Two Big College Coaching Changes

The college football coaching game of musical chairs is in full swing even though the conference champions have not yet been decided.  Normally, the early movement of coaches involve schools that have done poorly over the past couple of years who are hoping to get their new coach a bit of a head start in the recruiting business over the winter.  Normally, the big jobs do not get filled with top-shelf candidates so early in the game.  Not so this year…

Already, there are two blueblood programs that have “poached” head coaches from two other blueblood programs.  The first one I want to consider this morning is Lincoln Riley who will be leaving Oklahoma to take over the program at USC.  Anyone who follows college football recognizes that both schools have a rich history in the game; over the past five to ten years, Oklahoma has been the better program, but USC has had plenty of time in the college football spotlight over the years.

Lincoln Riley is 38 years old and has been the head coach at Oklahoma for the last 5 seasons; that is the entirety of his head coaching résumé. His time at Oklahoma has been very successful; the Sooners’ record in his time there has been 55-10.  Riley has had a highly successful start to his coaching career, and I think it is important to emphasize that this is the start of his career.  And even though Riley has said it was “no factor” in his decision, I suspect that the impending move of Oklahoma from the Big-12 to the SEC played at least a small part in his decision to “go west”.

As I said, USC is a big-time program that has been a bit threadbare the last few years.  In the same 5-year span that Riley was going 55-10 with the Sooners, USC’s record was 33-23.  Putting USC back in the “national discussion” would be a major part of a coach’s legacy.  Moreover, the PAC-12 as a whole has been in a downward phase in the last 5 years so taking one of the blueblood programs and elevating it would appear to be very possible given the opposition to be faced.

Comparing the opposition in the PAC-12 – South Division and North Division – to the competition in the SEC is like comparing the damage you can do to your hand with a butter knife to the damage you can do to your hand with a meat grinder.  I have not seen any definitive statement by the SEC regarding the new division structure once Texas and Oklahoma are added to the mix, but even with the rotating schedule of conference opponents from the “other division”, the SEC schedule has plenty of tough games facing any of its members.  That is simply not the case in the PAC-12.

Let me be clear.  I am not saying – or even hinting – that Lincoln Riley bailed on Oklahoma because he did not want to have to deal with SEC competition.  What I am saying is that as a young coach with at least 25 years left in his career, he took an opportunity to make a significant mark on the status of college football at a time when rapid improvement of a former giant of college football appears to be very feasible.  If in fact Riley saw this opportunity and jumped to take it, he should be lauded for his insight and not scorned for his aversion to the SEC.

The other major coaching move of the week came yesterday when LSU hired Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame.  I must say that I do not understand this move from either LSU’s perspective or from Brian Kelly’s perspective.  That is not to say this was a bad move; it merely means I do not see why it happened as it did.

Brian Kelly is 60 years old, and he has been a head coach in college football since 1991 at 4 schools counting Notre Dame.  Unlike Lincoln Riley, he is not looking ahead to another 25 years in the head coaching business.  Kelly has been highly successful at Notre Dame posting a 92-39 record there even after more than a dozen wins were vacated after the fact because a trainer provided “impermissible assistance” to some players in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.  There have been no rumors that administrators at Notre Dame or big-time boosters there wanted Kelly out; from my perspective, he probably could have stayed there for the rest of his career, and everyone would have been happy.

Reports say that Kelly got a 10-year contract worth $95M PLUS incentives that would make the total value potentially worth “nine figures”.  Maybe that is the reason he took the plunge; maybe he thinks that if he can put LSU back in the college football spotlight and keep it front and center there for the next 10 years, he can retire with “a legacy”.

From the LSU perspective, the big-money folks there had better hope that this is not purely a mercenary move.  They are already paying off a big contract extension they gave to Ed Orgeron and this contract has a long way to go before it makes any sense to think about “going in another direction”.

So, the questions now devolve to:

  • Who gets the Oklahoma job?
  • Who gets the Notre Dame job?

The Big-12 has a handful of young coaches who have had plenty of success at schools with less “prestige” than Oklahoma.  The Sooners could “poach” Dave Aranda (from Baylor) or Matt Campbell (from Iowa St.).  If the administrators there think they might want to hire someone with some experience in the SEC, the peripatetic Lane Kiffin might show up on their radar screens.  If the administrators want to look for a young head coach who is “part of the Sooner football family”, they could take a look at Josh Heupel (at Tennessee) who was a QB for the Sooners and an assistant coach there too.

And now, I have a bold idea for the Notre Dame job.  I think this scratches several itches at the same time:

  • Notre Dame’s next coach should be – – Urban Meyer.

Hear me out…  There are lots of reports out there saying that Meyer’s transition to the NFL has not gone smoothly at all.  There are reports of problems with players and with assistant coaches.  The owners cannot possibly be thrilled with the on-field product this season – – although they ought to be  used to disappointing on-field performances by now.  So, imagine the scenario where Meyer and owner Sahid Khan mutually agree to go their separate ways freeing up Meyer to return to college coaching AND to take a job that he has said was a “dream job” in the past.

If that one is too outlandish for you to swallow, let me offer up one other Notre Dame possible option that would demonstrate continuity in the football universe.  When Notre Dame hired Brian Kelly, he had been the very successful coach at Cincinnati.  Today, the very successful coach at Cincinnati is Luke Fickell; the Bearcats may just be the first team from outside the Power 5 conferences to make it to the CFP; even if they do not, they are certainly the “outsiders” that have come closest to that stature.  So, maybe Notre Dame’s next coach is another former coach at Cincinnati?

Finally, football coaches at just about any level are most highly motivated by enlightened self-interest; it is not necessarily a profession filled with highly principled people.  In that vein, let me close with this observation by Oscar Wilde:

“I like persons better than principles and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.”

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



St. Louis $790M – – NFL 0

Back in 2015, Stan Kroenke – owner of the NFL Rams franchise – got the approval to build what is now SoFi Stadium and to develop the surrounding acreage. That approval set in motion a multi-billion dollar building project and it also set in motion the need for the St. Louis Rams to become the LA Rams once again.  Obviously, the folks in St. Louis were not pleased with losing their team – and just as importantly their tenant in their stadium, the Edward Jones Dome.  There was an interesting clause in the Rams’ lease of the Dome:

  • The stadium was required to be in the “top tier of NFL stadiums” or the Rams could just break the lease without even saying, “Three, six, nine; I resign.”

How one would go about determining what the “top tier of NFL stadiums” might be and then how one might measure various aspects of the Edward Jones Dome as compared to the somehow identified “top tier stadiums” was left as an exercise for the reader.  However, even St. Louis fans were not thrilled by the Dome’s ambience and space for tailgating.  So, the Rams upped and moved to LA and played  home games in the LA Coliseum for a couple of years while SoFi Stadium was under construction.  And that would be the simple end to the story had not the folks in St. Louis filed a lawsuit claiming that the move was unjustified and that the NFL “fraudulently ignored their own Relocation Guidelines” in granting the Rams permission to move.

That case has been through all the early phases of a mega-lawsuit and was slated to go to trial until last week when the matter was settled out of court.  Reports say that the NFL and Kroenke will pay St. Louis $790M.  That is a whole lot of cheese, and the magnitude of the settlement says the following to me:

  1. The NFL and Stan Kroenke think that they will earn additional profits in LA – as compared to profits they would have earned in St. Louis – that are comfortably in excess of $790M.  In fact, those anticipated long-term profits from Kroenke’s standpoint would have to exceed this settlement amount PLUS the approximately $500M relocation fee that he paid to the league for the approval to do so.
  2. The NFL and Stan Kroenke must have believed that there was a better than 50/50 chance they would lose the lawsuit to a jury of St. Louis citizens and that a jury award could well have been more than $790M.
  3. There may have been some shenanigans in the NFL’s approval process – or maybe in the “Relocation Guidelines” themselves – that the league would prefer not to have presented as evidence in open court.

Weep not for Stan Kroenke whose balance sheet will take a significant hit with this settlement.  Forbes pegs his net worth at $10B and Stan Kronke’s wife is a Walton heiress – the daughter on one of the founders of Wal-Mart.  You will not be seeing any of these folks in line at a soup kitchen any time soon…

There was a strange NFL-related story from off-field events last week.  Minnesota Vikings’ defensive end, Everson Griffen, got into a stand-off situation with the police at Griffen’s home after Griffen made “a series of disturbing posts on Instagram earlier Wednesday morning claiming that someone was in his home trying to kill him.”

This is not the first time Everson Griffen has shown some odd behaviors.  Several years ago, the Vikes directed him to take some mental health exams and Griffen wound up hospitalized for a short time after those examinations.  I do not recall all the details of that previous event, but this time, there is at least one gun that was involved.  In one of Griffen’s Instagram posts, Griffen says that he has a “.45 Wilson Combat” with clips (plural) and plenty of bullets in his house – – where he was supposedly in danger of being killed by someone the police could not find or identify.

Fortunately, that situation ended in a much better place than it could have.  Armed confrontations with police officers often end with a chalk outline – or two – being drawn on the ground.  In this case, Griffen came out of his house “without incident” after about 12 hours in standoff mode and reports from the police and the Vikings said that Griffen was then taken to a mental health facility where he was being evaluated.

Moving on …  I have never tried to hide the fact that I don not like deciding the winner of a soccer game on penalty kicks for the simple reason that the decision is made by a series of events that probably had nothing at all to do with the fact that the score in the game is tied.  To me, it is like taking a basketball game that is tied at the end of regulation and settling the outcome with a couple of games of H-O-R-S-E.  Notwithstanding my dislike for penalty kicks or any other contrived way to break ties and determine a winner, there was an interesting circumstance in an MLS playoff game yesterday.

The Philadelphia Union and the Nashville SC ended regulation time and then extra time with the score tied at 1-1.  That moved things along to a penalty shot finish where something unusual happened:

  • Nashville SC took 4 penalty shots and none of them were successful.
  • The first two were blocked by the Union’s goalkeeper; the next two missed the net all by themselves.

According to the good folks at, data from 2009 until last  year involving over 100,000 penalty kicks worldwide resulted in 75% winding up as scores.  Using that as a metric, the probability of missing 4 penalty shots in a row is .004.

Finally, let me close today with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

“Income:  Money that your employer should just hand over to  your creditors, thereby cutting out the middle man.”

