More Legal Stuff For The NFL…

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed one of their rules. That rule had been the NFL’s basis for having and enforcing its “Blackout Policy” for local telecasts. The FCC did not order the NFL to do anything; it simply negated the rule. Here is where it gets complicated – too complicated for me to understand based on the various reports I have read/heard.

    The NFL is appealing the FCC decision. No surprise here. However, I do not understand what if any added “jeopardy” – if any – this might heap upon the NFL. If there is no added jeopardy, of course they will appeal and appeal and appeal.

    Several reports say that even with this ruling, the NFL can continue to have its blackout rule – no telecasts to the local area if the game does not sell out 72 hours prior to kickoff. If that is the case, I have to say that I do not understand why or how this is any big deal at all.

    Finally, I do not understand why the NFL does not argue that lifting this rule and permitting even the possibility of local telecasts is blatantly unconstitutional per the Eighth Amendment. That amendment forbids the infliction of “cruel or unusual punishments. If the NFL has to televise Jacksonville Jaguars home games to the home TV market, that would inflict the punishment of watching the Jags stink it up on the road AND at home. How cruel and unusual is that?

I wonder if the scouts and the player development departments around the league are looking at the recent events involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson to the point where they might be changing the ways they will evaluate and interview high-talent collegiate prospects before drafting/signing them. I am specifically thinking of Jameis Winston here.

No questions continue to obtain with regard to Winston’s football skills; he can play. There are loads of questions about his socialization level/maturity/ability to stay out of trouble. Winston is only 20 years old; he has only been at Florida State for 2.5 years; and in that short time, he has been involved in:

    An alleged rape
    A shoplifting escapade
    Standing on a table in the student union shouting obscenities.

That is not a warm and fuzzy trifecta; that does not portray a young man who has self-control and/or a keen sense of what is right/wrong/acceptable/unacceptable in terms of behavior. No matter; he is going to be a high draft pick by an NFL team because he has “that kind of talent”. “That kind of talent” has seemingly immunized him from suffering the consequences of these kinds of actions to date; but in the current environment, that continued immunity is not a sure bet.

I would love to see the scouting reports that come from the “Chief Scout” that go to the “Player Development Guru” and the GM for teams that will be drafting in the Top 10 next year. If I had to write it, I would make sure it was clear that this kid is a special talent on the field – and that he has a special talent for finding troubles off the field. In large font type and in red letters, I would point out to the draft day decision makers that special talents like Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and Ray Rice did not materially help their teams in 2014…

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot summed it up this way:

“A message: The consequences of Winston’s actions have stretched beyond Internet ridicule, an all-too-brief half-game suspension and a growing bad reputation. Now Mel Kiper Jr. has weighed in, dropping Winston from third to 25 on his famous Big Board eight months before the next draft. As silly as it sounds, maybe this will get through to the kid whose quarterback skills are eclipsed by his talent for making wrong choices.”

If I were King of the World, here is an immediate change I would make for all sports telecasts:

    There would be no interviews with coaches just before the game or at halftime of the game. The penalty would be caning – probably 50 strokes would do the trick. The coaches clearly do not want to be interrupted from whatever zone they are trying to get themselves into; they never say anything even remotely interesting; the interviewer has to pretend to care about the pabulum answers. Stop this insanity and stop it immediately!

Now that the police, prosecutors and a Grand Jury have decided that Tony Stewart will not face any criminal charges in the events that led up to and resulted in the death of Kevin Ward about a month ago in a dirt-track race, it is time for the people screaming for Stewart to be boiled in oil to – how can I say this politely? – shut the Hell up. Unless one of them can prove conclusively in public that he/she is a mind reader, there is not much that any more theorizing or arm waving can accomplish here. I do not know if Stewart ran over the kid intentionally or because he lost control of his car after “trying to scare the kid”. More importantly, neither does anyone else except Tony Stewart. That includes all the Internet shriekers who have already convicted him of a half-dozen heinous crimes.

Remember the adage used by lawyers for public figures who have been indicted by a Grand Jury that it is easy to indict a ham sandwich. Well, this Grand Jury found it more difficult to indict Tony Stewart so the evidence before them had to be pretty thin. That means he is less likely to have committed a crime than a ham sandwich – even one with mustard and a pickle.

Finally, here is one more cogent observation from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the strange course of events for the NFL in this early part of the 2014 season:

“In passing: Remember when NFL officials thought the biggest distraction this season would be Michael Sam?”

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

The Baseball Playoffs…

I got an e-mail from a former colleague who has retired to live in Pismo Beach and write books. He is also an avid LA Dodgers’ fan who wanted me to make World Series predictions as soon as the baseball playoff picture had been resolved. Well, the games begin today and even though it is not a fundamental part of my nature to please other people, I will honor that request:

    American League: I have to root for the Royals; the last time they were in the playoffs was before Fawn Hall had her 15 minutes of fame. [Google is your friend.] I do not think the Royals – or the A’s – will emerge from the play-in game to make it to the World Series but I would love to see the Royals advance. I think the Angels’ pitching is suspect; I think the Tigers’ defense is beyond suspect. I like the Orioles to win the AL pennant because they are above average in just about every aspect of the game.

    National League: The Washington Nationals are the best team in baseball from top to bottom and from side to side. Once they demoted Soriano from the closer’s job, they removed their only real liability. Having said that, I worry about any team getting through a 7-game series against a team that can start Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke twice each. The Nationals are the better team, but I suspect the Dodgers will win the NL pennant.

Notice that I have avoided picking a “cute World Series” such as a Bay Area Series (Giants/A’s) or a Tinseltown World Series (Dodgers/Angels) or an Interstate 70 World Series (Cardinals/Royals). The idea of these “cute World Series” names has been done to death.

Sticking with baseball for a moment, the Twins fired manager, Ron Gardenhire yesterday. The Twins have been awful for a couple of years but that awfulness is far more a product of the roster assembled by the team front office under the budget constraints of the team owners than it is a product of the manager and the coaching staff. As they say, you cannot fire the players – not without having to go out and spend a lot of money on free agents to replace some of them – and so the manager takes the blame.

Yesterday, I think I made it clear that I had had more than enough of the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour Around America. Well, I suspect I was not the only one. Consider these two items:

“Speaking of Jeter, I’m not saying his final home game in New York was a baseball lovefest of Biblical proportions, but did you see where the Three Wise Men — Bob Costas, George Will and Peter Gammons — showed up bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?” [Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel]

And…

“Now that the Derek Jeter Farewell Tour is just about a wrap, how’s that Welcome Back, A-Rod campaign for 2015 coming along?” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

The Ryder Cup has come and gone. In case this remains a mystery to any sports fan, golf is not a team sport and just because you dress all of the players in the same outfits – preferably ones that they would not be caught dead wearing at any other moment in their lives – does not turn golf into a team sport. Once again, I seem not to be alone in my marginal interest in the Ryder Cup; here is what Greg Cote had to say about it in the Miami Herald:

“Golf’s Ryder Cup matches between the United States and Europe end Sunday in Scotland. It’s one of sports’ most riveting competitions, according to announcers for the broadcasting network.”

Whilst on the subject of golf, consider these two items found in Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times:

“Golfer Tiger Woods, who parted ways with adviser Sean Foley last month, says he might serve as his own swing coach for a while.

“Tiger to give swinging a try with no adult supervision — what could possibly go wrong?”

And…

“GM is coming out with a self-driving Cadillac.

“ ‘So where were you when I needed you five years ago?’ moaned Tiger Woods.”

I did a double take when I first read a report that the new manager of Leeds United in the Championship League in England would be Darko Milanic. I thought that the draft bust taken by the Detroit Pistons had given up basketball to take up soccer coaching. At that point, I realized that I had no idea where Darko Milicic’s career had taken him now and so I went to Google to find out. Strangely enough, Darko Milicic is indeed giving up basketball for a new career vector in sports. He will not be a soccer coach; he plans to become a kickboxer. Seriously, that report comes from ESPN and not The Onion

Finally, here is Greg Cote’s commentary on the US Open Tennis Tournament from the Miami Herald:

“Marin Cilic beat Kei Nishikori for the men’s U.S. Open crown. But, really, other than it being a star-less, lopsided match won by a guy coming off a doping ban, it was a great men’s final!”

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

News Flash; Stop The Presses…

It is not often that I get to break news in one of these rants; that is not their intent. However, here in Curmudgeon Central, I have breaking news. Derek Jeter had decided to retire and he played his last game in MLB over the weekend. Who saw that coming?

Seriously, last year we had Mariano Rivera take a yearlong “victory lap” around MLB and this year we had Derek Jeter do the same. Unless someone reconnects Ted Williams’ head with a torso over the winter, I really do not want another year of ceremonial goodbyes. Enough already…

Two comments regarding Ray Rice, the NFL, domestic violence and the like and then I want to move on:

    1. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot seems to agree with me that at least some of the anger directed at Roger Goodell is misplaced:

    “Maybe you noticed that some NFL players expressed more anger at Goodell over fallout from the Rice case than they have over what Rice did to his wife. Feel free to be disgusted.”

    2. I have heard all that I need to hear from ex-jocks on TV regarding the issue of domestic violence. I realize that the Presidential Campaign for 2016 is just about to begin and that means that athletes and celebrities will feel compelled to tell me what their political views are. My earpans will be under assault for the next two years. Can I get just a brief respite now?

It is never news to report that someone in the US Congress is grandstanding but one such Congressional event falls into the category of “grandstanding that will actually work”. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will introduce legislation that would revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status specifically because the league continues to have a team with a nickname that is racist. I do not care which side of that argument you wish to take; that is not the point here.

I have said for years – actually for more than two decades – that the only way the team would change its name or that the NFL would force them to change its name would be to apply economic pressure to the team and/or the league. Senator Cantwell’s bill would begin to do just that. Her legislation is based on whatever moral position she and others may have with regard to the team name “Redskins” but her legislation would take their morality and move it into operational mode. While I agree completely that the South Park satire of the NFL is brilliant, the NFL and the Redskins can shrug it off and wait for the next satirical commentary from Jon Stewart and/or Keith Olbermann and then they can ignore those also. But removing the tax exemption? What might be next? Legislation to outlaw the Redskins’ trademark? How about mandating an anti-trust investigation into the NFL itself?

Economics is the battlefield the NFL does not want to have to defend. Senator Cantwell’s legislation would not resolve this problem even if it passed tomorrow – and it will not pass tomorrow because Congress is in recess until after the mid-term elections and will then reconvene in a lame-duck session where no one will want to do anything resembling “controversy”. In the new session of the Congress, this bill will languish in whatever committee it goes to until and unless other members push for it to go to the floor for debate. I think the odds of this bill ever seeing the light of day are long – but it focuses on the only meaningful aspect of this controversy that has a chance to result in change.

