Football Friday 9/8/23

This is the first full-fledged Football Friday of the Fall.  [ A Hat-tip to the fine folks who live on Sesame Street who allow me to attest that the first sentence of today’s rant was brought to you by the “Letter F”.]  There was no “Betting Bundle” from last week; so, there is nothing to calculate from last week; let’s just dive in.


College Football Commentary:


The Linfield College Wildcats open their football season on the road in Granville, OH where they will take on the Big Red of Denison University.  That is about a 2500 mile journey for the Wildcats and they will play a team that already has a game under its belt in 2023.  Last week, Denison defeated Capital University 45-35.  Last year, Denison posted an 8-2 record for the 2022 season.  This could be a tough opener for Linfield.  Go Wildcats!

Last year when Alabama went to Austin to play Texas, the Longhorns’ ticket mavens decided to seat the Alabama band in the upper deck; Alabama “thanked” the good folks at Texas and left its band at home.  Well, this week the Texas/Alabama game is in Tuscaloosa and the Alabama AD had this to say:

“We are able to reciprocate a similar seating arrangement to what we had last year in Austin.”

When you tune in, check for the Texas band to be in the nosebleed seats.  It will only be a small version of the Texas band and it will not have any halftime performance.  In addition to playing football, the two schools also decided to put on a “Battle of the Bands”.

ABC has acquired the rights to telecast the Division 1-AA championship football game at the end of this season.  As is customary when such deals are announced, there are carefully prepared statements by the relevant parties:

“Showcasing the Division I football championship on a Sunday afternoon in millions of homes on ABC shows the tremendous interest in this NCAA championship.  We look forward to another exciting championship game and appreciate the support of our great partners in Frisco and at ESPN/ABC.”  [Kent Haslam, Chairman, Division I Football championship Committee]

And …

“We’re pleased to work with our NCAA partners to once again present the FCS championship on ABC, continuing the success we’ve had programming college sports in Sunday afternoon windows and solidifying our season-long commitment to FCS football.  [Dan Margulis, ESPN Senior Director for Programming and Acquisitions]

When the choruses of Kumbaya have died down, I wonder what the big deal here is.  The Division 1-AA championship game will be played in Frisco, TX on Sunday January 7th, 2024, at 2:00 PM Eastern time.  You know what else will be happening on that date at that time?

  • The NFL will be playing its final set of regular season games.

Maybe, if there are only two or three NFL games with playoff implications on that weekend, there may be a nice audience for the Division 1-AA championship game.  But if the NFL schedule is peppered with games that will affect which teams make the playoffs, the good folks at ESPN and the ones involved in selling Division1-AA football will need not worry because their audience will be small.

There is a lot of strangeness involving football and the State of Iowa now.  Later I shall point out some guilty pleas made by Iowa and Iowa State players regarding improper wagering activities.  Here I just want to point out an interesting clause in the contract of Iowa Offensive Coordinator, Brian Ferentz.  [Aside:  Yes, he is the son of Iowa head coach, Kirk Ferentz.]

According to multiple reports, Brian Ferentz’ offense must score 25 points per game for him to keep his job.  Iowa’s offense last year was pathetic, averaging only 17.7 points per game and ranking dead last in the nation in total offense.  Week 1 provides the classic “Good News/Bad News” angle:

  • Iowa scored 24 points last week against Utah State.  That is right on target for 25 points per game and is up from last year’s productivity.
  • Utah State did not present Iowa with a “Big-10 caliber defense”.  The Hawkeyes do not have to play Big-10 rivals such as Michigan or Ohio State, but they do have upcoming games against teams with defenses that should be a bit tougher than Utah State.
  • Stay tuned …

There were some interesting – – and surprising – – results from Week 1, so let me review:

Rutgers 24  Northwestern 7:  I thought this might be interesting to see how Northwestern played considering its ongoing “hazing matters”.  They played poorly and lost to a Rutgers team that did not play all that well itself.  The total offense by both teams was only 486 yards – – less than Colorado’s passing offense to give you a benchmark.  The Northwestern rushing offense was 12 yards on 22 carries.  Looks like a long season is in store for fans in Evanston, IL …

Tennessee 49  Virginia 13:  The Vols started the season strong but nothing they do prior to their game at Alabama on October 21 and then their game at home against Georgia on November 18 will matter to the good folks on Rocky Top.  The Vols dominated this game gaining 499 yards of offense and allowing only 202.

Ohio St. 23  Indiana 3:  The Buckeyes were 30-point favorites in this game, but the game was actually in doubt for almost 3 quarters.  The good news for Ohio State is that their defense was really good – – something that has not been the case in Columbus in recent years.  The bad news is that the Buckeyes’ offense was less than impressive.

Washington 56  Boise St.19:  I was not surprised to see the Huskies post a big number here; they won 11 games last year and just about the whole offense is back.  I was just a bit surprised they held Boise St. under 20 points.  Is the Husky defense really good too – – or were the Broncos just over matched?  For example:

  • Broncos got 21 first downs on 402 yards total offense.
  • Huskies got 22 first dawns on 568 yards total offense.

And …

  • Broncos ran 75 plays.
  • Huskies ran 61 plays.

Penn St. 38  W. Virginia 15:  Penn St was clearly the better team on the field – – but is it because the Nittany Lions are ranked #7 in the country or because W. Virginia is decidedly mediocre?  I need more data here, but I am leaning toward the idea that W. Virginia is not very good this year.

Utah 24  Florida 11:  Utah had to play without its starting QB, Cam Rising who is still recovering from an injury in last year’s Rose Bowl game – – but the Utah defense clearly showed up ready to play.  Florida’s two top rushers were held to 31 yards on 10 combined carries.  Utah meets Baylor this week – – a team coming off a shocking upset loss.

Texas St 42  Baylor 31:  This is a major upset here; it is the fifth loss in a row for Baylor and the Bears’ schedule does not get easier.  The betting line closed at Baylor – 26.5 and the Money Line on Texas St. closed at +1550.  Baylor won the stat battle 525 yards on offense versus 441 for Texas St.  The difference here is that Texas St scored 6 TDs and Baylor scored 3 TDs and settled for 3 FGs on other scoring opportunities.

Fla State 45  LSU 24:  I said this was “must-see TV” – – and it was just that for the first half.  Then the Seminoles just dominated play in the second half turning this into a rout.  Florida State scored on every possession in the second half. – – save for running out the clock in the final minute or so.   Meanwhile, here are the results of LSU’s second half possessions:

  1. Punt
  2. INT
  3. Punt
  4. Turnover on Downs
  5. TD – – meaningless score with 1:26 to go in the game.

The stats for the two teams look even but here are a couple of stats that might explain the score difference:

  • Fla State was 9-14 on 3rd down conversions and 1-1 on 4th down conversions.
  • LSU was 3-10 on 3rd down conversions and 0-3 on 4th down conversions.

BTW:  LSU fans are calling for Brian Kelly to be fired starting “immediately” after this loss.

Duke 28  Clemson 7:  Major Upset Here …  Clemson was ranked #9 in the early season polls and was the consensus choice to win the ACC this year.  Clemson led 7-6 at the half; then Duke shut out Clemson for the second half.  Seriously, that actually happened.  Clemson won the stat battle 424 yards offense versus 374 yards for Duke.   Clemson made 29 first downs to Duke’s 18.  Here are the second half possessions by Clemson:

  1. Blocked FG – – second blocked FG by Duke in the game
  2. Lost Fumble – – in the Red Zone
  3. Lost Fumble – – in the Red Zone again
  4. Turnover on Downs
  5. INT
  6. Turnover on Downs

The last time Duke beat Clemson was in 2004.  This was Duke’s most lopsided win over a ranked team since a 37-13 home win over No. 20 Notre Dame on Dec. 2, 1961.  It was also Duke’s first win over a top-10 team since a 21-17 victory over No. 7 Clemson on Sept. 30, 1989.  The Closing Line for the game was Clemson – 13 and the Money Line on Duke was +460.

Colorado 45  TCU  42:  Maor Upset Here … Coach Prime made his entrance into Division 1-A college football in typical “Prime Time Style”.  The Closing Line for the game was TCU – 20.5.  The Buffaloes amassed 565 yards on offense – – 510 through the air.  Remember TCU was in the CFP Final Game last season; this was not any sort of cupcake scheduling.  Shadeur Sanders – – Deion’s son – – is the Colorado QB and here is his stat line from last week:

  • 38 of 47 for 510 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs

Four different Colorado receivers had 100 yards or more in pass receptions in the game.

Oregon 81  Portland St. 10:  I mention this here only because Oregon/Colorado is coming up on September 23rd and that could be a game where the team with the final possession wins the game.  I asked the “reader in Houston” where he thought the Total Line for that game might be set.  His estimate was in the “low-70s” which surprised me because I was thinking in the “high 70s”.


Games of Interest:


Nebraska at Colorado – 2.5 (60):  Nebraska lost last week on a field goal as time expired but held the opponent – Minnesota – to 13 points.  Can that sort of defense put the brakes on Colorado’s offense?  According to the “reader in Houston”, the preseason spread on this game was Nebraska – 7.5 points.  Anyone who took the points there has a nice shot at a middle bet.  I have not seen anywhere near enough of Colorado to decide if they won their first game on adrenaline or on overall competence and I saw nothing of Nebraska last week.  Deion Sanders and Matt Rhule … the game can be considered a “Border War Game” … lots of reasons to be interested here.

Texas at Alabama – 7.5 (54):  The Bottom Line here is that I think this line is fat.  For the last couple of years, Alabama has usually put the better QB on the field every week.  I do not think that is the case here; Texas QB, Quinn Ewers, will be the better QB on the field.  Alabama should enjoy an advantage on defense, but not enough to negate Ewers who played well against Alabama last year until he had to leave the game with an injury.  I like Texas plus the points here; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

UCF – 3.5 at Boise St (60):  I think this line is an overreaction.  Boise St. was trounced by Washington last week (see above) while UCF stomped all over Kent State to win by 7 TDs.  Seriously …?  This is a long road trip for UCF, and I suspect that Washington will show out to be a much better team than UCF once the season has developed.  I’ll take Boise St. at home plus the points; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Arizona at Mississippi St. – 9 (61):  There will necessarily be a new offense and new offensive philosophy in Starkville with Zach Arnett replacing Mike Leach as the head coach there.  Last week, the Bulldogs actually posted balanced offensive numbers albeit against SE Louisiana State.  I would not bet on the game, but it should be an interesting one to check out the stats on Sunday morning.

