University Of Missouri Football Boycott

Surely, you have read and heard about the resignation of the President of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, amidst protests over racial incidents at that institution. Clearly, the decision of the football team – players and coaches – to abstain from any football activities (practice and scheduled games) had a lot to do with forcing that resignation. The team has properly received accolades for their action here. In his statement announcing his resignation, President Wolfe urged the university folks to “stop yelling at each other and start listening and quit intimidating each other.” Whether or not you like President Wolfe, those words represent good advice.

There is an adage:

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I am going to be a fool today and pose some questions regarding the pragmatic outcome(s) of this forced resignation. Let me set the stage for just a moment:

    A quick glance at Google Maps tells me that Columbia, MO is only about 100 miles from Ferguson, MO. I know nothing about that part of the country from personal experience but I do know and appreciate that there is real – and not imagined – racial tension in Ferguson. The proximity of the University of Missouri to Ferguson has to add to any racial sensitivities on campus.

    Reports on this subject refer to a history of “racial incidents” on campus that have not been addressed to the satisfaction of the protesters. I do not know what those earlier racial incidents were; therefore, I have no way to judge their severity. It is not possible to imagine a racial incident that would fall in the “good” category; nonetheless, there are varying degrees of “bad incidents” and I have no way to categorize how bad the earlier incidents may have been.

I did see an interview with the student government president – a black male – on one of the news programs; he indicated that at a campus meeting, he had been the target of “racial epithets” including the “N-word”. I read reports that someone smeared a swastika on the wall in a dormitory using human feces. That act is disgusting on so many levels that I will not even try to understand what the perpetrator might have been thinking. That less than artistic expression came soon after campus protesters blocked President Wolfe’s car in the Homecoming Weekend Parade in protest of the “earlier incidents”.

In none of the reporting have I seen any indication that anyone involved in the protest thinks that President Wolfe was involved in any of the “earlier incidents” nor that he was the “fecal artist” who decorated the dormitory. Therefore, I guess I do not understand the vehement focus on his resignation as the prime objective of these protests. Now that he is no longer associated with the university, does that mean that the persons who confronted the student government president with racial epithets are gone? Has the “fecal artist” moved on to another campus somewhere?

Unless someone can demonstrate that President Wolfe was one of those miscreants or that he has been harboring those miscreants and shielding them from identification and punishment, those miscreants are still somewhere within the university community – unless of course these incidents have been perpetrated by outsiders from the start. I am currently about 800 miles east of Columbia, MO; from this vantage point, it seems to me that the “really bad guys” have not been “smoked out” of their caves.

The protesters got what they have been demanding. Now what?

Many news outlets have raced to proclaim that there is a new day dawning on campus here and that this is only the beginning of positive change on campuses around the country. Before I get caught up in that euphoria, let me point out that many of these news outlets are the same ones that proclaimed the joy of Arab Spring four or five years ago as a movement that would usher in a whole slew of democracies in North Africa and the Middle East. That was wishful thinking that never came close to reality; frankly, until I see what the newly created environment is at Missouri and how that newly created environment minimizes any racial incidents on the campus, I will merely hope that all the change at Missouri is for the positive.

Politicians at the state and national level have jumped into the fray proclaiming – obviously – that they are the side of everything that is right and good. I have not heard any of them intimate that they have any information regarding who is responsible for the acts on campus that they decry so prolifically. Frankly, they sound to me as if they are merely opportunists grabbing at a chance for face time in order to take a “proper position” on an issue they really do not have any knowledge of or involvement with. Call me a cynic if you wish but I would think a lot more highly of these politicians if they took to the microphone with declarations of facts and specific actions they are taking to make specific changes here. All I have heard to date is platitudinous pabulum…

Having experienced in the past mandatory diversity sensitivity training sessions, let me say that I am skeptical that any such activity will do anything meaningful to humanize the thought processes of the “fecal artist”. Real change, significant change, permanent change is not likely to emerge from diversity training sessions that end with the participants singing Cumbaya. Such diversity training sessions will not hurt anything but if they are the totality of the change ushered in by the change in leadership at the university, then the protest outcomes will likely be cosmetic and not meaningful.

The onus is on the protesters now. No one is going to start a “movement” to get any of the protesters to drop out of school. However, now that they have had their say, one needs to change the focus of accountability.

    Who is responsible for the racial incidents on campus and what is the new university culture going to do about those folks?

    Who is “the fecal artist” and what is to be done to/with him/her?

One potential outcome from this matter in a completely different dimension may be that college athletes in the revenue sports will recognize the influence they can have on university policies. This protest had been ongoing for a while but what brought it to a head was when a large fraction of the football team took sides in the protest and announced that they would boycott practices and games until the protesters’ demands had been met. According to reports, the cancelation of the game against BYU this week would have cost the Missouri Athletic Department $1M. The players should learn from that quick response to their stance that there is truth in the adage:

    Money talks; bulls[p]it walks…

Should the student-athletes choose to push this pawn a way down the path, they might see a different avenue toward payment for their athletic services. Instead of trying to get “employee status” by having a national labor union certified to represent players’ interests, perhaps the way to achieve that goal – if that is truly a goal the players want to achieve – is to wait for one of the major revenue events to commence and for the players at that moment to choose to withhold services. It would take Herculean coordination effort to make the following happen but imagine for just a moment the following scenario:

    It is a Sunday night in mid-March and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee has just announced its seedings for March Madness.

    The media is focused on who got snubbed and who got a seeding they did not deserve. Monday morning arrives and that frenzy of outrage is fully expressed.

    Then, comes the announcement that the players on the 68 teams are not going to take the floor. There will be no games; there will be no television; more importantly, there will be no television revenues…

The University of Missouri faced a loss of $1M for failure to show up to play BYU. The NCAA Tournament generates close to $1B for the NCAA and its member institutions.

It is probably too large an undertaking to get 68 teams to agree to such a boycott to make my scenario even close to a reality. However, there are bowl games in football and even the College Football Playoff where the occurrence of the event involves the cooperation of far fewer players at far fewer institutions. Maybe, this is the most important lesson about effecting change that comes from the action(s) of the Missouri football team in this matter. Maybe this action will demonstrate the levers and the fulcrum that players can use to force negotiations on things they want to have happen.

And like the campus protesters who have won their point now, if the players choose to use those levers, are they ready to accept the consequences and the accountability that will come from their success?

I think the resignation of President Wolfe is not much more than a symbolic happenstance. Without concrete steps that actually change things for the better, it will be a footnote of history. I think the football players at Missouri demonstrated to athletes at other schools that perhaps it is time for the players to take heed.

    Money talks! Bulls[p]it walks!

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

Hither, Thither And Yon…

I am going to be cleaning up the clipboard today and jumping around from issue to issue and from sport to sport. Fasten your seatbelts, please…

The college basketball season is about to get underway and teams are playing exhibition games just to do something different from scrimmaging against themselves. These games do not count and to call them meaningless would be very generous. Having said that, one of them may prove to be very meaningful.

Recall that St. John’s convinced their Hall of Fame alum, Chris Mullen, to come home and to reconstruct the basketball program there. There was a time when St John’s was always part of the discussion with regard to top-shelf college basketball programs; that has not been the case for at least the last 10 years. Well, the first “game” that the Johnnies played against someone other than themselves was an exhibition against St. Thomas Aquinas College and the Johnnies lost that game by 32 points.

In case you are not familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas College, this is a Division –II program whose schedule for this year includes inter alia:

    University of the District of Columbia

Too bad Chris Mullen does not have any collegiate eligibility left…

Drew Magary wrote a piece for GQ magazine saying that the NFL should get rid of Thursday Night Football and put the games on Friday night instead. I do not think the article is a great piece of exposition – or that the idea is particularly germane – but I will provide a link here for you so that you might judge for yourself if you want to.

Magary undercuts his argument in the second paragraph; the reason that Thursday Night Football is here to stay is this:

“The problem, of course, is that the NFL has no inclination to stop airing Thursday Night Football because it WORKS. It’s the third most popular show on network television, right behind Sunday Night Football (#1, of course) and Fox’s Sunday-afternoon NFL postgame (how much Terry Bradshaw do people REALLY need?).”

No television exec wants to ditch the show that gets the third highest ratings of the week because that means he/she would be ditching a program for which the network can charge premium ad rates. Moreover, the NFL is uninterested in ditching the programming that draws that sort of fan attention. Ergo, the whole idea is pie-in-the-sky at best…

However, I wanted to check out my thinking here and “consulted with” – actually “exchanged e-mails with” – an old friend who has covered the NFL professionally for more than 4 decades. Basically, his assessment was similar to mine:

“For one thing, it will never happen for a very simple reason: No one sits home and watches TV on Friday night. People DO sit home and watch TV on Thursday night. The NFL goes where the eyeballs — and advertisers — are.”

He added something to his note that summarized my inherent frustration with Thursday Night Football but I had never thought of it in this way:

“… it doesn’t change the real problem which is screwing up the normal schedule. One thing that helped make the NFL so popular was its rhythm. Games were played on Sunday with a full week in between. There was a natural arc to it and it allowed the players to heal and the coaches to prepare. Now the schedule is staggered and it is impacting the quality of play all across the board. The Thursday night games are usually lousy but the league will keep playing them because (a) people tune in and (b) the ad money is huge.”

Moreover, there is one other thing that is wrong with the idea of Friday Night Football. The NFL has two franchises in Texas. Friday night in Texas is focused on high school football; if you are not familiar with Texas high school football, it is a sporting phenomenon that would be difficult to explain to people in other parts of the country. Darrel Royal – former Texas football coach – once said that in Texas the top sport was football (college football) and the second sport was spring football. What he forgot to add was that #3 was high school football…

If the NFL put on real games to compete with high school football, the fans in Texas would not take kindly to it and that would not be a good thing for the two franchises there…

Barcelona is the soccer team where Lionel Messi plies his trade. According to, Barcelona might wind up playing in the French League instead of La Liga in Spain. Geography teachers all over the country just felt a twinge in their neck as I typed that last sentence but they do not know why…

The Catalunya Region of Spain is seeking independence and should that succeed, the thinking is that La Liga will undergo reorganization and that Barcelona would be booted out of La Liga along with another team from the Catalunya Region. In such an event, the French league has said it would welcome Barcelona into its association. Obviously, this is all very iffy and it involves world politics along with internal FIFA politics. The combination of those two dynamics means that it is also possible that Barcelona will play in some intergalactic league sometime in the next few years…

Finally, I ran across these two items in Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Keeping Score:

“LeBron says that Kevin Love will be the ‘focal point’ of the Cavaliers’ offence,” reports Bill Littlejohn, our South Lake Tahoe, Calif., correspondent. “Someone tell him what it was like when Ringo sang lead.” . . . “The Dallas Cowboys have brought in Charles Haley to talk to Greg Hardy,” Littlejohn writes. “Isn’t that like bringing in Freddy Krueger to talk some sense to Jason?”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/7/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were a losing proposition. The record for the week was 5-8-0 taking the season record down to the .500 level at 67-67-4.

The “Best Picks” last week was taking Florida – 2 over Georgia then seeing Florida win by 24 and taking the Texas Tech/Oklahoma St game OVER 79 then seeing the total score hit 123.

The “Worst Pick” last week was the Stanford/Washington St. game. I took Stanford – 10 and that was a loser and I took the game OVER 61 but it stayed under.

If anyone were to look at those summary results above and think it might be a good idea to use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money, that person would have to be mighty stupid. In fact, here is how stupid:

    He might go to the library and ask the person at the reference desk where he might find Facebook.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats went on the road last week and beat conference foe, George Fox by a score of 24-0; that is the first time this year the Wildcats have been held to less than 44 points in a game. That gives Linfield a 7-0 record for the season and a 5-0 record in the Northwest Conference. This week, the Loggers of the University of Puget Sound come to McMinnville, OR to face the Wildcats in an important conference game. The Loggers have a 4-1 conference record with their only conference loss coming against Whitworth. Puget Sound has a stingy defense; in their 4 conference wins, they have only allowed more than 20 points one time. Go Wildcats!

Unless you just awoke from a weeklong coma, you have seen and heard all about the final play of the Miami/Duke game. Calling that play a “blunder” by the game officials is about as polite as one can be. The ACC has acknowledged that there were enough errors made by the officials while the play was in progress and subsequently during an interminable replay review that the conference has suspended that officiating crew. In my younger days, I officiated a lot of sporting events; when I watched that replay, I felt embarrassed for those officials because they got just about everything wrong they could get wrong.

