This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 1/4/2010
A - Air Force. The Falcons were supposed to be in deep against Houston and their potent passing offense in the Armed Forces Bowl. They obviously weren't worried. Their defense held Case Keenum to just 222 yards passing, and picked him off six times - just three fewer interceptions than he had in his first 12 games combined. The Falcons did the rest of their damage on the ground, running for 402 yards en route to a surprisingly easy 47-20 win. Houston grabbed some momentum when they returned the kickoff to open the second half for a TD, but Air Force grabbed it right back by taking the ensuing kickoff to the house.
B - Bay, Jason. After a long flirtation with several teams, the year's hottest free agent has joined the Mets. Bay started out looking for a six-year deal, then downgraded to five, but he finally had to settle for four years and $66 million. Bay obviously improves the Mets, but it's a longshot that he will be able to avoid the curse of underwhelming mediocrity that seems to strike every player that joins that team.
C - Cincinnati. The question leading into the Sugar Bowl was how the Bearcats were going to react to the departure of Brian Kelly. Not well, as it turns out. Cincinnati was totally outclassed by Tim Tebow and Florida, falling behind 30-3 at the half and limping to a 51-24 final score. Tebow capped off his college career with one of the best games of his life – 31-of-35 passes complete for 482 yards and three touchdowns, and he added another on the ground for good measure. The future is uncertain for the Gators, but the recent past was pretty bright.
D - Dana White. White must have thought that the UFC 108 card was cursed. A stunning number of big names were signed on for the card only to get injured - Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Tyson Griffin, and so on. He finally got a card together, and it wasn't exactly the most exciting that the UFC has ever offered. Rashad Evans beat Thiago Silva by decision in the main event, though that's not a match that deserves to be a main event.
E - Evander Holyfield. Just what we need - another Holyfield fight. The 47-year-old hasbeen has signed on for one of the most ridiculous fights in the history of boxing. On Jan. 16 he'll be climbing into a ring in Uganda to take on the 41-year-old journeyman Francois Botha, whose career has been marked by losing to every decent heavyweight over the last decade. Botha currently holds the WBF title - mostly because he's the only fighter who has ever heard of it. Holyfield has made more than $200 million in the ring, so it's beyond pathetic that he's still at it.
F - Florida State. The Seminoles had a chance to really give Bobby Bowden a nice sendoff, and they certainly made the most of it. QB E.J. Manuel earned MVP honors as the Seminoles rode the wave of emotion to a convincing win over a West Virginia team that had a far superior season. The win moved the Seminoles to 7-6 and earned Bowden his 33rd consecutive winning season at Florida State. Noel Devine was impressive in defeat, running for 168 yards and a TD.
G - Garrett Gomez. Gomez won more purse money than any other jockey in the country for the fourth straight year, but it took until the last possible moment for him to manage it. Gomez took over a mount in the last race of the year at Santa Anita when the rider became sick, and won the race to earn $10,800. His final margin of victory over Julien Leparoux was $10,606. Gomez was helped by the fact that Leparoux returned to his native France for the holidays. Only three jockeys have won as many titles - Laffit Pincay Jr. and Braulio Baeza won four straight, and Bill Shoemaker took down seven in a row.
H - Humanitarian. Bowl season isn't over yet, but the rest of the games will have to work very hard to be half as exciting as the Humanitarian Bowl was. Idaho and Bowling Green didn't seem like a good matchup, but it turned out to be a classic. The seesaw offensive showdown was tied at 35 late when Bowling Green took the lead, seemingly for good, with 32 seconds left. Miraculously, Idaho QB Nathan Enderle completed a 50-yard pass and then a 16-yard TD strike with four seconds remaining, then he threw for a two pont conversion to win the thriller 43-42. Great, great game.