Kent St. at Arkansas – 38.5 (58):  I have this here because I want to see if Kent St. is as bad as I think they are.  Considering that I put Boise St. in the “Betting Bundle” this game is interesting to me.

Iowa – 4 at Iowa St. (36.5):  Five players (three from Iowa and two from Iowa State) entered guilty pleas this week on gambling charges filed against them.  Other players on both teams remain suspended and under investigation.  Remember, Iowa needs to average 25 points per game to keep its OC employed.  The oddsmakers say this is not going to be one of those offensive outbursts for the Hawkeyes.

Utah – 6 at Baylor (47):  Baylor needs this win desperately.  A loss here puts them at 0-2 and even with a cupcake next week, the game after that is against Texas.  Utah managed the game without their starting QB last week; reports about Cam Rising’s knee rehab are all positive but his availability for this game remains in doubt until kickoff.  The thing that Utah brings every week is a rock-solid defense.

Texas A&M – 4 at Miami (51):  This looks like a defensive battle where two strong defenses should dominate two middling offenses.  I am tempted by the UNDER here but will defer because I do not have enough data yet.

UTEP – 1 at Northwestern (40):  UTEP is a road favorite over a Big-10 team!  In other news:

  • Coup leaders in Sudan/South Sudan share the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Greenpeace and the American Petroleum Institute agree on something
  • Bigfoot and Nessie are scheduled to address the UN General Assembly.

Lafayette at Duke – 40 (50.5):  Was last week’s Duke upset a flash in the pan …???

Nichols St. at TCU – 38 (63):  Does TCU takeout its frustrations/re-establish its dominance here …???


NFL Commentary:


At about the 11th hour and the 55th minute, the Niners and Nick Bosa finally reached an agreement to make Bosa the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.  Meanwhile, Chris Jones was in the stands watching the Lions beat the Chiefs in the NFL opener last night.  The emphasis is on offense in the NFL these days, but teams must play a bit of defense too.

Lions 21  Chiefs 20:  This result is not a reason for euphoria or panic depending on where one lives and what team one roots for.

  • Good news Lions:  They outgained the Chiefs 368 yards to 316 yards.
  • Bad news Lions:  It took a tipped pass to set up a Pick Six for the Lions to win.
  • Good news Chiefs:  Their WRs cannot possibly drop more passes than they did last night.
  • Bad news Chiefs:  Patrick Mahomes was their leading rusher last night.
  • Good news Lions AND Bad news Chiefs:  Travis Kelce did not play.


Games this Week:

Panthers at Falcons – 3.5 (39.5):  Welcome to the NFL, Bryce Young.  The Falcons’ offense has people impressed; the Panthers defense – – particularly their D-Line – – is a team strength.  This is a good early-season division game that is worth watching.  The oddsmakers call this a close game and I agree.

Texans at Ravens – 9 (44):  The Ravens have a new offensive coordinator; they have no contract beef ongoing with Lamar Jackson; and, they have an actual top-shelf WR on their roster in Odell Beckham, Jr.  Assuming the Ravens’ defense is comparable to last year’s defense, that should be a good starting point for the 2023 season.  The Texans are an improving team but are not ready to take on a top team on the road.  I like the Ravens to win and cover at home; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Bengals – 2 at Browns (47):  Another interesting and important division game for Week 1 on the card here.  Injury reports say Joe Burrow is good to go; that is a big deal for the Bengals because backup QB, Jake Browning, is a big step down from Joe Burrow.  What should we expect from Deshaun Watson?  That is a big deal for the Browns.  This is a great game to watch – – not wager on …

Jags – 4 at Colts (46.5):  The good news in Indy is that Anthony Richardson will be the QB, and he might just be a reincarnation of Cam Newton and/or Randall Cunningham.  The bad news in Indy is that Jonathan Taylor is on the shelf and Jim Irsay is still in charge – – meaning something goofy is always just around the corner.  I like the Jags as a young team in the improve – particularly if Trevor Lawrence maintains his positive career arc.  I like the Jags to win and cover here on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Bucs at Vikes – 5 (45.5):  I do not trust the Vikes’ defense and I do not believe the Vikes will eke out 9 wins in one-score games again in 2023.  Having said that, I also am not comfortable taking Baker Mayfield on the road and getting less than a full TD.  Here is another game to watch this weekend …

Titans at Saints – 3 (41.5):  Derek Carr is the better QB in the game; Mike Vrable is the better coach in the game.  I am tempted to take the points here – – but I will resist that temptation.

Niners – 2.5 at Steelers (41.5):  Brock Purdy is ready to go at QB for the Niners; is he ready to resume play at the level he showed last year prior to his arm injury?  Kenny Pickett is ready to go for the Steelers; is he ready to pick up where he left off last season?  Is Nick Bosa in football condition now?  Too many questions to wager on the game but this is a big game between two potentially very good teams that is definitely worth watching this weekend.  This game got some consideration for the Game of the Week.

Cards at Commanders – 7 (37.5):  If you have something good to say about the Cards, say it now because I got nuthin’.  The Commanders with Sam Howell at QB will be a fun team to watch this season and if the Washington defense plays to its hype, the team will be in the playoffs.  I like the Commanders at home to win and cover; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.  The only reason I won’t also take this game to go OVER is that I am not so sure Arizona can get to double-digits.

Packers at Bears – 1.5 (42):  Yes, the Bears are favorites – – albeit short ones – – over the Packers.  It’s been a while since that situation obtained.  The Packers will finally start a season with Jordan Love under center and the NFL fandom can see if Love has the talent the Packers must have seen in him several years ago to take him in the first round and piss off Aaron Rodgers mightily.  The Bears will start Justin Fields at QB; he has been disappointing to say the least in terms of his passing game to date but reports say he has worked hard to improve his accuracy over the off season.  Even though this is the oldest and longest rivalry game in the NFL, I am going to label this iteration as The Dog-Breath Game of the Week.

Raiders at Broncos – 3 (44):  Don’t you know that this game finished a close second in the “race” to be the Dog-Breath Game of the Week.  I have exactly no idea what is going on between the Raiders and Chandler Jones.  Just Google that combination and read a couple of reports and if you can figure it out, good for you.  By the way, might there be any leftover hard feelings in the Josh Jacobs/Raiders relationship?  Meanwhile, on the other sideline we have a new coach returning to the game after “stepping aside”.  Yes, Sean Payton was a very good coach but so were returning coaches, Joe Gibbs, Mike Shanahan and Bud Wilkenson; their “second acts” did not come close to living up to the hype.

Dolphins at Chargers – 3 (51):  Justin Herbert has his contract extension; the Chargers should be just fine on offense.  Has that defense improved?  There is plenty of room for improvement there.

Eagles – 3.5 at Pats (44.5):  This game got some consideration for Game of the Week.  The Eagles’ defense is rebuilt given all the losses from last year’s team to free agency; starting off against Mac Jones as the opposing QB should allow that unit to ease into real NFL play.  By the same token, the Pats can expect their defense to remain strong enough to keep the Pats competitive just about every week.  I like the Eagles to win and cover here – even on the road; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

Seahawks – 5 at Rams (46.5):  The major bad news for the Rams is that Cooper Kupp will not play this week – – and maybe not next week either.  The good news is that both Matthew Stafford and Cam Akers are good to go.  The big question mark for the Seahawks is Geno Smith.  Did he have a career year in 2022 or does he still have room to improve?  This should be an interesting game.

(Sun Nite) Cowboys – 3 at Giants (45):  Here is yet another division game in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.  I think the Cowboys have a significantly better roster than the Giants do.  I also think the Giants’ coaching staff is significantly better than the Cowboys’ staff.  I think talent will prevail here but I do not trust Mike McCarthy and crew sufficiently to lay points on the road against a division rival.  I will sit back and watch this one after dinner on Sunday evening, having a nightcap within reach.

(Mon Nite) Bills – 2.5 at Jets (45):  This is my Game of the Week.  It is a division game; most prognosticators pick the Bills to win the division but there are more than a handful who think that Aaron Rodgers plus the Jets’ defense will be enough to dethrone the Bills as the Beasts of the East.  I think the two QBs light it up here; I like the game to go OVER; put that in the “Betting Bundle”.

This week’s “Betting Bundle” has seven entries:

  1. Texas +7.5 against Alabama
  2. Boise St. +3.5 against UCF
  3. Ravens – 9 over Texans
  4. Jags – 4 over Colts
  5. Commanders – 7 over Cards
  6. Eagles – 3.5 over Pats
  7. Bills/Jets OVER 45

I also want to offer up some Money Line Parlays for this weekend:

  • Jags @ – 230
  • Commanders @ – 310
  • Eagles @ – 195       $100 to win $187

And …

  • Ravens @ – 420
  • Titans @ +140        $100 to win $197.

            Finally, let me close today with these words from legendary Alabama coach, Bear Bryant:

“I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game.”

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



Does Any Of This Make Sense To You?

Earlier this week, I got an email from a reader alerting me to a “situation” in women’s tennis that might be part of a future rant.  I do not follow tennis much at all and I certainly do not follow collegiate women’s tennis, but the email sounded like something I should try to track down.  Here is the important part of the reader’s email:

“I thought I would send a tip for you to ponder for a rant.  The subject is Fiona Crawley… she is a rising senior at UNC-CH and leads the tennis team … She recently won three qualifying matches in order to play in the US Open.  She won those and she played in the first round, losing to the world #11 I think.

“My point in raising this is that she qualified for a cash prize of $81,000.00 … based on her level of play in the Open…BUT…she is not allowed to accept the money if she doesn’t want to forfeit her eligibility to continue to play for UNC.

“How about some ranting on the stupidity of the NIL etc. etc. etc….the NCAA etc. etc. etc. that discriminates against the sports that aren’t basketball or football?”

