MLB Hall Of Fame Ballot 2022

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

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

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

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my suggestion:

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

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

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

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

 

 

Boycott The Winter Olympics? Who Cares?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the most useless and why:

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

Fifty words or less…

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

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

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

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

 

 

NBA and MLB today …

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

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

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

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

  • This year’s team actually plays defense!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Legal Stuff Today – – From A Non-Lawyer

According to a report at CBSSports.com last week, Jon Gruden is “mulling his legal options regarding potential claims against the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.”  Serendipitously, I happened to bump into a friend who is a retired attorney and asked what might be the basis for such a lawsuit.  He is an avid sports fan and was familiar with Gruden’s firing based on emails that the NFL had collected in its investigation of the toxic work culture that existed in the Front Office of the Washington Football Team.  He tried to explain to me the concept of “tortious interference”.  Here is what I understand from that 10-minute conversation:

  • Gruden lost a job for which there was a contractual relationship between Gruden himself and the Las Vegas Raiders.
  • The cause of his loss of job – and therefore an economic loss – was the release of emails that were in the possession of the NFL and were nominally to remain private.
  • Gruden will assert that the release of emails was intentional and not accidental.
  • Ergo, the NFL – or someone at the NFL with access to those emails – inflicted a loss on Gruden by interfering in his relationship with the Raiders even though he had nothing to do with the “toxic work culture” being investigated which caused the emails to come into the possession of the NFL and neither did the Raiders.

Please make of that skimming of the surface of this aspect of contract law what you will.  To me, this potential legal action means two things:

  1. This matter is not dead and could come back to life with a bang.
  2. This is a trial where I would like to be a juror; the testimonies and cross-examinations here could be extremely interesting.

While I am treading very lightly in the area of legal matters and the NFL, let me return for a moment to the Henry Ruggs II incident where Ruggs was arrested after a car crash that killed a woman in another vehicle.  The authorities say Ruggs was driving at 156 mph and had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.  Obviously, these charges need to be proven in court before the legal aspects of the case are decided; however, the NFL has a precedent for the way it might treat Henry Ruggs II once the Nevada authorities have completed their actions.

In 1999, Leonard Little (a defensive end for the St. Louis Rams at the time), was in a car accident that resulted in the death of a woman in another vehicle.  Little’s blood alcohol level was 2.4 times the legal limit at the time of the accident.  After the legal actions were resolved – Little was sentenced to 90 days in a workhouse, a thousand hours of community service and five years of probation – the NFL suspended him for the first 8 games of the 1999 season.

Times have changed since 1999 but in matters of crime and punishment, it seems to me that precedent is still an important element in balancing those two aspects of a case.  One can argue that what the NFL did 22  years ago was ”insufficient” in some way and that the league can now set a “more proper standard” for sanctions in matters such as these.  I believe that would be a difficult position for the league to take so I would expect something along the lines of an eight-game suspension to be the NFL’s action at the end of the legal process here.

Let me switch sports here but remain in the “legal realm”…  The CBA between MLB and the MLBPA expires 3 weeks from today on December 1st.  Normally, this is the time in negotiations where lots of things happen quickly as the deadline gets close; however, that does not seem to be happening this time around; there are no reports of progress at all.

Moreover, that three-week window to find a way to avoid a work stoppage includes the week of Thanksgiving.  I do not suspect that all the parties will take off on Wednesday and remain incommunicado for 3 or 4 days, but I do think there will be some “fallow times” during that week.  Given the choice, I suspect that folks on both sides of the negotiating table will prefer to be at a family Thanksgiving dinner table that week.

Baseball free agency has already begun – it started on November 7th – and it has been more than merely “quiet” since then.  Clearly, teams and player agents want to know what the new CBA is going to say about salaries and luxury taxes and arbitration and the like.  So, a lot of individual negotiating and a lot of trade proposals will have to be put on a back burner and then carried out in a condensed time frame if there is a work stoppage as of December 1st.

The union probably wants to find a fast-track for the younger star players to be paid in accordance with their on-field production.  Owners will want some significant concession(s) to relinquish the control they now have over their young stars.  If the union cannot get a lot of movement on that front, it would likely try to get an increase in the minimum salary for all players thereby moving the young stars up the economic ladder just a bit.  As always, this is about money and control; given where things stand now, I do not see a new CBA rising from the ashes in the next 3 weeks.

So, MLB is probably going to have a work stoppage.  In labor relations terms:

  • If the players initiate the stoppage, it is a strike.
  • If the league initiates the stoppage, it is a lockout.
  • If you are a baseball fan, it is frustrating no matter the label.

Finally, since I began today with a comment about a possible lawsuit by Jon Gruden against the NFL, let me close with a definition offered up by Ambrose Bierce:

Lawsuit, n.  A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 11/5/21

Some Biblical scholars say that rains that caused the Great Flood – the one that Noah rode out on the Ark – began on a Friday.  I have no reason to dispute such an interpretation, but I can report that today is Friday and the weather here outside Curmudgeon Central shows no indication of impending rain.  So, I guess it is safe to get going on this week’s Football Friday.

Traditionally, I begin these rants with a review of last week’s Six-Pack.  The fact that I will admit to have committed such thoughts to the memory of the Internet demonstrates my inability to embarrass myself; last week’s selections were putrid:

  • College:  0-3-0
  • NFL:  1-2-0
  • Total:  1-5-0
  • Money Line Parlay  0-1

Since the start of the season, here are the cumulative results:

  • College:  7-10-0
  • NFL:  14-16-1
  • Total:  21-26-1
  • Money Line Parlays  0-1

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats continued their unbeaten season last week with a home victory over the George Fox Bruins by a score of 38-7.  Linfield is 7-0 for the 2021 season and 5-0 in Northwest Conference games.  This week the Wildcats will travel to Salem, OR to face the Willamette Bearcats.  Willamette is not having a good year on the gridiron; they bring a 1-7 record to the kickoff, and they give up 42.4 points per game.  Go Wildcats!

Looking at the contenders for the Brothel Defense Award for 2020 – the college football team that allows opponents to score early and often:

  • Arkansas St. gives up 42/4 points per game
  • Kansas gives up 43.8 points per game
  • UMass gives up 46.3 points per game

Over the last week there were two reports of coaching changes for college football.  Both were surprising to me for different reasons.

  1. Gary Patterson and TCU went their separate ways.  TCU has not had a sterling season in 2021; the Horned Frogs are 3-5 this week and one of those 3 wins came over a Division 1-AA team.  The surprising element here is that Patterson has been the coach at TCU for 22 years; I never saw him leaving the program in mid-season.
  2. Clay Helton reportedly found a new job.  Recall that Helton was fired at USC back in September; if reports are correct that he has already accepted a job, that would mean he was never really looking to take some time off and live on his buy-out check.  Reports this week said that Helton has taken the job at Georgia Southern where the Eagles are 3-5 so far this season.  In terms of prestige, it sure looks like a big step down for Helton from USC (PAC-12) to Georgia Southern (Sun Belt).

Kudos to the folks who did the scheduling for the teams in the Big-10 East.  There are 4 very good teams there:

  • Michigan
  • Michigan St
  • Ohio St.
  • Penn St.

The schedule maker clustered the games among those teams toward the end of the season giving them added gravitas.  Ohio State – for example – still has games against Michigan State and Michigan; Michigan State has Ohio State and Penn State still on the calendar.

Speaking of the Big-10, here are happenings there from last week …

Wisconsin 27  Iowa 7:  In the first half, Iowa made 1 first down and had 19 yards of offense.  The total offense for Iowa in this game was 156 yards; they had 24 yards rushing on 30 attempts.  The Badgers did not set the world afire on offense gaining only 270 yards, but it was plenty given the performance of the defense.

Rutgers 20  Illinois 14:  Rutgers is 4-4.  Can they get to a bowl game?  They need 2 wins from these remaining 4 games:

  • Vs. Wisconsin
  • At Indiana
  • At Penn State
  • Vs. Maryland

I doubt that the Scarlet Knights will be favored in any of those 4 games but that is why they play the game on the field and not just on paper…

Michigan St. 37  Michigan 33:  Sparty moves to 8-0 for the season while Michigan is now 7-1.  I thought this would be a tight defensive game and took it UNDER 51.5 last week.  My bad!  Michigan had 552 yards on offense to “only” 395 for Michigan St.  State had a balanced offense for the day gaining 199 yards rushing and 196 yards passing.  Michigan kicked a field goal with 12 minutes to play in the game to take a 3-point lead 33-30.  From then on, here are the Michigan possessions:

  • Fumble
  • Turnover on Downs
  • INT

Ohio St.  33  Penn St. 24:  Ohio St. shut down the Penn St. running game holding the Lions to 33 yards on 29 attempts.

In games pertinent to the ACC…

Notre Dame 44  UNC 34:  UNC was ranked in the top 10 in the pre-season polls and this loss puts their record at 4-4.  Reporters never seem to hold the poll voters responsible for such “irregularities”.

NC State 28  Louisville 13:  Louisville led the game 10-7 at the start of the fourth quarter and outgained NC State by 73 yards in the game.  The Cardinals also committed 10 penalties in the game for 101 yards.  Here are the final two possessions for Louisville:

  • With 5:53 to go and State leading 21-13, the Cardinals get the ball at their own 25.  Faced with fourth down and 2 yards to go, they go for it and do not make it.  NC State gets the ball at the Louisville 34 and gets a TD to make the score 28-13.
  • With 2:21 to go and State leading 28-13, the Cardinals get the ball at their own 25.  Faced with fourth down and 3 yards to go, they go for it and do not make it.  NC State gets the ball at the Louisville 34 and runs out the clock.
  • Notice any symmetry here?

Wake Forest 45  Duke 7:  Wake remains undefeated at 8-0.  Moreover, Wake has scored 35 points or more in every game this year.  The Deacons lead the Atlantic Division; NC State is in second place there with only 1 conference loss.  Here is the rest of the schedule for Wake Forest; it is not an easy one:

  • At UNC
  • Vs. NC State
  • At Clemson
  • At BC

Clemson 30  Florida St. 20:  I took FSU +9.5 in last week’s Six-Pack.  FSU had a PAT blocked in first quarter.  Oh well…

Syracuse 21  BC 6:  Syracuse won its 5th game of the season meaning it can be bowl-eligible with another win.  The last bowl appearance for the Orange was in 2018 when they won something called the Camping World Bowl.  Syracuse has 3 games left to play in order to find another win; here is the schedule:

  • BYE Week this week
  • At Louisville
  • At NC State
  • Vs. Pitt

Miami 38  Pitt 34:  I said last week that Pitt tends to lose a game or two a year that they should not.  Here was one of them.  Pitt is now down to 6-2 overall but they still lead the ACC Coastal Division with only this one conference loss.  Miami was a 9.5-point underdog and were led by a big game from freshman QB, Tyler Van Dyke.  This is Miami’s second consecutive win over a ranked opponent. Miami has only 2 conference losses; this win keeps them relevant in the ACC.

Va Tech 26  Ga Tech  17:  Coaches often say they strive for balance in their offense.  Ga. Tech had a perfectly balanced offense here; they gained 183 yards rushing and 183 yards passing.  They had 20 rushing plays and 26 passing plays in the game.

In Big-12 action last week …

Baylor 31  Texas 24:  Baylor is still in the race for the Big-12 championship with only 1 conference loss.  Texas led 21-10 with 9 minutes left in the third quarter and 21-17 after three quarters. Then from about 9-minute mark in the third quarter to the 8-minute mark of the 4th quarter, the Texas defense gave up 3 TDs on three drives that totaled 208 yards.  Ugly…

Oklahoma 52  Texas Tech 21:  That is the kind of dominant win the Sooners should hang on mediocre teams.  Where has that sort of performance been earlier this year?  Sooner freshman QB, Caleb Williams posted this stat line for the day:

  • 23 of 30 for 402 yards with 6 TDs and 0 INTs.

Oklahoma St. 55  Kansas 3:  The Cowboys posted 534 yards on offense; Kansas managed to gain only 143 yards including only 44 yards passing.  Kansas had 7 first downs in the game and 3 turnovers.  It was a debacle.  The score was 45-0 with 3:50 to play in the 3rd quarter when Kansas kicked a 45-yard field goal to avoid the shutout.

In SEC games last week…

Mississippi St. 31  Kentucky  17:  The Bulldogs’ defense had it second consecutive strong showing in this game holding the Wildcats to only 216 yards in the game.  Meanwhile the Air Raid offense was clicking with 344 yards gained in the air.  Mississippi State’s QB, Will Rogers (not that one, he’s dead)  set an SEC record for completion percentage in a game with more than 30 pass attempts.  Rogers was 36 for 39 in the game.  Mississippi State needs one more win to be bowl eligible.  Here are the Bulldogs’ remaining 4 games:

  • At Arkansas
  • At Auburn
  • Vs. Tennessee State
  • Vs. Ole Miss

The Bulldogs have been to bowl games in each of the last 11 seasons.  They need to find a win on that schedule and the game at home against Tennessee State looks good from here…

Auburn 31  Ole Miss 20:  Here is another game where the stat sheet is much closer than the scoreboard.  The difference in offensive output was only 21 yards.  Auburn QB, Bo Nix, had an efficient and effective game passing for 276 yards including one TD pass and rushing for two more scores.  Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs 3 times in the second half.  Auburn has only 1 SEC loss; they have a difficult schedule ahead of them, but if they can get to the Iron Bowl against Alabama with only 1 loss, then a win there would put Auburn in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.  Here is Auburn’s schedule:

  • At Texas A&M
  • Vs. Mississippi St.
  • At South Carolina
  • Vs. Alabama

Georgia 34  Florida 7:  In terms of offense the teams were even; Florida gained 355 yards and Georgia gained 354 yards.   The score was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter; then, the score was 24-7 at halftime.  How did that happen?  Here are the Florida possessions in the second quarter:

  1. Turnover on Downs
  2. Fumble
  3. INT
  4. INT
  5. Halftime.

Georgia has Mizzou, Tennessee and Ga Tech (as Division 1-A teams) left on its schedule. With their win last week and Kentucky’s loss to Mississippi St., I believe Georgia is guaranteed to be the SEC East champion this year. They will be huge favorites in two of those games and will probably be only a 10-point favorite over Tennessee.  That will put Georgia in the SEC Championship Game – – and unless they get totally blown out there, I see them headed to the CFP.