In the backdrop for all of that, Danny Boy Snyder announced that he has begun to explore options for a new stadium in Washington – or maybe in Maryland or perhaps in Virginia. Obviously, he hopes to start a bidding war among the jurisdictions so that he does not have to pay for the stadium out of his pocket. If you live in area, you would recognize immediately that the local pols would fall for that gambit faster than a prom dress hits the floor around midnight. In order to separate the idea of a “new stadium” from the “nickname controversy”, Danny Boy might attempt to form what I will call the AUC – the Abjectly Unholy Confederation. The AUC would have two major players:

    1. Danny Boy Snyder whose dual objectives are to keep his team name and also to get a brand new playpen for his team at minimal or no cost to him.

    2. The well-meaning – but addle headed – folks in this area who want Washington DC to be the US city nominated by the US Olympic Committee to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Yes; those folks exist and they have already begun their “communications operations” to convince the people and the pols in this area that they have a good idea as opposed to the dumbest idea since the screen door on a submarine.

In case you have not put two and two together properly, the common ground between Danny Boy and the “Olympics” is that the stadium used for the Opening and closing Ceremonies could also be Danny Boy’s new playpen. As this all moves forward, I suggest that someone in the Washington Post will come to the realization that this is the vector for the AUC sometime in the next 12 months. They will then trumpet their new insight and use it to bolster whatever side of the argument they happen to be on at the time. Trust me; this will happen…

    [Aside: Danny Boy and the Olympics would have been a great name for a “doo-wop” group back in the early 60s…]

Finally, let me close today with some more words of wisdom from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Weather or not: The excuses some NFL people have used to explain why it took so long to suspend players for domestic violence incidents generally fall under the heading of ‘the climate has changed.’ I never realized there were so many meteorologists running NFL teams. But no one who respects the difference between right and wrong waits to see which way the wind is blowing before doing the decent thing.”

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

Learning from experience…?

People – and institutions – learn things in different ways. The norm for most institutions is that they learn by experience and not from some kind of group-cognition that reveals some kind of understanding of smart things to do as opposed to dumb things to do. One of the adversaries to “learning by experience” is stubbornness; some folks – and some institutions – seem impervious to taking advice or considering protest. Often, such folks/institutions rightfully become public piñatas for their actions flavored with their stubbornness.

If these rants followed a path of political commentary, that introductory paragraph might fill up a week’s worth of verbiage for folks to read. Fortunately for everyone here, I try to concentrate on sports. Today, I would like to suggest that two sports institutions that I have bashed more than once in the past may have shed a tad of stubbornness and may have learned from experience. That does not make them perfect – they have a LONG way to go just to become something more than a waste of space – but it is a start.

The first organization that may have figured out that obstinance is not next to Godliness is – hold your breath – FIFA. According to a Reuters story earlier this week, the 2022 World Cup Tournament will not happen in Qatar. The report quotes a FIFA Executive Committee member, Theo Zwanzeiger, focusing on something other than the social/political/diplomatic/economic aspects of the FIFA decision to put the games there:

“Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions…”

It would be a lot easier for the FIFA foofs to be stubborn about their previous decision – and avoid all gas they will take from Qatar and whatever allies Qatar can gather in a debate to change the decision made in 2010 – when the arguments did not focus on player safety and fan safety. More from Theo Zwanzeiger:

“They may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there.

“Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor.

“That is not something that FIFA Exco members want to answer for.”

Other FIFA officials quickly pointed out that Zwanzeiger was not expressing an official FIFA position and that he was merely expressing his opinion. Nonetheless, it appears as if concerns for athlete safety have caught the attention of at least some FIFA officials and that is a significant change.

Learning from experience…?

The second organization that seems to have learned from experience and had decided to change its current behavior is – hold your breath again – the NCAA. Mark Emmert said that the NCAA will stay away from involvement concerned with domestic violence or investigations of domestic violence on college campuses. He told the AP that domestic violence is a school issue and not an NCAA issue and that colleges should handle these matters – even if they involve student-athletes.

Mark Emmert is absolutely on the right side of that issue – and that is not a sentence I am wont to type. Not only does the NCAA have no organizational interest in such matters, the NCAA has no expertise or insight to add to anything the colleges might choose to do or not to do. If he can hold to that position, he got it right. However, he is more than likely to take a whole lot of gas for that position. Let me frame the argument for you:

    In the sordid Jerry Sandusky situation, Mark Emmert and the NCAA dove in headfirst to punish Penn State to the point where it tried to get $60M from the school to use as it saw fit at other member schools. [A court said that was not going to happen, but that was the NCAA intention.]

    So if that is the NCAA established precedent for handling outrageous criminal behavior that has nothing to do with on-field athletics, why the change?

      A. Does the NCAA think that victims of domestic violence – the vast majority of whom are women – do not matter enough to warrant draconian sanctions?

      B. Does “date-rape” on campuses not sink to the same level of sleaze as “shower-rape”?

Sadly, the best answer for why the change will probably not get much play in headlines because it is too straightforward. The reason is that the NCAA had no business sticking its nose into the Jerry Sandusky matter in the first place and that the NCAA has learned something from that experience. Date-rape and domestic violence on campus is a matter for criminal investigation and the criminal justice system. The NCAA has nothing whatsoever to do with that and it needs to avoid becoming involved with it.

The issue of domestic violence as it relates to athletes – particularly football players in recent weeks – has come into focus recently with the names Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Jameis Winston as part of the headlines. Obviously, the half-game suspension for Winston that turned into a full-game suspension for Winston had to be part of Mark Emmert’s thinking and commentary on this matter. He did have one comment that seems to indicate that the NCAA realizes that this is a “school-matter” as opposed to an “NCAA-matter”:

“Most universities understand [student behavior and student punishment] is a reflection on the university. Universities have a lot more at stake in holding students accountable for their behavior. I wouldn’t say it’s done right all the time, but it is done right most of the time.”

Learning from experience…?

Finally, here is Greg Cote of the Miami Herald on the PGA’s FedEx Cup:

“The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs were won by somebody named ‘Billy Horschel,’ a strong indicator that whatever the FedEx Cup playoffs are, they stink.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 9/27/14

Lots of picks from last week … so how did they turn out?

    I liked Oregon -24 over Wash St. Oregon won by only 7. Boo!

    I liked K-State +9 against Auburn. Auburn won by 6. Yea!

    I liked Marshall -9 over Akron. Marshall won by 31. Yea!

    I liked Iowa +7 against Pitt. Iowa won straight up. Yea!

    I liked Iowa/Pitt UNDER 47. Total score was 44. Yea!

    I liked Syracuse “pick ‘em” over Maryland. Wrong! Boo!

    I liked Army/Wake Forest UNDER 48.5. Total was 45. Yea!

    I liked Michigan -4.5 over Utah. Michigan lost by 16. Boo!

    I liked Wyoming -3.5 over Fla Atl. Wyoming won by only 1. Boo!

    I liked So Miss -2.5 over Appal St. So Miss won by only 1. Boo!

    I liked Navy +6 against Rutgers. Navy lost by 7. Boo!

    I liked Fla/Alabama UNDER 52.5. Total was 63. Boo!

    I liked Va Tech -8 over Ga Tech. Va Tech lost the game. Boo!

    I liked VaTech/GaTech UNDER 52.5. Total was 51. Yea!

    I liked Clemson/Fla St OVER 60.5. Not even close. Boo!

    I liked BYU -14 over UVa. BYU won by only 8. Boo!

    I liked LSU -9.5 over Miss St. LSU lost outright. Boo!

    I liked Oklahoma -7 over W. Va. OU won by 12. Yea!

    I liked Okla/W. Va OVER 61.5. Total score was 88. Double Yea!!

    I liked Cal/Arizona OVER 69. Total score was 94. Yea!

    I liked Boise St. – 16 over La-Laf. Boise covered easily. Yea!

That was a lot of sound and fury that signified very little. The record for last week was 10-11-0 bringing the season cumulative record to 25-26-0. I guess the best I can say here is that it could have been worse.

Last week’s performance taken in conjunction with the season record to date ought to be sufficient to convince anyone with an IQ larger than his or her belt size not to rely on any information here when deciding if to bet on a college football game or which side to take in any such bet – assuming said bet would involve real money. If you are dumb enough not to reach that conclusion on your own, I think this might be a common daily happenstance in your life:

    You can wake up in the morning with nothing to do and still go to bed with half of it undone.

General Comments:

Linfield College completed their two-week road trip against out of conference foes last week with a 36-3 win at Redlands University. Linfield held Redlands to 25 yards rushing in the game and 153 yards total offense while they amassed total offense of 559 yards. The Wildcats get this week off before starting their conference play against Pacific Lutheran in Puyallup WA on 4 October. They are 2-0 for the season and need 5 wins to have a winning season in 2014. Go Wildcats!

This week, Texas coach, Charlie Strong, kicked a player off the team for unspecified violation of team rules. That was the 9th player dismissed by Strong this year – his first year at Texas where he has set out to rebuild and reorient the football program. What Strong has done is to put up his “Five Core Values” and to make sure that everyone on the team lives up to those values – or else they are no longer part of the team. Here are those values:

    Honesty
    Treat women with respect
    No drugs
    No stealing
    No guns

That is a simple list where there is not a lot of room for “interpretation” or “nuance”. It is not something Strong put up in haste as the NFL discipline mess has unfolded; these are his team rules. Look at the list and imagine the NFL where the NFL coaches enforced player behaviors that did not comply with that list. Yeah, I know; there would be an owner somewhere who would not want to lose one of his highly paid players just because he violated one of those “niceties of life”.

I spent time in previous commentaries on college football pointing out the mediocrity of the Big 10 as a conference this year. In order to try to demonstrate that I am not a ‘hater”, consider that the Big 10 has some statistically impressive rushing defenses so far this year:

    Penn State: 1st in the country @ 49.6 yards per game
    Michigan St.: 5th in the country @ 71.7 yards per game
    Michigan: 9th in the country @ 80.2 yards per game
    Wisconsin: 14th in the country @ 91 yards per game
    Iowa: 17th in the country @ 95.5 yards per game

I put those stats there in order to juxtapose them with stats for Minnesota. The Gophers depend on running the ball this year; in last week’s 24-7 win over San Jose St., Minnesota gained a total of 7 yards passing (on 1 completion mind you). Minnesota will face 3 of those 5 defenses listed above including Michigan this Saturday. If they cannot throw the ball even a little bit against a top-shelf rushing defense, the Gophers might be in deep yogurt.

It is still far too early to begin to worry about which teams are bad enough to get into my mythical end-of-season SHOE Tournament. However, there are a couple of teams that have used the first month of the 2014 season the put themselves on my radar:

    Tulsa – average margin of losing is 22.4 points per game
    Tulane – they lost to Tulsa
    E. Michigan – average margin of losing is 33.75 points per game
    Troy – average margin of losing is 31 points per game
    Kent State – they score an average of 9 points per game
    SMU – they score an average of 3 points per game.

