The Stadium Saga In Oakland

Over the weekend, I found this item in Dwight Perry’s Sideline Chatter column in the Seattle Times:

“Retired sportswriter Greg Johns, via Facebook, after the Mariners beat the Athletics for the 12th straight time: ‘Now that the Mariners own the A’s, are they responsible for building a new stadium in Oakland?’”

And that comment reminded me that I had not read much of anything about the A’s and thier quest for a new stadium in a while – – so I went searching…  Barring something cataclysmic, the A’s will play the 2022 season in the Oakland Coliseum – – or whatever its new naming rights “partner” has chosen to call it for a year or so.  The facility is dilapidated; it is outdated; it is the modern-day equivalent of Shea Stadium, RFK Stadium and/or The Vet.  Randomly occurring sewage backups be damned; this is the 2022 home for the Oakland Athletics.

The team has been seriously looking for a new playpen for about the last five years and the sticking point in the search process is a familiar one:

  • The team wants the local government and the state government to pick up much if not all the tab for the new facility.
  • The politicians who run the city do not want to spend what it would cost to make that happen.

We have gotten to the point in the kabuki theater drama about new stadiums that the team is beginning to talk to other cities to find out how much the local politicians in charge there might be willing to kick in should the A’s pull up roots and move their home venue.  If the reporting is correct – and thorough – Portland, OR and Las Vegas, NV are the juridsictions that have been asked for their offers to become the home of the A’s.

To keep hope alive in Oakland, the team has proposed the building of a stadium – – along with a large commercial and residential development project sited in some waterfront property in Oakland.  The team owners say they will build the stadium and the rest of the development as proposed if only the city of Oakland will agree to pay for the infrastructure improvements that will be necessary to make the development viable and if the city will use eminent domain and turn over to the owners the acreage needed for the development.  That sounds like a good deal until you recognize that the infrastructure improvements would cost the city at least $800M – – and some estimates go as high as $1.3B.  Two points here:

  1. Infrastructure projects of this type and scope rarely come in under budget and often cost 50% more than what is estimated.
  2. There could well be monies available for such work  in the Federal Infrastructure Bill moving ahead in the Congress.  However, many politicians in California have other preferences for how such money might be spent.

The standoff here is at a point where new “economic factors” need to be put in play to move things off the current “dead spot”.  At this point I am not sure the team really cares if it gets its new stadium and development in Oakland or if it pulls up roots and moves elsewhere; right now, the team needs something to happen, and it could be a short-term positive thing or a short-term negative thing; the A’s simply need “movement”.  Amazingly, in such circumstances, someone somewhere came up with the following data and somehow the data became available to a reporter:

  • Thirteen times in September, the A’s drew fewer than 10,000 fans to its dilapidated facility as the team was in a fade to miss the playoffs.
  • In seven of those thirteen times with crowds under 10,000 fans, the actual attendance was below 5,000 loyal souls.
  • Surely, it is apparent that the folks in Oakland who care about baseball have had it with the Oakland Coliseum as a venue and the A’s will not be a viable business entity in Oakland without something to goose up attendance.  Other than a World Series victory – not happening this year due to the A’s absence from the playoffs – that “something to goose up attendance” translates to “new stadium”.

The A’s and the city have been at a variety of impasses over the years, but there is a new trump card in the game this time.  Unlike the NFL when teams can – and have – simply moved from city to city without the blessing of the league, the A’s never had the pat on the back from the Commish to entertain seriously a move elsewhere.  That changed earlier this summer when Rob Manfred told the team that it had to continue to negotiate with the people in charge in Oakland and they were also free to investigate other cities to house the franchise.  Enter the city fathers of Las Vegas and Portland; welcome to the drama…

Call it what you will – “Brinksmanship” or “Action Spurred by Deadlines” – there is a time limitation here.  The A’s have a lease with the city to play in the Oakland Coliseum and that lease runs out in 2024.  Building a modern 40,000-seat baseball stadium is not nearly as challenging as was the construction of Stonehenge about 4000 years ago; it cannot be done overnight – – but it can be done in two or three years.  So, now is the time for the A’s to get involved in serious negotiations regarding where they will play starting in the middle of the 2020s and beyond.

The government folks in Oakland are not in a lovely position; they have not exactly had the best of fortune with sports franchises there:

  • The NFL Raiders left Oakland for greener pastures in LA in the early 1980s
  • The Raiders moved back to Oakland in the mid-90s when the city fathers in Oakland paid a healthy ransom to Al Davis to move the team.
  • The Raiders then departed Oakland for Las Vegas when the Raiders could not get a stadium deal done in Oakland.
  • The Warriors just moved from Oakland to SF a couple of years ago – – because they got a better arena construction deal there than they could get in Oakland.

I get it; the politicians in Oakland will not look good if they lose all three of their major sports franchises in a period of less than 10 years.  At the same time, they have been screwed over by team owners in the past and have never been able to recoup- their “prior investments”.

So, that is where we are in the saga of the future of the Oakland A’s franchise.  I suspect that something important will happen within the confines of this story in the next several months because as Snuffy Smith used to say in the daily comic strips – – “Time’s a-wasting…”

Since I started today with a note from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times, let me close with another of his observations:

“Retiring U.S. soccer star Carli Lloyd, 39, on the GOAL podcast, on why she won’t be playing at age 44 like QB Tom Brady: ‘Well, Tom Brady doesn’t have to have kids.’”

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



A College Football Debate Topic

            When Cincinnati beat Notre Dame – in South Bend no less – last Saturday, that outcome teed up a legitimate sports debate that can play itself out for one week or for the rest of the college football season and maybe even beyond that.  This topic is more interesting than the concocted shouting matches that ESPN and FOX Sports put out over the airwaves daily because this is one where intelligent and analytical minds can legitimately hold different views.  So, in proper debate format let me set out the proposition here:

  • Resolved: The year 2021 is the year when a college football team from a conference other than the so-called “Power 5” deserves to be in the CFP and that team is the University of Cincinnati.

Having put this topic on the table, let me try to frame the arguments on both sides.  In the end, each person will have to make the call for himself/herself regarding this proposition; what I will try to do here is to present both cases for your consideration.

Those who agree with the proposition as stated will point out very accurately that other than Alabama and Georgia – and maybe, maybe Iowa – there have not been consistently dominant teams on the field in college football in the early stages of 2021.

  • Ohio State has lost at home already.
  • Clemson has already lost twice.
  • Oklahoma is undefeated but has not dominated rather ordinary competition.
  • Notre Dame just lost at home to Cincinnati.
  • No PAC-12 team has been consistently noteworthy.
  • We will get a better sense of Iowa’s credentials when they play Penn State this weekend.

In prior years when the Selection Committee has overlooked unbeaten teams from outside the “Power 5”, one could make an argument that the undefeated status was built on a foundation of sand; the competition was sub-standard.  I am not going to try to pretend that this year’s Cincinnati schedule is the most difficult in the country; it is not.  However, it has several positive attributes:

  • About 3 weeks ago, the Bearcats went on the road to play Indiana and beat the Hoosiers on their home field.  Indiana was ranked in the Top 25 in pre-season polls and was ranked until Cincinnati handed them their second loss of the season.
  • Last week, the Bearcats went on the road to play Notre Dame and beat the Irish on their home field.  Notre Dame was ranked before the game and remains in the AP Top 25 even after the defeat.
  • Granted that Cincinnati has some softies in the schedule coming up, but they will also have to play SMU on November 20th.  As of this morning, the Mustangs are 5-0 and are ranked in the AP Top 25.

If the Bearcats finish the season undefeated, they will have wins over three teams that are ranked as of today and two of them will have been road wins.  This is their year to be in the CFP…

Next comes the response from those folks who are not “Bearcat Believers”…  It begins with the acknowledgement of two facts:

  1. Cincinnati has indeed beaten two ranked teams in the home stadiums of those two ranked teams.
  2. Cincinnati has bulked up its out-of-conference scheduling to take on those two ranked teams instead of feasting on cream puffs.

Now, having acknowledged those two facts – and even stipulating that another win over an SMU team that might be undefeated in late November when it plays at Cincinnati would be worthy of a hat tip – there is no certainty that Indiana is an important measuring stick given that the Hoosiers have three losses and are not ranked in the Top 25 this week.  Ironically, Cincinnati fans need to reverse their rooting interests very quickly and pull for Notre Dame to win out on the season making the Bearcats’ win last week appear even more impressive – – but Notre Dame had better not look too dominant in winning out lest its prestige status vault it over the Bearcats in terms of CFP selections.

Another factor working against Cincinnati as part of the CFP is – – television.  It is nice to imagine that the CFP is an athletic competition that is as pure as the driven snow and untainted by anything other than the athletic pursuits of the players and the coaches.  Here in the real world, that is not the case.  The CFP is a money-making machine that generates the money from television contracts, and the logical corollary to that indisputable fact is that television networks pay money to attract eyeballs to the screens.

With that in mind, consider that the Selection Committee must construct an attractive playoff bracket.  So, consider the University of Cincinnati in terms of its drawing power:

  • Cincinnati is a relatively large university with more than 40,000 students.  That means it has plenty of alums who will be attracted to their TV sets if not to the stadium itself.
  • However, just about every other school who might be slipped into the CFP instead of Cincinnati is also a large school whose alums will similarly pay attention to the game(s).
  • So, it is important to consider which teams would be more likely to attract viewers who do not have a “loyalty bond” to the teams on the field.

It is in that dimension of “football pedigree” and “football recognizability” among nationwide fans whose teams will not be playing in the CFP where Cincinnati falls a bit short.  If one looks at the Top 10 teams ranked this week by the AP and consider this recognizability factor, Cincinnati comes up short.  Here are those AP Top 10 teams:

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Iowa
  4. Penn State
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Ohio State
  8. Oregon
  9. Michigan
  10. BYU

Now comes the part where you weigh the evidence as presented and decide if you think this is the year for a team outside the Power 5 to be part of the CFP and if that team should be Cincinnati.

  • [Aside:  I will not entertain an argument that this is the year for a Group of 5 team to get into the CFP but that the correct selection therefrom is Coastal Carolina.  Yes, the Chanticleers are 5-0 but if you want to define a “cupcake schedule”, check out who those 5 opponents have been.]

Finally, today’s offering presents a basic question but no answers.  That brings to mind an observation by Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman:

“It is better to have questions you cannot answer than to have answers you cannot question.”

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



Football Friday 10/1/21

The soap opera, Days of Our Lives, has been running for about 50 years and every Friday the writers have to concoct some tension that will draw the audience back on the following Monday.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, there is a Friday tradition in the Fall called Football Friday.  I need not create any drama there; the football gods do that for me.  And so, here is the next iteration of Football Friday.

I shall begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack; the results were not stellar, but the results represent an improvement over the first two weeks:

  • College = 0-2-0
  • NFL = 3-1-0
  • Combined = 3-3-0

The cumulative results for the season to date are:

  • College = 2-5-0
  • NFL = 5-5-1
  • Combined = 7-10-1


College Commentary:


I got ahead of myself last Friday saying that Linfield would play Puget Sound last week.  Actually, the Wildcats had a BYE Week and will travel to meet the Puget Sound Loggers.  Puget Sound is winless for the season in 3 games; Linfield is 2-0.  Go Wildcats!

As of this week, the three teams in contention for The Brothel Defense Award – that is the defense that allows anyone to score easily – are:

  • Rice giving up 43.5 points per game
  • Akron giving up 44.5 points per game
  • UMass giving up 47.8 points per game

Earlier this week and while it was still September, Georgia Southern fired the third college coach of the season.  Chad Lunsford takes his place behind Clay Helton (USC) and Randy Edsall (UConn) as coaches unable to get out of September without getting the axe.

There is a lot of “untraditional stuff” that seems to be happening in college football in 2021 and nowhere is that more apparent than in the ACC.  The teams that we have become accustomed to seeing at the top are struggling more than usual and some of the also-rans look as if they just might do some damage in the standings there.  Consider:

  • Clemson has already lost twice and against Division 1-A opposition, the Tigers are averaging a meager 12.7 points per game.
  • Miami was supposed to be a contender in the ACC this year; they are 2-2 as of today and the two wins were against Division 1-AA teams and the two losses were blowouts against Division 1-A teams.
  • UNC has lost twice so far this year to Va Tech and to Ga Tech; it’s a good thing they did not schedule an out-of-conference game against Texas Tech.


  • Boston College is 4-0 this year.  They will get an interesting test this week playing at Clemson.
  • NC State  is 3-1 and owns one of the wins over Clemson.
  • Va Tech is 3-1 and has beaten UNC.  A big upcoming game for the Holies is on October 9th when they will host Notre Dame.
  • Wake Forest is 4-0 and both of its ACC wins have been by 20 points or more.  The Deacons will have a tough schedule segment in November when they visit UNC then host NC State and then go to Clemson in consecutive weeks.

In SEC action…

LSU 28  Mississippi St. 25:  LSU led 21-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and held on to win.

Georgia 62  Vandy 0:  It did not take long for the outcome here to become apparent; Georgia scored 35 points in the first quarter.  The total offense for Vandy was 77 yards for the game  – – 53 rushing and 24  passing.  Vandy only had 4 first downs in the game; they turned the ball over 3 times and punted 9 times.

