College Football Replays

A little over a month ago, Bob Molinaro had this to say in his column in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Time will tell: Even people who love the sport have to admit that something needs to be done about the length of college football games.

“The replays are excruciating. After just one week, I’ve had enough of college booth officials searching for ‘indisputable evidence’ after halting games for a ‘further review’ that almost always confirms the on-field call. Are the games really better for all this?”

The answer to that final question here is that the games – in the plural – are certainly not better for any of that sort of stuff but one individual game might be better if a critical call was muffed by the on-field officials and then made right by the “replay guys”. The difficulty in the calculation here lies in Professor Molinaro’s correct observation that the replay review almost always confirms the call on the field. Therefore, fans pay frequently but receive anything of value only once in a great while. It is frustrating; there is no getting around that.

Perhaps the solution to this problem in college football – – and a couple of other sports where replay is now part of the action/inaction – – is found in this snarky remark by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The NBA D-League is experimenting with a 75-second time limit on instant replay reviews. There’s something similar in college football, where reviews are now limited to 2½ days.”

I am less frustrated by the number of reviews than I am by the length of time taken by the folks doing the reviewing. I think 75 seconds is plenty of time to resolve 99% of the issues that call for review. It will be interesting to see how that D-League experiment works out.

By the way, having gone to several minor-league baseball games this summer, having a 20-second “pitch-clock” does not ruin the game of baseball. It is amazing how pitchers at that level are actually able to get themselves in a rhythm to deliver a pitch in that amount of time. In fact, the vast majority of pitches are made well within that time limit.

There is another problem with college football replays that goes beyond the annoyance of interrupting the flow of games and making the games seem eternal. As some of the major conferences have moved to a system where replays are monitored in a central location and then communicated to the officials on the field, these conferences have set themselves up for criticism and charges of “self-interest”. When a call goes in favor of a team that needs to win in order to stay in contention for a CFP slot and that call is made in a “dark room” several hundred miles from the game venue by a bunch of people who represent the conference that would benefit from that team getting into the CFP … You can easily see how the conspiracy theorists can spin that one into orbit.

The use of a centralized command center to do the reviews ought to speed up the review process since officials need not spend time “under the hood”. However, there are paranoid fans out there spring-loaded to proclaim that any important call that goes against their team is part of a master plan somewhere that requires their team to take a kick in the goolies.

During the NBA Exhibition Season, I read a report somewhere that some folks were “live-Tweeting” one or several of the NBA exhibition games. This behavior is mystifying to me on just about every level:

    1. It is an exhibition game, for Heaven’s sake. By definition, such a game is meaningless and cannot have meaning bestowed upon it via Twitter or any other social media platform.

    2. Since the game is meaningless and will continue to be meaningless, why would anyone waste the energy to “Tweet” about it? Unless, of course, the real reason to “Tweet” about it has nothing to do with the game but has everything to do with some narcissistic need to tell the world, “Hey! Look at me!”

    3. Whether the game is a meaningless one – or a championship game – why would anyone bother to read someone else’s Tweets about the game? If I care about a game, I will watch it and draw my own conclusions/derive my own enjoyment from it. If I do not care enough to watch, then why would I care what anyone else had to say about it?

I am a strong supporter of free expression. Having said that, I would not object to a limitation on “Freedom of Tweeting” if in fact Tweeting Exhibition Games is a real phenomenon that takes root in our society. Just as you cannot yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, I think one should not be allowed to pollute the Internet with Exhibition Game Tweets. The penalty for a violation of that standard should be six months with your smartphone housed in a Faraday Cage – – where there are no signals going into the cage to the phone or out of the cage from the phone. That ought to give the perpetrator time to reflect on how man existed as a species before some twit invented Twitter.

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock’s column “Rock On” in the Deseret News from last week:

“Washington State coach Mike Leach says he doesn’t really see the point of team captains.

“On Monday he told the media, ‘All the guy really does is the coin toss.’

“Leach continued, ‘And then I decided one of the most screwed up things about this country is in order to do anything, to cross the street, we have a committee. So, I figured … we really only need one guy. And he’s gotta be smart enough to either call heads or tails. That’s it.’

“Why is this man not the President?”

    Memo to Brad Rock: Maybe he is not the President because he is smart enough to see through the nonsense of things and anyone that smart would not subject himself/herself to the muck and mire of a political campaign. Just a thought as we come to the conclusion of the 2016 Presidential campaign…

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/29/16

If I had to attach a descriptor for last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks, I would probably begin with adjectives such as “appalling”, “atrocious”, “dreadful”, “ghastly”, “hideous” and/or “revolting”. I made 15 selections last week and the record for the week was 3-12-0. That takes down the season record to 66-61-0.

The Best Picks of the Week were – not that there were many to choose from:

    Utah +7 against UCLA. Utah won straight up by a TD.
    Colorado +2 against Stanford. Colorado won straight up by 5 points.

The Worst Picks of the Week were – among the many:

    NC State +19.5 against Louisville. NC State lost by 42 points.
    Ohio State – 19 against Penn State. Ohio State lost straight up.

If you have read this far, I should not have to tell you that no one ought to use anything herein as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game this weekend involving real money. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    If stupid were dirt, you would be 40 acres.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats beat Whitworth last weekend by a score of 45-31. That gives Linfield its 5th win for the season and it assures them a winning season in football for the 61st consecutive season. At the moment, their record in the Northwest Conference is 4-0; winning that conference title will likely put Linfield in the Division III playoffs. Their 3 remaining games are all conference games.

This week, Linfield hosts the Bruins of George Fox University. The Bruins bring a 3-game winning streak, a 3-3 record and a 3-1 record in the conference to McMinnville this weekend. Go Wildcats!

Continuing to follow the exploits of Cooper Kupp at WR for the E. Washington Eagles, the team went on the road to play Montana St. last week and came home with a 41-17 wins. Kupp caught 13 passes in the game for 154 yards and 1 TD. For the 2016 season, he has caught 59 passes for 866 yards and 8 TDs in 6 games.

This week, E. Washington hosts the Montana Grizzlies. Montana brings a 5-2 record to the game and an offense that has scored more than 40 points in 5 games this year. Go Eagles!

Notre Dame had last week off – and they needed it. Consider this summary of their season to date from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Pretzel logic: Try wrapping your head around the very real possibility that Bobby Wilder’s ODU team will play in a bowl this season, while Notre Dame will not. The reeling Irish (2-5) have games against Miami, Navy, Virginia Tech and Southern Cal remaining. They may not be favored in any of them.”

Speaking of bowl games, it is hardly commonplace for all three of the service academies to go to bowl games in a given year. All three have a shot at bowl-eligibility this year albeit two of the academies made things a bit harder for themselves by losing last week:

Army lost to North Texas 35-18. This was a self-inflicted wound; Army lost 2 fumbles and threw 4 INTs in the game. Army’s record is now 4-2 and they have to find 2 more wins with this upcoming schedule; it is not going to be easy:

    At Wake Forest
    Vs. Air Force
    At Notre Dame
    Morgan St. (Division 1-AA)
    Vs. Navy

Meanwhile, Air Force lost last week to Hawaii 34-27. Somehow, the Flyboys need to generate 2 wins from this remaining schedule:

    At Fresno St.
    At Army
    Colorado St
    AT San Jose St.
    Boise St.

Air Force has an easier glide path to 6 wins than does Army. Fresno St. is on the SHOE watchlist this weekend with a 1-7 record and a new coach; San Jose St is also on the SHOE watchlist this week thanks to an e-mail from a reader who noted correctly that I did not have them on the watchlist last week and wondered how they had escaped such notoriety. The reason is that I had not realized that they were as bad as they were.

Navy won last week beating Memphis 42-28. That gives Navy 5 wins for the year and a clear path to bowl eligibility.

Boise St. remained unbeaten last week beating BYU 28-27. BYU had a chance to win the game with a short field goal at the end of the game but it was blocked. BYU recovered the ball and since it never crossed the line of scrimmage and it was not a 4th down attempt, the cougars had one last shot at victory with a Hail Mary pass. That prayer went unanswered and Boise St. came out of the game with a 7-0 record.

Boise St. turned the ball over 5 times in the game and was minus-5 in the turnover stats. The fact that they won the game anyhow is surprising. Here is a stat I ran across to show how unusual that is:

    Since 2004, teams that are minus-5 in the takeovers have a record of 9-231.

W. Michigan beat E. Michigan last week 45-31 and that gives W. Michigan a record of 8-0 for the 2016 season. Could they run the table here? Here is the remaining schedule for the Broncos:

    At Ball State – record is 4-4 with no “signature wins”.
    At Kent St. – record is 2-6 and on the SHOE watchlist
    Vs. Buffalo – record is 1-6 and on the SHOE watchlist
    Vs Toledo – record is 6-1; this will be an interesting MAC game.

SMU beat Houston 38-16 last week. Houston’s loss to Navy knocked them out of any consideration for the CFP. This loss to a less-than-fearsome SMU team may accomplish one of more of these things:

    1. It may give a really minor bowl game a shot at a Houston team that got loads of publicity earlier this year. Maybe the Bahamas Bowl or the Pinstripe Bowl?

    2. It may drive down the price that Houston coach, Tom Herman, can demand on the football coaching carousel this winter.

Rice beat Prairie View A&M (Division 1-AA) last week 65-44. That means that all 128 teams in Division 1-A now have at least 1 win. That win by itself will not get Rice off the SHOE watchlist, but a loss would have put them in the SHOE Tournament for certain. Congrats to the Owls for keeping alive the possibility of avoiding the SHOE Tournament.

In another bottom-feeder game, UTEP beat UT-San Antonio 52-49. But it took 5 OTs to get that job done…

In Big-12 action, K-State beat Texas 24-21. K-state led this game 24-7 in the 3rd quarter and then developed a bad habit of turning the ball over and let the Longhorns back into the game. State held on to win at the end.

Oklahoma St. beat Kansas 44-20. It was 17-13 at halftime; Kansas was within hailing distance. Then the clock struck midnight …

West Virginia beat TCU 34-10. I guess West Virginia is for real and that their defense has figured out how to play the game. They held TCU to only 317 yards of offense and a measly 148 yards passing. The fact that TCU turned the ball over 3 times did not help the Horned Frogs’ cause even a little bit.

Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 66-59. No, that is not a basketball score. Let me give you some stats here to show that the game was well-balanced:

    Baker Mayfield (OU): 26 for 35 for 541 yards with 7 TDs and 0 INTs
    Pat Mahomes (Tech): 44 for 77 for 655 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT

      Obviously, the Tech coaching staff did not have Mahomes on a pitch-count for this game…

    Oklahoma: 864 yards total offense
    Texas Tech: 856 yards total offense

      Did the defenses have 11 men on the field all the time?

    Oklahoma converted 6 of 10 third-down situations
    Texas Tech converted 20 of 25 third-down situations

      Tackling drills anyone …?

    Oklahoma: 11.4 yards per offensive play
    Texas Tech: 7.9 yards per offensive play.

Wow! Simply … Wow! An Arena League Football game broke out in Lubbock last week…

In the ACC, VA Tech handed Miami (FL) its third loss in a row last week, 37-16. Tech and UNC now each have 1 conference loss in the Coastal Division of the ACC but Tech holds that tiebreaker having beaten UNC earlier this year. Miami QB, Brad Kaaya was sacked 8 times in this game losing 55 yards in the process.

Louisville beat NC State 54-13. Here is what I said in last week’s Mythical Picks about this game. Could I have been more incorrect?

“… I choose to believe that NC State has figured out how to put its pieces together so they work well together. That means I think they can stay close to Louisville – as they did with Clemson last week – and that their defense can keep Louisville from running wild. I’ll take NC State plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.”

Louisville led 44-0 at the half. Louisville rolled up 572 yards of offense compared to NC State’s 256. This was an ass-kicking extraordinaire

UNC beat UVa 35-14 holding Virginia to only 265 yards of offense. Virginia needs to win 4 of its last 5 games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011. Things are not looking up on that front because next up for the Cavaliers is Louisville.

In Big 10 action, Minnesota beat Rutgers 34-32 and it took a 28-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the game for Minnesota to win this one. I know that a win is a win, but this one ought to be embarrassing. Minnesota led 21-3 at the end of the first quarter and let Rutgers – a team on the SHOE watchlist to be sure – come back to lead the game in the final minute of play. Minnesota also allowed Rutgers to convert 10 of 19 third-down tries. Minnesota has 5 wins for the year and will probably be bowl-eligible. However, if I were a “bowl-game honcho” and was looking to find an invitee, I would consider this game as a justification to look for another dance partner.

Northwestern beat Indiana 24-14 but the game was closer than it might appear. Northwestern led 24-3 at the half but they were shut out in the second half. Consider;

    Northwestern had 408 yards total offense
    Indiana had 403 yards total offense.

Wisconsin beat Iowa 17-9. It was a defensive game and Wisconsin had the better of it for most of the time. This was Iowa’s 3rd loss this year; at least, this one was not as surprising as the other two were – – North Dakota State and Northwestern.

Nebraska beat Purdue 27-14 after Purdue led at halftime 14-10. Nebraska is 7-0 for the season with two really tough road games coming up in the next two weeks:

    At Wisconsin this week
    At Ohio State next week.

Michigan beat Illinois 41-8 but it was not that close. The Wolverines led 31-0 at the half; Michigan gained 578 yards while Illinois only managed 185; Michigan ran 87 offensive plays and Illinois only snapped the ball on offense 38 times.

Maryland beat Michigan St. 28-17. The last time Maryland beat Sparty was in 1950. To put that in perspective for you, Harry Truman had not yet fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1950.

In the most shocking result of the Big 10 season to date, Penn State used a blocked field goal that was returned for a TD to beat Ohio State 24-21. Ohio State dominated the stat sheet gaining 446 yards (to Penn State’s 278 yards) and the Buckeyes ran 83 plays (to Penn State’s 60). Ohio State also won the turnover battle 1-0. Nevertheless, the scoreboard shows Penn State as the winner and the scoreboard is all that matters.

Lots of analysts said in the aftermath of this game that Ohio State still controlled its destiny. Ignoring the fact that destiny cannot – by definition – be controlled, Ohio State does NOT “control its destiny”. If Ohio State wins out, they will have 1 conference loss. But if Michigan loses before facing Ohio State and if Penn State wins out, then Ohio State will not make it to the Big 10 Championship Game – – let alone the CFP. Remember, Penn State owns the tiebreaker with Ohio State.

    Do I think Michigan will lose before playing Ohio State? No.

    Do I think Penn State will win out? If they beat Iowa in 2 weeks they might.

It may not be likely, but you cannot say the Ohio State controls its destiny if in fact their ultimate success depends on the successes and failures of a bunch of other teams.

Down in SEC-land, Alabama remained unbeaten for the year handling Texas A&M easily 33-14. This was the 10th consecutive game for Alabama where they scored a defensive and/or a special teams’ TD. That is such a long streak that you can no longer ascribe it to “luck” unless you also admit that what appears to be “luck” is often the outcome of “planning and practice”. Alabama gained 285 yards rushing and averaged 5 yards per carry. They were clearly the better team here.

Auburn beat Arkansas 56-3. Here is what I said about that game in last week’s Mythical Picks:

“I like Auburn but I really wonder if they are 2-scores better than Arkansas. I’ll take Arkansas plus the points.”

