The Upcoming Football Weekend

Since it is Friday, it is time to look ahead to the football action on tap for the weekend and – per tradition – I will start with college football.  Memphis overcame a 17-0 deficit last night to beat Houston 42-38.  The surprise here is that the game was so close; just last week, Houston lost to Tulsa and gave up 45 points in the process.  Let’s just agree that Tulsa is not exactly a “powerhouse” …

Occidental College plays Division III football – or they did until the middle of last week.  Occidental canceled the rest of their season after having to forfeit its last two games for lack of healthy players.  The team only had one healthy defensive lineman and only 35 players fit to be on the field.  The team was 0-3 in the games that it did play and was outscored in those three losses by a cumulative score of 170-19.  The school did not kill off the football program; the idea is to rebuild the team and play again next year in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Whilst on the subject of Division III football, Linfield College is on track for another winning season with a 4-1 record (3-0 in conference) and a home game against George Fox University.  That game should be interesting; George Fox is 5-1 (3-0 in conference) and comes off a 58-12 win over Willamette College.

Let me take a moment to focus on some of the bad teams in college football this year:

  • UTEP is the only team with 7 losses so far this year – and they are winless to boot.  Oh, they already switched coaches and are playing for an interim coach…
  • San José St. is the only team at 1-7.  The win was over a Division 1-AA school and the cumulative score for the games against Division 1-A teams is 265-75.
  • Baylor is 0-5 and Kansas is 1-6.  The lower rungs on the Big 12 ladder are weak.
  • UMass is 0-6 and has had two BYE weeks to prepare for this week’s game against Georgia Southern (0-5).  It’s a Bagel Bowl Game.  Yippee …!
  • Teams that are often above average who are stinking out the joint this year include UNC (1-6), Pitt (2-5), Mizzou (1-5), BYU (1-6) and Oregon St. (1-6).

In games this weekend:

  • Tennessee visits Alabama and Bama is a 35-point favorite.  If Alabama covers – remember the Vols lost at home to Georgia 41-0 3 weeks ago – Butch Jones might need to rent a car to get home.
  • LSU at Ole Miss is the most interesting SEC game this week.  Ole Miss scored 56 points last week against Vandy; the LSU defense has been excellent at times and incredibly porous at other times.
  • Louisville travels to Florida St.  Both teams are having disappointing seasons.  The Louisville defense is awful; the Florida St. offense is struggling to say the least.
  • Michigan visits Penn St. and Penn St. is favored by 10 points.  That line seems fat to me…
  • Syracuse goes to Miami coming off an upset of then #2-ranked Clemson.  Miami is a 17-point favorite this morning.  Obviously, the oddsmaker thinks last week’s performance by Syracuse was a fluke.
  • USC at Notre Dame is clearly the best rivalry game of the week.
  • Colorado goes to Washington St. where the Cougars will be looking to atone for laying a giant egg last week against Cal.  Colorado’s defense has given up 75 points in the last two games.

Moving up to the NFL, the weekend began with a wacky game last night; the Raiders beat the Chiefs 31-30.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of the final 3 minutes of the wildest finish of the season:

  1. Raiders force a punt and take over at their own 15 trailing 30-24.
  2. On 4th-and-11, Derek Carr completed a pass for 13 yards to the Chiefs’ 29.
  3. On 3rd-and-10, Carr threw what was ruled a TD pass – – but replay showed the receiver was down inside the 1-yardline.
  4. Now the fun begins with 8 seconds to play.  An apparent TD pass was nullified by offensive pass interference.
  5. With 3 seconds on the clock from the Chiefs’ 10, Carr’s pass was incomplete – – but there was defensive holding on the play
  6. In an untimed down from the 5, there was another incomplete pass – – but there was defensive holding on the play.
  7. In another untimed down from about the 2, Carr hit Michael Crabtree in the end zone for the winning TD.  Needless to say, there was plenty of contact by both the receiver and the defender on that play.

Anticipating a full weekend of games all of which produce that sort of cardiac conclusion is fantasy.  Nonetheless, there could be some interesting games:

  • Bills/Bucs:  The Bucs are banged up – including Jameis Winston.  Perhaps we get to see more of Ryan Fitzpatrick who put 27 points on the scoreboard in the 4th quarter of last week’s game.
  • Ravens/Vikes:  It is a “purple-on-purple” game.  Expect a low-scoring defensive game here.
  • Cards/Rams (in London):  If the Cards win, they will be tied with the Rams in the NFC West.  Rams’ defense will have to stop Adrian Peterson and make the Cards a 1-dimensional offense.
  • Jets/Dolphins:  This is actually an important game in the AFC East.  Who had that back around Labor Day?
  • Saints/Packers:  Brett Hundley is the next man up for the Packers for the foreseeable future.  All of a sudden, the Saints discovered defense…  However, remember this is an outdoor game for the Saints – – a dome dominant team.
  • Broncos/Chargers:  The Chargers are on a 2-game win streak.  The Broncos dropped a turd in the punchbowl against the Giants last week.
  • Cowboys/Niners:  Cowboys come off a BYE Week and draw a winless opponent.  However, the spread is only 6 points.  Hmmm…
  • Bengals/Steelers:  Channeling Keith Jackson here, these two teams plain don’t like each other.
  • Titans/Browns:  Titans are on the road; Titans had a short week; Titans’ QB is banged up and immobile.  Given all that the Titans are 6-point favorites in the game.  That tells you what you need to know about the Browns.
  • Panthers/Bears:  Mitchell Trubisky has not seen a pass rush like the one he will see here.
  • Seahawks/Giants:  The Seahawks are not a good road team and this game is a transcontinental road trip.  Are the Giants coming back to life or was last Monday an aberration?
  • Falcons/Patriots (Sun Nite):  The Falcons can’t blow another halftime lead – – can they?
  • Skins/Eagles (Mon Nite):  MNF gets another top-shelf game.  Even though it is early in the season, an Eagles’ win here would give them a huge lead over the Skins in the NFC East.

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

“Last Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the [University of Nebraska] homecoming king proposed to the homecoming queen and she said yes. If the bride throws the bouquet accurately, one-third of Husker fans favor starting her at quarterback.”

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

 

 

Basketball – Pro And College …

The NBA regular season is 48 hours old; it will continue for the next 6 months; only then, will most of the games on the schedule matter as much as a little bit.  However, in the first 48 hours, there have been some significant happenings.  Unfortunately, all of them have to do with injury.

  • One of the big moves of the off-season was Gordon Hayward leaving the Utah Jazz to sign with the Boston Celtics.  Just minutes into the first game of the season, Hayward broke his leg and dislocated his ankle; he has undergone surgery and the prognosis is that he is done for the season.
  • Another big move was Chris Paul leaving the LA Clippers to join the Houston Rockets.  There was plenty of speculation about how Paul and James Harden might operate together and in their first game it left the question begging.  In crunch time, Paul was on the bench with a sore knee.
  • Oh, in that same Rockets’ game their opponent was the reigning champion Golden State Warriors who lost the game and learned that Draymond Green would need an MRI on his knee.

