Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend Of 11/21/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were a whole lot better than they have been in previous weeks. The record for last week was 11-4-0 bringing the season record to 87-81-5. One of the successful picks from last week demonstrates the dynamic nature of sports wagering.

    I made my picks late Thursday night and Friday morning last week. I took Oklahoma State/Iowa State to go OVER 61. That was the line at the time.

    About an hour before kickoff, I checked the picks against the current lines because they often move a half-point or sometimes a full point. It does not change any of the Mythical Picks but I often check just for curiosity.

    The Total Line for Ok St/Iowa St had dropped to 56.5 at many sportsbooks and to 57 at the other sportsbooks that I routinely scan.

    The total score for the game was 66 points so the line change made no difference. If you took OVER you won; if you took UNDER you lost. However, it is interesting to note that large line changes can happen in short periods of time – particularly if your wagering is Real and not Mythical.

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking Kansas St/Texas Tech to go OVER 71.5. The total score was 103.

The “Worst Picks” last week were taking Temple/USF UNDER 44.5 (total was 67) and taking LSU and giving 7.5 points (they lost the game straight up).

Notwithstanding last week’s 73% success rate, no one should use any information here as the basis for making a real wager on a real college football game involving real money this weekend. You would have to be mighty stupid to do so. Here is how stupid you would need to be:

    You would need two weeks training to learn the route to be an elevator operator.

General Comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats completed their regular season last week with a 38-10 victory over Pacific Lutheran. Linfield’s record was 9-0 and they have a place in the NCAA Division III football tournament which begins this weekend. A Selection Committee seeds the teams in this tournament and Linfield’s first opponent is Whitworth. Those two teams – both in the Northwest Conference – met back on October 24 and Linfield won that game 52-10. Go Wildcats!

I received an e-mail from an old friend telling me that I should check out the football record for Division II Cheyney University. He said it was a “curmudgeon’s dream”; of course, that sent me directly to Google.

    This year, Cheyney was 0-11. Oh, but there is more…

    The cumulative scoring for those 11 games was:

      Opponents: 553
      Cheyney: 94

    Cheyney lost 2 games by 62 points and another 2 games by 63 points.

    Last year, Cheyney was also 0-11.

    In 2013, Cheyney was 0-11.

    In 2012, Cheyney was 1-10. Their last win was September 1, 2012 over Lincoln University. Cheyney has lost 43 consecutive games since then.


Last week, we had four of the teams ranked in the Top Ten by the CFP Selection Committee lose their games outright. Last week saw the Big 12 almost lose its last undefeated team and also saw the PAC-12 play its way out of any slot in the CFP barring a huge number of improbable events. I mention that only because it appears as if this week will be the best week of college football for the season. There are lots of important games on the menu.

I said last week that I was interested to see the rushing stats for Georgia Southern against Troy. Georgia Southern is the top rushing team in the country; Troy’s rush defense was not so good. As you might imagine, Georgia Southern won the game handily 45-10 despite spotting Troy a 10-0 lead in the first quarter; they ran the ball for 325 yards (slightly below their average for the season) and held the ball for 43 minutes in the game.

Baylor was ranked #6 going into last week’s game against Oklahoma and lost by 10 points to the Sooners. Truth be told, they had not played any top-shelf teams in their first 8 games of the year; they played the weaker teams in the Big 12 and an out of conference schedule that might only be weaker if they had scheduled Cheyney University. Given that super-weak out of conference schedule, I suspect that a 1-loss Baylor team will not be part of the CFP Tournament field.

Oklahoma State – ranked #8 last week – had to rally from way behind to beat a mediocre Iowa State team by 4 slim points. The Cowboys are now 10-0 and have their final two games at home in Stillwater albeit against two real opponents. This week, Baylor comes to town; next week, Oklahoma is the opponent. If the Cowboys can win out, they stand a very good chance to make the CFP tournament. The “playoff question” for the Big 12 as a conference is pretty simple:

    Suppose the best record for a Big 12 team is 11-1. Can the conference still have a team in the CFP?

Let us look at the possibilities here:

    TCU: The injuries to QB Trevone Boykin and WR Josh Doctson renders TCU a lesser team than they were early this year. Consider that last week they were a 45-point favorite over Kansas and only won by 6 points.

    Baylor: Their schedule includes only a few quality opponents.

    Oklahoma: They lost to Texas and that is a bad loss because Texas will have to win out “just to be bowl-eligible”, which is a positive way to say “just to be a .500 team.” However, recall that Ohio State had a “bad loss” on its record last year …

    Oklahoma State: Their out of conference schedule is marginally better than Baylor’s but still embarrassing.

Utah was ranked #10 going into last week’s game against Arizona and proceeded to lose in double OT. That is Utah’s second loss for the year and it pretty much eliminates them from the CFP.

Stanford was ranked #7 last week and proceeded to lose at home to Oregon. That is Stanford’s second loss for the year too.

Looking at the PAC-12 standings, you can quickly see that Utah and Stanford are the only teams in the conference with only 2 losses. Those two teams could meet in the PAC-12 championship game meaning one of them would have to come out with 3 losses. I do not think there will be any teams from the PAC-12 in the CFP this year.

LSU was ranked #9 last week. They laid an egg at home against Arkansas losing by 17 points. At one point this season, Arkansas lost 4 out of 5 games including two out of conference games to Texas Tech and Toledo. [Aside: Perhaps the Razorbacks are allergic to the letter “T”…] With that win over LSU, Arkansas has a chance to finish 2nd in the SEC West. Is it fair to say that the SEC West – good as it has been for the last 5 years – may not be as good as it has been recently?

Alabama took care of business last week handling Mississippi State with ease. I said last week that the Front-7 for Alabama was REALLY good. Two weeks ago, they held Leonard Fournette to 31 yards rushing in a game; last week they sacked Dak Prescott – the best QB in the SEC – nine times.

Florida will be the SEC East team in the SEC Championship Game. Last week, the Gators beat South Carolina by 10 points to extend their record to 9-1. You cannot rule Florida out of the CFP completely. If Alabama is their opponent in the SEC Championship Game and the Gators win that game convincingly, it would be difficult to keep them out of the conversation especially since their only loss would be to LSU in Baton Rouge. That is not what one would call a “bad loss”…

Speaking of Florida, this is the first year on the job for Coach Jim McElwain. Last year, Florida finished the regular season at 6-5 and went to the Birmingham Bowl; this year, even with a loss in the SEC Championship Game, Florida will be in a major bowl game. By the way, 4 of those 6 regular season wins last year were against less-than-fearsome opponents such as E. Michigan, Kentucky, E. Kentucky and Vandy. You have to tip your hat to Jim McElwain and the job he has done this year.

In the Big 10 last week, Ohio State cruised to a 28-3 win over Illinois and Michigan State handled Maryland 24-7. It would be hard for you to convince me that both of those teams were looking over under around and through their second-tier opponents last week to their meeting this week.

Meanwhile, Nebraska went east to play Rutgers and won 31-14. That was Nebraska’s 5th win for the year meaning that they will need to win their final game of the season in order to be bowl-eligible. It will not be an easy undertaking; in their final game, the Cornhuskers have to play currently undefeated and fifth-ranked Iowa. Here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World Herald to give you some perspective on what a 5-win season for the Huskers means out there in the Heartland:

“There is an apple pie fundraiser in Fremont on Saturday the same time as the Husker game. Remember when there was so much interest in Husker football no one would dare do this? Now, Nebraskans have to make the most difficult choice of their lives: Pie or football?”

Oh, and speaking of Iowa as Nebraska’s opponent next week, here is a cogent observation from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Easy street: Here’s an example of what I love – and by that, I mean hate – about power conferences with division races. Iowa, which somehow appeared at No. 5 in the football playoff rankings this week, can reach the Big Ten title game without playing Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan.”

Michigan beat Indiana in double OT. Going into the game, Michigan’s rush defense was the third best in the country. Somehow, Indiana RB, Jordan Howard managed to run for 239 yards in that game. You tell me how that happened. That is not a good omen for the Wolverines considering that they still have to face Ohio State and Ezekiel Elliot later this year.

In the ACC, Clemson beat Syracuse 37-27 but there might be some concerns for the Tigers after that game. Syracuse had a backup QB for the game – he was fifth on the depth chart back in July/August – and they had no passing game at all. However, Syracuse ran the ball for 242 yards and 7 yards per carry in the game.

    By the way, in 10 games this year, Syracuse has gone OVER in 9 of them. Just saying…

UNC beat Miami 59-21. That result is interesting from two perspectives:

    1. UNC is 9-1 for the year with the loss coming in the opening game against South Carolina – not a particularly good team this year.

    2. Remember when Clemson beat Miami 58-0? That caused the school to fire Al Golden “on the spot”. Maybe the Miami defense just isn’t good enough to play top-shelf schools this year; maybe it wasn’t the coach…

In the American Athletic Conference, Houston handed Memphis its second consecutive loss despite trailing 34-14 in the 2nd half and having to go with a 2nd string QB. That sets up a game on the day after Thanksgiving when Navy goes to Houston as the one that will determine the West Division champion in the AAC. The winner of the West will play either Temple or USF for the conference championship and that winner will probably be in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

There were more than a few game last week that had impact on my SHOE Tournament teams but one of them bears mentioning by itself. La-Monroe lost at home to Arkansas St. 59-21; that was not the worst loss of the year for the Warhawks; twice they have lost by 37 points. Nonetheless, that was the last straw for the Athletic Director and the powers that be in Warhawk-land; they fired the coach “effective immediately”. The logical consequence of that decisive action is that the team needs an interim coach to finish out the season. To whom did that responsibility fall? Why of course, they gave the job to the defensive coordinator who has been doing such a great job with the defense that the team is 1-10 for the season.

    Ignoring the shutout win over Division 1-AA Nicholls State, the best performance by the La-Monroe defense was giving up 27 points to a miserable Idaho team.

    Five times this year, La-Monroe has given up scores north of 50 points.

    So, the defensive coordinator gets the “promotion”?

The Ponderosa Games:

Last week we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in only 1 of them.

San Diego St. covered.

Boise St, Clemson, Notre Dame, TCU and Tennessee did not cover.

    Boise St lost outright as a 30.5-point favorite.

    TCU was a 45-point favorite over Kansas and won by only 6.

Last week’s 1-5-0 record brings the season total for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games to 33-43-1. This is shaping up to be one of the more lopsided seasons for Ponderosa Games; usually, the season record is within 3 or 4 games of .500 either way.

This week we have 8 Ponderosa Games:

UNC-Charlotte at Kentucky – 24.5 (56): It is not often that you see Kentucky as a Ponderosa favorite.

W. Virginia – 28 at Kansas (58.5): The Total Line opened the week at 64 and has been dropping all week long.

Wake Forest at Clemson – 29 (48): Clemson had a defensive hiccup last week against Syracuse (see above). They could hold Wake Forest to single digits this week.

N. Texas at Middle Tenn. St. – 24 (64): I cannot tell you how little I care about this game…

Fresno St. at BYU – 26 (56): This is BYU’s first appearance of the year as a Ponderosa favorite.

Florida Atlantic at Florida – 31 (46.5): Yes, both schools are in the State of Florida but this is hardly an intrastate rivalry…

Idaho at Auburn – 34 (64): This is a scrimmage for Auburn as they prepare for the Iron Bowl game against Alabama next week.

La-Tech – 25 at UTEP (55): I care about this game ever so slightly more than the N. Texas/Middle Tennessee St game above…

The SHOE Tournament:

There were games last week that had impact on the SHOE Team Selection Committee – that would be me.

    I already mentioned the situation as of last week with La-Monroe. Well, the Warhawks have already played this week; they lost last night to Texas St. That is 3 wins for Texas St probably knocking them out of consideration for the SHOE Tournament.

    Army lost to Tulane by 3 points. Like Texas St. that gives Tulane 3 wins and probably takes them off the SHOE Tournament invitation list.

    Florida Atlantic lost again last week leaving them with a 2-8 record and a game against Florida this week. They are still under consideration.

    N Texas lost to Tennessee 24-0. After the game the coach and some players complained about the condition of the field at Tennessee. If that is their excuse for getting shut out, I would have to say “Shut up!”

    Miami (OH) lost to Akron dropping their record to 2-9.

    UNC-Charlotte lost to UT-San Antonio by 3 points. Both teams have 2-8 records now but UNC-Charlotte is not eligible for the SHOE Tournament because this is their first year playing Division 1-A football. Why is that? It’s my tournament and I make the rules.

    E. Michigan lost to UMass 28-7. That is the 2nd win of the year for UMass and E. Michigan is 1-10. I am pretty sure that E. Michigan is IN the SHOE Tournament.

    SMU lost to Navy 55-14. That makes SMU 1-9 on the year; I am pretty sure that SMU is IN the SHOE Tournament.

    Wyoming lost to San Diego St 38-3. Wyoming is 1-10 for the year; I am pretty sure Wyoming is IN the SHOE Tournament.

