Football Friday – On Wednesday 11/21/18

We live in unusual times.  Football Friday falls on a Wednesday this week.  The reasons for that calendar anomaly are pretty simple:

  • There are a lot of interesting football games scheduled for Thursday this week that would be moot if all of this happened on Friday of this week.
  • Given the social aspects of the Thanksgiving Holiday and the status of our visitor for the holiday, I am not nearly certain that I will write anything on Friday – – let alone a football saga.

The downside of writing on a Wednesday is that all references to spreads and Total Lines are subject to major revision as kick off approaches.  Any references to those sorts of data need to be taken in the context that we are nowhere near the final numbers.  For that reason, I will not try to do a Six-Pack for the week using lines so far in advance of the games.

And so, with that as a prelude, here comes the inaugural “Football Wednesday” for 2018…

NCAA Football Commentary:

This has been an unusual college football season to say the least.  In 2018, we have seen more than a few “blueblood” college football programs suffer from unusually bad years.  It is not unusual for one or two of those bluebloods to have a “down year” – unless of course we are talking about Alabama under Nick Saban – but there have been a lot more than “one or two” this year:

  • Arkansas is 2-9.  Among other shellackings, they lost to North Texas by 27 points; Frank Broyles is rolling over in his grave.
  • Auburn is 7-4.  Some folks expected them to challenge Alabama for SEC West supremacy.  Auburn – traditionally – is not a 4-loss team heading into the Iron Bowl game against Alabama.
  • Florida State is 4-6.  Bobby Bowden would be rolling over in his grave – – if he were actually dead at this moment.
  • Miami is 6-5.  In the middle of this season they had a 4-game losing streak an none of the victors in that 4-game streak will be in the CFP at the end of the year.
  • Penn St. is 8-3.  Let me just say that the Nittany Lions’ last 4 wins have not been awe-inspiring…
  • Stanford is 6-4.  They have lost 3 close games, but it still represents an under-achievement for the Cardinal.
  • UCLA is 2-9.  They beat USC but have been trounced in five of their losses.
  • USC is 5-6.  They handed Washington St. its only loss of the year; other than that…

Meanwhile, some teams that have not been powerhouses of late asserted themselves this year:

  • Arizona St:  The Sun Devils were picked to finish last in the PAC-12 South this year but posted a record of 6-5 including wins over Michigan St. and Utah.
  • Purdue:  The Boilermakers are a lot better this year than the “Pur-don’t” teams of recent years.  They beat Ohio State badly.
  • Utah:  The Utes are 8-3 and will be the South Division participant in the PAC-12 Championship Game.
  • Washington St:  The Cougars are 10-1 for the first time in 20 years – – back to the time when Ryan Leaf was their QB.

Kansas hired Les Miles as its next football coach.  Miles won a national championship at LSU in 2007 and he was the SEC Champion is 2011.  Let me say without fear of contradiction that Kansas is not a school with national championship trophies galore nor expectations that there will be lots of them in the next several years.  Kansas is a backwater of college football.

  • The Jayhawks last winning season was in 2008.
  • Since 2009, the Jayhawks have not won more than 3 games in any single season.

According to reports, Miles will get $2.7M per year for four years to try to build a football program in Kansas.  It will not be an easy task…

Michigan avoided its “trap game” last week against Indiana.  The Wolverines were sluggish at the start and trailed at the half but rallied to beat the Hoosiers 31-20.  Indiana gained 385 yards on offense which is the most yardage surrendered by the Michigan defense all year.  This week is Ohio State…

Ohio State barely survived its “trap game” against Maryland beating the Terps 52-51 in OT.  That is correct; the Buckeyes surrendered 51 points to Maryland.  This week is Michigan …

The Big-10 honchos must be rooting for Michigan in that game because they need Michigan in the conference title game to be sure of a slot in the CFP.  Ohio State has a bad loss on its resume to Purdue – and it gave up 51 last week to a mediocre Maryland squad.  Michigan also has a loss, but it was to Notre Dame who is undefeated for the season.

[Aside:  If you like chaos and controversy, imagine what happens regarding the CFP Selection Committee if Northwestern wins the Big-10 Championship Game with 4 losses – one of them to Akron.]

Penn State beat Rutgers 20-7.  In that game, Rutgers gained more yards rushing than Penn State did by a margin of 49 yards.  If there were a prop bet on that before the game, I know it would have been at very high odds.

Northwestern beat Minnesota 24-14 in a ho-hum game for both teams.  What is noteworthy here is that this is the 8th consecutive road win for Northwestern and that is impressive.

Wisconsin beat Purdue 47-44 in triple-OT.  The Badgers’ RB, Jonathan Taylor ran for 321 yards and 3 TDs in the game.

Iowa beat Illinois 63-0.

Notre Dame remained undefeated beating Syracuse 36-3 in Yankee Stadium.  Going into this game Syracuse had given up 137 points in 4 road games; their defense does not travel well.  The field goal scored by Syracuse came with 10 seconds left in the game and it was a 28-yard attempt meaning the ball was about at the Notre Dame 10 yardline.  I guess it looks better to avoid a shutout and kick that field goal rather than admit that the Notre Dame defense was too fearsome on that day.  By the way, the Irish averaged 6.3 yards per offensive play in the game.

Pitt beat Wake forest 34-13 to secure a place in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson.

Miami beat VA Tech 38-14.  The game was close at the half, but Miami dominated the second half 21-0.

Oklahoma St. beat W. Virginia 45-41 in Stillwater.  The winning TD came with 11 seconds left in the game.  This is the second loss for W. Virginia and they play Oklahoma this week.  Here is a stat/trend to consider:

  • Since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012, the Mountaineers have never beaten the Sooners.

Texas beat Iowa St. 24-10 last week.  This game had significance thrust upon it by W. Virginia’s loss.  Given the outcomes of this week’s action, Texas may be part of the Big-12 Championship Game.

Oklahoma beat Kansas 55-40.  Yes, Kansas scored 40 points in this game against the Sooners’ supposed defense.  The Jayhawks generated over 500 yards of offense and RB, Pooka Williams ran for 252 yards and 2 TDs – – averaging more than 16 yards per carry.

UCLA beat USC 34-27 and that means USC will have to beat Notre Dame this week to be bowl eligible.  The Irish are favored to remain unbeaten.

Washington beat Oregon St. 42-23.  The Huskies led 28-3 after the first quarter.  This game was on cruise control after that…

Washington St. beat Arizona 69-28.  The score was 55-14 at halftime.  Cougars’ QB, Gardner Minshew was 43 for 55 for 473 yards and 7 TDs in the game.  The Apple Cup game this week between Washington and Washington St. will determine the PAC-12 North Division champ.

Utah beat Colorado 30- 7.  That makes 6 losses in a row for Colorado after starting the season 5-0 against bad opponents.  The total offense for Colorado was 196 yards including 34 yards rushing on 34 attempts.   Utah is the PAC-12 South champ due to this win and losses by both Arizona and Arizona State last week.

Bowling Green beat Akron last week.  Bowling Green was a SHOE candidate 2 weeks ago and have now won 2 in a row.  That should take them out of consideration for this year.

W. Kentucky beat UTEP 40-16. Both teams were on the SHOE Watchlist last week.  UTEP will stay there for sure.

East Carolina beat UConn 55-21.  UConn gave up 55 points in a game for the 5th time this season.  The UConn defense his historically bad.  I believe the “worst defense” record holder is Kansas in 2015 when the Jayhawks gave up 561 yards per game for the season.  [I only looked back to 2000 so that may be wrong.  However, before that, college football was not as much an offensive game as it is today.]  UConn has allowed 627 yards per game so far this year and there is only one game left.  Let this sink in:

  • Even if UConn holds Temple to zero yards offense in this week’s game, it will set the record as the worst defense ever in major college football.

The SHOE Watchlist:

Since the SHOE Tournament will only accommodate 8 teams and since this is the last week of the season, it is time to cut the watchlist down from 12 teams to 10 teams.  Here they are:

  1. Central Michigan  1-10
  2. Georgia St.  2-9
  3. Kent St.  2-9
  4. Louisville  2-9
  5. San Jose St.  1-10
  6. Rice 1-11
  7. Rutgers  1-10
  8. Tulsa  2-9
  9. UConn 1-10
  10. UTEP  1-10

NCAA Games of Interest:

(Fri) Texas – 15 at Kansas (49):  Texas could be part of the Big 12 Championship game with a win here and a W. Virginia loss to Oklahoma.

(Fri) Oregon – 17.5 at Oregon St. (69.5): They call this rivalry game “The Civil War”.

(Fri) Oklahoma – 2.5 at W. Virginia (83.5):  The Mountaineers need a win here to be certain of a slot in the big 12 Championship Game because Texas is likely to prevail over Kansas.  By the way, that Total Line is not a typo; it opened the week at 80 points and has been rising all week; one sportsbook has it at 84 points.

(Fri) Washington at Washington St. – 2.5 (49):  The winner plays Utah for the PAC-12 Championship.

Kentucky – 17 at Louisville (51):  This is a much bigger basketball rivalry than a football rivalry.

South Carolina at Clemson – 26 (59): This is a big rivalry game, but it also looks like a mismatch this year.

Syracuse at BC -7 (57):  Will the Syracuse defense make the trip with the team this week?

Michigan – 4.5 at Ohio St. (56):  The winner plays Northwestern in the Big-10 Championship Game.  Michigan’s defense is ranked first in the country; Ohio State’s defense just gave up 51 points to Maryland…

Ga Tech at Georgia – 17 (59):  These games are often much closer on the scoreboard than would be predicted from team records.

BYU at Utah – 11 (44):  This is a rivalry game that does not get the same national recognition as many others – – but it is just as real and just as intense.

Florida – 6 at Florida St. (52):  This has been a much more important game in previous years.

Purdue – 4 at Indiana (65):  This is another rivalry game that does not get all the attention it deserves.

Notre Dame – 10.5 at USC (54):  If Notre Dame wins and is undefeated, they will be in the CFP this year because of their impact on TV ratings.

Auburn at Alabama – 24 (52):  It is not often you see a spread of this size in the Iron Bowl.

NFL Commentary:

The Saints beat the Eagles 48-7.  Last week, I said this game could get ugly; it went well beyond “ugly” and all the way to “grotesque”.  The Eagles offense was only 196 yards and Carson Wentz threw 3 INTs.  The Saints had 546 yards on offense and have a shot at breaking the NFL team scoring record.  That record is held by the 2013 Broncos with 606 points.  As of this morning, the Saints average 37.8 points per game and at that pace would score a total of 605 points for the season.  They have a shot at the record…

The Colts beat the Titans 38-10.  If you doubt the value of Andrew Luck to the Colts compare the way this team plays as opposed to last year’s version of the Colts.  While you are at it, check out the play of the Colts’ OL this year.  Last year, Colts’ QBs were running for their lives more often than not; this year, Luck has actual time to set up and throw the football.  The Titans were just awful in this game and an injury to Marcus Mariotta’s arm is not the only bad thing to come from the game.  The Titans’ defense is what carries that team and they were torched on Sunday.

Those two games above were the only blowouts of the week; the rest of the games were close and most went down to the final possession.

The Ravens beat the Bengals 24-21.  This was the first start for Lamar Jackson at QB and he ran the ball 27 times in the game.  He produced a win but that is not a sustainable offense over the course of a season.  Jackson is a talented runner to be sure, but that is not a formula for success in the long term.  The Ravens ran the ball for 265 yards in this game just a week after the Bengals fired their defensive coordinator.  That helped a lot …  Well, maybe there was some improvement there; the Bengals had given up 500+ yards in each of their previous 3 games and last week, they only gave up 403.

The Cowboys beat the Falcons 22-19 with a field goal as time ran out.  Ezekiel Elliott produced 201 yards from scrimmage.  The Falcons had ample yardage on offense but had to settle for field goals too often.  That has been the story of their season…

The Texans beat the Skins 23-21.  A game-winning field goal attempt by the Skins with no time remaining fell short.  Skins’ QB Alex Smith suffered a season-ending – – and maybe a career-ending – – leg injury in the game.  That makes 7 wins in a row for the Texans; their defense carried the day with 5 sacks and a Pick-Six.

The Giants beat the Bucs 38-35.  Saquon Barkley ran for 142 yards here; the Bucs defense is not good but some of his runs would have worked against any defense.  Eli Manning was 17 for 18 in the game and the Giant’s defense contributed 3 INTs.  The Bucs trailed badly and benched Ryan Fitzpatrick giving Jameis Winston the opportunity to try a furious comeback – – when he almost accomplished.  Once again, the Bucs had 500+ yards of offense and lost the game; that is the 3rd time that has happened this year.

The Steelers beat the Jags 20-16.  Ben Roethlisberger scored the winning TD on a 1-yard run that seemingly took 4 or 5 seconds to happen.  Roethlisberger was intercepted 3 times in the first 3 quarters and then he generated 3 TDs in the 4th quarter to pull the game out.  The Jags led 16-0 and coughed it up.  The Jags ran the ball 49 times in the game indicating to me that they suspected that “Bad Blake” Bortles might show up on that Sunday.