I - Idiotic. Week 17 of NFL is mostly a total waste of time. There are a few games with playoff implications, but for the most part it's just a week of exhibition play that people get to pay full price to watch. In protest of the stupidity of this week I'm not going to write about the NFL in this column other than to say that the final two AFC spots went to the Ravens and the Jets after Baltimore picked on the Raiders and the Bengals didn't show up at New York. Also, Wes Welker is out for the playoffs with a shredded knee. The games mean something again next week, and then we'll again give it the attention it deserves.
J - John Wall. It seems like every time the Kentucky super-frosh takes the court he gives us another reason to be in awe of him. Wall played just 30 minutes against Hartford this week, but he made the most of it. He dished out 16 assists, setting a school record by eclipsing Travis Ford's 16-year-old mark of 15. We already knew that Wall can score as well as anyone, so with this element of his game exposed there really isn't anything he can't do. On Saturday Wall added to his legend with 17 points including one impossible shot as he was falling backwards to help John Calipari earn his first win over Louisville.
K - Kafka, Mike. Northwestern's quarterback had a pretty rough day on Friday in the Outback Bowl, but he still almost got to be the hero. Kafka threw five interceptions, but that's what happens when a guy is asked to throw 78 passes. He completed 47 for 532 yards and four TDs to go with the picks, and led a 14 point late comeback to take the game to overtime. That overtime period was truly bizarre. Auburn scored a field goal, then the game wouldn't end. Auburn seemed to have won it twice, but both times penalties gave Northwestern new life. The kicker was injured on the second false-finish, and Northwestern didn't have a good substitute, so they were forced to fake their last field goal and it didn't work. Northwestern still hasn't won a bowl game since 1949.
L - Leach, Mike. In one of the strangest situations ever in college football, Texas Tech fired Leach this week just days before the Alamo Bowl in a bizarre, convoluted situation. Despite the controversy and turmoil, Texas Tech looked a lot like Texas Tech in their Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State. Two quarterbacks combined to complete 71 percent of their passes for 459 yards and three TDs. Ruffin McNeill, the defensive coordinator, had the unenviable job of being the interim head coach and he did a heck of a job. He made a few very tough calls down the stretch to secure the win.
M - Midshipmen. I've watched Navy play three times now this year. The more I see them, the more I think that they aren't a good service academy team, but rather just a good team. Navy thoroughly dismantled Missouri in the Texas Bowl to earn their 10th win. They have never struggled to run, and this was no exception - they piled up 385 yards. Junior QB Ricky Dobbs was particularly impressive, running for 166 yards and three TDs, and passing for 130 more yards and a TD on just 14 attempts. The most entertaining part of the second half was watching the many Missouri fans in the stands get more and more disgusted as things got worse and worse.
N - Nate Robinson. Robinson was benched by the Knicks for an entire month - 14 games. the way he played in his return you really have to wonder why. Robinson didn't react when his coach first called his name to put him into the game, but once he figured it out and hit the court on Friday he was on fire. He wound up playing 38 minutes, and scored 41 points to lead his team past the Hawks in Atlanta. Robinson obviously has some talent, so the Knicks really should trade him if they don't want to keep him around.
O - Oklahoma. The Sooners had a season to forget on the football field, but they eased a bit of the pain with a very nice bowl win. They didn't manage to stop Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart very well - he ran for 135 yards and two TDs - but they managed to outpace the rest of the team on the way to a 31-27 win in an entertaining Sun Bowl. Landry Jones continued to look good replacing Sam Bradford, completing 60 percent of his passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns.
P - Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are used to playing in Boston, but they sure aren't used to playing at Fenway Park. That's where they found themselves as the NHL continued the best new tradition in sports - the New Year's Day outdoor game. This was the best game yet, with Boston winning the 2-1 contest in overtime. The concept of the Winter Classic is so good and so successful that you can rest assured that the brain trust at the NHL will find a way to mess it up before too much longer.
Q - Quit. You might have thought heading into the Holiday Bowl that Nebraska could be prone to quitting in the game after the bitter frustration of the Big 12 championship. One team definitely quit, but it wasn't the Huskers. Arizona never even bothered to show up, showing absolutely nothing in a 33-0 beatdown that shows just how little progress Mike Stoops has made with his program. The Wildcats had just 46 yards passing and 63 yards on the ground.
