Football Friday 11/30/18

After a discombobulated schedule last week, it feels as if cosmic order has been restored as Football Friday falls on Friday this week.  So, let me tee it up and kick it off…

In college football, the dominant stories of the past week fall into two distinct categories:

  1. The Conference Championship Games upcoming this weekend and the implications of those games for the CFP.
  2. Coaching changes at schools that are nowhere near sniffing a place in a Conference Championship Game.

Let me start with the coaching changes.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Paul Johnson will retire after whatever bowl game Georgia Tech plays in this season.  Johnson is 61 years old and has been in the coaching business for 40 years.  His first job was as a high school coach the year after he graduated from Western Carolina.  His first head coaching job was in 1997 at Georgia Southern where he was most successful winning two national championships in the division 1-AA playoffs.  After that he was the head coach at Navy before taking over at Georgia Tech.  His overall record as a college head coach is 198-89.

Via con Dios, Paul Johnson.

Another coaching change took place at UNC – to the shock of almost no one.  Juxtaposing Larry Fedora’s nonsensical remarks at the ACC coaches pre-season media day with two consecutive horrid seasons made it a no-brainer to put him out to pasture.  The surprise from UNC was the announcement that Mack Brown would leave the TV studio and return to UNC to take over the program there.  Brown had been very successful in Chapel Hill prior to leaving to take the Texas job.

Hiring Mack Brown raises an interesting question.  Is there a mini-movement within college football to seek out old-timers as coaches as opposed to seeking out the latest/greatest hot-shot coordinators who are still working on their second razor blade?  Consider:

  • Mack Brown is 67 years old.  His last time on the sidelines was in 2013.  He won the BCS national championship in 2005 and has a career record of 244-122-1.
  • Les Miles is 65 years old.  He just took the job at Kansas a couple of weeks ago shouldering the burden of trying to make Kansas football into something better than a laughingstock.
  • Herm Edwards was 63 years old last year when Arizona State pulled him out of a TV studio to run the football program there.  Edwards had never coached at the college level and had been on TV for the 9 years before his hiring.
  • Bill Snyder is 79 years old.  He was 70 when K-State hired him back for a second stint on the sidelines there.  Last year, K-State signed him to a 5-year extension to run through the 2022 season when he will be 83 years old.

If this is a trend, when should I expect to hear rumors about Lou Holtz (age 81) and or Lee Corso (age 83) taking over the football program at Whatsamatta U?

Lovie Smith is a youngster at age 60.  Moreover, his tenure at Illinois over the past 3 seasons has been “less than outstanding”.  His record there is 9-27 overall which is not nearly “good”, and his Big-10 conference record is 4-23 which is fairly described as “pathetic”.  Notwithstanding that record, Illinois just extended Lovie Smith’s contract for two more years meaning he will be there for the next 5 years.  Clearly, Illinois administrators are hoping that their football fortunes will take an upturn as Lovie Smith “matures” into his late-60s…

NCAA Conference Championship Games:

(Fri nite) Northern Illinois vs Buffalo – 4 (51):  In MAC-country, this is a big game – meaning it might actually draw 25,000 fans if the weather is decent.  Northern Illinois has lost two games in a row and is still in this championship game.  I just cannot get excited about this one.  If pressed, I would take Buffalo and lay the points, but no one is pressing me…

(Fri nite) Utah vs Washington – 5.5 (44.5):  The winner of this game will play in the Rose Bowl as the PAC-12 champion.  Washington beat Utah 21-7 two months ago.  Both teams rely on tough defense to win games.  I agree with the oddsmakers that the game will be low-scoring and because I believe that I will take Utah plus the points.

UAB vs Middle Tennessee St. – 1.5 (45):  UAB killed its football program and then revived it a couple of years ago; already UAB is in the C-USA championship game.  Other than that, I don’t find much to command my attention.

Memphis vs UCF – 3 (64.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 70 points and has dropped steadily all week long.  The winner is the AAC champion; and if that winner is UCF, it will require a certain set of college football observes to say once again that UCF belongs in the CFP as one of the 4 best teams in the country.  Hi-ho…  I think the falling Total Line is a recognition that the loss of UCF’s starting QB will likely change the way UCF approaches the game.  Purely a hunch, but I’ll take this game to stay UNDER.

Texas vs Oklahoma – 8 (77):  The winner here will be the Big-12 champion.  I like the format of the Big-12 here pairing the two teams in the conference with the best records in the championship game rather than two divisional champions where the strength of the two divisions might vary widely.  Texas won the previous meeting between the teams this year; it was Oklahoma’s only loss of the season.  The stat that is being widely disseminated about this game is that Texas coach, Tom Herman, is 10-1-1 as an underdog over the last 4 seasons.  I do not think Texas will beat Oklahoma again in this game, but I also cannot put any faith in the Sooners’ miserable defense to keep the game inside that number.  I’ll take Texas plus the points.

Louisiana-Lafayette vs Appalachian St. – 16.5 (57):  The winner here is the Sun Belt champ.  I’m sure that matters to alums from the two schools…

Georgia vs Alabama – 13.5 (63):  This is clearly the NCAA Game of the Week.  My first thought was that this spread was a mistake.  Almost 2 TDs in the SEC Championship Game???  Then I went and did some math; Alabama has won its SEC games – not counting the out-of-conference games against Louisville and The Citadel – by just over 32 points per game.  Since I can do that math, so can lots of other folks and that is why the oddsmakers have to put the number that high; if not, the books would be hugely unbalanced.  I think Alabama will win this game and Alabama may indeed blow out the Bulldogs much the same as they blew out other good teams this year such as LSU.  But lay that many points against a very good Georgia team at your peril…

Fresno St. vs Boise St. – 2 (53):  The winner here will be the Mountain West Conference champion; I’ll go out on a limb here and say that “State” is gonna win this game.  These teams met 3 weeks ago; Boise St. won that game at home by 7 points and the total points in that game was 41.  It seems to me that the Total Line here is inflated.  I like the game to stay UNDER.

Pitt vs Clemson – 27.5 (53):  The Panthers have pulled off some stunning upsets over the past couple of years, but if they win this game it will shake the college football structure to its foundations.  Frankly, I was not particularly interested in this game until I saw the spread open at 24 points and jump to this level almost overnight.  I think I’ll tune in just to see how the Panthers approach the game when everyone seems to have given them up for dead.

Northwestern vs Ohio St – 14.5 (61):  If the Wildcats win here the CFP folks will have to do some soul-searching.  They do not want to stage their tournament with no team from the Big-10; that would write off a large college football audience.  But if the Wildcats are the champions, they would bring 4 losses to the CFP.

One more NCAA Game of Interest

Stanford – 3 at Cal (46):  This game was postponed because of the poor air quality in Northern California due to the wildfires there.  This rivalry is sufficient that the game must be played even though it is “meaningless” with regard to any conference championship.  I like Cal at home plus the points in this game.

NFL Commentary:

Two weeks ago, there were lots of close games in the NFL.  This week there were more than a few games that were not in doubt in the 4th quarter.  Let me start with the games that were not exactly nail-biters…

The Bucs beat the Niners 27-9.  Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and 2 TDs in the game.  More importantly, he did not turn the ball over even one time.  The Bucs’ defense is hardly fearsome and yet the Niners could not ascend to “double-digits” on the scoreboard.  Maybe – – just maybe – – Nick Mullens is not the second coming of Brett Favre.

The Pats beat the Jets 27-13.  The Pats ran the ball for 215 yards and amassed a total of 498 yards total offense.  This game was not nearly as close as the score would make it appear.

The Ravens beat the Raiders 34-17.  Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to this win playing like an NFL QB instead of a helter-skelter college QB.  He still has a lot to learn about being an NFL QB, but he outplayed Derek Carr in this game.  The Ravens had 242 yards on the ground; they scored on a punt return; they scored on a fumble recovery returned for a TD.  The Raiders have lost 6 of their last 7 games and all 6 of those losses have been by double-digits.  Shudder…

The Browns beat the Bengals 35-20.  The Browns ran off to a 28-0 lead and had it on cruise control for the second half.  The Browns broke a 25-game road losing streak with this win; the last time they won on the road was in 2015.  Both Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb had excellent games against a Bengals’ defense that just plain stinks.  Andy Dalton suffered a hand injury late in the game and will be out for the rest of the season.  The Bengals season is finito.

  • [Aside:  Reports say that Marvin Lewis will be “moved upstairs” at the end of the season and that Hue Jackson – late of the Browns and with a recent coaching record of 3-36-1 – will take over the Bengals.  Good luck with that…]

The Chargers beat the Cardinals 45-10.  Midway through the first quarter, the Cards led this game 10-0; then came the deluge.  Philip Rivers completed 25 consecutive passes in this game; that might be easy if the defensive backs were all peg-legged pirates, but this was nominally against an NFL secondary.  Rivers ended the day 28 for 29 with 3 TDs.  The Chargers are only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West and – even if they do not catch the Chiefs – they are solidly in command in the AFC wildcard race.

The Texans beat the Titans 34-17.  The Titans looked good early in the game and then collapsed like a cot under a sumo wrestler.  The game turned with the score 10-7 and the Titans with 4th and 1 inside the Texans’ 5 yardline.  The Titans went for it; they got stuffed; the Texans took over and ran 97 yards on the first play for a TD; the Titans never recovered from that.  The Texans ran the ball for 282 yards on 33 carries.  That is 8.5 yards per carry.  Even if you subtract that 97-yard run from the total, the Texans gained 5.8 yards per carry.

At least there were some close games last week.  The Vikes beat the Packers 24-17.  After the game, Aaron Rodgers tried to indicate that the Packers’ season was not over and that the team merely needed to get to work and win out for the rest of the year.  Not meaning any disrespect for Aaron Rodgers, but that is not happening; the Packers are cooked.  As I watched this game, the Packers seemed to be going through the motions more than anything else; and I include Aaron Rodgers in that category.  Kirk Cousins had a nice game here on a national stage; he threw for 343 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs.

The Broncos beat the Steelers 24-17.  The Steelers certainly left points on the field in this game.  A runner fumbled the ball out of the end zone before crossing the goal line and Ben Roethlisberger threw a brutally ugly INT from the 1-yardline late in the 4th quarter.  Both were self-inflicted wounds.  The Steelers had 527 yards total offense – – and lost because they turned the ball over 4 times.  The Broncos are 5-6 as of this morning but look at their remaining schedule; it looks pillow-soft to me:

  • at Cincy – – winnable game
  • at SF – – winnable game
  • vs Browns – – winnable game
  • at Raiders – – winnable game
  • vs Chargers – – suppose the Chargers have their playoff slot locked up here?

The Broncos might post a final record of 10-6 this year.  From this vantage point, they should finish at 9-7 at the worst.

The Colts beat the Dolphins 27-24.  The Colts are making a serious run in the AFC South.  The Texans are in control there for now, but given the way the colts are playing, the Texans need to maintain their focus and keep on winning.  Andrew Luck threw for 343 yards and 3 TDs in this game, but he also threw 2 INTs to keep the game close.  This has not happened often in recent years, but the Colts’ defense came up big in the 4th quarter.  With the game in a one-score situation, the last two Dolphins’ possessions resulted in 3-and-out.

The Eagles beat the Giants 25-22.  It was a “tale of two halves”.  The Giants dominated the first half leading 19-11 at the break.  The Giant’s offense ran up 346 yards in the first half and then went into hibernation.  The Eagles ran the ball well in second half to set up key passing situations that Carson Wentz converted when needed.  The Giants had a 2-game win streak coning into the game, but it may have been a mirage; they beat two cellar-dwellers (Niners and Bucs) by a total of 7 points.

The Seahawks beat the Panthers 30-27.  The Panthers have now lost 3 in a row and this was the first home loss this year for the team.  Russell Wilson seemed to be running for his life for much of the game, but he still threw for 339 yards and 2 TDs.  Christian McCaffrey was outstanding in the game with 237 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs.

