tennessee and Wisconsin did not cover.

This week we have only 4 Ponderosa Games and in 2 of those games, the favorite is on the road:

UNC-Charlotte at Temple – 27 (53.5): There are 128 schools playing Division 1-A football and meaningless as it is, I doubt most folks would think that Temple was in the Top 50 or maybe even the Top 75. That spread tells me that UNC-Charlotte is a bad team indeed…

Louisville – 25 at Marshall (74.5): Marshall has to hope that Louisville spent this week reading its press clippings – and believing them – instead of practicing hard for this game. Otherwise this might be an epic blowout. Marshall’s defense gave up 524 yards – and 65 points – to Akron.

Kent St. at Alabama – 44 (50): For the oddsmaker to be on target with both the spread and the Total Line here, Alabama would have to win 47-3. Could happen… Kent St. lost to North Carolina A&T earlier this year; is there anyone on the planet that thinks they can win this game? The odds on the money line stand at +58,500 for Kent St. and at – 135,000 for Alabama.

Houston – 34.5 at Texas St. (65): Houston needs to win big to keep its name in front of the folks who will be on the Selection Committee. Winning this game 10-7 would be almost as bad as a loss for the Cougars…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) TCU – 21 at SMU (65): According to Google Maps, these schools are about 41 miles apart on Interstate 30. It is a rivalry game. Having said that, these two teams play on different levels of college football. I like TCU to win and cover on the road and I like this game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) Wyoming – 3 at E. Michigan (63): The game is interesting to me because it could have a bearing on the SHOE Tournament later this year. Other than that …

(Fri Nite) USC at Utah – 3 (46.5): I watched the USC/Alabama game and was unimpressed with USC. I also saw some of the USC/Stanford game and was unimpressed again with USC. I ran across a stat that shocked me:

    USC ranks 107th in the nation in rushing offense.

    Remember the days of “student-body right”?

It appears to me as if the team just cannot get out of its own way; maybe that is a coaching deficiency? No way I will take USC on the road here so I’ll take Utah and lay the points.

Army – 14 at Buffalo (50.5): Army has been bad for the last decade or so on the gridiron so it is good to see them on the upswing (see above). Buffalo is not exactly a powerhouse and Army runs an offense that Buffalo has probably not spent a lot of time practicing against. I like Army to win and cover here and I like the game to go OVER.

E. Carolina at Va Tech – 11.5 (56): Short and sweet … That line looks fat perhaps because of the drubbing Va Tech laid on BC last week. I’ll take E. Carolina plus the points here.

Penn St. at Michigan – 19 (58): Penn St. RB, Saquon Barkley, is really good and getting 19 points with him on your side is tempting indeed. However, I will pass on that pick and take this game to go OVER.

Iowa – 12.5 at Rutgers (56): I suspect that Iowa will come out breathing fire after having to hear about losing to a Division 1-AA school all this week (see above). I think they are going to pound the ball down Rutgers’ throat here. Even on the road, I’ll take Iowa and lay the points.

BYU vs. W. Virginia – 7 (51) [Game to be played at FedEx Field in DC area]: I am sure there is a good reason why this game is being played at this venue – but that good reason surely escapes me. I think this will be a defensive game; I like the game to stay UNDER.

Pitt at UNC – 7 (67.5): Both teams have shown they can score; neither team has shown any proclivity for stopping opponents from scoring. Ergo, I like this game to go OVER.

Oklahoma St. at Baylor – 7.5 (76): This should be a track meet – – with about the same amount of defense as a track meet. I like this game to go OVER.

Wisconsin at Michigan St. – 5 (42.5): This is the football equivalent of a heavyweight boxing match on the undercard of a major promotion. These big guys will stand there and pummel one another from start to finish. Like USC, Wisconsin’s “brand” is a powerful run game; so far this year, Wisconsin is 83rd in the nation in rushing. I like this game to go OVER.

Arkansas at Texas A&M – 6 (49): I do not understand this Total Line at all. The Aggies can score but not defend. Arkansas can score and sorta defends. I think there will be plenty of points to go around here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Georgia at Ole Miss – 7 (62): Mississippi has blown two BIG leads this year forging come-from-ahead losses. The first one was against Florida State; the second one was against Alabama. If Mississippi gets that sort of lead here, Georgia may mount a comeback but Georgia is not nearly as good as either Alabama or Florida State. Venue call here; I’ll take Ole Miss and lay the points.

Florida at Tennessee – 7 (43): Florida has won the last 11 meetings between these squads going back to the 2005 season (the Ron Zook Era in Gainesville FL). The wins have generally been convincing too; the average margin of victory has been 12.7 points. This will be a low-scoring game with Florida’s defense keeping the score down and Florida’s offense doing the same. In a low-scoring game, I like to take the points so I’ll take Florida here.

LSU – 3.5 at Auburn (36): You have two coaches on hot seats facing each other here. Auburn coach, Gus Malzahn is 2-12 in his last 14 SEC games; his Auburn teams have lost 6 straight home games to conference foes; that is not a way to keep a job at an SEC school. As you know, Les Miles has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel. Maybe this game should be played at Dysfunction Junction? Venue call here; I’ll take Auburn at home plus the points.

Cal at Arizona St. – 4 (81): I thought that Ariz. St/Texas Tech couldn’t possibly go over 80 a couple weeks ago. The total then was 123 points. Cal can score; they put 50 on the board last week against Texas. Cal does not defend well however. I think this could be a re-enactment of the Ariz St./Texas Tech game so I’ll take it to go OVER.