The injury to Hayward is clearly the most significant happening here.  The Celtics added Hayward to a roster that won more games than anyone else in the Eastern Conference last year.  Later, the Celtics traded to acquire Kyrie Irving giving up Isaiah Thomas and other assets.  Irving is an upgrade over Thomas but Thomas was an All-Star last year so the upgrade is not mind-blowing.  It was the pairing of Irving with a solid player such as Hayward on top of the already talented roster that had Celtics’ fans anticipating the season.

Oh, did I mention that Isaiah Thomas is also injured and is not expected to be available for action until mid-season?  So much for the idea that basketball is a non-contact sport…

Earlier this week, I shared my thoughts on the NCAA’s decision not to sanction UNC for the academic fraud that happened there for a period of about 20 years.  I am not going to go into that again today but I mention it only to assure that you recall that decision in light of another decision the NCAA made recently.  I know that 2017 still has a tad over 10 weeks to go until it becomes history, but I will go out on a limb and call these two proximal decision by the NCAA:

  • The Exacta of Uselessness for 2017.

Stand by for the heavy lifting here…  Amid the FBI investigations into “bribery and fraud” associated with the recruiting processes in college basketball and the revelation of blatant violations of NCAA rules and regulations by coaches, players and shoe company representatives, the NCAA has taken action.  By Jove, the organization recognizes the need to do something impactful here so that it can regain control of its rules and regulations.  And so, the NCAA …

  • … announced that it was forming a Commission on College Basketball; and in that announcement, it declared that in light of this criminal investigation, the time had come for “decisive action”.

I have no idea what the NCAA will identify as “decisive action” but I will say this:

  • If you believe that the NCAA will put into effect “effective action” to prevent recruiting improprieties based on recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball, then you probably also believe The Nutcracker is what happens when you go off the high dive.

The Chairperson for the Commission on College Basketball is former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.  Members of the Commission will be drawn from the education community, business leaders, folks involved with collegiate sports and government in addition to former student-athletes.  So, the window dressing is in place; the credentials and the experiences of the Commission members are unassailable; all that remains is for those folks to ask what I call “The Perry Mason Question”.  Let me explain:

  • In every Perry Mason episode, the mystery is unbelievably complex and opaque until about 55 minutes into the hour-long episode.  At that point, Perry Mason asks a single question of one witness and – Poof! – everything becomes clear; the way forward is obvious to all; there is never a problem again.

In real life, “The Perry Mason Question” rarely exists; and when it does, there is no guarantee that anyone will discover its existence and ask it.  But the NCAA is out to take “decisive action” and so it is interesting to see what the charge to the Commission might be.  According to NCAA President, Mark Emmert, there are 3 areas that the Commission will study:

  1. Relationships between and among the NCAA, member schools and coaches with “outside entities” to include apparel companies, AAU basketball programs and agents/advisers associated with student-athletes.
  2. The relationship between the NCAA and the NBA with specific focus on the effect of the “one-and-done” feature of college basketball.
  3. How to promote transparency and accountability at the NCAA and its schools.

The first two areas outlined above have been studied, investigated and reported upon for decades.  The second area specifically already has an obvious answer.  The “one-and-done” situation is caused exclusively by the NBA’s existing CBA; that document created and maintained the environment that spawned “one-and-done”.  Until and unless that feature of the CBA is modified, there will be “one-and-done”.

Rather than focus on the first two areas, let me jump down to the third one on that list and point out – ever so politely – that the NCAA has been around since the time when Theodore Roosevelt was President; in fact, President Roosevelt is credited with founding the NCAA.  Here we are about 110 years after its formation and the NCAA finds it necessary to have a Commission make recommendations on how to promote transparency and accountability for itself and its member schools.  This will not qualify as a “Perry Mason Question” but let me ask it anyway:

  • Why does an organization made up of adults who profess to be honorable individuals need to promote transparency and accountability?

Let me answer that question:

  • There is no transparency and accountability simply because the adults involved here are not honorable folks and find the concepts of transparency and accountability to be antithetical to their personal agendas.

Not to prejudge the work of Secretary Rice and her Commission colleagues, but I doubt that they will arrive at my answer above.

Finally, Brad Rock of the Deseret News likened the ambience of college athletics to a different form of fiction/entertainment than I did here:

“A University of Alabama rules administrator has resigned following a federal investigation of college athletics.

“The hook is that he previously was assistant director of enforcement at the NCAA. Hmmm. Good guy goes to the dark side.

“Isn’t this the storyline of every superhero movie ever?”

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

 

 

Colin Kaepernick’s Grievance

I am striding out onto thin ice today; I want to talk about Colin Kaepernick’s grievance filed under the CBA against the NFL for collusion; as I have mentioned here many times, I am not an attorney; this topic is anywhere but “in my wheelhouse”.  Kaepernick has filed this grievance alleging that the reason he remains unemployed as a quarterback in pro football is his peaceful protest at the start of NFL games last season.  Here are statements from his representatives:

“If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest – which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago – should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment.

“Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days at a nation.  Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.

“Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for, and to return to the football playing field.”

In a Ken Burns documentary, that statement would be read in a solemn voice with The Battle Hymn of the Republic played on a harmonica as soft background music.  I would like to make two observations about those statements:

  1. Peaceful political protest should not be punished for hundreds of reasons – probably the least of which is to maintain the “meritocracy status” of the NFL.
  2. I am totally unclear on what the statement refers to as our “darkest days as a nation” since what we are talking about here is a grievance about employment.  In my opinion, our “darkest days” were the times of the Civil War in the 1860s and for the life of me, I have no idea how this grievance relates to that or how this peaceful protest relates to the anything-but-peaceful political protests of that time.

From what I have read, to prove collusion one needs concrete evidence.  When the MLB owners were found guilty of collusion there were written exchanges found in the discovery process that laid open what they had done.  It seems to me that the existence – or the non-existence – of such memos/e-mails/text messages/whatevers is the key to this case.  And I think that is an important point.

In a legal process like this, it is important to focus on what the plaintiff can prove as opposed to what the plaintiff can allege and build a circumstantial case around.  Do I believe that Colin Kaepernick’s “national anthem behavior” last year is the reason he is unemployed now?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe that the NFL owners as a group – with or without participation from the NFL Front Office – ever sat down and mutually agreed that none of them would allow Colin Kaepernick to play in the NFL ever again?  Someone will have to provide me with some evidence there.

And to prove collusion, that is the evidence the Kaepernick legal team will have to present.  It is not important to consider what “everyone knows” or “everyone thinks” in a matter such as this.  Recall the OJ Simpson trial in the 90s; loads of people “knew” that he murdered two people but the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to convict him.  In the legal world, OJ Simpson did not commit those two murders; that is the fact of that matter.