Yes, the author of the note is a UNC alum; but that is not germane to the argument here.  Yet again, the folks who make the rules at the NCAA have twisted themselves into an impossible posture and have turned their rules into a self-eating watermelon.

This is not really a question of discrimination against sports other than football or basketball; this is a demonstration that the NCAA has not opened its mind to collegiate athletes being compensated for athletic achievement.  I must admit that I endangered my “curmudgeon credential” when it became clear that the NCAA was going to be forced by the judicial system to accept NIL payments to athletes.  I was sure there would be bumps along the way, but I actually thought that new leadership at the NCAA plus evolving views on the role of collegiate athletics would lead to something at least marginally sensible.

I should have gone with my gut; I should have anticipated that the blunder-bunnies at NCAA HQs in Indy would find a way to create an illogical and untenable situation.  Here is the situation in September 2023:

  • An NCAA athlete can “earn” a million dollars selling subscriptions to a social media channel on which the athlete provides photos of herself in bikinis.  There is nothing salacious or prurient about it; there is also no threat to this athlete’s eligibility.
  • An NCAA athlete can “earn” a million dollars paid to him/her by either a school athletic department or by a collective of boosters simply by agreeing to play for a specific university and then to participate in various promotional activities.  The athlete can sign with the highest bidder and there is no threat to his/her eligibility.
  • HOW-EVAH, an NCAA athlete cannot earn more than $10K as prize money in the sport they compete in without jeopardizing their eligibility.  If the “earnings” accrue to the athlete because of athletic competence, then the earnings are capped at a ridiculously low level.

So, it is hunky-dory for collegiate athletes to earn money and retain eligibility so long as that money does not derive from success in the sport that put the athlete on a college team in the first place.  Now, if that makes sense to you, the good news is that there is probably a career opening for you at NCAA HQs.  The downside is that you will have to live in Indianapolis …

Moving on …  The fallout in Spain from the Spanish victory in the Women’s World Cup seems not be abating.  The “investigation” and the determination of blame and sanction related to “The Kiss” by the head of the Spanish Soccer Federation on one of the winning players continues.  The “Kisser” has been suspended for 90 days by FIFA; the “Kissee” says that she believes she was sexually assaulted by his unwelcome advance.  If there is a way for these two sides to come to any form of amicable “accommodation” here, it is beyond my capacity to envision.

But wait, there’s more …  The coach of the Spanish women’s team that just won the World Cup was just fired.  That coach, Jorge Vilda, was praised by the folks that fired him as:

“… key to the remarkable growth of women’s football.”

At the moment, Spain holds the world title for women’s soccer in the Under-17, Under-19 levels in addition to the World Cup.  Vilda has been part of that developmental process since 2015; from the outside, it would seem that he must be doing something right.  At the same time, Vilda and Luis Rubiales (“The Kisser from above) must be doing something wrong too.  Normally in sports, winning cures just about any internal strife that may exist.  Not so with the Spanish Women’s National Team:

  • All 23 members of the winning World Cup team along with 58 other current and former players for teams under the Spanish Soccer Federation umbrella signed a proclamation that they would not play for the national team again “if the current management continues.”

Finally, for no particular reason let me close today’s rant with an assessment of an actress by noted arts critic, John Simon – – sometimes referred to as the Vicar of Vitriol:

Doris Day: The only … talent Miss Day possesses is that of being absolutely sanitary; her personality untouched by human emotions, her brow unclouded by human thought, her form unsmudged by the slightest evidence of femininity.”

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



Jose Altuve Is En Fuego …

I have said here several times recently that the MLB race to focus on this September is the one in the AL West.  As of this morning, the Astros lead the Mariners by one game and the Rangers by two games.  The three teams have fewer than 25 games remaining and the Mariners final 10 games are against the Rangers and the Astros.  Even a Hollywood script would not set up much better than this.

This morning, you can overlay an individual performance of historical significance atop that pennant race.  José Altuve has been en fuego this week:

  • On Monday, Altuve hit two home runs against the Rangers – one in his final at bat of the night.  The Astros won 13-6.
  • Last night, Altuve homered in his first three at bats in the first three innings against the Rangers.  The Astros prevailed here 14-1.

Altuve homered in four consecutive plate appearances over a two-game stretch and hit 5 home runs in 6 plate appearances in those two games.  He has had some injury problems this year limiting him to only 68 games so far in 2023; but he is clearly on a hot streak as the teams enter the deep stretch in the pennant race; here are his offensive stats as of this morning:

  • Batting average = .321
  • On-Base percentage = .563
  • OPS = .969

Moving on …  I ran across a report that led me to put a note on my clipboard whereupon, I proceeded to lose it in and amongst a bunch of other notes.  [Aside:  No one who has ever witnessed the physical presence of Curmudgeon Central has been overwhelmed by the orderly nature of the surroundings.  It is not as if a tornado blew through; it is more like a tornado is still in the process of blowing through.]  In any event, I “found” the note this morning and want to present it here.

There was something called the “Up Next Elite Camp” for young basketball players who aspire to careers in the NBA.  One of the speakers for this camp in New Orleans, LA was Tee Morant who is the father of Ja Morant – – the now suspended Memphis Grizzlies’ superstar.  Here is the key element of the message Tee Morant had for these youngsters:

“My son didn’t get in trouble cause of the people around him.  He got in trouble because of his decisions.”

Wow!  Dad didn’t say that his son needs to associate himself with better people; he didn’t say that his son was in the wrong place at the wrong time so you always need to be aware of your surroundings; he didn’t say his son is a fundamentally good person who just didn’t think the way an adult needs to think.  Tee Morant said that his son was in trouble because his son made bad – – read boneheaded – – decisions.

Congratulations to Tee Morant. That message delivered to the aspiring NBA players at this camp is far more important to them than anything anyone else tried to teach them about things like playing the pick-and-roll and/or defending the cross-over dribble.

Did any of the kids process Tee Morant’s message?  We can’t know this in the short-term but there is another question that we might see an answer to soon.

  • Has Ja Morant heard and absorbed the message his father put out there for those Up Next Elite Camp youngsters to think about and recognize?

Ja Morant is 23 years old and has a guaranteed contract that has already provided him with access to a level of wealth that is life changing if not quite generation changing.  Ja Morant – – using his father’s words – – got himself suspended twice and cost himself more than $30M (reportedly) off the value of his guaranteed contract because of his own decisions. So, is that suspension/fine plus the words of his father sufficient for Ja Morant to take a step back from his celebrity status for enough time to do a reset on his social life?

Morant’s suspension will end on December 19th – – assuming of course that there are no new boneheaded incidents involving Morant between now and then.  It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that Morant and his entourage could interpret the current suspension as evidence that Adam Silver and his cronies are simply out to put the young superstar in his place and to limit his free expression when he waves a handgun around on various social media channels.  Even if that level of paranoia were true, that would be a bad motivation for future action by Morant and his entourage – – and the chances that is indeed the situation are slim indeed.

Finally, I’ll close today with this definition offered up by Ambrose Bierce:

Cynic n.:  A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.  Hence the custom among Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.”

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



NFL Season Predictions – 2023

In US society in the 2020s, there seems to be only one “profession” where one can make predictions, find out via experience that those predictions were very wrong – – and yet keep one’s role and professional status in good repair.  That profession would be:

  • Weatherman.

Well, I am about to enter the murky world of “predicting the future” concerning the upcoming NFL season.  I do this because I find it a source of fun for me as the NFL season is about to begin.  Yes, many of these predictions will be off target – – some laughably off target.  And I will not hide from them; sometime after the NFL regular season ends, I will call up these predictions and hold them up to reality giving myself grades for their accuracy or inaccuracy.  I will make three categories of predictions here:

  1. Coaches on a hot seat who are likely to be fired.
  2. Teams that might go from “worst-to-first” in their division – – or vice versa.
  3. The final record for all 32 NFL teams – – and thereby the playoff structure for the season

Before I set out on the quest, let me put a couple of points aside.

  • I bear no animus toward any team or coach or GM.  None of the predictions here that are negative ones are predicated on the idea that any person or team should suffer scorn.  I admire how some NFL teams are managed/run and I think some other franchises are run with all the poise and aplomb of gerbils on cocaine.  I recognize that no one in an NFL franchise cares even a smidgen about my assessment of them.  So, none of that sort of thing enters here.
  • Similarly, I am certainly going to underestimate some teams this year.  When that happens – – not if, when – – I have not disrespected that team or its fanbase.  What I have done is to make a big mistake.  Therefore, in such a circumstance, I do not “owe that team or its fans an apology”.  What I owe them – – and everyone else who reads this – – is an admission of my erroneous ways.

So let me begin the predictive portion of this essay with coaches on a hot seat.  I have seven coaches on this year’s list and will present them in alphabetical order:

  1. Dennis Allen – Saints:  He took over the Saints last year when Sean Payton “stepped aside” and led the team to a 7-10 record.  Last year, the Saints’ failure to do well in a particularly weak division was attributed to mediocrity at the QB position where Jameis Winston and Andy Daulton “manned the fort”.  The Saints went out and acquired Derek Carr in the offseason and I suspect that the owners are looking for something better than 7-10 with a significant upgrade at QB and with the division looking no stronger than it did last year.  If the Saints’ record this year shows only 4 or 5 wins, I think Allen is history.
  2. Bill Belichick – Pats:  No, I have not lost my marbles.  Bill Belichick is the second winningest coach in NFL history – – only 18 games behind all-time leader, Don Shula.  Over the years, Belichick and owner Robert Kraft have had a mutually successful association but some of that “prior success” is beginning to recede into memory.  The Pats did not make the playoffs last year; their last playoff win came in 2018.  Robert Kraft is 82 years old, and it would not be a surprise to learn that he wants another time in the limelight.  The AFC East is stronger this year than last.  This one is a longshot, but I would keep an eye on it.
  3. Mike McCarthy – Cowboys: He was on this list last year and survived despite the Cowboys making only a cameo appearance in the playoffs.  McCarthy exists in an almost impossible world; his fanbase and his owner think that the team is hands-down the best in the league when that is not the case.  This year, the Cowboys will be without offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, and McCarthy has announced that he will take over the play-calling duties.  I’m not sure adding more duties to McCarthy on game day is a good idea.  If the Cowboys miss the playoffs in 2023/2024, I think McCarthy is gone.
  4. Ron Rivera – Commanders:  He is on this list simply because the team has new ownership and I think the new folks will want to bring in “their own guys”.
  5. Robert Saleh – Jets:  This will be Saleh’s third season in NYC; the Jets were 4-13 in his first year and 7-10 last year.  Those numbers may not look good to you but given the 4 QBs he had available for game days; those records are not so embarrassing. (Joe Flacco, Josh Johnson, Mike White, Zach Wilson).  This year the Jets have Aaron Rodgers to play QB and expectations are sky-high among the Gang-Green fanbase.  Saleh is on this list because if the season goes south on the Jets, I think he will be the scapegoat.
  6. Brandon Staley – Chargers:  Somehow, he survived the “firing season” last year even though his team took a 27-point lead in the first half of a playoff game and wound up losing the game.  Making the playoffs is the absolute minimum standard for Staley in LA this year – – and once in the playoffs, they cannot lose as ignominiously as they did last year.
  7. Kevin Stefanski – Browns:  By now the Browns must have adapted to all the “distractions” provided by their trade for and then their contract offering to QB, Deshaun Watson.  That is no longer an excuse nor is any “rust” that may exist on his performances.  Stefanski has been with the Browns for three years; the team has won 11 games, then 8 games, then 7 games …  That trend must be reversed.