I mentioned 3 teams above who are likely participants in the SHOE Tournament and it is highly likely that winless UCF and Kansas will join those three teams. So as of this week I am looking to fill 3 slots from this menu of bad teams:

    Florida Atlantic
    Miami (OH)
    New Mexico State
    N Texas
    UT-San Antonio

Games of Interest:

Rutgers – 4.5 at Army (54.5): That is a surprisingly low spread for a “Big 10 team” taking on a potential SHOE Tournament team. That is the only reason this is a Game of Interest…

Miami (OH) at UMass – 9.5 (55): Winner here is likely eliminated from SHOE Tournament consideration…

LSU at Ole Miss – 6.5 (56.5): Reports this week said that Les Miles is “coaching for his job” in this game and the game next week at home against Texas A&M. I am not sure it would be a great idea to fire him unless the LSU braintrust already has a top-shelf replacement signed sealed and delivered. In any event, if LSU loses here and looks bad doing so, you can count on the long-knives coming out well honed. I think this will be more of a defensive game than the Total Line suggests so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Memphis – 2 at Temple (58): Temple can ill-afford another loss if they want to be part of the AAC Championship picture. Memphis has lost 2 games in a row. This is probably the best offense that Temple’s very good defense has had to deal with all year long. This is also probably the best defense that Memphis’ very good offense has had to deal with all year long. Make this strictly a venue call; I’ll take Temple plus the points.

UNC – 5.5 at Va Tech (61): This will be Frank Beamer’s final game in Blacksburg after about 3 decades of building the Va Tech football program from abject obscurity to respectability. The Hokies should be sky-high for this game. UNC has gone north of 50 points 3 times this year including each of the last two weeks. Opponents have been able to run on UNC this year (206.1 yards per game) but UNC only gives up 18.8 points per game. Va Tech is not a great running team and I do not think the emotion of the game will turn them into one. I like UNC to win and cover even in this energized road environment.

Northwestern at Wisconsin – 10 (40): Northwestern is ranked #20 and Wisconsin is ranked #25 which might make you think this was an important game. It may be interesting, but it is not important. Northwestern’s last two wins have been unimpressive (by 2 points over Penn St at home and by 7 points over Purdue at home). Wisconsin took last week off to prep for this game and it is in Madison. I like Wisconsin to win and cover here.

Mississippi St at Arkansas – 4.5 (58): Arkansas is the “hot team” after beating LSU on the road last week and they are at home. Ergo, I’ll take Arkansas to win and cover.

Baylor at Oklahoma St. – 1 (77): This game is interesting AND important. Since Baylor lost its starting QB to a neck injury that required surgery, they have not been the sort of team that is always on the verge of scoring 70 points in a game. That is how Baylor tended to beat people because the Baylor defense was not the premier unit on the team. Oklahoma State can play decent defense for a Big 12 team – a conference in which “defense” is considered a dirty word. I think State’s defense will be able to keep Baylor’s offense from going nuts. I like Oklahoma St to win and cover.

Michigan St. at Ohio St. – 14 (53): This game is interesting AND important. Simply put, I think that line is fat. I’ll take Michigan St. plus the points.

TCU at Oklahoma (no lines): There is still some question regarding Trevon Boykin’s availability at QB for TCU. Until that is known, there will be no lines on this game. If Boykin cannot play, I think Oklahoma will win comfortably – say by 15 points. If Boykin can play – and play at something near his normal capability – this game might be in doubt until the final possession… If you look at the Total Line once one is posted, I would count on Oklahoma scoring in the “high-40s”.

Michigan – 3.5 at Penn State (41.5): This is a classic “trap game” for Michigan; they are on the road and they know that they play Ohio State next week. Penn St has had 2 weeks to get ready for the game. I expect a low scoring game so I’ll take Penn St. plus the points here.

Cal at Stanford – 11 (64): In terms of “Rivalry Games” this is the biggest one on the card this weekend. I expect an offensive outburst here so I like the game to go OVER. I also want to take Cal plus the points here; that is a fat line for such a rivalry game.

UCLA at Utah – 2 (55): UCLA averages 498 yards per game and 35.2 points per game. Utah averages 389 yards per game and 33.2 points per game. Why is Utah so much more efficient at points per yard of offense? The Utah defense is stingier giving the offense better field position. I think the Utah defense will prevail here; I like the game to stay UNDER.

Notre Dame – 15 vs BC (42.5) Game is in Fenway Park: The BC defense is the best in the country in terms of yards per game; they give up only 237 yards per game; the next best defense (Michigan) gives up 269 yards per game. BC is particularly strong against the run allowing only 71.7 yards per game. Looking at those stats, one has to wonder how that team can be a 15-point underdog. Well … The BC offense is the worst in the country in terms of yards per game; they only gain 277 yards per game and they score only 17.3 points per game. Moreover, those scoring stats are distorted by an early-season win over Howard by a score of 77-0. In the other 9 games this year, BC has only scored 96 points. Notre Dame does not have a great defense but it has one good enough to hold BC to somewhere between 7 and 14 points. With that as my estimate, I’ll take Notre Dame and lay the points.

USC at Oregon – 4 (71.5): This is nothing more than a hunch but it seems to me as if Oregon has put their offensive house in order over the past 3 games scoring a total of 143 points in those games. The defense continues to allow opponents to find the end zone but now the offense is alive and well. I like this game to go OVER.

Purdue at Iowa – 22.5 (57): Look, Iowa needs to impress the Selection Committee and Purdue is not a good football team. Purdue’s 2 wins have come over Indiana St and Nebraska; in 5 of their 10 games, they have scored 14 points or less. Nonetheless, that spread is too big to ignore. I’ll take Purdue plus the points.

Finally, here is comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News on the subject of college football:

“A Tempe, Arizona city councilman is suing Arizona State University, saying he injured his back when the team’s mascot leaped on him during a stunt.

“In related news, Bronco Mendenhall is expected to sue BYU for making him carry a monkey on his back ever since the Cougars went independent.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 11/22/15

Last week was a mythically profitable week of mythical picking. The record was 9-6-0 bringing the cumulative record to 72-77-5. While it is by no means certain to obtain, at least the .500 level is within sight. The Coin Flip Games did well too last week with a record of 2-1-0 bringing the coin’s record for the season to 8-11-1.

The “Best Pick” from last week was the Skins/Saints game. I took the Skins plus a point and they won by 33 points; I also took the game to go OVER 50 and the total was 61.

The “Worst Picks” from last week were taking the Packers giving 11.5 point (they lost straight up) and taking the Bengals giving 10.5 points (they too lost straight up).

Instead of a disclaimer this week, let me say this directly. Do not use any information here as the basis for deciding which side to take in a real bet involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend. There is no “inside information” here; these are done for fun. If you choose to ignore the directions above, here is all I have to say:

    If stupidity were an Olympic event, you would be Mark Spitz.

General Comments:

In last week’s games, Kirk Cousins had a QB Rating of 158.3 which is the highest rating allowed on the scale that purports to measure “Quarterbacking”. On the same weekend, Peyton Manning had a QB Rating of 0.0 which is the lowest rating allowed on the scale that purports to measure “Quarterbacking”. Please raise your hand if you had that back in August…

There are reports out there that the Saints will allow Sean Payton to entertain offers to ply his coaching trade elsewhere once the season is over. Last week, Payton and the Saints parted company with defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. Many commentators have interpreted that move as a natural reaction to the sorry-assed Saints defense this year. I think there is another potential message in that firing:

    Perhaps, Sean Payton did that because he anticipates contact from other teams once the season is over; and he wants all of those other teams to understand clearly that if he takes their job, it is not a “package deal”. He can be their coach without having Rob Ryan tag along as the defensive coordinator.

In action from last week, the Dolphins beat the Eagles 20-19 and Eagles’ QB, Sam Bradford separated his left shoulder in the game and also suffered a concussion. At the time of his departure, he was 19-25 for 236 yards and 1 TD. His injury ushered in Mark Sanchez. Trailing by a point late in the 4th quarter, the Eagles had the ball deep in Dolphin territory; a field goal would probably win the game. It was at that instant that Mark Sanchez threw an interception in the end zone and the game ended.

Eagles’ fans – particularly the ones who have been screeching for Bradford to be benched in favor of Sanchez – need to recognize what they have in a backup QB. Sanchez has shown himself over the course of his career to be unpredictably inconsistent. There will be games – and large stretches of other games – where Sanchez is efficient and effective to the point where a viewer might say to himself,

    “Hey, maybe this is the turning point for him; maybe the light just went on for him; he looks like a real NFL QB.”

And then there will be the games when he throws a deadly interception in the end zone when there is no reason on the planet to have thrown the ball to any receiver who was not open by 5 yards. Or worse yet, a butt-fumble… From here to the end of the season, Eagles’ games are going to be impossible to “handicap” because it is a flip of the coin as to what sort of quarterback play the team will get from week to week and even quarter to quarter. Back in August, I had the Eagles winning 10 games this season; they will be fortunate to win 8.

Elsewhere in the NFC East, the Cowboys lost to the Bucs last week 10-6. Matt Cassel had another mediocre game at QB and Dez Bryant caught 5 passes for a grand total of 45 yards. The Cowboys’ defense kept them in the game; they led 6-3 until the final moments when Jameis Winston ran a bootleg from the 1-yardline for a TD to win the game. Tony Romo returns this week. Unless he is so rusty that his performance is no better than throwing up on his shoes, he has to represent an advance for the Cowboys’ offense. Having lost 7 games in a row with Romo on the sidelines, the best the Cowboys can do is to go 9-7 for the season. Looking at their remaining schedule, I guess you can imagine them running the table; but it is not nearly an easy path:

    At Miami
    Vs Carolina
    At Washington
    At Green Bay
    Vs Jets
    At Buffalo
    Vs Washington

Staying in the NFC East for the moment, the Giants lost to the Pats 27-26 on a last second field goal. This was an entertaining game to watch from start to finish. The Giants led by 2 points with about 1:45 left on the clock and the Pats with no timeouts and the ball on the Pats’ 20 yardline. That was just too much time to leave Tom Brady who took the ball down to field goal range and a 1-point win.

The only team in the NFC East to win last week was the Skins and they did so in the most emphatic win of the week. The Skins beat the Saints 47-14; at one point in the middle of the second quarter the score was 14-14 and it looked as if this game might resemble the game the Saints and Giants put on a couple of weeks ago where the final score was 52-49. The Saints stopped scoring but the Skins did not. I mentioned above that Kirk Cousins had a “perfect QB Rating” for the game. Cousins has been in the NFL since 2012, but he has not yet started 20 games; he is – in terms of experience – a rookie QB. If you watch him run the offense that Jay Gruden wants to run in Washington and look at him as a “rookie QB” and not a “4-year veteran”, you should be impressed. He can run that offense; and fortunately for him, his contract is up at the end of this season. He is in line for a significant payday…

Rather than extend the discussion of Cousins’ prowess at the QB position to outrageous levels, please recognize that last week he played against an inordinately inept Saints’ defense. The Saints do not merely lack “playmakers” on defense; they lack “competent players”. As mentioned above, the Saints did fire Rob Ryan after the game last week and I think this is a case where a firing or two on the defensive staff might be justified. The Saints’ defenders do not tackle people; they do not “wrap up”. Even when one or two of them are in position to stop a play, the offensive player gains plenty of yards after contact because the offensive player is bumped and not tackled. Some of that goes directly to coaching shortcomings.

Just to give you a flavor of how bad the Saints defense has been abused this year, consider how these QBs performed against that unit:

    Sam Bradford: 333 yards – 2 TDs – 2 INTs
    Kirk Cousins: 324 yards – 4 TDs – 0 INTs
    Eli Manning: 350 yards – 6 TDs – 0 INTs
    Marcus Mariota: 371 yards – 4 TDs – 0 INTs
    Cam Newton: 312 yards – 2 TDs – 0 INTs (plus a rushing TD)
    Carson Palmer: 307 yards – 3 TDs – 0 INTs

As you might imagine from those numbers, here is how the Saints’ defense stacks up as they head into their Bye Week “under new management” so to speak:

    They rank 29th in the NFL in run defense.
    They rank 30th in the NFL in pass defense.
    They rank 32nd in the NFL in total defense.
    They rank 32nd in the NFL in scoring defense.

Don’t look now, but the Bears are on a 2-game winning streak and both wins were on the road. Last week, the Bears went to St. Louis and beat the Rams by 24 points. The Rams will bench Nick Foles this week and turn the QB duties over to Case Keenum. Foles was unimpressive last week going 17-36 for only 200 yards.

The Chiefs beat the Broncos 29-13 and led 19-0 at halftime. Peyton Manning threw 4 INTs in the first half and was benched for the second half; he will not start this week; Brock Osweiler will be under center for the Broncos. The report is that Manning has a partially torn plantar fascia; how long it might take for that to heal is a mystery to me. I have the idea that if Brock Osweiler lights it up this week and throws for 350 yards and 4 TDs, the injury will not be healed by next week…

The Bills beat the Jets 22-17 in a game that did not come close to living up to the hype that it generated. It did have one very annoying feature; neither team wore its usual uniforms; the Bills were all in red and the Jets were all in green. Unless you were color blind, it was easy to tell one team from the other but the numbers on the red jerseys did not stand out nearly as well as they should and it was difficult at times to identify Bills’ players. The NFL is going to have “special uniforms” for Thursday Night Games down the road; that is not welcome news.