Arkansas 20  Texas A&M 10:  Arkansas outgained Texas A&M 441 yards to 272 yards in this game.  The Razorbacks ran the ball very well against an Aggies’ defense that has a couple of potential first round picks out there on the defensive unit; Arkansas gained 191 yards rushing on 47 tries allowing them to control the pace of the game and the number of possessions.  The game was not artistic by any means; there were 21 penalties enforced in the game.  Arkansas is 4-0 for the season.

Florida 38  Tennessee 14:  Tennessee kept it close for half the game; the score as 17-14 at halftime with Florida in the lead.  Then the Gators got serious…

Alabama 63  So Mississippi  14:  The game was not this close; the score was 49-7 as the 4th quarter got underway.

In ACC games …

NC St. 27  Clemson 21 (2 OT):  Shocking!  This is the second loss for Clemson; it will be miraculous if they even get a sniff o the CFP this year.  If they are even mentioned for the CFP late in the season, it will be due to nostalgia on the part of the people doing the mentioning.  The last time NC State beat Clemson was in 2011; last week, the Wolfpack  dominated the stat sheet gaining 386 yards offense to 214 yards for Clemson.  The Wolfpack ran up 31 first downs to only 10 for the Tigers; State was also 11 for 21 on third down conversions and State snapped the ball 96 times on offense compared to only 49 offensive plays for Clemson.  The officials called 24 penalties in the game; 13 of them were against Clemson.  This was an organized ass-kicking – – except on the scoreboard.

Louisville 31  Florida St.  23.  Louisville scored 31 points in the first half and was shut out in the second half.  The Seminoles won the stat battle 441 yards to 395 yards, but they fell behind 17-0 at the end of the 1st quarter and were never able to catch up.  The FSU defense did not really hold up its end of the stick; they allowed Louisville to convert 11 of 20 third down situations.  Louisville is 3-1 for the season and FSU is 0-4.

Duke 52  Kansas 33:  The Jayhawks led at halftime 24-21 and were obliterated in the second half.

Ga Tech 45  UNC 22:  So much for UNC as a top 10 – – or even a Top 30 team.  Tech held down Clemson’s offense and now has limited the UNC offense to 369 yards and only 62 yards on the ground.  One important stat for the game is that UNC turned the ball over 3 times via a fumble and Ga Tech did not lose a possession in the game.

Wake Forest 37  UVa 17:  The Deacons led from the start and won the game handily.  The Cavaliers had more offense in the game (504 yards to 473 yards) and 7 more first downs in the game. In terms of 3rd down efficiency, Virginia was 9 for 17.  So, how did they lose?

  • They committed 11 penalties
  • They turned the ball over twice – – and the Deacons never turned the ball over.

In games relevant to the Big-10:

Bowling Green 14  Minnesota 10:  Not a good look for the Big-10 losing to a MAC team.

Iowa 24  Colorado St. 14:  This looks like  a game where Iowa played down to the level of the competition.  Iowa is 4-0 for this season and Colorado St. is 1-3. Worse than that, Colorado St. lost to Vandy earlier this year; this is not a “signature win” for the Hawkeyes.

Notre Dame 41  Wisconsin 13:  The score was 10-10 as the fourth quarter started.  Wisconsin took the lead at 13-10 and then the roof caved in on the Badgers.  Notre Dame cannot run the ball; they rank 122nd in the country in rushing as of today averaging 2.3 yards per carry.  In his game they had 3 yards rushing on 33 attempts.  However, Wisconsin turned the ball over 5 times in the game.  Notre Dame’s defense had a good day.  Wisconsin has a power running game and the Irish held the Badgers to less than 3  yards per carry.

  • By the way, the Wisconsin QB is named Graham Mertz.  Before you ask, he is not the grandson of Fred and Ethel Mertz.

Michigan 20  Rutgers  13:  Michigan led 20-3 at halftime and was then shut out in the second half.  It is never a good thing to lose a game, but Rutgers was on the road and playing an opponent that used to be considered in a totally different orbit than Rutgers.  And yet, this game had only a one-score difference.  Rutgers will not win the Big 10, but Rutgers is no longer the poster child for football ineptitude at the Division 1-A that it was just a few years ago.

Ohio State 59  Akron 7:  Ohio State must blow out lesser opponents and win games by large margins if they are to regain any CFP relevancy.  Here is the outcome of such a situation where the Buckeyes face an overmatched opponent.  Akron actually led 7-0 in this game perhaps raising false hopes of an upset.

In games involving Big-12 teams:

Texas 70  Texas Tech  35:  Total offense for both teams here was 1157 yards.  Texas was 10 for 13 on third down and then 2 for 3 on 4th down.   You would think from these stats that the Texas Tech defense is down at the bottom nationally.  Not so.  The Red Raiders rank 75th in the country – – out of 130 Division 1-A schools – in total defense and rank 59th nationally in yards per play allowed.  Texas simply blew their doors off here.

Baylor 31  Iowa State 29:  The Cyclones were ranked in the Top 15 at the start of the game; Baylor was 3-0 but against “suspect competition”.  That is a second loss for Iowa St. meaning they will not be considered for the CFP later this season and may not be in a New Year’s Day bowl game either. The Cyclones dominated the stat sheet gaining 479 yards to only 284 yards for the Bears.  Oklahoma is still the big dog in the Big-12, but maybe Baylor is the dark horse there?  Maybe we will have to wait until November 13th when the Sooners visit Waco to find out?

Oklahoma St. 31  Kansas St 20:  The Wildcats fell behind 21-10 at the end of the first quarter and never were able to get past that beginning of the game.  The Cowboys won the stat battel as well as the game gaining 481 yards to only 260 yards for K-State.

Oklahoma 16  W. Va  13:  The Mountaineers completed their scoring for the day with five-and-a-half minutes left in this game; they led 13-10 at that point.  The Sooners tied it with a field goal and then won the game with a 29-yard field goal as time expired.  Wins are infinitely better than losses, but this game is not a feather in the cap of Oklahoma, and it could well be used against the Sooners when it comes time to select the 4 CFP teams.  Might that be enough to have a playoff without both OU and Clemson?  Here is a Fun Fact:

  • Since Lincoln Riley arrived in Norman, the Sooners had never scored fewer than 28 points in a game against Big-12 competition.  They have now been under that number twice in 2021.

In PAC-12 games…

Utah 24  Washington St. 13:  State led 13-10 at the start of the 4th quarter and surrendered that lead but was on the move for a potential winning score when Utah pulled off a Pick-Six to put the game on ice.

UCLA 35  Stanford 24:  I had this wrong in the Six-Pack last week.  I thought Stanford would light up the Bruins’ pass defense.  That did not happen and Stanford’s running game was anemic to say the least gaining only 56 yards on 30 carries. Stanford only managed 12 first downs in the game.

Oregon 40  Arizona 19:  The Top of the PAC -12 dispatched the Bottom of the PAC-12 as was to be expected…

Arizona St.  35  Colorado 13:  That is almost twice as many points as the Buffaloes have scored against Division 1-A teams this season.  That is not a knock on the Sun Devils’ defense; it is a severe indictment of the Colorado offense.

Oregon St 45  USC 27:  Clay Helton is staring at his buy-out check and smiling as this result comes over the wire…  The Trojans’ “defense” allowed more than 500 yards in the game.  The game was in LA; it has been a long while since the Beavers won in Tinseltown.  I read somewhere that their last win in the Coliseum was all the way back in 1960.  Can that be right?

And, in miscellaneous games last weekend…

Army 23  Miami (Oh) 10:  Army is 4-0 for the season …

BC 41  Missouri  34:  BC is 4-0 for the season …

SMU 42  TCU 34:  SMU is 4-0 for the season…

Michigan St. 23  Nebraska 20:  Michigan St. is 4-0 for the season…

Wyoming 24 UConn 22:  Wyoming is 4-0 for the season…  This was far-and-away the best showing for UConn this season.  UConn led the game 13-0; the Huskies led 13-3 at the half and also led 16-10 in the fourth quarter.  Then Wyoming got two TDs to take the lead and a UConn TD in the final 10 seconds led to the outcome here.

Coastal Carolina 53  UMass 3:  I said last week that Coastal Carolina needed to continue to win “impressively” to stay ranked in the Top 25….

Boise St. 27  Utah St. 3: Utah St came into the game undefeated.  The total offense was dead even – – Boise St 433 Utah St 429.  Three turnovers and thirteen penalties by Utah St. tilted the outcome to the Broncos.

Rice 48  Texas Southern  34:  This is a first win for Rice.  It comes against a Division 1-AA opponent but at least it is a win…

Fresno St. 38  UNLV 30:  Fresno St. was a 30-point favorite at the kickoff but trailed at the half 14-9.  Moreover, UNLV led 30-29 with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game.  UNLV is not one of the “good teams” this year; it would seem that Fresno St. is one of the inconsistent teams this year.


College Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Iowa -3 at Maryland (48):  Both teams are 4-0.  Iowa wins with a shut-down defense and a plodding offense.  Maryland outscores opponents.  This should be interesting to watch.

Syracuse at Florida State – 5 (51):  Syracuse is 3-1; Florida State is an embarrassing 0-4.  So how come the Seminoles are giving points?  Here are the Syracuse wins so far in 2021; it is not an impressive list of beaten foes:

  • Beat Ohio by 20 points in the opener.  Ohio is a genuinely bad team.
  • Beat Albany by 38 points.  Albany?
  • Beat Liberty by 3 points last week.  Give me Liberty or give me Death?

Duke at UNC – 20 (72):  The Tar Heels win by scoring lots of points; the Duke defense is suspect at best…

BC at Clemson – 14.5 (46):  Obviously, the oddsmakers are anticipating a reawakening of the Clemson offense here.  Looking at earlier results from this season, one might ask how the Tigers can cover 14.5 points when they only average 12.7 points per game against Division 1-A teams…

Army – 9 at Ball St (47.5):  Army looks to start the season 5-0 with a win here.  Ball St. is the defending MAC champion…

Indiana at Penn State – 12.5 (53.5):  The Penn State defense ranks 47th nationally in terms of total defense but it also ranks 12 in the country in scoring defense.  Indiana can be explosive on offense when/if QB Michael Penix gets rolling.  This is an interesting game that has meaning in the Big-10 standings.

Kansas at Iowa St. – 34.5 (56.5):  The Cyclones’ defense is too much for the Jayhawks here…

Louisville at Wake Forest – 7 (60):  Louisville can score points – even against a statistically good scoring defense such as Wake Forest.  On the other hand, Wake’s offense should be very troublesome for a Louisville defense that gives up 26 points per game to lesser offenses.  I see a lot of points here, so I’ll take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Ohio State – 15 at Rutgers (58.5):  Rutgers is not a doormat any longer.  In recent years, the Buckeyes would be 35-point favorites in this game and would likely cover easily.

USC – 7.5 at Colorado (51):  The Trojans are disappointing to say the least; the Buffaloes are inept.

Cincy – 1.5 at Notre Dame (50.5):  I call this the College Game of the Week because of its potential importance and consequences.  First, it is surprising to say the least to see a team from somewhere other than a Power 5 conference as a favorite in South Bend.  The Bearcats are 3-0 and have had 2 weeks to prepare for this game; it may be the biggest game in Cincy football for quite a while.

  • If the Bearcats win here, they will likely be heavy favorites against all the rest of the teams on their schedule save for SMU in late November.
  • Cincy – with a win here – has a shot at running the table and going 12-0 on the season.
  • That result could possibly propel them into the CFP – which would be a first for a team not in the so-called Power 5.

I mentioned above that the Irish have not had a running game worth a bucket of mule snot so far this year.  The Cincy run defense allows just under 3.5 yards per carry.  Can the Bearcats force the Irish to be one-dimensional?

Washington at Oregon St. – 2.5 (57.5):  No one would have predicted this line back in August unless (s)he was a blood relative of one of the Oregon St. coaches…

Oregon – 8 at Stanford (58):  The oddsmakers are showing a lot of respect for Stanford here – – or is it that they are not so impressed with Oregon?

Ole Miss at Alabama – 14.5 (79.5):  I thought about this one as the College Game of the Week.  Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring this year; they average 52.7 points per game.  Alabama ranks 4th in the country with a meager 46.5 points per game.  On defense, Alabama ranks 27th in the country giving up 17.5 points per game while Ole Miss is at 50th giving up 20.7 points per game.  The Rebels love to throw the football so the Alabama secondary will get a workout here.

Baylor at Oklahoma State – 3.5 (47.5):  Baylor seeks to remain undefeated against an inconsistent Cowboys’ team.

Texas – 5 at TCU (65):  The Longhorns arrive here off a huge win last week over Texas Tech.  TCU lost a rivalry game to SMU last week.

Florida – 7.5 at Kentucky (55):  The Gators are 3-1; the loss was by 2 points to Alabama.  Kentucky is 4-0 for the season and is starting a gauntlet of good teams here.  After Florida, the Wildcats will host LSU and then visit Georgia.  Count this game as a measuring stick for the Wildcats…

Oklahoma – 11 at K-State (53):  I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating here.  K-State is very tough at home…

UConn at Vandy – 15 (51):  If Prisoners of War were forced to watch this game, it would be judged as a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Auburn at LSU – 3.5 (55.5):  These teams would be powerhouses in just about any other conference; in the SEC West, they are the football equivalent of ladies-in-waiting.

