Football Friday 9/22/23

Some phenomena repeat themselves with such regularity that we take them for granted.  The sun rises in the east and then sets in the west yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The tide comes in and then the tide goes out every six hours or so.  Around these parts, when Friday shows up on the calendar in Autumn or early Winter, it is time for Football Friday.  So let me begin with a review of last week’s “Betting Bundle”.

  • College:  0-1-0   => Season total:  2-1-0
  • NFL:  1-1-0   => Season total:  4-3-0
  • Money Line Parlays:  1-0   => Season total:  2-1   Net “Profit” = $195


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats came home from their visit to Redlands, CA with another win last week defeating the Redlands University Bulldogs 17-10.  This gives the Wildcats a 2-0 record in 2023 and it concludes their out-of-conference schedule for the season.  This week, Linfield hosts the Willamette Bearcats in McMinnville, OR.  Willamette brings a 1-2 record to the kickoff; they won their opening game but have struggled badly in their last two games, losing by a combined score of 87-14.  Go Wildcats!

Long term readers here will recall that I proposed a reorganized college football structure about 5 years ago that involved regionally based conferences and which incorporated the idea of promotion and relegation among levels of the game.  Obviously, that never happened; but according to a report this week at the Athletic Director at Boise State, Michael Walsh, is thinking about a reorganized structure for college football in the West that could involve promotion and relegation.

For details about his proposal and the level of thought that has gone into it – – there is a 22-slide Power-Point presentation that exists for the plan – – please follow the link above.  The idea makes some sense even though it has a thousand obstacles that could render it moot.  It could easily suffer from being nibbled to death by ducks.  But I think the important thing here is that someone in the “college football business” and someone who holds a position of some authority and prestige has spent time and effort thinking about a plan for implementation here.

Necessity is the mother of invention (Hat tip to Plato here).  The expansion of the Big-10 and the Big-12 Conferences that have caused the PAC-12 to shrink down to the PAC-2 in the near future have made it important to rethink college football in the Western US where the PAC-12 used to rule, and the Mountain West was the “other kid on the block”.  Walsh’s proposal is a structure for football only for teams in the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones.  I do not think I can summarize the proposal fairly here; so, I urge those that think this might be an interesting thing to add to the college football mix to go and read this report.

There were not a lot of “important games” on the schedule for last week but I think one deserves mention here.  Alabama was coming off a loss at home to Texas by double-digits and was facing a USF team that has not beaten a Division 1-A team since October 2021.  Alabama was a 34.5-point favorite in the game, and it won by a score of only 17-3.  Jalen Milroe was the QB against Texas; he was benched in favor of Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson.  Those two replacements combined to generate 107 yards passing on 23 pass attempts. In fact, Alabama only outgained USF by 46 yards on offense for the game.  I said last week after the loss to Texas that I would not be surprised if Alabama lost again in 2023; looking at this result, there are a handful of games where Alabama could struggle and possibly lose.

Last week, I pointed out that the SEC might not have the depth of good teams that it has had for the past several years.  Well, that same situation could easily obtain in the Big-12.  Check out these happenings from last week:

  • Baylor played Division 1-AA LIU and did not put the game away until the 4th quarter.
  • Cincy lost outright to Miami (OH) – – a MAC team.
  • Iowa State lost outright to Ohio – – another MAC team.
  • K-State was ranked #15 and lost to Missouri.
  • Texas beat Wyoming – – but the score was tied at the start of the 4th quarter.

None of those showings were laudatory to be sure, but possibly the most embarrassing performance by a Big-12 team last week was turned in by Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys were at home playing South Alabama from the mighty Sun Belt Conference.  Oklahoma State was pushed around at home in the game losing 33-7 and giving up 243 yards rushing for the day.  The South Alabama defense held Oklahoma State’s passing attack to 3.3 yards per pass attempt.  Wow!

I know it is early in the season and we are only looking at a small sample size and yada-yada; but at the end of the season, I will point out the team that earned the Brothel Defense of the Year Award given to the team that gives up the most points per game for the season.  Brothel Defense … everyone scores there … get it?  Well after 3 games the team in the lead for this “distinction” is the Mean Green from North Texas; they are giving up 47.0 points per game and have yet to hold an opponent under 35 points.

Looking at some of the games from last week:

Washington 41  Michigan St. 7:  Do not sleep on Washington; their defense in 2023 looks to be almost as good as their offense.  The Michigan State score came in the 4th quarter with Washington leading 41-0; it was a meaningless TD.  The domination of the Huskies in this game is shown here:

  • Washington total offense = 713 yards
  • Michigan St. total offense = 261 yards

And …

  • Washington pass offense = 31 of 39 for 536 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT
  • Michigan St. pass offense = 14 of 35 for 208 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Fla St 31  BC 29:  BC scored 13 points in the 4th quarter to make this a nail-biter and they outgained Fla St by 117 yards on offense.  BC committed 18 penalties in the game (for a total of 131 yards) giving the Seminoles 4 first downs via charity.  While BC scored TDs on 2 of its final 3 possessions in the game, Fla State punted 3 times and lost a fumble on a fourth possession in the second half.  The Seminoles did not look like a Top-Five team this week.

Wake Forest 27  Old Dominion 24:  ODU led 17-0 at halftime and 24-7 with 7 minutes left in the 3rd Quarter.  After that, here were the ODU possessions:

  • 3 plays and a PUNT’
  • 4 plays and a PUNT
  • 5 plays and a FUMBLE
  • 3 plays and a PUNT
  • 4 plays and a TURNOVER ON DOWNS

Wake outgained ODU by 108 yards for the day.  Three turnovers including two that were defensive TDs made this a close game.

Penn State 30  Illinois 13:  The Nittany Lions only outgained the Illini by 29 yards in this game.  In fact, Illinois had one more first down in the game compared to Penn State.    The difference was in the turnovers; Illinois turned it over 5 times (4 INTs and a lost fumble) and Penn State did not turn the ball over at all.

Ohio 10  Iowa St. 7:  I mentioned this game in passing above; it was a horrid loss for the Cyclones to a MAC team.  The Cyclones only managed to develop 271 yards total offense in the game – – but that was 24 yards more than Ohio generated.  Two turnovers by Iowa St and 5 big penalties earned them this embarrassing loss.

Miami (OH) 31  Cincy 24  (OT):  I also mentioned this game in passing above.  It is not a good look for a “Big-12 team” to go to overtime – – let alone lose a football game – – to a “MAC-team”.  Cincy dominated the stat sheet outgaining Miami by 180 yards for the game.  The Bearcats ran 91 plays to only 49 plays for Miami.  Ten penalties and 2 turnovers did Cincy in here.

Missouri 30  K-State 27:  The difference was a 61-yard field goal by the Tigers with no time left in the game.  It happens to be the longest field goal in the history of all SEC teams.  K-State was ranked #15 in the country coming into this game.  Yes, this was a loss for a well-regarded Big-12 team, but Mizzou is an SEC team not a MAC team!

Texas 31  Wyoming 10:  The score was tied 10-10 as the fourth quarter started.  Two offensive TDs and a Pick-6 by Texas in the 4th quarter made the game seem much less competitive than it was.

Georgia 24  S. Carolina 14:  Georgia trailed 14 – 3 at halftime but the Georgia defense asserted itself in the second half pitching a shutout; here were the Gamecocks’ possessions in the second half:

  • 3 plays – – PUNT
  • 6 plays – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – PUNT
  • 6 plays – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 9 plays – – INT
  • 5 plays – – INT

Iowa 41  W. Michigan 10:  The offense came alive against what must be a less-than-wonderful defense.  The Hawkeyes are currently averaging 28.3 points per game; Iowa Offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz, and his job are “safe” – – for the moment…

Florida 29  Tennessee 16:  The Vols were a fashionable pick to challenge Georgia for SEC supremacy this year.  That’s not gonna happen now …  This was a dominating win by Florida; the Gators opened the game with a drive that resulted in a blocked field goal but that did not deter the Gators’ offense.  After that setback, they scored TDs on their next 4 possessions in the first half.

Utah 31  Weber St. 10:  Utah stays undefeated with this comfortable win.  The Utes’ defense was overwhelming here allowing only 127 yards of offense by Weber St. for the day.  That figure is even more shocking when you realize that Weber St. had one running play that went for 47 yards; so, the rest of the day only produced 80 yards of offense.

UNC 31  Minnesota 13:  Drake Maye produced this stat line for the Tar Heels:

  • 29 of 40 for 414 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs

Nate McCollum caught 15 of those passes for 165 yards and 1 TD.  Minnesota’s total offense for the game was only 303 yards.

Colorado 43  Colorado St. 35 (2OT):  Colorado St. outgained the Buffaloes for the day 499 yards to 418 yards.  Once again, the Colorado running game was anemic, gaining only 70 yards on 25 rushes.  Colorado was a 23.5-point favorite in the game.  The game was a flag-fest.  Officials enforced 27 penalties in the game and 17 were against Colorado State for a total of 177 yards.  YOWZA!

Arkansas St. 31  Stoney Brook 7:  Yes, Arkansas St. won a game – – but Stoney Brook is a winless Division 1-AA team that has yet to come within 3 TDs of an opponent.  I still think Arkansas St. is a bad football team for 2023 …

Sacramento St. 30  Stanford 23:  Losing to a Division 1-AA is not a good way to lead into a team’s PAC-12 schedule…   Stanford faces conference opponents from here on out until November 25th when they play another out-of-conference game – – against Notre Dame.


College Football Games of interest:


This week James Madison is visiting Utah State and Appalachian State is off to play Wyoming.  How did those games get scheduled? 

Miami – 23.5 at Temple (47.5):  The oddsmaker is showing respect to the Temple defense with that Total Line.  The Hurricanes have scored 134 points in 3 games (44.6 points per game), and he has the Total Line at 47.5 points.

New Mexico at UMass – 3.5 (51):  UMass is favored in the game.  How bad must New Mexico be?

Florida State – 1 at Clemson (55):  The spread started the week as a “pick ‘em game” but the like has moved in Florida State’s direction.  This is the College Game of the Week.  The Seminoles eked out a win over BC last week (see above); perhaps they were looking ahead to this clash?  This game has division and conference title implications along with possible invitations to the CFP.  I like Florida State this year; I don’t know if they are “national championship material” but I think they are very good.  Give me Florida State to win and cover on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle.”

Rutgers at Michigan – 24 (44):  Rutgers is 3-0 so far in 2023 with wins over Northwestern, Temple and Va Tech.  I doubt that is a springboard to a victory over a Michigan team that has only allowed 5.3 points per game so far this year.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State – 3 (36):  Both teams wet the bed last week (see above).

Arizona – 13 at Stanford (61):  I think Stanford is pretty bad but there is no way I would trust Arizona enough to lay 13 points unless the opponent was the children who sing the Kars 4 Kids song on TV.

Oregon State – 3 at Washington State (58):  Next year, this game could be for the championship of the PAC-2.  Do not sleep on either of these teams; they can be a tough opponent on any given weekend.

Maryland – 7.5 at Michigan State (53):  The Michigan State program is in disarray now; losing at home to the likes of Maryland will not make the big-money folks involved with Sparty happy at all.

