College Basketball Begins…

Last week, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald:

“College basketball season begins Friday night. If your office NCAA Tournament bracket is due Monday, you’re probably jumping the gun.”

If the early-season games are any indication, this season could be a wild ride. The “upstarts” took it to the “big programs”:

    Belmont beat Marquette – at Marquette
    W. Illinois beat #17 Wisconsin – at Wisconsin
    Chattanooga beat Georgia
    N. Florida beat Illinois – by 12 points
    William and Mary beat NC State – by 17 points at NC State
    Monmouth beat UCLA

Just in case you are worried that you have gone through a wormhole and wound up in Bizarro World, there is still some stability in college basketball. Duke and UNC both won their openers.

The MLB Hall of Fame ballots are now in the hands of the voters. Rather than go over the entire ballot and worry about who might or might not get in this time around, I want to focus on 4 players who are on the ballot for the first time this year.

    Ken Griffey Jr.: It is hard for me to imagine that “Junior” falls short of the qualifications to be in the Hall of Fame. I think he should go in as a first-year nominee.

    Trevor Hoffman: Relief pitchers – and closers to be more specific – are often not seriously regarded by the voters. However, Hoffman saved 601 games in his career; only Mariano Rivera had more saves (652). It would seem to me that both of them deserve to be in the Hall of Fame at some point.

    Billy Wagner: If Hoffman and/or Rivera do not get in, then Wagner has no chance. He is 5thon the all-time list with 422 saves.

    Jim Edmonds: He had a 17-year career hitting .284 with an OPS of .903. In addition, he was an excellent defensive player. He will not get in on his first ballot, but he might be in the Hall one of these days.

Another MLB topic in the news is not nearly as positive as talking about potential inductees into the Hall of Fame. Rockies’ shortstop, José Reyes was arrested a couple of weeks ago and charged with assaulting his wife in a hotel room in Hawaii. MLB announced its new “domestic violence policy” this summer with the agreement of the MLBPA. This is going to be the test case for Commissioner Rob Manfred. The policy gives the Commish wide ranging authority here – although there is an appeals process to an arbitration board – and it will be interesting to see what sort of precedent he sets here.

One aspect of the new domestic violence policy is that Manfred may discipline a player even if the player is not convicted of a crime. Where the MLB policy seems to differ from other sports is in areas other than punishments/suspensions. The MLB policy includes counseling and other sorts of evaluations and interventions in addition to punishments. A Board consisting of 2 representatives from the league, 2 representatives from the union and three “experts in the field of domestic violence” will come to an agreement with regard to a treatment plan for Reyes and will somehow oversee his compliance with that treatment plan. Then there is the punishment…

I have read/heard commentary that tries to put this sort of incident into the existing spectrum of baseball suspensions – 50 games for PED use or 81 games for a repeat offense or a full season if you are a serial offender who lies about everything associated with his offenses. I find that sort of discussion “slimy”. We are not talking about getting an advantage in a game here; we are talking about domestic violence. Any sort of thinking that even hints at the idea of equating the two is offensive.

It is important to note that Reyes has not yet been arraigned in this matter. His wife did require treatment at an emergency room and hotel security folks and the local police were involved in the incident. That is all that we know for sure. Rather than speculating on what Manfred and the “Oversight Board” might do in the matter, I think the proper stance is to sit back and watch how this newly created policy plays out during its maiden voyage. These are not “one-size-fits-all” situations; let us all take a deep breath and watch for progress. Oh and while we are watching for progress, let us also fervently hope that Rob Manfred figures out a way to deal with this case in a far more competent manner than Roger Goodell has handled domestic violence matters for the NFL.

I think this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald should be sufficient to catch you up on happenings related to NASCAR:

“Homestead-Miami Speedway on deck to host season finale: NASCAR’s race Sunday in Phoenix will determine which three drivers join retiring star Jeff Gordon for the championship next Sunday in Homestead. Gordon winning would be a storybook ending. Am picturing Cinderella in a flame-retardant racing suit and earplugs.”

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Reader Michael Seese, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on the city’s 2-7 NFL team: ‘I downloaded the Browns app Saturday, and Sunday my phone began dropping calls.’ ”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/14/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were a marvelous model of mediocrity. The record for the week was 9-10-1 bringing the season record to 76-77-5. If I post a “great week” (say something like 13-5-0) in the next two weeks, I will be well over .500 at the end of the year because it seems as if all I do in the normal weeks is flirt around the level of breaking even. On the other hand, if I have a “disastrous week” …

The “Best Pick” last week was taking Utah + 2 points and having Utah win the game by 11 points.

The “Worst Pick” last week was taking Clemson – 10.5 points and seeing them win by only 10 points. Arggghhh…

No one should use anything herein as the basis for making an actual wager on an actual college football game this weekend where actual money is involved in the wager. Anyone doing that would be this stupid:

    You would be frustrated that you could not cheer up a blue whale.

General comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats destroyed the University of Puget Sound last week. Their opponent arrived with a 4-1 record in conference and a stingy defense. None of that mattered; Linfield won the game 72-3 elevating the Wildcats to 8-0 for the season. The record only tells part of the story about Linfield’s dominance this year.

    The defense has not allowed more than 14 points in any game.

    The offense has only scored less than 40 points in one game.

    The cumulative score the year is:

      Linfield: 443
      Opponents: 51

This week, the Wildcats finish their “regular season” with a trip to Puyallup, WA to face Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes bring a 2-6 record to the game. A win for the Wildcats would give them an undefeated season, a conference championship and a certain invitation to participate in the NCAA Division III national football playoff. Go Wildcats!