The statements made so far are PR statements and nothing more.  Most of the analysis provided by talking heads on TV and columnists are commentaries on the merits of filing such a grievance.  Let me suggest that everyone take a deep breath here and wait to see evidence of collusion and not arm-waving assertions of how it must be the case.  A grievance should not be decided based on a well-scripted conspiracy theory.  If that were to happen, it would be a dark day for us as a nation.

Changing direction here, I want to play a little game with you.  Consider these data on 5 NFL head coaches all of whom plied their trade in the modern era.  No one here is George Halas or Curly Lambeau or Paul Brown.

  • Coach A:  17 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 143-112-0.  Winning percentage = .561.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach B:  19 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 172-130-1.  Winning percentage = .569.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach C:  10 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 92-59-1.  Winning percentage = .609.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach D:  16 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 154-94-0.  Winning percentage = .621.  He is the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach E:  19 years as a Head Coach.  Record was 178-115-1.  Winning percentage = .607.  He is NOT the Hall of Fame.

Presented that way, you might think that “Coach E” should have no trouble with the Hall of Fame Selection Committee – – unless you think that the four coaches on this list above him are really not worthy of such an honor themselves.  So, let me reveal the names here:

  • Coach A is Marv Levy.  I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach B is Bill Parcells.  I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.
  • Coach C is Bill Walsh.  I have no problem with him being in the Hal of Fame.
  • Coach D is Joe Gibbs.  I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame – but I do wish that he had never come back for a second stint with the Skins which sullied his record and reputation instead of enhancing it.

There are going to be lots of NFL fans who will be unhappy to know that Coach E is Andy Reid – a man who took over two downtrodden teams and produced 19 productive years and counting.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Andy Reid to attract Hall of Fame consideration once he retires.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“The state granted Miami’s Magic City Casino permission to replace its dog races with jai-alai matches. ‘Damn!’ said one of the greyhounds. ‘And just when I was finally gaining on that [email protected]#$ing rabbit!’ “

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

 

 

MLB And A Football Weekend

The Yankees and the Cubs lost their first two League Championship Series games on the road and face “must-win” games at home.  Both teams have seen their bats go silent; the Cubs have 7 hits in 2 games; the Yankees have only 10 hits in 2 games.  I have been saying for much of the MLB season that the Astros were fun to watch; if José Altuve’s mad dash home to win Game 2 of the ALCS does not convince you they are fun to watch, I would have to conclude you just don’t like baseball.

It was a wild and wacky weekend in terms of football outcomes so let me begin with college football.  The schedule did not provide many games where both squads were ranked so the upsets last week were even more stunning than usual:

  1. Syracuse 27 Clemson 24:  Just about everyone had Clemson running the table this year and meeting Alabama in the CFP championship game for the 3rd year in a row.  If Clemson was going to lose a game, it certainly would not have been to Syracuse.  Except it was – and it happened last weekend.  To make it worse, Clemson QB, Kelly Bryant had to leave the game with a concussion.
  2. Cal 37 Washington St. 3:  This was not a fluke; Cal held Wash St. to 257 yards passing and only 23 yards rushing.  One DL for Cal, Ross Bowers, recorded 9 sacks in this game and Cal intercepted Luke Falk 5 times.
  3. Arizona St. 13 Washington 7:  Arizona St. held the Huskies to 139 yards passing in the game and 91 yards rushing.  Washington missed two field goals in the game and both were less than 30-yard attempts.  The importance of the Apple Cup game took a hit this weekend.
  4. LSU 27 Auburn 23:  Auburn was looking at a “1-game season” in their game against Alabama but LSU came back from a 20-0 deficit in the second quarter to win the game.  Auburn QB, Jarrett Stidham was held to 9 for 28 for 165c yards in the game.
  5. Memphis 30 Navy  27:  This was the first loss of the season for the Middies and that makes 5 undefeated teams that lost that status this week.  Wow!
  6. Oklahoma beat Texas in their rivalry game and – looking ahead – the Oklahoma/TCU game is one to circle on the calendar.
  7. Speaking of TCU, they avoided losing their undefeated status this weekend beating K-State by 20 points at K-State.  TCU is a good football team…
  8. Miami stayed unbeaten too with a come-from-behind-win over Georgia Tech.  The Hurricanes were down 11 points in the third quarter and rallied to win by 1 point.
  9. Speaking of comebacks, W. Virginia trailed Texas Tech 35-17 in the middle of the third quarter.  Then things changed and the Mountaineers won the game 46-35.  Yowza!
  10. Iowa St. followed up on their upset of Oklahoma last week by trouncing Kansas 45-0.  It is never a shock to see Kansas get stomped in a football game; but still, someone might want to check the contents of those Gatorade jugs on the Iowa St. sidelines…
  11. Boston College beat Louisville 45-42.  Yes, BC scored 45 points in a single football game; normally, that takes about 10 quarters for them to accomplish.  Louisville has now lost 3 games and Lamar Jackson can forget about repeating as the Heisman Trophy winner.
  12. Carolina beat Tennessee 15-9 in Knoxville, TN. That makes the Vols 0-3 in the SEC and I suspect that there are some Tennessee boosters that are calling to find out just how much “buyout money” there is in Butch Jones’ contract.
  13. And just to show that there is some stability in college football, Alabama beat Arkansas 41-9 and in doing so held Arkansas to 27 yards rushing for the day.

I guess the NFL teams checked the Sunday morning papers and figured that this was “Upset Week” and wanted to get in on the action.  Ten underdogs covered on Sunday out of twelve games.

  1. The Dolphins trailed the Falcons 17-0 at the half and came back to win the game 20-17.  Forget the Falcons’ epic collapse in the Super Bowl last year; that was last year.  In the 2017 season, the Falcons have been outscored in the second half 72-40 and they have already lost 2 home games.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins with their dink-and-dunk offense and Jay Cutler at the helm are 3-2 – – same as the NFC defending champion Falcons.
  2. The Skins narrowly beat the Niners 26-24.  Remember, I said the Skins tend to play down to the level of their opponent; they were 11.5-point favorites at kickoff and did not come close to covering.
  3. The Saints beat the Lions 52-38.  Halfway through the 3rd quarter, the Saints led 45-10 and then the Lions got on a roll and almost made a game of it.
  4. The Pats beat the Jets by a TD and there was a most controversial booth-review and the overturning of a call on the field that would have given the Jets the tying TD.  Instead it was ruled a touchback giving the Pats the ball at their 20-yardline.  It changed the game.
  5. It took overtime, but the Bears beat the Ravens.  Mitchell Trubisky won his first NFL game as a starting QB.
  6. The Cards led the Bucs 31-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter and Jameis Winston was on the sidelines.  So, Ryan Fitzpatrick put 27 points on the board in the 4th quarter to make this a game; the cards did prevail 38-33.
  7. The Chiefs were the only undefeated NFL team as of Sunday morning.  Then the Steelers showed up in KC and beat the Chiefs 19-13.  The Steelers’ defense held Chiefs’ RB, Kareen Hunt, to 21 yards on 9 attempts.
  8. The Chargers beat the Raiders 17-16 even though Darek Carr returned from his back injury.
  9. The most surprising result of all, however, was the Giants going to Denver and beating the Broncos 20-10 – and the score looks closer than the game really was because of a late TD by the Broncos.