My long-suffering wife happened to glance at the TV at one point during the game and asked about the Bills’ all-red uniforms. After I explained that this was a new idea from some marketing troll at the NFL, she had this observation:

    They should put snowflakes on the pants. That way they will look like the Starbucks’ coffee cups that some people want for the Christmas season.

    Memo to the NFL Marketing Trolls: Do not take that suggestion seriously. Do not put snowflakes on red pants for future games.

The Bills won by 5 points in a game where they took the ball away from the Jets 4 times (2 INTs and 2 recovered fumbles). Le Sean McCoy ran very well; it appears as if he is recovered from whatever injury he sustained in training camp that carried over into the early parts of the season.

The Jags beat the Ravens on the final play of the game. Actually, it was on the play after the final play and it should not have happened because on the final play there was an offensive penalty that should have negated the final play – on which there was a defensive penalty. If that is confusing, it ought to be. The game should have been over with the Ravens in the lead; the officials botched the call; there was no booth review; the Ravens were jobbed. For the Ravens, it really does not matter; their record now stands at 2-7; it is not as if they would be Super Bowl contenders if their record was 3-6.

For the Jags, it might be a big deal. The AFC South is such a mess that it makes a tire fire look like a luau. The Colts and Texans lead the way in the division with 4-5 records; the Jags are one game behind at 3-6. The Jags are not any good, but if you look at their schedule, they do not face any top-shelf teams from here on out. If the cards fall their way, they might actually win that sorry-assed division. Here is the rest of the Jags schedule:

    Vs Tennessee (currently 2-7)
    Vs San Diego (currently 2-7)
    At Tennessee (currently 2-7)
    Vs Indy (currently 4-5)
    Vs Atlanta (currently 6-3 but seemingly falling apart)
    At New Orleans (currently 4-6)
    At Houston (currently 4-5)

By the way, if the Jags were to win the AFC South, that would mean they would host a playoff game…

The Bengals played a listless MNF game and lost to the Texans 10-6. After suffering their first loss of the year, the Bengals travel to Arizona this week to play a good Cardinals’ team. That will be an interesting test for the resiliency of this Bengals’ squad.

The Steelers beat the Browns handily even though an injured Ben Roethlisberger had to play most of the game on a bad foot after Landry Jones left the sidelines on a cart. All Roethlisberger did was to go 22-33 for 379 yards and 3 TDs. That win maintains the Steelers stature in the AFC wild card race. They are 3 games behind the Bengals on the loss column so it will take a significant unraveling by the Bengals for the Steelers to win the division; their focus needs to be on a wild card slot.

The Browns say they will go with Johnny Manziel at QB for the rest of the season. Who knows if that will actually be the case? However, it is the logical thing for the Browns to do. At the moment, they are in line to have the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft; it would be nice for them to know if they are comfortable with Manziel as their QB for the next few years.

The Browns are a mess. In the game against the Steelers they committed 12 penalties for 188 yards and giving the Steelers 5 first downs; they ran the ball 14 times gaining 15 yards; they had the ball in “goal to go situations” 3 times and scored 0 TDs in those situations.

The Vikings beat the Raiders 30-14 last week to run the Vikes record to 7-2 and to put the Vikes in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. Adrian Peterson ran for 203 yards in the game including an 80-yard TD run late in the game to seal the win. [Aside: That was Peterson’s 6th game with more than 200 yards rushing. The only other back to have done that in NFL history was OJ Simpson.] The Vikes’ defense held Latavius Murray to 48 yards rushing and Terry Bridgewater to 140 yards passing in the game. The Vikes’ schedule is almost the antithesis of the Jags’ schedule listed above; the Vikes have a bunch of tough games ahead – but as of now they lead the division. Here is what is in front of them:

    Vs Green Bay
    At Atlanta
    Vs Seattle
    At Arizona
    Vs Chicago
    Vs Giants
    At Green Bay

The Vikings have won 5 games in a row; they are undefeated at home and are 3-2 on the road. Yes they have a tough schedule ahead but when you consider the current state of the Packers, things might not look as bleak. The Packers lost their third game in a row last week; they have not won a game since they had their Bye Week on October 25. The first two losses in that streak are “explainable”; they lost on the road to then-undefeated Denver and then they lost on the road to still-undefeated Carolina. Last week’s loss is much more difficult to explain – let alone understand. The Packers lost at home to the Lions; that is the first time the Lions have won a game in Lambeau Field since 1991.

Coming into the game, the Lions’ defense ranked 31st in the NFL in terms of yards per pass attempt. The Packers threw the ball 61 times in the game and only scored 16 points; at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Packers had only 3 points on the board. It seems as if the loss of Jordy Nelson as the lead receiver for the team has had its impact; Devonta Adams was the main target last week and while he may someday develop into a good receiver, he is not at Jordy Nelson’s level. James Jones was a major part of the pass offense earlier this year; last week he caught exactly 0 passes. Eddie Lacy was inactive for last week’s game and – truth be told – it looks as if Lacy is not nearly the reliable runner that he has been in the past. The Packers ran the ball 18 times against the Lions for only 47 yards. Here is a current assessment of the Packers:

    They are not protecting the QB well; Aaron Rodgers is under duress too often.

    They cannot run the ball.

    The defense is good one week and horrid the next. (Recall that Philip Rivers threw for 500+ yards in a losing effort against the Packers.)

The Packers’ situation may best be described by recalling the way Michael Ray Richardson famously described the state of the NY Knicks back in the early 1980s:

“The ship be sinking…”

The Games:

Four teams will take this week off:

    Browns: They will take a week to settle Manziel in as the starting QB on a “permanent basis” and figure out how to avoid 188 yards in penalties in future games.

    Giants: They lead the NFC East by half a game as of now; so they will be prepping for a stretch run – and rooting against the Skins and the Eagles this week.

    Saints: They will try to adjust to a new defensive “philosophy” and maintain the fiction that they can still make the playoffs if they make a few “adjustments”.

    Steelers: They will use the week off to let Ben Roethlisberger’s foot heal some more and to find out if Landry Jones will be available as his backup down the line this year.

(Thurs Nite) Tennessee at Jax – 3 (41.5): I know this is a “division game” and I know that I said above that the Jags had an easy schedule in front of them that could put them in contention to win that division. Nonetheless, neither team is any good; and so, this is the Dog-Breath Game of the Week despite its being a national game. The Titans have a propensity to play down to the level of bad opponents – like the Jags:

    Titans are 2-12-2 ATS versus opponents with losing records.
    Titans are 1-6-1 ATS on the road versus opponents with losing records.

I am not a “trend bettor”. I do think the Titans are not as good as the Jags – unless of course this is one of those games where Marcus Mariota is at the top of his biorhythm cycles. Jags are 22 yards per game better on offense and 36 yards per game better on defense. I will hold my nose and take the Jags to win and cover at home.

Washington at Carolina – 7 (45.5): While I have said for the last two seasons that Kirk Cousins is well-suited to Jay Gruden’s offense and said above that he looks now as if he is really “getting it”, I have no confidence that he can earn a “perfect QB Rating” this week against the Panthers’ defense. I think the Panthers’ power running game and their defense will dominate the game. One other thing here; the Skins are 4-5 overall but they are 0-4 on the road. I like the Panthers to win and cover.

Oakland – 1 at Detroit (48): I do not like taking the Raiders on a long road trip particularly if I have to lay points. I also do not like taking the Lions without getting a sackful of points. Therefore, I will look at the Total Line here… The Oakland defense is “suspect”; it yields 408.6 yards per game. The Lions’ offense has been mediocre this season but this is the defense that ought to give it a shot in the arm. The Raiders have not had too much difficulty scoring and the Lions’ defense is hardly “elite”. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Dallas at Miami “pick ‘em” (47): Even if Tony Romo suffers a bit of “ring rust”, he ought to put some bounce into the step of the Cowboys’ offense. Just his presence in the huddle in place of Brandon Weeden and/or Matt Cassel and/or whomever might make Dez Bryant start to play like Dez Bryant and make Jason Witten start to look like the Jason Witten fans have come to expect. The oddsmaker wants me to pick the winner; OK, I’ll take the Cowboys to win the game.

Indy at Atlanta – 6 (47): The Colts are not very good and the Falcons have lost 3 of their last 4 games. This game got fleeting consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week but the Falcons record of 6-3 made that label inappropriate. Statistically, this game is a mismatch. The Falcons are 49 yards per game better on offense and 52 yards per game better on defense. However, lots of those stats are left over from the hot 5-0 start the Falcons got this year; in the last 4 games the Falcons have scored 67 points (17 points per game). This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Colts plus the points. OK, then…

St Louis at Baltimore – 2.5 (41.5): This game also got serious consideration as the Dog-Breath Game of the Week given the Ravens’ ugly season and the Rams’ inconsistency. However, the overall ineptitude of the Jags and Titans tilted the balance in that direction. This game has an interesting angle:

    The Ravens’ pass defense is awful; they give up 7.3 yards per pass attempt.

    The Rams’ pass offense produces a measly 6.2 yards per attempt.

    The Rams will start Case Keenum at QB.

So, will the inept Rams’ offense be able to flourish against the inept Ravens defense – – or vice versa? This is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Jets – 2.5 at Houston (no Total Line): You have to go looking for a line on this game; most sportsbooks have it off the board for now until there is some clarity regarding who will be the Texans’ QB in the game. As of this morning, Brian Hoyer has not been cleared through the NFL concussion protocol putting TJ Yates under center. That could change by Sunday but… I am not thrilled by having to take the Jets here but I do not want the Texans if Yates has to play. Therefore, I will take the Jets – and an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick – and lay the points.

Green Bay at Minnesota – 1 (45): This may be the most important game of the week if not the best game of the week. A Vikes’ win here would give them a 2 game lead and a tiebreaker advantage over the Packers with 6 games to go. It would also mean that the Packers would be on a 4-game losing streak. The Vikings defense is good; they only give up 17 points per game. I like the Vikings here to win and cover.

Tampa at Philly – 5.5 (45): The line here opened the week at 4 points and has climbed steadily to this level. In fact, you can find it at 6 points at 2 Internet sportsbooks this morning. Both teams bring 4-5 records to the game. The difference is this:

    The Bucs have no prayer of winning their division with the Panthers at 9-0 at the top of the division.

    The Eagles have a SLIM chance to win their division with the Giants atop the division at 5-5.

Give the motivation edge to the Eagles; give the venue edge to the Eagles. Now, which version of “Mark Sanchez the Quarterback” will show up? It is another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Denver at Chicago – 1 (41): The Broncos cannot expect Brock Osweiler to light up the scoreboard here even against a mediocre Bears’ defense. The Broncos’ defense will have to return to its “domination mode” from early this season for the Broncos to win this game. They get Aquib Talib back from his one game suspension for doing a credible imitation of a pro rassler poking his opponent in the eye. That will help. What would help even more would be for Demarcus Ware’s back injury to heal sufficiently that he could see action here; as of this morning, that looks unlikely. I think that Total Line is short; I’ll take the game to go OVER.

SF at Seattle – 12.5 (40): I hate laying double-digit spreads in NFL games. If I expect a low-scoring game, I prefer to take the points – particularly double-digit points. I will violate those principles here and take the Seahawks to win and cover. Here’s why:

    While the Seahawks’ defense has been less fearsome this year than in past years, it is still a good unit.

    The Niners did not have Anquan Boldin at practice on Wednesday (hamstring).

    The Niners did not have Carlos Hyde at practice on Wednesday (foot).

    The Niners did not have NaVorro Bowman at practice on Wednesday (shoulder).

    The Niners will start Blaine Gabbert at QB.


KC – 3 at San Diego (44): The Chargers are not very good and they were battered and bruised going into their Bye Week last week. I do not trust the Chargers and I do not trust the Chiefs on the road as a favorite. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to stay UNDER. That is good enough for me…

(Sun Nite) Cincy at Arizona – 5 (48): This is the best game of the week; these are two good teams. The spread opened the week at 3 points; it jumped to 3.5 points almost immediately and has climbed steadily to this level as the week progressed. The Total Line opened at 47 points and has been steady at this level for several days now. Both teams need this game as both eye the potential for a Bye Week in the playoffs. I like the Cards to win and cover here and I like the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) Buffalo at New England – 7.5 (48.5): This is the second best game of the week and one that will have more hype tied to it than any other. The loss of Julian Edleman for 6-8 weeks is a significant loss. This is the 3rd straight division game for the Bills (they won the first two) and a win here puts them solidly in the AFC wild card picture. I think the line is fat; I’ll take the Bills plus the points.

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

A CFL Playoff Game…

I happened to be grazing through my cable channels on Monday and happened upon what was a replay of the Calgary Stampeders/BC Lions CFL playoff game from last weekend. Calgary won the game 35-9. Once again I saw Calgary QB, Bo Levi Mitchell throw the ball really well and he demonstrated plenty of mobility. I said this before and I will say it again here:

    An NFL team with an owner who is focused on marketing the team in addition to putting a good team on the field ought to give this kid a close look in training camp. If he can play NFL football, he is a marketing gold mine.