My wonderment is over. Auburn was not 2-scores better than Arkansas, they were 8-scores better. Auburn had 632 yards offense and dominated every phase of the game. Arkansas had to punt 10 times here. The only Arkansas score was a 54-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining in the first half. Perhaps Auburn/Alabama will be a great way to end the regular season in the SEC this year?

Kentucky beat Mississippi St. 40-38. There was about as much joy in Starkeville on Saturday as there was in Mudville back when Casey took gas in the bottom of the ninth. A 50-yard field goal as time expired took Kentucky from losing to winning. Kentucky led 34-24 in the 4th quarter but surrendered that lead until the final seconds. Kentucky needs 2 more wins to be bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. Here is their schedule:

    At Missouri – underdog on the road but the game is winnable
    Vs. Georgia – underdog at home but the game is winnable
    At Tennessee – not much hope for this one
    Vs. Austin Peay – they have to win this game and they will
    At Louisville – Fuhgeddaboudit !!

I mentioned Missouri as this week’s opponent for Kentucky so let me remind you what Missouri did at home last week. It was Homecoming and they had scheduled a nice “Homecoming Opponent” in Middle Tennessee State. Then Missouri took the pipe and lost the game 51-45. Missouri ran 104 offensive plays and generated 629 yards on offense. That usually wins football games. The problem was that Missouri lost 2 fumbles (leading to 10 points for the opposition) and did not do much on defense allowing Middle Tennessee State to amass 584 yards offense of its own. Oh, and those 13 penalties for 125 yards walked off against Missouri did not help either.

LSU beat Ole Miss 38-21. Welcome back to the field, Leonard Fournette. After sitting out two games with an injury, he dominated the Ole Miss defense in this game. Check these stats:

    12 carries for 254 yards and 3 TDs

That is not a lot of work for a RB, but that is a lot of offensive output. LSU’s record now stands at 5-2 despite all the fussing and fuming in Baton Rouge earlier this year. However, the 4 opponents left for the Tigers are:

    Alabama – in Baton Rouge
    Arkansas – in Fayetteville
    Florida – in Baton Rouge (the postponed Hurricane Matthew game)
    Texas A&M – in College Station

LSU could win out – but it won’t be easy…

Way out west in the PAC-12, Colorado beat Stanford 10-5. The last time Colorado beat Stanford was in 1990. Colorado is bowl-eligible now and is not out of the running for the PAC-12 South Division title and a slot in the PAC-12 Championship Game. Coach Mike MacIntyre’s agent just might be fielding calls from ADs at some of the blue-blood schools that will be seeking coaches in the offseason such as USC, Texas, LSU, Notre Dame… Stanford turned the ball over 4 times in this game; Colorado seemingly tried to keep the game as close as possible by missing 3 field goals and having a TD called back for a penalty. Stanford has now lost 3 of their last 4 games and is not a shoo-in for bowl eligibility. Since September 24, Stanford has not scored more than 17 points in a game; over that 4-game span, they scored a total of 44 points – – 11 points per game.

Utah beat UCLA 52-45. Here is what I said about this game in last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks:

“Short and sweet here. I think the oddsmaker has it right with that Total Line; this will be a defensive game. Therefore, I’ll take Utah plus the points.”

Well, I got the game right in the end, but not for anything related to the reason I took Utah in the first place. That proves that it is better to be lucky than smart. The game started with Utah returning the opening kickoff for a TD and what followed was a “Points-a-Palooza”. Utah RB, Joe Williams, scored 3 TDs in the game on runs of 43 yards, 55 yards and 64 yards. He totaled 332 yards and 4 TDs on 29 carries. UCLA threw 4 INTs and lost a fumble in the game; nonetheless, they only lost by a TD. It was as if a Big-12 game broke out in Southern California…

Cal beat Oregon 52-49 – – but it took double OT for them to get to that score and to cover a Total Line that got all the way to 90 points by kickoff. Cal recorded 40 first downs and 640 yards in the game; Oregon had 27 first downs and 456 yards offense. Cal ran 118 offensive plays and Oregon ran 85. Fans got their money’s worth in Northern California for this game…

Washington remained unbeaten cruising to a win over Oregon State 41-17. The Huskies averaged 7.5 yards per offensive play and the outcome was never in doubt. The score at the half was 31-0.

Washington State beat Arizona State 37-32. Washington State had 398 yards passing in the game which is only slightly above the average yardage allowed by the Sun devils in a game (386.1 yards per game). And yes; that is the worst pass defense in the nation. It still appears as if the Apple Bowl game at the end of the season between Washington and Washington State will determine the PAC-12 North division winner.

This week’s slate of games has an interesting twist to it. As of today, there are still 9 undefeated teams in Division 1-A football. Two of those teams, Alabama and Western Michigan have BYE Weeks this week. Here is the schedule for the other 7 undefeated teams:

    Baylor (6-0) is AT Texas
    Boise St. (7-0) is AT Wyoming
    Clemson (7-0) is AT Florida State
    Michigan (7-0) is AT Michigan State
    Nebraska (7-0) is AT Wisconsin
    Washington (7-0) is AT Utah
    West Virginia (6-0) is AT Oklahoma State

That’s right; all seven of the undefeated teams playing this week are on the road. Even more interesting is the range of spreads on these games. Michigan is a Ponderosa Favorite on the road at Michigan State while Nebraska is an 8-point underdog at Wisconsin. Should be interesting …

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week there were 5 Ponderosa Games and – just as it was a bad week for Mythical Picking – it was a bad week for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering last week was 0-4-1. That brings the season record for favorites covering in Ponderosa games to 28-27-1.

Western Michigan was a PUSH.

Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma St. and Washington did not cover.

This week, there are 6 Ponderosa Games:

New Mexico State at Texas A&M – 44 (72): If the Aggies go by bus to get to this game, they will have to travel about 750 miles across some bleak parts of West Texas just for the opportunity to get a mud-hole stomped into their collective butt.

Kansas at Oklahoma – 40 (68): Hey, don’t blame OU for scheduling this one; it’s a conference game.

Louisville – 33 at Virginia (70): Hey, don’t blame Louisville for scheduling this one; it’s a conference game.

Northwestern at Ohio State – 27.5 (53.5): This spread opened the week at 21.5 points; it jumped to 24 points almost immediately and has climbed quickly to this level. One sportsbook has it at 28 points. Oh, and it is a conference game.

Rice at La Tech – 28.5 (72): Rice won its first game last week playing down a level against a Division 1-AA opponent. Welcome back to Division 1-A…

Michigan – 24.5 at Michigan St. (54): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. This too is a conference game… Remember, however how Michigan lost to Michigan St. last year and ask yourself if Jim Harbaugh has reminded his team of that disastrous ending to that game.

The SHOE Teams

The Watchlist of 16 teams has a few modifications this week based on play from last week and from a reader making me aware that I had completely ignored the poor play by San Jose St. I will just list the teams here in alphabetical order; the blanket assessment is that not one of them has earned “mediocrity” as a label.

    Bowling Green
    Florida Atlantic
    Fresno State
    Iowa State
    Kent State
    Oregon State
    San Jose State
    Texas State

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Navy at USF – 6.5 (64.5): I think both defenses can be exploited here and that both teams will move the ball efficiently and effectively. If Navy can win “Time of Possession” convincingly, they will win the game and may even cover. What I am more confident about is that there will be lots of scoring by both teams. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) Air Force – 14.5 at Fresno St. (54): Fresno will play its first game under its interim coach. The team played well – while losing – against San Diego St. and if the new guy can get the team excited to play, they might make this very interesting at home. Purely a hunch, I’ll take Fresno St. plus the points.

Army at Wake Forest – 7 (41): Low scoring game upcoming here. In low-scoring games, I generally like to take points. Ergo, I’ll take Army plus the points.

Minnesota – 9 at Illinois (no Total Line): I will not make a pick here but the game is of interest because Minnesota just squeaked by Rutgers last week in Minnesota with a field goal in the final seconds (see above). Two weeks ago, Illinois beat Rutgers handily at Rutgers. So, why is this a 2-score game in the spread? Illinois is a bad team; Minnesota is marginally better. I’ll just watch for the results to come in…

Texas Tech at TCU – 9.5 (86.5): Texas Tech is the second-highest scoring team in the country with the top-rated passing offense and the top-rated passing offense in the country. Nonetheless, Texas Tech is 3-4 for the year and its wins have been over unimpressive company:

    Stephen F. Austin (Div 1-AA) by 52 points
    La Tech by 14 points
    Kansas by 36 points

Not a lot of top-shelf opponent points in that mix. The TCU pass defense ranks 106th in the country so it would seem that Tech is destined to put points on the board in large quantity. I think the line is fat; I’ll take Texas Tech plus the points.

Penn State – 13 at Purdue (57): The $64,000 Question here is this:

    Can the Penn State coaches keep the players grounded after the amazingly emotional win over Ohio State in Beaver Stadium last week?

I think this will be a defensive game and I do not see where the 58th point will come from. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Clemson – 4.5 at Florida St. (60): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Florida St. had a BYE Week last week presumably used to get its defense right; there is plenty of physical talent there but the defense has taken lots of “time off” in games this year. Against Clemson, that would be fatal. Clemson allows only 166.1 yards per game passing and FSU’s QB is a freshman. Moreover, Clemson only allows 15.3 points per game. I think Clemson is too much here so I’ll take them to win and cover even on the road.

K-State – 6.5 at Iowa St. (50.5): Iowa St. is not very good on either offense or defense – but neither is K-State. My first reaction here would be to take the underdog at home but I just do not trust Iowa St. I do think that both teams can score on the opposing defenses. So, I’ll take the game to go OVER.

W. Virginia – 3.5 at Oklahoma St. (64.5): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. The West Virginia defense has made a believer out of me over the past couple of games. I think they are the better team here and I’ll take them to win and cover on the road.

Miami (FL) – 2 at Notre Dame (58): The spread opened with Notre Dame as the -1point favorite but it has flipped to this number. If you are old enough, you remember when a Miami/Notre Dame game had serious weight when it came to determining the National Champion for a season; often those games were referred to as Catholics vs. Convicts. That is not the case here; neither team will get a millisecond of consideration for the CFP. As noted above, Miami has lost 3 games in a row and has really looked discombobulated doing so. As lackluster as Notre Dame has looked this year – particularly on defense – I just cannot take Miami as a road favorite against anything other than a Sun Belt team. Purely a venue call, I’ll take Notre Dame plus the points.

Baylor – 3.5 at Texas (72): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Baylor had last week off and it seems as if the Baylor offense is getting back in gear about now. That means the Texas defense – such as it is – will be under duress and that means the Texas offense will have to play fast just to keep up. Texas ranks 94th in the country in Total Defense and Baylor ranks 16th. On the other side, Texas ranks 34th in the country in total offense whereas Baylor ranks 4th. All the signs point to Baylor here; I’ll take Baylor to win and cover.

Washington St. – 13 at Oregon St. (57): This Total Line opened the week at 65.5 points. The current line represents a huge line movement and it likely reflects the fact that Oregon St. will play without its starting QB in this game and possibly in all the games for the rest of the season. Oregon St. was a poor team with the starting QB; it just seems unlikely that they will improve with whoever comes in to play QB. What is interesting here is that while the Total Line was dropping, the spread was also dropping from 15.5 points last weekend to the current level here. I have no idea what that reflects so I’ll make no pick here but I will watch for the results.

Stanford – 6 at Arizona (49): Stanford’s offensive woes are outlined above. In Total Offense, Stanford ranks 128th – that is DEAD LAST – in the country with 299.1 yards per game. [The Cardinal scoring offense rating is slightly better at 126th in the country topping such powerhouse programs as Buffalo and South Carolina.] However, maybe the Arizona defense is coming to Stanford’s rescue. The Wildcats’ defense ranks 114th in the nation giving up 474.6 yards per game. I will refrain from a pick here but I want to see if Stanford can indeed move the ball and score on a mediocre-at-best Arizona defense.

Nebraska at Wisconsin – 9 (43): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Wisconsin has the better defense here (9th in the country giving up 300.6 yards per game) but the Nebraska defense is not chopped liver (21st in the country giving up 342.9 yards per game). On offense, Nebraska is averaging 10 more points per game than Wisconsin. I know that Wisconsin enjoys a big home field advantage but that line looks obese to me. I like Nebraska plus the points here.

Georgia “at” Florida – 7.5 (43) [Game is in Jax]: The spread opened at 5.5 points and shot up to this level quickly. Florida is a defense-driven team; that defense needs to stop the Georgia run game here. I think they can do that. Georgia’s QB, Jacob Eason, is a freshman and I do not think he is ready to beat a good Florida defense by throwing the ball a lot. I am certainly not enamored with the Florida offense but I think it is good enough – Florida scores an average of 30 points per game thanks to contributions from its defense and special teams – to beat a rebuilding Georgia team. I’ll take Florida and lay the points here.

Auburn – 4.5 at Ole Miss (63): Auburn is on a 4-game winning streak and Ole Miss has dropped 2 in a row. Of late, the Auburn offense has become a monster; early in the year it was a squeaky little mouse. Ole Miss does not win with its defense. I think the game sets up just right for Auburn. I’ll take Auburn to win and cover even on the road.

Boise St. – 13.5 at Wyoming (64.5): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. Wyoming brings a 5-2 record to this game with one of the wins over Air Force; moreover, Wyoming is undefeated in the MWC as is Boise St. obviously. I like the Boise St. defense to control this game so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Kentucky at Missouri – 6 (70): This game is interesting only because Kentucky needs a win somewhere to be in bowl-eligible mode. Both teams are bottom-feeders in the SEC. Do not wager on this game but watch for results to see if Kentucky can win an important game on the road. Oh, by the way, after losing last week at home for Homecoming, it may also be interesting to note if Missouri can beat a mediocre opponent at home.

Washington – 10.5 at Utah (54): This is one of the games with an undefeated team on the road this week. In fact, I think it is the Game of the Week. Washington has been dominating opponents this year. Except for a 7-point win over Arizona a month ago, Washington has won the other 6 games by 24 points or more. However, Utah brings a 7-1 record to this game and they have won games by slugging it out on defense and by playing helter-skelter games too (see above for last week’s UCLA game). Fortunately for me, this game will kick off at 6:30 Eastern Time meaning I will not have to stay up until 2:30 AM to see its conclusion. I like Utah at home plus that generous helping of points.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/30/16

For the second week in a row, I can say it was a great week of Mythical Picking for NFL games. I made 15 selections and the record for the week was 11-4-0. That stretches the season record to 68-39-2.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol was also on fire last week. I flipped the coins three times and the record was 3-0-0. That means that the coins are 7-6-0 for the season which is pretty much what you should expect from coin flipping.

The Best Picks of the week were:

    Chargers +6.5 against Falcons. Chargers won outright.
    Eagles +3 against Vikes. Eagles won by 11 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

    Packers/Bears OVER 45.5. Total score was 36 points.
    Titans -3 against Colts. Colts won straight up.

As they say in the ads for mutual funds and financial advisors, past performance is not guarantee of future performance. Therefore, notwithstanding two consecutive weeks of profitable picking, no one should use anything here as the basis for making a real wager on a real NFL game involving real money this weekend. Here is how stupid you would need to be to do something like that:

    You think resisting arrest means refusing to take a nap.