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



A Mini Football Friday 11/26/21

Welcome to a mini version of Football Friday.  I have managed to sleep off my stupor that was induced by an amazing intake of l-tryptophan yesterday combined with wall-to-wall football until late in the evening.  I will begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  3-0-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Total:  4-2-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-1  Net profit = $15

These results bring the totals for the season to:

  • College:13-13-0
  • NFL:  18-21-1
  • Total:  31-34-1
  • Money Line Parlays:  2-5   Net loss = $98


College Football Commentary:


            The Linfield College Wildcats advanced to the second round of the Division III football tournament beating Redlands last week 44-10.  Linfield is now 10-0 for the season and will travel about 1700 miles to Collegeville, MN to take on the Johnnies of St. John’s University.  The Johnnies are 11-0 in 2021 and won their first-round game by a score of 41-14.   Go Wildcats!

Taking a quick look at the teams in contention for the Brothel Defense Award – given to the team that allows anyone and everyone to score at will – here are the contenders late in the season:

  • New Mexico State allows 41.6 points per game
  • Kansas (the winner of this award in 2020) allows 42.9 points per game
  • UMass (winner of this award in 2019) allows 43.0 points per game

[Foreshadowing:  Please look at that list again and keep it in mind…]

Instead of talking about college coaches getting fired this week, let me start today with two coaching contract extension stories.  The first involves James Franklin at Penn State; this week, Franklin signed a 10-year contract extension which – with incentives – could be worth as much as $85M.  Reports said that Franklin’s current salary at Penn State is $5.5M.  Perhaps one motivation for the Penn State administrators to extend Franklin’s contract is that he has been mentioned as being a possible candidate for the USC job that is open this year.

Franklin did a magnificent job in his first head coaching stint at Vandy.  In three years there, he took the Commodores to three bowl games and compiled an overall record of 24-15 at Vandy playing a full SEC schedule.  At Penn State over the almost 8 full seasons, his record is 67-32.  Obviously, Franklin is a successful recruiter and coach, but I wonder about the value of the contract.  Penn State has never won the Big-10 East outright in his time there; and this year, the Nittany Lions lost to a bad Illinois team in 9 overtime periods.  We shall see…

The other contract extension story involves Mel Tucker at Michigan State.  Four weeks ago, Sparty rallied to beat arch-rival Michigan and then kept its undefeated season going until surprisingly losing to Purdue two weeks later.  Plenty of reporting had it that Michigan State and Tucker were on the verge of signing a 10-year contract extension which – with incentives – could be worth as much as $95M.  Reports said that Tucker’s current salary at Michigan State is $5.5M.  Like Franklin, Tucker’s name had been linked to major job openings in college football this year including USC, LSU and Florida.

Those talks were supposedly put on hold after the loss to Purdue and early last week there were reports that the contract may have been pulled off the table by the administrators at Michigan State after Ohio State demolished Sparty last week 56-7.  Those negative reports turned out to be a large pile of over-reaction because this Wednesday the deal was struck.  Tucker was previously the head coach at Colorado for a season and went 5-7 with the Buffaloes.  He has been at Michigan State for most of two seasons and has posted an 11-7 record there.

I cannot completely avoid talking about coach firings because last week I made a prediction that if Missouri beat Florida, that Dan Mullen would be fired at Florida.  Well Mizzou did beat Florida and indeed Dan Mullen was fired less than 48 hours after the fact.

I am going to root to see Ohio State’s offense against Georgia’s defense somewhere in the CFP.  Ohio State did not merely beat Michigan St. last week; it was a rout from start to finish.   Michigan also won in a rout over Maryland last week setting up The Big Game this weekend.

Oregon suffered a big loss – to Utah – by 31 points.  That simply must eliminate Oregon – – and probably all of the PAC-12 from any possible CFP consideration.  Interestingly, Oregon and Utah could meet again in the PAC-12 Championship Game where the winner goes to the Rose Bowl.

Clemson seems to have found its stride late in the season and the Tigers beat Wake Forest by 3 TDs last week.  Wake needs a win this week to be in the ACC Championship Game.

Cincy did what it had to do against a team with a strong record; they disemboweled SMU 48-14.  The Bearcats just made life a bit more difficult for the CFP Selection Committee.  Cincy is ranked 4th this week; Michigan is ranked 5th and Notre Dame is 6th.  Guess which teams on that list would bring the biggest TV ratings…

Cal beat Stanford 41-11.  Stanford beat Oregon many moons ago, but the season fell apart for Stanford since the calendar flipped over to November.  In its three games in November, Stanford has been outscored by opponents 128-32.  The Cardinal host Notre Dame this week…

As the college football season draws to a close, I can narrow down the potential field for my imaginary SHOE Tournament where we might determine on the field which team is the worst team in the nation in 2021.  Next week, I will have the field of 8 ready and seeded to present to you; at this point, I think I have 12 teams that deserve serious consideration for the ignominy of an invitation:

  1. Akron  2-9
  2. Arizona  1-10
  3. Arkansas St.  2-9
  4. Florida Int’l  1-10
  5. Indiana  2-9
  6. Kansas  2-9
  7. New Mexico  3-8
  8. New Mexico St.  1-10
  9. Temple  3-8
  10. UConn  1-10
  11. UMass  1-10
  12. Vandy  2-9



College Football Games of Interest:


(Fri Afternoon)  Iowa at Nebraska – 1 (41):  Interesting line here.  Iowa is 9-2 overall this year; Nebraska is 3-8…

(Fri Afternoon) UNC at NC State – 6 (62):  In the pre-season polls, UNC was ranked in the Top Ten; the Tar Heels have lost 5 times this year and are 0-3 on the road.

(Fri Nite)  Washington St. – 1 at Washington (45.5):  This is the Apple Bowl rivalry game. Washington St. is bowl eligible; Washington will not be participating in a bowl game this year other than this “Apple Bowl.”

(Fri Afternoon)  Cincy – 14 at East Carolina (57):  Cincy must win convincingly here if they want to continue to be part of the CFP discussion.

Ohio St. – 7 at Michigan (65):  The winner of this game will be in the CFP save for an upset loss in the Big-10 Championship Game against either Iowa or Wisconsin.

Pitt – 13.5 at Syracuse (58):  Pitt is 9-2 and is one of the participants in the ACC Championship Game.  Syracuse is 5-6; this is their last chance to achieve bowl eligibility.  Based solely on motivation here, I like the Orange to put up a real fight here; I’ll take Syracuse plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Navy – 13.5 at Temple (43):  These are two bad teams; Temple may be a very bad team.  Navy averages 18.6 points per game this year; Temple only scores 16.5 points per game.  There may be a lot of punting here.

Wake Forest – 6 at BC (65):  Wake needs to win this one to play Pitt in the ACC Championship Game.  BC is bowl eligible at 6-5 but all 5 of their losses have been in game against ACC opponents.

Maryland – 2 at Rutgers (53):  The reason this game is interesting is that both teams are 5-6; the winner will get a minor bowl bid.

Wisconsin – 7 at Minnesota (39.5):  This will be a defensive game from start to finish.  Wisconsin needs a win here to face the winner of the Michigan/Ohio St. game in the Big 10 Championship Game.

Arizona at Arizona St. – 20 (53):  This is a big rivalry game but the fortunes of these two teams have been very different this year.

Oregon St. at Oregon – 7 (61):  They call this rivalry game “The Civil War”.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma St. – 4.5 (50):  This rivalry game is known as “Bedlam”.  Both teams are 10-1 overall; both are 7-1 in Big 12 Conference games; the winner will try to convince the CFP Selection Committee to look favorably on their season.  On average, the Sooners score 8.5 points per game more than the Cowboys.  On defense the Cowboys enjoy an even larger advantage; Oklahoma St. ranks 3rd in the nation in Scoring Defense giving up only 14.9 points per game.  I like the Cowboys at home to assert themselves on defense here; I’ll take Oklahoma St. to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

Alabama – 20.5 at Auburn (57):  The SEC Championship Game is set; Alabama and Georgia will square off.  Unless that Championship game is a blowout loss by either team, I think both teams should be in the CFP.  Yes, I know that if Georgia wins that game by a TD, it will be Alabama’s second loss in 2021; I still think they are one of the four best teams I have seen this year.  Having said all that, I think this line is fat for such a rivalry game; I’ll take Auburn plus the points in this “Iron Bowl” game; put it in the Six-Pack.

Penn St. – 2 at Michigan St. (52):  Two coaches with big contract extensions (see above) square off here…

Florida St. at Florida – 3 (59):  Over the last several weeks, the Seminoles have been improving; over the last several weeks, the Gators have been horrible – – and their coach just got fired.

Texas A&M – 6.5 at LSU (47):  If LSU wins here, they are bowl-eligible…

UMass at New Mexico St. – 6.5 (59):  I said above that the Brothel Defense Award stats would show up again.  Well, here they are; two of the three worse scoring defenses in the country face off.  Both of these teams are on the SHOE Tournament list too.  Since this is Thanksgiving Weekend, you should give thanks that you are not forced to watch this hot mess of a game.  Label this one an Avert Your Eyes Special.


NFL Commentary:


The Jets lost to the Dolphins last week 24-17.  Is that an indication that the Jets’ defense woke up from a 4-week snooze?  In the 4 games prior to last week, the Jets had allowed a total of 175 points – almost 44 points per game.

Tyler Huntley subbed in for Lamar Jackson and the Colts eked out a win over the hapless Bears who had to go with Andy Dalton after Justin Fields was injured.  You are excused if you do not recognize Huntley’s name or recall where he played college football…

The Browns got a real scare from the Lions who also had to go with a backup QB.  Tim Boyle was the Lions’ QB last week and you are excused if you do not recognize Boyle’s name or where he played college football.   I went to the Internet to satisfy my curiosity and found these stats for Tim Boyle at UConn:

  • 133 of 275 for 1237 yards with 1 TD and 13 INTs

Now I am curious how he ever got an invitation to an NFL Training Camp let alone how he made an NFL regular season roster…

It looks to me as if Baker Mayfield is regressing – – or maybe his shoulder injury (to his left shoulder not his throwing shoulder) is more serious than the Browns are letting on.

The Titans lost last week to the Texans in a classic trap game; Ryan Tannehill threw 4 INTs.  The Titans’ record is 8-3; the three losses are to the Cards (OK), the Jets (say what?), and the Texans (Are you bleeping kidding me?!).

There were big wins last week by the Vikes (over the Packers) and the Eagles (over the Saints) as those teams eye wildcard possibilities.

The Football Team spoiled Cam Newton’s “homecoming” – – then again it was also Ron Rivera’s “homecoming” so that one was not ruined.

The Chiefs looked good on offense and on defense against the Cowboys.

The Chargers/Steelers game was an entertaining game; that was a big win for the Chargers.