One of the revenue streams or NFL teams is jersey sales and logo-festooned tchotchkes. If this kid can become your QB imagine this kind of marketing campaign:

    Shirts, coffee cups, hats etc. with the slogan “I Bo-Lieve in Bo Levi”.

    A section in the stadium for “The Bo-Lievers”.

    A message on the Jumbotron during a 4th quarter drive, “You Gotta Bo-Levi”.

Mitchell has some gaudy stats in the CFL. In 2015, he completed 65.5% of his passes for 4551 yards (8.2 yards per attempt and 12.5 yards per completion). He threw 26 TDs and 13 INTs and had a QB rating of 96.8. He is only 25 years old so if he can actually play at the NFL level he might do so for quite a while. There are plenty of NFL teams that can use an upgrade at QB so I wonder why no one seems to have taken interest in Mitchell.

While on the subject of football, I spent some time last night going through NCAA conference records and keeping tabs on a notepad. If I counted correctly – and I only did this once so there is a real possibility of an error here – I believe that there are only 62 bowl-eligible teams as of today. Did I hear someone ask why that is interesting?

    There will be 40 Bowl Games this year. Since it is unlikely that one team will play in more than one bowl game – save the CFP Championship Game – that means the NCAA and ESPN need 80 bowl-eligible teams.

Most college teams have two games left to play. Conferences with playoffs to determine the conference championship have teams with 3 games left, but all of them will already be bowl-eligible. So, to maintain the aura of the “student-athlete” and not the image of a bunch of mercenaries wearing school colored uniforms, the NCAA and ESPN need to have 18 more teams reach the goal of 6 wins for the season. Oh, and most of the schools have already played the cupcakes and the Division 1-AA teams on the schedule.

My count is that there are 17 teams with 5 wins. If – I said IF – every one of those teams won another game to become bowl-eligible, that means there will need to be a 4-win team as of today that wins out to reach bowl-eligibility. I did not count 4 win teams as I went along because it never occurred to me that I would need to and I just do not feel like going back and counting again but if my numbers are correct, the minor bowl games this year are going to match teams that have either 4 or 5 wins as of the week before Thanksgiving. Here are two iron-clad conclusions that I draw from that data:

    1. There are too many damned bowl games.

    2. The only reason to watch the majority of those bowl games is if you are in a hospital bed with an IV-drip and sensors to monitor your vital signs and you cannot reach the remote to change the channel and the nurses are busy.

If you believe the universe is a malevolent place, you probably also believe in the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. If you would like an example to fit that adage, consider what happened to a soccer referee in Northern Italy at a youth soccer game. With the score standing at 31-0, the referee consulted with the two coaches about 60 minutes into the contest and the three adults involved here decided to end the game there. Remember, this was a youth game and not a professional game; remember, the adults in charge all thought this was a good idea.

After the game, the head of the organization, that monitors officials for that particular region of Italy channeled his inner Lee Corso and said in effect – and of course in Italian –

“Not so fast, my friends!”

Rules are rules and the rules must be followed. He acknowledged that the coaches and the referee meant well, but meaning well can only be viewed in a positive light if one simultaneously does well. And, after all, one cannot do well if one is abandoning the rules… Therefore, the proclamation was this:

    The two teams have to replay the game.

    Moreover, it is not good enough for them to resume the game at the point where it was “abandoned”. The two teams have to play the game from the start and they have to finish the game.

    The referee – age 20 – is suspended.

Here is a link to the Italian newspaper that reported these events because I believe that at least some of you will think I am making this up. You can run it through “Google Translate” to put it in English.

Finally, since I mentioned a Canadian Football League game above, here is an item from Gregg Drinnan’s Keeping Score:

“It was B.C. Lions wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux who told TSN the other day that ‘In order to start winning, we have to stop losing.’ ”

    Hard to argue with that! And, the longer it takes, the longer it takes…

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

This Cloud Has A Silver Lining…

The story that has commanded the most attention on sports radio for the last 24 hours is that the Denver Broncos will bench Peyton Manning this week and start Brock Osweiler at QB. Manning has an injury to his plantar fascia; I have had a similar injury in the past. I can say with certainty that walking on such an injury is painful and distracting; I would not even begin to imagine what it might feel like to try to play NFL football on said injury.

Normally, I am the kind of person who will look at a silver lining and imagine the cloud that must surround it. Uncharacteristically, I think this situation might be a good one for the Denver Broncos as a team. Let me explain…

Even if Peyton Manning were to hop a flight to Europe and hustle his body and ailing foot to the Grotto in Lourdes and to return with that injury completely healed, the fact remains that Peyton Manning is 39 years old today and will be 40 years old before the NFL holds is draft next spring. He is one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the position; nonetheless, he cannot logically be a foundation piece in any “5-year plan” that the Broncos might conjure up as an organization. Therefore, this injury forces the Broncos to look at what other quarterback assets they may have under their roof. Here is the depth chart:

    Brock Osweiler: Broncos took him in the 2nd round of the draft in 2012 after his career at Arizona State. Next Sunday – when he starts in place of Peyton Manning – is his birthday; he will be 25 years old. He is big (6’ 7” and 235 lbs) and has by any definition a “big arm”. His contract with the Broncos is up at the end of the 2015 season; if the Broncos want to keep him, they will need to negotiate a new deal. Is he worth it?

    Trevor Siemian: Broncos took him in the 7th round of the draft in 2015 after he played at Northwestern. He will turn 24 later this year. Scouting reports say he has a “live arm” which is certainly preferable to the alternative. He also has had an ACL injury in the past. Can he be an NFL QB? I doubt anyone has a clue – even the QB coach in Denver.

So, the Broncos will get a week or three to get a look at Osweiler in real game situations against real defenses and not against the guys who play mix-and-match defense in the Exhibition Games. Moreover, they will get to see Siemian do what the #2 QB on the team is supposed to do in order to prepare for a game. Presumably those observations and the subsequent analysis will assist the Broncos in making some quarterback decisions once their 2015 season comes to a close.

Before the NFL season began, I did a quarterback rating and pointed out that there are at least a dozen teams – and probably 18 teams – that would like to upgrade their rosters at that position. Add to that baseline demand for quarterback talent teams like the Broncos and perhaps the Saints and even the Patriots who have aging veterans at the position who may be contemplating acquiring some QB talent. Every scouting report I have read says – and corroborated by my personal observations from watching lots of college football – this is not a year when there are a lot of quarterbacks in the draft who are nearly ready to play at the NFL level. Put all of this together and this might not be the worst thing ever to happen to the Broncos franchise from a long-range perspective.

The US will have a professional rugby league starting in the spring of 2016. Pro Rugby is a league sanctioned by US Rugby and will begin play with six teams in “major metropolitan areas in the Northeast, the Rocky Mountains and California.” Here is the statement from the Chairman of US Rugby explaining this action:

“As the fastest growing team sport in the USA, it is the time to have a sanctioned professional competition. We are very happy to partner with PRO Rugby in taking this step to popularize the game, to inspire Americans to fall in love with rugby, and to show the rugby world what American players can do.”

Many fledgling sports enterprises have a propensity to get ahead of themselves and it seems to me that Pro Rugby might have this affliction. Even before they have announced the venues for the six teams that will play starting in 2016, the organizers are already mentioning expansion plans for 2017 into Canada. Perhaps the organizers are right to think that way after the successful completion of the recent Rugby World Cup and the inclusion of rugby as an Olympic sport starting with the Games in Rio in 2016.

There was a baseball trade made at the GM meetings last week that sort of surprised me. The Braves traded Andrelton Simmons to the Angels as part of a multi-player deal. Here is the deal:

    Angels get: Simmons plus minor league catcher Jose Briceno.

    Braves get: Erick Aybar, plus minor league pitchers Chris Ellis and Sean Newcombe plus $2.5M in cash.

Forget the money here; given the revenues generated by MLB clubs, those dollars cannot be a difference maker. The heart of this trade is one shortstop for another. Simmons was arguably the best defensive shortstop in the NL. He is not much offensively but he is only 26 years old and is signed through 2020. Aybar is 31 years old; he is not nearly as good in the field as Simmons; he is a slightly better hitter and he will be a free agent at the end of the 2016 season. The Braves are a team in need of a rebooting; if there were such a thing as momentum that carried over from one season to the next, Braves’ fans would be looking at a bleak time in 2016.

Looking at the minor league prospects involved here, nothing jumps out and screams “sure fire major leaguer”. Briceno is 23 years old and has been in the minor leagues for 6 seasons. Last year he played in “high A” in the Carolina League. Ellis and Newcomb are 22 and both got to AA level baseball last season,

So, what I do not understand here is why the Braves – who need rebuilding – rid themselves of a young shortstop who was signed long term to acquire an older shortstop who will be a free agent at the end of next year.

Finally, since I mentioned the announcement of a new professional rugby league above, I should also mention that a new Spring Football League – Major League Football – exists and plans to start play in the spring of 2016. Here is how Greg Cote of the Miami Herald put the news of their existence into perspective:

“Major League Football, a proposed new spring league, was formed. The date of its inevitable demise has not yet been set.”

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

College Basketball Begins…

Last week, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald:

“College basketball season begins Friday night. If your office NCAA Tournament bracket is due Monday, you’re probably jumping the gun.”

If the early-season games are any indication, this season could be a wild ride. The “upstarts” took it to the “big programs”:

    Belmont beat Marquette – at Marquette
    W. Illinois beat #17 Wisconsin – at Wisconsin
    Chattanooga beat Georgia
    N. Florida beat Illinois – by 12 points
    William and Mary beat NC State – by 17 points at NC State
    Monmouth beat UCLA

Just in case you are worried that you have gone through a wormhole and wound up in Bizarro World, there is still some stability in college basketball. Duke and UNC both won their openers.

The MLB Hall of Fame ballots are now in the hands of the voters. Rather than go over the entire ballot and worry about who might or might not get in this time around, I want to focus on 4 players who are on the ballot for the first time this year.

    Ken Griffey Jr.: It is hard for me to imagine that “Junior” falls short of the qualifications to be in the Hall of Fame. I think he should go in as a first-year nominee.

    Trevor Hoffman: Relief pitchers – and closers to be more specific – are often not seriously regarded by the voters. However, Hoffman saved 601 games in his career; only Mariano Rivera had more saves (652). It would seem to me that both of them deserve to be in the Hall of Fame at some point.

    Billy Wagner: If Hoffman and/or Rivera do not get in, then Wagner has no chance. He is 5thon the all-time list with 422 saves.

    Jim Edmonds: He had a 17-year career hitting .284 with an OPS of .903. In addition, he was an excellent defensive player. He will not get in on his first ballot, but he might be in the Hall one of these days.

Another MLB topic in the news is not nearly as positive as talking about potential inductees into the Hall of Fame. Rockies’ shortstop, José Reyes was arrested a couple of weeks ago and charged with assaulting his wife in a hotel room in Hawaii. MLB announced its new “domestic violence policy” this summer with the agreement of the MLBPA. This is going to be the test case for Commissioner Rob Manfred. The policy gives the Commish wide ranging authority here – although there is an appeals process to an arbitration board – and it will be interesting to see what sort of precedent he sets here.

One aspect of the new domestic violence policy is that Manfred may discipline a player even if the player is not convicted of a crime. Where the MLB policy seems to differ from other sports is in areas other than punishments/suspensions. The MLB policy includes counseling and other sorts of evaluations and interventions in addition to punishments. A Board consisting of 2 representatives from the league, 2 representatives from the union and three “experts in the field of domestic violence” will come to an agreement with regard to a treatment plan for Reyes and will somehow oversee his compliance with that treatment plan. Then there is the punishment…

I have read/heard commentary that tries to put this sort of incident into the existing spectrum of baseball suspensions – 50 games for PED use or 81 games for a repeat offense or a full season if you are a serial offender who lies about everything associated with his offenses. I find that sort of discussion “slimy”. We are not talking about getting an advantage in a game here; we are talking about domestic violence. Any sort of thinking that even hints at the idea of equating the two is offensive.

It is important to note that Reyes has not yet been arraigned in this matter. His wife did require treatment at an emergency room and hotel security folks and the local police were involved in the incident. That is all that we know for sure. Rather than speculating on what Manfred and the “Oversight Board” might do in the matter, I think the proper stance is to sit back and watch how this newly created policy plays out during its maiden voyage. These are not “one-size-fits-all” situations; let us all take a deep breath and watch for progress. Oh and while we are watching for progress, let us also fervently hope that Rob Manfred figures out a way to deal with this case in a far more competent manner than Roger Goodell has handled domestic violence matters for the NFL.

I think this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald should be sufficient to catch you up on happenings related to NASCAR:

“Homestead-Miami Speedway on deck to host season finale: NASCAR’s race Sunday in Phoenix will determine which three drivers join retiring star Jeff Gordon for the championship next Sunday in Homestead. Gordon winning would be a storybook ending. Am picturing Cinderella in a flame-retardant racing suit and earplugs.”