The Bills beat the Jags 24-21.  The Jags are not only a bad team, they have no discipline or focus.  That is very odd for a team assembled by Tom Coughlin, but it seems to be the case.  For what it is worth, I am now convinced that Blake Bortles does not deserve any more chances to be the starting QB in Jax or anywhere else.  This is the Jags’ 7th loss in a row and they fired their OC, Nate Hackett after the game; Hackett is a scapegoat and nothing more; the problem is at QB and the commitment the team made to that QB in the last off-season.

The lack of focus/discipline for the jags was in plain view on a play you must have seen a dozen times by now.  With a Jags receiver tackled at the Bills’ 1-yardline, a scuffle broke out and Leonard Fournette – who was not in the game and was on the far sideline from the scuffle – ran about 50 yards to insert himself in the melee and arrived throwing punches.  He was ejected from the game and is suspended this week.

Oh, but it gets worse…  The Jags had the ball with first down at the Bills’ 1-yardline once order was restored.  Carlos Hyde – in for Fournette – lost a yard on 1st down.  Ok, that is not the end of the world…

  • Next came a false start putting the ball back at the 7-yardline.
  • Then, a TD pass was nullified by a holding call that put the ball at the 17-yardline.
  • On second and goal from the 17, Blake Bortles ran for 1 yard.
  • On third and goal from the 16, Bortles took a sack back at the 24-yardline.
  • Kicker, Josh Lambo, then put coal tar on this ice cream sundae by missing a 42-yard field goal.

The Cowboys win over the Saints last night was a classic example of a let-down game for the Saints.  With their record at 10-1 and with a 10-game win streak where they had covered the spread in their last 9 games, the Saints came out at half-volume.  Meanwhile, the cowboys were flying all over the field on defense and never allowed the Saints to generate any rhythm.  The Saints’ offense had been in a position to break the all-time NFL record for points in a season; they were averaging over 38 points per game; last night they scored 10 points.  The Cowboys are in a good spot to win the NFC East and make the playoffs.

NFL Games this week:

Indy – 4 at Jax (47):  The Colts have won 5 in a row; the Jags have lost 7 in a row.  The Jags will sit Blake Bortles (a good move) and replace him at QB with Cody Kessler who is 0-8 in his starts at the NFL level.  Leonard Fournette is out too on a suspension.  I’ll take the Colts even on the road and lay the points even on the road.

Carolina – 3 at Tampa (54.5):  This is a must-win game for the Panthers.  They are on a 3-game losing streak and could lose their inside track to a wild card slot in the playoffs with another loss here.  The Panthers are a miserable 1-4 on the road and they are only 1-6 against the spread in their last 7 road games.  The Bucs are not a factor when it comes to the playoffs; they are already playing out the string.  Tread carefully here if you are tempted to make a wager…

Baltimore at Atlanta – 1.5 (49.5):  This will be Lamar Jackson’s first start on the road.  The Falcons’ defense is not a great unit, but it is better than the defenses that Jackson has faced so far this year (Bengals and Raiders).  The game has more playoff meaning to the Ravens, but this is a dicey call.  If I had to make a prediction, I would suggest taking the game to go Over.

Cleveland at Houston – 6 (47):  These teams do not play one another all that often.  The Texans are 4-0 straight up and against the spread against the Browns over the last decade.  The Browns are certainly playing better under Gregg Williams than they were under Hue Jackson but not as good as the Texans whose 8-game win streak should be extended here.

Buffalo at Miami – 3.5 (40):  This game is in a dead-heat for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Bills are on a 2-game winning streak and they were the underdog in both of those victories.  They are the underdog here too; is that an omen?  Have the Bills finally put some of the pieces together or have they just been fortunate the last two weeks?  Dolphins are hardly a top-level opponent; we shall see…

Chicago – 4 at Giants (44.5):  Is this a trap game for the Bears?  They are on the road; their starting QB may or may not play this week because he suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago AND the Bears host the conference leading Rams next week.  Meanwhile the Giants season is over, and the Giants’ offense should be stifled by the Bears’ defense.  Unless, the Bears are looking ahead to next week…

Denver at Cincy – 5 (45):   Both teams are 5-6 but they are headed in opposite directions.  The Broncos’ schedule gives them hope to be a playoff contender late in December; the Bengals can start to plan their Caribbean cruise vacations for early January.  The interesting thing to look for in this game is how Jeff Driskel plays taking over for Andy Dalton.  Other than that, …

Rams – 10 at Detroit (55):  Neither team here is on a hot streak relative to the spread:

  • Rams are 1-6-1 against the spread in their last 8 games
  • Lions are 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 games

These teams are headed in opposite directions.  The Rams are on track to have a BYE Week in the playoffs.  The Lions are on a vector heading to their familiar spot as the cellar-dweller in the NFC North.

Arizona at Green Bay – 14 (44):  I know the Cardinals are bad; you need not work hard to convince me on that issue.  However, the Packers of 2018 are not nearly a juggernaut and they are a 2 TD favorite here?  I know that the Packers are undefeated at home this year (4-0-1), but a 2 TD favorite?

KC – 15 at Oakland (55.5):  Here is another monstrous spread; the Raiders are 15-point dogs at home against a division rival.  Al Davis just choked on his morning bagel at the Celestial Starbucks when he saw that in the Cosmic Post.  Andy Reid specializes in coming back strong off a BYE Week and the Raiders are just a flat-out mess.  Since Andy Reid took over in KC, his teams are 15-5 against division rivals.  If you ask me to justify that 15-point spread, all I have is this:

  • Name a team in the AFC that is clearly better than the Chiefs
  • Name a team in the AFC that is clearly worse than the Raiders

Jets at Tennessee – 10 (40):  This game is in a dead-heat for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Jets are not a good road team over the past two years and they are 1-4 against the spread on the road this year.  The Titans need this game to remain playoff-relevant; the Jets have no such motivation.  Having said all that, this line looks awfully fat for a game where points ought to be hard to come by.  Just a hunch, but I’ll take the Jets plus the points.

Minnesota at New England – 5 (49.5):  This is a very important game for the Vikes if they hope to catch the Bears in the NFC North race.  However, the Pats are undefeated at home this year making this a tough road spot for the Vikes.  The Pats ran the ball a lot last week; I doubt they will do a lot of business against the Vikes’ defense with the run so expect Tom Brady to be airing it out a lot here.

SF at Seattle – 10 (46):  This was the game that Richard Sherman circled on his calendar back in July when training camp started.  This would be his return to Seattle and the game was going to be meaningful because Jimmy G was still the Niners QB and the team was not shredded by injuries.  The Niners are 0-6 on the road and only 2-4 against the spread in those 6 games.

(Sun Nite) Chargers at Pittsburgh – 3.5 (51.5):  This is the NFL Game of the Week.  The game was flexed to prime time from a 1:00PM start.  It is an important game to both teams who have their eyes squarely on the playoffs.  There are two interesting trends at work here:

  • Steelers are 12-1 in prime-time games – – 9-4 against the spread
  • Chargers are 2-8 in prime-time games – – 4-5-1 against the spread

The Chargers will be without Melvin Gordon here, but I like Philip Rivers with a hot hand in this game.  I like the Chargers plus the points.

(Mon Nite) Washington at Philly – 6 (45):  The Skins need this game to keep pace with the Cowboys – at least for the moment – in the NFC East.  I proclaimed the Eagles as “done” a couple of weeks ago and I stand by that projection here – – even if they win on Monday night.  From a wagering perspective, here are two things to keep in mind:

  • Eagles are 3-8 against the spread this year
  • Skins are 7-4 against the spread this year

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times had this perspective on the Jets’ season so far:

“A motorist arrested on a DUI charge in Wayne, N.J., blamed his .13 blood-alcohol reading on the fact ‘I drank too much because the Jets suck,’ according to the police report.

“On the bright side, oddsmakers say he just might have a better chance of winning than the Jets do.”

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



The Dog Ate My Homework

The dog ate my homework.  As hackneyed as that excuse is as a way to explain why one has failed to do something that was required, you must admire the excuse for what it is.  It is not something easily disproven – – so long as you have a dog.  The first kid to use that excuse probably got away with it – once.  Did someone in the back of the room say, “Why is that interesting?”  Here’s why…

In Ireland, there is an amateur soccer league where there was a scheduled game between Ballybrack and Arklow Town.  To say that the game would be inconsequential would be to heap praise upon it.  Now, it attracted international attention because of the reason given by Ballybrack for the need to cancel the game.  Ballybrack said that one of its players had died in a motorcycle accident.

The good news here is that Fernando Lafuente is alive and well.  Now the folks who run this amateur soccer league have to figure out what to do with the Ballybrack side.  While they are figuring that out, please consider the downstream consequences of that excuse for canceling an upcoming game.

It is difficult to prove that the putative dog did not eat the homework.  At some point down the line, it was going to be very easy to prove that Fernando Lafuente was still vertical, taking nourishment and exchanging oxygen in the biosphere.  When that happened somewhere in the future, what would be the explanation of the Ballybrack braintrust?

Switching gears …  Croatia won the Davis Cup; this is the second time Croatia has won the Cup; the last time was in 2005.  Croatia is a small country in the Balkans; my long-suffering wife and I visited Croatia last June; the population of Croatia is about 4.2M folks.  When we were there, the Croatian team was making a run in the FIFA World Cup tournament and we saw firsthand the level of excitement and pride generated in everyone as the team progressed from game to game; Croatia was the runner-up in the World Cup tournament losing to France in the final game.  In the Davis Cup finals, Croatia and France were the competing sides.

When I saw pictures of the celebrations in Croatia after the team returned home after winning the final match in France, the scenes were reminiscent of what we saw last summer with regard to Croatian progress to the World Cup finals.  It is a small country, but the people there take their international sports competitions very seriously.

The Alliance of American Football (AAF) held its QB draft earlier this week.  There were 4 rounds in the draft; the league consists of 8 teams.  In the first round, 4 of the teams decided to protect one of the QBs that had been assigned to the team and 4 other teams went shopping in the QB market.  Here are the QBs that were “protected” in Round 1:

  1. Atlanta Legends protected Aaron Murray who played at Georgia
  2. Memphis Express protected Troy Cook who played at Tennessee-Martin
  3. San Antonio Commanders protected Dustin Vaughn who played at West Texas A&M.
  4. San Diego Fleet protected Josh Johnson who played at the University of San Diego.

There were 4 other QBs involved in this draft whose names may ring a bell with you:

  1. Birmingham Iron took Blake Sims with the second pick in the second round; Sims played at Alabama.  [The Iron took Luis Perez in the first round of this draft.  Perez is from Texas A&M-Commerce.  This could be the AAF’s first quarterback controversy.]
  2. Atlanta Legends took Matt Simms with the fifth pick in the second round.  He played college football at Tennessee.  Matt Simms is the son of Phil Simms and the brother of Chris Simms.
  3. Memphis Express took Christian Hackenberg with the seventh pick in the second round.  Hackenberg played at Penn State and was a second-round pick by the NY Jets.  That never worked out.
  4. The Salt Lake Stallions took Matt Linehan with the third pick of the fourth round.  Linehan played college football at Idaho and he is the son of Scott Linehan – the offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.

Moving on …  I understand that Curt Schilling is not the most loveable former MLB player out there and I certainly do not want to associate myself with 99% of his remarks/positions in the social/political realm.  Schilling is sort of like that relative who makes the family Thanksgiving gathering even more pleasant by notifying everyone that he will not be able to make it this year.  I get all of that…

And if that is the reason that Curt Schilling is not getting votes for the MLB Hall of Fame, then shame on the voters.  His situation is not the same as the shunning of players who were proven steroid users or players who were never caught using PEDs but … you know.  One can make the argument – and I have made it in the past – that using PEDs enhance the statistics that form the nominally objective basis for Hall of Fame enshrinement.  The whole concept of PEDs is Performance Enhancement after all.