Michigan at Wisconsin – 2 (43.5):  So far, Michigan is significantly better than I thought they would be in 2021 and Wisconsin is not as good as I thought they would be in 2021.

So. Mississippi at Rice – 1.5 (44.5):  Considering that Rice is in contention for The Brothel Defense Award (see above), it would seem to be a significant indictment of the So. Mississippi offense to have the Total Line come in at 44.5 points.  Remember, Rice gives up an average of 43.5 points per game all by themselves.

Arizona St at UCLA – 3 (55.5):  Sorely tempted to take this game to go OVER.  Get thee behind me, Satan…

Fresno St. – 10.5 at Hawaii (64.5):  Fresno St. is inconsistent (see above), and Hawaii is much better at home than they are on the mainland.


NFL Commentary:


            Yes, I did watch last night’s Bengals/Jags game, but I will admit that I was not watching as attentively as I would have had it been a game between two good teams.  Here are five of my takeaways from that game – – which was interesting simply because it came down to a filed goal to win the game as time expired:

  1. Trevor Lawrence will be really good as a QB in the NFL once he has a competent OL in front of him.
  2. Ja’Mar Chase is the real deal at WR.
  3. The Jags’ defense is not very good – – I am being polite here.
  4. The Jags’ OL is simply bad.
  5. The Bengals’ DL is mediocre at best.

The telecast also reminded me that Bengals’ QB, Joe Burrow, and Jags’ coach, Urban Meyer, have a history.  Burrow transferred from Ohio State under Urban Meyer because Meyer chose to have Dwayne Haskins as the starting QB at Ohio State over Burrow who went to LSU to be the architect of a national championship team in Baton Rouge.  That decision shows me that Meyer might just be a better college coach than an NFL coach.  Haskins was successful in college, but Haskins’ pro career has been more like a pile of penguin puke than it has been “successful”.

I am happy to admit that I do not understand some NFL personnel decisions, and here is one I really do not understand:

  • As of this morning, the Houston Texans have only 2 QBs on their roster.  One is Davis Mills who ill start the game this week.  Tyrod Taylor is on IR and Jeff Driskel is on the Practice Squad.
  • The other QB the team has is Deshaun Watson; he is on the “active roster”.  However, if he is forced into the game – or even is allowed to be the holder for a kick in this week’s game – I suspect that Roger Goodell and 80% of the NFL’s PR gurus will suffer aneurisms.
  • What is up with that?

Here is my “interpretation” of that goofy situation.  The Texans are not going to trade Deshaun Watson any time soon and they are also not going to run afoul of any possible clause in the existing CBA that would get the team crosswise with the NFLPA.  At the moment, Watson’s trade value is as low as it has ever been due to the overhang of a couple dozen civil suits against him alleging sexual misconduct and at least two criminal complaints against him alleging the same sort of thing.  Notwithstanding all that, if Watson were to dodge the criminal actions and then could settle the other civil actions, his trade stock in the NFL would increase significantly from what it might be today.  I think the Texans’ ownership and coaching staff realizes that the current roster in Houston is not going anywhere this year – – but it might just have a valuable trade asset in Deshaun Watson if and when the legal issues are resolved constructively.

Therefore, my reading of all this is:

  • The Texans are playing the long game and are simply waiting until the criminal complaints in this matter play themselves out.
  • The team is hoping for a “Not Guilty” verdict or for some plea-bargaining terms that do not involve years in the hoosegow for Deshaun Watson.
  • If/when that comes to pass, the Texans will try to trade Watson into a rising market for Watson’s football services.

The Steelers’ offense is a mess and the Steelers; defense is injured.  I have seen the Steelers twice this year; I know Ben Roethlisberger had arm surgery and I know that all the reports said he was fully recovered and in the best shape of his life.  Having said that, he still does not/ cannot throw the ball downfield very often; and when he does, it is not with any sort of precision.  Defenses are loading up to stop the Steelers’ run game and the short passing game.  NFL teams can do that sort of thing effectively if they put eleven defenders up close to the line of scrimmage.  If Roethlisberger is not able to threaten those defenses with a “vertical game”, the Steelers’ defense will have to carry the team; and right now, it is in no condition to do that.

Over and above the lack of ability to threaten a defense with a deep ball more than occasionally, Ben Roethlisberger now has the mobility of fire hydrant.  In terms of “escapability”, Harry Houdini has more escapability these days and Houdini has been dead for 95 years.

There were five first-round QBs taken in the NFL Draft last April.  Four started last week – – Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Zach Wilson.  Trey Lance only saw the field on a handful of plays.  Forget Lance for now; he was not in for enough time to warrant comment here, but the other 4 all stunk out the stadiums they were in.

NFL football is a different game from college football.   Looking at more than just last week, Fields, Lawrence and Wilson seem to be in situations that simply cannot work out positively for them this year.  They are on bad offensive teams and the expectations for all three have been sky-high.  Jones may not have a cushy job, but his situation is a lot kinder and gentler than are the situations for the other three rookie starters.

Speaking of the NFL Draft last April, the Bears traded away their 2022 first-round pick to get Justin Fields in last year’s Draft.  It certainly looks as if that could be a very early pick for the Giants in addition to the early pick the Giants seem hell-bent on getting for themselves.  Maybe that is a foundation piece in the Giants’ rebuilding strategy?

And that thinking leads me to wonder who the first NFL head coach will be to get the axe this year.  Even though I have projected more than a handful of coaches who may be on a hot seat for this season, I think the possibilities for “First to Be Fired” comes down to two candidates:

  • Joe Judge:  The  Giants have looked bad – and have played badly – this year and it is not Judge’s first season at the helm.  The Giants’ historical style is not to fire coaches in mid-stream, but if this team tanks, it might be a chance for ownership to fire the GM and the coach in a “housecleaning move” because it could mean starting a rebuilding process with two high round draft picks in April thanks to the Bears.
  • Matt Nagy:  He is supposed to be an “offense guy” and the last time the Bears had an offense that scared opponents was probably when Walter Payton was lining up in the backfield.  Nagy’s tenure in Chicago has not put the “fear of God” into defensive coordinators around the league.

In NFL games from last week…

Bills 41  Football Team 23:  Washington was supposed to have an elite defense – – or at least that is what Chase Young told everyone within earshot during the offseason.  So far this year it has not been anywhere near that level of competence.  As of this morning the Football Team defense ranks:

  • 31st. in yards allowed and first downs allowed.
  • 29th in passing yards allowed
  • 29th in the average time allowed to an opponent per drive.

The Bills offense last week approached 500 yards; the Bills held the ball for more than 35 minutes; the Bills had 29 first downs and were 9 for 15 on third-down conversions.  The Bills dominated the Football Team’s defense; and then, just to add some spice to the mix, the Bills’ defense forced 3 turnovers in the game.  This game was not nearly as close as the score would indicate.

Titans 25  Colts 16:  The Colts’ offense struggled in the Red Zone.  They had the ball inside the Titans’ 10-yardline twice in the game and came away with 2 field goals.  The Titans’ defense was dominant holding the Colts to 265 yards on offense for the day.

Bengals 24  Steelers 10:  The Bengals OL protected Joe Burrow well and the Bengals DL sacked Ben Roethlisberger 4 times.  The Bengals’ defense also had 2 INTs that led to 14 points for Cincy.   The Steelers’ running game was non-existent gaining all of 45 yards on 15 carries.  That anemic running game coupled with a dink-and-dunk pass offense is not going to get the job done for the Steelers.  In my pre-season analysis, I said that Ben Roethlisberger was an aging player who could see a dramatic decline this season.  Based on what I have seen in two of the Steelers’ three games so far this year, I think Roethlisberger is washed up; he will be a Hall of Fame inductee after his retirement but none of the reasons for that induction are going to be in evidence this season.

Falcons 17  Giants 14:  The Giants seemed to be in control here – – then the 4th quarter began, and everything fell apart.  The Giant’s defense gave up a long TD drive in the 4th quarter to tie the game and then allowed the Falcons to march 58 yards in the final two minutes to set up the field goal that won the game.  This was the Dog-Breath Game of the Week for last week and it lived up to its advanced billing…

Cards 31  Jags  19:  I said in last week’s Football Friday that the Cards could be in danger here if they self-immolated – – and they came close to doing just that.  It was the Jags’ mistakes that lost this game.  The Jags turned the ball over 4 times and one of the turnovers was a Pick-Six.  The final play of the first half was interesting; the Cards tried a 68-yard field goal that was – not surprisingly – short of the goalposts; the Jags fielded the try and ran it back 109 yards for a TD.  The Jags’ losing streak is now at 18 games – – and counting…

Browns 26  Bears 6:  The Bears’ defense sacked Baker Mayfield 5 times; often, that is a signature stat in a win for the sacking team.  Not here, the Bears’ offense was non-existent even though Justin Fields – the fans’ favorite franchise sauveur du jour – was the starter.   The Bears’ total offense for the day was 47 yards and the net passing yardage was 1 yard.  Those are not typos; the Bears gained 1 yard passing for an entire NFL game in 2021 with all the rules that favor passing offenses in place.  Fields was sacked 9 times in his first start; that is not a typo either.  Even without “studying the film” with a stopwatch in hand, I will go out on a limb and suggest two things:

  1. The Bears’ OL is horrible.
  2. Fields held the ball waaay too long in that game.

Saints 28  Patriots 13:  The Saints’ defense throttled the Pats and forced three turnovers in the game.  This game was not as close as the score might indicate.  What happened to the Pats’ running game?  In this game it only managed to gain 49 yards on 17 attempts and the longest gain was a run by QB Mac Jones for 12 yards.

Broncos 26  Jets 0:  The Jets’ OL allowed 5 sacks in the game; Zach Wilson threw 2 more INTs here; the Jets could not run the ball gaining only 43 yards for the game.  The Jets and the Jags meet later this year; what a treat that game will be.  The Jets’ total offense for the day was 162 yards and the Jets’ time of possession was a meager 24 minutes and 13 seconds and the Jets never got inside the Broncos’ 35-yardline.  The  Broncos’ win is best described as “workmanlike”.

Vikes 30  Seahawks 17:  The Vikes needed a win here badly but at halftime things looked bleak.  The Vikes led 21-17 at the half but the Seahawks were playing well on offense.  Then halftime happened and the Vikes’ defense took over the game and stopped whatever it was the Seahawks tried to do on offense.  Kirk Cousins was 30 for 38 for 323 yards in the game and threw 3 TD passes.

Chargers 30  Chiefs 24:  That is two losses in a row for the Chiefs and Andy Reid had to be taken to a hospital after the game.  He was reported to be in “stable condition” later in the evening.  Justin Herbert threw 4 TD passes in the game and the Chargers’ defense forced 4 turnovers in the game.  The only bright spot for the Chiefs was that the run defense was much improved here; the Chiefs held the Chargers to 77 yards on the ground after the defensive  unit had been shredded two weeks ago.  The Chiefs are in last place in the AFC West, and this is the first time the Chiefs have been below .500 since 2015.  Keep an eye on this team and the AFC West; there may be a significant upheaval going on there…

Rams 34  Bucs  24:  Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ passing game – particularly Cooper Kupp – carved up the Bucs’ secondary all day long.  Neither team was able to run the ball effectively and the simple fact is that Stafford had a better day than Tom Brady did.

Raiders 31  Dolphins 28 (OT):  The Raiders must remind themselves that a win is a win.  This was an ugly win, but they do not put asterisks in the standings. After letting the Dolphins get off to a 14-0 lead, the Raiders rallied to score 25 straight points.  The Raiders amassed 495 yards of offense here.

Packers 30  Niners 28:  The Packers took a 17-0 lead here and seemed to be in complete control.  Then two things happened:

  1. A big kick return gave the Niners the ball inside the Packers 35-yardline with about a minute left in the half; that led to a Niners’ TD and some energy
  2. The Packers defense became passive in the second half and the Niners took advantage to lead the game 28-27 with 37 seconds left in the game and the ball at the Packers 25-yardline with no timeouts for the Packers.

Not to worry, Aaron Rodgers was 4-for 4 on a drive that covered 42 yards in about 22 seconds leading to Mason Crosby kicking the winning field goal from 51 yards out.

Cowboys 41  Eagles 21:  The stats for total offense were almost dead even; the Eagles gained 367 yards and the Cowboys gained 380 yards.  Each team scored a defensive TD.  You might think this was a nail-biter – – but it was not.  The Cowboys held the ball for almost 35 minutes and had 27 first downs to only 13 for the Eagles.  A final TD by the Eagles with 3 minutes left in the game made the score look more “respectable” than the game really was.

Ravens 19  Lions 17:  I purposely saved this one for last.  I said last week that the Ravens were a good team but not a reliable team and that they were ripe for a let-down game after beating the Chiefs two weeks ago.  Check!  Just to give you a flavor of how flat the Ravens were, the Lions’ defense held the Ravens to 1 for 10 on third down conversions.  The Lions had this game in hand leading by 2 in the final 15 seconds but gave up a long play to set up a 66-yard field goal try by Justin Tucker that was good – – and the Lions demonstrated their “Lion-ness” once again.  And that winning field goal from 66 yards out leads to an amazing conjunction of events that could only be arranged by the “Football Gods”.