Ole Miss at Alabama – 7.5 (55.5):  I think this is a “down year” for Alabama meaning they will only be in the Top 25 in the country as opposed to the Top 5.  And I think that line is fat because lots of people still think this is a powerhouse Alabama squad.  I like Ole Miss plus the points here – – particularly the hook on top of the full TD – – so put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Auburn at Texas A&M – 9 (51):  Huge Freeze at Auburn and Bobby Petrino at Texas A&M are both up-tempo offensive coaches.  Auburn averages 34.3 points per game so far this year and the Aggies average 44 points per game.  Granted, each squad will face a better defense here than they have seen to date but still …  I like this game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Ohio State – 3 at Notre Dame (55):  This was my runner-up College Game of the Week; if the teams were in the same conference, it would have earned that title.  If Ohio State gets solid production from its QB in the game, they will beat the Irish – – but that has not been any sort of comfort zone for the Buckeyes so far this season.  Just watch this one and enjoy the game.

Penn State – 15 at Iowa (39):  The attraction in this game is how many points Iowa scores and what that might that do to Brian Ferentz’ contract come December.

Colorado at Oregon – 21 (70):  The spread opened at 16.5 points and has ballooned to this level over the course of the week.  Meanwhile, the Total Line opened at 73 and has inched down to this level.  I like the game to go OVER – – maybe way over; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.


NFL Commentary:


Last Monday, I got an email from a former colleague asking me which NFL head coach would be the first one to be fired this year.  His nominee for that “honor” was Matt Eberflus of the Bears and his projected date was October 23rd.  The Chicago Bears are indeed a hot mess; they had the worst record in the NFL last year at 3-14 losing their last 10 games in a row; they chose to trade away the overall #1 pick and stick with Justin Fields as their developing QB-of-the-Future.  That decision does not look good in the short term; to date in 2023, Justin Fields has not shown significant progress in terms of passing accuracy or passing decision making.

But wait; there’s more …  The Bears’ defense is not about to come to the team’s rescue.  Last year, the Bears’ defense gave up 463 points (27.2 per game) – – the most in the NFL.  After two weeks in the current season, the Bears’ defense has allowed 65 points in 2 games – – not good at all.  And to make sure things on the defensive side of the ball continue according to some sort of plan, the Bears’ defensive coordinator just resigned today – – to focus on his health and his family.

The Bears go to KC this week to play the Chiefs and the Bears are 13-point underdogs in the game.  With a loss there, the 2023 record will sink to 0-3 and the losing streak will extend to 13 games in a row.  Matt Eberflus may indeed not make it until November as the head coach of the Bears.

I would suggest that there is another head coach who needs to be walking on eggs these days.  Brandon Staley’s time with the LA Chargers has been disappointing to say the least and in a way it is mysterious.  Staley is a “defensive guy”; the Chargers have a better than average offense; so, one should expect the team to be successful.  Not so, last year the team made the playoffs and led the Jags by 27 points late in the first half of the game only to lose the game and be eliminated from the playoffs.  That defensive lapse seems to have carried over to this year.  The Chargers are winless in 2023 even though they have scored 58 points in those two games and the Chargers have yet to turn the ball over this year.

The Bears are not as good a team as the Chargers so that might put Eberflus ahead of Staley in this race to the bottom – – except that the Chargers were a playoff team last year and lots of folks thought they would be one again this year; so, expectations for the Chargers were higher than those for the Bears.  Stay tuned …

I mentioned that the Bears’ defensive coordinator resigned this week; he has not done a great job in his tenure with the Bears.  There is another coordinator in the league that should be on a short leash.  Matt Canada is the offensive coordinator for the Steelers and – not to put too fine a point on it – – the Steelers’ offense stinks.  Canada has been the OC in Pittsburgh since January 2021, and the team has had to live and die with its defense for that entire time because the Steelers’ offense has been mediocre at best under Canada.

There is also some reason to be concerned for the well-being of Colts’ rookie QB, Anthony Richardson.  He is an exciting player and a great athlete; he is not only large for a QB, he is large for a linebacker; and he plays QB sort of the way one normally plays linebacker.  And that has not worked well in the first two weeks of the season:

  • Week 1:  Richardson had to leave the game with a knee injury that was described as not extremely serious, and that Richardson could have finished the game had it been close and had it been a playoff game.
  • Week 2:  Richardson had to leave the game early in the first half with a concussion.  He did not return to the game.

Richardson has plenty of tools in his toolkit to make it as a QB in the NFL – – so long as he can keep his large and athletic body from breaking down.  Richardson’s style of play might be the biggest hurdle for him to overcome as his NFL career develops.

In last week’s games …

Ravens 27  Bengals 24:  The Bengals began the 2022 season at 0-2 and managed to make it to the AFC Conference Championship Game.  They have started 2023 with the same record … only this time both losses have been to division opponents.   This game was not nearly as close on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard.  The Ravens outgained the Bengals 415 yards to 282 yards.  The big difference was on the ground:

  • Ravens gained 178 yards rushing.
  • Bengals gained 66 yards rushing.

Joe Burrow was limping noticeably in the 4th quarter of the game; he had a calf injury that kept him out of action for most of training camp.  The Bengals without a “fully functional Joe Burrow” are unlikely to climb out of their 0-2 hole as effectively as they did last year.

Colts 31  Texans 20:  The Texans held the ball for 35 minutes in the game, had 5 more first downs than the Colts, converted 9 of 19 times on 3rd down and 2 of 2 tries on 4th down, committed fewer penalties than the Colts, only turned the ball over once and lost the game by 11 points.  That is not easy to do.  As mentioned above, the bad news for the Colts is that Anthony Richardson had to leave the game under the concussion protocol in the second quarter and did not return to action.

Bucs 27  Bears 17:   Baker Mayfield had another good day throwing for over 300 yards and a TD and did not turn the ball over.  Justin Fields turned in another marginal performance throwing for 211 yards but also throwing 2 INTs – – one of which was a Pick-Six.  Here is another game that was closer on the scoreboard than on the stat sheet:

  • Bucs Total Offense = 437 yards
  • Bears Total Offense = 236 yards

The Bears offensive line did not protect Fields well — he got sacked six times — and even when he did have time to throw, he struggled to find any open receivers. The Bears might be the worst team in football.   On Christmas Eve the NFL will give us as a Christmas present the Arizona Cardinals at the Chicago Bears and that game may provide the answer to that question.

Chiefs 17  Jags 9:  The Chiefs amassed 399 yards on offense but put only 17 points on the scoreboard.  Twelve penalties on the Chiefs did not help their cause even a little bit.  The Chiefs led 14 -6 at the start of the 4th quarter; in that quarter the Jags had 1st and goal at the Chiefs’ 1-yardline.  All the Jags got out of that red zone possession was a field goal; that was the turning point of the game.

Falcons 25  Packers 24:   The Packers led 24-12 as the fourth quarter began but the Falcons put together three drives that resulted in a TD and then two field goals to win the game.  Meanwhile in the fourth quarter, here is what the Packers’ offense accomplished:

  • 3 plays – – 2 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 5 yards – – PUNT
  • 4 plays – – 0 yards – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS

As Porky Pig would say, “That’s all, Folks!”

Titans 27  Chargers 24 (OT):  The Titans failed to find the end zone in Week 1, but they found it 3 times against the Chargers’ defense.  The Titans held the ball for 36-and-a-half minutes in the game thanks to a rushing attack that provided 141 yards on 34 rushing attempts.  Ryan Tannehill was awful in Week 1 throwing 3 INTs against the Saints.  In this game against the Chargers’ defense, he was 20 of 24.

Bills 38  Raiders 10:  The stat sheet was as lopsided as the score in this one.  The Raiders were shut out in the second half of the game and were outgained 450 yards to 240 yards.  The Raiders only had the ball 3 times in the second half with these results:

  • 4 plays – – 23 yards – – INT
  • 4 plays – – 17 yards – – PUNT
  • 5 plays – – 60 yards – – LOST FUMBLE

The Raiders’ defense was rarely able to pressure Josh Allen, who picked apart the secondary for three touchdowns.  Allen rebounded from his poor showing against the Jets in Week 1 posting this stat line against the Raiders’ defense:

  • 31 of 37 for 274 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs

Meanwhile, on the other sideline, the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs – – who led the NFL in rushing last year – – was limited to minus-2 yards on 9 carries.

Seahawks 37  Lions 31 (OT):  The Lions erased a 10-point deficit in the 4th quarter to force OT, but the Seahawks took the OT kickoff and marched down the field until Geno Smith hit Tyler Lockett in the end zone for the winning score.  The game was as even on the stat sheet as it was on the field.

Giants 31  Cards 28:  Last week’s Dog-Breath Game of the Week lived up – – or down – – to its label.  The Cards led 20-0 at the half.  That meant the Giants spent the first 6 quarters of the 2023 season with a composite score of:

  • Opponents  60
  • Giants  0

Then the Cards showed why folks think they are the worst team in the league for 2023.  They still led 28-14 at the start of the 4th quarter only to see the Giants score 17 unanswered points and win the game at the end.  Here are the Cards possessions in the 4th quarter with the game on the line:

  • 3 plays – – minus-1 yard – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – minus-1 yard – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 19 yards – – END OF GAME

The silver lining here is that the Cardinals have played two competitive games through two weeks — they even led both games in the fourth quarter — but unfortunately for Arizona, there is no separate column in the standings for moral victories or “Games that the team played well in for a while…”

Niners 30  Rams 23:  The Rams held a slight advantage on the stat sheet in this game but 2 INTs in the second half by the Niners doomed the Rams.  The Rams’ rookie WR, Puka Nacua drafted in the fifth round this year out of BYU caught 15 passes for 147 yards in the game.  Remember his name; he has 25 pass receptions in his first two NFL games.  The Niners have what appear to be two “easy games” on the schedule next hosting both the Giants and then the Cards.  Then on October 8, the Niners go on the road to play the Cowboys in what should be a big game.

Cowboys 30  Jets 10:  Here is the good news for the Jets:

  • Zach Wilson threw a TD pass and rushed for 36 yards in the game.

Here is the rest of the news for the Jets:

  • Zach Wilson was 12 of 27 for 170 yards with 3 INTs

The Jets’ defense is very good, but it had to be on the field for more than 42 minutes in this game and that is no way to win a football game.

  • Serious Question:  I know it is a small sample size, but is it possible that the Jets need to bench Zach Wilson and get another QB in there if they want a real shot at the playoffs?

Commanders 35  Broncos 33:  I said in my pre-season predictions that Commanders’ QB. Sam Howell looked like an NFL-caliber QB to me.  Well, he played his third game in the league last week and posted this stat line against a good-but-not great Broncos’ defense:

  • 27 of 39 for 299 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs

The Broncos are 0-2 on the season with both losses coming at home – – not a good start for coach Sean Payton who you may recall went out of his way to criticize last year’s Broncos’ coach, Nathaniel Hackett.  The Broncos travel to Miami next week which should not be an easy game for them.  Meanwhile, the Commanders started the year 2-0 and have played solidly in both games.  The NFC East could be very interesting this year…

Dolphins 24  Pats 17:  This game never felt as if it was this close; it seemed as if the Dolphins were in charge from start to finish.  The Pats have opened the 2023 season at 0-2 with both losses in Foxboro; that is not something the Pats’ fans are used to by any stretch of the imagination.  College teammates, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, posted similar stat lines:

  • Tua:  21 of 30 for 239 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
  • Mac:  31 of 42 for 231 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Dolphins’ RB, Raheem Mostert ran for 121 yards on 18 carries and 2 TDs in the game.