Having noted Troy on the list above, I did point out last week that Troy was unfortunate enough to be Georgia’s opponent the week after Georgia lost a close conference game to S. Carolina that Georgia could have won. Well, I think my label of “unfortunate” was a bit too mild; the score was Georgia 66 Troy 0.

Having noted E. Michigan on the list above, the Eagles took on Michigan State last week and lost a “squeaker” by the score of 73-14. It was 56-0 midway through the third quarter. Here is a snapshot of the dominance by Michigan State in that game:

    E. Mich time of possession was 17 minutes 19 seconds
    E. Mich total offense was 135 yards
    E. Mich total offensive plays was 48

With 5 minutes to play in the third quarter, E. Michigan’s total offense to that point was 1 yard.

Wisconsin demolished Bowling Green 68-17 and it was not that close. Badgers’ RB, Melvin Gordon, gained 253 yards rushing on only 13 carries. As a team, Wisconsin gained 644 yards rushing on 60 carries (not quite 11 yards per rush attempt). I got to see some of that game; and indeed, Bowling Green was outmanned; there was no way they were going to win that game. Having said that, Bowling Green compounded their misery with a simple fact; the team cannot tackle. I have no idea what kind of practices the coaching staff ran this week, but if they look at the film for that game and do not run some tackling drills, they are deluding themselves.

Utah went into Ann Arbor and beat Michigan 26-10. Here is some of what Michigan coach, Brady Hoke, said when questioned about the “crisis in Michigan football”:

“The frustration level people may have, don’t think those kids have the same frustration. Don’t think that is part of it. What they do have is a great belief in each other. They have a great belief in the program. They come out and compete and challenge each other every day, and this will be a good football team.”

Now, just suppose Michigan loses to Minnesota at home this weekend by 3 TDs. In that case, I am not so sure Hoke’s “verbal cha-cha” will work again next week…

Indiana beat Missouri 31-27 last week at Missouri. The Tigers were ranked 18th going into that game; not surprisingly, you will not find Missouri in the Top 25 this week.

Alabama dominated Florida last week 42-21. It was not just the score; it was the fact that Alabama ran up 645 yards on offense including 449 yards passing. Florida had only 200 yards on offense, 11 first downs and the Gators were2-13 on third down conversions. Just as I suspect Brady Hoke is beginning to feel the heat at Michigan, Will Muschamp might be squirming a bit too…

Arkansas beat N. Illinois 52-14. The game started with the Razorbacks returning the opening kickoff for a TD and that was an omen. Arkansas ran the ball for 212 yards and threw for 215 yards; the Razorbacks were 10-14 on third down conversions; it was a dominating performance and it was N. Illinois’ first loss of the year.

The shocker in the SEC last week had to be Mississippi State going to Baton Rouge and beating LSU. It is not that they covered the 9.5-point spread; the Bulldogs won the game outright by a score of 34-29. Mississippi State had 540 yards of offense (compared to 430 for LSU). It was 31-10 at the end of the third quarter; LSU rallied but could not get the lead. It has probably been a while since 7 other teams from the SEC were ranked higher than LSU…

East Carolina administered a humongous beat-down to UNC last week winning by a score of 70-41. E. Carolina scored on a 55-yard pass in the first minute of the game and that proved to be a harbinger of things to come. E. Carolina went on to run up 789 yards total offense (343 yards on the ground). However, the beat down seems not to have ended when the final whistle blew…

Here is a link to an article where you can see a picture of a billboard put up by an ECU fan (obviously) this week after that game and the article explains the background for the sign. Things are “getting’ real” in the Greenville/Chapel Hill corridor of North Carolina…

Florida State – sans Jameis Winston – beat Clemson 23-17 in OT. Clemson outgained the Seminoles by 89 yards in the game; Clemson won the time of possession; Clemson won the turnover battle; Clemson had fewer penalties and the third down conversion rates were virtually identical. But the only stat that matters is the final score and Florida State won that one…

Old Dominion University is the “new kid on the block” in C-USA; Rice is the defending champion of C-USA. So last week the score was Old Dominion 45 Rice 42. Not much respect shown for the reigning champ …

Arizona beat Cal 49-45 last week. Before you conclude that this was just another of those crazy PAC-12 games where you get to the point that you are glad they changed the rules and eliminated the center jump after every score, this was even wilder and crazier than the score might suggest:

    At the end of the 3rd quarter, Cal led 31-13
    Cal scored 2 TDs in the 4th quarter

    Nonetheless, Cal lost the game on a Hail Mary pass with no time left.
    Arizona scored 36 points in the 4th quarter.

The University of Miami has two players on the roster with unusual names:

    Gray Crow is a sophomore QB from Clearwater FL. I suspect he is not really the unacknowledged love child of Jim Gray and Cheryl Crow.

    Corn Elder is a sophomore DB from Nashville, TN. How great would it be if he had a cousin named Corn Younger?

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week we had 9 Ponderosa Spread Games. The favorites covered in 6 of those games.

Georgia, Louisville, Michigan St., Penn St., Texas A&M and Wisconsin covered.

Cincinnati, Oregon and Washington did not cover.

Last week’s record for favorites covering was 6-3-0 and that brings the season cumulative record to 21-14-1.

This week we have 7 Ponderosa Spread Games:

Wyoming at Michigan St. – 28 (48): Wyoming has a new coach this year. He has to be wondering who thought scheduling Michigan State was a good idea…

S. Florida at Wisconsin – 34.5 (51): This line opened at 33 and has moved up slowly as the week progressed. S. Florida struggled to beat UConn last week; this could get ugly.

Kent St. at UVa – 27.5 (44.5): Recall that Kent State is averaging 9 points per game this year. However, recognize that UVA is not much of a team either.

UTEP at K-State – 27 (52.5): This line opened at 30 points, dropped to this level almost immediately and has stayed at 27 points for the rest of the week. No, I have no idea why that happened…

La Tech at Auburn – 33 (61): This game could be “Avert-your eyes awful”…

TCU – 32 at SMU (46.5): Recall that SMU averages 3 points per game this year. Making that worse, TCU is a local rival (Fort Worth versus Dallas) and TCU features defense as its calling card.

New Mexico St. at LSU – 43 (55.5): Not an opportune time for a bad team to be going to play a game at LSU after the Tigers lost at home last week.

Games of Interest:

(Fri Nite) Middle Tenn St. at Old Dominion – 3.5 (67.5): ODU can and will score; ODU’s defense can and will allow other teams to score. I like this game to go OVER.

(Fri Nite) Fresno St – 5 at New Mexico (71.5): New Mexico is 3rd in the nation in rushing offense (349.7 yards per game). Meanwhile, Fresno St’s rushing defense ranks 100th in the country (219.3 yards per game). Flipping that coin over, the Fresno St rushing offense is a middle-of-the-pack level at 176.5 yards per game. However, New Mexico’s rushing defense is 119th in the country giving up a staggering 302.7 yards per game. Purely a venue call, I’ll take New Mexico at home plus the points and hope that defense decides to tackle a few runners here.

Minnesota at Michigan – 12.5 (43.5): This line opened at 8 points and has been climbing all week. The Total Line opened at 46.5 and has dropped to this level as the week wore on. This game could be “make-or-break” for Michigan; their schedule gets tougher as the season wears on. I am intrigued by the line movement, but not enough to entice me to wager on the game for real. However, if this turns into a run-the-ball slog-fest with a touch of bad weather… Hey, it is only a mythical pick so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Tulane at Rutgers – 11.5 (55): Tulane lost to Tulsa (see above) and Tulsa is not a good team at all. If Rutgers has any pretense of being something other than a doormat for Big 10 teams, they should win in a walk here. I’ll take Rutgers at home and lay the points.

Vandy at Kentucky – 17 (50): I cannot recall the last time Kentucky was a 17-point favorite over another SEC team. That is what makes this a game of interest; there is no reason to wager on this game.

Miami (Oh) at Buffalo – 6 (57.5): Two bad teams – potentially bad enough to be SHOE Teams. Interesting? Yes. Wagering? Are you nuts?

Wake Forest at Louisville – 21.5 (41): Wake Forest is not a good team and Louisville is better than average. I do not want to lay more than 3 TDs here but I do think that Louisville will score and that Wake will be able to get 10-17 points. Therefore, I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Bowling Green – 5 at UMass (68.5): UMass is a bad team; Bowling Green’s defense cannot tackle (see above). Obviously, this is interesting because the teams are so bad. However, there is another angle here. Neither offense will scare any defensive coordinator, so I have no idea where 69 points might come from. I’ll hold my nose and take the game to stay UNDER.

Missouri at S. Carolina – 4.5 (62): Very interesting game here. A loss for S. Carolina would be 2 losses in the SEC; that is tough to overcome. A loss for Missouri would give it two losses in a row but only one in conference. Venue call here; I like S. Carolina to win and cover.

Notre Dame – 9.5 vs Syracuse (51) (Meadowlands, NJ): Syracuse beat Division 1-AA Villanova by 1 point and lost to Maryland last week by 2 TDs. Notre Dame is a big step up from either of those teams. I like Notre Dame to win and cover.

Arkansas vs Texas A&M – 10 (71.5) (Arlington, TX): Perhaps this is the best game of the weekend…? Granted, these teams have generated these stats against some less-than-awesome out of conference opponents. However, consider:

    Arkansas averages 48.4 points per game
    Texas A&M averages 55.3 points per game

    Arkansas converts 54.8% of its third down situations
    Texas A&M converts 60% of its third down situations

Even on defense, the Aggies hold a slight edge in the stats. Even though this is technically a “neutral site game” in the “Jerry-Dome”, I think the Aggies have an edge in terms of the “neutrality”. I like the Aggies to win and cover.

UNC at Clemson – 14.5 (67.5): How will these teams react to losses last week. Clemson lost to the reigning national champ – minus its QB – in OT; UNC took it in the shorts at the hands of E. Carolina (see above). If the UNC coaching staff cannot get the team up for this game, one of two situations obtain:

    The coaching staff is way over its head – or –
    The team has already packed it in for the season.

I think UNC comes out with energy and that line is fat. I’ll take UNC plus the points.

Stanford – 7.5 at Washington (47.5): Maybe not the best game of the weekend, but a fine game indeed… Washington has not faced an opponent even remotely as capable as Stanford this season and remember that Washington gave up 52 points to Division 1-AA E. Washington just 3 weeks ago. Stanford already had one tough opponent (USC) 3 weeks ago and Stanford had a bye week last week. I like Stanford to win and cover here.

