The Intersection Of SI And AI …

Earlier this week, a story broke indicating that Sports Illustrated – – known commonly as “SI” – – had published articles generated by Artificial Intelligence – – known commonly as “AI” – – and much of the sports journalism world went bonkers.  Inside the magazine itself there was a virtual all-hands meeting generating a lot of venting of spleen.  It turns out that not only were the articles generated by AI, but they were also published under fictitious bylines.  Here is some of what the mavens at SI put out in a statement designed to “clear things up”:

“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate.

“The articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce. A number of AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain [of our] websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised.

“AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans. According to AdVon, their writers, editors, and researchers create and curate content and follow a policy that involves using both counter-plagiarism and counter-AI software on all content. However, we have learned that AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy – actions we strongly condemn – and we are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership.”

Sports Illustrated used to be the paragon of sports publications.  It was birthed in the 1950s by the same folks who provided the country with Time and Life magazines.  SI did reporting; SI did investigations; SI dealt with serious issues; SI did “spoof pieces”.  It was the best – – the emphasis here is on the word “was”.  Magazines have been a medium in decline for a couple of decades now, but SI began its decline well before many other publications.  I don’t know why, but over a short period of time in the 1980s, SI went from being in the “must-read-it-every-week” category to being in the “ho-hum” category.  Maybe the emergence of ESPN on cable networks rendered some of the content in SI as “old news”; I must leave those sorts of analyses to historians and journalists.

I mention this because stories like the one that hit the streets earlier this week cannot be beneficial to a magazine that is clearly on the backburner of focus for sports fans.  Someone asked me about a year ago which sportswriters were on my “Mount Rushmore”.  Two of the four were regulars in Sports Illustrated back in its heyday.  Now, if/when I read something in SI – – or on – – I have to wonder where it came from and who “wrote” it.  That was never the case back in the day; the fact that it is now forever the case renders Si to a category of publications closer to Weekly World News than to the Washington Post.

So, we learned this week that SI and AI have some sort of intersection.  What’s next?  Is there a scandal to be brought to the fore where we learn that some of the models in the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue have used AE – – Artificial Enhancement?  Perish the thought…

Switching gears …  It is commonplace to observe that the NFL is a “copycat league”.  Indeed, when a player, coach or a team innovates successfully, others rush to emulate that innovation and thereby spread it around to other teams.  Well, the NFL had its first in-season firing of a head coach at the start of November and its second in-season firing of a head coach at the end of November.  So, the question in my mind separates into two parts:

  1. Is this a trend that other teams are going to copy?
  2. If so, which teams might consider firing which coaches?

Let me assume for a moment that we have not seen the last of the NFL’s in-season firings for the 2023 season.  There are plenty of coaches in jobs now who must look in the mirror in the morning and wonder about their long-term job security.  I want to think here about those whose job-security might be in the very short term and not in the long term.  To avoid any idea that I am prioritizing here, let me put the coaches in alphabetical order:

  • Dennis Allen:  His teams over the last two seasons have underachieved but they have the same record as their division leader this morning – – so he will not be fired before the end of the season.
  • Bill Belichick:  There are lots of stories about how he might be moving on from the Pats, but I cannot see Robert Kraft firing him before the end of the season.
  • Matt Eberflus:  There are bigger questions related to the Bears than whether Eberflus should be fired prior to the first week in January.  Presumably the Bears’ braintrust is occupied with other issues.
  • Ron Rivera:  He is not likely to be fired in-season; he certainly ought to be relieved of his GM duties about 30 minutes after the end of the regular season; and by then, the new owners of the Commanders should have decided on whether to keep him as the head-coach,
  • Robert Saleh:  He should not be fired at all; the Jets’ problems are roster construction and not coaching.  But Woody Johnson has been known to make snap decisions so you cannot rule this one out.
  • Arthur Smith:  His team is an uninteresting 5-6 so far in 2023 – – but it is in first place in the NFC South.  He will not be an in-season firing.
  • Brandon Staley:  I said in early September he was a coach on a hot seat; he has a decent roster, and the team has underachieved.  If any owner decides to go “copycat”, I think Staley is vulnerable.

I do not think any of the coaches above need to be replaced before the end of this season even though I do believe some of them will be out of work come the off-season.  But to lay all my cards on the table, I never saw the firing of Frank Reich after only 11 games in Carolina as even a remote possibility.  So, there …

Finally, some words about coaching and coaching contracts from former Clemson head football coach, Frank Howard:

“I had a lifetime contract, but the administration declared me dead.”

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



Quick Hits Today …

I have a hodgepodge of things to rant upon today so let me begin with a note from a friend who loves to come up with arcane stats and sports happenings.  He sent along an email with two such items that I think are interesting enough to pass along.  Notice I said they were “interesting”; I assign little if any “importance” to them:

  • If Tony Gwynn had extended his career and gone 0 for his next 1199 at bats, he would still have retired with a .300 career batting average.
  • In 2023, NFL teams are 40-129 when trailing at halftime.  The Eagles are 5-0 while the rest of the league is 35-129.

Next … The numbers are in and the NFL TV ratings for Thanksgiving Day set a record for that Holiday.  The average TV audience across all three games was 34.1 million viewers.  The previous record was set on Thanksgiving Day in 2022 at 33.6 million viewers so the audience was up by 1.5%.  As usual, the second game of the day – – the one involving the Dallas Cowboys – – drew the largest audience; this year it averaged 41.8 million viewers even though the outcome was not in doubt for a large portion of the game.

Keep the magnitude of these numbers in mind the next time you read about how football is dying because of the scourge of CTE that affects its players.  Pay particular attention to reports about TV audiences on Christmas Day this year.  The NBA will present 5 games on Christmas Day starting at noon ET; the league has scheduled 5 quality games for the day.  The NFL will also be on TV on Christmas Day starting at 1:00 PM ET; the league will present two divisional games and a night game with two strong teams on the field.  My guess is that the NFL audience will be triple the size of the NBA audience.

Tangentially …  Speaking obliquely about the NBA, raise your hand if you already knew that the inaugural in-season tournament has concluded its group round and has entered the knockout round.  If you are a Washington Post subscriber, you would not have followed the group phase easily since the group standings were not included in the paper’s “Scoreboard” entry where standings and stats are aggregated.  So, how many of you know:

  • How many teams graduate from the group phase to the knockout round?
  • Can you name half of them?
  • Were those names a guess based on who you think are the “good teams” as opposed to the “bad teams?
  • When/where will the final game for the in-season tournament be played?

Answers below.

Moving along …  A report yesterday said that the University of Delaware was going to pay a $5M “Application Fee” to be able to move up from Division 1-AA football to Division 1-A football in 2025.  Delaware would join C-USA and play football with the big guys.  I have three reactions here:

  1. I had no idea a school needed to pay an “Application Fee” to jump from one level to another, so now my question is why do they need to do that and to whom does Delaware make out the check?
  2. Other teams in C-USA include New Mexico St., UTEP, Sam Houston and Florida International.  That seems like a lot of traveling for the Blue Hens and no immediately obvious “natural rivalries”.
  3. Delaware had been in the Division 1-AA playoffs 4 times in the last 6 years including 2023; they play a second-round game this weekend against Montana.  However, Delaware’s one meeting with a Division 1-A school this year was a 63-7 loss to Penn State.  There is roster building to be done in Newark, DE…

Switching gears …  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Evidently, so does baseball.  With the move of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas all but accomplished – – they still have a stadium to build there – – baseball is already slated to fill the void for Oakland baseball fans.  The city will get a minor league team in the Frontier League which will be called the Oakland Ballers and will be abbreviated as the Oakland B’s.  Two things here:

  1. Calling the team the Oakland B’s is sort of clever given that the departing team was known as the A’s.  However, if/when the B’s stink out the joint, it will be easy to call them “The Plan B’s” with references to abortion and other unsavory imagery.
  2.  Speaking of stinking out the joint, that is what the A’s have basically been doing to Oakland baseball fans for most of the last decade.  So, maybe the change in the level of play will not be so hard for fans to accept when the B’s take the field.

In announcing the creation of the Oakland Ballers, the team – naturally – issued a statement defining the team and its commitment to Oakland.  In part, that statement said:

“Unlike the A’s, the B’s vow to never leave town.  The Oakland B’s will be for Oakland, by Oakland, and forever in Oakland. The Oakland B’s believe that sports teams should serve their communities—not the other way around.”

The phrase “forever in Oakland” sounds great but could come back to haunt the team founders.  Forever is about as far into the future as the Twelfth of Never – – and Johnny Mathis reminded us that the Twelfth of Never is a “long, long time”.

As indicated, here are the answers to the questions about the NBA in-season tournament:

  • Eight teams come out of the group phase and play in the knockout round.
  • They are the Suns/Lakers, Pelicans/Kings, Knicks/Bucks and Celtics/Pacers.
  • The final game of the tournament will be played in Las Vegas on December 9th.
  • So, now you know…

Finally, just because I want to do so, I’ll close today with an observation by Bill Watterson – – the creator of Calvin and Hobbes:

“Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists somewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.”

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



Coaching Musical Chairs …

The news yesterday of the firing of Frank Reich made me realize that we are in the midst of the football coaching equivalent of musical chairs.  Jobs are open; coaches are available; when the music stops some will have head coaching jobs and some will not.  I want to talk about two coaching situations today.

Frank Reich lasted all of 11 games with the Panthers before the impatience of owner David Tepper came to the fore.  Tepper hired Reich during the last round of coaching musical chairs with the idea that the Panthers would draft a young QB, and that Reich would be that QB’s tutor/mentor and would develop the youngster into a franchise QB.  Then the Panthers traded away a boatload of picks and their best WR to secure the overall #1 pick in the draft assuring that they would get “the guy they wanted”.  Nothing wrong with that plan – – save for the fact that it got off to the rockiest start imaginable with the Panthers losing 10 of their first 11 games this year.

David Tepper bought the Panthers in 2018 when the team’s founder, Jerry Richardson, was encouraged to sell the team.  Tepper’s background is as a hedge fund manager and an entrepreneur; I have never met David Tepper, but I get the vibe from him and his actions that he believes his experience managing market funds and businesses imbues him with the expertise needed to run a winning football program/team.  [Aside:  Danny Boy Snyder had a similar self-perception.]  So far, that belief has not borne fruit:

  • Since Tepper bought the team in 2018, the Panthers cumulative record is 30-63.
  • The team has not had a winning season since then.
  • Tepper fired Ron Rivera in 2020 and Matt Rhule in 2022 before firing Reich yesterday.

The choice of the person to take the job as interim-head coach is interesting.  Chris Tabor was the special teams’ coordinator for the Panthers this year and he will step up and become the interim-head coach.  Tabor is 52 years old and has one year of head coaching experience back in 2001 at Culver-Stockton College – – a Division III football program.  Knowing nothing about Chris Tabor, I am in no position to have an opinion on his qualifications as an interim-head coach in the NFL – – but I will note that David Tepper passed over someone on the Panthers’ payroll who has had NFL head coaching experience in the person of Jim Caldwell.  Play-calling duties will fall to the team’s offensive coordinator and Caldwell will be the offensive coordinator’s “special assistant”.

I am nowhere near ready to declare that rookie QB, Bryce Young, is a bust because he has a sub-par offensive line in front of him and no outstanding players at the so-called skill positions.  The problem is that the Panthers gave up 4 high draft picks to get the overall #1 pick that became Bryce Young so they are not likely to be in a position to build around Young via the draft.  The next coach for the Panthers will inherit a bag of problems.