I need to set the stage here for the ‘youngsters” who might be reading this.  Tom Dempsey was  born with only half of a right foot and his physique was the antithesis of a “pro athlete”.  However, what he could do was to use that half of a right foot as a club to kick a football long over distances.  That got him several jobs at the NFL level including one with the New Orleans Saints in 1970.  Early in that season, Dempsey kicked a 63-yard game-winning field goal for the Saints that broke the NFL record for longest field goal.  That record had been held by Bert Rechichar of the Baltimore Colts; the record had been 56 yards and that record had stood for a little over 17 years.

With that as prelude, consider what happened last week as compared to what happened in earlier days of NFL history:

  • Justin Tucker kicked the longest game-winning field goal in NFL history last week against the Lions.
  • In 1970, Dempsey’s record-breaking field goal was also in a game against the Lions.
  • The final score last week was 19-17 with the Lions on the short end; the final score back in 1970 when Dempsey hit his 63-yard game-winning field goal was also 19-17 with the Lions on the short end.
  • Bert Rechichar played for the Baltimore Colts and Justin Tucker plays for the Baltimore Ravens.


NFL Games:


Washington – 1 at Atlanta (47):  I realize that Taylor Heinicke was “less-than-successful” in his first NFL road game last week, but this is a road game against a much lesser opponent.  The real issue for this game is the Football Team’s defense; it has been a serious underachiever to date in 2021 but the Atlanta OL is hardly a top-shelf unit working at peak efficiency.  Coach Rivera said that last week’s game against the Bills was a “measuring stick game”.  I think this week is the “measuring stick game”.  Other than at QB, Washington has the better of things.  I like the Football team to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Detroit at Chicago – 2.5 (41.5):  This is so obviously the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Lions played the Ravens excellently for 59 minutes last week and then blew the game at the end (see above).  The Bears were simply awful last week even with wunderkind, Justin Fields under center.  This is purely a hunch, but I think that the first team to get 17 points will win the game; so, just for the halibut, I’ll take this game to stay UNDER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Tennessee – 6.5 at Jets (44.5):  The Jets’ defense has given up 110.7 yards per game rushing so far in 2021.  Now, Derrick Henry comes to town…

Cleveland – 2 at Minnesota (51.5):  I do not have a good feel for this game.  The Browns have a better roster but do not always play to their level of talent.  The Vikes’ performance from week to week is inscrutable.  Given the fact that both teams like to run the ball, that Total Line seems high – – but what do I know?

Indy at Miami – 2 (42.5):  All the focus for this game has to do with Carson Wentz and his sprained ankles.  The other QB in the game will be Jacoby Brisset and this is either a “homecoming game” for him or perhaps a “revenge game” depending on how you look at it.  There is a real possibility that this game could boil down to a duel between backup QBs.

Carolina at Dallas – 4 (51.5):  Sam Darnold has played very well so far this year for the Panthers, but the absence of Christian McCaffrey should allow the Cowboys’ defense to focus on pass defense here.  The Carolina defense has played exceptionally well so far this year; it is the leading defense in the NFL to date.  Make no mistake, this is the best offense it has faced in 2021.

Giants at New Orleans – 7 (41.5):  This is the delayed home opener for the Saints thanks to Hurricane Ida’s arrival in Louisiana about a month ago.  The Giants are bad and to make things worse, the Giants invent ways to lose games.  The Saints are up and down like a yo-yo.  What else might you expect from a team with Jameis Winston at QB?

KC – 7 at Philly (54.5):  This is a homecoming of sorts for Andy Reid.  He spent 13 years as the head coach of the Eagles until leaving in 2012.  Since his departure, the Eagles won a Super Bowl and Andy Reid’s Chiefs won a Super Bowl.  He should get a warm welcome – – but then again, this game is in Philly…  I think Patrick Mahomes will have a big day here and Nick Sirianni will have to modify his play calling strategy significantly.  Last week, the Eagles handed the ball to a running back only 3 times in the whole game.  If the Eagles let Mahomes on the field a lot, this could be a rout.  I like the Chiefs to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Houston at Buffalo – 17 (47.5):  I am on record as hating double-digit spreads in NFL games and I am not going to make a selection here.  However, I will say that if the Bills’ offense is as surgical this week as it was last week against the Football Team, they might win this game by 30 points.

Arizona at Rams – 4 (55):  Both teams are 3-0; this game will determine who is in first place in the NFC West after the first quarter – or so – of the NFL season is done.  Both offenses are explosive; fans in attendance will see the ball going up and down the field like it was a tennis match.  The Rams’ defense is the better defense but recall that it surrendered points and yards to the Bucs last week; this is not a reincarnation of the Steel Curtain defense.  This is my runner-up for Game of the Week.

Seattle at SF – 3 (52):  These are the “also-rans” in the NFC West at the moment; the Niners are 2-1 and the Seahawks are 1-2.  The Seahawks have problems rushing the passer; if the Seahawks’ defense gives Jimmy G. time in the pocket, Jimmy G will pick them clean.  There is the key to this game…  I think both QBs will have excellent stats at the end of the game so let me take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Baltimore at Denver “pick ‘em” (45):  If you search the Internet sports books, you can find a line that has either team as a 1-point favorite; this seems to be the most common “spread” on the game.  The Broncos are undefeated; their defense is ranked 2nd in the NFL and gives up only 221.7 yards per game.  It sounds as if I am describing a serious Super Bowl contender here – – except – – here are the teams the Broncos have beaten and smothered with their defense:

  • Jets
  • Giants
  • Jags

That is not exactly “Murderers’ Row”.  The Ravens represent an entirely different level of opponent this week.  The Ravens are inconsistent so I do not want to make a selection here, but this will be an interesting game to observe.

Pittsburgh at Green Bay – 6 (45):  This game should be an indicator of things to come for the Steelers.  The Packers give up over 115 yards per game on the ground; for the record the Jets and the Lions both give up fewer rush yardage than that.  If the Steelers cannot run the ball here, they are toast because without a serious threat to run the ball, the Steelers’ offense is doomed.

(Sun Nite) Tampa – 7 at New England (49): We interrupt this rant to bring you Breaking News.  This just in to Curmudgeon Central …

  • Tom Brady will play his first game in Foxboro since leaving the Pats and signing with the Bucs.  Remember, you heard it here first…

Now, looking at the players and the teams, the Bucs have more talent and are coming to the game off a loss.  They have serious playoff and Super Bowl aspirations.  The Pats are also coming here off a loss, but if these Pats think they are going to be part of the Super Bowl next February they should worry about the levels of hallucinogens in their bloodstream.  I like the Bucs to win and cover here; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Las Vegas at Chargers – 3 (51.5): This is my Game of the Week.  Both QBs here have played excellently so far this year and the Raiders’ defense is significantly improved over last season.  This game should be a great game to watch.

So let me review the Six-Pack:

  1. Louisville/Wake Forest OVER 60
  2. Washington – 1 over Atlanta
  3. Detroit/Chicago UNDER 41.5
  4. KC – 7 over Philly
  5. SF/Seattle OVER 52
  6. Tampa – 7 over New England

[Aside:  My 3 selections against the spread here are all favorites on the road picked to win and cover.  We shall see…]

Finally,  there has been a lot made of the so-called “Alliance” in college football among the Big-10, the ACC and the PAC-12.  Let me close here with this definition of an alliance according to Ambrose Bierce:

“Alliance, n.  In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply in each other’s pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third.”

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



A “DC-Centric” Rant Today …

Pardon the Interruption – or PTI as it is more commonly known – celebrated its 20th year on the air this week.  In terms of sports commentary and discussion, I believe it has been the gold standard for most of those two decades.  For a while, it  was in a dead heat with ESPN’s Sunday morning program The Sports Reporters hosted by Dick Schapp for best sports discussions on TV.

Obviously, a program like that can only work if the two folks having the discussion are thoughtful and entertaining.  Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are both of those things, and I believe they bring something else to the program that sets it apart.  These two people are genuine friends in real life away from the program – – and it shows.  If any other sports discussion/”debate” program on the air now features this kind of genuine friendship off the air between or among the participants, I have not found it.

  • [Aside:  It is this same element of real friendship between the participants that I find very attractive about the “Manningcasts” of Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli.]

The idea of discussing a sports “issue” among friends is a natural happening for sports fans.  Watching PTI always gives me the sense that I am eavesdropping on a discussion of that sort.  That is a totally different feeling that I get from the faux-debate programs where my sense is that I am doing something in my life and a couple of guys have intruded on my life by arguing over minutiae that need not be argued over.

For those who have not been resident in the Washington DC area, both Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were sports columnists for the Washington Post for years before anyone ever saw them on PTI.  Kornheiser was also a radio presence in the DC area in the 90s once sports radio came to town and he often had Wilbon on as a guest on his program; I suspect that people in the DC area who had listened to the two of them on the radio were not surprised to see the way they handled the program format on PTI.

I would like to be able to wish Tony and Michael another two decades on the air entertaining and informing folks.  That is not likely in the cards; Kornheiser is 73 years old; Wilbon is a mere stripling at 62 years old.  But I can certainly wish for another decade on the air for the two of them.

Let me move along to another issue that is centered on the DC area.  While it is indeed correct to say that the NFL season is still in its infancy, it is also correct to say that the defensive unit for the Washington Football Team has been a huge underachieving hot mess.  It was a “Top 5” unit last year; it is a “Bottom 5” unit this year.  What makes this “fall from grace” even more jarring for fans here is that the face of the defense – Chase Young – set a standard of expectation for the unit that is lofty beyond what was achieved last year.  One of Young’s pronouncements was that he and the other starting defensive end – Montez Sweat – were aiming to break the NFL record for combined sacks by edge rushers.

  • [Aside:  After three games the pair of them have a total of 3 sacks and all of them belong to Montez Sweat.]

Chase Young is 22 years old; he is a chronological adult; he is also an extremely talented athlete and football player.  At the same time, I am not even close to the point where I might attach the label “mature” to Chase Young.  He seems completely caught up in a “Hey, Look At Me” persona; if I wanted to be unkind to him – and I have no reason to do that – I would suggest that he is trying to replace Terrell Owens as the NFL’s poster child for self-aggrandizement.

During his rookie year in 2020, Young was a highly vocal and visible cheerleader for the team on the sidelines and on the field.  Combined with a rookie year that earned him Defensive Rookie of the Year, most of his antics were likeable and even marginally entertaining.  However, as the season ended, Young’s “cheerleading” took a turn.  As the Football Team left the field in the final game knowing they were NFC East champions and headed for a playoff game against the Bucs, Young announced that Tom Brady needed to take care because Young was coming to get him.  A 21-year-old (at the time) was calling out Tom Brady and telling Brady to beware…  Let that sink in.

  • [Aside:  In that playoff game, Young had no sacks, one solo tackle, two assisted tackles and no QB hits in 64 defensive snaps.  I don’t think Tom Brady figured that he had dodged a bullet once that game was over.]

If that was a one-off incident, I could write it off as the exuberance of youth.  However, it seems to have carried over into the offseason.  Young spent much of the offseason involved with TV appearances and shooting commercials.  No problem with that; those are some of the perks that come to a Defensive Rookie of the Year who is also extroverted and attractive.  The problem is that those activities seem to have been on an equal footing with continued development as a football player.  Young missed every OTA for the team and reportedly was a rare participant in the team-sponsored conditioning activities.  In fact according to reports, he the only member of the defense not to be part of even one half-day of OTAs.

Young played very well last year partly because he was new and different in addition to being naturally gifted as an athlete.  However, offensive coordinators and offensive line coaches around the league did not spend the last offseason filming commercials or appearing on TV shows; they were watching film and working with their charges who actually did show up for OTAs how they might counter some of what Chase Young might want to do in 2021.  Put in the vernacular, it appears that offensive linemen have been coached up to thwart what Young did successfully last year and Young seems not to have added any nuances to his repertoire of ways to get to the QB/ball-carrier from last year.

Once again, if that were the sum and substance of the issue, it would seem to be something that coaches and player could address and correct.  But wait, there’s more…  After last week’s loss to the Bills where the Football Team’s defense gave up almost 500 yards and 41 points, Young seemed not to take much ownership of the debacle.  Here is his statement after the game:

“We’ve just got to play together; we’re not doing that right now. You know, the D-line, we’re not the only people on the field. It’s the linebackers, the DBs. We all have to play as one.”

Finally, let me close today with some advice from Mark Twain:

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

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



MNF And MLB Today…

Two weeks ago, I said that I had watched Monday Night Football via the “Peyton and Eli” game presentation on ESPN 2 and that I liked it a lot.  Evidently, the audience for the first version of that program liked what it saw and took the opportunity to tell their friends and family about it because the estimated audience for Week 2 was double what it was in Week 1.  Last night was Week 3; and while I cannot find any ratings numbers for last night, I thought the show continued to get better week by week.

I guess the ESPN execs and/or the Manning Bros figured that this format for game telecasts might need to come on gently for the public because after three great opening weeks, ESPN will have them off the air for the next 3 weeks.  Obviously, I will return to their commentary once the hiatus is over and I want to suggest that you give it a try once they are back.  It is different; it is refreshing; it is serious and light-hearted at the same time; it is entertaining in and of itself without taking anything away from the excitement or entertainment of the game.