Texas – 12 at Kansas (41): Assuming that Charlie Strong has enough players left on the roster to suit up and take the field, Kansas should not provide stern opposition. Call it the Charlie Bowl with Charlie Strong going up against Charlie Weis. Even at home, I just cannot take Kansas here so I’ll take Texas to win and cover.

Tennessee at Georgia – 17 (57): I must be missing something here because that Total Line looks awfully low to me. I like this game to go OVER.

Florida State – 18.5 at NC State (58.5): Opening line for this game had the Seminoles as a 23-point favorite. The question here is how much emotional energy did the Seminoles expend last week winning an OT game without their star QB. Yes, he is back this week but if they are emotionally drained… It is a fat line so I’ll take NC State plus the points here and hope Florida State is sleepwalking for the first quarter or two.

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend of 9/28/14

Reviewing last weekend’s selections:

    I liked Bills -2 over Chargers. Bills lost outright. No!

    I liked Cowboys/Rams UNDER 44.5. Total was 65. No!

    I liked Skins/Eagles OVER 50.5. Total was 71. Yes!

    I liked Skins +7 against Eagles. Eagles won by only 3. Double Yes!!

    I liked Texans -2 over Giants. Giants won outright. No!

    I liked Saints -10 over Vikes. Saints won by 11. Yes!

    I liked Titans/Bengals UNDER 43. Total was 40. Yes!

    I liked Browns +2 against Ravens. The game was a PUSH.

    I liked Packers/Lions OVER 52.5. Total was 26. No!

    I liked Colts -6.5 over Jags. Colts won by 27. Yes!

    I liked Raiders/Pats OVER 46. Total was 25. No!

    I liked Cards +3 against Niners. Cards won outright. Yes!

    I liked Seahawks -4.5 over Broncos. Seahawks won by 6. Yes!

    I liked Chiefs +4 against Dolphins. Chiefs won outright. Yes!

    I liked Panthers -3 over Steelers. Not even close. No!

    I liked Bears +3 against Jets. Bears won outright. Yes!

Last week was by far the best set of picks for this season. The final tally was 9-6-1, which is over .500 and would have been mythically profitable. Lest you think that I am about to dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back, the cumulative record for the season still stands at a miserable 21-30-1.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games had about as perfect a record for three games as one might expect. This week’s record was 1-1-1. The cumulative record for coin flip games stands at 2-5-1.

Just in case anyone might think that last week’s record is a harbinger of continued profitability, I need to remind everyone that no one should use anything here as authoritative when it comes to making a real bet on a real NFL game involving real money this week or any other week. Here is how dumb one would have to be to do so:

    You think the reason you have not seen the movie, Constipation, is that it hasn’t come out yet.

General Comments:

Last week on the FOX studio program, Jimmy Johnson opined that the Jags need to play Blake Bortles at QB because “he gives them the best chance to win” and because “he is the QB of the future” in Jax. I know that is standard reasoning and fundamentally, I agree with “The Jimster” as Randy Galloway always calls him that Bortles has the potential to become a much better QB than Chad Henne is now or will become. However, speaking about who plays QB for the Jags in terms of “giving them the best chance to win” misses the point:

    Game 1: Jags gave up 34 points.
    Game 2: Jags gave up 41 points
    Game 3: Jags gave up 44 points.

I do not care who the QB is for the Jags; if the opponent scores like that, the Jags are going to lose. Last week, the Jags gave up 30 points in the first half; the second half of the game was fundamentally irrelevant because the outcome was never in doubt.

This week, the Jags go on the road to play the Chargers. They are giving up an average of 39.7 points per game. I will go out on a limb here and say that the Jags will not score 40 against the Chargers with any QB on their roster. To have a chance to win, the defense/special teams need to do a whole lot better.

I said last week that if DeSean Jackson played against the Eagles, he would play with gusto. Indeed, he caught 5 passes for 117 yards and a TD and he initiated a pushing/shoving incident early in the game. He is not responsible for the Skins’ loss; that responsibility belongs to the Skins’ special teams that look awful again this year – as they have for the past two years. The special teams gave up a 102-yard kickoff return and the Skins missed a chip shot field goal in the second half. That is a 10-point swing in a game that went to the Eagles by a field goal.

Here is another observation from the Skins/Eagles game:

    Kirk Cousins is now and is going to continue to be a better QB in Jay Gruden’s offensive system than RG3 will be.

Please note that I qualified that assessment with the words “in Jay Gruden’s offensive system”. I am not ready to declare that RG3 was not worth the huge price in terms of draft picks that he cost the Skins; I am not saying in any way that RG3 cannot be a good QB in the NFL. What I am saying is that the way Jay Gruden’s offense works plays to one of Kirk Cousin’s strengths (quick reads and quick delivery of the ball) and plays to one of RG3’s weaknesses (quick reads and quick delivery of the ball).

Trust me on this; my view is definitely a minority view amongst the Washington fanboys who call in to the various sports radio programs here…

More stuff from the Skins/Eagles game – guess what the featured game in my area was last week…:

    The two QBs combined to try 90 passes. Neither defense recorded a sack in the game.

    Skins defensive secondary was horrid. They made Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews look like Jerry Rice and John Taylor out there.

    Skins clearly focused on shutting down LeSean McCoy and held him to 22 yards rushing on 20 carries.

The Falcons disemboweled the Bucs last Thursday night by a score of 56-14. Moreover, those 14 points by the Bucs were meaningless ones coming late in game that had been decided before halftime. The story line of the summer was that Lovie Smith was going to bring a brand of toughness to the Bucs defense and that by bringing in Josh McCown who had played for Smith in Chicago, the Bucs would use tough defense and game management to win. The two operative words here would be:

    Not … Happening!

So far, McCown has demonstrated why he has been a back-up QB for his career and the Bucs defense has given up 95 points in 3 straight losses. I am certain that there are no Tampa Bay fans who would want to hear this, but:

    The Bucs never looked this overmatched and lackadaisical in the Greg Schiano Era.

    Another game like last Thursday’s game will harken back to the Bucs’ teams during the John McKay Era.

Here is how Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel felt about the Bucs’ performance last week:

“Did you see the Yucks get absolutely humiliated 56-14 on Thursday Night Football? It was the most embarrassing TV I’ve seen since ‘Joanie Loves Chachi.’ The Bucs look like one of those directional schools that college powerhouses schedule for homecoming.”

The Rams sprinted out to a 21-0 lead against the Cowboys and proceeded to lose the game 34-31. The Cowboys ran the ball 29 times and threw the ball only 23 times in this game.

There is only one word to describe the Bengals’ win over the Titans last week:

    Domination.

The Lions beat the Packers last week 19-7. The events of that game lead to these two questions:

    1. How in this part of the known universe did the Packers’ offense produce only 7 points against that Lions’ secondary?

    2. When Lions LB, Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL in the middle of a sack celebration, did Bill Gramatica nod knowingly?

      [Aside: Possibly the dumbest self-inflicted injury in NFL history was Gus Frerotte when he head-butted the stadium wall after running for a 1-yard TD and sprained his neck in the process.]

The Giants won a game over the Texans. Arian Foster did not play reducing the Texans’ running game significantly. With that threat diminished, the Giants’ defense focused on Ryan Fitzpatrick and intercepted him 3 times. A blocked punt by the Giants also set up a short TD drive.

For the third week in a row, the Browns’ game was decided on the final play of the game. This time the Browns lost by 2 points when the Ravens kicked a short field goal at the end. The Browns are playing much better than I thought there were going to play.

The Chargers went to Buffalo and dominated the Bills holding them to 87 yards rushing and recording 3 sacks on defense plus a safety.

The Cards beat the Niners 23-14 and shut out the Niners in the second half of the game. This makes two wins in a row for the Cards with Drew Stanton playing QB. Here is a stat that tells you the level at which Stanton was playing in crunch time last week:

    The Cards had 5 third down situations in the second half of the game.
    The Cards converted all 5 of those situations.

Lots of Vikings’ fans had been calling for the start of the Terry Bridgewater Era. Last week may have been the first game of said era and Bridgewater went 12-20 for 150 yards and no TDs. Well, at least it is a start…

The Pats beat the Raiders 16-9 in Foxboro last week. If you ever want to know what the phrase “winning ugly” means, check out that game. I know that Pats’ fans do not want to hear this but:

    Tom Brady has not been playing like “Tom Brady” this year and there is an old NFL adage that says Father Time has never missed a tackle…

By the way, if you are still unclear as to the fundamental concept of “winning ugly”, you can then turn to the replay of the Bears/Jets game from Monday night. Yowza!

The Games:

The Bye Weeks start now. Six teams will have the week off:

    Arizona can prepare for a trip to Denver next week
    Cincy gets a week off before going to New England.
    Cleveland will travel to Tennessee next week.
    Denver can prepare to host Arizona next week
    St. Louis has a week off before going to Philly
    Seattle gets to prepare for a trip to Washington.

(Thurs Nite) Giants at Washington – 4 (45.5): Did the Giants wake up last week and realize that the exhibition season is over and that these games count? How many INTs will Eli Manning throw in this game? Can the Skins’ special teams find a way not to give away points in this game? Can the Skins find a crew of DBs to put on the field who can cover a corpse? Here are two mediocre teams playing on a short week where there are more questions about the game than there are rational answers. This is a classic Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game. The coin says to take the Giants plus the points. That leads to one final question:

    Why not?

Miami – 4 vs. Oakland (41) (London Game): Last week, the Raiders played in New England; this week they will play in Olde England. The Dolphins are not a good team; the Raiders are not nearly a good team. This is clearly going to be nothing more than Fetid Football. The Dolphins rebuilding project along the OL still has a way to go before it is “good”; the Raiders demonstrated some pass rushing skill last week against the Pats. This looks to be a low-scoring game because neither offense is very good. My preference in such games is to take the points. Therefore, I will hold my nose and take the Raiders plus the points.

Green Bay – 1.5 at Chicago (49.5): I shall make this short and sweet. Given the sorry-assed offensive production last week against the Lions’ secondary, there is no way on this planet I am going to take the Packers this week as a road favorite. I’ll take the Bears plus the points.

Buffalo at Houston – 3 (41): Both teams have 2-1 records this year; neither team inspires a great deal of confidence despite those 2-1 records. Last week showed that Ryan Fitzpatrick is not going to “carry” the Texans without a running game that will threaten the defense; ergo, can Arian Foster go this week? As of this morning, Foster is “questionable” for the game. Fortunately, these are mythical picks and do not have any relation to reality so I can guess about Foster’s availability without decimating my wallet. I’ll make this a venue call and take the Texans to win and cover at home.