The Lions beat the Panthers 20-19.  Panthers’ kicker Graham Gano missed a short FG and a PAT in the game.  With a minute to go, Panthers scored a TD to make it 20-19.  Riverboat Ron Rivera went for the 2-point conversion to “win the game”; I suspect he was afraid to put Gano out there with the chance to “lose the game” in broad daylight.  Cam Newton missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone on that 2-point try and the game was over.

The Broncos beat the Chargers 23-22 on a last second field goal.  Philip Rivers threw 2 INTs in the game; that is the first time this year he has done that.  Also, the Chargers missed a PAT and lost the game by a single point.  Broncos’ QB Case Keenum led the game winning drive going 85 yards in the final 2 minutes to set up the game winning 34-yard FG as time expired.

The Raiders beat the Cards 23-21.  The Raiders defense held Cards offense under 300 yards – – first time this year the Raiders’ defense has done that.  And the Raiders’ defense had 2 INTs in the game.

The Bears beat the Vikes 25-20.  The knock on Kirk Cousins in DC was that he threw INTs at THE most inopportune moments.  Well, he did that again Sunday night with a Pick-Six that iced the game for the Bears.  Khalil Mack was dominating on defense and Akiehm Hicks from the Univ of Regina in Saskatchewan terrorized the middle of the Vikes’ OL too.

NFL Games this week:

The Rams and the Chiefs get a BYE this week after their Monday night track meet last week.  After seeing that game, I would not mind seeing a rematch in the Super Bowl even a little bit.  I connected last week that I could not recall ever seeing a Total Line for an NFL game as high as 63.5 points.  For perspective, the game went OVER in the 3rd quarter…

(Thurs) Chicago – 3.5 at Detroit (45):  The Bears were very impressive against the Vikes last week and now lead the division comfortably.  It is a young team with a new coach; it will be interesting to see how they handle this prosperity…

(Thurs) Washington at Dallas – 7 (40.5):  The line opened at 9.5 points and dropped quickly to this level.  Colt McCoy will be the Skins’ QB and as a backup, the Skins just signed Mark Sanchez.  McCoy definitely needs to stay healthy…

(Thurs) Atlanta at New Orleans – 13 (60):  This looked like a much more important – and appealing – game back when the schedule makers put it on Thanksgiving night.  Falcons’ fans like to urge the team to “rise up”; I suspect that the Falcons are grounded for this season.

Jax – 3 at Buffalo (37):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Pay it no attention…

Oakland at Baltimore – 10.5 (43):  This is what one of the readers here calls a “Body Clock Game” for the Raiders; they will kick off at 1:00 Pm EST which is 10:00AM on their body clocks.  Evidently, the oddsmaker does not believe that the Raiders “turned the corner” with their win last week.

SF at Tampa Bay – 3 (54.5):  This is a Body Clock Game for the Niners.  Neither team is very good but there is the potential for lots of points here.

Giants at Philly – 6 (46):  Odell Beckham Jr. said the Giants would win out (8 games in a row) and make the playoffs.  They have now won 2 in a row.  Is this #3 …

Cleveland at Cincy – 3 (47.5):  I wonder if the right team is favored in this one…?  The Bengals defense is non-existent.

New England – 9.5 at Jets (46.5):  The Pats had two weeks of practice where the coaches could remind them that their last game was a loss.  That had to be fun.

Seattle at Carolina – 3 (47.5):  Here is yet another Body Clock Game.  The matchup here features two inconsistent teams; the Seahawks are much less predictable on the road and the Panthers are just plain unreliable.

Miami at Indy – 7.5 (51.5):  The Dolphins are 5-5 but have been outscored by 57 points this year.  The Colts are 5-5 and have outscored opponents by 49 points this year.  This game has wild-card implications written all over it.

Arizona at Chargers – 12 (45):  The Chargers lost last week but are still in a good position to get the first AFC wild-card slot in the playoffs.  They need to focus here.

Pittsburgh – 3 at Denver (47):  The Steelers have won 6 in a row and lead their division by a comfortable 2.5 games.  The Broncos are 4-6 and a loss here would make playoff contention a fantasy.  The Broncos are a lot better at home than on the road; this could be an interesting game. I will label it the Game of the Week.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay at Minnesota – 3 (48):  A loss for the Packers would be far more harmful here than a loss for the Vikes.  Back in September, these teams played to a tie.

(Mon Nite) Tennessee at Houston – – no lines:  Until folks know if Marcus Mariotta can play or if Blaine Gabbert will be the titans’ QB, there will no lines posted for this contest.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster went trick-or-treating in his Steelers uniform.

“If Bears linebacker Khalil Mack followed suit, just imagine how many sacks he’d bring home.”

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



Yin and Yang

The pendulum swings back and forth.  The tide comes in and the tide goes out.  Democrats win elections and Republicans win elections.  Things in nature – and in society – tend to go back and forth around an equilibrium point.  And so, I thought there might be an indicator several weeks ago that the Cleveland Browns would reverse course and begin the process of acting like an actual NFL franchise.

The Browns fired Hue Jackson in mid-season; they obviously need to hire a permanent replacement.  In recent times – actually, for the duration of Cleveland Browns 2.0 – hiring coaches has been handled in mysterious ways.  Since Jimmy Haslam took over the team, he conducted the interviews and ran the coaching search.  He bought the Browns in 2012 and since then, the team record is a stunningly awful 23-82-1.  In that time, Haslam fired Pat Shurmer and hired:

  • Rob Chudzinski 4-12-0 for one season
  • Mike Pettine 10-22-0 for two seasons
  • Hue Jackson 3-36-1 for two and a half seasons
  • Gregg Williams as the incumbent interim coach.

The expectation for the Browns was another owner-run coaching search that would continue the goat rodeo nature of Browns’ management.  But then came reports that Haslam was going to step aside and let his newly hired – and well respected – new GM, John Dorsey, run the coach selection process.  That may not sound like a watershed event, but it was.  Dorsey has never been a GM before, but he has been involved in the “football operations” of other teams and has been successful in just about every stop along the way.  Haslam’s track record for coaching hires – and player selections in the draft such as Johnny Manziel – has been universally wrong.  Successful franchises let “football people” run the “football side” and have “business people” (like the owners) involved in the “business side”; then the two sides work together – you know, sort of like a team.

So, I thought the pendulum had reached its furthest point in the direction of ineptitude and would begin to swing back toward competence.  And then in an interview, John Dorsey said he was going to consider anyone and everyone for the job including women such as Condoleezza Rice.  If he said that as part of a stand-up comedy routine, maybe it would work in that context; in just about any other context, it is about as dumb as an inflatable dart board.

Before I get accused of chauvinism, I want to speak directly to the pragmatism that exists in 2018 with regard to professional – or college – football.

  • The number of women with head coaching experience in the NFL and in major college football is zero.  There is no pool of experience in which to go fishing.
  • The number of women with experience as coordinators in the NFL and in major college football is zero.  There is no pool of experience in which to go fishing.
  • Condoleezza Rice is a most accomplished woman and an avid sports fan who has no more credentials as a football coach than Pope John XXIII – – and he is dead.

For reasons that will never be known, the Cleveland Browns appear to have suffered yet one more self-inflicted wound on the “credibility axis”…

Moving on …

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this comment about a recent election result in Florida – – one that did not need any recounting of votes:

“Florida citizens this week voted to ban dog racing in the state, meaning some 6,000 suddenly retired racing greyhounds may need new homes. Breathing a well-earned sigh of relief: the mechanical rabbit!”

Twenty players will make their first appearance on MLB Hall of Fame ballots this year.  I think two are mortal locks to be enshrined on the first ballot:

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Mariano Rivera

I think the “interesting” player on the list this year is Andy Pettitte.  Here is a link to all of his stats compiled on  Those numbers say he should be a strong contender for the Hall of Fame.  Except we know that he was a PED user for the simple reason that he admitted he was a user.

What will be interesting here is to see how the Hall of Fame voters treat a player who has been identified as a user by his own admission and with an aura of contrition.

Finally, since I mentioned above the Browns’ and their coaching search, consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Idle thought: Pardon the cliché, but for another season, Bill Belichick is playing chess while the other coaches play checkers.”

Actually, some of those “other coaches” are playing tic-tac-toe as they seek to learn how to play checkers…

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



The College Football Firing Season

The real college football season is nearing its end.  Very soon, a committee will choose the 4 best teams and invite them to play for the College Football Championship in about a month.  Meanwhile, about 80 other teams will engage in the silly-season sometimes called the Bowl Season.  And, as is always the case at this point of the real college football season, some of the schools in the major conferences have already fired their coaches and plan to “go in a different direction”.  In the case of David Beaty at Kansas, it appears as if losing too many games is the only “issue” involved in the school’s decision.  In some other cases, there is a tad more to the story – or so it might appear.

Louisville University asked Bobby Petrino to take his talents elsewhere.  The Cardinals’ season has been terrible; it is not only that they have only won twice – beating a Division 1-AA team and a possible SHOE Tournament team.  In absorbing 9 losses, consider these stats:

  • 4 losses were by 35 points or more
  • In their last 4 games, the opponent scored 52 points or more
  • The only win over a Division 1-A bottom-feeder was by a field goal.

There were ample on-field reasons to part company with Bobby Petrino.  In addition to Bobby Petrino, the AD also fired some assistant coaches:

  • Nick Petrino was the QBs coach.  He is Bobby Petrino’s son.
  • Ryan Beard was the linebackers’ coach.  He is Bobby Petrino’s son-in-law.
  • L.D. Scott was the defensive line coach.  He is Bobby Petrino’s son-in-law.

[Aside:  I have seen no reporting that indicates any other examples of nepotism.  There is a fourth Petrino child – a son – who seems not to have been on the payroll at Louisville.  I say that recalling that Bobby Petrino once had his mistress hired as part of the football program at Arkansas.]

I understand plenty of coaches hire sons and/or relatives as their assistants.  This situation seems a tad over the top to me and it is a situation that could not have been unknown to the “higher-ups” at Louisville prior to firing the head coach.

The University of Maryland parted company with DJ Durkin after he had been on paid administrative leave while a blue-ribbon panel looked into the circumstances surrounding the death of a Maryland player at one of Durkin’s practices and a so-called “toxic culture” that enveloped the football team.  We have been over the gory details there in the past; there is no need to re-hash them here.  Except … there may be more to the story.

The Baltimore Sun has reported that while Durkin was on administrative leave, he continued to have contact with the team and continued to assist in things like game planning and film reviews.  Nominally, this was not supposed to happen; Durkin was not to be part of the football program while the investigation was ongoing.  But the report goes deeper than that…

According to the report, when the blue-ribbon committee asked Durkin about his football activities, he told the committee that the Athletic Director, Damon Evans, knew about his continued association with the team and that Evans approved of that activity.

Let me call a time-out here…  Considering the totality of the findings of the blue-ribbon committee regarding Coach Durkin, I am not willing to take any statement of his as gospel truth absent some corroboration.  However, if there is even a smidgen corroboration uncovered here, then Athletic Director Evans – who remains on the job and was in the Athletic Department hierarchy for most if not all of Durkin’s tenure at Maryland – must be fired too.  If in fact Evans knew of this and/or approved of it, we are looking at a situation where he nullified a university order while an investigation into the death of a university student was ongoing.  Seriously, now …

Colorado University fired Mike MacIntyre last weekend.  Ostensibly, this was because the Buffaloes had lost their 6th game in a row on Saturday.  The problem with drawing that conclusion is that it seems awfully hasty in the larger context of MacIntyre’s time in Boulder, CO.  when he got there about 6 years ago, the football program was in tatters; the days where Colorado was a nationally ranked and recognized team were fading into distant memory.  He arrived and started a rebuilding program that got to the point where Colorado was 10-2 just 2 years ago; they played in the PAC-12 Championship game, and MacIntyre was named the National Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.

While I recognized that the team’s collapse this year had put MacIntyre on a hot seat – – as I mentioned in the last iteration of football Friday – – I never imagined that he would be fired before the season ended.  He had rebuilt the program from the ground up; it may not be a mid-western version of Alabama, but it is significantly better than it was when he got there.  It seemed to me that there had to be something else going on there in addition to a 6-game losing streak.

A Google search turned up an “issue”.  Soon after that wonderful 2016 season where the Buffaloes were in the PAC-12 Championship game, there were allegations that one of MacIntyre’s assistant coaches had been beating up the assistant’s girlfriend.  MacIntyre did not report these allegations once he knew about them to the police or to other university authorities as needed so that the university can comply with Title IX.  An investigation then into the whole thing also determined that MacIntyre improperly informed the assistant coach of the allegations and then tried to arrange for the assistant to get an attorney prior to telling anyone else about the allegations.