Finally, I mentioned above that Lamar Jackson was not going to repeat as the Heisman trophy winner and that brought to mind this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another potential Heisman candidate:

“Oklahoma State punter Zach Sinor has launched his own Heisman Trophy campaign. What would it take for a punter to win the Heisman? First, an offense that stinks a lot.”

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

 

 

Baseball And This Weekend’s Football …

I got lots of stuff to cover today and not a lot of time to do it.  So, on with the show…

The Cubs advance to the NLCS to meet the Dodgers after beating the Nats 9-8 last night.  Forget any nonsense you read about a “Washington Sports Curse”; the Cubs played better baseball than the Nats last night and they get to move on while the Nats get to preen as they look over their stats.  Because baseball seasons are as long as they are, there is a completely different environment surrounding a “win-or-go-home game” in the playoffs.  And last night the overmanaging by both Joe Maddon and Dusty Baker dragged this game out for an eternity.  I did not time it but it had to be about four-and-a-half hours.

  • Both teams used 7 pitchers.
  • All 14 pitchers hosted meetings on the mound with varied attendance all night long.
  • Each team had 19 players participate.
  • I believe only 3 team at-bats were “three-and-out” all night long.

Eerily, the Nats led 4-3 in the top of the fourth when Dusty Baker began his “strategery” and pulled starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez.  The Nats went on to lose the game.  That is the same thing that former Nats’ manager, Davey Johnson, did to Gonzalez in 2012.  And once again, the Nats’ bullpen – and ironically the Nats’ best starting pitcher for the last two seasons – coughed up a hairball and the Nats’ season came to an end.

Dusty Baker is a baseball lifer and is seemingly liked by just about everyone.  I think that gives him a pass on some of his playoff managerial decisions that always seem to backfire.

Since it is Friday – and Friday the 13th no less – I want to look at what is on the menu this weekend regarding football.  Let me start with college football.

Earlier this week, I summarized last weekend’s activity and made no mention of Washington beating Cal 38-7.  The reason for that omission was that I was hardly surprised by the result and it was not a rivalry game.  However, a reader who is a Washington alum pointed out that I had neglected to point out something unusual from the game:

  • The stats say Cal ran the ball 25 times for a minus-40 yards.
  • In college football, sacks are recorded as rushing attempts; in this game, the Cal QB was sacked 9 times for minus-41 yards.  That explains the highly negative output but it also means that on real running attempts, Cal tried to run 16 times and gained a net of 1 yard.

A tip of the hat to my informant here…  That is a stat worthy of mention.

I said last week the Oregon St. might be looking for a new coach sometime soon.  Well, that time arrived earlier this week; Gary Andersen resigned as head coach.  Maybe he was nudged; but according to reports, by resigning he left $12.6 million on the table; Oregon St. had given him a contract extension last January and that is what he had coming to him.  Andersen had been at Oregon St. since the start of the 2015 season going there after a successful stint at Wisconsin.  Things did not go well at Oregon St.; his record there was 7-23; in the last 4 games, his team lost by a cumulative score of 180-54.

File these circumstances under the heading “Rubbing It In”:

  • Rutgers ranks 13th in the Big 10 in Total Offense and 123rd in the country.
  • Originally, Saquon Barkley and Jonathon Taylor both “committed” to Rutgers only to change their minds later.
  • Barkley is a Heisman-contender at RB for Penn State and leads the Big 10 in all-purpose yards.
  • Taylor is the featured RB at Wisconsin averaging 7.9 yards per carry and ranking 2nd in the big 10 in all-purpose yards.

There are still 13 unbeaten teams in Division 1-A.  Everyone knows about the “big-boys” here like Alabama and Clemson and Georgia and Miami and Penn St. and TCU and Wisconsin.  Keep an eye on:

Regarding top games this weekend:

  1. Texas/Oklahoma:  This is the biggest game of the weekend and the best rivalry game of the weekend by far.  Both teams have shown well at time this year and both teams have embarrassing losses on their record; Texas lost to Maryland and Oklahoma lost to Iowa St.  Both teams can lose this game.
  2. Arkansas/Alabama:  Bama is a 31.5-point favorite; the Arkansas program is staggering at this point; this will be ugly.
  3. Carolina at Tennessee: Butch Jones needs another conference loss at home like a moose needs a hat rack.
  4. Auburn/LSU:  LSU is coming off a road win; Auburn still has a chance to be the SEC West champ; LSU is “offensively challenged”; the game is in Baton Rouge.  The oddsmaker has the Total Line at 43.5; that seems about right…
  5. Utah/USC:  If Utah prevails here, it will be because their defense won the game.
  6. Michigan St./Minnesota:  Can “Sparty” build on its upset win from last week or will there be a rapid deflation?

Just the luck of the draw, but lots of conference games this weekend have blowout potential.  It is just a twist of the schedule.  However, as usual, there are some games that pair two really mediocre teams:

  1. Northwestern/Maryland:  Who cares?
  2. Rutgers/Illinois:  Even the coaches shouldn’t care.
  3. Appalachian St./Idaho:  Not exactly a “border war” game.
  4. New Mexico St./Ga Southern:  NM St. is a two-touchdown favorite on the road in this game.  Let that sink in…

Before I list the NFL games that are interesting this week, I want to point you to a column by Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post earlier this week.  I think this is the best summation of the conflicting views surrounding the “National Anthem Protests” and it articulately points out that both sides of the argument may be right and both may be wrong.  I am incapable of summarizing it in a befitting way and I would ask you to follow this link and read the column in its entirety.  It is worth the time and effort.

And here are the NFL games of interest for this week:

  1. Chargers at Raiders:  Will Derek Carr be back for the Raiders already?  Raiders’ fans must hope this is not a “panic move” that might lead to further injury.  The Raiders have other significant issues above and beyond Carr’s absence from the lineup such as an under-performing defense (31st in the league), “Beast Mode” looking more like “Lap-Dog Mode” and Amari Cooper disappearing as well as his namesake, D. B. Cooper.
  2. Giants at Broncos (Sun Nite):  Giants suspended Dominic Rogers-Cromartie “indefinitely” this week after some sort of altercation/confrontation with coaches.  [Aside:  The CBA says a team can not suspend a player for longer than 4 games so “indefinitely” has a limit here.]  Given the Giants’ horrid offense and the Broncos excellent defense, the question here is if the Giants can score into double-digits.
  3. Browns at Texans:  Beat writers should be furious with Hue Jackson and his decision to start Kevin Hogan at QB this week.  Had he stuck with DeShone Kizer, lots of those beat writers would have done a riff on the matchup of DeShone versus Deshaun this week.  Too bad; it might have been the most interesting thing about this game.
  4. Niners at Skins:  This is the return to DC of Kyle Shanahan; do not expect a warm welcome…  The Skins are the better team with more talent; history says that the Skins play down to the level of opponents that they outmatch on paper.  Skins are 11-point favorites…
  5. Colts at Titans (Mon Nite):  When the post the line, seriously consider taking the UNDER if Ryan Mallett is starting for the Titans.  That game might be 3-0 at halftime…
  6. Rams at Jags:  When I was perusing the schedule to do my NFL Predictions back in August, I did not focus on this game as one of the best matchups of the week.  You probably didn’t either.  Jags are a 3-point favorite here; I think the Rams are the better team.