Tennessee at Indy – 7.5 (45): The Colts’ offense is 78 yards per game better than the Titans’ offense. The Titans’ defense is 84 yards per game better than the Colts’ defense. Not much to choose from in those stats… How about some trends:

    Titans are 6-3-1 ATS in their last 10 road games
    Colts are 6-3-1 ATS in their last 10 games against the Titans

Not much to choose from in those trends… It is another classic Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

Carolina at Baltimore – 3 (40.5): If you like defense, you will probably love this game; if you like to see the scoreboard light up like a pinball machine, you will probably hate this game. Last week, I said DeSean Jackson would play with gusto against the Eagles – the team that released him. This week, Steve Smith will have reason to demonstrate to the Panthers that they should not have gotten rid of him. Joe Flacco plays better at home than on the road; that is his history. Cam Newton looked as if he was not completely healed and ready to play like Cam Newton last week. I’ll take the Ravens at home and lay the points.

Detroit – 1.5 at Jets (45): Just so there is no misunderstanding, I would not wager on this game with found money. The Lions on the road as a favorite? Seriously? The Jets secondary against the Lions’ pass attack? Who knows? “Bad Geno” Smith or “Good Geno” Smith? Does even Geno know? Yes, here is a third Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game, and the coin says to take the Jets plus the points.

Tampa at Pittsburgh – 7.5 (45): After watching last Thursday’s debacle against the Falcons, there is no way I am taking the Bucs on the road this week. That was embarrassingly bad football. I’ll take the Steelers and lay the points.

Jax at San Diego – 13.5 (44.5): After saying what I did about the Jags above and how their defense has put victory out of reach for the team in every game this year, it would be difficult for me to say here that I like the Jags on the road against a good team that is three time zones away from the Jags’ home base. At the same time, the Chargers can easily suffer a letdown from last week’s road win in Buffalo and may just try to mail it in for this one. Even if they mail it in, the Chargers should win the game but that spread is not minuscule. The Chargers have a cluster of injuries to their running backs. Ryan Matthews will be out for this game; Danny Woodhead went on IR after last week’s game; as of this morning, here is the depth chart for the Chargers at RB:

    Donald Brown – journeyman
    Brandon Oliver – undrafted free agent from Buffalo U.
    Shaun Draughn – on his fifth team in four seasons

I have a feeling in my gut – and I hope it is not agita – that this game is going to be closer than that fat spread. With trepidation, I’ll take the Jags plus the points.

Philly at SF – 5.5 (50.5): The Eagles’ defense is not going to hold the Niners scoreless for a half this week and the Eagles’ defense will have difficulty containing the Niners’ running game. Meanwhile, it does not seem as if the Niners will be able to clamp down the Eagles’ offense either. I like this game to go OVER.

Atlanta – 3 at Minnesota (47): Given last week’s rout over the Bucs, my first reaction to this line was that it was awfully low. Then I looked to see that the game would be on the road – not a Falcons’ strong suit – and that the game would be outdoors – the Vikings’ “dome” was imploded several months ago – and that is also not a plus for the Falcons. As I began to lean to the Vikings here, I also realized that this would be Terry Bridgewater’s first NFL start and that he will not have a meaningful running game to provide him with a “comfy place” on the field. I have to go with my original impression here; the line is lower than it ought to be. I’ll take the Falcons to win and cover even on the road.

(Sun Nite) New Orleans – 3 at Dallas (52.5): Speaking of teams with a “home dome” that do not fare nearly as well on the road and outdoors, here is the Saints’ game for the week. The Saints have already lost 2 road games this year; interestingly, the Cowboys only loss came at home in the “Jerry-Dome”. I think there will be points galore in this game as neither defense showers itself in glory. I like the game to go OVER.

(Mon Nite) New England – 3.5 at KC (45): The Chiefs got a win last week without the services of RB, Jamaal Charles. He is listed as “questionable” for Monday’s game. Of course, that was a road win over a less-than-scary Dolphins’ squad. Oops, that is the same team that beat the Patriots in the season opener… The Pats seem to be a mirror image of themselves so far this year. As of this morning:

    The Pats rank 14th in total offense in the AFC.
    The Pats rank 2nd in total defense in the AFC.
    The Pats rank 1st in pass defense in the AFC.

    Say what?

The Total Line in this game intrigues me because I do not think it represents how the game will unfold. My problem is that I am not sure which scenario will be in evidence:

    Scenario 1: The Pats solid defense shuts down the Chiefs’ offense while the Pats continue to stink on offense and the total score in the game winds up in the low-30s.

    Scenario 2: Both offenses wake up and play the way both offenses are capable of playing and the total score in the game winds up in the high 50s.

Purely a hunch, I’ll favor Scenario 2 and take the game to go OVER.

Finally, since the last game of the week involves the Pats, let me close with some words of wisdom attributed to Tom Brady:

“Every quarterback can throw a ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but that mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness.”

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

Misplaced Anger

I have said that the NFL was tone deaf in the way it dealt with the Ray Rice discipline matter from the time the announcement of the 2-game suspension hit the streets. I have said that the prosecutor(s) in Atlantic City, NJ should be ashamed of themselves for their leniency in that case. I said that the folks in NFL Security were either incompetent or complicit in a cover-up in this whole matter. I have chided Ravens’ fans who gave Ray Rice a standing ovation when he hit the field at training camp. I pointed out the apparent – if not real – conflict of interest in naming Robert Mueller to head the investigation into what the Hell happened here. I have a whole list of folks with whom I am angry here but I have to go waaay down on that list before I come to Roger Goodell.

He has been ham-handed, tone-deaf, out to sea and befuddled throughout this mess. However, he has also become the guy whose face is on the dartboard for everyone to take shots at. And I do not think that is either fair or appropriate. Too much anger is misplaced.

Before you accuse me of being a shill for Roger Goodell, please consider:

    Roger Goodell did not hit Janay Parker Rice in that elevator. For all of the activists out there who are carrying signs demanding that Goodell lose his job, why are you mad at him? He got the initial punishment wrong; he admitted that he got it wrong; he then upped the ante. What would you have had him do? His mistake was the original 2-game suspension decision and it has been corrected to a degree. If you want him fired for that, no one would be safe in a management position anywhere in the US; managers and leaders make mistakes all the time. The key element is whether or not they correct their errors and find ways not to repeat them.

    Roger Goodell did not give Ray Rice a pass on criminal charges putting him into a “court-supervised counseling” program. The original charges offered up by the grand jury could have gotten him 3-5 years in jail plus a fine of $10K. Pleading that down to “counseling” seems to me to shrug at the seriousness of what happened in that elevator on that evening. If you believe that violence against women is too commonplace in US society – which I do – and if you have any belief that punishment has any effect at all – which I do -, then you should be mad at the prosecutors in Atlantic City a lot more than Roger Goodell.

I do not say any of the above with the intention of exonerating Roger Goodell; he handled this matter about as poorly as possible but I do not think his fumbling the ball here comes close to a “firing offense”. Based on what I know now – and presumably there will be more info coming from the “Mueller Investigation” – I have an opinion on who ought to lose his/her job:

    Everyone in NFL Security who was involved in the league’s investigation of this matter leading up to the decision to issue that original 2-game suspension should be in “employment jeopardy”.

      Far too little information that was “out there to be had” never found its way to NFL Security. Boiled down to a single word, that performance was “Incompetent”.

      Alternatively, more information than has been acknowledged did come into the hands of NFL Security but it never made its way to decision makers. Boiled down to two words, that performance was a “cover up”.

      Where I come from, both “incompetence” and “covering up” are causes for termination.

    The “middle management structure” within the NFL that oversees NFL Security and its performance and its role in keeping senior leadership apprised of the facts of matters of this kind also should be in “employment jeopardy”.

      If the problem was “incompetence”, it is unlikely that said incompetence came forth in full bloom for the first time in this matter. Yes, people make mistakes but if you are a professional in the security/investigation game, these mistakes were way below the level of “junior varsity”. How was that kind of performance allowed to continue to exist? Middle managers should be made to “splain that.” [/Ricky Ricardo]

      If the problem was a cover-up, middle managers could have played a variety of roles:

        Middle managers actually buried germane information and kept it from senior decision makers.

        NFL Security folks did the covering up and the middle managers did not ask enough questions to prevent those folks from being successful in the cover up.

      Again, the choices here seem to be “incompetence” or “covering up” and I think I said above what I think of those situations.

One other actor in this affair is the NFLPA which is now filing an appeal on behalf of Ray Rice based on technicalities in the process here. They are going to argue in favor of a man who unquestionably cold-cocked his fiancée in an elevator to the point where she was unconscious as a result of a single blow. They are going to use “procedural niceties” to seek his reinstatement as an NFL player. Boiled down to a single word, that action is “disgusting”.

    I would ask DeMaruice Smith the following question. Suppose someone in the NFLPA office who answers to you unequivocally did what Ray Rice did in that elevator – or what Adrian Peterson allegedly did to his 4-year-old son – and that person made your organization look like a bunch of troglodytes. Then, if you terminated his employment with the NFLPA for any of variety of reasons, how would you react to someone outside your organization appealing his termination based on ‘procedures”?

    People like Roger Goodell and DeMaruice Smith – and politicians too – never deal with those kinds of questions. They hide behind the arm-waving statement that hypothetical questions are somehow inappropriate. Well, in this case, absent the kind of answers needed from the NFLPA, I can only draw conclusions based on actions:

      Procedural matters are far more important than violence against women. Those procedures need more vigorous protection than do victims.

I am part of a book club; we had a meeting earlier this week. At that meeting, I had the opportunity to tell one of my book club colleagues – who also reads these rants once in a while – that I would be happy to resolve this matter for the NFL in the following way.

    I would be happy to put these rants on hiatus for however long in order to undertake to lead the investigation into what happened for the NFL. I have no conflict of interest in the matter nor do I have any apparent conflict of interest.

    I would do the investigation for no fee; the only charges would be to cover documented out-of-pocket costs.

    The only “wrinkle” I would add to the mix here is this:

      No one other than me and whomever I might solicit to join me in doing the investigation would see a single word of the final report until it was ready for release.

      Moreover, the release of the final report would happen electronically to the NFL, the NFLPA and 50 press outlets simultaneously. There would be no redactions and it would not be copyrighted.

So, when it comes to pass that there is criticism of the Mueller Investigation – for valid or for invalid reasons – I am on record here providing them a way out of the mess. The caveat is that I spent 37 years of my life as a basketball referee and what I learned from that avocation was to “blow the whistle and call what I see.” This whole mess needs a lot more of that and a lot less misplaced anger.

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

Hello, FXFL…

When you read about an old idea being tried again, you can look at it two ways:

    1. They tried this before; it did not work; this is the same old “stuff” repackaged; it is destined to fail.

    2. Since they keep trying to get this done, there has to be some basis for that thinking and maybe these guys will figure out how to make it succeed.