            Out there in PAC-12 territory …

Washington St 34  Arizona St. 21:  The stat sheet for this game says it should have gone to OT.  Sun Devils gained 406 and the Cougars gained 400 yards.  The difference here is rather obvious:

  • Arizona St had 5 turnovers (2 INTs and 3 lost fumbles)
  • Washington St. had 1 turnover (an INT)

Utah 44  UCLA 24:  There is another game that was very close on the stat sheet but not on the scoreboard.  Utah scored touchdowns on its first 4 possessions and never looked back.  Utah now leads the PAC-12 South Division with only 1 conference loss; Arizona State is second in the South with 2 losses.

Oregon 52  Colorado 29:  This outcome was never in doubt.  The Ducks led the game 45-14 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Oregon leads the PAC-12 North with 1 conference loss.

Cal 39  Oregon St.  25:  By losing here, Oregon St. now has 2 conference losses  in the North Division.  If they can get to the final game against Oregon with only two losses, they could win the division with a victory over the Ducks.  Cal showed balance on offense along with efficiency.  The Bears gained 258 yards in the air and 245 yards on the ground.  Cal was also 12 for 18 on third down attempts.  Three turnovers by the Beavers did not help their cause.

USC 41  Arizona 34:  Arizona is still winless at 0-8.  The USC defense should not be proud of this game giving up 34 points.  In the 7 games leading up to this, Arizona had never scored as many as 20 points in a game and had been shut out once by Colorado.

In miscellaneous college football games:

Nevada 51  UNLV 20:  UNLV drops to 0-8.  Nevada gained only 20 yards (18 carries) rushing but then again UNLV only gained 10 yards rushing (24 carries).  Clearly this was an aerial contest…

Fresno St. 30  San Diego St. 20:  That is the first loss for San Diego St.  In the West Division of the Mountain West Conference, there are three teams with only one conference loss – – Fresno St., San Diego St. and Nevada.  Fresno State would own the tiebreakers here since it has beaten both Nevada and San Diego St.

Houston 44  SMU 37:  This is the first loss for SMU; both teams are now 7-1 for the season.  Houston led 20-0 late in the first quarter but the game turned out to be a close game in the end.  The Cougars have won 7 in a row since losing in Week 1 to Texas Tech.

Coastal Carolina 35  Troy 28:  Troy is a 4-4 team.  Maybe the “Coastal Carolina mystique” is no more?

Cincy 31  Tulane 12:  The score was 14-12 at the half; this was not a dominating performance by Cincy.  Tulane is a 1-win team and that win came at the expense of Division 1- AA Morgan St.  Another head-shaker here is that Tulane has given up 40 or more points in 5 of their 7 losses; Cincy only scored 31…

Liberty 62  UMass 17:  Liberty covered 5 TDs this time…  The score was 41-3 at halftime.

Foreshadowing… Starting next week I will be focusing on the teams that are in contention for an invitation to my imaginary SHOE Tournament – – where we could det3erming on the field which team is the worst team in the country for 2021.

 

College Football Games of Interest:

 

(Fri Nite) Utah – 9 at Stanford (54):  This is an important game for the Utes as they seek to maintain control of the standings in the PAC-12 South Division.  Interestingly, the spread for this game opened at 6 points and jumped to 7 points almost immediately.  The spread hung in at 7 points until Thursday when it went up to 9 points in the span of a couple of hours.

Army at Air Force – 3 (37.5):  Get ready for running plays in this game.  Air Force leads the nation in rushing attempts per game (63.8) and in rushing yards per game (318.4)  Army is second in the nation in rushing attempts per game (63.6) and is also second in the country in rushing yards per game (312.3).  Games between the service academies are always fun to watch…

Pitt – 21 at Duke (64):  Pitt could use a “get-right game” now after losing last week to Miami.  Duke will give them that opportunity.

NC State – 2.5 at Florida State (56):  The Seminoles were within a score of Clemson down to the final play of the game last week.  NC State cannot afford a loss which might put them 2 games behind Wake Forest in the ACC Atlantic Division race.

Wisconsin – 13 at Rutgers (38):  Rutgers is looking for two wins to become bowl eligible; this is not likely to be one of the places they will find one.  I will say, however, that this is a large spread to cover in what looks to be a very low scoring game.

Clemson – 4 at Louisville (46):  If Louisville loses here, it will be their 4th conference loss; they are irrelevant in the ACC Championship Game picture.  If Clemson loses, it will their 3rd conference loss and they too would become irrelevant.  An interesting game…

Iowa – 12 at Northwestern (40.5):  The Hawkeyes began the season 6-0 with wins over teams like Iowa State and Penn State.  They have lost their last two games and have only scored 7 points in each of those losses.  As an homage to Bill Cullen on To Tell the Truth:

  • Will the real Iowa Hawkeyes please stand up.

Houston – 13 at USF (53):   A let-down game for the Cougars after beating undefeated SMU last week?

Indiana at Michigan – 20 (51):  The Wolverines cannot afford another in-conference loss…

Wake Forest at UNC – 2.5 (77):  The oddsmakers believe that the Deacons’ perfect season will come to an end here.  Regarding that big number on the Total Line consider:

  • Wake is 5th in the nation in scoring (43.8 points per game).
  • UNC is 22nd in the nation in scoring (36.5 points per game).

K-State – 24 at Kansas (56):  This is a rivalry game where one of the rivals just stinks.

Florida – 18 at South Carolina (53):  Florida coach Dan Mullen really needs his Gators to win this game convincingly…

Baylor – 6.5 at TCU (58.5):  Baylor needs a win to stay within shouting distance of Oklahoma in the Big-12.  TCU will either be emotionally charged or emotionally let down by the news of Coach Patterson’s leaving the school.  Baylor is the better team and I think their motivation here is more predictable; I’ll take the Bears to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six Pack.

Oregon St. – 10.5 at Colorado (54):  This is an important game for the Beavers as they strive to maintain relevancy in the PAC-12 North.  For Colorado, this is just another football game…

USC at Arizona St. – 8.5 (60):  This is an important conference game for the Sun Devils; not so much for the Trojans.

Missouri at Georgia – 39 (60):  Even with that spread, this is a conference game and not a body bag game…

Ohio St. – 14.5 at Nebraska (66):  The Buckeyes have been on a roll since losing to Oregon in Week 2.  Since that game, they have only been held under 41 points once – – last week against Penn State.  Ohio State leads the country in total Offense at 547.6 yards per game.  Nebraska ranks 44th in the country in Total Defense and 26th in the country in scoring defense.  I like the Buckeyes to keep rolling here to stay in the Big-10 East picture and to maintain the attention of the CFP Selection Committee; I’ll take them on the road to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Mississippi  St. at Arkansas – 5.5 (55):  The Bulldogs need one more win for bowl eligibility; can they squeeze it out here?  I mentioned above that State’s QB, Will Rogers went 36 for 39 passing last week.  Here is data mining stat:

  • Against SEC opponents, Arkansas allows 66% pass completions.

I like the Bulldogs on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Oklahoma St. – 4 at West Virginia (49):  The Cowboys cannot afford another conference loss, but this is a dangerous game for them.  West Virginia is a tough out in Morgantown…

Tennessee – 1 at Kentucky (56):  The spread here opened with Kentucky as a 3-point favorite, but it has moved slowly and steadily in the direction of Tennessee all week long.

Michigan St. – 3 at Purdue (53):  The Boilermakers were the ones to hand Iowa its first loss of the season; can they do that again to Sparty?  Is this a classic let-down game for Michigan St. coming off a big win in a big rivalry game last week against Michigan?

Auburn at Texas A&M – 4 (49):  This is a big game for the Aggies; they still have a path to the SEC Championship Game.  They need to beat Auburn here and then root for Auburn to beat Alabama.  Since Texas A&M beat Alabama on the field, they would own the tiebreakers there.

Oregon – 7 at Washington (51):  This is an intense rivalry that gets far less coverage than it deserves.

Cal – 11.5 at Arizona (51):  Is this where Arizona finds its first win of the season?  I don’t think so…

UNLV at New Mexico – 1.5 (45):  Is this where UNLV finds its first win of the season?  They have a real shot here because New Mexico is not a good football team.

LSU at Alabama – 28.5 (67):  In recent years, LSU would not have been a 4 TD underdog to half of the NFL teams…

 

NFL Commentary:

 

Teams with a BYE Week this weekend:

  1. Bucs:  They lost last week and have two weeks to prepare for the Football Team.
  2. Football Team:  They lost last week and have two weeks to prepare for the Bucs.
  3. Lions:  They lost last week – – as they seem to do every week of every year…
  4. Seahawks:  They won last week and hope to have Russell Wilson back on the field next week.

Over the last two editions of Football Friday, I have taken note of how many blowout games there have been in the NFL and wondered if growing numbers of non-competitive games might damage the league’s popularity.  This week, NFL Insider, Jason LaCanfora, on CBSSports.com echoed my thoughts.  You can find the entirety of his comments here.

Here are a few of his comments:

“We aren’t even at the midpoint of the 2021 season – the first of the expanded 17 game schedule – and there appears to be no end of high-school style beatdowns that are over in many cases before halftime.”

And …

“It feels like there is a blowout problem arising. Sometimes when it’s quite predictable, and occasionally when it’s not.   But, most often, it is one of the usual suspects involved, and Vegas is going to have to continue pushing the point spread to new highs in many cases to account for the trend.”

And …

“We’ll see if this ends up being a blip. Or if these egregiously lopsided kind of affairs are something we can come to expect a few times in each expanded window. But the degree to which some of these teams are unable to put forth a fight for even a half feels a little bit like what MLB is going through.”

With that as a prelude, there were “only” 3 outrageous games last week; I have pulled them out of the pile of results from last week…

Seahawks 31  Jags 7:  The Jags won the stat sheet 309 yards to 229 yards.  Geno Smith was efficient if not spectacular throwing for 195 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs.  The Seahawks’ defense has been heavily criticized this year, but it was pitching a shutout until the final two minutes of the game when the Jags finally scored.  That was the Jags’ only visit to the Red Zone all day long.  In addition, the Seahawks’ defenders stopped the Jags on 3 fourth-down tries.

Rams 38  Texans 22:  This is a blowout game because the score was 38 – 0 at the end of the third quarter.  Matthew Stafford threw for 305 yards and 3 TDs. The Rams’ defense recorded 5 sacks in the game.

Eagles 44  Lions 6:  This was the “early game” on FOX in my viewing area – – until the score was 31-0 and they switched us over to a “more competitive game”.   Jalen Hurts only threw for 114 yards in this game but the Eagles ran the ball for 236 yards on 46 carries.  (They only attempted 14 passes in the game.)  They held the ball for 35 minutes and converted 5 of 10 third down situations.  The Eagles’ defense sacked Jared Goff six times and pressured him continuously.  Frankly, the Lions  played as if someone had dissolved Quaaludes in their sideline Gatorade.

The rest of the games were as competitive as we have come to expect from the NFL…

Panthers 19  Falcons 13:  There was not a lot of offense in this game.  Matt Ryan threw for 146 yards, and he was the most prolific passer on the field.  A big difference in the game was third-down efficiency; the Panthers converted 10 of 17 situations while the Falcons went 3 for 10.  Panthers’ QB, Sam Darnold had to leave the game with a concussion and was in the league protocol for concussions.  Calvin Ridley did not play in the game for personal reasons; that could not have been something Matt Ryan wished for.

Steelers 15  Browns 10:  This game was the CBS early time slot game in my viewing area.  It was about as artistic an endeavor as an axe fight.  Steelers’ kicker, Chris Bowell was injured in the game on a fake kick and the Steelers had to try two-point attempts after their two TDs in the game; neither of those conversions worked.  The Browns had the only turnover in the game, and it came in the 4th quarter while the game was a one-score contest.  Ben Roethlisberger’s record against the Browns in Cleveland for his career is now 12-2-1.  The Steelers’ defense deserves plenty of credit for this win holding the Browns to 10 points and only 3 of 10 third down conversions.

Saints 36  Bucs 27:  Jameis Winston had to be helped off the field in the first half with a knee injury incurred when he was “horse-collar tackled” on a scramble.  Trevor Siemian came in to finish the game and posted a positive stat line:

  • 16 of 29 for 159 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs

That may not look as gaudy as Tom Brady’s stat line – – but it was enough to win the game:

  • 28 of 40 for 375 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs

The Saints took the lead at 29-27 in the final two minutes with a 23-yard field goal.  On the next possession, Tom Brady threw a Pick Six to end the game.  This win puts the Saints on a par with the Bucs in the NFC South since both teams have 2 losses on the season – – and the Saints hold the tiebreaker as of now.  These tams will meet again on December 19th in Tampa.  Circle that game; it should be a critical game in the standings.

Here is the most interesting thing to me about the outcome of this game:

  • The Saints have beaten the Packers – resoundingly – and the Bucs.  Those are two excellent teams.
  • Meanwhile the Saints have lost to the Giants – a bad team in the same season.

Broncos 17  Football Team 10:  The game was tied at 10 apiece at the start of the 4th quarter.  Melvin Gordon scored his second TD of the game in the final 5 minutes to give the Broncos the lead.  Later, he lost a fumble at the Denver 24 yardline giving the Football Team a shot to tie the game in the final minute; but the Broncos’ defense held on for the win.  The Football Team saw its recently signed kicker, Chris Blewitt have two field goals blocked in the game.  The first was not much of a block because the ball was only about 6 feet off the ground when it reached the line of scrimmage where all the linemen were pushing and shoving one another.  Two weeks ago, the Football Team demonstrated total ineptitude in the Red Zone against the Packers and last week they got to the Red Zone twice and scored zero points.  The Broncos’ defense had 5 sacks and stopped the Football Team on 4 fourth-down tries.