If you choose to follow my suggestion when Peyton and Eli return to ESPN, it is a risk-free option for you.  I understand that the appreciation  for broadcast teams is completely a personal reaction, and if you tune in you may dislike what you see and hear.  However, if that is the case, all you need to do is flip the channel from ESPN 2 over to ESPN and there you will find the standard presentation of the Monday night game.  No cost and no obligation…

The finish line for the MLB regular season is clearly in sight and the only real uncertainty left involves the wildcard teams for the AL playoffs.  Yes, I know the Braves and Phillies have not settled on which team will win the NL East, but the odds against the Phillies overtaking the Braves are long odds.  Chelsea Janes covers the Nats and MLB for the Washington Post.  Back in late March and before the season began, the Post had a special Baseball Section and Janes had the responsibility to produce a paragraph on each of the 30 MLB teams regarding the upcoming season.  She chose to select a player for each team “who could make or break” the season for their team.  Here is a sampling of her hits and misses:

LA Dodgers … Trevor Bauer:  “It may seem counterintuitive that the lone addition to the defending World Series champions; already loaded rotation could somehow make or break their hopes of repeating.  But exactly how Bauer and his knack for controversy fit into the no-nonsense Dodgers’ clubhouse culture could be determinative for better or worse.  If he thrives, the Dodgers may be well on their way to a repeat.”

And …

Milwaukee Brewers … Josh Hader:  “The Brewers stocked up on defenders and bring back a promising rotation in 2021.  But their fortunes may pivot around fireballer Hader who was only somewhat dominant in a small sample last season but was nearly untouchable in 2018 and 2019.  If he returns to form, he and emerging star Devin Williams could give the Brewers an unhittable one-two punch in the back end of the bullpen.”

And …

LA Angels … Shohei Ohtani:  “The Angels have never been short on star power, but they have never exactly put it all together.  A full season of Ohtani on the mound and in the box would amount to the addition of an elite power starter to the rotation and hitter to the lineup, both units Manager Joe Madden and the Angels think are close to turning a corner.  With a healthy Ohtani, the Angels finally could have enough firepower to contend.”

Last week, Bob Molinaro had this cogent observation about MLB coverage in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

Out West: It’s too easy poking fun at the triple-digit-losing Orioles. Save some derision for what’s truly the most disappointing, underachieving team — the talent-laden San Diego Padres.”

The Padres are indeed “talent-laden”; they spent lots of money in the offseason on free agents increasing the Opening Day salary commitment for 2021 to $174.1M – significantly greater than the Opening Day salary commitment for 2020 which was only $67.4M.  Nevertheless, as of this morning the Padres’ record is a pedestrian 78-78; they are 24 games out of first place in the NL West and they are eliminated from the wildcard slots in the NL.

The Orioles and the Diamondbacks have each lost 106 games as of this morning; the Pirates will probably lose 100 games by the end of the season; no one in the fanbase for any of those 3 teams is feeling elated today.  However, back in March, only delusional folks in those 3 fanbases would have held out any hope that those teams would be in contention for the playoffs in September.  There were no great expectations for any of those teams.  But for the Padres…?  That is why the Padres deserve the label “most disappointing, underachieving team.”

If anyone is to take the fall for the Padres’ underachievement, it will likely be manager, Jayce Tingler.  I think there are 3 MLB managers whose seats are fiery hot right about now.  Tingler leads that list and the other two are both in NYC:

  • Aaron Boone:  If the Yankees do not make the playoffs, I think he will not be back with the team next year.  His contract is up and the fact that the Yankees are 8 full games behind the Rays and have been eliminated from the AL East race for the final week and a half of the regular season will have the Yankees’’ brass “going in a different direction” if the Yankees do not take part in the post-season.
  • Luis Rojas:  The Mets have a new owner who gives me the impression that he would like to be seen as the latter-day version of George Steinbrenner in New York.  The Mets seem poised to clean house in the Front Office and if that happens along with the Mets’ late season collapse, I think Rojas is on the unemployment line.

Finally, with all the sturm und drang surrounding which NBA players have been vaccinated and which have not, I believe this observation by Oscar Wilde is relevant:

“Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease.”

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



Add Arkansas To The List …

In last week’s Football Friday, I mentioned a few teams that had been positive surprises so far this year.  I did not include Arkansas on that list; I was wrong to leave them off that list.  To be fair, when I “omitted them” from my list of positive surprises, the Razorbacks were 3-0 but two of the three wins were against Rice (a genuinely weak team) and Georgia Southern (a team that will never be confused with Georgia).  The third win was over Texas which was a surprise but running up a good score against Texas when a team is at home is not something that particularly catches my attention these days.

Well, I am now ready to say that Arkansas is a significant positive surprise for the 2021 season.  Last week, the Razorbacks beat 8th ranked Texas A&M 20-10.  The Aggies may not be the best team in the SEC West, but they are probably the best team in Texas and there are a lot of teams in Texas.  What was impressive is how Arkansas won the game.

The Razorbacks ran the ball for 195 yards in the game.  Before you jump into the comments section to tell me that is nowhere near the collegiate rushing record for a game, please consider that Texas A&M has at least two players in their defensive front seven who are considered to be first round/early round draft picks in the NFL come next April.  Arkansas averaged more than 4 yards per rushing attempt on a good – not great but good – defensive unit.  Running the football has been important to Arkansas this year; as of this morning, they rank 8th in the country in rushing yards per game with 261 yards per game.

About 50 years ago, Arkansas was a national power; that has not been nearly the case for the last decade; the last time Arkansas had double-digit wins was in 2011 and they have had eight losing seasons since 2000.  I could not come up with the name of the coach at Arkansas who seems to be guiding this program  turn-around, so I went to Google to refresh my memory.  Actually, my memory did not need refreshing; the coach in Arkansas is Sam Pittman and until Google let me know about him, I was totally unfamiliar with his background in football.

Basically, Sam Pittman has been an offensive line coach for the last 20 years at a variety of schools in the Midwest and Southeast US.  Before getting the job at Arkansas, he was the OL coach at Georgia for 4 years and he took over the Arkansas program in 2020 which was a chaotic time in college football and in most endeavors in the US thanks to COVID-19.  Just to give you an idea of what he took over in 2020, the Razorbacks’ cumulative conference record in the SEC from 2017 through 2019 was a less than exemplary 1-23.

The upcoming schedule for Arkansas is anything but a stroll down primrose lane.  Here is what they are looking at for the next 3 weeks:

  • At Georgia
  • At Ole Miss
  • Vs. Auburn

I will be shocked if Arkansas runs that gauntlet and has a 7-0 record  in the middle of October – – and late in the season they have road games against LSU and Alabama.  Arkansas is not going to be part of the discussion for the CFP – but considering the state of the football program there for the last decade, the start to this season under Coach Pittman has been a hugely positive surprise.

Moving on …  About two weeks ago, I mentioned here that Ben Simmons’ demand to be traded was going to be a challenge for the Sixers’ Front office execs.  Simmons is an elite defender and an excellent passer, but his offensive game is close to non-existent.  That alone would tend to put a ceiling on whatever value the Sixers might extract from a trading partner.  However, consider the totality of the picture:

  • If I have added correctly, Simmons’ contract calls for him to make $146M over the next 4 years.  That is a lot of cheese for a player who does not score points.
  • He managed to get completely crosswise with the Sixers – reportedly refusing to take phone calls from the coach or from teammates and then declaring that he will not report to training camp.  Remember, his contract is guaranteed; so, the Sixers cannot simply release him and save the money from his contract to spend on someone who actually wants to play for and with the team.

Notwithstanding Simmons’ skills, the Sixers are probably at a point where trading Simmons for a bag of donut holes becomes addition by subtraction.  The problem is that front offices around the NBA must be similarly aware of the position that the Sixers are in.  Because the NBA demands that trades exchange players making similar amounts of money, the best deal the Sixers might pull off would be for another disgruntled “star player” with a big contract elsewhere.  I can think of two possibilities:

  1. John Wall:  I mentioned him a couple of weeks ago when I was talking about Simmons’ situation with the Sixers.  I thought then that such a trade would be a bad one for both teams.  I continue to believe that.
  2. Kristaps Porzingas:  Simmons and Porzingas have totally different skill sets.  The most common element in their careers is that neither has come close to living up to the hype they got early in their careers.  Both are overpaid and unhappy; maybe a change of scenery would make them simply overpaid.

Finally, let me close today with a comment from Laurence J. Peter – the originator of the Peter Principle”

“A bore is a fellow talking who can change the subject back to his topic of conversation faster than you can change it back to yours.”

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



Football Friday 9/24/21

Robinson Crusoe had a colleague he named Friday.  The TV show, Dragnet, had a main character named Sgt. Joe Friday.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, we have Football Friday.  There is plenty of stuff to consider this week, so let’s get started…

Last week’s Six-Pack was not anywhere near wonderful:

  • College:  1-2-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Combined:  2-4-0

For the year, the cumulative totals are:

  • College:  2-3-0
  • NFL:  2-4-1
  • Combined:  4-7-1


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats had an impressive road victory last week in Redlands CA over the Redlands Bulldogs by a score of 51-10.  The Wildcats are 2-0 in their quest to keep alive their streak of winning football seasons that began in 1956.  This week, the Wildcats are on the road again; this week they play the Puget Sound Loggers.  Puget Sound arrives at the game with an 0-2 record and one of those losses was to Redlands by a score of 60-10.  Go Wildcats!

I know that the college football season is only 3 weeks old and that only about 5% of the conference games have already happened.  Nevertheless, there are a few teams that look as if they are going to be a lot better than I thought they were going to be and a few that are going to be worse than I thought they were going to be.  Here are the positive surprises to date:

  • BYU:  The Cougars are 3-0 and all three wins have come against PAC-12 competition.  They lost their starting QB from last year (Zach Wilson) to the NFL Draft so I thought they might “take a step back”.
  • Fresno St.:  They are 3-1 and that loss was to highly ranked Oregon by 7 points.  They also have a win over UCLA.  The Bulldogs have gone through the toughest part of their schedule; they could be a nine- or ten-win team this year.
  • Iowa:  The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and two of those wins have come against teams that were ranked in the Top 20.   Iowa gets the “Sesame Street Trophy” for the year by dominating the letter “I”.  They have beaten Indiana and Iowa State.

Here are the negative surprises to date:

  • Clemson:  Yes, the Tigers are 2-1.  However, I had them as a CFP team when the season started almost out of habit.  Other than a shellacking of a Division 1-AA foe, the Tigers have scored a total of 17 points in their other two games.
  • Miami:  There was lots of hype about the Hurricanes being on the verge of returning to a power position in the college football hierarchy.  I bought into some of that hype.  Miami is 1-2 on the season; the win was by 2 points over Appalachia State; the two losses were blowouts (see below).
  • Notre Dame:  Yes, I know the Irish are 3-0.  However, none of those three wins were anything near “dominant”.
  • Ohio State:  The defense is not up to Buckeyes’ standards so far this year.  It has allowed 86 points in three games.

Before the season started, there were rumblings that the PAC-12 might be on the upswing this year.  Washington was one of the teams expected to be relevant – – but an opening week loss to Division 1-AA Montana kicked that idea in the head. An overall look at the conference so far is far closer to “bleak” than it is to “rosy”.  Consider:

  • The only undefeated team is Oregon at 3-0 with a win over Ohio State and a #3 ranking in this week’s poll.  The rest of the picture is not pretty.
  • Arizona is 0-3 including a loss at home to a Division 1-AA foe.
  • Colorado opened with a win over a Division 1-AA opponent.  In its last two games – both of which were at home – the Buffaloes scored a total of 7 points.
  • Oregon St. is 2-1, but those two wins have been over less-than-formidable opponents.
  • UCLA looked as if it was going to be a bright spot for the conference when it beat LSU.  Then the next week they hosted Fresno State and lost.
  • Utah already has two losses and their starting QB has left the team.  The team did not get rid of him; he walked out. (see below)

Charlie Brewer was the Utah starting QB for the season; he is a senior who transferred to Utah from Baylor for this year.  Utah lost last week to San Diego State and Brewer was benched after posting the following stat line:

  • 14 of 26 for 104 with 0 TDs and 1 INT

Brewer was sacked three times before he was replaced.  His replacement, Cameron Rising, threw for 3 TDs in the game and almost pulled it out for the Utes; Rising is a sophomore.  Evidently, Brewer saw the handwriting on the wall and chose to leave the team rather than be Rising’s backup.  Here is the explanation of that whole situation by Utah coach Kyle Whittingham:

“Charlie has decided to move on, and we wish him the best.”

Before looking at individual games from last week, let me present the teams that are in contention for The Brothel Defense Award this year – – the defense that allows anyone to score a lot:

  • UMass has given up 46 points per game
  • UConn has given up 46 points per game
  • Rice has given up 46.7 points per game

I’ll start with games involving Big-10 schools…

Cincy 38  Indiana 24.  Cincy goes to 3-0.  Indiana was a Top 25 team in the pre-season and has lost 2 of its first 3 games.  Cincy trailed 24-23 at the start of the 4th quarter but took control in the final stages of the game to win comfortably.  It was not an “artistic game” by any measure.  There were 7 turnovers in the game (4 by Indiana) and there were 16 penalties (11 by Cincy) in the game.

Michigan St. 38  Miami 17:  Can we dispense with the lofty expectations and pumping sunshine up the butts of Miami fans? If this is a Top 25 team, then it is a bleak year in college football.  Miami had more yards on offense and more first downs in the game.  However, they turned the ball over 4 times.