Curt Schilling has more than a few wing-nut quality stances on economics, social issues and politics; moreover, he is all too willing to share them with folks even when he is not asked to do so.  He is not anyone I would want to spend a weekend with; he is someone who deserves objective consideration for the Hall of Fame.  [Aside:  Steve Carleton in rightfully in the Hall of Fame.  Go and check out the Wikipedia page for Carleton under the heading of “Media charges of bigotry and anti-Semitism”.  The views described there are also of “wing-nut quality.]

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times:

“Fit Pregnancy Club, a New York City gym that opened a year ago, caters only to pregnant women and those with infants.

“It’s also the only gym where ‘water breaks’ takes on a whole different meaning.”


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



A Local Controversy…

The big local story of the day is that the Skins claimed Reuben Foster off the waiver list after the Niners released him in the wake of domestic abuse charges.  Obviously, that is a controversial decision and it illustrates the fact that elite athletic abilities can sometimes trump despicable off-field actions.

  • Make no mistake; Reuben Foster’s combination of youth, skill and rookie contract status makes him a top-shelf football commodity.
  • Make no mistake; Reuben Foster’s record of behavior off the field goes well beyond highly questionable.  [Apologies to Dan LeBatard there…]

This announcement is fodder for local sports radio yakkers.  To no one’s surprise, one of them did a poll on one of the Internet platforms and equally unsurprising were the results.  The fanbase is split into two camps of relatively equal size:

  • 55% said they liked the waiver claim
  • 45% said they disliked the waiver claim

In a column in this morning’s Washington Post, columnist Jerry Brewer noted that the team front office was not unanimous in its decision to make this waiver claim and that the team relied to some degree on positive testimonials from former teammates at Alabama who had played with Foster there.  [For the record, there are 5 Alabama alums on the Skins’ roster on the defensive side of the ball.]  I point that out to show that the team reportedly did some ”checking”/”due diligence” before making the waiver claim.

However, there is also a report in USA Today that says only one team in the NFL bothered to contact the Tampa police – where the alleged domestic abuse took place – about what the police knew.  That team was not the Skins; that team was the Philadelphia Eagles.  And you may ask now why that is interesting…

  • The Skins have a better record in 2018 as of this morning than the Eagles.  Ergo, the Eagles could have claimed Foster before the Skins had a chance to put in their claim.
  • If the Eagles indeed contacted the Tampa police and then passed on the waiver claim, it is fair to ask what they may have learned by that contact.  And what the Skins might have learned had they too contacted the Tampa police.

This situation will not be fully resolved for a while.  I fully expect there to be twists and turns along the way.  This will not be ignored in the environment of the MeToo movement.  And to really add some spice to the stew, this matter is now squarely in the hands of Commissioner Roger Goodell who has not showered himself in glory while handling domestic abuse matters in the past.

Moving along …  When Christian Yelich won the NL MVP Award this year, it created an interesting situation regarding MLB.  Consider:

  • The 2017 NL MVP was Giancarlo Stanton.  The Marlins traded him away in a cost reducing move.
  • The 2018 NL MVP was Christian Yelich.  The Marlins traded him away in a cost reducing move.

I think I am on relatively solid footing to assert that having two different players who recently won the NL MVP on a team ought to produce a team that generated excitement and enthusiasm in that team’s fanbase.  However, the Marlins traded both players away for economic reasons.  So, that makes me ask once again;

  • Is Miami, FL a sufficiently robust market for a MLB team?

In 2017, the Marlins drew 20,295 fans per game for 78 home games.  That is a total draw of just under 1.6M fans.

In 2018, the Marlins’ attendance cratered from that already low mark to an average of 10,014 fans per game.  That represents a drop of more than 50% year-over-year and a total draw of 811K fans.

In the 2010 census, Miami had a population of 399,500 people.  In that same census, other baseball cities were smaller – – and yet provided better team support for the local heroes.  Miami is bigger than:

  1. Oakland
  2. Minneapolis
  3. Cleveland
  4. Tampa
  5. St. Louis
  6. Pittsburgh
  7. Cincinnati

[Note:  I left off cities like Arlington, TX and Anaheim, CA from this list.  Those cities are indeed smaller than Miami, but those teams draw from nearby metro areas that dwarf Miami.]

It seems to me that the Miami Marlins ought to be on a short list of teams that MLB should relocate.

Finally, Dwight Perry had a comment recently in the Seattle Times related to a small drop in MLB attendance for 2018 as compared to 2017:

“Attendance at Major League Baseball games dropped 4 percent this season.

“Must have been all those players kneeling for the national anthem.”

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



Random Musings Today …

Back in May after the NFL Draft but before any team conducted their summer OTAs, the oddsmakers posted the win totals for every NFL team so that fans could bet OVER or UNDERHere is a link to an article that summarizes all of those prop bets.

Let me save you some trouble here.  If you add up the win totals for all 32 teams, it comes to more than 256 wins – – which is not possible since there are only 256 NFL regular season games.  The reason for that disparity is that the betting public tends to bet OVER more frequently and more heavily than they bet UNDER.  The oddsmakers are not trying to predict how many games the teams will win; the oddsmakers are trying to set numbers that will get an equal amount of money bet on either side of each proposition so the oddsmakers can make a living on the vig.

Obviously, the smart thing to do there was to bet every team to go UNDER because some of those bets were guaranteed to be good with only 256 games to be played.  Now that we are about 75% of the way through the season, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of those props from last May.

  1. The Packers must go UNDER the 10 wins in the prop bet.
  2. The Saints are already OVER the 9.5 wins in the prop bet.
  3. The Raiders must go UNDER the 9.5 wins in the prop bet.
  4. The Falcons must go UNDER the 9.5 wins in the prop bet.
  5. The Rams are already OVER the 9.5 wins in the prop bet.
  6. The Niners must go UNDER the 8.5 wins in the prop bet.
  7. The Chiefs are already OVER the 8 wins in the prop bet.
  8. The Bears are already OVER the 5.5 wins in the prop bet.

In addition to these 8 prop bets that are already decided – that is 25% of the universe of possible wagers – there are several teams that can earn a push if they win out for the season.  Take the Eagles for example; they have won 5 games to date with 5 left to play.  The win total in their prop bet was 10; they cannot possibly go OVER but they can still get to a push on the prop bet if they win their remaining games.  There are several teams in that status at the moment.

I will try to remember to do a tally of all these prop bets at the end of the regular season to see how the “strategy” of taking every team to go UNDER would have fared.

Moving on …  When Jon Gruden took over the Raiders last winter, some people thought that the game had changed since his coaching days and that he might have difficulty adapting to the “new NFL”.  Because he had stayed in close touch with the NFL as part of his broadcasting preparations, I did not think that would be a major problem for him, but I did wonder how his “roster philosophy” would fit with the roster that existed in Oakland upon his arrival.  Yes, one can turn over a roster; I understand that.  I also understand that such a process does not happen overnight, nor does it happen without some ”discontinuities”.

With the Raiders’ record standing at 2-9, I think it is fair to say that there have indeed been some “roster discontinuities” that have been less than positive – and I am not talking about the trading of Khalil Mack.  It is more than that…

Jon Gruden’s calling card in the NFL is as an “offense guy”.  I will spot him for the moment the major error that he made in trading away Khalil Mack.  What I will not spot him is the decision to release Michael Crabtree and then to trade away Amari Cooper.  Do not misinterpret; I am not trying to make either one of them out to be the next coming of Jerry Rice or Randy Moss; neither of them is nearly that good.  However, both are significantly better than what Jon Gruden has kept on the Raiders’ roster – or brought to the Raiders’ roster – this year.

Last week, Derek Carr targeted Marcell Ateman 10 times in the Raiders’ loss to the Ravens; no other Raiders’ pass-catcher was targeted more than 5 times in that game.  Ateman is a rookie WR from Oklahoma State; he caught 3 of those passes for a total of 16 yards.  I have a difficult time believing that Marcell Ateman is a better WR than either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper.  Maybe that is more than an insignificant part of the reason why the Raiders rank 24th in the NFL in offense as of this morning?

And speaking of roster moves that look like bad decisions, the Jags decided in the last offseason to give Blake Bortles a 3-year extension at $54M.  It seems logical to interpret that move as saying:

  • We were 15 minutes away from beating the pats and going to the Super bowl in 2017.
  • Blake Bortles was sufficient to get us to that point.
  • If we shore up some other parts of the team, we can get over the hump here.

As I understand that contract extension, the Jags paid Bortles $15M as a signing bonus and guaranteed him $27M over the three years of the deal.  His base salary for 2018 is $5M meaning that he has already pocketed $20M of that $27M guarantee.  With the Jags on the horns of a 7-game losing streak and Bortles being benched this week in favor of Cody Kessler, the decision to commit to Bortles last off-season deserves serious scrutiny.  Moreover, it creates an off-season dilemma for the team again this year.

  • Do the Jags bring Bortles back once again as the presumed starter?
  • Do they eat the additional $7M they owe him as a guarantee and move on?
  • Can they afford the $17M cap hit he will consume in 2019 if they release him?

Finally, since I mentioned the Raiders’ difficulties this season, let me close with this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“’Super Bowl’ in Oakland now refers to:

  • “a game the Raiders used to play in once in a while
  • “what owner Mark Davis requests when he goes to the barbershop.”

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



Thanksgiving Weekend Sports

I will not pretend that I follow Canadian football closely; I do not.  I tune in a game occasionally when other things are less interesting, but I do try to watch the Gray Cup game every year.  It happened yesterday; I recorded it and watched it once the Sunday night game was over.  Congratulations to the Calgary Stampeders as the 2018 CFL champions.  The Stampeders beat the Ottawa Redblacks 27-16.

  • [Aside:  When I started viewing the game, I was confused for the first several minutes.  The team wearing red and black uniforms was not the Redblacks; the team wearing the white uniforms was the Redblacks.  Whatever…]

I have had fun in the past with the name of the Stampeders’ QB, Bo Levi Mitchell.  [When I see his face, then I’m a BoLevier…  Sorry about that.]  After seeing him play a couple of times, I think that NFL teams that are “deficient at the QB position” might want to give this guy a chance.  I do not think he is the next coming of Andrew Luck or anything like that, but I do “bo-lieve” that he can play QB better than some of the guys who hold those positions in the NFL this year.

I know that Calgary is a long way from Florida and maybe that is the reason that no one from any of the 3 NFL franchises in that state have cast their eyes upon Mitchell.  Having identified that geographical region, let me say that Bo Levi Mitchell would improve the “quarterback room” for any and all of those 3 franchises.  Mitchell is 28 years old and played college ball at Eastern Washington – the same small school that produced Cooper Kupp for the NFL.

Speaking obliquely about potential sources of quarterbacking talent for the NFL, the AAF – the Alliance of American Football – will hold a QB Draft tomorrow night.  It will be different from the NFL Draft; so, let me explain.

  • There are 8 teams in the soon to commence AAF.
  • QBs who have signed with the league have been assigned to the teams closest to where they played college football to generate regional interest.  Those QBs now are subject to the AAF Draft.
  • The model is “Protect or Pick”.  A team may designate any of the QBs assigned to it as a “Protected Player”; that would take that QB out of the draft.  It also will serve as the 1st round draft pick for the team opting to “protect” a QB.
  • There will be 4 draft rounds.
  • There are a few interesting names in the upcoming draft including Christian Hackenberg, Josh Johnson, Aaron Murray and Scott Tolzein.

The AAF will commence operations in February 2019 a week after the NFL season ends with the Super Bowl.  It has a TV deal in place with CBS; it has its franchises geographically skewed toward the south and southeastern part of the country where football is most popular.  The eight teams are:

  1. Arizona Hotshots
  2. Atlanta Legends
  3. Birmingham Iron
  4. Memphis Express
  5. Orlando Apollos
  6. Salt Lake City Stallions
  7. San Antonio Commanders
  8. San Diego Fleet

It was a disappointing season for Nebraska football.  Scott Frost returned to coach the team he had led to a national championship about 20 years ago and expectations were high.  The Huskers lost their first 6 games and finished the season at 4-8.  Notwithstanding the failure to return to glory, Brad Dickson – formerly with the Omaha World Herald – came up with several reasons that Nebraska fans should be thankful.  Here are 3 reasons that I particularly liked:

“Husker fans can be thankful that the Memorial Stadium hot dogs are made of the finest ground sandhill crane meat available.”