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter, in the Seattle Times:

“Reader Michael Seese, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on the city’s 2-7 NFL team: ‘I downloaded the Browns app Saturday, and Sunday my phone began dropping calls.’ ”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 11/14/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks were a marvelous model of mediocrity. The record for the week was 9-10-1 bringing the season record to 76-77-5. If I post a “great week” (say something like 13-5-0) in the next two weeks, I will be well over .500 at the end of the year because it seems as if all I do in the normal weeks is flirt around the level of breaking even. On the other hand, if I have a “disastrous week” …

The “Best Pick” last week was taking Utah + 2 points and having Utah win the game by 11 points.

The “Worst Pick” last week was taking Clemson – 10.5 points and seeing them win by only 10 points. Arggghhh…

No one should use anything herein as the basis for making an actual wager on an actual college football game this weekend where actual money is involved in the wager. Anyone doing that would be this stupid:

    You would be frustrated that you could not cheer up a blue whale.

General comments:

The Linfield College Wildcats destroyed the University of Puget Sound last week. Their opponent arrived with a 4-1 record in conference and a stingy defense. None of that mattered; Linfield won the game 72-3 elevating the Wildcats to 8-0 for the season. The record only tells part of the story about Linfield’s dominance this year.

    The defense has not allowed more than 14 points in any game.

    The offense has only scored less than 40 points in one game.

    The cumulative score the year is:

      Linfield: 443
      Opponents: 51

This week, the Wildcats finish their “regular season” with a trip to Puyallup, WA to face Pacific Lutheran. The Lutes bring a 2-6 record to the game. A win for the Wildcats would give them an undefeated season, a conference championship and a certain invitation to participate in the NCAA Division III national football playoff. Go Wildcats!

Frank Beamer announced last week that he will step down as the head coach at VA Tech where he has built that program from virtual obscurity to a program that gained a bit of national recognition. Naturally, the speculation about his successor began about 30 nanoseconds after the announcement of his retirement and not a lot of that speculation even rises to the level of interesting. Bob Molinaro had a cogent observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot on the subject:

“FUTUREWATCH: Frank Beamer’s replacement will be taking over a good job, not a great one. The Hokies, after all, are 26-22 the last four years. But among other things that make this a manageable rebuilding project is Tech’s position in the Coastal Division, the easier division in the Power 5’s weakest conference. Not having to compete against Clemson and Florida State each year is incentive for even the best candidate.”

Last week was not kind to several previously undefeated teams. Michigan State should probably feel the worst of all the teams tasting defeat for the first time because they were totally hosed by yet another atrocious call by game officials. I heard the explanation by the officials for the call; I saw the replay; here is my only conclusion:

    Ray Charles must have beamed down from the spirit world and took over that official’s body for about 5 critical seconds. How he did not see what happened on the play when it was in plain sight is difficult to explain any other way.

Indeed, Michigan State got hosed. Nonetheless, Michigan State deserves a small measure of opprobrium here. Nebraska is not a good team and if Michigan State were truly a very good team, they would not have had Nebraska within striking distance at the end of the game. The Michigan State defense gave up the game-winning TD on the blown call; however it had also given up another TD in the final 2 minutes of the game. That game was a giant goat rodeo…

That bad call along with Michigan State’s allowing Nebraska to be within shouting distance at the end of the game took a lot of the luster off the upcoming Ohio State/Michigan State game. It may still be a good game and an interesting contest; however, it would have been a much bigger deal if both teams were undefeated at the kickoff.

LSU had been undefeated and lost to Alabama. This was not a fluke; Alabama simply was the better team on the field for just about the entire game.

    [Aside: The Selection Committee looks pretty smart about now after they put Alabama at #4 last week ahead of a bunch of undefeated teams. All ‘Bama did was beat the team they had put at #2.]

Alabama had 434 yards of offense; LSU only managed 182. Leonard Fournette – who is the best RB I have seen play this year and who often gains more than 182 yards in a game by himself – carried the ball 19 times for a total of 31 yards. The Alabama Front 7 on defense is REALLY good. Derrick Henry carried the ball 38 times for Alabama and gained 210 yards. I mention that here because I want to say that I think Henry is an excellent RB who will play well for an NFL team very soon and that I still think Fournette is the better RB.

TCU lost to Oklahoma State; there had to be an undefeated team that lost for the first time here and the reason it was TCU is that their star QB, Trevone Boykin, had a really bad day. He threw 4 INTs. Rather than focus on TCU’s loss, perhaps the message here should be that Oklahoma State may be a really good team and might be the class of the Big 12. Consider:

    Last week, they held TCU to only 29 points; two weeks ago, they scored 70 points against Texas Tech. Both offense and defense seem capable of big games.

Having said that, before I proclaim that Oklahoma State is the team that has been overlooked by all the commentators and that they will carry the banner of the Big 12 to the College Football Championship tournament, let me say that the schedule from here on out for the Cowboys is not easy:

    At Iowa State: Unless this is a “trap game”, the Cowboys should win big.

    Vs Baylor: Baylor is undefeated at the moment; this game should be a shoot-out.

    Vs Oklahoma: OU has only 1 loss; they play Baylor this week; rivalry game.

I agree that Oklahoma State has not gotten the publicity that other teams with similar records have gotten. Therefore, let me give you some stats for the Cowboys:

    They rank 20th in the country in total offense; they gain 498 yards per game

    They rank 7th in the country in scoring; they average 44.6 points per game

    They rank 59th in the country in total defense; they give up 391 yards per game

    They rank 48th in the country in scoring defense; they allow 23.8 points per game

Another undefeated team that took gas last week was Memphis. They lost to Navy 45-20 and they gave up 374 yards rushing to the Middies. In case you had not noticed, Navy is now 7-1 for the season and their only loss was to Notre Dame in South Bend. Navy has 4 games left and they should be favored in 3 of them. Navy should get a nice bowl invitation this year.

Toledo also entered last week with an unblemished record hosting a Northern Illinois team that had already lost 3 games this year. Toledo led after 3 quarters by a score of 24-19 but Northern Illinois dominated the 4th quarter to win the game 32-27.

UNC rolled over Duke 66-31 last week. You may not have noticed but UNC now carries an 8-1 record and that loss looks more astonishing as every week goes by. UNC lost the opening game of the season to South Carolina and I think it is fair to say that South Carolina is not a particularly good team this year. Marquise Williams threw for 404 yards and 3 TDs against Duke – – and he did that in the first half. Unless something catastrophic happens, the ACC Championship Game will be UNC versus Clemson.

Clemson looks like the Atlantic Division winner after beating Florida State 23-13 last week. The game was tied at 13 after 3 quarters and Clemson pulled away to win in the 4th quarter. The game was not really as close as the score might indicate:

    Clemson 512 yards offense; Florida State 361 yards total offense.

    Clemson 7-17 on 3rd down; Florida State 2-12 on 3rd down.

    Clemson 3 penalties for 32 yards; Florida State 9 penalties for 65 yards.

Florida beat Vandy 9-7 last week and that makes Florida the SEC East Champion and one of the participants in the SEC Championship Game; at the moment, it looks as if they will play Alabama for the conference championship. The Gators trailed 7-6 at the end of the 3rd quarter against Vandy and won the game without scoring a TD. Florida is 8-1 for the season; the only loss was to LSU in Baton Rouge; there is no shame in losing to LSU there. The Florida defense is really good. Florida has held 5 SEC opponents to 10 points or less in games this year. In fact, Florida is 4th in the country in scoring defense allowing only 14.6 points per game this year.

Baylor has remained undefeated despite losing its starting QB to neck surgery earlier this year. Freshman Jarrett Stidham played very well last week against Kansas State throwing for 419 yards and 3 TDs. Looking ahead, Stidham and the rest of the Baylor squad is going to have to maintain their focus in the final games of the year. Here is what Baylor is looking at on the schedule:

    Vs Oklahoma this week
    At Oklahoma State
    At TCU
    Vs Texas

As of this morning, only Texas has lost more than one game this year…

The Old Dominion Monarchs have some interesting player names on the roster this year:

    Rashaad Coward – not a great name for a DT
    Blake LaRussa – would have expected to see him on the baseball team
    Fellonte Misher – could read it backwards and not be any more surprised
    Mufu Talwo – see comment just above
    Oshane Ximines – a copy editor’s nightmare

The Ponderosas:

Last week, we had 6 Ponderosa Games and the favorites covered in 4 of those games.

La Tech, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas covered.

Ohio State and W. Kentucky did not cover.

The cumulative record for favorites covering in Ponderosa Games now stands at 32-38-1.

This week, we have 6 Ponderosa Games:

Clemson – 28 at Syracuse (57.5): This is a conference game not some form of pitty-pat scheduling. Nonetheless, it should be a rout.

Kansas at TCU – 45 (72): I could only find one Money Line posted for this game:

    Kansas: +60,000
    TCU: – 180,000

Wake Forest at Notre Dame – 26.5 (52): This spread opened at 28 points and dropped to this level almost immediately and then stayed at this level. If I were going to bet on this game – which I am not and I am not even making this a Mythical Pick – I would take the game to stay UNDER.

N. Texas at Tennessee – 41.5 (66.5): This win will make Tennessee bowl-eligible. It should make their fans very proud…

New Mexico at Boise St – 30.5 (57): A Mountain West Conference mismatch.

Wyoming at San Diego St. – 24.5 (51): Another Mountain West Conference mismatch.

The SHOE Teams:

Three of the underdogs in this week’s Ponderosa Games are under serious consideration for the SHOE Tournament this year. There is still time for teams to demonstrate significant ineptitude; therefore, it is only possible to identify the candidates for the 8 slots in that season-ending tournament. There is too much football left to play – games in which a team can lose by 8 TDS while giving up 600 yards – to say anyone is immune from inclusion. In alphabetical order:

    Army: Wins are over E. Michigan and a Division 1-AA team.
    E. Michigan: They beat Wyoming – that is why Wyoming is on the list.
    Kansas: They are a 45-point underdog in a conference game this week.
    La-Monroe: Only win was over a Division 1-AA team
    Miami (Oh): Wins are over E. Michigan and a Division 1-AA team.
    N. Texas: Just awful
    SMU: Only win was over N. Texas; that is unimpressive.
    Tulane: Wins are over UCF and a Davison 1-AA team.
    UCF: First team to lose 10 games this season.
    UMass: Somehow they beat Florida International, a team with 5 wins.
    UT-San Antonio: Somehow they beat UTEP, a team with 4 wins.
    Wyoming: Somehow they beat Nevada, a team with 5 wins.

By the way, Army and Tulane play each other this week and UMass takes on E. Michigan. If the SHOE Tournament were a real thing, those games might be meaningful…

Games of Interest:

UMass – 7 at E. Michigan (70): To give you an idea of how bad folks think E. Michigan is, UMass is a team with one win; they are on the road and they are a full TD favorite. Avert your eyes…

Michigan – 13.5 at Indiana (55.5): Purely a hunch here… Indiana needs to win 2 games to be bowl-eligible. That will not give them sufficient juice to beat Michigan but it might give them sufficient juice to keep it closer than 2 TDs. I’ll take Indiana plus the points.

Memphis at Houston – 7 (70.5): Memphis averages 547 yards per game on offense and Houston averages 525. Memphis gives up 437 yards per game while Houston only allows 368. I think offense dominates here so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Ohio State – 16 at Illinois (55): Ohio State is a very good team but they are not blowing people out this year; they have been a Ponderosa favorite 5 times and have yet to cover. However, I think Illinois is simply outclassed here and Ohio State might just use this as the tune up for the rest of its schedule which will be Michigan State and Michigan. I’ll take Ohio State here to win and cover.

Tulane at Army – 2.5 (44): Another game in which you need to avert your eyes…

Temple – 2.5 at USF (44.5): Yes, Temple scored 60 points in a game last week but that was against SMU and if you look above you will see SMU on the SHOE list. These teams feature defense and not offense. I like this game to stay UNDER.

K-State at Texas Tech – 6 (71.5): Tech gives up 560 yards per game; only Kansas gives up more. On the other hand Tech gains 581 yards per game. Kansas State is not an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but against the matador defense that Tech puts on the field, State should surpass its average scoring for the season (27 points). I like this game to go OVER.

Kentucky at Vandy – 3.5 (40.5): Vandy averages 15 points per game. Kentucky averages 22. Both teams rely on defense. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Washington St. at UCLA – 10.5 (65.5): The spread opened at 7.5 and expanded to this number rather quickly. Both teams give up about 400 yards per game; UCLA is 20 yards per game better on defense here. Both teams gain about 500 yards per game; State is about 8 yards per game better on offense here. That is too evenly matched to justify a spread like this. I’ll take Washington State plus the points.

Texas at West Virginia – 9 (53): Texas has three games left and they need 2 wins to be bowl eligible. One of those remaining games is against Baylor and even Bevo the Longhorn is not counting on that game as a winner for Texas. Ergo… I’ll take Texas plus the points here just because I think they will be motivated here.