The assistant coach was ultimately charged with felony assault and resigned from the Colorado coaching staff.  MacIntyre was given a formal letter of reprimand and ordered by the university to donate $100K to organizations involved in reducing incidents of domestic violence.  While that may have been sufficient punishment two years ago, the rise of the MeeToo Movement in recent months has made the aiding and abetting of that sort of behavior far less acceptable.  My guess – and it is purely a guess – is that Colorado University did not want to rehash all that stuff under today’s scrutiny.  And so, that 6-game losing streak took on a more ominous mien.

Now, fear not for these three coaches.  All will get at least a 7-figure buyout from these schools.  Perhaps it is true that no good deed goes unpunished.  In these cases, one might conclude that some less-than-laudable behaviors have been amply rewarded.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment about tonight’s “Game of the Year” between the LA Rams and the KC Chiefs:

“The huge K.C. Chiefs-L.A. Rams game has been moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles. The main difference? In L.A. there’ll be more people in the stands speaking Spanish.”

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



Football Friday 11/16/18

Not every month has a Friday the 13th, but every Friday in the Fall is Football Friday in   these parts.  So, as usual, let me begin with a quick summation of the Linfield Wildcats’ season.  They played their final game last week and defeated Pacific University at home by a convincing 50-7 score.  That gives the Wildcats another winning season with a 7-2 record and that extends their consecutive winning season streak to 63 consecutive years.  Linfield finished second in the Northwest Conference this year, so they did not get an automatic bid to the Division III football tournament.

NCAA Football Commentary:

Arizona State is bowl-eligible.  That may not seem like something sufficiently surprising to merit comment – but there is context here.  It is safe to say that an awful lot of people were skeptical last winter when the Sun Devils hired Herm Edwards away from ESPN to run their football program.  Edwards’ approach was to be a “Football CEO” who would assemble a talented staff of assistants who would run the team.  That was an approach off the college football norm and when added to the fact that Edwards had been out of football and into the TV business for 10 years, it led to more than a bit of giggling among the folks who profess to know about college football.

Most pundits had Arizona St. finishing last in the PAC-12 South back in August; as of this morning, the Sun Devils have the inside track to win that division despite facing two road games to finish the year.  How did the Sun Devils do it?  The offensive guys on the staff must have realized sometime in early October that they were a much better running team than a passing team.  So, they started calling a lot more running plays and guess what?  It is no longer unusual to see an Arizona St. game where the team runs the ball 45 or 50 times.

Since Herm Edwards took a lot of gas from football commentators early in his tenure there, let me offer up an apology – – even though I was not one of those who thought he was in over his head.  Congratulations, Coach Edwards…

If you have been a reader in these parts for a while, you know that I like to have fun with players’ names.  Here are two from college football teams I have watched this year:

  • Alabama kicker, Joseph Bulovas should be on NFL scouts watch list.
  • Wisconsin CB, Rachad Wildgoose should have a brother named Chase.

With the college season coming to a close for lots of teams, it is time for me to look at the coaches on a hot seat in the major college programs.  I will not pretend to have any understanding at all of coaching issues at all levels of college football so let me limit this discussion to the Power 5 conferences only.  It is pretty clear that Maryland will be out looking for a new head coach on a permanent basis and so will Kansas and Louisville.  Added to those openings, here are coaches/schools that might need to finish the season with a win or two:

  • Chris Ash (Rutgers):  As of this morning, Ash’s record at Rutgers is 7-24 and more than a couple of those 24 losses have been embarrassments.  The best reason not to fire him is very simple; there are no hot coaching prospects who are going to beat down the doors in New Brunswick, NJ to take the job.
  • Lovie Smith (Illinois):  Hiring Smith after his time with the Bears was supposed to give Illinois footing when it came to getting highly talented recruits.  Well, if that happened, the Illini coaching staff is pretty inept.  Coming to the end of Smith’s third year at Illinois, the record is 9-25; more telling is the team’s 4-21 record in Big-10 games over that time.
  • Mike MacIntyre (Colorado):  The Buffaloes were 5-0 at one point this year having beaten up some really bad teams.  Then the wheels came off the wagon; Colorado is 5-5 this morning and looking bad during their 5-game losing streak.  If MacIntyre is fired, the game where Colorado blew a 31-point lead at halftime against a putrid Oregon St. team will be a major factor.
  • Clay Helton (USC):  The Trojans are 5-5 this morning and are out of the race for the PAC-12 South title and they play UCLA and Notre Dame to close out the season.  Two losses there – particularly one to a UCLA team that is in tear-down mode – would make USC ineligible for a bowl game and that could mean the end of Clay Helton on their sidelines.  Even if the Trojans make it to a bowl game, it could be one like the Music City Bowl; that will not go over well with USC boosters…
  • Larry Fedora (UNC):  He has been on the job since 2012 and has an overall winning record (44-42).  However, the Tar Heels were 3-9 last year and are 1-8 as of this morning in 2018.
  • Justin Fuente (VA Tech):  This one may be a tad premature; this is his 3rd season in Blacksburg, VA and the first two years were good ones with a combined record of 19-8 and two bowl appearances.  However, this year the team is 4-5 and has three very bad losses on the record (Old Dominion by 14 points, Ga Tech by 21 points and Pitt by 30 points).  Folks in Blacksburg are not used to that sort of thing…

One other football program may be part of the coaching carousel this year even though it will not do so because the fans want to run the coach out of town on a rail.  Bill Snyder is synonymous with Kansas State football.  Nevertheless, he is 79 years old and he just might want to take some time and do other things with what is left of his time on the planet.  K-State is not going to fire Bill Snyder any more than Steven Seagal is going to win an Oscar for Best Actor, but Snyder may decide to hang up his whistle…

Last week, Nebraska beat Illinois 54-35 raising the Cornhuskers season record to 3-7.  Humor writer, Brad Dickson, has this Tweet about the difficulties facing Nebraska football fans:

“Why does every Nebraska game begin at 11 a.m.? Have the people setting these start times ever tried to chug a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in a cold Lincoln parking lot at 6 a.m. in November?!!  I’LL BET NOT!!!

Northwestern clinched the Big-10 West title with a win over Iowa.  Northwestern has 4 losses on its record this year; imagine the CFP Selection Committee horror if Northwestern wins the Big-10 Championship Game…

Michigan beat Rutgers 42-7 last week; the only good news for Rutgers’ fans is that Michigan did not cover the 39-point spread on that game.  Since I mentioned that the coach at Rutgers might be on a hot seat above, let me delve into the Rutgers results for 2018:

  • Rutgers has not scored more than 17 points in a game since beating Texas St and Morgan St. back in the opening weeks of the season.
  • Rutgers has lost 4 games by 21 points or more.
  • Rutgers’ final two games are against Penn St. and Michigan St. where they will be significant underdogs.

Penn St. beat Wisconsin last week 22-10 and Ohio St. beat Michigan St. 26-10.

West Virginia spanked TCU 46-10 setting up the potential for a Big-12 showdown in the final week with Oklahoma.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma dodged a bullet beating Oklahoma State 48-47.  For the record, the Sooners’ defense has not gotten significantly better since the team fired their Defensive Coordinator; please do not be shocked to learn that.  In two wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma St, the Sooners’ defense nonetheless gave up 7 yards per play.

It is almost as if Alabama and Clemson were lobbing warning shots at one another last week with top-shelf defensive games:

  • Alabama 24 Mississippi St. 0:  That makes 2 shutouts in a row for Bama…
  • Clemson 27 BC 7:  Total offense for BC was 113 yards.

Georgia beat Auburn 27-10 meaning that the Bulldogs’ tune-up for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama went well.

LSU beat Arkansas 24-17.  That game was not quite as close as it looks; LSU led by 21 points in the4th quarter.

Florida beat S. Carolina 35-24.  That game was not quite as comfortable as it looks; Florida had to score 21 unanswered points late to win this game.

Tennessee beat Kentucky 24-7.  I said last week that this game would be a coaching challenge for Kentucky after losing to Georgia the week before and killing any hope of winning the SEC East.  Well, it was indeed a big “let-down game” …

Pitt beat VA Tech 52-22.  The VA Tech defense was supposed to be better than that…

Wake Forest beat NC State 27-23.  Do you remember a few weeks ago when lots of folks thought NC State might be a threat to Clemson in the ACC?

Duke won a rivalry game over UNC 42-35.  That makes 6 losses in a row for the Tar Heels.  UNC has Western Carolina on the schedule this week; if they lose that game, Larry Fedora will not be on a hot seat; he will be on an ejection seat.

Georgia Tech beat Miami 27-21.  That is the 4th loss in a row for the Hurricanes and fans in South Florida might be getting a tad less enamored with Mark Richt these days…

Syracuse stomped Louisville 54-23.  The Orange scored 30 points in the second quarter of the game.  Here is a measure of how badly unraveled the Louisville football program has become:

  • 2017:  Louisville beat Syracuse 56-10
  • 2018:  Syracuse beat Louisville 54-23

Notre Dame beat Florida St. 42-13.  I know that Notre Dame is a Top 5 team in the rankings but that is a beat-down that is uncommon for the folks in Tallahassee.  I am now seriously wondering if Willie Taggert is over his head in a program as big as Florida St.  The Seminoles are on a 3-game losing streak and their record is 4-6; they need to win out to be bowl eligible and that is something Florida St. has been for 36 consecutive years.  Here is what is left on the schedule for Florida St:

  • Vs. Boston College (ranked #20 this week)
  • Vs. Florida (huge rivalry game against a team ranked #13 this week)

Out west, Cal beat USC 15-14.  This makes four games in a row where the Cal defense has been on display; the Bears have only given up 50 points in those last 4 games.  Since when do defensive players matriculate at Cal?

SMU beat UConn 62-50.  That is the eighth game this year where UConn has allowed opponents to score 49 or more points; that is the fourth game this year where UConn has allowed opponents to score 55 or more points.  I guess Randy Edsall must be on a hot seat at UConn – – if there are enough people in the Storrs, CT area who give a damn about the football program there.  Here is one more stunning stat about this UConn team:

  • UConn gives up an average of 623.6 yards per game.  That is 130th out of 130 teams that play Division 1-A football.
  • The next worst defensive team (Oregon St.), gives up 80.8 fewer yards per game than does UConn.


The Shoe Tournament Watch List:

Last week, we had a game between two teams on the watch list; what a spectacle that must have been.  In any event, Bowling Green beat Central Michigan 24-13.  C. Michigan was leading at halftime 13-0 but obviously could not stand the prosperity.

Here is this week’s list of twelve candidates for the eight SHOE Tournament slots in alphabetical order along with their record for the season:

  1. Bowling Green  2-8
  2. Central Michigan  1-10
  3. Kent St.  2-9
  4. Louisville  2-8
  5. Rice  1-10
  6. Rutgers  1-9
  7. San Jose St.  1-9
  8. Tulsa  2-8
  9. UConn  1-9
  10. UNC  1-8
  11. UTEP  1-9
  12. Western Kentucky  1-9

NCAA Games of Interest:

I know this is Cupcake Week in the SEC.  However, most of the teams there found nearby schools willing to take a pounding for a sizeable payday.  So, what is up with Florida needing to search as far away as Idaho to find a 40-point underdog?  Same question applies to Georgia who is making UMass fly a good distance to play a game as a 41-point underdog?

Indiana at Michigan – 28.5 (53.5):  With Ohio St. on tap for Michigan, this is a tune-up game that players might be looking past.  It has all the makings of a trap game.  I am tempted to take the points here but will resist that temptation…

Penn St. – 28 at Rutgers (49):  In the last 3 games between these teams, the combined score is Penn State 102 Rutgers 9.

Northwestern at Minnesota – 2 (47):  The spread opened with Northwestern as a 3.5-point favorite.  Obviously, bettors think that Northwestern will not take this game as seriously as they have recent games since Northwestern is the Big-10 West champ no matter what.  Minnesota is 5-1 at home this year.  Interesting game to watch – – and one to keep your money in your wallet over…

Wisconsin at Purdue – 4 (52):  Wisconsin has not been great this year; they lost 4 games.  Nonetheless, I don’t understand why anyone thinks Purdue is consistent enough to be a favorite in this game.  Purdue has lost to E. Michigan and Minnesota this year.  Very strange…

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame – 10 (65) Game is in NYC:  Syracuse is much better at home than they are on the road; they have been away from the Carrier Dome 4 times this year and have lost twice.  More importantly, they tend to give up lots of points in road games and Notre Dame will have QB, Ian Book, back on the field for this game.  This is the College Football Game of the Week.

Pitt – 6.5 at Wake Forest (60.5):  Pitt clinches the ACC Coastal title with a win here.  If the game were in Pittsburgh, I would take the Panthers in a heartbeat – – but it is not.