And …

“Nebraska fans should be thankful that the team isn’t involved in one of those Big Ten rivalry games where the winner gets a trophy that depicts a cow’s snout or a hog’s anus.”

And …

“Nebraska fans can be thankful that the new Tunnel Walk is 12 million times better than the highlight of our 150th birthday celebration which consisted of Gov. Pete Ricketts waving a sparkler from atop a hay wagon while screaming ‘Kansas blows!’ in 23 languages.”

Before you ask, I did not cough up any legal tender to watch the concocted golf match over the weekend nor did I go and find out who won what in that competition.  The only reason that a golf tournament borders on watchable on TV is because there are cameras at every hole and one can bounce from place to place to see golfers attempting to put the ball in the hole for most of the time you are staring at the screen.  With only 2 players to follow, the round of golf could take about 4 hours with a total of 10 minutes of “action”.  That is not entertaining; that is not compelling TV.

Finally, here is Brad Dickson once again with an observation about Nebraska Coach, Scott Frost and his family:

“Things I think about when I’m cold: if Scott Frost has a sister and she married former Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze she’d be Susie Frost-Freeze.”

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



Football Friday – On Wednesday 11/21/18

We live in unusual times.  Football Friday falls on a Wednesday this week.  The reasons for that calendar anomaly are pretty simple:

  • There are a lot of interesting football games scheduled for Thursday this week that would be moot if all of this happened on Friday of this week.
  • Given the social aspects of the Thanksgiving Holiday and the status of our visitor for the holiday, I am not nearly certain that I will write anything on Friday – – let alone a football saga.

The downside of writing on a Wednesday is that all references to spreads and Total Lines are subject to major revision as kick off approaches.  Any references to those sorts of data need to be taken in the context that we are nowhere near the final numbers.  For that reason, I will not try to do a Six-Pack for the week using lines so far in advance of the games.

And so, with that as a prelude, here comes the inaugural “Football Wednesday” for 2018…

NCAA Football Commentary:

This has been an unusual college football season to say the least.  In 2018, we have seen more than a few “blueblood” college football programs suffer from unusually bad years.  It is not unusual for one or two of those bluebloods to have a “down year” – unless of course we are talking about Alabama under Nick Saban – but there have been a lot more than “one or two” this year:

  • Arkansas is 2-9.  Among other shellackings, they lost to North Texas by 27 points; Frank Broyles is rolling over in his grave.
  • Auburn is 7-4.  Some folks expected them to challenge Alabama for SEC West supremacy.  Auburn – traditionally – is not a 4-loss team heading into the Iron Bowl game against Alabama.
  • Florida State is 4-6.  Bobby Bowden would be rolling over in his grave – – if he were actually dead at this moment.
  • Miami is 6-5.  In the middle of this season they had a 4-game losing streak an none of the victors in that 4-game streak will be in the CFP at the end of the year.
  • Penn St. is 8-3.  Let me just say that the Nittany Lions’ last 4 wins have not been awe-inspiring…
  • Stanford is 6-4.  They have lost 3 close games, but it still represents an under-achievement for the Cardinal.
  • UCLA is 2-9.  They beat USC but have been trounced in five of their losses.
  • USC is 5-6.  They handed Washington St. its only loss of the year; other than that…

Meanwhile, some teams that have not been powerhouses of late asserted themselves this year:

  • Arizona St:  The Sun Devils were picked to finish last in the PAC-12 South this year but posted a record of 6-5 including wins over Michigan St. and Utah.
  • Purdue:  The Boilermakers are a lot better this year than the “Pur-don’t” teams of recent years.  They beat Ohio State badly.
  • Utah:  The Utes are 8-3 and will be the South Division participant in the PAC-12 Championship Game.
  • Washington St:  The Cougars are 10-1 for the first time in 20 years – – back to the time when Ryan Leaf was their QB.

Kansas hired Les Miles as its next football coach.  Miles won a national championship at LSU in 2007 and he was the SEC Champion is 2011.  Let me say without fear of contradiction that Kansas is not a school with national championship trophies galore nor expectations that there will be lots of them in the next several years.  Kansas is a backwater of college football.

  • The Jayhawks last winning season was in 2008.
  • Since 2009, the Jayhawks have not won more than 3 games in any single season.

According to reports, Miles will get $2.7M per year for four years to try to build a football program in Kansas.  It will not be an easy task…

Michigan avoided its “trap game” last week against Indiana.  The Wolverines were sluggish at the start and trailed at the half but rallied to beat the Hoosiers 31-20.  Indiana gained 385 yards on offense which is the most yardage surrendered by the Michigan defense all year.  This week is Ohio State…

Ohio State barely survived its “trap game” against Maryland beating the Terps 52-51 in OT.  That is correct; the Buckeyes surrendered 51 points to Maryland.  This week is Michigan …

The Big-10 honchos must be rooting for Michigan in that game because they need Michigan in the conference title game to be sure of a slot in the CFP.  Ohio State has a bad loss on its resume to Purdue – and it gave up 51 last week to a mediocre Maryland squad.  Michigan also has a loss, but it was to Notre Dame who is undefeated for the season.

[Aside:  If you like chaos and controversy, imagine what happens regarding the CFP Selection Committee if Northwestern wins the Big-10 Championship Game with 4 losses – one of them to Akron.]

Penn State beat Rutgers 20-7.  In that game, Rutgers gained more yards rushing than Penn State did by a margin of 49 yards.  If there were a prop bet on that before the game, I know it would have been at very high odds.

Northwestern beat Minnesota 24-14 in a ho-hum game for both teams.  What is noteworthy here is that this is the 8th consecutive road win for Northwestern and that is impressive.

Wisconsin beat Purdue 47-44 in triple-OT.  The Badgers’ RB, Jonathan Taylor ran for 321 yards and 3 TDs in the game.

Iowa beat Illinois 63-0.

Notre Dame remained undefeated beating Syracuse 36-3 in Yankee Stadium.  Going into this game Syracuse had given up 137 points in 4 road games; their defense does not travel well.  The field goal scored by Syracuse came with 10 seconds left in the game and it was a 28-yard attempt meaning the ball was about at the Notre Dame 10 yardline.  I guess it looks better to avoid a shutout and kick that field goal rather than admit that the Notre Dame defense was too fearsome on that day.  By the way, the Irish averaged 6.3 yards per offensive play in the game.

Pitt beat Wake forest 34-13 to secure a place in the ACC Championship Game against Clemson.

Miami beat VA Tech 38-14.  The game was close at the half, but Miami dominated the second half 21-0.

Oklahoma St. beat W. Virginia 45-41 in Stillwater.  The winning TD came with 11 seconds left in the game.  This is the second loss for W. Virginia and they play Oklahoma this week.  Here is a stat/trend to consider:

  • Since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012, the Mountaineers have never beaten the Sooners.

Texas beat Iowa St. 24-10 last week.  This game had significance thrust upon it by W. Virginia’s loss.  Given the outcomes of this week’s action, Texas may be part of the Big-12 Championship Game.

Oklahoma beat Kansas 55-40.  Yes, Kansas scored 40 points in this game against the Sooners’ supposed defense.  The Jayhawks generated over 500 yards of offense and RB, Pooka Williams ran for 252 yards and 2 TDs – – averaging more than 16 yards per carry.

UCLA beat USC 34-27 and that means USC will have to beat Notre Dame this week to be bowl eligible.  The Irish are favored to remain unbeaten.

Washington beat Oregon St. 42-23.  The Huskies led 28-3 after the first quarter.  This game was on cruise control after that…

Washington St. beat Arizona 69-28.  The score was 55-14 at halftime.  Cougars’ QB, Gardner Minshew was 43 for 55 for 473 yards and 7 TDs in the game.  The Apple Cup game this week between Washington and Washington St. will determine the PAC-12 North Division champ.

Utah beat Colorado 30- 7.  That makes 6 losses in a row for Colorado after starting the season 5-0 against bad opponents.  The total offense for Colorado was 196 yards including 34 yards rushing on 34 attempts.   Utah is the PAC-12 South champ due to this win and losses by both Arizona and Arizona State last week.

Bowling Green beat Akron last week.  Bowling Green was a SHOE candidate 2 weeks ago and have now won 2 in a row.  That should take them out of consideration for this year.

W. Kentucky beat UTEP 40-16. Both teams were on the SHOE Watchlist last week.  UTEP will stay there for sure.

East Carolina beat UConn 55-21.  UConn gave up 55 points in a game for the 5th time this season.  The UConn defense his historically bad.  I believe the “worst defense” record holder is Kansas in 2015 when the Jayhawks gave up 561 yards per game for the season.  [I only looked back to 2000 so that may be wrong.  However, before that, college football was not as much an offensive game as it is today.]  UConn has allowed 627 yards per game so far this year and there is only one game left.  Let this sink in:

  • Even if UConn holds Temple to zero yards offense in this week’s game, it will set the record as the worst defense ever in major college football.

The SHOE Watchlist:

Since the SHOE Tournament will only accommodate 8 teams and since this is the last week of the season, it is time to cut the watchlist down from 12 teams to 10 teams.  Here they are:

  1. Central Michigan  1-10
  2. Georgia St.  2-9
  3. Kent St.  2-9
  4. Louisville  2-9
  5. San Jose St.  1-10
  6. Rice 1-11
  7. Rutgers  1-10
  8. Tulsa  2-9
  9. UConn 1-10
  10. UTEP  1-10

NCAA Games of Interest:

(Fri) Texas – 15 at Kansas (49):  Texas could be part of the Big 12 Championship game with a win here and a W. Virginia loss to Oklahoma.

(Fri) Oregon – 17.5 at Oregon St. (69.5): They call this rivalry game “The Civil War”.

(Fri) Oklahoma – 2.5 at W. Virginia (83.5):  The Mountaineers need a win here to be certain of a slot in the big 12 Championship Game because Texas is likely to prevail over Kansas.  By the way, that Total Line is not a typo; it opened the week at 80 points and has been rising all week; one sportsbook has it at 84 points.

(Fri) Washington at Washington St. – 2.5 (49):  The winner plays Utah for the PAC-12 Championship.

Kentucky – 17 at Louisville (51):  This is a much bigger basketball rivalry than a football rivalry.

South Carolina at Clemson – 26 (59): This is a big rivalry game, but it also looks like a mismatch this year.

Syracuse at BC -7 (57):  Will the Syracuse defense make the trip with the team this week?

Michigan – 4.5 at Ohio St. (56):  The winner plays Northwestern in the Big-10 Championship Game.  Michigan’s defense is ranked first in the country; Ohio State’s defense just gave up 51 points to Maryland…

Ga Tech at Georgia – 17 (59):  These games are often much closer on the scoreboard than would be predicted from team records.

BYU at Utah – 11 (44):  This is a rivalry game that does not get the same national recognition as many others – – but it is just as real and just as intense.

Florida – 6 at Florida St. (52):  This has been a much more important game in previous years.

Purdue – 4 at Indiana (65):  This is another rivalry game that does not get all the attention it deserves.

Notre Dame – 10.5 at USC (54):  If Notre Dame wins and is undefeated, they will be in the CFP this year because of their impact on TV ratings.

Auburn at Alabama – 24 (52):  It is not often you see a spread of this size in the Iron Bowl.

NFL Commentary:

The Saints beat the Eagles 48-7.  Last week, I said this game could get ugly; it went well beyond “ugly” and all the way to “grotesque”.  The Eagles offense was only 196 yards and Carson Wentz threw 3 INTs.  The Saints had 546 yards on offense and have a shot at breaking the NFL team scoring record.  That record is held by the 2013 Broncos with 606 points.  As of this morning, the Saints average 37.8 points per game and at that pace would score a total of 605 points for the season.  They have a shot at the record…

The Colts beat the Titans 38-10.  If you doubt the value of Andrew Luck to the Colts compare the way this team plays as opposed to last year’s version of the Colts.  While you are at it, check out the play of the Colts’ OL this year.  Last year, Colts’ QBs were running for their lives more often than not; this year, Luck has actual time to set up and throw the football.  The Titans were just awful in this game and an injury to Marcus Mariotta’s arm is not the only bad thing to come from the game.  The Titans’ defense is what carries that team and they were torched on Sunday.

