This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 08/31/2008
A - Appalachian State. A former Michigan man took it upon himself to avenge the crushing embarrassment dished out to the Wolverines by App State last season. Les Miles and his LSU Tigers emphatically popped the Mountaineers' balloon with a thoroughly overwhelming 41-13 victory. We didn't learn a lot about LSU's offense in the game, but we did see that the defense is going to be just fine even though Bo Pellini moved on to Nebraska.
B - Beanie Wells. The Buckeyes had no trouble with Youngstown State as they began their march to a third-straight loss in the National Championship Game. The hearts of fans and staff must have stopped, though, when their star running back went down with what looked like an ugly injury. X-rays were negative and he should be fine, but this does nothing to address the questions about durability that plague Wells. If Youngstown State can hurt him then what will USC be able to do to him? Fans got over the injury quickly as super-frosh Terrelle Pryor showed what all the fuss was about in his limited debut. He's the real deal.
C - Curlin. The best horse of at least a generation and likely much more just keeps chugging along. He headed to Saratoga, notoriously known as the graveyard of champions, on Saturday for the historic Woodward. He'd never run at America's greatest track before, but he made it look like home. It wasn't his easiest win, and both his time and his demeanor showed he was tired in the final furlong, but he still won by more than a length over a solid field. With his next win he will become the first horse ever to eclipse $10 million in earnings.
D - De La Hoya, Oscar. The Golden Boy likely signed his last fight contract this week, but he sure didn't make it an easy swan song for himself. He'll face Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 6. Pacquiao may not be a household name, but he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game, and he is thrilling to watch. De La Hoya has a big edge, though - Pacquiao has never fought above 135 pounds, and this one will be at 147. It's hard to know how he will handle the extra weight, and it's certain that he'll be hit harder than he ever has before.
E - Ellis, Monta. The Warriors made Ellis a very rich man, and to celebrate he went out and got himself knocked out of the first three months of the season with an ankle injury. It happened at home, and Golden State is investigating the circumstances of the injury to see if something fishy and stupid caused it. Regardless of how it happened, the key truth is that this is a huge blow for a team that already is limping into the season. I don't think that Warriors' season ticket holders need to worry about saving up for playoff tickets.
F - Florida. Tim Tebow faces a ton of pressure as he tries to repeat as Heisman winner and get a national championship. So far, so good. Tebow wasn't dominating, but he was more than good enough as the Gators rolled over a Hawaii team faced with a whole mess of changes by a score of 56-10. Florida had 255 yards on the ground - more offense than Hawaii had in total. Florida was 36.5 point favorites, and they showed yet again that they can be relied on more than most teams to handle huge spreads.
G - Guzman, Cristian. Guzman proved yet again this week that he is way, way too good to be playing for the truly and irredeemably terrible Washington Nationals. Guzman hit for the cycle to help his team beat up on a Dodgers team that seems determined not to win the NL West no matter how many opportunities they are given. Clayton Kershaw took the loss for the Dodgers to move to 2-5 and prove just how difficult the transition from minor league phenom to major league star can be.
H - Harrell, Graham. Here's a mystery I want you to answer. How is it possible for a guy to pass for 536 yards in a single game and end up with just two touchdowns. I would have guessed it would be impossible, but the Texas Tech QB and his freakish offense did just that. Sophomore star receiver Michael Crabtree had a nice start, with 73 yards and a touchdown. Not surprisingly given the amount of passing, though, two guys had more than twice as many yards receiving.
I - Ivanovic, Ana. To call the latter part of her summer a brutal mess would be an understatement. The No. 1 female tennis player in the world withdrew from the Beijing Olympics at the last minute with a thumb injury. She looked to the U.S. Open to bounce back, but that went off the tracks in just the second round. That's when she lost to the 188th-ranked player in the world, and it wasn't really that close. At least she doesn't have to play any more meaningful tennis until the Australian Open in January - that's lots of time to heal and regroup.
J - Joe Sakic. The Colorado Avalanche got some very good news this week when their captain announced that he would be coming back for at least one more season. This is the 20th season for Sakic, and all have been with the same franchise. He might not be the player he once was, but his skill and leadership still make him one of the most valuable players in the league, and the rebuilding Avalanche are instantly better with his somewhat unexpected return.
K - Killed 'em. Nick Saban has always been hard to take, but he'll be even more unbearable now. His Crimson Tide rolled into ninth-ranked Clemson and made the Tigers looked like kittens. Phenom freshman receiver Julio Jones didn't set the world on fire, but with a touchdown and a 21-yard punt return he gave us a hint of the future. This loss and that by the Hokies makes it pretty clear that the ACC just isn't going to be that good.
L - Lost. The Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. To get there they need Tarvaris Jackson to overachieve. That, in turns requires him to be well protected. That will be a tougher task for the team to accomplish for the first quarter of the season after left tackle Bryant McKinnie was suspended for four games this week. The forced vacation is the result of a brawl outside a bar that McKinnie was involved in this February. Teams should start locking their players in caves in the offseason to keep them out of trouble.
M - Mountaineers. West Virginia started the post-Rodriguez era in style with a lopsided victory. Unfortunately, beating Villanova is only impressive on the hardwood, even if it is by 27 points. One guy who obviously doesn't mind the change in coaching regimes is QB Pat White. He started his Heisman campaign off well, completing 76 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and just one pick. Noel Devine was less impressive in his new role as primary back, recording just 47 yards on the ground.