I ran across this stat from this game:

  • WFT ran 19 plays inside the Broncos 30-yardline.  Total offense on those 19 plays was 17 yards.  Eleven of those plays resulted in either no gain, a loss or a turnover.
  • Yowza!

Pats 27  Chargers 24:  The stat sheet for the game was as close as the scoreboard.  The Pats’ offense was not particularly efficient, but the Pats got 4 field goals and a Pick-Six TD in the game.  The Chargers gained 163 yards rushing on only 20 carries.

Bills 26  Dolphins 11:  This game was 3-3 at halftime; here are the results of the first three possessions by the Dolphins in the second half:

  1. Three and out
  2. Three and out
  3. Three and out

The Dolphins’ defense tried to keep it close, and the score was a manageable 10-3 after three quarters.  The Bills put the game away in the 4th quarter with two TDs and a field goal in their 3 possessions in that 4th quarter.  The Dolphins turned the ball over twice including an INT in the final 3 minutes of the game.

Jets 34  Bengals 31:  I said last week in reference to this game that the oddsmakers feared a letdown game from the Bengals after beating the Ravens in Baltimore two weeks ago.  Well, this was a letdown.  Mike White made his first NFL start for the Jets; he threw for 405 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs, and the Jets amassed 511 yards on offense for the day.  The Bengals led 24-17 at the start of the 4th quarter and coughed up a hairball from that point on.  The Jets held the Bengals to 41 yards rushing for the day.  The Jets have only 2 wins this year but they have come at the expense of the Bengals and the Titans – – two division leading teams.  The Jets’ defense sacked Joe Burrow 3 times in the game.

Niners 33 Bears 22:  The Niners dominated the stat sheet 467 yards to 324  yards.  Nevertheless, the Bears led 13-9 at halftime and 16-15 at the start of the 4th quarter.  Here are the second half possessions for the Niners; it is not an endorsement for the Bears’ defensive unit – – although to be fair Khalil Mack was not on the field for the game:

  • TD
  • TD
  • TD
  • Field Goal
  • Kneel out the game

Justin Fields ran for 103 yards and a TD in the game.  Jimmy Garoppolo ran for 4  yards and 2 TDs in the game.  Seriously …

Titans 34  Colts 31 (OT):  This was a game of momentum swings.  The Colts took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but only led 17-14 at the half.  This win puts the Titans firmly in command of the AFC South race.  The Titans have two losses, and the Colts have 5 losses – – including ceding the tiebreaker to the Titans in the process.  This score of this game is one that the Titans seem fond of in 2021; consider these results from earlier in the 2021 season:

  • October 31:  Titans 34  Colts 31  (OT)
  • October 18:  Titans 34  Bills 31
  • September 19:  Titans 33  Seahawks 30 (OT)

Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury that some reports say will be season ending   He had surgery on the foot in the last week; the Titans signed Adrian Peterson to the practice squad; it does not look good for a Derrick Henry return this season.  It is easy to say that the Titans offense for the last year and a half has “run through Derrick Henry.”  That is not a cheap attempt at a play on words; it is simply a statement of fact.

Cowboys 20  Vikes 16:  No Dak Prescott; no problem.  Cooper Rush played QB for the Cowboys and acquitted himself very properly here:

  • 24 of 40 for 325 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.

For the game, the Cowboys had 142 more  yards on offense than the Vikes had, but two turnovers and 11 penalties against the Cowboys for 96 yards kept the game close.  The winning TD came with 55 seconds left in the game when Cooper Rush hit Amari Cooper for a short TD.

Chiefs 20  Giants 17:  This was hardly an impressive win for the reigning AFC Champion against a team that is 2-6.  The Giants led early in the 4th quarter 17-14; however, in the 4th quarter, the Chiefs drove for two field goals while the Giants’ possessions produced a punt and then a turnover on downs.  The schedule for the Chiefs for the rest of the 2021 season is most difficult.

  • As of this morning, the Chiefs will not play a team with a losing record between now and the final game on Jan 9, 2022.

 

NFL Games:

Yes, I watched some of last night’s Colts/Jets game; the first quarter was interesting; after that…  The Jets had no answer for Jonathan Taylor who averaged 9.4 yards per carry in the game.  The Colts as a team ran the ball for 260 yards.  Mike White injured his arm and had to leave the game; at that point, the Jets’ fate was sealed. 

Texans at Dolphins – 5.5 (46):  The spread here opened at 7 points; the drop means there was “excess money” coming into the sportsbooks on the Texans.  Why anyone would bet on this game is a mystery to me.  Yes, I know; Tyrod Taylor is back to play QB for the Texans this week; maybe that is what “moved the line”.  This is unequivocally the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.    The loser here will likely gain in the competition for a high draft pick in 2022; other than that, there should be no interest here.

Broncos at Cowboys – 10 (49):  The Broncos’ defense is good, but the Broncos’ offense is less than mediocre.  I cannot see how the Broncos can keep pace.

Vikes at Ravens – 6 (49.5):  The Vikes play to their competition’s level and the Ravens are a good opponent.  The Ravens had a BYE Week last week to prepare for this one.  I have a hunch that the Ravens’; coaches were all over the defense for the last two weeks after a miserable outing last time and that the defense will show up lean and mean this week.  Give me the Ravens at home to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Pats – 3.5 at Panthers (40.5):  Bill Belichick has done a number on Sam Darnold and his former teammates in NY over the past couple of years.  He can do it again this time despite a stronger cast around Darnold – – and this assumes Darnold is fully recovered from his concussion last week.  I like the Pats to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bills – 14.5 at Jags (48.5):  I think the Bills will get themselves back to their norm after a week to ponder a lackluster showing against the Dolphins last week and will turn this into a rout.

Browns at Bengals – 2.5 (47):  This could be the Game of the Week if you live in Ohio and/or are a fan of any AFC North team.  However, we take a larger and longer view here in Curmudgeon Central; it is a good game but not the best one of the week.  Once again, Odell Beckham, Jr. is in the middle of a team soap opera in Cleveland.  Don’t look now, but the Browns are in last place in the division.

Raiders – 3 at Giants (46):  It is a long trip and a “body clock game” for the Raiders.  The good news is that it will be the Giants that take the field against them.  The Raiders lead the AFC West this morning; they have plenty of reasons to take this game seriously.

Falcons at Saints – 7 (42):  Which Saints team will we see?  The one that beat the Bucs last week and that beat the Packers by 5 TDs earlier this year? Or the one that lost to the Giants?

Chargers – 1 at Eagles (50):  The spread opened as “pick ‘em” and expanded from there.  One sportsbook this morning had the line at 2.5 points.  This is another “body clock game”  for a west coast team but the fact is that the Chargers are the more talented team.  The Chargers have lost 2 games in a row and are in danger of falling out of contention; the Chargers will put a stop to that in this game; I like the Chargers to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Packers at Chiefs – 7 (48):  This is an example of the “Aaron Rodgers Effect”.  This game opened as a “pick ‘em” game – – until Rodgers was ruled out for a positive COVID-19 test.  This would have been the Game of the Week until that positive COVID-19 test.  Now, the interesting thing will be to see how much Jordan Love has learned by studying and practicing alongside Aaron Rodgers.  The key to the game now is simple:

  • The Packers will emphasize the running game.
  • The Chiefs have been vulnerable to the run all year long.
  • Can the Chiefs contain the Packers’ running game?

Cardinals at Niners – 1 (45):  Kyler Murray sprained an ankle 2 weeks ago and it looked as if it were still bothering/limiting him last week.  Is it fully healed?  DeAndre Hopkins had limited practice time last week.  Is he near full strength?  When you marry those injuries/limitations with the absence of JJ Watt from a leadership position on the defense, this game could be a lot closer than the team records in 2021 might indicate.

(Sun Nite) Titans at Rams – 7 (52.5):  Here is the Game of the Week.  The Titans have significant adversity to overcome with Derrick Henry on the shelf.  With the Colts victory last night, the Titans could see their 4-game lead cut to 3 games only a week after beating the Colts head-to-head.  The Rams hope that Von Miller is a quick study and that he is ready to contribute on defense.

(Mon Nite) Bears at Steelers – 6.5 (39):  The game should be close; that is the reason to watch it.  It would take a lot of imagination to think that this will be an exciting offensive display.

Let me add in here a College Football Money Line Parlay:

  • Ole Miss at minus-330
  • Mississippi St, at +160
  • Fresno St. at minus-200.
  • Parlay wins $408 on a $100 wager

And for good measure, here is an NFL Money Line Parlay:

  • Patriots at minus-180
  • Chargers at minus-120
  • Steelers at minus-280
  • Parlay wins $287 on a $100 wager.

Finally, I will close here with an NFL observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“The Minnesota Vikings are turning their practice facility into a community COVID-vaccination site.

“Hardcore fans are demanding to take their shots downfield.”

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

 

 

Football Friday 10/29/21

TGIF – – Thank God It’s Friday – – is a common state of mind in workplaces around the country.  Here in Curmudgeon Central that acronym is modified slightly to become TGIFF – – Thank God It’s Football Friday.  So let me get into it and review last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College  =  1-0-0
  • NFL  =  3-2-0
  • Total  =  4-2-0

That brings the cumulative season totals to:

  • College  =  7-7-0
  • NFL  =  13-14-1
  • Total  =  20-21-1

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their record to 6-0 for the season last week beating Pacific Lutheran 52-7.  In five of their six victories, Linfield has scored more than 50 points.  This week Linfield hosts the George Fox Bruins in McMinnville.  The Bruins have a record of 4-2 for the season and have won their last 4 games in a row.  Both teams are undefeated in Northwest Conference games this year.  Go Wildcats!

Taking a quick peek at the schools in contention for the Brothel Defense Award – given to the team that allows others to score most easily:

  • Tulane gives up 42.3 points per game
  • UMass gives up 44 points per game
  • Arkansas St. gives up 44 points per game

Texas Tech fired Matt Wells as its head football coach this week.  This is interesting because Tech is 5-3 this season and the last time the Red Raiders had a winning season in football was 2015.  I would have thought that a 5-3 start to the 2021 season might get him a contract extension.  By the way, the last time Texas Tech had a winning record in Big-12 Conference games was in 2009; Mike Leach was the coach that year and he too was fired during the season.

One a more generic level, I wonder about one of the ongoing storylines for this college football season.  Cincy has gotten a lot of support as an “outsider team” to break into the CFP this year.  So, I wonder what might happen if the following comes to pass:

  • On November 20 Cincy with a 10-0 record hosts SMU with a 9-0 record.
  • Suppose SMU wins that game on the road.
  • Does the narrative immediately flip to SMU worthiness for the CFP – – because there has been little evidence of that narrative to this point of the season?

UNLV has a large replica of a slot machine on its football sidelines this year.  Whenever the team scores or creates a turnover, players gather round the slot machine and pull the lever.  That seems harmlessly clever; University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a slot machine; a natural connection.  However, there is a meta-message here and it is not nearly as benign:

  • UNLV has lost every game to date this year.
  • Slot machines are programmed to assure that players using them are losers in the long run.
  • Hmmm…

If there was a thread that ran through last week’s college football results, let me suggest that it would be unimpressive performances by ranked teams.  Let me pull those unimpressive results from the bulk of the commentary here to show what I mean.

#2Cincy 27  Navy 20:  This was not the kind of impressive win that a Top 5 team would be expected to put upon an opponent who arrived at the kickoff with a 1-5 record.  The Middies outgained the Bearcats 308 yards to 271 yards and had more first downs too (21 to 14).

#3Oklahoma 35  Kansas 23:  This was an ugly win for the Sooners; Kansas outgained Oklahoma 412 yards to 391 yards; Kansas had more first downs and Kansas converted on 9 of 13 third down tries.  The Jayhawks led 10-0 at the half and led 17-14 at the start of the 4th quarter.  If the CFP Selection Committee “snubs” the Sooners, the way they played in this game will probably be a major reason for the “snub”.

Illinois 20  #7 Penn State  18  (9OT):  And it was in State College no less. The Lions were 24.5-point favorites at kickoff.  This was the longest game in Division 1-A ever.  The total Penn State offense was 227 yards.  The only word I can come up with here is “shameful”.

Iowa St. 24  #8 Oklahoma St. 21:  Oklahoma leads the Big-12 with a 5-0 record; Iowa St, Oklahoma St. and Baylor have one loss in conference games.  Iowa St. drove 85 yards for a TD late in the 4th quarter to come from behind to win this game.  It was as even on the stat sheet as it was on the scoreboard.

Appalachian St. 30  #14 Coastal Carolina 27:  The pollsters and the people doing Top 25 rankings should now pose this question:

  • What lovely parting gifts do we have for the Chanticleers, Johnny?

This was no fluke.  Appalachian St. outgained Coastal Carolina by 226 yards of offense.  Coastal Carolina’s running game was shut down gaining all of 55  yards on 29 running attempts.  Two turnovers by Appalachian St. kept this game closer than it should have been.

Miami 31  #18NC State 30:  The stat sheet for this game was as close as the scoreboard was.  Miami played with a true freshman at QB, and Tyler Van Dyke exceeded any rational expectations anyone may have had as he filled in for injured starter D’Eriq King.  Van Dyke  was 25 of 33 for 325 yards passing and 4 TDs.  This is the first conference game loss for the Wolfpack who remain in contention for the ACC Atlantic Division title trailing only undefeated Wake Forest.

Wisconsin 30  #25Purdue 13:  The game was tied at 13 as the teams came out for the second half.  That is when the Badgers’ defense decided to pitch a shutout.

Seven of the Top 25 teams last week either lost outright or were most unimpressive in beating significantly lesser competition.  It makes one wonder about the validity of the rankings…

Moving on to Big -10 games from last weekend:

Michigan 33 Northwestern 7:  Michigan advances to 7-0.  The Wolverines rank #2 in the nation in scoring defense allowing only 14.3 points per game and they rank #11 in the nation in Total Defense allowing only 299 yards per game.  Michigan’s offense is no slouch either; they score an average of 37.7 points per game.  Last week, Michigan’s offense gained 457 yards and Michigan’s defense only allowed 233 yards.