Regarding yesterday’s Triple Header, the Lions/Bears game was a bumble-fest from start to finish.  Early in the second quarter, Troy Aikman said that he had figured that the first team to score 17 points would be the winner.  He was right; the Bears won the game 16-14.

The Cowboys/Raiders game was a penalty-fest from start to finish.  Each team was flagged 14 times in the game.  Cowboys’ DB, Anthony Brown committed 4 defensive pass interference penalties in the game; all 4 of those penalties came on third-down plays where the pass was incomplete; that means Anthony Brown converted 4 third-down situations for the Raiders.  The Cowboys maintain a 2-game lead in the NFC East and the Raiders managed to remain only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.

The Bills/Saints game was no contest.  The Saints were short-handed on offense and the Bills’ defense never let the Saints develop any sort of offensive rhythm.  That is 4 losses in a row for the Saints; the Bills are tied with the Pats atop the AFC East pending the results of Sunday’s games.


NFL Games:


Teams on their BYE Weeks this week:

  • Cards:  They have survived without Kyler Murray for the last 3 games and are still a game and a half ahead of the Rams in the NFC West.
  • Chiefs:  They have looked much more like a serious playoff team over the past couple of weeks.


Titans at Pats – 7 (43.5):  The spread on this game opened at 4.5 points; it was up to 7 points by Tuesday night and has remained there for the rest of the week.  This is my Game of the Week; both teams are at the top of their division in the AFC.  The Pats have won 5 in a row; the Titans looked awful last week (see above).

Jets at Texans – 2.5 (44.5):  If  you thought yesterday’s Lions/Bears game was bad, try not to watch this one.  Both teams arrive with 2-8 records for the season.  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Eagles – 3.5 at Giants (46):  The Eagles are in the wildcard chase in the NFC.  The Giants are in disarray.

Bucs – 3 at Colts (53.5):  This was my runner-up for Game of the Week.  The Colts have won 3 in a row and are squarely in the wildcard picture in the AFC.

Falcons – 2 at Jags (45.5):  Put this game in the same category as Bears/Lions and Jets/Texans; it is meaningless, and it should be as exciting as tofu.

Panthers – 2.5 at Dolphins (42):  I like the Panthers defense to carry the day here.  I’ll take the Panthers on the road to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Steelers at Bengals – 4 (45):  This is a big game in the AFC North; the Bengals are 6-4; the Steelers are 5-4-1.

Chargers – 3 at Broncos (48):  The Chargers can tie the Chiefs on top of the AFC West with a win here.  The Broncos are in last place in that division and cannot afford another loss.

Vikes at Niners – 3 (49):  The Niners will want to run the ball against the Vikes’ run defense that ranks 28th in the NFL.  I think they will be very successful in that endeavor; I like the Niners to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Rams – 1 at Packers (47):  The spread here opened with the Packers as 1.5-point favorites.  The line “flipped” on Wednesday and has stayed here for the past two days.  The Packers have a 2.5-game lead over the Vikes in the NFC North race; the Rams need a win to keep pace with the Cards in the NFC West.

(Sun Nite) Browns at Ravens – 3.5 (47):  Neither team has looked in sync for a couple of weeks now, but the Browns look worse to me.

(Mon Nite) Seahawks at Football Team – 1 (46.5):The Football Team is in the wildcard picture in the NFC; the Seahawks are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs but given tiebreaker situations, they are eliminated from possibly winning the NFC West.  I think the Football Team is starting to find itself on offense and the Seahawks defense is not good.  The Seahawks give up 401.8 yards per game; that ranks them 31st in the NFL in Total Defense; only the Jets are worse.  I like the Football Team to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

So, let me review the Six-Pack:

  • Syracuse +13.5 against Pitt
  • Oklahoma St. – 4.5 over Oklahoma
  • Auburn +20.5 against Alabama
  • Panthers – 2.5 over Dolphins
  • Niners – 3 over Vikes
  • Football Team – 1 over Seahawks

And here is a two-team Money Line parlay for the week:

  • Eagles at minus-180 against Giants
  • Football Team at minus-110 against Seahawks
  • A $100 wager here would yield a profit of $197.

Finally, let me close with an email from a reader:

“Since you often close your columns with obscure quotations here is one you may want to use.  It comes from Delmore Schwartz who was a prize-winning poet in the 20th century.

‘Existentialism means that no one can take a bath for you.’

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



MLB Hall Of Fame Ballot 2022

            The MLB Hall of Fame ballot for next year is out.  There are 13 new names on the ballot for the first time and only four of them are worth more than even a passing glance:

  1. Ryan Howard
  2. Tim Lincecum
  3. David Ortiz
  4. Alex Rodriguez

Howard and Lincecum had their moments in the spotlight during their MLB careers, but I truly do not think of them as “HoF material.”  The candidacies of both Ortiz and Rodriguez will be interesting to track – – because there are two players who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the tenth and final time this year:

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens

Bonds and Clemens have provided us with a decade-long debate about what it means to put a player in the Hall of Fame.  Neither player has been ”proven beyond a reasonable doubt” as a steroid user; nonetheless, many people – me included – think that they did indeed enhance their longevity and their statistics with some “biochemical assistance”.  Make no mistake here; my opinion on that matter is not relevant because it is nothing more than an opinion, but it has been a sticking point for many of the folks who vote for Hall of Fame inductees.

If you look purely at “the numbers”, there is no question that both Bonds and Clemens belong in Cooperstown.  If you want to “downgrade” some of those numbers because you think they are “chemically enhanced”, go right ahead and I still think Bonds and Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame with whatever reasonable degradation you might apply.  But the voters have looked beyond the numbers for these two players for the last ten years.

Now onto the ballot come David Ortiz and A-Rod.  There are more than a few whispers out there that Ortiz was “a user”.  There is no good evidence, but the whispers persist.  A-Rod is a different story; basically, he was caught twice with positive tests and served a full year’s suspension from the Commissioner.  Here is the question:

  • Will the “behavioral component” of the voting that has kept Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall of Fame and on the ballot for a decade be applied to either Ortiz or Rodriguez – – or both?

Interestingly, the “behavioral component” I referenced above is also a significant part of why another player is on the ballot for the tenth and final time this year.  Curt Schilling’s numbers – particularly in the playoffs and in the World Series – clearly tell me that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.  However, Curt Schilling is a wing nut who has espoused publicly more than a few off-center views of the world and the US political scene.  [Aside: I have no interest in discussing/debating some of his stated positions so let me leave it that I consider many of them to be “off-center”.]

Here is my suggestion:

  • Recognize that all five of the “controversial candidates” here (Bonds, Clemens, Ortiz, Rodriguez and Schilling) belong in the Hall of Fame when you consider their accomplishments on the field.
  • So, put them in there.  And also add a small second plaque to the standard one that is there for other great players like Aaron and DiMaggio and Mays and Ruth and Williams where the small added plaque says to visitors, some of the stats that got these guys admitted here may have been “chemically enhanced”.  [I will leave it to the baseball poets to come up with more acceptable prose here.]

Finally, since three of the five players (Clemens, Ortiz and Schilling) I have mentioned here as being at odds with the “behavioral component” of Hall of Fame voting played for the Boston Red Sox, let me close with this observation about Boston by comedian, Fred Allen:

“I have just returned from Boston.  It is the only thing to do if you find yourself up there.”

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



Boycott The Winter Olympics? Who Cares?

Since I am about to embark on a topic this morning that is laden with political nuances and sentiments let me declare my personal politics in a generic way:

  • I am not a Democrat.
  • I am not a Republican.
  • I am a Pragmatist.

I have not been able to buy into the ideologies or whatever passes for the guiding principles of either of the major US political parties for all of my adult life and both parties fail to attract me to their way of thinking because neither party can accomplish what they say they want to accomplish when they are “in power”.  What I care about in politics is successful achievement of new laws and new policies and new procedures that make life better.  To say that for the most part I have been “politically disappointed” over the last 50 years or so would be an understatement.

It is with that admittedly jaded attitude that I read last week that President Biden said he was “considering” a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing as a way to protest and to put pressure on the Chinese government to amend their human rights policies and practices.  The President is only considering preventing US diplomats and functionaries from attending the Games; the US athletes would be there to compete.

Since I am a political Pragmatist, it should not be much of a surprise that I think the US President should not “consider” such a thing for more than about a nanosecond because keeping US diplomats somewhere other than in Beijing during the Winter Olympic Games is not going to cause any change in behavior on the part of the Chinese government.  It just isn’t.

Even worse than pretending that such a symbolic gesture will cause even a minor change is the fact that we have empirical evidence that Olympic boycotts do not work.

  • In the late 1970s, President Carter was mightily miffed by the audacity of the Soviet Union to send army troops into Afghanistan.  The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were going to be held in Moscow and President Carter kept the US athletes home and out of the competition.
  • That boycott changed the behaviors of the Soviet leaders and the Soviet army not even a little bit.  It was not until the end of the 1980s that the Soviets pulled their troops out of Afghanistan – long after everything about the 1980 Summer Olympic Games had faced from memory.
  • Then in 1984, the Soviets chose to boycott the Summer Olympic Games that were held in Los Angeles.  About a dozen countries generally aligned with the Soviet Union joined that boycott which had no discernable effect on the Los Angeles Games.

An Olympic boycott is feckless; a diplomatic boycott of Olympic games is an expression of impotence.  And on another plane of thinking, would the US government change any of its fundamental behaviors based on our precepts because a foreign government made it clear to us that they think we are doing the wrong things within our borders?  I doubt it.  And so, we need to step back and be sure that we are not carrying a burdensome load of hubris when we take such positions.

When I read about this action being “under consideration”, I had to check and see what it meant to have diplomats boycott Olympic Games since I was certain that there were no athletic competitions reserved for members of the diplomatic corps of various countries.  If you did not know, First Lady, Jill Biden led a US diplomatic delegation to the Tokyo Games earlier this year.  Until this weekend, I was unaware of such a delegation, and I am still unaware of its purpose or its achievements.  But, now you know…

And while I am on the subject of useless and unproductive things, let me propose a Quick Quiz.  We have not had one of these in quite a while around here so let me pose the question and the form of the response:

What is the most useless and why:

  • Weekly NFL “Power Rankings”
  • Weekly College Football Rankings
  • “Bracketology” columns written in November?

Fifty words or less…

Finally, Dwight Perry had an interesting comment on another possible intersection between sports and politics in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke for 8½ hours into the early hours Friday morning in futile opposition to President Biden’s social spending bill.

“Veteran observers say it was like watching a Yankees-Red Sox doubleheader.”

