This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 1/11/2010
A - Alabama. The Tide have another National Championship after a long drought. I'll always have an asterisk beside this one in my mind, though - they beat a freshman making his first real appearance in a game, and until they last couple of minutes they hardly made it convincing. Despite my disappointment over the way the game was hijacked by injury early on and my general hatred of Nick Saban, I do have to give the coach real credit, though - two championships from two teams in seven years is pretty impressive, especially considering there was a pro stint in there as well.
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B - Boise State. The non-BCS conferences have an undisputed king. Boise State beat up on TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, and they did it by showing us just how dominant a new(ish) aspect of their game really is. We've always known that Boise State can pile up the points, but it's only in the last year that we have come to realize that they can also play stifling defense. The Broncos return most of their core next year, so they'll start the season ranked higher than a mid-major ever has, and they have a real shot at doing something truly special.
C - Cincinnati. To borrow a phrase from Dennis Green, the Bengals were who I thought they were on Saturday. The Jets did a masterful job of designing an offensive plan that protected their young pivot and exploited Cincinnati's issues, and the Bengals didn't have the heart or coaching ingenuity to respond. Their season was more promising than the last several have been in the Marvin Lewis era, but the result was exactly the same - nothing to show for it. Lewis is terrible. That shouldn't take away from the job the Jets and their coaching staff did in this one, though.
D - Dallas. The Cowboys are finally looking like, well, the Cowboys. Tony Romo was more than adequate, the running game was excellent, and the defense was stout as the Cowboys manhandled the Eagles for the second straight week. They still have a lot to prove, but it's at least possible to believe that this is finally another Dallas team that could do some playoff damage. The Eagles, on the other hand, have a world of issues. Nothing went right, and they seriously have to consider whether Donovan McNabb is the answer to their problems gong forward.
E - Endless. The struggles of the Detroit Pistons seem to know no bounds. A month ago they were hovering around .500 and were in the heart of the playoff race in an Eastern Conference pitifully lacking depth. They haven't won wince. Detroit has dropped 12 in a row. This isn't a superstar collective by any means, but the Pistons certainly have enough talent to make the playoffs, so this futility is ridiculous. Changes are, I suspect, coming.
F - Four. Peyton Manning's trophy case must be bursting at the seams by now. He added another MVP trophy - his fourth - to it this week. Though I wouldn't suggest for a second that he wasn't deserving, Manning certainly benefited from being in a race that no one else seemed to want to win. Drew Brees faded down the stretch and then skipped the last game entirely. Brett Favre started to look like he was 40. Chris Johnson was impressive, but on a disappointing team. Darrelle Revis is a cornerback. Manning won largely because there was no one else that could.
G - Guerrero. The Angels continue on the same, self-destructive theme this offseason - making their contenders better without improving themselves. They let Vlad Guerrero leave as a free agent, and he has joined AL East rivals Texas on a one-year contract. I love the move for the Rangers. Vlad may not be the player he was, but a change of scenery will do him well, and he joins a lineup that already gives opposing pitchers nightmares. If all the pieces stay healthy then the Rangers certainly won't struggle to score.
H - Hawkeyes. Iowa made a real statement in the Orange Bowl by handily beating the favored Yellow Jackets. In the process they capped an extremely impressive bowl season for the Big Ten - 4-0 against top 15 opponents. Georgia Tech's potent run offense has confounded many opponents, but Iowa handled it with surprising ease, and the Jackets couldn't pass at all - the Hawkeyes had more rushing yards than Tech had total yards. Iowa jumped out to a fast start, and never looked back.
I - Idiotic. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather could both kill me with their bare hands, but I still want to kick both of them in the teeth. The fact that their fight - the best thing to happen to boxing in years - isn't going to happen because of a ridiculous argument is stunningly stupid. Instead of that monster of a bout, Pacquiao is fighting Joshua Clottey in Jerry Jones' new palace, and Floyd Mayweather is looking for an equally meaningless opponent to fight on the same day. Boxing seems determined to make itself totally irrelevant.
J - Jeter, Derek. I never write about gossip and dating news in this forum, but I can't resist here. Reports are that the ultimate Yankee is going to marry his girlfriend, Minka Kelly - the best of many, many reasons to watch “Friday Night Lights”. I've always viewed Jeter as overrated and obnoxious, but for the first time I have to admit that I'm a little jealous of him. Lyla Garrity sure made a big upgrade from Tim Riggins.
K - Kurt Warner. Wow. Just wow. Quarterbacks have played as well as Warner did on Sunday in previous playoff games, but I truly believe that none have played better. He completed 29-of-33 passes for 379 yards and five TDs. The Arizona overtime win over Green Bay wasn't pretty from a defensive perspective, but it sure was fun to watch. Reports are that Warner is leaning towards retirement after this season. He sure made a case for sticking around on Sunday.
L - LeFevour, Dan. Central Michigan's record-setting machine of a quarterback is, sadly, done with college football. LeFevour made his last appearance in a GMAC win over Troy. The first half of the game was a total dud, but the team's woke up in the second half, and CMU needed two overtime periods to win the thriller. LeFevour completed 60 percent of his passes on the day for 395 yards, and ran for a TD as well. Here's hoping that a pro team is smart enough to give him a chance to show what he can do. The MAC has quite a record of producing quarterbacks.
