I have lots to cover today because I will be off the air until next Tuesday or Wednesday. This weekend is my annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas; I hope to return in a glorious financial condition; I also hope to return in a physical state that will allow me to recover quickly from the sensory overload of watching about ten football games and various hose races simultaneously.
The first thing I want to comment on is the arrest of LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players in China on charges of shoplifting sunglasses. The three players were released on bail but are supposed to remain confined to their hotel while the legal process in China – not nearly identical to the legal process here in the US may I say – moves forward. Some people have speculated that it may be months before the case is resolved; I suspect that the fact that it involves the UCLA basketball team and the fact that President Trump is visiting China will move the process along as fast as possible. Having no intention of predicting the final outcome, I do have a two observations to make:
- LiAngelo Ball has been seen in videos produced/promulgated by his father Lavar driving a Ferrari. If one can own a Ferrari as a teenager, why might one even think about boosting a pair of sunglasses?
- I do not have any formal association/connection with UCLA, so I do not know its academic schedule in detail. However, most US universities are in the middle of a term in early November; so, I wonder why the school and its student-athletes are away from campus for a couple of weeks at this time. It might cause one to wonder if the concept of “sham courses” or “ghost classes” migrated westward from UNC…
The second thing I want to comment on relates tangentially to UCLA. In an interview with Joe Buck, the World Class Curmudgeon, Bob Knight, criticized former UCLA legend John Wooden and threw shade on Wooden’s record and accomplishments. Knight said that he liked Wooden and admired what he did as a coach; however, he pointed out that Wooden and UCLA allowed – maybe even abetted – booster Sam Gilbert to make a mockery of NCAA recruiting rules to assemble the college equivalent of “super-teams” back in the 60s and 70s. Based on Wooden’s beatific image and Knight’s demonic image, most folks have jumped all over Bob Knight for saying this sort of thing. I’ll wager that some of those critics wonder how he might even think such blasphemy.
Here is the problem:
- Bob Knight is correct.
- John Wooden was a great coach; he taught his players how to play basketball; he taught his players important life skills; he conducted himself in a way that made him a role model for lots of people who did not play for him or work with him. His players internalized his teachings and performed superbly on the court.
- John Wooden was also the beneficiary of a shadow recruiting mechanism ongoing on behalf of UCLA operated by boosters such as Sam Gilbert. Wooden received more talent than any other school at the time and then produced great results with the talent that he received.
- The issue here is that both things are true and what Bob Knight said is correct. I believe that this is a case where the message and the messenger are in conflict.
Having made two negative comments here related to UCLA, I suppose I should try to make amends by saying something nice about UCLA football and how I am going to bet on them in Las Vegas this weekend. The problem is that I am probably going to pass on that game – unless one of my fellow pilgrims who lives in Arizona convinces me that Arizona State is overmatched by the Bruins this weekend.
There are a whole bunch of very good matchups this weekend; I would like to tell you that we moved the date from mid-October when we usually go to this date because we looked at the college football card for this week and knew it would be a great weekend. That did not happen. So, I will not pretend that it did. To the games…
- Iowa visits Wisconsin. Iowa is fresh off its domination of Ohio St.; Wisconsin is undefeated in 2017. The Badgers are favored by 12 at home. I ran across a report that said the last time Iowa beat two consecutive opponents who were ranked in the Top 10 at the time was back in 1958. The Total Line for the game is 46; I think the oddsmaker is right that this will be a low-scoring affair and 12 points is a lot to lay in a low scoring game…
- TCU is at Oklahoma and the Sooners are 6.5-point favorites. This is one of the three best games of the weekend; these teams are tied for the lead in the Big 12 with 5-1 conference records. The TCU defense will make Baker Mayfield and company work to move the ball down the field. Can the Oklahoma defense hold up its end of the bargain when TCU has the ball?
- Notre Dame is a 3-point favorite over Miami; the game is in Miami. This is the second of the three best games of the weekend and it has serious CFP implications. Notre Dame is currently ranked in the Top 4 and Miami is undefeated in 2017. A loss for Notre Dame would probably end their shot at the CFP; it would be their second loss of the year. A loss for Miami would reinforce the narrative that the team has been more lucky than good in achieving its undefeated record to date.
