This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 01/07/2008
A - Antonio Gates. San Diego beat Tennessee relatively easily once they decided to actually try, but it was a costly victory. Tight end Gates was injured, and in the replay it looks like his toe was folded over like origami. That's really gotta sting, and it certainly doesn't help the team's cause against the Colts. Philip Rivers wasn't exactly looking comfy on Sunday, so it could get ugly if his security blanket has to miss the game.
B - Botched call. There would have been a serious karmic imbalance in the world if Pittsburgh had beat Jacksonville. I have seen few calls blown so badly as the one that gave Pittsburgh the lead late - Hines Ward tried to rip the corner's head off by the face mask, yet the DB got called for pass interference. Instead of ending a drive, the Steel got first down from the one. Terrible call that thankfully didn't affect a pretty good game.
C - Curlin. The guaranteed Horse of the Year, and one of the best horses we've seen in a long time, is getting closer to a possible return to action. We still haven't heard for sure that he's coming back this year, and his ownership is a total mess, but it is a very good sign that he got his first official workout on Sunday. He went half a mile in :53 2/5, which is nothing to dance about, but at least he's running.
D - Daniel Chopra. He's not exactly a household name, but Chopra is the only guy who can claim a PGA victory so far this year. Chopra won the winners-only Mercedes-Benz in a playoff on Sunday. He shouldn't have needed the playoff at all - he missed the winning putt on the 18th by the smallest possible margin. As a proud Canadian I can't help but point out that our only two relevant golfers - Stepehen Ames and Mike Weir - finished a strong third and fourth.
E - 899. The fact that Bobby Knight is now just one win away from 900 is pretty amazing. You never have to worry about entertainment with Knight, though, and his landmark 899th win wasn't the best part of the story on Saturday. He lost his shoe when he kicked the scorer's table, and then his son had to physically haul him back to the bench when he wouldn't quit screaming at the ref who had already given him a technical. He gets his first shot at 900, assuming he isn't suspended for his latest of many referee criticizing incidents, is Saturday against Oklahoma State.
F - Freak. I was stunned by Terrelle Pryor in the U.S. Army All-American game on Saturday, and not just because I desperately hope he comes to Michigan. The quarterback was named MVP of the game after rushing for 79 yards and a touchdown and passing for 76 yards and another score while sharing action with two other pivots. He was impressive and explosive despite operating in an unfamiliar offense, and he is going to make whichever team he decides to go to significantly better. Please, please, please, please, please make it Michigan.
G - Ginobili, Manu. The Spurs beat the Clippers this weekend, but the big news was that their Argentinian star was back in action after missing five games with a finger injury. The finger was wrapped up, but it obviously didn't bother him - he had 23 points, including 12 in fourth quarter, in the win. He wasn't as comfortable shooting as he wants to be, but the team has to be thrilled to have him back.
H - Hawaii. June Jones has done the move that, while not necessarily admirable, is completely understandable - he has bolted Hawaii. There is really no upside for staying - he got totally and utterly outclassed by Georgia despite going undefeated, and he'd have to break in a new QB next year. The only flaw in the plan is that he's going to SMU, and they are only marginally better positioned to be nationally relevant than the Warriors.
I - International Bowl. Rutgers won the only bowl game played outside of the U.S.. More correctly, running back Ray Rice won the game, and he brought the rest of his team along for the ride. Rice ran for a school record 280 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team by a totally outclassed Ball State team, 52-30. The worst prediction I made at the start of this season? I stated Rice would be too beat up this year to contribute by the end of the year.
J - Jobs. The coaching carousel is spinning in the NFL, and there have been few big surprises. The best drama so far has come out of Oakland. Coach Lane Kiffin apparently tried to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but Ryan has held on (because he is very good), and now Kiffin might be vulnerable after just one year. Cam Cameron couldn't survive more than a year in Miami. The amazing thing is that his 'briliant' 1-15 mind is in demand as an offensive coordinator - St. Louis and the 49ers are among the interested. What exactly would you have to do to be blacklisted in the coaching ranks? Total incompetence doesn't seem to be enough.
K - Kansas. The Jayhawks weren't getting much respect on the gridiron this year despite a gaudy record. Against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl they showed that they deserved respect after all. Their offense was, not surprisingly, challenged by the Hokies, but Kansas did something out of character when they stepped up their defense and rode it to the win. That's the fourth straight BCS loss for the Hokies.
L - LeBron. This King James guy is going to be pretty decent. The Cavs were in trouble against the Raptors, so James took his team on his back and led them to victory. He scored 24 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter (two-thirds of the team's total scoring in the quarter) to close a 13-point deficit and win by three. The Raptors will have to spend a couple of days trying to figure out what the heck hit them.
M - Michigan. I can hardly write this because I am so excited. I expected my beloved Wolverines to get crushed lifeless by the Gators in the Capital One Bowl, but I couldn't have been more wrong. They were creative on offense for the first time in years, their defense was solid, their pass rush was truly incredible, and Lloyd Carr gets to leave with a win. Of course, if his team had played like that in recent years he wouldn't have had to leave.