Stanford – 3 at UCLA (46.5): Yes, UCLA is the home team and yes, UCLA can play defense. Does not matter to me because I think Stanford is the better team. I’ll take Stanford to win and cover on the road.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/25/16

Last week’s Mythical Picks were not good and they were not bad. It was a week of “Meh!” I made 16 selections and the record for the week was 8-8-0. That makes the record for the season 21-12-0. There was one Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin was correct so its record was 1-0-0 bringing its season record to 2-0-0.

The Best Picks last week were:

    Rams +3.5 against Seahawks. Rams won outright
    Vikes +3 against Packers. Vikes won outright.

The Worst Picks last week were:

    Jax +3 against Chargers. Jags got smoked by 24 points
    Jets/Bills UNDER 41. Total was 68; game went OVER in 3rd quarter.

Paraphrasing what Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon say at the end of Pardon the Interruption, I’ll try and do better the next time.

Despite my intention to do better this week, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL football game this weekend should that wager involve real money – or anything else of value. You would have to be this dumb to do such a thing:

    You think crestfallen means that the toothpaste fell onto the floor.

General Comments:

After the Bills lost to the Jets 37-31 last Thursday night, the casualty from that game was Bills’ offensive coordinator, Greg Roman. The Bills fired their offensive coordinator despite scoring 31 points and losing. Can anyone spell “scapegoat”? The Bills’ defensive unit got lit up by Ryan Bleeping Fitzpatrick to the tune of:

    24 for 34 for 374 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs

Bills’ DBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby were beaten like drums for most of the night. Give me a moment here until I try to show that the Bills’ offense was not very good either, but the REAL blame belongs with the defense. Now, if you are going to fire a coach whose players did not play well, you ought to look at the defensive side of the ball – – – except the defensive coordinator happens to be the twin brother of the head coach. This is why nepotism is a bad idea.

Now to look at the Bills’ offense. It was good-but-not-great. The Bills had 307 yards passing and total offense of 393 yards which looks good. Looking a bit deeper in the stats you will see that only amounted to 16 first downs and the offensive numbers included two long TD passes that accounted for 158 yards of that total offense. I do not mean to imply that Greg Roman is some sort of martyr here; he is not. But he was not the reason the Bills lost that game.

One more thing … Do not feel too sorry about Greg Roman’s lack of employment. I read one report that said the Bills owe him $3M until the end of the 2017 NFL season. He and his family will not be dining in soup kitchens during the Holidays this year.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 24-16 and the good news is that there were no fights or outbreaks of juvenile behaviors during the game. A lot has been made about a questionable call at the end of the game that went against the Bengals and some have attributed the loss to that call. I think there might be another issue to consider here:

    The game was played in the rain. The Bengals called 54 pass plays for Andy Dalton in the rain. Even if you count the 2 rushing attempts by Dalton as “called running plays” the Bengals only ran the ball 18 times. On 75% of their offensive snaps, the Bengals threw a wet football.

    I am not sure that is a good offensive game plan or good offensive play calling.

The Cowboys beat the Skins 27-23. That means the Skins have lost their opening two games for the season and both of them were home games. The Skins are the only team in the NFL starting out that way. Dez Bryant had 7 catches for 102 yards in this game and the Skins did spend some of the time having Josh Norman cover Bryant so that was a plus for the Skins’ defensive braintrust. There are reports of some malaise within the Skins’ locker room surrounding the play and the aura around QB Kirk Cousins – he of the franchise tag and the $20M salary for this year. With the Skins leading 23-20, the Skins had the ball on the Cowboys 6-yardline with about 10 minutes to play. On 3rd down, Cousins threw into TRIPLE coverage and the Cowboys got an INT in the end zone to keep their deficit at 3 points. The ensuing 80-yard drive give the Cowboys a TD and the win.

Rookie RB, Ezekiel Elliott had a better day here than he did in Week 1. Against the Skins he carried 21 times for 83 yards; if he did that every game, he would be over 1300 yards by the end of the season and the Cowboys will be happy with that. The downside here is that Elliott fumbled twice in this game. If he did that in every game, he would fumble the ball 32 times and the Cowboys would be unhappy with that…

The Texans beat the Chiefs 19-12 last week. Frankly, it did not seem as if either team was all that keen on winning this one. Consider these stats:

    Chiefs gave up 4 sacks.
    Chiefs were 3 for 14 on 3rd down
    Chiefs were penalized 9 times for 77 yards
    Chiefs lost 3 fumbles

And with all that, the Texans only got 19 points – – because – –

    Texans only gained 268 yards passing
    Texans threw 2 INTs – one deep in the red zone
    Texans gave up 268 yards in returns for the game

The Giants beat the Saints 16-13. How did that happen? The last couple of times these teams met, the scores for both teams needed to be recorded in scientific notation. Here is the really bad news from this game; the Saints – for the first time in a while – got a very positive and very effective game from its defensive unit and on the same day, their normally potent offense decided to take a slide. The Saints’ offense produced 288 yards on offense; more than once in a while, Drew Brees has 288 yards passing at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Saints defense did not give up a TD all day long; the Giants’ TD came on a blocked field goal and a return.

So here is the question from that Saints/Giants game:

    The Giants handed out contracts to defensive players in the offseason that had a total face value of more than $160M. Have they really fixed their horrible defensive woes from last year in doing that?