However, the next coach also stands to be able to command a lucrative contract.  Matt Rhule got a 7-year deal reportedly worth $63M; Reich reportedly has $9M per year coming to him for the next three years.  And as I contemplated the situation in Carolina, I was struck with the parallel that can be drawn to the situation at Texas A&M at the collegiate level.

Recall that Jimbo Fisher was relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Aggies a few weeks ago and his total buyout was $75M – – not as a lump sum but paid out through 2031.  The Aggies have hired Fisher’s permanent replacement – – Mike Elko who was the head coach at Duke for the past couple of years but who was the Aggies’ defensive coordinator under Fisher before Fisher fell out of favor in College Station.  It seems to me that Elko and the next Panthers’ head coach can relate to each other:

  • Both will have demanding superiors with exalted expectations.  Tepper wants to win a Super Bowl; the Aggies Board of Regents wants to win a national championship.
  • Both will answer to superiors who want results quickly; there will be little tolerance for annual incremental improvement.
  • Both men will have to upgrade their rosters significantly in order to get on a path that will lead to the exalted expectations of their superiors.
  • Both men will be well-compensated for their efforts.

What fans of the Panthers and the Aggies should keep in mind to avoid the trauma of dashed exuberance is that the folks making the hiring decisions right now are the same folks who made the previous hiring decisions that did not work out so well.  There is euphoria in Aggie-land about now; fans are thrilled; alums are thrilled; the Athletic Department is thrilled.  And everything will stay in that joyful zone until the Aggies’ team has to climb over the entirety of the SEC which will jettison its division structure starting in 2024.  Just for the opportunity to compete in the CFP, the Aggies will need to surpass inter alia:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • LSU
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

The Panthers would seem to have an easier path to the NFL playoffs – – if they can strike gold with lower round draft picks and if they can convince a top-shelf free agent or two to come to Charlotte and play for the Panthers.  However, neither situation involves a superhighway straight shot toward the lofty objectives.

Finally, since today has been about football coaches, let me close with this observation from Vince Lombardi:

“The only place that ‘success’ comes before ‘work’ is in the dictionary.”

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



The EPL Imposes An Interesting Penalty

I am going to plunge into the deep end of the pool this morning where the water is well over my head, so do not apply fine-grained analysis to some of the points here.  The English Premier League has financial rules; here in the US, several sports also have “financial rules”, and we often call them “salary caps”.  According to reports, Everton FC has run afoul of one of the financial rules and will incur punishment.

As I understand it, the financial rule that Everton violated is:

  • EPL clubs are allowed to lose money but when they do lose money it has to be limited.  Clubs can only lose a total of £105M in any 3-year period.
  • Everton FC supposedly lost £124.5M between 2019 and 2022.

This rule is in place to assure “financial sustainability” for the clubs and presumably to limit the ability of super-rich owners from dominating the league because the super-rich owners might not care about losses in that range.  Somehow, the folks who run the show at Everton missed the mark here.

Interestingly, the punishment that has been handed down is one that would never happen in the US.  Everton FC will be docked 10 points in the standings this year and that might mean relegation out of the Premier League.  [Aside:  Recall that Everton has been in the EPL since the league was created in the mid-90s and the last time Everton was not in the top league of English football was in 1951.]

That penalty made me stop and think about it on three levels:

  1. A club has lost “too much money” over the past 3 seasons to meet financial sustainability criteria; and so, the punishment inflicted would potentially decrease revenues to the club if it resulted in relegation.  The difference in revenue streams for teams in the EPL versus the Championship – – one league down from the EPL – – can amount to millions of pounds per year; so, it would seem to me that the EPL does not care about the “financial sustainability” of clubs in other tiers of English football.
  2. The punishment seems to me to be disproportionately aimed at people who had nothing to do with the violation.  The loss of points in the standings that might lead to relegation is a punishment inflicted on fans and to some extent on the city of Liverpool where Everton resides.  The fans could see their heroes kicked down a level; the fans had nothing to do with the violations; the players are only secondary causes for the “excessive losses” based on their contracts with the club.  Nevertheless, fans take a hit for something they had nothing to do with.
  3. The city of Liverpool could easily suffer agita as well if Everton is relegated.  People go to Liverpool to see Everton play EPL games; when they do that, those people spend money in Liverpool generating tax revenues for the city and providing jobs for people in Liverpool who then pay taxes on their incomes.  The “town council” – – or whatever it is called in Liverpool – – was not a party to the actions that created these “excessive losses”, but the town council will pay a penalty anyway.

It seems to me that the individual most responsible for the rules violation is the owner of the club – – a man named Farhad Moshiri. The problem facing the EPL in this situation – – and probably in any similar situation that could obtain in the future – – is that punishing the owner is extremely difficult.

  • This man owns and runs a business that has lost £124.5M ($156M) over a three-year period.  So, how much might the EPL have to fine him as punishment for his violation of their rules for it to be meaningful?

The EPL has inflicted teams with points deductions in the past, but this 10-point deduction would be the largest one ever.  As it stands now, Everton was 5 points clear of relegation prior to the penalty but now is tied with Burnley at the bottom of the EPL Table.  There is still plenty of time for Everton to climb out of this hole; there are still 25 games left for Everton to play in the 2023-2024 season, but the fact that Everton may not suffer relegation has not dampened fan reaction.  And fan reaction to this is spreading because there are other alleged “financial irregularities” under investigation for at least two other EPL clubs – – Chelsea and Manchester City.

Some folks in the UK are calling for some sort of government oversight mechanism to regulate and enforce EPL rules.  I really do not have any way to assess how that might work in a European society, but I would shudder to think of a Federally created overseer of sports here in the US.  Here the overseers would create a bunch of rules and then try to justify them and enforce them when – – in fact – – many of the rules are there only to have rules in place to monitor.  [Aside:  Is that beginning to sound like the NCAA minus the Federal imprimatur to “go forth and do good”.]  Then, the overseers would have to present themselves to the Congress – – the body that birthed them – – periodically giving various Congressthings the opportunity to posture and preen.  Maybe government oversight/regulation can work in the UK; I don’t know.  But that would not be the case here in the US.

Finally, since today was about English football – – soccer – – let me close with this simplification of the game attributed to a Welsh footballer, Phil Woosnam:

“The rules of soccer are very simple.  Basically, it is this: if it moves, kick it; if it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.”

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



Musings On Black Friday

I live in the nearby suburbs of Washington DC.  Obviously, the sports media in this area are focused on coverage of the Washington Commanders; that is their job.  What I have never come to understand is the inability of the fanboys in this area to see glaring weaknesses on the team even if those weaknesses are fully on display week after week after month.  Those folks universally think that the team is one player or one new coach away from a Super Bowl dynasty.  Let me assure anyone reading this and any Commanders’ fanboy who can purge the adrenaline in his/her system for a moment:

  • Such is not nearly the case!

Twelve days ago, the Commanders lost embarrassingly to the Giants 31-19.  Yesterday, the Commanders were given the football equivalent of an atomic wedgie on national TV losing to the Cowboys 45-10.  The cries for head coach Ron Rivera’s and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s heads on plates awee loud and persistent last night – – and that is not a huge surprise.  A report earlier this morning said that Del Rio has been “relieved of his duties” as the defensive coordinator and the immediate reaction among the fanboys is that the team is poised to “make a run”.  Just to be clear:

  • Such is not going to happen!

The shortcoming facing the Commanders as a team is an overall talent deficiency.  Said deficiency does not go away when you change a coach or a coordinator.  Yes, it might energize a few players for a game or two, but just as you cannot make a high school student smarter with an “IQ-points injection”, you cannot give adult football players more talent than they have gotten through genetics and practice.

The fundamental problem staring the Commanders in the face is the Commanders’ roster.  Once one recognizes that as the fundamental problem, it should become clear that if there is to be a firing, it should be Ron Rivera as the team’s GM and not necessarily Ron Rivera as the head coach.  I believe the team needs new talent-evaluators – – probably from the most junior person in the scouting department all the way through Ron Rivera as the GM and master of the drafting process.  Consider:

  • Rivera got both jobs with the franchise in January 2020.  He has overseen four NFL Drafts for the franchise.
  • In those 4 drafts, Rivera & Co. have selected 33 players.  Here is how those 33 draftees worked out:

28 players are still with the Commanders either on the roster or the practice squad.

4 players are still in the NFL on other teams.

1 player is no longer in the NFL.

            Rivera & Co. have drafted 40% of the players on the team and what everyone has seen this season – – and most glaringly in the last two weeks – – is that these players are simply not as good as the players on the opposing squads.  The flaw is in the player selection/retention process.

Back at the trading deadline, the Commanders chose to trade both of their starting defensive ends in order to amass “draft capital”.  So, riddle me this:

  • What good is “draft capital” wielded by the same folks that produced the draft results above?
  • Memo to Josh Harris and investment partners:  Let really smart “football people” advise you regarding the retention or firing of “Ron Rivera as your head coach” but consider the issue of “Ron Rivera as your GM” a done deal.
  • You – – need – – a – – new – – GM.

Moving on …  Later today, the NFL will present its first-ever game on Black Friday.  The game will be the Dolphins at the Jets and it will be available on Amazon Prime Video as a free streaming telecast meaning that fans need not subscribe permanently to Prime Video to see the game.  If this initial foray into “Black Friday Football” is deemed to be a success by Amazon and by the NFL, one should expect that “Black Friday Football” would become a recurring thing.

The basis for this new presentation is – – of course – – money.  Amazon paid the NFL $1B for the rights to stream Thursday Night Football but Amazon would stand to lose one Thursday out of the season because of the traditional Thanksgiving Day telecasts which were negotiated and parceled out to other broadcasters.  So, how to make it up to Amazon?

  • Create one each “Black Friday Football” game and sell it to Amazon so that Amazon can link the game to potential new subscribers for Prime Video plus to all the expected online shoppers for the day.

Problem solved.

NFL games on Fridays are rare events but they have been around for a while.  I remember that the old AFL – – prior to the merger with the NFL – – used to have a “Friday game” occasionally.  In recent times, “Friday NFL Football” would only happen to accommodate the calendar around Christmas or New Year’s.  I strongly suspect that we are about to witness the birth of a new “tradition” in the US – – Black Friday Football.

Finally, I will close today with this comment from former NFL defensive tackle, Alex Karras:

“I never graduated from Iowa, but I was only there for two terms – Truman’s and Eisenhower’s.”

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



Football Friday – – On Thursday 11/23/23

A Happy Thanksgiving to one and all …

Let me begin today with a description of Thanksgiving Day by Johnny Carson:

“Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too much.”

And now down to business …

In a deviation from the norm, Football Friday will take place on Thursday this week.  The reason I am doing that is because I have the time to get the stuff together and put this on the street before today’s football and food orgy and tomorrow’s semi-comatose condition.  So, I shall begin with the usual review of last week’s “Betting Bundle”.

  • College  =  2-0-0  =>  Season  =  16-8-0
  • NFL  =  2-1-0  =>  Season  = 14-11-0
  • No Parlays Last Week  =>  Season  = 7-9  =>  Profit = $153


College Football Commentary:


Syracuse fired Dino Babers as head football coach.  He had one great year winning 10 games but overall has a losing record (41-55) and a losing record in conference games.  Long ago, Syracuse produced players like Jim Brown, Larry Czonka and Ernie Davis.  Over the last 30 years or so, Syracuse is just not a “football school”.  I doubt that is going to change with a new coach there.