Moving on to an assessment of teams that might go “worst to first” in their division this year:

  • Jets – AFC East:  The highest probability of teams listed here simply caused by the upgrade at QB from Zach Wilson to Aaron Rodgers.
  • Broncos – AFC West:  I know Sean Payton is a certified genius, but I don’t see the Broncos leapfrogging three other teams in this division.
  • Browns – AFC North:  There are too many very good teams above the Browns in last year’s standings to let me think they can surpass them all.
  • Texans – AFC South:  The football gods would have to be on a rampage to make this happen …
  • Commanders – NFC East:  They finished last in the division last year with an 8-8-1 record which is better than any of the other last-place finishers.
  • Cardinals – NFC West:  Not happening …
  • Bears – NFC North:  They won 3 games last year; if they triple that total (not easy to do) that will not be enough to win this division.
  • Falcons – NFC South:  This is a mediocre team in a mediocre division so it will not require a huge change of fortune for the Falcons to make this sort of jump.

So, keep your eyes on the Jets, Commanders and Falcons as potential worst-to-first candidates for 2023.

And in the spirit of symmetry, are there any teams in danger of going first-to-worst in 2023?

  • Bills – AFC East:  Highly unlikely but there are no “bad teams” in the AFC East so a few slip-ups here could bring the Bills down a bit.  But last place …???
  • Chiefs – AFC West:  Moving right along …
  • Bengals – AFC North:  Nothing to see here …
  • Jaguars – AFC South:  I cannot imagine the devastation that would have to befall the Jags for them to finish behind the Colts or the Texans.
  • Eagles – NFC East:  I expect the Eagles to pull back from their 14-3 record last year – – but not enough to put them at the bottom of the division.
  • Niners – NFC West:  Cannot see the Niners below the Cardinals in the standings come January 2024.
  • Vikes – NFC North:  They won just about every close game they played in last year; if they lose just about all of them in 2023 …???
  • Bucs – NFC South:  They struggled to win this division in 2023 with Tom Brady at QB; the team record was 8-9.  This year it will be Baker Mayfield and/or Kyle Trask at QB.  That could be the recipe for first-to-worst in the division.

And so, keep the Bucs in mind as a serious contender to be a first-to-worst team in 2023 with the Vikes out there as a live longshot.]

Now, before I get to the team-by-team predictions for the season, let me make a few generic comments:

  • Bucs:  Last year the team finished below .500 with Tom Brady directing the offense.  Tom Brady is no longer the Bucs’ QB …
  • Cardinals:  This looks worse than a trainwreck; this looks like a tsunami-magnet.  Kyler Murray is still physically rehabbing and will be unavailable for the first 6-12 games depending on the report you choose to read.  Is he studying film or playing Madden Football in his spare time?  The Cards just released Colt McCoy who appeared to be their starting QB leaving the job to the tandem of Josh Dobbs and/or Clayton “Name That” Tune.

Quick Quiz:  Three QBs were drafted in the top 4 picks of last April’s Draft.  They each bring hope to three fanbases that really need a QB upgrade but here is a stat for fans to consider before getting carried away.  Who was the last rookie QB to win a playoff game in his rookie year and when was that?  [Answer Below]

  • Eagles:  It is not uncommon for a Super Bowl team to see its roster and its coaching staff “raided” but the 2022 team saw many folks pick up and leave Philly in the offseason.  Is this the same organization?
  • Lions:  How high are hopes and dreams in Detroit for this season?  Consider that the Lions play their games in Ford Field, a stadium inaugurated in 2002.  Never in the history of the Lions’ tenure in Ford Field have they sold out the allocation of season tickets.  This year, those season tix were gone in May.
  • Raiders:  The team thinks they upgraded at QB; I think they performed a classic lateral arabesque.
  • Titans:  Ryan Tannehill is in the last year of his contract; and at age 35, he is not the long-term answer at QB for the team.  If the season starts poorly for the Titans, might they be interested in benching Tannehill to see what if anything they have in either Malik Willis or Will Levis?
  • Young QBs:  there will be plenty of focus on the play of young QBs this year and it should be interesting to look beyond the three guys who were picked at the top of the NFL Draft in April – – Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson.  Yes, it will be interesting – and important – to check on their development or lack of development as NFL QIBs, but do not lose sight of Jordan Love who will finally take over the reins in Green Bay or Sam Howell who just might be the Commanders’ QB-of-the-future or Will Levis who should get a look from the Titans’ braintrust in Tennessee sometime this year.

Quiz Answer:  That would be Mark Sanchez with the Jets in 2009.

Enough with the appetizer courses and general comments, it is time for the meat and potatoes of this presentation.  So, let me begin in the AFC West:

I see this as a very strong division with a total record of 36-32.  That may not sound awfully strong but consider that 12 of these games are in the division meaning there must be a losing team in those games.  In the end that makes the division record look weaker than the division really is.

  • KC Chiefs:  I have the Chiefs wining the AFC West with a record of 13-4.  The Chiefs’ schedule has plenty of tough games, but the Chiefs are a tough team.  The team is clearly built around its offense, but they did go pass-rusher in the first round of last year’s Draft.  The only real “loose end” here is that Chris Jones remains unsigned with opening weekend clearly in sight.
  • LA Chargers:  I think the Chargers will finish second in the division at 9-8.  Justin Herbert has his contract extension, and the Chargers have a new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore.  The Chargers should be in the wild-card race to the end.  The Chargers’ first six games should be interesting:

Versus Dolphins

At Titans

At Vikes

Versus Raiders

Versus Cowboys

At Chiefs

  • Denver Broncos:  I have the Broncos finishing third in the division with an 8-9 record.  I believe that the arrival of Sean Payton as the head coach is a plus and my projected record represents a 60% increase over last season.
  • Las Vegas Raiders:  The team finished the 2022 season with a 6-11 record; I think this team is no better and no worse than last year’s team and I project then to finish 6-11 once again.

Moving on the AFC South, I think this will be the weakest division in the NFL this year posting a cumulative record of 26-42.

  • Jax Jaguars: I think the Jags can coast to a division title here.  I think this team came of age last January when they trailed the Chargers 27-0 in the first half and rallied to win the game 31-30.  The addition of Cavlin Ridley – – back from a gambling suspension – – gives Trevor Lawrence yet one more target downfield. I think the Jags will go 11-6 in 2023 and easily win the AFC South
  • Tennessee Titans:  I have the Titans finishing with a record of 6-11 in the AFC South.  I think the Titans are offensively-challenged.  Derrick Henry is still a stud at RB and DeAndre Hopkins may not be what he was two years ago, but he is still a formidable WR.  Other than those two however …
  • Houston Texans:  I think the Texans can escape the division cellar this year and finish the season at 5-12.  The Texans finished 2022 with a record of 3-13-1, so this is not some pie-in-the-sky projection for 2023; I think the team is improving and other division rivals are not.
  • Indy Colts:  I think the Colts will bring up the rear in this not-so-strong division with a 4-13 record which is about where they finished in 2022.  The key to the Colts’ season in 2023 is Anthony Richardson who reminds me of a young Cam Newton.  He is big, fast, strong, athletic – – and an inconsistent/inaccurate passer.  Newton was the offensive Rookie of the Year; is that in store for Richardson in 2023?  The Jonathan Taylor saga and his availability (?) after injury rehab have not made this a great offseason for the Colts.

Next, let me try to tackle the AFC North – – the division that I believe will be the strongest one in the league in 2023.  I project the cumulative record for the division at 42-26.

  • Cincy Bengals:  I will put the Bengals on top of this division with a 13-4 record.  In doing that, I am trusting that Joe Burrow’s calf injury incurred in training camp is both minor and completely healed such that it does not limit him during the season.  The Bengals’ already potent offense managed to add Irv Smith Jr. as a tight end/possession receiver.  The defense was bend-not-break in 2022 yielding the fifth fewest points in the league.  Lots to like about this team…
  • Baltimore Ravens:  As positive as my outlook is for the Bengals, I also have the Ravens right next door at the top of the AFC North finishing with a 12-5 record.  Just having all the acrimony about Lamar Jackson’s contract in the rearview mirror has to be a big plus for the team.  The Ravens schedule has a couple of twists; the Ravens play their three division road games by October 8th.  Then they host the Browns and Bengals on consecutive weekends in mid-November and then are home to the Steelers on the final weekend in January.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers:  Mike Tomlin continues his streak of “no losing seasons” for another year; I have the Steelers finishing third in the division at 9-8.  The continued improvement/maturation of both Kenny Pickett and George Pickens will make the offense more dynamic and having TJ Watt around for a full season without injuries will make an already very good defense even better.
  • Cleveland Browns:  The melodrama about Deshaun Watson’s suspension along with what was potential criminal liability is over.  He got to start 6 games last year to “shake the rust off”.  The Browns finished at 7-10 last year and I think that is what they will do once again in 2023.  The Browns will play the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens all by 1 October.  Then they come back from an early-season BYE week to host the Niners.  Not a good way to start a season …

So, to round up the predictions for the AFC, let me move to the AFC East where I project a division record of 39-29.