M - Mike Shanahan. It's been a good couple of weeks for Shanahan. First, he got to watch his former team complete their incomprehensible fall from grace to end the season in the hands of their new coach, then he got a new, high paying job. Shanahan takes over a Washington Redskins team that has done a remarkable job of eating coaches alive throughout the Dan Snyder era, so it will be very interesting to see if Shanahan can rise about that. He'll need to find a quarterback if he wants to have a chance.
N - North Carolina. Roy Williams' teams haven't often had problems getting up for outmatched opponents, but they sure did on Monday. Charleston isn't a good team - they lost to Clemson by 39 earlier in the year - but they captured some magic on their home court and managed to beat the ninth-ranked team in the country by three in overtime. Even more impressive, they did it with a very sort bench - only eight players played, and one only came off the bench for five minutes.
O - Ottawa. If it weren't for bad luck then the Senators would have no luck at all. Forward Milan Michalek was injured in the team's game on Thursday. With that he became the third and final member of their top line to fall to injury. Daniel Alfredsson is out with a shoulder injury, and Jason Spezza is nursing a knee injury. The Sens aren't playing terrible, but they aren't getting great results. Needless to say, they aren't scoring as often as they would like.
P - Postponed. We saw something happen on Friday in the NHL that we almost never see - a postponed game. A circuit breaker blew in the Devils' three-year-old building and the game against the Lightning was plunged into darkness. They delayed for two hours while trying to fix it, but ultimately called it because both teams played the next day. The game was resumed from the same spot on Sunday, with Tampa Bay breaking a 10-game losing streak against New Jersey with a 4-2 win.
Q - Quite hot. I came into this season with high hopes for the Raptors. They made me look ridiculous early on, but they've turned things around nicely recently. They have now won eight of their last 10 games to move to .500 and give themselves a real shot at hosting a playoff series in the pathetic East. The two losses in that streak have both been against the Celtics, so it's not like they have lost games they should be winning, either.
R - Reds. For several days at the end of last week we heard that the race to sign Cuban star lefty Aroldis Chapman had come down to two teams - the Blue Jays and the Angels. It even seemed like Toronto had an edge. Suddenly, though, the Reds came from nowhere to win the Derby. Cincinnati signed him to a six-year, heavily back-loaded $30 million deal. If he works out and realizes his potential then the Reds could have a potent young rotation by 2011 or 2012. Of course, it's the Reds, so we know that their plans never seem to work out.
S - Seahawks. Seattle made a huge splash this week by firing Jim Mora after just one year and reportedly replacing him with Pete Carroll. It's a risky, expensive move for the Seahawks given the struggles of other college coaches in the pros, but Carroll has been there before so he knows what he is getting into. It seems like about the perfect time for Carroll to get out of USC considering their struggles this year and the impending doom surrounding the Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight situations.
T - Tommy Tuberville. Texas Tech has found themselves a new coach, but you'd have to be very generous to call it an upgrade. Tuberville, the former Auburn coach, is hardly the exciting, innovative figure that Mike Leach was, but then that could be exactly what drew Tech administrators to him. Tuberville mostly distinguished himself after leaving Auburn by publicly expressing his interest in every single coaching job that was open, so if nothing else this hiring spares us of that.
U - Ugly. The Ravens beat the Patriots, but with the exception of Ray Rice and some members of the offensive line and defense they shouldn't be particularly proud of it. Joe Flacco completed just four passes for 34 yards, and it was painful watching him move given how banged up he clearly is. The Ravens were often inept, but they were saved by the true ineptness of the Patriots - a supposedly talented team that couldn't do anything right on either side of the ball.
V - Volunteers. Tennessee was gutted this week when three players were indefinitely suspended and potential all-American Tyler Smith was booted from the team after an incident involving speeding, drugs, and guns. Or at least they were supposed to be gutted. Instead, the short-handed team went out on Sunday and somehow handed Kansas their first loss of the year in quite convincing fashion. Tennessee shouldn't have had the talent to even keep the game interesting, but the difficulties were obviously a rallying point. It will be very interesting to see how long Bruce Pearl can keep that momentum going.
W - Weis, Charlie. For the first time since the preseason the Kansas City Chiefs have an offensive coordinator. Their fans will be desperately hoping that the Charlie Weis they got is the guy who worked regular feats of magic in New England, not the guy who took over a prestigious college program and ran it into the ground with shocking incompetence. With Weis joining Scott Pioli, and with Romeo Crennel potentially joining the team as well the Chiefs are quickly becoming New England lite.
X - Xavier. It was a busy and reasonably successful week for the mascots of our column. After starting the week with a close loss on the road to Wake Forest they bounced back to open A-10 play with two road wins. First they beat La Salle by six, then they rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat George Washington by seven. Neither opponent is likely to be a serious A-10 contender, but it's still a very good sign to see the Musketeers play well on the road and get key early conference wins.
Y - Yikes. Jim Leavitt, meet Mike Leach and Mark Mangino. The only coach South Florida had ever had became the third coach to be fired this year after alleged inappropriate conduct towards a player. Leavitt was fired this week after an investigation stemming from a Nov. 21 game. Leavitt allegedly struck a player in the locker room at half time, and then got himself in real trouble by lying about what happened and actively encouraging other coaches and players to change their stories to back the false version of events.
Z - Zero, Agent. It's official - Gilbert Arenas is an idiot. He has been suspended indefinitely without pay, and there seems to be a good chance that the NBA will make an example of him by making this penalty a big one. The problem is based in the locker room incident with Javaris Crittenton in which both players allegedly pulled guns as part of a dispute over a gambling debt Arenas had failed to pay, and it came to a head when Arenas jokingly shot his teammates with his fingers in pregame warmups.