Frank Beamer announced last week that he will step down as the head coach at VA Tech where he has built that program from virtual obscurity to a program that gained a bit of national recognition. Naturally, the speculation about his successor began about 30 nanoseconds after the announcement of his retirement and not a lot of that speculation even rises to the level of interesting. Bob Molinaro had a cogent observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot on the subject:

“FUTUREWATCH: Frank Beamer’s replacement will be taking over a good job, not a great one. The Hokies, after all, are 26-22 the last four years. But among other things that make this a manageable rebuilding project is Tech’s position in the Coastal Division, the easier division in the Power 5’s weakest conference. Not having to compete against Clemson and Florida State each year is incentive for even the best candidate.”

Last week was not kind to several previously undefeated teams. Michigan State should probably feel the worst of all the teams tasting defeat for the first time because they were totally hosed by yet another atrocious call by game officials. I heard the explanation by the officials for the call; I saw the replay; here is my only conclusion:

    Ray Charles must have beamed down from the spirit world and took over that official’s body for about 5 critical seconds. How he did not see what happened on the play when it was in plain sight is difficult to explain any other way.

Indeed, Michigan State got hosed. Nonetheless, Michigan State deserves a small measure of opprobrium here. Nebraska is not a good team and if Michigan State were truly a very good team, they would not have had Nebraska within striking distance at the end of the game. The Michigan State defense gave up the game-winning TD on the blown call; however it had also given up another TD in the final 2 minutes of the game. That game was a giant goat rodeo…

That bad call along with Michigan State’s allowing Nebraska to be within shouting distance at the end of the game took a lot of the luster off the upcoming Ohio State/Michigan State game. It may still be a good game and an interesting contest; however, it would have been a much bigger deal if both teams were undefeated at the kickoff.

LSU had been undefeated and lost to Alabama. This was not a fluke; Alabama simply was the better team on the field for just about the entire game.

    [Aside: The Selection Committee looks pretty smart about now after they put Alabama at #4 last week ahead of a bunch of undefeated teams. All ‘Bama did was beat the team they had put at #2.]

Alabama had 434 yards of offense; LSU only managed 182. Leonard Fournette – who is the best RB I have seen play this year and who often gains more than 182 yards in a game by himself – carried the ball 19 times for a total of 31 yards. The Alabama Front 7 on defense is REALLY good. Derrick Henry carried the ball 38 times for Alabama and gained 210 yards. I mention that here because I want to say that I think Henry is an excellent RB who will play well for an NFL team very soon and that I still think Fournette is the better RB.

TCU lost to Oklahoma State; there had to be an undefeated team that lost for the first time here and the reason it was TCU is that their star QB, Trevone Boykin, had a really bad day. He threw 4 INTs. Rather than focus on TCU’s loss, perhaps the message here should be that Oklahoma State may be a really good team and might be the class of the Big 12. Consider:

    Last week, they held TCU to only 29 points; two weeks ago, they scored 70 points against Texas Tech. Both offense and defense seem capable of big games.

Having said that, before I proclaim that Oklahoma State is the team that has been overlooked by all the commentators and that they will carry the banner of the Big 12 to the College Football Championship tournament, let me say that the schedule from here on out for the Cowboys is not easy:

    At Iowa State: Unless this is a “trap game”, the Cowboys should win big.

    Vs Baylor: Baylor is undefeated at the moment; this game should be a shoot-out.

    Vs Oklahoma: OU has only 1 loss; they play Baylor this week; rivalry game.

I agree that Oklahoma State has not gotten the publicity that other teams with similar records have gotten. Therefore, let me give you some stats for the Cowboys:

    They rank 20th in the country in total offense; they gain 498 yards per game

    They rank 7th in the country in scoring; they average 44.6 points per game

    They rank 59th in the country in total defense; they give up 391 yards per game

    They rank 48th in the country in scoring defense; they allow 23.8 points per game

Another undefeated team that took gas last week was Memphis. They lost to Navy 45-20 and they gave up 374 yards rushing to the Middies. In case you had not noticed, Navy is now 7-1 for the season and their only loss was to Notre Dame in South Bend. Navy has 4 games left and they should be favored in 3 of them. Navy should get a nice bowl invitation this year.

Toledo also entered last week with an unblemished record hosting a Northern Illinois team that had already lost 3 games this year. Toledo led after 3 quarters by a score of 24-19 but Northern Illinois dominated the 4th quarter to win the game 32-27.

UNC rolled over Duke 66-31 last week. You may not have noticed but UNC now carries an 8-1 record and that loss looks more astonishing as every week goes by. UNC lost the opening game of the season to South Carolina and I think it is fair to say that South Carolina is not a particularly good team this year. Marquise Williams threw for 404 yards and 3 TDs against Duke – – and he did that in the first half. Unless something catastrophic happens, the ACC Championship Game will be UNC versus Clemson.

Clemson looks like the Atlantic Division winner after beating Florida State 23-13 last week. The game was tied at 13 after 3 quarters and Clemson pulled away to win in the 4th quarter. The game was not really as close as the score might indicate:

    Clemson 512 yards offense; Florida State 361 yards total offense.

    Clemson 7-17 on 3rd down; Florida State 2-12 on 3rd down.

    Clemson 3 penalties for 32 yards; Florida State 9 penalties for 65 yards.

Florida beat Vandy 9-7 last week and that makes Florida the SEC East Champion and one of the participants in the SEC Championship Game; at the moment, it looks as if they will play Alabama for the conference championship. The Gators trailed 7-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter against Vandy and won the game without scoring a TD. Florida is 8-1 for the season; the only loss was to LSU in Baton Rouge; there is no shame in losing to LSU there. The Florida defense is really good. Florida has held 5 SEC opponents to 10 points or less in games this year. In fact, Florida is 4th in the country in scoring defense allowing only 14.6 points per game this year.

