This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 10/08/2007
A - Arizona. I'll admit it - I didn't think the D-Backs were going to win their series. I feel a bit silly about my opinion looking back, though. They had the best record in the National League, they earned it playing against the toughest division in the league, and they have decent pitchers (and one great one in Brandon Webb). Still, their sweep was unexpected, and it sets up a very intriguing, if unexpected and low profile, NLCS.
B - Beckett, Josh. He still has a couple of series to play, and he's only pitched once, but I'm willing to make this bold statement - Beckett is a very, very good playoff pitcher. His opening performance against the Angels was incredibly dominant, and certainly set the tone for a decidedly simple sweep. As much as I hate to say it, Curt Schilling was pretty darned good, too.
C - Collarbone. Matt Leinart's whining about playing time will mercifully come to an end for a while thanks to the broken collarbone suffered on Sunday. That means that Arizona will be playing their backup. Unlike a lot of teams, though, I think I probably feel better about betting on Kurt Warner than I do on Leinart, so this works out well.
D - Dan LeFevour. It's hard to believe this guy isn't at a BCS school. Central Michigan's sophomore quarterback is ridiculously talented. Against a Ball State team that had previously almost beat Nebraska, LeFevour went 30-for-38 for 360 yards and five touchdowns. If that wasn't enough, he ran for 146 yards and a touchdown, too. Give this guy a couple of years and he could join the surprisingly large group of MAC QBs playing on Sunday.
E - Erratic. Sure, the Patriots won by 17, and the CBS commentators have a massive man crush on Tom Brady, but that win was not all sunshine and roses. The effort by the Pats in the third quarter was totally non-existent, and Brady headed back to the bench after just three plays far too many times during the game. They survived their lapses with ease against Cleveland, but tougher opponents, like Dallas next week, won't let them off so easy.
F - Frerotte, Gus. The NFL is just bizarre sometimes. The Rams have a very talented starting quarterback who they just signed to a huge contract, but the first time all year they show signs of life on offense is when they yank their injured starter and put a 36-year-old journeyman in his place. Frerotte didn't get the win, but he came a lot closer than Marc Bulger has during most of this pathetic year for the Rams.
G - Gordon, Jeff. There are a whole lot of NASCAR fans who are not happy right now. The much-hated Jeff Gordon is back on top of the Chase standings thanks to his win at Talledaga on Sunday. It was a bizarre win - he qualified very poorly, was at the back of the pack for much of the race, and only led one lap - the final one. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he is the king of plate racing.
H - Henry, Travis. It looks like Denver's stud running back will miss most of the year thanks to an impending suspension for testing positive for marijuana for the second time. At some point I hope someone will explain to me why Henry gets a year for using a drug that does little to improve his performance, while Shawne Merriman gets four games for using performance-enhancing steroids. When the suspension comes down the public will likely overreact, but Denver has shown time and again that they can make almost any running back a star.
I - Insane. I still can't figure out how a player as good as A-Rod can be so truly awful in the playoffs. Sure, he had two hits in game three, but his total absence in the first two games of the series were a big part of the reason why they so badly needed to win that game in the first place. He needs to take a wheelbarrow full of money to a shrink to figure out what it is inside of his head that causes these costly struggles.
J - Jayhawks. Is it possible that Kansas is for real? I didn't think that I would be asking that question before basketball season started, but the Jayhawks are 5-0, and they beat Kansas State, a team fresh off of a crushing defeat of Texas, on Saturday. K-State was the first serious opponent Kansas had faced, but they have crushed everyone else they played, so it will be interesting to see how they do against a Big 12 schedule that avoids both Oklahoma and Texas.
K - Kevin Garnett. Sure, the preseason means absolutely nothing in the NBA, but K.G. sure gave Celtics fans something to cheer about in his debut in green. Playing in Rome against Toronto, Garnett had 19 points and 16 boards in 32 minutes. The Celtics won, but the star of the game was Italian Andrea Bargnani, the obvious crowd favorite, who had 13 points in less than 15 minutes.
L - Louisville. This is getting ugly. For the third time in four weeks, Louisville looked outmatched and confused as they lost to Utah. The team drops to 1-4 ATS. I'm used to having preseason expectations crushed - I'm a Michigan fan, after all - but I certainly didn't see this coming. The offense is mostly fine, but the defense is so bad it is absolutely beyond comprehension. What a waste of a great quarterback.
M - May, Sean. The former Tar Heel will be missing the season for the Bobcats thanks to micro-fracture knee surgery. This is getting spooky - he's the second Indiana Mr. Basketball in a couple of weeks to have the surgery. Chances are pretty good, though, that more people will be concerned about Greg Oden's recovery than May's.