Last week, New Mexico State got paid to come to Auburn for an ass-kicking in front of alums there; one report said the payment was $1.8M.  Well NM State was a rude houseguest; the Aggies dominated the game and won 31-10.  Auburn was a 25-point favorite in the game; the Money Line posted for New Mexico St. closed at +1450.  I said the Aggies dominated; here is what I mean:

  • NM St Total Offense = 414 yards
  • Auburn Total Offense = 209 yards

The Aggies will play Liberty for the C-USA championship next week.

Rumors swirled last week that Chip Kelly was on a hot seat that was approaching solar levels of heat.  Well, last week, the Bruins beat archrival USC 38-20 which may have given pause to those rumors.  We shall see…   That makes 5 losses in the last 6 games for USC and the idea that USC QB, Caleb Williams was the one and only possibility for the Heisman Trophy has gathered a lot of dust.  Question:

  • If Kelly was on a hot seat shouldn’t Lincoln Riley be on one now?

The AAC has an interesting situation.  Three teams have conference records of 7-0 – – Texas -San Antonio, Tulane and SMU.  UTSA plays Tulane on Friday; SMU plays Navy on Saturday.  Assuming an SMU victory – – the Mustangs are an 18-point favorite – -, the conference championship will be SMU versus the winner of the UTSA/Tulane game.

The CFP will expand from 4 teams to 12 teams next year.  I am afraid that there could be some very lopsided results from the first-round games in such an expanded tournament, but the revenue that will be generated from the extra 8 games will assure the survival of such an expansion. This year’s four-team field is currently overcrowded with 6 undefeated teams (remember, Liberty has not lost a game yet) trying to squeeze into a four-team field.  One of those unbeaten teams will go down this week in the Ohio St./Michigan game probably clearing the way for the Selection Committee to gather itself before making its final decision on the 2023 participants.

But allow me a flight of fancy for a moment here.  Suppose the football gods sent down a lightening bolt to the earthly football mavens directing them to do a 12-team tournament this year and not to wait until 2024.  What might a 12-team field look like?   Here are nine teams I think would be consensus picks:

  1. Alabama
  2. Florida St.
  3. Georgia
  4. Michigan
  5. Missouri
  6. Ohio St.
  7. Oregon
  8. Texas
  9. Washington

If the football gods demand a team from outside the Power-5 conferences, the Selection Committee can take its pick between:

  • AAC champion (could be SMU, Tulane or UTSA) – – or – –
  • Liberty – – or – –
  • UNLV

And now reality sets in.  One of the things that proponents of an expanded field have said was that more slots would avoid arguments about which team got left out of the short field.  Well, if my field this year now has 10 teams in it, I have to pick two more from a list that has more than two teams on it with a claim to one of the remaining slots.  Pick two from here:

  • K-State
  • Louisville
  • LSU
  • Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma St.
  • Oregon St.
  • Penn St.

In a 12-team field, I would expect the Top 8 teams to be rather obvious and sometimes the Top 10.  But the representative from outside the Power-5 and the final team or two in the field will always be controversial.  And no, expanding to 16 teams will not solve the problem; all that will do is push the controversy down the line a bit.

Let me do a review of the important games from last week differently here:

James Madison lost its first game of the year last week in OT to App State.  JMU cannot play for the conference championship for the same dumb reason it cannot be in a bowl game for 2 years after jumping up from Division 1-AA.  However, it can still get a bowl game IF and only IF there are not enough 6-win teams in the country to fill the 82 bowl slots out there.

Louisville beat Miami 38-31and that result guarantees that the ACC Championship Game will be Louisville versus Florida State.

Florida State remained unbeaten last week beating a cupcake in North Alabama by 45 points – – but the Seminoles saw their starting QB, Jordan Travis, carted off the field with a leg injury.  Travis’ season is over; his collegiate career may also be over if he declares for the NFL Draft next spring.

Texas beat Iowa State 26-16 taking one step more toward clinching a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game.  If Texas wins the Big-12 championship, that gives the Big-12 a shot at being in the CFP as a Power-5 conference champion with only one loss.  No other Big-12 team could do that.

Northwestern became bowl eligible by beating Purdue 23-15.  Given all the turmoil surrounding that program, that is quite an accomplishment.

Iowa beat Illinois and guaranteed the Hawkeyes will be in the Big-10 Championship Game as the West Division representative.  Only once this season has Iowa allowed an opponent to score more than 16 points in a game.  In their last 7 games, the Hawkeyes have yielded a total of only 68 points.

Navy pitched a shutout last week.  That is the third shutout of the season for the Navy defense.  Iowa has ridden its stout defense to the Big-10 West Championship; Navy – – on the other hand – – now has a record of 5-5 and will not be part of the AAC championship picture (see above).     The Army/Navy game could be even more interesting than usual in two weeks.  Army is currently 5-6; Navy is 5-5 and should lose this weekend.  Therefore, when Army and Navy meet:

  • It could mean a bowl eligibility for the winner – – PLUS – –
  • The Commander in Chief Trophy for Army if it wins the game.

UNLV beat Air Force 31-27 to take possession of the MWC lead.  The Rebels play at home this week against San Jose St who sit one game behind UNLV in the Mountain West standings.

Shedeur Sanders was sacked four times in Colorado’s first 10 plays and was eventually forced out of the game against Washington State.  Things then came apart quickly and Washington State dominated by a score of 56-14.  Colorado is now 4-7 on the season; all 7 losses are conference losses.  If the Buffaloes are going to be “rejuvenated” next year under Coach Prime, they are going to have to bring in some quality talent on both the offensive line and the defensive line.  Colorado’s team speed at the skill positions is impressive – – but games are won and lost in the trenches and Colorado is deficient there.

Arizona beat Utah in a rout and kept alive the possibility of facing Washington in the PAC-12 Championship Game.  Arizona built a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter and put it on cruise control for the rest of the day.

Washington guaranteed itself a place in the PAC-12 Championship game by beating Oregon St.  Next week is the Apple Bowl game for the Huskies against Washington St.  The PAC-12 Championship Game will be Washington versus either Oregon or Arizona.

Here are the teams on my watchlist for the SHOE Tournament as of this morning:

  1. Akron  2-9
  2. Arizona St.  3-8
  3. Baylor  3-8
  4. East Carolina  2-9
  5. Indiana  3-8
  6. Kent St.  1-10
  7. La-Monroe  2-9
  8. Nevada  2-9
  9. Stanford  3-8
  10. UConn  2-9
  11. UMass  3-8  [Aside:  UMass and UConn play this week.  Oh joy!]
  12. Vandy  2-9

One last item of business here is to present the contenders for the 2023 Brothel Defense Award:

  • UMass gives up 38.5 points per game.
  • USF gives up 36.8 points per game.
  • North Texas gives up 36.6 points per game.


Games of Interest This Week:


Four quick points before listing the games:

  1. I totally missed an important game last week – – Washington/Oregon St.  It was a boneheaded error on my part; I shall seek not to repeat such behavior.
  2. There are loads of rivalry games this week.
  3. These are early week lines which will probably change – – sometimes significantly – – before game time.
  4. There are too many longstanding and heated rivalry games this week to pick one of them as the College Game of the Week – – so I won’t try to do that.

(Fri afternoon) Iowa at Nebraska – 2.5 (26):  I know what you are thinking; that must be a typo for the Total Line; surely it must be higher than 26 points.  Nope.  The Total Line opened at 27.5 points and has been bet down to this level.  Nebraska ranks 121st in the country in scoring offense; there is no way against the Iowa defense that I could take the Huskers and give points away; but I can take Iowa plus points and so I will; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Fri afternoon) TCU at Oklahoma – 10 (63):  The Sooners still have a shot at the Big-12 Championship Game.

(Fri afternoon) Missouri – 7.5 at Arkansas (55):  Missouri has its eye on a New Year’s Day Bowl invitation, and it is the better team.  Even on the road, I like the Tigers to win and cover here; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Fri afternoon) Air Force at Boise St. – 6.5 (46):  Air Force started the year 8-0, but they have lost their last 3 games in a row.

(Fri Nite) Oregon St. at Oregon – 14 (62):  Huge rivalry game known as “The Civil War”.

(Fri Nite) UTSA at Tulane – 3 (52):  The winner will play for the AAC Championship.

Ohio St. at Michigan – 3.5 (45):  Huge rivalry game here …  The winner plays for the Big-10 Championship and should be invited to the CFP.

Georgia – 24 at Georgia Tech (60):  This will be the 115th meeting between the schools.  Georgia leads the series 70-39 with 5 tie games.  The Bulldogs are clearly the better team, but Tech has upset better teams twice this year.  That line just looks ripe for a meaningless late TD to produce a backdoor cover.

Kentucky at Louisville – 7 (50):  The Governor’s Cup is awarded to the winner of this game.  Kentucky has won the last four meetings.

UMass at UConn – 2.5 (50.5):  The loser of this game is definitely in the SHOE Tournament.  The winner might be there too…

Florida St. – 6.5 at Florida (49.5):  Huge rivalry game here …  Both teams will play minus their starting QB.  Florida becomes bowl eligible with a win here.

Va Tech – 2.5 at Virginia (51):  Huge rivalry game here …  Neither team is particularly good this year, but the game will be played with vigor.

Clemson – 7 at South Carolina (51.5):  Huge rivalry game here…  The Gamecocks have won three in a row and are 5-1 at home this year.

UNC – 2.5 at NC State (55):  Both teams bring records of 8-3 to the kickoff.  State has won four games in a row.

Vandy at Tennessee – 27 (56):  This is a rivalry game even though the two teams are rarely of similar caliber.  The first game in the series was in 1892; Tennessee leads the series 77-33 with 5 tie games.

Arizona – `10.5 at Arizona St. (49.5):  Since October 1st, Arizona is 5-1 and has scored more than 30 points in a game 4 times.  Arizona St. has a 3-8 record this year and was demolished by Oregon last week.

San Jose St. at UNLV – 2.5 (59.5):  The winner plays for the Mountain West championship.

Notre Dame – 25 at Stanford (51.5):  Stanford won this rivalry game last year in South Bend, but Notre Dame leads in the series 21-14.

Washington St. at Washington – 16 (66.5):  Huge rivalry game here …  They call it “The Apple Bowl”.  Since the Huskies are guaranteed to be in the PAC-12 Championship Game, there may be an element of “looking ahead” here.  Washington St. can salvage its season with an upset here…

Alabama – 14.5 at Auburn (48):  Huge rivalry game here…  They call this “The Iron Bowl”.  Alabama leads this series 49-37 with 1 tie game.  Was Auburn “looking ahead” to this game when it lost badly to New Mexico St. last week?  Maybe so – – but it won’t really matter; Alabama is the better team.


NFL Commentary:


The Pittsburgh Steelers did something unusual this week.  They fired one of their coaches in the middle of the season.  The fan outcry added onto the lack of offensive production for the team over the past couple of seasons convinced Mike Tomlin to jettison offensive coordinator, Matt Canada.  He had been the OC in Pittsburgh for more than 2 seasons and the Steelers’ offense had never produced a 400-yard game in that time.  This year, the Steelers were under 300 yards seven times in ten games.

One of the bloggers who focuses on the Steelers has floated Ben Roethlisberger’s name as a potential replacement next season.  As for the rest of the season, Tomlin chose to name one of his assistants as the new offensive coordinator and another of his assistants as the play-caller.  Interesting …

Having seen a lot of the Steelers so far this year, let me offer – – free of charge of course – – two pieces of advice to the new offensive coordinator and the new play-caller:

  1. The featured running back should be Jaylen Warren and not Najee Harris.
  2. Teams are “stacking the box” against the Steelers; the offense must attack downfield just to get the linebackers and safeties to back off a bit.

