This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 12/31/2007
A - Avalanche. Colorado will have to do something for the next eight to 12 weeks that they haven't had to do for quite a while - play without their captain. After three straight injury-free seasons, Joe Sakic is out for a long stretch after opting to get surgery on a hernia that wouldn't heal. Colorado's mired in a tight playoff race, so the loss of their leader couldn't come at a worse time. On the other hand, the last two times Sakic missed at least 20 games the team finished third in the conference, so maybe this is just the boost the team needs.
B - Browns. I feel truly terrible for Cleveland. They did enough to win their 10th game of the year, yet they don't get a playoff spot because Tennessee beat Indianapolis. This is why the last week of the season makes me so mad every year - Tennessee gets into the playoffs because Indy couldn't be bothered to show up and put up some effort. I'm not sure that there's a solution, but the status quo makes a mockery of things pretty much every year.
C - Christmas, Merry. That Chicago Bulls organization sure has the Christmas spirit - they cut coach Scott Skiles loose on Christmas Eve. What a lovely gift. It's not that he didn't deserve it after the horrible start and wasted talent, but the timing is certainly suspect. On the bright side, Skiles is the only guy in the NBA who got an extended break to spend time with his family over the holidays.
D - DEI. That sound you hear is Dale, Sr. rolling in his grave. As if Dale Earnhardt Inc. wasn't already enough of a soap opera - now the much maligned No. 8 car has lost a crew chief. Ryan Pemberton was supposed to keep the car on the road with Mark Martin and Aric Almirola, but he left before he really got started, and Doug Richert - a guy who peaked when he won a title with Dale Earnhardt 27 years ago - is the new chief. Man, it could be a long year for the team.
E - Eddie Sutton. From straight out of the 'What the heck?!?' file, the former Oklahoma State coach returned to coaching this week at San Francisco for a shot at his 800th win. He only needs two wins to get to the milestone. He needs to do a lot more than that to make us forget about the ugly circumstances that led him to leave the profession just two wins away from the mark in the first place.
F - Factor. If you don't think that a coaching change before a bowl game is a distraction for a team then you aren't paying attention. So far Southern Miss, Houston, Texas A&M, and UCLA have all played after the coach that led them through the year has quit or been fired. All four teams have lost. That's not a good omen for Michigan and West Virginia.
G - Georges St. Pierre. Wow. It's almost impossible for a fighter to fight any better than the Canadian did in the main event of UFC 79 when he absolutely decimated Matt Hughes. The match wasn't close at any point leading up to the submission late in the second round. Next up, St. Pierre will likely defend his interim Welterweight title against Matt Serra in Montreal in April. The crowd there will go absolutely insane for the hometown hero.
H - Hester, Devin. This guy is ridiculously good. Chicago's kick return superstar scored his sixth touchdown on the year on Sunday to break his own record that he set last year as a rookie. He now has 11 career kick returns for a touchdown. The league record is 13. My bet is that he'll break it. I know, I'm a reckless gambler.
I - Ineligible? It sounds like it might be all smoke and no fire, but a report out of Arkansas this week suggested that stud running back Darren McFadden may have eligibility issues heading into the Cotton Bowl. He was seen driving a new car around town, and it may have come from an agent. He's denying the charges, and surely he's not that stupid, so it could all go away.
J - JaMarcus Russell. It still seems odd that we had to wait 17 weeks to see Russell make his starting debut, but he wasn't too bad in a totally meaningless game. His 224 yards, one touchdown and one interception were not overwhelming, but he completed 23-of-31 passes, and that kind of accuracy is something that can certainly be built upon.
K - Kentucky. It will get better for the Wildcats at some point, but apparently it's going to get worse first. The latest indignity for the once-mighty squad came on Saturday when they lost at home to San Diego. Kentucky was favored by 13, but the Toreros were ahead at the half and opened the lead down the stretch. Just a guess, but Billy Gillispie probably wishes he hadn't taken the job right about now.
L - Liddell, Chuck. On the UFC 79 undercard, the Iceman scored a big win over Wanderlei Silva. It took six years to make the match happen, and you couldn't help but wish that the match had happened a few years sooner. It's not that it wasn't a good match. It's just that it could have been so much better if the fighters were at their peak, instead of on the inevitable decline.
M - Motor City Bowl. Few people were probably very excited about the showdown between Purdue and Central Michigan when it was set, and the first half wouldn't have changed many opinions. The second half, however, was a true classic. Behind the brilliance of QB Dan LeFevour Central Michigan rallied back from a 34-13 deficit to tie the game up twice before losing by a field goal as time expired by a basketball-like 51-48 score. It wasn't always pretty, but it couldn't have been more exciting. It didn't hurt that the underdogs covered, either.
