This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 10/30/2007
A - Autzen Stadium. It's not often that the noise and electricity of a stadium comes through on TV, but it was clear that the Oregon fans were totally out of control on Saturday. I live in the West, so I have seen Oregon play a lot this year. That means that their dominant performance, and the magic of Dennis Dixon, wasn't the surprise to me that it was to those of you in the East who don't get to see him. I'm not sure if there are any teams that match up well with the Ducks right now.
B - Broncos. There's a lot wrong with the Broncos this year. They've been totally crushed twice in their last four games, and have just one win in their last six. Their offense is incompetent. Their defense, despite having stellar cornerbacks, is useless. Despite a good completion percentage, Jay Cutler does not looked like the seasoned leader that people expected him to be this year. Maybe listening to Mike Shanahan isn't as fun as it used to be. Whatever the problem is, they are 1-7 ATS, and they don't look like they are just in a temporary slump.
C - Calzaghe, Joe. If you were to ask most people who Joe Calzaghe is they'd have no idea. His anonymity is a crime. Calzaghe cemented his status as perhaps the best super middleweight fighter ever with this weekend's unanimous decision in Wales. The Welshman is now 44-0 and the holder of the WBC, WBA, WBO and Ring titles. Now he's talking about moving up from 168 pounds to 175 to take on Bernard Hopkins. That fight would finally get Calzaghe the attention in North America that he deserves.
D - Durant, Kevin. The future rookie of the year, and soon to be the most popular guy in Oklahoma City, Durant is living up to the hype in his early exposure. He's averaging 22.5 points, doing freakishly athletic things without thought, and being generally spectacular. His shooting is, at times, suspect, but that will improve with time. Sadly, his on-court magic won't be enough to lift his sorry team to many victories this year. They have one cover in three games, but that doesn't mean that they are close to winning a game.
E - Enormous. It was apparently a weekend for record breaking rushing performances. Peterson set the pro record, and Arkansas' Darren McFadden broke the SEC record with 323 yards against South Carolina. That should lift the preseason favorite back into the Heisman race after fading early in the year. No one seems too interested in winning the award this year - every time someone becomes the race leader they have a disastrous performance.
F - Federer, Roger. The greatest player ever to step on a tennis court (in my opinion) is suddenly vulnerable. He lost to David Nalbandian for the second time in less than two weeks. Nalbandian is now 8-8 lifetime against the Swiss master. Federer obviously isn't panicking, and he'll be back in form in time for the Australian Open. It's better that he plays and loses then does what Tiger does and only play a handful of weekends a year.
G - Grand Valley State. It wasn't quite what Appalachian State pulled off in the state of Michigan, but Grand Valley State got its own upset this week. The team rolled into East Lansing for a preseason basketball game against No. 8 Michigan State and left with a very unlikely overtime win. We'll have to watch closely to see if this was just a wake up call and a sloppy effort, or if Michigan State is as overrated as Michigan was at the start of the football season.
H - Home sweet home. Handicapping the NFL was easy this week - just pick the home teams. Ten of the 13 home teams covered on Sunday, including four of the five home dogs. Before you get too excited, though, this approach didn't work all weekend. The home teams were just 20-26 in college action on Saturday, and 4-9 in the NFL last weekend. Home dogs were only 1-4 last weekend.
I - Incredible. If I had told you at the start of the year that the NFC North would be a battle between Green Bay and Detroit, and that they would be a combined 13-3 at the halfway point on the season, you would have rightly thought I was a moron. I'm not sure how either team is doing it, but they just keep winning. At this rate the Lions' Thanksgiving game won't be the torture it typically is.
J - Jefferson, Al. He is definitely a pretty good ball player, but Al Jefferson is not your typical athlete. He agreed to a new contract now instead of playing out the year and negotiating in the offseason because he didn't believe that he was worth a max contract. If more players had that kind of attitude then athletes wouldn't be so easy to hate. So far he's playing very well, but the T-Wolves are entirely devoid of meaningful veteran talent, and it already has the feeling of a very long year.
K - King LeBron. I think we saw how the season is going to go for the Cavaliers in the first two games of the season. In the first game of the year, James was terrible - 2-of-11 from the field, with just 10 points - and the team got crushed. Next game out, the King scored 45, and the team looked good winning. That's the problem with having only one player on a team - you are entirely dependent upon him.
L - Lakers. L.A. is quite possibly the most annoying team on the planet, and the forecasts were for doom and gloom thanks to the absence of talent and Kobe's non-stop pouting, but so far things aren't looking too bad. They are 2-1, they have covered three straight games, and Andrew Bynum is looking like he may actually evolve into a decent player and a serious upgrade from Kwame Brown. Either that or he'll fizzle out like he did last year.
M - Marvin Lewis. Fired. So, so fired. His Bengals are totally pathetic. Despite ridiculous offense firepower they are just 2-6 (3-5 ATS), and they are completely incapable of playing defense. It wasn't that long ago that Lewis was a defensive genius. This week they got a lead against Buffalo before taking the fourth quarter off and losing by 12. The Bills, at 4-4 (6-2 ATS), are a surprisingly good team, but Cincinnati made them look like the Patriots.