Ohio State 54  Indiana 7:  The game was tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter; then the ass-kicking began.  The Buckeyes gained 559 yards on offense and held the Hoosiers to a mere 135 yards for the game.

For fans of ACC teams…

UVa 48  Ga Tech 40:  I said last week that there could be fireworks in this game; that was pretty much on point.  The teams combined to produce a total of 1206 yards of offense.  There were 59 first downs achieved in the game; the teams combined to go 13 for 24 on third-down tries – – whenever one of the defenses managed to create a third-down situation.

Pitt 27  Clemson 17:  Clemson’s offensive ineptitude was on display again here.  The Tigers gained only 309 yards  of offense for the day and 80 of those yards (more than 25 % of the game output) came on a single drive for a TD in the first quarter.  Pitt converted 11 of 19 third-down tries in the game.  The Panthers remain unbeaten in ACC games (and 6-1 overall) with this win.  Clemson has now lost twice in ACC games meaning they are really longshots to make it to the top of the ACC Atlantic Division this year.

Syracuse 41  VA Tech 36:  As the score indicates, there was plenty of offense in this game.  Syracuse amassed 545 yards and Tech gained 437 yards.  Tech led 36-27 with five-and-a-half minutes left in the game.  Syracuse got a TD on a short drive to narrow the margin to 36-33; then the Syracuse defense held and gave the ball to the offense at their own 30 yardline with just over a minute left to play.  Forty-five seconds later Syracuse scored the winning TD.  In my preseason essay on college football this year, I said that Va Tech coach, Justin Fuente, was probably on a warm seat that could get hot with some bad losses – – like this one…

Florida St. 59  UMass 3:  This is the kind of shellacking that the coaching staff at Florida St. needed to lay on such a mismatched opponent.  The Seminoles gained 586 yards on offense; the Minutemen managed only 241 yards.

Wake Forest 70  Army 56:  Wake gained 638 yards on offense; 458 of those yards came through the air.  Impressive.  Wake allowed Army to gain 599 yards of offense; 420 of those yards came on the ground.  Unimpressive.  The Wake Forest defenders need to say, “Thank you!” to the offensive guys this week; usually when you give up 8 TDs in a game, you lose that game…  Wake is still undefeated.

There were no Big-12 games of note other than the ones cited above as unimpressive performances, so let me move on to the SEC…

Texas A&M 44  South Carolina 14:  This game was 41-0 at the end of the third quarter.  South Carolina only produced 185 yards on offense for the day.

Alabama 52  Tennessee 24:  This game was close with 14 minutes left to play; the score then was 31-24.  From that point on, the Alabama defense asserted itself with an INT that led to a short-field TD and then forcing a turnover on downs allowing Bama to make this look more like a blowout than it was for most of the game.

Mississippi St. 45  Vandy 6:  Mississippi St. gained 522 yards on offense here; Vandy gained 145 yards.  It is not news when a Mike Leach team gains 461 yards passing; it is news when a Mike Leach team holds an opponent to 6 yards rushing for an entire game.

Ole Miss 31  LSU 17:  The Total Line for this game was 76.  Two weeks ago, the Total Line for an Ole Miss game was 83.  Neither game came close to threatening the Total Line even though Ole Miss won both games.  Maybe it is time to recognize that Ole Miss can win games without scoring 50 points?

In games involving teams from the PAC-12…

Washington 21  Arizona 16:  Arizona remains winless for 2021.

BYU 21  Washington St. 19:  I wondered last week how the Washington St. team might react to the firing of its head coach and 4 assistant coaches.  BYU is a quality opponent and Washington St. played  them tit for tat.  A missed PAT in the third quarter by Washington St. and a failed 2-point conversion to make up for that miss provided the margin of victory here.  BYU RB, Tyler Allgeier gained 191 yards on 32 carries and scored 2 TDs in the game.

Oregon 34  UCLA 31:  UCLA rallied from a 34-17 deficit in the 4th quarter to make this a one-possession game.  However, the final UCLA drive ended in INT with about 45 seconds left on the clock.  The PAC-12 conference race is very fluid at the moment.  There are no teams that are undefeated in conference games.  In the North division, Oregon and Oregon St. each have one conference loss.  In the South division, Arizona St. and Utah each have one conference loss.

Oregon St.  42  Utah 34:   Neither team is noted for its offense but both teams found ways to gain over 450 yards in this game.  A blocked punt returned for a TD by Oregon St. provided the margin of victory.

Notre Dame 31  USC 16:  The Irish led 24-3 after three quarters; the stat sheet says it should have been much closer than it was because USC outgained Notre Dame on offense by 45 yards.  The Irish benefited from 9 penalties (5 of those penalties produced first downs for Notre Dame) and they converted 8 of 12 third-down tries in the game.

In miscellaneous games…

UTSA 45  La-Tech 16:  UTSA remains unbeaten for 2021.  On the stat sheet this game should have been a nail-biter; each team gained 401 yards of offense; three turnovers by La-Tech provided the difference in the game.

San Diego St. 20  Air Force 14:  San Diego St. remains unbeaten.  This was a defensive game from start to finish; the Aztecs gained only 229 yards and won the game.  Air Force led the nation in rushing coming into the game and was limited to 192 yards on 49 attempts.  This was the second conference loss for Air Force; they trail Utah St. in the standings and one of the losses for the year was to Utah St.

SMU 55  Tulane 26:  The Mustangs maintain a patina of relevancy.

San Jose St. 27  UNLV 20:  UNLV remains winless for 2021.

Hawaii 48  New Mexico St. 34:  The Aggies are 1-7 for the season and the reason is their defense.  Only once have they held a team below 30 points this year – – and they gave up 28 in that game.  Even in their win over Division 1-AA South Carolina State, they gave up 35 points.

 

College Football Games of Interest:

 

Iowa at Wisconsin – 3 (36.5):  Neither team is great on offense; Iowa ranks 74th in the country in scoring offense and Wisconsin ranks 110th.  Both teams play well on defense; Iowa ranks 4th in the country in scoring defense and Wisconsin ranks 17th.  I agree this will be a defensive contest, but I am still stunned at how low that Total Line is for the game.  The betting action and the polls are in conflict for this game.  Wisconsin is the favorite but is unranked; Iowa is ranked in the Top 10.  Interesting…

Duke at Wake Forest – 16 (70):  Duke gives up 31.6 points per game; Wake Forest scores 43.1 points per game.  This should not be close…

Michigan – 4 at Michigan St. (51.5):  Both teams are undefeated as of today; that will change tomorrow.  Both teams rank in the Top 20 in scoring defense.  I will anoint this as the College Football Game of the Week.  I see this as a defensive game, so I’ll take it to say UNDER the Total Line; put it in the Six-Pack

BC at Syracuse – 7 (51):  The spread opened at only 4 points and has climbed steadily throughout the week.

Iowa St. – 7 at W. Virginia (47):  An important Big-12 conference game for the Cyclones…

Miami at Pitt – 9 (62):  This is a big game for Pitt and the spread opened at 12 points and has been dropping steadily.  Historically, Pitt teams lose about a game a year to an opponent they ought to beat.  Is this one of those games?

Rutgers – 1.5 at Illinois (42):  Two lesser lights in the Big-10 should put on an entertaining game…

Va. Tech at Ga. Tech – 4 (55):  This could be a big game for Va. Tech coach Justin Fuente (see above)

Florida St at Clemson – 9 (48):  Clemson only scores 20 points per game so that line looks fat at first.  Then you look at the Clemson defense and see that it only allows 14.6 points per game, and you wonder if the Seminoles can actually hit the end zone twice.  This is a big test for Florida St. who arrive on a 3-game winning streak; this is also a big test for the offensively challenged Clemson offense.  I think that line is indeed fat; I’ll take the Seminoles plus the points because I don’t like Clemson to score that much; put it in the Six-Pack.

UMass at Liberty – 36 (57.5):  The last time Liberty had a line like this, they were 33-point favorites over La-Monroe – – and then Liberty lost that game outright.  I can only find one Internet sportsbooks with a Money Line for this game – – in case you think lightening will strike twice:

  • UMass is at +8,500
  • Liberty is at minus-23,500
  • Good luck…

North Texas at Rice – 3 (56):  Rice has won 3 of its last 4 games – – in case you had not noticed…

UCLA at Utah – 6.5 (60.5):  This is an important PAC-12 game for both teams.  Utah shares the lead in its division with Arizona St and each has one in-conference loss; UCLA has two in-conference losses so another one would probably end their hopes for a chance to play in the conference championship game.

Washington St. at Arizona St. – 16 (53):  The same situation as in the UCLA/Utah game applies here.  Arizona St. is tied for the lead with Utah in the South Division and Washington St has two losses already and could become irrelevant in the North Division if they lose here.

Oregon St. – 1 at Cal (55):  The Beavers are tied with Oregon for the PAC-12 North lead and Cal is at the bottom of that division with 3 in-conference losses already.  I am surprised to see the spread as small as it is.

Colorado at Oregon – 24 (49):  This should not be a nail-biter…

Purdue at Nebraska – 7.5 (53.5):  The Total Line opened the week at 49 points and has risen steadily as the days went by.

Kentucky – 1 at Mississippi St. (47):  The oddsmakers obviously believe Kentucky’s defense can control the Bulldogs’ Air Raid offense.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma – 20 (66):  An interesting way to start for the interim head coach at Tech…

Penn St. at Ohio St. – 19 (62):  In some seasons, this would clearly be the Game of the Week; but in 2021, it is not even the Big-10 Game of the Week when compared to Michigan/Michigan St.

SMU at Houston -1 (62):  The Mustangs have not lost yet…

Texas at Baylor – 3 (61):  Baylor has only one conference loss so far; they need to win here to stay within hailing distance of Oklahoma.

Ole Miss at Auburn – 3 (66):  Each team has only 1 loss in conference, so this is an important game for both sides.  The Ole Miss path to the SEC Championship game is to win out and root for Auburn to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl later.  Auburn needs to win out to get to that game.  I think Ole Miss is the better team here and ought to win the game outright; I’ll take the Rebels plus the points on the road; put it in the Six Pack.

Georgia – 14 vs. Florida (51):  Many is the year when this game would be the Game of the Week…

Cincy – 26 at Tulane (62):  The Bearcats need to win impressively this week; they were disappointing last week (see above).

UNC at Notre Dame – 4 (62):  Back in August, this was a game I had highlighted on the schedule.  Then they started playing the games for real…

Fresno St. at San Diego St. “pick ‘em” (45):  San Diego St. is undefeated this year; Fresno St is in the same Mountain West Division with the Aztecs and Fresno St. has only one loss in conference.  The Mountain West may not be the football equivalent of some other conferences, but this is a big game for Mountain West fans.

 

NFL Commentary:

 

The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday afternoon, and it cannot get here fast enough.  Once it has come and gone, we can be freed from any more reports such as these:

  • Will Deshaun Watson be traded?
  • Where will Deshaun Watson be traded?
  • Will the NFL allow him to play if and when he is traded?

In addition, we can stop reading things like:

  • Five trades that contending teams need to make now
  • Will the Jackasses be sellers or buyers this year?
  • Six players who can benefit from a change of scenery

Enough already…

Two weeks ago, there were a bunch of blowout games; last week there were enough blowout games that makes me begin to wonder if the NFL is tilting away from parity more significantly than usual.  There are always dominant teams and bottom-feeders in every season but in the NFL there always tended to be a solid middle-class of teams that were good enough to keep many of the games close.  In fact, it is that strong middle class of teams that allows the NFL to carry on with its mantra of

  • On any given Sunday …   [Read with the intonation of John Facenda!]

It is difficult to put a lot of faith in the “Any given Sunday” proposition when 30% of the games are decided by three scores or more.  I hope the results of the last two weeks do not portend the separation in the NFL between a bunch of really good teams and a bunch of really bad teams.  That would not be a positive evolutionary step for the league.  The presence of 4 games with double-digit spreads on the card for this week is not a good sign.

Here are the six blowout games from last week; there were only 13 games on the card…

Bengals 41  Ravens 17:  This puts the Bengals in first place in the AFC North and it happened in Baltimore.   The game was close at halftime with the Bengals leading 13-10, but the second half was a totally different story.  Yes, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are excellent (Chase had 201 yards receiving in this game) but do not give short shrift to the Bengals’ defense.  They are also playing excellent football; they only give up 18.3 points per game.

Giants 25  Panthers 3:  Sam Darnold has really come back to Earth after a big start to 2021 in a new environment.  Last week, he was miserable throwing for only 111 yards on 25 pass attempts and tossing in an INT just for good measure.  But wait, there’s more…  He was also called for intentional grounding in the end zone – – so he yielded a safety too.  The Panthers were not able to run the ball either (56 yards on 17 carries) so it was not a pretty afternoon for Panthers fans or backers.  The Giants played opportunistic football scoring 25 points but only gaining 309 yards on the day.  The Giants’ defense dominated this game registering 5 sacks and holding the Panthers to less than 200 yards offense.

Pats 54  Jets 13:  The Pats racked up 551 yards on offense and here are the results of the Pats’ 11 possessions in the game:

  1. TD
  2. TD
  3. Field Goal
  4. TD
  5. TD
  6. Field Goal
  7. Punt
  8. TD
  9. TD
  10. TD
  11. Kneel out the clock

Jets’ QB, Zach Wilson injured his knee in the first half and did not return to this game to take a pounding.  That may have been a blessing in disguise for him and for the team in the future.

Titans 27  Chiefs 3:  I’ll say it now;

  • If the Chiefs do not improve significantly starting immediately, they are not going to make the playoffs.

I know that Patrick Mahomes had to be removed from the game, but that is not why the Titans prevailed.  The Titans had the ball for more than 36 minutes last week and converted on 8 of 12 third down tries.  The Titans’ defense limited the Chiefs passing game to only 4.7 yards per pass such that the Titans had more passing yards for the game than did the Chiefs.  Looking at the replay of the game, the Titans just pushed people around for most of the day.