Welcome to the world of the FXFL – the Fall Experimental Football League. The idea here is that the FXFL will be a feeder league/developmental program that ultimately provides players to the NFL. Here is what the league founder, Brian Woods, said about the FXFL objectives:

“Our long-term goal is to establish a partnership with the NFL and we feel can do that on many platforms. It would give them a way to work with younger players that they don’t currently have. We can help them train prospective NFL officials – in the NBA, every referee entering the league (in recent years) comes from NBA Developmental League. We can be a testing ground for proposed rules, too.”

Those of old enough to remember the World League of American Football (teams in North America and Europe) which morphed into NFL Europe (only teams in Europe) will recall that those leagues were established as a subsidiary of the NFL and had similar opportunities. It did not work then because attendance at games in Europe did not support the costs even though games were played in major cities in Europe such as London, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Frankfurt. And that is what gives me pause about the survival chances for the FXFL.

Granted, the league is not over-reaching at the start to gain a “national footprint”; the FXFL begins play on October 8 with 4 teams:

    Boston Brawlers (they will play in Harvard Stadium)
    Brooklyn Bolts
    Florida Blacktips
    Omaha Mammoths

Games will take place on Wednesday and Friday nights and the schedule extends to Nov 12. The key to survival here is that “partnership with the NFL” that Brian Woods mentioned above. It could keep the league afloat long enough to let it establish some kind of following/fanbase in its cities. By the way, it would be a place for the NFL to work with the FXFL to look at rule changes in live action before instituting them. Changes to the rules regarding point after touchdown tries sound good on paper but may not be nearly so good with real players executing real plays. So, why not give them a “test drive” first?

Already, some columnists have commented on the FXFL:

“The [Omaha] Storm Chasers won the Pacific coast League championship. That was the goal all year — as opposed to our new FXFL team, where the bar is set lower. If the league hasn’t folded by Week 3, the season is a roaring success.” [Brad Dickson, Omaha World Herald]

And…

“The FXFL, with four teams including the local Florida Blacktips based at FIU, is to begin play in October. ‘See you soon!’ said the caretaker of the Miami Minor-League Sports Graveyard.” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]

I once described a former co-worker for whom I had little regard as a “feckless, know-nothing a$$hole who looks good in a three-piece suit.” In addition to the stunning accuracy of my assessment, the unusual level of candor contained in the wording turned that phrase into a quotable quote that echoed too often in future discussions about personnel and capabilities. I mention that because I want to declare right now that NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, is not feckless; he knows what he is doing; and although I have never seen him in a three-piece suit, I suspect he would not look particularly good wearing one. Adam Silver has come out of the gate as NBA Commish in top gear.

He handled the Donald/Shelly Sterling case about as gracefully as it could have been handled given how icky the core of the matter was. He managed the endgame of that situation effectively. What I thought would be interesting to see was how he did something positive when he was not forced to act by the blatant stupidity of someone in the league. We got an answer to that one last week.

Adam Silver took a look around the sporting landscape and saw the pummeling that Roger Goodell and the NFL have taken over the issue of discipline for players who are involved in off-field incidents that are simply not socially acceptable. Silver said that he and others in the league have already been talking to the NBPA about new/expanded programs to educate players on off-field issues [Aside: Cannot hurt but these are adults so you might think they would already know the basics here.] and about changes to the NBA discipline structure that is contained in the latest CBA between the league and the union. The CBA calls for a minimum 10-game suspension for any player convicted of a “violent felony”.

Kudos to Adam Silver for trying to get out ahead of the issue before an NBA player drops this problem on his desk without warning.

Finally, here is another comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding team names:

“A 91-year-old soccer fan left about $636,000 in cash and his house to the Norwegian club, FL Fart. I might suggest using $635,000 of that to find a new name.”

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

Mythical Picks – NFL – Weekend Of 9/21/14

Just how bad were last week’s Mythical Picks…?

    I liked Pitts -3 over Ravens. Ravens won by 20. No!

    I liked Detroit/Carolina OVER 43. Total was only 31. No!

    I liked Buffalo +1.5 against Miami. Buffalo won straight up. Yes!

    I liked Jax +6 against Washington. Jax lost by 31. No!

    I liked Tennessee -3 over Dallas. Dallas won by 16. No!

    I liked Arizona -2 over Giants. Arizona covered easily. Yes!

    I liked NE/Minnesota OVER 48.5. Total was 37. No!

    I liked NO/Cleveland OVER 47.5. The game went OVER. Yes!

    I liked Cincy -5 over Atlanta. Cincy won by 14. Yes!

    I liked St. Louis +6 against Tampa. St. Louis won outright. Yes!

    I liked Seattle -5.5 over San Diego. San Diego won outright. No!

    I liked Houston/Oakland UNDER 40. Total was 44. No!

    I liked Green Bay -8 over Jets. Green Bay won by only 7. No!

    I liked Denver -12 over KC. Denver won by only 7. No!

    I liked SF -7 over Chicago. Chicago won outright. No!

    I liked Indy -3 over Philly. Philly won outright. No!

So the record for Week 2 was an atrocious 5-11-0 and when that is combined with last week’s embarrassing results it brings the season total for Mythical Picks to 12-24-0. How badly does that record stink? Well, it smells like a sumo wrestler’s armpits about halfway through a marathon.

The Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Games were 0-2 last week meaning “The Coin” now has a record of 1-4-0 after two weeks. Even random events have sucked wind here in Curmudgeon Central.

Obviously, anyone with the IQ of a zucchini would realize that placing any trust in these Mythical Picks as they might relate to a real bet on a real NFL game involving real money is the height of folly. In fact, anyone who thinks that way is so stupid that he would need to rely on his old dog to teach him new tricks.

General Comments:

I saw a game where ex-NY Giants OL, David Diehl, did color commentary with Thom Brennaman. Diehl was pretty good for a guy doing his first national color commentary gig. I think I could grow to like him on the airwaves.

Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, told the San Jose Mercury-News that he thinks the NFL should adopt a suspension with pay policy for players arrested or accused of domestic violence. By his thinking, that would keep the league on the right side of the “due process” line and it would provide the league with some credibility in the court of public opinion. I like that kind of thinking; I would hope that Davis’ remarks would spur others – including the NFLPA, which has been silent to the point of stupidity on these issues – to come up with means to reduce the negative impact of such arrests/accusations/charges/etc. I do have one concern with the suggestion Mark Davis made:

    Suspending a player – with pay or without pay – can have a significantly negative impact on a team. If you want to open the door to some folks who would like to score a betting coup, let them know that the league will suspend a key player form next Sunday’s game should he be arrested/accused of a domestic violence crime on Friday night. The “arranged false accusation” on late Friday night would allow for a betting coup on Sunday followed by exoneration of the player on the next Tuesday.

    Please do not tell me that is impossible…

Last year, the Saints’ defense was very good. I thought they would continue to be good this year to the point where I thought the Saints might get home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. For the first two games of 2014, the Saints’ defense has stunk – and maybe I am being kind here. Last week, the Saints led the Browns by 2 points with less than 3 minutes on the clock and the Browns had the ball on their own 5 yardline. The Browns are not an offensive juggernaut; their best WR is suspended; they did not have a future HoF playing at QB; Jim Brown was not carrying the ball on running plays. Nonetheless, the Saints’ defense let the Browns march the field – converting a fourth-and-long in the process – to kick a short game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.

Considering that it was the Browns’ home opener and it was a beautiful day in Cleveland, it sure looked like there were a lot of empty seats in FirstEnergy Stadium last Sunday…

Connor Cook is the starting QB at Michigan State; I suspect that he is a rising star in the NFL Draft for next year based on last week’s NFL results. Three former Michigan State QBs won games last week and they were not all under center for powerhouse teams:

    Drew Stanton led the Cards to a win over the Giants.

    Brian Hoyer rallied the Browns to a win over the Saints.

    Kirk Cousins entered the game early in the first quarter and led the Skins to a 41-10 win over the Jags.

Speaking of the Jags, they have been blown out twice in two weeks giving up 34 points to the Eagles and then 41 to the Skins. They have been particularly bad in the second halves of games giving up 57 points in the first two games after making their “halftime adjustments”. The Jags simply do not have the offensive firepower to deal with that kind of inept defense.

Do you think, perhaps, that Bill Belichick knows something about Matt Cassell’s tendencies or “tells”? The Pats defense intercepted 4 of Cassell’s passes last week in a rout of the Vikings.

Speaking of turning the ball over 4 times, consider the Oakland Raiders. They did that last week against the Texans and lost by 16 points. It was 27-0 after three periods so when the Raiders “closed the gap” it was definitely “garbage time”.

Here is a rhetorical question – yet one that the Steelers’ braintrust needs to answer:

    Where the Hell is the Steelers’ offense?

Last week, they scored 6 points and only passed the ball for 217 yards. Yes, the Ravens are a good defensive team, but still…

Here is another rhetorical question for the Packers’ coaching staff:

    Is Julius Peppers “pacing himself” and “saving something for late in the season” or is he done?

Yes, I know that the Packers roared back from a 21-3 deficit last week to win the game, but remember that came at the expense of a boneheaded Jets’ team.

How good – or how bad – are the Cowboys? In Week 1, they laid an egg; last week they dominated their opponent and did it with Demarco Murray running the ball for 176 yards and the defense giving up only 10 points. How did all of that happen?

Not only did the Saints lose last week to start the season at 0-2, but their NFC South rivals – the Falcons – went to Cincy and lost handily to the Bengals. I thought the Panthers might take a step back this year from a 12-4 record, but if the NFC South is as bad as it has looked in the first two weeks, the Panthers look like a lock to win the division and have a gaudy record for the year.

The Games:

San Diego at Buffalo – 2 (44.5): This is one of two “frequent flyer miles games” this week. The Chargers will travel 25-hundred miles to see if the Bills are as good as their 2-0 record might suggest. Of course, the Chargers themselves are a huge question mark after losing badly to the Cardinals in Week 1 and then beating the Seahawks in Week 2. Which Chargers team will get off that airplane? I am not yet ready to welcome the Bills to the upper echelons of the NFL but I am leery of the Chargers in this kind of a game situation. I’ll take the Bills and lay the points here without much conviction.

Dallas at St. Louis “pick ‘em” (44.5): This game is The Stinker of the Week. The Cowboys’ defensive stats are going to look good again this week facing Austin Davis as the opposing QB. In the first two games of this season, the Rams have yet to throw a TD pass; in today’s version of the NFL, that is amazing. I think the Rams’ defense is good enough to prevent the Cowboys’ from striking quickly from long-distance in this game; I think the Cowboys’ defense will be able to make the Rams run the ball and “dink-and-dunk” their way down the field. Not a lot of points here so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Washington at Philly – 7 (50.5): Chip Kelly’s offense is indeed fun to watch and it will be interesting to see if Jay Gruden’s offense continues to look more efficient/effective with Kirk Cousins at QB in place of RG3. Recall, that was clearly the case in the exhibition games. If DeSean Jackson’s shoulder lets him play, look for him to play with gusto; the break-up between Jackson and the Eagles was not pretty. Just a hunch but I like this game to go OVER and I like the Skins plus the points.