The Colts released Shaq Leonard after their BYE Week.  Leonard was the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2018 and is hardly a retread even if he is not in the conversation for any significant defensive award in 2023.  Yes, he had a back injury that required surgery, but unless that surgery has been a failure, he still has abilities that NFL teams can use.  I suspect that something is going on behind the scenes here – – especially if no one picks him up quickly.

The Jets announced a change at QB for next week. This is their second change of the season; the first one was involuntary when Aaron Rodgers was injured in Game 1.  Now Zach Wilson will go to the bench after a disappointing season for the Jets.  Wilson was pulled from the game against the Bills last week and replaced there by Tim Boyle whose performance in relief was hardly inspiring.  Here was Boyle’s stat line:

  • 7 of 14 for 33 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT.

Nonetheless, coach Robert Saleh is making the change possibly because the Jets under Wilson have only scored 9 offensive TDs in 10 games.  If you are not familiar with the career exploits of Tim Boyle, here is a thumbnail sketch:

  • Boyle is 29 years old; he played college football at UConn and E. Kentucky.
  • Boyle was an undrafted free agent originally signed by the Packers in 2018.
  • Boyle has appeared in 18 games and started 3 times (for the Lions) since 2019.
  • For his career he has thrown 3 TDs and 9 INTs.
  • He has averaged 5.1 yards per pass attempt and 8.2 yards per completion.

I am going to practice mind-reading here – – something I have admitted many times I am incapable of doing.  Nevertheless, when I see Zach Wilson sitting on the bench after throwing an INT or failing to convert a third-down try, I see someone who is not passionate about the game.  What I see is a guy sitting by himself on the bench staring off into the crowd; what I don’t see is a guy huddled with his coach going over images on the laptop computers on the sidelines that led to whatever failure put Wilson on the bench.  He makes me conclude that he really does not give much of a damn about the game in front of him.   Remember, this is mind-reading on my part, and I cannot read minds.  But that is the vibe I get…

The Bengals have lost Joe Burrow to wrist surgery for the rest of the year.  The Bengals are 5-5 and are in last place in the AFC North.  I think the Bengals are toast without Burrow because in addition to losing a star QB, the Bengals’ schedule is daunting indeed:

  • Vs. Steelers – – current record is 6-4
  • At Jags – – current record is 7-3
  • Vs. Colts – – current record is 5-5
  • Vs. Vikes – – current record is 6-5
  • At Steelers – – current record is 6-5
  • At Chiefs – – current record is 7-3
  • Vs. Browns – – current record is 7-3.

The Bengals will not face a team that has a losing record as of this morning.  As a matter of fact, their opponents’ combined record as of today is 44 – 28 or a winning percentage of .611.

Just an update on Sam Howell and his sack rate.  The Giants got him 4 times last week, so he has now been sacked 50 times in 11 games.  That projects to 77 sacks for the season which keeps him on track to set a new NFL record.

So, here are comments on last week’s games:

Eagles 21  Chiefs 17:  The Chiefs dominated the stat sheet in many ways:

  • Chiefs’ offense = 336 yards   Eagles’ offense = 238 yards
  • Chiefs’ third down conversions = 8 of 17    Eagles’ conversions = 3 of 11
  • Chiefs ran 74 plays   Eagles ran 54 plays

Add to those disparities the fact that the Chiefs held AJ Brown to 1 catch for 8 yards in the game and it is amazing that the Eagles kept the game close let alone came out with a win.  The Chiefs were shut out in the second half; here are their possessions in the second half:

  • 4 plays – – 22 yards – – 2:36 time of possession – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – 3 yards – – 2:01 time of possession – – PUNT
  • 12 plays – – 65 yards – – 5:50 time of possession – – FUMBLE
  • 6 plays – – 24 yards – – 2:02 time of possession – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – – minus-2 yards – – 0:52 time of possession – – PUNT
  • 9 plays – – 25 yards – – 1:21 time of possession – – TURNOVER ON DOWNS

Texans 21  Cards 16:  The Cards’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half, but the Cards’ offense only managed 6 points in the second half, so the Texans held on for the win.  As of this morning, the Texans’ 6-4 record would have them in the AFC Playoffs as the seventh seed.  Remember, this team won only 3 games last year.  CJ Stroud has been incredible all season but had problems in the red zone last week. The Texans were only 1 of 4 in the red zone, and two of those failed drives were interceptions thrown by Stroud. He threw three interceptions in the game, and all came inside the Arizona 30-yard line.

Lions 31  Bears 26:  The Bears led this game 26-14 with only 4:15 left in the game.  Not to worry, the Lions scored a TD in a little over a minute cutting the lead to 26-21.  The Bears went three-and-out taking only 26 seconds off the clock leaving the Lions time to drive 73 yards in 11 plays to get a winning TD with less than 30 seconds left.  The Bears held the ball for more than 40 minutes in the game and still lost.  Giving a game like that away at the end is something the Lions have been famous for over the years …

Packers 23  Chargers 20:  The Chargers have five losses by three or fewer points this season.  Jordan Love out-played Justin Herbert here.

  • 27 of 40 for 322 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs (Love)
  • 21 of 36 for 260 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs (Herbert)

Dolphins 20  Raiders 13:  The Dolphins do not use “defense” as their calling card, but in this game the Miami defense held the Raiders scoreless in the second half.  The Dolphins’ offense outgained the Raiders by 124 yards in the game; Tyreek Hill caught 10 passes for 146 yards and 1 TD.  Nonetheless, the Raiders hung with the Dolphins until Jalen Ramsey intercepted a pass in the end zone to seal the deal for the Dolphins.  Josh Jacobs had begun to look and play like the defending NFL rushing champ in the previous couple of weeks; not so here; he carried the ball 14 times for only 39 yards.

Cowboys 33  Panthers 10:  This is a typical Cowboys’ performance against a bad team; the Cowboys punish those sorts of teams.  The Cowboys’ defense held the Panthers and Bryce Young to 77 net yards passing for the game.  The Panthers turned the ball over twice and they also gifted the Cowboys 5 first downs on penalties for the day.  This outcome was never in doubt.   The Panthers had minus-3 yards in the fourth quarter on 10 plays.

Giants 31  Commanders 19:  I said last week that the Commanders have a propensity to play down to the level of bad teams.  Well, the Giants were – – and still are – – a bad team; so’ how did the Commanders manage to lose this game?  Let me count the ways:

  1. Giants came to the game averaging 11.8 points per game; the Commanders allowed 31 points.
  2. Giants came to the game giving up 26.6 points per game on average; the Commanders scored only 17 points.
  3. Giants allowed 9 sacks in the game and still won the game.
  4. Giants defense gave up 403 yards and still won the game.
  5. Commanders ran 77 plays; Giants ran 54 plays; Giants still won the game.
  6. Commanders committed 6 turnovers in the game.
  7. Commanders had almost 36 minutes time of possession – – and lost.
  8. Commanders averaged 6.2 yards per rush attempt – – and lost.

Oh, did I mention that the Giants played their third string QB – – Tommy DeVito – – who had looked overwhelmed in his previous game appearances but who threw 3 TD passes in this game and zero INTs?  This game by the Commanders is the leader in the clubhouse for The NFL Bedwetting of the Year!

Browns 13  Steelers 10:  Totally a defense dominated game on both sides.  The teams combined to go 7 for 31 on third-down conversions.  There were 17 punts in the game.  The Browns only averaged 3.7 yards per pass which is awful until you notice that the Steelers only averaged 2.5 yards per pass attempt.  As noted above, the Steelers fired OC Matt Canada after this game was over.

Jags 34  Titans 14:  The Jags led 27-0 when the Titans finally got on the scoreboard with 5 seconds left to play in the third quarter.  Trevor Lawrence threw 2 TD passes and ran for 2 more TDs in the game.  The Titans are toast.

Niners 27  Bucs 14:  During the Niners’ 3-game losing streak, Brock Purdy played poorly.  Not so here against a good Bucs’ defense:

  • 21 of 25 for 333 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.

Brandon Aiyuk had a spectacular game catching 5 passes for 156 yards and 1 TD.  This win puts the Niners back in control in the NFC West.

Bills 32  Jets 6:  This game was not as close as the score looks; it was a game where the Bills could do just about anything they wanted to do.

  • Bills’ offense = 393 yards
  • Jets’ offense = 155 yards

This is the first game the Bills have played with their new offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, who got the job when the Bills fired Ken Dorsey about a week ago.

Broncos 21  Vikes 20:  Last year the Vikes were 11-0 in one-score games; this year they have already lost 5 one-score games.   The football gods giveth and the football gods taketh away.  The fact that the Vikes turned the ball over 3 times in the game did not help their cause even a little bit.  The Broncos’ problems in the red zone continued to be on display here; they got to the red zone 5 times and scored only 1 TD.  Nevertheless, the Broncos have now won 4 in a row with is the longest winning streak in the league as of this morning.


Games This Week:


There are no teams on a BYE Week; from Thursday through Monday, there will be a full slate of 16 NFL games.

Be sure to notice the Total Lines for games this week.  There are four games this week where the Total Line is less than 36.5 points and none of the games is above 48.5 points.

(Thurs early PM) Packers at Lions – 7.5 (46.5):  The Lions have a strong running attack and the Packers’ run defense is not very good.  I like the Lions to win the game, but I do not trust them enough to lay a full TD plus the half-point hook.  A Packers’ loss here would put them 5 games behind the Lions in the NFC North race with only 6 games left to play which translates to “out of it”.

(Thurs late PM) Commanders at Cowboys – 12.5 (48):  The spread opened with the Cowboys only a 9.5-point favorite, but the line has been climbing quickly early in the week.  One Internet sportsbook has the line at 13.5 points indicating to me that there is not a lot of “Commanders money” coming in.  This game will go one of two ways:

  1. The Commanders are not good and the Cowboys feast on bad teams and punish them.  The Cowboys have been routing teams at home this year; they are 4-0 at Jerry-world and have won all 4 of those games by 20 points or more.  Outcome #1 would be a Cowboys’ victory by about 30 points.
  2. The Commanders play better against good teams than bad teams and the Cowboys are a good team.  The Commanders’ coaches and players have been savaged for a week about the loss to the Giants last week and could come out of the locker room “on a mission”.  Outcome #2 would be a game decided by a field goal by either team as time expires.

You make the call …

(Thurs Nite) Niners – 6.5 at Seahawks (43.5):  This spread opened at 3.5 points.  Geno Smith took a shot to his throwing arm in last week’s game against the Rams; that jump in the spread makes me think the result of that blow is more than a bruise.  If Smith is ineffective or cannot go at all, the Seahawks will trot out Drew Lock for this game.  Good luck with that.  I like the Niners here on the road to win and cover; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Fri afternoon) Dolphins – 9 at Jets (41):  The spread opened at 6 points and jumped as soon as Tim Boyle was named as the Jets’ starting QB.  One sportsbook already has the line at 10.5 points meaning that number is much more likely to go up than down.  There is no way I would make a real wager on a team like Jets in the condition they are in, but before you pile on the Dolphins remember that the Jets’ defense is very good, and they were embarrassed last week by the Bills.  Moreover, the Dolphins are much better at home than they are on the road.  This is a game to avoid at the betting window.

Jags – 1 at Texans (47.5):  The Texans beat the Jags in Jax earlier this year; a season sweep would assure the Texans of any tiebreaker that might come into play regarding the playoffs.  Moreover, a Texans’ win here would put them in first place thanks to that tiebreaker in the AFC South Division.  In terms of trends, Trevor Lawrence is only 1-4 against the Texans in his career.