- Georgia goes to Auburn as a 2.5-point favorite. This is also one of the three best games of the weekend. Georgia is ranked 1st in the country with a 9-0 record; they will win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship game. Auburn has two losses – one in conference play – and still must play Alabama in two weeks. They will likely need to win both games to make it to the SEC Championship game.
- Speaking of Alabama, they go to Starkville, MS this week to play Mississippi St. As of this morning, Bama is a 14.5-point favorite. If you look at the Mississippi St. schedule, you will see that the Bulldogs have only lost to Georgia and Auburn this year; even though both of those losses were by large margins, this is a good team playing at home. Alabama is the better team but that is a fat line…
- The schedule maker also has Oklahoma St. on the road at Iowa St. this weekend; the Cowboys are 6.5-point favorites. Both teams are 4-2 in conference play.
- W. Virginia visits K-State this week and K-State is favored by 2.5 points. I find that game interesting because if the game were in Morgantown WV, I think the line would be very different.
- Texas Tech is at Baylor this week and Tech is a 7.5-point favorite. I know Baylor has only on win this year over a miserable Kansas team; however, I do not understand this line. Tech has lost 5 of its last 6 games and the only win in that stretch was over that same miserable Kansas team. Am I really going to be tempted to take a 1-8 Baylor team here?
- Since I mentioned Kansas as a miserable team twice already, the Jayhawks are on the road this week to play Texas. The Longhorns are a middling team with a 4-5 record. Nonetheless, they are a 34-point favorite over Kansas this weekend.
- NC State is on the road at Boston College and NC State is a 3-point favorite here. State has lost 2 games in a row (to Notre Dame and Clemson) and Boston College is improved over the last several years. I sorta like NC State to win and cover here…
- VA Tech is on the road at Georgia Tech and VA Tech is a 3-point favorite. The Hokies only two losses this year have been to Clemson and to undefeated Miami.
- Michigan St. is on the road to play Ohio St. Make no mistake, the Buckeyes ranking this year has as much to do with reputation and past glory as it does with on-field performance this year. Ohio St. lost badly at home to Oklahoma; it needed a furious rally at home to beat Penn St. by 1 point; it got its doors blown off last week at Iowa by 30 points. This week, the oddsmaker has Ohio St. favored by anywhere from 15 points to 16.5 points. The Spartans may not be the best team in the country, but they are 7-2 so far…
- USC is a 13-point favorite over Colorado despite being on the road. USC is the better team here but sometimes they play sloppily and almost passively.
- In what is probably the worst game of the weekend, San Jose St. travels to Nevada. San Jose St. is 1-9 and the win was over a Division 1-AA school. Seeing them as a 19-point underdog should not be a surprise. How-evah, if you look at Nevada’s record you will see that the Wolfpack is 1-8 and one of the losses came at the hands of a Division 1-AA school.
Brad Rock of the Deseret News had this comment about a less-than-wonderful college football team earlier this week:
“Candystore.com says Illinoisans’ favorite candy is Sour Patch Kids.
“This also happens to be the unofficial nickname of the 2-7 University of Illinois football team.”
Looking at the NFL schedule, the Seahawks go to play the Cards in Arizona tonight as a 6-point favorite. The Cards’ best hope here is to run Adrian Peterson 25-30 times to shorten the game and keep it close; the Seahawks’ defense ought to be just a bit angry over its collapse last week on a final drive by the Skins. The last time these two teams met on this field, the result was one of the uglier games in recent NFL history; it ended in a 6-6 tie. I like the Seahawks to win and cover tonight.
The Vikes are a 1-point favorite over the Skins in Washington this weekend. The Total Line here is 42.5 and I am not sure I understand either line. If I play this game at all, I will probably look to take the Skins on the Money Line where they are at +105 this morning.
The Bears host the Packers and the Bears are 5-point favorites. Consider this; Mitchell Trubisky will be the more experienced starting QB in this game. After what I saw from Brett Hundley last week and what I saw from the Packers’ defensive unit, I think Green Bay’s season is over. I like the Bears to win and cover here.
The Steelers are 10-point favorites on the road against the Colts. I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games and I hate the Steelers on the road. Oh, and I hate the Colts too. I’ll pass on this game.