    [Aside: That last statement is not as hyperbolic as you might think at first glance. To get something else wrong, one or more of the officials would have to have returned from the replay review without pants and mooned the camera while the other officials crooned “Moon Over Miami”]

The ACC needs in the offseason to consider if they really want those officials ever to do any more games for them. I understand the pervasiveness of “human error” and I fully admit to fallibility in making calls. Nevertheless, the mistakes here were so numerous and so egregious that one has to wonder if the officials knew the rules they were supposed to enforce or if they recognized how badly they had botched the original call(s) and tried to find a way to squirm out of admitting how big a rock they pulled out of their asses.

Ohio State QB, JT Barrett, was arrested for DUI last week; reports had his blood alcohol level at 0.09. While that may seem to be only trivially over the legal limit, consider that Barrett is not yet 21 years old; this is a DUI by a minor. Here is the discipline handed out by Ohio State:

    Barrett will be suspended for this week’s game against Minnesota.

    Oh, and his scholarship will be revoked for the summer academic session too.

No one will be shocked to learn that the decision authority for this discipline was head coach Urban Meyer. Not the Athletic Director … not the university official who handles student discipline for any other student on campus … not the President of THE Ohio State University. The head football coach decided on the discipline for this offense.

If THE Ohio State University – and its parent company the NCAA – really want to maintain the façade of the amateur student-athlete, how can one argue that revoking a scholarship for a semester is to the benefit of the “student”? If in fact, these players are really “students” first, then the punishment should be far more severe for the “athlete” part of the equation. After all, if the “student” is pursuing educational opportunities in the summer session, there is some chance he might come to recognize the anti-social nature of what he did. It is less likely that he will learn those kinds of lessons running the read-option right on the football field.

    [Aside: Just to demonstrate that the punishment handed out here is meager at best, consider that Coach Meyer said specifically that Barrett would continue to be a captain for the team. I’ll drink to that.]

The Old Dominion Monarchs maintained their “perfect” against the spread record last week; in eight games, ODU has failed to cover each time. Last week they lost to W. Kentucky by 25 points and the spread was 24. This week, the Monarchs take their 3-5 record to San Antonio TX to play the Roadrunners of UT-San Antonio with their 1-7 record. I believe I am correct in saying:

    This is a rivalry that goes all the way back to – – the Twelfth of Never.

Perhaps in 2050 when I am staring up at grass roots, fans will look back on this game in 2015 as the start of an intense and meaningful rivalry. On the other hand, fans may look back and see this as an eminently forgettable game between two teams that fall on the football spectrum somewhere between “bad” and “really bad”. My guess here is “eminently forgettable”…

Nebraska went into last week’s game against Purdue with a 3-5 record. On one hand, Husker fans could have been encouraged by the fact that all five losses had been very close games; in fact, those 5 losses came at the expense of a total of 13 points; the worst defeat had been by 5 points to BYU in the first game of the season caused by a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game. On the other hand, Husker fans had to be a bit chagrined by the fact that one of those losses came at the hands of Illinois and it had been decades upon decades since Nebraska had lost to Illinois. Last week, the scales had to tip in favor of the “chagrined fans”.

Last week, Nebraska lost to a not-very-good Purdue team by a score of 55-45. The problem here is not that Nebraska allowed 55 points to a mediocre team – although that should not be a point of pride. The problem is that Nebraska rallied furiously in the 4th quarter scoring 29 points to make the score look far more respectable than it was. At the end of the 3rd quarter, Purdue led 42-16. You cannot put enough make-up and lipstick on that pig to make it anything but pure ugly.

Missouri has been struggling to score points with its starting QB on suspension for the last several weeks. Mizzou had last week off and announced that Maty Mauk had been reinstated to the team; no one had Mauk on their “Heisman Watch List” but Mizzou fans had to think this was a step forward. Not so fast my friend… [ /Lee Corso]

    Days after his reinstatement Mauk was re-suspended – this time for the rest of the season.
    Coach Pinkel never said what Mauk did to earn the original suspension; he maintained all along that his policy was to deal with those sorts of things with the player(s) involved and no one else. That is fine with me; he should handle those sorts of things in whatever way he thinks is most constructive.

    Obviously, Coach Pinkel would not say what caused the second suspension. Was it a repeat of the original offense? Was it some new breach of the team rules?

Whatever the case, here is the problem faced by the Missouri offense in the last month:

    Up until last night, they lost to Florida, Georgia and Vandy in consecutive weeks scoring a total of 12 points on 4 field goals.

    Last night, they actually got a TD in a game against Mississippi St. but still lost 31-13.

    The team is 4-5 on the season thanks to three pitty-pat opponents back in September and has BYU, Tennessee and Arkansas left on the schedule. A bowl game invitation will require Mizzou to win two of those three games. In any event, take the UNDER…

Florida just dominated Georgia last week. In a surprise move, Georgia started its 3rd string QB; no one expected that just as – – “No one expected the Spanish Inquisition!” [ /Monty Python] Neither of the QBs higher on the depth chart had been stars earlier this season so maybe the surprise factor Might have had value. Sadly for Georgia fans, it did not; the surprise factor earned Georgia exactly zero points for the first half and a total of 3 points for the game. That is the second game in a row where Georgia has failed to score a TD; the absence of RB, Nick Chubb, has rendered the Georgia offense feeble.

It looks now as if Florida will have to carefully take aim and shoot itself in the foot in such a way as to do maximum damage if it is to lose the SEC East title and play in the SEC Championship Game. Vandy and South Carolina are the only conference games left on the Gators’ schedule.

In the SEC West, Ole Miss beat Auburn last week. That assures Auburn of a losing record in SEC games for the 6th time in the last 8 seasons. Then again, one of those “winning seasons” was a national championship run with Cam Newton at the helm. Talk about feast or famine…

Iowa St. beat Texas last week 24-0; that was the Cyclones’ 3rd win of the year. Prior to shutting out Texas, Iowa St had beaten the University of Northern Iowa (Division 1-AA) and Kansas (a team that is miserable beyond measure). So their win last week poses a very important question for college football fans:

    How on Earth – or even in the Milky Way Galaxy – did Texas beat Oklahoma?

Temple – ranked #21 in the country going into the game last week – lost in the final minutes to Notre Dame – ranked #9 in the country going into the game last week. Due to the loss, Temple dropped out of the Top 25 this week and that fact demonstrates the worthlessness of the polls. Think about this for a moment.

    If you assume that the rankings are an accurate reflection of which teams are better and worse than other teams, then the #21 team is supposed to lose a game to the #9 team. The ranking says that Notre Dame was supposed to win the game and beat Temple.

    So, if that happens, why should Temple drop in the rankings?

Here is why … The folks voting in the polls are pulling their votes out of their ears. The polls mean nothing; the voters do not know which team is the #9 team in the country any more than a politician knows truth from falsehood.

Oklahoma State beat Texas Tech 70-53 last week. That is the second time this year that Texas Tech has scored more than 50 points in a game and lost the game. Maybe – just maybe – the recruiting mavens in Lubbock might go looking for someone who can tackle an opponent this year… The Red Raiders have lost 4 games this year; in those four loses they have given up 55 points (TCU), 63 points (Baylor), 63 points (Oklahoma) and 70 points (Oklahoma State).

In off-the-field college football happenings, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden resigned his position on the Selection Committee for the College Football Playoff. Many folks out west worry that this leaves the PAC-12 without a voice on the Committee; frankly, the only PAC-12 team that will have any prayer of making the College Football Playoff will be the winner of the Stanford/PAC-12 South Champion game; Haden’s presence or absence is not going to make much of difference.

The cynic in me wonders if Haden resigned that position so that he might have more time to focus on his decision as to the next football coach at USC. His last two major hiring decisions have been bad ones indeed:

    He hired Steve Sarkisian as the football coach despite some evidence that Sarkisian had a drinking problem and then kept him in that position after an embarrassing public display of “impaired speech and judgement” on the part of the coach.

    He hired Andy Enfield as the basketball coach after Enfield caught lightening in a bottle at Florida Gulf Coast University and made the Sweet 16 with a bunch of guys who played “street ball”. Since taking his “street ball” message and style to USC, Enfield has gone 23-41 in two full seasons and only 5-31 in PAC-12 conference games.

Kentucky has a defensive tackle named Cory Johnson. His nickname is “Poop”. I do not know – nor do I want to know – how he came to acquire that nickname.

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 8 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in 4 of them. That brings the cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 28-36-1.

Cincy, Oklahoma, Utah St and W. Kentucky covered.

Appalachian St, Memphis, So. Mississippi and Utah did not cover.

This week we have 6 Ponderosa Games:

Florida Atlantic at W. Kentucky – 24 (68): For what it is worth, W. Kentucky received some votes as a Top 25 team this week. You may be assured that Florida Atlantic did not.

Rutgers at Michigan – 24.5 (51): This is merely a tune-up for Michigan as they look forward to the game against Ohio State on 28 November.

Kansas at Texas – 28.5 (53): Texas is wildly inconsistent from game to game; there is no way to know which Texas team will take the field. Kansas is extremely consistent; they stink every time out.

Iowa St. at Oklahoma – 25 (61): Iowa St. beat Texas; Texas beat Oklahoma. Ergo… The money line on this game has Iowa State as high as +2000.

N. Texas at La Tech – 30 (62.5): Words fail me to express the degree of meaningless here.

Minnesota at Ohio State – 24 (53.5): Guess the loss of the first string QB for Ohio State (see above) is not such a big deal for the oddsmakers…

The SHOE Teams:

The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (me) was rocked by last week’s results. North Texas AND New Mexico State both won games in the same week. I have no idea when that happened last but I will assert that it has not happened more than a handful of times in this century. Notwithstanding, those shocking results, here are 12 teams (The Dirty Dozen?) under serious consideration for the SHOE Tournament:

    E. Michigan 1-8; the win was over Wyoming
    Kansas 0-8: cumulative score for the year is 377 – 122
    La-Monroe: 1-7; win was over Nicholls St.
    Miami (OH): 1-8: win was over Presbyterian; plays E, Mich this week!
    New Mexico St. 1-7; cumulative score for the year is 383 – 212
    North Texas: 1-7; the win was against UT-San Antonio
    SMU: 1-7; win was over N. Texas
    UCF 0-9; the record speaks for itself
    UMass: 1-7; still have E. Mich and Miami (Oh) to play
    UTEP: 3-5; wins over New Mexico St, Incarnate Word and Fla Atlantic
    UT-San Antonio: 1-7; the win was over UTEP
    Wyoming: 1-8; lost at home to E. Michigan

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Temple – 13 at SMU (51.5): The Total Line opened at 58.5 and plummeted to this level. This is a long trip and a short week for a Temple team that will have to feel some let-down after losing to Notre Dame by 4 points last week in the final minutes. I think SMU is bad enough to lose the game here – see the SHOE considerations above – but that line looks fat. I’ll take SMU plus the points.

Illinois – 5 at Purdue (52.5): This game is interesting because the spread opened as a “pick ‘em game” and now is a 5 point spread. No, I cannot explain why…

Duke at UNC – 7.5 (58): Obviously a big rivalry game and a game that will test the focus and the resolve of the Duke team after last week’s hideous loss to Miami (see above). I do not consider either team to be a juggernaut here but I think UNC is the better team. I’ll take UNC at home to win and cover.

Texas Tech at W. Virginia – 8.5 (80.5): Tech is a horrid defensive team (see above). They rank last in the country in total defense allowing an average of 573 yards per game and 43.4 points per game. By comparison, West Virginia is downright stingy on defense only giving up 28.9 points per game. Offensively, the situation is reversed; Tech is the most prolific offense in the country gaining an average of 604 yards per game and producing 47.3 points per game. West Virginia cannot match that but the do score 32.6 points per game. All of that is prelude to say that I have to take Texas Tech plus points here; they are the best offensive team in the country and the spread gives me more than a TD.

Kentucky at Georgia – 14.5 (58.5): Both teams have lost their #1 RB this year; neither team has s top-shelf QB to change the focus of the offensive attack. Georgia has not scored an offensive TD since playing Tennessee on 10 October. I think this is a low scoring game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER and I’ll take Kentucky plus the points.

Iowa – 7 at Indiana (60): Iowa has its eye on the Big 10 Championship Game; it is in a solid position in the West Division. Indiana is coming off a Bye Week and is seeking bowl-eligibility. I think there is enough offense here to take the game to go OVER.

Vandy at Florida – 21 (36.5): Florida is going to the SEC Championship Game unless lightning strikes. Vandy does not have the offensive firepower to make the Florida defense sweat. Then again, the Florida offense is not so dominant that it will overwhelm a solid Vandy defense (323 yards per game allowed and 18 points per game). I’ll take Vandy plus 3 TDs worth of points.

E. Michigan at Miami (OH) – 4 (63.5): Two SHOE team possibilities go head to head here. Of course it is a game of interest…

Army at Air Force – 17 (49.5): Short and simple here… That is an awful lot of points for an interservice rivalry game. I do not think Army is a good team by any means, but I’ll take Army plus 17 points here.