N - Nobiz Like Shobiz. Remember this horse? He had a lot of support heading into this year's Kentucky Derby, but he was a disappointment then and in his dirt races after that. His Trainer, Barclay Tagg - the man who brought us Funny Cide, moved the hose to turf in the summer, and he's been unbeatable since. He won the Jamaica this weekend for his third turf win in three tries. Tagg says that the Breeders' Cup isn't his next target, but that could change.
O - Oklahoma. I was surprised and frustrated by Oklahoma's lapses in discipline against Texas, and it's not just because they didn't cover when they should have. In one sequence in the fourth quarter they had a huge return after an interception called back due to a chop bock, then a huge gain into the red zone was called back on a penalty. They ended up punting the ball away, and wasted a prime opportunity. Bob Stoops really needs to fix that problem if they have grand ambitions.
P - Pumpkin. It was a good ride, but Kentucky, one great Cinderella of the college football season to date, turned into a pumpkin and crashed back to earth on Thursday night against South Carolina. The Gamecocks outclassed them on both sides of the ball and showed that Kentucky still has some work to do. It will be interesting now to see how far Kentucky falls - from 5-0 to 7-5 isn't impossible given the difficulty of their remaining schedule.
Q - Quit. This is just a suggestion to Matt Millen - quit before you get fired. Or killed. Sure, your Lions have showed some signs of life this year, and have even made it possible for the naive to believe at times, but that performance against Washington was totally and utterly disgusting. Your superstar receiving corps earned you 106 yards, and you still don't have a running game. Barry Sanders isn't coming back, so you might want to do something about that. And we won't even talk about defense, Matt.
R - Rockies. Is it just me, or does Colorado look like a team that has forgotten how to lose? The Rockies aren't the flashiest team in the world, and they don't have overwhelming pitching or more bats than most other playoff teams, but they just made the Phillies look ridiculous. They are playing with confidence and an ease that is incredible. Rocktober it is.
S - Stanford. The Cardinal win over USC as 41-point underdogs is exactly why college football is so great. I sat in Stanford Stadium a couple of weeks ago watching the team win the first half against Oregon, and I thought they had some potential. I certainly didn't see them pulling off this impossible feat (with a backup QB, no less), but I do think that Jim Harbaugh is (obviously) on the right track. Incredible.
T - Tigers. Did LSU win their game on Saturday night, or did Florida lose it? The Gators had the game in their grasp, but a combination of great play by the No. 1 team and a collapse by the Gators kept the Tigers undefeated. Most impressive were the confident, and successful, gambles that Les Miles took down the stretch. Man, do I hope he heads to Michigan next year. The Tigers are unanimous No. 1s, but it is of some concern that they haven't covered in their last three.
U - Ugly. The Jets managed to go from 10 points ahead near the end of the third quarter to losing to the Giants by 11. There's nothing more fun to watch than a team that completely quits and allows 21 unanswered points down the stretch. I like Chad Pennington, and I have spent a lot of time defending him over the years, but I'm beginning to think that he needs a change of scenery. That was ridiculous.
V - Vince Young. The Titans are 3-1, but that record nicely hides the problems that Vince has had. His game against Atlanta this weekend was ugly almost beyond description. His 20-of-33 isn't too bad, but he managed just 157 yards, and a quarterback at this stage in his career can't be throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns against a team in the cellar of the division. He needs to quit complaining about not winning the Heisman and start getting more consistent and reliable.
W - Wisconsin. Has there ever been anything more insulting than the No. 5 team in the country being the underdog against an unranked conference rival? The sad thing, at least if you are a Wisconsin fan, is that the bettors were right. Juice Williams and Illinois beat Wisconsin in fine fashion to vault into the national consciousness and ensure that their lines will be inflated by public attention.
X - Xchanger. I had grand dreams that this horse, a favorite of mine because so few words start with X, was going to win the Meadowlands Cup on Friday night and earn a spot in the Breeders' Cup, thereby providing things to write about here for weeks. Instead, he finished a dismal third. Diamond Stripes, the winner, may head to the Classic or, more likely, the Mile. With Xchanger out of the picture again all I can do now is wait for Xavier basketball to get going.
Y - Yikes. Trent Green got carted off the field on a stretcher after an opponent used his head as a soccer ball. It's approximately the 894th concussion for the ancient Miami starter, and if last year is any indicator it could mean that he'll miss significant time. I'm sure I feel great about the Dolphins' chances with Cleo Lemon and John Beck, but then they were hopeless with Green, so the change can't hurt too much.
Z - Zzzzz. I tried to watch some of the Seahawks game on Sunday, but found myself falling asleep on the couch. Seattle is a truly damaged team. Matt Hasselbeck looked terrible, Shaun Alexander managed 25 yards in 11 carries, and the Steelers couldn't have had an easier day. This is a Jekyll-and-Hyde team that I will have a hard time trusting until they look like they actually want to win a game again. They play the Saints next week. If the team doesn't improve then that could really be ugly.