Finally, since I mentioned Rutgers’ offensive woes earlier on, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that speaks to the futility there:

“Rutgers’ football program was put on two years’ probation on a “failure to monitor” rap.

“Even more embarrassing, the Scarlet Knights broke the rules — and the team sucked anyway.”

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

 

 

Tales Of Futility …

The US will not compete in the World Cup tournament in Russia in 2018.  The immediate reason for that is the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) lost to Trinidad and Tobago a couple of days ago.  As of this morning, Trinidad and Tobago ranks 99th in the world on the FIFA World Table; that puts it two notches behind Mauritania and two notches above Madagascar.  And the US lost to that team in a situation where a win or a tie guaranteed the Americans a trip to the World Cup.  That is about as embarrassing as losing a game to the Cleveland Browns.

Forget all the nonsense you may have read about how this sets back the development of soccer as a major sport in the US.  The US would have struggled to make it out of the Group stage in the World Cup and was not going to win the tournament.  A World Cup is what it would take to have soccer take meaningful strides in the US as a major sport; that was simply not going to happen.  Here is the most important take-away from this embarrassing loss:

  • In his post-game press conference, US Coach, Bruce Arena, expressed his shock and his dismay at the outcome and said that the team should be in the World Cup tournament.  Then he added that there was no reason to make sweeping changes to US Soccer; he said that there was a solid and progressive system in place and this was not the time to contemplate significant changes.

Excuse me?  You lost a play-in game to the 99th best team in the world and you think everything is hunky-dory?  Here is the logical end-point to that line of thinking:

  • This sort of thing will happen again.

Looking analytically and not emotionally at the situation, men’s soccer in the US is a niche sport that is played mainly in the suburbs.  Even in that suburban sports environment, the best athletes do not tend to gravitate to soccer over football, basketball and baseball and the coaching/training available to most suburban soccer players is amateurish.  That is the current state of affairs as overseen by the US Soccer nabobs.  Those folks – the ones who hired Bruce Arena – need to look at their programs and their structures to figure out why the USMNT lost to Trinidad and Tobago and to figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

Notwithstanding Bruce Arena’s self-interested statement, this is exactly the time for thought, analysis and then significant change.  One thing that might be very beneficial would be to identify young talent early on and then to send those young players overseas for soccer training at some of the academies there.  I am not a soccer expert but when I watch European players as opposed to American players, they play differently.  European players seem to know what they are going to do with the ball before it arrives on their foot; American players seem to focus on trapping the ball and setting up to do something that they will figure out once they have the ball controlled.  I doubt that is genetic; I suspect it is taught – – except not in whatever US teaching/training programs exist.

Since I mentioned the Cleveland Browns above – in great literature that is called foreshadowing; here it is called a convenient coincidence – the team has decided to bench rookie QB, DeShone Kizer this week and to start Kevin Hogan.  Since the Browns were reborn in 1999, their cumulative record is 88-205; that is a winning percentage of .300; their number of starting QBs over that stretch is measured in dozens; the current head coach has a record of 1-20 since his arrival; the GM and much of the Front Office come from the world of baseball and they are devoted to advanced analytics.  If NFL Films decides to do an hour-long feature on this mess, here is my suggested title:

  • Moneyball Comes To Cleveland

Whatever advanced algorithms are in use by the Browns’ Front Office, may I suggest that they need more work.  Indeed, the team roster was devoid of sufficient talent a few years ago and just about nowhere was the talent deficit starker than at the QB position.  So, what did the analytics tell the Browns to do in free agency and in the NFL Draft?

  1. Two years ago, the analytics said to pass on drafting Carson Wentz in the #2 slot and trade down with the Eagles.  I am not nearly ready to anoint Wentz as a great QB, but he is a whole lot better than anyone who has played the position – or been on the roster to run the scout team in practice – for the Browns in the last two seasons.  The Front Office explained their choice saying that their data did not project Wentz as a top 20 NFL QB.  Compare that standard to the QBs on the Browns’ roster today (DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler) and ask which of them the analytics projects as a Top 20 NFL QB…
  2. Last year, the analytics said to do the same thing to DeShaun Watson and wait to draft Deshone Kizer in the second round.  (Actually, the Browns passed on Watson twice since they had the 1st overall pick and then, the 12th overall pick which they traded away to Texas to allow the Texans to draft Watson.)

This week, the Browns travel to Houston to face DeShaun Watson and the Texans.  If Kevin Hogan leads the Browns to a win, you can be certain that the Cleveland papers will anoint the team as “Hogan’s Heroes”.  If, however, they lose [Aside:  The Texans are minus-500 on the money line.] and Watson lights the Browns’ defense up, someone should ask the GM what he was thinking.  His perfect response would be to channel Sergeant Schultz and say:

“I know nuuuuthing.”

It would at least be very close to the truth…

Oh, speaking of DeShaun Watson as the Texans’ QB, let us just say that Bill O’Brien has made do with some quarterbacking mediocrity since his arrival in Houston.  Prior to drafting Watson – and inserting him into the lineup in Game 1 – here are the Texans’ QBs that have given the team three consecutive winning records:

  1. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  2. Brian Hoyer
  3. Case Keenum
  4. Ryan Mallett
  5. Brock Osweiler
  6. Tom Savage
  7. T.J. Yates

I do not want to anoint DeShaun Watson as an all-time NFL great just yet, but looking at his seven predecessors as the Texans QBs, can we agree that they would not be known as The Magnificent Seven?

Finally, since I have been talking about quarterbacks here, let me close with an observation made by Dandy Don Meredith about his Cowboys’ coach, Tom Landry:

“Coach Tom Landry is such a perfectionist that if he was married to Raquel Welch, he would expect her to cook.”

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

 

 

A Less-Traveled Path Today …

I am going to stray off the normal path of these rants today.  I have run across some reports which are tangential to the sports world or which involve sports that I do not comment on regularly here.  Let me start with European professional golf.  The Euro Tour is an established professional golf tour in Europe and according to reports, they will experiment with a rule imposition in the Austrian Open this year.

  • The Euro Tour will use a shot clock in the Austrian Open this year.