Bucs at Colts – 2.5 (43.5):  The Colts had a BYE Week last week and this is a second straight road game for the Bucs.  Both teams need this game to keep pace in their Division races.

Pats – 3 at Giants (34):  This game was my runner-up as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The teams arrive at the kickoff with a combined record of 5-16.  Neither team scores points; the Pats average 14.1 points per game; the Giants – – despite their outburst last week against the Commanders – – average 13.5 points per game.  No wonder the Total Line is 34 points,

Panthers at Titans – 3.5 (36.5):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Panthers are awful; the Titans are not quite as bad.  Here is how bad the Titans’ OL is this year:

  • Derrick Henry is only averaging 66.3 yards per game rushing.
  • Last year was considered a ‘down-year” for Henry when he averaged 96.1 yards per game.

Give thanks if you are in a part of the country where this game will not be shown in your viewing area.

Steelers – 1 at Bengals (34.5):  The Bengals were 3-point favorites until the news that Joe Burrow is done for the year hit the streets.  At the moment, you can find this line anywhere from “pick ‘em” to Steelers minus-2.5.  The Bengals will play a question mark at QB; the Steelers will have question marks at offensive coordinator and at play-caller (see above).  You think I am going to make a pick in a game like that?

Saints at Falcons “pick ‘em” (42): Hard to believe, but this game actually is an important one because the Saints lead the NFC South with a 5-5 record and the Falcons are only 1 game back.  That being said, I am really not that interested in seeing these two teams go at it…

Rams at Cards – 1 (44.5):  The spread started out at Rams minus-2 points but shifted to this number early in the week.  Kyler Murray has played well in his two starts after injury rehab and the Rams’ defense is not what it was a couple of years ago.  I am tempted to take the Cards but will resist …

Browns at Broncos – 1.5 (35):  The spread opened with the Browns as 2-point favorites, but money flows have changed the favorite.  Dorian Thompson-Robinson played very well last week in his first start; this will be his first road start and Denver is not an easy place for a rookie QB to play.  Buti think the Browns’ defense will be the deciding factor here and it will be motivated because as of now the Browns would be in the playoffs – – and that is something they want to have continue to be the case.  I expect a low scoring game but rather than take the game to stay UNDER, I will take the Browns plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Bills at Eagles – 3 (48.5):  This is clearly the Game of the Week.  The Bills are only 1-3 on the road this year and the Eagles are 4-0 at home.  Clearly, that favors the Eagles in this game.  By the same token, the Eagles could be in for a significant letdown after beating the Chiefs last week and then looking ahead to games against the Niners and Cowboys in the next two weeks.  This is a must-win for the Bills because a loss here would be their 6th loss of the season already with the next two games on the schedule being the Chiefs and Cowboys.

Chiefs – 9 at Raiders (42):  The Chiefs need to figure out how to get their offense back on track; the Raiders have played better since their coaching change.

(Sun Nite) Ravens – 3.5 at Chargers (48):  I know the Chargers keep games close (see above), but I think they are overmatched here against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ defense.  I like the Ravens to win comfortably here; I’ll take them and lay the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

(Mon Nite) Bears at Vikes – 3 (43):  The Vikes need this game to keep their playoff march in stride.  The Bears are basically playing out the string to see what sort of draft pick they will get come April.  The Vikes are clearly the better team top-to-bottom – – but I am not quite fully on-board the Josh Dobbs bandwagon…

Let me review the “Betting Bundle”:

  • Missouri – 7.5 over Arkansas
  • Iowa +2.5 against Nebraska
  • Niners – 6.5 over Seahawks
  • Browns +1.5 against Broncos
  • Ravens – 3.5 over Chargers.

            And for fun, here is a Money Line Parlay:

  • Lions @ moinus-300
  • Niners @ minus-310
  • Dolphins @ minus-420   $100 wager to win $118.

Finally, some words from Erk Russell – – former head football coach at Georgia Southern:

“At Georgia Southern, we don’t cheat.  That costs money, and we don’t have any.”

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



Baseball, Baseball And More Baseball …

We are getting into late November; so, naturally, this is the time to talk about baseball.  Let me start with the vote by MLB owners to approve the move of the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas and to accept all the inconveniences associated with that move.  Lots have been made about the finances in this matter; the A’s want – – and actually need – – a new stadium; the Oakland Coliseum under whatever name is on the façade these days is beyond repair.  The owners want significant public funding for that stadium either in terms of direct payments for the construction costs or in terms of tax abatements and other financial considerations over a period of time.  The city of Oakland could not meet those conditions.

Back in the mid-90s, Oakland and Alameda County ponied up to bring the Raiders back to Oakland from Los Angeles.  The investment in that case was not a new stadium from the ground up; it only involved adding about 20,000 seats to the existing Coliseum, but it was sufficient in magnitude to cause the government entities there some fiscal agita for a while.  Perhaps that experience made those government officials “gun shy”; maybe you could say that having been fleeced once, they were smart enough not to fall for the same con twice.  Whatever…  The fact is that Oakland and Alameda County have chosen to live within their means even if that meant losing pro sports franchises.

  • The Raiders left Oakland for Las Vegas in 2020.  The Raiders got a sweetheart deal and a new stadium there; some estimates were that the folks in Nevada paid $750M to “acquire” the Raiders.
  • The Golden State Warriors used to play in Oakland; they moved across the Bay to San Francisco in 2019.  Once again, financial considerations played the major role in the Warriors’ decision to leave Oakland.
  • Now, the A’s are leaving town to take up residence in Las Vegas and according to reports, the good folks in Nevada will be contributing about $250M to aid in the “moving costs”.

Oakland cannot afford that kind of money; it is a city that has more than a handful of issues that need its financial attention and building a playpen for a billionaire sports franchise owner is not high on its list of priorities.  So, on one hand, feel sorry for sports fans in Oakland who have “lost their teams”.  At the same time, appreciate the way the folks in government there have refused to give into financial demands from sports owners and leagues.

Now comes the period of uncertainty for the A’s and for MLB:

  • The A’s have a lease to play in Oakland through 2025.  Attendance at A’s games has been embarrassingly low for years now; it will only get worse in the next two seasons.
  • The new stadium in Las Vegas will not be ready until the start of the 2028 season – – if everything adheres to schedule between now and then.
  • So, where will the A’s play their games in the interim?

There are lots of unappealing options here.  MLB and the owners of the A’s need to pick the least unappealing one from the lot:

  1. Extend the existing lease for the Oakland Coliseum for 3 more years.  Do not count on getting any beneficence from the city fathers in Oakland during those negotiations nor should the A’s expect tons of fans in the stands.
  2. Have the A’s and the San Francisco Giants share the Giant’s stadium.  This poses scheduling headaches, and it would inconvenience the Giants who may not want this to happen.
  3. Play in the existing minor league stadium in Las Vegas.  More scheduling headaches and how does that minor league team accommodate the change.  Moreover, do other clubs want to play in minor league facilities?
  4. Split seasons having two venues share the A’s home schedule?
  5. Something else…?

The approval of the move by the MLB owners – – the vote was unanimous by the way – – marks the first baseball franchise move since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nats in 2005.  Leagues and teams do not like to move franchises and only do so when brand new facilities become available at little to no cost to the owners or the leagues.  While that did not happen in Oakland, it seems as if that is going to happen in Milwaukee.

The Brewers want renovations/upgrades to their home field (American Family Field).  Various plans and pipe dreams had been floated but it seems that the most reasonable plans would cost about $500M for upgrades plus infrastructure improvements plus maintenance of the facility.  Like Oakland, the city of Milwaukee cannot afford that price tag.  However, in the Brewers’ case, the State of Wisconsin had become involved, and the legislature has approved spending some State revenues on this project.

There was always the threat of the Brewers packing up and leaving Milwaukee, but the threats were never nearly as serious as the ones in Oakland became.  Nevertheless, when the State funding approval was announced, the Governor of Wisconsin made it a point to note how important the Brewers’ presence in Milwaukee is to the economy of the region and the state.  I have no idea if his statements are real or if they are affected by rose-colored glasses; what I am sure of is that the owners of the Milwaukee Brewers are happy recipients of this largesse and that the executives in MLB HQs are happy to see this matter settled quickly and quietly.

One last baseball note today …  Clayton Kershaw will undergo surgery on his left shoulder and in Kershaw’s announcement of that surgery he said specifically that he hopes to be back on the mound “at some point next summer”.  Kershaw will be 36 years old next March; he has been with the Dodgers for the last 16 seasons; he has thrown over 2700 innings in his career.  That is a lot of wear and tear on an arm/shoulder even if there had never been any sort of injury involved.  However, Kershaw has spent time on the Injured List in each of the last 4 seasons, so the announcement of surgery to the shoulder ought to make teams and fans a bit anxious about his possible return to the game at a reasonable level of competence.

Clayton Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and an MVP winner as well.  He will be in the Hall of Fame one of these days.  Nonetheless, this announcement of shoulder surgery makes me consider the possibility that his career may be over.

 Bonne chance, Clayton Kershaw.

Finally, since today was only about baseball, let me close with an observation from Yogi Berra:

“If the people don’t want to come out to the park, nobody’s gonna stop ‘em.”

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



A Tempest In A Teapot

The tempest in a teapot from late last week seems to be quieting down for now.  Charissa Thompson dared to reveal that at times in her days as a sideline reporter, she sometimes made up quotes from coaches who did not or would not talk to her going into or out of halftime.  The reactions to such revelations were predictably over the top.

Journalists immediately recoiled in horror at the word “fabrication”. What most real sports journalists failed to take into consideration is the simple fact that sideline reporters are no more “journalists” than they are “unicyclists”.  Sideline reporters are entertainers; the only “news they break” involves on-field injuries.  None of their on-air interviews before/during/after the games amounts to a dram of doggy dooty.

  • Interview just before opening kickoff = “Coach, what do you need to do today to come away with a win?”  Response should = “Score more points than they do.”
  • Interview as teams leave the field for halftime = “Coach, you gave up 225 yards rushing in the first half, what do you need to do to rectify that?”  Response should = “We have to tackle the guy with the ball sooner.”
  • Interview as teams come back from halftime = “Coach, what was your message to your team in the locker room?””  Response should = “Well, I can’t really say that on the air, but I told them they need to play a lot better?”
  • Interview after the game = “Coach, so how does it feel to come out of here with a win?”  Response should = “Lots better than if we had lost, but a win is a win, and we’ll have to put this behind us and get ready for next week starting tomorrow morning.”

How’s that for hard-hitting reporting …?

  • [Aside:  I will exclude from the above condemnation of sideline reporting the work done by the folks who were on the field reporting during the Damar Hamlin event last year.  Those folks provided real information and real reporting.  If you cannot tell the difference between what those reporters did and what is generally the content of sideline reporting “on any given Sunday”, I will never have the time and space to explain it to you.]

Other sideline reporters took great umbrage at such a revelation saying over and over again that they had never done anything of the sort, nor would they ever do so even to save the life of their firstborn.  This is purely a personal reaction to such weeping and wailing but methinks those other reporters do protest too much.  I have maintained for years that networks could save money by eliminating the position of “sideline reporter” and not lose a single audience participant.  I have been watching NFL football on television for about 70 years now and I can say with certainty that I have never tuned into or out of a telecast based on who the sideline reporter was or was not.

In this era of hyper-political correctness in speech, it is not de rigueur to suggest that more than a few sideline reporters are there as much for their eye-candy value as for anything else.  For those who take offense here just let me say that a guilty conscience needs no accusations…

And speaking of political incorrectness, a high school football coach in Georgia has been terminated from his coaching job for reasons that do not relate to his won/lost record and there are no allegations that he had any sort of illicit relationship with any of his players.  What he did was simply out of phase with societal norms in the US in 2023.