NC State – 4 at BC (39): BC can play defense; they give up only 224 yards per game and 13.3 points per game. NC State is without their starting RB for this game. NC State’s defense is good too giving up only 298 yards per game and 21.1 points per game; BC has no offensive players of note. Just for giggles, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Penn State at Northwestern – 2.5 (41): I think this will be a defense-dominated game. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Utah at Washington – 2 (44): I think the wrong team is favored here. I like Utah plus the points.

Arizona at USC – 20 (67): Arizona gives up 453 yards per game on average and 34.2 points per game. This is not one of the great USC teams but they will be able to score points here. I like USC to win and cover at home.

TCU – 4.5 at Oklahoma State (76.5): This is one of the 3 best games of the weekend; both teams arrive with 8-0 records. TCU gains 616 yards per game; Ok St gains a mere 503 yards per game. I see lots of points here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Fla State at Clemson – 10.5 (55.5): This is another of the 3 best games of the weekend. These teams are the class of the ACC but only one can be in the ACC Championship Game. I think Clemson is the better team and they are at home. I’ll take Clemson and lay the points.

Navy at Memphis – 7.5 (63.5): I do not think Navy can contain the Memphis air game and I do not think Memphis can contain the Navy ground game. I like this game to go OVER and I like Memphis at home to win and cover.

Wisconsin – 11 at Maryland (48): Wisconsin is having a down year relative to recent Wisconsin teams; however, Maryland is purely awful. I like Wisconsin to win and cover despite being on the road.

LSU at Alabama – 7 (47): This is one of the 3 best games of the week; in fact, I think this is the best game on the card this week. The winner will probably take on Florida in the SEC Championship Game and that winner will be in the College Football Playoff. Leonard Fournette goes against the Alabama Front-7. Here is a stat/trend I ran across this week:

    Alabama is 0-5 against the spread in Tuscaloosa this year.

I really think these are two VERY good football teams and I will succumb to temptation here. I’ll take LSU plus the points because I doubt I will see that many points attached to them again this year.

Old Dominion at Texas-San Antonio – 10 (55): Game is of interest for two reasons:

    1. ODU is 0-8 against the spread this year. Can they keep it up?

    2. Texas-San Antonio is a 1-7 SHOE candidate and are favored by double-digits here. Say what?

Notre Dame – 9 at Pitt (54): Notre Dame cannot afford to lose here – or even to win on a fluke play – if they want to maintain their position as the team “ready to jump into the Top-4 for the CFP. Pitt lives on its defense giving up only 325 yards of offense and 22 points per game. However, the Notre Dame defense gives up only 361 yards of offense and also 22 points per game. So the difference here should come from the difference in the offensive units. Notre Dame averages 130 yards per game more than Pitt and scores 10.5 points per game more. I like Notre Dame to win and cover here.

Arkansas at Ole Miss – 10 (54.5): I do not know where the 55th point in this came will come from so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Michigan St. – 6 at Nebraska (58): Nebraska is a mess; they lose close games and they lose to bad teams. Michigan State is not a bad team so I think they will dominate here. I’ll take State and lay the points.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald relative to Nebraska football this year:

“A list was compiled of college football player arrests the past five years, and Nebraska is tied with Ohio State at 12 apiece. Look for the NU PR department to release the statement: ‘Huskers tied with Buckeyes!’ ”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/8/15

Let me now sugar-coat this; last week’s Mythical Picks were horrible. The record for the week was 4-8-2 taking the season record below .500 to 59-63-5.

The “Best Pick” last week was taking the Raiders and getting points; the Raiders won the game against the Jets handily.

The “Worst Pick” last week was the Steelers/Bengals game. I took the Steelers and gave a point; they lost outright. I took the game OVER 48; it never came close to that. And to add insult to injury, the Steelers wore those damnable “bumblebee throwback uniforms”; watching that game was objectionable.

Obviously, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a wager on an NFL game if that wager involved real money or anything of real or personal value. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    You think someone who is outstanding in his field is an expert farmer.

General Comments:

The Indianapolis Colts continue on the track destined to arrive at Dysfunction Junction. After three playoff seasons in a row – and a place in the AFC Championship Game last year – there were rumblings before this season began that chuck Pagano was on the hot seat because he and the GM, Ryan Grigson, were at odds. There were also rumblings that owner Jim Irsay was involved in that imbroglio and that Irsay was siding with Grigson. Given that no games had been played at that point and that the Colts’ had dominated their division in recent times, that seemed more than a tad strange.

The on-field debacle that has been the Colts this year only added fuel to the fire. After losing on Monday night to the undefeated Panthers, the Colts proceeded to fire offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton. Blaming Hamilton for the ineptitude of the Colts’ OL and the Colts’ soft defense is sort of like blaming Mayor Bloomberg for the 9/11 attack on New York City. Yes, Hizzonner was in charge of the city when it happened, but somehow that does not attach any significant responsibility for the disaster to him.

As a sidebar to the Colts’ poor record, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported last week that Andrew Luck was playing after sitting out two games because he had a shoulder injury and some broken ribs. That is newsworthy because the Colts never reported any rib injuries and the NFL rules require them to do so. The league office has been mighty quiet about that.

    Imagine for just a millisecond if this report had been about the Patriots “hiding” an injury to Tom Brady. Had that been the case, Roger Goodell would be foaming at the mouth about now and there would be another Investigation Committee at work – probably under the guidance of Ted Wells.

The Colts enter the week tied for the lead in the miserable AFC South Division with a record of 3-5. To give you a perspective as to why I call is the “miserable AFC South Division” the Colts and co-leader Texans have exactly a 0.5 game lead on the Jags and a 1.5 game lead over the Titans. In a good division, the Jags would not be able to see the top of the division anytime in November.

The Rams beat the Niners last week 27-6. The Rams’ defense is really good and it held the Niners to 189 yards of total offense. At least some of the blame for that poor offensive showing has to go to the Niners themselves; after all, this is the 4th time this year (in 8 games) that the Niners have failed to put up 200 yards of total offense. Here is a stat from last week’s game to demonstrate how poorly the Niners played:

    The Niners had more penalties (13) than they had first downs (11).

Going into last week’s game, the Niners were last in the NFL in scoring (14.6 points per game) and last in total offense (295 yards per game). They did not match either stat last week and to shake things up, the Niners’ braintrust has chosen to bench Colin Kaepernick and start Blaine Gabbert. Yes, that is the same Blaine Gabbert who was declared excess baggage by the Jaguars. Before you ask, Gabbert and Kaepernick are the only 2 QBs on the Niners’ roster…

The Rams recorded a safety in last week’s game against the Niners but it was not the typical way that safeties happen – holding in the end zone or sacking the QB in the end zone. Here is how it happened according to the play chart:

    Niners had the ball at their own 3 yardline.
    Niners ran the ball into the middle 3 times.
    Each play lost a yard.
    Ergo, a safety…

By the way, neither the Rams nor the Niners were sharp on offense last week. The Niners were 3-17 on third down; that is awful. However, the Rams were worse; the Rams were 1-12 on third down. Todd Gurley continued to show well for the Rams; he carried the ball 20 times for 133 yards last week.

The Vikings beat the Bears last week and are second in the NFC North and have an eye on a playoff slot with a 5-2 record so far this year. One of those losses was to the sorry-assed Niners in Week 1; since then, the only loss has come at the hands of the undefeated Broncos. The Vikings are playing well. However, the Vikes’ upcoming schedule over the next 6 games is not exactly a tea party:

    Vs Rams
    At Raiders
    Vs Packers
    At Falcons
    Vs Seahawks
    At Cardinals

Oh, by the way, the Vikes also have another game against the Packers in Green Bay in the final week of the season after two softer games against the Bears and Giants. It would appear that 9 wins will give an NFC team a real shot at the playoffs this year; a split over the next 6 games and another win against the Bears would put the Vikes at 9 wins…

The Seahawks beat the Cowboys handing the Cowboys their 5th loss in a row since Tony Romo broke his collarbone. First Jerry Jones proclaimed that Brandon Weeden would play QB for the Cowboys and there would be no diminution in proficiency; then he went out and signed Matt Cassel to do the job. Things started out bleakly for the Cowboys and nothing has gotten brighter in the past few weeks. Last week Matt Cassel produced a total of 97 yards passing. At times, he looked as if he had never played QB before.

Dez Bryant was back on the field for the Cowboys and Richard Sherman took Bryant out of the game. Bryant caught 2 passes for 12 yards – – and one of those catches was for 15 yards so you can see that the other catch was less than productive. Some Cowboys’ fanboys have said that Bryant was far less than 100% for the game and he was only out there as a decoy. Really? Then explain to me the value of that “decoy” when the offense only got 97 yards passing.

The Cowboys’ defense kept them in the game; for the most part, the Seahawks offense was pretty meek for most of the game. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Seahawks led 10-9; when the Cowboys got a field goal soon after the 4th quarter began, it seemed as if the Seahawks were going to lose another game where they led in the 4th quarter. However, the Seahawks’ offense came alive sufficiently to drive the ball 79 yards to get a field goal to take the lead at 13-12 with about a minute left to play. Here is the Dallas offense in the final minute of the game down one point and starting at their own 20 yardline:

    1. Long pass incomplete – but roughing the passer so first down at the 35.

    2. Strip-sack and fumble recovery – but reversed by replay official to incomplete pass.

    3. Short pass incomplete.

    4. Sack for 6-yard loss.

    5. False start for 5-yard loss.

    6. Long pass incomplete – turnover on downs.

The Texans beat the Titans 20-6 giving the Texans a 3-5 record for the year and equaling the Colts record in the AFC South. Zach Mettenberger played QB for the Titans and generated a total of 171 yards in the air. If you wondered why the Titans used the #2 pick in the draft to take another young QB when they had Mettenberger on the roster, here is the answer to your question.

The Texans are an enigma; they are not a good team but they are not a horrible team either. They get a week off now to prepare for a visit to Cincy a week from Monday night. It would appear they are over-matched for that game so put them at 3-6 after that game. Here is what follows:

    Vs Jets
    Vs Saints
    At Bills
    Vs Patriots
    At Colts
    At Titans
    Vs Jags

If the Texans can split those two home games against the Jets and Saints and win in Buffalo, that would give then 5 wins going into the final 3 weeks of the season where all their games are in the division. On the other hand, they could lose those first 4 games and go into their divisional games with a 3-10 record. Like I said, they are an enigma…

The Chargers lost to the Ravens on a last second field goal. With that result, both the Chargers and the Ravens are 2-6 for the season, both are in last place in their division and both are looking up at an undefeated 7-0 team atop their division. Neither team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, however…

The Ravens have lost Steve Smith for the rest of the year to an Achilles tendon injury. They have a week off to regroup and they do have some winnable games ahead of them (Jags, Browns, Chiefs) and they get to play the Bengals in the final game of the season when the Bengals could well be in the mode of resting starters to get ready for the playoffs. Having said all of that, I think Justin Tucker may have experienced “irrational exuberance” [ /Alan Greenspan] with this comment after kicking the game-winning field goal:

“As soon as we’re done enjoying it, we’ve got to give ourselves the best opportunity to go 8-0 the last half of the season. I think we’ve got just the men for the job.”

Meanwhile, the Chargers are just a mess on offense, defense and special teams. Consider that after 8 games, here are the punt return stats for the Chargers:

    Keenan Allan – 3 returns for 5 yards
    Jacoby Jones – 5 returns for minus-4 yards

That’s it; that’s the list. In 8 games they have only had the opportunity to try to return 8 punts and the net return yardage is 1 yard. On, and the “better of the two” returners, Keenan Allen is on IR with a kidney injury.

The Steelers lost to the Bengals in the last minutes of the game last week and the Steelers lost RB, LeVeon Bell for the rest of the year. In the AFC North, the Steelers are 3.5 games behind the Bengals and are 2 full game ahead of both the Browns and the Ravens. It is going to take some seismic events there to keep the Bengals from winning the division. The Bengals won last week despite Andy Dalton throwing two INTs – one of them deep in the red zone. The Bengals’ cause was aided and abetted by the fact that Ben Roethlisberger threw 3 INTs in the second half of the game to assure that the Steelers never got a really comfortable lead in the game. The Steelers are still in playoff contention for a wild card slot with their 4-4 record because the only non-division leaders in the AFC with better records are the Raiders and the Jets (both at 4-3).

I mentioned Justin Tucker’s “irrational exuberance” above and it seems to be something that is going around in the AFC North. Steelers CB, Antwon Blake had this to say after last week’s loss:

“I can’t see why we can’t go undefeated the rest of the way out.”

