I got lots of stuff to cover today and not a lot of time to do it. So, on with the show…
The Cubs advance to the NLCS to meet the Dodgers after beating the Nats 9-8 last night. Forget any nonsense you read about a “Washington Sports Curse”; the Cubs played better baseball than the Nats last night and they get to move on while the Nats get to preen as they look over their stats. Because baseball seasons are as long as they are, there is a completely different environment surrounding a “win-or-go-home game” in the playoffs. And last night the overmanaging by both Joe Maddon and Dusty Baker dragged this game out for an eternity. I did not time it but it had to be about four-and-a-half hours.
- Both teams used 7 pitchers.
- All 14 pitchers hosted meetings on the mound with varied attendance all night long.
- Each team had 19 players participate.
- I believe only 3 team at-bats were “three-and-out” all night long.
Eerily, the Nats led 4-3 in the top of the fourth when Dusty Baker began his “strategery” and pulled starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez. The Nats went on to lose the game. That is the same thing that former Nats’ manager, Davey Johnson, did to Gonzalez in 2012. And once again, the Nats’ bullpen – and ironically the Nats’ best starting pitcher for the last two seasons – coughed up a hairball and the Nats’ season came to an end.
Dusty Baker is a baseball lifer and is seemingly liked by just about everyone. I think that gives him a pass on some of his playoff managerial decisions that always seem to backfire.
Since it is Friday – and Friday the 13th no less – I want to look at what is on the menu this weekend regarding football. Let me start with college football.
Earlier this week, I summarized last weekend’s activity and made no mention of Washington beating Cal 38-7. The reason for that omission was that I was hardly surprised by the result and it was not a rivalry game. However, a reader who is a Washington alum pointed out that I had neglected to point out something unusual from the game:
- The stats say Cal ran the ball 25 times for a minus-40 yards.
- In college football, sacks are recorded as rushing attempts; in this game, the Cal QB was sacked 9 times for minus-41 yards. That explains the highly negative output but it also means that on real running attempts, Cal tried to run 16 times and gained a net of 1 yard.
A tip of the hat to my informant here… That is a stat worthy of mention.
I said last week the Oregon St. might be looking for a new coach sometime soon. Well, that time arrived earlier this week; Gary Andersen resigned as head coach. Maybe he was nudged; but according to reports, by resigning he left $12.6 million on the table; Oregon St. had given him a contract extension last January and that is what he had coming to him. Andersen had been at Oregon St. since the start of the 2015 season going there after a successful stint at Wisconsin. Things did not go well at Oregon St.; his record there was 7-23; in the last 4 games, his team lost by a cumulative score of 180-54.
File these circumstances under the heading “Rubbing It In”:
- Rutgers ranks 13th in the Big 10 in Total Offense and 123rd in the country.
- Originally, Saquon Barkley and Jonathon Taylor both “committed” to Rutgers only to change their minds later.
- Barkley is a Heisman-contender at RB for Penn State and leads the Big 10 in all-purpose yards.
- Taylor is the featured RB at Wisconsin averaging 7.9 yards per carry and ranking 2nd in the big 10 in all-purpose yards.
There are still 13 unbeaten teams in Division 1-A. Everyone knows about the “big-boys” here like Alabama and Clemson and Georgia and Miami and Penn St. and TCU and Wisconsin. Keep an eye on:
Regarding top games this weekend:
- Texas/Oklahoma: This is the biggest game of the weekend and the best rivalry game of the weekend by far. Both teams have shown well at time this year and both teams have embarrassing losses on their record; Texas lost to Maryland and Oklahoma lost to Iowa St. Both teams can lose this game.
- Arkansas/Alabama: Bama is a 31.5-point favorite; the Arkansas program is staggering at this point; this will be ugly.
- Carolina at Tennessee: Butch Jones needs another conference loss at home like a moose needs a hat rack.
- Auburn/LSU: LSU is coming off a road win; Auburn still has a chance to be the SEC West champ; LSU is “offensively challenged”; the game is in Baton Rouge. The oddsmaker has the Total Line at 43.5; that seems about right…
- Utah/USC: If Utah prevails here, it will be because their defense won the game.
- Michigan St./Minnesota: Can “Sparty” build on its upset win from last week or will there be a rapid deflation?
Just the luck of the draw, but lots of conference games this weekend have blowout potential. It is just a twist of the schedule. However, as usual, there are some games that pair two really mediocre teams:
- Northwestern/Maryland: Who cares?
- Rutgers/Illinois: Even the coaches shouldn’t care.
- Appalachian St./Idaho: Not exactly a “border war” game.
- New Mexico St./Ga Southern: NM St. is a two-touchdown favorite on the road in this game. Let that sink in…
Before I list the NFL games that are interesting this week, I want to point you to a column by Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post earlier this week. I think this is the best summation of the conflicting views surrounding the “National Anthem Protests” and it articulately points out that both sides of the argument may be right and both may be wrong. I am incapable of summarizing it in a befitting way and I would ask you to follow this link and read the column in its entirety. It is worth the time and effort.
And here are the NFL games of interest for this week:
- Chargers at Raiders: Will Derek Carr be back for the Raiders already? Raiders’ fans must hope this is not a “panic move” that might lead to further injury. The Raiders have other significant issues above and beyond Carr’s absence from the lineup such as an under-performing defense (31st in the league), “Beast Mode” looking more like “Lap-Dog Mode” and Amari Cooper disappearing as well as his namesake, D. B. Cooper.
- Giants at Broncos (Sun Nite): Giants suspended Dominic Rogers-Cromartie “indefinitely” this week after some sort of altercation/confrontation with coaches. [Aside: The CBA says a team can not suspend a player for longer than 4 games so “indefinitely” has a limit here.] Given the Giants’ horrid offense and the Broncos excellent defense, the question here is if the Giants can score into double-digits.
- Browns at Texans: Beat writers should be furious with Hue Jackson and his decision to start Kevin Hogan at QB this week. Had he stuck with DeShone Kizer, lots of those beat writers would have done a riff on the matchup of DeShone versus Deshaun this week. Too bad; it might have been the most interesting thing about this game.
- Niners at Skins: This is the return to DC of Kyle Shanahan; do not expect a warm welcome… The Skins are the better team with more talent; history says that the Skins play down to the level of opponents that they outmatch on paper. Skins are 11-point favorites…
- Colts at Titans (Mon Nite): When the post the line, seriously consider taking the UNDER if Ryan Mallett is starting for the Titans. That game might be 3-0 at halftime…
- Rams at Jags: When I was perusing the schedule to do my NFL Predictions back in August, I did not focus on this game as one of the best matchups of the week. You probably didn’t either. Jags are a 3-point favorite here; I think the Rams are the better team.
Finally, since I mentioned Rutgers’ offensive woes earlier on, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that speaks to the futility there:
“Rutgers’ football program was put on two years’ probation on a “failure to monitor” rap.
“Even more embarrassing, the Scarlet Knights broke the rules — and the team sucked anyway.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………