In my pre-season analysis, I said that I did not think they had done so, but if it was the Giants defense that throttled the Saints’ offense, I was probably very wrong in that assessment. For the first two games, the Giants have only allowed 32 points. This bears watching for the next few games…

The Ravens beat the Browns 25-20 after spotting the Browns a 20-0 lead in the first quarter of the game. At the end of the first quarter, the score was Browns 20 and Ravens 2; but that was not a safety recorded by the Ravens. Those points came from a blocked extra point that was returned for a TD by the Ravens. That came with 4:34 to play in the first quarter and the Browns never scored again. As happened in the first game, the Browns had their QB suffer a shoulder injury. Josh McCown is not going to play this week; the Browns are down to their 3rd string QB, Cody Kessler, for this week’s contest against the Dolphins in Miami. Both teams threw 2 INTs in the game; neither defense distinguished itself on 3rd down the two teams combined to convert 18 of 31 3rd down situations.

There is another team who will be starting a 3rd string QB this week; that would be the New England Patriots who still have two weeks to wait until Tom Brady is allowed to come out to play and they lost Jimmy Garoppolo to a shoulder injury last week against the Dolphins. Until he had to leave the game, Garoppolo was lighting up the Dolphins’ defense. When he left the game in the second quarter, he was 18 for 27 for 234 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs. Not bad for a substitute QB, right?

Rookie Jacoby Brisset (out of NC State) took over last week and will start this week. The Pats emphasized the run more in the second half and held on to win 31-24. Brisset was 6 for 9 for 92 yards in a little more than half the game; he committed no turnovers; he ran the ball 4 times for 12 yards. For his first appearance – and without a week of fulltime prep with the first unit – that is an acceptable showing. This week – on a short week of preparation – he will take the field against the Houston Texans, a team that emphasizes defense as demonstrated by the comments above. At least he does not have to deal with adverse crowd noise as he would if the Pats were on the road this week.

The Titans beat the Lions last week 16-15. Titans’ coach Mike Mularkey characterized the Titans’ offense back in the exhibition season as “exotic smashmouth football”. The Titans do have a pair of big and powerful RBs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and they utilized both of them last week to the tune of 21 carries for 129 yards. The game was about as even as the score would imply:

    Time of Possession: Titans 30:51 Lions 29:09
    Total Offense: Titans 363 yards Lions 375 yards
    Yards Rushing: Titans 139 yards Lions 137 yards
    Yards Passing: Titans 224 yards Lions 238 yards

The biggest statistical discrepancy I could find was this one:

    Penalties: Titans 12 for 83 yards Lions 17 for 138 yards

The Rams and Seahawks played another low-scoring game last week with the Rams winning 9-3 in their first game back in Los Angeles. If you are a Seahawks’ fan, you have to be happy that the team is not peaking so early in the season. This game was ugly; the score was not suppressed because teams found ways to turn the ball over; the score was low because neither team played very well. Consider:

    There was 1 fumble lost in the game and 0 INTs.
    There were 19 penalties in the game for 192 yards
    There were 13 punts in the game
    There were only 35 return yards in the game
    Neither team could average 3 yards per rush attempt.

The Rams seem to play a whole lot better against the Seahawks than they do against everyone else in the league – – or maybe it is the opposite. Going back to the 2014 season, the Seahawks are 1-4 against the Rams and they are 22-6 against the rest of the NFL. As strange as those stats may seem, here are two more stats to think about:

    In 2016, the LA Rams have played 120 minutes of football and have yet to score a TD. In this offense-emphasis era, that is unusual.

    In fact, the last time the LA Rams scored a TD was on December 24, 1994 just before they bolted to St Louis. It was a 36-yard TD pass from Chris Miller to Jermaine Ross with the PAT by Tony Zendejas.

BTW, the Rams lost that game 24-21 to the Skins. It was a game of no importance whatsoever; the Rams wound up 4-12 and the skins wound up 3-13 in that season. That had to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

The Cardinals manhandled the Bucs 40-7 last week. Yes, the beatdown was as bad as the score indicates. I think there is an important takeaway from this game however. You should recall that in Week 1, the Pats and first-time starter Jimmy Garoppolo went to Arizona and pretty much controlled the game against the same Cards’ defense that just put the kibosh on the Bucs here. Remember that the Pats converted 10 of 16 first down attempts in Week 1. This week, the Cards recorded 3 sacks and 4 INTs (including a Pick Six) against Jameis Winston.

The Panthers beat the Niners 46-27. This was a game of ebb and flow. The Panthers rolled out to a 31-10 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. Then the Niners closed the gap to 34-27 with about 8 minutes to play in the game. Then the Panthers put it back in gear and scored a TD and 2 field goals in the final 4 minutes. Looking at the stats you would never have thought that this would have been a 1 score game in the middle of the 4th quarter. Consider:

    Total Offense: Panthers 529 yards Niners 302 yards
    Third Down Conversions: Panthers 7 for 15 Niners 4 for 14
    Return Yards: Panthers 175 yards Niners 66 yards
    Time of Possession: Panthers 35:56 Niners 24:04

The Broncos beat the Colts 34-20. Two defensive TDs by the Broncos provided the margin of victory here; the defense also sacked Andrew Luck 5 times in the game. The OL and the DL for the Colts continue to be sub-standard. The defense gave the Broncos an average of 4.5 yards per carry.

The Falcons beat the Raiders 35-28 and Matt Ryan had an excellent day producing this stat line:

    26 for 34 for 396 yards and 3 TDs with 1 INT

Julio Jones also had a nice day catching 5 passes – on 5 targets no less – for 106 yards and 1 TD. The Falcons amassed 528 yards on offense and a bit over 8 yards per offensive play. Like the Bills above, the Raiders need to look at their defense – and perhaps at their defensive coaches – for the reason they lost this game. The Raiders offense scored 28 points and moved the ball for 454 yards here; this is the second week in a row that the defense has allowed opponents to “north of 30 points” and that is not a winning recipe in NFL football.