N - New York. One thing came very clear as I watched the Giants on Sunday - I really, really hate Eli and his team. I was giddy early on when the Giants looked awful and Tampa Bay drove for an easy touchdown and the lead. That giddiness faded quickly as Manning finally played well enough in a playoff game to deserve his name, and New York won easily. Now they have to hope that the third time is lucky against the Cowboys. My guess is that it isn't.
O - One moron. There has to be one in every group. Brett Favre has had an impressive and inspiring year, but that doesn't justify the decision by one moron to vote for him over Tom Brady for MVP. If Brady's numbers and accomplishments this year aren't worthy of a unanimous MVP then no player should ever win one. The voters and their decisions really should be made public to avoid silliness like this. Not that it matters, of course.
P - Prep Race. The first Kentucky Derby prep of the season, the Hutcheson at Gulfstream, is in the books, and it didn't go true to form. Smooth Air had won two of four, but none against top competition, and he was poorly regarded at 9/1. He launched a solid move down the stretch, though, to win by a length and move at least temporarily into the Derby picture. Two Derby winners - Spectacular Bid and Gato Del Sol - won the Hutcheson first. King of the Roxy won it last year.
Q - Quite close. North Carolina is still undefeated, but they are lucky to be so. They trailed Clemson for most of the game, were barely able to tie it up late to make it to overtime, and only won by a pair. This was another case of something we have seen a bit too much so far this year - a ridiculously talented team that doesn't seem to have the killer instinct it will need to go all the way.
R - Rose Bowl. I'm a bit of a Big Ten apologist, but even I can't spin Illinois' performance (or total lack thereof) in that very boring Rose Bowl game into something positive. The Illini looked slow, unskilled and unprepared as USC cruised to a painfully easy victory. Everyone is now saying that USC deserved a better matchup given how they played, but I'd have much more sympathy for that argument if they had beaten Stanford. You shouldn't get a chance at anything resembling a national title if you lose at home to a team like that.
S - Streak. We don't bet on high school sports, and we really don't bet on high school wrestling, but this is too impressive to ignore. Florida's Brandon High School lost a wrestling tournament on Saturday night. That's noteworthy because it broke a streak of 459 victories dating back to 1973. 459 wins! 1973! That was 35 freaking years ago for those of you that can't handle the math. Unreal. That makes the Pats look like amateurs.
T - Tulsa. Either Tulsa had the most perfect game plan in the history of football for the GMAC Bowl on Sunday, or Bowling Green got the date wrong and didn't actually show up. Solid senior quarterback Paul Smith went out with a bang - 312 yards and five touchdowns - as he led his team to a ridiculously dominating 63-7 victory. Tulsa ended their year on a high note without coach Kragthorpe, and his new team, Louisville, failed to make a bowl. Who saw that coming?
U - Unlikely. There were several unlikely and impressive performances this bowl season, but none more so than Oregon. The Ducks were so beat up that they had to rely on freshman QB Justin Roper. They would have had every excuse to lay down and quit, but instead they crushed another early season success story in South Florida. Jonathan Stewart was truly special, running for 253 yards and a touchdown in what could be his final game in those incredibly ugly uniforms.
V - Vanderbilt and Villanova. I didn't want to choose between either of these 'V' teams because both deserve to be here. Vanderbilt handled UMass with surprising ease on Saturday to move to 15-0. That makes them a very intriguing team heading into conference play. Villanova took advantage of Pitt mistakes on Sunday to beat the Panthers by one. Both teams should have a solid seed come tournament time.
W - West Virginia. I'm not sure which side deserves more attention - West Virginia for overcoming a world of distractions and excuses to beat Oklahoma, or the Sooners for yet again coming up short in a BCS game. The Mountaineers were impressive, but I fear that they made a terrible decision by removing the interim tag from coach Stewart. He did a great job for that game, but several assistants are going to Michigan, and the team probably needed a totally new start.
X - Xavier. Wow. That's about all you can say for the mascots of this column. They had perhaps the toughest week any team has had all year - three games against BCS conference teams with winning records. They couldn't have handled it better. They averaged 97 points per game, and beat Kansas State, Virginia and Auburn by an average of more than 25 points. Look out A-10.
Y - Youzhny. The tennis season started out with a shock. The fact that 19th ranked Mikhail Youzhny beat Rafael Nadal in the final of the Chennai Open isn't a huge surprise. What is surprising is that Nadal only won one game. Nadal only held serve once en route to a decisive 6-0, 6-1 loss. Nadal certainly deserves a mulligan at this point in the season, but Federer has to be at least a bit excited about this - the only way he may win the French Open is if Nadal struggles all year.
Z - Zoom. Bowl season was full of incredible displays of speed and skill by talented players, but perhaps none more impressive or unexpected than senior running back Tony Temple of Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Temple, who had less than 800 yards rushing all year, exploded for 281 yards and four touchdowns on only 24 touches. We all knew a running back would be a big story when Arkansas play Mizzou, but few would have guessed it would have been Temple.