Those two games above were the only blowouts of the week; the rest of the games were close and most went down to the final possession.

The Ravens beat the Bengals 24-21.  This was the first start for Lamar Jackson at QB and he ran the ball 27 times in the game.  He produced a win but that is not a sustainable offense over the course of a season.  Jackson is a talented runner to be sure, but that is not a formula for success in the long term.  The Ravens ran the ball for 265 yards in this game just a week after the Bengals fired their defensive coordinator.  That helped a lot …  Well, maybe there was some improvement there; the Bengals had given up 500+ yards in each of their previous 3 games and last week, they only gave up 403.

The Cowboys beat the Falcons 22-19 with a field goal as time ran out.  Ezekiel Elliott produced 201 yards from scrimmage.  The Falcons had ample yardage on offense but had to settle for field goals too often.  That has been the story of their season…

The Texans beat the Skins 23-21.  A game-winning field goal attempt by the Skins with no time remaining fell short.  Skins’ QB Alex Smith suffered a season-ending – – and maybe a career-ending – – leg injury in the game.  That makes 7 wins in a row for the Texans; their defense carried the day with 5 sacks and a Pick-Six.

The Giants beat the Bucs 38-35.  Saquon Barkley ran for 142 yards here; the Bucs defense is not good but some of his runs would have worked against any defense.  Eli Manning was 17 for 18 in the game and the Giant’s defense contributed 3 INTs.  The Bucs trailed badly and benched Ryan Fitzpatrick giving Jameis Winston the opportunity to try a furious comeback – – when he almost accomplished.  Once again, the Bucs had 500+ yards of offense and lost the game; that is the 3rd time that has happened this year.

The Steelers beat the Jags 20-16.  Ben Roethlisberger scored the winning TD on a 1-yard run that seemingly took 4 or 5 seconds to happen.  Roethlisberger was intercepted 3 times in the first 3 quarters and then he generated 3 TDs in the 4th quarter to pull the game out.  The Jags led 16-0 and coughed it up.  The Jags ran the ball 49 times in the game indicating to me that they suspected that “Bad Blake” Bortles might show up on that Sunday.

The Lions beat the Panthers 20-19.  Panthers’ kicker Graham Gano missed a short FG and a PAT in the game.  With a minute to go, Panthers scored a TD to make it 20-19.  Riverboat Ron Rivera went for the 2-point conversion to “win the game”; I suspect he was afraid to put Gano out there with the chance to “lose the game” in broad daylight.  Cam Newton missed a wide-open receiver in the end zone on that 2-point try and the game was over.

The Broncos beat the Chargers 23-22 on a last second field goal.  Philip Rivers threw 2 INTs in the game; that is the first time this year he has done that.  Also, the Chargers missed a PAT and lost the game by a single point.  Broncos’ QB Case Keenum led the game winning drive going 85 yards in the final 2 minutes to set up the game winning 34-yard FG as time expired.

The Raiders beat the Cards 23-21.  The Raiders defense held Cards offense under 300 yards – – first time this year the Raiders’ defense has done that.  And the Raiders’ defense had 2 INTs in the game.

The Bears beat the Vikes 25-20.  The knock on Kirk Cousins in DC was that he threw INTs at THE most inopportune moments.  Well, he did that again Sunday night with a Pick-Six that iced the game for the Bears.  Khalil Mack was dominating on defense and Akiehm Hicks from the Univ of Regina in Saskatchewan terrorized the middle of the Vikes’ OL too.

NFL Games this week:

The Rams and the Chiefs get a BYE this week after their Monday night track meet last week.  After seeing that game, I would not mind seeing a rematch in the Super Bowl even a little bit.  I connected last week that I could not recall ever seeing a Total Line for an NFL game as high as 63.5 points.  For perspective, the game went OVER in the 3rd quarter…

(Thurs) Chicago – 3.5 at Detroit (45):  The Bears were very impressive against the Vikes last week and now lead the division comfortably.  It is a young team with a new coach; it will be interesting to see how they handle this prosperity…

(Thurs) Washington at Dallas – 7 (40.5):  The line opened at 9.5 points and dropped quickly to this level.  Colt McCoy will be the Skins’ QB and as a backup, the Skins just signed Mark Sanchez.  McCoy definitely needs to stay healthy…

(Thurs) Atlanta at New Orleans – 13 (60):  This looked like a much more important – and appealing – game back when the schedule makers put it on Thanksgiving night.  Falcons’ fans like to urge the team to “rise up”; I suspect that the Falcons are grounded for this season.

Jax – 3 at Buffalo (37):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Pay it no attention…

Oakland at Baltimore – 10.5 (43):  This is what one of the readers here calls a “Body Clock Game” for the Raiders; they will kick off at 1:00 Pm EST which is 10:00AM on their body clocks.  Evidently, the oddsmaker does not believe that the Raiders “turned the corner” with their win last week.

SF at Tampa Bay – 3 (54.5):  This is a Body Clock Game for the Niners.  Neither team is very good but there is the potential for lots of points here.

Giants at Philly – 6 (46):  Odell Beckham Jr. said the Giants would win out (8 games in a row) and make the playoffs.  They have now won 2 in a row.  Is this #3 …

Cleveland at Cincy – 3 (47.5):  I wonder if the right team is favored in this one…?  The Bengals defense is non-existent.

New England – 9.5 at Jets (46.5):  The Pats had two weeks of practice where the coaches could remind them that their last game was a loss.  That had to be fun.

Seattle at Carolina – 3 (47.5):  Here is yet another Body Clock Game.  The matchup here features two inconsistent teams; the Seahawks are much less predictable on the road and the Panthers are just plain unreliable.

Miami at Indy – 7.5 (51.5):  The Dolphins are 5-5 but have been outscored by 57 points this year.  The Colts are 5-5 and have outscored opponents by 49 points this year.  This game has wild-card implications written all over it.

Arizona at Chargers – 12 (45):  The Chargers lost last week but are still in a good position to get the first AFC wild-card slot in the playoffs.  They need to focus here.

Pittsburgh – 3 at Denver (47):  The Steelers have won 6 in a row and lead their division by a comfortable 2.5 games.  The Broncos are 4-6 and a loss here would make playoff contention a fantasy.  The Broncos are a lot better at home than on the road; this could be an interesting game. I will label it the Game of the Week.

(Sun Nite) Green Bay at Minnesota – 3 (48):  A loss for the Packers would be far more harmful here than a loss for the Vikes.  Back in September, these teams played to a tie.

(Mon Nite) Tennessee at Houston – – no lines:  Until folks know if Marcus Mariotta can play or if Blaine Gabbert will be the titans’ QB, there will no lines posted for this contest.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster went trick-or-treating in his Steelers uniform.

“If Bears linebacker Khalil Mack followed suit, just imagine how many sacks he’d bring home.”

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



Yin and Yang

The pendulum swings back and forth.  The tide comes in and the tide goes out.  Democrats win elections and Republicans win elections.  Things in nature – and in society – tend to go back and forth around an equilibrium point.  And so, I thought there might be an indicator several weeks ago that the Cleveland Browns would reverse course and begin the process of acting like an actual NFL franchise.

The Browns fired Hue Jackson in mid-season; they obviously need to hire a permanent replacement.  In recent times – actually, for the duration of Cleveland Browns 2.0 – hiring coaches has been handled in mysterious ways.  Since Jimmy Haslam took over the team, he conducted the interviews and ran the coaching search.  He bought the Browns in 2012 and since then, the team record is a stunningly awful 23-82-1.  In that time, Haslam fired Pat Shurmer and hired:

  • Rob Chudzinski 4-12-0 for one season
  • Mike Pettine 10-22-0 for two seasons
  • Hue Jackson 3-36-1 for two and a half seasons
  • Gregg Williams as the incumbent interim coach.

The expectation for the Browns was another owner-run coaching search that would continue the goat rodeo nature of Browns’ management.  But then came reports that Haslam was going to step aside and let his newly hired – and well respected – new GM, John Dorsey, run the coach selection process.  That may not sound like a watershed event, but it was.  Dorsey has never been a GM before, but he has been involved in the “football operations” of other teams and has been successful in just about every stop along the way.  Haslam’s track record for coaching hires – and player selections in the draft such as Johnny Manziel – has been universally wrong.  Successful franchises let “football people” run the “football side” and have “business people” (like the owners) involved in the “business side”; then the two sides work together – you know, sort of like a team.

So, I thought the pendulum had reached its furthest point in the direction of ineptitude and would begin to swing back toward competence.  And then in an interview, John Dorsey said he was going to consider anyone and everyone for the job including women such as Condoleezza Rice.  If he said that as part of a stand-up comedy routine, maybe it would work in that context; in just about any other context, it is about as dumb as an inflatable dart board.

Before I get accused of chauvinism, I want to speak directly to the pragmatism that exists in 2018 with regard to professional – or college – football.

  • The number of women with head coaching experience in the NFL and in major college football is zero.  There is no pool of experience in which to go fishing.
  • The number of women with experience as coordinators in the NFL and in major college football is zero.  There is no pool of experience in which to go fishing.
  • Condoleezza Rice is a most accomplished woman and an avid sports fan who has no more credentials as a football coach than Pope John XXIII – – and he is dead.

For reasons that will never be known, the Cleveland Browns appear to have suffered yet one more self-inflicted wound on the “credibility axis”…

Moving on …

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this comment about a recent election result in Florida – – one that did not need any recounting of votes:

“Florida citizens this week voted to ban dog racing in the state, meaning some 6,000 suddenly retired racing greyhounds may need new homes. Breathing a well-earned sigh of relief: the mechanical rabbit!”

Twenty players will make their first appearance on MLB Hall of Fame ballots this year.  I think two are mortal locks to be enshrined on the first ballot:

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Mariano Rivera

I think the “interesting” player on the list this year is Andy Pettitte.  Here is a link to all of his stats compiled on  Those numbers say he should be a strong contender for the Hall of Fame.  Except we know that he was a PED user for the simple reason that he admitted he was a user.

What will be interesting here is to see how the Hall of Fame voters treat a player who has been identified as a user by his own admission and with an aura of contrition.

Finally, since I mentioned above the Browns’ and their coaching search, consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Idle thought: Pardon the cliché, but for another season, Bill Belichick is playing chess while the other coaches play checkers.”

Actually, some of those “other coaches” are playing tic-tac-toe as they seek to learn how to play checkers…

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



The College Football Firing Season

The real college football season is nearing its end.  Very soon, a committee will choose the 4 best teams and invite them to play for the College Football Championship in about a month.  Meanwhile, about 80 other teams will engage in the silly-season sometimes called the Bowl Season.  And, as is always the case at this point of the real college football season, some of the schools in the major conferences have already fired their coaches and plan to “go in a different direction”.  In the case of David Beaty at Kansas, it appears as if losing too many games is the only “issue” involved in the school’s decision.  In some other cases, there is a tad more to the story – or so it might appear.

Louisville University asked Bobby Petrino to take his talents elsewhere.  The Cardinals’ season has been terrible; it is not only that they have only won twice – beating a Division 1-AA team and a possible SHOE Tournament team.  In absorbing 9 losses, consider these stats:

  • 4 losses were by 35 points or more
  • In their last 4 games, the opponent scored 52 points or more
  • The only win over a Division 1-A bottom-feeder was by a field goal.

There were ample on-field reasons to part company with Bobby Petrino.  In addition to Bobby Petrino, the AD also fired some assistant coaches:

  • Nick Petrino was the QBs coach.  He is Bobby Petrino’s son.
  • Ryan Beard was the linebackers’ coach.  He is Bobby Petrino’s son-in-law.
  • L.D. Scott was the defensive line coach.  He is Bobby Petrino’s son-in-law.