Saints 20  Panthers 17:  The Saints’ defense won this game; they harassed and confused rookie QB Bryce Young all night long.  Then again, Young’s pass catchers did not do him many favors; he did not have a ton of easy open throws to WRs who had separation on their routes.  The Saints, Falcons and Bucs are all 2-0 in the NFC South as of today.

Steelers 26  Browns 22:  Here is another game won by the defense.  The Steelers got two defensive TDs in the game – – a Pick-Six that bounced off two players’ hands before being picked and returned and a Scoop-and-Score after a strip sack of Deshaun Watson.  The Steelers’ offense was anemic once again – – particularly in the first half.  Recall in Week 1, the Steelers opened with 5 straight “three-and-out” possessions.  Here is how they started last week’s game:

  • 3 plays – – 7 yards – – INT
  • 3 plays – – 7 yards – – PUNT
  • 1 play – – minus-5 yards – – LOST FUMBLE
  • 6 plays – – 35 yards – – PUNT

The Browns won the stat battle posting 408 yards on offense compared to only 255 for the Steelers.  However, 4 turnovers by the Browns negated that advantage.

The Steelers ran eight plays and lost seven yards during the final 15 minutes of the game while their defense saved the day by forcing and recovering a pair of fumbles, including the one that T.J. Watt returned for the game-winning score.

Deshaun Watson was called for 2 facemask penalties in the game.  I have to think that is the first time a QB has had two such penalties in one game.  In fact, I am trying to recall the last time I saw a QB get called for one facemask penalty…

Here is another oddball occurrence from this game:

  • The Steelers never snapped the ball inside the Red Zone – – and they still won the game.  That does not happen often…

Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury to the same knee that he blew out while in college.  Chubb is an excellent RB who is fun to watch.  I am hoping he can come back from this injury as he did from the one he suffered while at Georgia.

In last night’s game …

Niners 30  Giants 12:  The Niners lead 17-6 at half – – but it wasn’t that close.  The Niners were 8 of 10 on 3rd down conversions in the first half leading to a huge advantage in time of possession.  There was no miraculous comeback for the Giants this week; they were outmanned and dominated in the second half.  Here are a couple of stats to show how lopsided the game actually was:

  • Niners Offense = 441 yards
  • Giants Offense = 150 yards

And …

  • Niners total plays = 78
  • Giants total plays = 46

And …

  • Niners yards per pass attempt = 7.7 yards
  • Giants yards per pass attempt = 3.5 yards


This Week’s Games:



There are lots of mediocre games on the card for this week.  There aren’t any top shelf games that constitute “must see TV” and there are no games for which you should avert your eyes at all costs.  I am finding it difficult to generate any wagering excitement over this card. 

Chargers at Vikes “Pick ‘em” (54):  Here you have a pair of teams that went to the playoffs last year and who have lost both of their first two games in 2023.  The Vikes have a small advantage in that they have had 10 days off since their last game on Thursday night.  Neither team has a reliable defense; both teams have good offenses.  If I were going to play this game – – and I am not – – I would take the game to go OVER.  I will label this game as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week simply because both teams are winless.

Titans at Browns – 3 (40):  The Titans are 1-1 but have not been either impressive or depressing.  The Browns are 1-1 and have looked disappointing given the anticipation surrounding the team over the summer.  Deshaun Watson has not looked as if he was worth 3 first round picks; Ryan Tannehill has been known to show up small in big moments – such as in Week 1 when the Titans managed 5 field goals and zero TDs.  The loss of Nick Chubb is huge and puts even more pressure on Deshaun Watson.  No thank you …

Texans at Jags – 10 (44.5):  The spread for this game opened the week at 7.5 points and you can still find it at 9 points at one sportsbook this morning.  The Texans have played well against the Jags recently even if they have not played well against many other teams.  Nevertheless, I think the Texans are severely over-matched here.  I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games and am more than happy to avoid this one.

Pats – 2.5 at Jets (36):  The Pats have won 14 consecutive games against the Jets; is that a motivating factor for either of these two teams?  Both defenses are better than average and both offenses are less than average.  First team to 20 points wins the game?

Saints at Packers – 1 (42.5):  The Saints are 2-0 to start the season; the Lions should be 2-0 because they lost an OT game last week that they should have won at home.  This should be a defensive game; so, maybe it is an interesting UNDER play?  Not interesting enough…

Broncos at Dolphins – 7 (48):  The Broncos lost the first two games of the season at home; this is a long trip to play an undefeated team that leads its division for now.  This is either a wake-up call for the Broncos or it is the start of a great unraveling.  It is an interesting game to watch simply for that reason.

Bills – 6 at Commanders (43):  The Commanders are 2-0 and have played well in both games.  The Bills stunk out the joint in Week 1 turning the ball over 4 times against the Jets and then the Bills looked unstoppable racking up 38 points against the Raiders.  The temptation here is to take the Commanders on the Money Line at +235.

Falcons at Lions – 3 (46).  The spread for this game opened at 6 points and has been eroding as the week wore on.  I have no strong feeling about the game other than to say that both teams are well coached.  If I thought about playing this game, I would take it to go OVER – – but I’ll pass.

Colts at Ravens – 9.5 (44):  Is Anthony Richardson cleared from the concussion protocol?  Has he had sufficient practice time this week to get ready for an aggressive – and competent – defense?  The Ravens have only given up 33 points in 2 games; that defense has been front and center in giving the Ravens the early lead in the AFC North.  Too many unknowns here…

Panthers at Seahawks – 7 (42.5):  Bryce Young and the Panthers’ offense have looked pedestrian so far this year – – and that’s being polite.  Now, they get to traverse 3 time zones to take on a team that can establish itself as a factor in the NFC playoff picture so long as it wins games it should win.  And this is a game the Seahawks should win.  But I don’t like that spread even a little bit.

Cowboys – 13 at Cards (43):  This line opened the week at 10.5 points and has risen all week even with news that Cowboys’ CB, Trevon Diggs tore his ACL and is out for the year.  I smell a blowout here; Josh Dobbs versus the Cowboys’ defense – – even minus Trevon Diggs – – looks to be a mismatch.  But I am not touching 13 points in the game…

Bears at Chiefs – 13 (48):  The spread opened the week at 11.5 points and has inched up to this level as of this morning.  Once again, I smell a blowout here, but I am not touching 13 points for the game.  The Chiefs’ offense so far this season has not looked nearly as efficient as it has in recent years, but this is a Bears’ defense that should have difficulty stopping the Chiefs from doing what they want to do.

(Sun Nite) Steelers at Raiders – 2.5 (43):  This spread opened as a “Pick ‘em game”.  Why the emphatic movement to the Raiders is a mystery to me.  The key to this game is the Raiders’ defense against what has seemed to be an anemic offense from the Steelers for the last year or so.  That Raiders’ defensive unit was a no-show last week.

(Mon Nite early) Eagles – 5 at Bucs (46):  Here we have two undefeated teams for 2023; in fact, here is the only game with that distinction this week.  Therefore, I call this the Game of the Week on that flimsy premise.  The Bucs are 2-0 and lots of folks are surprised to see that – – me included.  The Eagles are 2-0 surprising only a few folks; the Eagles’ “surprise” for 2023 has been their mediocrity.  Yes, they won two games; and yes, they looked unimpressive in both.

(Mon Nite late) Rams at Bengals – 3 (44):  The spread here opened the week at 7 points.  Clearly, the ability of Joe Burrow to play at all in the game – – let alone at something approaching his high level of play – – will not be known until sometime on Monday.  If he is scratched or if he is limping sometime in the first half, the Rams ought to win the game.  If not …

So, let me review this week’s “Betting Bundle”:

  • Florida State – 1 over Clemson
  • Ole Miss +7.5 against Alabama
  • Auburn/Texas A&M OVER 51
  • Colorado/Oregon OVER 70

And just for fun two Money Line Parlays:

  • New Mexico @ +155 (against UMass)
  • Arizona @ -400 (against Stanford)
  • $100 wager to win $219.

And …

  • Dolphins @ minus-275
  • Seahawks @ minus-275
  • Jags @ minus-385
  • $100 wager to win $134.

Finally, I’ll close with these words from former Michigan State head coach, Duffy Daugherty:

“Football is not a contact sport; it is a collision sport.  Dancing is a contact sport.”

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



More “Stadium News” Here …

There seems to be a lot of “action” these days regarding new stadiums – or major upgrades to existing stadiums – all over the country.  Things seem to be in motion in St. Petersburg for the Rays and in Nashville for the Titans and in Las Vegas for the A’s and in suburban Chicago for the Bears and in Buffalo for the Bills and potentially in Baltimore for the Orioles.  There has been ample media coverage for those activities/plans over the past couple of years, but there is another one that completely slipped my notice.  If this one got any public airing outside its local area, then I missed it completely.

It seems that there is now an agreement between the Milwaukee Brewers and various entities in Wisconsin to spend $700M to upgrade American Family Field in a deal that would keep the Brewers in Milwaukee through 2050.  Here is roughly how the funding breaks down:

  • The State of Wisconsin – – which owns the stadium by the way – – will kick in $400M.
  • Milwaukee City and Milwaukee County will pony up $200M.
  • Brewers’ ownership will toss in $100M to round things out.

Assuming this deal marches ahead without intervening calamity, this should assure that no one in Wisconsin need worry about the Brewers pulling up stakes and moving to Beaglebreath, Nebraska any time soon.

And speaking of the Milwaukee Brewers, pitcher J.C. Mejia just flunked his second PED test and has been suspended for 162 games.  [Aside:  A third positive test for a PED would result in a lifetime ban from MLB.]  There are two interesting angles to the reports of this suspension:

  1. This is the second time Mejia has tested positive for the same banned substance – – Stanozolol.  The last time was 16 months ago, and he was suspended for that failed test.  Not only did Mejia apparently not learn of the consequences of testing positive for PEDs, but he also seems not to have learned that Stanozolol is a substance that MLB can detect rather well.
  2. Mejia has appeared in 9 games for the Brewers this year throwing eleven-and-a-third innings.  His ERA is 5.56 which by the way is a significant improvement over his career ERA of 8.32.  If those are the results achieved while using a performance enhancing drug, I think Mejia should ask for a rebate because it does not seem to have worked.

Sticking with baseball – – sort of – – I have been focused on the AL West division race for the last six weeks or so and have not paid my normal amount of attention to the bottom feeders of MLB this year.  So, to maintain my curmudgeon credentials, let me do so here.

In the American League, four teams have been eliminated from the playoffs for a while now.  The White Sox, Royals, Angels and A’s need not postpone any vacation plans they may have with their families in October.  One good measure of a team having a really bad season is whether they lose 100 games or more.  In the AL, the Royals and the A’s have already done that and the A’s need to go 7-3 in their final 10 games to avoid losing 110 games in 2023.

In the National League, three teams have been eliminated from the playoffs.  The Nats, Cardinals and Rockies are out; the other 12 teams are mathematically alive for a playoff berth.  No team in the NL has already lost 100 games; in fact, the only team in the league that could possibly lose 100 games is the Colorado Rockies.  The Rockies have lost 96 games as of this morning and have 10 games left to go.  The odds say they will cross over into “triple-digit territory” for losses in 2023.