Baylor has remained undefeated despite losing its starting QB to neck surgery earlier this year. Freshman Jarrett Stidham played very well last week against Kansas State throwing for 419 yards and 3 TDs. Looking ahead, Stidham and the rest of the Baylor squad is going to have to maintain their focus in the final games of the year. Here is what Baylor is looking at on the schedule:

    Vs Oklahoma this week
    At Oklahoma State
    At TCU
    Vs Texas

As of this morning, only Texas has lost more than one game this year…

The Old Dominion Monarchs have some interesting player names on the roster this year:

    Rashaad Coward – not a great name for a DT
    Blake LaRussa – would have expected to see him on the baseball team
    Fellonte Misher – could read it backwards and not be any more surprised
    Mufu Talwo – see comment just above
    Oshane Ximines – a copy editor’s nightmare

The Ponderosas:

Last week, we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in 4 of those games.

La Tech, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas covered.

Ohio State and W. Kentucky did not cover.

The cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games now stands at 32-38-1.

This week, we have 6 Ponderosa Games:

Clemson – 28 at Syracuse (57.5): This is a conference game not some form of pitty-pat scheduling. Nonetheless, it should be a rout.

Kansas at TCU – 45 (72): I could only find one Money Line posted for this game:

    Kansas: +60,000
    TCU: – 180,000

Wake Forest at Notre Dame – 26.5 (52): This spread opened at 28 points and dropped to this level almost immediately and then stayed at this level. If I were going to bet on this game – which I am not and I am not even making this a Mythical Pick – I would take the game to stay UNDER.

N. Texas at Tennessee – 41.5 (66.5): This win will make Tennessee bowl-eligible. It should make their fans very proud…

New Mexico at Boise St – 30.5 (57): A Mountain West Conference mismatch.

Wyoming at San Diego St. – 24.5 (51): Another Mountain West Conference mismatch.

The SHOE Teams:

Three of the underdogs in this week’s Ponderosa Games are under serious consideration for the SHOE Tournament this year. There is still time for teams to demonstrate significant ineptitude; therefore, it is only possible to identify the candidates for the 8 slots in that season-ending tournament. There is too much football left to play – games in which a team can lose by 8 TDS while giving up 600 yards – to say anyone is immune from inclusion. In alphabetical order:

    Army: Wins are over E. Michigan and a Division 1-AA team.
    E. Michigan: They beat Wyoming – that is why Wyoming is on the list.
    Kansas: They are a 45-point underdog in a conference game this week.
    La-Monroe: Only win was over a Division 1-AA team
    Miami (Oh): Wins are over E. Michigan and a Division 1-AA team.
    N. Texas: Just awful
    SMU: Only win was over N. Texas; that is unimpressive.
    Tulane: Wins are over UCF and a Davison 1-AA team.
    UCF: First team to lose 10 games this season.
    UMass: Somehow they beat Florida International, a team with 5 wins.
    UT-San Antonio: Somehow they beat UTEP, a team with 4 wins.
    Wyoming: Somehow they beat Nevada, a team with 5 wins.

By the way, Army and Tulane play each other this week and UMass takes on E. Michigan. If the SHOE Tournament were a real thing, those games might be meaningful…

Games of Interest:

UMass – 7 at E. Michigan (70): To give you an idea of how bad folks think E. Michigan is, UMass is a team with one win; they are on the road and they are a full TD favorite. Avert your eyes…

Michigan – 13.5 at Indiana (55.5): Purely a hunch here… Indiana needs to win 2 games to be bowl-eligible. That will not give them sufficient juice to beat Michigan but it might give them sufficient juice to keep it closer than 2 TDs. I’ll take Indiana plus the points.

Memphis at Houston – 7 (70.5): Memphis averages 547 yards per game on offense and Houston averages 525. Memphis gives up 437 yards per game while Houston only allows 368. I think offense dominates here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Ohio State – 16 at Illinois (55): Ohio State is a very good team but they are not blowing people out this year; they have been a Ponderosa favorite 5 times and have yet to cover. However, I think Illinois is simply outclassed here and Ohio State might just use this as the tune up for the rest of its schedule which will be Michigan State and Michigan. I’ll take Ohio State here to win and cover.

Tulane at Army – 2.5 (44): Another game in which you need to avert your eyes…

Temple – 2.5 at USF (44.5): Yes, Temple scored 60 points in a game last week but that was against SMU and if you look above you will see SMU on the SHOE list. These teams feature defense and not offense. I like this game to stay UNDER.

K-State at Texas Tech – 6 (71.5): Tech gives up 560 yards per game; only Kansas gives up more. On the other hand Tech gains 581 yards per game. Kansas State is not an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but against the matador defense that Tech puts on the field, State should surpass its average scoring for the season (27 points). I like this game to go OVER.

Kentucky at Vandy – 3.5 (40.5): Vandy averages 15 points per game. Kentucky averages 22. Both teams rely on defense. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Washington St. at UCLA – 10.5 (65.5): The spread opened at 7.5 and expanded to this number rather quickly. Both teams give up about 400 yards per game; UCLA is 20 yards per game better on defense here. Both teams gain about 500 yards per game; State is about 8 yards per game better on offense here. That is too evenly matched to justify a spread like this. I’ll take Washington State plus the points.

Texas at West Virginia – 9 (53): Texas has three games left and they need 2 wins to be bowl eligible. One of those remaining games is against Baylor and even Bevo the Longhorn is not counting on that game as a winner for Texas. Ergo… I’ll take Texas plus the points here just because I think they will be motivated here.