Putting Justin Tucker’s statement in juxtaposition with Antwon Blake’s statement creates an interesting situation. On 27 December, the Ravens and the Steelers will play one another in Baltimore. For both players to be correct, that game would have to end in a tie. So if you put any credence in these projections, you need to find a sportsbook that has an advance line on the game and take the underdog plus the points.

The Patriots did not merely beat the Dolphins; they dominated them. Instead of bumping his players and stalking the sidelines like a caged cat, Dolphins’ coach Dan Campbell spent much of the time bent over with his hands on his knees staring at what was happening on the field in front of him. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summed up the situation succinctly:

“Good seats at reduced rates are newly available on the Dan Campbell Bandwagon.”

The Cardinals turned the ball over 4 times last week and fell behind the Browns 20-7 in the first half. They rallied to win the game 34-20 so the question is this:

    Should they be praised for the comeback or kicked in the posterior for falling behind to the Browns?

The Browns ran the ball for a grand total of 39 yards in that game. So, obviously, that is the quarterback’s fault and the Browns will be starting Johnny Manziel this week against the Bengals. Look, I understand that the Browns do need to figure out if Manziel can play QB in the NFL so that they might then make a rational assessment as to whether he is worth the baggage he brings to the party. But anyone who thinks that the Browns lost last week’s game because of quarterback play when they could not run the ball even a whit does not understand the game. The leading rusher last week was QB Josh McCown (5 carries for 18 yards). The next best runner was Isaiah Crowell (10 carries for 14 yards). Really now…

The Falcons lost to the Bucs last week by a score of 23-20. The Falcons turned the ball over 4 times and that gave the Bucs 20 of their 23 points. After starting out the season with a bang at 5-0, the Falcons are disappearing like the Wicked Witch of the West in a thunderstorm.

The Lions went to London and lost badly to the Chiefs. The Lions had fired their offensive coordinator a week before this game putting Jim Bob Cooter in the position; other than having the announcers proclaim his lyrical name, he seemed to have exactly no effect on the game. Not to worry, though; the Lions’ defense was as toothless as the offense. The Lions just plain stink. The Chiefs forced 2 turnovers and sacked Matthew Stafford 6 times last week.

The Chiefs have won 2 in a row and are now 3-5 for the season but without Jamaal Charles, I think their prospects for a winning season are dim indeed.

During the week, Lions’ coach Jim Caldwell decried the “persistent negativity” of the Detroit media with respect to the Lions. I think he is being a bit thin-skinned here; Detroit is no different from other cities with bad teams. If he doubts that statement, he should take an hour to read what the San Francisco papers are saying about Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Tomsula.

Caldwell needs to realize that there is a special dimension to criticizing the Lions. It is called “History”. Consider these historical facts:

    Lions last won the NFL Championship in 1957.

    Since then, the Lions have had 35 losing seasons, 18 winning seasons and 4 break-even seasons.

    Since 2000, the Lions’ record is 81-167-0.

    No Lions’ coach since the merger has ever coached another NFL game after the Lions got rid of him. The last Lions’ head coach to get a job elsewhere was Buddy Parker who left in 1956 with 2 NFL Championships under his belt.

      Memo to Jim Caldwell: That kind of history tends to make people think negatively…

The Raiders beat the Jets last week 34-20 behind Derek Carr’s 4 TDs and 333 yards passing against a good Jets’ defense and RB, Latavius Murray’s 113 yards rushing. The Jets have lost 2 games in a row now and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has an injury to the thumb on his non-throwing hand; he will play this week but only time will tell if that injury will affect his play significantly. If he cannot go, the Jets will have to put Geno Smith on the field and that cannot be good news for Jets’ fans. Behind Smith is rookie Bryce Petty. For a team that has playoff aspirations and decent position at this point in the season, that is not an uplifting QB situation.

The Raiders limited Chris Ivory to 1.1 yards per carry last week; that clearly has to improve if the Jets are going to be serious playoff contenders. The other thing the Raiders did last week that the Jets have to correct is this:

    The Raiders gained 451 yards on offense. Until last week – including a game against the high-powered Patriots – the Jets’ defense had not allowed more than 353 yards in a game this year.

For Raiders’ fans here is a bit of news that can only be seen as positive:

    As of November 1, the Raiders had won more games in 2015 than they won in all of 2014.

What looked like the best game of the week between two undefeated teams turned out to be a dud. The Broncos’ defense simply smothered the Packer’s offense holding Aaron Rodgers to a mere 77 yards passing and 140 yards of total offense. Despite the fact that the NFL has spent the last 25 years goosing the rules to favor offensive football, the Broncos’ defense is a dominant unit as were defenses like the Rams, Vikes and Steelers in the 70s, the Bears in the 80s and the Ravens in the early aughts. Those guys are really good…!

Meanwhile, it would appear as if protestations that Peyton Manning was ready for the boneyard were just a tad premature. He threw for 340 yards last week and was accurate on passes well down the field. Maybe he needed the week’s rest from the Bye Week to get his arm rested – or some injury to heal. Whatever happened, he looked like he had turned the clock back about 2 years last week. Manning was not the only offensive weapon that was working for the Broncos last week; their total offensive output was 500 yards.

The most unusual and exciting game last week had to be the Saints/Giants encounter that ended 52-49. Here are some things that happened in that game:

    Drew Brees threw for 7 TDs and 511 yards. He is the only QB ever to have 2 games with 500 yards in his career.

    Eli Manning threw for 6 TDs. The combined 13 TD passes in a game is an NFL record.

    Giants’ defense gave up 614 yards.

    17 different receivers caught passes in the game.

The last 4 times that the Giants have played in New Orleans, they have given up a total of 194 points (48.5 points per game). Are Giants’ defenders allergic to Cajun cooking?

The Saints evened their record at 4-4 even though the Saints’ defense did not shower itself in glory in the game. With the Falcons losing to the Bucs last week, might that be an indication of a Falcons’ collapse that could put the Saints in a position to make the playoffs? Stay tuned…

The Games:

Here are the teams taking the week off:

    Arizona gets a week off while leading their division by 1.5 games.

    Baltimore gets a week off to regroup after a 2-6 start to the season.

    Detroit gets a week off; at least they won’t lose this week.

    Houston gets a week off and could lead the division if Indy loses.

    KC gets the week off feeling good after winning 2 in a row.

    Seattle gets the week off to ponder how good it is not to be SF.

(Thurs Nite): Cleveland at Cincy – 11 (45.5): Everything points to the Bengals here. They are 7-0 for the season; the Browns are 2-6. Andy Dalton has played well in all of the games save last week; the Browns will start Johnny Manziel who has more question marks than accomplishments relative to his NFL status. The Bengals are 44 yards per game better on offense and the Bengals are 37 yards per game better on defense. However, recall that these two teams played in Cincy on a Thursday night last year and the Browns won the game outright. If I thought that had a reasonable chance to happen, I would take the Browns on the Money Line at +500. Please note that I am not doing that… If you like trends, here are two for you; no matter which side you take here, one of these trends will reinforce your selection:

    Bengals are 15-4-2 against the spread in their last 21 home games.

    The underdog is 13-2-1 against the spread in the last 16 Bengals/Browns games.

I hate laying double digit spreads in NFL games but I cannot take the Browns here with Manziel at QB against that defense. With trepidation, I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Oakland at Pittsburgh – 4.5 (47.5): The spread opened at 7 points and dropped like a rock to this number. It has been steady here for about a day so perhaps the drop is over. I think Ben Roethlisberger shook off some of the rust in last week’s game and will play much better this week against a Raiders’ defense that gives up almost 400 yards per game. I also think that the Raiders will be able to move the ball well on a Steelers’ defense that has been spotty. I like this game to go OVER.

Jax at Jets (no lines): If the Jags win here and the Colts lose, then the Jags and Texans will be tied for first in the AFC South and the Colts will be in third place. The Colts have a Bye Week next week; if they are in third place, I would not be surprised to see Chuck Pagano fired as the head coach. Maybe this is what is going on in Indy:

    Jim Irsay has gotten tired of seeing Danny Boy Snyder have a stranglehold on the trophy for “Dumbest Meddlesome NFL Owner of the Year” and has decided to do something about it.

St Louis at Minnesota – 2.5 (40): If this game is available in your viewing area, I think you ought to watch it. Adrian Peterson will run against a very good Rams’ defense. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley will run against a very good Vikes’ defense. Neither QB is above average; both are capable of big games and both are capable of stinking out the joint. The game is meaningful to both teams as they jockey for position in the NFC Wild Card race. The teams are very evenly matched and I expect a low scoring game so I’ll take the Rams plus the points.

Miami at Buffalo – 3 (44): Let me make this simple. I think the wrong team is favored here. I’ll take Miami plus the points because I expect them to win this game.

Tennessee at New Orleans – 7.5 (48): Here is another game with a simple bottom line. The Titans stink; the Saints are definitely improved on offense and the Saints’ defense will do much better against Zach Mettenberger/Marcus Mariotta than it did against Eli Manning last week. I like the Saints to win and cover at home.

Washington at New England – 15 (52): The Skins have had 2 weeks to bask in the glory of their comeback from a 24-0 deficit to win a game against the Bucs and to prepare to play the Patriots in Foxboro. In terms of the outcome of the game, you can find the Skins on the Money line anywhere between +850 and +950 as of this morning; oddsmakers do not think they are going to win – and neither do I. But I think that line is so fat that if it were a person it would leave footprints in granite rock. I’ll take the Skins plus the points here.

Green Bay – 2.5 at Carolina (46): Talk about motivational points for the two coaches here…

    Ron Rivera can tell the Panthers that they are undefeated and they are at home and the oddsmakers think they are going to lose. That is the essence of the “we-get-no-respect card”.

    Mike McCarthy can tell the Packers that the short line here means oddsmakers think the Panthers’ defense might do the same thing to the Packers that the Broncos’ defense did last week. Go prove that was an aberration… !

I think this game will stay UNDER and I’ll take the Panthers at home taking points.

Atlanta – 7 at SF (44.5): The spread for this game opened at 3 points and then came the announcement that Blaine Gabbert would be playing QB for the Niners this week. The spread went up almost immediately to this level giving you an idea that whatever disdain folks may have for Colin Kaepernick as an NFL QB, there is always room for deprovement. The Niners’ OL is porous and Blaine Gabbert is not mobile; I think this game might get ugly. I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points even on the road.

Giants – 2.5 at Tampa (48): The Bucs are 3-4; the Giants are 4-4. The Bucs are in last place in their division; the Giants are in first place in their division. Both teams are inconsistent from week to week except for one thing. The Giants’ pass rush has been a no-show all season long. I think there will be points-a-plenty in this game because Jameis Winston will have lots of time to do his thing and because Eli Manning will pick apart the Bucs secondary. I like this game to go OVER.

Denver – 5 at Indy (45): Peyton Manning returns to Indy… If the Broncos’ take the Colts to the woodshed, I think Chuck Pagano will be gone (see above). Any loss by the Colts will be their 4th in a row and the Broncos are indeed on a roll. I might be able to conjure up a scenario where the Colts’ defense puts forth a heroic effort here to save their beleaguered coach; it would indeed take some conjuring, but it could happen. What I cannot do is to imagine the Colts’ OL protecting Andrew Luck – or Matt Hasselbeck for that matter – from the Broncos’ pass rush. I think it will be feeding time at the zoo. I like the Broncos to win and cover here. Having made that pick, here are some “disturbing” trends I have ignored:

    Broncos are 0-8 against the spread in the last 8 games against the Colts

    Colts are 22-9-1 against the spread in their last 32 home games.

(Sun Nite) Philly – 2.5 at Dallas (44): The Eagles had a Bye Week last week while the Cowboys were stinking out the joint against the Seahawks. Even with the marginally productive year that Sam Bradford has had with the Eagles, he will be the better QB on the field no matter who gets under center for the Cowboys. It is unlikely that any wild card team will emerge from the NFC East so winning the division is the path to the playoffs for these teams. They both need the game. I think the Eagles are the better team; I’ll take them and lay the points.

(Mon Nite) Chicago at San Diego – 4 (49): You may have been wondering what happened to the Committee of One (Me!) that has the responsibility to identify the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Fear not; the Committee has not been disbanded; it just happens that the sure-fire worst game of the week happens to be the Monday Night Game. The teams are a combined 4-11; in quiet moments of reflection, the coaches on both teams know that their season is down the drain; it is a non-conference game. This game is a runaway winner for the Who Gives A Rat’s Ass Prize. Since my lack of enthusiasm is clear, I shall immediately turn this game over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Chargers and lay the points.

Finally, Scott Ostler had this observation in the SF Chronicle about “coachspeak”:

“Please, coaches, stop telling us after wins and losses, ‘We’ve got some things to clean up. We’ll go to work and fix ’em.’ Just once tell us, ‘Our problems can’t be fixed. We’re canceling all further practices.’ “

Wouldn’t that be refreshing…?