N - Notre Dame. I almost feel guilty about talking about the Irish each week, but they're like a car wreck that I can't look away from. Losing to Navy after 43 straight wins is ridiculous. Losing five games at home is ridiculous. Charlie Weis' decision to go for it at fourth and 8 on the 24 instead of kicking the game winning field goal was the most inconceivably bad decision I have seen in a while. Weis won't be fired, but I can hardly think of many people who deserve to be fired more.
O - Olson, Lute. I was sad to hear that Arizona's 73-year-old coaching legend had taken a leave for undisclosed personal reasons. They're not health related, which is good, but his dignity and class will be missed on the sideline. It will be interesting to watch how his 17th-ranked Wildcats react in his absence. Incidentally, I only recently learned that Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute was named after Olson.
P - Peterson, Adrian. After watching the first half of the Minnesota-San Diego game on Sunday I made a note to write about Peterson and how impressive he is. Then he came out in the second half, broke the NFL record for rushing yards, and made me sound incredibly unoriginal. He was absolutely incredible (obviously). If he can run like that and the Vikes' defense can play like they did on Sunday then San Diego isn't the only opponent they will surprise, even if their quarterback gets killed every week.
Q - Quit that! My beloved Michigan Wolverines dominated Michigan State, but only when they wanted to. For not the first time this year, the team was incredible when they were focused and truly terrible when they weren't. This will kill those of you that hate Michigan, but the team is now just a win against Wisconsin away from yet another Big Ten-deciding game against Ohio State. That means that a Rose Bowl berth is only two weeks away. Maybe that loss to Appalachian State wasn't the end of the world after all. It just felt that way.
R - Resurrection. Jamal Lewis was dumped by the Ravens in the offseason because he was supposed to be over the hill. He hasn't looked that way in Cleveland. On Sunday he ground out 37 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and caught four passes for 67 more yards. The Browns are one of the great stories of the year, and Lewis is a big part of their success.
S - Smith Center. You can't bet on high school football. Not easily, anyway. If you could, I think I'd take the over whenever Smith Center, Kansas hits the field. They scored 72 points in the first quarter on Tuesday en route to an 83-0 victory. So far this year they have won their games by a combined score of 640-0. Setting a spread for this team would not be an easy task.
T - Turn-around. Remember when the Saints were 0-4 and on the brink of a total collapse? Four wins later they are back at .500 and right in the thick of the AFC South battle. The offense has its swagger back, Drew Brees is on fire, and their schedule sets up nicely to end up at 10-6 or better. In the largely pathetic NFC they could easily overcome their start to be a major contender like they were expected to be.
U - Ugly. Every time you think Nebraska has bottomed out they find a new way to sink even lower. I'm not positive, but I think that it's illegal to play as badly as the Huskers did on Saturday. Kansas is a solid team and all, but a team with the history and tradition of excellence of Nebraska should not be allowing 46 points in a game, never mind 76. I'm not sure why Bill Callahan even bothered to get on the plane to return to Nebraska. He sure won't be staying there long.
V - Virginia. The Cavaliers sure don't like running away with games. They have won three of their last four games by just one point, and they won two other games by two points. They're a surprisingly impressive 8-2, but they're just a few field goals away from a terrible season. I guess it's to their credit that they always come out on top in the close games. Their tendencies aren't helping bettors, though - they are only 4-6 ATS.
W - Wow. For the fourth time in five weeks the No. 2-ranked team lost. Boston College couldn't find their last second heroics this week, Matt Ryan had a rough game, and the Eagles lost to Florida State. The jinx of the No. 2 spot, which is one of the soundest trends to bet of the year, now falls on the shoulders of LSU. The Tigers almost didn't get to ascend into the vacated second spot - they needed a crazy last-second comeback of their own against Nick Saban and Alabama to maintain their one-loss record. LSU obviously doesn't like getting a lead and sitting on it.
X - eXtremely tight. A month ago it looked like Jeff Gordon was going to run away with the NASCAR title. Jimmie Johnson obviously had something to say about that. Gordon's teammate has won three straight races and now has a 30-point lead in the Chase with two races remaining. Gordon gave up an early lead and was only able to hold on for seventh. He was nine points ahead coming into the race.
Y - Yikes. The score in the Cincinnati-South Florida game was 31-14 at the end of the first quarter. The total was only 49.5, so the teams were almost over before many of the fans made it from their tailgates to their seats. Their third straight loss is a rough result for the Bulls. After a start with such promise and prominence, this streak is a blow to their credibility. It's been hard on bettors, too - they've been favored in each of their three losses.
Z - Zzzzz. Have insomnia? Find a copy of the game tape from the Tennessee - Carolina game. Maybe you can catch a replay on the NFL Network. If you are one of the 12 houses that get it, that is. It's hard to believe that two pretty decent teams could play a game that dull and unwatchable. Both sides have thrilling game-breakers on their rosters, but there was a decided lack of thrills here. Tennessee is the least inspiring 6-2 team in the history of football.