Alabama – 7.5 at Mississippi St. (51.5): Alabama impressed the Selection Committee last week beating LSU and they moved up to #2 in the CFP seeding this week. However, Alabama has a loss this year and there are teams not ranked in the Top 4 this week who are undefeated; Alabama has to continue to impress the Selection Committee. With a 7-2 record, State is a very good team but I think Alabama’s defense is good enough to dominate here. I like this game to stay UNDER.

SMU at Navy – 21 (61): SMU allows 259.6 rushing yards per game. Navy would prefer to run the ball on every play – and they might be able to do that here. Navy averages 326.5 yards per game rushing – 3rd in the country. SMU is a SHOE candidate and they are on the road and their defensive weakness goes against the opponent’s offensive strength. I’ll take Navy and lay the points.

Oklahoma State – 14 at Iowa State (61): Not to put too fine a point on it, I like this game to go OVER.

Arkansas at LSU – 7.5 (54): The question here is how LSU will react to getting thumped by Alabama last week. I think they will react positively. They have a good chance to be 10-1 on the season; if Alabama were to lose a game, LSU could slide into the SEC Championship Game. I like LSU at home to win and cover here.

Oklahoma at Baylor – 3 (76): The spread opened at 5 points and has been gradually declining during the week; it might go even lower by kickoff. If Baylor wins, the Selection Committee for the CFP will have to take notice. If Oklahoma wins, that will set up their game against Oklahoma State as one of the biggest games of the year. Baylor’s freshman QB looked good against K-State last week (see above) but his efforts only produced a 7 point win. Oklahoma is better than K-State; it is as simple as that. I like Oklahoma plus the points here.

Georgia Southern – 6 at Troy (56.5): How can this possibly be a “Game of Interest”? Georgia Southern leads the nation in rushing yards per game – 385.6 yards per game to be exact. Troy gives up 190.7 yards per game on the ground. This is a game of interest just because I want to see the rushing stats for the game!

Oregon at Stanford – 10 (69): If Stanford loses, the PAC-12 will not have a team in the CFP. If you are a conspiracy theory guy, you will be examining every call made by the officials (PAC-12 employees) in this game. That sort of thing does not interest me and I do not really care if the zebras affect the outcome here because I like the game to go OVER.

Minnesota at Iowa – 11.5 (45.5): Iowa fans have been playing the “disrespect card” all week long. Iowa is a good team but until they go and win the Big 10 Championship Game, I will continue to think of them as a “good team” but not one that belongs among the “best teams”. This is going to be a low-scoring game dominated by the two defenses (as the Total Line indicates) and that makes the line look awfully fat. I’ll take Minnesota plus the points.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the Kansas football team:

“There has been a sudden spike in earthquakes in Kansas. Officials know there’s another earthquake every time the Kansas Jayhawks football offense actually moves forward.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 11/15/15

Last week’s Mythical Picks sank below mediocre and plummeted to just plain awful. The record for the week was 4-8-0 making the season record drop to 63-71-5. The Coin Flipping fared no better; the coin’s record last week was 0-1-0 bringing the nominally neutral coin’s record for the season down to 6-10-1.

The “Best Pick” from last week was taking the Panthers +2.5 points; the Panthers won the game straight up.

The “Worst Pick” last week was taking the Saints and giving 7.5 points; the Saints lost outright.

Obviously, you would have to be mightily stupid to take any information herein and use it as the basis for making a real wager involving real money on a real NFL game this weekend or any other weekend. Here is how dumb you would need to be:

    You would try to kill a fish by drowning it.

General Comments:

Aqib Talib is not going to be playing this weekend for the Broncos. He is suspended for a game by the league for poking an opponent in the eye during last week’s game. Watching the replay, I thought Moe Howard had been resurrected, signed by the Broncos and inserted into the game as a CB. The NFL announced the suspension; Talib appealed the suspension; the league upheld the suspension; all that happened by Wednesday at noon.

I mention this because I hope it is a recognition by the NFL that they can – and they should – make these sorts of decisions quickly. Granted, there were not a lot of nuanced levels of evidence to collect via investigation in this matter. Nonetheless, recent history would suggest that it might take the NFL appeals process two weeks to decide between milk and half-and-half for the coffee served at the hearing.

    Kudos to the NFL for their alacrity here.
    Keep it up!

I do not know who it was at ESPN who came up with the Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) system nor do I know who maintains the database that generates the ratings. What I do know is that like many other forms of advanced analytics, some of the conclusions just do not pass the “Eyeball Test”. Here are some data on starting quarterbacks this year. Which of the following statements does not pass the “Eyeball Test”?

    1. Sam Bradford ranks 31th among starting QBs and Nick Foles ranks 30th. They were traded one for the other. Looks like a trade that did not do much to help either team.

    2. Carson Palmer has the highest ranking among starting QBs this year. He is having a fantastic season.

    3. Andy Dalton has the second highest QBR among starting QBs this year. He too is having a fantastic season.

    4. Ryan Fitzpatrick has the 3rd highest QBR this year; Aaron Rodgers has the 4th highest rating and Tom Brady has the 5th highest QBR.

Hold it right there; we have a winner; that last one makes me wonder about the value of the QBR itself. All that Tom Brady has managed to achieve this year is an 8-0 record while throwing more TD passes and fewer INTs than any other starting QB.

The Detroit Lions fired their GM (Martin Mayhew) and their team president (Tom Lewand) last week. It was only a couple of weeks ago that the team fired a couple of the offensive coaches to include the offensive coordinator. The Lions record as of this morning is 1-7 and that is the worst record in the NFL; the Lions are not merely losing games, they are losing some of them by a lot. The average score of a Lions game this year is:

    Opponent: 30.6
    Lions: 18.6

In 2009, the US Government bailed out General Motors when the company was about to go belly-up. Well, the Lions are going paws-up this year and could use a bailout. Unfortunately, the Lions are owned by the Fords not the General Motors…

Last Thursday night, the Bengals handled the Browns with aplomb. Johnny Manziel got the start at QB for the Browns and played the entire game. To be sure, he did not throw up on his shoes but he also did not do anything to announce that he is the franchise QB of the future for a team that has not had a franchise QB since re-entering the NFL in 1999. At the end of the game, the announcers were asking rhetorically if Manziel had shown enough in that game to merit the starting job in future weeks. Here is my answer:

    The Browns are going nowhere this year – as has been their wont. Since 1999, the Browns have been over .500 exactly twice (in 2002 and in 2007). They need a franchise QB badly and they have to make a choice:

      Draft another QB sometime soon – or –

      Go with Johnny Manziel

    The only rational way to make that choice is to see a lot more of Manziel in real game action against the starters for the opposing teams. That does not happen nearly enough in the Exhibition Season, so the time is now…

Speaking of throwing up on one’s shoes, the Saints did that and more last week as they lost to the sorry-assed Titans. Yes, I know; the Titans looked like a new team now that they have a new coach. Pardon my skepticism there… A few weeks ago, it looked as if the Saints’ defense and the defensive coaching staff had figured out how to deploy those players in a way that made the opposing offenses have to work to score points. Recently, let me be polite and say the Saints have had a relapse on defense.

Last week, the Saints gave up 483 yards of offense to the Titans who entered the game with the 31st ranked offense in the NFL. Recall that two weeks ago, the Saints scored 52 points against the Giants and needed a last second field goal to win that game 52-49. You have heard of defenses that bend but do not break; the Saints defense bends AND breaks. Just to clarify, that is not a good thing…

In any event, the Titans’ new coach, Mike Mularkey, is now 1-0 in Tennessee. Before getting carried away, let me say that one win does not make an interim coach into a genius. If you doubt that, check out Dan Campbell in Miami.

Here is a question:

    Is Dan Campbell still on the fast track for induction in Canton next summer?

After his Dolphins beat the Titans and Texans in his first two games, much of the media hailed him as coaching genius. Well, since beating those two less-than-fearsome opponents, here is what the Dolphins have done:

    Lost to Pats 36-7
    Lost to Bills 33-17

In that loss to the Bills, the Dolphins’ defense allowed both Karlos Williams and LeSean McCoy to gain more than 110 yards rushing (as a team the Bills gained 266 yards on the ground) and allowed Sammy Watkins to catch 8 passes for 168 yards. Three of the Bills’ scoring plays were 38 yards or longer. It sure looks as if the rah-rah/gung-ho/tough-guy stuff that Campbell was selling a month ago has reached its Sell By Date.

Those last two losses – both to AFC East opponents – gives the Dolphins an 0-4 record in the division. That is never attractive but it does get worse. In the 4 losses within the division here is the average score:

    Opponents 34.2
    Dolphins 13.0

Greg Cote had this assessment in the Miami Herald:

“The Dan Campbell Bandwagon is now in a ditch and waiting on AAA.”

The Vikings beat the Rams 21-18 in OT. In the first quarter, the Rams got a TD and went for 2 points but failed to convert. That “missing point” turned out to be extremely important when the fourth quarter came around and the Rams kicked a field goal to tie the game and send it to OT. One more point would have obviated the need for OT and put a win on the board for the Rams.

There has been plenty of controversy related to this game and the hit on Terry Bridgewater that knocked him out of the game. Vikes’ coach Mike Zimmer pointed the finger at Rams’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saying he “had a history” and later various other analysts have said that Jeff Fisher’s teams play dirty defense. I do not read minds and I certainly do not have any inside info from the Rams’ defensive coaches but here is my conclusion having seen the replays:

    It was a late hit AND it appears to me that the defender aimed specifically to hit Bridgewater in the head.

Was the defender “coached up” to play that way? I don’t know.

All of that drama has overshadowed the matchup of Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson in that game. Gurley gained 89 yards and scored a TD; Peterson gained 124 yards and scored a TD.

The Jets beat the Jags 28-23 despite Blake Bortles throwing for 381 yards in the game. The Jets recorded 6 sacks, 2 INTs and recovered one fumble in the game; the Saints ought to take notice here; that is a defense that bends but does not break. The Jags are a bad team and bad teams invent ways to lose games. Let me give you a condensed play sequence from late in this game:

    Jags are down 21-16 with just under 6 minutes to play. The Jags have driven from their own 10 yardline to the Jets’ 10 yardline in 4 plays.

    Next play, Bortles is sacked; he fumbles and the Jets recover the ball at the Jets’ 34 yardline.

    Jags hold on 4 downs and force a punt. The returner muffs the punt and the Jets recover at the Jags’ 25 yardline.

    Three plays later the Jets score making it 28-16 with 2:41 to play.

    Jags score on 3 plays with 2:14 to play making the score 28-23.

    Jags hold again and force a punt they receive at their own 8 yardline with 0:54 to play.

    First play is an interception by the Jets at the Jags 22. Game Over.

A strip sack; a muffed punt and an INT in the span of less than 6 minutes at the end of a game decided by less than a TD…

The Pats dominated the Skins 27-10. Trust me, it was not that close… All of the RG3 acolytes who climb all over Kirk Cousins for his propensity to throw INTs cannot hang this loss on Cousins. The Pats recorded one INT but that ball hit Pierre Garcon in the hands and on the helmet before bouncing about 15 feet into the air such that a defender could run under it and catch it. Skins’ “pass-catchers” were actually “pass-droppers” here; they have to have dropped at least a half dozen passes that hit them on both hands. Oh, and the “running game” was dormant amassing a total of 37 yards for the day. Meanwhile the Skins’ run defense yielded 167 yards for the game. The only “bright light” for the Skins was that they held Tom Brady to less than 300 yards for the game; he passed for 299 yards.

DeSean Jackson returned to action for the Skins giving them the “deep threat” they say they have needed so badly. He caught 3 passes for 15 yards; the long gain was 9 yards. I doubt that struck fear in the hearts of the Pats’ defensive coaches…

The Steelers beat the Raiders 38-35 in an entertaining game. This gives the Steelers a half-game lead over the Raiders in the AFC wild card chase. However the win came at a price; Ben Roethlisberger suffered a foot injury that will keep him out several weeks. The Steelers survived 4 weeks without Big Ben earlier this year but the Landry Jones’ showing against the Chiefs ought to make the Steelers faithful just a tad queasy.

The Steelers face the Browns this week and then they have a Bye Week. It is possible that Jones will only need to hold the fort for one game here and that is probably a good thing because the Steelers’ schedule after Thanksgiving is not trivial:

    At Seattle
    Vs Indy
    At Cincy
    Vs Denver
    At Baltimore
    At Cleveland

The Raiders have had some pretty bad teams over the last 12 years since losing in the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Bucs after the 2002 season. In that span, they have never had a season over .500; and in 10 of the last 12 seasons, they have suffered double-digit losses. Nonetheless, last week’s defensive showing has to be a low-point even by the standards of the last 12 years.

    Defense gave up 597 yards (195 yards rushing and 402 yards passing)

    Antonio Brown caught 17 passes for 284 yards.

    DeAngelo Williams gained 170 yards on 27 carries with 2 TDs.

David Amerson was the defender chasing Antonio Brown for much of the game; it looked almost as if Amerson was playing flag-football as he lunged and groped just to make contact with Brown. Maybe the Raiders’ fans should not be too harsh on Amerson; after all, he was cut by the Skins just a few weeks ago meaning he could not make the field on that defense. There is no real reason to believe that a change in latitude was going to make Amerson into a Pro-Bowler.