Cardinals 31  Texans 5:  Do not pin this loss on the Texans’ defense.  They recorded a safety, created an INT and sacked Kyler Murray 4 times.  This loss belongs on the offense’s ledger.  Here are some sorry-assed numbers for the game:

  • Texans had 160 yards total offense
  • Texans recorded 8 first downs
  • Texans were 2 for 13 on third down conversions
  • Texans were 0 for 2 on fourth down conversions
  • Texans never got into the Red Zone.

Bucs 38   Bears 3:  It was 35-3 at halftime and the Bucs called off the dogs.  The Bears turned the ball over 5 times and went 2 for 11 on third down tries.   This was the late afternoon game in my viewing area; I basically gave up on it at halftime and paid attention to other things in my life.

It is hard to believe that any of those games were fun to watch – – even for fans of the winning sides.  And for the NFL where parity has become commonplace, it is hard to believe that I have put games with 14-point victories in the category of “non-blowouts.”  Here are the rest of the games from last weekend…

Packers 24  Football Team 10:  The Football team won the stat sheet – – because the stat sheet does not itemize the plays that created the outcome.  The Football Team had 430 yards on offense to only 304 yards for the Packers and the Football Team never punted the ball over the entire game.  Normally, those stat sheet entries point to the winning team but not last week.  Here is what the Packers did to win the game:

  • Washington got to the Red Zone 4 times and scored 0 TDs.
  • Washington turned the ball over twice.
  • Washington failed on fourth-down tries 4 times out of 5 attempts.

The “good news” for the Football Team is that this was not another game that the defense lost.  This time it was the offense that botched things.

Colts 30  Niners 18:  The Niners specialized in committing defensive pass interference penalties – – and I do not mean to imply that any of the calls were borderline.  At one point, the Colts had gained more yards on 3 long defensive pass interference calls than they had gained on offense by themselves.  For the night, the Niners committed 7 penalties for a total of 122 yards.  Add 4 turnovers to the Niners side of the ledger and you can see how this game ended the way it did.

Falcons 30  Dolphins 28:  Finally, we come to a game decided in the last minute.  It is not too often that a game summary for the Falcons includes plaudits for their defense – – but two INTs  by the defense came at convenient times to keep this game close until the final drive when Matt Ryan – – with the help of a great catch by Kyle Pitts – – set the Falcons up for a winning field goal with no time left on the clock.  Tip your hat to the Falcons’ special teams too; they blocked a kick in the game and that turned into a TD by the offense.

Raiders 33  Eagles 22:  The Eagles led the game 7-0 after the first possession of the game; by the next time they scored, the score was 30-7 in favor of the Raiders and there was only 11:41 left in the fourth quarter.  This was an ineffective and unorganized showing by the Eagles.  Jalen Hurts was only 18 of 34 for the day and the Eagles managed to lose two fumbles in the game.  Derek Carr had a monster game here with this stat line:

  • 31 of 34 for 323 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT

Rams 29  Lions 19:  The Lions took a 10-0 lead in the game and seemed as if they might pull a massive upset.  They outgained the Rams on offense and the Lions’ defense held the Rams’ running game to 47 yards on 19 carries.  However, the Lions did turn the ball over twice and the Lions did allow the Rams to convert 9 of 13 third down plays.  It was not a “statement win” for the Rams but it might be a statement loss for the Lions who did gain 415 yards on offense for the day – – and still lost.

Saints 13  Seahawks 10:    Both starting QBs did their best to try to give this game away; Geno Smith got the job done.  The two teams combined to go 5 for 25 on third down conversions; total offense for both teams was only 523 yards – – about what the Bengals totaled by themselves in their win over the Ravens.  DJ Metcalf caught an 84-yard TD pass in the first quarter to put the Seahawks on top 7-0; for the rest of the game, he caught 1 pass for 12 yards.  Was that dumb play calling or dumb execution?

 

NFL Games:

 

There are only two teams on their BYE Week:

  • The Raiders can enjoy their two-game winning streak under interim coach Rich Bisaccia.
  • The Ravens can lick their wounds after the beating they took last week at the hands of the Bengals.

Naturally, I watched last night’s Packers/Cardinals game; it was a great game; both teams played well on defense and the game was decided by an INT with about 15 seconds left in the game.  The Packers played without two of their top receivers; no problem; the Packers ran the ball for 151 yards on 34 carries.  For the Cards, JJ Watt did not play, and DeAndre Hopkins was probably only on the field for a half-dozen plays due to injury.

The stat sheet for the game was dead even; the Packers gained 335 yards as compared to the Cards’ output of 334 yards.  The biggest difference was in time of possession; the Packers had the ball for 37:35 due mainly to their success in running the ball.  Three turnovers by the Cards – including the INT that sealed the game for the Packers – did not help the Cards’ cause even a little bit.

The Packers now hold the tiebreaker over the Cards should that come into play for seeding in the NFC playoffs.  However, the Packers’ schedule from here on out is not particularly soft.  They are on the road in KC next week and still have games against the Rams, Ravens and Browns plus two against the Vikes.  But for now, the Packers sit atop the NFC.

Dolphins at Bills – 14 (49):  The Bills are clearly the better team here and they are coming off their BYE Week; the Dolphins have lost 6 in a row after winning in Week 1.  In the first meeting of these two teams this season, the Bills dominated to the tune of 35-0.  It will be closer than that this time – – but still not close.

Panthers at Falcons – 3 (47):  The Panthers started the season with three wins and have lost their last 4 in a row.  The Falcons are on a 2-game win streak.  Matt Ryan is clearly the better QB in the game; the Panthers’ defense is the better defense in the game (third in the league in Total Defense).  The loser of this game will see its relevance diminished regarding playoff potential.

Eagles – 3.5 at Lions (48):  This is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The Lions are winless for a reason; they are not a good football team.  The Eagles have won twice but that masquerades the fact that the Eagles too are not a good football team.  Both teams could wind up drafting in the Top 5 in next year’s NFL Draft.  If the Lions lose here, their schedule takes a turn for the worse:

  • At Steelers
  • At Browns
  • Vs. Bears (Thanksgiving Day Game)
  • Vs. Vikes
  • At Broncos
  • Vs. Cardinals
  • At Falcons
  • At Seahawks
  • Vs. Packers

Perhaps, the Lions will be favored on Thanksgiving Day at home; but other than that, they should be the underdog in every other contest all the way through to January 9th.

Looking at the rest of the Eagles schedule they have a game against the Jets that should be winnable, and they have two games against the Giants and another two games against the Football Team that might produce a win or two – – or not.

Titans at Colts – 2.5 (51):  At the beginning of the week, the Titans were favored by 1 point in the game and the Total Line was down at 47 points.  That is a lot of line movement for a single game. The Titans lead the AFC South at 5-2; the Colts are second at 3-4.  This is a big deal game for the Colts because a win would put them only a game out of first place and it would keep them in wildcard contention in the event they never do catch the Titans.  It is a big deal for the Titans as well since a win would give them a 3-game lead in the division with half the season in the books and it would give them 2 wins over the Colts in 2021.  For these reasons, this is my Game of the WeekThe Colts have played well the past couple of weeks, but the Titans are really on a roll; I like the Titans to win outright so I will take them plus the points on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Rams – 14.5 at Texans (48):  The Rams got a soft spot from the schedule maker playing the Lions last week and the Texans this week.  The Texans have the worst point differential in the NFL at minus-106 points.

Bengals – 10.5 at Jets (42):  This line tells me that bettors are worried about a let-down game from the Bengals this week after clobbering the Ravens last week.  Clearly, the Jets are not in the same category as the Ravens.  It will be interesting to see how the Bengals play in this circumstance; most of these players have never been in a similar setting.  With Zach Wilson injured, the Jets will have Mike White at QB with recently acquired Joe Flacco as the backup.  This could get ugly quickly.

Steelers at Browns – 4 (42.5):  Case Keenum should start in place of Baker Mayfield here; normally, that would be a disqualifying mark against the Browns.  However, the Browns’ defense is good against the run (second in the NFL) and if they can shut down Najee Harris, they will take away a major component of the Steelers’ offense.  This will not be an artistic event by any means, but it is one of the better games to watch in the early afternoon time slot.

Niners – 4 at Bears (39.5):  This game got serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  Neither team is getting quality play at the QB position; that was to be expected for the Bears as they sought to develop Justin Fields into an NFL QB.  That was not supposed to be the case for the Niners who had to expect more productive play from Jimmy Garoppolo than they have gotten.  The Bears are 3-4 and two of those three wins came at the expense of the Bengals and the Raiders – – two division leading teams.

Jags at Seahawks – 3 (44):  The Jags had a BYE Week last week to bathe in the glory of a win over the Dolphins two weeks ago.  Now they must go to Seattle which is not quite as long a journey as the one to London.  The Seahawks have been uncharacteristically bad at home this year losing all three games played there.  In “normal times”, the Seahawks can rely on the fact that they are sure to get competent play from the QB position; with Russell Wilson on the sidelines, that is no longer a guarantee.  This was my runner-up for the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Pats at Chargers – 4 (49.5):  The Chargers opened the week as 6-point favorites, and that number has dwindled slowly downward all week long.  The Chargers had a BYE Week last week to prepare for this game; the Pats had a monster game against the Jets (see above); they will not match that kind of offensive output against a decent Chargers’ defense.

Football Team at Broncos – 3 (44): Washington’s defense played its best game of the year last week; it did not produce a win, but there was clear improvement.  The Denver defense is injured, and the Broncos are a team that relies on its defense to keep games close.  I think the wrong team is favored here; I like the Football Team on the road plus the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Bucs – 4.5 at Saints (50):  This is a big game for both teams in the NFC South race.  For me, Saints’ games are “unpickable” because there is no way to know which version of Jameis Winston will show up and play.  He might throw 5 TDs in a game – – or he might throw 5 INTs.  It makes a difference.  A win for the Bucs here would put them two up in the loss column versus the Saints.

(Sun Nite) Cowboys – 1.5 at Vikes (55):  This spread for this game is all over the place; I found it as a “pick ‘em” game at one sportsbook and at 2.5 points at another sportsbook.  The line cited here is the most common one.  Both teams had a BYE Week last week; this was my runner-up for Game of the Week

(Mon Nite) Giants at Chiefs – 9.5 (52):  One Internet sportsbook opened this game with a spread of 13 points; everyone else had the game at 10 or 10.5 points; it did not take long for the lines to level out across the sportsbooks.  This is a big game for the Chiefs who have not looked like a playoff team for the last several weeks.  Given the urgency for the Chiefs plus the fact that the Giants are not very good, I like the Chiefs to win big here; I’ll take the Chiefs and lay a whole lot of points; put it in the Six-Pack.

So, let me review the Six-Pack and give you a bonus selection for the week:

  • Michigan/Michigan St. UNDER 51.5
  • Ole Miss +3 against Auburn
  • Florida St. + 9 against Clemson
  • Titans +2.5 against Colts
  • Football Team + 3 against Broncos
  • Chiefs – 9.5 over Giants.

 

BONUS SELECTION:  A three team Money Line parlay where all three teams are small underdogs:

  • Titans at +120
  • Football Team at +150
  • Ole Miss at +130
  • Parlay odds pay out at +234  (if I did the math correctly)

[EDIT:  I did the math wrong.  The parlay odds pay out would be +1165.  I was very sloppy.  sorry.  Thanks to the reader in Houston for the correction.]

Finally, let me close with this item by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Browns sack-master Myles Garrett has decorated his front yard for Halloween with tombstones featuring the name and jersey number of opposing quarterbacks.

“What’s he handing out this year, Nestle Crunch?”

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

 

 

Such A Headache…

I really do not mean to harp on the subject of the leaked emails related to the investigation of the Washington Football Team’s sexual harassment situation in its Front Office, but the story will not go away.  Yesterday, Roger Goodell said that the NFL was not the source of the leak; this morning there is a report in the Washington Post that says Tanya Snyder – – the co-CEO of the team and nominally the one running the show over the past several months – – told the other owners at their meeting that the Washington Football Team is not the source of the leaked emails.

Naturally, proclamations of that sort draw attention and encourage others to try to “unravel the mystery” as to “who dunnit.”  Let me try to frame the mystery here.

  • We can be confident in saying that there are three definite residences for that trove of emails.  The WFT has them, the NFL has them and the investigator(s) led by Beth Wilkinson has them.  However, it is not possible to say that within those three entities there is only one copy or that portions of the complete inventory are not held by multiple individuals.
  • Moreover, “heavily redacted” copies of some of the leaked emails were entered into evidence in a Federal Court by lawyers representing Danny Boy Snyder several months ago.  That fact alone says that there are other potential sources for leakage.

Therefore, Roger Goodell can only say with certainty that no one in the NFL to his knowledge is the source of the leaked emails and Tanya Snyder can only say the same thing about the WFT as the source of the leaks.  Unfortunately, that is about as far as I can go with deductive reasoning in this matter because once I get to the point where the possibility of multiple copies exists, there is no way to deduce how many there are or where they are.  So, off I go into the realm of speculation…

Just to be clear, I am not someone who is prone to conspiracy theories.

  • I do not believe in the world domination of the Trilateral Commission nor in the puppet string manipulations by the Elders of Zion.
  • There are no microchips in COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • There are no biological agents in “chemtrails”.
  • The Bermuda Triangle is bunk.
  • Fluoridation of water supplies is not a Communist plot to undermine the health of Americans.
  • Climate change is real.

The leaked emails in this matter injured one party directly and two parties tangentially.  Jon Gruden lost his job as the head coach of the Raiders and reports said that his contract called for him to make another $65M over the next six and a half years.  So, it would be reasonable to start by asking who might want to injure Jon Gruden in this way.  After ruminating on that for a moment, I come up with nothing and that leads me to the next step in my speculation here that Jon Gruden is “collateral damage” in this matter and not the target of the leaked emails.