Moving on … Boston College announced this week that it has suspended its men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams “indefinitely” because school administrators determined that hazing had occurred within those teams.  Boston College has codified examples of unacceptable hazing in its student handbook; here are things that the school specifically considers improper hazing:

“… personal servitude; sleep deprivation and restrictions on personal hygiene; yelling, swearing, and insulting new members/rookies; being forced to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire in public; consumption of vile substances or smearing of such on one’s skin; brandings; physical beatings; binge drinking and drinking games; sexual simulation and sexual assault.”

[Aside:  It would seem that forcing a new team member to get a tattoo of human genitalia on their forehead is not covered by this panoply of improper behaviors.  But I would not suggest that any entity on the BC campus try that out.]

Once again, I am forced to concede that I do not understand why hazing continues to exist in various organizations/teams because I do not understand what benefit derives from the hazing process.  Maybe an investigation into these sorts of questions/issues could be the basis for an article in a magazine like The Atlantic?

Finally, I’ll close today with these words from the English theater critic, James Agate:

“The English instinctively admire any man who has no talent and is modest about it.”

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



The USFL And XFL 3.0 May Be Merging

Axios was the first to report yesterday that the USFL and XFL 3.0 were in serious negotiations about a merger of equals; the two leagues could possibly combine to form a single professional football Spring League.  I have thought for years that there was a market for a “Spring League”, but I am confident that there is not enough room out there for two “Spring Leagues”.  A “merger” or a “consolidation” or a “combining of resources” in this situation makes a lot of sense.  It also raises a few questions – – for which I do not have definitive answers, but I’ll try:

  • Each league has a team in Houston.  A combined league – – call it the USXFL for lack of a better name – – would not want two of its franchises carving up a single market despite the size of the Houston market.  So, one of those franchises would have to be moved or dissolved.  I would suspect that the new league would prefer not to set sail and have one of its first acts to be the dissolution of a franchise.  So, where might “the expendable Houston franchise” go?  Neither league had a team in southern California or Arizona.  Maybe “the expendable Houston franchise” might fit there?
  • There has been some ”tension” regarding the venue for the Vegas Vipers of the XFL.  They could not get an agreement to play in Allegiant Stadium where the Raiders play; and evidently, the alternate venue was not very good.  So, maybe there is another franchise that might need to be relocated?
  • Both leagues have TV deals with major networks.  FOX has an equity stake in the USFL; Disney Corp via ESPN is the “exclusive broadcast partner” of the XFL.  NBC is also involved in all this somehow because it has a “limited broadcast agreement” with the USFL.  A combination of the two leagues will necessarily need to figure out who and how their games will be telecast locally and nationally.
  • The XFL played its games in the cities the teams represented; the USFL used a “hub model” playing its games mostly in Birmingham AL.  If the USFXL is going to be taken seriously, I think it must ditch the “hub model” and play all its games in or very near the city that the team represents.
  • The two leagues played in the Spring last year with very little overlap.  The XFL kicked off in February – – the week after the Super Bowl. – – and held its championship game in mid-May.  The USFL started in mid-April and played its championship game on 1 July.  Each league played 10 games in their regular season and had a 4-team playoff format.  Assuming the USFXL is a 16-team league, how many games will there be in the regular season and when would they be played?  Personally, I think play should start on the “dark Sunday” of Final Four weekend and run through the 4th of July, but no one is consulting with me on such issues.

If all the rumors and reporting are accurate, that would indicate to me that the execs for the league and for the media outlets have resolved at least some if not most of these questions.  And as I said above, this is a good thing for “Spring pro football” as a business enterprise.

Switching gears …  Back in the days when the only real legal way to bet on sports like football and baseball and basketball was to visit Las Vegas, the two most vocal opponents of legalized betting were Mark Emmert as the head of the NCAA and Roger Goodell as the NFL Commish.  The NCAA has maintained its anti-gambling stance and continues to worry about and tries to police gambling on collegiate athletic competitions.  I think they are fighting a losing battle, but they are dogged in their defense of the purity of their games.

The NFL – – on the other hand – – wants to re-enact the famous scene from The Wizard of Oz where “The Wizard” declares that no one should pay attention to the man behind the curtain.  Given any soapbox to hop upon, Roger Goodell will sanctimoniously proclaim his profound worry about “the integrity of the games” that is severely threatened by easy access to gambling on those games by so many people in so many venues.  To hear him tell it, you wonder if he ever gets to sleep at night.

Except …  The NFL has three – – as in one, two, THREE – – “Official Sports Betting Partners of the NFL.”  Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings and FanDuel are all in multi-year agreements with the NFL and they:

“… will have the right to integrate relevant sports betting content directly into NFL Media properties including and the NFL App. DraftKings and FanDuel will enhance their fan experiences with NFL highlights, footage and Next Gen Stats content. Caesars and the NFL will collaborate on integrating NFL content into Caesars platforms as well.”

But wait, there’s more … The Washington Commanders now have an NFL sportsbook inside the stadium at FedEx Field.  The area is known as “The Fanatics Sportsbook” and it has betting kiosks along with walk-up betting windows.  It is not merely open on game days; The Fanatics Sportsbook is open 7 days a week from 11 in the morning to 11 at night.  Interestingly, it took a positive vote by NFL owners to decide to allow in-stadium betting, so The Fanatics Sportsbook is only the first of many more such facilities to come.

So, next time you hear Roger Goodell feigning angst at the peril sports gambling presents to the integrity of NFL games, just remember, gambling is evil – – unless the NFL can find a way to make buck off it.

Finally, former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli once said:

“A Conservative Government is an organized hypocrisy.”

Might I suggest that the NFL is quite similar …?

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



A BIG Mistake Here …

Here in Curmudgeon Central, one of the guiding principles is for me to admit when I am wrong.  That is the whole reason behind writing post-mortems for my NFL predictions and assigning grades to them; that is why I include corrections to facts provided by the “reader in Houston”.  Well, today I have to own up to another huge error.

One week ago on September 12th, I opened the daily rant with this paragraph:

“Well, I was overly optimistic yesterday when I said that Mel Tucker would be fired by Halloween.  I thought that Michigan State would wait until after the hearing set for early October and then wait a decent interval before deciding to ditch Tucker as their head football coach.  Not so, Michigan State cut bait yesterday afternoon and is first in line among major football programs in search of a new coach for 2024 – – unless you consider Northwestern a major football program.”

I must have misinterpreted a report I had read to lead me to conclude that Mel Tucker had been fired because that was not the case.  The reason I know I was wrong is that there are multiple reports today in reputable places such as the Washington Post,, and which all say that Michigan State has now notified Mel Tucker that the university intends to terminate his contract for cause based on sexual harassment charges that were made public on September 10th.  Obviously, the university would not be announcing their intent to fire someone if indeed they had already fired him.  Mea culpa!

According to today’s reporting, this notification is provided to Tucker to satisfy the conditions of his existing contract which was to run for 10 years with a guaranteed salary of $95M.  The contract now gives Tucker – and his legal representatives – seven days to present evidence/arguments as to why he should not be fired for cause.  These actions and this notification are separate and distinct from any investigation or charges that may arise from any other investigations into this matter.

According to this morning’s Washington Post, the operative part of Tucker’s contract with the school says in part that Tucker could be fired for cause if he:

“… engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the university’s sole judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university.”

If indeed that clause is in the contract, it would seem to apply in this matter.  The accusation is that Tucker engaged in phone sex with a woman who was hired periodically by the Athletic Department to speak to athletes there about proper and improper behaviors regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault.  As part of that phone sex, Tucker was masturbating as he spoke with the accuser; his first comment in his defense was that the call and the actions involved were “consensual”.  To me, that means he did what the woman said he did.

I am not trained in contract law even in the slightest degree but from a purely personal standpoint, the fact that the head football coach at a major university would masturbate while talking on the phone with a woman who – every once in a while – would be speaking to his players about proper behaviors and curbing their testosterone-driven urges would “tend to bring “contempt and/or ridicule upon the university.”

I suspect that there will be negotiations over the next several days between Tucker’s representatives and Michigan State about any partial payment to Tucker of that nominally guaranteed contract.  Using a linear projection of payments, my estimate is that there is still about $75M left in the deal.  If the school pays out even a dollar on the deal, you can bet there will be layers of non-disclosure agreements involved.

Moving on …  The Tennessee Titans are going to get a new stadium in Nashville; the current estimate for the cost of the new playpen is $2.3B.  Titans’ ownership will put up $200M toward the cost (less than 10%) and the NFL will kick in another $850M for the project out of the league’s developmental fund.  The rest comes from the taxpayers in Nashville and Tennessee.

  • The State issued 20-year bonds with a face value of $453M; over the next 20 years – – assuming that the bonds are not called – – the people of Tennessee will pay out $230M in interest on those bonds.
  • Meanwhile, Nashville issued 30-year bonds with a face value of $705M; over the next 30 years – – assuming the bonds are not called – – the people in Nashville are on the hook for $840M in interest payments on those bonds.

Looking at the amounts put up by parties other than the owners of the Titans, I would have to say that the owners got a sweet deal.

Finally, having mentioned masturbation above, let me close today with these words from Woody Allen:

“Don’t knock masturbation.  It’s sex with someone I love.”

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



Wall To Wall Baseball Today …

Over the weekend, the LA Angels announced that they put Shohei Ohtani on the injured list and said he would not play again this year.  That led to Ohtani’s locker being cleared out and at least one Internet video posting of someone who might have been Ohtani in an airport in Japan.  This injury is to his oblique muscle; it is separate from his elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery once it is subjected to further examination.  Ohtani was definitely with the Angels in their dugout during their game on Saturday, but his future with the team is up in the air simply because his contract will expire at the end of this season.

Speculation about Ohtani’s value on the free agent market places his value in the neighborhood of $500M given that he is a solid power hitter who can also be a starting pitcher every 5 days or so.  There are not many folks who can put that sort of thing on their résumé meaning that there is no benchmark for his value on the open market.  However, with an injury that could affect his future as a pitcher – – the elbow injury – – teams will have to determine for themselves how his treatment of that elbow injury is progressing.

Ohtani has said he wants to play for “a contender” and the Angels are not a team that fits that description; in fact, the last time the Angels made the playoffs was in 2014.  So, it is quite possible that Ohtani has played his final game as a member of the LA Angels.

In other baseball news as the regular season comes down to its final couple of weeks, the Braves and the Dodgers have each clinched their division titles meaning two of the National League playoff participants are set.  The Braves are on track to win 104 games and currently hold a 15-game advantage over the Phillies in the NL East.  The Dodgers are the only other NL team with a shot at winning 100 games this year.

In the National League, none of the wildcard slots have been filled and the race in the NL Central is still up in the air – – sort of.  The Brewers lead the Cubs in the NL Central by 6.5 games with 13 left to play.  Unless we see a repeat of the 1964 National League pennant race, the Brewers look like they are going to win that division.

In the American League, the Orioles have clinched a playoff slot; it might be a wildcard slot, or it could be as the division champion since they currently lead the Rays in the AL East by 2 games.  Don’t feel bad for the Rays because they have clinched a wildcard slot in the AL playoffs for themselves.  Everything else regarding the AL playoffs is up for grabs.