The Giants beat the Bucs 32-18 but the final TD by the Giants with no time left came when they recovered a fumbled lateral and ran it into the end zone. The Bucs were in full-scramble mode on the play and it backfired. The Giants recovered 3 fumbles on the day and those fumble recoveries led to 17 points. Do the math and you will see that the fumbles had a profound effect on who won and who lost. The Giants exhibited bend-but do-not-break on defense. In the first half, the Bucs had the ball inside the Giant’s 10 yardline and came away with 0 TDs.

In another example of a team inventing a way to lose a game, the Falcons lost to the Niners 17-16. Here is what went down late in that game:

    Niners lead 17-13 with 4:27 to play in the 4th quarter. Falcons have the ball 1st and goal at the Niners 8 yardline.

    After two short completions and an incomplete pass, the Falcons have the ball 4th and goal at the 1 yardline with 3:00 to play. They are down 4 points.

    The Falcons kick a field goal leaving them one point down at 17-16.

    The Niners take possession at their 20 after the kickoff and proceed to run the ball 5 times to gain 2 first downs and then “kneel out the clock”. Falcons never saw the ball again.

In case you wonder why the Falcons did not just run the ball in from the 1 yardline, here is how the Falcons’ running game was working last week:

    They ran the ball 14 times for a total of 17 yards…


    Are the Falcons in full-collapse mode?

The Colts beat the Broncos 27-24. Basically, the Colts dominated the first half and the Broncos came back to make a game of it in the second half. I started off these comments with a note about Aqib Talib and his eye-poking incident. That was more than just an unsportsmanlike play; it generated a 15-yard penalty against the Broncos that kept a late Colts’ possession alive. The Broncos’ defense had an off game and the Colts played much better than they have played all season long. Now, the Colts will have to go at least several weeks without Andrew Luck who suffered an abdominal muscle injury and a lacerated kidney in the 4th quarter. Yes, I know that Matt Hasselbeck subbed for Luck earlier this year and won both games. Here is the more important thing; this is what is left for the Colts looking ahead:

    At Atlanta (this week)
    Vs Tampa
    At Pittsburgh
    At Jax
    Vs Houston
    At Miami
    Vs Tennessee

That is a pillow-soft schedule… The Colts lead the miserable AFC South by a half game despite their 4-5 record.

The Panthers dominated the Packers for three quarters and led 30-14 when the fourth quarter started. The Packers rallied in the 4th quarter and it took a red zone INT by the Panthers to save a score that would have had the Packers only a 2-point conversion away from a tie. Cam Newton threw for 297 yards and ran for another 57 yards. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers defense harassed Aaron Rodgers all game; the defense recorded 5 sacks during the game.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys 33-27 in OT. Matt Cassel played like a real NFL QB in this game; the reason the Cowboys lost this game is that their defense was dragging itself all over the field for the 4th quarter and the OT. Cassel did throw a Pick Six in the game but overall his stat line is commendable (25 of 38, 299 yards, 3 TD) despite the fact that the Eagles’ defense had him under pressure all game long (the defense recorded 4 sacks). The Cowboys are 2-6 – having lost 6 games in row since Tony Romo broke his clavicle – and they need a win badly. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC East when Romo is healthy and playing QB, but they may be too far behind to win out and still win the division if they lose all of the games that he cannot start.

    Imagine a scenario where the Cowboys finish at 8-8 where all 8 wins are games that Tony Romo starts and all 8 losses are games where he is on the sidelines. That might make a powerful argument when it comes time to vote for MVP…

DeMarco Murray’s return to Dallas was a successful one for him and for the Eagles. Murray ran for 83 yards and caught passes for an additional 78 yards. Paired with Ryan Matthews – and using Darren Sproles randomly – the Eagles have a running attack that can control game tempo so long as the Eagles’ OL is in sync.

The Bears/Chargers game on MNF was close; other than that, the game had exactly nothing to recommend it. Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes for 151 yards in the game.

The Games:

Here are the teams on a Bye Week:

    Chargers: They have two weeks to figure out how to break a 5-game losing streak.

    Colts: They will be rooting for the Bengals to beat the Texans on MNF this week.

    Falcons: They were 5-0 at one point; now they are 6-3 and look discombobulated; they have 2 weeks to correct that.

    Niners: Blaine Gabbert won them a game last week; they now have 2 weeks to figure out who will be their QB for the next game.

(Thurs Nite) Buffalo at Jets – 2.5 (42.5): Forget all the storylines; this game is important because it has playoff implications. The Jets are 5-3; the Bills are 4-4; the winner of this game will have the lead in the wild card chase and second place in the AFC East. Yes, the teams will play again on the final weekend of the season; nevertheless this is a big game. The Jets hold slight statistical advantages on offense and on defense and they are at home. Make this a venue call in a game between two closely matched teams; I’ll take the Jets and lay the points.

Detroit at Green Bay – 11.5 (47.5): The Packers have lost 2 games in a row and fans in Green Bay think the sky is falling. The Lions are 1-7 and fans in Detroit wonder what’s new. I expect the Packers to be rejuvenated by their return home after two weeks on the road playing then-undefeated teams. I hate laying double-digits but I cannot take the Lions against a Packers’ team that needs a win and is playing at home. I’ll take the Packers to win and cover.

Dallas at Tampa – 1.5 (43.5): The Cowboys do need this game (see above). The Cowboys have 6 losses on the books already; still on the schedule are the Panthers (at home on Thanksgiving) and the Packers (in Green Bay in December). It is difficult to paint an early-November game as a “must-win” game, but this one comes close for the Cowboys. The Bucs and their rookie QB play well some of the time and play poorly some of the time; you would need a Ouija board to figure out what kind of game they will play. This is a Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the Cowboys plus the points.

Carolina – 5 at Tennessee (44): The spread opened at 6.5 and has dropped slowly to this level; you can still find it at 5.5 at a couple of Internet sportsbooks. I understand the thinking that the Panthers may take the Titans lightly after the Panthers navigated a schedule that packed a bunch of good teams on after another against them; by comparison, the Titans look like a walk in the park. However, the Panthers’ defense should make life very difficult for the Titans’ rookie QB. I like the game to stay UNDER.

Chicago at St. Louis – 7.5 (42.5): The Rams rank 31st in the NFL in total offense; they gain an average of 312.6 yards per game. The Bears are better than that; they rank 22nd in the NFL in total offense gaining 347.1 yards per game. On defense the Rams are fifth in the league allowing only 323.8 yards per game while the Bears rank 9th giving up 342 yards per game. This should be a game dominated by defense. Therefore, I’ll take the Bears plus the points.

New Orleans – 1 at Washington (50): The dogs are barking here but upon further review, this game finishes second in the run to be labeled the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams can still believe they might be playoff participants; both teams can still believe in the Tooth Fairy too. The Saints lead the NFL in total offense; the Saints rank 31st in the NFL in total defense. This is an outdoor game on grass; that is not the most favorable set of conditions for the Saints. I like the Skins plus the point here and I like this game to go OVER.

Miami at Philly – 6.5 (47.5): I have no idea how this game will play out so I am turning the game over the Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the Dolphins plus the points. Let it be written; let it be done…

Cleveland at Pittsburgh – 5 (41): The Steeler do need this game for wild card purposes and they are going to have to go with Landry Jones at the controls and without LeVeon Bell to run the ball. If the opponent here were competent, I would be poised to tell Steelers’ fans to prepare for the worst. But the opponent here will be the Browns and the Browns are not competent. The Steelers are 40 yards per game better on offense and 27 yards per game better on defense. Moreover, that offensive advantage includes 4 games without Ben Roethlisberger on the field. The only thing the Browns have going for them is that this is a big rivalry game but that knife cuts both ways. I like the Steelers here to win and cover at home.

Jax at Baltimore – 5.5 (48): The dogs are howling loudly here; this is indeed the Dog-Breath Game of the Week. Both teams are 2-6; neither team is any good. Let me break out the coin once again and submit to Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Protocol. The coin says to take the game to stay UNDER.

Minnesota at Oakland – 3 (44): These are not the sexiest teams in the NFL but this is clearly one of the best games of the week. The Vikes have won 4 games in a row and would be a playoff team if the season ended now. The Raiders lost last week but are right in the thick of the AFC wild card race. Both teams need to win this game. The Raiders enjoy a 55 yards per game advantage on offense; the Vikings enjoy a 79 yards per game advantage on defense. Make this a venue call; I like the Raiders to win and cover.

KC at Denver – 6 (42): With a 3-5 record, the Chiefs are not out of it with regard to the wild card race; however, they do not have a lot of slack in that line. The Broncos lost their first game of the year last week and now see themselves sitting at 7-1 but not being in position to have a Bye Week in the playoffs. I think there is plenty of motivation for the Broncos and that means the Chiefs will not have any edge at all in the game. I think the Bronco’s defense will be out to atone for last week’s performance. I’ll take the Broncos to win and cover at home.

New England – 7.5 at Giants (55): Here is another really good game on this week’s card. The last time the Pats beat the Giants was in 2007. The Giants need this game to stay in control of the NFC East; the Pats do not need the game in the standings but they need the game just because these are the Giants they are playing and the Giants have been their tormentors. I think the Pats will win here but I also think that line is fat – particularly with that hook on top of the TD’s worth of points. I’ll take the Giants at home plus the points.

(Sun Nite) Arizona at Seattle – 3 (45): This might be the best game of the week. If you want to understand what it means for a team to “need” a win in early November, look no further than the Seahawks here.

    The Seahawks trail the Cards by 2 games in the NFC West.

    With a win here – and a win in Arizona on Jan 3 – they can catch the Cards.

    With a loss here they are in a miasma with a bunch of other teams with losing records hoping against hope for a playoff spot.

Oh, don’t think that the Cards do not realize all of this and recognize the opportunity they have to open up a 3-game lead on the Seahawks with only 7 games left to play. Both teams took last week off to prep for this encounter. Richard Sherman will shut down one side of the field to the Cards’ passing game, but the Cards can throw the ball to a whole lot of receivers all over the field. I think the Cards will win straight up so I’ll take them plus the points – even in Seattle.

(Mon Nite) Houston at Cincy – 10.5 (47.5): The spread here opened at 12 and dropped almost immediately to this level. No, I do not understand why that happened. I do not like the matchup of the Texans’ offense against the Bengals’ defense. I’ll take the Bengals and lay the points.

Finally, now that Jason Pierre-Paul has returned to the field for the Giants after his 4th of July injury involving fireworks and the loss of parts of his hand, here are two comments from sportswriters related to that situation:

“Good to see Jason Pierre-Paul back in action with the Giants. Also good that he’s accepting responsibility for what happened, not pointing any fingers.” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]

And …

“An employee at a chicken-processing plant that supplies KFC lost two fingertips while on the job.

“Even worse, he got blood all over his lucky Jason Pierre-Paul jersey.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

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

Daily Fantasy Sports In New York…

Recently, the folks who oversee legal sports betting in Nevada ruled that daily fantasy sports are a form of gambling that needs to be licensed in that state. Many people dismissed that ruling as protecting the casinos’ turf. Yesterday, the Attorney General of New York announced that he has determined that daily fantasy sports are a form of illegal gambling and he has ordered Draft Kings and FanDuel to stop taking bets in New York. Representatives of the daily fantasy sports industry say this is a publicity grab on the part of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The daily fantasy sports advocates deny that their activity is gambling because it relies on skill to assemble a successful fantasy team.

No one who has read more than a few of these rants could possibly conclude that I am opposed to gambling in general or more specifically to gambling on the outcomes of sporting events. My position there is consistent and transparent.

    People are going to wager on sporting events; laws that seek to prohibit wagering on sporting events will not stop that activity. As examples please think about the effectiveness of Prohibition as a way to stop drinking or the myriad drug laws as a way to end drug usage and addiction.

    Since wagering on sporting events is going to happen under any circumstances, the government should regulate it as a form of interstate commerce and tax it accordingly.

My problem with this issue is that some folks in the US Congress seemed to find it necessary to try to define what is and what is not gambling as it regards the Internet; and in so doing, they decided that wagering on daily fantasy sports and horse racing was “OK” but wagering of the outcomes of individual games or poker was “Not OK”. Rather than use whatever contorted logic led to those distinctions, let me offer a relatively simple definition of gambling:

    Gambling involves two or more people putting something of value to them at risk pending the outcome of an event.

Using that definition, daily fantasy sports and horse racing are not distinguished from poker or wagering on individual games in any way. In all circumstances, people put up money at the outset and collect more money than they risked at the end if they are successful in “winning the bet”. Reduced to utter simplicity, if you wager $100 that the next person to enter the room we are in will be wearing a hat and I wager $100 that the next person will not be wearing a hat, we are gambling if in fact one of us walks away with $200 after someone enters the room.

In this ongoing and seemingly escalating brouhaha regarding daily fantasy sports, I am really on neither side of the argument because I do not think either side is right.

    Daily fantasy sports are indeed gambling.

    Enforcing laws that outlaw gambling is a feckless activity that wastes resources that could be used to better enforce laws that are far more important.