The other two individuals who are tangentially damaged are Bruce Allen and Jeff Pash.  [Pash is the NFL general counsel and an executive VP of the league; he and Allen shared more than a few emails.]  So, who might have issues with either of those parties?  I mentioned above that some “heavily redacted” emails were submitted to a Federal Court by lawyers representing Daniel Snyder.  That submission was an attempt by Snyder’s lawyers to get the court to order discovery procedures involving Bruce Allen as part of a larger action Snyder filed against a New Delhi media outlet for defamation of character because the outlet asserted some sort of connection between Snyder and Jeffrey Epstein and sex-trafficking.

As the senior legal officer inside the NFL, it is reasonable to assume that he had knowledge of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation and probably has been directly involved in any decision processes involving the assertion of confidentiality granted to those who came forward in that investigation.  I can imagine multiple scenarios where a variety of folks might have an issue with some position that Pash has taken in the past.  It is the multiplicity of those scenarios that makes me stop and recognize that all of this is speculation and cannot lead to any sort of conclusion I might reach with any confidence.

The fact that Allen as a team president was in email contact with Pash seems like a logical connection to make.  The fact that Gruden was with ESPN at the time of the email exchanges with Allen is not nearly as “natural” a happenstance.  But it is not necessarily nefarious either.  Here is something that makes me wonder:

  • Were there other WFT officials who were corresponding via email with parties outside the team?  I have to think that is the case.
  • So, why have only messages involving Allen been leaked?  Everyone else was as pure and the driven snow?
  • This whole thing makes my teeth itch.

So, my plan now is to try to let this issue recede into memory – – assuming there is not another data dump later this week.  I will certainly look forward to the outcome(s) of the Congressional intervention into this matter; if they hold hearings on this and put those hearings on TV, I will await the SNL re-enactment of those hearings.  I will try to ignore the carefully worded statements issued by the NFL or the lawyers representing the women who were subjected to sexual harassment or the NFLPA or …

Finally, to end on a much lighter note than what is above, here is a Tweet recently from Brad Dickson formerly with the Omaha World -Herald:

“Nestle is recalling 28,000 lbs of DiGiorno Crispy Pan Crust Pepperoni Pizzas. What happened – did something healthy fall into the mix?”

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

 

 

Football Friday 10/15/21

Ivan Pavlov recognized that dogs would begin to salivate whenever they sensed something around them that they had learned to associate with the arrival of food.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, I know that I need to limber up my keyboard fingers every Friday because I associate Fridays with Football Friday.  It is only when I have finished the rant and posted it that I can focus on the food my long-suffering wife has prepared for dinner which always causes me to salivate.

As usual, let me begin with a review of last week’s Six-Pack:

  • College = 1-1-0
  • NFL = 1-3-0
  • Total = 2-4-0

Those less-than-wonderful outcomes lead to these cumulative totals for the season:

  • College = 4-6-0
  • NFL = 9-10-1
  • Total = 13-16-1

 

College Football Commentary:

 

The Linfield College Wildcats extended their unbeaten record for 2021 to 4-0 with a convincing 42-7 victory over previously unbeaten Whitworth University.  That win is all the more impressive given the fact that Whitworth had given up only 18 points per game prior to last week’s loss to Linfield.  This weekend, Linfield will host Pacific University (Oregon) and Pacific brings a 3-1 record to the kickoff.  Go Wildcats!

Lest you doubt the top-to-bottom quality of the SEC, consider that CBSports.com ranks all 130 Division 1-A football teams every week.  In this week’s rankings here is how the SEC stacks up against the rest of the college football world”

  • The SEC has the #1 team (Georgia)
  • The SEC has 3 teams in the Top 10 (add Alabama and Kentucky)
  • The SEC has 6 teams in the Top 20 (add Ole Miss, Florida, Arkansas)
  • The SEC has 8 teams in the Top 30 (add Texas A&M, Auburn)
  • The SEC has 10 teams in the Top 40 (add Mississippi St. and Tennessee)

Other than finding Vandy on the schedule at most once a  year, SEC teams do not get a lot of “weeks off” …

I know this will never happen because there would be too many vested interests offended, but as of this week, I would not be offended if the CFP consisted of 2 SEC teams and 2 Big-10 teams.  Georgia, Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State – – as of this week – – would make for an interesting playoff bracket.  Maybe Michigan or Michigan St. could be exchanged for the two Big-10 teams named here; that would not offend me.  Here is the basis of my thinking:

  • This is a down year for the ACC.  Clemson has been unimpressive, and UNC has been downright underachieving.
  • The Big-12 is unimpressive.  Oklahoma is probably the best team there but many of their wins leave me saying, “Meh!
  • The Pac-12 is hardly a fearsome conference once you get beyond Oregon and maybe Arizona St.
  • Notre Dame and BYU are the best of the independents by a mile and neither of them is remotely deserving of a CFP berth.
  • So … why not two teams from the SEC and two from the Big-10?

And since I mentioned Georgia as the #1 ranked team in the country this week, let me present some stats about their defense in 2021:

  • In 6 games, Georgia’s opponents have only gotten to the Red Zone 8 times.
  • 128 of the 130 Division 1-A teams have given up as many or more TDs than Georgia has allowed Red Zone penetrations.
  • In 6 games, opponents have only scored 6 TDs on the Georgia defense.
  • The Bottom Line is: These guys are good!

USC fired head coach Clay Helton earlier this year, but things have not exactly turned toward the positive for the Trojans.  Consider:

  • On 25 September, USC lost to Oregon St. at home by a score of 45-27.  That was the first time Oregon St. had beaten USC in LA since 1960.  In 1960, Dwight Eisenhower was in the final days of his presidency, Egypt began building the Aswan Dam and Ben Hur won the Oscar for “Best Picture”.
  • On October 9, USC lost to Utah at home by a score of 42-26.  (See below)  That was the first time Utah had beaten USC in LA since 1916.  In 1916, Woodrow Wilson was ending his first term in office, World War I was raging in Europe and Georgia Tech beat Cumberland College in a football game by the score of 222-0.

[Aside:  As Warner Wolf was wont to say, “If you had Cumberland and 221 points … YOU LOST!!!]

Let me mention a team that might not be nearly as good as their 2-3 record might suggest.  La-Monroe’s two wins include one victory over Division 1-AA Jackson State; if you ignore that win, their record against Division 1-A opponents is 1-3.  Here’s the deal:

  • The combined score in those 3 losses is Opponents 159   La-Monroe 37.
  • The average margin of defeat is 40.6 points per game.

Just to keep you abreast of the contenders for this year’s Brothel Defense Award – – the team whose defense allows anyone and everyone to score at will:

  • UMass gives up 41.5 points per game
  • Kansas gives up 43.8 points per game.
  • Arkansas State gives up 46.7 points per game.

New Mexico and Colorado St. play this weekend in a clash of lesser lights in the Mountain West conference.  As is usually the case, it could be worse; it could be New Mexico versus winless UNLV.  Hold  your breath, that game will happen on 6 November…

Colorado will take on Arizona this week.  The PAC-12 is not near the top of the Power 5 and neither of these teams is anywhere near the top of the PAC-12.  Add to that the fact that Arizona’s starting QB is now out for the season after suffering an injury in the UCLA game last week.  For fans on the West Coast, find another game to focus on this weekend…

However, there is one game on the card for this weekend that looks to be even less interesting than those mentioned above.  Let me give you the line for the game and then make some comments:

Yale – 3 at UConn (45.5):  UConn is 0-7 in 2021 which is rather bad considering that no other team is 0-7 and that they lost last week to UMass.  However, now consider the shame associated with being the home team against an Ivy League opponent and being the underdog in that game.  Which is worse?  This game is the last remaining “soft spot” for the Huskies unless you think that Middle Tennessee is equivalently soft compared to Yale.  Here is the rest of the UConn schedule after this week:

  • Vs. Middle Tennessee
  • At Clemson
  • At UCF
  • Vs. Houston

If I were trying to hype this game, I would probably call it an “interstate rivalry” – – except the two schools are “rivals” in just about no sense of the word.

In SEC action last week…

Texas A&M 41  Alabama 38:  Clearly, this was the shocker of the week.  Alabama dominated the stats gaining 522 yards to 379 for the Aggies and Alabama converted 10 of 19 third down tries.  The Aggies returned a kickoff for a TD in the middle of the 3rd quarter.  Jimbo Fisher is the first former assistant under Nick Saban to beat Saban head-to-head.

Georgia 34  Auburn 10:  The Georgia defense gave up twice as many points as usual but held Auburn to 39 yards rushing on 28 attempts.  Auburn led 3-0 halfway through the first quarter but did not score again until late in the third quarter.  By that time, Georgia had 24 points on the scoreboard.  However, hold your breath here; Georgia gave up a TD in this game and the Bulldogs’ defense just does not do that very often (see above).

Ole Miss 52  Arkansas 51:  There were 41 points scored in the 4th quarter alone here.  The total offense for these two teams was 1287 yards – – 674 of those yards were on the ground.  Both teams averaged 6 or more yards per carry.  Needless to say, it was not a great day for tackling.  There were 59 first downs recorded.  The game ended with Arkansas failing on a two-point conversion that would have won the game.  Phew…!

Florida 42  Vandy 0:  Florida called off the dogs and played a scoreless 4th quarter.

Kentucky 42  LSU 21:  Looking at the score, you might think Kentucky dominated the stat sheet – – but that is not the case.  Total offense for Kentucky was 474 yards to 408 yards for LSU.  Kentucky did dominate the ground game with 329 yards rushing on 43 carries.  LSU did not score until midway into the 3rd quarter and posted two TDs in the 4th quarter when the game was out of reach.  Just for the record, the last time Kentucky was 6-0 was back in 1950 – – the same year that Oregon State beat USC in Los Angeles (see above).

In games that matter to Big-10 folks …

Ohio State 66  Maryland  17:  Running up scores is important for Ohio State; it could impress the CFP Selection Committee.

Michigan St.  31  Rutgers  13:  Michigan State remains undefeated at 6-0.  Looking ahead, the Spartans still have Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State on their schedule.

Wisconsin 24  Illinois 0:  When a strong defense plays a middling offense, this is the not-so-surprising result…

Iowa 23  Penn State 20:  The Hawkeyes are 6-0 to start the 2021 season and had to rally from a 20-10 deficit midway through the third quarter for the win.  This was a defensive game all along.  Total offense for Iowa was 305 yards and total offense for Penn State was 287 yards.  Penn State turned the ball over 4 times – – all on INTs – – and there were 14 punts in the game.

Michigan 32  Nebraska 29:  The Wolverines are 6-0 to start the 2021 season.  The Huskers trailed 13-0 at the half but rallied to lead 22-19 at the end of 3 quarters.  But Michigan staged a rally of its own in the 4th quarter to eke out a win here.  The margin of victory came on a field goal set up by a Michigan fumble recovery late in the game.

In ACC action…

UVa 34  Louisville 33:  Louisville led 30-13 to start the 4th quarter.  The Cavaliers capped their late rally with a drive of 80 yards on 12 plays in the final three minutes to win this one.

Florida St.  35  UNC  25:  Last week after the Seminoles won their first game of the season, I wondered if that was an awakening or a mirage.  Well, UNC fans will probably say it was an awakening.  Florida State scored two long TDs – – a 53-yard run and a 33- yard pass.

Wake Forest 40  Syracuse 37  (OT):  Wake remains undefeated in 2021; the last time Wake started a season at 6-0 was in 1944.  Syracuse won the stat battle gaining 513 yards to “only” 432 yards for Wake Forest.  Syracuse got a field goal in the first possession of the overtime period, but Wake countered with a 22-yard scoring pass for the win.

Notre Dame 32  Va Tech 29:  The Irish are 5-1; give them credit for pulling out close games.  This one was decided by a 48-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the game.  The Irish have won five games this year; three of those 5 games were 3-point wins; you cannot accuse Note Dame of “choking” in close contests.  The Irish got a TD to tie the game at 29 with two-and-a-half minutes left in the game; Notre Dame’s defense got a three and out; then the offense to set up the winning field goal.

In the Big-12 …

Oklahoma 55  Texas 48:  The Big-12 retains an unbeaten team, but it went down to the end.  Texas led the game 28-7 in the first half and  41-30 at the start of the 4th quarter.  The total offense in this game was 1178 yards.  The Sooners averaged more yards per carry (8.3) than they did yards per pass attempt (7.3).  Imagine that you are part of the Texas defensive unit and you saw your offense gain 517 yards for the day and score 48 points – – and it comes out as a loss in the record book.  Talk about depressing.  By the way, even with all that offense on display, there were 10 punts in the game.

For West Coast Fans, some thoughts on PAC-12 games…

Washington St.  31  Oregon St.  24:  So, now the Beavers also have in in-conference loss.  PAC-12 games are enigmatic if nothing else…

Utah 42  USC 26:  This game was a massive beat-down despite the score.  Utah led 35-3 at the start of the 4th quarter.

UCLA 34  Arizona 16:  The Wildcats are 0-5 for the season and are not playing competitive football in the PAC-12.  Their conference losses have been by an average of 20 points per game.

Arizona St.  28  Stanford 10:  Got that one wrong in last week’s Six-Pack.  My bad!

In miscellaneous games from last week…

Boise St.  26  BYU 17:  That is the first loss of the season for BYU.  Boise St. produced 90 yards more offense in the game; they limited BYU to 4 of 10 on third-down tries and 1 of 3 on fourth-down attempts.  In addition, the Boise St. defense forced 4 turnovers in the game.  It is amazing that the score was this close.

Cincy 52  Temple 3:  On the stat sheet, Cincy more than doubled Temple on offense.  The Bearcats gained 537 yards to 226 for the Owls.

SMU 31  Navy 24:  This was not the best outcome for Cincy fans; they would have preferred a much bigger win over Navy whose record is now 1-4.  Nevertheless, SMU remains undefeated at 6-0.

Coastal Carolina 52  Arkansas St. 21:  Last week produced another blowout win for Coastal over another weak opponent; Arkansas St. is 1-5 and is the leader as of this week to win the Brothel Defense Award.