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



NFL Officials – Fulltime Or Part-Time

I attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1961-1965.  In those days the five major college basketball schools in and around Philadelphia – the Big Five – played virtually all of their home games at The Palestra on Penn’s campus.  In order to fit in so many games with so many schools, there were double-headers every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights and sometimes they threw in a double-header on Wednesday night too.  Over the Christmas break, there used to be a Holiday Festival Tournament which had a double-header in the afternoon followed by another double-header at night.

The reason I point all this out is that in my four years at Penn, I believe I messed a total of six games – – not six-double-headers, six games.  I spent more time in The Palestra than I spent in the library, and it was not even close.

Last week, I learned that I was not alone in my fascination for the place.  John Feinstein wrote a column in the Washington Post about the return of college basketball to The Palestra after a hiatus of more than a calendar year due to COVID-19.  Please take a minute to read Feinstein’s column here.  I still think of The Palestra as “hallowed ground.”

Welcome back from reading Prof. Feinstein’s essay…  Last week, I also read a report that Saints’ coach, Sean Payton, said on Dan Patrick’s radio program that he thought NFL officiating would be improved if the league hired full-time officials.  I also read another report that Seahawks’ coach, Pete Carrol, offered the same view.  I respectfully disagree and here is why.

I have mentioned here before that I spent 37 years of my life officiating basketball; that is not the same as officiating football but there are some fundamental similarities.  In addition, for several years, I was “the instructor” for young officials who were about to find out if they wanted to do this as a hobby or if this was something they preferred not to do at all.  And it is from those experiences – – officiating and trying to help others learn how to be an official – – that I disagree with the idea that full-time officials in the NFL will have a significant positive effect on the “quality” of the officiating.

From mid-August through early February the NFL puts on 65 Exhibition Games, 272 regular season games and 13 playoff games.  Those 350 events are where two things happen:

  1. Officials hone their skills as officials – – and – –
  2. Officials come under scrutiny for “bad calls”.

Outside those 350 events, there are no substitute events for the officials – part time or fulltime – to practice their craft.  “Watching film” can be very effective in teaching the mechanics of officiating – how the officials should position themselves to be able to see what is happening in their area of responsibility on the field.  That is very helpful; I do not mean to downplay it at all.  At the same time, however, an official studying film cannot learn how to get himself/herself into the proper position; all film study can do is to imprint the lesson of where proper positioning is under various circumstances.

So, from mid-February after the Super Bowl is over and the winning team has had their parade until mid-August when the Hall of Fame Exhibition Game happens, there is little to no opportunity for fulltime officials to be doing things that will make them better officials “in the heat of a real game”.  I have heard some folks say that fulltime officials can use that time to study the rulebook.  Obviously, that is the case but most of the complaints about officiating have to do with the calls made by the officials and not about their lack of understanding of the rulebook.

When an NFL official throws a flag for pass interference and half the fans watching the game hate the call, they do not hate it because they believe the official does not know the rules regarding pass interference; those fans hate the call because they saw the action on the field in a different light – – usually a biased light.  If I were given 6 months to study the NFL rulebook, I would be able to “pass the test” on what those rules say an official needs to enforce on the field.  But that does not mean I should be allowed on the field to officiate a real NFL game – – or even a scrimmage.  “Knowing the rules” is absolutely essential for an official to “get it right”; however, “knowing the rules” is not sufficient; a competent official has to practice to learn how to do what the rule book tells him (s)he needs to enforce.

Because the frequency of “errors” by NFL officials that show a complete misinterpretation of the rules  is so rare, I think it is reasonable to conclude that the NFL officials as a whole have sufficiently studied the rule book to the point that they know what it says, what it means, and what it intends.  The “improvements” that are sought by fans and coaches such as Sean Payton and Pete Carrol are  improvements that can only come from having the officials get more live action.  Cue Hamlet here:

“Aye, there’s the rub.”

There is no live action outside those 350 NFL game events summarized above to use as a training ground.  In terms of time on the job that focuses on improving what the officials see and call, the current “part-time officials” have maxed out that time.  So, why hire them fulltime and then try to figure out a way for them to get more “live action” when the only way to do that would be to stage more real games?

Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot on this subject:

“Baseball umpires work every day and still blow calls and miss balls and strikes.”

He is correct and even if the NFL hires fulltime officials, they too will miss calls here and there.  When I was trying to teach young folks how to be a basketball official, I would start my first classroom session with this statement:

“There are two types of officials; those that have made mistakes and those who are just about to make a mistake.  You will make an incorrect call somewhere along the line.  Deal with that; then move on and try not to make another mistake for a while.”

Finally, let me close with this observation by civil rights advocate/activist, William Sloane Coffin:

“I’m not OK, you’re not OK, and that’s OK.”

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



Football Friday 11/19/21

Friday is named in honor of Frigg who was the wife of Odin in Norse mythology.  Spiritual folks believe that Frigg’s energy is infused into us at the end of the week reminding us of the need for rest and relaxation in our lives.  That sounds like a good reason to do a Football Friday.  Thanks, Frigg…

Let me begin today with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College:  2-1-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Total:  3-3-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  0-2

That brings the season totals for all the Six-Packs to:

  • College:  10-13-0
  • NFL:  17-19-1
  • Total:  27-32-1
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-4     Net loss on parlays:  =   $113.


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats finished their regular season undefeated; last weekend they beat Lewis and Clark 51-17.  That record got them an invitation to the Division III playoffs and this weekend they will play the Redlands College Bulldogs at home in McMinnville, OR.  Redlands is 8-1 on the season. Interestingly that one loss came at the hands of Linfield back on September 18th.  So far this year, Linfield has dominated opponents:

  • Linfield has scored an average of 52.8 points per game
  • Linfield has allowed an average of 11.7 points per game

The winner of this game will move on to play the winner of a game between St. John’s (MN) and Lake Forest.  Go Wildcats!

We are getting close to the time when the winner of the Brothel Defense Award will emerge.  The award recognizes the college football defense that allows everyone to score at will:

  • Arkansas St. allows 41.1 points per game
  • UMass allows 44.0 points per game
  • Kansas allows 44.1 points per game.

For the record, Kansas won this award in 2020 and UMass won this award in 2019.  The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Three college football coaches were fired this week; none of the three was truly shocking.  Let me go over them in alphabetical order.

Butch Davis was fired at Florida International.  Davis has been there since 2017; FIU made it to bowl games in his first 3 seasons there but in the COVID-shortened season of 2020 the team was 0-5.  This year, FIU has been awful; its record is 1-9.  So, I can understand that the school could decide to make a change.  However, it is the aftermath of the firing that is interesting here; Butch Davis did not go quietly into the night…

Davis made it clear that he thinks the school administrators were fortunate to have had those three bowl game appearances.  He said he was only allowed to offer minimal contracts of one year in length to any of his assistants.  He also said that when he arrived at FIU, all the pads for the players to use were “10 years old”.  The school would not buy new pads but one of the assistants knew that Mississippi State was getting new equipment and the assistant arranged to get the stuff Mississippi State was throwing out.  According to Davis, those pads were “only 5 years old”.  He also said that his assistants were not allowed to travel to recruit players “for financial reasons”.

That is not the kind of statement you hear from a recently fired football coach.  That is more than burning bridges; that is almost a scorched Earth policy statement.  Butch Davis is 70 years old; my guess is that he is not looking ahead toward his career progression.

Justin Fuente was fired at Va Tech.  Fuente has been the head coach there since 2016 and he has had the Hokies in bowl games 4 times.  Last year, Tech went 5-6; I said in my pre-season analysis that Fuente would be on a hot seat if they Hokies did not do better this year; as of this morning, they are 5-5 and he is out of a job.

The surprising thing to me is that he was fired after winning a blowout game over Duke last week; normally a coach that wins a game by 3 or 4 TDs gets to hang around for at least another week.  However, do not fret over Justin Fuente’s fate; reports say that his buyout clause calls for him to get $8.5M in installments over the next 3 years.

One name immediately surfaced as Fuente’s replacement; that would be Shane Beamer who has been the head coach at South Carolina for all of one season.  Beamer is the son of Frank Beamer who was an icon at Va Tech for 29 years.  Stay tuned…

Jimmy Lake was fired at Washington.  Lake has been the Huskies coach since 2020 and his record in 14 games is 7-7; he had been the Huskies’ defensive coordinator for two seasons prior to taking over the head coaching job.  Lake was suspended by the school for one game without pay last week after an incident where he shoved one of his players on the sideline and then fired him this week.  Reports say that Lake’s buyout clause will net him $10M with an offset clause that reduces that amount by any salary he earns in another coaching position.

In SEC action last week…

Alabama 59 New Mexico St. 3:  You guessed it; New Mexico State led 3-0 with about 5 minutes to play in the first quarter; then Alabama scored 59 unanswered points.  The score at the half was 49-3; I was with friends watching another game when we saw that halftime score and wondered if Nick Saban would put in the Alabama Student Council or the Latin Club to play the second half.  For the game the Aggies ran the ball 27 times for a net gain of 9 yards; they averaged 12 inches per carry.

Mississippi  St 43  Auburn 34:  This will not go down well in Auburn; it is a game they needed  to win, and they led 28-3 with 6 minutes left in the first half. Then came the deluge.  The Bulldogs then scored 40 unanswered points to lead 43-28 with 5 minutes to play in the game.

Florida 70  Samford 52:  Yes, that is Division 1-AA Samford that scored 52 points on the Gators’ defense gaining 529 yards on offense in the process.  Yes, that is Division 1-AA Samford that led Florida 42-35 at halftime.  Recall that Florida fired two assistant coaches last week – the defensive coordinator and the run game coordinator; you think maybe there were some other folks who might have been “the problem” that had the Gators at 4-5 on the season entering this game?  According to one report, Samford was paid $550K to come to Gainesville to play this game as a punching bag.

Georgia 41  Tennessee 17:  Here is the story line from that game:

  • Georgia gave up more than twice the number of points it has allowed per game so far this year.

Ole Miss 29  Texas A&M 19:  Ole Miss outgained the Aggies 504 yards to 378 yards.  To compound their problems, the Aggies also committed 11 penalties and turned the ball over twice in the game – – one of those turnovers was a Pick-Six.  Both teams now have 3 conference losses; the Aggies cannot win the SEC West;  Ole Miss can win with a lot of improbable outcomes including two straight losses by Alabama in the final two games of the year.

Kentucky 34  Vandy 17:  That ends a 3-game losing streak for Kentucky.