General Comments:

Don’t look now, but there is only one NFL Division where all four teams carry winning records as of this week. That would be:

    The NFC East.

This division was a joke last year; none of the teams were good; two of the teams were less than mediocre; two coaches lost jobs there. As of this morning, the team in last place would be the NY Giants with a 4-3 record.

The Bears and Packers opened last week’s games on Thursday night with a snooze-fest that ended 26-10 in favor of the Packers. Brian Hoyer broke his arm and Matt Barkley had to play QB for the Bears for more than half the game. He threw for 81 yards and 2 INTs. Meanwhile, the Packers had to play various WRs at RB because the only healthy one they had was a guy they got in a trade about 48 hours before game time.

The Giants beat the Rams 17-10 in London. This too was an unexciting event. If you woke up early just to see the game and came away happy, I have to think one of these two things apply:

    You are a lifelong NY Giants fan
    You bet the UNDER in the game.

The winning offense here saw Eli Manning throw for 196 yards in the game; also, the Giants’ leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, carried the ball 13 times for 25 yards. The losing offense was the result of a game plan that had Case Keenum drop back and throw the ball 53 times even though the Rams were never in “catch-up mode”. The people on the Rams’ offensive coaching staff who came up with that idea need to be demoted – now. And it is not as if Keenum was having a hot day; he threw 4 INTs in the game.

I mentioned Rashad Jennings’ meager rushing output above. It was not nearly the worst rushing performance of the day. That would come in the Ravens/Jets game – – won by the Jets 24-16. Ravens’ RB, Terrence West was the leading rusher for the Ravens; he carried the ball 8 times for a total of 10 yards. Indeed, he was the leading rusher for the Ravens because while he gained only 10 yards on the ground, the Ravens total rushing offense as a team was only 6 yards; everyone else ran for a combined minus-4 yards. The Ravens get this week off to figure out how to correct that. Also, please recall that the Ravens fired their offensive coordinator, Marc Tressman, and several people said it was because Tressman was too “pass-happy”. Maybe there was a reason he was “pass-happy”.

The Ravens led in this game 10-0 but they were shut out in the second half. After the BYE Week, they return to action against the Steelers, Browns, Cowboys and Bengals in that order. If they do not get things right, they could flush their season in those next 4 games.

Geno Smith did indeed start the game for the Jets and the stat sheet says he threw a long TD pass in the first half. Actually, he threw a short hook pass over the middle and the receiver avoided one tackle and then outran the defense for the rest of the play. That was Smith’s highlight for the day; soon after that he injured his knee and it turns out to be an ACL injury that will probably require surgery and the end to Smith’s season. He is a free-agent at the end of this year; my guess is that his agent will be making more calls on Smith’s behalf than he will be taking…

I mentioned last week that the Jets were right to start Geno Smith to see what they had on their roster in terms of quarterbacks for the future. Well, that issue continues to confront the Jets’ braintrust. I have no idea how either of their completely untested QBs looks in practice, but if neither sees the field this year, you can conclude that they are both as green as the Jets’ jerseys.

Speaking of a team with QB “issues”, the Niners lost badly again last week – – this time to the Bucs 34-17. The Niners led 14-0 in this game and then watched the Bucs score 27 points in a row. Colin Kaepernick has not done anything in his two starts that would lead anyone to conclude that he is any better than Blaine Gabbert was in this offensive system – – and Blaine Gabbert was simply bad. The “other QB” on the Niners’ roster is Christian Ponder; that is like taking the bridge to nowhere…

Having said all of that, the Niners’ problem is not their poor QB play – notwithstanding the fact that I am being kind in calling it merely “poor”. The Niners’ defense is a disaster. Consider:

    The Bucs gained 513 yards of offense last week.
    The Bucs ran for 249 yards last week
    The Bills ran for 313 yards two weeks ago

    The Niners give up an astounding 185.3 yards per game rushing
    The next worst rush defense so far this year gives up “only” 139.9 ypg.

    The Niners are giving up just over 31 points per game
    The Niners have given up 33+ points in 5 of their 7 games this year.

The Niners’ defense is putrid; interestingly, their “partners” in the Bay Area – the Raiders – have a defense that gives up even more yardage. The Niners yield 407.6 yards per game; the Raiders give up 430.4 yards per game. Are they conducting an informal “Race to the Bottom” in Northern California this year?

The Raiders won last week – easily – over the Jags by a score of 33-16. It may not have been that close. Jags’ QB, Blake Bortles threw 2 more INTs in this game and one of them was a pass intercepted in the end-zone when he threw into TRIPLE coverage. That may have been the worst decision made by any human since Shelley Long decided to leave Cheers.

Some are calling for Bortles to be benched. Here is the problem with that idea at this moment:

    Jags have a short week; they play Thursday Night this week.
    Jags’ backup is Chad Henne.
    “Bad Blake” Bortles is not that different from Chad Henne.

From the “When it rains it pours” file:

    Jags force a punt with a 4th and 24 situation.

    There is a bad snap from center so things are really looking up for the Jags

    Raiders’ punter retrieves the ball and runs for 29 yards and a first down.

Not only was the outcome of this game decided by halftime, it was a sloppy game. A total of 24 penalties were enforced in the game. To give you some perspective, the Jags were penalized for a total of 112 yards; the Jags gained a total of 105 yards rushing for the game.

The Raiders have 4 road games after long trips. They have won in Tennessee, New Orleans, Jax and Baltimore. They are staying in Florida this week to prepare to play the Bucs rather than taking two transcontinental flights before kickoff. We will see how that works out…

The Chiefs beat the Saints 27-21. Drew Brees was 37 for 48 for 367 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT – which turned into a Pick Six. That was fine and dandy; but, as usual, the Saints defense was a no-show. Alex Smith was a workmanlike 17 for 24 for 214 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs and Spencer Ware ran for 77 yards on 17 carries – – and he added another 54 yards plus a TD receiving. When the Saints looked as if they came to play, that seems to be the time when penalties hit the team; the Saints were penalized 10 times in the game and all of them were harmful.

The Chargers rallied in Atlanta to beat the Falcons in OT 33-30. The Falcons have lost 2 in a row and the Chargers have won 2 in a row. I said that the Chargers rallied in this game; they were down 17 points in the first half and were still down 10 points with about 7 minutes to play in regulation time. RB, Melvyn Gordon had a very good day carrying the ball for 68 yards and catching the ball for an additional 58 yards while he scored 3 TDs. Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn made a controversial decision in OT. With 4th and 1 at his own 45, he chose to go for it – and the Falcons did not make it. That set up the Chargers with a very short field to be in position to hit the winning field goal.

Quinn was in a “damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t” situation there. Had he punted and watched the defense allow the Chargers to score a winning field goal, there would have been cries that he should have been more aggressive. He took a chance and he missed. Sometimes, it just is not your day …

The Colts beat the Titans 34-26. The Colts built an 11-point lead in the 2nd quarter; then the Colts’ defense went to sleep and the Titans led by 3 with 6 minutes to go in the game. Fortunately, Andrew Luck was not asleep; he drove the Colts to a go-ahead TD which must have produced enough noise to wake up the defense because they got a Scoop-and-Score for an insurance TD immediately after and put the game on ice.

The Bengals beat the Browns 31-17. The Browns lost Cody Kessler to a concussion early in the game and Kevin Hogan – rookie from Stanford – came in to play QB. He played about the way you would expect a rookie who has not been taking many practice snaps to play. He threw for 100 yards and he threw 2 INTs. He did score a rushing TD and led the Browns in rushing (104 yards and 1 TD). Rookie QBs who run like that often do not evolve to be seasoned veteran QBs because rookie QBs who run like that often become injury victims.

The Lions beat the Skins 20-17 last week. With about a minute to play in the game, Kirk Cousins ran the read option, kept the ball and ran for a TD from 19 yards out. That put the Skins up 17-13 and all the Skins’ defense had to do was to keep the Lions out of the end zone for the final 1 minute and 5 seconds. Matthew Stafford drove the field – including a long scramble for a first down and finally hit Anquan Boldin for an 18-yard TD with 16 seconds on the clock. The final drive was 75 yards in 49 seconds; not a good showing by the Skins’ defense.

The Dolphins beat the Bills 28-25. That makes two wins in a row for the Dolphins as home underdogs; they beat the Steelers in Miami two weeks ago. Jay Ajayi ran for 200+ yards in a second consecutive game; only 4 RBs since the merger have done that and it is an impressive list:

    OJ Simpson
    Earl Campbell
    Ricky Williams

For a RB that was picked in the 5th round of the draft out of Boise St., that is a nice list to be on … LeSean McCoy had to leave the game in the second half due to a hamstring strain and that left the offense in the hands of Tyrod Taylor without a top-shelf run threat.

The Pats beat the Steelers 27-16. The biggest surprise for me was that Landry Jones did not stink out the joint. The Pats controlled most of the game but the potential for a major blowout never materialized.

The Broncos beat the Texans 27-9. This was a total domination by the Broncos’ defense. They only recorded 1 sack on Texans’’ QB, Brock Osweiler, but that is not the stat that tells the tale. Here is Osweiler’s stat line:

    22 for 41 for 131 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs

    That is 3.2 yards per pass attempt!

Meanwhile, CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker combined for 190 yards on the ground and each of them scored a TD.

I began this compilation of comments on last week’s games by citing the Bears/Packers and the Giants/Rams games as boring events. As a bookend, there are two other games from last weekend that could be categorized as sloppy/bad/off-putting – – or they could be praised as defensive gems. You can take your pick; I like defense…

The Eagles beat the previously unbeaten Vikes 21-10. A late TD by the Vikes in the final minute of the game makes the score look closer than it was. The Vikes had not thrown an INT in the first 5 games of the year and had only lost 1 fumble; last week they turned the ball over 4 times. Not to worry, though; the Eagles also turned the ball over 4 times. In fact, there were 5 turnovers by the two teams in the first quarter of the game. Some of that is sloppy football; some of that was very good defense. The Eagles’ front seven dominated the Vikes’ OL for most of the day; the Vikes only averaged 3.8 yards per offensive play. After the Vikes kicked a field goal to open the scoring, the Eagles returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD and never trailed after that.

In the Sunday night game, the Cards and the Seahawks played to a 6-6 tie after a fifth quarter of OT; it is the lowest scoring OT game in NFL history. Both teams saw their kickers miss easy field goals that would have won the game. The miss by the Seahawks’ kicker was so far left that even Elizabeth Warren criticized it. Because of the 8 turnovers in the Eagles/Vikes game, some might say the game was dominated by bad offense; in the Cards/Seahawks game, neither team turned the ball over even once in five quarters.

The Cards had the ball 18 minutes longer than the Seahawks in the game and ran up 186 more yards on offense; but when the Seahawks needed a big defensive stop, they got it. Neither team’s offensive line distinguished itself in this game.

The Seahawks now sit comfortably atop the NFC West with a 4-1-1 record; the Cards are in second place at 3-3-1. Both teams have identical division and conference records so the rematch between these squads in Seattle on Christmas Eve should have great bearing on which team will be the division champions.

The Games:

Six teams have this week off:

    Baltimore will try to find its offense – particularly its running game.

    LA will continue to play Where’s Waldo/ Where’s Jared Goff?

    Miami will give Jay Ajayi a well-deserved break.

    NY Giants will join Baltimore in looking for its running game.

    Pittsburgh will light candles in church for Ben Roethlisberger’ knee.

    SF will stink in silence.

(Thurs Nite) Jax at Tennessee – 3 (43.5): No suspense this week. The first game on the card is indeed the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. I have little to no interest here so I’ll turn this over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says take the Titans to win and cover at home. Who cares?

(Sun Morning) Washington vs. Cincy – 2.5 (47.5) [Game played in London]: The suits at the NFL have got to be hoping that these two teams put on a good show on Sunday. The first two of this year’s “London Games” were Jags/Colts (a brutally bad game) followed by the Giants/Rams last week (a snooze-o-rama). If the league is to continue to play to enthusiastic sell-out crowds there, they need to put on a decent game to watch at least once in a while… Both teams need a win here; the Bengals are one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North; the Skins have 2 more losses than the Cowboys in the NFC East. The Skins have 3 starting players who are dealing with injuries/concussion protocols; if none of them can play, the Skins will have a tough time matching up with the Bengals. In any event, these three Skins’ starters should not be at peak efficiency, so I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Green Bay at Atlanta – 3 (52): This was a contender for Game of the Week but did not make the final cut. The Falcons started off as world-beaters and have now lost 2 in a row; the Packers have been up and down all season long. The Packers trail the Vikes by a game in the NFC North while the Falcons are a half-game ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South. Each team can use a win; neither will see their season go up in flames with a loss. If you are a trend bettor, decipher these:

    Packers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 road games.
    Falcons are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 home games.

    Packers are on the road; Falcons are at home…

Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Falcons and lay the points.

Detroit at Houston – 2.5 (45): I am not a fan of the Lions on the road as a favorite. I am not a fan of the Texans’ offense. Coin Flip time !! The coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Seattle – 2.5 at New Orleans (48): The spread here opened at 3.5 points. Sportsbooks really do not like to take spreads across 3 points or 7 points because those are common margins of victory – – and that allows bettors to set up a middle which can drain the books’ profits. In this case, they took the spread across the 3-point mark very quickly meaning to me that a lot of the money went originally to the Saints at +3.5 points. Don’t look now; but if the Saints win here and the Falcons lose to the Packers (could happen) and the Bucs lose to the Raiders (could happen) all three teams would have 4 losses in the NFC South. I do not like the Saints’ defense even a little bit; in the NFC, only the Niners’ defense is worse. However, I am not in awe of the Seahawks’ offense either so I do not like the Seahawks in a shoot-out. Make this a venue call again; I’ll take the Saints plus the points.

New England – 6 at Buffalo (46.5): This is not the Game of the Week – – but it is the Revenge Game of the Week. The Bills beat the Pats in Foxboro a few weeks ago just before Tom Brady came back from suspension. I doubt that anyone would need to be convinced that Tom Brady at QB is significantly different from Jacoby Brisset at QB and that is the situation at hand here. Here is a particularly meaningless trend for this game:

    UNDER is 9-3 in Buffalo in the last 12 games in Week 8.

I’ll take the Pats and lay the points even on the road.

Jets – 3 at Cleveland (43): This spread opened at 4.5 points and has been moving steadily down all week long. The winless Browns might not be this short as an underdog again this year; as I look at their upcoming schedule, I am virtually certain they will never be favored in a game for the rest of the season. I agree with the oddsmakers here; this will be a low-scoring game so I will revert to my preference in such games and take the Browns plus the points. I do wish I had written these picks when the line was still at 4.5 points but there is no looking back…

Oakland at Tampa – 1.5 (49): The Raiders and the Broncos are tied for the lead in the AFC West and those two teams will meet next week for the first time. This game is important to the Raiders. The Bucs are “in the mix” in the NFC South simply because the Falcons have lost two in a row and because the Panthers have already lost 5 games. This game is important to the Bucs too. The Bucs’ offense should have a good showing against the porous – and that is a generous adjective here – defense put out by the Raiders. On the flip side, it is not clear how the Bucs will deal with a pair of wideouts of the caliber of Crabtree and Cooper at the same time. I think Oakland has at least an even chance to win outright, so I’ll take the Raiders plus the points.