The Chargers beat the Jags 38-14 last week. In last week’s Mythical Picks, I took the Jags +3 in the game and said that I expected the Jags to win outright. OK, now that everyone has stopped giggling, I will proceed. The game was not as close as the score indicates.

    After a scoreless 1st half, Jags punted on first 3 possessions of 2nd half.
    At the end of the 3rd quarter, the score was 35-0.
    The second Jags’ TD came with a minute left in the game.
    Jags converted 2 of 11 third down tries
    Jags penalized 14 times for 93 yards

In my pre-season analysis, I put Gus Bradley on the coaching hot seat because I had put him there the year before. I fully expected – and said so at the time – that he would not be in trouble because I thought the Jags would win the AFC South. They have stunk it up badly in their first two games. The Jags’ ownership has been extremely tolerant in Bradley’s tenure there. Consider:

    Gus Bradley’s record as the head coach in Jax now stands at 12-38.

Here is some perspective on that record:

    Only 1 coach in NFL history had a worse record after his first 50 games.

That “other coach” was Bert Bell who was the owner of the Eagles in the 30s and 40s. The Eagles were a doormat team then; Bell used that doormat status to plead with the other owners to adopt the NFL Draft so that the bad teams could be competitive; with great foresight, the other owners went along. Bell and the Eagles had the first pick ever in any NFL draft and the guy they picked refused to play for them because they stunk. They traded his rights to another team for someone who never played for them and then had the first pick in the next draft. You guessed it, they didn’t sign that guy either.

From 1936-1940, Bert Bell coached the team he owned and ran up a record of 10-44-2. After a complicated series of puts and takes between Bell and Art Rooney of the Steelers, Bell then coached the Steelers for 2 games in 1941. You guessed it; the Steelers lost both of those games so Bell’s total coaching record is 10-46-2.

Gus Bradley’s record is not that bad – but it is close. If the Jags’ players like him and want him to stay around, they had better start winning some games…

The Vikes introduced the world to their new stadium on Sunday night last week and did so in grand fashion beating the Packers 17-14. The Vikings rode their defense to the playoffs last year and the unit is clicking again this year. Last week, the Vikes held the Packers to 263 yards of offense and they forced Aaron Rodgers to fumble 3 times. On offense the Vikes had some good news and some bad news:

    Good news: Sam Bradford played very well
    Bad news: Adrian Peterson hurt his knee and was carried off in the 3rd quarter

The Eagles beat the Bears on MNF 29-14. The Carson Wentz Bandwagon is starting to get awfully crowded; he played well on Monday night but no one should be carried away here. Looking at the stats for the game, the Eagles won handily on the scoreboard but the stats actually look as if the Bears were the better team except for two stats:

    Total offense: Eagles 280 yards Bears 284 yards
    Yards per play: Eagles 4.1 Bears 5.7
    Yards per pass: Eagles 5.0 Bears 6.9
    Return Yards: Eagles 85 Bears 155 (and 1 TD)

The two stats that indicate how and why the Eagles won the game have little to do with Carson Wentz:

    Turnovers: Eagles 0 Bears 3
    Time of Possession: Eagles 36:05 Bears 23:55

I do not want anyone here to think I am “throwing shade” on Carson Wentz; his first two games in the NFL have been very good; and, frankly, they have been about everything that the coaching staff could have asked for from a rookie starter. But the ESPN post-game analysts were about to strew rose petals in front of him should he have come out to their set on the field. He was good – – but not that good.

Before getting to this week’s games, I want to channel Paul Harvey here and tell you The Rest Of The Story…

Recall in Week 1, some guy ran onto the field in the Niners/Rams game and took off his shirt and then outran the security guys for a while until they finally tackled him. Naturally, I – and many others – assumed that he had over-indulged in adult beverages prior to making his run. Not so. It turns out that he is a 16-year old boy and he did it because someone dared him to do it. His brain was not addled with alcohol; it was addled with testosterone. Because he is a minor, he did not serve time in jail but he has been banned from Levi’s Stadium for one full year. There is no word what came to the guy who dared this kid to do what the kid did…

The Games:

(Thurs Nite): Houston – 1.5 at New England (40.5): I am surprised by the spread here; I would have thought that it would be about 2 points higher in favor of the Texans. Given the Texans defense, I would have thought the public would be averse to backing the Pats here – – but clearly, I was over-estimating that sentiment. However, perhaps people are paying attention to this trend I ran across:

    In the last 8 games where the Pats have been underdogs, the Pats are 7-1 straight up and 7-1 against the spread.

I agree with the oddsmakers that this game will be low scoring given that Jacoby Brisset is almost assuredly going to be the Pats’ QB for the entire game. Nevertheless, I am not ready to declare that the Pats ore dead meat in this matchup. I am declaring this as a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin is out and the coin says to take the Texans and lay the points. Who am I to argue with “the coin” when “the coin” is perfect so far this season?

Denver at Cincy – 3 (41): Trevor Siemian will experience a road game against a good team for the first time in his NFL career. Last year when he watched from the sidelines in road games against good teams, he had to absorb the elements/atmosphere of those games; this year, the Broncos’ game against a top-shelf team (Panthers) was at home; now Siemian gets to see what it is like under center and on the road against a quality roster. Meanwhile, the Bengals have to regroup after a division loss last week. The matchup of AJ Green and Aquib Talib will be exciting to watch. I really have no idea how the teams will come out to play this game nor how they will structure game plans against one another. Ergo, this is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Broncos plus the points. Why not?

