This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 11/12/2007
A - Atlantic Sun. No conference had a week in the college basketball world that was nearly as good as the Atlantic Sun. Gardner-Webb beat Kentucky on Thursday. Belmont topped Cincinnati on Friday. Mercer outscored O.J. Mayo and the Trojans on Saturday. Three big wins against three legitimate major conference teams in three days. That's a heck of a start.
B - Boston Celtics. I had a number of reasons why I was concerned about the Celtics and their ability to win early on. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong. They are 5-0 so far, and they have covered the spread every time out. Kevin Garnett has been spectacular, Paul Pierce is lighting up the scoreboard, and everything is working as well as anyone could have hoped. But will it be sustainable?
C - Cal. It's almost impossible to believe that just a month ago Cal was undefeated, ranked No. 2, and on top of the world. They've lost four of the last five, they haven't covered since September, and they look totally and completely lost. Other teams have fallen from grace, including almost every team that has sat in the No. 2 position in the polls, but few have fallen further faster than Cal.
D - Disgusting. The Indy-San Diego game on Sunday night was a true debacle. Manning threw six interceptions, Vinatieri missed two field goals, and San Diego won. Don't let the result fool you, though - San Diego is a truly terrible team. Even with six picks, Manning was the better quarterback. By a whole lot. The Chargers have no offense worth talking about and their defense bends more than it should. If it weren't for a kickoff and a punt each returned for a touchdown by Darren Sproles this would have been a blowout. Both teams are broken, and the fans in attendance should get their money back.
E - East, Big. There are a lot of teams in the Big East that are pretty compelling this year. It's certainly a more interesting conference on the football side than it was a few years ago. The problem, though, is that the up-and-coming teams are cannibalizing each other. Connecticut is the latest to fall down a notch with an overwhelming loss to Cincinnati. Now every Big East team has a conference loss, and the shot a national championship for the least loved of the major conferences is out the window.
F - Freshmen. If the first week of the season is any indication, it is going to be one heck of a college basketball season. Michael Beasley broke the Big 12 rebounding record with 24 in his first game. Derrick Rose looked very good for Memphis. O.J. Mayo dished up 32 points in his debut. Kevin Love was as advertised. This is a phenomenal class of new talent.
G - Green Bay. Alright, I admit it - the Packers are for real. I have resisted believing that for weeks now. It just doesn't make sense - their quarterback is ancient and has looked washed up for a couple of years, they have no big-name or proven receivers, and the running game hasn't existed. All that's out the window now, though. Brett Favre is the second best QB in the league through 10 weeks, he has a wide variety of choices to throw to, and Ryan Grant has emerged as a surprise running star. Their game against the Cowboys at the end of the month stands out as one of the gems of the remaining season.
H - Huskers. I have officially given up trying to figure out this team. Just one week after giving up 76 points and looking like quite possible the worst team in the history of football, Nebraska went out on Saturday and put up 73 in a decisive victory over Kansas State. Junior QB Joe Ganz threw for 510 yards and seven touchdowns in the one of the most impressive and inexplicable offensive performances of the season. With a game left to play, the team is just one win away from bowl eligibility.
I - Italy. Sports fans may be a bit nuts in North America, but thankfully crazy stuff like what went down in Italy this weekend is incredibly rare here. Fans of Italian teams Lazio and Juventus were fighting in a rest stop on the way to a game. The police tried to break up the fight and ended up shooting and killing a fan. The details aren't clear, but I'm certain that the circumstances weren't worth dying for.
J - Jimmie Johnson. Six weeks ago it looked like the race for NASCAR glory was all but over and Jeff Gordon had it wrapped up. Now the race is actually all but over, but it's Johnson, not his teammate Gordon, who is in the driver's seat. Johnson is the defending champ, and he has put a stranglehold on the title by winning four straight races. He now needs only to finish 18th or better in the season ending race in Florida next week.
K - Karma. Minnesota lost 34-0 on Sunday, and clearly it was because of karma. When Troy Williamson missed last week's game because of the death of the grandmother who raised him, the team showed their sympathy and support by docking him a week's pay. They have since come to their senses and given the money back, but not before the football gods frowned on them. Classy.
L - Ligament. Nene Hilario is a player that just oozes talent and potential, but he is also the most fragile guy in the league not named Grant Hill. He tore a ligament in his thumb that will cost him four to six weeks of playing time. He played a total of three minutes in the 2005-06 season, and has missed significant chunks of last season and the 2004-05 campaign. Denver doesn't have enough depth to put up with these continual problems.
M - Mickelson, Phil. Mickelson has struggled in recent months in North America, but he rediscovered his winning ways this week by heading to Shanghai to play. He won the richest tournament in Asia over a field that included notables like Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington. Mickelson was probably a winner twice on the weekend - even if he hadn't won his appearance fee was likely more than 99 percent of Americans will make in a decade.