  • Buffalo Bills:  I have the Bills on top of the division with a record of 12-5.  This is the prediction that could be off by the widest margin if rumors of clubhouse tensions between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs turn out to be persistent and accurate.  The Bills open on the road at the Jets; if they win that game, the team could be 8-0 when they go and visit the Bengals in early November.  Winning manages to cure lots of locker room “issues”.
  • NY Jets:  I have the Jets finishing second in the AFC East with a 10-7 record.  The Jets were not an easy out in 2022 despite their 7-10 record and to say they upgraded their QB position would be like saying that guy Pavarotti “could sing a little bit”.  Consider:

Aaron Rodgers will be the best starting QB for the Jets since Joe Namath – – and in my opinion Rodgers is better than Namath meaning the Jets stating QB in 2023 will be the best in franchise history.

Namath was the last Jets’ QB to pass for 4000 yards in a season; he accomplished that feat in 1967 or 55 years ago.

[Aside:  This drought for the Jets is not the longest in NFL history.  The Bears have NEVER had a 4000-yard passer in franchise history going back to 1920.]

The first 8 games on the Jets’ schedule are brutal pairing them against the Bills, Cowboys, Pats, Chiefs, Broncos, Eagles, Giants and Chargers.  If the Jets can get to December within striking distance of the playoffs, the schedule turns dramatically in their favor.  The final 6 games are Falcons, Texans, Dolphins, Commanders, Browns, Pats.

  • NE Pats:  I have the Pats finishing third at 9-8.  I think the goofy idea of having a career defensive coach act as the offensive coordinator will not resurrect itself and the Pats’ offense will have to be a bit better.  For the first time in a long time, the Pats’ have the worst starting QB in the division.  The defense is good enough.  The early schedule is hardly a cakewalk:

Versus the Eagles

Versus the Dolphins

At Jets

At Cowboys

  • Miami Dolphins:  I have the Dolphins finishing last in the division at 8-9.  The Dolphins face 5 difficult road games this year against the Chargers, Bills, Eagles, Chiefs and Ravens.

So, if my crystal ball has cleared away the fog for the AFC, here is how the seedings for the playoffs should proceed in the AFC next January:

  • Chiefs – – BYE Week
  • Bengals – – host #7
  • Bills – – host #6
  • Jags – – host #5
  • Ravens
  • Jets
  • Steelers – – via head-to-head tiebreaker with Pats based on Dec 7th game.

And so, now we go off the visit the future of the NFC and again for the sake of symmetry, I shall start in the NFC West.  I believe this division is the plain vanilla flavor of the NFL for 2023.  My projected composite division record for the NFC West is 34-34.

  • SF Niners:  They are clearly the class of the division; I have them finishing with a 13-4 record and coasting to this division title.  The team decision to bring the Trey Lance experiment to its less-than-satisfactory end is a plus for the team.  There is no controversy left behind; there are no stories to be pursued regarding locker room intrigues.  The team tried a QB gambit three years ago and it did not work; the team moved on.  At this point, I think it will take more than a couple serious injuries to key players to take the Niners down from the top of the division.
  • Seattle Seahawks:  I have the Seahawks finishing at 9-8.  I know that Geno Smith had a great year in 2022 – – far and away the best of his career.  That great season produced a 9-8 record, and I am not convinced that Smith has another quantum leap in performance in his arsenal.  Hence, this year’s duplicate record …
  • L A Rams:  I think the Rams will also finish at 9-8 making the two head-to-head games with the Seahawks important as to determining which team finishes second and which team finishes third in the division – – and maybe which team makes the playoffs as a wild card.  The first game between the two teams is in Week 1 in Seattle; the rematch will be on Nov 19th in LA.  Speaking of schedules, the Rams’ early schedule is daunting:

At Seahawks

Versus Niners

At Bengals

At Colts

Versus Eagles

  • Arizona Cardinals:  As noted above, things are not looking up for the Cards in 2023.  In addition to having a new first-year head coach and questions galore at the QB position even after Kyler Murray returns to action some time this season, the other fact that cannot be ignored is that the Cards’ defense in 2022 gave up 26.4 points per game – – second worst in the NFL.  I see aa final record of 3-14 here.

Moving along to the NFC South, I see the weakest division in the conference.  My projected record for the NFC South is 27-41.  Someone has to win this race.  I think it will come down to a tiebreaker with late season games involving this division having playoff implications making those late season division games more meaningful than the records might indicate.

  • Carolina Panthers:  I see the Panthers finishing at 8-9 with first-year QB Bryce Young showing lots of promise and experiencing lots of growing pains.  The schedule maker did the Panthers no favors this year:

Four of their first six games are on the road.

In late-Nov/early-Dec, the Panthers are on the road three weeks in a row.

  • N.O. Saints:  I see the Saints also finishing at 8-9 meaning the two head-to-head games with the Panthers could determine the team from the NFC South to make the playoffs.  The Saints had QB production and consistency woes last year; their acquisition of Derek Carr now gives them the best QB in the division.  Here are the two head-to-head games:

September 18 in Carolina

December 10th in New Orleans

  • Atlanta Falcons:  I see the Falcons finishing at 6-11 this year. The team finished last year at 7-10 and made the decision to move on from the idea of Marcus Mariota as an NFL franchise QB.  That is a plus.  However, the tandem of Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke as the conductor of the train is not exciting at all to me.  The acquisition of Bijan Robinson in the Draft has lots of folks excited to see him take his game to the NFL level; I expect he will show very well in the Falcons’ run-focused offense.
  • Tampa Bay Bucs:  The Bucs went for it all signing Tom Brady a couple years ago and adding pieces to the offense to let him lead them to another Super Bowl win.  Now Brady is retired, and it is time to pay of the mortgage; I see the Bucs with a final record of 5-12.  Baker Mayfield and/or Kyle Trask will not replace Tom Brady comfortably.  The fact that the team is in a contract stare-down with Mike Evans is anything but helpful.

For perspective, Mike Evans has posted 1,000 yards or more in receiving for the last 9 consecutive seasons.  The only WR with a longer streak in NFL history is a guy you probably have heard of – – Jerry Rice.

            Next up is the NFC North which will be a less-than-average division as a whole for 2023; I predict a cumulative record of 31-37 for the division.

  • Detroit Lions:  After starting last season with a 1-6 record, the Lions rallied to win 7 of their last 10 games to finish at 9-8.  I think the Lions will finish this season at 10-7 and that will be good enough to put the Lions in the playoffs as the NFC North champions.  When that happens euphoria will abound among Michiganders and here is a point of perspective to remember about the Lions and the NFL playoffs:

The Lions’ last playoff victory was in January 1992 – – 31 years before this year’s playoffs.

Here is how long ago that was.

Brett Favre was still on the Falcons’ roster in January 1992; he had not yet been traded to Green Bay.

Jerome Bettis was still a year away from his NFL debut – – AND – –

The Washington Commanders (under a previous name) had the best season record at 14-2 and went on to beat the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl in February 1992.

  • Minnesota Vikings:  I have the Vikes finishing 2023 with a 9-8 record.  Yes, I know that is a significant pull-back from last year’s 13-4 record; so, let me cast a bit of shade on last year’s performance.  The Vikes won every close game they were in last year – – every one.  In fact, the team won 9 more games than it lost And Yet the Vikes gave up 5 more points than the team scored over the season.  The Vikes won 9 games where the score differential was only one score by the opponent.  The football gods usually do not repeat such largesse in two consecutive seasons.
  • Chicago Bears:  I see the Bears finishing at 7-10 taking them out of the division basement this year.  Last year, the Bears finished first in the NFL in rushing and last in the NFL in passing yardage gained. Moreover, the difference in the two offensive outputs was not trivial; the Bears gained 795 more rushing yards than passing yards.  Given the way the NFL game is played in 2023, that is a difficult feat in and of itself.  I suspect that QB Justin Fields has worked on his passing game and his accuracy over the offseason and the only reason to think that the running game will be diminished in any way is because the Bears will be able to throw the ball better.
  • Green Bay Packers:  I see a major backsliding here where the Packers finish 2023 with a 5-12 record.  Let me put my cards on the table; what little I have seen of Jordan Love in real NFL action has not been impressive.  However, the Packers’ braintrust for ferreting out QBs clearly has a better history than do I; so, if Jordan Love is the new Aaron Rodgers just about to emerge onto the NFL scene, then I am going to look the south end of a northbound horse.  I might be less harsh on the Packers if I thought their defense was good enough to win a game or two on its own, but I do not think that is the case.

As Frank Sinatra famously sung:

“And now the end is here

And so I face that final curtain …”

So comes the final NFC division for prognostication – – the NFC East.  I believe this is the strongest of the 4 divisions in the NFC and it will post a cumulative record of 38-30.

  • Philly Eagles: I see the Eagles finishing 12-5 and winning the NFC East.  Why the pullback from last season that saw them lose in the Super Bowl by 3 points?

Both the offensive and defensive coordinators are gone

They lost to free agency, their starting safety, a starting CB, their leading tackler at LB, the best free agent defensive lineman of the season plus their leading rusher.

Based on 2022 records for their opponents, the Eagles have the most difficult schedule in the NFL this year.

But the OL remains intact, and Jalen Hurts gives every impression that he is dedicated to “doing the work necessary” to succeed in the NFL and not a guy who just relies on his God-given physical talents.

  • Dallas Cowboys:  I see the Cowboys finishing second in the division at 11-6.  The Cowboys have two certified stars on defense – – Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs – – and have handed over the running game to Tony Pollard as Ezekiel Elliott tries to show that there is mileage left on his tires up in new England.  You must know that there is no love lost between Eagles’ fans and anything related to the Cowboys; so, here is a stat sent to me by someone who bleeds Eagle’s green and knows it will annoy any Dallas Cowboys’ fan.  [Aside:  I have not verified the data here; doing so is more work than it is worth…]

“Dak Prescott played 12 games in 2022 and threw15 interceptions.