[Aside:  I have seen no reporting that indicates any other examples of nepotism.  There is a fourth Petrino child – a son – who seems not to have been on the payroll at Louisville.  I say that recalling that Bobby Petrino once had his mistress hired as part of the football program at Arkansas.]

I understand plenty of coaches hire sons and/or relatives as their assistants.  This situation seems a tad over the top to me and it is a situation that could not have been unknown to the “higher-ups” at Louisville prior to firing the head coach.

The University of Maryland parted company with DJ Durkin after he had been on paid administrative leave while a blue-ribbon panel looked into the circumstances surrounding the death of a Maryland player at one of Durkin’s practices and a so-called “toxic culture” that enveloped the football team.  We have been over the gory details there in the past; there is no need to re-hash them here.  Except … there may be more to the story.

The Baltimore Sun has reported that while Durkin was on administrative leave, he continued to have contact with the team and continued to assist in things like game planning and film reviews.  Nominally, this was not supposed to happen; Durkin was not to be part of the football program while the investigation was ongoing.  But the report goes deeper than that…

According to the report, when the blue-ribbon committee asked Durkin about his football activities, he told the committee that the Athletic Director, Damon Evans, knew about his continued association with the team and that Evans approved of that activity.

Let me call a time-out here…  Considering the totality of the findings of the blue-ribbon committee regarding Coach Durkin, I am not willing to take any statement of his as gospel truth absent some corroboration.  However, if there is even a smidgen corroboration uncovered here, then Athletic Director Evans – who remains on the job and was in the Athletic Department hierarchy for most if not all of Durkin’s tenure at Maryland – must be fired too.  If in fact Evans knew of this and/or approved of it, we are looking at a situation where he nullified a university order while an investigation into the death of a university student was ongoing.  Seriously, now …

Colorado University fired Mike MacIntyre last weekend.  Ostensibly, this was because the Buffaloes had lost their 6th game in a row on Saturday.  The problem with drawing that conclusion is that it seems awfully hasty in the larger context of MacIntyre’s time in Boulder, CO.  when he got there about 6 years ago, the football program was in tatters; the days where Colorado was a nationally ranked and recognized team were fading into distant memory.  He arrived and started a rebuilding program that got to the point where Colorado was 10-2 just 2 years ago; they played in the PAC-12 Championship game, and MacIntyre was named the National Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.

While I recognized that the team’s collapse this year had put MacIntyre on a hot seat – – as I mentioned in the last iteration of football Friday – – I never imagined that he would be fired before the season ended.  He had rebuilt the program from the ground up; it may not be a mid-western version of Alabama, but it is significantly better than it was when he got there.  It seemed to me that there had to be something else going on there in addition to a 6-game losing streak.

A Google search turned up an “issue”.  Soon after that wonderful 2016 season where the Buffaloes were in the PAC-12 Championship game, there were allegations that one of MacIntyre’s assistant coaches had been beating up the assistant’s girlfriend.  MacIntyre did not report these allegations once he knew about them to the police or to other university authorities as needed so that the university can comply with Title IX.  An investigation then into the whole thing also determined that MacIntyre improperly informed the assistant coach of the allegations and then tried to arrange for the assistant to get an attorney prior to telling anyone else about the allegations.

The assistant coach was ultimately charged with felony assault and resigned from the Colorado coaching staff.  MacIntyre was given a formal letter of reprimand and ordered by the university to donate $100K to organizations involved in reducing incidents of domestic violence.  While that may have been sufficient punishment two years ago, the rise of the MeeToo Movement in recent months has made the aiding and abetting of that sort of behavior far less acceptable.  My guess – and it is purely a guess – is that Colorado University did not want to rehash all that stuff under today’s scrutiny.  And so, that 6-game losing streak took on a more ominous mien.

Now, fear not for these three coaches.  All will get at least a 7-figure buyout from these schools.  Perhaps it is true that no good deed goes unpunished.  In these cases, one might conclude that some less-than-laudable behaviors have been amply rewarded.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment about tonight’s “Game of the Year” between the LA Rams and the KC Chiefs:

“The huge K.C. Chiefs-L.A. Rams game has been moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles. The main difference? In L.A. there’ll be more people in the stands speaking Spanish.”

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



Football Friday 11/16/18

Not every month has a Friday the 13th, but every Friday in the Fall is Football Friday in   these parts.  So, as usual, let me begin with a quick summation of the Linfield Wildcats’ season.  They played their final game last week and defeated Pacific University at home by a convincing 50-7 score.  That gives the Wildcats another winning season with a 7-2 record and that extends their consecutive winning season streak to 63 consecutive years.  Linfield finished second in the Northwest Conference this year, so they did not get an automatic bid to the Division III football tournament.

NCAA Football Commentary:

Arizona State is bowl-eligible.  That may not seem like something sufficiently surprising to merit comment – but there is context here.  It is safe to say that an awful lot of people were skeptical last winter when the Sun Devils hired Herm Edwards away from ESPN to run their football program.  Edwards’ approach was to be a “Football CEO” who would assemble a talented staff of assistants who would run the team.  That was an approach off the college football norm and when added to the fact that Edwards had been out of football and into the TV business for 10 years, it led to more than a bit of giggling among the folks who profess to know about college football.

Most pundits had Arizona St. finishing last in the PAC-12 South back in August; as of this morning, the Sun Devils have the inside track to win that division despite facing two road games to finish the year.  How did the Sun Devils do it?  The offensive guys on the staff must have realized sometime in early October that they were a much better running team than a passing team.  So, they started calling a lot more running plays and guess what?  It is no longer unusual to see an Arizona St. game where the team runs the ball 45 or 50 times.

Since Herm Edwards took a lot of gas from football commentators early in his tenure there, let me offer up an apology – – even though I was not one of those who thought he was in over his head.  Congratulations, Coach Edwards…

If you have been a reader in these parts for a while, you know that I like to have fun with players’ names.  Here are two from college football teams I have watched this year:

  • Alabama kicker, Joseph Bulovas should be on NFL scouts watch list.
  • Wisconsin CB, Rachad Wildgoose should have a brother named Chase.

With the college season coming to a close for lots of teams, it is time for me to look at the coaches on a hot seat in the major college programs.  I will not pretend to have any understanding at all of coaching issues at all levels of college football so let me limit this discussion to the Power 5 conferences only.  It is pretty clear that Maryland will be out looking for a new head coach on a permanent basis and so will Kansas and Louisville.  Added to those openings, here are coaches/schools that might need to finish the season with a win or two:

  • Chris Ash (Rutgers):  As of this morning, Ash’s record at Rutgers is 7-24 and more than a couple of those 24 losses have been embarrassments.  The best reason not to fire him is very simple; there are no hot coaching prospects who are going to beat down the doors in New Brunswick, NJ to take the job.
  • Lovie Smith (Illinois):  Hiring Smith after his time with the Bears was supposed to give Illinois footing when it came to getting highly talented recruits.  Well, if that happened, the Illini coaching staff is pretty inept.  Coming to the end of Smith’s third year at Illinois, the record is 9-25; more telling is the team’s 4-21 record in Big-10 games over that time.
  • Mike MacIntyre (Colorado):  The Buffaloes were 5-0 at one point this year having beaten up some really bad teams.  Then the wheels came off the wagon; Colorado is 5-5 this morning and looking bad during their 5-game losing streak.  If MacIntyre is fired, the game where Colorado blew a 31-point lead at halftime against a putrid Oregon St. team will be a major factor.
  • Clay Helton (USC):  The Trojans are 5-5 this morning and are out of the race for the PAC-12 South title and they play UCLA and Notre Dame to close out the season.  Two losses there – particularly one to a UCLA team that is in tear-down mode – would make USC ineligible for a bowl game and that could mean the end of Clay Helton on their sidelines.  Even if the Trojans make it to a bowl game, it could be one like the Music City Bowl; that will not go over well with USC boosters…
  • Larry Fedora (UNC):  He has been on the job since 2012 and has an overall winning record (44-42).  However, the Tar Heels were 3-9 last year and are 1-8 as of this morning in 2018.
  • Justin Fuente (VA Tech):  This one may be a tad premature; this is his 3rd season in Blacksburg, VA and the first two years were good ones with a combined record of 19-8 and two bowl appearances.  However, this year the team is 4-5 and has three very bad losses on the record (Old Dominion by 14 points, Ga Tech by 21 points and Pitt by 30 points).  Folks in Blacksburg are not used to that sort of thing…

One other football program may be part of the coaching carousel this year even though it will not do so because the fans want to run the coach out of town on a rail.  Bill Snyder is synonymous with Kansas State football.  Nevertheless, he is 79 years old and he just might want to take some time and do other things with what is left of his time on the planet.  K-State is not going to fire Bill Snyder any more than Steven Seagal is going to win an Oscar for Best Actor, but Snyder may decide to hang up his whistle…

Last week, Nebraska beat Illinois 54-35 raising the Cornhuskers season record to 3-7.  Humor writer, Brad Dickson, has this Tweet about the difficulties facing Nebraska football fans:

“Why does every Nebraska game begin at 11 a.m.? Have the people setting these start times ever tried to chug a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in a cold Lincoln parking lot at 6 a.m. in November?!!  I’LL BET NOT!!!

Northwestern clinched the Big-10 West title with a win over Iowa.  Northwestern has 4 losses on its record this year; imagine the CFP Selection Committee horror if Northwestern wins the Big-10 Championship Game…

Michigan beat Rutgers 42-7 last week; the only good news for Rutgers’ fans is that Michigan did not cover the 39-point spread on that game.  Since I mentioned that the coach at Rutgers might be on a hot seat above, let me delve into the Rutgers results for 2018:

  • Rutgers has not scored more than 17 points in a game since beating Texas St and Morgan St. back in the opening weeks of the season.
  • Rutgers has lost 4 games by 21 points or more.
  • Rutgers’ final two games are against Penn St. and Michigan St. where they will be significant underdogs.

Penn St. beat Wisconsin last week 22-10 and Ohio St. beat Michigan St. 26-10.

West Virginia spanked TCU 46-10 setting up the potential for a Big-12 showdown in the final week with Oklahoma.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma dodged a bullet beating Oklahoma State 48-47.  For the record, the Sooners’ defense has not gotten significantly better since the team fired their Defensive Coordinator; please do not be shocked to learn that.  In two wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma St, the Sooners’ defense nonetheless gave up 7 yards per play.

It is almost as if Alabama and Clemson were lobbing warning shots at one another last week with top-shelf defensive games:

  • Alabama 24 Mississippi St. 0:  That makes 2 shutouts in a row for Bama…
  • Clemson 27 BC 7:  Total offense for BC was 113 yards.

Georgia beat Auburn 27-10 meaning that the Bulldogs’ tune-up for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama went well.

LSU beat Arkansas 24-17.  That game was not quite as close as it looks; LSU led by 21 points in the4th quarter.

Florida beat S. Carolina 35-24.  That game was not quite as comfortable as it looks; Florida had to score 21 unanswered points late to win this game.

Tennessee beat Kentucky 24-7.  I said last week that this game would be a coaching challenge for Kentucky after losing to Georgia the week before and killing any hope of winning the SEC East.  Well, it was indeed a big “let-down game” …

Pitt beat VA Tech 52-22.  The VA Tech defense was supposed to be better than that…

Wake Forest beat NC State 27-23.  Do you remember a few weeks ago when lots of folks thought NC State might be a threat to Clemson in the ACC?

Duke won a rivalry game over UNC 42-35.  That makes 6 losses in a row for the Tar Heels.  UNC has Western Carolina on the schedule this week; if they lose that game, Larry Fedora will not be on a hot seat; he will be on an ejection seat.

