It’s Friday. So, this will be the second iteration of Football Friday – – only this time we have both college football and NFL football to contemplate. Let’s begin with a few comments about last week’s college football action.
I am sure that things could have been worse for the PAC-12 but Godzilla stayed at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and did not come ashore and stomp all over a half dozen or so campuses in that conference. Washington – the class of the PAC-12 North – lost to Auburn. There is no shame in that, but given some of the other stuff that happened, the conference could have used a win there. Oregon St. – a PAC-12 cellar-dweller – went to Ohio State and got depantsed 77-31. It was not that close. UCLA inaugurated the Chip Kelly Era with a loss to Cincy – a team that managed to win all of 4 games last year. And Arizona found a way to lose to BYU – another 4-win team from last year – in Kevin Sumlin’s first game at the helm.
Things were even worse for the Big-12 last week. Ole Miss rolled over Texas Tech by 20 points. The Tech defense was not very good last year but it returned 10 starters and the narrative was that the Tech defense would take a big step forward this year. Forget that; Ole Miss averaged 9.1 yards per offensive play. Oh, but that was the good news for the Big 12:
- Texas went for its “revenge game” against Maryland – – and lost. That makes it two years in a row that Texas has lost to this Big-10 doormat – two years in a row that Tom Herman’s team starts the season by soiling the sheets. Making it worse, the Longhorns led at the end of the 3rd quarter so this was a come-from-ahead loss. Here is a stat for you. Since 2011, Maryland has played 24 games against “ranked opponents”. Maryland’s record in those games is 2-22; the 2 wins were the ones over Texas last year and last week.
- [Aside: Two years ago, Tom Herman was the “hot hire” in college coaching and Texas lured him to Austin with a 5-year deal worth $29M.]
- Kansas St. needed a furious 4th quarter rally to beat South Dakota by a field goal at home. Hey, a win is a win, right?
- Making the Texas and Texas Tech losses seem trivial, Kansas lost in OT to a Division 1-AA school, Nichols St. I said in my college football preview that Kansas coach, David Beaty was on a hot seat. Well, now you can label him as “Dead Man Coaching”. His record at Kansas as of this morning is 3-34.
After the Kansas/Nichols St. game, Coach Beaty said:
“… this team is going to continue to work toward the goals they have set.”
Really? I would have to believe that one of the goals they had set for themselves was not to lose to a Division 1-AA team. What nonsense…
Here is a serious question. When Kansas goes shopping for a new coach sometime in late November of this year, what should be the view of potential hires:
- Kansas is THE worst coaching job at any Power 5 school in the US, so the money had better be good because my résumé is going to take a hit by going there. Or …
- Kansas is a golden opportunity. They have stunk for so long that there is nowhere to go but up. If I can turn that team into a .500 club in 2 years, I’ll be labeled a young up-and-coming coach who will be sought out by schools with real football programs.
I mentioned that the Chip Kelly Era at UCLA started out with a stink bomb. It does not get any easier for the Bruins this week as they travel to Norman, OK to play the Sooners. Believe it or not, UCLA is a 30-point underdog in the game…
Remember that Cardinals’ coach, Bobby Petrino, guaranteed that Louisville was going to beat Alabama in the opening game of the season. Well, Louisville came up just a tad short; Alabama won the game 51-14.
- Memo for Coach Petrino: Do not poke the bear…
Liberty U is stepping up to Division 1-A in football this year. It won its opener over Old Dominion handily by a score of 52-10 and shut out ODU in the second half of the game. Unless Liberty is the sleeper-of-the-year, it could be a long season for the folks in the Norfolk area…
I kinda thought that Florida Atlantic would be able to score on Oklahoma and keep it within the 3-touchdown spread. Forget that; the score was 42-0 at the half and 63-14 when the final whistle mercifully blew.
West Virginia beat Tennessee 40-14. I saw the replay of the game and it looked to me as if Mountaineers’ QB, Will Grier was aiming to be the overall #1 pick in the NFL Draft next spring. He threw for 429 yards and 5 TDs and was hitting his receivers in stride all day long.
Michigan lost to Notre Dame meaning that Michigan – under Jim Harbaugh – is 9-9 in its last 18 games. The Notre Dame defense looked outstanding in the game. I mention this as a way to lead into the next item.
Virginia Tech used a throttling defense to beat Florida State last week – holding the Seminoles without a TD for the first time since 2008. VA Tech and Notre Dame play one another in Blacksburg VA on October 6. If those defenses are as good as they looked last week, the Total Line for that game could be in the low-40s…
The LSU defense rendered anything Miami tried to do moot. If Miami has real offensive problems, then looking ahead to the Miami/Florida St. game is not a pleasant thought.