Minnesota 30  Colorado 0:  Two weeks ago, Colorado lost to Texas A&M 10-7.  The offense for Colorado seems to be a bit lethargic.  The Buffaloes had total offense of 68 yards for the game including minus-14 yards rushing.  They managed all of 6 first downs in the game and turned the ball over twice.

Notre Dame 27  Purdue 13:  Purdue simply could not run the ball; they gained only 57 yards on 26 attempts.  Nonetheless the game was even on the field.  Notre Dame’s total offense was 343 yards and Purdue’s total offense was 348 yards.  The big difference was that Purdue turned the ball over twice and Notre Dame never turned it over.  Also, Notre Dame had 4 first downs on penalties against the Boilermakers.

Ohio State 41  Tulsa 20:  It’s a win – – but not a cover against a much lesser program.  That does not sit well with the heavy-hitting Buckeye boosters.

Oklahoma 23  Nebraska 16:  This is clearly the best showing by Nebraska this year.  The Sooners were a huge favorite and had to scramble to win.  The game was as even on the field as it was on the scoreboard.  The Sooners’ defense is mediocre, and their “potent” offense looked nothing more than “ordinary” against a mediocre Big 10 team.

Penn State 28  Auburn  20:  This is a big win for Penn State and a feather in the cap for the Big-10 as a conference.  Sean Clifford outdueled Bo Nix here; Clifford threw for 280 yards and 2 TDs; Nix amassed 185 yards and 0 TDs.

Duke 30  Northwestern 23:  Here are the results from SAT Bowl #1.  Duke led 24-0 in the first half and 30-7 at the half; and then, Duke was shut out in the second half.  Who knows?

Moving along to action involving SEC teams…

Stanford 41  Vandy  23:  Here are the results from SAT Bowl #2.  This game was a lot closer on the field than on the scoreboard.  Vandy had more first downs in the game and was 4 for 4 on fourth down conversions.  Nonetheless, Stanford dominated on the scoreboard.

Kentucky 28  UT-Chattanooga 23: Kentucky is 3-0…

Alabama 31  Florida  29:  Alabama was a 2 TD favorite in this game, and the Tide led early and looked as if they would put this game on ice; they led 21-3 at the end of the 1st quarter.  The Gators won the second half  20-10.  Florida gained 436 yards to only 327 yards for Alabama and ran the ball for 241 on the Alabama defensive line.  Alabama has now won 32 games in a row against SEC East teams and 8 in a row over the Gators.

Georgia 40  S. Carolina 13:  Georgia/Florida is going to be a great game this year and the winner could well be Alabama’s opponent in the SEC Championship Game.  I only saw highlights of this game against the Gamecocks, but Georgia looks awfully good to me.

In games involving ACC teams…

W.Va 27  VA Tech 21:  I really thought the Hokies were the better team here.  My bad.

Western Michigan 44 Pitt  41:  You can count on Pitt to toss in a clunker – and maybe two – every season.  This is their first one of 2021.  W. Michigan is 2-1.  The wins are over Pitt here and Indiana State last week.  The loss was a shellacking by Michigan (47-14) in Week 1.  Pitt turned the ball over 3 times in the game   Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett threw six touchdown passes and it still wasn’t enough for the Panthers.

Clemson  14  Ga Tech 8:  This is probably a negative mark for Clemson as it seeks to put itself back in the CFP spotlight.  Or maybe Ga Tech is a whole lot better than anyone projected?  My guess is that this is just a down year for the Tigers.  Clemson was a 4 TD favorite at kickoff; Ga Tech out gained them on the field 314 yards to 292 yards.

Wake Forest 35  Fla State 14:  The Seminoles have a new head coach who has been there for all of 3 games.  He came from a successful tenure at Memphis but that is lesser competition than the ACC and the expectations at Memphis are far more realistic than the ones in Tallahassee. Already there are little rumblings that Florida State may be looking at Deion Sanders to come in and take over the program.  Sanders was openly interested in the Florida State job when it was open last winter; Sanders took the job at Jackson State presumably to give him some coaching credentials.  This could get interesting…

UNC  59  Virginia 29:  There were some impressive stats in this game.  VA QB,  Brennan Armstrong threw for 554 yards and 4 TDs.  That was not enough – – even though it was better than UNC QB, Sam Howell who *only* threw for 307 yards and 5 TDs.  Somehow, I doubt any NFL scouts watching this game had a lot of positive notes on defensive backs out there on the field…

Moving along to the Big-12…

K-State 38  Nevada 17: I said last week that K-State is tough at home.  This was a 3-point spread at kickoff.

Baylor 45  Kansas 7:  All has come back to reality within the Jayhawks’ football program…

Texas 58  Rice 0: The Longhorns amassed 620 yards offense to only 272 yards offense for Rice.  This was a mismatch from the outset.  Rice is 0-3 and all the losses have been bad ones.  So far this year, Rice has been outscored 140-24.

Out in the land of the PAC-12 …

Washington 52  Arkansas St. 3:  I honestly believe that the Washington coach saved his job with this blowout.  Had he lost to another lesser program…

USC 45  Washington St. 14:  The Cougars led this game 14-7 at halftime and then the Trojans woke up and dominated the second half 38-0.  USC QB, Kedon Slovis was injured and a true freshman, Jaxon Dart, came off the bench to throw for 391 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs.  USC got 28 points in the 3rd quarter alone.

Fresno State  40  UCLA 37:  Not a good look for the PAC-12 – – but selfishly, I got the OVER pick correctly in last week’s Six-Pack.  Fresno St. dominated here gaining 569 yards on offense to 395 for UCLA.  Fresno St also had 32 first downs to only 19 for the Bruins.  The Bulldogs ran 91 offensive plays to only 55 for the Bruins.

And in a game of minimal importance, Army beat UConn 52- 21:  Remember, it is the former defensive coordinator who has been elevated to the head coaching job now that Randy Edsall has retired.  Army led 42-0 at the half and put it on cruise control for the win.


College Games of Interest:


(Fri Nite) Wake Forest at UVa – 3.5 (68.5):  Wake is undefeated so far this year; last week Virginia lost to UNC by 30 points.  The oddmakers are clearly unimpressed by Wake Forest.

(Fri Nite) UNLV at Fresno St. – 30.5 (59):  UNLV is a bad team and Fresno St. is one of my “positive surprise” teams so far in 2021.

Kentucky – 5 at S. Carolina (48):  Kentucky is unbeaten so far this year and S. Carolina got waxed by Georgia last week.  Make no mistake, Kentucky is not quite Georgia this year…

Notre Dame at Wisconsin – 6.5 (45):  This should be a good game, and this could be an important game in terms of rankings and “conference bragging rights”.  Wisconsin was off last week and has had 2 weeks to prep for this game.

San Jose St. at W. Michigan – 2.5 (63):  W. Michigan beat Pitt last week; now they are home against San Jose St. and are less than a field goal favorite?  Another example of the oddsmakers being unimpressed…

UMass at Coastal Carolina – 36 (65):  Coastal Carolina is ranked in the Top 20 and would surely want to stay there.  However, they are not a football blueblood so they need to continue to play “impressively” for voters who will not watch them play.  UMass is in the running for the Brothel Defense Award this week…

Akron at Ohio St. – 48.5 (67):  The Buckeyes’ defense has not been good at all this year; if they are to get themselves to a point where people think they might be half-decent, they need to put the clamps on Akron this week.

Kansas at Duke – 16 (57):  Kansas is not any good, but can you trust the Duke defense enough to spot another Division 1 team two TDs plus?

UNC – 12.5 at Ga Tech (63.5):  The fact that Tech held Clemson to 14 points last week obviously did not impress the oddsmakers.  The Total Line would suggest that the Tar Heels will score close to 40 points here…

Washington St. at Utah – 15 (53.5):  Neither team has looked impressive so far in 2021.  This game could be part of a race to the bottom…

Hawaii – 17 at New Mexico St. (62.5):  Hawaii is not nearly a powerhouse team, and this is a long trip for them to get from Hawaii to Las Cruces, NM (almost 6 hours in the air).  Nonetheless they are 17-point favorites; that tells you what the oddsmakers think of New Mexico State.

USF at BYU – 23 (54):  BYU is undefeated and should stay that way this week.  BYU has won its last 12 home games; USF has lost its last 7 road games.  But the Cougars are not winning because of their offense; their total margin of victory in 3 games is 27 points.  That is a big number for them to cover

Colorado at Arizona St. – 14.5 (45):  Remember, Colorado was shut out last week and only scored 7 points the week before that…

UCLA – 5 at Stanford (58.5):  Each team has a loss, but both are undefeated in conference games.  Stanford QB, Tanner McKee has  thrown 5 TDs with 0 INTs this year; he will face a UCLA pass defense that has been miserable.  The last two opponents for UCLA (LSU and Fresno St.) combined to throw 5 TDs and to amass 788 yards in the air.  With Stanford at home, taking points and facing a questionable defense, I like the Cardinal; I’ll take Stanford plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Louisville – 1.5 at Florida St. (61.5):  I have exactly no sense of how this game might unfold.  Louisville’s two wins are at home; Florida State has lost twice at home and once on the road.  The Seminoles are 0-3 so far in 2021; the last time they were 0-4 was back in 1974; Gerald Ford was President in 1974.

K-State at Oklahoma St. – 6 (46.5):  Both teams are undefeated.  K-State looked good at home last week in beating Nevada.  Oklahoma State has 3 wins in 2021 by a total of 13 points.  I think this will be a low-scoring game where I prefer to take points; so, I’ll take K-State on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

So. Mississippi at Alabama – 45 (58.5):  So. Miss gave up 9 sacks in a game against Troy; you cannot blame the So. Miss QB if he comes out a tad gun-shy here.  In that game against Troy, the Golden Eagles amassed only 156 yards on offense.  Here are the Money Line odds for this game:

  • So. Miss  =  +35,000
  • Alabama  = minus-105,000

Georgia – 35 at Vandy (53):  Vandy lost at home last week to Stanford.  Georgia is better than Stanford…

LSU – 2.5 at Mississippi St. (56.5):  Could be an important game for both teams.  For LSU, the fans will not be happy with a loss to one of the “lesser teams” in the conference.  For Mississippi State, it will be embarrassing if their so-called big-time offense cannot light up the scoreboard against a suspect defense.  We shall see…

SMU at TCU – 9.5 (65.5):  This is a rivalry game that does not draw a lot of attention.  The schools are about 30 miles from each other.

Tennessee at Florida – 18.5 (63.5):  The Gators rallied to make it a nail-biter last week against Alabama.  If they play the way they did in the second half, Tennessee will be blown out – – but might they suffer a let-down after that emotional game…???

Clemson – 10 at NC St. (47.5):  The Clemson offense has been AWOL in both games against Division 1-A opponents this season scoring a; total of 17 points.  However, the Clemson defense has kept things interesting because it only gave up 21 points in the Tigers’ 3 games.

Nebraska at Michigan St. – 5 (52):  State has been strong this year and Nebraska has been up and down.  Last week in a rivalry game with Oklahoma, they were up; if they play that way, they can handle anything Michigan St. might throw at them.  If they have a down day , however…

Rutgers at Michigan – 20.5 (49.5):  The Wolverines are undefeated and lead the nation in rushing.  The Scarlet Knights are undefeated and have only allowed 34 points for 2021.  Last year, these teams went to Triple OT to decide the game.

Cal at Washington – 7.5 (47):  Both teams are 1-2 for the season; both teams won last week; both teams are 0-0 in conference play.

Arizona at Oregon – 28.5 (59):  Oregon seems to be the class of the PAC-12 this year; Arizona seems to be the doormat of the conference this year.


NFL Commentary:


Last week was a bad week in terms of injuries to players who are important contributors to their teams.  There were four starting QBs who were injured in Week 2:

  1. Andy Dalton – Bears
  2. Tua Tagovailoa – Dolphins
  3. Tyrod Taylor – Texans
  4. Carson Wentz – Colts

Here are six other injuries from last week to players who are/were very important to their teams:

  1. Tyson Alualu – Steelers
  2. Brandon Brooks – Eagles
  3. Bradley Chubb – Broncos
  4. Brandon Graham – Eagles
  5. Jarvis Landry – Browns
  6. TJ Watt – Steelers

The Jags have begun the “Urban Meyer Era” at 0-2.  Frankly, that is not a surprise; the roster he inherited was significantly flawed and while teams can “turn around” quickly in this free agency era, the Jags had too much turning to do to start off strongly.  However, the Jags 0-2 record is not one that inspires hope and confidence and all those good things.  Consider:

  • Trevor Lawrence – the crown jewel of the roster – has been running for his life and has had no time to throw.  His stat line is 42 of 84 for 450 yards with 4 TDs and 5 INTs.  It is not his fault; the Jags’ running game does not scare anyone and the Jags’ pass-catching cadre does not have any All-Pros lining up.
  • The Jags have been outscored 60-34.  A team with a bad OL that cannot protect its QB cannot win giving up 30 points per game.
  • The Jags’ offense has gained a total of 584 yards in 2 games.  That is an “acceptable” average output; but remember, a lot of those yards came after the game was in the bag.
  • The Jags’ defense has yielded 847 yards in 2 games.  There is no amount of arm-waving and deflection that can rationalize such an average allowance.  That defense has stunk out the joint for two weeks.
  • The Jags’ losing streak is at 17 – – and counting…

Here is a stat – or a reality – that I picked up listening to Greeny on ESPN Radio this week.  The last 3 rookie QBs to have a game where they threw 0 TDs and also threw 4 INTs are:

  1. Mark Sanchez
  2. Sam Darnold
  3. Zach Wilson

Anyone see a pattern there…?