Recall, much of the current posturing here goes back to the Congress and its attempt to define what is and what is not gambling. Look at the revenues generated by daily fantasy sports – one company says it will pay out $2B this year so you may be sure they are taking in more than $2B – and recognize that the Congress will not undo the problem it created. The moneyed interests do not want things to change because that would be gambling on their part; they would only continue to be successful if the change went the way they prefer that it go and they will cease to be as successful if the change went “another way”. That is high stakes gambling…

Yesterday, I wrote about the change in the administration at the University of Missouri. The national attention commanded by the events there overshadowed another change of personnel at another institution of higher learning. The University of Illinois fired its Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, after an investigation into the treatment of the school’s football and women’s basketball players. Based on the report of that investigation, the chancellor said that this firing was necessary “in order to move forward”.

Before the football season began, Illinois fired its head coach based on player allegations of mistreatment. The investigative report said that the former coach interfered with doctors treating injured players and “building a culture that tended to blame players for being injured.” Here is a link to a report in the Chicago Tribune with more details on these sorts of happenings and in that report there is another link to the full text of the investigative report. Be forewarned, the investigative report with attachments/appendices is 1267 pages in length.

Several women on the basketball team have sued the school alleging maltreatment in that program too. The investigation found their claims of a racially abusive environment to be unfounded; given the lawsuit, a judge is likely to determine if the investigation came to the proper conclusion.

The investigation did not connect Mike Thomas to any of the abuses that it found – and obviously assessed him no blame for the racially abusive environment that it found did not exist. That makes the Thomas’ firing worth a look:

    If the university is confident that the investigation was done professionally and thoroughly such that its findings are self-evidently true, why did Thomas have to be fired “in order to move forward”?

    If Thomas is blameless, his resignation – with a settlement of course – should suffice here.

My guess is that the university has no such confidence in that investigation and that there may be a degree of polarity on campus with regard to this issue that would only be assuaged with some “punishment” being handed down. I also believe that the folks at Illinois are really glad to have the media focus so intensely focused on what is going on at Missouri just now…

Finally, here is an item from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

According to a report, the Minnesota Vikings lead the NFL in player arrests over the past five seasons. Minnesota is now known as “Land of 10,000 Player Busts.” I remember that time when three Vikings were arrested during a long booth review.

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

University Of Missouri Football Boycott

Surely, you have read and heard about the resignation of the President of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, amidst protests over racial incidents at that institution. Clearly, the decision of the football team – players and coaches – to abstain from any football activities (practice and scheduled games) had a lot to do with forcing that resignation. The team has properly received accolades for their action here. In his statement announcing his resignation, President Wolfe urged the university folks to “stop yelling at each other and start listening and quit intimidating each other.” Whether or not you like President Wolfe, those words represent good advice.

There is an adage:

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I am going to be a fool today and pose some questions regarding the pragmatic outcome(s) of this forced resignation. Let me set the stage for just a moment:

    A quick glance at Google Maps tells me that Columbia, MO is only about 100 miles from Ferguson, MO. I know nothing about that part of the country from personal experience but I do know and appreciate that there is real – and not imagined – racial tension in Ferguson. The proximity of the University of Missouri to Ferguson has to add to any racial sensitivities on campus.

    Reports on this subject refer to a history of “racial incidents” on campus that have not been addressed to the satisfaction of the protesters. I do not know what those earlier racial incidents were; therefore, I have no way to judge their severity. It is not possible to imagine a racial incident that would fall in the “good” category; nonetheless, there are varying degrees of “bad incidents” and I have no way to categorize how bad the earlier incidents may have been.

I did see an interview with the student government president – a black male – on one of the news programs; he indicated that at a campus meeting, he had been the target of “racial epithets” including the “N-word”. I read reports that someone smeared a swastika on the wall in a dormitory using human feces. That act is disgusting on so many levels that I will not even try to understand what the perpetrator might have been thinking. That less than artistic expression came soon after campus protesters blocked President Wolfe’s car in the Homecoming Weekend Parade in protest of the “earlier incidents”.

In none of the reporting have I seen any indication that anyone involved in the protest thinks that President Wolfe was involved in any of the “earlier incidents” nor that he was the “fecal artist” who decorated the dormitory. Therefore, I guess I do not understand the vehement focus on his resignation as the prime objective of these protests. Now that he is no longer associated with the university, does that mean that the persons who confronted the student government president with racial epithets are gone? Has the “fecal artist” moved on to another campus somewhere?

Unless someone can demonstrate that President Wolfe was one of those miscreants or that he has been harboring those miscreants and shielding them from identification and punishment, those miscreants are still somewhere within the university community – unless of course these incidents have been perpetrated by outsiders from the start. I am currently about 800 miles east of Columbia, MO; from this vantage point, it seems to me that the “really bad guys” have not been “smoked out” of their caves.

The protesters got what they have been demanding. Now what?

Many news outlets have raced to proclaim that there is a new day dawning on campus here and that this is only the beginning of positive change on campuses around the country. Before I get caught up in that euphoria, let me point out that many of these news outlets are the same ones that proclaimed the joy of Arab Spring four or five years ago as a movement that would usher in a whole slew of democracies in North Africa and the Middle East. That was wishful thinking that never came close to reality; frankly, until I see what the newly created environment is at Missouri and how that newly created environment minimizes any racial incidents on the campus, I will merely hope that all the change at Missouri is for the positive.

Politicians at the state and national level have jumped into the fray proclaiming – obviously – that they are the side of everything that is right and good. I have not heard any of them intimate that they have any information regarding who is responsible for the acts on campus that they decry so prolifically. Frankly, they sound to me as if they are merely opportunists grabbing at a chance for face time in order to take a “proper position” on an issue they really do not have any knowledge of or involvement with. Call me a cynic if you wish but I would think a lot more highly of these politicians if they took to the microphone with declarations of facts and specific actions they are taking to make specific changes here. All I have heard to date is platitudinous pabulum…

Having experienced in the past mandatory diversity sensitivity training sessions, let me say that I am skeptical that any such activity will do anything meaningful to humanize the thought processes of the “fecal artist”. Real change, significant change, permanent change is not likely to emerge from diversity training sessions that end with the participants singing Cumbaya. Such diversity training sessions will not hurt anything but if they are the totality of the change ushered in by the change in leadership at the university, then the protest outcomes will likely be cosmetic and not meaningful.

The onus is on the protesters now. No one is going to start a “movement” to get any of the protesters to drop out of school. However, now that they have had their say, one needs to change the focus of accountability.

    Who is responsible for the racial incidents on campus and what is the new university culture going to do about those folks?

    Who is “the fecal artist” and what is to be done to/with him/her?

One potential outcome from this matter in a completely different dimension may be that college athletes in the revenue sports will recognize the influence they can have on university policies. This protest had been ongoing for a while but what brought it to a head was when a large fraction of the football team took sides in the protest and announced that they would boycott practices and games until the protesters’ demands had been met. According to reports, the cancelation of the game against BYU this week would have cost the Missouri Athletic Department $1M. The players should learn from that quick response to their stance that there is truth in the adage:

    Money talks; bulls[p]it walks…

Should the student-athletes choose to push this pawn a way down the path, they might see a different avenue toward payment for their athletic services. Instead of trying to get “employee status” by having a national labor union certified to represent players’ interests, perhaps the way to achieve that goal – if that is truly a goal the players want to achieve – is to wait for one of the major revenue events to commence and for the players at that moment to choose to withhold services. It would take Herculean coordination effort to make the following happen but imagine for just a moment the following scenario:

    It is a Sunday night in mid-March and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee has just announced its seedings for March Madness.

    The media is focused on who got snubbed and who got a seeding they did not deserve. Monday morning arrives and that frenzy of outrage is fully expressed.

    Then, comes the announcement that the players on the 68 teams are not going to take the floor. There will be no games; there will be no television; more importantly, there will be no television revenues…

The University of Missouri faced a loss of $1M for failure to show up to play BYU. The NCAA Tournament generates close to $1B for the NCAA and its member institutions.

It is probably too large an undertaking to get 68 teams to agree to such a boycott to make my scenario even close to a reality. However, there are bowl games in football and even the College Football Playoff where the occurrence of the event involves the cooperation of far fewer players at far fewer institutions. Maybe, this is the most important lesson about effecting change that comes from the action(s) of the Missouri football team in this matter. Maybe this action will demonstrate the levers and the fulcrum that players can use to force negotiations on things they want to have happen.

And like the campus protesters who have won their point now, if the players choose to use those levers, are they ready to accept the consequences and the accountability that will come from their success?

I think the resignation of President Wolfe is not much more than a symbolic happenstance. Without concrete steps that actually change things for the better, it will be a footnote of history. I think the football players at Missouri demonstrated to athletes at other schools that perhaps it is time for the players to take heed.

    Money talks! Bulls[p]it walks!

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

Hither, Thither And Yon…

I am going to be cleaning up the clipboard today and jumping around from issue to issue and from sport to sport. Fasten your seatbelts, please…

The college basketball season is about to get underway and teams are playing exhibition games just to do something different from scrimmaging against themselves. These games do not count and to call them meaningless would be very generous. Having said that, one of them may prove to be very meaningful.

Recall that St. John’s convinced their Hall of Fame alum, Chris Mullen, to come home and to reconstruct the basketball program there. There was a time when St John’s was always part of the discussion with regard to top-shelf college basketball programs; that has not been the case for at least the last 10 years. Well, the first “game” that the Johnnies played against someone other than themselves was an exhibition against St. Thomas Aquinas College and the Johnnies lost that game by 32 points.

In case you are not familiar with St. Thomas Aquinas College, this is a Division –II program whose schedule for this year includes inter alia:

    University of the District of Columbia

Too bad Chris Mullen does not have any collegiate eligibility left…

Drew Magary wrote a piece for GQ magazine saying that the NFL should get rid of Thursday Night Football and put the games on Friday night instead. I do not think the article is a great piece of exposition – or that the idea is particularly germane – but I will provide a link here for you so that you might judge for yourself if you want to.

Magary undercuts his argument in the second paragraph; the reason that Thursday Night Football is here to stay is this:

“The problem, of course, is that the NFL has no inclination to stop airing Thursday Night Football because it WORKS. It’s the third most popular show on network television, right behind Sunday Night Football (#1, of course) and Fox’s Sunday-afternoon NFL postgame (how much Terry Bradshaw do people REALLY need?).”

No television exec wants to ditch the show that gets the third highest ratings of the week because that means he/she would be ditching a program for which the network can charge premium ad rates. Moreover, the NFL is uninterested in ditching the programming that draws that sort of fan attention. Ergo, the whole idea is pie-in-the-sky at best…

However, I wanted to check out my thinking here and “consulted with” – actually “exchanged e-mails with” – an old friend who has covered the NFL professionally for more than 4 decades. Basically, his assessment was similar to mine:

“For one thing, it will never happen for a very simple reason: No one sits home and watches TV on Friday night. People DO sit home and watch TV on Thursday night. The NFL goes where the eyeballs — and advertisers — are.”

He added something to his note that summarized my inherent frustration with Thursday Night Football but I had never thought of it in this way:

“… it doesn’t change the real problem which is screwing up the normal schedule. One thing that helped make the NFL so popular was its rhythm. Games were played on Sunday with a full week in between. There was a natural arc to it and it allowed the players to heal and the coaches to prepare. Now the schedule is staggered and it is impacting the quality of play all across the board. The Thursday night games are usually lousy but the league will keep playing them because (a) people tune in and (b) the ad money is huge.”

Moreover, there is one other thing that is wrong with the idea of Friday Night Football. The NFL has two franchises in Texas. Friday night in Texas is focused on high school football; if you are not familiar with Texas high school football, it is a sporting phenomenon that would be difficult to explain to people in other parts of the country. Darrel Royal – former Texas football coach – once said that in Texas the top sport was football (college football) and the second sport was spring football. What he forgot to add was that #3 was high school football…

If the NFL put on real games to compete with high school football, the fans in Texas would not take kindly to it and that would not be a good thing for the two franchises there…

Barcelona is the soccer team where Lionel Messi plies his trade. According to, Barcelona might wind up playing in the French League instead of La Liga in Spain. Geography teachers all over the country just felt a twinge in their neck as I typed that last sentence but they do not know why…

The Catalunya Region of Spain is seeking independence and should that succeed, the thinking is that La Liga will undergo reorganization and that Barcelona would be booted out of La Liga along with another team from the Catalunya Region. In such an event, the French league has said it would welcome Barcelona into its association. Obviously, this is all very iffy and it involves world politics along with internal FIFA politics. The combination of those two dynamics means that it is also possible that Barcelona will play in some intergalactic league sometime in the next few years…

Finally, I ran across these two items in Gregg Drinnan’s blog, Keeping Score:

“LeBron says that Kevin Love will be the ‘focal point’ of the Cavaliers’ offence,” reports Bill Littlejohn, our South Lake Tahoe, Calif., correspondent. “Someone tell him what it was like when Ringo sang lead.” . . . “The Dallas Cowboys have brought in Charles Haley to talk to Greg Hardy,” Littlejohn writes. “Isn’t that like bringing in Freddy Krueger to talk some sense to Jason?”

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