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

Another Legal “Situation”…

Yesterday, I mentioned Pierre Garcon’s suit against FanDuel. It turns out that is not the only legal action that involves the Skins these days. The team itself is in court filing to appeal a ruling that says its team name is an offensive racial slur and therefore should not be afforded trademark protection. The Legal Eagles representing owner Danny Boy Snyder can surely come up with at least a dozen and a half arguments to justify their appeal that the banishment of this trademark is legally improper. It seems to me as if those Legal Eagles have chosen to take the low road in this battle.

    [Aside: I guess the advantage of taking the low-road is that they will not encounter Denny Green at any point on their journey. He is, after all, always on the high road…]

To do a quick reset here, the folks in the government who rule on the viability of trademarks decided last year that “Redskins” was a racial slur and therefore could not be given trademark protection by the US Government. The team appealed that decision and at some point earlier this year encountered a federal judge who agreed with the folks who make trademark decisions in this matter. So, the team is now in the appellate process – and the Supreme Court remains a possible option no matter which side prevails at this level. Whether or not “The Supremes” want to deal with an issue as moldy as this one remains to be determined.

Given the uncertainty of any sort of Supreme Court review, perhaps the background music for all of this should be by Diana Ross and The Supremes as they sing, You Keep Me Hangin’ On. Alternatively, should Danny Boy and his Legal Eagles lose this battle, maybe the background music should be The Supremes singing:

    Things Are Changing – or –
    Some Things You Never Get Used To – or –
    I’ll Try Something New.

In any event, what the Skins’ legal representatives chose to do in their appellate brief was to sink to the level of a school-yard argument making the case that the team nickname is not worse than a whole bunch of others. They found more than a couple dozen offensive trademark names that have been approved by the trademark mavens in recent times; the direct implication is that those names are in the same genre of names as “Redskins”. Here are a couple that they cite:

    Cracka Azz (a skateboard brand)

    Gringo Style (a kind of salsa)

    Hot Octopuss (an ointment to prevent premature ejaculation)

    Laughing My Vagina Off (a website for “Chicks and Giggles”)

    Midget Man Condoms (do we really need any more clarity here?)

    Redneck Army (a line of clothing)

With the possible exception of “Gringo Style” as a kind of salsa, these names may be offensive to some but none are of the flavor of a “racial slur”. Like it or not, that is the basis of the trademark denial by the trademark mavens and by the federal court judge that got us here. By the way, that same federal judge also included in his ruling that denying this trademark on the basis of what it is does not infringe on the team or the owner’s First Amendment freedom of speech.

I am rooting for this to go to the Supreme Court for a final decision. It really does not matter to me which way the decision goes in the final confrontation; the world will continue to go from day to night and back to day again in the event that either side prevails. What I want to witness is the commentary by the media folks who report on Supreme Court proceedings as to the oral arguments and then as to the parsing of the various opinions that will surely come forth from the Justices. I have zero legal training, but that will be enjoyable listening and reading indeed…

We are on the cusp to begin the college basketball season. Like in college football, many teams open the season with patty-cake opponents. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald took note of one such “game” scheduled by the University of Miami:

” ‘Soft opening’ this week for Canes men: Jim Larranaga’s guys host an exhibition game vs. Dowling this Wednesday night as they prepare to open the season Nov. 13. Free tickets to anybody who knows who or what ‘Dowling’ is.”

And speaking of college basketball, let me offer a few comments regarding the allegations that recruits and players at the University of Louisville were provided “escort services” and “sexual encounters” that were arranged for and paid for by a member of the Louisville coaching staff. Many commentators have focused on what Coach Rick Pitino knew or did not know; more than a few folks have called for him to be fired. Here is my thinking on the matter:

    As the Head Coach, he should have known what was going on in the “recruiting arm” of the basketball program. However “should have known” and “knew” are two very different things in this case.

    Please keep in mind the “Duke Lacrosse Case” and the “fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia” here. Do not fall victim to the train of thought that says “we all know this kind of sleaziness goes on” and therefore, the link to the head coach has to be true. “The Narrative” does not trump “The Evidence”.

    If it can be shown that Rick Pitino knew about any of this – even in general terms – and did not take steps to stop it, he should be fired from his job and the NCAA should put a 10-year “show-cause” order on him lest some other school tries to hire him to coach basketball there.

    If what is contained in the paragraph above cannot be shown, then each and every member of the media who has called for him to be fired or sanctioned in any way needs to apologize publicly as a condition of keeping his or her job.

I do not know what Rick Pitino knew or did not know. I also admit that I am not sufficiently aware of how the basketball program is managed at Louisville to opine as to what he might have known or should have known. What I know is that in cases like this:

    Sometimes the accuser is stone-cold right. See José Canseco and steroids/PEDs in MLB as an example.

    Sometimes the accuser is stone-cold wrong. See Crystal Magnum and the Duke Lacrosse scandal as an example.

Finally, Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot and I tend to agree on the vast majority of sports topics out there. In this case, it would appear that Messr. Molinaro has made up his mind a bit before I think it is prudent to do so. History may prove him to be perfectly correct – even prescient. I will choose to wait for more evidence to come forth:

“Catch-22: Rick Pitino is trying to survive what would be a lose-lose proposition for most any other coach. Even if you take him at his word that he wasn’t aware of the Louisville recruiting parties that reportedly featured strippers and prostitutes, is there any plausible excuse for why the head coach shouldn’t have known? I wouldn’t bet against Slick Rick hanging onto his job, though. This is college basketball in Kentucky, after all.”

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

Another NFL Coaching Change

Ken Whisenhunt has followed Joe Philbin into the ranks of unemployed NFL coaches fired in mid-season 2015. In 23 games as the coach of the Titans over the past season and a half, the record was 3-20 which seems to be a reasonable basis for “taking things in a different direction”. You may remember that Whisenhunt was the coach of the Arizona Cardinals the year the Cards went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Steelers in the final seconds of the game. You may be wondering how a Super Bowl caliber coach can have had such a bad run with the Titans…

As I often try to explain here, coaching – and managing in baseball – are overrated in 90% of the cases. Yes, there are some inspirational leaders as coaches who create winning attitudes that flourish on the field; yes, there are some coaches who create some new wrinkle on offense or defense that translates into wins on the field. In most cases, the effect of coaches and managers is “Meh”.

Ken Whisenhunt did indeed take a team to the Super Bowl one year. Nonetheless, his overall NFL record in head coaching positions is 48-71. I think that record reflects that Ken Whisenhunt is a typical NFL head coach:

    Give him mediocre or bad players to coach and his teams will lose.

    Give him a set of players having better than average years in their careers and his teams will win.

Mike Mularkey will take over the helm for the Titans. If history is any indicator here, Mularkey’s record as an NFL head coach is hardly awe-inspiring. He coached the Bills and amassed a 14-18 record there; then he coached the Jags for a year and went 2-14. His overall record of 16-32 is actually worse than Ken Whisenhunt’s 48-71…

Over the weekend, I read reports that Skins’ WR, Pierre Garcon has filed a class action lawsuit against FanDuel claiming that the daily fantasy sports website has misappropriated his name and his likeness – along with the names and likenesses of all other NFL players on any NFL roster since 2013 – for the profit of FanDuel and without compensation or permission from Garcon or the players. To my untutored eye, this appears to be a pro-sports action akin to the one that Ed O’Bannon is pursuing against the NCAA. If I am wrong in that thinking, I am perfectly willing to be corrected. Here is a link where you can see the entire complaint that has been filed in the US District Court, district of Maryland.

At the end of the complaint, it expresses its “prayer for relief”. Two of these prayers caught my eye:

    “An award for disgorgement of all profits earned by Defendant from
    promoting its daily fantasy sports contests using Plaintiff’s and Class
    members’ names and/or likenesses.”

      If that prayer is answered in full, that would effectively award profits to NFL players made by similar misappropriations of the names and likenesses of MLB and NBA players. That does not seem fair…

    “An injunction enjoining Defendant from the future use of Plaintiff’s and
    Class members’ names and likenesses to promote its daily fantasy sports

      I suspect the effect of an injunction forbidding future use would merely give time for the players individually or in concert to negotiate a deal with FanDuel wherein the players get a share of the profits without an investment risk.

I have no dog in that fight; I have no interest in daily fantasy sports and I remain unconvinced that pro athletes are an oppressed class of people. However, it will be interesting to follow the progress of this action. It is also interesting to note that the suit is only against FanDuel and not Draft Kings. The cynic in me says that the reason for keeping Draft Kings out of the action is that the NFLPA and Draft Kings have a contractual relationship and FanDuel does not. This might get interesting…

Speaking of things getting interesting, here is the headline from a report on the day after the Ravens lost to the Cardinals in Arizona:

“Ravens say headsets went out during final drive in loss to Cardinals”

Please note that this did not happen in Foxboro. Please also note that even with the NFL in charge of the communications equipment(s) that link the coaches on the sidelines with the “coaches upstairs”, these things continue to happen. Moreover, they always seem to happen to the visiting team and not the home team. Strange, no…? Even stranger is when the malfunction occurred according to the report:

“Trailing 26-18 and with just under two minutes to score a touchdown and pull even on the 2-point conversion, the Ravens’ headsets went out.”

I got a note from a friend just after the Royals had taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series beating both Matt Harvey ad Jacob deGrom. It is an amazing stat:

“I saw a great stat today – of the 84 fastballs Harvey and deGrom threw the Royals hit or made contact with 82.”

Finally, Dwight Perry caught this line and included in in his column in the Seattle Times:

NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, on a study claiming that David Beckham and his wife Victoria Beckham are richer than Queen Elizabeth: ‘In other words, Posh Spice is doing better than Old Spice.’ ”

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

The Royals Win The World Series

On the Monday Night Football telecasts, one of the features is the naming of the “Gruden Grinder”. This is a guy who is not a star player but someone who always works hard and hustles thereby making significant contributions to his team. Well, the Kansas City Royals are not only the Champions of the baseball world, they are also the “Gruden Grinders” of the baseball world. In the deciding game of the World Series last night, the Royals trailed going into the top of the 9th inning but there was no “aura” around the game that hinted that they would go meekly into the night. Indeed, they did not; they scored 2 runs to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The Royals stole 4 bases last night; it seemed as if they had some sort of “tell” on the Mets’ pitchers letting they know when to run.

The other thing about the World Series as a whole that doomed the Mets beyond the no-quit attitude of the Royals was the Mets’ bungling in the field. Not only were there errors to allow baserunners (six recorded errors in five games) but there were plays that should have been scored as errors that were not. The prime example came on the tying run in the top of the 9th inning. When Eric Hosmer made his dash home from third, Luke Duda had him stone-cold out with an accurate throw and the Series would be heading back to Kansas City for Game 6 as of this morning. That throw from first base was not in the same area code with home plate and/or catcher Travis d’Arnaud. The official scorer did not call it an error; I guess it would have had to have gone over the screen behind the plate for him to think the throw went where it was not supposed to go.

Kudos to Frank Thomas after the game on Fox Sports. In the aftermath of the Royals’ win and their first World Championship in 30 years, everyone seemed upbeat and focused on praise for the grittiness of the Gruden Grinders of baseball. Thomas dropped this line about the Mets in the Series:

“The Mets have nothing to hold their heads down for – except, they didn’t play that well, and they gave away this World Series.”

That may not be an uplifting thought at the end of a World Series, but it is on target. The Mets had been about the hottest team in baseball for the final 6 weeks of the regular season and were on top of their game playing the Dodgers and the Cubs. Against the Royals, they played only marginally well. Frank Thomas gave us a Howard Cosell-like analysis but without any bombast or seeming nastiness. All he did was to cut to the chase…

Back in the summer, ESPN and Bill Simmons “went in different directions”. Simmons adopted the persona of The Sports Guy in many of his writings and he was the founder and guru for The website lived on for 6 months without him but ESPN shut it down last week.

I liked Bill Simmons’ writing – particularly when he wrote about the NBA. Having said that, I must admit that I had become tired of some of his literary devices that stretched some of his essays north of 5000 words. I also liked several other regular writers there including Bill Barnwell, Matt Hinton and Graham Parker and read them regularly. My favorite writer there was Charles P. Pierce and I like him enough that I have already started to search for whatever new Internet haunt he might contribute to. was different from the other writing that appears on ESPN outlets. There was very little “cheerleading” there and many of the articles looked analytically – not stat analytics but thought analytics – at a variety of issues. I may not have read it every day, but I did check out what was new there every day.

I doubt that it was profitable for ESPN or Disney but I also doubt that whatever losses it incurred were not covered in the “rounding off error” within Disney’s Statement of Earnings. I for one will miss it…

Speaking of folks who have parted company with ESPN in the past few months, Colin Cowherd has moved to FOX and has a new show simulcast on FS1. He can be a pompous jerk at times; but for the most part, his ideas have a rational base beneath them. Every once in a while, he has something on his program that makes you sit up and ask yourself if you really heard what you thought you heard.