Here is the deal:

  • Players will have 40 seconds to get off their shot.  The report I read was not clear on what constitutes the beginning of the countdown, but once it starts a player needs to execute the shot within 40 seconds.
  • The first failure to get a shot off in the required time will get the player a “yellow card”.  [Aside:  This is Europe after all where soccer is king.  There should be no surprise to see a “soccer-influence” on the penalties here.]
  • For each subsequent violation of the shot clock, a player will be given a penalty stroke.

I think that this sort of rule would be a boon to golf on TV.  I am not a consumer of golf on TV except for the weekends of the major tournaments; so, I am not the target demographic for people at the PGA who want to increase TV audiences.  However, what will get me to change the channel quickly is to watch a professional golfer take 3 minutes to study and line up a putt.  That is not good TV and that is not critically important to a professional golfer.

As with just about any rule change, most of the current pros will probably not like it; I get that.  However, if it gooses TV ratings even 5%, that means increased ad revenues for the networks and that means more prize money for tournaments down the line.  Yes, that is trickle-down economics; but in this case, it works.  You can read more about this concept here.

Another interesting development tangential to the sports world is a report that Nike has received “a swath of patents” related to a new self-lacing sneaker that will sell for $700.  Lest you think I only imagined something so out of the ordinary, here is a link to a report on the subject.

These are going to be high-tech shoes.  They will have sensors in the soles that will keep the shoe attached to the foot with the same pressure as the wearer does different things with his feet.  Nike says this new shoe – currently called the Hyperadapt 2.0 – will be used in NBA games and that would indicate to me that Nike has already set in motion plans with some of its NBA player-partners to sport these shoes in live competition.

According to the report linked above, this new shoe represents the first “high-tech” adaptation to the shoe industry since “light-up shoes” about 25 years ago.  Fortunately, there is no mention of marrying “light up shoes” with “self-lacing shoes”.  I recall when light up shoes first hit the market and I was officiating a basketball game where two of the players were wearing them.  Talk about distracting…

There was a time about 2 years ago when stories about the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar were front and center on a regular basis.  In more recent times, that subject has been quiescent other than a few stories recently alleging that Qatar has been using North Korean workers to build some of the needed venues and that those wages actually go to pay for parts of the North Korean nuclear development program.  I do not know if that is the case; I would hope it was not the case; it would surprise me to learn that it is indeed the case.

Now, there is a hint that perhaps the 2022 FIFA World Cup will not take place in Qatar after all.  We know for sure that there were “irregularities” in the bidding process that awarded the tournament to Qatar in the first place.  We also know for sure that the summer weather in Qatar is not conducive to playing championship level soccer; the average high temperature in Qatar from the beginning of May until late in September is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher – – and it tends to be humid then too.  FIFA may need to stage the World Cup tournament in the winter months and many of the powerful leagues and associations around the world are not thrilled with that idea.  Notwithstanding those “irregularities” or the “climatological realities”, FIFA has pressed on with the idea that the 2022 World Cup Tournament will take place as announced.  Until now …?

The BBC obtained a copy of a report prepared by an international management consulting firm which concluded that the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar is a “high-risk project”.  Let’s count some of the ways – over, above and beyond the health risks imposed on players and fans by the heat of the day:

  • Qatar is currently embroiled in diplomatic squabbles with some – but not all – of its neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula plus Egypt.
  • The current cost estimate for presenting the tournament is in the neighborhood of $200B.  We are still 5 years away from the start of the tournament and none of these sorts of projects ever come in “under the estimate”.
  • The FIFA President – the guy who took over after the “Qatar bidding irregularities” led to investigations that led to a housecleaning at the top of FIFA – has said that Qatar is in a “diplomatic crisis” but that FIFA is not considering any change of venue.

For the record, FIFA has moved a World Cup Tournament in the past.  In 1986, the World Cup was to take place in Colombia but economic factors and some ongoing drug wars in the country suggested that a change of venue would make sense.  Those games were played in Mexico that year; there is precedent here.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the emergence of professional tag as a competitive sport in Europe:

“There is a new competitive sport: Tag. The good news is it shouldn’t take long to explain the rules.”

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

 

 

Baseball, Football And Basketball Today

Yesterday was a great day to be a sports fan with cable TV access until the final helping.  The Yankees evened their series with the Indians at 2-2 in what was the least exciting baseball game of the day.  The Dodgers competed their sweep of the D-Backs in the NL in workmanlike fashion.  Then, there were the other two games;

  1. The Cubs beat the Nats 2-1 to take a series lead of 2-1.  They did this despite Max Scherzer throwing six-and-a-third innings and giving up only 1 hit and 1 run.  The Nats led 1-0 at the time but the three relievers that followed Scherzer could not hold the lead.  Dusty Baker has been questioned in the past for some of his playoff decisions and there were two in this game that will attract scrutiny.  The first was pulling Scherzer – presuming that Scherzer’s hamstring injury did not flare up – and the decision to pitch to Anthony Rizzo with first base open in the eighth inning will be “examined” if the Nats lose the series.
  2. The Astros closed out the Red Sox in the ALDS.  This was the best game of the day because the Astros had to find a way to score 3 runs off Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrell to get the win.  Make no mistake, Sale and Kimbrell are both excellent but the Astros did what was necessary with 2 runs in the eighth inning and another run in the ninth inning to move on.  The winning run was driven in by Carlos Beltran; it seems as he has been around since the time when the world’s oldest profession was merely a hobby.

And then, there was Monday Night Football.  After a main course of those two great baseball games, the dessert offered by MNF was disappointing at best.  Imagine yourself at a fine-dining event with a fixed menu where you have had a stunning appetizer and main course only to discover that your dessert is broccoli and brussels sprouts pudding.  Yeah, that’s about right…

Even though the game was close throughout, it was a mess because the reason it was close was that neither team could do diddley-squat on offense.  The Vikes started Sam Bradford at QB and he was clearly still aching; he could not move well and his throwing motion was forced and erratic.  After halftime, Case Keenum came to the rescue…  Meanwhile, last night was the dawning of the Age of Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago.  He did not throw up on his shoes but he wasn’t very good either; Jon Gruden tried to make it seem as if he was doing lots of good things but that just did not pass the eyeball test.

I meant to include this comment from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle in yesterday’s football roundup, but I missed it in my notes.  It deals with the controversy last week over Cam Newton’s troglodyte-like remarks to a female reporter; let me put it here:

“Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has a favorite saying. In urging his players to focus on the job at hand and shut out distractions, he reminds them, ‘Be where your feet are.’

“Newton’s spent all last week in his own mouth.”