The Chargers go all the way to Jax to play the Jags and the Jags ore 3.5-point favorites. The Chargers can probably afford only 1 more loss if they are going to be contenders for a wild card slot in the playoffs; the Jags are tied with the Titans atop the AFC South for now. I’ll just watch this one…
The Jets are 2.5-point favorites over the Bucs in Tampa. Back in August, I thought the Jets would be packing it in for the year about now and that the Bucs would be contending if h=not leading the NFC South. So much for prognostication… Mike Evans is out of the game for the Bucs on suspension; Jameis Winston has a shoulder injury and did not practice this week; I suspect he will not play. That leaves you with a QB matchup of Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Whoop-di-damned-doo… The Bucs defense is awful. If I play this game, I will take the Jets to win and cover. Or, maybe I’ll take the game to stay UNDER 43.5. Really…
The Bengals visit the Titans and the Titans are 4.5- point favorites. The Bengals stink; the Titans are totally unreliable from week to week. I’ll pass…
The Saints are 3-point favorites on the road and outdoors in Buffalo against the Bills this weekend. The Bills looked awful last Thursday night against the Jets; they are now 5-3 and they need this game. The Saints are on a 6-game winning streak, but they only lead the Panthers by a half-game in their division. Both teams need the game and it could be the best early game to watch this Sunday.
The Browns are on the road to play the Lions this week and the Lions are 12-point favorites. I hate double-digit spreads in the NFL. I think the Browns are a JV team; I think the Lions have a real shot to win the NFC North outright and to make the playoffs as a wildcard team should they fall short in their division. The Browns had a BYE Week last week and the Lions had a short week coming off a road game last Monday night. Still, there is a double-digit spread on the game…
The Texans visit the Rams on Sunday and the Rams are 12-point favorites. Have I mentioned that I hate double-digit spreads in the NFL? The Rams average almost 33 points per game; the Texans will start Tom Savage at QB. What else is there to say…?
The Cowboys will play the Falcons in Atlanta and the Falcons are 3-point favorites. If Ezekiel Elliott can play – and dodge suspension yet one more time – I think the Cowboys will win outright and if that is announced as the case tomorrow, that line will change dramatically. The Falcons have lost 4 of their last 5 games and the one win was over the Jets. In those 4 losses, the Falcons never scored more than 17 points. And yet, the Total Line for this game stands at 50.5. No, I do not get it…
The Giants (1-7) fly across the country to play the Niners (0-9). The Giants are 2.5-point favorites here in a game where one team (the Giants) is rumored to be on the verge of a mutiny and the other team (the Niners) is dreadful. I wish the game were “Pick ‘em” so that I could say that I would rather pick my nose than pick this game. I would not bet on this game with your money…
The Sunday Nite game has the Pats visiting the Broncos. The Pats are 7.5-point favorites here but remember that Tom Brady actually has a losing record for his career in this stadium. The Pats had a BYE Week last week while the Broncos stunk out the joint against the Eagles in Philly. I know that the Pats’ defense is statistically awful this year but remember that the Broncos will be starting Brock Osweiler at QB.
The Monday Night game has the Dolphins in Carolina to play the Panthers and the oddsmakers have the Panthers as a 9-point favorite. The game is meaningful to the Panthers in terms of the NFC South race; but, for me, this game has all the appeal of cold chicken soup. The only good news I can see here is that it is not a double-digit spread.
There are 4 teams with BYE Weeks:
- The Chiefs have lost 3 of their last 4 games but they still lead the AFC West by 2 games. Their run defense has been miserable of late; they need to fix that.
- The Eagles’ coaching staff has a problem. Coaches like to point out mistakes and harp on them as a way to improve performance and motivate practice effort. Based on last week’s 51-point outburst and dominance of the Broncos, I wonder how many mistakes the coaches will be able to find…
- The Raiders trail the Chiefs by 2 games in the AFC West. The Raiders need to shore up their defense over this BYE Week and also to goose the running game a bit.
- The Ravens are down 3 games in the loss column to the Steelers in the AFC North race. If there is any post-season hope in Baltimore it has to be as a wildcard team. The Ravens schedule going forward has some very winnable games on it against teams such as the Packers, Texans, Browns, Colts and Bengals.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“How important are academics at Northwestern? The football team doesn’t call it a huddle, it’s a ‘study group’.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………