An example of that was on a recent program when Len Dykstra made this claim:

    Dykstra said he had hired private investigators to follow MLB umpires around when they were on the road to get some dirt on them. That dirt would nominally be used to get Dykstra an expanded strike zone in exchange for keeping the dirt under the rug.

    As outré as that may sound, Dykstra also claimed that it had worked for him. That can only mean that he blackmailed/extorted/coerced an MLB umpire or umpires to add some subjectivity into their calls. I have two things to say about that:

      1. If true, this is far worse than what Tim Donaghy did.

      2. Given Dykstra’s history of prevarication, I would need a bit more evidence that this sort of “transaction” ever took place.

Here in the US, we often hear of situations where a player – or a parent of a player if we are talking about youth sports – goes berserk over being cut from a team or not being selected for some team or honor or thing of that nature. After the person doing the ranting and raving calms down, we all remember that he was a jerk during the ranting and raving but it is over and we move on. That is not the way things happen in Abu Dhabi.

A mid-fielder named Abdullah Qassem was not selected to be on the UAE National Team. According to The Daily Mail, Qassem made indecent gestures and ranted at the coach who selected the team; another player recorded on video the rant and the commentary; the recording made it to the Internet. A court in Abu Dhabi found both players guilty of:

“… using telecommunications services to offend and hurt the feelings of others, and displaying a recording that breached public ethics through the web”.

The two players were each sentenced to 3 months in jail for this societal breech. Here is the link in case you think I am kidding. Recall this story the next time you read about some parent going nuts over some real or imagined slight directed at one of his/her offspring…

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup which will culminate in the Miami suburb of Homestead:

“This is 14th year we’ve hosted the grand finale, and I still can’t believe they have it in Homestead. It’s like the NFL putting a Super Bowl in Fargo, North Dakota.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/31/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were about as exciting as a plate of day-old mashed potatoes. The record for last weekend was 7-7-0 making the season cumulative record 62-59-4.

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking Oklahoma – 14 points; the Sooners crushed Texas Tech.

The “Worst Pick” from last week was taking Alabama – 15 points. ‘Bama did beat Tennessee but it was nip and tuck to the end.

Nothing in the 3 paragraphs above ought to inspire anyone to use anything here to influence a decision as to which side to back in any sort of real wager on a real NCAA football game involving real money. You would have to be this dumb to do so:

    You think Tiger Woods is an Asian forest.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 6-0 last week with a 52-10 win over Whitworth who brought their own 6-0 record to the game. Until last week, Whitworth had not given up more than 20 points in any game. The win puts Linfield on top of the Northwest Conference standings undefeated in conference play. This week the Wildcats take a short journey to play George Fox College in another conference game. George Fox is 1-3 in the conference games and 3-4 overall. Go Wildcats!

Last week, I wrote a “Memo to Self” here to check out Memphis QB, Paxton Lynch. Memphis played a Friday night game last week against Tulsa and I got to see it on the BIG screen at a sportsbook in Las Vegas. Here is the bottom line:

    The kid can play. He can throw long and short. His mechanics need some fine tuning but he can play. He is big (6’7” and 245 lbs) and he moves very well for his size. I think he could be the 2nd QB taken in the draft based on what I have seen so far this year.

About a month ago, I mentioned in one of these Mythical Picks commentaries that fans at Mississippi State had set a record acknowledged in the Guinness Book of Records for the most people ringing cowbells at the same time. I guess the participants at the time are proud to be in that book and are glad to have taken the time to set that prestigious record. Last week, I ran across another Guinness record that seems marginally interesting as we approach Halloween this weekend:

    A man in Taunton, MA took an 817-pound pumpkin; hollowed it out into a “boat”, paddled it on the Taunton River for 3 miles and set the world record for “longest journey in a pumpkin boat (paddling)”. Here is the link

Before anyone asks, I will not be checking the book out to find out how this record differs from whatever record may exist for “longest journey in a pumpkin boat (motorized).”

Vandy beat Missouri 10-3 last week. The Total Line for the game was a ridiculously low 34.5 points and these two teams never came close to threatening to take the game OVER that line. Somewhere in the cosmos, Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes nodded in approval. Missouri has played 4 games in the month of October prior to this weekend. Back on October 3, they beat South Carolina 24-10 and they scored TDs in that game not 8 field goals to get to 24 points. I mention that because those are the only TDs Missouri has scored this month. In their last three games – all losses to be sure – here is the scoring output:

    3 points against Florida
    6 points against Georgia
    3 points against Vandy

Starting QB, Maty Mauk has been suspended from the team for breaking unspecified team rules. Rather obviously, the backup QB still has a few things to learn. Mauk has been reinstated this week and “might start” against Mississippi St. on 5 November. Even if he has “lost his edge” or is a “tad rusty” he has to be able to do better than this, no?

Back in August when polls ranked the teams in the country before anyone had taken a real snap from center, lots of folks thought Auburn would be “a contenda” in the SEC. Surprisingly, Auburn is in last place in the SEC West as of this morning with a 1-3 record in the conference.

The most bizarre ending to a football game last weekend had to be the way Georgia Tech beat Florida State. With the score tied and only a few seconds left on the clock, Florida State lined up for a 56-yard field goal. Tech blocked the kick and a Tech defender chased the ball down as it bounced on the field of play; he then ran around and through the Florida State kicking team for a TD and the game was over. Nick Saban knows the feeling…

These sort of “Kick Six” situations are not as surprising as they are exciting. On a kicking team, you have the kicker and the holder who are generally not the best athletes/football players on the team. Usually, the other 9 guys are large offensive lineman there to keep the kicker safe while he sends the ball through the uprights – hopefully. Big offensive linemen are not the folks you want out there chasing down – or trying to chase down – a speedy “return guy”. That is what happened to Alabama last year and to Florida State last week…

Last weekend was a bad weekend for football in Utah. First, Utah State laid an egg in losing to San Diego St. by 34 points. This loss in conference puts Utah State in a three-way tie for first in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. Utah State, Air Force and Boise St. are all 3-1 in conference. In the West Division, San Diego State leads with a 4-0 conference record and all the other teams there have at least 2 conference losses.

Later, Utah suffered their first loss of the year to USC. Utah still leads the PAC-12 South by a full game over USC and UCLA but with their loss to USC, they lose out in a tie-breaker with the Trojans. However, Utah holds the advantage over UCLA. Therefore, you can be sure that Utah will be rooting for UCLA to beat USC when those two teams meet down the road.

Stanford dominates the PAC-12 North with a 5-0 conference record. Surprisingly, Washington State is second in the PAC-12 North with a 3-1 conference record and those two teams meet in Pullman WA this weekend. Last week Stanford beat Washington 31-14; that score was reflective of the game on the field. Two questions:

    How did Stanford lose to Northwestern in the first game of the year and only score 6 points? In the 6 games since that opening loss, Stanford has scored 256 points – just a tad over 42 points per game.

    What defense in the upcoming games might hold Stanford under 30 points? Here are Stanford’s opponents:

      Washington State – unlikely
      Colorado – unlikely
      Oregon – unlikely
      Cal – unlikely but at least this is a big rivalry game
      Notre Dame – could happen…

If a time-traveler from the 1970s arrived here this morning and saw that Northwestern beat Nebraska last week giving Northwestern a 6-2 record for the year while dropping Nebraska to 3-5, he might wonder if his time machine had malfunctioned and sent him to a planet in another galaxy as well as to a different point on the time continuum…

Last week, Oklahoma pounded Texas Tech winning by 36 points and looking as if they were at least that much better than Tech. Meanwhile Oklahoma St. pummeled Kansas into submission by a score of 58-10. Oklahoma is 6-1 for the year; Oklahoma St. is 7-0 for the year; neither team is considered one of the top two teams in the Big 12.

Since I mentioned Kansas above, the team is in the midst of yet another miserable season. Demonstrating the Fundamental Premise of the Malevolent Universe – – no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse – – here is a disheartening reality for Kansas football fans, assuming of course that there are still some of that species around:

    Kansas University is still paying off Charlie Weis on his contract.

Michigan St. beat Indiana 52-26 last week and just looking at the final score one might think this was a cake walk for State. It was not. At the end of the 3rd quarter, State led 28-26 and the game was still in doubt.

UMass led Toledo 14-3 after the first quarter and led 28-10 at the half. UMass was a 12.5 point underdog so folks who took the points had to be feeling pretty good at that point. Unfortunately, Toledo won the second half in a rout 41-7. That gave Toledo a 51-35 win and gave UMass backers a loss in a game they thought they had in the bag.

Speaking of wagering, Old Dominion University is 0-7 against the spread so far this year. From a wagering perspective, that can just as valuable as a team that is 7-0 – so long as the bettor has been regularly backing ODU’s opponents.

Bowling Green beat Kent St. 48-0. I am not at all surprised that Bowling Green scored 48 points here; they are a team that focuses on playing up-tempo offense. What does surprise me is that Bowling Green could shut out any Division 1-A team.

Temple came from behind to beat E. Carolina last week raising their record to 7-0 for the season. Temple has been winning by playing strong defense; the Owls rank 112th in the country in total offense. This week, Temple steps up in class from opponents such as E. Carolina, Cincy and UMass. This week the Owls host Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly. ESPN Game Day will be in Philly and the game will be nationally televised. Remember that time-traveler from the 1970s I conjured up earlier? This game and the focus on this game would convince him that he was somewhere on a planet in the Xygork Nebula…

I read a piece – – cannot find the reference now – – that said it was possible that Temple would play Marshall in the Miami Beach Bowl sometime before Christmas this year. Bowl projections in October are about as useless as pre-season rankings from polls but I do have two things to say about that projection:

    1. If – I said IF – Temple were to beat Notre Dame this weekend, you may be certain that they will be playing in a more prestigious bowl game than the Miami Beach Bowl and that their game will not be before Christmas.

    2. If the Miami Beach Bowl features Temple and Marshall in the week before Christmas, the stands will be at most 30% full.

We are coming up to the point in the season where college football gets verrrrry interesting. [/ Arte Johnson] Coming up soon:

    Ohio State has to play Michigan State and Michigan. Those games should be a lot more interesting and exciting than the Ohio State/Rutgers game was.

    Baylor and TCU will meet and the winner will definitely be in consideration for the College Football Playoff. Baylor will have to make a go of it without starting QB, Seth Russell who broke a bone in his neck last week.

    LSU and Alabama both take this week off to prepare for their game next week.

    The Florida State/Clemson game next week will likely decide the ACC Atlantic Division champion.

    Duke/UNC – a major rivalry game in any year – could decide the ACC Coastal Division champion.

Add to all of those game the bit rivalry games that happen all over the country in the late stages of the year. This is the time when college football fans get their adrenaline flowing.

Since I mentioned the Temple Notre Dame game above, here are some player names you might hear during that game:

    Jager Gardner – RB – Temple (wish his middle name was “Meister”)

    Cole Luke – CB – Notre Dame (wish his middle name was “Hand”)

    Praise Martin-Oguike – DL – Temple (wish his middle name was “The Lord”)

    Prosper Mekoba – DL – Temple (live long, my man)

    Equanimeous St. Brown – WR – Notre Dame (seriously…)

    Drue Tranquill – S – Notre Dame (a big hit could be “The Tranquilizer”)

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 6 Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering in those games was 1-4-1 bringing the season total for favorites covering to 24-32-1. I know the season is not over, but that is more “out-of-balance” than I recall seeing this late in most seasons.

Oklahoma State covered.

Baylor, Boise St., Marshall and W. Michigan did not cover.

N. Illinois played to a “push”.

This week, we have 8 Ponderosa Games.

(Fri Nite) Wyoming at Utah State – 26 (49): The spread here opened the week at 23.5 points and has climbed steadily to this level during the week. Wyoming is a bad team; Utah State is a good team but not a consistent team.

Troy at Appalachian St. – 24 (55): The spread here opened the week at 22 points and has climbed steadily to this level during the week. Troy is a bad team. Appalachian St. is a good team that is not widely recognized as such; they rank 5th in the country in total defense as of today.

Oklahoma – 39.5 at Kansas (61): The total Line here opened the week at 66.5 points and dropped quickly to 62 points and has continued easing down as the week progresses. Kansas ranks 123rd in the country in total defense and 102nd in the country in total offense. Yowza!!

Oregon St. at Utah – 24 (54): Utah needs the game to stay atop the PAC-12 South; they should be “upset” at their performance last week and Oregon St. is not very good…

UCF at Cincy – 27.5 (60): The spread here opened the week at 23.5 points and has risen steadily to this level. UCF is winless this year; if you think this is the week for them to get their first win you can find them at +2600 on the Money Line.