Arkansas 16  LSU 13 (2 OT):  This was a defensive game; LSU outgained Arkansas 308 yards to 282 yards.  Three turnovers – one in the second OT – did LSU in.  That is the 6th loss for LSU this year; the last time they lost that many games in a season was in 1999.  LSU fired its coach then and hired a guy named Nick Saban.  Ed Orgeron is “stepping down” at LSU this year; can LSU find a comparably competent replacement?

Some ACC results…

Notre Dame 28  UVa 3: UVA played without their starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who leads the nation in total offense with an average of 425.3 yards. Instead of getting those 425 yards from the QB position, UVa only got 196 yards in this game.   UVa has now lost 2 games in a row but it only has two conference losses and is one game behind Pitt in the Coastal Division.  You guessed it; UVa and Pitt play each other this week…

Pitt 30  UNC 23  (OT):  Pitt led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 23-7 at halftime.  Then the Pitt offense went dormant in the second half until regaining consciousness in the OT period.

Wake Forest 45  NC State 42:  I believe that Wake will be the Atlantic Division winner if it wins either of its last two games this season putting them in the ACC Championship Game.  Both games are road games for Wake – – this week is at Clemson and next week is at BC.

Florida St. 31  Miami 28:  I had this as a hunch bet last week in the Pick-Six.  Let me be clear; I do not think Florida St. is a good team; it is a mediocre team.  It is just that I don’t  think Miami is anything better than average/mediocre either.  This is the 7th  game for Miami this year decided by 4 points or less.  In those 7 tight games the Hurricanes are 4-3.

Va Tech 48  Duke 17:  This game was not nearly as close as the score might indicate.  Tech outgained Duke by 250 yards for the day.  And the winning coach got fired… (see above)

Clemson 44  UConn  7:  This was a scrimmage and nothing else.

Louisville 41  Syracuse 3:  Yes, this was a beat down that was supposed to be a close game.  Syracuse only gained 184 yards on offense and a meager 46 yards in the air.

On to the Big-10 we go…

Michigan 21  Penn State 17:  This was a slugfest; both defenses came to play and asserted themselves in the game.  The stat sheet is as close as the scoreboard; the difference is that Michigan scored TDs and Penn State scored field goals.  Michigan RB, Hassan Haskins, ran for 156 yards on 31 carries.

Rutgers 38  Indiana 3:  Last week I wondered why Indiana was a TD favorite in the game given that Indiana entered the game with a 2-7 record.  In no way did I think Rutgers would blow their doors off.  The Scarlet Knights ran the ball for 208 yards here.  The Hoosiers were most generous as hosts for the game turning the ball over 6 times (4 lost fumbles and 2 INTs)  Indiana was also 1 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Ohio St. 59  Purdue 21:  I said last week that Purdue’s history of beating Top-10 ranked teams this year would not carry over to this game.  Well, that sort of worked out the way I thought it would.

Michigan St.:  40  Maryland 21:   Finding a way to make it seem as if this game outcome was ever in doubt would be a challenge.  The stat sheet was relatively even until you notice these minutiae:

  • Maryland:  3 of 13 on third down conversions
  • Michigan St.:  9 of 14 on third down conversions
  • Maryland committed 13 penalties resulting in 7 first downs for Michigan St.
  • Michigan St. committed 8 penalties resulting in 3 first downs for Maryland.

Maryland turned the ball over on downs on its last 3 possessions in the 4th quarter.

Here are some Big-12 results…

Oklahoma St.  63  TCU 17:  The Cowboys more than “doubled up”  the Horned Frogs in Total Offense here gaining 686 yards while yielding only 273 yards.  Oklahoma St. ran the ball for 451 yards on 62 carries (7.3 yards per carry).

Kansas 57  Texas 56 (OT):  There are tons of folks in Austin who are not pleased with Steve Sarkissian this week.  Texas trailed 35-14 at the half and did manage to force OT, but ten penalties by the Longhorns and 4 turnovers in the game were too much to overcome even against  a miserable opponent.  Here are the results of the first half possessions by the Longhorns:

  • Fumble
  • TD
  • TD
  • Fumble
  • INT
  • Halftime

Texas Tech 41  Iowa St. 38:  Both teams are now 6-4 and each will go to a meaningless bowl game at the end of the season.  Be still my beating heart …

Baylor 27  Oklahoma 14:  The Sooners led 7-0 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.  Then Baylor ran off 24 consecutive points until there were only 3 minutes left in the game.  Caleb Williams as ineffective in the game so Oklahoma went back to Spencer Rattler at QB.  The real difference in the game was the Baylor defense; it intercepted 2 passes and it held Oklahoma to only 260 yards of total offense and held the Sooners to 2 of 9 on third down conversions.

In PAC-12 games…

Utah 38  Arizona 29:  Utah stays on top of the PAC-12 South.  But is this the dawning of an awakening for Arizona or just a half-assed effort by Utah?

Arizona St. 35  Washington 30:  The Huskies led 24-14 with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter and gagged the game away.  Arizona St. is 1 game behind Utah in the PAC-12 South with two games left on the schedule.

UCLA 44  Colorado 20:  UCLA is bowl-eligible…

Oregon 38  Washington St. 24:  The game was tied at 14 at halftime but Oregon stepped on the gas in the second half to pull away comfortably here.  Oregon/Utah this week is a big game for both teams.

In miscellaneous games of interest…

Utah St.  48  San Jose St. 17:  Utah St. leads the Mountain Division of the MWC by one game over Air Force.  Utah St. has two conference games left against two mediocre teams – – Wyoming and New Mexico.

Air Force 35  Colorado St. 21:  Because Air Force lost to Utah St. back in mid-September, the only way for Air Force to win the division is for Utah St. to lose both games awhile Air Force wins out.

San Diego St.  23  Nevada 21:  The Aztecs lead the West Division of the MWC by a game over Fresno St.  However, if those two teams tie, the tiebreaker belongs to Fresno St. based on its win over San Diego St. on October 30th.

UNLV 27  Hawaii 13:  Two wins in a row for UNLV and puts their record for the season at 2-8.

Cincy 45  USF 28:  Cincy is 10-0…

Maine 35  UMass 10:  This is the second loss in a row for UMass to a Division 1-AA team in the Colonial Athletic Association.  Maybe there is a message here for the Athletic Department at UMass…?

Here is an updated look at candidate teams for my imaginary SHOE Tournament at the end of the season.  I will narrow the field down to 10 teams this week:

  1. Akron  2-8
  2. Arizona   1-9
  3. Florida International   1-9
  4. New Mexico St.   1-9
  5. Tulane  1-9
  6. Southern Mississippi  1-9
  7. Temple   3-7
  8. UConn   1-9
  9. UMass   1-9
  10. Vandy   2-8

College Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Air Force at Nevada – 3:  Both teams have two losses in the MWC; the loser here will be eliminated from any shot at the conference championship game.

(Fri Nite) San Diego St. – 10.5 at UNLV (41):  The Aztecs lead their division in the MWC; UNLV is 2-8 but has won its last two games.

UVa at Pitt – 14.5 (66):  A win for the Panthers puts them in the ACC Championship Game; a win for the Cavaliers puts them in first place in the Coastal Division via a tiebreaker.  This may not be the Game of the Week, but it is as important as any other game on the schedule.

SMU at Cincy – 11.5 (65):  Cincy is still hoping to get some recognition from the CFP Selection Committee, but SMU is 8-2 so they are not necessarily a push-over here.

UMass at Army – 36 (57):  This game is interesting only because of the imaginary SHOE Tournament and the Brothel Defense Award for 2021…

Va Tech at Miami – 7 (56):  Both teams are inconsistent from week to week.  The Hokies got their coach fired (see above); a bad loss here by the Hurricanes might achieve the same end.

Syracuse at NC State – 11 (51):  Syracuse needs to find another win to become bowl-eligible, but NC State is a perfect 5-0 at home this season.

Michigan St. at Ohio St. – 19 (68.5):  This is a BIG game for both teams.  If you wonder why the spread is so big in a game involving two very good teams, consider:

  • Ohio St. ranks 6th in the nation in passing offense at 353.6 yards per game.
  • Ohio St. ranks 1st in the nation in scoring at 46.3 points per game.
  • Michigan St. ranks 130th in the nation in passing defense allowing 329 yards per game.
  • For the record, there are only 130 teams in Division 1-A college football…

Michigan – 16 at Maryland (57):  Michigan cannot afford a loss here and they are the better team…

Florida – 9 at Missouri (69.5):  Both teams are 5-5; both teams have only 2 wins in SEC games.  No one expected Missouri to be anything more than mediocre; lots of people – including lots of Florida alums and boosters – thought Florida might challenge for the SEC East title this year.

  • Prediction:  If Florida loses this game, Dan Mullen will be fired.

Texas at W. Virginia – 3 (56.5):  If the Texas defense gives up 52 points to Division 1-AA Samford (see above), maybe the Mountaineers can cover that Total Line by themselves.  Both teams are 2-5 in Big-12 Conference games this season.

Florida St. at BC – 2 (54.5):  BC is bowl-eligible; Florida St. needs to win out to become bowl-eligible.  BC is 3-1 at home; Florida St. is 1-2 on the road.

Minnesota – 7 at Indiana (43):  The Gophers are only one game behind Iowa and Wisconsin in the Big-10 West.  Minnesota is 3-1 in road games this year and Indiana is 1-4 at home.  I really think Indiana has tossed in their jock straps for the season; I’ll take Minnesota to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Wake Forest at Clemson – 4.5 (57):  The last time Wake beat Clemson was in 2008; the last time Wake beat Clemson at Clemson was in 1998.  A win for Wake puts them in the ACC Championship Game; a win for Clemson keeps their slim hopes for getting to that game alive.

Nebraska at Wisconsin – 9 (43.5):  The Huskers are 1-6 in Big-10 games.  Normally, you would expect that they would have a huge negative point differential in those games but the point differential for Nebraska in those 7 games is only 7 points.  Nebraska has lost a lot of Big-10 games by single digits and then beat Northwestern by 49 points.  The Badgers are tied with Iowa in the Big-10 West and need a win here.

Illinois at Iowa – 12.5 (38):  The Hawkeyes lost to Wisconsin on October 30th, so they need to win out and also to have the Badgers lose a game in order for Iowa to play in the Big-10 Championship Game.

Oregon at Utah – 3 (59):  Utah leads Arizona St. by a game in the PAC-12 South and holds the tiebreaker over Arizona St. on the basis of a win over the Sun Devils on October 16th.  Oregon has a more comfortable two-game lead over both Oregon St. and Washington St. in the PAC-12 North.  This looks to me to be a “preview” of the PAC-12 Championship Game.  I think this is the College Football Game of the Week.