KC – 2.5 at Indy (50.5): I like the Chiefs run offense against the Colts run defense here and I am confident that the Chiefs overall defense is better than the Colts’ defense. Andrew Luck will be the better QB on the field, but I think Alex Smith will be more than adequate against the Colts’ defense. I’ll take the Chiefs to win and cover here.

San Diego at Denver – 5.5 (45.5): This is not the Game of the Week nor is it the Revenge Game of the Week – – but it is a revenge game. The Chargers beat the Broncos two weeks ago in San Diego. The Broncos will be without CJ Anderson here putting the onus for the run game in the lap of rookie Devontae Booker. The Broncos are only giving up 175 yards per game passing so far this year; I doubt they will hold Philip Rivers to that number. The Chargers have held opponents to 90.1 yards per game rushing; with CJ Anderson on the shelf, they might do that here. Check out these contradictory trends for this game:

    Chargers are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 games on grass
    Broncos are 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 games on grass

    This game is on grass …

Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Chargers plus the points here.

Arizona at Carolina – 2.5 (47): These teams met in the NFC Championship Game last year on this field and the Panthers won in a laugher. Both teams have failed to perform in 2016 to the standard they set for themselves in 2015. The Panthers’ record is a dismal 1-5; yet, they are favorites here because the Cards no longer score points by the bushel; in fact, the Panthers have scored more points in 6 games than the Cards have scored in 7 games. The Panthers had last week off to figure out how to get back on a more positive heading for the rest of 2016; they should realize that a playoff berth means they need to go 9-1 for the rest of this year. With that realization, they do not want to “spend” that 1 remaining loss here. I’ll take the Panthers – in their desperation mode – to win and cover here.

(Sun Nite) Philly at Dallas – 4 (43): This is the Game of the Week; it has great significance to the standings in the NFC East; it has the great storyline involving rookie Carson Wentz vis a vis the two rookie sensations, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Here is the nub for the game:

    If the Eagles’ defense can keep Elliott from running wild, they are opportunistic enough on defense to force turnovers and that could win the game for the Eagles.

I do not think that is going to happen. I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the points here.

(Mon Nite) Minnesota – 4.5 at Chicago (40.5): The spread here opened at 6 points and dropped to this level quickly. Jay Cutler will be back at QB for the Bears after several weeks off with an injured thumb in his throwing hand. Jay Cutler may not be a likeable person and he is certainly not a “cerebral QB” by any stretch of the imagination. Having said all of that, he is a huge step up from Matt Barkley at QB. [Aside: I wonder if Charles Barkley would be a step up from Matt Barkley at QB. Hmm…] I think folks are over-reacting to the Vikes’ loss to the Eagles last week. They only gave up 21 points and 8 of them came on a kickoff return plus a 2-point conversion. The Vikes’ defense forced 4 turnovers. Yes, the Vikes lost last week and were not really in the game for all of the second half, but that is because the Eagles’ defense forced turnovers from the Vikes’ offense. That should not happen again here. I like the Vikes to win and cover here.

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

The Start Of The NBA Season

Unless you are a Cubs’ fan, Game 1 of the World Series was a good game to watch. Jon Lester pitched well; the combination of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller pitched excellently. It was good, sound, fundamental baseball on both sides all night long.

Joe Buck said during the game last night that Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez played against each other in high school. Wow! That must have been a top-shelf high school league/conference. It is a treat to watch either or both of those guys play the game.

With the NBA season underway, let me get a few NBA comments on the record here:

    1. The regular season in the NBA is always full of boring and meaningless games. This year will be even worse. The two best teams – the Cavs in the East and the Warriors in the West – are so much better than anyone else in their conferences that the season boils down to this:

      They will play 1230 regular season games to figure out which other teams will be in the playoffs in order to set up a Cavs/Warriors final series. Yes, I know the Warriors got beaten badly in their opener last night; that does not make the other 1229 regular season games any the more relevant.

    2. Out in Las Vegas last week, the odds on winning the NBA Championship were:

      Warriors minus-150
      Field +130.

    You could get plus odds” on the other 29 teams to win it all next June. Wake me when we get there…

    3. Out in Las Vegas last week, the odds that the Warriors would win the Pacific Division were 1-to-50. Seriously, I have witnesses who saw it on the board …

    4. The guys I feel sorry for are the beat writers and the columnists in NBA cities who will have to find ways to present some pretty obvious and tired storylines to local fans from now until sometime in April or June depending on how far in the playoffs the local side goes. In a sense, that means the writers in places like Philly or Brooklyn or Miami have it better than writers in some other cities. Their extended nightmare will be shorter.

The NBA allowed teams to sell promotion patches for the front of their uniforms this year. The Sacramento Kings will be sporting a 6.25 square inch logo for Blue Diamond Almonds. The terms of the deal were not announced, but I read one report that said it was a 3-year deal worth $5M per year to the Kings. I like Blue Diamond Almonds – particularly the smoked almonds – but I am mystified as to why anyone would think that putting that logo on a basketball jersey for a bad team is going to attract new consumers to the product. Obviously, someone in the almond marketing business thinks there is $15M of benefit to accrue from this exposure, but I don’t get it.

In another marketing/promotional deal that I do not understand at all, the NBA announced a few weeks ago that ExxonMobil is an “official marketing partner” of the NBA, the WNBA and the NBA D-League here in the US and in China. That makes Mobil 1 motor oil “the official motor oil of the NBA, the WNBA and the D-League here and in China. Pardon me, but what the Hell does that mean?

    If Adam Silver punches up his Uber app to get a ride across town, does he ask the driver who shows up what kind of motor oil is in the car before he gets in?

    When NBA teams fly from town to town, does the plane always use ExxonMobil aviation fuel?

    It must be comforting for folks in the corner offices at NBA Hqs to realize that the Kings no longer play in ARCO Arena. Think of the conflict of interest situations this new deal would present in that town…

Whenever deals like this are announced, there is always a high-fallutin’ statement offered as to why the new deal is the best thing ever. Naturally, that happened here too. Here is what an NBA Senior VP had to say on the matter:

“We are proud to partner with ExxonMobil, a distinguished global company and proven industry leader. The Mobil 1 brand is synonymous with technology leadership and outstanding performance, and we’re looking forward to bringing these shared values to life for our fans in two of our biggest markets.”

If you immediately asked yourself, “What?” “How?” “Why?” after reading that, join the crowd…

As is traditional, someone from ExxonMobil also had a chance to put together some random words designed to make normal people scratch their heads. In this case, it was a VP for marketing:

“By partnering with the NBA, ExxonMobil can engage consumers across the United States and China, also two of our largest markets, to extend our brands’ recognition, help reinforce our leadership position, and distinguish our products in today’s competitive global marketplace.”

To which I say, “Huh? If you say so …”

Here is what I think all of this comes down to:

    For the upcoming season – most of which will consist of unimportant and uninteresting games – you are going to see a lot of ExxonMobil signage and logos in NBA arenas and on NBA telecasts. Also, if you go to an Exxon gas station to fill up your car with gas, you will see NBA-themed signage. There will probably also be some sort of sweepstakes offered by ExxonMobil that will get “some lucky fan” tickets to the NBA Finals or to the NBA All-Star Game.

I’ll slow down here so you can catch your breath…

Finally, here is an NBA relevant comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson, who played only 36 games last season and has averaged 7.4 points in his career, said he threw up after hearing the team offered him $50 million. Tyler, that makes two of us.”

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

College Football Doings

The Big 12 Conference announced that it was not going to expand at this time – meaning they will not add 2 teams to put 12 teams in the conference. At the moment, there are only 10 teams but the conference has to be the Big 12 because the name “Big 10” is already taken – – by a conference that has 14 member institutions. Obviously, not enough student-athletes graduated with degrees in math to go to work in Athletic Departments to handle these arithmetic concepts for the moguls there.

I think the Big 12 is on a precipice; it is currently considered a major football conference based on the heritage from which it sprang. However, it needs to add quality to its roles because in recent years it has been losing teams:

    Arkansas – now in the SEC
    Colorado – now in the PAC-12
    Missouri – now in the SEC
    Nebraska – now in the Big 10
    Texas A&M – now in the SEC

There are two dominant programs in the Big 12 – – Oklahoma and Texas. As long as they stay in the conference and as long as both programs to not render themselves into oblivion, the Big 12 will command some national attention. However, if either of those schools were to leave for greener pastures, what would be left of the Big 12 would be a football conference that is not significantly more relevant than C-USA. I’d call it the Bog 12.

There were rumors and “reports” – all denied – that the major TV networks paid the Big 12 to decide not to expand. The presumed basis for such payments was that the networks had contracts with the other major conferences and were happy to maintain the status quo in college football for the time being. I strongly suspect that these rumors are pure balderdash; I hope those strong suspicions are not wishful thinking. The NCAA loves to talk about the “integrity of the games”; if those sorts of under-the-radar payments are going on, I am far more worried about “game integrity” now than I was prior to reading those “reports”.

I will not pretend to understand all the politics and economics that come into play with regard to the Big 12 and its member schools. I will say this however:

    Of the 5 most important football conferences in the country, the Big 12 is the least prestigious with the smallest national following. Moreover, the gap between the Big 12 and the other 4 important conferences is growing year by year.

In the last couple of weeks, two schools have fired their football coaches. I have no idea why those firings had to be done in mid-season as opposed to happening 3 minutes after the final whistle blew in the last game of the year. Neither school is going to “turn things around this year” and go to a bowl game thanks to the coaching change. I guess that these firings are symbolic acts to demonstrate the potency of the athletic departments and/or the big donors at those schools. If I am right, then those entities have demonstrated their power and their dominance. The question I would pose however is this:

    If you guys are so big and so tough and so smart, how did you let your precious football program get into this mess in the first place?

Purdue fired Coach Darrell Hazell. Look, Hazell had not been super-successful in his tenure at Purdue; I understand that. What I do not understand is what benefit Purdue hopes to reap from the mid-season separation. As of this morning, Purdue has a 3-4 record with wins over:

    E. Kentucky – Division 1-AA
    Nevada – not a good Division 1-A team at all
    Illinois – Big 10 bottom-feeder.

Purdue’s losses have been:

    Cincinnati – by 18 points
    Maryland – by 43 points
    Iowa by 14 points
    Nebraska by 13 points

If you find that unimpressive, consider that Hazell had been at Purdue for a while; this was his 4th year there. His record was 9-33 and he never won back-to-back games in his tenure. If I counted correctly, Purdue has gone 3-24 in conference games during his time there. So, that performance was OK all during the off season between 2015 and 2016 but suddenly became intolerable given the mediocrity that was evident on the field this year. Really?

The other mid-season firing was at Fresno St.; the school parted company with Coach Tim DeRuyter this week with the team record standing at 1-7. If that is all you look at, you might think this firing is not only justified but may have been late in coming. However, if you look a bit closer, you will see that DeRuyter took over the program for the 2012 season after the team went 4-9 the year before. He won 9 games in 2012 and then won 11 games in 2013. For the first two years at Fresno St., his teams went 20-6 and went to bowl games both years.

In 2014, the team just made bowl-eligibility and finished with a 6-8 record but things turned south in 2015 with a record of 3-9 and now this year’s 1-7 record. Overall, DeRuyter’s record at Fresno St was 30-30. The team cannot achieve bowl-eligibility in 2016; once again, I do not see the purpose or the urgency of a mid-season termination.

Finally, here is a news item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that may give you an incentive to save your pennies:

“Ferrari claims it’s coming out with the fastest convertible ever.

“No word about top-end speed, but your wallet goes from $2.2 million to zero in just 3.5 seconds.”

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

Miscellany Today …

I want to use today to clean up some items from my clipboard. Before I get to that, however, I want to note that the World Series must produce a champion for a fanbase that has waited a LONG time between championships. If your favorite team is not participating, check the Series out anyway. It will be good to see the reactions of the winning fans – and given the way both teams have been playing, it ought to be a really good bunch of baseball games.

A couple of weeks ago, I posed the question as to when NFL on-field celebrations started on the road to “jackassery”. I suggested Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and Harold Carmichael as early proponents of such behavior. I got an e-mail from the reader in Houston who is a sports historian/stat guru extraordinaire. Here is what he provided:

Wide receiver, Homer Jones, of the Giants was the first player to ever spike the ball (1965). That was in a game vs. Philly at Yankee Stadium and can be considered the first end-zone “celebration”. Following the 1964 season, the NFL had imposed a $500 fine (today, it’s $5,787 for the first offense), if a player threw the football into the stands after scoring a touchdown. So when Jones caught his first TD, a long TD pass from Earl Morrall, he was ready to throw the ball into the stands, but because of the $500 fine (Jones was making $10,000 at the time), he thought twice about it and instead threw the ball down into the end zone. It was a short, almost back-handed throwdown – not the mega-spike we’re used to seeing. He called it “The Spike” when asked about it by a reporter and the name was born. He continued “spiking” the ball over his career on each of his ensuing 35 TD catches and one rushing TD. Other players started to copy it.

As far as dancing in the end zone is concerned, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson is given most of the credit for that. Johnson was already known for his flamboyance, as he got his nickname by dyeing his football spikes while in high school and college.

But it was actually my fellow Houstonian, KC wide receiver Elmo Wright, who began the practice of “high-stepping” into the end zone at the end of long touchdown receptions. He did it at the University of Houston and then in his rookie year, he first did it in a game vs. the Redskins. While this was no comparison to the antics later displayed by such famed celebrators as Johnson, Ickey Woods, Jamal Anderson, Terrell Owens, etc., it was sort of shocking at the time and was made famous by NFL Films highlights. After seeing Wright do his thing in the end zone, Johnson got the idea for his “Funky Chicken” dance and did so for the first time in a game as a rookie vs. the Steelers in 1974. The rest is history.

So, now we all know…

There is another NFL-related item on my clipboard. Yesterday, the Giants and Rams played the second of three regular season games in London. The venue was Twickenham – which is a rugby pitch and not a soccer pitch; the stadium seats 82,000 and it looked awfully full to me. The game started at 9:30 AM Eastern Time – that would be 6:30 in Las Vegas. You just know that had to have a chilling effect on the number of people watching that game. Nevertheless, the NFL is persistent in playing games there and it has an agreement to play a game in the new stadium being built for the Tottenham Hotspurs in London starting in 2018. I know more than a couple of NFL fans who believe that these “London Games” have gone past their “sell-by date” but the NFL obviously disagrees. I think there are two reasons why:

    1. The NFL revenues in 2016 are projected to be in the neighborhood of $15B and the long-term goal for the league is revenue of $25B in 2025. I am not sure the NFL can squeeze another $10B per year out of the US market alone so “international revenue” is an important component of achieving that goal. As I said, that large stadium looked full to me. I read one report that said more than 30,000 fans in Britain bought tickets to all three of this year’s “London Games”; that has to be more than encouraging for the finance folks at the NFL. Reinforcing the league’s focus on the potential for foreign revenues, there will be a game in Mexico City later this year. When they put tickets there on sale, reports said that the stadium sold out in less than an hour.