  • After a practice one day, the coach held a Christian baptism session for some of the players on the team.

Not surprisingly, that event drew protest from outside the school district and the powers that be there decided to fire the coach – – and at the same time covering a flank by declaring that the firing had to do with matters other than the baptism event.

Let me be clear; what this coach did was not some sort of heinous behavior that endangered his community.  What he did was so unbelievably tone deaf regarding the way people react to such things in the US in 2023.  It is hard to imagine that the coach intended any harm to anyone participating in the ceremony, but it is equally difficult to imagine that he did not anticipate the reaction that followed from the ceremony.

Moving on …  Congratulations to the Montreal Alouettes as the CFL Gray Cup Champion for 2023; they beat the Winipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 last weekend.  Montreal was a big underdog in the game with the line closing at Winnipeg – 9 points.  The Bombers led 24-21 late in the 4th quarter but the Alouettes scored a TD on a final drive with less than two minutes left in the game to secure the win.  This is the first Gray Cup victory for Montreal since 2010; this is the fourth season in a row where the Blue Bombers have been the Western division representative in the Gray Cup Game.

Finally, apropos of nothing, I will close with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Materialism:  A belief that gaining more and more possessions will eventually provide one with happiness.  Of all personal belief systems, this one is the most fun to try and prove wrong.”

But don t get me wrong, I love sports………



Football Friday 11/17/23

I saw a meme on the Internet that said:

  • “Friday is my second favorite ‘F-word’.  Food is the first.”

Here in Curmudgeon Central, it would be a three-way dead heat between “
Friday, Food, and Football.  Nirvana would be sitting down on a Friday morning with a slice of cold pizza within reach as I hit the keyboard to turn out another Football Friday.

As is customary, let me begin with a review of last week’s “Betting Bundle”:

  • College  =  0-2-0  =>  Season  =  14-8-0
  • NFL  = 1-1-0   =>   Season  =  12-10-0
  • Parlays  =  0-1  =>  Loss  =  $100   =>   Season  =  7-9   Profit  = $153


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats lost last week to Whitworth University 28-24 to finish the season with a record of 8-1.  The loss was a conference game and that makes Whitworth the Northwest Conference Champion for 2023.  That is only the second time in 13 years that Linfield has not been Northwest Conference champion.  Congrats to the Whitworth Pirates on their championship season and congrats to the Linfield Wildcats for their 67th consecutive winning season in football.

If you go looking for a College Football Coach of the Year, please be sure to look at the job done by David Braun in 2023.  If you are asking yourself, “Who is David Braun?”, do not be embarrassed.  Last year he was at North Dakota State and over the winter he took a new job as a defensive coordinator at a Power-5 school.  That school was Northwestern, and he was named interim-head coach at Northwestern about an hour before the season started when the school fired Pat Fitzgerald over hazing incidents there.  One of the Important attributes Braun brought to that selection process for an interim coach was that he was not part of the Northwestern football program when the hazing happened.

Well, if you check the Big-10 West standings this morning, you will see that Northwestern’s record is 5-5 which is probably about three games better than anyone would have predicted back in August.  Moreover, three of those wins are over Big-10 opponents.  Northwestern has two games left on the schedule and can make it to a bowl game by winning either one.  Their opponents:

  • Purdue – – record today is 3-7
  • Illinois – – record today is 5-5

Folks at Northwestern have taken note of all this; and earlier this week, they named David Braun as the permanent head coach there.  That seems like a good move to me.

The fans at Northwestern should feel unmitigated joy at the results of their 2023 football season.  For the fans at Texas A&M, there are probably mixed feelings.

  • Yet again, the team with the loftiest of expectations is a distant also-ran in their division in their conference.  Bummer!
  • However, the coach has been fired and everyone expects the Aggies to go and get a top-shelf coach to replace him.  Hope springs eternal!

I said before that the job at Texas A&M is one to take because the pay will be outstanding, but the odds are that the new coach will never live up to expectations there which are now and will continue to be occasional national championships and perennial contenders for national championships.  I think those aspirations are ridiculous, but they exist.  Having no emotional attachment to Texas A&M, let me offer a couple of data points to explain why I think those aspirations are ridiculous:

  • The last – – and only – – time Texas A&M won a national championship in football was in 1939.  Ted Williams was a rookie outfielder for the Boston Red Sox in 1939.
  • In 2011, Texas A&M left the Big-12 Conference where they were dominated by Texas and Oklahoma and moved to the SEC West where they have been dominated by Alabama and LSU.

Almost immediately after Jimbo Fisher’s firing had been announced and as the shock over the size of his buyout abated, names were floated as to his replacement.  What I find interesting is that as soon as some names were mentioned, the individuals dismissed the rumor saying they were not interested.

Money talks when it comes to football coaches and the Aggies’ boosters have Texas oil money in their pockets.  So, until the athletic department there begins to money-whip coaching candidates [Hat tip to Dan Jenkins for “money-whip”] we do not know if any of the current job-deniers might change their mind.  A of this morning however:

  • Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions) – – not interested.
  • Dan Lanning (Oregon) – – not interested.
  • Deion Sanders (Colorado) – – not interested.

Related to the coaching search about to happen at Texas A&M, I ran across a tidbit that made me shake my head.  An alum at Texas A&M has volunteered to be part of the process to identify the new coach and to add whatever he can to make sure the right guy gets the job.  Sounds like an offer the Athletic Director should jump at, no?  Well, that former Aggie is none other than Johnny Manziel.

  • So, if you were the AD at Texas A&M, do you return Manziel’s phone call?

It is time to review games from last weekend; I’ll start with the ACC:

Louisville 31  Virginia 24:  Louisville is 9-1 for the season and UVA is 2-8.  You might have expected a far larger of margin of victory here.

Clemson 42  Ga Tech 21:  I said last week that this was not the place for Ga Tech to go looking for that one more win it needs to become bowl eligible…

Florida State 27  Miami 20:  The Seminoles remain unbeaten at 10-0 and are squarely in the CFP picture.    The Hurricanes kept pace in the game producing a very even stat sheet – – but Florida State takes home the win.

UNC 47  Duke 45 (2OT):  UNC outgained Duke by 157 yards in the game; normally, that does not translate into “double overtime”.  The Tar Heels are a game behind Louisville for second place in the ACC.  The ACC Championship Game will match the first and second place teams.

In SEC action …

Alabama 49  Kentucky 21:  Kentucky scored first; then the score was 28-7 at the half.  Alabama outgained Kentucky by almost 200 yards.  The game was as lopsided as the score would indicate…

South Carolina 47  Vandy 6:  This game was “close” at the half; the Gamecocks only led 13-0.  Then came the deluge ….

Missouri 36  Tennessee 7:  Tennessee was dominated here.  The Vols’ only TD came on a 46-yard pass completion.  But in terms of other possessions, Tennessee had 8 possessions of less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock.

Auburn 38  Arkansas 10:  Two weeks ago, Arkansas beat Florida in Gainesville – – so where was that Arkansas team last week?

Georgia 52  Ole Miss 17:  The Bulldogs seem to have cured their offensive ills from earlier this year; the Dawgs have scored 30 or more points in their last 5 games.  Georgia amassed 611 yards in this game against a team that had only lost once this year.  Georgia only had to punt once in the game and scored TDs on their first 4 possessions.  This was an old-fashioned ass-kicking.

LSU 52  Florida 35:  Florida is 5-5 for the season and needs a win in the next two games to be bowl eligible.  That could be a tall task:

  • This week – – at Missouri whose current record is 8-2
  • Next week – – home against Florida St. whose current record is 10-0.

LSU is now 7-3 with the losses coming against Florida St., Alabama and Ole Miss.  LSU QB Jayden Daniels did something no one has ever done in college football.  He passed for 372 yards AND he ran for 234 yards in one game.

Texas A&M 51  Mississippi St. 10:  Both coaches were fired after this game.  I don’t recall that happening before.  The job coaching the Aggies is a great way to “get paid”.  The job coaching the Bulldogs is the modern equivalent of Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill.

Moving along to the Big-10 …

Michigan 24  Penn St. 15:  Penn State posted a late TD to make the score seem more respectable than it was.  Michigan dominated play leaving no doubt they are the better team.

Iowa 22 Rutgers 0:  This was an offensive explosion for Iowa scoring 22 points and producing 402 yards of offense in a single game.  Nevertheless, it was the Iowa defense that stood out holding Rutgers to 127 yards of total offense for the game.  Rutgers tried to run the ball 23 times in the game and gained a total of 34 yards on those attempts.  Iowa now leads the Big-10 West by two full games.

Northwestern 24  Wisconsin 10:  Both teams are 5-5 this season; both teams are 3-4 in conference games this season. I doubt that many – if any – folks at either school saw that coming.

Ohio St. 38  Michigan St. 3:  All you need to know about this game is right here:

  • Ohio St. Total Offense = 530 yards
  • Michigan St. Total Offense = 182 yards

Last week in the Big-12 …

K-State 59  Baylor 25:  In addition to dominating the game offensively, K-State scored touchdowns on a Scoop-and-Score plus a Pick-Six.

Texas Tech 16  Kansas 13:  The Jayhawks rallied to tie the game at 13 apiece with 26 seconds left in the game.  The Red Raiders took the kickoff and in 4 plays they had gained 63 yards which was enough for them to kick a 30-yard field goal to win the game.

UCF 45  Oklahoma St. 3:  I took the Cowboys to win and cover in this game in last week’s “Betting Bundle”.  I did worry about a letdown for Oklahoma St. after a big win over Oklahoma two weeks ago – – but this was way more than a letdown:

  • UCF Total Offense = 592 yards
  • Oklahoma St. total Offense – 277 yards

And …

  • UCF yards per pass attempt = 13.9 yards per attempt
  • Oklahoma St. yards per pass attempt = 5.4 yards per attempt

Oklahoma St. is tied with Iowa State and Oklahoma for second place in the Big-12 today; all three teams are a game behind Texas. Iowa State plays Texas this week.  An Iowa St. upset would give 4 teams 2 conference losses each and take everyone deep into Tiebreaker Territory to sort out which two teams would play for the conference championship.

Oklahoma 59  W. Virginia 20:  This game was never in doubt …

Texas 29  TCU 26:  Texas led 26-6 at the start of the 4th quarter and held on for an important win that keeps them atop the Big-12 standings this morning.

Some PAC-12 games …

Washington 35  Utah 28:  Washington continues undefeated in 2023.  Utah led 28-24 at halftime but never found a score in the second half.  Here are the Utah possessions in the second half:

  • 3 plays – – 3 yards – – PUNT
  • 3 plays – minus-3 yards – – PUNT
  • 7 plays – – 56 yards – – INT
  • 1 play – – minuis-1 yard – – SAFETY
  • 3 plays – – 3 yards – – PUNT
  • 4 plays – – 0 yards – – INT

Cal 42  Washington St. 39:  Washington St outgained Cal by 156 yards in the game.  Normally, that wins a game.  Here the Cougars turned the ball over 4 times and Cal only turned it over twice.

Oregon St. 62  Stanford 17:  The Beavers generated 598 yards of offense in the game.  Stanford turned the ball over 4 times in the game.  Hence the result …

Oregon 36  USC 27:  Bo Nix outplayed Caleb Williams on this day:

  • 23 of 31 for 412 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INT (Nix)
  • 19 of 34 for 291 yards with 1 TD and 0 INT (Williams)

Arizona 34  Colorado 31:  The Buffaloes led 31-24 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Colorado had a shot to tie the game but missed a 42-yard field goal with 2 minutes left on the clock.