Georgia Tech beat Miami 27-21.  That is the 4th loss in a row for the Hurricanes and fans in South Florida might be getting a tad less enamored with Mark Richt these days…

Syracuse stomped Louisville 54-23.  The Orange scored 30 points in the second quarter of the game.  Here is a measure of how badly unraveled the Louisville football program has become:

  • 2017:  Louisville beat Syracuse 56-10
  • 2018:  Syracuse beat Louisville 54-23

Notre Dame beat Florida St. 42-13.  I know that Notre Dame is a Top 5 team in the rankings but that is a beat-down that is uncommon for the folks in Tallahassee.  I am now seriously wondering if Willie Taggert is over his head in a program as big as Florida St.  The Seminoles are on a 3-game losing streak and their record is 4-6; they need to win out to be bowl eligible and that is something Florida St. has been for 36 consecutive years.  Here is what is left on the schedule for Florida St:

  • Vs. Boston College (ranked #20 this week)
  • Vs. Florida (huge rivalry game against a team ranked #13 this week)

Out west, Cal beat USC 15-14.  This makes four games in a row where the Cal defense has been on display; the Bears have only given up 50 points in those last 4 games.  Since when do defensive players matriculate at Cal?

SMU beat UConn 62-50.  That is the eighth game this year where UConn has allowed opponents to score 49 or more points; that is the fourth game this year where UConn has allowed opponents to score 55 or more points.  I guess Randy Edsall must be on a hot seat at UConn – – if there are enough people in the Storrs, CT area who give a damn about the football program there.  Here is one more stunning stat about this UConn team:

  • UConn gives up an average of 623.6 yards per game.  That is 130th out of 130 teams that play Division 1-A football.
  • The next worst defensive team (Oregon St.), gives up 80.8 fewer yards per game than does UConn.


The Shoe Tournament Watch List:

Last week, we had a game between two teams on the watch list; what a spectacle that must have been.  In any event, Bowling Green beat Central Michigan 24-13.  C. Michigan was leading at halftime 13-0 but obviously could not stand the prosperity.

Here is this week’s list of twelve candidates for the eight SHOE Tournament slots in alphabetical order along with their record for the season:

  1. Bowling Green  2-8
  2. Central Michigan  1-10
  3. Kent St.  2-9
  4. Louisville  2-8
  5. Rice  1-10
  6. Rutgers  1-9
  7. San Jose St.  1-9
  8. Tulsa  2-8
  9. UConn  1-9
  10. UNC  1-8
  11. UTEP  1-9
  12. Western Kentucky  1-9

NCAA Games of Interest:

I know this is Cupcake Week in the SEC.  However, most of the teams there found nearby schools willing to take a pounding for a sizeable payday.  So, what is up with Florida needing to search as far away as Idaho to find a 40-point underdog?  Same question applies to Georgia who is making UMass fly a good distance to play a game as a 41-point underdog?

Indiana at Michigan – 28.5 (53.5):  With Ohio St. on tap for Michigan, this is a tune-up game that players might be looking past.  It has all the makings of a trap game.  I am tempted to take the points here but will resist that temptation…

Penn St. – 28 at Rutgers (49):  In the last 3 games between these teams, the combined score is Penn State 102 Rutgers 9.

Northwestern at Minnesota – 2 (47):  The spread opened with Northwestern as a 3.5-point favorite.  Obviously, bettors think that Northwestern will not take this game as seriously as they have recent games since Northwestern is the Big-10 West champ no matter what.  Minnesota is 5-1 at home this year.  Interesting game to watch – – and one to keep your money in your wallet over…

Wisconsin at Purdue – 4 (52):  Wisconsin has not been great this year; they lost 4 games.  Nonetheless, I don’t understand why anyone thinks Purdue is consistent enough to be a favorite in this game.  Purdue has lost to E. Michigan and Minnesota this year.  Very strange…

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame – 10 (65) Game is in NYC:  Syracuse is much better at home than they are on the road; they have been away from the Carrier Dome 4 times this year and have lost twice.  More importantly, they tend to give up lots of points in road games and Notre Dame will have QB, Ian Book, back on the field for this game.  This is the College Football Game of the Week.

Pitt – 6.5 at Wake Forest (60.5):  Pitt clinches the ACC Coastal title with a win here.  If the game were in Pittsburgh, I would take the Panthers in a heartbeat – – but it is not.

Missouri – 6 at Tennessee (57):  The Total Line opened the week at 45; this is a humongous move in that line.  Missouri’s pass defense is suspect; they rank 120th in the country giving up 276.5 yards per game.  Tennessee could win this one outright at home…

Ole Miss at Vandy – 3 (70):  The Total Line opened the week at 66.5 and has risen slowly all week long.  Both teams play offense better than defense.  Vandy ranks 88th in the country; Ole Miss ranks 125th.  That is why the Total Line has expanded…

West Virginia – 5.5 at Oklahoma St. (74):  The Cowboys are tough at home; just ask Oklahoma about that.  If the Mountaineers are looking beyond this game to their meeting with Oklahoma next week, they could lose this one straight up…

Utah – 7 at Colorado (47):  The visitor from the west is favored in this border war…

Utah St. – 28 at Colorado St. (68:  The visitor from the west is favored in this border war too…

Stanford – 2 at Cal (45):  Stanford did not live up to its pre-season expectations this year.  Cal exceeded its pre-season expectations this year.  None of that will matter even a little bit in this huge rivalry game.  Stanford has lost 4 games and all of them were to teams ranked in the Top 20 as of this week.

Oregon St. at Washington – 33.5 (58):  This spread is an indictment of the Oregon St. defense – – ranked 129th in the country this morning.  Washington has not score more than 35 points in a game this season save one early season game against a Division 1-AA team.  The oddsmaker must think they will score more than that here in order to put a 33.5-point spread out there.

There will be 4 NCAA Football Games in the Six-Pack below…

NFL Commentary:

I think we can all agree that John Elway was a great NFL QB; if there are dissenters, please explain the basis of your disagreement.  I will stipulate that Elway knows how to play QB at an elite level, but I have come to doubt that he can recognize the necessary capabilities in others to do the same.  Forget for a moment the Broncos’ free-agent signings at the QB position and consider the college QBs that Elway has drafted since he became the head football honcho in Denver:

  1. Brock Osweiler (2012)
  2. Zac Dysert (2013)
  3. Trevor Siemian (2015)
  4. Paxton Lynch (2016)
  5. Chad Kelly (2017)

I do not think I missed any others; this list has “FAIL” written all over it; none of these players remains with the Broncos; some are not in the NFL any longer.

I am going to make two sorta bold predictions here:

  1. The Eagles’ hope to repeat as Super Bowl Champions is no more than that – hope.  I think the Eagles are unlikely to make the playoffs this year let alone make any sort of run in the playoffs.
  2. The Falcons had high aspirations at the start of this season as a Super Bowl contender; I think those aspirations have crashed and burned.

Having made no friends in Philly or Atlanta, let me now say that THE most disappointing team in the NFL this year must be the Jags.  It took a furious 4th quarter comeback by tom Brady last year in the playoffs to prevent the Jags from playing the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  This year, the Jags are in the basement in the AFC South.  Over the recent years, the Jags have spent a lot of time in that division basement; perhaps last year’s run to the playoffs was a “black swan”?

Last week, the Jags lost to the Colts.  In recent years, the Colts have been less-than-fearsome, but this year they have Andrew Luck back under center and they seem to have found a running game laying around somewhere.  Their win over the Jags was their 3rd in a row and Luck has completed 70% of his throws in those 3 games.  Do not write off the Colts making the playoffs this year…

The Titans beat the Pats last week; it is the second time this season that a coach who has former ties to the Patriot organization has beaten the Pats.  The Titans won on the strength of running the football for 150 yards and scoring on their first 3 possessions to take charge of the game and its tempo.

Last week, the Panthers were absolutely dominated by the Steelers on Thursday Nite Football.  Notwithstanding that beat-down, I would not write off the Panthers for a playoff slot just yet.  The Panthers have 6 wins so far and they have three “bunnies” left on the schedule:

  1. Lions
  2. Bucs
  3. Browns

The Falcons laid an egg in Cleveland last week as Nick Chubb ran wild for 175 yards.  The Browns gained a total of 211 yards rushing and the Browns’ defense stopped the Falcons 3 times from the 1-yardline in the 4th quarter while the game was still in doubt.

The Bucs continued to put their ineptitude on display in their loss to the Skins last week.  Consider:

  • The Bucs gained 501 yards on offense and scored all of 3 points in the game.
  • In 5 trips to the red zone, here were the Bucs’ outcomes: INT, missed FG, FG, missed FG, lost fumble.  [Aside:  That is the sort of performance you might expect from a SHOE Team in the collegiate ranks.]

I think the Bucs are about to implode this team and start over.  I suspect that the coach and the GM will be changed in the off-season; I suspect the team will not re-up Jameis Winston and will move him along for draft assets starting in 2019.

The Saints were toying with the Bengals’ defense last week.  In the first half, Drew Brees threw for 317 yards while only throwing 2 incomplete passes; the Saints led 35-7 at the half.  The Bengals’ offense is not designed to win any shootouts; this game was no contest after the middle of the 2nd quarter.  After the game, the Bengals fired their Defensive Coordinator and Marvin Lewis announced that he was taking over the defense.  Granted, Lewis earned his stripes as a “defensive whiz” but he is not going to be the one to cover WRs on the field – – and against the Saints there were lots of WRs running free out there.  Here is how bad the Bengals’ defense has been recently:

  • Bengals have given up 31 points or more in 6 of the last 7 games.
  • Bengals have given up 158 points in their last 4 games.
  • Bengals have given up 500 yards or more in the last 3 games.
  • How much of that was the defensive coordinator’s failure?

The Packers beat the Dolphins 31-12 last week.  The Packers’ defense sacked Brock Osweiler six times and picked off one of his passes.  Basically, the Packers cruised to a win here.

The Chargers beat the Raiders 20-6.  The Raiders may have watched the Bucs’ debacle in the early game last week, because they seemed to emulate the Bucs’ futility.  The Raiders penetrated the Chargers’ 25-yardline 4 times in the game and managed to get a single field goal for that effort.  Or maybe the Raiders were imitating the Falcons from last week; they too were stopped at the 1-yardline to end a drive.

The Chiefs beat the Cards 26-14 last week.  I guess the Cards can feel good about two things on defense:

  1. They sacked Patrick Mahomes 5 times.
  2. They held Mahomes to 248 yards passing – his lowest total ever.

Other than that, …

Two weeks ago, Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times in a game.  Last week things got better; he was only sacked 6 times by the Bears’ defense.  I guess that is what passes for “improvement” in Detroit these days.  The Bears ran out to a 26-0 lead and put it in cruise control for the win.  Bears’ kicker, Cody Parkey did something in that game that he could not do again if he tried.  Parkey hit the upright on 4 place kicks in the game – – 2 FG attempts and 2 PATs.  Most kickers do not hit the uprights 4 times in a season; Parkey did it in a single game.

The Rams beat the Seahawks even though the Seahawks ran the ball for 273 yards in the game. Teams that run the ball that well usually win the game.