Nevada 55  New Mexico St. 28:  This game was not nearly this close.  Nevada led 52-7 at the start of the 4th quarter and then the Aggies scored 3 of the more meaningless TDs of the season in the final stanza.

Texas St.  33  South Alabama 31  (4OT):  This was a strange game indeed.  The game was tied at 24 at the end of regulation and each team scored a TD in the first OT.  Then the next two OT periods saw both teams failing to score a point.

And saving the worst for last…

UMass 27  UConn 13:  The Stink Bowl happened… The UConn defense surrendered 407 yards to a bad football team last week.  Remember when Randy Edsall “resigned” after the first game of the year, they put the defensive coordinator in charge.  I guess that means the student equipment manager was too busy taking organic chem lab to take on the head coaching duties too.

 

College Football Games of Interest:

 

(Fri Nite) Clemson – 13 at Syracuse (45):  Syracuse is surprisingly good this year and Clemson is unusually bad this year.  Nonetheless, the oddsmakers see this as a double-digit win for the Tigers.  If I were to play this game, I would probably take it to go OVER – – but that is NOT a selection for this week.

(Fri Nite) Cal at Oregon – 13 (54.5):  This game looks as if it could be a blowout – – but then again so did the Stanford/Oregon game…

Miami at UNC – 7 (64):  If you wanted to make a list of the ten most underachieving teams for this year based on pre-season expectations, I think both of these squads would be on the list.

Pitt – 5 at Va Tech (57):  Pitt is not a reliable team and Va Tech is not a reliable team.  Where those numbers came from is a mystery to me…

Texas Tech – 17 at Kansas (68):  Tech is 4-2 for the year but when they have a bad day and lose, they get slaughtered.  The two losses have come by a combined 56 points.  Kansas just stinks…

Michigan St. – 4 at Indiana (48.5):  Sparty is 6-0 and only gives 4 points to an Indiana team that is 2-3.  Moreover, look at the three losses for the Hoosiers:

  • Iowa 34  Indiana 6
  • Cincy 38  Indiana 24
  • Penn State 24  Indiana 0

Even though Michigan St. might be looking ahead at three tough games on its schedule starting next week, I think they can keep it together here to cover 4 points; I’ll take Sparty to win and cover on the road; put it in the Six-Pack.

Army at Wisconsin – 14 (38.5):  The Badgers lead the nation in run defense allowing only 41.6 yards per game on the ground.  Army is second in the nation in rushing offense gaining 318.2 yards per game on the ground.

NC State – 3 at BC (52):  Both teams are 4-1 but BC’s loss is in-conference so there may be more urgency on that sideline this weekend.

UCF at Cincy – 21 (57):  Cincy needs to continue to win big week after week…

Rutgers – 2 at Northwestern (45):  Rutgers is on a 3-game losing streak.  However, those losses came at the hands of undefeated Michigan, Ohio State and undefeated Michigan State.  Northwestern comes to this game after getting waxed by Nebraska two weeks ago by a score of 56-7.  One of my cohorts who is the “Chief Logistics Officer” for our Las Vegas trips has made some tidy sums fading Rutgers for the past 5 years or so.  He may be surprised to see this, but I think Rutgers can win this game handily – even on the road; I’ll take Rutgers and lay the points; put it in the Six-Pack.

Colorado St. – 11 at New Mexico (45):  Two bad teams and a double-digit spread?  No thanks…

Arizona at Colorado – 6.5 (45):  Two bad teams…

Air Force at Boise St. – 4 (52):  Air Force leads the nation in rushing yards per game at 341.3 yards per game and also in rushing attempts per game at 66.5 rushing attempts per game.  Boise St. ranks 97th in the nation in rush defense allowing 180.2 yards per game.

Arizona St. at Utah “pick ‘em” (50.5):  This is an important game.  Both teams are undefeated in conference games – – the only PAC-12 teams that can say that.

Liberty – 33 at La-Monroe (57):  I said above in the commentary that La-Monroe tends to lose games by large margins.  But against Liberty?  By almost 5 TDs?

Texas A&M – 9 at Missouri (59.5):  A classic opportunity for a letdown game by the Aggies after beating Alabama last week and now going on the road and playing a clearly inferior opponent.  Be careful…

Oklahoma St. at Texas – 4 (60):  Oklahoma St. is undefeated; Texas has lost twice – – one loss is in conference.  Texas opened as a 6.5-point favorite here and the line has dropped slowly as the week wore on.  Texas can score but does not defend.  Oklahoma St wins with their defense and presents an anemic offense.  Interesting…

TCU at Oklahoma – 13.5 (63):  Oklahoma is the other undefeated Big-12 team; TCU is 1-1 in conference play and 3-2 overall.  This has the makings of a shootout; the losing side might score 35 points; I like this game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Alabama – 17 at Mississippi St. (57.5):  The question here is how Alabama will react to its loss last week to Texas A&M.  One answer is that they just might bludgeon Mississippi St. to death here…

Purdue at Iowa – 11.5 (43):  Here is another possible letdown game as the Hawkeyes exhale after a close and tough win over Penn State last week…

Kentucky at Georgia – 21.5 (44.5):  This is the College Game of the Week notwithstanding the three-touchdown spread.  Both teams are undefeated and ranked in the Top 10.  Given that low Total Line and the healthy spread, the oddsmakers do not think Kentucky is going to score much at all.  Kentucky runs the ball well but is not a big-time passing team.  A one-dimensional offense against the Georgia defense is not an appealing sight.

Florida – 12 at LSU (59):  Talk about an unusual year, LSU is in last place in the SEC West at mid-season.  That has not happened often in recent history.

Ole Miss – 2.5 at Tennessee (83):  That is not a typo on the Total Line; one sportsbook has it at 84 points this morning.  That Total Line opened as low as 78.5 points at one Internet sports book, and it has been rising steadily all week long.  It was at 80 on Tuesday; it then went through 81 to 82 on Wednesday and hit 83 in mid-morning on Thursday.

Iowa St. – 6.5 at K-State (51):  I know I sound like a broken record here, but K-State is a much tougher opponent at home than on the road.  The Cyclones have lost the last seven times they have played at K-State.

Auburn at Arkansas – 4.5 (54):  Auburn has an in-conference loss but still has a head-to-head meeting with SEC West leader, Alabama.  Arkansas has 2 SEC losses already.  This could be a great game…

Stanford – 1.5 at Washington St. (52.5):  Two teams that play up and down from week to week…

Hawaii at Nevada – 14 (60):  Hawaii is on the road against a good Nevada team.  I would imagine that this spread would be half the number if the game were in Hawaii…

 

NFL Commentary:

 

            When the Jags lost to the Titans last weekend, it was their 20th consecutive loss going back to Week 1 of last season.  They are now one of only three teams in the history of the NFL to lose 20 or more games in succession.  The Jags next milestone is the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs in the mid-70s who lost their first 26 NFL games.  Here are the next 6 games for the Jags:

  • Vs. Dolphins
  • BYE Week
  • At Seahawks
  • Vs. Bills
  • At Colts
  • Vs Niners
  • Vs Falcons

I do not see any games on this list that will have the Jags as favorites although the spread for this week’s game against the Dolphins is very thin.  However, later this season the Jags get back-to-back games that both look winnable:

  • December 19:  Texans at Jags
  • December 26:  Jags at Jets

If the Jags arrive at that Jets game on 26 December without winning any of their games along the way, the game in NY will be the one the Jags will need to set a new NFL record of 30 straight losses.  Not saying it will happen – – but it could…

Does anyone recall back in 2016 when lots of columnists and commentators were worried about the demise of the NFL?  That was the time of the Colin Kaepernick controversy and that was the time when a week did not go by without some hoary tale related to CTE such that people concluded that mothers would not let their kids play football.  TV ratings dropped; some attributed that to the Presidential election campaign in 2016; others saw it as the beginning of the impending decline of the NFL.

Well, the league survived 2016 and it survived the COVID-19 intrusion into the 2020 season, and it has fans back in the stand for 2021.  Those fans are not at home watching games so if anything, the TV ratings might be expected to go down ever so slightly.  But that is not the case.  According to Nielsen, the NFL’s TV ratings for 2021 are up just under 17% as compared to 2020 and are higher than they have been since 2014.  I am not trying to say that the NFL is invincible and will never go into eclipse – – but it is not likely to happen in the next 5-10 years.

The Cincinnati Bengals were once a franchise that was an easy target for scorn; you could rely on them to do something stupid to thwart whatever chance(s) they may have had to achieve something positive in any NFL season.  My sense is that we should take a hiatus from that sort of commentary:

  • As long as Joe Burrow is able to play QB, the team has someone at the most important position in the NFL who is competent and poised.
  • JaMarr Chase looks to be the real deal at WR.  If he can avoid the nonsensical and counter-productive self-promotion that impeded Odell Beckham, Jr., Chase should become a force majeure.
  • Zac Taylor appears to be growing into the job of “head coach in the NFL”.  If that continues to be the case and the GM  there – Duke Tobin – does not totally screw up on upcoming drafts, the Bengals seem to be on a positive vector heading.

Moving along to comments about games last weekend …

Falcons 27  Jets 20:    The Falcons almost doubled the Jets on offense gaining 450 yards on offense to only 230 for the Jets.  And yet, it was a one-score game.  The Falcons had the ball for almost 36 minutes and recorded 11 more first downs than the Jets.  And still it was a one-score game.  The Falcons converted 9 of 14 third down conversions and 1 of 1 on fourth down.  And still it was a one-score game.  The Falcons led 20-3 at halftime and allowed the Jets to make this a one-score game.  The more things change …

Zach Wilson threw an INT in the game.  That means Wilson has now thrown one or more INTs in each of his five first games in the NFL.  As you might imagine, that is not a good stat, and that stat puts him in some seriously mediocre company along with these folks from the last 10 years or so:

  • Blake Bortles
  • DeShone Kizer
  • Zach Mettenberger

For the record, I believe Zach Wilson will be far more successful and far more long-lived in the NFL than any of those other three QBs – – but he really needs to get a grip on his throws to the “wrong-colored jerseys”.

Pats 25  Texans 22:  This was a popular score on Sunday.  The Texans seemed to be in total control of the game here leading 22-9 early in the third quarter.  The Pats had a chance to take the lead early in the 4th quarter but missed a PAT.  Nevertheless, Nick Folk redeemed himself by hitting a game winning field goal with about 15 seconds left in the game.  The stat sheet was as even as the game on the field.  The big difference was deep into the stat sheets:

  • The Texans missed two PATs.
  • The Texans missed a makeable field goal.
  • The Texans had a punt that went all of zero yards.

Until last weekend, I thought that the Lions were the only team capable of such ineptitude to lose a game…

Packers 25  Bengals 22 (OT):  The game was decided late in OT when the Packers’ kicker, Mason Crosby, hit a 49-yard field goal – – but that is an ironic end to the game.  In the final 2 minutes of regulation time both Crosby and the Bengals’ kicker Evan McPherson missed game winning field goal tries.  Then in OT, Mason missed twice, and McPherson missed once again too.  The game had a distinctive “Alphonse and Gaston” aura around it.  Lost in all that “drama” at the end of the game was the fact that Davante Adams had a spectacular day gaining 206 yards receiving and scoring a TD in the game.

Steelers 27  Broncos 19:  The Broncos entered the game 3-1 on the season but it was the NFL schedule maker who was more than partly responsible for that record because those three wins were over the Jets, Giants and Jags.  The Broncos did not play like a 3-1 team here.  For example, the Broncos committed a delay of game penalty on the first play of the game.  I do not think I ever saw that happen before.  The Steelers dominated the first 3 quarters of the game and then held on to get the win.  They needed an INT in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play in the final minute to assure the win.

Bucs 45  Dolphins 17:  The Dolphins led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter but after that, the game was simply an organized ass-kicking particularly in the 4th quarter.  The Dolphins’ running game was shut down gaining a total of 36 yards on 9 rushing attempts for the game.  The Bucs had 558 yards on offense to 301 for the Dolphins.

Vikings 19  Lions 17:  Once again, the Lions lost by the score of 19-17 and the difference came on a last second field goal of more than 50 yards.  It happened in the late 60s once and then it happened to the Lions twice in the last 3 weeks – – a game ending field goal to make the score Opponent 19 and Lions 17.The Vikings gained 97 more yards on offense than the Lions and yet the Lions accumulated 4 more first downs in the game.  However, most of the Lions offense was in the middle of the field; their first trip into the Red Zone came in the final two minutes of the game.

Eagles 21  Panthers 18:  The Panthers had the ball for 35 minutes in the game, but Sam Darnold threw 3 INTs here.  Jalen Hurts did not have a great day passing – – 22 for 37 for 198 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT – – but he ran for 2 TDs in the second half allowing the Eagles to come back from a 12-point deficit.  A blocked punt by the Eagles late in the 4th quarter set up the second of those TD rushes by Hurts.  The Eagles had 177 yards in their final four possessions of the game; prior to that, they had amassed a grand total of 96 yards for the day.  But they won the game…

Saints 33  Football Team 22:  Well, that self-proclaimed elite defense for the Football Team gave up 30+ points once again.  That makes 3 weeks in a row – – and it gave up 29 points the week before that 3-game streak began.  The Washington offense did its job; it was even with the Saints in total offense and Washington held the ball for almost thirty-six-and-a-half minutes in the game.  The difference in the game is summarized here:

  • Red Zone Efficiency:  Washington 2 TDs in 5 visits; New Orleans 2 TDs in 2 visits
  • Goal to Go Efficiency:  Washington 2 for 4  New Orleans  0 for 0.

Jameis Winston was as inconsistent as fans have come to expect from Jameis Winston.  He turned the ball over twice and he threw 4 TDs in the game including a 50-yard Hail Mary completion for a TD to end the first half.  Jameis Winston is a QB who can throw his team back into and well out of a game on any given Sunday.  And sometimes, he does both of those things on the same Sunday…

Bears 20  Raiders 9:  This was an all-out soiling of the bed sheets by the Raiders.  I cannot bring myself to put it any kindlier.  Playing a rookie QB whose passing total for the day was 111 yards, the Raiders could not dominate the game with their offense.  Moreover, the Raiders’ defense forced zero turnovers and allowed an anemic Bears’ offensive unit to convert 6 of 13 third-down tries.  The Raiders also recorded 10 penalties for a total of 82 yards. And remember, Raider Nation:

  • This pathetic showing was against the sorry-assed Bears.