I have been saying for the last month or so that the AL West race is the thing to pay closest attention to.  With about a dozen games left for these three teams, here is the status as of this morning:

  • Astros  84-66
  • Rangers  82-67
  • Mariners  81-68

Of the remaining 13 games on the Mariners’ schedule, 7 games are against the Rangers and 3 games are against the Astros.  The schedule-maker got this right when he set things up for 2023 …

If the playoffs began today, the Rangers would be in.  However, they would play without their major trade acquisition at the trading deadline this year.  Max Scherzer is on the IL; he will not pitch again in the regular season and would be doubtful for any action in the playoffs.  Scherzer has a “teres major strain” which is an injury to one of the muscles that holds the arm to the shoulder blade.  I am not a physical therapist, but that sounds like a serious injury for a pitcher whose arm is the keystone of his success or failure.

The Rangers’ pitching staff has been snake-bitten this year.  They acquired Jacob deGrom in the offseason, and he needed Tommy John surgery earlier this year.  Nathan Eovaldi made the All-Star team this year and then proceeded to take some time on the IL.  Now, Scherzer goes down – – probably for the rest of 2023.

Another bit of baseball news sounds like a broken record.  Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Tampa Bay Rays are supposed to make an announcement about a new stadium for the team early this week.  This time, the location is in downtown St. Petersburg, and the facility will be a domed stadium.  The estimated cost of this stadium is $1.2B and the Rays are expected to cover at least half of that cost.  Speculation in advance of the announcement says the new facility will have a capacity of 30,000 with a fixed dome – – not a retractable one.

There is sort of a time issue associated with this latest proposal for a new stadium for the Rays.  Their lease at Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 season which means that as of the start of the 2028 season the Rays would be “homeless” if they did not have a new ballpark or did not extend their lease at Tropicana Field.  For years, people have blamed the stadium as a major – – if not THE major – – reason that the Rays attendance does not correspond to the team’s performance on the field.  So, extending the lease there would seem to be “undesirable at best”.

There is another interesting angle here regarding the pending announcement by the team.  Assuming that the inside info is correct and that seating capacity for the new venue will be 30,000 seats, that is a small park.  Currently, 16 of the 30 major league teams average home attendance is greater than 30,000 fans per game.  If you assume this year to be “typical”, that will mean even if the Rays sold out every game and filled the new stadium to the rafters for every game, they would be in the middle of the pack when it comes to attendance for MLB teams.

Finally, I’ll close today with an observation by baseball manager/philosopher, Casey Stengel:

“Going to bed with a woman never hurt a ballplayer.  It’s staying up all night looking for them that does you in.”

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



Football Friday 9/15/23

The calendar can identify for you certain events with accuracy and reliability:

  • You need to file your IRS Tax Return in mid-April.
  • The swallows return to Capistrano in mid-March (as The Ink Spots reminded us in song).
  • Thanksgiving in the US is the fourth Thursday in November.
  • Fridays become Football Fridays here in Curmudgeon Central.

And since today is Friday …

Let me review the “Betting Bundle” from last week:

  • College Picks:  2-0
  • NFL Picks:  3-2
  • Money Line Parlays: 1-1  Net Profit = $87


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats opened their season last week about 2500 miles from home in central Ohio against Denison University.  The Wildcats won the game 28-24 and this week they will be on the road again to Redlands, CA – – a mere journey of 1000 miles – – to take on the Redlands Bulldogs.   Redlands opened its season last week with a win over Pacific Lutheran by a score of 24-14.  Go Wildcats!

We had the hazing allegations and investigation at Northwestern that got coach Pat Fitzgerald fired.  Now comes news that half of the football team at the University of San Diego is facing disciplinary action because of hazing.  Since hazing is not positively regarded in society, my questions for today are:

  • Why does it continue to exist?
  • Why has it not been “selected against” as time goes on?

According to reports, football teams are not the only place hazing occurs.  Fraternities and sororities have engaged in hazing – – and gotten in trouble for it.  Some of the “secret societies” at prestigious universities such as Skull and Bones at Yale engage in hazing.  So, I have two competing answers for the questions above:

  1. Each new generation of “hazers” thinks they are immune to being caught – – AND/OR – –
  2. Hazing actually provides some benefit to the organization engaged in the hazing.

I have never understood the evolution of hazing and I guess I never will …

When Texas beat Alabama last week (see below), that broke a 43-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents going back more than 15 years.  I wonder if there are any sufficiently delusional Alabama fans who think Nick Saban should be fired for that.

I will be more specific when I get to reviewing last week’s games, but the SEC was hardly dominant in last week’s action.  In years past, the SEC had much greater depth in the conference than other conferences did; there were few if any walkovers for conference teams other than the cupcakes they scheduled for the purpose of pummeling someone. Last week brings that conference depth into question:

  • Arkansas only led Kent State (a bad team) by a score of 7-6 late in the second quarter.
  • Kentucky beat Eastern Kentucky but took its first lead late in the third quarter.
  • Middle Tennessee State had the ball and was driving on Missouri trailing by only 6 points with less than 4 minutes to play in the game.
  • Tennessee took its first lead in the game against Austin Peay in the final seconds of the first half.

All of this may be illusory and dependent on the fact that this was very early in the 2023 season.  But it is worth keeping an eye on.  And in addition, the SEC was only 3-10 against the spread last week while playing some middling opponents …

In the 10 seasons between 2011 and 2020, Arkansas State enjoyed 9 winning seasons and 9 bowl game invitations.  Butch Jones took over in 2021 and the Arkansas State record in his first two years there has been a miserable 5-19-0 – – with no bowl invitations obviously.  I did not have Coach Jones on my “hot seat list” before this season started because I was focusing on coaches at bigger programs this year.  Well, here is the composite score for the first two games involving Arkansas State this year:

  • Opponents  110
  • Arkansas State  3

Colorado 36  Nebraska 14:  I got to watch almost all of this game and have concluded that Colorado is good.  Their team speed is excellent; they won the stat battle 453 yards to 341 yards.  However, it was not that the Colorado defense held the line; the Nebraska offense looked like a Keystone Kops silent movie for parts of the game.  Both Colorado and Nebraska are programs that needed major rebuilding; Colorado is on its way to relevance; there is still some work to be done; QB Shedeur Sanders was sacked 7 times and the Buffaloes’ running game is anemic at best.  Nebraska still needs to learn to get out of its own way.

  • BTW, the Colorado fans stormed the field after this game.  This was a winless opponent who has not been a ranked program since Cheers was the best sitcom on TV – – and you storm the field?  Really?

Utah 20  Baylor 13:  The temperature on the field was more than 120 degrees; fortunately, no one died from heat exhaustion here.  Utah extended its record to 2-0 without starting QB, Cam Rising, for another week.  This game was won by the Utah defense which held Baylor to these results in the second half:

  • Field goal
  • INT – – led to a Utah field goal
  • Three plays and a Punt
  • Three plays and a Punt
  • INT – – led to a Utah TD
  • Run out the clock

Iowa 20  Iowa St. 13:  Iowa did not achieve its 25-points per game mark for the second week in a row.  Remember, that is the number the team must achieve to allow the offensive coordinator, Brian Ferentz to keep his job.

Ole Miss 37  Tulane 20:  Tulane was the pre-season favorite to be the Group of 5 conference champ to get a New Year’s Day bowl Game invitation.  This looks like a big loss, but the stats say the game was much closer:

  • Ole Miss total offense = 363 yards
  • Tulane total offense = 342 yards
  • Ole Miss had 18 first downs
  • Tulane had 19 first downs
  • Ole Miss was 1 for 13 on 3rd down conversions
  • Tulane was 9 for 22 on 3rd down conversions

Arkansas 28  Kent St. 6:  I think Kent St. is going to be bad this year.

Idaho 33  Nevada 6:  I think Nevada is going to be bad this  year.

Washington 43  Tulsa 10:  This is another good showing by the Washington defense.  The offense was supposed to be potent – – as it has been in the first two games – – but the question was the Husky defense…

Oregon 38  Texas Tech 30:  Tech led the game 27-18 at the start of the 4th quarter but Oregon rallied to win.  Here is the Texas Tech offensive production in the 4th quarter:

  • Turnover on Downs
  • Field goal
  • INT
  • INT

Notre Dame 45  NC St. 24:  The Irish are now 3-0 but this game is interesting because it was against an opponent that is normally comparable to Notre Dame, and it was a road win for the Irish; their first two wins were over Navy and Tennessee St and this week is against Central Michigan.  Notre Dame should be 4-0 leading up to a visit to South Bend by Ohio State on Sept 23rd.   That is where the tire rubs the road …

Rice 43  Houston 41 (2OT):  Rice led 28-7 at the start of the 4th quarter; Houston forced OT, but the Owls won the game in double OT.  JT Daniels threw for 401 yards and 3 TDs to lead Rice to this upset win.  Houston was a 7.5-point favorite in the game and the Money Line on Rice closed at +300.  By the way, two of Daniels’ TD asses went to Luke McCaffrey who is the “little brother” of Christian McCaffrey.

Texas 34  Alabama 24:  I said last week that Texas QB, Quinn Ewers was the better QB in this game.  He threw for 349 yards and 3 TDs in the game.  Alabama QB, Jalen Milroe, had a good day but his results were 255 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs.  Next up for Texas is a visit by Wyoming; that is a game to watch to see if there is a let-down for the Longhorns.

  • BTW, I was surprised that Alabama lost by double-digits last week, but this team does not look like Alabama teams from recent years.  I will not be shocked if they lose again this year.

Mississippi St.  31  Arizona 24:  Arizona outgained Mississippi St. in the game 431 yards to 307 yards.  Five turnovers by Arizona did the Wildcats in.  Once again, Mississippi St. showed a balanced offense gaining 145 yards rushing and 162 yards passing.

Northwestern 38  UTEP 7:  The game was 7-7 at the half and Northwestern only outgained UTEP by 72 yards in the game.  How did that happen?  Here is what happened to UTEP in the second half:

  • INT
  • Three plays and a Punt
  • Turnover on Downs
  • Turnover on Downs
  • INT

Miami 48  Texas A&M 33:  Miami QB, Tyler Van Dyke threw 5 TD passes in the game and Miami returned a kickoff for 98 yards and a TD.  The Hurricanes are 2-0 and this might be a signature win for the team.   This loss is worse than it looks. The Aggies’ first two touchdown “drives” were 15 and 9 yards in length. Miami dominated play scoring 27 points in the second half.

Utah St. 78  Idaho St. 28:  The amazing thing in this game is that Utah St. scored 44 points in the second quarter.

Kansas 34  Illinois 23:  Kansas is 2-0 on the season …


Games of Interest This Week:


A general comment first … There are no games involving two ranked teams this week.  Get ready for some surprising results this week.

Florida State – 26.5 at BC (48):  BC had to struggle to beat Holy Cross by only 3 points at home last week.  Florida State is just a tad better than Holy Cross …

Penn State – 15 at Illinois (48.5):  Is Penn State really a Top Ten team?  A road trip to take on one of the weaker conference teams will not likely provide an answer to that question – – unless of course Penn State loses outright …

K-State – 4 at Missouri (47.5):  K-State has steamrollered two lesser opponents to start the season.  Now they go on the road to play a team that has shown good defense so far in 2023.  This one might be interesting to watch.