Cal – 2 at Stanford (45.5):  Cal versus Stanford is always a “Game of Interest” simply because of the rivalry.  Stanford has 7 losses this year and is not going to a bowl game; Cal has only 6 losses so they could theoretically make it to a bowl game by winning out over Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Arizona St. – 3 at Oregon St. (59):  Regarding the PAC-12 Championship Game, this is an elimination game for Arizona St.  In 2021, Oregon St. is 5-0 at home.

UCLA – 3 at USC (65.5):  The biggest rivalry game in the country where both schools are located in the same city.  USC is 4-5 this season but those 4 wins have been against some bad teams such as San Jose St., Colorado and Arizona.  Make no mistake, I do not consider UCLA a good team, but I do think they are the better team here.  I’ll take the Bruins to win and cover in this rivalry game; put it in the Six-Pack.

Auburn – 7.5 at S. Carolina (46):  This spread opened at 10.5 points but dropped like a rock once it was known that Bo Nix could not play QB for Auburn this week.  The Gamecocks can become bowl-eligible with a win here; South Carolina has the better defense in terms of Total Defense and Auburn is without its starting QB.  I like South Carolina plus the points here; put it in the Six-Pack.

Arkansas at Alabama – 21 (59):  The Razorbacks are much improved this season – – but they are no match for Alabama…

La-Monroe at LSU – 29 (57.5):  Consider these stats:

  • La-Monroe is 115th in the nation in Scoring Defense yielding 35.4 points per game.
  • La-Monroe ranks 122nd in the nation in Total Defense allowing 462.6 yards per game.

LSU is in the midst of a down year, but this really should be a laugher…

Iowa St. at Oklahoma – 3.5 (59):  Iowa St. has 3 conference losses; this game is for bragging rights.  Oklahoma stunk out the joint last week but is still tied atop the Big-12 with Oklahoma St.; both teams have only 1 conference loss.

Baylor at K-State “pick ‘em” (50):  The Baylor defense was “lights out” last week shutting down Oklahoma.  K-State has won 4 games in a row, and they are at home where they are particularly difficult to beat.


NFL Commentary:


There are two “QB-related” questions floating around the NFL this morning that I want to opine about.  The first deals with the return of Cam Newton to the Panthers:

  • Does Newton’s presence make the Panthers serious playoff contenders?

I think this depends on if you believe the glass is half-full or half-empty.  Cam Newton is not the same QB that he was even 3 years ago; he was never an accurate passer and now that his passing game is a short-passing game, accuracy becomes more important.  Having said that, even a somewhat diminished Cam Newton is a step up from the other three QBs the Panthers have on their roster now – – Matt Barkley, Sam Darnold and PJ Walker.  Using Darnold and Walker for 99% of the snaps this year until Newton showed up for some limited action last week, the Panthers have managed to arrive at this point in the season at 5-5.

The Panthers’ defense has been excellent; it ranks 2nd in the NFL in total defense only allowing 280.7 yards per game.  Christian McCaffrey is back after missing several earlier games; presumably, he can stay healthy.  I think 9 wins will be enough to make the NFC playoffs this year – – and maybe 8 wins will do the trick – – so the addition of Newton certainly enhances the Panthers’ chances here.

The second QB question for today is:

  • Did Russell Wilson rush his return to the field after finger surgery?

All the reporting out of Seattle was that Wilson was working extra hours on his rehab program and that he was progressing far more quickly than anyone had anticipated.  That is certainly a positive report, and it underscores the competitiveness that almost everyone knew was inside Russell Wilson.  He came back last week to start for the Seahawks on the road in Green Bay and played well below “Russell Wilson Standard”.  The Seahawks were shut out by the Packers and here is Wilson’s stat line:

  • 20 of 40 for 161 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.

The Seahawks’ record this morning stands at 3-6 meaning they have little margin for error regarding any sort of playoff participation.  However, there are two glimmers of hope there:

Barring a recurrence of his injury, Wilson will certainly play better in future games than he did last weekend.  The stat line from last week is one you expect from a career backup at QB or one who is about to end his career.  Russell Wilson is neither.

The Seahawks’ schedule is manageable.  This week they play the Cards who have QB injury issues of their own to deal with temporarily.  After this week, the Seahawks have perfectly winnable games against the Bears, Football Team, Lions and Texans.  We shall see…

Last weekend, the NFL games reverted to another week of blowouts.  Seven games were decided by margins of 3 scores or more and three of those games were decided by 27points or more.  Let me review…

Cowboys 41  Falcons 3:  The Falcons had just about every negative stat you could imagine in this game.  They only had the ball for 22 minutes; they only made 11 first downs; total offense was 214 yards; they were 1 of 11 on third down conversions; and they turned the ball over 3 times in the game.  Putting out this sort of bed-wetting performance is all the more surprising given that the Falcons came to the game off an upset of the Saints just the week before.  The Cowboys showed total domination.

Bills 45  Jets 17:  This game was not this close; the Jets scored 2 meaningless TDs in the 4th quarter which began with the Bills in command by a score of 38-3.  Mike White was back at QB for the Jets; he went 24 of 44 for 251 yards but he also threw 4 INTs.  For the Bills, Stefon Diggs caught 8 passes for 162 yards and 1 TD.  The Bills made it to the Red Zone 7 times in the game and came away with 6 TDs.

Pats 45  Browns 7:  The Browns drove the field and scored a TD on their first drive of the game and led 7-0.  Then the roof caved in…  The Browns total offense was only 217 yards and the passing offense netted only 118 yards.  Here are the QB stats for the Browns:

  • Baker Mayfield was 11 of 21 for 73 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
  • Case Keenum was 8 of 12 for 81 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.

The Browns went 1 for 11 on third-down tries and 2 of 4 on fourth-down conversions.  The Pats visited the Red Zone 6 times in the game and got 5 TDs; three of the Pats’ TD drives were of the 90-yard variety.  This was a beat down…

Panthers 34  Cards 10:  The Panthers dominated this game from the start and led 31-3 as the fourth quarter began.  Colt McCoy subbed in for Kyler Murray again this week but his results against the Panthers’ defense were not nearly as gaudy as the results from two weeks ago were.  Here is Colt McCoy’s stat line for the game:

  • 11 of 20 for 107 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

The Panthers showed a very balanced offense for the game gaining 175 yards passing and 166 yards rushing,  Cam Newton was in for some goal line packages and he scored a rushing TD and threw for another.  Compare the results of the first half possessions for the two teams:

  •             Panthers:  TD, TD, Field Goal, Field Goal INT, Field Goal = 23 points
  •             Cards:  FUMBLE, DOWNS, INT, Punt, Punt, Punt = 0 points.

Eagles 30  Broncos 13:  The Eagles outgained the Broncos 388 yards to 308 yards; the reason for the large score discrepancy is that the Broncos gained their yards in the mid-field area and bogged down when they got near the endzone.  For the day the Broncos got 1 TD in 5 trips to the Red Zone.  A scoop-and-score fumble recovery in the third quarter by Darius Slay put this game out of reach.  The Broncos were 1 of 11 on third down tries and 0 for 2 on fourth down tries.

Chiefs 41  Raiders 14:  The Chiefs’ offense was back hitting on all cylinders in this game running up 519 yards for the game.  After getting well under 200 yards passing two weeks ago, Patrick Mahomes posted this stat line against the Raiders:

  • 35 of 50 for 406 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

The Chiefs have had difficulty stopping the run this year; they rank 18th in the NFL in run defense.  However, the Raiders game plan did not seem to have considered running the ball even a little bit.  They only gained 50 yards on 14 carries.  The Chiefs had the ball for over 35 minutes and ran 76 offensive plays to only 51 for the Raiders.

Niners 31  Rams 10:  The word to describe Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance here is “efficient”:

  • 15 of 19 for 182 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs

In addition to the 2 TD  passes, the Niners also got 9 first downs from those 15 completed passes.  However, the biggest takeaway for me was that the Niners offensive line pushed the Rams defense around all night long.  They ran the ball down the Rams’ throats gaining 156  yards rushing and holding the ball for 39 minutes.

Lions 16  Steelers 16  (OT):  Well, the Lions cannot possibly lose 17 games this season…  That is about the only positive thing I can say about this game – – and it was the early afternoon game on my local channel this week.  The Lions ran the ball 39 times and gained 229 yards on the ground (5.9 yards per carry).  The Lions managed to miss a PAT and a field goal try in the overtime period that would have provided a win here so do not get the idea that this was a status-changing game for the Lions.  The Steelers have no excuse; they just stunk.  They got a TD on their first possession of the game and then were somnambulant from then on.  Mason Rudolph subbed in for Ben Roethlisberger for the game and was sub-standard to be very polite.

Colts 23  Jags 17:  The Colts ran off to a 17-0 lead in the first 12 minutes of the game including a blocked punt that was returned for a TD by the aptly named E.J. Speed.  From that point on, however, the Colts did not do much on offense and held on to win a game that keeps them in contention for a wildcard slot in the playoffs.  The Colts recovered a fumble in the final minute of the one-score game to put it on ice.  The Jags ran the ball for 179 yards in this game.  The Colts are 5-5 today and have a big game against the Bills on tap.

Titans 23  Saints 21:  The Saints outgained the Titans by 109 yards in the game.  However, what did the Saints in was what happened after they scored 3 TDs in the game.  They missed PATs on the first two touchdowns and then failed to convert a 2-point try on the third TD.  Note that they only lost the game by 2 points…  The Titans’ running game sorely missed Derrick Henry here; a mélange of runners carried the ball 29 times and only managed to gain 66 yards.

Football Team 29  Bucs 19:  The Football Team took an early lead and every time the Bucs rallied to make it a close game, the Football Team responded with another score.  Taylor Heinicke’s stat line was significantly better than Tom Brady’s for this game:

  •             Heinicke:  26 of 32 for 256  yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs
  •             Brady:  23 of 34 for 220 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs

With the score 23-19 with 10:55 left in the game, the Football Team took possession at their own 20 yardline.  The offense then put together a 19-play drive that resulted in a TD and took 10:26 off the clock making it a two-score game with 29 seconds left to play.

Vikes 27  Chargers 21:  The Vikes outgained the Chargers by 128 yards in this game and held the ball for over 36 minutes and it was still a one-score game.  The only really negative stat for the Vikes is that they committed 10 penalties for 115 yards and gave the Chargers 4 first downs via penalty.  The Chargers’ rookie WR, Justin Jefferson had a big day catching 9 passes for 143 yards.  The Vikes are 4-5 this morning with only 2 losses in conference; they remain in the playoff chase and have a very important game this week against the Packers.  The Chargers are 5-4 this morning in an incredibly tight AFC West Division race.  The span from first place to last place in the AFC West is one game.