The Bills started Matt Barkley at QB last week against the Jets; Barkley had been with the Bills for 10 days prior to the start.  The Bills ran off to a 31-0 lead and won the game in a walk.  There has been mounting pressure on Todd Bowles in NY; this game tried the patience of even the morst ardent Jets’ fan.  The team was playing the worst offense in the league and that offense was starting a guy who could not possibly know the whole playbook and that new QB had already shown several teams in the NFL that he isn’t very good.  Final score was Bills 41 and Jets 10.  The Bills amassed 451 yards of offense here; their previous high for the year was 100 yards fewer than that.  The Jets went 3-and-out on its first 3 possessions; it was an omen for what was to come…

NFL Games This Week:

Six teams have their BYE Week this week.  The entire AFC East is taking a week off…

  1. Buffalo Bills:  They scored 41points last week with Matt Barkley at QB.  I doubt that many fantasy owners played Barkley in that game.  I wonder how many will start Barkley next week after two weeks of practice time with his new mates…
  2. Cleveland Browns:  They beat the Falcons 28-16.  Nick Chubb ran wild.  Interim coach Gregg Williams gave the team an extra day off.  The bar for rewards in Cleveland is pretty low.
  3. Miami Dolphins:  They defended the wrong “Aaron” last week.  Aaron Rodgers only passed for 199 yards, but Aaron Jones carried the ball 15 times for 145 yards and 2 TDs.  The team gets a week off to deal with run defense issues.
  4. New England Pats:  They get to let the stink of their loss to the Titans attach to themselves for an extra week here.
  5. NY Jets:  The Jets threw in one of the more embarrassing performances of the last several years against the Bills last week.  Heads will roll on the field and on the sideline in the upcoming offseason.  Some folks in the GM’s suite should pay a price here too.
  6. SF Niners:  They had a 10-point lead over the Giants in the 3rd quarter and managed to lose the game.  That cannot make for a warm and fuzzy extra week of practice…

Dallas at Atlanta – 3 (48.5):  The loser of this game will not make the playoffs; the winner is certainly not guaranteed to make the playoffs, but the loser is cooked.  This is the second road game in a row for the Cowboys.  If they adopt the game plan they used against the Eagles last week and run the ball, they can win this one.  If they revert to a dink-and-dunk passing attack as the basis for the offense, they will lose.  The Cowboys are not a good road team this year; they are 1-4 on the road.

Cincy at Baltimore – 3.5 (39.5):  Joe Flacco is questionable for this game with a hip injury.  Lamar Jackson has been less than impressive when he is in the game so far this year.  The other QB on the Ravens’ roster is RG3.  Frankly, I am surprised that the Ravens are favored here other than the fact that the Bengals are imploding, and the game is in Baltimore.  I showed the Bengals lack of defensive prowess above; if Jackson starts and does not play well against that defense, you might begin to wonder if it was a good idea for the Ravens to trade up to get him in the first round of last year’s draft.

Philly at New Orleans – 9 (56):  The Saints have covered in each of their last 7 games.  This is a big number to cover but the Eagles bring a banged up defensive secondary to the field against Drew Brees and company.  This could get ugly…

Tennessee at Indy – 1 (50):  It looks as if the oddsmaker is expecting a let-down game for the Titans after last week’s dominant win over the Pats.  Or … is this some recognition of how well Andrew Luck and the Colts have played recently?  Luck has thrown 3 TD passes in each of his last 6 games and is the only QB in NFL history to do that.

Houston – 3 at Washington (42):  The Texans have plenty of experience in playing close games and winning them.  The Skins have plenty of experience in playing low scoring games and winning them.  This game will be close and low-scoring.  JJ Watt and Company will be playing against a patchwork Skins’ OL minus at least 3 starters and that might be ugly.

Tampa Bay at Giants – 1.5 (52):  This is Dog-Breath Game of the Week #1.  The Giants came from behind to win last week.  The Bucs gained almost 500 yards and scored 3 points (see above).  Big changes are coming in Tampa; maybe big changes are coming in NY too.  Before the Niners game last week Odell Beckham, Jr. said he thought the Giants would win 8 in a row to finish 9-7.  Well, one down and a win here for the Giants would make two on the way to eight in a row…

Oakland at Arizona – 5.5 (41):  This is Dog-Breath Game of the Week #2.  The spread opened at 3 points and expanded to this level quickly.  Bettors seem to be saying that the Raiders have tossed in their jockstraps for the season and are only playing to collect their game checks.  Who am I to argue with that assessment?  Josh Rosen seems to be improving week to week; Derek Carr seems to be regressing.

Pittsburgh – 5 at Jax (47):  The Steelers had extra time to prepare for this game coming off a Thursday night game last week.  Equally important, the Steelers finally shed the drama associated with LeVeon Bell this week; he is not going to report to the team at all.  The Jags will need a big game from Leonard Fournette to stay in this game.

(Sun Nite) Minnesota at Chicago – 3 (44.5):  The Bears record is padded; here are five teams they have beaten:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Bucs
  3. Jets
  4. Bills
  5. Lions

By the way, the Vikes record is padded too.  Here are four teams they have beaten:

  1. Niners
  2. Cardinals
  3. Jets
  4. Lions

This is a flexed game; it was originally a 1:00 PM start.  The Vikes come to the game off a BYE Week.  The winner will be in first place in the AFC North; the teams are only half-a-game apart this morning.  However, there is a large disparity in the point differential for the teams this year.  The Bears are +94 for the season; the Vikes are only +17 for the season.   The team that rushes the passer more effectively and more consistently will win this game

(Mon Nite) KC at Rams – 3.5 (63.5):  This is clearly the Game of the Week.  It was supposed to be played in Mexico City but the field there was not in good enough condition, so the game was moved to LA early in the week.  I cannot recall ever seeing a Total Line this high for an NFL game.   It opened at this level and has stayed here all week long – – other than 1 Internet sports book where the Total Line has gone up to 64.   Both teams bring 9-1 records to the field.  The Chiefs have the highest point differential in the NFL at +113 points; the Rams are second in the NFL in point differential at +104.  The loss of Cooper Kupp is significant; he is a security blanket for Jared Goff.  If you like rock ‘em/sock ‘em defense, this is not the game for you.  It could wind up 45-41 as easily as it could wind up 24-20.

This week’s Six-Pack:

Miami – 6.5 at VA Tech (51.5):  This has been a disappointing season for both teams and both offenses have been a big part of those disappointments.  I like the UNDER here.

Virginia at Ga Tech – 4.5 (53):  Virginia has several defensive linemen out; Ga Tech will run the ball all day long.  I think it will be a long day for the Cavaliers.  I’ll take Georgia Tech and lay the points.

Middle Tennessee St. at Kentucky – 16.5 (46):  Kentucky has lost 2 in a row to Georgia and then Tennessee.  Middle Tennessee State is not on a par with either of those teams, but those two losses took a hugely promising season for Kentucky down to one where they are not going to play in a major bowl game.  That should be deflating, and Middle Tennessee can score a little bit.  I like Middle Tennessee St plus that big helping of points.

Arizona at Wash St. – 10.5 (62.5):  That line looks fat to me even on the Palouse.  Arizona QB, Khalil Tate, has started playing the way he did last year and that can be scary.  Arizona had an extra week to point to this game too.  I like Arizona plus the points here.

Carolina – 4.5 at Detroit (49.5):  This is the second road game in a row for the Panthers; meanwhile, the Lions were just awful against the Bears last week.  The Panthers need a win; the Lions need better players.  The Panthers are only 1-3 on the road as opposed to 5-0 at home; the Lions have always been better at home than on the road.  I’ll go with the better team as opposed to the better venue play.  I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points.

Denver at Chargers – 7 (45.5):  The Broncos are coming off a bye, but the Chargers are the better team with a real shot at the playoffs.  The return of Melvin Gordon helps the Chargers a lot; the Broncos run defense is not stout.  The Chargers are charging toward a playoff slot; the Broncos are headed home for the Holidays.  I like the Chargers to win and cover here.

Finally, here is a note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald about a serious accident at a college football game earlier this year:

“Headlines I Never Imagined Reading (one in a series): ‘Colorado Football Mascot Shoots Self In Groin With T-Shirt Cannon’.”

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



Congratulations to Larry Fitzgerald And To Jerry Rice

Last Sunday, Arizona Cardinals’ WR, Larry Fitzgerald, added 50 yards to his career total.  In doing so, he passed Terrell Owens’ career total and Fitzgerald is now second on the NFL All-Time List for receiving yards.  Normally, that achievement would merit congratulations and then I would move on.  However, this is a slightly different situation.

As the second-leading pass receiver in NFL history, Larry Fitzgerald has caught passes for 15,952 yards.  The first question that came to my mind was:

  • OK, how many more does he need to amass and pass Jerry Rice as the #1 guy on the list?

It took next to no time to determine that Jerry Rice’s total yardage was – wait for this – 22,895 yards.  The gap between Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald as of this morning is 6,943 yards.  To put that in perspective, Golden Tate’s total yardage for his eight-and-a-half-year career is 6,955 yards.  After seeing the magnitude of the separation here, I wondered if any active players had a shot at Jerry Rice’s record.  It is going to be difficult to say the least.

The first thing I noticed is that all the receivers – other than Jerry Rice – who are high on the All-Time List averaged just a bit over 1000 yards a season.  So, I put in my mind that an active receiver would have to have enough seasons left where he could amass 1100 yards per season to catch Jerry Rice.  With that yardstick, here are some benchmarks:

  • Brandon Marshall:  Other than Fitzgerald, he is the leading receiver who is still active with 12,351 yards.  He would need to play another 9.5 years at 1100 yards per year to catch Jerry Rice.  He is 34 years old; he will not be catching passes 9 years from now.
  • Antonio Gates:  He would need to be around for 10.1 years at 1100 yards per year.  That is not happening.
  • Antonio Brown:  He is third among active pass-catchers with 10,600 yards.  Using my very rudimentary metric, he would need to continue his career for another 11.2 seasons to get to Jerry Rice’s level.  Brown has been in the NFL for 8.5 seasons to date; he is 30 years old.  You may convince yourself that Brown has a shot at the record – – but it is a long-shot.
  • DeSean Jackson:  He has amassed 10,180 yards receiving.  He would need to continue to play for another 11.7 years to live in Jerry Rice’s neighborhood.  Jackson is halfway through his 11th season in the NFL and is 32 years old.  This is not happening.
  • Julio Jones:  He has 10,094 yards to his credit for his career.  By my metric, he would also need 11.7 more seasons to get to the “Rice-level”.  Jones has been in the NFL for 7.5 years and is 29 years old this year.  Like Antonio Brown, he has a shot at the record – – but it too is a long-shot.

Looking at some of the “youngsters” who are nowhere near the 10,000-yard level so far in their careers, here are some of the ones who are averaging something near 1100 yards per season:

  • DeAndre Hopkins:  He has 6,759 yards; he averages 1229 yards per season; he is 26 years old.
  • Odell Beckham, Jr.:  He has 5,282 yards; he averages 1320 yards per season; he is 26 years old.
  • Mike Evans:  He has 5,416 yards; he averages 1204 yards per season; he is 25 years old.

When sports fans gather at a local watering hole and talk about “records that will never be broken”, I think we need to add Jerry Rice’s total receiving yards to the standard list that includes:

  • Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak of 2632 games
  • Cy Young’s total of 511 wins in a career
  • UCLA’s seven consecutive NCAA Championships
  • You get the idea…

All those achievements – along with Jerry Rice’s career totals and all the other “unbreakable records” that may go onto this list – are praiseworthy.  Nonetheless, all of them could be broken some day because someone may come along with other-worldly skills or longevity and do it.  As I have pointed out here before, there is at least one sports record that will never be broken because it CANNOT be broken.  Here it is:

  • The Super Bowl game played in January 1991 between the NY Giants and the Buffalo Bills was then, is now and forever will be the Super Bowl game won by the smallest margin.  The final score was 20-19; that was the infamous Scott Norwood “wide-right game”.  It is not possible for any Super Bowl game to be decided by a smaller margin than that.  The record may be tied; it cannot be broken.

In the US, we often take notice of some of the wacky promotional events put on by minor league baseball teams.  Personally, I find many of them to be very clever.  Having said that, I think minor league baseball in the US has to take a back seat to an event staged by fans – not the team itself – of a minor league soccer team in Holland.  Fans hired a “busty stripper” to streak the field and “exchange banter” with the players.  Here is a link to the report in the NY Post.  There is video of the streak; it has been blurred out to make it PG-rated.  If you go to the link and watch the “event”, please notice that there is little to no effort by “security” to do anything about this.

Finally, Dwight Perry had a comment on this soccer streaking incident in Holland in the Seattle Times:

“Supporters of Rijnsburgse Boys, a soccer team in the Netherlands, hired a porn star named Foxy to run in nothing but shoes and socks across the field to unnerve rival Amsterdamsche FC players, but it didn’t work as first-place AFC breezed to a 6-2 win.

“Now that’s what you call a losing streak.”

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