Believe it or not, the NBA Exhibition Season is in full swing; it seems as if they just finished the playoffs a week and a half ago.  There has been lots of movement and change in the league over the summer but I doubt that I will care about more than a game-or-two between the start of the season and mid-February.  The NBA did make a change to the format of its All-Star Game.  The player selection for the game itself remains the same; there is fan voting, press voting and player voting to determine who is going to be in the game.  The change is that the two players who get the most votes will then “choose up sides” in playground style to set the teams for the game.  Wow!  I don’t know if my heart can take that level of excitement and tension…

The “problem” with the NBA All-Star Game – the reason that it is ridiculed – has nothing to do with how the two teams on the court are formed.  The “problem” is very simple but it is not one that the league or the players’ union wants to articulate:

  • The NBA All Stars dog it in the All-Star Game.  They do not even pretend to play actual NBA basketball; they do not even give a good imitation of someone going through the motions to play basketball.
  • They are entertainers who are ripping off the crowd that came to see them.  It is like going to a piano concert by Vladimir Horowitz and when he comes onto the stage all he does is play chopsticks.

In an attempt to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records in the category “Most Irrelevant Topic for Debate Ever”, the people covering the NBA have given us a 3-day discussion of Jeremy Lin’s choice of how to wear his hair.  Seriously …

Remember the D-League – – the minor leagues of pro basketball in the US?  Well, it is now the G-League and the “G” stands for Gatorade.  The other interpretation is that the G-League is three grades below what used to be the D-League but that would be ungenerous of me to point out.  The G-League has an Exhibition Season too; how much would they have to pay you to go and watch one of those events?

The NBA and the G-League are doing some experimenting with the G-League Exhibition Games and with the G-League games in November.  They are going to use 4 officials in those games plus they will try using 5 officials in a half-dozen or so games.  I remember that the D-League did some games with 4-person officiating crews so my only conclusion is that someone still thinks this is a good idea.

I officiated basketball for 37 years albeit not at any level remotely close to the D-League or the NBA.  The change to 3-person crews was beneficial to the game; when I watch NBA contests, I do not see many situations where officials are so out of position that they cannot make proper calls because they cannot see the action on the court clearly.  I think 4-person crews are overkill and the idea of a 5-person crew is redundantly superfluous.

Finally, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle seems to agree with me regarding expanded officiating crews in the NBA based on this comment:

“Another suggestion for the NBA: The Gatorade League (formerly D League) will experiment with four refs. The NBA should follow suit, but the fourth ref should be a trained acting coach whose job will be to call flops. James Harden would soon be playing in the G League.”

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

 

 

Football Retrospective …

None of the MLB playoff series has ended so I will devote today’s rant to a look back at football happenings over the weekend.  I’ll start with college football.  THE upset of the day – and perhaps the season to date – was Iowa St beating third-ranked Oklahoma at Oklahoma. Iowa St. had not beaten Oklahoma anywhere since 1990.  There are two interesting things to come out of that game:

  1. If the Big 12 has a hope of getting one of its teams into the CFP, it will have to be TCU because I doubt that a one-loss team from the Big 12 will make it.  The Big 12 simply does not have sufficient depth of good teams for its conference winner to sport a top-shelf strength of schedule.  Ergo, that champion had best be undefeated – – and as of today, that means TCU.  Oklahoma hosts TCU on November 11 …
  2. Iowa State has a player – Joel Lanning – who did something a tad unusual in this game.  He played 13 snaps on offense as a backup QB; he played 8 snaps on special teams; he played 57 snaps on defense as a linebacker.  At QB he generated 60 yards offense running and passing; on defense he forced a fumble and recorded a sack.  Too bad the folks who make Swiss Army knives to not offer a college football award at the end of the season…

Western Michigan beat Buffalo 71-68. This game is interesting because it went to 7 overtime periods to reach a conclusion.

Miami beat Florida St. 24-20 on a touchdown with 6 seconds left on the clock.  Miami remains undefeated while Florida St. drops to an uncharacteristic 1-3 on the season.

LSU bounced back from its embarrassing loss to Troy to beat Florida 17-16 at Florida.  That windiness in Baton Rouge has nothing to do with Hurricane Nate; that was Ed Orgeron exhaling; his job is safe for another week.

Arkansas was steamrollered by South Carolina, 48-22.  Arkansas is now 2-3 and still has to play Alabama, Auburn and LSU.  Good luck with that…

Arizona backup QB, Khalil Tate, came into the game in the first quarter.  Here is all he did:

  • On 14 carries, he gained 327 yards rushing.
  • He was 11 for 12 passing for another 152 yards.
  • He accounted for 5 TDs as Arizona beat Colorado 45-42.
  • I wonder if gets the start this week…

It is no surprise that Ohio St. clobbered Maryland last week.  The stat of the game should be that Maryland’s total offense for the day was 66 yards.  That is “Rutgersesque”…

Michigan St. beat Michigan 14-10 in Ann Arbor.  Since arriving at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh’s teams are 1-4 against Michigan St and Ohio St and will face Ohio St. at the end of this season.

After Washington St. beat USC a week ago, the students stormed the field.  Here is how Cougars’ coach, Mike Leach, described the scene according to Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“It’s like Woodstock, except everybody’s got their clothes on.”

Looking at the dregs of the college football season so far:

  • UNC and BYU are both 1-5.  That is atypical for both schools.
  • Here are some other teams that are 1-5; there are not a lot of surprises here.  Bowling Green, Kent St. Nevada, Rice, Tulsa.
  • Rutgers is 1-4; they had last week off.
  • UConn is 1-4 but have lost to Memphis by 39 points and SMU by 21 points.
  • Baylor is 0-5 to date.
  • Residing in “0-6 Land”, we find UMass, UNC-Charlotte and UTEP.

In NFL happenings, I have now heard Tony Romo do 3 games for CBS and I like him.  He and Jim Nantz seem to have developed a rhythm and rapport very quickly; Romo has a long career in broadcasting ahead of him if he wants to do that.

With Marcus Mariotta nursing a hamstring injury, the Titans signed a backup QB off the waiver wire.  Here is what Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had to say about it:

“The agenda: In need of a quarterback after the hamstring injury to Marcus Mariota, the Tennessee Titans signed Brandon Weeden after working out four quarterbacks who shared one key qualification: They are not Colin Kaepernick.”

  • For the record, the other three QBs invited for a workout were Matt Barkley, Matt McGloin and TJ Yates.

The Eagles beat the Cards 34-7 and the score is reflective of the dominance of the Eagles.  There are some mediocre offensive lines in the NFL this year and the Cards’ OL is among the “most mediocre” of the lot.

The Jags beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh 30-9.  There are three stats from this game that jump out:

  1. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 55 times and LeVeon Bell ran the ball only 15 times.  That is not “Steelers football”.
  2. Ben Roethlisberger threw 5 INTs in the game.
  3. Blake Bortles – the winning QB – threw for a total of 96 yards in the game.

The Dolphins beat the Titans 16-10; the Titans went with Matt Cassel at QB and not newly signed Brandon Weeden.  Cassel threw for all of 141 yards and a TD in the game and – believe it or not – Cassel won the QB duel.  Dolphins QB, Jay Cutler, was the winning QB throwing for 92 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

The Chargers won their first game of the year beating the still-winless Giants 27-22.  The Giants lost Odell Beckham, Jr. to an ankle fracture and saw their other two starting WRs, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard leave the game with leg injuries.  The Giants also have no running game to speak of; this team is in significant trouble; what looked like a playoff team in August now looks certain to accumulate double-digit losses.

Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense shrugged off all of those dreaded “distractions” from the last week and beat the Lions in Detroit.  I did not see the game, but Newton’s stats (355 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs) are impressive.

The Browns lost at home to the Jets by 3 points.  The Browns turned the ball over in the Red Zone 3 times in this game plus they missed two very makeable field goals.  If you look at the Browns’ remaining schedule, things look mighty bleak…

The Niners lost again this week and it was an OT loss again this week to the Colts.  The Niners and Giants will meet on Nov 12 in SF; that could be a “Bagel Bowl” – a game where both teams have 0 wins going into the game and the best thing to root for is a 0-0 tie game.

The Texans lost to the Chiefs in a shootout on Sunday night but the bigger losses for the Texans were injuries to JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus.  Both could be lost for the season.  Deshaun Watson played well against a good Chiefs’ defense; he is going to be a solid NFL QB.

The Ravens beat the Raiders 30-17.  With 11 minutes to play in the 2nd quarter, the Raiders trailed 21-3; with EJ Manuel at QB, the Raiders are not going to come back from that sort of deficit against a decent defense; the game was effectively over at that point.  The Raiders are 2-3 and unless Derek Carr can come back and play effectively very soon, the Raiders’ season may be effectively over before Halloween.

The Seahawks beat the Rams 16-10; the Rams had been averaging more than 30 points per game until Sunday.  The Seahawks’ offense continued to sputter here; Russell Wilson’s passing yardage did not reach 200 yards and the Seahawks’ leading rusher was Thomas Rawls with 8 rushes for 20 yards.

Aaron Rodgers worked yet some more magic in Dallas leading the Packers on a game winning drive that started with 1:13 left to play and ended with 11 seconds left on the clock.  If these teams me3et in the playoffs, it will almost surely be in green Bay.  Given the way Rodgers has played in Dallas over the years, that may be to the Cowboys’ advantage.

Finally, after Nebraska beat Illinois in a Friday night game in Lincoln, NE, Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald had this to say;

This was the first Big Ten Friday night conference game. Which has about the same historical significance as the first Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl.

I’m not $ure why the Big Ten agreed to play TV game$ on Friday night$.

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

 

 

Football Weekend 10/7/17

Since it is Friday, the order of business is to check out the upcoming football games for this weekend.  Before getting to those weekend college games, let me say that NC State has quietly inserted itself into any discussion of “top teams” in the country.  The Wolfpack already had a win over Florida State in the bag last night when they beat Louisville by 2 TDs.  They still have Clemson on the schedule and the game is in Raleigh on 4 November.  As of this morning, that looks like a spotlight game.

There are some interesting games in college football this weekend involving good teams:

  1. LSU at Florida:  After losing to Troy at home, LSU’s Ed Orgeron is clearly feeling the heat.  As each week goes by, that loss to Mississippi St. looks worse too.  This should be a low-scoring affair.
  2. Georgia at Vandy:  I have only seen Georgia once, but I am very impressed.  Too bad Georgia and Alabama are not scheduled to play one another this year…
  3. Alabama at Texas A&M:  The line is Alabama – 27.  That seems like a fat line for a road team in a place where home field advantage is a real thing.
  4. Michigan St. at Michigan:  The key element of this game is pretty obvious:  Can Michigan get production from the QB position now that they have been forced to make a change?  Michigan State has been anything but a world-beater so far this year.
  5. Miami at Florida St.:  Miami seems to be a team on the rise; Florida St. seems to be just the opposite.
  6. Stanford at Utah:  Expect a defense-dominated slugfest here…
  7. San Diego St at UNLV:  Do not be fooled by UNLV’s 2-2 record.  This is the team that lost to Division 1-AA Howard at home as a 43-point favorite.  Also, there is no way to assess to what degree the mass murder in Las Vegas will affect the emotions here.  Could be interesting to watch…

There are also a couple of college games this weekend involving some of the less-than-very-good teams in the country:

  1. Hawaii at Nevada:  Hawaii is favored by 4 points on the road; Hawaii is not a good team this year and is rarely a good road team.  There is information content in that betting line.
  2. Oregon St. at USC:  Oregon St. is a 34.5-point underdog.  Oregon St. is over-matched in the PAC-12 and will likely be seeking a new coach soon.
  3. Tulsa at Tulane:  Here are two teams seeking the cusp of mediocrity.  However, it is a matchup of two great team names; the Golden Hurricane takes on the Green Wave.  That’s all I got …

Before making comments on some of the NFL’s weekend lineup, let me say something very simply:

  • Cam Newton is an immature meathead.

I will cut him the slightest bit of slack regarding his apology for his stupid remarks; at least it did not sound as if someone wrote it for him to read in front of a microphone/camera.

One more thing …  The Patriots have no pass rush and do not blitz.  Even though they beat the Bucs last night, Jameis Winston had tons of time in the pocket on most of his pass attempts.  That is an area of the game the Pats will have to improve upon if they plan to do anything come playoff time.

Here are some interesting NFL matchups for this weekend:

  1. Bills at Bengals:  I find this game very interesting.  Are the Bills for real?  Did the Bengals regain consciousness last week or was it just that they played the Browns?  I sorta like the Bengals here …
  2. Jets at Browns:  The Jets can advance to a 3-2 record with a win here.  No one saw that coming…
  3. Niners at Colts:  These are 2 bad teams notwithstanding the fact that the Colts are only 1 game behind the division leader in the AFC South.  The oddsmaker says Colts – 1.5; I say do not bet on this game and watch something else.
  4. Chargers at Giants:  Both teams are 0-4 – – and still I think this will be a better game to watch than the Niners/Colts game.  The Giants have lost two heart-breakers in a row; the Chargers will invent a way to lose once again.
  5. Seahawks at Rams:  This is one of the top three games for the weekend.  Are the Rams for real?  Can the Seahawks play well on the road?  Will the LA Coliseum be 60% full for this game?  So many questions …
  6. Ravens at Raiders:  Both teams are 2-2; both teams have looked horrible in the last 2 games.  Ravens offense is non-existent; Raiders’ defense cannot stop anything; the moveable object meets the resistible force.  Might there be an Amari Cooper sighting this weekend?  Venue call if you must play this game…
  7. Packers at Cowboys:  This is another of the top three games of the weekend.  The Cowboys need a win here more than the Packers need one.  Expect plenty of points in this one.
  8. Chiefs at Texans (Sunday Nite):  The best game of the weekend.  Despite the Texans’ offensive eruption last week for 57 points, do not expect a lot of points in this game.  The Total Line is 45.5 and I think the oddsmaker is right on.

Finally, here is a comment from Lou Holtz – former coach at Arkansas, NC State, Notre Dame and other schools – about job stability for college football coaches:

“I have a lifetime contract. That means I can’t be fired during the third quarter if we’re ahead and moving the ball.”

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