    2. The players cannot hate this. If they did, they would have started to leak stories about how awful it is to go there to play so that it might become a bargaining chip in the next CBA negotiations. Fans can imagine that players/coaches do not like their routines to be jostled or that traveling across the pond produces too many dreaded “distractions”; but if these were burning issues, I would expect to have heard things by now related to how to cut down the number of these trips. I have not heard/read any such thing…

Oh, by the way, another reason the players and the NFLPA ought to like “London Games” is that if they succeed in goosing revenue up, that means there is more money to share with the players because that means the salary cap goes up too …

One more NFL-related note… The saga of spousal abuse by NFL players came back to center stage recently in the Josh Brown Matter. Obviously, the NFL did not learn much from the bungling that it exhibited in the Ray Rice Affair. In the aftermath of that debacle, the NFL instituted a policy that set 6 games as the benchmark suspension for spousal abuse/assault and battery/etc. To my knowledge, they have yet to impose a 6-game ban in any case because they always seem to find “mitigating circumstances’. Brown was suspended for one game earlier this year; more evidence came to light recently that indicates his abusive behavior was worse than understood at that time; now he is suspended with pay until the league figures out how to remove their collective heads from their collective asses.

    [Aside: Replace the recently released police reports in this case with the “discovery” of the elevator video in the Ray Rice Affair and you will see a strikingly parallel set of events here.]

However, the telling thing to me about this matter is what it says about Greg Hardy. Reports now say he will move on to participate in MMA because he has had no offers from NFL teams. If those reports are true, how toxic must he be to the 32 folks who own NFL franchises? Hardy is a pass-rusher and a good one; he may not be the best one in the league, but on physical talent alone, he could probably start for at least half the clubs in the NFL. Pass-rushers are valued commodities. Nevertheless, no team wants him on the roster let alone on the field… I have two comments about that situation:

    1. There is probably more information related to the various allegations levelled against Greg Hardy than has been made public but at least some of that is known to the NFL and the owners.

    2. The fact that no team has made him an offer of employment – in the form of a tryout – smells like “collusion” to me. Yet, the NFLPA has been silent on that matter. I wonder if the NFLPA folks also have some insights that the public does not have …

Finally, since I discussed the “exporting” of American Football to London above, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding a niche sport in Europe:

“And finally: There is an actual sport in Europe called shin kicking. If this is your country’s national pastime, I’m thinking your country has some issues.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 10/22/16

The best word I can think of to describe last week’s NCAA Mythical Picks is “Meh!” I made 16 picks; the record for the week was 8-8-0. Meh! That brings the season record to 63-49-0.

The Best Picks of the week were:

    Arkansas +7.5 against Ole Miss. Arkansas won outright by 4 points
    UNC + 7 against Miami (FL). UNC won outright by 7 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

    Iowa St./Texas OVER 69. The Total Score was only 33.
    Stanford/Notre Dame OVER 54. The Total Score was only 27.

Last week’s results ought not to entice anyone to be confident that this week’s picks will be anything special. However, in case anyone is new to the party here, let me offer this disclaimer. No one should use anything written here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real college football game this weekend – or any other weekend for that matter. How dumb would you have to be to do such a thing?

    Let’s just say you will never be in danger of throwing your back out because it is forced to carry the weight of your brain.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their season record to 4-1 last week with a 40-0 shutout win over Willamette. That means Linfield is one more victory away from having its 61st consecutive winning season in football. In Division III, Linfield plays a 9-game regular season schedule.

This week, the Wildcats will travel east to take on the Pirates of Whitworth University. The Pirates bring a 5-1 record to the field – including a 5-game winning streak. Only once this year has Whitworth failed to score 45 points in a game. Meanwhile, Linfield has only given up 11.6 points per game this year. Go Wildcats!

Eastern Washington had last week off, so there are no Cooper Kupp exploits to document here. This week, the Eagles go to Bozeman, MT to take on the Montana St. Bobcats. Go Eagles!

North Dakota St. had gotten a lot of attention recently given its status as a Division 1-AA team. Carson Wentz went overall #2 in the NFL Draft a few months ago and North Dakota St. began this season with an upset win over Iowa. However, last weekend, North Dakota State fell to South Dakota St. by a score of 19-17 on the final play of the game. If I counted correctly, that is only the 5th loss for N. Dakota St. in the last 6 seasons.

In non-conference action last week, Stanford rallied to beat Notre Dame 17-10 after the Irish led 10-0 at the half. It was not an offensive explosion by Stanford that won the game; they scored their 17 points on a Pick Six, a safety, a fumble recovered in the end zone and a 2-point conversion.

    The good news for Notre Dame is that the defense finally played a good game.

    The bad news for Notre Dame is that their record now stands at 2-5.

BYU prevailed over Mississippi St. 28-21 in double overtime. The game was about as even as the score – and duration – would indicate:

    Total offense BYU = 314 yards
    Total offense Miss St. = 392 yards
    Turnovers BYU = 2
    Turnovers Miss St. = 2
    Third down conversions BYU = 9 for 17
    Third down conversions Miss St. = 8 for 19

Down in SEC country, Vandy upset Georgia 17-16. This does not happen all that often; Georgia leads this rivalry 55-20-2. Since 2000, the Bulldogs record in this series is 14-3. I mention those stats to set up this rhetorical question:

    Might we add Georgia to the list of schools that fired a pretty good coach simply because the alums and boosters have a higher expectation for the football program than is deserved?

Alabama beat Tennessee 49-10. Tennessee is improved over last year and was better last year than the year before that. Having said that, the score of this game fairly represents the difference between these two teams. Tennessee was simply out-classed…

Florida handled Missouri 40-14. The Gators have 1 loss this year – to Tennessee. However, if Florida can “run the table” they will finish first in the SEC East because Tennessee has 2 conference losses. Let me just say that Florida does not have an easy row to hoe:

    Oct 29: vs. Georgia (in Jax for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party)
    Nov 5: at Arkansas
    Nov 12: vs S. Carolina
    Nov 19: at LSU (make-up of game postponed by Hurricane Matthew)
    Nov 26: at Florida State (not a conference game)

Arkansas beat Ole Miss 34-30. Ole Miss trailed 17-6 in the first half but rallied to take the lead at 30-27 with about 9 minutes to play in the game. Arkansas iced the game with a TD around the 2-minute mark.

In Big 10 action, let me start at the bottom. Illinois beat Rutgers at Rutgers by 17 points. Unequivocally, Illinois is not a good team; that statement tells you something important about the Rutgers team. Let me do a bit of foreshadowing here:

    You will encounter Rutgers later on when I present the first look at candidates for the SHOE Tournament.

Iowa beat Purdue 49-35. Iowa dominated the first half and led 35-7 at halftime. Then they went to sleep in the second half but Purdue could not make up the 28-point hole they had dug for themselves. This game was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Purdue; they fired their head coach the day after the game.

Nebraska beat Indiana 27-22. Nebraska dominated the game early on and then seemed to take its foot off the gas. Nebraska is now 6-0 for the year and it has been 15 years since the Huskers have opened a season with 6 straight wins.

Northwestern beat Michigan St. 54-40. Who saw that coming? I certainly did not. In fact, it might be one of the most surprising scores of the year. Earlier this year, Northwestern lost to W. Michigan (from the MAC) and also to Illinois St. (Division 1-AA). Moreover, in the loss to Illinois St., Northwestern only scored 7 points. Now in the last two games, Northwestern has beaten Iowa and Michigan St and scored a total of 92 points in those 2 games. This was the 4th loss in a row for Michigan St.; the last time that happened was back in 2006.

Ohio State needed OT to beat Wisconsin 30-23. This was a heavyweight game and it lived up to its advance billing. Wisconsin led 16-6 at the half but Ohio State rallied in the second half to force overtime. The two QBs had almost identical stats:

    JT Barrett was 17 for 29 for 226 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
    Alex Hornibrook was 16 for 28 for 214 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

The running game for the two QBs was a different story. Barrett ran for 92 yards and 2 TDs while Hornibrook ran for minus-34 yards for the game. Wisconsin has now lost two games this year both by 7 points to Ohio State and to Michigan. Recall that Wisconsin also played LSU earlier this year and beat LSU. The Badgers are probably the best 2-loss team in the country.

In ACC action, Louisville beat Duke 24-14. Frankly, it was a lackluster performance by Louisville with far less “excitement” provided from Lamar Jackson than anticipated. Yes, he produced a tad over 300 yards in the game which is laudable indeed; however, he has been producing 400+ yards in games almost routinely this year. The Duke defense kept him well below that sort of output.

Meanwhile, Clemson beat North Carolina St. 24-17 in OT. If you want to see a lackluster performance by an entire team, go check out the replay and watch Clemson. This is not what a “Top 5” team is supposed to look like. Both teams had the same average yards per offensive play (5.6 yards per snap). NC State does not have a “Top 5” offense or defense. Clemson turned the ball over 4 times in the game.

Florida St. beat Wake Forest 17-6. I am not all that surprised that the Seminoles held Wake Forest to less than 10 points; I am surprised that the Seminoles only scored 17 points.

UNC beat Miami (FL) 20-13. UNC is 5-2 and it would not be shocking to see them win 9 games this year. Their losses have been to Georgia and to Va Tech – in a Hurricane Matthew game that should never have been played. I do not know if the Tar Heels will win out, but all of the remaining 5 games are winnable:

    At Virginia
    Home against Georgia Tech
    At Duke
    Home against The Citadel
    Home against NC State.

Out there in Big 12 country, Oklahoma beat K-State 38-17. I did not expect K-state to win this game but I also did not expect them to lose by 3 TDs. Oklahoma racked up 510 yards on offense for the day as compared to only 353 for K-State.

West Virginia beat Texas Tech 48-17. So where did West Virginia find a defense all of a sudden? The Mountaineers held Texas Tech to 1.3 yards per rushing attempt for this game.

Baylor beat Kansas 49-7. The score was 42-0 at the half and then Baylor called off the dogs. If Art Briles were still at Baylor, he would not have stopped until Baylor was in the mid-70s…

Texas beat Iowa St. 27-6. Someone must have found a way to take the Ambien out of the drinking water in the Longhorns’ defensive meeting room; the defense actually showed up and played well here. The Iowa St. offense has been decent this year and they had averaged 39 points per game over the 3-game stretch leading up to this one. Iowa St. led 6-3 at the half and Texas had lost 14 straight game when they trailed at halftime. However, this time Texas scored 21 points in the 3rd quarter and the defense pitched a shutout for the 2nd half and the Longhorns won the game. As a measure of the quality of the Texas defensive play here, consider that they held Iowa St. to 280 yards’ offense on 77 offensive plays. That is a meager 3.6 yards per play.

In PAC-12 action last week, USC clobbered Arizona by a score of 48-14. It was 34-0 at the half. This game was no contest…

Colorado beat Arizona St. 40-16 last week. It was not a joyous weekend of college football for fans in Arizona. The rushing stats and the total offense stats tell the story of this game:

    Ariz St. ran 28 times for 50 yards
    Colorado ran 52 times for 315 yards

    Ariz St had total offense of 199 yards
    Colorado had total offense of 580 yards.

I believe Colorado is 7-0 against the spread this year meaning there are some happy alums and boosters in and around Boulder CO…

Utah beat Oregon St. 19-14. This game should be held up as a monument to offensive ineptitude. Consider:

    Oregon St. had 7 first downs
    Utah had 12 first downs

    Oregon St. was 0 for 9 on third downs
    Utah was 4 for 10 on third downs

    Oregon St had total offense of 155 yards
    Utah had total offense of 239 yards

    Oregon St. ran 36 offensive plays
    Utah ran 48 offensive plays

      [Aside: Lots of teams run 75 plays in a game routinely and some run as many as 90 plays in a game.]

    Oregon State passing offense was 1 for 14 for a total of 1 yard for the game.

Washington St. beat UCLA 27-21. The stats for the game were pretty much even; the only discrepancy was that UCLA turned the ball over 4 times and Washington St. turned it over only twice. Washington St. is 3-0 in PAC-12 games; their 2 losses for the season came in Weeks 1 and 2 when they lost to E. Washington (Division 1-AA) and Boise St. Since then, they have been perfect.

Washington St. kicked a field goal in the first quarter of this game. Why is that interesting? Well, this is the 6th game of the year for Washington St. and this is their first field goal of the year.

UCLA simply cannot run the ball. In this game, they had 25 rushing attempts that gained 43 yards. For the season, UCLA ranks 126th (out of 128 teams) in the country in rushing offense; they average 91.1 yards per game and a mere 2.81 yards per attempt.

Va Tech has a freshman WR named Divine Deablo. Anyone hear old enough to remember The Clovers’ song from the 1950s, Devil or Angel? Just wondering …

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 5 Ponderosa Games. The record for favorites covering in those games was 2-3-0 bringing the cumulative record for favorites covering to 28-23-0.

Baylor and LSU covered.

Boise St., Louisville and Toledo did not cover.

This week we have 5 Ponderosa Games:

E. Michigan at W. Michigan – 24 (58.8): The Total Line opened at 64.5 and has been dropping steadily all week. I presume that this game is a big deal in Michigan and that this is some sort of a rivalry about which I know nothing. To me this is a Ho-Hum Hoedown.

Purdue at Nebraska – 24 (62): Purdue changed coaches; that changes everything. Unless it doesn’t…

Oklahoma St. – 24 at Kansas (61): The student body at Kansas ought to “storm the field” if Kansas loses by only a TD…

Illinois at Michigan – 39 (57): Remember what I said about Illinois above. They are not a good team and Jim Harbaugh has no history of easing up in the midst of a blowout.

Oregon St. at Washington – 36.5 (53): The Total Line opened here at 60 and has dropped a full touchdown’s worth of points in 4 days. Wow!

The SHOE Teams:

The college football season is half over. I believe we now have sufficient evidence to begin the winnowing process to identify the 8 worst teams in the country that would play in my SHOE Tournament if the SHOE Tournament were a real thing. Recall, the idea is to put really bad teams on the field and the losers have to continue to play until there is a single loser identified as the SHOE Team for 2016. I will present 16 teams on my radar at the moment in alphabetical order lest anyone think there is some sort of hierarchy going on here.

    Bowling Green: They have 1 win on the year over North Dakota (Division 1-AA) and a 75-point loss to Memphis on the books.

    Buffalo: They have 1 win on the year but they also have a loss to Albany (Division 1-AA) and 4 double-digit losses.

    Florida Atlantic: They have 1 win on the year over S. Illinois (Division 1-AA). They have losses to FIU and UNC-Charlotte

    Florida Int’l: They have 3 wins on the year but all have come over teams that are on this list.

    Georgia St.: They have 1 win on the year and it was over Texas St. – a team on this list.

    Kansas: They have 1 win on the year and are a Ponderosa underdog again this week.

    Kent St.: They have 2 wins on the year but they lost to Miami (Oh) and to North Carolina A&T (Division 1-AA).

    Miami (Oh): They have 1 win on the year and they have a game upcoming against Bowling Green. What a stinker that one will be.

    New Mexico St: They have 2 wins on the year; the one against New Mexico might take them off this list. However, that loss to UTEP, on the other hand…

    Northern Illinois: They have 1 win on the year and it was against Ball St. Buffalo and Bowling Green are their next two opponents.

    Rice: They are the only team without a win; they have to be on this list now. They play a Div. 1-AA team this week. A loss there may cement them on this list.

    Rutgers: Yes, they have a win. They also have two losses this year each by more than 70 points.

    Texas St.: They have 2 wins on the year – over Ohio U and Incarnate Word (Division 1-AA). They have a date with N. Mex St. down the road.