Oakland at Tennessee – 2 (47): This spread demonstrates that the oddsmakers have little faith in Raiders’ Nation to show up at the betting windows to play for the Raiders side of the deal. So far, the Raiders’ defense has been a no-show in 2016 (see above). In the first two games, the Raiders have given up an average of 517.5 yards per game. To put that in perspective, the next worst defense in the NFL is the Saints and they “only” give up 451.5 yards per game. By the same token, the Titans’ offense has not spread fear amongst the defensive coordinators around the NFL. I think there is a litmus test here for the Raiders’ defense:

    They have to hold the Titans under 30 points lest they look forward to allowing more than 500 points for the 2016 season.

I am going to go with the Raiders here because I think they will indeed keep the Titans’ offense in check. I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Arizona – 4 at Buffalo (47): Now that the Bills have fired Greg Roman (see above) all should be well in Western New York, right? After losing to the Pats, the Cardinals came right back and simply dominated the Bucs last week. I know this is a long trip for the Cards; but the simple fact is that they have more talent on the field than do the Bills. I expect the Bills to come out and play hard this week after what happened to them in a national game last week but I still prefer going with talent over emotion. Here are a couple of interesting trends:

    Cards are 19-7 against the spread against teams with losing records.
    Bills are 6-13 against the spread in Week 3.
    This is Week 3 and the Bills have a losing record.

I like the Cards to win and cover – even on this long road trip.

Baltimore at Jax “pick ‘em” (47): The Jags were competitive in Week 1 against the Packers but they did nothing constructive at all against the Chargers in Week 2. The Ravens are 2-0 having beaten two of the bottom-feeders of the league (Bills then Browns). It is difficult to call a game in Week 3 a “must-win game” but for the Jags, this one approaches that status. I cannot turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol because there is no provision in the protocol for a “pick ‘em game”. Therefore, I will make this purely a venue pick and take the Jags to win the game.

There is a trend that supports that pick – if you like trends. In the last time these teams have played, the home team is 5-2-1 against the spread. Since there is no spread here, the way for the home team to extend the trend would be to win outright.

Cleveland at Miami – 10.5 (42): This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. One of these teams will get their first win of the season here only because the odds against a tie in the NFL are incredibly high. The drama level for this game is about the same as the drama level for watching bread dough rise; you know it is going to happen and all you care about is the end result. In addition to the fact that the Browns have started a jillion QBs since returning to the NFL in 1999, here are the starting QBs in their last four games plus the guy who will start this week

    Johnny Manziel – Week 16 2015
    Austin Davis – Week 17 2015
    RG3 – Week 1 2016
    Josh McCown – Week 2 2016
    Cody Kessler – Week 3 2017

That represents a level of stability approximately that of a walrus riding a unicycle. Meanwhile, the Dolphins rallied to get within a TD of the Pats last week – but that was only after Jimmy Garoppolo left the game in the 2nd quarter. I hate laying double-digits in the NFL but if I were to do it, I would want the underdog to be awful – which it is here. I hate laying double-digits in the NFL and when I think about doing it, I want the favorite to be one of the better teams – which is not the case here. Only because I said I would make a pick in every game and because these are Mythical Picks not real ones, I will take the Browns plus the points.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go and wash my hands after typing those words…

Washington at Giants – 4.5 (46.5): This is a desperation game for the Skins. A loss here would put them at 0-3 but in addition it would be their second loss in the NFC East. The narrative in DC for the time in training camp was that the Skins had put the franchise’s typical drama scenarios behind them; this was a squad that was focused on doing its business and getting wins. Well, the team is 0-2 and there are reports of dissention in the locker room (see above). Meanwhile the Giants are playing solid if unspectacular football. Their record is 2-0; they have scored only 36 points in those 2 wins but they have only allowed 32 points in those 2 games. Even if Josh Norman can make good on his pronouncements that he can dominate Odell Beckham, Jr., that does not mean that Eli Manning will be without receivers to catch the ball for him. Here are two interesting trends:

    Skins/Giants have gone UNDER in 13 of the last 16 games in NY
    Skins/Giants have gone UNDER in 7 of their last 9 games anywhere.

I like the Giants at home to win and cover here.

Detroit at Green Bay – 7.5 (47.5): Aaron Rodgers played a very “un-Rodgers-like” game last week against a Vikings’ defense that may indeed be one of the best in the league. He will not face such a challenge this week. The Lions rallied in the second half of last season and saved Jim Caldwell’s job; then they came out in Week 1 and scored 39 points; then they laid an egg last week against the Titans. After 2 games, the Lions’ offense is averaging 411.5 yards per game; after 2 games the Lions’ defense is allowing an average of 406.5 yards per game. I smell a shoot-out here; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Carolina – 7 (43): Here are two good defensive teams each having a week to prepare for the other. Here are two trends for the game; one of them will see a reversal this week:

    Vikes are 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 road games.
    Panthers are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games on grass.
    This game is on grass and the Vikes are on the road.

With the announcement that Adrian Peterson needs surgery and will be out for much of the rest of the season, the Vikings will need to rely more heavily on Sam Bradford and their passing attack. That may be a positive thing somewhere down the road, but it may take time for it to develop. I like the Panthers to win and cover at home.

SF at Seattle – 9 (40): Channeling Bud Collyer from the old TV game show, To Tell the Truth:

Will the real Seattle Seahawks please stand up…?