“That makes him the first QB in NFL history to lead the NFL in interceptions even though he missed 5 games in the season”.

  • Washington Commanders: I have the Commanders finishing at 9-8 in 2023 and being right in the thick of the wildcard race in the NFC.  I believe my projection is fact-based – – but I do acknowledge that there would be a juicy bit of karma associated with the Commanders making the playoffs the year after Danny Boy Snyder had to sell the team and thus, he would be denied one more opportunity to strut and preen in front of cameras as an NFL owner with a team in the playoffs.  Sam Howell takes over the QB chores in Washington and he bears watching.  He is big, agile (not fast) with a big arm and loads of confidence in his big arm.  Do not misunderstand here; he has lots of developing to go through as an NFL QB, but he has offensive weapons around him, and he has talent.  Moreover, the Commanders’ defensive unit is a Top-Ten, caliber unit in the entire league.
  • NY Giants:  I see the Giants finishing last in the division with a 6-11 record.  Why the pullback from last year’s playoff team?

I think several players had career years or close to career years in 2022.

The team pissed off Saquon Barkley in the contract extension process.

The team overpaid Daniel Jones.

The team gave up more points than anyone else in the division and I don’t see a huge defensive improvement.

            So let me show how the NFC playoffs should shake out come January 2024:

  • Niners – – BYE Week
  • Eagles – – Host #7
  • Lions – – Host #6
  • Panthers – – via tiebreaker with Saints – – Host #5
  • Cowboys
  • Commanders – – via tiebreakers
  • Seahawks – – via tiebreaker with Rams

Later in the same Frank Sinatra song I mentioned above there are lyrics that say:

“Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all, when there was doubt,

I ate it up and spit it out.

I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.”

That is sort of how I am feeling about now having finished thinking about 32 teams and a season’s worth of 272 games.  Just remember, when you find yourself in strenuous disagreement with some – or even all – of the above.  I did this my way; you may do it your way and that is just OK with me.

Finally, do not lose sight of these words from former Auburn head coach Shug Jordan whenever you think you have football prognostication down to a science:

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

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



Rest In Peace, Gil Brandt

Happy Labor Day one and all.  Today is considered the end of “summer” here in the US notwithstanding the fact that the equinox is still a couple of weeks away.  Today’s barbecue is a bookend celebration along with the barbecue we all had on Memorial Day at the end of May.  Chow down …!

Gil Brandt died over the weekend at age 91.  He was a one-man band for the Dallas Cowboys in the 60s running their scouting department and their player personnel department – – entities that did not exist with every other NFL team.  He was fired in the purge that happened once Jerry Jones took over the Cowboys and named himself as GM.  In his post-Cowboy days, it turns out that he became a confidant of coaches behind the scenes – – Bill Belichick acknowledged that fact candidly.

Rest in peace, Gil Brandt.

In the world of sports on TV, Undisputed returned to the FS1 programming menu about a week ago with the moniker Undisputed Live as if there might have been some confusion regarding the previous incarnation of the show involving the participation of live humans as opposed to dead ones.  The first show back on the air featured the three “marquee partners” that Skip Bayless has enticed to join him on the program as “debate partners” – – Keyshaun Johnson, Michael Irvin and Richard Sherman.

Here is my first observation:

  • If all three are on together and the subject is NFL football, the single best thing that Skip Bayless can do is to shut up.
  • The single thing Skip Bayless is least likely to do is to shut up.
  • They need to avoid having all three on simultaneously with Bayless in the future.

Aside from the obvious question in my mind about what the program will do after the Super Bowl is over and the sports focus will turn to March Madness, Spring Training and the NBA playoffs, does this mean Undisputed Live is going to focus on football only for the next 5 months?  This is certainly not “the panel” I would want to hear from when it is time to talk about the World Series…

I don’t want to be a wet blanket here, but all the hype about putting Undisputed on hiatus for more than a month along with rumors of who would and would not be considered as debating partners with Bayless followed by the fanfare surrounding the reintroduction, did not generate much of an audience.  For the unveiling of the new – and presumably improved – Undisputed Live, the audience was 131,000 fans.  That was Monday; by Wednesday, the audience shrank to 78,000.  Here is the comparison that is most ominous:

  • Back in July when Bayless and Shannon Sharpe were in the end stages of a break-up, the audience for Undisputed was 154,000.
  • The Wednesday audience for the new Undisputed Live was only half of what went off the air back in July.

Since then, the program announced that Rachel Nichols and Josina Anderson – – both ESPN alums – – will be joining the program down the line.  Both have been successful as studio hosts; it is unclear how or if they might perform in any sort of staged debate program format.  But at least, they are not former NFL players…

Meanwhile, over on ESPN where the direct competition for Undisputed Live is Stephen A. Smith’s program, First Take, there does not seem to be any reason for panic.  First Take averages an audience of about 450,000; that is about triple the biggest audience Undisputed drew back in July and that is a comfortable margin for those folks to sit on.

Finally, I’ll close with these words from Ambrose Bierce that have relevance today as well as when they were penned:

Conservative n.:  A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a liberal, who wants to replace them with others.”

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



Football Friday 9/1/23

People who have been aboard the “Curmudgeon Caravan” for a while recognize that the calendar has entered a period where American football dominates interest here.  For those who have joined in more recently, this is a feature that will appear every Friday until the Super Bowl.  This is the first Football Friday of this season and for any newcomers, here is what these offerings will be like:

  • The Linfield College Wildcats are a Division III team located in McMinnville, OR.  The last time they had a losing season in football was in 1956.  They will open their season on September 9, and I will track their progress – or lack thereof – to another winning season.  Why do this?  Because I want to…
  • Then will come general college football commentary and a review of important games from last week.
  • Then an overview of games I find interesting on the schedule for this week.
  • Now apply the same structure to happenings in NFL football.  (Of course, none of the NFL stuff will appear this week since there were not games last week nor this week.)

Late in the college season, I will propose a slate of teams that should play an imaginary tournament where the loser must play on until we decided “on the field” the worst team in the country for 2023. I call this the “SHOE Tournament” where SHOE is an acronym for Steaming Heap Of Excrement.

I have tried to offer up a Six-Pack of wagering opportunities every week.  Obviously, that must be taken in context; there simply are not 6 games this weekend that have even marginal betting interests.  So, instead of calling it a “Six-Pack” I will call it the week’s “Betting Bundle”.


College Football Commentary:


Let me begin with a couple of historical comments about the: Linfield Wildcats’ football program:

  • Ignoring the 2020 COVID season when Linfield did not play football, they have had a winning record in football for 66 consecutive years.
  • The Wildcats play in the Northwest Conference, and they have been conference champions in 12 of the last 13 seasons.

College football arrived on television last week when Notre Dame and Navy both took themselves across the pond to play a game in Dublin, The Irish are ranked #13 in the country; the Middies are not nearly ranked.  The game was a not-so-very interesting win by Notre Dame 42-3.  The telecast featured Jason Garrett as the color guy and he was awful.  Granted, he has not done a lot of that sort of thing but let me just say he left himself acres of improvement to expand into.  Here is my analysis:

  • He could not bring himself to shut up once in a while.
  • He belabored several points to death.
  • He “restated the obvious” far too often.

Look, Jason Garrett – unlike Forest Gump – is a smart man; he has a Bachelor’s Degree in history from Princeton.  No one who graduates from Princeton is a dumbass.  So, I have reason to hope that with some coaching and some more experience Garrett will become one of the good college football color analysts.  However, there were a couple times last week when I found myself wishing this announcing assignment had gone to either Brock Huard and/or Mark Schlereth.

That was the only game of any interest/importance from last week.  In the early part of the college season, you have to sift through lots of chaff to find a couple of kernels of wheat…

I mentioned in my College Football Pre-Season essay here that all eyes would be on Colorado and Deion Sanders’ attempt to return Colorado football to relevance.  And next door to Colorado – – in Nebraska – – another attempt at program resurrection will also happen.  Just a bit of background:

  • Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, Nebraska was always a Top Ten team and often better than that.  The Cornhuskers were crowned as national champions 5 times in those days.
  • The program went into eclipse in 2001 and has been mediocre at best for the last 20 years.  Over the last six seasons, the Huskers cumulative record is an underwhelming 23-45.
  • Nebraska football is a big deal in Nebraska.  Home games at Memorial Stadum are always sold out at 90,000 fans; when a game is in progress, that makes Memorial Stadium the “third largest city in Nebraska”.

The school hired a new coach; as you might expect, he has told everyone that his intent is to restore the glory that used to be Nebraska football.  The difference here is that the new coach is Matt Rhule; and if you forget his less-than-sterling time with the Carolina Panthers, you may recall that he has performed two major turnarounds for Division 1-A college football teams.

  • He turned Temple from a 2-win team to a 10-win team in two seasons.
  • He took over the Baylor program in the wake of the Art Briles fiasco and after going 1-11 in his first year there, he had Baylor with an 11-3 record and playing in the Sugar Bowl.

Can Rhule do it again?  At least he has a track record that says his program needs attention because it may be one “on the rise”.  I am not suggesting that you fail to pay attention to Colorado and Coach Prime; just keep an eye on happenings at Nebraska too.


Games of Interest This Week:


Florida at Utah – 5 (44.5):  It is difficult enough to pick games in early September without injury bugs already in the air.  Florida will probably be without their starting center and one of their starting defensive ends. For Utah, QB, Cam Rising is listed as “Doubtful”.

Miami-OH at Miami-FL – 16.5 (45):  I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that Miami will win this game.

Colorado at TCU – 20.5 (63.5):  TCU played in the National Championship game last year; Colorado was not much more than a foot-wipe last year. I suspect that Coach Prime will get a rude introduction to Division 1-A football here.

Boise St at Washington – 14 (58.5):  The Broncos are favored to win the Mountain West Conference and Washington is coming off an 11-2 record last year.