    UMass: They have 1 win on the year over Florida International. In all the other games the closest they have been was 12 points.

    UTEP: They have 1 win on the year over New Mexico St. They lost to FIU by 2 TDs.

    UNC-Charlotte: They have 2 wins on the season – one over Florida Atlantic and the other over Elon Phoenix (Division 1-AA).

This is a fluid list; it will change from week to week and will be pared down as we get into November.

Stay tuned…

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Oregon at Cal – 3 (89): The Total Line opened in rarefied air at 83.5 points and has gone up from there; two sportsbooks have the number at 89.5 points. Defensive coordinators all around the country weep when they think about this sort of game. No pick here – but the game is interesting and it has a counterpart on Saturday afternoon… Just to give you an idea how b ad these defenses are:

    Cal is 121st in the country in total defense allowing 494.7 yards per game
    Oregon is 127th in the country allowing 522.3 yards per game.

    Cal is 123rd in the country in scoring defense allowing 40.0 points per game
    Oregon is 125th allowing 41.8 points per game.

    Remember, there are only 128 Division 1-A schools …

Syracuse at BC – 4 (50): The preferred styles could not be more different here. Syracuse wants to play faster than up-tempo and wants to throw the ball all over the place. BC would be happy to slug it out on the ground, play defense and win the game 10-7. The team that is able to play in its preferred mode should win. The contrast makes the game interesting – but not so much that I would want to bet on it.

Rutgers at Minnesota – 18.5 (44.5): The spread for this game opened at 21 points and has dropped to this level. That means that there are folks out there betting real money on Rutgers. I know that Minnesota is a plodding team but why would anyone want to bet on Rutgers?

TCU at West Virginia – 6 (65): West Virginia shut down the Texas Tech offense last week (see above). I wonder if they can do that again to an offense ranked 9th in the country that is far more balanced than Texas Tech. This year did not produce a vintage TCU defense; it gives up- 434 yards per game. I expect a lot of scoring here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Indiana at Northwestern – 2.5 (52.5): Indiana has lost 3 games this year; the ones to Ohio State and Nebraska were to be expected but Ohio State did not cover against them and Nebraska only won by 5 points last week. Their earlier loss to Wake Forest was not nearly as noble an effort. Northwestern’s offense exploded in the last two games after meager out puts in the first 4 games this season. I think both teams will score here so I’ll take this game to go OVER.

Wisconsin – 4 at Iowa (42): This game will resemble a heavyweight boxing match confined to a coat closet. When I saw this was the matchup on this week’s card, I immediately thought that I would take the UNDER – – until I saw how low the Total Line is. I like the way Wisconsin has fought in its two losses to Michigan and Ohio State; I like the way Iowa rebounded from what had to be an embarrassing loss to North Dakota State. Make this a venue call for the underdog at home. I’ll take Iowa plus the points.

UNC – 9 at Virginia (69): I do not understand this line at all. I think UNC is a much better team than Virginia and I am not aware that playing games in Charlottesville is a rip-roaring home field advantage. UNC has 3 conference wins over Pitt, Florida State and Miami (FL); it has 1 conference loss to Va Tech in a monsoon. I do not think Virginia can keep pace here. I’ll take UNC to win and cover.

NC State at Louisville – 19.5 (65): Will the real NC State football team please stand up? Last week, NC State lost to Clemson by a TD; earlier this year, NC State lost to E. Carolina. I choose to believe that NC State has figured out how to put its pieces together so they work well together. That means I think they can stay close to Louisville – as they did with Clemson last week – and that their defense can keep Louisville from running wild. I’ll take NC State plus the points and I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Washington St. – 7 at Arizona St. (64): The Total Line for this game opened at 70 points and plummeted to this level. Arizona St. ranks dead last in Division 1-A football in pass defense; they allow 384.4 yards per game. Just to be clear; that is a lot of yards given up. Washington State gives up 278.2 yards per game in the air. That is not great by any means, but it is 106 fewer yards than Arizona St. Both teams are statistically better against the run – but perhaps that is because it is so easy to throw the ball against them. I think Washington State is the better team so I’ll take them to win and cover – even on the road.

Oklahoma – 13.5 at Texas Tech (84): The Total Line opened at 87 and has dropped to this level – – sort of the mirror-image of the Oregon/Cal line move noted above. Tech struggled to score last week against a West Virginia defense that was “suspect” going into the game. Oklahoma’s defense is statistically what West Virginia’s is:

    West Virginia is 70th in the country giving up 410.6 yards per game.
    Oklahoma is 73rd in the country giving up 412.8 yards per game.

If Texas Tech struggles to score again this week, they will be trounced because I cannot see the Tech defense rising up to win the game on its own. I like Oklahoma to win and cover here.

Memphis – 2.5 at Navy (57): Navy had a BYE Week last week after beating Houston 2 weeks ago. If they can perform at that level, they will squash Memphis. The oddsmakers do not think that is a likely event – and neither do I. The game is interesting because all 3 of the Service Academies have 4 wins on the year and all could be bowl eligible this year; that is not a common occurrence. I have no pick in this game but it is a game of interest.

Texas at K-State – 2.5 (54): The Total Line here opened at 60 points. The K-State QB was injured in the game against Oklahoma last week; the drop in the Total Line suggests that if he does play here it will not be at “peak efficiency”. The real question mark in this game is the Texas defense. It actually played well last week, but that was the first time it did that against a team not on the SHOE Tournament watch list above. Has the Texas defense finally gotten its act together? Purely a hunch here, I’ll take Texas plus the points.

Colorado at Stanford – 2 (49.5): I do not understand this line at all. Colorado has the 14th ranked defense in the country giving up only 314.1 yards per game. The Stanford defense gives up 50 more yards per game. Stanford has not shown much on offense all season. Their highest point output was 27 points back in Week 2. I realize this game is in Northern California, but I think Colorado is the better team and I think they will win the game. I’ll take Colorado plus the points.

Michigan St. – 3 at Maryland (51.5): Michigan St. is on a 4-game losing streak and it has soiled itself in 3 of those losses. Maryland won its first 4 games – against a marshmallow-soft schedule – and has lost its last 2 games by 3 TDs each to Penn State and Minnesota neither of which is to be confused with any of the “Top 25”. Neither team here is the “dregs of the Big 10” so long as Rutgers, Purdue and Illinois are around. However, one of these teams will leave this game with its tail between its legs. No wagering here; just interesting to see which team steps up and which team steps down…

Utah at UCLA – 7 (46.5): Short and sweet here. I think the oddsmaker has it right with that Total Line; this will be a defensive game. Therefore, I’ll take Utah plus the points.

Ole Miss at LSU – 6.5 (60.5): Since the departure of Les Miles, LSU seemingly has cast off whatever shackles there were on its offense. Ole Miss has not had anything resembling shackles on its offense. I think the last team with the ball could be the winner here. I’ll take Ole Miss plus the points.

Arkansas at Auburn – 10 (56): I like Auburn but I really wonder if they are 2-scores better than Arkansas. I’ll take Arkansas plus the points.

Ohio St. – 19 at Penn St. (57): Penn St. had a BYE Week to prep for this game. I just do not think they have the horses to hang with Ohio St. – even at home in front of 100,000+ partisans. It is a big spread – not quite a “Ponderosa” – but I think Ohio St will win and cover.

Texas A&M at Alabama – 18 (58.5): This is the Game of the Week. I do not think Texas A&M is going to beat Alabama in Alabama but I think that line is fatter than Sally Struthers after a week in an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’ll take the Aggies plus the points.

La-Lafayette – 6 at Texas St. (66): This game has SHOE Tournament implications for both teams…

Ohio – 3.5 at Kent (46): This game has SHOE Tournament implications for both teams…

Miami (Oh) at Bowling Green – 4.5 (50): Both of these teams are on the SHOE Tournament “watchlist” above.

Prairie View A&M at Rice (no lines): Prairie View A&M is a Division 1-AA team with a 4-2 record. Rice is a Division 1-A team with no wins for the year. The SHOE Tournament Selection Committee (me) will check this one out carefully…

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 10/23/16

To appropriate the Dan Patrick/Keith Olbermann line from SportsCenter many years ago, last week’s NFL Mythical Picks were en fuego. I made 16 picks; the record for the week was 12-3-1. That brings the season record for NFL Mythical Picks to 57-35-2.

I was not assisted in the least last week by the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin went 0-2-0 dropping the coin below the 50% mark for the season at 4-6-0.

The Best Picks of the week were:

    Dolphins +8.5 against Steelers. Dolphins won outright by 15 points.
    Cowboys +4 against Packers. Cowboys won outright by 14 points.

The Worst Picks of the week were:

    Jags/Bears OVER 46.5. Total Score was 33 points.
    Panthers/Saints UNDER 53. Total Score was 79 points.

Notwithstanding the success from last week, no one should take anything written here as sufficiently insightful or authoritative as to be worthy of being the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. Here is how dumb you would have to be to do that:

    You think jumping to conclusions and pushing your luck is a great aerobic workout.

General Comments:

Last week was not a good week to be a fan of AFC North teams. Every one of them lost and two of the four teams – Steelers and Bengals – lost by 2 TDs or more. The division as a whole has a losing record and for those fans who say that the feckless Cleveland Browns are the reason for that bad division record, take a look at the standings. The Bengals, Ravens and Steelers are a combined 9-9 for the season.

The Steelers got some really bad news last Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger had to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee. Reports say he will be out 4-6 weeks. That seems like an awfully short rehab period based on what I have seen after various friends of mine underwent the same sort of surgery. Then again, those friends are not in their 30s and are not professional athletes…

In any event, even if Roethlisberger can be back to play at something near his normal level of proficiency in 4 weeks, that will leave the Steelers to face this schedule with Landry Jones and/or Zach Mettenberger at the wheel:

    Oct 23: Patriots in Pittsburgh
    Oct 30: BYE Week
    Nov 6: Ravens at Baltimore
    Nov 13: Cowboys in Pittsburgh

Remember, that assumes Roethlisberger is back at the early end of the estimate …

Another team with a “Quarterback Situation” – a team that seems always to have a “Quarterback Situation” – is the NY Jets. Just after last week’s embarrassing loss to the Cards, coach Todd Bowles said that Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the starter this week even though he had been pulled from the game in favor of Geno Smith in the late stages of that debacle. About 24 hours later he waffled on that statement and less than 48 hours later, the word is that Geno Smith will be the QB for the Jets this weekend at home against the Ravens.

Let me say 2 things about that change of heart with regard to the Jets’ “Quarterback Situation”:

    1. This is not going to set the Jets on a path to go 9-1 for the rest of the season and put them in the playoff picture.

    2. Notwithstanding that outlook, this is something the Jets have to do now.

Let me explain … The Jets’ 1-5 record is only partially due to poor play from Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. His play has gotten the preponderance of attention and commentary because of the protracted negotiations that it took to get him back on the Jets’ roster this year and because his game with 6 INTs produced an eye-popping statistic. Trust me; I am not going to try to concoct a case that Fitzpatrick has played anywhere near “well” in 2016; he has been bad. Consider these offensive stats for the Jets as a team:

    Jets averaging just under 16 points per game. As a benchmark, the Jags – not an offensive powerhouse by any measure – are averaging just over 20 points per game.

    Jets are 13th in the AFC in total offense. As a benchmark, the Browns – not an offensive juggernaut by any measure – rank 9th in the AFC.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had a “career year” in 2015 and has regressed to the mean. He is not the resolution of the Jets’ longstanding “Quarterback Situation”; that does not make him a bad person. However, it does present the Jets with a problem because Geno Smith – not a man with an impressive NFL résumé to be sure – is currently playing out his rookie contract. Soon after the Super Bowl is contested – without the Jets’ participation let me say – the team has to make a couple of decisions with regard to its “Quarterback Situation” looking ahead:

    If they even deign to make Ryan Fitzpatrick a contract offer, it will be for the kind of money teams pay for backups.

    They need to decide if they want to make Geno Smith any kind of an offer. The only way to make that decision with any degree of confidence greater than having a seer read the entrails of a goat is to play him this year and find out if there is any hope of him playing at a journeyman level or higher in the near future.

That is why Geno Smith has to be the Jets’ QB for at least a month unless he is so abjectly awful that the next question for the Jets’ braintrust is this one:

    Do you dare go into the 2017 season with either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg as your starting QB?

The only way to answer that question – absent sacrificing another goat to read its entrails – is to play whichever one looks better in practice in 2016. If they start Smith as of now, they can – if they have to – make an early decision that Geno Smith is not in their long-range plans and still have time to get a look at one of the QBs on the roster who has never seen the field in an NFL game.

I cannot construct in my mind the thought processes that got the Jets into this situation but that is where they are. And because of where they are, they really have little choice but to sit Ryan Fitzpatrick starting now and getting a good look at Geno Smith in real-game situations. Unless he can show the Jets that he is “the guy” for them at QB in the near future, look for the Jets’ “Quarterback Situation” to continue for a while…

I said earlier that the Jets 1-5 record is only partially due to poor play at QB so far this year. In case you had not noticed, the Jets’ defense has not lived up to its billing as an elite unit.

    Jets’ defense gives up 375.5 yards per game – 23rd in the NFL
    Jets’ defense gives up 290 yards per game
    Jets’ defense allows 27.3 points per game.

There are 4 teams in the league with 1-5 records as of now. The Niners and the Bears figured to be bottom-feeders this year; their standing here is not very surprising. The other two teams are the Panthers and the Jets. Both of them were seen as “playoff contenders”; their standing here is a monument to underachievement.

Last week, the Chargers beat the Broncos 21-13 making it two losses in a row for the defending Super Bowl champs. The Chargers won the game because they found ways to keep the Broncos out of the end-zone. The Chargers only had 265 yards on offense for the game; they had to hold down the Broncos’ scoring just to have a chance to win. The Chargers’ game plan seemed to be one that other teams will adopt facing the Broncos – – attack and stop the Broncos’ run game and make Trevor Siemian beat them with his arm. The Broncos had only 84 yards rushing in this game. I understand that QBs can be very successful with a “dink-and-dunk passing attack” but usually there is at least a hint that he might try a deep ball more than once a month. In Trevor Siemian’s case, he seems to be on a “once a month regimen”. The Broncos only got to the Red Zone twice in this game. The Chargers got there 5 times scoring 1 TD and 4 field goals.

The Texans beat the Colts 26-23 in OT. The Colts led all the way in this game until the 4th quarter when one of two things happened:

    Brock Osweiler returned to a conscious state in the 4th quarter. He had only thrown for 102 yards (and 1 INT) in the first 55 minutes of that game.

    The Colts’ defense returned to a conscious state and saw that it had been holding down an opponent and that shocked them back to their normal state of incompetence.

Or perhaps these two things happened simultaneously…

In any event, the Colts led by 14 points with about 3 minutes to go in the game and then the team coughed it up and gave up 2 TDs in the final 3 minutes to send the game to OT. A field goal in OT by the Texans won the game. The only bright spot for the Colts is that Frank Gore ran for more than 100 yards in this game and that was the first time since 2012 that any Colts’ RB had passed that milestone in a single game; it had been 55 games since Vic Ballard ran for 100+ in a game for the Colts. The Texans are 4-2 so far this year despite having been outscored 127-107 for the year.