Houston – 2 at Giants (41): The Texans are 2-0 while the Giants are 0-2. The Texans have not been challenged this year (Skins and Raiders). The Giants have simply been outclassed. It is not often that you see a team that went 2-14 as a road favorite in Week 3 of the following season. Ryan Fitzpatrick comes into the game with better stats than Eli Manning; who would have taken that bet back in August? Until the Giants play a good football game, I cannot take them with only two points on the spread line. I like the Texans to win and cover.

Minnesota at New Orleans – 10 (49.5): The Saints finally get to play in their home dome where they are a much better team than they are on the road. The Vikes’ defense is not horrible, but this could be the game where the Saints’ show the world that they can still put 500+ yards of offense up when the conditions are right. Let me make this brief; I like the Saints to win and cover at home.

Tennessee at Cincy – 6.5 (43): One reason to watch this game is Bengals’ RB, Giovanni Bernard. He is not the biggest or the fastest RB in the league and he will not “break ankles” the way some others do, but he is fun to watch and very proficient. The Bengals have offensive injuries and the Bengals’ defense has the wherewithal to throttle the Titans’ offense. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Baltimore – 2 at Cleveland (41.5): The Browns have taken both games this year down to the final play. They lost on a game-ending field goal in Week 1 and won on a game-ending field goal in Week 2. Their offense is better than anticipated and their defense is not as good as anticipated. The Ravens have not been a good road team for the last couple of years and the Cleveland fans will be sure to vent themselves at the Ravens – who you may recall used to be the Cleveland Browns Version 1.0. Here is a classic Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game and the coin says to take the Browns plus the points.

Green Bay at Detroit – 3 (52.5): Here is a division game with two flawed teams. The Packers’ defense is suspect; the Lions lack anything that even resembles “poise”. The game features two good offenses and two suspect defenses. I see this as a “Points-a-palooza” so I’ll take the game to go OVER.

Indy – 6.5 at Jax (45): the Jags have given up 37.5 points per game so far this year; the Jags’ offense has not scored 38 points in 8 quarters. Indy arrives in Jax after a heartbreaking loss in their home opener on Monday night dropping their record to an unexpected 0-2. The Jags have to hope for the Colts to play as if it really was a short week and in some kind of blue funk or this game could get out of hand fast. As I pointed out above, the Jags’ defense in the second half has been awful while Indy is known for its second half offensive production. I like the Colts to win and cover here.

Oakland at New England – 14 (46): Here is another “frequent flyer miles game”. After throwing up on their shoes at home last week against the Texans, the Raiders go on a 3000-mile trip to play a much better team than the Texans. However, that is not the end of the Raiders’ as “road warriors” because their next game will be in London against the Dolphins. In two games the Raiders have given up 400+ yards rushing; the Pats are not a running team – normally; but they may be this week . I hate to lay double-digit points in the NFL and I also hate to take an inept team on the road against a good team. Ergo, another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip Game where the coin says to take the game to go OVER.

SF – 3 at Arizona (42): The winner of this game will be the leader of the NFC West for the moment. If for no other reason, that makes this an important game. The Niners’ defense was awful in the second half against the Bears last week; if they play that way again, they might make Drew Stanton look like a Pro Bowl QB. The Niners offense will be without Vernon Davis this week. Make this a venue call; I’ll take the Cards plus the points.

Denver at Seattle – 4.5 (48.5): When you get the teams who met in last year’s Super Bowl to play a rematch the next year, that has to be the Game of the Week when it happens. There will be a ton of psychoanalysis done regarding various players and coaches in this game; I doubt much of it will be either “professional” or “relevant”. I think the major question for this game will be:

    Have the Broncos shored up their defense sufficiently to handle the Seahawks’ offense?

My answer is that I think not. I’ll take the Seahawks at home to win and cover.

KC at Miami – 4 (42): Oh no; the Chiefs are without Jamal Charles. Oh no, the Dolphins are without Knowshon Moreno. Quick, who are the back-ups? Am I the only one who thinks that perhaps the Chiefs overpaid Alex Smith just prior to the opening of this season? In the first two games, he has been less than ordinary. Of course, I am not enamored with Ryan Tannehill under center for the Dolphins either. Here is yet another Curmudgeon Central Coin Flip game and the coin says to take the Chiefs plus the points. Why not?

(Sun Nite) Pittsburgh at Carolina – 3 (41.5): If the Steelers’ offense that stunk against the Ravens last week is the same offense this week, the Panthers might pitch a shut-out. While much attention has focused on that Steelers’ shortcoming, the Steelers’ defense is allowing 170 yards per game on the ground so far this year. Carolina can run the ball… I like the Panthers to win and cover here.

(Mon Nite) Chicago at Jets – 3 (45.5): This game deserves your time and attention not because these are top-shelf teams who might be opponents in the super bowl. This game deserves your time and attention to see:

    Will “Good Jay Cutler” or “Bad Jay Cutler” show up Monday night?

    Will “Good Geno Smith” or “Bad Geno Smith” show up Monday night?

    Which Jets’ player or coach will pull the biggest boneheaded move of the night?

    Can the Bears’ OL do any business at all against the Jets’ DL?

    Can the Jets’ passing game do any business without Eric Decker?

    Can the Bears’ defense stop the run?

This game deserves your time and attention because either team can find ways to self-destruct and you might not want to miss all that “creativity. I like the Bears plus the points here.

Here is a comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald pertaining to Peyton Manning’s fine in the exhibition season for taunting:

“Good-guy face of the NFL Peyton Manning was fined for taunting. That’s like a nun twerking.”

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

Mythical Picks – NCAA – Weekend of 9/20/14

So … was last week a good week or a miserable week for Mythical Picks?

    I liked C. Michigan +6 against Syracuse. Not nearly enough points. Boo!

    I liked Boise St -16.5 over UConn. Boise St won by 17. Yea!

    I liked Louisville/UVa UNDER 49. Total score was 44. Yea!

    I liked S. Carolina +6.5 against Georgia. S. Carolina won outright. Yea!

    I liked Illinois +13.5 against Washington. Not even close. Boo!

    I liked UCLA/Texas UNDER 52. Total was 37. Yea!

    I liked Tennessee/Oklahoma O 56.5. Fuhgeddaboudit. Boo!

Therefore, last week was a mythically profitable week with a record of 4-3-0. That brings the cumulative total for NCAA Mythical Picks for the season to 15-15-0. For those of you ready to point out that a coin flip on all of these games would be expected to replicate that record and so why does anyone need me to make these picks, I would say:

    Stifle yourselves! (Hat tip to Archie Bunker)

Please note that a record of 15-15-0 is not a profitable record with regard to the “Vegas vig”; and for lots of folks, that is the only criterion that matters even a little bit when applied to a “prognosticator”. Thus, no one should be tempted even a little bit to take anything written here as sufficiently authoritative that it might be even a trivial part of one’s decision making with regard to making a wager on an NCAA football game this weekend. However, should anyone be so tempted, let me say that this is how stupid one would have to be to use anything here as the basis for making a real wager involving real money:

    It probably took you until you were 16 to learn how to wave “bye-bye” – or were you 18 when that finally came to you?

General Comments:

Linfield College opened its 2014 football season on the road with a 21-14 win over Chapman University last week. Chapman led 14-7 at the half but the Wildcats rallied for the win. Linfield faces the University of Redlands bulldogs again on the road this weekend. Redlands lost its opener at Mary Hardin-Baylor last weekend by a score of 36-0. Go Wildcats!

Pitt trailed Florida Int’l 16-0 in the first quarter last weekend. The Panthers rallied to win 42-25. That is not particularly surprising but the interesting stat is that Pitt ran the ball for 321 yards here (in 54 attempts). That means that in the three out-of-conference games for 2014, Pitt has gone north of 300 yards rushing in all three games. Delaware and FIU may not be great yardsticks by which to measure, but they ran for a lot of yards on Boston College and BC just got through beating – and stifling – USC. In the BC win over USC, the Trojans managed to gain only 20 yards rushing on 29 rushing attempts. The saying goes that to win football games you have to be able to run the ball and to stop the run. Pitt seems to be showing that…

Indeed, BC beat USC last weekend in a stunning upset. BC ran the ball for 452 yards (on 54 carries so an 8.4 yards per carry average) against the defense that had shut down Stanford just a week ago. By comparison, USC only had 377 yards of total offense for the day here.

Florida Atlantic stomped all over Tulsa 50-21. Fla Atlantic had been completely outclassed by Nebraska and Alabama in its first two games but here the Owls seem to have signaled that they are going to be competitive in the lower middle class of college football for 2014.

Bowling Green beat Indiana 45-42 last weekend. There is no real significance to this game except to note that the score was only 14-12 (favor Indiana) at half time. Ergo, the teams combined to score 61 points in the second half of this game. What happened? Did both coaches declare a moratorium on tackling in their halftime speeches?

Ohio State beat Kent State 66-0 in Columbus. Kent St. had the misfortune to go to Columbus the week after Ohio State lost a game to Va Tech in the same stadium. They became more than merely a sacrificial lamb here; they were going to be victims who were taught a lesson…

Speaking of Va Tech, they followed up that win on the road against Ohio State by laying an egg against E. Carolina University. The ECU Pirates came away last Saturday with a 7-point win over the Hokies.

UVa met Louisville last week and the Cavaliers pulled out a 23-21 win in the game. The score says it was an even game; the stats say it was an even game.

    UVa amassed 285 yards on 70 plays
    Louisville amassed 282 yards on 70 plays.

Staying in the ACC, Duke routed Kansas last week by a score of 41-3. Is this a portent of a powerful Duke team for 2014 or is it an indicator that Kansas will stink in spades this year? Or – possibly – both conditions may obtain…

Georgia Tech won an out-of-conference game against Georgia Southern last week by a score of 42-38. The closeness of the score is even more embarrassing for Tech in that Tech led by 35-10 at the half meaning they lost the second half 28-7. The coaching staff for Tech should not be happy about that aspect of that game.

Speaking of who might be a bad team this year, Vandy beat UMass 41-38 last week. I am not the least bit uncomfortable declaring that both of these teams are bad teams for 2014…

Iowa State had lost its first two games to N. Dakota St and then to K-State. Last weekend they rose up and beat Iowa straight up. No matter how you might want to put a shine on this, this outcome was another black mark against the Big 10 Conference.