West Virginia at Penn St. – 20.5 (50):  This is a “backyard rivalry game” of sorts.  In these slim pickings of Week 1, that is enough to make the game “interesting”

South Alabama at Tulane – 7 (52):  Don’t laugh.  This game pits two teams against each other where both teams had double-digit wins last season.  This game might be a key deciding element at the end of the season to determine which Group of 5 team and conference gets the reserved slot in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

Northwestern at Rutgers – 7 (39.5):  Laugh if you want …  The reason this game is interesting is to see how Northwestern plays considering the hazing scandal that is still under investigation.  Neither football program is interesting beyond that …

LSU – 2.5 at Florida St. (56):  Early season polling and rankings are mercurial at best, but for now, both teams are ranked in the Top Ten.  This is the Game of the Week by a wide margin.

If I have counted correctly, there are 86 college football games on the betting board this week and I stretched the point to come up with 8 “interesting games”.  My viewing priorities will include:

  • Colorado/TCU:  Unless that gets totally out of hand.
  • Boise St./Washington:  Could be a fun game.
  • So, Alabama/Tulane:  Think this one might be a very good game.
  • LSU/Florida State:  Must See TV …

Finally, let me close today with these words from former Nebraska head coach, Tom Osborne:

“My hardest job is to convince the people of Nebraska is that 10-1 is not a losing season.”

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



Two Overblown Kerfuffles

Briefly today …  I want to comment on a couple of issues that bubbled up to the surface recently and caused commentators/writers to rush to their keyboards to fill up space on the Internet and in a variety of print media.  The first one is the revelation that all is not peaches and cream with regard to members of the Tuohy family and Michael Oher.

  • I tried to understand the differences between an “adoption” and a “conservatorship”.  All I understand is that they are not the same thing and so I cannot begin to understand why the Tuohys chose that mechanism for their relationship.
  • Oher claims he got next to nothing as a financial reward for the movie The Blind Side.  The production company for that movie says they paid Oher and the Tuohys the same amount.  Seems to me that ought to be easy to track down.
  • Michael Oher made more than $50M in salaries while in the NFL.  If the Tuohys milked that revenue stream for their own gain, that would be slimy behavior.
  • Some of the details asserted in Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side may not be “fully factual”.  Is that a shock?

The more I try to read about this situation and how it might be resolved, the more engulfed in ennui I become.  It seems to me that the civil litigation system in the US is where this matter should be taken for resolution; as of this morning, the civil litigation system in the US has begun the processes to determine right versus wrong here.  While that process plays itself out, it appears to me that no third parties or fourth parties here stand to be harmed in any significant way.  Therefore:

  • Let the processes play out.  Treat any and all news about this matter short of a final resolution as news that is not important and is only of interest to voyeurs peeking into the process to see if a celebrity with a name they recognize is “Winning” or “Losing”.

Moving on …  The other story of the moment that has received more attention than it deserves is the trade of Trey Lance from the Niners to the Cowboys for a fourth round pick next year.  There is a “trainwreck aspect” to this story since the Niners traded away 3 first round picks plus a third-round pick just to move up in the NFL Draft and take Lance with the #3 overall pick.  That storyline might keep this item afloat for 24 hours – – but not much more.  This story line has legs because it allows people to perform mind reading exercises on Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones:

  • Why trade for Lance when the Cowboys have Cooper Rush as their backup QB?  Rush has started 6 games for the Cowboys in his career and the team record in those games is 5-1.
  • Does this trade indicate that Jones has lost faith in Dak Prescott?  There is no way to know the answer here, but it seems to me that acquiring Lance and putting him in the #3 position of the depth chart is hardly a clear indicator of anything like that.

Here is my thinking about why the Cowboys made this deal. Two years ago, the Niners had Lance evaluated as a “top of the Draft talent”.  Two years of injuries have obscured that and the Niners are now ready to go forth with Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold at the QB position.  The Niners let it be known they would take offers for Lance and the balance of his rookie contract.  Paying a fourth-round pick for someone with Lance’s “potential” seems like the kind of “speculation” that Jerry Jones is comfortable with.  The trade makes sense to me without reverting to clairvoyance.

Finally, The Blind Side confrontation may need a jury to resolve the issue(s).  So, here is a view of a jury by H. L. Mencken:

Jury:  A group of twelve men who having lied to the judge about their hearing, health and business engagements, have failed to fool him.”

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




Major League Baseball Hits The Home Stretch

The Washington Nationals’ World Series hero, Stephen Strasburg has announced his retirement; injuries and not Father Time have brought him to this fork in the road.  His last start was in June 2022.  Strasburg underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2010 and worked his way back from that setback but in 2021 he suffered from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and underwent surgery to try to alleviate that condition.  It did not work, and Strasburg announced his retirement last week.

Also last week we learned that Shohei Otani tore his UCL and will not be able to pitch for the rest of the season.  Evidently, he can still swing a bat, so he will remain with the team, but Otani will be a free agent once this season is over and his need for surgery – – with the corresponding uncertainty of return to form that goes with every surgery – – will make his days on the “open market” very interesting.  One commentator said with authority that Otani’s injury cost him at least $100M and maybe $150M in the total value of his next contract.  We shall see …

In other MLB news, raise your hand if you saw this happening:

  • The calendar is about to flip to September setting up the stretch run for the MLB season.
  • The two NY teams spent the most money on player payroll by far for 2023.
  • As of this morning both the Yankees and the Mets are in last place in their divisions.

In the case of the Yankees, their possession of the basement slot in the AL East is rock solid; the Yankees are about 7 games behind the Red Sox in the standings.  The Mets are only two games behind the Nats in the NL East and could still escape that dungeon abode.

On a much more positive note, the race to watch over the balance of the season is in the AL West.  You can throw a hat over the records of the Mariners, the Rangers and the Astros.  Just so you know that there is some spice left to the pennant and playoff chases this year:

  • The Mariners’ last ten games on the regular season schedule are against the Astros and the Rangers.  The Mariners are on the road to the Rangers for 3 games; they are home to the Astros for 3 games and they are home to the Rangers for 4 games.
  • The Astros are at the Rangers for 3 games starting on Labor Day and then have 3 games at the Mariners home field.
  • The Rangers have 7 games against the Mariners and 3 against the Astros coming up.  In addition, the Rangers have a series with the Blue Jays who are lurking out there hoping to secure a wild card slot in the playoffs.

Switching gears – – and sports …  You must have read about the uproar in Spain caused by the President of the Spanish Soccer Federation kissing one of the star Spanish women’s soccer players on the mouth “unannounced” and “uninvited”.  FIFA says they will provisionally suspend him for 90 days.  The Spanish women want him removed from his job.  He remains unrepentant saying that he did nothing “inappropriate”.  At the risk of appearing to side with any party to this kerfuffle, let me say:

  • Should he have done this?  NO!
  • Is this the worst “assault” on the player he might have perpetrated?  No.
  • Should he have apologized immediately?  Of course, he should have.
  • Is it too late for an apology?  You bet.
  • Should he lose his job?  That is a decision for the members of the Spanish Soccer Federation to make.

There is one other question here that does not have such a short answer.  The Spanish Women’s National Team has threatened not to play again if this guy is not removed from his position of authority.  Is that a good idea?

It seems to me that these women would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces if they do this.  They are the reigning Women’s World Cup Champions; the Olympics will kick off in less than a year.  It seems to me that the opportunity to add an Olympic Gold Medal to the team’s accomplishments argues for them to regroup and play on.

Hey!  That’s just me …

Finally, I shall close today with these words from Laurence J. Peter:

“In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties. … Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

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



College Football Pre-Season Comments – 2023

About 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon, I realized that my overview plan for writing in the next two weeks was not going to work easily.  My plan was to do the College Football Pre-Season comments next week and then the NFL Pre Season Comments soon after that.   Suddenly, I confronted a reality; next week I have a “travel day” and a “medical procedure” and a “cooking event” that will require my attention for at least a half-day.  Fortunately, I had already done some thinking about what I wanted to write about, but my realization caused me to go into hyper-drive last night and early this morning.

As has been the custom here for the past several years, I will try to do a Football Friday rant each week when I am “on the air” on a Friday.  Those offerings will begin over Labor Day weekend and then become a fixture the week after that as the NFL begins its regular season.  Football Friday will be a regular entry here until the Super Bowl weekend in February 2024

Today, the focus is solely on college football, and I want to begin with my list of seven coaches on a hot seat.  This year, my list is comprised of big-time coaches; I am not just looking for teams in the Sun Belt Conference that have not done well for the last two years:

  1. Mario Cristobal – – Miami:  He was the prodigal son who was going to return and make Miami a major powerhouse once again.  Except that didn’t come close to happening as the Hurricanes finished below .500 in 2022.  That must not happen again …
  2. Ryan Day – Ohio State:  Day’s Buckeyes have lost two games in a row to Michigan – – each one by double digits – – and that is not acceptable in Columbus, OH.  If he loses again to Michigan AND fails to make the CFP, things might be very uncomfortable when Day and the AD meet at the end of the season.  Actually, I think the Buckeyes will be just fine this year; they have Marvin Harrison Jr, back on the field and he was the best WR I have seen for several years.
  3. Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M:  Fisher’s record at A&M is a less-than-gaudy 39-21 in his five years as the Aggies head coach; he is working on a 10-year contract extension worth a total of $94.95M.  Make no mistake, the deep pockets that funded that contract extension did not anticipate paying for a coach whose team loses one out of every three games.
  4. Billy Napier – Florida:  The Gators finished below .500 last year with a QB who went 4th overall in the NFL Draft in April.  The Gators had better not have another season below .500 …
  5. Steve Sarkisian – Texas: The Longhorns had a positive season in 2022 posting an 8 -5 record.  That has created a lot of “optimism” among the Longhorn faithful who think that Texas could be a serous contender for the Big-12 championship and a slot in the CFP.
  6. Mel Tucker – Michigan State:  In 2021 the Spartans were an outstanding 11-2 and that gaudy record got Tucker a 10-year extension worth $95M.  Then last year, the Spartans – – who were ranked in the Top 20 in Pre-Season Polls – – wet the bed and finished 5-7.  Tucker is 18-14 in his time in East Lansing; he needs to do better this season.
  7. Brent Venables – Oklahoma:  The Sooners were 6-7; last year under Venables and that sort of performance is completely unacceptable in Norman, OK.