One more comment about the Florida State debacle last week… The football program in Tallahassee is one of the better programs in the country over the past 30 years or so. When Jimbo Fisher bolted the team last year, the Seminoles hired Willie Taggert to lead the program. After watching Florida St. stumble all over itself last week – – I know; it’s only one game – – I wonder if the Seminoles reached too far. Consider:
- Taggert had a losing record in his 3 years at W. Kentucky.
- Taggert had a losing record in his 4 years at USF.
- Taggert was 7-5 last year in his only year at Oregon.
- Taggert has an overall record of 47-51 as a college football coach.
Willie Taggert had 1 year of experience in a Power 5 conference and he managed a 7-5 record there. Somehow, that and an overall losing record enticed a school with the stature of Florida State to hire him? Really?
In the Auburn/Washington game, I saw that Auburn has a tight end named Sal Canella. I wonder if he is related to Sal Monella – from Brooklyn. You have probably met Sal sometime in your life – – possibly after eating Grandma’s potato salad which has been sitting out in the sun for a few hours at a family picnic.
Looking ahead to Week 2 in college football, there are not nearly as many interesting games as there were in Week 1. But I’ll give it a try:
Liberty at Army – 8 (59): This is interesting because of the drubbing Liberty put on ODU last week. Is Liberty for real or is ODU that bad or what?
W. Michigan at Michigan – 28 (56.5): The Michigan offense better put on a show for the fans in Ann Arbor here after laying an egg against Notre Dame last week.
Duke at Northwestern – 3 (49): The OVER/UNDER for the median SAT score here is 1250…
Kansas at C. Michigan – 5 (49.5): Clearly the easiest game left on the Kansas schedule and they are the underdog here. Oh my…
Rice at Hawaii – 17 (70): Hawaii is 2-0 and beat Navy last week. Rice flew about 4000 miles one way for this game.
So, here is my College Six-Pack for the week. Last week, the Six-Pack was 3-3. Meh…
(Tonite) TCU – 23 at SMU (59): These schools are next-door neighbors. TCU is the much better team – – but TCU just might be in a trap-game situation with Ohio State on tap for next week. Purely a hunch, I’ll take SMU plus the points here.
Penn St. – 9 at Pitt (55): Penn State needed OT to beat Appalachian St. last week and this is a big rivalry game from a long time ago. I like Pitt plus the points.
USC at Stanford – 6 (56): This is an important game that could be the deciding factor in the PAC-12 South race for the year. I think Stanford will find ways to confuse USC’s freshman QB; I think USC will find ways to prevent Bryce Love from running amok. I like this game to stay UNDER.
Clemson – 12 at Texas A&M (54): This one is Dabo versus Jimbo. Somewhere in the cosmos, Bo Schembechler offers a tip of the cap… Call it what you want, this is the best game of the weekend. Clemson prides itself on being a great road team. The “money folks” at A&M who ponied up huge money to lure Jimbo Fisher to College Station look at this game as an indication of how their “investment” may pan out in the future. I like Clemson to win and cover here.
Georgia – 10.5 at S. Carolina (56.5): I know that Georgia is the better team, but the Gamecocks can be tough at home and they will bring a reasonable defense to the field. I like this game to stay UNDER.
Appalachian St – 13 at UNC-Charlotte (48): App St. took Penn St. to overtime last week and Charlotte is a bottom-feeder. Even accounting for a letdown, I like App St to win and cover here.
Turning to the NFL, there was lots of sturm und drang in evidence early last week as commentators and fanboys all over the country lamented various moves made by teams in cutting down to the 53-man limit. Perusing a few of the message boards, you would have thought that some of the cuts were as outrageous as throwing a bowling ball to a drowning person. Calm down folks…
I will leave the final decision here to REAL NFL historians – – such as Dan Daly and/or Ray Didinger – – but here is what I think was the biggest cutdown “blunder” ever in the NFL:
- In 1955, the Pittsburg Steelers used a late round draft pick on John Unitas. After training camp, they cut him. The Steelers kept Jim Finks and Ted Marchiborda as their QBs. Both Finks and Marchibroda had long careers in the NFL after their playing days were over but neither one was a star on the field.
- No other team signed Johnny U and so he spent a hear playing semi-pro football.
- In 1956, the Baltimore Colts signed John Unitas as a free agent and put him in a backfield with rookie Lenny Moore and second year player Alan Ameche and gave him a guy named Raymond Berry to throw the ball to. You know how that worked out…
For the first week of MNF, ESPN will depart from previous tradition. Normally, ESPN puts its main broadcast team on the early game of the Monday double header; this year Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland will do the late game (Rams/Raiders). That means Jason Witten’s debut on a game that means something will involve Jon Gruden – – the guy he is replacing in the broadcast booth. That could be an interesting storyline, but I don’t think that is why the ESPN suits made their decision. I think they wanted to put their “A-Team” on the better game – – and the early game is the Jets/Lions which could be a real ho-hum affair.
Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times regarding MNF’s innovation for this season:
“New ‘Monday Night Football’ sideline reporter Booger McFarland will ride up and down the sidelines on a motorized cart dubbed ‘The Booger Mobile.’
“It’s believed to be the greatest innovation on wheels since the Pinto, the Corvair and the Edsel — take your pick.”
Last night’s kickoff game in Philly was a nail-biter to the end. With the Eagles leading by 6 points, the Falcons had 5 shots at the end zone in the final 30 seconds to win the game but could not make it happen. There was not a lot of offense in the game and both teams looked as if they could have used more practice time than the current CBA permits, but the game was exciting down to the end.
Here are thumbnail comments on the games this week that are not part of the NFL Six-Pack:
- Jags/Giants: Jalen Ramsey versus Odell Beckham, Jr. in OBJ’s first game back from injury; that should provide sparks. It is also Saquon Barkley’s first game in front of the home fans. It is also the return to NYC of Tom Coughlin in his exec role with the Jags. Plenty of storylines here…The Jags probably think they can make a playoff run this year; we shall see.
- Niners/Vikes: Can Jimmy G stay undefeated as a starting QB? Also, look for the Vikes to benefit from the return of RB, Dalvin Cook from injury.
- Titans/Dolphins: I have spent about 24 hours trying to find a reason to care about this game. If you have one, let me know…
- Seahawks/Broncos: Seahawks are notoriously bad on the road; Broncos are really good at home. However, who knows what to expect from the Seahawks totally revamped roster this year – – other than the OL will be substandard.
- Chiefs/Chargers: An important divisional game right out of the gate thanks to the schedule-makers. We have a newbie QB in KC and an old hand at QB in LA. Andy Reid teams usually start the season well…
- Cowboys/Panthers: One of these teams might be good this year. Don’t know if that is true or which one it might be.
- Skins/Cardinals: Neither of these teams will be good this year. This is the Dog Breath Game of the Week.
- Bears/Packers: This rivalry goes back to the origins of professional football in America. It is a division game to start the season. What’s not to like?
- Jets/Lions: This is the debut of Sam Darnold. It is still September; so, the Lions have not been eliminated from the playoffs yet. That’s all I got …
Here is the NFL Six-Pack for the week – with a seventh pick thrown in at no extra charge:
Pittsburgh – 4 at Cleveland (44): It is fashionable to pick the Browns to win this game outright and end their 18-game losing streak. Well, Curmudgeon Central is not a fashionable locale by any stretch of the imagination; my long-suffering wife will testify to that. The Steelers have the better QB; the better set of playmakers and the Browns – – well they are the Browns. I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points.
Tampa at New Orleans – 9.5 (49.5): This is the largest spread of the week – – for a reason. The Saints aspire to play in the Super Bowl this year; if the Bucs think that way, they are delusional. The Saints will start Drew Brees; the Bucs will start Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even with Mark Ingram sitting out a suspension, I like the Saints to win and cover here.
Houston at New England – 6.5 (51): This is the best game of the weekend between two heavyweight teams; both squads should be in the playoffs come January. This is the return game for Deshaun Watson, JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. I like the Texans plus the points here. [Aside: I was tempted to take the Texans on the money line here at +220 but I am not going to go that far taking a young QB to win outright in Foxboro.]
Buffalo at Baltimore – 7.5 (40.5): I am neither a Joe Flacco fanboy nor a Joe Flacco hater but given the choice of backing a team led by Joe Flacco or Nathan Peterman, I’ll take Joe Flacco. I wish that half-point hook was not on the spread, but I’ll ignore that and take the Ravens to win and cover. Also, I like this game to go OVER.
Cincy at Indy – 2.5 (48): I like the fact that Andrew Luck in back and able to play. Notwithstanding the Colts advantage at QB if Luck is even at 80% of what he was, the Bengals are the better team here and they are getting points. I like the Bengals plus the points here.
(Monday Nite) Rams – 4 at Oakland (49): This is the first game of the Jon Gruden Era and already there are grumblings among the Raider faithful given the trade of Khalil Mack. This game features two franchises that are perpetually peripatetic. The Rams started out in Cleveland, moved to LA then moved to St. Louis and now they are back in LA. The Raiders started out in Oakland, moved to LA, threatened to move to Irwindale, moved back to Oakland and are on their way to Las Vegas. The game should be sponsored by Mayflower Moving Company… I think the Rams are the better team by far; I like them to win and cover here.
Finally, Brad Rock had this comment in the Deseret News recently going to see the Cleveland Browns play football:
“A woman directed a profane Facebook rant at family and friends for failing to finance her $60,000 ‘Kardashian wedding’.
“She reportedly asked guests to pay $1500 apiece to attend.
“That’s outrageous, but seriously, worse than charging $200 to see the Cleveland Browns?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………