Then Saints have been vagabonds in 2021 thanks to Hurricane Ida who drove them out of New Orleans for Week 1; the Saints had to play in Jax.  The goal was to host the Giants on October 3rd, but the roof of the Superdome caught on fire this week leaving that game venue up in the air.  In the spirit of making chicken salad out of chicken s*it, how’s this for an idea:

  • See if the Saints can play that October 3 game in the Alamodome in San Antonio.  It could be an “audition” for fans there; and if the 64,000-seat stadium is packed, the NFL can use it for leverage in the next round of stadium building negotiations with existing cities.
  • Just a thought.  No fee…

Dick Vitale likes to refer to teams that are up one game and down the next as “Dow Jonesers”.  Well, I think we saw three such teams in the first two weeks of NFL play this year.  So, which version is closer to reality:

  • Saints dismantling of the Packers in Week 1 or Saints no-show against the Panthers in Week 2 – – OR – –
  • Steelers’ Defense in Week 1 at the Bills or Steelers’ Defense in Week 2 at home vs Raiders – – OR – –
  • The Week 1 Titans or the second-half-of-Week 2 Titans?

From games last week, WFT 30  Giants 29:  The team that made the last mistake lost the game; the fourth quarter was nothing more than a comedy of errors.  And maybe the final error was by the officials who called Dexter Lawrence offsides on a Washington field goal that sailed wide right and would have ended the game in favor of the Giants.  Whatever.  The game is in the books; the Giants’ defense is a mess; the Football Team’s defense – – a self-proclaimed Top 5 unit – – is also a mess.  The Giants are not going to score 29 points very often this season.

Panthers 26  Saints 7:  The Saints scored at will in Week 1 against the Packers winning 38-3.  In this game the offense was overwhelmed; the Saints’ total offense for the day was 128 yards.  Sam Darnold had a good day for the Panthers throwing for 305 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs.

Browns 31  Texans  21:  The Texans led the game 14-7 but starting QB, Tyrod Taylor, was injured and had to leave the game.  [Aside:  Can that guy ever get a starting job and avoid an injury early in the season?]  From that point on, the Browns defense took control.  The Browns’ running game was dominant too.

Niners 17  Eagles 11:  This game was close from start to finish.  The Eagles had a 91-yard pass completion in the game and did not score on that drive.  Hard to believe.  Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni might be too cute as a play-caller.  The Eagles had the ball at the Niners 3 yardline and had 6 plays that resulted in nothing.  The strength of the Eagles’ offense is their offensive line; use it.  Jalen Hurts had a good day running the ball (82 yards on 10 carries and a TD) but a less-than-wonderful day passing (12 of 23 for 190 yards).

Bears 20  Bengals 17:  The Bears won this game on defense.  They sacked Joe Burrow 4 times, intercepted 3 passes one of which was a Pick-Six.  The game looks closer than it was; the Bears led 20-3 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Andy Dalton left the game with an injury; Justin Fields posted this stat line for his time against the Bengals:

  • 6 of 13 for 60 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT
  • Meh!

Pats 25  Jets 6:  At first glance, the stats would indicate a Jets’ victory here.  The Jets had 76 more yards on offense and ran the ball for 152 yards.  They had more first downs than the Pats and converted 5 of 13 third-down opportunities.  Here is the problem:  Zach Wilson threw 4 INTs in the game.

Raiders 26  Steelers 17:  This is a big win for the Raiders, and they deserved it.  Derek Carr controlled the game in the absence of RB, Josh Jacobs.  Both defenses played well; the Raiders’ defense  played better.  The Steeler’s defense will have to adjust to the loss of Alualu and maybe TJ Watt.  Alualu fractured his ankle and Watt had a groin injury that did not allow him to return to the game.  The Steelers’ offense is still dink-and-dunk and the Raiders’ defense picked up on that reluctance to throw the ball down the field.

Broncos 23  Jags 13:  Trevor Lawrence threw 2 INTs in the game and the Broncos’ defense was too much for the Jags who have now lost 17 in a row.  The Jags’ offense for the day was a meager 189 yards.  The Jags scored a TD on their first possession.  Then this is the result of their offense from that score until a final drive that produced a meaningless score:

  1. Punt
  2. Missed Field Goal
  3. Punt
  4. Missed Field Goal
  5. Punt
  6. INT
  7. Punt
  8. INT

Rams 27  Colts 24:  Cooper Kupp had another outstanding day against the Colts’ secondary; he caught 9 passes for 163 yards and 2 TD.  The Colts outgained the Rams here but were only 1 for 4 in terms of TDs in the Red Zone.  The Colts had  two possessions in the first half inside the Rams’ 10 yardline and they came away with nothing on the scoreboard.  In the first of those possessions, the Colts ran Jonathan Taylor four straight times and gained zero net yards.  The next time, the Colts ran Taylor inside again and were stuffed once more; and then, they ran Taylor inside again.  That yielded the same result.  So, the next thing out of the Colts’ bag of tricks was to have Carson Wentz came up with a shovel pass apparently to no one that was immediately intercepted by the Rams’ defense.

Bucs 48  Falcons 25:  Matt Ryan threw 2 Pick-Sixes in this game.  The Falcons are not nearly good enough to overcome that sort of thing.  Not all the blame belongs to Ryan here; the Falcons OL allowed way too much pressure most of the day.  Tom Brady had a good day at the office throwing 5 TD passes.

Titans 33  Seahawks 30  (OT):  The Seahawks seemed to be in control of this game; they led 24-9 at the half.  The Seahawks put up 397 yards on offense which is usually a good number for a win; however, the Titans countered with 532 yards of offense last week.  Derek Henry had a huge day carrying the ball 32 times for 182 yards and 3 TDs.  The Titans controlled the ball for just over 39 minutes in the game.

Cowboys 20  Chargers 17:  The game winner was a 56-yard field goal as the clock ran down.  The Dallas defense gave up yards but also managed to intercept Justin Herbert twice in the game.

Ravens 36  Chiefs  35:  For me, this was the most entertaining game of the weekend  The Chiefs’ defense was ineffective against the run; the Ravens ran for 251 yards on 41 carries.  Lamar Jackson was the leading rusher (with 2 TDs on the ground) and he completed 70% of his passes including another TD.  The Chiefs also melted down on offense turning the ball over twice in its final three possessions of the game.  However, these were two very accomplished teams going at each other and it was enjoyable to watch – – as it may be come playoff-time…

Cards 34  Vikes 33:  The Vikes’ kicker had a bad day.  He missed an extra point and then missed a game-winning field goal as time expired from the 38-yardline.   Kyler Murray was the offensive hero of the game throwing 3 TD passes and rushing for another score.

Bills 35  Dolphins 0:  Tua was hurt in the first quarter and did not return.  The Dolphins’ OL is simply not adequate; absent significant improvement there, the Dolphins are in for a long season.  The Bills pretty much did whatever they needed to do when they needed to do it.

Packers 35  Lions 17:  The Lions looked as if they were going to make a game out of this until a clock somewhere struck midnight and the Lions realized who they really are and folded like a bedsheet.


NFL Games:


Last night, the Texans went with Davis Mills at QB since Tyrod Taylor could not go against the Panthers.  Going into the final 2 minutes of the first half, the Texans’ offense had a net of 44 yards and did not cross the 50-yardline until 1:12 was left in the first half.  Nevertheless, the game was 7-6 at the half in favor of the Panthers.  Carolina won the game despite losing Christian McCaffrey to a leg injury; the Panthers simply have the better roster.  The Panthers are 3-0 for the season.

Arizona – 7.5 at Jax (52):  The Cards rank second in the NFL in offense early on in the 2021 season with 445 yards per game.  The Jags’ defense is not equipped to handle that – – unless the Cards self-immolate as they have been known to do.

Indy at Tennessee – 5.5 (48):  Assuming Carson Wentz cannot play, the Colts will be starting a rookie QB, Jacob Eason .  The Titans’ defense has not been noteworthy so far this year, but against a rookie QB in their house, that unit should have a good day.  Wentz is a month or so removed from foot surgery and he now has two sprained ankles.  The Colts need him on the field over the long haul, so they need to be judicious about when they re-insert him as their starter lest he go down for good this year.

  • [Aside:  Carson Wentz has achieved something that will never be eclipsed.  He has two ankle sprains at the same time.  Only a mutant could possibly break that record.]

Baltimore – 8 at Detroit (50):  I think the Ravens are a very good team, but I am not sold on the Ravens as a reliable team; I am fully sold on the proposition that the Lions are not good at all.  Last week against the Packers on MNF, the Lions exhibited some significant defensive shortcomings.  Last week, the Ravens exorcised some demons in beating the Chiefs and are ripe for a let-down game.

Washington at Buffalo – 7.5 (45.5):  This is a potentially excellent game.  Josh Allen has been inaccurate in the first two games of 2021; it is almost as if he is a rookie once again.  Notwithstanding that slow start to 2021, Allen has some quality WRs – – Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley – – to get open for him.  The Bills’ defense should force Tyler Heinicke to make his decisions quickly.  I am tempted to take Washington plus those points with a hook on top of a full TD – – but I shall remain above that temptation.

New Orleans at New England – 3 (42.5):  Which Saints team is going to take the field on Sunday?  Since I have no idea as to the answers to that question, this is a great game to watch – – with no monetary interest in the outcome.

Chargers at KC – 7.5 (54.5):  This is my runner-up as the Game of the Week.  Both teams lost last week; both teams have serious playoff aspirations, and those aspirations will not be enhanced by taking a second loss in the first three games.  The Chiefs’ run defense was awful against the Ravens last week, but this week they do not have to contend with Lamar Jackson running the ball.  I think the Chargers can keep this game close enough that it comes down to how the teams perform in the final few possessions.  I like that hook on top of a full touchdown’s worth of points; so, I’ll take the Chargers plus those points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Atlanta at Giants – 3 (47.5):  This is my Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Both teams are 0-2; the Falcons have the worst point differential in the NFL at minus-49; the Giants are masters at giving games away.  Pay attention to other games…

Chicago at Cleveland – 8 (45.5):  Justin Fields gets his first start of the season with Nick Foles as his backup QB.  It appears Andy Dalton will be in street clothes for the game.  Here is a question I would like to see someone ask Andy Dalton:

  • Have you ever heard of Wally Pipp?

The Browns are clearly a better team, but they have been unimpressive to the point where it is fair to say they are underperforming.

Cincy at Pittsburgh – 3 (43):  The Raiders exploited the Steelers’ defense late last week but much of that exploitation came after two important injuries to Steelers’ defenders (see above).  TJ Watt is “questionable” for this week; so, I do not know what version of the Steelers’ defense will take the field.  The Bengals lost to the Bears last week and Joe Burrow has already been sacked 9 times in the first two games.

Miami at Las Vegas – 3.5 (44):  After two big wins against AFC North opponents, the Raiders host a lesser opponent whose starting QB is out with broken ribs.  Jacoby Brisset will be the Dolphins’ starter at QB this week and the Dolphins’ hopes must ride with their defensive unit keeping the game close.  I do not think that will be the case unless the Raiders come out flat and sleepwalk through the game.  I like the Raiders at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Jets at Denver – 11 (41.5):  The Jets’ offense has scored 20 points in two games.  The Broncos’ strength is their defense; it has allowed only 13 points per game.  I will avoid this as a selection only because I do not like double-digit spreads in NFL games.  As an indication of the way the betting public sees the game, the Jets are the highest odds on the Money Line at +480.  Even the Jags are lower at +295.

Tampa at Rams “pick ‘em” (55):  Here is the Game of the Week.  Both offenses can be explosive and both defenses – while very good – can be exploited by good offensive game planning and good quarterbacking.  I think there will be a lot of scoring here; so, I’ll take the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Seattle – 1 at Minnesota (55):  Both teams lost last week and both teams lost last week because of defensive flaws.  I am seriously tempted to take this game to go OVER – – but I will resist that temptation.  I would point out that Vikes’ coach, Mike Zimmer, is a defensive maven, but his defense stinks (yielding 30 points per game) and another bad loss here blamed on the defense could turn up the heat on his seat…

(Sun Nite) Green Bay at SF – 3 (50):  I gave this game fleeting consideration for Game of the Week; it will be a fun game to watch.  The Niners gain 124 yards per game on the ground and the Packers allow 139.5 yards per game rushing.  The Niners can control this game and minimize the time Aaron Rodgers has to work against the Niners’ defense.

(Mon Nite) Philly at Dallas – 3.5 (52):  The Cowboys have started the season with two road games; this is their home opener.  Jalen Hurts can make some big plays, but Dak Prescott will likely make more such plays.  I like the Cowboys at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

So let me review this week’s Six-Pack:

  • Stanford + 5 vs UCLA
  • K-State + 6 vs Oklahoma State
  • Chargers +7.5 vs Chiefs
  • Raiders – 3.5 over Dolphins
  • Bucs/Rams OVER 55
  • Cowboys – 3.5 over Eagles

Finally, apropos of nothing, here is a comment by the novelist/essayist J. B. Priestley:

“There was no respect for youth when I was young, and now that I am old, there is no respect for age.  I missed it coming and going.”