Missouri – 6 at Tennessee (57):  The Total Line opened the week at 45; this is a humongous move in that line.  Missouri’s pass defense is suspect; they rank 120th in the country giving up 276.5 yards per game.  Tennessee could win this one outright at home…

Ole Miss at Vandy – 3 (70):  The Total Line opened the week at 66.5 and has risen slowly all week long.  Both teams play offense better than defense.  Vandy ranks 88th in the country; Ole Miss ranks 125th.  That is why the Total Line has expanded…

West Virginia – 5.5 at Oklahoma St. (74):  The Cowboys are tough at home; just ask Oklahoma about that.  If the Mountaineers are looking beyond this game to their meeting with Oklahoma next week, they could lose this one straight up…

Utah – 7 at Colorado (47):  The visitor from the west is favored in this border war…

Utah St. – 28 at Colorado St. (68:  The visitor from the west is favored in this border war too…

Stanford – 2 at Cal (45):  Stanford did not live up to its pre-season expectations this year.  Cal exceeded its pre-season expectations this year.  None of that will matter even a little bit in this huge rivalry game.  Stanford has lost 4 games and all of them were to teams ranked in the Top 20 as of this week.

Oregon St. at Washington – 33.5 (58):  This spread is an indictment of the Oregon St. defense – – ranked 129th in the country this morning.  Washington has not score more than 35 points in a game this season save one early season game against a Division 1-AA team.  The oddsmaker must think they will score more than that here in order to put a 33.5-point spread out there.

There will be 4 NCAA Football Games in the Six-Pack below…

NFL Commentary:

I think we can all agree that John Elway was a great NFL QB; if there are dissenters, please explain the basis of your disagreement.  I will stipulate that Elway knows how to play QB at an elite level, but I have come to doubt that he can recognize the necessary capabilities in others to do the same.  Forget for a moment the Broncos’ free-agent signings at the QB position and consider the college QBs that Elway has drafted since he became the head football honcho in Denver:

  1. Brock Osweiler (2012)
  2. Zac Dysert (2013)
  3. Trevor Siemian (2015)
  4. Paxton Lynch (2016)
  5. Chad Kelly (2017)

I do not think I missed any others; this list has “FAIL” written all over it; none of these players remains with the Broncos; some are not in the NFL any longer.

I am going to make two sorta bold predictions here:

  1. The Eagles’ hope to repeat as Super Bowl Champions is no more than that – hope.  I think the Eagles are unlikely to make the playoffs this year let alone make any sort of run in the playoffs.
  2. The Falcons had high aspirations at the start of this season as a Super Bowl contender; I think those aspirations have crashed and burned.

Having made no friends in Philly or Atlanta, let me now say that THE most disappointing team in the NFL this year must be the Jags.  It took a furious 4th quarter comeback by tom Brady last year in the playoffs to prevent the Jags from playing the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  This year, the Jags are in the basement in the AFC South.  Over the recent years, the Jags have spent a lot of time in that division basement; perhaps last year’s run to the playoffs was a “black swan”?

Last week, the Jags lost to the Colts.  In recent years, the Colts have been less-than-fearsome, but this year they have Andrew Luck back under center and they seem to have found a running game laying around somewhere.  Their win over the Jags was their 3rd in a row and Luck has completed 70% of his throws in those 3 games.  Do not write off the Colts making the playoffs this year…

The Titans beat the Pats last week; it is the second time this season that a coach who has former ties to the Patriot organization has beaten the Pats.  The Titans won on the strength of running the football for 150 yards and scoring on their first 3 possessions to take charge of the game and its tempo.

Last week, the Panthers were absolutely dominated by the Steelers on Thursday Nite Football.  Notwithstanding that beat-down, I would not write off the Panthers for a playoff slot just yet.  The Panthers have 6 wins so far and they have three “bunnies” left on the schedule:

  1. Lions
  2. Bucs
  3. Browns

The Falcons laid an egg in Cleveland last week as Nick Chubb ran wild for 175 yards.  The Browns gained a total of 211 yards rushing and the Browns’ defense stopped the Falcons 3 times from the 1-yardline in the 4th quarter while the game was still in doubt.

The Bucs continued to put their ineptitude on display in their loss to the Skins last week.  Consider:

  • The Bucs gained 501 yards on offense and scored all of 3 points in the game.
  • In 5 trips to the red zone, here were the Bucs’ outcomes: INT, missed FG, FG, missed FG, lost fumble.  [Aside:  That is the sort of performance you might expect from a SHOE Team in the collegiate ranks.]

I think the Bucs are about to implode this team and start over.  I suspect that the coach and the GM will be changed in the off-season; I suspect the team will not re-up Jameis Winston and will move him along for draft assets starting in 2019.

The Saints were toying with the Bengals’ defense last week.  In the first half, Drew Brees threw for 317 yards while only throwing 2 incomplete passes; the Saints led 35-7 at the half.  The Bengals’ offense is not designed to win any shootouts; this game was no contest after the middle of the 2nd quarter.  After the game, the Bengals fired their Defensive Coordinator and Marvin Lewis announced that he was taking over the defense.  Granted, Lewis earned his stripes as a “defensive whiz” but he is not going to be the one to cover WRs on the field – – and against the Saints there were lots of WRs running free out there.  Here is how bad the Bengals’ defense has been recently:

  • Bengals have given up 31 points or more in 6 of the last 7 games.
  • Bengals have given up 158 points in their last 4 games.
  • Bengals have given up 500 yards or more in the last 3 games.
  • How much of that was the defensive coordinator’s failure?

The Packers beat the Dolphins 31-12 last week.  The Packers’ defense sacked Brock Osweiler six times and picked off one of his passes.  Basically, the Packers cruised to a win here.

The Chargers beat the Raiders 20-6.  The Raiders may have watched the Bucs’ debacle in the early game last week, because they seemed to emulate the Bucs’ futility.  The Raiders penetrated the Chargers’ 25-yardline 4 times in the game and managed to get a single field goal for that effort.  Or maybe the Raiders were imitating the Falcons from last week; they too were stopped at the 1-yardline to end a drive.

The Chiefs beat the Cards 26-14 last week.  I guess the Cards can feel good about two things on defense:

  1. They sacked Patrick Mahomes 5 times.
  2. They held Mahomes to 248 yards passing – his lowest total ever.

Other than that, …

Two weeks ago, Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in a game.  Last week things got better; he was only sacked 6 times by the Bears’ defense.  I guess that is what passes for “improvement” in Detroit these days.  The Bears ran out to a 26-0 lead and put it in cruise control for the win.  Bears’ kicker, Cody Parkey did something in that game that he could not do again if he tried.  Parkey hit the upright on 4 place kicks in the game – – 2 FG attempts and 2 PATs.  Most kickers do not hit the uprights 4 times in a season; Parkey did it in a single game.

The Rams beat the Seahawks even though the Seahawks ran the ball for 273 yards in the game. Teams that run the ball that well usually win the game.

The Bills started Matt Barkley at QB last week against the Jets; Barkley had been with the Bills for 10 days prior to the start.  The Bills ran off to a 31-0 lead and won the game in a walk.  There has been mounting pressure on Todd Bowles in NY; this game tried the patience of even the morst ardent Jets’ fan.  The team was playing the worst offense in the league and that offense was starting a guy who could not possibly know the whole playbook and that new QB had already shown several teams in the NFL that he isn’t very good.  Final score was Bills 41 and Jets 10.  The Bills amassed 451 yards of offense here; their previous high for the year was 100 yards fewer than that.  The Jets went 3-and-out on its first 3 possessions; it was an omen for what was to come…

NFL Games This Week:

Six teams have their BYE Week this week.  The entire AFC East is taking a week off…

  1. Buffalo Bills:  They scored 41points last week with Matt Barkley at QB.  I doubt that many fantasy owners played Barkley in that game.  I wonder how many will start Barkley next week after two weeks of practice time with his new mates…
  2. Cleveland Browns:  They beat the Falcons 28-16.  Nick Chubb ran wild.  Interim coach Gregg Williams gave the team an extra day off.  The bar for rewards in Cleveland is pretty low.
  3. Miami Dolphins:  They defended the wrong “Aaron” last week.  Aaron Rodgers only passed for 199 yards, but Aaron Jones carried the ball 15 times for 145 yards and 2 TDs.  The team gets a week off to deal with run defense issues.
  4. New England Pats:  They get to let the stink of their loss to the Titans attach to themselves for an extra week here.
  5. NY Jets:  The Jets threw in one of the more embarrassing performances of the last several years against the Bills last week.  Heads will roll on the field and on the sideline in the upcoming offseason.  Some folks in the GM’s suite should pay a price here too.
  6. SF Niners:  They had a 10-point lead over the Giants in the 3rd quarter and managed to lose the game.  That cannot make for a warm and fuzzy extra week of practice…

Dallas at Atlanta – 3 (48.5):  The loser of this game will not make the playoffs; the winner is certainly not guaranteed to make the playoffs, but the loser is cooked.  This is the second road game in a row for the Cowboys.  If they adopt the game plan they used against the Eagles last week and run the ball, they can win this one.  If they revert to a dink-and-dunk passing attack as the basis for the offense, they will lose.  The Cowboys are not a good road team this year; they are 1-4 on the road.

Cincy at Baltimore – 3.5 (39.5):  Joe Flacco is questionable for this game with a hip injury.  Lamar Jackson has been less than impressive when he is in the game so far this year.  The other QB on the Ravens’ roster is RG3.  Frankly, I am surprised that the Ravens are favored here other than the fact that the Bengals are imploding, and the game is in Baltimore.  I showed the Bengals lack of defensive prowess above; if Jackson starts and does not play well against that defense, you might begin to wonder if it was a good idea for the Ravens to trade up to get him in the first round of last year’s draft.

Philly at New Orleans – 9 (56):  The Saints have covered in each of their last 7 games.  This is a big number to cover but the Eagles bring a banged up defensive secondary to the field against Drew Brees and company.  This could get ugly…

Tennessee at Indy – 1 (50):  It looks as if the oddsmaker is expecting a let-down game for the Titans after last week’s dominant win over the Pats.  Or … is this some recognition of how well Andrew Luck and the Colts have played recently?  Luck has thrown 3 TD passes in each of his last 6 games and is the only QB in NFL history to do that.

Houston – 3 at Washington (42):  The Texans have plenty of experience in playing close games and winning them.  The Skins have plenty of experience in playing low scoring games and winning them.  This game will be close and low-scoring.  JJ Watt and Company will be playing against a patchwork Skins’ OL minus at least 3 starters and that might be ugly.

Tampa Bay at Giants – 1.5 (52):  This is Dog-Breath Game of the Week #1.  The Giants came from behind to win last week.  The Bucs gained almost 500 yards and scored 3 points (see above).  Big changes are coming in Tampa; maybe big changes are coming in NY too.  Before the Niners game last week Odell Beckham, Jr. said he thought the Giants would win 8 in a row to finish 9-7.  Well, one down and a win here for the Giants would make two on the way to eight in a row…

Oakland at Arizona – 5.5 (41):  This is Dog-Breath Game of the Week #2.  The spread opened at 3 points and expanded to this level quickly.  Bettors seem to be saying that the Raiders have tossed in their jockstraps for the season and are only playing to collect their game checks.  Who am I to argue with that assessment?  Josh Rosen seems to be improving week to week; Derek Carr seems to be regressing.

Pittsburgh – 5 at Jax (47):  The Steelers had extra time to prepare for this game coming off a Thursday night game last week.  Equally important, the Steelers finally shed the drama associated with LeVeon Bell this week; he is not going to report to the team at all.  The Jags will need a big game from Leonard Fournette to stay in this game.

(Sun Nite) Minnesota at Chicago – 3 (44.5):  The Bears record is padded; here are five teams they have beaten:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Bucs
  3. Jets
  4. Bills
  5. Lions

By the way, the Vikes record is padded too.  Here are four teams they have beaten:

  1. Niners
  2. Cardinals
  3. Jets
  4. Lions

This is a flexed game; it was originally a 1:00 PM start.  The Vikes come to the game off a BYE Week.  The winner will be in first place in the AFC North; the teams are only half-a-game apart this morning.  However, there is a large disparity in the point differential for the teams this year.  The Bears are +94 for the season; the Vikes are only +17 for the season.   The team that rushes the passer more effectively and more consistently will win this game

(Mon Nite) KC at Rams – 3.5 (63.5):  This is clearly the Game of the Week.  It was supposed to be played in Mexico City but the field there was not in good enough condition, so the game was moved to LA early in the week.  I cannot recall ever seeing a Total Line this high for an NFL game.   It opened at this level and has stayed here all week long – – other than 1 Internet sports book where the Total Line has gone up to 64.   Both teams bring 9-1 records to the field.  The Chiefs have the highest point differential in the NFL at +113 points; the Rams are second in the NFL in point differential at +104.  The loss of Cooper Kupp is significant; he is a security blanket for Jared Goff.  If you like rock ‘em/sock ‘em defense, this is not the game for you.  It could wind up 45-41 as easily as it could wind up 24-20.