N - New Orleans. I hate the Saints. Every time I think I have them figured out this year, they come out and do precisely the opposite of what I expect. Their loss to the previously winless St. Louis was ugly, and not nearly as close as the 37-29 final score indicated. The game was a defensive disaster for the Saints, and the offense wasn't a whole lot better. What I'd really like to know is why the Saints only called 11 running plays all day. A defense can contain a passing attack pretty well when it knows the QB is going to throw it.
O - Opportunity. There was a chance to make some serious money on Sunday if you are a backer of underdogs and you like the money line. Seven dogs won outright, including St. Louis at +10, and Cleveland covered a big spread while not winning. It was also a good week for the road teams - they were 9-3-1 ATS.
P - Peterson, Adrian. He's unquestionably impressive. We knew that from his college days. We also knew that he is both reckless and fragile. That unfortunate combination of traits came back to haunt him on Sunday. He was carried off the field after his knee bent in an awkward way. It wasn't Willis-McGahee-ugly, but he missed the rest of the game, and he's scheduled for an MRI early in the week. It could be bad. Here's hoping it's not.
Q - Quite unbelievable. It's not a wonder that the Lions didn't win or cover this weekend - they had a total of minus-18 yards rushing. That's right - they carried the ball eight times, and managed to lose more than two yards per touch. The funniest stat line of the week belongs to Kevin Jones - four rushes for minus-four yards and a touchdown. The only stat odder on the day than Detroit's rushing incompetence is that it took until the second quarter of the ninth game of the year for a Washington wide receiver to score a touchdown on the season. Bizarre.
R - Ron Zook. I never thought I would say this, but Ron Zook has a signature win. His Illini not only beat Ohio State, the No. 1 team in the country, on Saturday, but they looked like clearly the best team on the field as they did it. The scary part for the rest of the conference is that this is a young team that is only going to get better.
S - Sugar Shane. Mosley had a title fight this weekend, but was in the unfamiliar position of not being the one defending the belt. He also ended up in the uncomfortable position of losing the match. 27-year-old Miguel Cotto hit harder and earned a unanimous decision to move his record to 31-0 and defend his welterweight title for the third time.
T - Tim Tebow. If you haven't figured it out, this guy is pretty darned good. Against South Carolina on Saturday he passed for a couple of touchdowns, and ran for five more. He now has 19 touchdowns on the ground, which is the third highest total in the country. On top of that he has 23 touchdowns through the air, only five interceptions, and he has completed almost 68 percent of his passes. The Gators won't defend their national title this year, but they are a solid 6-3 ATS, and Tebow is most of the reason for that success.
U - Unusual. It seemed odd when Ken Whisenhunt went with his two-quarterback system back when Matt Leinart was healthy for Arizona. Leinart's season is over. But Whisenhunt hasn't given up on mixing it up at pivot. Kurt Warner played most of the game on Sunday, and looked good doing it, but backup Tim Rattay came in for just one play - a two yard TD pass at the end of the second quarter. If baseball managers can use closers then why not football coaches, I guess.
V - Vince Young. It has got to be incredibly frustrating to coach Tennessee's QB. At times he shows flashes of total brilliance, but he made to many mistakes and couldn't rally the team when it was needed, and the Titans dropped a game against rivals Jacksonville that they really needed to win to secure their position in the AFC South.
W - Wins. If you're a casual horseplayer, the best thing you can do in stakes races this year is blindly bet on whoever Garrett Gomez is riding. He notched his 71st stakes win of the season on Saturday, breaking Jerry Bailey's record for most stakes victories in a season. With a month and a half of racing left Gomez could put the record out of reach is he stays healthy.
X - eXtreme offense. Navy and North Texas put up a lot of points on Saturday. In fact, no two teams have ever combined to score more in a game. Navy came out ahead 74-62 to earn their sixth victory and secure a bowl appearance. It was an awfully bad day to have played the under. The second quarter was the most ridiculous part of the game - 63 points were scored in 15 minutes.
Y - Yikes. This is time for my weekly Notre Dame mockery. It's way too easy to make fun of this team, which now officially has the worst offense in the country to go with its nine losses, but it is still so much fun. Charlie Weis now says that he can't understand why the team isn't learning the lessons he is teaching them. If I wasn't such a nice guy I would suggest that it is because he is an incredibly crappy coach. What a train wreck.
Z - Zzzzz. The NFL has had a lot of painfully boring games this year, and this weekend was no exception. Buffalo-Miami and Chicago-Oakland are contenders for the biggest sleeper of the weekend, but my choice is certainly the Cincinnati-Baltimore mess. Cincinnati scored seven straight field goals to bore everyone watching, and Baltimore needed a touchdown in the last two minutes to break the shut out. The world's biggest optimist would struggle to find an upside of that game.