Alabama – 32.5 at USF (61):  Is this one of those games where “Bama does not take its foot off the gas to get the sour taste of last week’s loss out of their mouth?

  • BTW, the last time Alabama went on the road to play a team outside the Power 5 was in 1997 when they went off to New Orleans to play Tulane.

Washington – 16 at Michigan State (55.5):  Last year, Washington surprised the Spartans and just about everyone else by beating Michigan State.  So far this year, the Huskies have outscored their two opponents 99-29.

Tennessee – 6 at Florida (58):  The Vols have dominated two lesser opponents at home so far this year.  Florida is still struggling under coach Billy Napier having lost to Utah in their opener last week (see above).  This is the only college game I like this week for betting purposes; give me Tennessee on the road to win and cover; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

LSU – 9.5 at Mississippi St. (54.5):  Note that this is the seventh game in a row on this list where the home team is the underdog.

Va Tech at Rutgers – 7 (36.5):  Rutgers is 2-0 with big wins over Northwestern and Temple.  Isn’t Va Tech a step up in class here …?

Northwestern at Duke – 18 (48):  Duke is in the Top 25 this week.  If they lose to Northwestern at home, they will be out of the Top 25 for the rest of the year.

Western Michigan at Iowa – 28 (42):  Iowa has not scored more than 24 points in a game so far this year – – and they are favored here by 28…  What does that say about Western Michigan?

South Carolina at Georgia – 27.5 (54):  Georgia has won 19 games in a row and the last time they lost at home was to South Carolina all the way back in 2020.  In the process of losing to UNC two weeks ago, the Gamecocks’ OL gave up 9 sacks.  I suspect the Georgia defenders have watched that film very closely.

Wyoming at Texas – 30 (49):  Beware the let-down game here …


NFL Commentary:


Let me focus this week on the play of young QBs in the NFL during Week 1.  Yes, that makes these observations necessarily based on a small sample size; I understand that.  Nevertheless, I have a few things to say on the matter:

  • Justin Fields did not impress me at all regarding his supposed improved accuracy and touch on his passes.  He is a hell of an athlete and an outstanding running QB, but he still is not a reliable passer no matter what you read or heard during the offseason.
  • Jalen Hurts did not look anything at all like the way Jalen Hurts looked last year.
  • Daniel Jones should sue his OL for non-support.  Even so, did that look like a QB worth $40M per year out there on Sunday night?
  • Mac Jones looked like a different player in the Pats’ new offensive system.  Bill O’Brien is a real offensive coordinator and that could make a big difference this season.
  • Trevor Lawrence was good enough when he needed to be in the second half against the Colts.  I like the Jags and took them in the “Betting Bundle” and as part of a Money Line Parlay last week and both choices were winners.  But the Jags were playing a bad team last week and they were trailing late in the third quarter.
  • Jordan Love In his first start as the Packers’ #1 guy at QB, he threw three TDs with no INTs; he outplayed Justin Fields by a lot in Chicago.
  • Kenny Pickett looked as if he were a rookie again – – but maybe it was the Niners’ defense that just dominated the game…?
  • Brock “Mr. Irrelevant” Purdy looked awfully good against a nominally strong Steelers’ defense leading the Niners in a 30-7 rout.
  • Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert put on a fireworks display with Tua winning the battle 36-34.

In good news for Chiefs’ fans, the team was able to reach an agreement with DT, Chris Jones on a contract for this season.  Now the question is very simple:

  • Is Chris Jones ready to play at his normal level or will he need several games to “get in football condition”?

The standings in the AFC are just a bit “topsy-turvy” after opening week.  I doubt that too many folks had the Bengals, Bills and Chiefs all losing on the same weekend.  I surely did not.  For the record, if you had taken the Browns, Jets and Lions in those three games as a Money Line Parlay, the payoff on a $100 wager would have been a total of $1134.

Commanders 20  Cards 16:  This was an ugly game for both teams.  The Commanders managed all of 248 yards on offense, turned the ball over 3 times and allowed 5 sacks – – and they won the game.  The Cards committed 6 penalties for 97 yards in the first half of this game.

Falcons 24  Panthers 10:  The game was tied at 10 apiece at the start of the 4th quarter but the Falcons pulled away in the 4th quarter to secure this one.  The Panthers won the stat battle 281 yards to 221 yards.  This was another ugly game. The Panthers turned the ball over 3 times in the game leading to 17 of the Falcons’ points for the day.

Browns 24  Bengals 3:  The Bengals’ total offense here was 142 yards; Joe Burrow’s stat line reads:

  • 14 of 31 for 82 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs.

Either his calf injury is more serious than has been alluded to and/or he really needed the practice time he did not get in training camp – – or perhaps both?  This victory belongs to the Browns’ defense; the Browns won handily here, and Deshaun Watson threw for a TD and ran for another in the game – – but Watson’s stat line was not impressive:

  • 16 of 29 for 154 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT

Ravens 25  Texans 9:  This outcome was never seriously in doubt; the Ravens’ defense confounded Texans’ rookie QB, CJ Stroud for the whole game and sacked him 5 times.  The biggest downer of the day here is that Ravens’ RB, JK Dobbins tore his Achilles tendon and is out for the season.

Jags 31  Colts 21:  The Colts led 21-17 at the start of the 4th quarter but gave the Jags 2 TDs in the 4th quarter while the Colts’ offense did this in the 4th quarter:

  • 3 plays and a punt
  • 2 plays and an INT
  • 17 plays and a Turnover on Downs

The Jags welcomed back Calvin Ridley to the NFL after a year’s suspension related to a gambling infraction; Ridley caught 8 passes for 101 yards and a TD.  The Colts went 1 for 5 on 4th down conversions in the game.

Niners 30  Steelers 7:  It wasn’t that close; the Niners outgained the Steelers by 152 yards on offense and held the ball for almost 37 and a half minutes in the game.  The Steelers only tried to run the ball 10 times in the game and gained only 41 yards on the ground.  Three turnovers by the Steelers did not help their cause at all.   Here is what you need to know about the Niners’ defense last week:

  • The Steelers went three-and-out on their first five possessions and their net offense was minus-9 yards.

Bucs 20  Vikes 17:  Baker Mayfield led the Bucs to a victory in his first start in Tampa.  He went 21 for 34 for 173 yards and 2 TDs.  That was just enough to win the game thanks to 3 turnovers and 6 penalties by the Vikes.

Saints 16  Titans 15:  The Titans committed 4 turnovers in the game – – 3 INTs by Ryan Tannehill – – and had to settle for 5 field goals in the game.  The fact that the Saints won by only a point here speaks to the anemic offense they showed for the day.  David Carr threw for the game’s only TD in the third quarter.  There can’t be a real QB controversy in Tennessee because the Titans don’t have one on their roster.

Packers 38  Bears 20:  Jordan Love threw for 3 TDs in this year’s opening game; it was the ninth straight win for the Packers over the Bears.  Justin Fields had a mediocre day putting up this stat line:

  • 24 of 37 for 216 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.
  • He also ran for 59 yards.

No one has ever doubted his ability to run; the question for the Bears – – and their fans – – is whether Jusin Field will ever develop into a reliable NFL passing QB.  This game provided no answer(s) to that question.

Raiders 17  Broncos 16:  Sean Payton lost his inaugural game in Denver at home to a division rival.  I think the most important stat from the game is that the Denver defense never sacked Jimmy G in the game.  The Raiders’ OL was “problematic” coming into the season, but it did its job well in this game.  Jakobi Myers was Garoppolo’s favorite receiver in the game catching 9 passes (on only 10 targets) for 81 yards and 2 TDs.  A big difference in the game is that the Broncos missed an extra point and a field goal – – and only lost by 1 point.

Rams 30  Seahawks 13:  The Seahawks led 13-7 at the half and were shut out in the second half.  The stats for the game were even more lopsided than the score; the Rams outgained the Seahawks by 246 yards on offense.  Here are the Seahawks possessions in the second half:

  • 3 plays – – 5 yards – – PUNT
  • 4 plays – – 10 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 2 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – minus-24 yards – – PUNT
  • 1 play – – 9 yards – – END OF GAME

Do the math; the Seahawks had a net of 2 yards on offense for the second half of this game.

Dolphins 36  Chargers 34:  It’s a small sample size, but it sure seems as if the Chargers in 2023 are just like the Chargers in 2022.  They can and will score points and they cannot prevent the other guys from also scoring points.  These teams combined to produce 969 yards of offense in the game.  The Total Line for this game was 50 points; the game was already OVER before the 4th quarter began.    Tua was the most impressive quarterback of the weekend, by a nautical mile. He went 28 for 45 for 466 yards.  His OL was very good to him; he was never sacked and was only hit twice in the game.

Eagles 25  Pats 20:  A win is a win, but the Eagles did not play well in this game.  After jumping out to a 16-0 lead in the first quarter, their offense went somnambulant.  Here are the Eagles’ possessions over the final 17 minutes of the first half:

  • 3 plays – – 2 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 3 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 3 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – minus-9 yards – – PUNT
  • 1 play – – 3 yards – – HALFTIME

Do the math again; the Eagles gained a net of 2 yards over a 17-minute period in the first half.  This win belongs to the Eagles’ defense who recorded a Pick-6 and generated two sacks in the 4th quarter to stall Patriot drives.  The defense also carried the day for the Pats as I think it will do for the rest of the season.

Cowboys 40  Giants 0:  There is no simpler way to say this except:

  • These teams did not belong on the same field last Sunday night!

In the first quarter, the Cowboys scored on a blocked field goal returned for a TD and a Pick-6.  The Cowboys cannot look this good every week and the Giants cannot look this bad again this year.  Right?

  • The Giants averaged just 2.6 yards per offensive play, made it to the red zone once in 12 possessions, and crossed midfield only twice — both times leading to missed field goals.
  • The Giants’ OL was AWOL for the game.  The Cowboys recorded 10 tackles for a loss, 7 sacks of Daniel Jones and 12 QB hits in the game.

Just for giggles, here are the Giant’s possessions for the game:

  • 11 plays – – 48 yards – – Blocked Field Goal returned for a TD
  • 3 plays – – minus-10 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – minus-9 yards – – INT
  • 3 plays – – 3 yards – – PUNT
  • 1 play – – 0 yards – – INT
  • 15 plays – – 57 yards – – Missed Field Goal
  • 2 plays – – minus-7 yards – – Halftime
  • 7 plays – – 7 yards – – PUNT
  • 9 plays – – 30 yards – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 1 play – – 24 yards – – FUMBLE
  • 10 plays – – 19 yards – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS
  • 2 plays – – minus-4 yards – – END OF GAME

Jets 22 Bills 16 (OT):  You had to see this one to believe it.  This game belongs to the Jets’ defense and then to the Jets’ special teams for the TD in OT to win the game.  Josh Allen gave the Jets 4 turnovers – – 3 INTs and a lost fumble – – in the game.  The overhang here is the season-ending injury to Aaron Rodgers and that injury leads me to present this to you.

  • #2 son has a friend from high school days that he has stayed in touch with.  They were together last Monday night to watch the Bills/Jets game.  After it was learned that Rodgers would not return to the game and that he was in a walking boot and the medical prognosis did not look good #2 son’s friend turned to him and said, “There are few teams that have embodied the works of Jean Paul Sartre quite like the New York football Jets.”