This week’s Six-Pack:

Miami – 6.5 at VA Tech (51.5):  This has been a disappointing season for both teams and both offenses have been a big part of those disappointments.  I like the UNDER here.

Virginia at Ga Tech – 4.5 (53):  Virginia has several defensive linemen out; Ga Tech will run the ball all day long.  I think it will be a long day for the Cavaliers.  I’ll take Georgia Tech and lay the points.

Middle Tennessee St. at Kentucky – 16.5 (46):  Kentucky has lost 2 in a row to Georgia and then Tennessee.  Middle Tennessee State is not on a par with either of those teams, but those two losses took a hugely promising season for Kentucky down to one where they are not going to play in a major bowl game.  That should be deflating, and Middle Tennessee can score a little bit.  I like Middle Tennessee St plus that big helping of points.

Arizona at Wash St. – 10.5 (62.5):  That line looks fat to me even on the Palouse.  Arizona QB, Khalil Tate, has started playing the way he did last year and that can be scary.  Arizona had an extra week to point to this game too.  I like Arizona plus the points here.

Carolina – 4.5 at Detroit (49.5):  This is the second road game in a row for the Panthers; meanwhile, the Lions were just awful against the Bears last week.  The Panthers need a win; the Lions need better players.  The Panthers are only 1-3 on the road as opposed to 5-0 at home; the Lions have always been better at home than on the road.  I’ll go with the better team as opposed to the better venue play.  I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points.

Denver at Chargers – 7 (45.5):  The Broncos are coming off a bye, but the Chargers are the better team with a real shot at the playoffs.  The return of Melvin Gordon helps the Chargers a lot; the Broncos run defense is not stout.  The Chargers are charging toward a playoff slot; the Broncos are headed home for the Holidays.  I like the Chargers to win and cover here.

Finally, here is a note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about a serious accident at a college football game earlier this year:

“Headlines I Never Imagined Reading (one in a series): ‘Colorado Football Mascot Shoots Self In Groin With T-Shirt Cannon’.”

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



Congratulations to Larry Fitzgerald And To Jerry Rice

Last Sunday, Arizona Cardinals’ WR, Larry Fitzgerald, added 50 yards to his career total.  In doing so, he passed Terrell Owens’ career total and Fitzgerald is now second on the NFL All-Time List for receiving yards.  Normally, that achievement would merit congratulations and then I would move on.  However, this is a slightly different situation.

As the second-leading pass receiver in NFL history, Larry Fitzgerald has caught passes for 15,952 yards.  The first question that came to my mind was:

  • OK, how many more does he need to amass and pass Jerry Rice as the #1 guy on the list?

It took next to no time to determine that Jerry Rice’s total yardage was – wait for this – 22,895 yards.  The gap between Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald as of this morning is 6,943 yards.  To put that in perspective, Golden Tate’s total yardage for his eight-and-a-half-year career is 6,955 yards.  After seeing the magnitude of the separation here, I wondered if any active players had a shot at Jerry Rice’s record.  It is going to be difficult to say the least.

The first thing I noticed is that all the receivers – other than Jerry Rice – who are high on the All-Time List averaged just a bit over 1000 yards a season.  So, I put in my mind that an active receiver would have to have enough seasons left where he could amass 1100 yards per season to catch Jerry Rice.  With that yardstick, here are some benchmarks:

  • Brandon Marshall:  Other than Fitzgerald, he is the leading receiver who is still active with 12,351 yards.  He would need to play another 9.5 years at 1100 yards per year to catch Jerry Rice.  He is 34 years old; he will not be catching passes 9 years from now.
  • Antonio Gates:  He would need to be around for 10.1 years at 1100 yards per year.  That is not happening.
  • Antonio Brown:  He is third among active pass-catchers with 10,600 yards.  Using my very rudimentary metric, he would need to continue his career for another 11.2 seasons to get to Jerry Rice’s level.  Brown has been in the NFL for 8.5 seasons to date; he is 30 years old.  You may convince yourself that Brown has a shot at the record – – but it is a long-shot.
  • DeSean Jackson:  He has amassed 10,180 yards receiving.  He would need to continue to play for another 11.7 years to live in Jerry Rice’s neighborhood.  Jackson is halfway through his 11th season in the NFL and is 32 years old.  This is not happening.
  • Julio Jones:  He has 10,094 yards to his credit for his career.  By my metric, he would also need 11.7 more seasons to get to the “Rice-level”.  Jones has been in the NFL for 7.5 years and is 29 years old this year.  Like Antonio Brown, he has a shot at the record – – but it too is a long-shot.

Looking at some of the “youngsters” who are nowhere near the 10,000-yard level so far in their careers, here are some of the ones who are averaging something near 1100 yards per season:

  • DeAndre Hopkins:  He has 6,759 yards; he averages 1229 yards per season; he is 26 years old.
  • Odell Beckham, Jr.:  He has 5,282 yards; he averages 1320 yards per season; he is 26 years old.
  • Mike Evans:  He has 5,416 yards; he averages 1204 yards per season; he is 25 years old.

When sports fans gather at a local watering hole and talk about “records that will never be broken”, I think we need to add Jerry Rice’s total receiving yards to the standard list that includes:

  • Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak of 2632 games
  • Cy Young’s total of 511 wins in a career
  • UCLA’s seven consecutive NCAA Championships
  • You get the idea…

All those achievements – along with Jerry Rice’s career totals and all the other “unbreakable records” that may go onto this list – are praiseworthy.  Nonetheless, all of them could be broken some day because someone may come along with other-worldly skills or longevity and do it.  As I have pointed out here before, there is at least one sports record that will never be broken because it CANNOT be broken.  Here it is:

  • The Super Bowl game played in January 1991 between the NY Giants and the Buffalo Bills was then, is now and forever will be the Super Bowl game won by the smallest margin.  The final score was 20-19; that was the infamous Scott Norwood “wide-right game”.  It is not possible for any Super Bowl game to be decided by a smaller margin than that.  The record may be tied; it cannot be broken.

In the US, we often take notice of some of the wacky promotional events put on by minor league baseball teams.  Personally, I find many of them to be very clever.  Having said that, I think minor league baseball in the US has to take a back seat to an event staged by fans – not the team itself – of a minor league soccer team in Holland.  Fans hired a “busty stripper” to streak the field and “exchange banter” with the players.  Here is a link to the report in the NY Post.  There is video of the streak; it has been blurred out to make it PG-rated.  If you go to the link and watch the “event”, please notice that there is little to no effort by “security” to do anything about this.

Finally, Dwight Perry had a comment on this soccer streaking incident in Holland in the Seattle Times:

“Supporters of Rijnsburgse Boys, a soccer team in the Netherlands, hired a porn star named Foxy to run in nothing but shoes and socks across the field to unnerve rival Amsterdamsche FC players, but it didn’t work as first-place AFC breezed to a 6-2 win.

“Now that’s what you call a losing streak.”

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



The End Of An Era…

The motto for the State of Kansas is Ad astra per aspera” meaning “To the stars through hopes and through difficulties”.  Many commentaries on sports take that as a vector heading; sports are about striving to be the best against forces that would thwart such endeavors.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, we like to look at things that never got off the ground on the way to the stars – – aborted missions so to speak.  Today we will celebrate some of the worst – – and not the best – – “achievements in the NFL world.

I shall start by declaring:

  • The Nathan Peterman Era in Buffalo is over.
  • The Bills announced that they had released their beleaguered QB.  While I am not anywhere near northwestern NY, I feel comfortable in assuming that this news was not met with a moment of silence and reflection among Bills’ fans.

I am well aware of the adage saying that low probability events happen every day.  Nonetheless, it would be a head-scratching set of circumstances that would lead to Peterman being signed by another NFL team between now and the end of the regular season.  It is more likely that he would be resigned by the Bills than anything else, but I think the braintrust there would fear the fan reaction sufficiently to pass on that option so long as people like Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden are simultaneously vertical and taking nourishment.

The end of this “Era” does require some review of the stats and reflection just how bad those stats are.  According to, here is the accounting:

  1. Nathan Peterman started 4 games for the Bills and appeared in 4 others
  2. The Bills’ record in his 4 starts was 1-3-0.
  3. Peterman was 68 for 130 in passing (completion rate of 52.3%)
  4. His total yards passing were 548 yards (4.2 per attempt; 8.1 per completion)
  5. He threw 3 TDs and 12 INTs.

The Peterman Era in Buffalo got off to a rocky start, indeed.  Many an NFL QB has struggled in his first start in the league, but Peterman took “struggling” to new depths.  In his first start, he threw 5 INTs in 14 pass attempts in the first half of the game.  Not surprisingly, he did not start the second half of that game.

Peterman was named the starting QB for the Bills this year – apparently with the idea that rookie Josh Allen would learn by osmosis and ease on into that job somewhere down the line.  In the Bills’ opener against the Ravens, Peterman was 5 for 18 for 24 yards and 2 INTs.  Later this year as the Bills shuffled QBs the way Brett Maverick used to shuffle poker decks, Peterman got another chance to start against the Bears.  Here were the results:

  • 31 for 49 (not bad) for 188 yards (paltry return on 31 completions) and 3 more INTs.

Early this week, the Bills announced Peterman’s release.  Bills’ fans are probably happy to see that; I wonder if Peterman is happy to be out of Buffalo where he had become a household name – – but not in a good way.

Time for a Quick Quiz:  What is the next career move for Nathan Peterman?

  1. Try to play QB in the CFL
  2. Try to play QB in the new AAF (Alliance of American Football)
  3. Try to play QB in “XFL 2.0” – assuming that gets off the ground
  4. Start a career doing some that does not involve “QB” and “Pro Football”

100 words or less – – you make the call…

Continuing on the vector heading of unsuccessful football happenings, we are at the halfway point in the season and I think it is time to handicap the race that does not get nearly enough attention – the race to see which team will be on the clock with the overall #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft starting around New Year’s Day.

In looking at the possibilities, I have eliminated from consideration any of the teams who have already won 3 games in 2018.  Yes, I know that a 3-13 record could well take the prize here; it has done so in the past.  Nevertheless, for that to happen, one of those “3-win teams” would have to lose out AND all the teams on my list would have to win at least 2 more games between now and the end of December.  While I pay homage to the mantra of “Any Given Sunday”, that is too far a stretch for me.  Hence, I present here the 4 NFL teams on course to have the overall #1 pick in the draft next April.

  1. Oakland Raiders (1-8):  The Raiders have the worst record so far this year and seem to play in a more moribund fashion as every week passes.  The Raiders have a road game in Arizona against the Cards – – who shall appear on the list below – – and opened the week as a 3-point underdog.  That spread has widened as of this morning to 4 points.  That is as small a spread as the Raiders will see in the next month because after the Cards, they play the Ravens, Chiefs and Steelers.  Then they will end the year with two meaningless games against the Bengals and Broncos.  A loss to the Cards this week will make the Raiders’ ceiling for the regular season be 3-13.
  2. Arizona Cardinals (2-7):  This week’s game against the Raiders is important to the Cards too.  With a win, they will hand the tie-breaker to the Raiders; that would essentially eliminate them from a serious run at the overall #1 pick.  Alternatively, the Cards could indeed lose out and with the loss to the Raiders his week on the way to losing out, the Cards would have a better claim on the overall #1 spot than would the Raiders.  Two December games on the Cards’ schedule are “dangerous” in the sense that the Cards could win them.  They host the less-than-fearsome Lions in Week 15 and then play the Falcons in Week 16 in a game that ought to be meaningless to the Falcons.
  3. NY Giants (2-7):  Their win on Monday night this week over the Niners means they would forfeit the overall #1 pick should the Giants and Niners each win the same number of regular season games.  Moreover, the Giants are 2-point favorites at home this week against the Bucs.  I think the Giants are the longest shot among this “Gang of Four”.
  4. SF 49ers (2-8):  The Niners have lost twice to the Cards already so they are in a good place with regard to a tie there.  They lost to the Giants on Monday night this week, so they are in a good place there too.  However, the Niners shellacked the Raiders just two weeks ago meaning they are a game-and-a-half ahead of the Raiders in this race to the bottom.  The Niners need a Raiders’ win this week to stay in serious contention because the Niners have two winnable games upcoming in December – – versus the Bucs after a BYE Week for the Niners and at home against the Broncos on 9 December.

For this race to the bottom, it would be inapprorp0irate to say something like “Gentlemen, start your engines.”  Instead it seems apropos to say:

  • Gentlemen, apply your parking brakes!”

Finally, consider this comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had diamonds shaped as a cross implanted onto one of his teeth, TMZ reported.

“In keeping with the theme, Beckham requested they make it a two-minute drill.”

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



Blasphemy, I Say …!

All change is not progress.  I am sure there is someone in the hierarchy of the University of Pennsylvania who considers himself/herself a “change agent”; I think he/she is a blasphemer.  To explain my position, I need to give you some history.