There are 130+ teams that play Division 1-A college football.  I will not even pretend to be able to offer any sort of cogent information on more than a few of them; therefore, I will not do anything here like I do with the NFL where I try to predict the record for every team in the league.

I will focus some attention on the PAC-12 which seems to have imploded such that this will be the final season that we might recognize what was a Power-5 conference.  And without a doubt, the biggest story in the PAC-12 will be Deion Sanders as the head coach at Colorado.  Face it; every time Coach Prime burps, it will be Tweeted out.  I cannot wait for ESPN to follow him around with a gas chromatograph to analyze the chemical makeup of those burps.

Sanders took over a team that just plain stunk.  In 2022 the Buffaloes were 127th in the nation in scoring (15.4 points per game) and the Buffaloes were dead last in the country in scoring defense allowing 44.5 points per game.  When you look at those numbers, Coach Prime was somewhat justified in running off more than half of his team. They were not remotely competitive.  There are only 10 scholarship players back from last season for Colorado and 68 new scholarship players who arrived via the portal or recruiting.

Can Sanders turn that Colorado program around in one season?  His bluster says that he can and will; but bluster only gets a coach so far against quality opponents.  If Colorado can win 4 games this year with 2 of those wins coming in conference, Coach Prime should get consideration as the Coach of the Year.

I think Auburn should improve this year.  Hugh Freeze takes over that team and even if Freeze has some slimy accoutrements to his CV, the man can coach college football.  He had a previous stint in the SEC and coached Ole Miss to a cumulative record of 39-25 with a 3-1 record in bowl games.

I do not know what to think about Alabama this year.  The team did not win the SEC West last year and then lost two star players to the NFL Draft who went in the Top-3 picks.  The Tide also lost both of its coordinators from last year.  If we were talking about Catatonic State here, I would say those losses would be too much for the team to deal with in 2023.  But this is not Catatonic State; this is Alabama.  The good news for Alabama is that they get to play both Texas and LSU at home.

Two questions to consider as the college football season unwinds:

  1. Is this the year that Florida State returns to center stage in the college football world?  The Seminoles look strong on both sides of the ball with quality players returning.
  2. Are the Washington Huskies a good longshot bet to win the last recognizable PAC-12 crown?    Washington won 11 games in 2022 and have most of that offense back for 2023.

Here is a possible betting angle for 2023.  Bet the OVER in games involving USC.  The Trojans’ offense is potent with Lincoln Riley calling the shots and with Caleb Williams at QB – – but the defense stunk in spades last year and may not be much better this year.  The Trojans ranked 93rd in the country last year in scoring defense giving up 29.3 point per game; for perspective, that put USC one notch ahead of Temple last year.  Temple …

When investigating criminal wrongdoing, police and prosecutors designate certain folks as “A Person of Interest.”    For me, there is “A Person of Interest” in college football in 2023 having nothing at all to do with criminal behavior or any sort of investigation.  I think JT Daniels is someone to watch.  Let me give a brief summary of his college QB career here:

  • 2018 – 2019:  Daniels played in 12 games for USC.  A knee injury limited him to 1 game in 2019 and he availed himself of the transfer portal at the end of the 2019 season.
  • 2020 – 2021:  Daniels played in 9 games for Georgia.  Various injuries limited his availability and at the end of the 2021 season he used the transfer portal once again.
  • 2022:  Daniels played in 10 games for West Virginia.  He lost his starting job there due to insufficient play and at the end of the 2022 season he entered the transfer portal yet again.
  • 2023:  Daniels transferred to Rice where he will theoretically play out his college eligibility.

Why is JT Daniels interesting?  Well playing at 4 schools in 6 years is sort of interesting all by itself.  But the twist here is that when Daniels came out of high school in LA, he was considered a 5-Star recruit.  Rice University does not tend to attract 5-Star recruits.  I understand high school recruiting grades are notoriously inaccurate, but if Daniels really is a significant talent, he should put Rice in a position to win some games this year.

And why is that interesting?  The last time the Owls had a winning season was in 2014; they finished 8-5 that year and went to the Hawaii Bowl.  In the 8 seasons since then, Rice has posted a cumulative record of 25 – 64.  The OVER/UNDER for win total for Rice this year is 4.5.  I will make some win total predictions later in this essay…

There are 3 storylines about the upcoming season that have already been “done to death” but that will not deter writers and commentators from continuing to flog those dead animals:

  1. I already mentioned the storyline at Colorado with its new coach and 68 new players.  It does not matter if the Buffaloes go 9-4 or 3-10 this year, we will read and hear about that situation over and over.
  2. Can Georgia get a “three-peat”?  The Bulldogs’ schedule is very kind to the team’s undertaking here.  The rivalry game against Florida on October 28 and a road game at Tennessee on November 18 are the only “stumbling blocks” to Georgia getting into the CFP which is the prerequisite for winning another national championship.
  3. Is Texas – finally – back?  Longhorn fans have tried to proclaim that to be the case for about the last 5 years and then the team fell short of anticipations.  It has been since 2009 when Texas went 13-1 and played for the BCS Championship; in the intervening years, the Longhorns have posted double-digit wins exactly one time.  If fans are to take this sort of pronouncement seriously the Longhorns will have a chance to demonstrate their prowess early in the season.  On September 9, Texas goes on the road to play Alabama.  The last time Alabama lost a non-conference game at home was in November 2007 when La-Monroe beat the Tide 21-14 in Tuscaloosa.

There is a rule change for this year that I believe could be significant.  In college football it was the rule that the clock stopped every time a team made a first down.  Now the clock will run as it does in the NFL except for the final two minutes of each half.  This will make long drives in those two-minute windows more challenging.  We shall see …

I said above that I would offer up some betting thoughts on total wins by various teams:

  • I like RICE OVER 4.5 wins.
  • I like AUBURN OVER 6.5 wins.
  • I like MICHIGAN STATE UNDER 5.5 wins.

Finally, let me close with this observation about college football by my favorite curmudgeon, H. L. Mencken:

“College football would be more interesting if the faculty played instead of the students – there would be a great increase in broken arms, legs and necks.”

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



A Potpourri Today

Earlier this week, a friend sent me an e-mail with this suggestion:

“You like to pick out strange and outstanding stats.  So, go look up Gayle Sayres’ rookie year stats.” made my search simple indeed.  Sayres came into the NFL in 1965; the NFL season back then was only 14 games long so realize that these numbers are slightly capped as compared to the 17-game season in effect now:

  • Sayres scored 22 TDs in 14 games.  He ran for 14 TDs; he scored 6 times receiving; he returned a punt for a TD, and he returned a kickoff for a TD.
  • Oh, by the way, he also passed for another TD.
  • He averaged 5.2 yards per carry for the season.
  • Not surprisingly, he was the Rookie of the Year in 1965.
  • He was selected as a first team All-Pro and a member of the Pro bowl team.

Sayres was a halfback; today the NFL has more than a handful of running backs who are insulted by teams putting the franchise tag on them; accepting that offer would guarantee today’s running backs with a one-year salary of about $10M.  Here is the contract that Gayle Sayres signed with the Chicago Bears after he was drafted by the Bears in 1965:

  • The   duration was 4 years.
  • Signing Bonus was $50K.
  • Salary in each of the 4 years in the deal was $25K.

Oh, how times have changed…

Next  up …  The Buffalo Bills got a lot of NY State money to defray part of the costs for a new stadium for the Bills.  They broke ground for the undertaking about 3-4 months ago and according to a report by the Associated Press the project is already in an overrun status.  The AP pegs the overrun at about $300M which is stunning because the cost estimate upon which the funding deal was struck was $1.4B.  That represents the “discovery” of a 22% overrun in the first 3 months of construction.

But wait there’s more …  The Athletic has a report that the overrun might be as much as $500M or 36% of the total cost anticipated.  The Bills recently fired their COO; when I read about that, I just figured this was an office-politics outcome, but the details of the stadium funding deal reported by the AP could lead one to believe that firing was for cause.

  • As negotiated, public funds contributed = $850M
  • The Bills were to toss in the rest of the funds = $550M
  • Here’s the kicker:  The Bills are on the hook for any overruns!

The new COO for the Bills offered a chilling statement about all this.  He said that it is too early in the construction to know what the final cost might be.  The Bills were supposed to pay $550M for construction costs according to the deal that looks as if its costs were estimated on the back of a postage stamp.  If the overrun is indeed $500M. that means the Bills will pay $1.05B instead of $550M.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I would not be surprised if this minor funding error was part of the basis for getting a new COO for the Bills …

Moving on …  Last weekend Dallas Cowboys’ DE, Sam Williams, was arrested and charged with:

  • Possession of a controlled substance – – and – –
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm.

Last December, Williams was also arrested when he was involved in a two-car smash-up that landed him and the other driver in the hospital.  Police determined that Williams was driving at 98 miles per hour.  In the incident last weekend, Williams was clocked at 66 miles per hour.  That data led Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones to make a stunning pronouncement:

  • According to Jones, Sam Williams shows maturation because he was driving 34 miles per hour slower than he did last December.  [Aside:  Yes, Jones’ arithmetic is off by 2 miles per hour but that is hardly the point here.]

Switching gears …  In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Niners traded 3 first round draft picks to move up to the #3 post in the Draft where they selected Trey Lance.  Injuries have kept Lance out of all but 8 games in his first two seasons.  Now, it appears as if the Niners might be moving on from Lance.  Coach Kyle Shanahan named Brock urdy as the starting QB for the Niners this year; and yesterday, he named Sam Darnold as the Niners’ #2 QB.  Darnold has shown nothing but mediocrity during his time in the league, but Shanahan thinks he is ahead of Lance right now.

NFL teams often make humongous drafting errors when they swing and miss on the talent level of the guy they pick near the top of the draft.  In the case of the Niners and Lance, that humongous error is compounded by the fact that the Niners spent three first-round picks to make that error.

Finally, let me close today with these words from P.J. O’Rourke:

“Marijuana is … self-punishing.  It makes you acutely sensitive and in this world, what worse punishment could there be.”

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