Packers 17  Seahawks 0:  The Packers gained 393 yards on offense and the Seahawks only managed 208 yards.  Nevertheless, the score was 3-0 to start the 4th quarter.  The Packers held the ball for over 39 minutes in the game and the score was 3-0 to start the 4th quarter.  Red Zone efficiency was not a hallmark here; the Seahawks got there once and came away with nothing; the Packers got there 5 times and got two TDs for their trouble.  Was Russell Wilson merely rusty after being out for a month with a finger injury that required surgery – – or has he not healed as well as folks thought (see above)?


NFL Games:


There are two teams on BYE Weeks this weekend; both of them lost badly last weekend:

  • Broncos:  They are in last place in the AFC West, and they are only 1 game out of first place in the AFC West.  They need to find an offensive infusion.
  • Rams:  They are in second place in the NFC West, and they are only 1 game out of first place in the NFC West.  They need to make sure they fix their run defense during the off time.

I missed the first drive of the game last night between the Pats and the Falcons,  All I missed was an abortive 3-minute drive by the Pats leading to a punt.  From that point on, the Pats dominated the game.  The Total Offense for the Falcons was 165 yards; Matt Ryan was sacked 4 times and he threw 2 INTs.  Late in the game, the Falcons sent Josh Rosen in to play QB and he too threw an INT to end his only possession.  Finally, the Falcons turned to Felipe Franks for a shot at QB and he threw an INT on his first attempt.  The final score was 25-0; I had the sense that the teams could have played an additional 60 minutes and the Falcons would still not have scored.

Onward to the rest of the games this week:

Lions at Browns – 11.5 (43.5):  The Lions avoided losing last week in a tie game against the Steelers by running the ball over and over and over.  The Browns run defense is 5th in the NFL allowing only 94.7 yards per game.  If the Browns can force Jared Goff to throw the ball a lot, this game could become a rout.  Meanwhile the Browns’ run game will be solid with the return to full capacity of Nick Chubb and the Lions’ run defense ranks 30th in the NFL giving up 135.7 yards per game.

Niners – 6 at Jags (45):  The Niners ran the ball very effectively against the Rams last week (see above).  The Jags’ run defense is statistically the same as the Rams; the difference in  yards per game allowed by the Rams and Jags is 0.8 yards per game.  [Aside: that is 28.8 inches per game in case your calculator is not handy.]  The Niners have to travel a long way off a short week of practice/recuperation to play a body-clock game.

Colts at Bills – 7.5 (49.5):  Both teams need this game – for different reasons.  The Bills need a win to remain a half-game ahead of the Pats in the AFC East; the Colts are 5-5; a loss here leaves them little margin for error in the rest of the season.  I think the outcome here rests on a simple question:

  • Can the excellent Bills’ defense put the clamps on Jonathan Taylor?

If the Bills can force the Colts to throw the ball more than they would prefer to do, this could be a blowout win by the Bills – – but it is hard to count on the Bills this year after they lost to the Jags by a score of 9-6.  This game got consideration for the Game of the Week – – but lost out in the winnowing process.

Dolphins – 3.5 at Jets (44.5):  This is so obviously the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  And to add to the misery this game will inflict on fans consigned to watch it, the Jets are supposedly starting Joe Flacco at QB.  The reason the spread is so small here is that the Dolphins also stink and their QB, Tua Tagovailoa, has been “limited”” in practice this week.  The most cogent advice I can offer for this game is:

  • Avert your eyes!

Football Team at Panthers – 3 (43):  Cam Newton will get his first start of the season against Ron Rivera who was his coach in Carolina for all those times there.  It is a “Family Reunion Game” in the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Enough of that nonsense…  The Panthers’ defense versus the Football Team’s offense is the real storyline here.  The Football Team’s disappointing defense will be missing both starting defensive ends.  Chase Young tore his ACL last week and is out for the year; Montez Sweat has a broken jaw and is out for 3-4 weeks.  This is another good game to watch this week.

Ravens – 4.5 at Bears (44.5):  The Ravens have been inconsistent in recent weeks.  Consider:

  • 11/11/21:  Ravens lose to Dolphins 22-10
  • 11/7/21:  Ravens eke out an OT win over the Vikes
  • 10/24/21:  Bengals blow the doors off the Ravens 41-7
  • 10/17/21:  Ravens blow the doors off the Chargers 34-6

The Ravens need this game; they hold a half-game lead over the Steelers and one-game lead over the Bengals in the AFC North.  The Bears, on the other hand, are not going anywhere this year and are secretly celebrating the fact that they are in the same division with the Lions, so they do not have to face the fact of being in last place in their division.

Saints at Eagles – 2 (43):  The Eagles have played well recently by running the football and then running it some more.  However, the Saints will field the best run defense in the NFL; it allows only 72.9 yards per game.  Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense has played more effectively in the last couple of weeks and the Saints’ offense will feature the aerial stylings of Trevor Siemian and/or Taysom Hill and/or Ian Book.  Alvin Kamara was “limited” in practice this week.  This could be a fun game to watch.

Texans at Titans – 10.5 (44.5):  This is a cautionary note of a game.  The Titans are obviously a different offense without Derrick Henry and the drop-off may be significant.  Last week’s numbers against the Saints were unimpressive.  Add to that worry the fact that this could be a classic look-ahead game for the Titans; they travel to New England next week to play the Pats and the team in front of them here are the lowly Texans.  I hate double digit spreads in NFL games and the Texans are absolutely not worth backing this year – – but this game could be a whole lot closer than the team records might lead you to believe…

Packers – 1 at Vikes (47):  The spread for this game opened at 3 points and has dropped steadily all week.  Because this is a Division Game and a critical game for the Vikes’ playoff aspirations, I chose this as the Game of the Week.  The Packers are hitting on all cylinders on offense and defense these days; the only “issue” I can see is that RB Aaron Jones is injured but that has not shown up as a huge weakness for the Packers.  So long as Aaron Rodgers can throw the ball to Davonte Adams, the Packers’ offense will be just fine.  The Vikes are not going to roll over and play dead here, but I think the Packers are the better team even considering that the game in in Minnesota; I’ll take the Packers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bengals – 1 at Raiders (50.5):  The Raiders are a mess right now – – and I do not mean to say that because they were blown out last week.  The Raiders had their BYE Week at Halloween; since then, they have lost 2 games in a row; one of those games was to a mediocre-at-best NY Giants team; and, more importantly, the Raiders have only scored a total of 30 points in those two losses.  Both defenses here are “middle of the pack” so I think this could be a high scoring affair.  In any case, I think Joe Burrow should have a good day against the Raiders’ secondary; I’ll take the Bengals to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Cards – 2.5 at Seahawks (48):  If Kyler Murray is healthy enough to play here – and does not reinjure his leg/ankle – the Cards should win this one handily.  If the QB confrontation is Colt McCoy versus the Russell Wilson that was on display last week, pick another game to watch.

Cowboys at Chiefs – 2.5 (56):  This was my runner-up for Game of the Week.  Yes, the Chiefs were dominant last week against the Raiders and there is plenty of history to suggest that the Chiefs can get on an offensive roll and wear out a scoreboard operator.  The Chiefs have won 4 of their last 5 games but it was not against elite competition:

  1. Chiefs beat the Football Team 31-13
  2. Chiefs lost to the Titans 27-3
  3. Chiefs beat the Giants 20-17
  4. Chiefs beat the Packers 13-7 (This was the “Jordan Love game”.)
  5. Chiefs beat the Raiders 41-14.

The Cowboys are more like the Titans than they are like the other teams noted above.  I think the wrong team is favored here; I’ll take the Cowboys on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Sun Nite) Steelers at Chargers – 6 (47):  Maybe Ben Roethlisberger will be back for this game; maybe TJ Watt will be able to play; Minkah Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is expected to miss the game on the “COVID restricted list”.  Those are three important pieces for the Steelers…  However, here is a statistical item to think about:

  • Chargers’ run defense is worst in the NFL giving up 155.1 yards per game.

The Steelers would probably much prefer to run Najee Harris as the centerpiece of their offense as opposed to having Mason Rudolph throw the ball 50 times.

(Mon Nite) Giants at Bucs – 11 (50):  The Bucs have lost two in a row to the Football Team and to the Saints.  Add in the fact that this will be a “Prime Time Game” for Tom Brady, and I doubt the Bucs will extend that losing streak to three games.

Let me review the Six Pack and present two more Money Line Parlays for the weekend:

  1. South Carolina +7.5 against Auburn
  2. UCLA – 3 over USC
  3. Minnesota – 7 over Indiana
  4. Packers – 1 over Vikes
  5. Bengals – 1 over Raiders
  6. Cowboys +2.5 against Chiefs

College Football Money Line Parlay:

  • NC State  @  minus-400
  • Oklahoma St.  @  minus-370
  • Minnesota  @  minus-280   A $100 parlay wins $115.

NFL Money Line Parlay:

  • Niners  @  minus-275
  • Titans  @  minus-475
  • Ravens  @  minus-205  A $100 parlay wins $146.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close with this observation by Ambrose Bierce:

“Admiration: n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.”

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



Playoffs? Thinking About the Playoffs?

I had the occasion to look at the NFL standings last evening.  In the AFC, I can convince myself that most of the playoff teams have shown themselves.  Barring catastrophic injuries, the Titans and Bills are going to participate.  The AFC North teams will beat each other up such that it will produce one of the wild card teams along with a Division winner – – my guess is the Ravens win the Division and the Bengals get a wildcard slot.  The Patriots will also be in the playoffs from the AFC East.

That accounts for 5 of the 7 teams in the playoffs.  One team will win the AFC West and will be the 6th playoff contestant.  So, in my crystal ball, the real focus for the AFC late in the season is:

  • Colts as wildcard team in the AFC South – – or – –
  • Second place team in the AFC West as a wildcard team.

The NFC, however, is not nearly so neat.  The Cowboys and Packers are going to win their Divisions and be in the playoffs.  Even if I project the Rams and the Cards into the playoffs – and the Rams have lost 2 games in a row and played poorly in both – that leaves 3 slots to fill.  In the NFC this morning there are 9 teams with either 5 losses or 6 losses.  The only NFC team I would be willing to write off is the Lions; if you twisted my arm even a little bit, I would also put the Bears on the “not-gonna-make-the-playoffs list”.  But everyone else has a shot and projecting teams in the NFC gets very complicated very fast.  For example, in the NFC East:

  • The Eagles are 4-6 while the Football Team and the Giants are 3-6.
  • The Eagles and Giants play each other twice.
  • The Football Team has 5 Division games to play in the final 8 games.