On the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, the basketball arena is The Palestra.  It was built in the 1920s; it is an iconic venue for college basketball.  According to Wikipedia:

“…the Palestra has hosted more games, more visiting teams, and more NCAA tournaments than any other facility in college basketball.”

  • In 1939, the NCAA staged its first men’s basketball tournament featuring 8 teams.  The first game ever played in that tournament took place in The Palestra.
  • I attended and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s; in those days all of the Big 5 schools (Penn, Temple, LaSalle, Villanova and St. Joseph) played their home games in The Palestra.  To squeeze in that many games, there would be double-headers on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays every week – – with an occasional double-header on Wednesday night too.  In my four years at Penn, I missed a grand total of 4 college basketball games.
  • For the entirety of the 1964-65 season, I kept the stats for the Philadelphia Inquirer college basketball beat reporter who had to write and file – via telex – a series of stories as the paper wrapped up sequential editions for the following morning.
  • I have a personal connection to and with The Palestra.

A couple weeks ago, the University of Pennsylvania announced that they sold the naming rights to the basketball court inside The Palestra to an Australian investment firm.  Seriously, they did that…  As far as I am concerned, that is akin to the Vatican announcing that they have sold the naming rights to one of the side chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica to Pabst Blue Ribbon.

In Leviticus, the penalty for blasphemy is set at public stoning.  I do not wish that end on the genius who came up with the idea to sell these naming rights or on the greedy money-grubber who approved this deal.  I do wish however that all involved here suffer the fate called out by Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent:

“May the fleas of a thousand camels infect your armpits.”

And by the way, any future alumni contributions emanating from my exchequer will be eliminated…

Whilst I am in such a splenetic mood this morning, let me turn my attention to a standard narrative about NFL coaches.  All during the time leading up to the adoption of the Rooney Rule, the generally accepted wisdom was that the NFL coaching profession was an old boys club for white coaches and an exclusionary one for black coaches.  One of the standard arguments offered to “prove” that assertion was that when a white guy failed as a coach somewhere, he would soon get another job anyhow, but when a black guy failed as a coach, he was lucky to get a job as a ticket seller.  (I exaggerate here for effect…)  Well, all the voices who offered up that trope can rejoice today because that situation has been put to bed once and for all.

This morning, I read that Hue Jackson was just hired on as a “consultant” by the Cincy Bengals.  Hue Jackson has had two shots at being a head coach:

  1. In 2011, he was the head coach of the Raiders for one season finishing 3rd in the AFC West with an 8-8 record.
  2. From 2016 through half of the 2018 season, he was the head coach of the Browns accumulating a record of 3-36-1.

Hue Jackson is African-American; notwithstanding that genetic signature, he got a new job in about two weeks after he was fired by the Browns for having as bad a record as one might imagine.  The NFL coaching carousel is now recycling failed black coaches as well as failed white coaches.

Speaking about coaches who are experiencing “less than successful results” at the NFL level, it behooves me to point to Jon Gruden in Oakland.  The Raiders are 1-8 this morning and they have been outscored by about 14 points per game.  That means, on average, the Raiders have virtually no chance to win a game in the final 5-8 minutes.  Three of the eight losses have been by 21 points or more; those games were over by the time the fourth quarter started for all practical purposes.  In that circumstance, one might wonder why there is not a hint of ownership dissatisfaction with Jon Gruden in Oakland.  I think the reason for that is purely financial.

  • The Raiders signed Jon Gruden to a 10-year contract worth $100M less than a year ago.  I have not read the actual contract, but I do recall that Gruden said that the entire amount was not guaranteed.  OK, so let’s say for simplicity that his agent got him a 10-year deal with an annual salary of $10M with only $50M of it guaranteed.  Even in that scenario, the Raiders would owe Gruden a lot of money to stay home and not coach the team if they were to pull the plug at the end of the 2018 season.
  • Add to that situation, the fact that the Raiders are already paying Jack Del Rio not to coach the Raiders.  If reports about Del Rio’s contract are correct, he will be collecting from the Raiders this year and in 2019 and in 2020.
  • If the Raiders were to “move on” from Jon Gruden this year or next year, that would mean that they would be paying three people to be the head coach of their team at one time.  More than a few folks have speculated that Mark Davis’ bank account(s) will not support such a luxury.

Hence, my suggestion that Gruden’s security in Oakland is based on finances.

Finally, this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times seems to be an appropriate way to end today’s rant:

“A man using a blowtorch to kill spiders burned down his mother’s house in Fresno, Calif.

“He reportedly got the idea watching Jon Gruden tinker with the Raiders’ roster.”

I’ll go and adjust my medication level now…

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



A CFL Team In Halifax?

Last week, I ran across a report saying that a group of people wanted to add a franchise to the Canadian Football League and locate the franchise in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  According to the report, the team backers had gotten to the point that they were starting a “name-the-team contest”; and in order to get a vote in the contest, one had to sign up for season tickets.  That seems to be a good way to measure fan interest in the region and to generate publicity around the potential franchise to engender more interest.  The CFL honchos would like to see just how much interest exists there.

Regarding a place to play, the report said that the folks proposing the franchise have located some vacant land in Halifax and want to build a 24,000-seat stadium there – – but it will require some public money.  Estimated costs run to about $190M; the plan is for the team to begin play in 2021.  The Halifax city-fathers are studying the business aspects of the stadium proposal.

My long-suffering wife and I have been to Nova Scotia twice and we loved it both times that we were there.  However, my recollection was that Nova Scotia as a province was sparsely populated and I wondered if it could support a CFL team.  According to Google, the Halifax Regional Municipality has a population just over 400,000 people and the province itself hosts 940,000 folks.  That is more that I would have guessed but it still seems as if it might be a tad thin to support a team.

I sent an email to Gregg Drinnan who was the sports editor of the Kamloops Daily News until that newspaper ceased to exist and who now authors an excellent blog, Taking Note.  I referenced this report and asked him if he thought Halifax was a big enough market for a CFL franchise.  I also asked about Quebec City as an alternative site in Eastern Canada if indeed the league wanted another team in that part of the country to balance out the CFL.  Here are the cogent sections of his response:

“My heart says yes, but my head says no. . . . Twenty or 30 years ago, maybe. But not now. I don’t think the population is there [in Nova Scotia] and expenses never seem to go down. So I don’t know that a team there will generate the revenue needed to run a franchise, even in the CFL.

“I don’t know what the aversion is to Quebec City. The university teams in Quebec have pretty good followings, as do the ones in the Maritimes. But QC obviously has more population. I do think there is more political will to provide a place to play in Halifax than there is in Quebec City.”

Adding a team to the CFL would be a good idea just so the league can field an even number of teams.  Currently there are 5 Western Teams and 4 Eastern Teams.  In the CFL playoffs that just began, the British Columbia Lions – whose home is in Vancouver – were playing in the Eastern bracket.  Say what?

Switching gears …  According to reports, Carmelo Anthony’s “honeymoon in Houston” may be ending soon after his arrival there.  In a game against the Spurs, Anthony did not play due to an unspecified illness.  In the game before that – against the Thunder, Anthony shot 1 for 11 from the floor and 0 for 6 from 3-point range.  Coach Mike D’Antoni had no comment regarding Anthony’s absence from the lineup which would not be an outrageous circumstance except for the fact that D’Antoni and Anthony lived through some scratchy times with one another when both were with the Knicks.  It did not end well in NYC in the days before Anthony’s skills began to erode.  I suspect it will not end well in Houston…

Remember a few years ago when Baylor football was in the spotlight based on allegations that members of the football team routinely engaged in sexual assaults and that the football team – under Art Briles – covered up those activities.  After an investigation, the university fired Art Briles and its university president, Kenneth Starr.  Well, the Big 12 Conference seemingly is not done with Baylor yet.  Since all of this came to light and an investigation showed that the school was less than diligent in handling these matters, the Conference has been withholding a portion of Baylor’s Big-12 Conference generated revenue.  A recent report says that the withholding amounts to just under $15M.  Evidently, the folks who run the Big-12 have figured out how to close the books on this sordid mess:

  • The “$15M” in withheld revenue will be invested in an escrow account and that account will run for the next 4 years.  In that time, Baylor will continue to implement recommendations that arose from the investigation into how the schools screwed up the “football/sexual assault situation” so badly.
  • After 4 years, the conference will assess Baylor’s progress and if they determine then that the proper controls exist and that the proper checks and balances exist for the football team and the Athletic department, then the escrow account will be liquidated in the following way.
  • First, Baylor will reimburse the Big-12 Conference several million dollars for the legal costs that the conference incurred due to Baylor’s improprieties.  [Aside:  That seems like an awful lot of billable hours for an entity “twice-removed” from the football team that was the epicenter of the situation.  Whatever…]
  • Then, the Big-12 will take $2M out of the principal invested in the escrow account as a fine on Baylor University.
  • Baylor will then receive the remaining principal from the account – which is money they would have gotten earlier on as part of their conference membership.
  • All the interest/capital gains earned on the principal will be distributed equally to the conference member schools and the schools are supposed to use those funds to combat sexual assaults on their campuses.

Perhaps, that is the final chapter in the dystopian novel on Baylor football…?

Finally, here is a comment from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel:

“I’m not saying NBA coaches are totally unimportant, but Tyronn Lue won a championship and made it to four consecutive NBA Finals when LeBron James was on the roster. Without LeBron, Lue didn’t even make it through the first month of this season without getting fired.”

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



Football Friday 11/9/18

It is time once again for Football Friday.  As is custom in these parts I shall begin with a report on Linfield College football.  The Wildcats extended their record to 6-2 last week with a 47-41 win over Pacific Lutheran.  The game was not your standard back-and-forth-shoot-out as might be indicated by the score.  With about 11 minutes left in the game, Linfield led 37-13; then the Lutes managed to score 22 unanswered points in the next 6 minutes and took the lead at 41-40 with a minute left on the clock.  That created the opportunity for Linfield to hit a 59-yard TD pass with about 20 seconds left to win the game.  Demonstrating the comeback made by Pacific Lutheran, the Lutes ran up 516 yards of offense and 432 of those yards came in the second half.

The Wildcats finish their conference play this week at home against Pacific University.  Go Wildcats!

I am not going to make any friends among Notre Dame alums with this next observation:

  • Using only the eyeball test in the games I have seen on TV so far this year, my top 4 teams for the CFP would be Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Michigan.

Sorry; just my opinion…

While on the subject of the CFP and my eyeball test, here is what I think about UCF and its cry for attention from the CFP Selection Committee:

  • Temple – I said Temple – scored 40 points on UCF last week.  What parting gifts do we have for the Golden Knights, Johnny …?

As more and more college teams run spread offenses and have the capacity to score from anywhere in the field, it is worth noting the first possession by Army in its game against Air Force last week:

  • The drive went 75 yards for a TD.
  • The drive consisted of 21 plays.
  • The drive consumed 12 minutes and 55 seconds off the clock.
  • Woody Hayes approved this message…

Speaking of Georgia above, the Bulldogs beat Kentucky 34-17 last week in a dominant performance.  That win clinches the SEC East championship for Georgia setting up what should be a great SEC Championship Game against Alabama.  The Crimson Tide assured itself of the SEC West championship by shutting out LSU 29-0.  Alabama had been blowing people out on offense all year long; last week their defense was on display.  Consider these two stats:

  1. Total offense for LSU was 184 yards.
  2. LSU is a power running offense; in the first half, LSU had minus-2 yards rushing.

We know who will play in the SEC Championship and it will be a game to see.  In a few other conferences, the Championship Game looks as if it will be bland as porridge.  The ACC Coastal Division, the Big-10 West and the PAC-12 South will be represented by a champion in those three Conference Championship Games.  The problem is that every team in all three of those divisions already has 3 losses on the books.

The Big 12 Championship Game will avoid that possibility for a simple reason.  There are no divisions in the Big-12; that Championship Game takes place between the two teams in the conference with the best records.  However, here is what could happen there:

  • Oklahoma and West Virginia will play in the final game of the season.
  • It is possible – even probable – that these are the two teams with the best records in the Big-12.
  • That means they would play one another a second time 8 days later.

Such is the state of Conference Championship Weekend in the Power 5 conferences…

Auburn rallied late to beat Texas A&M in a game the Aggies seemed to have in hand in the 4th quarter.  It appeared as if the Aggies just stopped playing defense in the final 10 minutes or so of that game.  Strange.

West Virginia beat Texas 42-41 as the Mountaineers’ QB, Wil Greer, put on a show.  The Mountaineers have TCU at home this week followed by a road game at Oklahoma State before that showdown against Oklahoma on November 23rd.

Pitt beat Virginia and the Panthers now lead the ACC Coastal Division with an overall record of 5-4.  If they win out – and who is to say that a team flirting with a .500 record might actually do that – they would get to play Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.  Be still my heart.