Alabama – 7.5 at Mississippi St. (51.5): Alabama impressed the Selection Committee last week beating LSU and they moved up to #2 in the CFP seeding this week. However, Alabama has a loss this year and there are teams not ranked in the Top 4 this week who are undefeated; Alabama has to continue to impress the Selection Committee. With a 7-2 record, State is a very good team but I think Alabama’s defense is good enough to dominate here. I like this game to stay UNDER.

SMU at Navy – 21 (61): SMU allows 259.6 rushing yards per game. Navy would prefer to run the ball on every play – and they might be able to do that here. Navy averages 326.5 yards per game rushing – 3rd in the country. SMU is a SHOE candidate and they are on the road and their defensive weakness goes against the opponent’s offensive strength. I’ll take Navy and lay the points.

Oklahoma State – 14 at Iowa State (61): Not to put too fine a point on it, I like this game to go OVER.

Arkansas at LSU – 7.5 (54): The question here is how LSU will react to getting thumped by Alabama last week. I think they will react positively. They have a good chance to be 10-1 on the season; if Alabama were to lose a game, LSU could slide into the SEC Championship Game. I like LSU at home to win and cover here.

Oklahoma at Baylor – 3 (76): The spread opened at 5 points and has been gradually declining during the week; it might go even lower by kickoff. If Baylor wins, the Selection Committee for the CFP will have to take notice. If Oklahoma wins, that will set up their game against Oklahoma State as one of the biggest games of the year. Baylor’s freshman QB looked good against K-State last week (see above) but his efforts only produced a 7 point win. Oklahoma is better than K-State; it is as simple as that. I like Oklahoma plus the points here.

Georgia Southern – 6 at Troy (56.5): How can this possibly be a “Game of Interest”? Georgia Southern leads the nation in rushing yards per game – 385.6 yards per game to be exact. Troy gives up 190.7 yards per game on the ground. This is a game of interest just because I want to see the rushing stats for the game!

Oregon at Stanford – 10 (69): If Stanford loses, the PAC-12 will not have a team in the CFP. If you are a conspiracy theory guy, you will be examining every call made by the officials (PAC-12 employees) in this game. That sort of thing does not interest me and I do not really care if the zebras affect the outcome here because I like the game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Iowa – 11.5 (45.5): Iowa fans have been playing the “disrespect card” all week long. Iowa is a good team but until they go and win the Big 10 Championship Game, I will continue to think of them as a “good team” but not one that belongs among the “best teams”. This is going to be a low-scoring game dominated by the two defenses (as the Total Line indicates) and that makes the line look awfully fat. I’ll take Minnesota plus the points.

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

“There has been a sudden spike in earthquakes in Kansas. Officials know there’s another earthquake every time the Kansas Jayhawks football offense actually moves forward.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 11/15/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks sank below mediocre and plummeted to just plain awful. The record for the week was 4-8-0 making the season record drop to 63-71-5. The Coin Flipping fared no better; the coin’s record last week was 0-1-0 bringing the nominally neutral coin’s record for the season down to 6-10-1.

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking the Panthers +2.5 points; the Panthers won the game straight up.

The “Worst Pick” last week was taking the Saints and giving 7.5 points; the Saints lost outright.

Obviously, you would have to be mightily stupid to take any information herein and use it as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would need to be:

    You would try to kill a fish by drowning it.

General Comments:

Aqib Talib is not going to be playing this weekend for the Broncos. He is suspended for a game by the league for poking an opponent in the eye during last week’s game. Watching the replay, I thought Moe Howard had been resurrected, signed by the Broncos and inserted into the game as a CB. The NFL announced the suspension; Talib appealed the suspension; the league upheld the suspension; all that happened by Wednesday at noon.

I mention this because I hope it is a recognition by the NFL that they can – and they should – make these sorts of decisions quickly. Granted, there were not a lot of nuanced levels of evidence to collect via investigation in this matter. Nonetheless, recent history would suggest that it might take the NFL appeals process two weeks to decide between milk and half-and-half for the coffee served at the hearing.

    Kudos to the NFL for their alacrity here.
    Keep it up!

I do not know who it was at ESPN who came up with the Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) system nor do I know who maintains the database that generates the ratings. What I do know is that like many other forms of advanced analytics, some of the conclusions just do not pass the “Eyeball Test”. Here are some data on starting quarterbacks this year. Which of the following statements does not pass the “Eyeball Test”?

    1. Sam Bradford ranks 31th among starting QBs and Nick Foles ranks 30th. They were traded one for the other. Looks like a trade that did not do much to help either team.

    2. Carson Palmer has the highest ranking among starting QBs this year. He is having a fantastic season.

    3. Andy Dalton has the second highest QBR among starting QBs this year. He too is having a fantastic season.

    4. Ryan Fitzpatrick has the 3rd highest QBR this year; Aaron Rodgers has the 4th highest rating and Tom Brady has the 5th highest QBR.

Hold it right there; we have a winner; that last one makes me wonder about the value of the QBR itself. All that Tom Brady has managed to achieve this year is an 8-0 record while throwing more TD passes and fewer INTs than any other starting QB.