In miscellaneous games last week …

La-Monroe 34  La-Lafeyette 31:  This is the third win of the year for ULM probably taking them out of consideration for the SHOE Tournament.

  SMU 45  North Texas 21:    SMU is 8-2 over the season.  The two losses were to Oklahoma and TCU.  Ignoring SMU’s demolition of a Division 1-AA opponent, here is the Mustangs performance against the rest of their schedule:

  • SMU  316
  • Opponents  102

In my neighborhood, that was called “domination”.

Tulane 24  Tulsa 22:  Tulane is now 9-1.  In their last 3 games they have beaten Rice by 2 points, E. Carolina by 3 points and Tulsa by 2 points.  And they are likely to get a New Year’s Day Bowl bid…  For the record, none of those last three victims are any good…

Hawaii 27  Air Force 13:  That is a second loss for the Falcons and their first loss in conference making the Mountain West race interesting.

UNLV 34  Wyoming 14:  Here is why the Mountain West race is interesting:  As of this morning:

  • Air Force and UNLV have conference records of 5-1
  • Fresno St., Boise St. and San Jose St. have conference records of 4-2
  • This week, UNLV plays Air Force in Colorado Springs and air force finishes the season at Boise St.
  • UNLV will play San Jose St after this week’s game against Air force.
  • Fresno St. will be favored in its last two games (New Mexico and San Diego St.

You get the idea…

So, which teams are on the watchlist for the SHOE Tournament as of today?

  1. Akron – – 2-8
  2. Ball St. – – 3-7
  3. East Carolina – – 2-8
  4. Kent St. – – 1-9
  5. Nevada – – 2-8
  6. Pitt – – 2-8
  7. Southern Mississippi – – 3-7
  8. Stanford – – 3-7
  9. UConn – – 1-9
  10. UMass – – 3-7
  11. Vandy – – 2-9
  12. Virginia – – 2-8

Here is a quick update on the teams contending for the 2023 Brothel Defense Award:

  • UAB gives up 37.4 points per game.
  • UMass gives up 37.4 points per game.
  • North Texas gives up 37.5 points per game.

This race to the bottom could go down to the wire…


Games Of Interest This Week:


Appalachian St. at James Madison – 9 (55.5):  Just so you remember, James Madison is undefeated in 2023 with a record of 10-0.

Michigan St. at Indiana – 3.5 (47):  These two teams have conference records of 1-6; every other team in the Big-10 has won at least 2 conference games.

Georgia – 10 at Tennessee (59):  The Dawgs are locked in as the SEC East representative for the SEC Conference Championship Game.  Could that take some of the edge off the team here?

Louisville – 1 at Miami (46):  Louisville is 9-1 for the season and 6-1 in conference games.  Miami is 6-4 for the season and 2-4 in conference games.  The oddsmakers seem not to have paid much attention to those records.

Florida at Missouri – 11 (56.5):  In its last 4 games, Florida has given up 170 points.  Missouri averages 32.8 points per game.  I think this game turns into a shoot-out, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle.”

Kentucky – 1 at South Carolina (54):  The Gamecocks have won two in a row and are 4-1 at home this year…

NC State at Va Tech – 3 (43.5):  State is 3-1 on the road this year; Tech is 4-1 at home this year.

UNC at Clemson – 7 (59):  The Tar Heels cannot afford another conference loss; Clemson is out of the picture for the ACC Championship Game.  Interestingly, this is only the third road game for UNC om 2023; they have split the first two road games.

East Carolina at Navy – 3 (32):  E. Carolina averages 18.1 points per game; Navy averages 19.7 points per game – – in case you are wondering why the Total Line is so low.

Purdue – 3 at Northwestern (47):  Northwestern needs this win to earn a bowl bid and they are 4-1 at home this year.  Do not mistake Purdue for a good team; their record in 2023 is 3-7.  For the most part in 2023, Purdue has been more like Purr-don’t.

Kent St. at Ball St. – 13 (41):  Both teams on the SHOE Tournament watchlist this week…

Illinois at Iowa – 3 (31): Iowa averages 18.8 points per game and gives up an average of 12.3 points per game.  Illinois averages 23.8 points per game and gives up an average of 29.3 points per game.  Given those stats, I am surprised the spread is as low as it is.

K-State – 7 at Kansas (56.5):  K-State is 1-3 on the road this year; Kansas is 5-1 at home this year.

UMass at Liberty – 27.5 (63):  Just so you remember, Liberty is undefeated in 2023 with a record of 10-0.  UMass is in the running for the Brothel Defense Award this year; should be an ugly result…

Oregon – 24 at Arizona St. (54.5):  Oregon needs to keep winning if it is to face off against Washington (again) for the PAC-12 Championship.

UCLA at USC – 7 (65.5):  Rumors say that Chip Kelly may be on his way out at UCLA.  An upset here would quiet those rumors.

Cal – 7 at Stanford (55): They call this “The Game”.  Neither team is particularly good this year but the intensity in this game will be high.

SMU – 8 at Memphis (65):  Memphis gives up 28.9 points per game; SMU scores 40.9 points per game.  By the way, Memphis can score too; they average 39.7 points per game.  That Total Line looks low to me; I’ll take the game to go OVER; put it in the “Betting Bundle”.

Texas – 7.5 at Iowa St. (46.5):  Texas leads the Big-12 with only one conference loss; Iowa St. is one of four teams with 2 conference losses.  A win for Iowa St here is a win for chaos.

UNLV at Air Force – 3 (47):  The winner here will be the leader in the Mountain West Conference on Sunday morning.  Air Force has lost two games in a row; UNLV has won two games in a row.  Air Force is undefeated at home this year; UNLV is 3-2 on the road this year.

Nebraska at Wisconsin – 5 (37):  Both teams are 5-5 overall this year and 3-4 in Big 10 conference games.  Nebraska has lost two games in a row; Wisconsin has lost three games in a row.

Harvard at Yale – 1.5 (56.5):  On the East Coast, they call this “The Game”.  The first time these teams played one another was in 1875; for the record, Ulysses S. Grant was President of the US in 1875.  Yale leads in the series 69-61-8.


NFL Commentary:


The NFL loves parity so the league execs must have been cheery last week when five games ended on a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation time and a total of eight games were decided by four or fewer points.  And recall, there was not a full slate of games last week; those eight games won by 4 points or fewer were out of a total of 14 games not 16 games.

The Steelers won again last weekend raising their record to 6-3.  The amazing thing about that record is that the Steelers have been outgained by their opponents in all nine games.  It is too much work to try to find out if that has ever happened before, but I would wager that it has not happened twice before.

Here is another oddity from the standings and the stats.  The Bills record is 5-5.  Their point differential for the season is +78.  Compare those numbers with:

  • Colts same record at 5-5 but point differential is minus-6
  • Raiders same record at 5-5 but point differential is minus-33
  • Saints same record at 5-5 but point differential is +16
  • Bengals better record at 5-4 but point differential is minus-10
  • Steelers better record at 6-3 but point differential is minus-26
  • Jags better record at 6-3 but point differential is +6
  • Seahawks better record at 6-3 but point differential is minus-1.

I was killing some time earlier this week and was flipping through a Mock Draft for next April.  I happened to notice that the creator had the 7th overall pick going to the LA Rams.  Given the way the Rams have traded away high draft picks over the past several years, I wondered how long it has been since the Rams participated in the first round of an NFL Draft.  It turns out that was back in 2016 when they took Jared Goff with the overall #1 pick.

The NFL and the NFLPA have reached an agreement as to what to do with the Pro Bowl at the end of this season.  Like last year, there will be a “skills competition” followed by a 7-on-7 flag football game to end the weekend festivities.  That is what happened last year but since the existing CBA still has 7 years to go and the Pro Bowl was part of the negotiations that led to that CBA, the league and the union must negotiate every year on what to do with the Pro Bowl.  Ho-hum …

Keeping pace with some ongoing stats:

  • The Steelers gained more than 300 yards in last week’s game – – not enough to outgain the opponent but more than 300 yards.  That is only the third time in nine games the Steelers have gone over 300 yards.
  • The Steelers have now gone 43 consecutive games without gaining 400 yards on offense in a game.
  • Sam Howell was sacked 3 times last week raising his total for 2023 to 46 sacks taken.  That projects to 78 sacks for the season which is only two sacks more than the all-time NFL record.

Here are comments on last week’s games:

Colts 10  Pats 6:  This game was played in Germany where “futbol” is a low-scoring endeavor.  I wonder if the fans think this is a normal amount of scoring in a “football”: game?  The Pats outgained the Colts by 76 yards in the game.  The Pats are 2-8 for the season and have scored a total of 30 points in their past three games.  Not surprisingly, those last three games were all losses.

Browns 33  Ravens 31:  The Ravens led 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and led 24-9 with three minutes to play in the third quarter – – and then choked the game away.  The Ravens still lead the AFC North, but things have tightened up significantly there; all four teams have records above .500.   Deshaun Watson went 14 for 14 in the second half; Greg Newsome had a Pick-Six in the second half and the Browns won on a field goal as time expired.  That was the good news for Cleveland…

Deshun Watson broke a bone in his shoulder in the second half of the game and had season-ending surgery earlier this week.  Back at the end of Training Camp, the Browns released Josh Dobbs and kept PJ Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson as the backup QBs.  Thompson-Robinson is the announced starter for this week; he has started one game earlier this season and the results were not so good:

  • 17 of 30 for 130 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs

Vikes 27  Saints 19:  Speaking of Josh Dobbs, he had another excellent game for the Vikes:

  • 23 of 34 for 268 yards with 1 TD and 0 INT

Derek Carr had to leave the game with a concussion meaning the Saints turned to Jameis Winston at QB.  As is often the case with Winston, it was feast or famine.  In less than a half of action he threw 2 TD passes and 2 INTs.   The Saints lead the NFC South with a 5-5 record.  However, none of the 5 wins have been against teams that are over.500.

Steelers 23  Packers 19:  The Steelers were outgained yet again in this game, and they won because of their defense and turnovers. The Steelers’ running game was firing on all cylinders here gaining 205 yards on 35 carries.  Patrick Peterson blocked a Packers’ PAT which proved important because it forced the Packers to score a TD on the final drive instead of merely getting into field goal position.

Texans 30  Bengals 27:  The Texans led 20-7 midway through the third quarter, but the Bengals rallied to tie the score at 27 with a minute and a half left in the game.  The Texans proceeded to take the kickoff and gain 55 yards on 6 plays setting up a game winning field goal of 38 yards.

Niners 34  Jags 3:  I only need to present two sets of stats from this game to give you a sense of how things went down:

  • Niners’ Total Offense = 437 yards
  • Jags’ Total Offense = 221 yards

And …

  • Niners’ Turnovers = 0
  • Jags’ Turnovers = 4

Deebo Sameul and Trent Williams returned to action for the Niners in this game.  The defense was very good too sacking Trevor Lawrence 5 times and intercepting him twice.

Cards 25  Falcons 23:  Kyler Murray returned to action for the Cards; he threw for 249 yards and ran for a TD in the game.  The Falcons led 23-22 with 2:39 left in the game but the Cards drove 70 yards in 11 plays to set up the game winning field goal (23 yards) with two seconds on the clock.

Bucs 20  Titans 6:  Will Levis played like a rookie QB in this one.

  • 19 of 39 for 199 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT

The Titans’ running game was not particularly helpful to the rookie QB gaining all of 42 yards in the game on 16 carries.