When Chip Kelly arrived in SF, the idea was that the Niners’ offense which had been moribund under Jim Tomsula would take a great leap forward while the Niners’ defense would suffer from over-exposure. Well, after 2 weeks, the Niners’ offense has been nothing to write home about averaging a mediocre 311 yards per game. The Niners’ defense has not cratered from overwork – yet – but the lack of offensive fireworks should be a bit disturbing for Niners’ fans. Lack of offense is the hallmark of the Seahawks’ season to date. They have scored 15 points (1 TD) in their 2 games. They have to wake up one of these weeks, no? I think this is the week so I’ll take the Seahawks at home and lay the points.

LA at Tampa Bay – 5 (42): How bad is the Rams’ offense? They are averaging only 234 yards per game total offense. That is dead last in the NFL by more than 35 yards per game. The Bucs’ defense has given up 395 yards per game over the first two contests. Is that sufficient to get the Rams out of their stupor? I might believe that were it not for the fact that the Rams will be making a 3 time zone trip to play this game. I’ll take the Bucs at home to win and cover.

Pittsburgh – 3.5 at Philly (46.5): Is this the best game of the week? It matches two teams that are 2-0; by the time they kick off here, one of the undefeated teams in the Texans/Pats game will not enjoy that status. The Eagles have scored 29 points in each of their first two games this year; I do not think they can score that much against the Steelers. The Eagles have allowed an average of only 12 points per game to their opponents in the first two games this year; I do not think they can hold the Steelers to anything near that number. I think Pittsburgh is one of the top teams in the AFC; the Eagles are not one of the top teams in the NFC. I know this is an old rivalry game and I know it is in Philly. Nonetheless, I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points.

Jets at KC – 3 (43): Short and sweet here… The Chiefs had trouble scoring against a tough Texans defense last week. The Jets’ defense is also tough. I’ll take the Jets on the road plus the points.

San Diego at Indy – 2.5 (52): I cannot believe the dominance shown by the Chargers last week; this is not a dominating team. I cannot believe how bad the Colts line play has been so far this year on both offense and defense; it actually takes more than a really good QB to be a winning team in the NFL. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Colts at home to win and cover.

(Sun Nite) Chicago at Dallas – 7 (44.5): Given what I saw of the Bears on Monday night last week, this team needs to regroup very quickly. I am not ready to proclaim that the Eagles have a dominant NFL defense but they definitely dominated the Bears last Monday. If the Bears’ offense is going to play like that for the rest of the year, Chicago fans need to be prepared for double-digit losses sometime proximal to Thanksgiving. The only team in the NFL producing less offense than the Bears is the Rams; that does not say much for the Bears chances to score. Can Jay Cutler play this week with his injured thumb? If not the Bears’ offense will not get any better. Cutler may not be the most popular player in the NFL, but he is the starting QB in Chicago for the simple reason he is the best option on the roster. I do not love the Cowboys this year but I think they are the better team here. I’ll take the Cowboys at home and lay the points.

(Mon Nite) Atlanta at New Orleans – 3 (53): I know this is a division game and a rivalry game. However, let me say to the movers and shakers at ESPN and at the NFL:

    I have not cared about match-ups between these teams for at least the last 5 years and will probably not care much for the next 5 years.

These teams rank #29 and #31 on defense so far this year; so people tuning into the game are likely to see fireworks. I ‘ll just go along with that sort of thinking here and take the game to go OVER. Why not? These are only Mythical Picks.

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

College Football Observations

I have pointed out here in the past that college football is not nearly as big a deal here in the Northeast US as it is in other parts of the country. A recent report in the New York Business Journal underscores the situation here.

Maryland and Rutgers – the two schools most recently added to the Big 10 in order for the conference to have a footprint in the heavily populated megalopolis of the Northeast US – will play each other in football this year. That game will take place on 4 November and it will be in Yankee Stadium in NYC. Yankee Stadium will seat 54,000 people and if you have tuned in to see any Rutgers’ football games on TV recently, you can convince yourself easily from the crowd shots that they tend not to draw that many fans to the stadium.

Not to worry, someone in the “marketing division” involved with this game came up with a way to goose attendance.

“The two schools announced the ‘Big Ten Battle in the Bronx’ on Tuesday, hosted by Rutgers University. That day [November 4], the Terps and Scarlett Knights will face off in a wrestling match, the first to be held in the 54,000-seat stadium, followed by a football game later that afternoon.”

Think about this for a moment.

    Most college wrestling matches take place indoors with a few hundred fans – or possible a couple thousand fans – in attendance. The seats are close to the action.

    Imagine for a moment watching a college wrestling match in a baseball stadium – any baseball stadium. Now that you have that picture in your head does it surprise you that this will be “the first to be held in the 54,000 seat stadium?”

    One more point … It might be cold outdoors in the morning in NYC in early November. Think for a moment how Yankee fans might be dressed if there were a baseball game there on the evening of 3 November. College wrestlers normally do not wear parkas while limbering up or while competing.

I am not someone who is averse to change; I spent a major portion of my career in jobs that required and rewarded “thinking outside the box”. When one does that over a period of time, one comes to realize that every new idea is not necessarily a good idea. We had a saying in the office that thinking outside the box was something to be encouraged – – unless of course you were talking to your cat.

Since I mentioned the college football game between Maryland and Rutgers above, let me segue here into another issue that involves college football. The games are getting longer and longer – – and longer still. I read a report that the Florida State/Ole Miss game from Week 1 took 4 hours and 4 minutes to play. [Aside: That datum comes from a report; I did not time he game.] That is too long; remember the running clock for the game is only 1 hour and at least some of that time involves no action as the clock runs while players line up and figure out what to do on the next snap.