The Detroit Lions fired their GM (Martin Mayhew) and their team president (Tom Lewand) last week. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the team fired a couple of the offensive coaches to include the offensive coordinator. The Lions record as of this morning is 1-7 and that is the worst record in the NFL; the Lions are not merely losing games, they are losing some of them by a lot. The average score of a Lions game this year is:

    Opponent: 30.6
    Lions: 18.6

In 2009, the US Government bailed out General Motors when the company was about to go belly-up. Well, the Lions are going paws-up this year and could use a bailout. Unfortunately, the Lions are owned by the Fords not the General Motors…

Last Thursday night, the Bengals handled the Browns with aplomb. Johnny Manziel got the start at QB for the Browns and played the entire game. To be sure, he did not throw up on his shoes but he also did not do anything to announce that he is the franchise QB of the future for a team that has not had a franchise QB since re-entering the NFL in 1999. At the end of the game, the announcers were asking rhetorically if Manziel had shown enough in that game to merit the starting job in future weeks. Here is my answer:

    The Browns are going nowhere this year – as has been their wont. Since 1999, the Browns have been over .500 exactly twice (in 2002 and in 2007). They need a franchise QB badly and they have to make a choice:

      Draft another QB sometime soon – or –

      Go with Johnny Manziel

    The only rational way to make that choice is to see a lot more of Manziel in real game action against the starters for the opposing teams. That does not happen nearly enough in the Exhibition Season, so the time is now…

Speaking of throwing up on one’s shoes, the Saints did that and more last week as they lost to the sorry-assed Titans. Yes, I know; the Titans looked like a new team now that they have a new coach. Pardon my skepticism there… A few weeks ago, it looked as if the Saints’ defense and the defensive coaching staff had figured out how to deploy those players in a way that made the opposing offenses have to work to score points. Recently, let me be polite and say the Saints have had a relapse on defense.

Last week, the Saints gave up 483 yards of offense to the Titans who entered the game with the 31st ranked offense in the NFL. Recall that two weeks ago, the Saints scored 52 points against the Giants and needed a last second field goal to win that game 52-49. You have heard of defenses that bend but do not break; the Saints defense bends AND breaks. Just to clarify, that is not a good thing…

In any event, the Titans’ new coach, Mike Mularkey, is now 1-0 in Tennessee. Before getting carried away, let me say that one win does not make an interim coach into a genius. If you doubt that, check out Dan Campbell in Miami.

Here is a question:

    Is Dan Campbell still on the fast track for induction in Canton next summer?

After his Dolphins beat the Titans and Texans in his first two games, much of the media hailed him as coaching genius. Well, since beating those two less-than-fearsome opponents, here is what the Dolphins have done:

    Lost to Pats 36-7
    Lost to Bills 33-17

In that loss to the Bills, the Dolphins’ defense allowed both Karlos Williams and LeSean McCoy to gain more than 110 yards rushing (as a team the Bills gained 266 yards on the ground) and allowed Sammy Watkins to catch 8 passes for 168 yards. Three of the Bills’ scoring plays were 38 yards or longer. It sure looks as if the rah-rah/gung-ho/tough-guy stuff that Campbell was selling a month ago has reached its Sell By Date.

Those last two losses – both to AFC East opponents – gives the Dolphins an 0-4 record in the division. That is never attractive but it does get worse. In the 4 losses within the division here is the average score:

    Opponents 34.2
    Dolphins 13.0

Greg Cote had this assessment in the Miami Herald:

“The Dan Campbell Bandwagon is now in a ditch and waiting on AAA.”

The Vikings beat the Rams 21-18 in OT. In the first quarter, the Rams got a TD and went for 2 points but failed to convert. That “missing point” turned out to be extremely important when the fourth quarter came around and the Rams kicked a field goal to tie the game and send it to OT. One more point would have obviated the need for OT and put a win on the board for the Rams.

There has been plenty of controversy related to this game and the hit on Terry Bridgewater that knocked him out of the game. Vikes’ coach Mike Zimmer pointed the finger at Rams’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saying he “had a history” and later various other analysts have said that Jeff Fisher’s teams play dirty defense. I do not read minds and I certainly do not have any inside info from the Rams’ defensive coaches but here is my conclusion having seen the replays:

    It was a late hit AND it appears to me that the defender aimed specifically to hit Bridgewater in the head.

Was the defender “coached up” to play that way? I don’t know.

All of that drama has overshadowed the matchup of Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson in that game. Gurley gained 89 yards and scored a TD; Peterson gained 124 yards and scored a TD.

The Jets beat the Jags 28-23 despite Blake Bortles throwing for 381 yards in the game. The Jets recorded 6 sacks, 2 INTs and recovered one fumble in the game; the Saints ought to take notice here; that is a defense that bends but does not break. The Jags are a bad team and bad teams invent ways to lose games. Let me give you a condensed play sequence from late in this game:

    Jags are down 21-16 with just under 6 minutes to play. The Jags have driven from their own 10 yardline to the Jets’ 10 yardline in 4 plays.

    Next play, Bortles is sacked; he fumbles and the Jets recover the ball at the Jets’ 34 yardline.

    Jags hold on 4 downs and force a punt. The returner muffs the punt and the Jets recover at the Jags’ 25 yardline.

    Three plays later the Jets score making it 28-16 with 2:41 to play.

    Jags score on 3 plays with 2:14 to play making the score 28-23.

    Jags hold again and force a punt they receive at their own 8 yardline with 0:54 to play.

    First play is an interception by the Jets at the Jags 22. Game Over.

A strip sack; a muffed punt and an INT in the span of less than 6 minutes at the end of a game decided by less than a TD…

The Pats dominated the Skins 27-10. Trust me, it was not that close… All of the RG3 acolytes who climb all over Kirk Cousins for his propensity to throw INTs cannot hang this loss on Cousins. The Pats recorded one INT but that ball hit Pierre Garcon in the hands and on the helmet before bouncing about 15 feet into the air such that a defender could run under it and catch it. Skins’ “pass-catchers” were actually “pass-droppers” here; they have to have dropped at least a half dozen passes that hit them on both hands. Oh, and the “running game” was dormant amassing a total of 37 yards for the day. Meanwhile the Skins’ run defense yielded 167 yards for the game. The only “bright light” for the Skins was that they held Tom Brady to less than 300 yards for the game; he passed for 299 yards.