In another embarrassing moment for the Big 10, Washington beat Illinois by 25 points on Saturday. Washington had been ranked in the pre-season polls but had looked more than ordinary in the first two games on the schedule. Not so in this game. Illinois was 1-11 on third downs and the Illini gave up 465 yards of offense to Washington.

Penn State rallied in the second half to beat Rutgers 13-10 last week. Rutgers led 10-0 at the half but added nothing to their score in the second half. Rutgers lost despite holding Penn State to 64 yards rushing on 33 carries. A big reason they lost is that Rutgers’ QB, Gary Nova threw 5 INTs in the game. If you think that is bad, consider this tidbit:

    This is the second time in his career that Nova has thrown 5 INTs in a game. Technically, that is not true; in a previous game against Kent State, he threw 6 INTs in a game back in 2012.

Nebraska dominated Fresno St. 55-19. Fresno has looked like a piñata so far this season having given up 50+ points in its first three games. Granted, Fresno St. has played USC, Utah and Nebraska so far this year and now their schedule gets a bit more sane – they have Southern Utah this week for example.

Consider the Big 10 Conference for the moment as part of the “Power 5” conferences – the ACC, the Big 10, the Big 12, the PAC-12 and the SEC. In out-of-conference games between the Big 10 and the other four “power conferences” the record reads:

    Big 10: 1 win
    Others: 11 wins.

    That lone win was by Rutgers over Washington St – hardly the cream of the crop in the PAC-12

    How ugly is that 1-11 record?

By the way, the Big 10 has played 8 games against the mighty Mid -American Conference this year and the record for those 8 games is:

    Big 10: 5 wins
    MAC: 3 wins.

Here is reality for 2014… In terms of college conferences, there are the “Power 3” (the SEC, the PAC-12 and the ACC) and then there are the “Other 2 Big Conferences In Terms of Reputation” (the Big 10 and the Big 12) and then there are the rest of the teams who pretend to play Division 1-A football at the same level as the “Power 3”.

In an important early-season SEC game, South Carolina beat Georgia 38-35. Georgia had the ball first and goal at the S. Carolina 4-yardline with less than 5 minutes left in the game. The Dawgs had to settle for a field goal try that failed and then watched the Gamecocks run out the clock. Making the loss even a bit more acrid to swallow for Dawg fans:

    Georgia forced 2 turnovers and S. Carolina forced none.

    Georgia was 5-12 on third down while S. Carolina was only 2-9.

The win thrust S. Carolina back into the SEC East Division race.

Elsewhere in the SEC, Florida beat Kentucky (as expected) but only by a score of 36-30. Even more surprising than the score differential, it took Florida 3 OT periods to win the game; it was tied 20-20 at the end of regulation time. Florida had all of the stats to win the game handily:

    82 more yards of offense
    60 more yards of returns
    Fewer turnovers by 2
    Time of possession 48:29 to 26:21

Nonetheless, the game went to triple overtime…

Oklahoma – the team that seems to be the class of the Big 12 at this moment – dominated Tennessee – a middling SEC team – last week winning by 24 points. Meanwhile, a middling SEC team, Arkansas, clobbered Texas Tech – a middling Big 12 team – last week by 3 TDs. In terms of conference status, make of that what you will…

Oh, while you are considering that issue, also consider these stats from the Texas Tech/Arkansas game:

    Arkansas ran the ball 68 times for 438 yards.
    Arkansas was 8-12 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down.
    Arkansas had the ball for 40:39 in the game.

    This was not just a 3 TD win; this was a butt-stomping.

In one more “issue” for the Big 12 Conference, UCLA went to Texas and beat the Longhorns 20-17. That may not sound all that bad but consider the following:

    This was a “neutral site game” – in the Jerry-Dome in Arlington Texas.
    UCLA had to use its back-up QB for most of the game and he won the game.
    UCLA had looked ugly at best coming into this game.

Oh and to make it worse, this “neutral site game” that was in north Texas did not draw sufficient interest in the Texas fanbase to fill the Jerry-Dome. Attendance was 60,479 meaning that about 20% of the seats were empty. In Texas…

Too bad Toledo does not play La-Monroe this year. If those teams met, I might call that game the “Two Thirds of the Car-Talk Game of the Year”. Consider:

    La-Monroe has a DL Dewey McDaniel
    Toledo has a DB, Cheathem Norrils

    Neither team has a player named “Howe” to complete the name of the law firm that advises Car Talk on PBS every week – – Dewey, Cheatum and Howe.

The Ponderosa Spread Games:

Last week, we had 11 Ponderosa Spread games. The favorites covered in 4 of the games; the favorites failed to cover in 6 of the games and one game was a PUSH.

Baylor, Mississippi, Ohio State and Stanford covered.

Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Pitt and Texas A&M did not cover.

LSU/La-Monroe was a PUSH.

Going into last week the favorites had covered at a very comfortable rate of 11-5-0 but now the cumulative record is 15-11-1. That is still profitable against the “Vegas vig” but not nearly so comfortably…

This week we have 9 Ponderosa Spread Games:

UMass at Penn State – 27 (47): Penn State can play in a bowl game this year; so they need to make an impression on the invitation committees.

Troy at Georgia – 41 (69): Troy is catching Georgia at the worst possible time – the week after losing a close game to a conference rival in an important game. This could get ugly…

Bowling Green at Wisconsin – 27 (63.5): This game opened the week with the spread at 21 and it jumped to this level almost immediately. Wisconsin should enjoy a huge advantage in terms of running the football here.

E. Michigan at Michigan State – 45.5 (55): Two weeks ago, Oregon disemboweled Michigan State. E. Michigan will pay a price for that…

Ga State at Washington – 34.5 (68): This would be a mismatch if Washington were the team traveling more than 2000 miles to play the game.

Texas A&M – 33 at SMU (61): SMU has a new coach; June Jones gave up the ghost at SMU. The Aggies should be able to name the score here.

Oregon – 24 at Washington St. (75): In order to stay close, Washington St. needs to slow the tempo and keep the ball for a while. I doubt Washington St. even knows what that means. I like Oregon to win and cover here.

Louisville – 27 at Fla Int’l (48): Pitt ran the ball down Fla Int’l’s throat last week and Louisville has a good running game…

Miami (Oh) at Cincy – 28 (60.5): A bad team goes on the road to play a decent team. This game is interesting only as a Ponderosa Spread Game and as a measure of just how bad Miami (Oh) really is…

Games of Interest:

(Thurs Nite) Auburn – 9 at K-State (64.5): The reason for the sporadic writing schedule this week is a visit from friends who are Kansas State alums. Obviously, I’ll take K-State at home plus the points here.

Marshall – 9 at Akron (61.5): Marshall is another team looking for a bowl bid to a game that is a tad more prestigious than the ones that would normally fall to Marshall. They have a good offense; Akron is at home but they are only a middling team. I’ll take Marshall and lay the points even on the road.

Iowa at Pitt – 7 (47): This will be a low scoring game; neither offense should scare anyone. I like the game to stay UNDER and I like Iowa plus the points.

Maryland at Syracuse “pick ‘em” (52): They are asking me to pick the winner here. Make it a venue call; I’ll take Syracuse.

Army – 2.5 at Wake Forest (48.5): This game opened the week with Wake Forest as a 3-point favorite and it flipped to the Army side in less than 24 hours. The Total Line opened at 51 points and dropped to this level in about 48 hours. I think the Wake Forest offense is suspect; I think Army will consume time running the ball. I like this game to stay UNDER.

Utah at Michigan – 4.5 (56): This is a litmus test game for Utah. The Utes are 2-0 and have scored 115 points in those 2 games. That is the good news. The bad news is that the opponents have been Idaho State and Fresno State; neither opponent is any good. Now the Utes go on the road and take on Michigan. The Wolverines are a far cry from being a “great team” but they are a step up in class for the Utes. So, just how good is Utah this year? We should get an indication here. I like Michigan at home to win and cover.

Fla Atlantic at Wyoming – 3.5 (47.5): Florida Atlantic showed well last week after being crushed in their first two games by superior opponents. Wyoming is nowhere near a “superior opponent” but Florida Atlantic is going almost 2000 miles and two time zones to play this game. Again, make this a venue call; I’ll take Wyoming and lay the points.

Appalachian St. at So. Miss – 2.5 (61.5): Can So. Miss get a second win for this season? Their first win was over Alcorn State; here they have Appalachian State; no, they do not have Alabama State later this year but they do have Alabama-Birmingham. I’ll take So. Miss and lay the points here. Seriously…

Rutgers at Navy – 6 (54.5): I will not make any friends in New Jersey with this remark; nonetheless, I have not been impressed by Rutgers this season. I think Navy is as good as Rutgers and maybe better. I like Navy plus the points.

Florida at Alabama – 14.5 (52.5): Until last week, I thought this might be the Game of the Week. However, if it takes Florida 3 OTs to dispatch Kentucky, they are going to suck wind against Alabama. I think the Alabama defense will stifle Florida and so I’ll take the game to stay UNDER.

Ga Tech at Va Tech – 8 (52.5): Va Tech has a good defense that ought to be able to keep Ga tech from running wild; Va Tech has an offense that seems perfectly capable of making the opposing defense look good. I like Va Tech to win and cover at home and I like the game to stay UNDER.

Clemson at Fla St – 20 (60.5): The Total Line opened the week at 66 points and has dropped steadily to this level. Purely a hunch here but I think this is the week that both offenses wake up and play the way they should be able to play even though Jameis Winston will sit out the first half of the game with a suspension. I’ll take the game to go OVER.

UVa at BYU – 14 (51): BYU is a better home team than it is a road team. BYU embarrassed Texas on the road. UVa is not nearly as good as Texas. I like BYU to win and cover.

Mississippi St at LSU – 9.5 (49.5): Miss St. has played So. Miss, UAB and South Alabama in its first three games and has won all of them handily. This is LSU; an “all-star team” from those Miss St. opponents could not beat LSU. I like LSU to win and cover at home.

Oklahoma – 7 at W. Virginia (61.5): W. Virginia played Alabama tough earlier this year; Oklahoma would love to go to Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers by a big score to impress the “Selection Committee”. I think they can do that. W. Virginia will be without one of their starting QBs who has been arrested and charged with battery in an incident involving a woman outside a nightclub last weekend. I like the Sooners to win and cover and I like the game to go OVER.

Cal at Arizona – 9 (69): This game opened with Arizona as a 12.5-point favorite but the spread narrowed almost immediately to this level. The Total Line opened at 66 and has been climbing during the week to this level. I think there will be a scoring frenzy here; I like the game to go OVER.

La-Laf at Boise St – 16 (61.5): Boise St. may have a new coach and may not be as good as it has been over the last 5 years or so, but La-Laf is not in their class. The natives in Boise are a bit restless so this could be a home game where Boise St. soothes some harsh feelings. I like Boise St. to win and cover.

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