Also, consider that this negative reaction to the length of some college football games comes from someone who really likes college football. I pay a lot more attention to college football than the vast majority of sports fans who live in the Northeast US and I think the games should not take 4 hours to play.

I believe the major culprit in stretching out the game times is the college rule that the clock will stop on every first down until the ball is set and the chains are set and the officials signal the ball to be alive again. Consider that Florida State/Ole Miss game from above. In that game, there were 53 first downs made by the two teams. That probably stretched the game out by 10 minutes as the clock was stopped for everything to happen prior to the next snap.

Wondering if that game was an anomaly, I checked a few games from that same week between competitive teams:

    Notre Dame/Texas had 48 first downs
    Oklahoma/Houston had 42 first downs
    UCLA/Texas A&M had 51 first downs

That is not an exhaustive survey by any stretch of the imagination but I think it does indicate that one could shorten some college games a bit if the NFL rule on clock running applied to the college game.

There are other factors to consider here and let me point out one of them that cannot be cured by any sort of rule change.

    College football is a higher scoring sport than NFL football.

There are plenty of reasons for that and the fact that it is higher scoring is part of its appeal. Every time there is a TD or a field goal, the game stops for a series of TV commercials. That happens more frequently in a college game than in a pro game and I do not think one should try to tinker with that aspect of college football. However, one could consider doing one or both of these things:

    1. Why is halftime 20 minutes long? It was not always that long. Does it really have to be that long?

    2. Put a hard and fast time limit on the review of plays by the folks doing the reviewing. Honestly, some of them seem to take 4 or 5 minutes all by themselves.

These are merely constructive suggestions because I do enjoy watching college football…

Finally, since everything today related somehow to college football, let me close with a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot right after Wisconsin beat LSU to start this college football season:

“Nonsense ahead: With Louisiana State’s loss to Wisconsin, Tigers coach Les Miles is on the hot seat one game into the season. If worse comes to worse, Miles can always find a cooler coaching seat in Canada, but first, he’d have to change his name to Fewer Kilometers.”

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

Carolina Blue Or Carolina Blues?

About 60 years ago, Judy Garland sang:

“Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina … in the morning.”

The song goes on to extol the natural beauty of Carolina – not specifying North or South and so by implication it can be both or either – and how wonderful life is there when you are with loved ones. That is all probably true and it all probably still exists today – – unless you are a sports fan in North Carolina.

The NCAA came down hard on the State of North Carolina moving all of its championship tournament activities out of the state due to the “Bathroom Bill” that is extant there. The ACC followed suit last week and announced that 8 Conference Championship events over the next year will be relocated. Here is the list, in case you did not see it and where each event was supposed to happen:

    Women’s soccer – – Cary NC
    Football – – Charlotte NC
    Men’s and women’s swimming/diving – – Greensboro NC
    Women’s basketball – – Greensboro NC
    Men’s and women’s tennis – – Cary NC
    Women’s golf – – Greensboro NC
    Men’s golf – – New London NC
    Baseball – – Durham NC

Perched atop all of these sanctions and all of the acrimony associated with the sanctions, the NCAA is still dealing with the decades-long academic scandal at UNC. The NCAA is in an uncomfortable and contorted position here – and frankly, I hope they stay there for a while until it hurts. I do not want to get down in the weeds here so here is the overview of the NCAA’s conundrum:

    What UNC did by sending athletes to sham courses and having them take Swahili as their foreign language – not particularly useful in terms of employment here in the US – strikes at the heart of why the NCAA exists.

      The glorified “student-athlete” at UNC was not really a student. The “student-athlete” was taking courses that did not exist or which had minimal academic content/value.

    The “amateurism ideal” requires that the “student-athlete” provide service to the university in exchange for the costs of his/her education. Well, if they were not being educated, then their “free tuition and board” must have been something other than what supports “amateurism”.

The NCAA overseers did not find out about any of this for about 20 years which might cause some folks to ask what those overseers do for a living. And that would be a fair course of inquiry – one with more intellectual content than some of the sham courses provided for UNC athletes. Even more maliciously, one might ask if the overseers “kinda sorta knew” about this but turned a blind eye because UNC is a major presence in several NCAA sports – – including the two that produce 99% of the revenue. Before you call that inquiry overly cynical please recall:

    The only difference between a cynic and a realist is whether or not you agree with him.

The NCAA position in all of this is sort of a hodgepodge of wreckage surrounded by a jumble of debris. To a large extent, it is a problem of their own making and the only way for them to get out of it will be to pay lots of money to a bunch of people in exchange for a confidentiality agreement so that all of the clutter does not come to light. Meanwhile, pardon me for enjoying their discomfort…

Speaking of problems of one’s own making – sometimes referred to as shooting oneself in the foot – the Indianapolis Star had a report last week about a man who overreacted just a bit to losing out on a job opportunity. It seems as if this man aspired to be a 4th grade teacher and a basketball coach in Indiana but the school district involved picked someone else to do those jobs. Obviously, anyone would be disappointed if he/she were among the applicants not selected for the position but I do not think I would ever be in such a state to do what this guy is alleged to have done.

    He began harassing the man who got the jobs – – and the man’s fiancée.

    He mailed packages containing dead animals (4 skunks and a raccoon) to the man and his fiancée.

      The package with the dead raccoon included a note telling the man to “Resign, it will not stop.”

    He mailed letters to the employer claiming that the man had a sexual relationship with an underage student.