W. Kentucky – 24 at Old Dominion (66): Old Dominion is 0-7 ATS this year (see above)…

UTEP at So. Mississippi – 25.5 (58): So. Miss is 9th in the country in total offense averaging 506 yards per game. UTEP is 104th in the country in total defense allowing 477 yards per game. Ka-beesh…?

Tulane at Memphis – 32 (63): Tulane gives up about 240 yards per game passing. Memphis loves to throw the football averaging 358 yards per game. My guess is Memphis throws for 350 yards here.

The SHOE Teams:

As the season progresses, the fetid aromas wafting from various football teams gets stronger and more nauseating. Here are some highly odoriferous teams:

    E. Michigan: 1-8: That win came against Wyoming

    Kansas: 0-7: Losing by an average of 31.2 points per game.

    Miami (Oh): 1-7: 125th in the country on defense giving up 444 yards per game

    La-Monroe: 1-6: Losing by an average of 26.7 points per game

    New Mexico St.: 0-7: Losing by an average of 26.6 points per game.

    North Texas: 0-7: 111th in the country on offense and 118th in the country on defense.

    Tulane: 2-5: Losing by 27.0 points per game

    UCF: 0-8: Last in the country in total offense (258 yards per game)

    Wyoming: 1-7: Lost to e. Michigan; 99th in the country in total defense.

These are merely 9 bad teams; there are others that I will omit here for the sake of brevity…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Louisville – 11 at Wake Forest (43): This game is interesting because it would appear to be a low-scoring defensive game. Wake plays solid defense; Louisville and BC slugged it out in a low scoring game last week. That is a fat line indeed. I like Wake Forest plus the points.

Clemson – 10 at NC State (51): Some folks think Clemson will be a tough out in the College Football Playoff come January – – assuming they beat Florida State next week. I do not know if I agree with that optimistic outlook, but I do think they are significantly better than NC State. I like Clemson to win and cover.

Maryland at Iowa – 17 (53): Iowa has its eye on the Big 10 Championship Game; Maryland has its eye on the sewer drain the season is rushing down. Maryland loses by an average of 15.3 points per game; Iowa is +17.7 in scoring margin. I like Iowa to win and cover.

Ole Miss – 7.5 at Auburn (57.5): Ole Miss needs the game to stay in contention for the SEC West title and a slot in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn needs the game just because they need a win badly. I think there will be plenty of scoring here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Arizona at Washington – 5 (58): Washington is 120th in the country on offense averaging only 334 yards per game. Arizona is 116th in the country on defense allowing 452 yards per game. With apologies to Frank Sinatra, Something’s Gotta Give here. I have no idea what will happen so I’ll just watch for general interest.

Stanford – 10.5 at Washington State (61): Lots of line movement here… The spread opened the week at 13.5 points; the Total Line opened the week at 66 points. Washington State has been a pleasant surprise for folks on the Palouse this year but I think Stanford is a couple of steps higher on the ladder than State. I like Stanford to win and cover here and I like this game to go OVER.

Georgia vs Florida – 2 (46) [Game is in Jax]: Without Nick Chubb, the Georgia offense went from a shotgun to a pop-gun. Florida has a solid defense and I have not seen QB play from any of the Georgia QBs that makes me think they can do business against the Florida defense. I’ll take Florida to win and cover.

USC – 5.5 at Cal (59.5): If USC can play this week the way they played against Utah last week, they will win this game handily. If the Trojans lose here, they can pretty much kiss any PAC-121 championship aspirations goodbye. I’ll take USC and lay the points.

Notre Dame – 11 at Temple (50): Temple is 9th in the country on defense allowing only 308 yards per game. However Notre Dame gains an average of 499 yards per game. Looking at this from the other end of the telescope, Notre Dame’s defense allows 370 yards per game while Temple’s offense generates only 346 yards per game (112th in the country). I think Temple is outclassed here. I’ll take Notre Dame to win and cover.

Ga Tech – 6 at UVa (54): Tech should run the ball well and score on Virginia; Virginia should score on a really mediocre Tech defense. I like the game to go OVER.

Oklahoma St. – 3 at Texas Tech (79): Texas Tech is a bad defensive football team ranking 127th in the country giving up an average of 562 yards per game. Tech can score so I think this game will end up with a score that resembles an NBA halftime score. I like this game to go OVER.

Tennessee – 9 at Kentucky (57): I think Tennessee left a lot on the field last week against Alabama and Kentucky’s defense is pretty good. Make this a venue call; I like Kentucky plus the points.

Texas-San Antonio – 7 at North Texas (56): Game is interesting because both teams are bad…

Idaho – 7 at New Mexico State (63.5): Game is interesting because both teams are bad…

Va Tech – 2 at BC (38): Game is interesting because neither team has a propensity to score but both play good defense. I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Miami (FL) at Duke – 13 (48.5): With a new coach in Miami, I think the team rebounds enough here to cover that fat line. I’ll take Miami plus the points.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend OF 11/1/15

Last week continued the vanilla flavor of Mythical Picks for this season. Last week, the Mythical picks record was 8-8-0 bringing the season record to 55-55-3. The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip games did not do as well; last week the coin flip games were 1-2-0 dropping the season record to a sub-.500 record of 6-7-0.

The “Best Pick” of the week was picking the Raiders/Chargers OVER 47. The game went comfortably over.

The “Worst Pick of the week was the Colts/Saints game. I picked the game to go OVER 52 (It did not.) and I took the Colts – 4.5 (They lost the game outright.)

No one should use any information here as the basis for making a wager involving real money on an actual NFL game this weekend – or any other weekend for that matter. To do that, here is how stupid you would have to be:

    If your computer “freezes up”, you think the proper remedy is to put it in the microwave.

General Comments:

I will try to be brief this week; there is a lot on my plate at the moment…

Kudos to Dan Campbell for getting the Dolphins to play hard and to play well in the last two weeks. Clearly the team has responded to his gung-ho/tough-guy message as the coach. The cautionary note here is that the opponents for the dolphins in the last two weeks have been the Titans and the Texans who have a combined record of 3-10. Those are not elite NFL squads.

At one point in the game last week, the Texans trailed the Dolphins 41-0; I thought that had to be the nadir of the season for them. A friend said that he thought the Texans had been behind the Falcons by that much earlier this year and so I went and looked. My friend was wrong; the Texans trailed the Falcons 42-0 earlier this year. The Texans lost Arian Foster for the year with an Achilles tendon injury; at age 29, that might be career ending for Foster. I am not wishing that for him, but many RBs reach their “sell by date” at age 29 without an injury that significant.

The Colts lost to the Saints and the Indy fans booed Andrew Luck in the first half of the game. Luck had a bad game and he has not played well much of the year. However, Colts’ fans really need to think about that booing; Luck has had the team in the playoffs for 3 straight years and the Colts were in the AFC Championship Game last year. You may recall that game; it is the one that introduced the word “Deflategate” to the sports vocabulary.

The Colts’ problems reside in their OL and DL; those were team weaknesses last year. In the offseason, management did little or nothing to strengthen those weaknesses and that is not Andrew Luck’s fault nor the fault of the veteran “skill position players” the Colts did sign in free agency. Consider that the Colts defense gave up more than 10 yards per carry to Mark Ingram in the loss last week (14 carries 143 yards) and allowed the Saints to hold the ball for more than 38 minutes.

The Colts continue to lead the AFC South simply because the other teams there are beneath mediocre. With the weaknesses of the Colts on display for all teams to see and with Andrew Luck still coming back from a shoulder injury, it would not be a surprise to see the Colts at .500 for the year. And that ought to win the AFC South comfortably…

The Bills continue to underachieve. Not only did they lose to the Jags in London last week, they lost because their defense gave up a game winning drive in the final moments and that put the Jags over 30 points for the game. The Bills have a Bye Week this week and that should get them back to their #1 QB, Tyrod Taylor.

    That is sort of a frightening thought. Tyrod Taylor as your starting QB is considered a gift from the gods…

As is often the case, Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle sees things differently than most other folks. Here is his question in the wake of the Bills Jags game in London:

“Checking out the massive logistics and cost of taking two NFL teams to London for a game, wouldn’t it be cheaper and easier to bring 70,000 London fans to America instead?”

In training camp, the Bills had Matt Cassel as part of their QB mix and then they cut him to go with EJ Manuel as the backup. Manuel has been “less than mediocre” in two starts but before Bills’ fans lament that personnel decision back in August, consider that Matt Cassel started for the Cowboys last week against the Giants and the Cowboys lost by a TD. Cassel threw 3 INTs in the second half and one was a Pick Six. In 2015, neither QB is anything more than a stop-gap.

The Giants beat the Cowboys but surely did not look dominant in doing so. The Giants lead the NFC East and – like the Colts in the AFC – they do not look nearly as competent/dominating as the other division leaders in the NFC.

The Jets played the Pats even for 3 quarters; in fact, they led 17-16 at the end of the 3rd quarter. No one seems to have caught this on videotape, but somehow Tom Brady found a phone booth between quarters and came out as Superman in the 4th quarter. Here is his stat line for the 4th quarter:

    14-17 for 150 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs

Those would be phenomenal stats for many QBs for a half game.

Oh, by the way, Brady led the pats in rushing for the game carrying 4 times for 15 yards. Clearly, the Pats determined that they would do little business trying to run on the Jets’ DL and so they did something else; they threw the ball all over the field.

The Jets are playing very well this year because they are running the ball well and they are playing sound defense. They give up only 17.5 points per game – second only to the Broncos who give up 17.0 points per game. They are getting sound if not stirring QB play from Ryan Fitzpatrick and capitalizing on the totality of their game to be in second place in the AFC East a game ahead of the Dolphins.

The Raiders demolished the Chargers 37-29. It was not nearly that close:

    Early in the 4th quarter, the score was 37-6. The Raiders put the game on cruise control at that point and the Chargers scored 3 meaningless TDs to make it appear as if the game might have been in doubt at some point in the second half. It was not.

    Amari Cooper is the real deal at WR. He caught a TD pass last week and for the season he has 33 catches and is averaging over 16 yards per catch.

The Chiefs beat the Steelers last week but did not look inspiring in doing so. They beat the Steelers’ #3 QB and in that game Landry Jones showed why he is the #3 QB. He lost a fumble and threw 2 INTs putting the Steelers 3 games behind the Bengals in the loss column in the AFC North. The Chiefs raised their record to 2-5.

In the AFC West, the Raiders look as they are the most likely team to pick up the pieces if the Broncos come apart at the seams down the line. Both the Chargers and the Chiefs have looked awful this year – and the Chiefs have lost their best offensive weapon for the rest of the season. I am not trying to say that the Raiders are a good team yet; they are improved over last year and they are young enough to expect improvement next year. However, if abject misfortune befalls the Broncos, I think the Raiders are the least worst of the other teams in the AFC west.

Speaking of good young WRs as I was above, Stefon Diggs may be the main man in Minnesota. He made a highlight reel TD catch against the Lions last week that NFL Films will probably use for the next 5 years. Yes, I know; it was against the Lions last week. Nevertheless, Diggs was impressive.

The Lions led by 2 scores early in the game and then seemed lost at sea for the rest of the game. The Lions are the only team in the NFL to have won only 1 game this year. Sadly for Lions’ fans – there are probably still a few of them around somewhere – they are playing as if they deserve that record and that opprobrium.

Here is the fundamental reason the Falcons beat the Titans 10-7 last week:

    The Titans were even more incompetent than the Falcons were.

In the NFC West, I think the Rams are for real because they have an elite defense and they have discovered that Todd Gurley is indeed a fine NFL caliber RB. Last week against the Browns, he carried 19 times for 128 yards and 2 TDs. Here is what the Rams’ defense did:

    Forced four fumbles
    Recovered all four of the forced fumbles
    Ran back one of the recovered forced fumbles for a TD
    Sacked the QB four times.

Josh McCown suffered a shoulder injury in the game after running into the stadium wall. It may not be such a burden for the Browns should they have to turn to Johnny Manziel to play QB. Josh McCown is 36 years old; Father Time has determined that he is not going to be the franchise QB for any team in the league. The Browns at some point probably want to find out if Manziel can play the position well enough to be the starter – or the long term backup. It may tell them if they need to go and find one QB or two QBs.

The Panthers beat the Eagles despite the fact that Cam Newton threw 3 INTs. Other than those 3 plays, Newton played a very good game and Jonathan Stewart fan for 100+ yards. The Eagles have a problem on offense – and it is not just their QB.

The Eagles cannot or will not – makes no difference which is the case – throw the ball downfield 20 yards or more. That allows the safeties to “play up” and that limits the yards after the catch by receivers in the short passing game.