N - Neuheisel, Rick. After a painfully long and drawn out coaching search in which an impressive list of candidates refused an interview, UCLA finally ended up with a coach - one who used to be their quarterback, to boot. Here's my bet on how it all plays out - he'll have reasonable success for a while then do something incredibly stupid to get himself fired in disgrace. Unlike the last two times, though, this may actually be the job he can't afford to lose.
O - Ottawa. The Senators are the second best team in the NHL, but all is not rosy in Canada's national capital. Ray Emery is being paid like a No. 1 goalie, and he certainly thinks he is one, but his play has been terrible. He was sent home from a road trip, and he pouted ridiculously this week - throwing sticks and screaming at practice. The team will likely get rid of Emery as soon as they can, but he could be a serious distraction until that happens.
P - Pitt. Apparently the Panthers thought that they were still on holiday. It's not a huge disgrace to lose to Dayton - a solid team in the A-10 that already has a win over Louisville. It is, however, a gigantic disgrace to lose to Dayton, or anyone else, by 25 when are the sixth ranked team in the country. It was a very costly loss - guard Levance Fields broke his foot and will miss the rest of the season. That comes just a week after Mike Cook went down for the year with a knee injury.
Q - QB changes. If it seems as if there has been a ridiculous number of starting quarterbacks in the NFL this year, it's because there has been. Three more starters answered the call this week, lifting the total on the year to a record breaking 64 different starters. That compares unfavorably to the 50 starters last year. Only 11 teams stuck to a single pivot, but 10 had to try at least three, and Carolina and San Francisco used four each. Pretty pathetic.
R - Ray Allen. Seattle's former favorite son made his first return to play the Sonics since he was shipped out of town. Given that the Celtics are on fire and Seattle really isn't, it comes as no surprise that Boston won easily. The script wasn't quite out of Hollywood, though - it was Paul Pierce and his season-high 37 points, and not Allen, that led the team to the win. Maybe if Allen had scored more than 10 measly points his team would have covered.
S - Streak. I don't know how they keep doing it, but the Trail Blazers seem to have forgotten how to lose. Portland won their 13th straight game on Sunday when they blew out Philadelphia. More impressive than the winning streak is the fact that bettors haven't seemed to buy into the streak - the team has covered in 12 of the 13 wins.
T - Tigers. Memphis is very much for real. John Calipari's boys won their second consecutive big game on Saturday when they beat Arizona almost as easily as they beat Georgetown the week before. Memphis is in fine form, and they likely only need to get past Gonzaga and Tennessee to end the year undefeated. The way they are playing that seems increasingly likely.
U - Unbeaten. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't particularly entertaining, but it was pretty impressive to see history made when New England finished off the undefeated season on Saturday night. The game wasn't as close as the three-point margin would indicate, and it was proof that New England is deadly when their back is against the wall. My favorite part was seeing Brady hit Moss for a very long touchdown just one play after Moss had dropped a pass on exactly the same route.
V - Vinny. Mr. Testaverde has retired at the young age of only 44. After a rousing start to the season when returning to action with Carolina following a start to the season that found him on his couch at home, Vinny looked more and more each week like what he is - an old man in football terms. If you're a fan of the former Heisman winner, fear not - he'll be back next year at some point. You can't kill Vinny.
W - Wisconsin. The Badgers served notice that they intend to be a legitimate Big Ten contender this year with their upset of Texas. It wasn't exactly a dominating victory - a late three pointer and a stolen inbound pass gave them a one-point victory - but the fact that Wisconsin traveled to Austin to get the win should certainly open some eyes. Winning the Big Ten is not going to be an easy feat this year.
X - Xavier. It was an easy week for the mascots of the column - they came just one point short of doubling up Delaware State. It's good news that they had a bit of a rest, because they need all of their energy for a challenging stretch of games over the next week - Kansas State, Virginia and Auburn. Auburn should be an easier game than it otherwise would have been - Kovotney Barber, the forward who was leading the nation in field goal shooting, broke his hand this week and will miss at least a month.
Y - Yikes. I know that you can't bet on women's college basketball, but this story is too crazy to ignore. Wayne, Michigan beat Temple Baptist reasonably handily on Saturday. If you call 132-13 a handy win, that is. The score was 38-0 before Temple Baptist broke the goose egg, and 76-8 at the half. What a gem.
Z - Zzzzz. With the exception of Saturday night's game, this week's NFL action sucked. I'd write more about it, but I'm only barely awake. The playoffs have to be better. They can't be any worse.