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



The FIFA World Cup Every Two Years?

In yesterday’s rant, I had an item related to soccer and MLS.  Today, I want to look at another “soccer story” involving FIFA and the major European soccer leagues and clubs.  The idea has been floated that FIFA should hold a World Cup Tournament every other year instead of every four years as it currently does.  That idea did not come out of the blue; there is a history here.

Back in May, the FIFA congress commissioned a feasibility study regarding holding the World Cup tournament every two years instead of every four years.  Saudi Arabia was the country federation that put the issue before the membership, and it was supported by the FIFA president Gianni Infantino.  The vote by the FIFA congress was 166 votes in support of the study and 22 opposed to the study.

Another senior officer of FIFA is Arsene Wenger.  Wenger had been a long-term and successful manager of Arsenal FC in the English Premier League from 1996 to 2018; he is widely known in the soccer world and while he is generally considered to be studious and capable, he has also had a few less-than-collegial moments in his career.  Currently, Wegner’s job is as FIFA’s Chief of Football Global Development.

It is not clear that Wenger had already formulated a “2-year plan for the World Cup” prior to the motion made by the Saudi federation, but he championed that idea under the auspices of the study commissioned because of that motion.  Here are the current scheduling windows for “international breaks” where individual leagues take a pause and national teams can assemble, practice and play qualifying matches:

  • There are breaks in September, October, November and March.

Wenger says that is too many interruptions and his proposal is to condense all that into a single four- or five-week hiatus in October when all the qualifying matches could take place.  That all sounds good to me; I would not expect any violent opposition to that sort of thinking.

However, there is one other little gem in this recommendation:

  • There would be major tournaments every June of every year.
  • In even numbered years, there would be a World Cup Tournament
  • In odd numbered years there would be “continental championships” such as the European Championship tournament.

Cue Hamlet:  “Aye, there’s the rub.

An organization such as UEFA just had their tournament relegated because they only get to do it every other year and they now do it at least three years out of four.  Of course, that will not be the public position of UEFA on the matter; they will oppose the idea based on this statement by its president:

“To play every summer a one-month tournament, for the players it’s a killer. If it’s every two years it clashes with the women’s World Cup, with the Olympic football tournament…  The value [of the World Cup] is precisely because it is every four years, you wait for it, it’s like the Olympic Games, it’s a huge event. I don’t see our federations supporting that.”

The IOC has not taken a position on this proposal just yet.  Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that it would want to have the World Cup Tournament in competition with the Olympic Summer Games every four years.  IOC president Thomas Bach said that he and others involved with the IOC are “in discussions” with FIFA and with “various continental associations.”

Players’ positions are split.  Some think it is a great idea; others think that every two years would diminish the prestige of the World Cup Tournament.  If this were to come down to a simple majority vote, the idea would likely pass because the World Cup revenue is split among all the membership of FIFA.  There are lots more “small national federations” than there are entities such as the English Premier League, Serie A or UEFA.  Those smaller entities can use the influx of more World Cup revenue to advance their own development.  [Aside: Remember Wenger is Chief of Football Global Development; that is one of his hooks into this issue.]

Another attraction for some of the smaller federations is that more frequent tournaments allow more opportunity for a smaller country to have a shot at hosting the event – – or at least being part of a multi-national hosting consortium.  Hosting obviously has the potential for economic benefit attached to it – – if countries do not overspend on facilities as did Brazil in 2014.

There is plenty of room for maneuvering and deal-making and politicking in this matter.  President Infantino says that he and the folks at FIFA will have a roadmap for evaluating this proposal by the end of 2021 and some have taken that to mean that Infantino plans to put this proposal before the next FIFA congress in early 2022.  As I said, it is hard to imagine the congress as a whole voting it down.

At the same time, the current position of UEFA is that European nations might choose to boycott the World Cup Tournament if it were to become a biennial event.  That is a nuclear option.  No offense to federations in South America, North America, Africa and Asia, a World Cup Tournament without European teams is a Junior Varsity event.  Can UEFA really hold firm in such a boycott position?  Do the world soccer mavens really want to find out?

And it is not just UEFA that opposes this idea.  There is an entity known as the European Leagues Group; it has 37 members including all the major – and minor – national club leagues in those countries.  Here is their reaction to this idea:

“The leagues have firmly and unanimously opposed any proposals to organise the FIFA World Cup every two years.

“The leagues will work together with the other stakeholders to prevent football governing bodies taking unilateral decisions that will harm domestic football which is the foundation of our industry and of utmost importance for clubs, players and fans across Europe and the world.

“New competitions, revamped competitions or expanded competitions for club and national team football both at continental level and/or at global level are not the solutions to the current problems of our game in an already congested calendar.”

Finally, today’s rant began because Arsene Wenger offered up an idea that would reshape the international soccer calendar.  So, let me close with an observation about ideas in general from essayist Emil Cioran that seem eerily appropriate here:

“The history of ideas is the history of the grudges of solitary men.”

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



Autumnal Equinox 2022

Many people consider Labor Day Weekend to be the end of summer and the beginning of autumn here in the US.  Astronomers know that today is the day when the sun crosses the equator from north to south starting astronomical autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.  Welcome to the Fall…

One of the bellwether calendar entries of the Fall is college football on Saturdays.  So far in this season, it seems to me as if there have been more interesting out-of-conference scheduled games than I recall from previous years.  For the Power 5 Conferences we have already had:

  • Auburn/Penn State
  • Clemson/Georgia
  • Oklahoma/Nebraska
  • Oregon/Ohio State
  • Texas/Arkansas

This is a positive direction for college football in my mind but the divide that seems to be happening in the sport puts that “trend” in danger.  Notwithstanding how you may feel about the expansion of the SEC and/or the poaching of schools from one conference to another, if there are “polar camps” that develop in college football, the scheduling of quality out-of-conference games will become much more difficult.  And for fans of college football writ large, that is not a good outcome.

From the list above, Clemson/Georgia and LSU/UCLA paired teams from the SEC against teams from the so-called “Alliance of Conferences”.  To date, the “Alliance” has done nothing other than to announce its existence.  It has not explicitly declared war on the SEC, but it was clear to me that the “Alliance” came together as a response to the SEC poaching Texas and Oklahoma from the Big-12 thereby creating instability within other conferences.

If the existence of the “Alliance” alone is enough to avoid open warfare among the conferences, then it will be seen as a positive entity.  On the other hand, it could be an instrument of internecine warfare in college football.  To be clear, that would be a terrible outcome.

Because I firmly believe that TV money and its availability is at the core of all this restructuring and Alliance-making in college football, I think that the networks that pay the TV rights’ fees should be motivated to assure that they continue to get quality programming – – and the six games listed above would qualify as “quality programming”.  Those are “destination games”; I have no attraction to or affiliation with any of the schools on that list but those are six games that caught my attention and attracted my eyeballs to the screen.  From the point of view of a TV network exec, that is a big plus; and since it is the TV network execs who are handing out that coveted TV money, I would think they would want to assure that any rift that emerges between conferences or “Alliances” would not jeopardize the existence of these “destination games”.  Stay tuned; this story is not nearly played out…

There is another “sports on TV” issue floating around out there that has not gotten a lot of attention.  ESPN and FOX each have rights’ deals with Major League soccer (MLS) to televise games.  Execs at FOX have made an interesting scheduling decision for airing one of the MLS playoff games:

  • On Thanksgiving Day, FOX will televise the Bears/Lions game in the 1:00 PM EST time slot.  That puts the Cowboys/Raiders game in the late-afternoon EST time slot on CBS.
  • FOX will counter-program that late-afternoon NFL game with an MLS playoff game.

I read one report that accused MLS of hubris here as if to say it was folly to think that MLS could possibly compete for an audience with an NFL game.  While it is certainly correct to think the NFL game will dominate the ratings numbers, I disagree with that interpretation for two reasons:

  1. Since FOX is the one paying the rights’ fee, it has the loudest voice in deciding when it will put the game on the air.  It seems to me that FOX is the one who created this “competition”.
  2. Since the FOX execs know – they do not suspect”, they know – that CBS and the NFL will dominate the ratings for the time periods when the Cowboys/Raiders game is on the air, this is a smart move for them.  The rights’ fee they have paid to MLS is a sunk cost; why not put that event up against the ratings juggernaut instead of spending more money on some other programming that will also be overwhelmed in the ratings book?

Last year, the Cowboys played the Football Team in the late-afternoon TV time slot.  That game drew 30.6 million viewers; let me put that number into perspective:

  • That was the largest TV audience for any program since the Super Bowl in February 2020.
  • It would continue to be the largest audience until the start of the NFL playoffs several weeks after it aired.

I do not see this as a bold move by MLS nor anything related to hubris; I think this is simply a bottom-line decision to minimize costs by FOX execs for programming in that time slot.

Finally, since money and “economics” have been a thread through today’s rant, let me close with this observation by George Bernard Shaw:

“If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.”

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



Welcome Back – – Dwight Perry

Today calls for a hearty “Welcome back!” to Dwight Perry.  After a three-month hiatus from the pages of the Seattle Times, his column – –  Sideline Chatter – – returned to the paper on Sunday.  When athletes return to the field or the court after being out for a while, they often need a game or three to “shake off the rust”.  Not so with Professor Perry, here are some samples from his first “back-to-work offering”:

“A pipe burst during the Washington Football Team’s home opener, spewing raw sewage into the stands.

“Where’s one of Nixon’s D.C. plumbers when you really need one?”

And …

“Prince Philip’s will will be sealed for at least 90 years to protect the ‘dignity’ of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family, a London judge has ruled.

‘Can we do that with our 2021 season?’ asked the Baltimore Orioles.”

Meanwhile, Greg Cote had this note in his blog on the Miami Herald website.  This tells me about almost everything I need to know about this subject:

FAU football received a $2.5 million grant from Michelle and Michael Hagerty to name the head coaching position as Hagerty Family Head Football Coach. So now it’s the Owls led by Hagerty Family Willie Taggert? Can’t make this s— up, folks …”

Naturally, a donation of this magnitude that focuses on something as visible as the head football coach for a university requires public acknowledgement and thanks from the university and a selfless statement from the donors about their motivation that led to such generosity.  Here is the statement from the President of FAU:

“FAU is building a national reputation for academic and athletic excellence, thanks to generous donors like Michelle and Michael Hagerty. Their gift will help our hard-working football players continue to thrive, both in the classroom and in competition. Thank you, Michelle and Michael Hagerty!”

And here is what the Hagertys have to say about all this:

“We are honored and excited to be a part of the FAU community. Coach Willie Taggart, as a committed leader of young adults, inspired us to support the FAU football program. We are grateful for the opportunity to team up with and elevate this amazing group of student-athletes. Best wishes to the FAU football team. Go Owls!”

My reaction is awfully close to Greg Cote’s reaction to all this.  I feel as if someone has drenched me in a concentrated solution of saccharine and I need a hot shower to get it off me…

In the wake of the kerfuffle at ESPN involving Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols which culminated in Taylor leaving to go to NBC and Nichols losing her position as a studio host at ESPN, there has been an inordinate amount of scrutiny regarding assignments at ESPN given to female broadcasters.  People are actually keeping track of who gets to be the sideline reporter for various college football games on any of the ESPN networks and assigning some imaginary hierarchy to the games at which various reporters make appearances.  Presumably, this will allow the folks who follow this sort of thinking – if I may call it that – to deduce the “pecking order” among sideline reporters at ESPN.

[Aside:  Even if I were to stipulate for a nanosecond that such a methodology might reveal said “pecking order”, it is certainly not clear to me why I would care what the outcome of all the analysis might be.  As I have asked before, has anyone that you know ever made a decision to watch a game or not to watch a game based on who the sideline reporter might be?]

Let me put this into perspective.  For me, the single best sideline reporter – – the one who tried to inject some football analysis into the telecast – – was Tony Siragusa.  Having said that, it did not bother me even a little bit when FOX did not renew his contract about 5 years ago.

Changing the subject slightly, yesterday I got to watch the Eagles/Niners game as the “early game” on FOX.  The color analyst for that game was Mark Schlereth.  I have seen Schlereth on ESPN and on FOX in studio programing settings where he seemed to be insightful/knowledgeable, and he participated with others in conversation.  Yesterday, was the first time I remember seeing him as the color analyst on an NFL game.  Oh my …!

The music producer, Phil Spector, was famous for developing what became known as the ‘Wall of Sound” in his records.  All I can say is the Spector’s “Wall of Sound” had nothing on Mark Schlereth’s “Wall of Sound” yesterday.  The most appropriate adjective I can think of to describe his commentary after every play would be – – incessant.

I firmly believe that Mark Schlereth was vaccinated with a stereo needle…

Finally, let me close today with one more item from Dwight Perry’s column in the Seattle Times yesterday:

“More than 6,000 Raiders fans received their first COVID vaccinations Monday night at a pop-up tent at Allegiant Stadium so they could attend the team’s season opener.

“Some expressed disappointment, though, that the jab didn’t leave a black hole.”

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