I thought you needed to read about that comment.

In last night’s game,

Eagles 34  Vikes 27: This was another ugly win for the Eagles, but they all count in the same column of “Ws”.  DeAndre Swift had his best night as a pro rushing for 175 yards and a TD on 28 carries.  I have seen both Eagles’ games this year; they need to play a lot better than they have shown so far if they hope to make it back to the Super Bowl; nonetheless, they are 2-0 and get 10 days to rest before taking on the Bucs in Week 3.  Meanwhile, the Vikes are 0-2 and the schedule is not very forgiving for the Vikes between now and the end of October:

  • Versus Chargers
  • At Panthers
  • Versus Chiefs
  • At Bears
  • Versus Niners
  • At Packers

The Vikes may be fortunate to enter the month of November at 3-5…


Games This Week:


There is only one game in college football that I like this week from a wagering perspective; so, I figured I would put together a “Betting Bundle” heavily angled to the pro games on Sunday/Monday.  Not so, this is just going to be a sparse week for items in the “Betting Bundle”.


Chargers – 3 at Titans (46):  The Titans could not score a TD last week; the Chargers’ defense was as solid as a screen door last week.  Something’s gotta give.  The Titans compounded their lack of offense last week by having a punt blocked and turning the ball over three other times.  I think the Chargers are the better team, but I have little faith in them to play to their potential especially on the road.

Packers at Falcons – 1.5 (40):  The Packers opened as a 1-point favorite this week and the line has flipped.  I have no reason to trust Desmond Ridder over Jordan Love or vice versa in this game.

Colts at Texans – 1 (39):  This is a battle of two rookie QBs taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.  That is the only interesting aspect of the game; I gave the game serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Don’t bet this game; you cannot seriously have a strong opinion on this game unless you live in Indy or in Houston.

Seahawks at Lions – 5 (47):  This is my Game of the Week.  The Seahawks were trounced last week in a division game at home (see above).  The Lions surprised most folks by beating the Chiefs in the NFL opening game for 2023.  I like the game, but I do not like the lines posted by the oddsmakers – – so, I’ll pass.

Bears at Bucs – 2.5 (41):  Here is another game that received attention for the label, Dog-breath Game of the Week.  The line opened the week with the Bears as a 1-point favorite; it flipped quickly to this number and has basically stayed here all week.  The Bears’ defense did not show well against the Packers last week; if Jordan Love could exploit that defense, it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to see Baker Mayfield doing the same.  But would you trust Baker Mayfield to do that?

Raiders at Bills – 8 (47):  Josh Allen played badly against the Jets last week tossing 3 INTs.  If he does that again, the Raiders will win outright; if he reverts to the more typical Josh Allen here, the Bills should be just fine at home against a lesser defense.  I like the Bills in this spot to win and cover at home; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Chiefs – 3.5 at Jags (50):  This was almost my Game of the Week because the Chiefs need the game to avoid an 0-2 start and the Jags need the game to stay in control of their division.  And both teams are good teams.  The Chiefs will have Chris Jones on the field here; maybe Travis Kelce will be back (?) and Kedarius Toney cannot possibly play as badly as he did last week.  Having said all that, the Jags are a good team, and they should be able to score too.  I see a shoot-out, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Ravens at Bengals – 3 (46):  The four AFC North teams play one another this week.  Will the Bengals start the season at 0-2 as they did last year?  Unless the Bengals’ offense plays about five-times better than it did last week (see above), that could happen.  The Ravens will be without JK Dobbins, and two offensive linemen were hurt in last week’s game and neither practiced on Wednesday this week.  This will be a good game – – to watch.

Giants – 4 at Cards (40):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Obviously, 16 teams had to lose in Week 1 and both teams did just that.  Moreover, both teams looked bad in doing so.  Given the choice of watching tis game or diagramming all the sentences in the Declaration of Independence, I am not sure which option I would take.  Feh!

Niners – 7.5 at Rams (44.5):  This is a division game and both teams won last week impressively.  The Rams’ schedule in the near term is not an easy one so this game is significant to their playoff quest.  Here is the Rams’ schedule through the end of October:

  • Sept 25 – – At Bengals
  • Oct. 1 – – At Colts
  • Oct. 8 – – Vs. Eagles
  • Oct 15 – – Vs. Cards
  • Oct 22 – – Vs. Steelers
  • Oct 29 – – At Cowboys

The Niners have the better overall roster, but I do not like the hook on top of the full TD in the spread – – so I’ll just watch this game and munch on some snacks.

Jets at Cowboys – 9 (38):  The Total Line opened the week at 46.5 points; it dropped quickly to 41 points and then eroded to this level.  Both defenses dominated opponents last week.  The defense that plays better in this game will win this game.

Commanders at Broncos – 3.5 (39):  Points should be at a premium in this game; the Broncos struggled against the Raiders defense last week and the Commanders’ calling card is their defense.  Meanwhile, the Commanders’ offense only put up 20 points and allowed 5 sacks against the Cards.  This will be the late game on Sunday in my viewing area; I would prefer that not to be the case.

(Sun. Nite) Dolphins – 3 at Pats (46): The Dolphins’ defense was manhandled last week – – particularly in the running game.  The Pats can indeed run the football and if they do that, they can minimize the number of times their defense has to deal with Tyreek Hill on a go-route.  I will definitely be watching this game!

(Mon Nite early) Saints – 3 at Panthers (39.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 42.5 points and has been easing on down to this level as the week progressed.  Neither offense drew much attention to itself last week so this division battle should be decided by which defensive unit plays better.  I’m tempted to take the Panthers at home – – but not to the point that I cannot resist the temptation.

(Mon Nite later)  Browns – 2.5 at Steelers (38):  Here is “the other” AFC North division battle for the week.  The Browns were impressive at home last week, dominating the Bengals.  The Steelers were ground into mincemeat at home by the Niners last week.  This is the better of the two Monday night games; stay up to watch this one.

Before I review this week’s “Betting Bundle” and give you a Money Line Parlay, let me observe that this week is exactly why I abandoned the idea from the last couple of years of providing a “Six-Pack” of wagering suggestions.  There are not 6 games that I like as betting opportunities this week and I am glad I do not have to go back and pick three more games just to fill out a quota.

Here is this week’s “Betting Bundle”:

  • Tennessee – 6 over Florida
  • Bills – 8 over Raiders
  • Chiefs/Jags – – OVER 50

And for a Money Line Parlay:

  • Bills @ minus-360
  • Niners @ minus-330
  • Cowboys @ minus-400    $100 to win $108.

Finally, let me close this out with these words from legendary Notre Dame coach, Frank Leahy:

“A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall.”

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



Where Have All The Pot-Stirrers Gone … ?

As a retiree, I have abundant spare time.  One of the ways I spend a little of that time is to be part of an online message board for sports journalists.  There are three general categories of folks there:

  1. People who are actively involved in sports journalism.
  2. People who used to be involved in sports journalism who have “moved on.”
  3. People – like me – who are consumers of sports journalism.

I am not an active participant by any means; I may make one comment every two weeks.  However, I did pose a question there hoping to start a discussion involving people who know more about the business of journalism than I do.  It did not work; the topic never gained much traction.  But I keep thinking about it and so I want to present it here – – not for discussion because that is not the nature of this place, but just in case someone has a cogent insight that has escaped me.  Here is what I posted to try to start a discussion:

  • In the past – – say 10-15 years ago – – there were more than a handful of what I will call “controversial columnists” in various sports sections around the country.  By controversial I mean that they took on topics and said things that most other sports columnists would not.  I am not saying these are the only examples but let me throw out a few names in alphabetical order, so no one thinks I am prioritizing here:

         Randy Galloway (Ft Worth)
         Jay Mariotti (Chicago)
         TJ Simers (LA)
         Jason Whitlock (KC)
    All of them have moved on either to retirement or to some other endeavor that is not “sports focused”.  And if there are “replacements” for them and their pointed style, I guess I have been unable to find it.  There is a difference between the sort of “controversy” that Pat McAfee or Clay Travis might generate, but it is not nearly the same as when the four gentlemen listed above were writing 4 times a week.
    So, has that genre gone out of fashion or are sports editors steering away from it or what?
    Frankly, I miss the work of all four of those guys because it was interesting to be able to have a discussion with a friend that began with, “Did you see what So-and-So had to say about Whatever two days ago.  Man, he took no prisoners…”

One thing that has changed over the past 10-20 years is the availability of journalists on the Internet.  When I began this “enterprise” back in 2001, I could read sportswriters all over the country on a daily basis.  That is how I discovered those 4 gentlemen listed above among other folks whose work I came to admire.  That open availability is much more restrictive today.  For example, one of the responses I got to my posting was to inform me that Patrick Reusse at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune belonged on my list and that he was still “stirring the pot” in his columns.  That may be true, but his work is now behind a paywall where an annual subscription is $129.  That is no bargain for someone like me who would have zero to marginal interest in just about anything else that might appear in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune besides his aperiodic controversial columns.  The fact that he is “stirring the pot” behind a paywall only makes me change my question slightly:

  • There are plenty of “nationally focused” sports entities that employ columnists where no subscription is required., Yahoo!Sports, Sporting are just a few examples.
  • None of them have anyone writing on a regular basis who could rightfully claim a seat at the same table with Galloway, Mariotti, Simers and Whitlock.
  • So – – why not?

Please do not misinterpret or add a negative layer to my question that is not intended to be there at all.  I am not insinuating in any way that good sportswriters are nowhere to be found today; there are lots of very good ones including my two favorites:

  • Sally Jenkins
  • Scott Ostler

However, neither of those two top-shelf sportswriters – – in my universe anyway – – should be categorized as “controversial” or “pot-stirrers”.

Finally, since my question of the day involves a genre of journalism, let me close today with these words from the English journalist, Rebecca West:

“Journalism is the ability to meet the challenge of filling space.”

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



Football Studio Programming

I know the football season is just beginning and any comment about the status of the game or the future of the game is subject to the limitations of “small sample size”.  Nonetheless, I want to make a couple of definitive statements about football coverage on TV at the macro level:

  1. Pre-game shows are too long and too formulaic.
  2. Halftime shows are chaotic.

For college football, a pre-game studio show could easily be done well in 30 minutes; and if you want to stretch a point and have the show deal with the five best games of the day, make the show an hour long.  The cast need not be large; it merely needs to be prepared and it needs to be knowledgeable.  Please note: I did not say there needs to be comedic skill to be part of the program.  Put the program in a studio with an engaging and competent cast and move on from showing a bunch of half-inebriated children screaming and holding up ever-so-clever signs about their team and their opponents’ teams.  The tone of the program should be informative discussion among people who know what they are talking about with a moderator who simply facilitates that sort of exchange.

For the NFL, the same situation is obtained.  The first thing that should happen is that anyone who tries to make a lame joke about any game or team on the docket gets fired on the spot AND if any other cast member gives out a faux belly-laugh at said lame joke, he or she will be fired on the spot and placed in the stocks in the town square for 8 hours.  If for some reason the producers of NFL pre-game shows think that comedy is a sine qua non for their telecasts, they need to hire a professional comedian to provide that element.  Think about it; the producers do not hire comedians to be the “expert panelists” for these programs simply because comedians are not “football people” any more than Joe Flabeetz tailgating in the stadium parking lot is a “football person”.  Well, here is some cold hard truth for those same producers:

  • Former NFL players and/or coaches are not comedians and when they try to be “the funny guy” on the program they embarrass themselves and the program itself.