DeSean Jackson returned to action for the Skins giving them the “deep threat” they say they have needed so badly. He caught 3 passes for 15 yards; the long gain was 9 yards. I doubt that struck fear in the hearts of the Pats’ defensive coaches…

The Steelers beat the Raiders 38-35 in an entertaining game. This gives the Steelers a half-game lead over the Raiders in the AFC wild card chase. However the win came at a price; Ben Roethlisberger suffered a foot injury that will keep him out several weeks. The Steelers survived 4 weeks without Big Ben earlier this year but the Landry Jones’ showing against the Chiefs ought to make the Steelers faithful just a tad queasy.

The Steelers face the Browns this week and then they have a Bye Week. It is possible that Jones will only need to hold the fort for one game here and that is probably a good thing because the Steelers’ schedule after Thanksgiving is not trivial:

    At Seattle
    Vs Indy
    At Cincy
    Vs Denver
    At Baltimore
    At Cleveland

The Raiders have had some pretty bad teams over the last 12 years since losing in the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Bucs after the 2002 season. In that span, they have never had a season over .500; and in 10 of the last 12 seasons, they have suffered double-digit losses. Nonetheless, last week’s defensive showing has to be a low-point even by the standards of the last 12 years.

    Defense gave up 597 yards (195 yards rushing and 402 yards passing)

    Antonio Brown caught 17 passes for 284 yards.

    DeAngelo Williams gained 170 yards on 27 carries with 2 TDs.

David Amerson was the defender chasing Antonio Brown for much of the game; it looked almost as if Amerson was playing flag-football as he lunged and groped just to make contact with Brown. Maybe the Raiders’ fans should not be too harsh on Amerson; after all, he was cut by the Skins just a few weeks ago meaning he could not make the field on that defense. There is no real reason to believe that a change in latitude was going to make Amerson into a Pro-Bowler.

The Giants beat the Bucs 32-18 but the final TD by the Giants with no time left came when they recovered a fumbled lateral and ran it into the end zone. The Bucs were in full-scramble mode on the play and it backfired. The Giants recovered 3 fumbles on the day and those fumble recoveries led to 17 points. Do the math and you will see that the fumbles had a profound effect on who won and who lost. The Giants exhibited bend-but do-not-break on defense. In the first half, the Bucs had the ball inside the Giant’s 10 yardline and came away with 0 TDs.

In another example of a team inventing a way to lose a game, the Falcons lost to the Niners 17-16. Here is what went down late in that game:

    Niners lead 17-13 with 4:27 to play in the 4th quarter. Falcons have the ball 1st and goal at the Niners 8 yardline.

    After two short completions and an incomplete pass, the Falcons have the ball 4th and goal at the 1 yardline with 3:00 to play. They are down 4 points.

    The Falcons kick a field goal leaving them one point down at 17-16.

    The Niners take possession at their 20 after the kickoff and proceed to run the ball 5 times to gain 2 first downs and then “kneel out the clock”. Falcons never saw the ball again.

In case you wonder why the Falcons did not just run the ball in from the 1 yardline, here is how the Falcons’ running game was working last week:

    They ran the ball 14 times for a total of 17 yards…


    Are the Falcons in full-collapse mode?

The Colts beat the Broncos 27-24. Basically, the Colts dominated the first half and the Broncos came back to make a game of it in the second half. I started off these comments with a note about Aqib Talib and his eye-poking incident. That was more than just an unsportsmanlike play; it generated a 15-yard penalty against the Broncos that kept a late Colts’ possession alive. The Broncos’ defense had an off game and the Colts played much better than they have played all season long. Now, the Colts will have to go at least several weeks without Andrew Luck who suffered an abdominal muscle injury and a lacerated kidney in the 4th quarter. Yes, I know that Matt Hasselbeck subbed for Luck earlier this year and won both games. Here is the more important thing; this is what is left for the Colts looking ahead:

    At Atlanta (this week)
    Vs Tampa
    At Pittsburgh
    At Jax
    Vs Houston
    At Miami
    Vs Tennessee

That is a pillow-soft schedule… The Colts lead the miserable AFC South by a half game despite their 4-5 record.

The Panthers dominated the Packers for three quarters and led 30-14 when the fourth quarter started. The Packers rallied in the 4th quarter and it took a red zone INT by the Panthers to save a score that would have had the Packers only a 2-point conversion away from a tie. Cam Newton threw for 297 yards and ran for another 57 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers defense harassed Aaron Rodgers all game; the defense recorded 5 sacks during the game.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys 33-27 in OT. Matt Cassel played like a real NFL QB in this game; the reason the Cowboys lost this game is that their defense was dragging itself all over the field for the 4th quarter and the OT. Cassel did throw a Pick Six in the game but overall his stat line is commendable (25 of 38, 299 yards, 3 TD) despite the fact that the Eagles’ defense had him under pressure all game long (the defense recorded 4 sacks). The Cowboys are 2-6 – having lost 6 games in row since Tony Romo broke his clavicle – and they need a win badly. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC East when Romo is healthy and playing QB, but they may be too far behind to win out and still win the division if they lose all of the games that he cannot start.

    Imagine a scenario where the Cowboys finish at 8-8 where all 8 wins are games that Tony Romo starts and all 8 losses are games where he is on the sidelines. That might make a powerful argument when it comes time to vote for MVP…

DeMarco Murray’s return to Dallas was a successful one for him and for the Eagles. Murray ran for 83 yards and caught passes for an additional 78 yards. Paired with Ryan Matthews – and using Darren Sproles randomly – the Eagles have a running attack that can control game tempo so long as the Eagles’ OL is in sync.

The Bears/Chargers game on MNF was close; other than that, the game had exactly nothing to recommend it. Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes for 151 yards in the game.