Last year, the Football Team edged themselves into the playoffs on the final weekend after being written off as roadkill at mid-season simply because the rest of the division played poorly.  I doubt that the Eagles, Giants or Football Team can catch the Cowboys in 2021, but if one of them puts together a winning streak, they could easily become wildcard contenders.  I will not be shocked to see an NFC playoff team with an 8-9 record this year.

Also, it would be easy to write off the Seahawks this morning with their 3-6 record and coming off a shutout loss to the Packers last week.  But looking at their schedule, they have 8 games to play.  Four games are Division games; two against the Cards and one each against the Rams and Niners.  Here are the other four opponents:

  • Football Team
  • Texans
  • Bears
  • Lions

If the Seahawks win those four games and win one of the Division games, they will be 8-9 and “in the mix”.  If they win those four games and split the Division games, they will be 9-8 and in the playoffs.

Moving on …  Last season, the Football Team benched and then released Dwayne Haskins who had been the team’s first round pick as their “QB of the future”.  The reports surrounding that decision said the coaches were unhappy with his work ethic and his focus on things like the game plan.  In one instance, he was celebrating with fans and taking selfies with them before the game was over.

Haskins signed on with the Steelers for this year and found himself as the third QB on the Steelers’ depth chart.  Last week, Ben Roethlisberger had to sit out due to a positive COVID-19 test and Mason Rudolph got the start.  Rudolph did not play well; the Steelers could only manage a tie game with the woeful Lions; here is Rudolph’s stat line:

  • 30 of 50 for 242 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.

Someone must have asked the coaches if they had considered inserting Haskins in the game and supposedly the response was that Haskins had “thrown lousy passes” in warmups and had been “checking his phone” in the middle of those warmups.

Let me assume for a moment that all the reporting about Haskins’ work ethic and attitude are correct.  In that case, here is something Haskins’ agent needs to think about:

  • Dwayne Haskins has played for three coaches and has not endeared himself to any of the three.
  • The last two – Ron Rivera and Mike Tomlin – are no-nonsense guys.  Haskins was released by Rivera and is clearly not held in high esteem by Tomlin.
  • If Haskins is going to have any sort of a career in the NFL, the agent has to find him a place on a team where the coach is less demanding.

Finally, I mentioned last week that a moose had wandered onto the field where South Dakota State was scheduled to play North Dakota State.  Here is how Dwight Perry assessed that happening in his column in the Seattle Times over the weekend:

“Police and stadium personnel finally chased out the 800-pounder out, averting the first game being called on account of game.”

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



Rest In Peace, Sam Huff…

Sam Huff died last weekend at the age of 87.  His family said death was from natural causes and there had been reports that Huff was suffering from dementia over the past several years.  Sam Huff was a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Giants and Redskins; he and Sonny Jurgensen did radio color commentary for Redskins’ games for decades; they were as important an institution in Washington as the Smithsonian.

Rest in peace, Sam Huff…

I did not think there would be much movement on the baseball free agent market until a new CBA got hammered out, but I was wrong about that.  As I was driving home yesterday, news broke that Noah Syndergaard signed a one-year deal with the LA Angels.  Reports say the deal is worth $21M.  Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the 2020 season and then missed all of 2021 when “elbow inflammation” put him on the Injured List; so, this is a bit of a gamble by the Angels.  The Mets had offered Syndergaard an $18.5M qualifying offer prior to his decision to go to LA.

That signing got me to thinking generally about MLB free agency a bit more deeply than the two generic items I mentioned here on Monday.

  • With the signing of Syndergaard, the Angels will have $113M in salary commitments to 4 players on the team next year.  Anthony Rendon will make $36M; Mike Trout will make $35M Justin Upton will make $21M and Syndergaard will make $21M.
  • I knew that Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager were free agents this year, but I had not realized that two other Dodgers of note were also on the free agent list.  Kenley Jansen and Chris Taylor are also free agents this year and both should attract attention.  Jansen made $20M in 2021 and Taylor made $7.8M in 2021.  The Dodgers – like the Angels – have lots of big contracts on their hands even without considering what these four free agents will be asking for.
  • There is one constant in MLB free agent seasons; the Rays will not be in the bidding for any of the “Top 50” free agents on the market.  In fact, free agent speculation related to the Rays usually centers on who they will trade away next year to avoid confronting free agency negotiations come next winter.
  • The Mariners were a positive surprise last season staying in the wildcard race until the final week of the season.  The team is young; their Opening Day salary commitments for last year were only $73.4M.  Might the Mariners be active in the free agent market this year?

The news of Syndergaard leaving the Mets reminded me of the highly publicized news conference from a year ago when Steve Cohen bought the Mets and took the reins.  He and Sandy Alderson announced that Alderson would lead a search to find a new President of Baseball Operations who would then hire a new GM and etc.  Cohen said that he wanted to create an efficient and effective management structure to optimize the on-field product.

As of this morning, Alderson is still in his job as Team President and if reports out of NYC are accurate, more than a handful of candidates for the job have either turned down or chose not to take the interviews for the position of President of Baseball Operations.  In fact, Alderson just hired a new GM for the team – Billy Eppler formerly with the Angels – meaning that the orderly hiring timeline presented in that news conference a year ago has been thwarted.

According to reports, Sandy Alderson’s son is an assistant GM for the Mets.  If I were under consideration for the job of President of Baseball Operations – and I am most certainly not – that would be a major issue for me.  My boss’ son would be a couple of layers below me on the organization chart; that would be a less-than-comfortable work situation in my mind.

In the world of college football there is an oddity this week.  The CFP rankings have Michigan one step higher in the ratings than Michigan State.  The oddity in that ranking is that Michigan State beat Michigan straight up just two weekends ago.  The whole concept behind the CFP – – other than as a vehicle to capture TV money for the schools of course – – is to decide a national champion on the field.  Well, there you have an on the field result that is recent and relevant; so, naturally the CFP ranking folks ignore it.

Finally, let me close today with a statement from W. C. Fields and state categorically that I too behave as he does:

“I exercise self-control and never touch any beverage stronger than gin before breakfast.”

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



NBA and MLB today …

Last week, there was a story at saying that Ben Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, claims that the Sixers are worsening Simmons’ mental health by levying fines on him for not playing/practicing/being part of the team and by giving him negative publicity because he has not done any of those things.  Simmons has been asking for a trade for several months now and that is at an impasse because the Sixers cannot get a deal done that gets them a return they feel is sufficient.  This has become a chicken and egg situation.

  • Simmons is being fined and is the subject of negative publicity because of his refusal to be part of the Sixers.  He claims that he needs to look out for his mental health.
  • Other teams do not want to give up valued assets to acquire someone who may revert to that sort of status after they trade for him.
  • Rinse and repeat…

And that brings me to the story that appeared last week.  It would seem to me that a player agent is retained and paid to elevate the player’s stature in the eyes of coaches/GMs and fans.  On that axis, I do not see how the claims made last week move things on a positive vector heading for Ben Simmons.  Here is a link to the story from last week.  I am not qualified to say – nor do I have any vested interest in the outcome of this contretemps – anything related to Simmons’ mental health status, but how do the statements made by Rich Paul enhance Simmons’ trade value which is one of the key elements in getting him off the Sixers’ roster and onto another roster where he will be happier to play basketball?  I just don’t get it.

Over the weekend, a friend pointed out to me that the Washington Wizards have the best record in the Eastern Conference so far in the 2021/22 season; that record is 9-3.  I have seen a couple of their games and parts of other games and there is a significant difference between the Wizards of this year and the Wizards of the past couple of years:

  • This year’s team actually plays defense!

Last year for sure and probably stretching back another year or so, the Wizards idea of “tight defense” meant that as the opponent was dunking the basketball, one or more of the Wizards players still had their eyes on him.  Even more importantly, the Wizards of this season box out and get rebounds; in fact, as of this morning the Wizards lead the entire NBA in defensive rebounds per game (39.1 rebounds per game) which is due to opponents missing shots because they are competently guarded and the fact that Wizards’ players are contesting the boards this year.

The Wizards have a new coach this year – – Wes Unseld, Jr.  He came to the team with a reputation that he focused on defensive basketball more than previous coaches of the Wizards had done.  Perhaps it is genetic because his father was a defensive force – and a rebounder par excellence – for all of his career in the NBA.  The Wizards are on track to win more than 60 games this season; it is far too early to make that sort of leap of faith even for team fanboys, but they are playing a much more intense style of basketball this year; and so far, it has put them in a good spot.

As I noted in a previous rant, there is not going to be a lot of free agent signings/movement in MLB until and unless there is a new CBA in place; the current one expires on December 1st.  However, once things get sorted out and there is a new CBA, there could be some interesting free agent/potential free agent doings.  Consider:

  1. Freddie Freeman is a free agent.  Freeman has been in the majors for 12 seasons all of them with the Braves.  Back in the 50s and 60s, they used to call Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub” for his importance to the Cubs’ franchise.  I doubt that anyone in Atlanta would argue that since 2010 when Freeman debuted with the Braves any other player would challenge him for the label “Mr. Brave.”  Freeman is 32 years old as of September of this year; it will be interesting to see what sorts of offers he gets and – potentially – might he give the Braves a “hometown discount”.
  2. This is the “Year of the Shortstop”.  There are five young shortstops who have hit free agency all in the same year and all five of them are excellent players.  In alphabetical order they are Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story; each of these five players should command a nice fat contract that stretches over more than 5 years.  There will be some sort of internal jockeying among agents for these players to see which one sets the market by signing first and then how others might – or might not – be able to leverage their deals off the deal signed first.  Adding to that sort of contract dynamic is the fact that the New York Yankees are in desperate need of a shortstop this year; it is inconceivable to me that they will start the 2022 season with Gelyber Torres at shortstop.  The Yankees do not have a history of penny-pinching.  Now add to the mix that Corey Seager might sign with a team other than the Dodgers where he has been for his major league career; if that happens, then the Dodgers would also be in the market for a shortstop, and they too have deep pockets.

It could take a while for the MLB free agent signing season to gather any momentum, but when it does, it could get very interesting very quickly.

Finally, here is a baseball-related item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Ex-White Sox slugger Frank Thomas has purchased majority ownership of the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie site.

“The sale was approved by a 24-3 vote of the ghosts in the cornfield.”

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