I have said for the last year or so that the best QB on the Skins’ roster to play in Jay Gruden’s offensive system is Kirk Cousins. After the Bucs jumped out to a 24-0 lead last week, Cousins led the Skins back to win the game 31-30 including a game winning 80-yard drive in the final moments. He threw for 300+ yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs in the game; oh, and he ran for the Skins’ fourth TD.

The Bucs meanwhile played a miserable second half of football. Not only did they surrender a generous lead; they were called for 16 penalties in the game. I realize that Lovie Smith is a darling of the football media but consider:

    He is an anointed defensive genius and master of the “Tampa 2 defense”. The Skins torched that defense in their comeback.

    Stupid penalties are partially attributable to bad coaching.

The Bucs had the overall #1 pick in the draft last year and they are 2-4 this year.

The Games:

Here are the teams with Bye Weeks:

    Bills will take 2 weeks to contemplate how they can be as good as their coach proclaims them to be and yet be at the bottom of the AFC East.

    Eagles will take 2 weeks to figure out how to stretch the field just a bit so that defenses play them honestly.

    Jags will take 2 weeks to bask in the glory of being tied for second place in the AFC South; that is rarefied air for the Jags.

    Skins will take 2 weeks to analyze what they fed kirk Cousins for his pre-game meal last week so that they can duplicate it next time they play.

(Thurs Nite) Miami at New England – 8 (51): Not only is this a division game; this is a game in which the Dolphins will demonstrate if the “Dan Campbell Turnaround” is for real. Here is what I have seen from the Dolphins over the past two weeks:

    They are playing much harder.
    They are playing smarter.
    They are playing a more open offense.

Does that mean they will beat the Pats here? I doubt it, but they are more likely to do so tonight than they were to do so four weeks ago. If you like the Dolphins to win straight up, you can find them at +340 at several sportsbooks. I think this will be an offensive game on both sides and so I like the game to go OVER.

Detroit vs KC – 5 (46) [Game is in London]: The spread here opened at 3.5 points and expanded to this level quickly. The Committee of One (me) who selects the Dog-Breath Game of the Week thought long and hard about this one since the teams bring a combined 3-11 record to the coin toss. However, there is another game below to which that “honor” will fall. Neither team in this game is even marginally relevant for 2015. Matthew Stafford will be the superior QB on the field but to say that he can be erratic is to say that Jeffrey Dahmer was not a nice man. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game – to a large extent because I do not care enough about this game to waste any synapse firings over it – and the coin says to take the Lions plus the points.

Minnesota at Chicago “pick ‘em” (42): Look, in a “pick ‘em” game, my inclination is to go with the team that I consider to be the superior side. Therefore, I’ll take the Vikings to win the game.

Tampa at Atlanta – 7 (48.5): If I were only to consider this game off of last week’s performances, this would clearly be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but the Falcons have shown better in previous weeks than they did last week. It will be interesting to see how the Bucs coaching staff gets their young team to forget the come-from-WAAY-ahead loss and to focus on this division rival. I think this is the week the Falcons shake off the fog they have been playing in for the past 2 weeks and come back to life. I’ll take the Falcons at home and lay the points. After making that pick, I ran across these two meaningless trends that seem to support the pick:

    In the last 29 meetings head-to-head, the favorite is 20-8-1 ATS.
    In the last 8 meetings head-to-head, the home team is 5-2-1 ATS

Giants at New Orleans – 3 (48.5): The Saints have won 2 games in a row over the Falcons and the Colts; the Giants come off an important win over the Cowboys in which they got a Pick Six and a kickoff return for a TD as they scored a grand total of 27 points. The Saints are not likely to offer up the same level of largesse here but by the same token, the Giants’ OL is not likely to allow the same level of pressure to Eli Manning that the Colts OL allowed the Saints to apply to Andrew Luck. More importantly, Mark Ingram will not be running for an average of 10 yards per carry against the Giants. I think the wrong team is favored here; I’ll take the Giants plus the points.

SF at St. Louis – 8 (39): In games I think will be low-scoring, I usually want to take the points – particularly if there are more than a TD’s worth of points on the table. However, I am loathe to do that here because the Rams’ defense just might hold the Niners to single digits in this game. The Rams’ defense should feast on Colin Kaepernick once they shut down the threat of Carlos Hyde running the ball. The Rams offense is not fearsome, but against the Niners’ defense, it should have a decent day. I like the Rams to win and cover here. Not counting defensive/special teams scores or scores coming from ridiculously short fields, I will not be surprised to see this game wind up 20-6.

Arizona – 4.5 at Cleveland (46.5): The Cardinals fly way to the east to play a non-conference opponent. That is not the stuff of adrenaline and emotion. Fortunately for the Cardinals, that non-conference opponent is the sorry-assed Browns. The Cards are 86 yards per game better on offense and 30 yards per game better on defense. That should translate to a Cardinals’ win but a 4.5-point spread often translates into a need to win by a TD. That scares me enough to opt to take the game to go OVER.

Cincy at Pittsburgh – 1 (48): This spread opened with the Bengals as a 3-point favorite; what we see here represents a 4-point swing in the spread and that is a lot. Ben Roethlisberger practiced this week and is “probable” for this game. After watching Landry Jones play last week and Michael Vick play the two weeks before that, I think Ben Roethlisberger playing on a crutch would be an upgrade at QB. The Bengals are playoff bound; they have 6 wins already and at least 4 easy games on the schedule after this one. The Steelers are sitting at 4-3 but they have all 3 of their losses in conference. That will not help in wild-card tiebreakers. I will assume that Roethlisberger will play here. I will take the Steelers and lay the point and I will take the game to go OVER.

San Diego at Baltimore – 3 (50): Here is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The Ravens started the season looking at getting a bye week in the playoffs; they are now 1-6 overall and 0-2 at home. The Chargers were the “sexy pick” in the AFC West to dethrone the Broncos; they are now 2-5 overall and 0-3 on the road. I am turning the game over immediately to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol just to get out of the stench here. The coin says to take the Chargers plus the points.

Tennessee at Houston (no lines): If there were lines up for this game it would have been the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Now I – and you too – have a perfectly good reason to ignore it and pretend it does not exist…

Jets – 2.5 at Oakland (45): This is not the best game on the card by far but it is a game that ought to be interesting. The Raiders are not going to run away and hide with a 31-point lead over the Jets; their offense is improved to be sure but not that much improved. Both teams have running games that could exploit the opposing defense but the Jets’ pass defense is much better than the Raiders’ pass defense. That is a long way to travel for those Jets and they did have a hard-fought game in New England that went down to the final moments. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

Seattle – 6 at Dallas (41): With apologies to Rick Pitino from his days with the Celtics:

“Look, Tony Romo isn’t walking in through that door – – and if he does, he will still have his arm in a sling.”

The Cowboys’ defense will pressure Russell Wilson all day long but he will still make fewer mistakes than either Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden or Jason Garrett should he put on a uniform and hit the field to play QB. Darren McFadden ran well last week but he does not have a history of stringing together excellent games. Both teams are in dire straits when it comes to their playoff aspirations this year. The Seahawks are 1-3 on the road this year; the Cowboys are 1-2 at home this year; that does not seem to be much of a venue advantage. Out comes the Curmudgeon Central Coin for the Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Seahawks and lay the points.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay – 3 at Denver (46): Here you have the Game of the Week; two undefeated teams took last week off to prep for this game; two outstanding QBs face off against each other. We have a dinner engagement on Sunday evening, but you may be certain that I will record this game and watch it in its entirety after our guests depart. At this moment, Aaron Rodgers is the better QB; at this moment the Denver defense is the better defensive unit. Rodgers and the Packers have not faced a defense nearly this good all year long; their toughest opposing defense was the Rams. At the same time, the Broncos have not faced an offense – and a QB – as potent as the Packers are; there toughest opposing offense was the Chiefs back with they had a healthy Jamaal Charles on the field. The Packers run the ball better than the Broncos by 1 yard per carry; however the Broncos run defense is better than the Packers run defense by 1.1 yards per carry. I like the Packers to win and cover on the road.

(Mon Nite) Indy at Carolina – 7 (47): If I am correct about the Packers winning on Sunday night, that will set up the Game of the Week next week when the Packers meet the Panthers because I think the Panthers are going to win this game handily. I like the Panthers at home to win and cover.

Finally, here is an NFL observation from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“The NFL Network did a quick apology after accidentally showing nude Cincinnati players in the background of a locker room interview.

“But with a 6-0 record, the Bengals are having a tough time proving they’ve been exposed in any way this year.”

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

RIP Flip Saunders…

Flip Saunders, coach and GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, died over the weekend of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The commentary of people on his passing sounded to me more authentic than is typical in situations like this one. It sounded to me as if the person on the screen reading the copy related to this passing genuinely wanted me to know that Flip Saunders was a good person. In addition, NBA coaches will wear a lapel pin honoring and remembering him all season long. That sort of tribute does not obtain for everyone.

Rest in peace, Flip Saunders…

Unless you are a Mets’ fan or a bettor who took the Mets to win Game 1 of the World Series, you had to like last night’s game. If you are into omens, you got one in the bottom of the first inning with an inside the park home run; the last time that happened was in 1929.

    [Aside: The last inside the park home run in a World Series game happened in October 1929 and the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929. Since tomorrow is October 29, we shall have to hope that last night’s “omen” was only related to an exciting baseball series and not to world financial conditions.]

Then the momentum swung back and forth between the teams sending the game into extra innings becoming on the third World Series game ever to go to the 14th inning. The game featured some solid pitching, “normal” home runs and manufactured runs. If you watched last night’s game and could not find something to fit your taste, you just do not like baseball – and there is nothing wrong with that. For baseball fans, however, last night’s game was a great game played well by two good teams. We baseball fans will be happy to see six more just the same…

One interesting stat emerged from last night’s game. Mets’ outfielder, Michael Conforto drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. That is a pretty ordinary play except …

    Conforto is the only player ever to drive in a run in the Little League World Series, the College World Series and the MLB World Series.

How cool is that?

I appreciate the value of free speech in the US and I accept the fact that guaranteeing free speech to everyone requires that I must hear from time to time things that I find reprehensible and vile. Frequently, such utterances come from the folks in charge of the Westboro Baptist Church. To anyone who pays attention to the news, it is obvious that members of that congregation believe that homosexuality is an abomination and that sin will be the downfall of mankind. Whether or not you or I agree with that creed is immaterial; that is their belief and they must be free to practice it and to preach it.

Having said that, I would greatly prefer if they would find venues for their free expression that do not make me cringe. Last weekend, a driver plunged a car into the Oklahoma State Homecoming Parade in Stillwater, OK. Four people including a toddler were killed and dozens had to be treated at local hospitals for serious injuries. The driver of the car allegedly was driving under the influence and could face charges of murder for the event. The families of the victims here seem to have suffered enough since they and their loved ones did nothing to incur the wrath of anyone else.

Not so, say the leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church. The congregation plans to picket the funerals of these victims; and if they do, their behavior can only add to the suffering of the mourners. I understand that the Church members believe they are doing God’s work; at the same time, I wonder if they derive some sort of perverse enjoyment from inflicting their extra measure of suffering to victims’ families at funeral services. If indeed any of them do derive such enjoyment, that perversion ought to be at least as great an abomination as the sin that they decry so loudly…

With Al Golden’s firing as the head coach at Miami, there are already three major college coaching openings available and the season is not over yet. Maryland, South Carolina, Southern Cal and Miami are the big schools we know will be looking for new hires at the end of the season and there will surely be more come December as final records for 2015 are written in India ink. I bring this up because of a report that I read yesterday regarding the Houston Texans.

According to that report, QB Ryan Mallett missed the team charter flight to Miami and had to catch a commercial flight to get to the game. Evidently, this is not the first time that Mallett has not been on time for team events and coach Bill O’Brien wanted to release Mallett but he was over-ruled by the GM. On the assumption that report is accurate, that tells me that O’Brien is not in charge of the team and most coaches are not going to be happy with that state of affairs for very long. Football coaches are control freaks.

Bill O’Brien got the job in Houston because of the exceptional job he did in keeping the Penn State football program from going into the sewer in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky miasma. If I were an Athletic Director at one of those major schools that needed a coach, I would quietly contact O’Brien’s agent to inquire if – perhaps – he might be interested in returning to the college ranks where “higher ups” would not question his decisions regarding who is on the team and who is not on the team. After all, it is not as if the Texans are bound for any sort of football glory this season – and perhaps the next few also…

Finally, here is a comment from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the team the Mets eliminated from post-season play:

“Futurewatch: Traumatized Cubs fans can take comfort in believing that with so much young talent on the roster, their team’s championship prospects should be even better next season. Of course, that’s what everybody said about the Washington Nationals two years ago.”

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