The Games:

Here are the teams on a Bye Week:

    Chargers: They have two weeks to figure out how to break a 5-game losing streak.

    Colts: They will be rooting for the Bengals to beat the Texans on MNF this week.

    Falcons: They were 5-0 at one point; now they are 6-3 and look discombobulated; they have 2 weeks to correct that.

    Niners: Blaine Gabbert won them a game last week; they now have 2 weeks to figure out who will be their QB for the next game.

(Thurs Nite) Buffalo at Jets – 2.5 (42.5): Forget all the storylines; this game is important because it has playoff implications. The Jets are 5-3; the Bills are 4-4; the winner of this game will have the lead in the wild card chase and second place in the AFC East. Yes, the teams will play again on the final weekend of the season; nevertheless this is a big game. The Jets hold slight statistical advantages on offense and on defense and they are at home. Make this a venue call in a game between two closely matched teams; I’ll take the Jets and lay the points.

Detroit at Green Bay – 11.5 (47.5): The Packers have lost 2 games in a row and fans in Green Bay think the sky is falling. The Lions are 1-7 and fans in Detroit wonder what’s new. I expect the Packers to be rejuvenated by their return home after two weeks on the road playing then-undefeated teams. I hate laying double-digits but I cannot take the Lions against a Packers’ team that needs a win and is playing at home. I’ll take the Packers to win and cover.

Dallas at Tampa – 1.5 (43.5): The Cowboys do need this game (see above). The Cowboys have 6 losses on the books already; still on the schedule are the Panthers (at home on Thanksgiving) and the Packers (in Green Bay in December). It is difficult to paint an early-November game as a “must-win” game, but this one comes close for the Cowboys. The Bucs and their rookie QB play well some of the time and play poorly some of the time; you would need a Ouija board to figure out what kind of game they will play. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the Cowboys plus the points.

Carolina – 5 at Tennessee (44): The spread opened at 6.5 and has dropped slowly to this level; you can still find it at 5.5 at a couple of Internet sportsbooks. I understand the thinking that the Panthers may take the Titans lightly after the Panthers navigated a schedule that packed a bunch of good teams on after another against them; by comparison, the Titans look like a walk in the park. However, the Panthers’ defense should make life very difficult for the Titans’ rookie QB. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Chicago at St. Louis – 7.5 (42.5): The Rams rank 31st in the NFL in total offense; they gain an average of 312.6 yards per game. The Bears are better than that; they rank 22nd in the NFL in total offense gaining 347.1 yards per game. On defense the Rams are fifth in the league allowing only 323.8 yards per game while the Bears rank 9th giving up 342 yards per game. This should be a game dominated by defense. Therefore, I’ll take the Bears plus the points.

New Orleans – 1 at Washington (50): The dogs are barking here but upon further review, this game finishes second in the run to be labeled the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams can still believe they might be playoff participants; both teams can still believe in the Tooth Fairy too. The Saints lead the NFL in total offense; the Saints rank 31st in the NFL in total defense. This is an outdoor game on grass; that is not the most favorable set of conditions for the Saints. I like the Skins plus the point here and I like this game to go OVER.

Miami at Philly – 6.5 (47.5): I have no idea how this game will play out so I am turning the game over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points. Let it be written; let it be done…

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 5 (41): The Steeler do need this game for wild card purposes and they are going to have to go with Landry Jones at the controls and without LeVeon Bell to run the ball. If the opponent here were competent, I would be poised to tell Steelers’ fans to prepare for the worst. But the opponent here will be the Browns and the Browns are not competent. The Steelers are 40 yards per game better on offense and 27 yards per game better on defense. Moreover, that offensive advantage includes 4 games without Ben Roethlisberger on the field. The only thing the Browns have going for them is that this is a big rivalry game but that knife cuts both ways. I like the Steelers here to win and cover at home.

Jax at Baltimore – 5.5 (48): The dogs are howling loudly here; this is indeed the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams are 2-6; neither team is any good. Let me break out the coin once again and submit to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Minnesota at Oakland – 3 (44): These are not the sexiest teams in the NFL but this is clearly one of the best games of the week. The Vikes have won 4 games in a row and would be a playoff team if the season ended now. The Raiders lost last week but are right in the thick of the AFC wild card race. Both teams need to win this game. The Raiders enjoy a 55 yards per game advantage on offense; the Vikings enjoy a 79 yards per game advantage on defense. Make this a venue call; I like the Raiders to win and cover.

KC at Denver – 6 (42): With a 3-5 record, the Chiefs are not out of it with regard to the wild card race; however, they do not have a lot of slack in that line. The Broncos lost their first game of the year last week and now see themselves sitting at 7-1 but not being in position to have a Bye Week in the playoffs. I think there is plenty of motivation for the Broncos and that means the Chiefs will not have any edge at all in the game. I think the Bronco’s defense will be out to atone for last week’s performance. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover at home.

New England – 7.5 at Giants (55): Here is another really good game on this week’s card. The last time the Pats beat the Giants was in 2007. The Giants need this game to stay in control of the NFC East; the Pats do not need the game in the standings but they need the game just because these are the Giants they are playing and the Giants have been their tormentors. I think the Pats will win here but I also think that line is fat – particularly with that hook on top of the TD’s worth of points. I’ll take the Giants at home plus the points.

(Sun Nite) Arizona at Seattle – 3 (45): This might be the best game of the week. If you want to understand what it means for a team to “need” a win in early November, look no further than the Seahawks here.

    The Seahawks trail the Cards by 2 games in the NFC West.

    With a win here – and a win in Arizona on Jan 3 – they can catch the Cards.

    With a loss here they are in a miasma with a bunch of other teams with losing records hoping against hope for a playoff spot.