Duke beat Miami 20-12.  That sets the Hurricane’s record at 5-4 and puts them on a 3-game losing streak.  Recall in early October, we were wondering if we were witnessing the re-emergence of Miami as a national powerhouse.  Mark Richt is not on a hot-seat there, but it is warming not cooling.

Clemson embarrassed Louisville 77-16.  Louisville has 2 wins this season – at the expense of Division 1-AA Indiana State and potential SHOE Team, W. Kentucky.  Lamar Jackson may not be doing anything important for the Baltimore Ravens this year, but when he was at the helm for Louisville, they were not torched by Clemson anything like what happened last week.

Purdue was back to playing strong football beating Iowa last week; meanwhile, Ohio State did not look good at all despite beating a mediocre-at-best Nebraska team

Michigan simply manhandled Penn State; there is no more polite way to put it.  The last 3 games for the Wolverines have been against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State; the combined score for those 3 games is 101-27.

  • [Aside:  People have criticized Jim Harbaugh for his poor record against major rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.  To be fair, why don’t folks look at James Franklin’s record against top Big-10 rivals as scrupulously?  Franklin’s Nittany Lions are 1-4 against Michigan, 1-4 against Michigan State and 1-4 against Ohio State.  Not particularly pretty.]

Illinois beat Minnesota 55-37 last week.  In case you are wondering how Illinois managed to score 55 points on any team more recognizable than Disco Tech, here is how:

  • The Fighting Illini averaged 12.4 yards per running play in the game.

Out west, Washington State won an ugly game over Cal 19-13.  It was raining and windy in Pullman last Saturday.  It was pouring on the Palouse…

Arizona State beat Utah 38-20.  If the Sun Devils win out, they will represent the PAC-12 South in the PAC-12 Championship Game.  Utah has played excellent defense all year; they were ranked 7th in the country in total defense allowing only 287 yards per game.  Arizona St. produced 536 yards of offense last week, which is almost double what Utah had been allowing.

UTEP won its first game of the year over Rice last week by a score of 36-24.  That means two things:

  1. There are no winless teams in college football this year.
  2. Both teams will be part of the SHOE Watchlist below.

The SHOE Watchlist:

There are 9 teams that have only won 1 game this year – more than enough to fill up the SHOE Tournament field.  Nonetheless, I will continue to put twelve teams on the SHOE Tournament Watchlist this week…  Call them the Dirty Dozen if you wish:

  1. Bowling Green 1-8
  2. Central Michigan 1-9
  3. Kent St.  2-7
  4. Old Dominion  2-7
  5. Rice  1-9
  6. Rutgers  1-8
  7. San Jose St.  1-8
  8. UConn  1-8
  9. UNC 1-7
  10. UNLV  2-7
  11. UTEP  1-8
  12. Western Ky  1-8

NCAA Games of Interest:

Louisville at Syracuse – 21 (69.5):  Talk about two teams and two programs heading in opposite directions…  If Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals get blown out here, maybe someone should tell him to start packing up his stuff in the sidecar of his motorcycle.  Too soon …?

Clemson – 19.5 at BC (57):  BC has been a giant-killer in the past (often against Notre Dame) but I doubt they have the horses to pull off a huge upset here.

Michigan – 39 at Rutgers (48):  Yes, Michigan is an elite team; nonetheless, what does this say about a Rutgers team to be a 39-point dog at home?  Well, last time Michigan traveled to New Jersey to play the Scarlet Knights, here is what happened:

  • Michigan won 78-0.
  • Rutgers did not make a first down in the entire game.

Wisconsin at Penn St – 8.5 (53):  Here we have two VERY unreliable teams.  Add to the inherent unreliability that both starting QBs are less than 100 %.  Wisconsin can run the ball (sometimes) and Penn State’s run defense is not nearly as good as it usually is.  Maybe that is a key to the game?   Might be interesting to watch but no wagering please.

Illinois at Nebraska – 17 (67):  One of the low-points in the Big-10 schedule for the season ranking up there – or down there – with a Rutgers/Maryland game.

VA Tech at Pitt – 3 (54):  Remember in Week 1 when everyone was so high on VA Tech because they beat Fla St. 24-3?  Well, that doesn’t look like such a big deal now that Florida State will have to fight just to be bowl-eligible.

UNC at Duke – 10.5 (58):  Big rivalry game here.  UNC has lost 5 in a row; the record is 1-7 and it looks like another 3-win season for the Tar Heels at the very best.  Can Larry Fedora survive that?

Kentucky – 6 at Tennessee (41):  This game is a coaching challenge for Kentucky.  They had a chance to be the SEC East champ until they were crushed by Georgia last week.  Can they bounce back?  Tennessee is not nearly as good as Georgia; in fact, Tennessee is a sub-.500 team and Kentucky is still ranked in the Top 15.  That makes this an interesting spread on this game…

Auburn at Georgia – 14 (50):  Georgia is assured of playing in the SEC Championship Game.  This is a warm-up for them.

Miss St. at Alabama – 24 (53):  Alabama is in the SEC championship Game.  This is a warm-up for them.  Is there an echo in here…?

Oregon at Utah – 4 (54.5):  The PAC-12 games are really random this year.  Utah is better at home than on the road.  If you bet this game, make it a venue call but better not to have any action riding here.

Washington St. – 6 at Colorado (60.5):  Wash St. is still in the driver’s seat for the PAC-12 North crown – – remembering that they have a date with Washington upcoming – – and I think Colorado is not up to stopping the “Air Raid Offense.”  Would take this bet if it were in Pullman, WA but will pass on the game in Boulder, CO.  The Buffaloes have lost 4 in a row…

Oregon St. at Sanford – 24 (61.5):  Oregon St. pulled an upset over Colorado – – actually, I think they simply exposed the fact that Colorado’s “gaudy” win/loss record was built on the backs of a horribly weak schedule.  The Beavers will not do that again here.

Cal at USC – 5 (47.5):  I would not be surprised to see either team win by 2 TDs here…

Florida State at Notre Dame – 16.5 (50.5):  I expect this line to move even more than it has already.  The spread opened at 18 and the Total Line was at 55.  I expect it to continue to move until kickoff.  There was a report late in the week is that Irish QB, Ian Book, injured his ribs in last week’s Northwestern game and will not play.  It would not surprise me to see this line closer to 14 points by game time.

Kansas at K-state – 10.5 (47):  This will be the first game for David Beaty as a lame-duck coach at Kansas.  The AD announced that Beaty was fired last week but that he would coach the team until the end of the season.  I guess that makes sense in some parallel universe.  I guess this gives Kansas a “head-start” in terms of a coaching search; if that is not the objective here, I do not get what the purpose might be.  This is a rivalry game so a loss for K-state would sting under any circumstances; however, under the status quo, a loss would be a big embarrassment in front of a home crowd.

  • [Aside:  Kansas said they want a coach with “head coaching experience”.  I’m not sure this is a job too many folks will want – – unless of course there is a big overpayment in the contract offer or maybe a 7 or 8-year deal with a fat buyout in it.  There is not going to be a quick fix for Kansas football unless the school can hire Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.  I heard a talking head on one of the sports shows throwing out names for the job.  I must admit, I did not know half of the ones he mentioned but there was one that made me perk up my ears.  He said Les Miles – former head coach at LSU who won a national championship there – would be on Kansas’ list.  It is BIG step down in the football pecking order from LSU to Kansas!]

NFL Commentary:

To say that Jon Gruden 2.0 is having difficulty gaining traction is about as polite as I can be.  I am not going to rehash what has gone down in Oakland in the last 10 months or so, but I think there is a parallel to be drawn here and the outcome is a far better place than is the current place.  Consider the NFL coaching path trod by Dick Vermeil.

  • Vermeil coached the Eagles from 1976 to 1982.  His teams made the payoffs 4 times and played in the Super Bowl once.
  • Vermeil left coaching to go to the announcing booth for about 15 years and returned to the sidelines in 1997 with the St. Louis Rams.
  • His first two seasons with the Rams were dismal; the combined record for those two years was 9-23.
  • In his third season, the Rams went 13-3 and went on to win the Super Bowl.
  • Connect the dots…

Having offered a rosy scenario for Raider fans above, let me throw just a splash of cold water on Jon Gruden here.  He said that lots of players were calling him telling him that they want to play for the Raiders – – and by extension for him.  All I have to say about that is I hope Gruden did not take the calls he is talking about and is only saying what some assistant told him the calls were about.  The reason for that is simple; if Gruden is talking to active players on other teams about playing for the Raiders, that would be tampering.

When the Browns named Gregg Williams as their interim coach for the rest of this year after firing Hue Jackson, I ran across an interesting bit of NFL history researched by Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

  • Since 1960, there have been 87 interim coaches in the NFL.
  • Only 10 interim coaches had a record over .500.
  • Only 2 interim coaches saw their teams make the playoffs.

My conclusion:

  • Interim coaches generally take over bad teams after owners fire the head coach in the middle of a season.  The reason the team is bad is that the players are not good enough.  Changing the coach usually does not alter that situation.

The Buffalo Bills have the worst offense in the NFL this year; there is little doubt about that.  There is more to this than just the eyeball test; there is an interesting statistical lens through which you can gain some clarity here.

In the 2018 season, there are 44 players who have thrown 10 passes or more.  Here are the 5 QBs at the bottom of the list in terms of QB Rating:

  • 40th Tyrod Taylor QBR = 64.5  The Browns via the Bills.
  • 41st Sam Bradford QBR = 62.5  Just released by the Cardinals
  • 42nd Josh Allen QBR = 61.8  The Bills’ QB of the future
  • 43rd Derek Anderson QBR = 56.0  The Bills’ recent signing
  • 44th Nathan Peterman  QBR = 30.7  The Bills’ interception machine

About the only thing one can say here is “Great googamooga…”

The Niners’ dismantling of the Raiders last week was all the more surprising given the debut of Nick Mullens at QB.  He’s been a clipboard holder and film studier for a year and a half, but he looked like a grizzled vet against a Raiders defense that could not pressure him and could not cover a corpse in the secondary.  Here is Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle on the poise of this first-time starter:

“A couple more things you didn’t know about Nick Mullens: He sleeps under the roller coaster at Great America to practice being calm and relaxed while everyone is screaming and panicking.  Mullens is a volunteer barista at a Starbucks, because doing that helps him learn to shout out complicated, playbook-type terminology under pressure.”

The Steelers beat the Ravens 23-16.  James Connor seems to have embraced the concept that he is the starting RB.  I am not so sure the Steelers are worrying about if/when LeVeon Bell reports to the team – – or if he reports at all.  The Ravens were out of sync offensively for much of the day.

The Falcons 38-14 win over Skins was not a fluke.  The Falcons dominated on offense and defense; the Skins’ defense seemed unable or unwilling to adjust; it could not decide if it was going to stop the run – – there were plenty of chunk plays in the run game last week – – or if it was going to stop the pass – – and it did not – – or if it was going to pressure Matt Ryan – – and it did not – – well you get the idea.  None of it worked.  Two Falcons’ RBs averaged 6 yards per carry or more.  The Falcons were 10 for 13 on 3rd down.

The Bears trounced the Bills 41-9.  Believe it or not, the 9 points scored by the Bills here is VERY close to their average scoring output for the season; they average 10.7 points per game over 9 games; they have not yet scored their one-hundredth point for the season.  This game was never a contest.  Making it worse, the Bears’ defense provided 14 points in the rout.  The Bears managed only 190 yards of offense and still scored north of 40 points; that is not easy to do.  Nathan Peterman started at QB and threw 3 INTs (including a Pick-6); no surprise there.

The Dolphins beat the Jets 13-6.  Sam Darnold imploded here with 4 INTs (one was a Pick-6); he never led a Jets’ drive that resulted in a snap inside the red zone.  The Jets held the Dolphins to 168 yards total offense – – and lost.

The Panthers beat the Bucs 42-28.  The Panthers led 35-7; then, the Bucs tried another furious comeback.  They closed the score to 35-28 but that was about all they could muster.  The Bucs gave up 179 yards rushing; they have the worst run defense in the NFL.

The Vikes beat the Lions 24-9.  Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in the game, so it is not all that surprising that the Lions only produced 209 yards of offense.  Dalvin Cook returned to the Vikes’ backfield here and contributed 89 yards of offense.

The Chiefs beat the Browns 37-21.  This game was never in danger of going into OT as has been the Browns’ wont this year.  Patrick Mahomes had 375 yards passing and 3 TDs; the Chiefs total offense was 499 yards.  There was a bright spot for the Browns; RB, Duke Johnson, caught 9 passes for 78 yards and 2 TDs.

The Chargers prevailed over the Seahawks 25-17.  Melvin Gordon was back in the lineup for the Chargers and he ran for 113 yards in the game.  The Chargers missed two PATs in the game and released their kicker on Monday morning.