Cowboys 44  Giants 20:  The Giants seemed as if they would make this game interesting until Saquon Barkley injured an ankle, Kenny Golladay went out with an injury and Daniel Jones had to leave the game with what certainly looked like a concussion at the time.  After that, the outcome was not even remotely in doubt.  The Cowboys were 8 for 13 on third down conversions and just wore out the Giants’ defense.  Mike Glennon replaced Jones at QB for the Giants and threw for 196 yards and a TD – – but he also threw 2 INTs.

Titans 37  Jags 19:  The Jags had a significant advantage on offense in the game gaining 454 yards to 368 for the Titans.  Normally, that does not lead one to think of a scoreboard outcome like this one.  The differences here were:

  • Two turnovers by the Jags
  • Goal to Go Efficiency:  Jax 3 of 5  Titans  3 of 3

Nevertheless, this is another game where the Titans’ defense was sub-standard; somehow, the team needs to make some corrections in that phase of the game; the Titans lost the offensive stats for the game to the Jags – – not exactly an offensive juggernaut.  The message for the defense is along the lines of “C’mon man!”.

Chargers 47  Browns 42.:  I read a report that said the Elias Sports Bureau had a unique stat for this game.

  • The Browns are the first team in NFL history to lose a game in which they scored 40 or more points AND did not turn the ball over at least once.
  • Also, the Browns are now the first team to lose a game where it scored 40 or more points, gained 500 yards offense or more and did not turn the ball over once.
  • Until last week, NFL teams that had those sorts of offensive stats were 442-0.

The combined total offense (1024 yards) by these teams made it seem as if this was a college game; the fourth quarter alone saw 41 points go up on the scoreboard.  Two stats that show the difference here:

  • Red Zone Efficiency:  Browns were 3 of 6  Chargers were 4 of 4.
  • Chargers converted 6 of 13 first down tries AND 3 of 3 fourth-down tries.

Bills 38  Chiefs 20:  This was as dominant a win as the score would indicate.  The Chiefs’ season seems to be in trouble because their offense cannot find enough ways to cover for the humongous shortcomings of the Chiefs’ defense.  Clyde Edwards-Helaire had to limp off for X-Rays and Travis Kelce missed the final few plays of the game after taking a big hit; that will enhance the offensive unit not at all.  Meanwhile, the Bills were hitting on all cylinders – offense, defense and special teams.

Cardinals 17  Niners 10:  This game was 10-7 in favor of the Cards as the fourth quarter began; it was close from beginning to end.  Trey Lance was the QB for the Niners and he played well – – for a rookie.  Here are his stat lines:

  • 15 for 29 for 192 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT
  • He also carried 16 times for 89 yards

Here are the stats that stand out to me as to why the Niners lost the game.  They were only 3 of 11 on third-down conversions AND they were a miserable 1 for 5 on fourth down conversions.

 

NFL Games:

 

The Bye Weeks begin this week with four teams sitting out action until next week.

  1. Falcons:  Flying home from London with a win to set their record at 2-3 which assures that they will remain in last place in the NFL South next week.
  2. Jets:  Flying home from London with a loss – – but with a hope that the Dolphins lose this week temporarily elevating the Jets out of the AFC East basement.
  3. Niners:  The injury to Russell Wilson gives Niners’ fans hope that the Niners will not finish last in the NFC West.
  4. Saints:  They get a week to savor last week’s win over the Football Team and hope to stay within striking distance of the Bucs in the NFC South.

            I watched the Bucs beat the Eagles 28-22 last night.  There was a controversial call by officials late in the 4th quarter of the game for taunting against the Eagles and it could well have had a material effect on the game outcome.  Let me take it out of the realm of “game-deciding” and simply say that it was a ticky-tack call at best; it is probably 100% correct as per the wording of the taunting rule and the league’s point of emphasis for enforcing it.  As a former official – basketball not football – I know it was also not a call that would ever have been made in a showcase  game like the Super Bowl.

            Speaking of penalty calls in the game, when the 4th quarter started, the Eagles had gained fewer yards on offense than they had gained as a result of penalties assessed to the Bucs.  The Eagles benefited from two pass interference calls of 35 yards or greater; so, it is a bit difficult to assert that the zebras stole the game from the hometown heroes.

Miami – 3 at Jax (47) [Game is in London]:  Recall what I said last week about the NFL shipping its bad games across the pond to the UK.  Well, once again the London Game is  the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  The teams bring a combined record of 1-9 to the coin toss.  As the referee greets the captains, he may be wondering to himself what he did to piss off the suits in the NFL Front Office such that they assigned him and his crew to this dirtbag game.

Houston at Indy – 10 (43):  These are two enigmatic teams.  The Colts are 1-4 and if they win this game, they could well wake up on Monday morning and be only one game behind the Titans for first place in the AFC South.  Of course, the same applies to the 1-4 Texans but there is no real chance that the Texans could keep up that façade for the rest of the NFL season.

Green Bay – 5 at Chicago (44.5):  The Bears’ defense is for real; the Packers’ offense is for real.  When those units are on the field, this game will be interesting.  When the Bears have the ball … not so much.

KC – 6.5 at Washington (54.5):  I know it is early in the season, but I think this is a must-win game for the Chiefs.  The stats say these are the two worst defenses in the NFL as of this week.  If that is indeed the case, then you have to ask yourself the following question:

  • Which offensive unit is better equipped to exploit the “bad defense” on the other side of the line of scrimmage?

I realize that the Chiefs’ offense has not been nearly the juggernaut that it has been in the past couple of seasons but barring a complete lack of contribution from Travis Kelce, I think you would have to lean heavily toward the Chiefs’ offensive unit as compared to the Football Team’s offense.  Having gone through all that logic and rational analysis, I will pass on making a selection against the spread here because neither team is reliable from week to week.  However, I do think that there will be “Points Galore” in the game; I like the game to go OVER; put it in the Six-Pack.

Minnesota – 1 at Carolina (45):  The spread is all over the place on this game.  As of this morning, I can find it as high as 2.5 points and as low as “Pick ‘em”.  Moreover, the line has been gyrating in that range for the entire week.  My guess is that the ebb and flow have to do with the rumors about the availability of Christian McCaffrey for the game.  Not having any inside sources to let me know if he can make a go of it, I’ll just check the score on my sports app and think about other things.

Chargers at Baltimore – 2.5 (51):  Both QBs in this game are deservedly in the discussion for NFL MVP as of the early part of the 2021 season.  I am not sure that the Ravens are the better team here, but I am confident that the Ravens will enjoy a robust home field advantage.  I am tempted to take the OVER – – but not enough to give in to that temptation.

Cincy – 3 at Detroit (46.5):  Joe Burrow is designated as healthy enough to play this week; the Bengals fought toe-to-toe with the Packers last week; the Bengals’ defense is good – not great.  The Lions are “scrappy” which is a polite way of saying they are “crappy”, but we do not wish to be insulting.  I like the Bengals to roll here and win comfortably even on the road; I’ll take the Bengals to win and cover; put it in the Six-Pack.

Rams – 9 at Giants (48.5):  I do not know if Daniel Jones can play in this game – and I am not sure the Giants’ coaching staff knows for sure either.  If he can play and play normally, this game will be close because the Rams’ defense has been spotty this year and because this is a body clock game for the Rams.  My suspicion is that Jones will  play but will not play to his potential due to “brain fog” from the blow to the head he took last week.  There are too many loose ends here to make a selection in the game…

Arizona at Cleveland – 3 (49):  Clearly, this is the Game of the Week.  The Cards are the last remining undefeated team in the NFL and the Browns are 3-2 putting them a game behind the division-leading Ravens.  These are two good teams, and this is a game that is meaningful to both of them.

Las Vegas at Denver – 3.5 (44):  The “Ghost of Gruden’s Past” lingers over this game.  What level of energy/imperative will the new team hierarchy bring to the sidelines?  Just move on and find another game to put your hard-earned money down on…

Dallas – 3.5 at New England (51):  Any questions about Dak Prescott’s ankle injury and/or about his putative shoulder problems from training camp have to be put aside by now.  When he is in the game, the Cowboys are “in the game”.  The Pats show signs of life, but I do not think they are nearly as ready for prime time as they were a couple of years ago.

(Sun Nite) Seattle at Pittsburgh – 5 (43):  I am on record that I believe Ben Roethlisberger is in the end stage of his career and that he is no longer the same QB that will eventually get inducted into the Hall of Fame.  I continue to believe that; AND I also believe that the diminished Ben Roethlisberger that will take the field on Sunday night is still a better QB than Geno Smith who will start for the Seahawks because Russell Wilson cannot.  Oh, and the Steelers’ defense is better than the Seahawks’ defense too.  I like the Steelers to win and cover at home; put it in the Six-Pack.

(Mon Nite) Buffalo – 5.5 at Tennessee (54):  Were it not for the Cards/Browns game, this would have been my Game of the Week.  The Titans will be primed at home for this game so I will avoid making a selection here – – but I really do like the way the Bills have been playing for the last couple of weeks.

So, let me summarize this week’s Six-Pack:

  1. Michigan St. – 4 over Indiana
  2. Rutgers – 2 over Northwestern
  3. TCU/Oklahoma OVER 63
  4. Chiefs/Football Team OVER 54.5
  5. Bengals – 3 over Lions
  6. Steelers – 5 over Seahawks

            Finally, this week is the start of NFL Bye Weeks that will persist for the next 8 weeks.  Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle is not a fan of BYE Weeks to put it mildly. Here is his assessment of BYE Weeks:

“The worst idea since sliced bread, sliced the long way.”

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

 

 

Highway Patrol Day

Today is the day to take a moment and remember Broderick Crawford…

The MLB playoffs are set; it went down to the wire.  Tomorrow is single elimination day; the winners of tomorrow’s two wildcard games play on, and the loser gets an early start on the offseason.  It is the MLB equivalent of March Madness in October.  The games tomorrow are:

  • Yankees at Red Sox – – telecast on ESPN
  • Cardinals at Dodgers – – telecast on TBS.

The wildcard winners will then face the team in each league with the best regular season record.  So, the bracket will look like this in the AL:

  • Wildcard winner vs Rays
  • White Sox vs Astros

Meanwhile in the NL, the bracket is:

  • Wildcard winner vs Giants
  • Brewers vs Braves

If the World Series eventually goes to 7 games, the last MLB game of the year will happen on November 3.  One way to avoid having World Series games played in near-freezing condition would be to have the World Series involve the Tampa Bay Rays and the LA Dodgers.  Just because that seems like a good thing to root for, that will be my hope for the World Series matchup.

While on the subject of baseball, I ran across this item from Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Taking Note:

“If you are an MLB fan of a certain age, take a moment or two to think about this note from Elias Sports Bureau: ‘No pitcher in the American League will hit 200 innings this season and there are currently only 13 qualifiers for the AL ERA title. There has never been a full season in which a league did not have a 200-inning pitcher.’ . . . RHP Ferguson Jenkins, a hall of famer who also is Canadian, threw more than 200 innings in 12 seasons, topping 300 in five of those. Yes, those days are long gone.”

One more baseball note if you please…  I went to check the “almost final” numbers for the number of MLB players who spent time on the Injured List this year and how much money they earned while in that status.  As of October 1st, here are the data:

  • In total, 823 players spent time on the IL.
  • Of those players, 481 were pitchers (58.4% of the total).
  • The number of man-days missed by players on the IL was 46,910.
  • Those players earned a total of $817,313,884.  [That’s a lot of cheese.]
  • Justin Verlander missed the entire season and earned the most money of any player on the IL.  Verlander collected $32M and change.
  • Ten players – including Verlander – collected $10M or more while on the IL.

Yesterday saw a first in the history of the NFL.  When the Chiefs beat the Eagles, Andy Reid became the first head coach ever to amass 100 or more wins with two different teams.  Reid had 140 wins with the Eagles and Sunday gave him his 100th victory as the head coach of the Chiefs.  Somehow it seems fitting that win came over his former team – – the Eagles.

Believe it or not, the NBA teams have reported to training camp and Exhibition Games are starting up.  Here are three narratives/storylines I have already heard more about than I need to hear:

  1. I do not care how the Ben Simmons/Sixers divorce/rapprochement is ultimately resolved – – but can it please happen sometime soon.  This story ran out of even marginally interesting twists about a month ago.
  2. Let me say the same thing here about John Wall and his desire to be traded from the Rockets.  Please make that happen this week or kill the idea entirely before the story takes root.  There is a parallel between the Wall and Simmons situations.  Both involve point guards who have never won anything important who are intruding their personal wishes on sports fans.  Get over this, please.
  3. The Brooklyn Nets have a “Big Three” that makes them title hopefuls.  But one of the three is Kyrie Irving who is – evidently – not vaxxed and has not indicated that he is going to be vaxxed.  The problem for him and the Nets is that in NYC he would not be allowed to play in an indoor venue if he remains unvaxxed and the Nets have 41 home games and a couple of games against the Knicks and some games against the Raptors – you need to be vaxxed to enter Canada.  So, Irving could be “unavailable” (the NBA term of art is “healthy scratch”) for more than half of the games this year.
  • Memo to NBA Writers and Sports Editors:  The only real news here is an announcement by Kyrie Irving that he is now vaccinated.  Until and unless you can report that fact, there is nothing new here.  Please ignore it.

Finally, Franz Kafka’s writings were full of situations involving alienation and absurdity; those qualities might well be summed up in one of his observations:

“The meaning of life is that it stops.”

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

 

 

On Hiatus …

These rants will go on hiatus for the rest of this week while I attend to some travel and family matters.  My plan is to be back on the air next Monday, June 28th.

Until then, stay safe and stay well everyone…