Lions 41  Chargers 38:  The teams combined for 954 yards of offense in the game. With less than two minutes left in the game and the score tied at 38, the Lions had the ball at the Chargers 26 yardline. Dan Campbell went for it on fourth and two.  His reasoning was that he did not want to give Justin Herbert and the Chargers the ball with that much time left on the clock.  The Lions gained 6 yards on the fourth down attempt; they then knelt three times to take the clock down to 3 seconds and the Lions won the game on a last-second field goal of 41 yards.  Coach Campbell was probably cognizant of this fact as he made his decision to go for it on fourth down:

  • The Chargers had scored a TD the last five times that they had the ball.

Cowboys 49  Giants 17:  The highlight of the game for the Giants was stopping the Cowboys at the goal line on the Cowboys’ first possession.  After that, it was all downhill.  The Cowboys had 640 yards of offense; the Giants only produced 172 yards of offense.  The Giants scored 10 meaningless points in the 4th quarter making this debacle seem less awful than it was.  In their two meetings this year, the combined score is Cowboys 89 Giants 17.

Seahawks 29  Commanders 26:  Geno Smith and Sam Howell both had big days here:

  • 31 of 47 for 369 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INT (Smith)
  • 29 of 44 for 312 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INT (Howell)

The Seahawks took the lead with a TD at the 3:47 mark of the 4th quarter but Howell drove the Commanders for a TD to tie the game at 26 with 52 seconds left in the game.  Smith connected with DK Metcalf twice for a total of 45 yards in a final drive to set up a 42-yard game winning field goal with no time remaining.

Raiders 16  Jets 12:  The Jets uncharacteristically outgained an opponent by almost 100 yards in the game, but they did stay in character and found a way to lose.   Once again, Zach Wilson couldn’t get the Jets into the end zone. He threw an interception at the Raiders 15 yardline with 1:14 left to assure the loss.

Broncos 24  Bills 22:  This was purely a self-inflicted wound for the Bills.  RB, James Cook fumbled the ball on the Bills’ first play from scrimmage and then the Bills proceeded to turn the ball over three more times in the game. On the Broncos’ winning drive, Will Lutz appeared to lose the game by missing a 41-yard field goal, but the Bills had 12 men on the field. Lutz then made the do-over.


Games This Week:


Four teams will have their BYE Week this week.  Interestingly, none of the four teams has a record north of .500.

  1. Colts:  Minshew-Magic happens just about every game.  However, sometimes it is Black Magic.  Maybe the Colts should be looking for an exorcist this week?
  2. Falcons:  The only way the Faqlcons make the playoffs is to win their division; an 8-9 record just might do that.
  3. Pats:  They are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs – – but they are not going to get in this year.
  4. Saints:  They lead the NFC South now, but they need Derek Carr back from any concussion-related injuries if they are going to win the division in the end.

A word about last night’s game.  Had it been on the Sunday schedule, I might have called it the Game of the Week because of the divisional importance of the game.  And as it began, the game looked as if it would live up to that standard.  And then, Joe Burrow’s sprained wrist gave out and the mystery about who might win the game evaporated.  The situation for the Bengals now is dire:

  • Their record is 5-5, putting them 2.5 games behind the Ravens.
  • They have 5 losses already; all the other AFC North teams only have 3.
  • They have now lost 3 division games.
  • As of today, every Bengals’ opponent for the rest of the year is at or over .500.

If Joe Burrow’s wrist injury persists for even a few weeks, I think the Bengals may find themselves outside the playoffs looking in.

There is an overabundance of huge spreads on the board for this week’s NFL games.  Four games this morning are carrying double-digit spreads and another game opened the week at 10 points before sliding down a bit.  C’est la guerre …

Steelers at Browns – 1 (33):  Two very good defenses here take the field against two mediocre QBs.  If the Steelers can run the ball, they might be able to win the game but if they are forced to move the ball through the air, I think they are doomed.  For the Browns, they have to hope that Dorian Thompson-Robinson plays a whole lot better than he did in his first NFL start earlier this year (see above).  If you like offensive fireworks, watch some other game…

Cards at Texans – 5 (49):  This game is a complete toss-up for me – – not just involving the spread but on the Money Line too.  If you can rationally figure out how this game will unfold, let me know.

Chargers – 3 at Packers (44):  As is always the case once November rolls around, the big question for NFL bettors is:  Which Chargers team will show up this week?

  • Against the Dolphins and Lions, the Chargers scored 34 points or more – – and lost.
  • The Chargers’ defense held the Chiefs to 31 points and the Cowboys to 20 points – – and lost both games.

I expect both teams to be up for this game because both teams need a win badly.  I think both defenses will show vulnerability, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Giants at Commanders – 10 (37):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Giants are 2-8 and have a point differential of minus-148 points for the season.  Calling their offense “pedestrian” is an insult to every pedestrian in every city on Earth.  On the other hand, the Commanders have a 20-year history of playing down to the level of bad opponents.  Earlier this year the Commanders lost to the then winless Bears allowing the Bears to score 40 points in the game.

Titans at Jags – 7 (40):  This will be the third straight road game for the Titans; what did they do to piss off the NFL schedule mavens?  The Jags should arrive in a bad mood after being stomped last week by the Niners.

Bears at Lions – 7.5 (47):  The spread opened at 10 points this week but dropped quickly to 8 points and is now shaved to 7.5 points.  Is this the week Justin Fields returns to action?

Raiders at Dolphins – 13 (46.5):  The key to this game is Maxx Crosby and his defensive compatriots.  If they can hassle Tua Tagovailoa, they can win this game; if they give Tua time in the pocket, the Raiders’ secondary will be torched.  The Dolphins had their BYE Week last week and are unbeaten at home in 2023.

Cowboys – 10 at Panthers (42):  You know I hate double-digit spreads in NFL games.  Nevertheless, this game sets up as one that will play according to form.  The Cowboys feast on bottom-feeders.  This year they have beaten the Giants twice outscoring them 89-17.  They beat the Jets by 20 points, the Pats by 35 points, the Rams by 23 points.  The Panthers are a mess mainly because their offense is stuck in low gear.  I smell another blowout, so I’ll take the Cowboys and lay the points – – even on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Bucs at Niners – 11.5 (42):  The Niners seem to have put the pieces back together; after a BYE Week two weeks ago, the Niners were hitting on all cylinders in beating the Jags last week by more than 4 TDs.  This is going to be a long plane ride for the Bucs to get to the game and an even longer one flying home after a beatdown.  Give me the Niners at home and lay the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Seahawks – 1 at Rams (47):  Matthew Stafford will be back under center for the Rams this week.  Sam Howell showed last week that you can throw on the Seahawks defense; Matthew Stafford could have a huge day here.

Jets at Bills – 7 (40): Plain and simple here; I do not trust either of these two teams to play predictably.

(Sun Nite) Vikes at Broncos – 2 (43):  The Broncos’ offense is clearly improving; the Broncos defense still has plenty of room for improvement.

  • Broncos rank 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed rushing per game (158.3)
  • Broncos rank 32nd in the NFL in total defense (401.1 yards per game).

However, the reason the Broncos won last week was based on a strong defensive performance.  Meanwhile, the Vikes have quietly won 5 games in a row with is the longest current winning streak in the NFL.

(Mon Nite) Eagles at Chiefs – 2.5 (45):  This is clearly the Game of the Week; it is a rematch of last February’s Super Bowl; both teams come to the kickoff have had a BYE Week last week.  Coming off a BYE Week is something Andy Reid seems to have perfected; his record in such games is 27-4.  Yes, I know; Nick Siriani is undefeated coming off a BYE Week, but that record is only 2-0.   I think this will be a defensive game; the Eagles have the best run defense in the league and the Chiefs have the second-best scoring defense.

Let me review this week’s “Betting Bundle.”

  • SMU/Memphis OVER 65
  • Florida/Missouri OVER 56.5
  • Cowboys – 10 over Panthers
  • Chargers/Packers OVER 44
  • Niners – 11.5 over Bucs

            No Money Line parlays this week; I just don’t like the numbers posted for the games.

Finally, I’ll close with these words of football wisdom from former Auburn football coach, Shug Jordan:

“Always remember … Goliath was a 40-point favorite over David.”

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



Here And There …

Nothing more about Michigan football and sign-stealing today …  I promise.

The semi-final round of the CFL playoffs took place last weekend.  The first round was pure chalk; the favorites won and covered comfortably.  The Western semi-final game was chalk as well.  The Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the BC Lions 24-13.  These teams met twice in the regular season and split those two games.  Now the Blue Bombers will travel to Hamilton this weekend for the Grey Cup Game.

Their opponent this weekend is a surprise.  In the Eastern semi-final, the Montreal Alouettes beat the Toronto Argonauts 38-17.  The Argonauts were 10.5-point favorites in the game.  These teams had met 3 times in the regular season and the Argonauts had won all three times.  Here are some stats from the game last weekend that might explain the turn of fortunes for the Alouettes last weekend:

  • The Alouettes intercepted 4 passes in the game.
  • Two of those interceptions were “Pick-Sixes”.
  • The Alouettes also recovered a fumble in the game.
  • The Argonauts turned the ball over on downs 4 times in the game.

During the CFL regular season, Toronto’s record was 16-2; that ties the record for the best regular season record in the history of the CFL which goes back to the 1950s.  The Argonauts were undefeated at home in 2023 – – until last weekend.  Over the course of the regular season the Argonauts had outscored opponents by 195 points (10.8 points per game).

Here are the data for this year’s Grey Cup Game on Sunday evening:

  • Winnipeg is a 9-point favorite and minus-330 on the Money Line.
  • Winnipeg has been in the Grey Cup Game in each of the last 3 seasons.
  • Montreal’s last appearance in the Grey Cup game was in 2010.
  • The teams met twice in the regular season; Winnipeg won both games handily.

Moving on …  On October 28th, the Colorado Buffaloes went to Pasadena.CA to play UCLA; Colorado lost the game 28-16 but that is not all they lost.  It turns out that while the team was on the field someone – – or some ones – – went to the visitor’s locker room at the Rose Bowl and stole stuff belonging to the Colorado players.  According to reports, cash and items of jewelry were stolen.

The Pasadena Police Department has been on the case for a while and it has been reported that the gendarmes now have identified suspects in the heist.  There is a wrinkle in the case, however.  The suspects are described as “prospective recruits to the UCLA football team from a high school in Riverside County”.  UCLA issued a statement saying that the suspects were not on an official recruiting visit; the high school district involved expressed sorrow for the incident and said it was “fully cooperating” with the Pasadena police investigation.  Looking for something positive to say about this matter, at least some of the stolen property has been recovered and returned to the victim(s).

The events here do raise a couple of questions:

  1. If the suspects were not “on an official visit”, how did they have access to the visitor’s locker room which is usually off-limits to ordinary spectators?
  2. The school district said the students were not at the Rose Bowl that day “on a school-sponsored event.”  So, was this a premeditated heist since no one seems to be responsible for their presence at the game or near the locker room?
  3. How lax is the security at the Rose Bowl – – or at UCLA football games?

One more football-related item today …  CBS will telecast the Super Bowl game in February 2024.  The network has been selling ad slots for the day since back in the summer and according to The Hollywood Reporter, the network says its inventory for the in-game ads “is virtually sold out” already.  Prime 30-second time slots are commanding between $6.5M and $7M each.

Given that situation, the expectation is that CBS will do even better than FOX did last year when it took in just over $600M for ads on Super Bowl Sunday.  The justification for all that spending is simple; the number of viewers for the game in February 2023 was 115 million folks.

Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close here with these words from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

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