    I know that the typical format here is for me to do a short capsule summary of each game from last week but I have to deviate slightly here to give you a strong entry in the contest for “Self-Delusional Moment of the Year”. And no; I am not talking about Bobby Jindal thinking he could be President of the United States.

    According to a report on this week, Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, said that the Colts could be 6-0 at this point of this season had it not been for a few balls bouncing the wrong way. This guy goes to every game and he has a really good seat at every game. So, I have to wonder what he is doing up there in that skybox because no one else on Planet Earth – or any other planet in this solar system – thinks the Colts are a couple of unlucky bounces away from being undefeated thorough the first 6 games.

      The Colts’ offense gains 364.2 yards per game – 19th in the NFL
      The Colts’ defense gives up 411.2 yards per game – 30th in the NFL

    Someone will need to explain how those performances on either side of the ball lead to the conclusion that the Colts might have a .500 record at this point in the season let alone be undefeated.

The Cowboys beat the Packers 30-16 last week. Yes, the Cowboys were that much better in the game. Dak Prescott threw for 247 yards and 3 TDs in the game; he also lost a fumble and threw the first INT in his career but he was the better QB on the field on Sunday. Ezekiel Elliott continued his great play running the ball 28 times for 157 yards against what is the best run defense in the NFL. The Packers fumbled 5 times in the game and lost 3 of them.

The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24. In the 3rd quarter, the Falcons were dominant; they won that quarter 21-0; Matt Ryan was 13 for 17 for 220 yards and 3 TDEs in the 3rd quarter; for the rest of the game, the Falcons were “Meh!” Nonetheless, they had a TD lead as the 4th quarter began but then Russell Wilson took over. He engineered a TD drive that would have tied the game had the Seahawks prevented a blocked PAT. Not to worry, though; the Seahawks got the ball back on an INT with a little under 4 minutes to play and turned that into a field goal. At that point the game took one of two paths depending on your point of view:

    Path A: The Seahawks defense came up large and held the Falcons to 4 consecutive incomplete passes to ice the win 26-24.

    Path B: The zebras hosed the Falcons on a non-call with regard to defensive pass interference by Richard Sherman on Julio Jones that would have put the Falcons in position to try a game winning field goal of their own.

Recently, I wrote here that I do not understand the difference between pass interference, offensive pass interference and no-call on a pass play where there is contact between the receiver and the defender. The play in question here surely looks like pass interference to me…

The Chiefs beat the Raiders 26-10 meaning that Andy Reid’s teams are 16-2 in the week after their BYE Weeks. Let me interrupt the narrative here to give you the gist of a “conversation” I had with some guy in the Westgate Sportsbook last Sunday waiting in line to make a wager at the window:

    Guy: How can the Chiefs be favored over the Raiders? The Raiders are in first place and the Chiefs aren’t. These guys [meaning the guys who run the sportsbook] must hate the Raiders.

    Me: Well, people may be betting the Chiefs because Andy Reid’s teams are 15-2 after their BYE weeks and the Chiefs were off last week.

    Guy: Really, how do you know that?

    Me: I read it in a couple of places.

    Guy: Wow. None of the guys I heard on the radio this morning making picks said anything about that.

    Me: Well, they have time constraints; they can’t say everything about every game.

    Guy: Uh … do you know who the teams are that beat the Chiefs after Bye Weeks.

    Me: Not even close – – and by the way Andy Reid used to coach the Eagles and most of that record comes from his 14 years in Philly.

    Guy: Really? … Boy you know a lot about football.

This guy has probably already procreated and will probably vote on November 8th. How is that for a downer of a thought…

Alex Smith had a typical Alex Smith day but the porous Raiders’ defense enhanced it a bit. Smith was 19 for 22 for 224 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. Smith always has a good completion percentage but on Sunday he completed an astronomic 86.4% of his throws. The Chiefs also ran the ball for 189 yards in the game including 9 carries for 33 yards and 1 TD from Jamaal Charles who saw his most significant action since his ACL injury and surgery last year.

The game was 13-10 at the half but the Raiders did nothing in the second half. When they were not punting, they were losing fumbles or giving the ball over on downs. The weather was ugly in Oakland and the Raiders were even uglier.

I called the Raiders’ defense porous; that might be a generous description. In 6 games:

    Raiders give up 27.2 points per game
    Raiders give up 444.8 yards per game
    Raiders allow 132.2 yards per game rushing.

The Dolphins beat the Steelers 30-15. Somehow the 2016 iteration of the Steelers can find a way to:

    Beat the Skins by 22 points
    Beat the Chiefs by 29 points
    Lost to the Eagles by 28 points
    Lose to the Dolphins by 15 points

Really? I said here last week that the Steelers generally do not play well on the road and they have had difficulties in Miami in the past. Boy, was all of that on display last week… I realize the Ben Roethlisberger played part of the game on a knee that required surgery soon after the game; nevertheless, passing for 189 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs is a pretty miserable performance. The bright light for the Dolphins here was RB, Jay Ajayi who ran 25 times for 204 yards and 2 TDs.

The Jags beat the Bears 17-16. The Bears led 13-0 at the start of the 4th quarter and blew the game to Blake Bortles and the Jags. The Bears dominated the Jags for the first half holding the Jags to only 98 yards of offense for the first 2 quarters. Brian Hoyer became the first QB in the history of the Chicago Bears – a team that was a charter member of the NFL back in 1920 – to throw for 300+ yards in 4 consecutive games. Considering that the Bears have played about 1500 games since then, that is an amazing statistic. The bad news for the Bears last week was that they got into the Red Zone 4 times and only came away with 1 TD.

The Lions beat the Rams 31-28. Case Keenum was 27 for 32 for 321 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT for the Rams. If he continues to do that, Jared Goff may never see the field this season. Unfortunately for Keenum, that INT came in the final minute with the Rams in possession of the ball down a field goal. That interception ended the game…

The Pats beat the Bengals 35-17. They were clearly the better team on the field; the Bengals are in disarray. The old Bengals’ tendency to go off the rails was evident once again late in the game when Vontaze Burfict – – SURPRISE – – went after Rob Gronkowski with a cheap shot that got the two of them going at one another and then Burfict went after Martellus Bennett when Bennett was nowhere near the play and then he stomped on LeGarrette Blount’s leg. Blount has his own history of a short fuse so that was a situation that could well have gotten out of hand. Thankfully, it did not. The league has fined Burfict $75K for this nonsense but that is not going to change his dirty play. Call it what it really is; Burfict is a dirty player and has been ever since his time in college. If the NFL waits to suspend him indefinitely, they will wait to do so after he takes out an opposing player for a year or more. Vontaze Burfict is not a “hard-hitter”; he is a “dirty player” and a “hot-head”.

Tom Brady threw for a mere 376 yards and 3 TDs against the Bengals’ defense; Rob Gronkowski caught 7 of Brady’s passes for 162 yards and 1 TD; the Pats’ offense was firing on all cylinders.

The Bengals are now 2-4 and they have the Browns coming to Cincy this week. That is a division game and a rivalry game; it is also a critical game for the Bengals to win.

The Giants beat the Ravens 27-23. Both teams are 3-3; this win snapped a 3-game losing streak for the Giants; this loss extended a Ravens’ losing streak to 3 games. Odell Beckham, Jr. had 8 catches for 222 yards (204 of them in the second half) and 2 TDs. There was another “pass interference call” in this game that was mystifying on replay. This call in the 4th quarter went against Dominque Rogers-Cromartie and it sure looked like perfect defense to me each time I saw the replay – at least four times.

For the most part, this was an ugly game. Consider:

    Ravens had 1st and goal at the 3 yardline and turned the ball over on downs
    Ravens failed to stop the Giants on three different 4th-down conversions
    Ravens were penalized 15 times for 111 yards
    Giants turned the ball over 3 times
    Giants were penalized 7 times for 119 yards
    Giants were in the Red Zone twice and never got in the end-zone.

The bright spots in the game belonged mainly to Eli Manning:

    Manning threw for 403 yards in the game.
    Manning threw his 300th TD pass in his career
    Manning won his 100th game as a starting QB.

In a freak scheduling happenstance, the Ravens played an away game in MetLife stadium last week and will go to the same place to play another road game this week when they take on the Jets.

The Saints beat the Panthers 41-38. I want to be clear here; I have pointed out defensive insufficiencies for various teams above; please do not let any of those comments make you think that either of these two defenses earned their paychecks last weekend.

    The Saints led 21-0 early in the 2nd quarter; they were on pace to score 75 points and the Panthers’ defense gave no indication that was out of the question.

    The Saints defense showed its true nature when the score was 24-10 at the half and then was cut to 31-30 (thanks to a missed PAT by the Panthers). That 1-point lead happened with about 10 minutes left to play in the game. At that point the Saints’ defense had given up 30 points in about 30 minutes of football. Oh swell …

    The Saints went up 38-30 with 6 minutes to play. When the Panthers really needed a stop, they could not produce one.

    The Saints now needed a stop but they could not get one either. They gave up a TD AND a 2-point conversion at about the 3-minute mark to tie the score at 38-38.

    Now the Panthers’ defense needed to hold – and of course it did not. The Saints maneuvered into field goal range and hit the game winner.

    The Saints gave up 406 yards to the Panthers; the Panthers gave up 523 yards to the Saints.

    The Saints were 8-16 on third down conversions.

Are you convinced that both defenses stunk out the joint last Sunday?

The Titans beat the Browns 28-26. The only positive thing to say about this insignificantly trivial game is that it was a close game. The Browns ran the ball 15 times in the game for a total of 40 yards. If that sounds bad, it is. Here is another bad rushing stat:

    Isiah Crowell ran the ball 9 times for 16 yards. That is not good but a quick glance at the stat sheet says it is even worse than it looks …

    One of his runs was for 11 yards.

    That means he ran the other 8 times and gained a total of 5 yards. YUCK!

The Skins beat the Eagles 27-20 extending the Skins’ win streak to 4 games. The Skins ran the ball here for 231 yards including a 57-yard run by Matt Jones and a 45-yard gallop by Robert Kelly. Carson Wentz had an off day; he was 11 for 22 for 179 yards. Eagles’ RB, Wendell Smallwood returned a kickoff for a TD in the game. That is noteworthy because it was the first kickoff return for a TD in the NFL for the season and last week was Week 6.

The Bills simply shellacked the Niners 45-16 and the score reflects the lopsided nature of that game. Starting Colin Kaepernick at QB did nothing to make the Niners competitive here. I do not mean to say that he was the reason the Niners were humiliated the way they were, but his stat line was pretty bleak:

    13 for 29 for 187 yards and 1 TD with 0 INTs.

After the game, Chip Kelly said that Kaepernick was “OK”. Does that mean that Kelly has already given up on this season because that stat line is anything but “OK”? Given the way the Niners have played for most of the season – and the way that Kaepernick played last week, I certainly hope that Kaepernick has been genuflecting during the anthem as a sincere form of protest and not as a way to execute the “Victory Formation” – – because he is not going to get to do that in very many real NFL games for the rest of the 2016 season.

The Niners’ defense allowed 312 yards rushing last week. That is the most yards rushing given up by any Niners’ team since 1958. I went and looked up the roster for that 1958 Niners’ squad and I recognized plenty of offensive names such as YA Tittle, John Brodie, Hugh McElhenney, R.C. Owens, Joe Perry and Bob St, Clair. As to the defense, I recognized exactly one name, Leo Nomellini. No wonder they gave up 312+ yards rushing in a game…

The Cards beat the Jets 28-3. Given the way that game unfolded, I really think that Bruce Arians took it easy on his former defensive coordinator and friend Todd Bowles. As the first half progressed I wrote a note to myself saying that the Cards could win by whatever margin they wanted so long as it fit into the time constraints of an NFL game. Let us look momentarily at just how bad this game was:

    Jets gained only 230 yards total offense
    Jets gained only 33 yards rushing
    Jets were 2 for 13 on third down.

This game broke an amazing losing streak. The last time the Cardinals beat the Jets was in 1975 – – 41 years ago.

The Games:

Two teams have BYE Weeks this week:

    The Cowboys get to relax in first place in the NFC East and prepare to play the Eagles next week.

    The Panthers will hopefully not relax given their 1-5 record; they need to get their act together. They are officially mired in the “Super Bowl Loser’s slump”. They probably need to go 9-1 from here out to make the playoffs; and with a defense giving up 29.3 points per game, that has about as much chance of happening as Bernie Sanders getting an invitation to be on the Board of Directors of Citicorp.

(Thurs Nite) Chicago at Green Bay – 7.5 (45.5): The spread opened at 9 points and has edged its way down to this level as the week progressed. The Bears are a hot mess of a team; the Packers are not doing nearly as well as most people – me included – thought they would do as the season began. The Packers have tons of injuries in their defensive backfield; their 3 top DBs will miss this game and, if last weekend’s game against the Cowboys is any indicator, the replacement DBs are replacements for a good reason. Meanwhile, the Bears present a prognosticator with some very conflicting evidence:

    The Bears rank 8th in the NFL in total offense (375.2 yards per game)
    The Bears rank 31st in the NFL in scoring (16.8 points per game)

The Packers’ offense – like their defense – is running on fumes. RB, Eddie Lacy, has a sore ankle that might take a couple of weeks to “get right; RB, James Starks, underwent knee surgery last week. In order to have someone in at RB for some of the plays this week, the Packers traded for Knile Davis (from the Chiefs) and could promote Jon Crockett from the practice squad to spell Davis. Aaron Rodgers has not played like the Aaron Rodgers I have come to expect when I turn on my TV set but I think he can put up points on this defense. I also think that the Bears will score on the Packers’ depleted defense. I like this game to go OVER.

(Early Sun Morning) Giants – 3 at LA (44) Game is in London: Allow me to get two rather conflicting trends out of the way at the beginning:

    Giants are 10-4 to go OVER in their last 14 games on fieldturf
    Rams are 10-4 to go UNDER in their last 14 games against NFC teams.

This game is on fieldturf and the Rams are playing an NFC opponent. Oh my…! These teams are up one week and down the next and the venue for this game may or may not be an advantage for either team. I shall turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER. Given the performance of “the coin” over the past two weeks (0-4-0), maybe I ought to go exactly the other way …? No, I’ll stick to the protocol.

Minnesota – 3 at Philly (40): I think the oddsmakers have this game pegged correctly; it should be a low-scoring affair. That being the case, I prefer to take the points – particularly when I get the points with the home team. I’ll take the Eagles plus the points at home.

New Orleans at KC – 6.5 (50.5): The Total Line for this game opened the week at 49 and has been inching up as the week advanced. Each team comes to this game off a win last week. The Saints bring their typical offensive firepower to this game – 413.4 yards per game – 2nd in the NFL. The Chiefs’ offense is good – – but not nearly that good at 352 yards per game. On the other side of the ball the advantage is reversed. Chiefs only give up 353.2 yards per game but the Saints yield 419.4 yards per game. That line looks fat to me; I’ll take the Saints plus the points.

Washington at Detroit – 1 (50): Let me make this one short. I think the Skins are the better team here and I think they will win this game outright. Therefore, I’ll take the Skins plus the point.