Oh, don’t think that the Cards do not realize all of this and recognize the opportunity they have to open up a 3-game lead on the Seahawks with only 7 games left to play. Both teams took last week off to prep for this encounter. Richard Sherman will shut down one side of the field to the Cards’ passing game, but the Cards can throw the ball to a whole lot of receivers all over the field. I think the Cards will win straight up so I’ll take them plus the points – even in Seattle.

(Mon Nite) Houston at Cincy – 10.5 (47.5): The spread here opened at 12 and dropped almost immediately to this level. No, I do not understand why that happened. I do not like the matchup of the Texans’ offense against the Bengals’ defense. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Finally, now that Jason Pierre-Paul has returned to the field for the Giants after his 4th of July injury involving fireworks and the loss of parts of his hand, here are two comments from sportswriters related to that situation:

“Good to see Jason Pierre-Paul back in action with the Giants. Also good that he’s accepting responsibility for what happened, not pointing any fingers.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]

And …

“An employee at a chicken-processing plant that supplies KFC lost two fingertips while on the job.

“Even worse, he got blood all over his lucky Jason Pierre-Paul jersey.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

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

Daily Fantasy Sports In New York…

Recently, the folks who oversee legal sports betting in Nevada ruled that daily fantasy sports are a form of gambling that needs to be licensed in that state. Many people dismissed that ruling as protecting the casinos’ turf. Yesterday, the Attorney General of New York announced that he has determined that daily fantasy sports are a form of illegal gambling and he has ordered Draft Kings and FanDuel to stop taking bets in New York. Representatives of the daily fantasy sports industry say this is a publicity grab on the part of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The daily fantasy sports advocates deny that their activity is gambling because it relies on skill to assemble a successful fantasy team.

No one who has read more than a few of these rants could possibly conclude that I am opposed to gambling in general or more specifically to gambling on the outcomes of sporting events. My position there is consistent and transparent.

    People are going to wager on sporting events; laws that seek to prohibit wagering on sporting events will not stop that activity. As examples please think about the effectiveness of Prohibition as a way to stop drinking or the myriad drug laws as a way to end drug usage and addiction.

    Since wagering on sporting events is going to happen under any circumstances, the government should regulate it as a form of interstate commerce and tax it accordingly.

My problem with this issue is that some folks in the US Congress seemed to find it necessary to try to define what is and what is not gambling as it regards the Internet; and in so doing, they decided that wagering on daily fantasy sports and horse racing was “OK” but wagering of the outcomes of individual games or poker was “Not OK”. Rather than use whatever contorted logic led to those distinctions, let me offer a relatively simple definition of gambling:

    Gambling involves two or more people putting something of value to them at risk pending the outcome of an event.

Using that definition, daily fantasy sports and horse racing are not distinguished from poker or wagering on individual games in any way. In all circumstances, people put up money at the outset and collect more money than they risked at the end if they are successful in “winning the bet”. Reduced to utter simplicity, if you wager $100 that the next person to enter the room we are in will be wearing a hat and I wager $100 that the next person will not be wearing a hat, we are gambling if in fact one of us walks away with $200 after someone enters the room.

In this ongoing and seemingly escalating brouhaha regarding daily fantasy sports, I am really on neither side of the argument because I do not think either side is right.

    Daily fantasy sports are indeed gambling.

    Enforcing laws that outlaw gambling is a feckless activity that wastes resources that could be used to better enforce laws that are far more important.

Recall, much of the current posturing here goes back to the Congress and its attempt to define what is and what is not gambling. Look at the revenues generated by daily fantasy sports – one company says it will pay out $2B this year so you may be sure they are taking in more than $2B – and recognize that the Congress will not undo the problem it created. The moneyed interests do not want things to change because that would be gambling on their part; they would only continue to be successful if the change went the way they prefer that it go and they will cease to be as successful if the change went “another way”. That is high stakes gambling…

Yesterday, I wrote about the change in the administration at the University of Missouri. The national attention commanded by the events there overshadowed another change of personnel at another institution of higher learning. The University of Illinois fired its Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, after an investigation into the treatment of the school’s football and women’s basketball players. Based on the report of that investigation, the chancellor said that this firing was necessary “in order to move forward”.

Before the football season began, Illinois fired its head coach based on player allegations of mistreatment. The investigative report said that the former coach interfered with doctors treating injured players and “building a culture that tended to blame players for being injured.” Here is a link to a report in the Chicago Tribune with more details on these sorts of happenings and in that report there is another link to the full text of the investigative report. Be forewarned, the investigative report with attachments/appendices is 1267 pages in length.

Several women on the basketball team have sued the school alleging maltreatment in that program too. The investigation found their claims of a racially abusive environment to be unfounded; given the lawsuit, a judge is likely to determine if the investigation came to the proper conclusion.

The investigation did not connect Mike Thomas to any of the abuses that it found – and obviously assessed him no blame for the racially abusive environment that it found did not exist. That makes the Thomas’ firing worth a look:

    If the university is confident that the investigation was done professionally and thoroughly such that its findings are self-evidently true, why did Thomas have to be fired “in order to move forward”?

    If Thomas is blameless, his resignation – with a settlement of course – should suffice here.

My guess is that the university has no such confidence in that investigation and that there may be a degree of polarity on campus with regard to this issue that would only be assuaged with some “punishment” being handed down. I also believe that the folks at Illinois are really glad to have the media focus so intensely focused on what is going on at Missouri just now…

Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

According to a report, the Minnesota Vikings lead the NFL in player arrests over the past five seasons. Minnesota is now known as “Land of 10,000 Player Busts.” I remember that time when three Vikings were arrested during a long booth review.

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

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………