R - Rose Bowl. I'm a Big Ten guy, so you can imagine my relief that a team from that conference finally won the Granddaddy of them all again, even if it was hated Ohio State. The Buckeyes became the first Big Ten champ since 2000 with a convincing win over Oregon. Their defense stifled and frustrated the Ducks, and Terrelle Pryor played the most complete game of his career to earn MVP honors. It was one of two big wins for the Big Ten on New Year's Day, and that's more than a lot of people expected from the conference.
S - St. Louis Blues. Coming into the season I honestly thought that the Blues were legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. So far, though, they have been bitterly disappointing. They have the worst home record in the whole league, and on Saturday management had clearly had enough. They fired veteran coach Andy Murray, and named Davis Payne the coach for the rest of the season. Payne was the coach of the AHL affiliate, and the Blues will be hoping he has as much success as other AHL coaches have had in recent years.
T - Temple. The Owls hadn't played in a bowl game since 1979. Maybe someone should have reminded them that bowl games have two halves. Temple looked great in the first half of the EagleBank Bowl, jumping out to a 21-10 lead against UCLA. They didn't score again. UCLA's defense rediscovered their skill in the second half, and the Bruins won the game, 30-21. Temple was one of the great stories of the season, but the Bruins needed the bowl win much more - they hadn't had a winning season since 2006, and this win moved them to 7-6.
U - Under Armour. The first of the big high school all-star games - the Under Armour All-America game - was played on Saturday, and it was a showcase for the defense. It's not like Florida needs more defensive talent, but a lot of their recruits were on display in this one and they didn't disappoint. Personally, I'm pretty thrilled that Michigan QB commit Devin Gardner looked pretty solid and impressed Sam Wyche, his coach for the week.
V - Virginia Tech. The Hokies had a reasonably easy pairing in the Chick-Fil-A bowl in Tennessee, and they certainly made the most of it. They held the Vols to just five net rushing yards, and dominated both sides of the ball to earn a 37-14 win that was at least as easy as the score indicates. Freshman running back Ryan Williams showed just how special he is as he ran for 117 yards and two TDs. It was the 10th time this season that Williams had run for more than 100 yards, and the the seventh time he scored multiple touchdowns.
W - West Virginia. The Mountaineers got a heck of a start to their season on the hardwood this year, but they ran into some problems for the first time this week. On Tuesday they found themselves down by five with a minute to go at home against Marquette, and needed a miracle jumper with two seconds left to secure a one-point win. That kept them undefeated, but not for long. On Friday they traveled to Purdue and got manhandled by the Boilermakers.
X - Xavier. The mascots of our column only played one game this week, but they certainly made a statement in it. Last year they traveled to LSU and broke the Tigers' 17-game home winning streak. In the second half of the home-and-home series this year, the Musketeers extended their own home winning streak to 16 when they thoroughly massacred LSU - the final score was 89-65. Xavier was relentless with their fast break offense, and LSU just had no answer for it.
Y - Yikes. Bruce Pearl and his Volunteers are in the news this week, but for all the wrong reasons. Senior forward Tyler Smith and three other players have been indefinitely suspended from the team after being charged with gun possession and other drug and alcohol charges. The four were riding in a car when the police stopped them, smelled marijuana, and discovered a handgun, a bag of pot, and open liquor. The four suspended players are all among the top eight in minutes played, so it could be a rough few games until they are able to return.
Z - Zero, Agent. This may be the strangest NBA story in a long time, and that's saying something. It has been reported this week that teammates Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittendon drew guns on each other in a locker room dispute. Guns! The dispute was reportedly centered around a gambling debt that Arenas incurred on the team plane on the way home from a game but refused to pay off. It's obvious from watching them that the Wizards have chemistry issues, but this is ridiculous.