The Texans squeaked by the Broncos 19-17.  The Texans lost their first 3 games of the season by a total of 15 points.  The Texans have now won 6 games in a row and 3 of those wins came by 3-points or less.  The Texans are used to playing in close games!  Demaryius Thomas contributed against his former mates and DeAndre Hopkins was his normal outstanding self (10 catches and a TD).  The Texans lead their division by 2 games.

The Saints handed the Rams their first loss of the year by a score of 45-35.  This was a great game.  The Saints ran out to a big lead – 35-14 – and then the Rams tied the game before the Saints put it on ice.  Michael Thomas caught 12 passes for 211 yards and 1 TD.  Alvin Kamara was a thorn in the Rams side in the run game and the passing game.  Drew Brees threw for 346 and 4 TDs.

The Pats beat the Packers in a battle of two future first-ballot Hall of Fame QBs 31-17.  The game lived up to its billing.  The takeaway from this game is that the Pats have more players who can make big plays than do the Packers – – on offense and on defense.  Josh Gordon was a great pick-up for the Pats; now, all they have to do is to keep him eligible and off the suspended list.

The Titans beat the Cowboys 28-14.  Simply put, the Cowboys laid an egg here.  It seemed to me that they spent the entire night working to force the ball to Amari Cooper.  They ran on first down most of the time and then threw short passes on most of the other downs.

NFL This Week:

Buffalo at Jets – 7.5 (6.57):  Lose this one at home and Todd Bowles will feel his currently warm seat start to sizzle.  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Sam Darnold has not played well for the Jets over the last several weeks; this is a “show-me game” for him as well as the Jets’ coaches.  Then again, the NY Daily News reported that Darnold was in a walking boot on Wednesday.  Meanwhile, for the Bills, Josh Allen is “day-to-day”, and Derek Anderson is in the concussion protocol, so we may just see Nathan Peterman once again.  The team that makes the last mistake will lose this game.

Atlanta – 6 at Cleveland (50):  The Falcons have been on a roll for the last several weeks.  If they can maintain that level of play, they will dominate here.  The Browns are not the same inept set of bumblers they have been for the last several seasons, but I doubt they are ready to beat a team like the Falcons.  This game is big for the Falcons; they are 4-4 after a miserable start to the season but they are in a division where they are 3 games behind the Saints and 2 games behind the Panthers.  A loss here would be devastating…

New Orleans – 6 at Cincy (54):  The spread opened the week at 4.5 points and has been climbing slowly all week long.  If there were ever a formula for let-down game, it would be this one.  The Saints just handed Rams first loss of the season in a nationally televised game that was a shoot-out.  Now they go on the road (Saints are much better at home) and play on grass (Saints are a dome team) against a team that is not nearly as highly regarded as the Rams.  Just saying…  The Bengals are coming off a BYE Week which is good for the Bengals; AJ Green is out with a foot injury and is doubtful for the game which is not good at all for the Bengals.

Washington at Tampa – 3 (51):  This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game.  Then came news that the Skins lost 3 starters to season-ending injuries last week and the spread shot up to 3.  In addition, one other starting O-lineman for the Skins will probably miss this game.  Ryan FitzMagic is starting at QB for the Bucs, so you have no idea what sort of game he will put out there.  The Bucs’ defense is 32nd in the NFL in terms of yards allowed and they are the favorite here; that tells you what the oddsmakers and the betting public think about the rash of injuries recently encountered by the Skins.

Miami at Green Bay – 10 (47):  The weather forecast is for the high temperature to be 36 degrees on Sunday.  That is not Miami weather…  The Dolphins are futilely chasing the Pats in the AFC East; the Packers cannot afford a loss if they want to stay within hailing distance of the Bears and the Vikes in the NFC North.  By the way, please don’t forget; this is Aaron Rodgers versus Brock Osweiler.

Jax at Indy – 3 (46.5):  Talk about falling from grace.  The Jags had a 4th quarter lead on the Pats in the AFC Championship Game last year and fell short to a Tom Brady rally.  Now halfway through this year they are a 3-point dog to the Colts.  Wow!  Both teams are 3-5 and Jax has lost 4 in a row.  The loser here is pretty much out of the playoff picture- – even in a weak division.  Here is the fundamental question:

  • Can Blake Bortles figure a way to avoid tripping over his own two feet sufficiently often in this game to give the Jags’ defense and running game a chance to win it?

Detroit at Chicago – 7 (44):  The Total Line opened at 47.5 and has been dribbling downward all week.  The Lions gave up 10 sacks last week and so, this week they fired their special teams’ coach.  Why not?  Makes perfect sense to me…  Oh, by the way, the Lions’ defense ranks 31st in the NFL – – but they fired the special teams’ coach.  Cleveland is just across Lake Erie from Detroit and the only reason we do not focus on the dumpster fire that exists in Detroit is because the dumpster fire in Cleveland has been bigger and messier for the last 10 years.  But make no mistake, the Lions are a hot mess…  The Bears lead the NFC North; this game means a lot to them.  The Bears lead the division with 5 wins but if you look at the opponents they have beaten, it is not all that impressive.  Four of the 5 wins have come at the expense of the Cards, the Bucs, the Jets and the Bills.  That is not exactly Murderer’s Row …

Chargers – 10 at Oakland (50):  I hate laying double digits in NFL games and I cannot bring myself to take the Raiders at this point.  The Chargers beat the Raiders 26-10 earlier this year.  Since that game, the Raiders have gotten worse and the Chargers have surged.  If Nick Mullens could carve up the Raiders’ defense last week, what might Philip Rivers do to it this week?

(Sun Nite) Dallas at Philly – 7 (43.5):  Philly comes off a BYE week and Cowboys come off an embarrassing showing on MNF last week.  This is an important division game for both teams.  If Cowboys lose here, they will drop to 3-6 with upcoming schedule of:

  • At Atlanta
  • Vs. Washington
  • Vs. New Orleans
  • Vs. Philly

This is a make-or-break game for the Cowboys’ season.  The Eagles are at 4-4 – – a game behind the Skins this morning – – and need to win here to keep pace in the NFC East.  The rest of the schedule for the Eagles is difficult with 4 division games after this one and “outside games” against the Rams, Saints and Texans.  This is the Game of the Week.

(Mon Nite) Giants at SF – 3.5 (44):  The only reason this is not the Dog-Breath Game of the Week is because I want to see if Niners’ QB, Nick Mullens is a one-hit-wonder or not.  Other than that, this game is insignificant.  The teams bring a combined record of 3-14 to the kickoff.  The only reason to watch this game is that there are no playoff baseball games left to watch and the NBA games in November don’t mean much and the college basketball games in November mean even less.  Maybe if you go channel surfing, you may find a nice motocross race to watch…?

This Week’s Six-Pack:

Ohio St. – 3.5 at Michigan St (52.5):  A loss for OSU would eliminate them from CFP consideration with 2 games left to play.  Who would have thought that could possibly be the case back in August?  Remember the famous line from Hamlet:

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

It seems to me that something is amiss in Columbus, OH; the Ohio St. team is just not playing like an Urban Meyer OSU team.  Purely a hunch here, I like this game to stay UNDER.

Texas – 2 at Texas Tech (63):  Absent a major weather problem, I like this game to go OVER.

Northwestern at Iowa – 11 (43.5):  These are both good teams that tend to rely heavily on their defensive units.  I think this will be a low scoring game.  If I am correct, that line looks awfully fat.  I’ll take Northwestern plus the points.

New England – 7 at Tennessee (46.5): This is another Belichick vs. ex-Patriot in a coaching duel.  The last one of this type for Belichick was against Matt Patricia and it did not end well for the Pats.  The Titans defense is for real.  In terms of a trend, the last time Titans beat the Pats was in 2002; the Pats have won the last 7 games between these teams.  I think the spread here is very generous, so I’ll take the Titans plus the points.

Arizona at KC – 16 (50:):  The spread opened the week at 17 and has stayed in that neighborhood all week.  I would not touch that number in an NFL game for any reason.  I like this game to go OVER because the Chiefs’ defense should allow the Cards’ anemic offense to score enough points to encourage Andy Reid to keep his foot on the gas.

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



College Basketball Tips Off

On Tuesday of this week, I urged everyone here to go out and vote; I said it was a responsibility of citizenship.  I want to make sure that make clear that the responsibility to vote does NOT include any responsibility to spend that evening watching any of the cable news stations as they report the results from around the country.  Given that the college basketball season began Tuesday night and that there were myriad game-viewing options available through my cable provider, that is where I spent my evening time.

The season-opening tournament featuring four blue-blood programs was the focus of my attention.  The Kansas/Michigan State game opened the action and Kansas dominated the first half leading 50-36 at the intermission.  The Spartans rallied in the second half, but Kansas prevailed 92-87.  The oddsmakers in Vegas had this one pegged; the line closed with Kansas as a 4.5-point favorite.  Dedric Lawson was impressive for the Jayhawks scoring 20 points and collecting 14 rebounds.  Rankings at this time of the year are beyond meaningless; but from what I saw, Kansas and Michigan State will be tough opponents all season long.

The second game was the one I really wanted to see; Duke and Kentucky usually play each other in late March if they play at all; Tuesday night I had the chance to see these teams in their formative stages playing one another instead of seeing either of them taking on a patsy opponent such as Middle Wherever State.  What transpired demonstrated that the oddsmakers are not perfect; the spread for this game closed with Kentucky as 2-point favorites.  Duke won the game by 34 points (118-84).  RJ Barrett led the way for Duke scoring 33 points in 32 minutes; Zion Williamson scored 28 points in 23 minutes for the Blue Devils and collected 7 rebounds as well.  This was not just an offensive showing by Duke; they also forced Kentucky into 15 turnovers for the game.

It would be a mistake to take this lopsided loss by Kentucky and write them off as over-rated or living on their reputation.  Kentucky is a very good team with several talented players; it is just that they ran into a monster performance by the Blue Devils on Tuesday night.

All four of these teams will face softer opponents in their next game:

  • Michigan State will host Florida Gulf Coast
  • Kansas will host Vermont
  • Kentucky will host Southern Illinois
  • Duke will host Army

The Los Angeles Angels have a new AA affiliate in the Southern League.  The name of the team is the Rocket City Trash Pandas.  The first thing that went through my mind when I read about that is:

  • What exactly is a “trash panda”?
  • Actually, it is nothing at all; it is a team name that was “selected” by an Internet poll of area baseball fans.  That outcome should be a fair warning to the next team owner who is tempted to use some sort of online polling to name his/her team.
  • [Aside: In speaking about this with a friend, he suggested that “trash panda” might be a colloquial term for a raccoon – an animal that frequents trash cans and one that has dark spots and lighter spots as part of its coloration.  My son – the evolutionary biologist – would certainly not approve of confusing a raccoon with a panda.]

The next point to ponder is where might the Rocket City Trash Pandas call home?  Actually, this one is pretty easy once you recall that this team will play in the Southern League.  NASA has its major rocket building research center – – Marshall Space Flight Center – – in Huntsville, Alabama.  Indeed, Huntsville will also be the home of the Trash Pandas.

  • Come to think of it, Rocket City Trash Pandas is a better team name than the Huntsville Raccoons…

The US Women’s National Soccer Team qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup for the 8th straight time; the fact of their qualification for the tournament has become sufficiently routine that mere qualification garners scant attention.  There have been 8 Women’s World Cup events starting in 1991 and the US team has won the Cup 3 times.  Their victory in 1999 was the one that provided the iconic moment of Brandi Chastain removing her jersey to reveal her sports brain celebration of the victory.  It is no surprise that the US Women’s team is in the tournament and it is no surprise that they will be one of the favorites to win it again.

There is also no big surprise in the fact that the women on the US team are at odds with the folks who run FIFA.  Recall that 4 years ago there were bitter disputes between the women and FIFA over playing the games in Canada on artificial turf instead of grass pitches.  The women filed suit claiming gender discrimination since the men always play on grass; the suit was subsequently withdrawn, and FIFA threatened various sanctions against the women who brought the action.  In the end, sanity prevailed – – which was not a certainty given that FIFA was involved.  That dispute may have been a minor one compared to the one that is brewing now.

The current kerfuffle involves money – prize money for the teams in the tournament.  FIFA plans to offer $30M to the teams in the tournament and that represents a 100% increase over the prize money available in the last tournament in 2015.  And so, you ask:

  • How can that be the source of a dispute?  Sounds like everything is a go and everyone should be happy as a clam…

Here is the “small problem”:

  • The FIFA prize money slated to go to the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar will be $440M.

Yes, men’s tournament generates significantly more revenue than does the women’s tournament; and yes, there will be 32 teams in the men’s tournament as compared to 24 teams in the women’s tournament.  But the gulf between $30M and $440M is hard to ignore.  The Women’s World Cup tournament is still 9 months into the future, but I suspect that we will hear about this issue more than once over that period of time.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A woman gave birth in the restroom at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in San Antonio.

“Apparently she forgot that Pizza Hut offers home delivery.”

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