Cleveland at Cincy – 10 (45.5): OK, I get it. This is a divisional game and this is a rivalry game (sort of). Other than that, I am not sure why anyone might give a fig about this game; I surely do not. I know that the Browns stink but the Bengals are not an awe inspiring squad either. Purely a hunch, but I’ll take the Browns plus the points here. After I have made my pick here, I went looking for a trend to boost my confidence in that pick. I found two such trends:

    In the last 18 game between these teams, the underdog is 13-4-1.
    Browns are 7-3 in their last 10 games as an underdog against the spread

Trends may not have much of a predictive value, but they provide me with a bit of comfort here – – until the game kicks off and then everything is new again.

Buffalo – 3 at Miami (44): The Bills take their 4-game win streak south this week – to the venue where the Steelers laid an egg last week. If you believe in trends, making a pick in this game is not even a challenge:

    Favorite in the last 10 Bills/Dolphins games is 8-2
    Dolphins are 1-9 against the spread in their last 10 games against the AFC East.

I, however, am not a trend bettor. I wonder if the Bills can maintain their edge; after all they have won 4 in a row and that is heady territory for this squad. I think there is a greater chance that the Dolphins’ big home win over the Steelers last week (see above) will have a carryover effect to this game. I like the Dolphins at home plus the points.

Oakland at Jax – 1 (48.5): The Total Line here opened at 50 points; it dropped to this level quickly and has stabilized here. The Raiders are the visiting team for the 4th time this year; they ought not to mind that since the Raiders have yet to lose a game on the road. The Raiders’ defense is the worst in the NFL and it gives up 25 yards per game more than does the next-to-worst defense in the league. This is another long flight for the Raiders to take just to be at the right spot when the referee whistles and signals for the kickoff. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Raiders plus the point.

Indy at Tennessee -3 (48): The Titans are one game ahead of the Colts in the AFC South and the Titans are riding a 2-game win streak. Last year the Titans won 3 games; here we are in October of this year and the Titans have already won 3 games. The Colts have a good young QB; the Titans have a good younger QB. The Colts’ division record stands at 0-2; a loss here would mean that they would have to win the division based on record alone because division record is an early tie-breaker. Presumably, the team and the coach are not buying into the self-delusional tomfoolery spouted by the club owner about being a 6-0 team that got a few bad bounces (see above). The Titans bring the 4th best run defense in the AFC to a game against a team that does not run the ball well; they could make the Colts’ one-dimensional here. The real problem for the Colts however is their defense; they give up 411.2 yards per game (30th in the NFL) and they are vulnerable to the run – which is what the Titans do preferentially. I think the game sets up right for the home team. I’ll take the Titans to win and cover.

Baltimore at Jets – 1 (40.5): The Jets made the right move at the right time inserting Geno Smith into the starting QB role (see above). Joe Flacco has a sore shoulder and did not practice on Wednesday but expects to play on Sunday. If Flacco cannot play, the Ravens will turn to Ryan Mallett and if that happens you can look for a major line move leading up to kickoff. The Ravens have the 3rd best defense in the NFL – behind only Seattle and Minnesota – and their run defense is the best in the NFL. They should be able to make Geno Smith try to beat them through the air which is good news for the Jets’ braintrust because the next few games are really an extended audition for Smith to see if the Jets want him back next year. I will turn this game over to the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol and the coin says to take the Jets to win and cover.

San Diego at Atlanta – 6.5 (53.5): The Total Line opened at 51.5 and jumped to this level almost immediately and you can find the line at 54 at a couple of sportsbooks this morning. The “character” of the Falcons will be on display here; they feel they were robbed by a bad officiating call at the end of last week’s game in Seattle (see above). The fact is that whatever anyone thinks of that call – I think it was pass interference by the way – the Falcons are no longer an undefeated team. So the “character test” for this week is how they show up to play. The Falcons have the best offense in the NFL – a full 28 yards per game better than the Saints in 2nd place there. At the same time, the Falcons have a “lower-tier defense” and the Chargers have a QB capable of exploiting it. Purely a hunch, I’ll take the Chargers plus the points here.

Tampa – 2.5 at SF (46.5): The dogs, they are a-barking. This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. The Bucs are winless at home and are 2-1 on the road. If you can explain how a bad team does something like that, please do; I cannot. The Niners just stink; their defense gives up 389.8 yards per game and an astonishing 174.3 yards per game rushing. The next worst run defense in the league – Miami – gives up 27 fewer yards per game. It is simple here; I cannot take the Niners without a basketful of points and the spread here is more like a snack-bag full of points. I like the Bucs to win and cover on the road.

New England – 7 at Pittsburgh (46): This was going to be the Game of the Week. I was anticipating a great shootout between Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown and Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski. That is not going to happen now that Roethlisberger had knee surgery early in the week (see above). I was anticipating a Total Line for the shootout to be in the mid-50s; you can see that the oddsmakers also recognize that we will see a different game this Sunday. I like the Patriots to win and cover here.

(Sun Nite) Seattle at Arizona – 2 (43.5): Since the Pats/Steelers game had to be “downgraded” due to injury, this game becomes the Game of the Week. The Cards beat the Seahawks in Seattle already this year; that puts the onus on the Seahawks to win here to avoid giving the Cards the head-to-head tiebreaker at the end of the season. Each team has 1 loss in the division; a win here for the Seahawks would give them a tiebreaker lead halfway through the season. I think the Seahawks are starting to put the pieces together for a late run. I like the Seahawks plus the points on the road.

(Mon Nite) Houston at Denver – 7.5 (40.5): The spread opened at 6 points but it did not stay there long. You can find the spread as high as 9 points at one sportsbook this morning – and I do not have any explanation as to why. Brock Osweiler’s late game heroics last week (see above) came at the expense of the Colts’ defense; this week Brock Osweiler will see a defense that is several levels above the level of the Colts’ defense; do not expect miracles. In fact, I think Texans’ fans should expect a debacle; the Broncos present the stingiest pass defense in the NFL (182.3 yards per game). I do not like that half-point hook on top of the full TDs worth of points but I smell the potential for the Broncos to hold the Texans to 10-12 points here. I’ll take the Broncos and lay the points – and hope that Trevor Siemian makes the Texans’ defense play back just a little bit.

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

NFL TV Ratings Are Down …

Just in case you live in a dark cave somewhere or have just emerged from a coma, the NFL’s TV ratings are down this year – and not insignificantly. Various folks have offered hypotheses to explain the data; these hypotheses are difficult to verify; therefore, a cacophony of views is out there offering “explanation”. I have no idea why this is the case, but I do have some observations to proffer:

    1. I do not think reduced TV viewing is a response to the national anthem protests. I think that people offering that up as the reason are simply finding a way to connect their personal view of those protests with something that might make sense as a plot element in a novel.

    2. I do not think reduced TV viewing is a response to the various allegations of violence against women involving NFL players. Let me be polite and just say that reasoning is a stretch.

    3. I do not think reduced TV viewing is due to the violence of the game and the long-term health consequences incurred by the players. That too is a stretch.

    4. I do not think reduced TV viewing has anything at all to do with the NFL’s crackdown on end-zone celebrations after a TD. That is a stretch even Reed Richards cannot make.

Some within the NFL have “suggested” that people may be distracted from football because of the intensive media coverage of the Presidential Campaigns. With regard to that explanation, I guess I could entertain it for a while because of the emotion that so many folks have poured into this election cycle; they may be more “emotionally drained” than they are “distracted”, but this could be a factor in the equation. The good part of this hypothesis is that it presents a rather clear way to test itself. Starting on Thursday November 10, the NFL will be televising games with the election cycle in the rear view mirror. If the election cycle is what is holding down ratings, they should start to climb back to their levels from last year between then and Christmas.

    [Aside: If I were an NFL spokesthing, I would not be suggesting that there is more excitement and attention-grabbing value in political name-calling and poll analysis than there is in “my games”. There is a long-term negative message there.]

Personally, I think there are two factors internal to the NFL telecasts that are contributing factors to the decline in ratings:

    1. The NFL has long sought “parity”; and so far this season, they seem to have achieved “parity” to a degree not seen in recent years. We are through Week 6 on the schedule; if you count the teams with “middling records” – say between 2 and 4 losses – you will find that 23 of the 32 teams fall in that category. For years, the NFL trumpeted “parity” as an ideal where every team has a real chance to win every game and every year. That was never true and real fans knew it was marketing hype, but the TV audience is more than just “real fans”. Perhaps the casual fans are tiring of watching mediocrity on their screens. What the NFL does not want to hear – let alone admit – is that there is an outbreak of mediocrity in the hinterlands and it is not welcome.

    2. The games are poorly officiated with some of the officiating errors – pointedly admitted 48 hours ex post facto – changing the outcome of the games themselves. Even more importantly, some of the errors change the outcome of the games with regard to the spread or the Total Line. The NFL has never even given a nod toward the “gambling factor” as a component of its growth but the fact is that a great deal of the NFL’s popularity rests on a bedrock foundation of wagering on various games and tuning in to watch how one’s side of the wager comes out.

Speaking of wagering and NFL football, the path to partial public funding for a stadium in Las Vegas to house the now-Oakland Raiders is clear. In a special session of the Nevada Legislature, an increase in the hotel tax was approved and the Governor signed the bill. There are 3 major hurdles here and one of them has been crossed. The two remaining hurdles are:

    They have to find a site for the stadium. No site proposal will please everyone; there will likely be protests and lawsuits and various “stalling tactics”. Nevertheless, there has to be a site somewhere that will emerge as “the one”. This will take time, but this is not a show-stopper.

    The other 31 NFL owners will have to “bless” the move to Las Vegas. Last year, they made Stan Kroenke cough up $500M for the right to move to LA; that put approximately $16M in each of the other owners’ pockets simply by voting “YES”. I can see a motivation for them to repeat that process again soon. There are some potential “nefarious conspiracy theories” out there regarding what some owners may demand in exchange for their “YES” votes. I will not dignify them here – until and unless there is some evidence that things other than monetary gain motivates some of the owners.

The NFL owners are meeting in Houston this week but they will not be voting on this move then. In fact, the league has already said that this issue may not make it to the agenda for the owners’ meeting in January 2017 but may need to wait until the Spring of 2017 before it is considered.

In one other NFL note, Dolphins’ rookie tackle Laremy Tunsil missed a game due to an injury he incurred getting out of the shower. You may recall that proximal to the NFL Draft a video appeared on one of the social media sites of Tunsil wearing and using a bong mask. So, that makes the question here obvious:

    Was he using the bong mask in the shower?

To be fair, Tunsil claims that his social media account was hacked and that is how the video appeared there. Obviously, I have no idea if that is the case or not. But putting the video in juxtaposition with the “shower injury” is not all that difficult…

Finally, here is an NFL item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Corpulent Chiefs coach Andy Reid, to reporters, on 346-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe’s 1-yard TD run vs. the Raiders: ‘I’m taking credit for that one for all the chubby guys out there.’”

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

MLB Playoff Thoughts …

Having been off the air for a few days, I realize that some of this commentary is a tad late, but I want to make a few points about the MLB playoffs. The Washington Nationals lost in the final game of their series with the LA Dodgers after leading the best of five series two games to one. Lost in the heroics of Clayton Kershaw winning Game 4 and then coming in to pitch in the 9th inning of Game 5, is the fact that Nats’ manager Dusty Baker so over-managed that game that it was laughable.

Many of the folks who commented on that series were reluctant to indict Baker for many of his “strategeries”. I get that; Dusty Baker is a baseball-lifer; he is obviously a likeable person; he is accommodating with regard to the access he gives to the commentators. Notwithstanding any or all of the above, he stuck in his thumb and pulled out a turd last week:

    Max Scherzer has been and remains the stud pitcher on the Nats’ staff. He had thrown a shut out until a leadoff home run – to the opposite field and just over the wall – on the first pitch of the 7th inning. That tied the game. That was Scherzer’s 99th pitch but it is not as if he never threw that many pitches in a game in the past. As Baker came to the mound, I figured he was going to tell Scherzer to shake it off and the team would get him another run to win this thing. But Baker took him out and went to the Nats’ bullpen.

    If there was a weak link in the Nats’ season in 2016, it would have to have been the bullpen. It had been good in the series against the Dodgers but it was not the strength of the team. So “strategery #1” was to take out the best pitcher on the team and to rely on the weakest link of the team.

    What followed was a parade of pitchers to the mound in the 7th inning giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead. What was even worse was the start of a series of double switches that used up position players when new pitchers went to the mound. After the Nats closed the game to 4-3 in the 9th inning, there were no more pinch hitters in the dugout and many of the better offensive players on the team were out of the game. Second-rate hitters had to face Clayton Kershaw and – as you might expect – they were over-matched. The reason they were over-matched is because Dusty Baker over-managed.

One other observation about that series… It was likely the final curtain call for the core of the Phillies teams of 2008 – 2012. Let me cite the following:

    In Game 4, Chase Utley had the game winning hit.

    In Game 5, Carlos Ruiz – batting for Chase Utley – in that fateful 7th inning drove in a run and scored the winning run.

    In Game 5, Joe Blanton came in for the Dodgers and threw one-and-a third innings of perfect baseball.

    In Game 5, Jayson Werth was thrown out at home plate – by about 10 yards – when the Nats’ third-base coach did not hold him at third base on a double down the left field line. I could have made that relay throw from shallow left field to get Werth at the plate on that play. The coach clearly had a brain-lock there.

In other MLB playoff commentary, may I ask where the phone booth is that Andrew Miller uses to put on his Indians’ uniform and cover up the big red “S” on his chest? It is not that opposing players are not hitting the ball hard; they are not hitting the ball at all. It looks as if he is throwing to high school players on many of his pitches.

The Indians acquired Miller at the trade deadline. This was not a “rent-a-player” sort of deal because Miller is signed through the 2018 season at $9M per year. If he continues to pitch like this, he is an ever-loving bargain.

Should the World Series come down to a face-off between the Indians (leading 3-0 over the Jays at the moment) and the Cubs (tied 1-1 with the Dodgers at the moment), MLB could market this as the Exorcism World Series. Both teams have demons and one of them will rid themselves of said demons in that Series:

    Cubs’ last World Series victory was in 1908. The “Billy Goat Curse” was put on the team in 1945 which is the last time the Cubs were in the World Series – they lost to the Tigers that year.

    Indians’ last World Series victory was in 1948. The went back to the World Series in 1954 having won 111 games in that 154-game season. [Aside: the Yankees won 103 games that season and finished 8 games out of first place.] Nonetheless, in the 1954 series, the Indians lost to the Giants 4-0; that was the series where Willie Mays made the famous over-the-head catch of the deep shot to center field by Vic Wertz.

Linda Blair should throw out the first pitch if the Series comes down to the Cubs/Indians…

Rich Hill is starting playoff games for the Dodgers and getting people out. That is a bit strange. He has been in MLB for 11 years – but not pitching at this level. In fact, after shoulder and Tommy John surgery, he was in the Nats’ minor league system just last year until they released him. From there he went to the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball as a stepping stone to signing with the Red Sox. The Dodgers acquired Hill at the trading deadline from the Oakland A’s; he is playing on a 1-year contract worth $6M and will be a free agent in less than a month. Given the way he has been pitching for the Dodgers in the last couple of months, he will likely make more than that starting next year.

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

“Barry Bonds, fired as Marlins hitting coach after one season, thanked the club for what he called ‘one of the most rewarding experiences of my baseball career.’ Which I think officially lowers the bar on rewarding experiences.”

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