    He informed Child Protective Services that the man was abusing his fiancée’s daughter.

    He spray-painted threats on the personal vehicles of the man and his fiancée.

If only half of these allegations are indeed correct, I think I can say with confidence that this person is not someone that I would want to be part of the elementary education system in my county. Lest you think I am making this up, here is the link to the story in the Indianapolis Star:

Finally, since I began this rant with a reference to an old song, let me close with this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“From the Sometimes You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up file comes word that fibbing swimmer Ryan Lochte’s choice of music for his ‘Dancing with the Stars’ debut was ‘Call Me Irresponsible.’”

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

One Step Closer To “Las Vegas Raiders”…

Mark Davis clearly wants to move the Oakland Raiders to a place with a new stadium because he is – rightly – convinced that Oakland is not going to build one for him. For the moment, it appears that Las Vegas is his preferred landing spot. Last week, the process of getting approval and funding for such a venture cleared a hurdle. The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee voted unanimously to recommend that $750M be approved for a stadium in Las Vegas and that the money would be raised by an increase in the Las Vegas hotel tax.

This recommendation – unanimous or not – is not nearly the end of the road here. The state legislature has to be convinced that all of this is a good idea and it would then need to pass legislation to make it all happen. Nonetheless, this is a positive step because most folks reporting on this matter have thought that a negative recommendation from this committee would be the end of the line for such an idea.

The broad outline of the financing for a new stadium in Las Vegas breaks down like this:

    $750M from the increased hotel room tax
    $650M from Sheldon Adelson – CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp
    $500M from the Raiders/NFL

This “step forward” in Nevada is interesting because in about 7 weeks, voters in San Diego will be asked to approve or deny a proposal there to raise the hotel tax in the city by 4% in order to provide funding for a stadium there that will keep the Chargers in that city. One of the major differences between the situation in these two cities is that San Diego does not currently have a local mogul who is willing to pony up $650M for the stadium. I have not seen any polling data from San Diego with regard to this referendum issue but given the fact that the Chargers and the city have been at loggerheads over a variety of new stadium proposals for about 15 years now, I think it is safe to say that there is significant resistance to the idea of public funding for a new stadium there.

Another wild-card in all of this is the NFL owners’ meeting that is scheduled for January 2017. Last year, the owners gave the Chargers an out; if they do not get approval for a new stadium in San Diego, they have league approval to move to LA and be tenants in the new stadium complex that is being built there by the Rams. However, the Chargers’ option to do that expires sometime in February of next year so there is not much time for “regrouping” in San Diego – or in Las Vegas for that matter – if the government processes go down to defeat. Moreover, the NFL owners have to approve the movement of any team to a new city and such approvals are not always slam-dunks.

Last year, the Chargers and Raiders had a proposal to the owners that the two of them would “go halfsies” on a new stadium in Carson CA and that the teams would be partners in that venture. The owners told them to forget that idea because they put the Rams in LA, gave the Chargers a one-year option to go and join the Rams there and told the Raiders to go pound sand. The NFL owners are a group of 32 very rich folks who are quite accustomed to getting their own way and who really dislike being told what to do. The only reason I would believe that their approval would be forthcoming here is that any team that moves has to pay a “relocation fee” to the league which is then distributed to the other owners.

Last year the Rams paid $500M as a relocation fee; presumably, that would be the price for a team that moves this year. So, it would seemingly behoove the “other owners” to let the Raiders move to Las Vegas and then to let the Chargers opt to join the Rams in LA. That lets the “other owners split a cool $1B amongst themselves without having to lift a finger.

However, there are other ways for the owners to “find money” in these proceedings. If the Nevada folks get legislation approved to raise the funding here, the league does not have to put the Raiders in Las Vegas. Suppose they decide to let the Chargers move there; suppose they decide to let the Jax Jags move there. The “other owners” still collect money for doing nothing but the Raiders would still be stranded in Oakland.

    [Aside: Remember, the Jags still have tarps over stadium seats in Jax because they cannot sell out the full stadium and even with the tarps in place, they still do not sell out the smaller stadium. Why do you think they love to play games in London? They sell lots more tix there at higher prices than they do in Jax.]

I am sure that there are folks out there who would look at that sort of outcome as a way for the league and the owners to flip the bird in the cosmic direction of Al Davis whose previous movements of the Raiders caused the league such heartburn. That sort of conclusion is a bit of a stretch in my opinion. Al Davis’ defiance of the league in moving his team happened a long time ago and it involved a markedly different set of owners. Some of the most influential owners today – Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, Woody Johnson – were not part of that old NFL. Will they take a “vengeful stance” here; I think not.

While on the subject of the NFL, there has been a bit of a furor in the last few days about the list of people eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year. There are about 100 people on the list and one of them is Darren Sharper. In case you lost interest in Sharper’s story, he pleaded guilty to drugging and then raping multiple women and was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison. If you want an update on all of this, you can find it here.

The furor over his appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot is misplaced. The Pro Football Hall of Fame does not have any “morals criteria” associated with membership. As I understand it, anyone may nominate any person associated with pro football for consideration by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. It appears that the ONLY hard and fast rule is that if the nominee is a player or a coach, that nominee has to have been retired for 5 full years before he is eligible for selection. Darren Sharper meets that criterion. That does not mean he deserves to be voted in – I’d bet dollars to donut-holes he will not make the first cut on the list as it exists for now – but he belongs on the list.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross:

“Stephen Ross held a business seminar for five Fins players interested in post-football careers. His advice to them: Become a billionaire. Makes everything so much easier!”

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