The chaos of halftime shows is understandable to some degree, but it should be minimized not enhanced.  The cast for the halftime show do not have several days of preparation time to come up with insightful things to say about the game; they must prepare and create commentary on the fly.  In a college telecast, that is a bounded situation because that crew is only focused on that game itself and not the panoply of more than a hundred games around the country.

In the NFL, halftimes come and go at about the same time for as many as 8 games at a time.  No one could make that into an orderly process, but it might be less chaotic with a couple of deep breaths on the part of the producers and the cast.

  • Do they really need to show a highlight from all the other games of the day given that most of those highlights have already been shown during “Game Breaks” in the individual games?
  • Do they really need to have a sideline reporter ask the coach who is losing at halftime one or two inane questions?

Q:  Coach, you are trailing by 10 points at halftime.  What are you going to tell your team to do in the second half?

A: [The ONLY logical answer] We need to score 11 more points than they do in the second half.

            Now, do some math on the timing of halftime at an NFL game.  NFL halftimes are 12 minutes long – – until you get to the Super Bowl when halftime is measured in geologic eras.  Subtract 30 seconds for the inane sideline interview of a coach and another 2 minutes for commercials.  That leaves 9 and a half minutes for the cast to say something cogent about a whole bunch of ongoing games.  If the unnecessary highlights remain in the program, that cuts another 90 seconds out of the “discussion time” leaving the guys with 8 minutes to fill.  So, that leads to a simple question:

  • Do we really need FIVE commentators – – as on CBS this year – – to fill 8 minutes?

Actually, I think having more than two commentators – or three at the most – adds to the chaos.  Please do not mistake chaos for “energy” on the program.  The folks on the set are speaking loudly and quickly because they are competing for scarce audio seconds; they are not doing so because they are fully engaged with their fellow commentators.

Are any of my suggested changes going to happen?  Of course not.  Network producers have either convinced themselves or have been convinced by communications gurus that the current formula is “The One”.  If there are to be any changes at all, my fear is that the change(s) will be in the direction of creating more bombast not less and enhancing the chaos rather than restricting it.

So, I will return to my behavior from last season and minimize the time I spend watching pre-game and halftime nonsense.  I gave it a try early this year; it has not gotten any better.

Finally, let me close today with this advice from Warren Buffet:

“You should invest in a business that even a fool can run, because someday a fool will.”

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



Inevitability …

Well, I was overly optimistic yesterday when I said that Mel Tucker would be fired by Halloween.  I thought that Michigan State would wait until after the hearing set for early October and then wait a decent interval before deciding to ditch Tucker as their head football coach.  Not so, Michigan State cut bait yesterday afternoon and is first in line among major football programs in search of a new coach for 2024 – – unless you consider Northwestern a major football program.

Another high-level position in the sports world opened in the last couple of days.  It was pretty clear that it would eventually need a new incumbent and that eventuality just came to pass.  Luis Rubiales had been the president of the Spanish soccer federation until earlier this week; he is the man who stands accused of sexual assault in Spain for kissing one of the women on the Spanish women’s national team during the celebration of Spain’s victory in the women’s World Cup Tournament in Australia.  Given the level of rancor that escalated from that act and his initial defiance in accepting any blame or responsibility for his action, it was clear he would have to be replaced somewhere along the line.  Now, he is gone.

  • [Aside:  I read a report that a new law in Spain removes the distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault and provides criminal sanctions for any sexual act that is non-consensual.]

In addition to the outrage voiced by the victim in this episode and the levels of outrage that have come in her support, it was clear that Rubiales’ position as the leader of Spanish soccer was going to be a problem.  Overhanging the tension(s) within Spain regarding this matter is another issue:

  • Spain – – along with Portugal, Morocco and possibly Ukraine (?) – – are trying to assemble a multi-party bid to host the FIFA Men’s World Cup Tournament in 2030.  The other major bidding consortium for the Tournament is Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
  • FIFA will make its choice for the venue in September 2024 and FIFA wants not to have to make that decision with the shadow of this sexual assault allegation overhanging everything.

Moving on …  The two job openings described above were inevitable; there were no “ifs” involved, only “whens”.  This next issue was not really inevitable, but it is hardly shocking either. reported yesterday that Pacman Jones was arrested yesterday morning at Cincinnati International Airport for allegedly “causing a disturbance prior to takeoff.”

Evidently, the crew identified Jones as an “unruly passenger” and asked the airport police for assistance in whatever was taking place.  The airport police removed Jones from an aircraft and booked him into the local hoosegow.  Jones was released later in the day and he – naturally – denies that he was a problem or that he ever made any “terroristic threats”.  According to Pacman, what he was trying to do was to change seats on the plane; he contends that the charger did not work at his assigned seat and that he needed his charger to keep his tablet functional because he would need the tablet at the flight destination.

Somehow, a request for a seat change wound up with a call for the gendarmes and a booking (short-term to be sure) at the Crossbars Hilton.  If I told you that story with no names or geography included and gave you ten guesses as to the identity of the central figure in the story, I think more than a few of you would have come up with Pacman’s name as you filtered through the possibilities.  Controversy and Pacman Jones seem to attract each other like magnets.

Switching gears …  They say that in the business of stand-up comedy, timing is everything.  Well, that can sometimes apply to the sports world too.  Back in 2018, the Baltimore Orioles were stinking it up on their way to a final record of 47-115.  It turned out to be Buck Showalter’s eighth and final year as the manager of the O’s.  As you might imagine, attendance at O’s games that year went in the tank; attendance in 2018 was 500,000 fewer fans than had shown up in 2017.

One of the marketing whizzes came up with a promotion for one of the home games.  It was going to be Buck Showalter Snow Globe Night and fans in attendance would get a snow globe with Showalter’s likeness as a tchotchke to take home with them.  [Aside:  It’s probably a collectible item these days!]

All was going swimmingly until Showalter took umbrage at one of the umpire’s decisions in the game.  Not being bashful by nature – – and probably frustrated by the team’s performance for the season – – Showalter was a bit too vigorous in his protestations.  You guessed it; Buck Showalter was thrown out of the game on Buck Showalter Snow Globe Night.  Timing is everything …

Finally, having mentioned that an umpire provided an intervention during Buck Showalter Snow Globe Night, let me close with this definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Umpire:  A person trained to communicate his or her feelings by combining elaborate hand gestures with deep authoritative grunting noises.”

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



Mel Tucker Suspended At Michigan State

If you have not read about the background to the headlines today regarding the suspension of Michigan State head football coach, Mel Tucker, click here for a summary of the alleged slimy situation.

According to this report, an investigation has been underway since December; a report based on that investigation was delivered in July and there will be a “formal hearing” in early October.  Without knowing anything about the content of that investigative report I have to ask why suspend Tucker now as opposed to sometime within 72 hours after the report was delivered?  If there was sufficient content in the report to cause sufficient concern in the administrative sphere of Michigan State University, then why the delay?

Look, the allegations and the scenario described here are bizarre even by sexual harassment standards.  Moreover, from a financial standpoint, Tucker would have to be dumber than burnt toast to have done something like this that could jeopardize his contract with Michigan State.  According to reports, he signed a deal in November 2021 that made him the head football coach at Michigan State for 10 years at a fully guaranteed value of $95M.  “Fully guaranteed” in this context means he gets the money unless he does something that allows the university to “fire him for cause” – – sort of like doing what he is accused of doing in this case.

Since the “formal hearing” is scheduled for early October, I presume that means a decision will be forthcoming from the folks who convene that “formal hearing” and that would indicate to me that this is not a criminal procedure where guilt must be shown “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  If that logic holds, I will be surprised if Mel Tucker comes out of that hearing exonerated.  Remember, Michigan State is the university that harbored Larry Nasser as a serial sex abuser for years and years despite complaints from female athletes.  The two cases/situations have nothing to do with each other – – but the overhang is there, and it is real.

Assuming Tucker’s contract is linear – – he is supposed to get $9.5M per year for 10 years – – he is almost two years into the deal.  That means he still has about $76M guaranteed left on that tab.  My guess is that there will be lots of legal wrangling over a settlement figure that will make the University look virtuous and will make Tucker set for the rest of his life because he will never – – as in not ever – – see a coaching deal anywhere near this dimension again.  I am not saying he will never coach again; too many coaches with sordid events in their lives resurface in the football world; however, none of them wind up with a 10-year contract fully guaranteed at $95M.

The accuser in this case is the survivor of a gang-rape and a sexual harassment activist.  My guess is that she and her legal representatives will be part of the financial negotiations here and that her non-profit entity that seeks to change the culture in ways that will prevent sexual assaults will be a beneficiary of such negotiations.

In my College Football predictions for the upcoming season less than a month ago, I said Mel Tucker was on a hot seat – – having exactly nothing to do with this matter because I knew nothing about it at the time.  The fact that he is only 18-14 in his time at Michigan State going into this year is not going to have lots of big money boosters whispering in the ear of the university honchos to “go easy” on our coach because he wins on Saturday afternoons.  I will be surprised if Mel Tucker is the coach at Michigan State beyond Halloween.

But there is a cautionary tale here for Michigan State.  Mel Tucker was hired in a brief frenzy of searching when the previous coach resigned without a lot of notice.  When Michigan State beat Michigan, euphoria was the order of the day and out came that 10-year and $95M fully guaranteed deal.  Well, the same folks who hired Tucker and the same folks who influenced his hiring by funding that contract are the ones who will pick the next guy.  And we wonder why history has a habit of repeating itself …

Moving on …  More than occasionally, I run across a headline indicating that someone has “done a study” and drawn some conclusions from data derived from that study.  Generally, those headlines elicit one of three reactions:

  1. Wow, that sounds interesting; let me read about what they did and how they did it.
  2. Wow, that sounds like something I really do not care about
  3. Well, duh; I hope that effort did not take long or cost very much.

Option #3 was in play when I read this headline:

“Study: College Students Who Tailgate More Likely to Abuse Alcohol, Use Cannabis”

Here are summaries of the “methodology” and the conclusions of that study conducted at Texas A&M” School of Public health:

“Researchers surveyed 816 students, asking them whether they had participated in pregaming before a live sporting event in the previous year and collected data on their substance use in addition to important demographic information such as gender, race and ethnicity, classification in school, and Greek organization affiliation.”

And …

“Throughout the nation, students come to large campuses in the fall and immerse themselves in their college’s sport culture. Some gameday cultures may lead to a perceived view of alcohol use around campus that normalizes the behavior.  This sends mixed messages to students on campus about alcohol use policies and further complicates a university’s aim to protect the health and well-being of their students.”

It is interesting that the researchers did not seem to collect demographic information about the age of the students doing the drinking/smoking.  Even without any data or study on my part, I would go out on a limb and say that some of those drinkers/smokers are underage in addition to all the other conclusions drawn here.

Finally, since several readers have commented favorably on previous reviews of actresses by John Simon – – aka The Vicar of Vitriol – – let me close with another one today:

“Linda Blair, not a very talented or prepossessing youngster then, is even less interesting now, though considerably more bovine; I doubt whether a post-pubertal acting style can be made out of mere chubbiness.”

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