N - Nebraska. The Cornhuskers weren't perfect at the dawn of the Bo Pellini era, but they were good enough to cover by 10 points against Western Kentucky. I'm not a Nebraska fan, but I would imagine that those who are must just feel so ridiculously relieved to be done with Bill Callahan and all of the ridiculousness that came with him that they would take a win of pretty much any description. Pellini is in a good spot - pretty much anything he does will look better than that which preceded him.
O - Ocho Cinco. The man formerly known as Chad Johnson has shown just how far he will go to keep his name in the news. Johnson legally changed his name from Johnson to Ocho Cinco so that he can have his self-given nickname n his jersey. At least that's his plan - I give it a zero percent chance of being allowed by the team and the league. Before football's answer to Prince can try out his new moniker, though, he needs to get healthy and do his part to help his team quit sucking.
P - Pacman Jones. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced this week that Adam 'Pacman' Jones, the man most famous for making it rain, is cleared to return to the league with the Cowboys. This was treated as a big announcement by the media, and I don't get it. It certainly makes the Cowboys defense better, but it seems like it was pretty much the biggest sure thing ever - Jerry Jones would have gone absolutely nuclear if it hadn't happened, and Goodell can't afford to cause that.
Q - Quite ridiculous. The NFL preseason mercifully ended this week, but not before we were reminded yet again of how incredibly ridiculous the whole exercise is. The fourth week of games was so appallingly meaningless that the owners should not only offer refunds to ticket buyers, but should also get on their knees and beg forgiveness. The Bills show us just how stupid the preseason has become - in four preseason games the first unit offense had a grand total of just seven possessions. That'll really knock off the rust.
R - Ryan Perrilloux. The fall from grace sunk to a new low this week. It seems hard to believe, but the guy who was the MVP of the SEC championship for LSU just last year was absolutely crushed by Georgia Tech to open the season as the starter for Jacksonville State this year. The lack of talent to help make him look good on the offense is probably enough to make Perrilloux wish that he hadn't been such an idiot at LSU, and that he hadn't thrown away the gift that was delivered to him on a silver platter. Being the starter for the defending national champions is probably more fun than where he finds himself.
S - Shawne Merriman. What a convenient coincidence that Merriman and moron both start with the same letter. The star cog in the Chargers' defense has decided not to get the surgery that four doctors have told him his knee needs. The injury won't affect his forward momentum, but it will affect his stability, and it almost certainly won't stand up to the first time an opposing player hunts his knee with his helmet - and that will take until about the second snap of the season. This is going to end badly.
T - Tigers. It seemed likely that the showdown between Missouri and Illinois would be the game of the week, and if you like scoring then it certainly lived up to the potential. The Illini mounted a late charge, but Missouri was too much for them, winning 52-42. Chase Daniel was very good, but Juice Williams was even better with 458 yards passing and five touchdowns. What was painfully obvious for Illinois, though, was just how much they are going to miss Rashard Mendenhall - their running game was bordering on pathetic.
U - USC. As much as t pains me to say it, the Trojans got off to a very impressive start. They were visiting a Virginia team that must have really missed Chris Long, because it was never really close en route to the 52-7 final score. Mark Sanchez was dogged by questions heading into the game, but he answered them with authority, passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Joe McKnight wasn't as impressive. He averaged 10 yards per carry on six carries, but his 84 yards of offense is below the megastar status that many hoped he would inhabit.
V - Virginia Tech. The Hokies have a long history of not standing up under scrutiny, but it was hard to imagine that their dreams of national relevance this season would end before sundown on the first Saturday of the season. East Carolina was a nine-point underdog, but that didn't stop them from beating the Hokies at home. It's not that Virginia Tech lost to a solid but not particularly inspiring opponent. It's that they didn't make it very hard for the Pirates.
W - Wolverines. Hmmm. That wasn't the start I was dreaming of for my beloved boys from Michigan. It wasn't a total disaster, and there were a few bright spots in the two-point loss to the upstart Utes, but the game did make it very clear that there is a lot of road to travel between where the team is now and the national championship everyone who cares about the team obviously craves. I would drive myself crazy if I dwelt on the fact that the two QBs only combined to complete half of their 38 passes, or that the running backs only averaged 1.4 yards per carry over 25 carries. I'm not even going to think about the fact that one of those carries was for 21 yards, so the rest obviously weren't for much.
X - eXposed? A quick glance at the scoresheet would tell you that South Carolina is going to be a frighteningly tough team to play this year. After all, they won 34-0 against NC State. A closer look reveals some serious concerns, though. The Gamecocks had just three points and an equal number of interceptions by first half. They got it sorted out this time, but they won't get away with such sloppiness as the season progresses. Steve Spurrier won his 16th-straight season opener, showing just how little he challenges himself when he doesn't have to.
Y - Yikes. The Red Sox obviously have World Series aspirations. They always do. That just got a whole lot harder, though, now that Josh Beckett's health has become a serious question. The ace and playoff horse hit the DL this week with a strained elbow. The word is that it isn't too serious, but it was serious enough that he visited Dr. James Andrews on Friday. That's never a good thing.
Z - Zoom. Usain Bolt, the incredible world's fastest man, returned to action this week for the first time since Beijing. He ran in a Golden League meet in Zurich, and to the surprise of no one with a pulse he won the 100m relatively easily. His time of 9.83 seconds was more than respectable, but it was far from his best effort. It was clear from the start that he wasn't going to go all out, but it was still impressive to watch. Most of the world's track stars were in Zurich. It seems bizarre that they continue right on with their season after the drama and intensity of the Olympics. Most other athletes are eating, drinking and sleeping their days away right now.