This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 09/22/2008
A - Anderson, Derek - A year ago the Cleveland Browns' QB and his team were one of the best stories in the league. Now it seems almost certain that his days as a starter, at least for now, are nearing an end. Anderson has been, in a word, brutal. He reached a new low this week against Baltimore, completing just 38 percent of his passes, with three picks and just one touchdown. Anderson looked confused and, frankly, nothing like an NFL QB. Which is fitting given that his team looks nothing like an NFL squad, either.
B - Buffaloes, Colorado - In my books, Dan Hawkins is ahead of schedule. His team beat a ranked West Virginia team, and they didn't make it look like a fluke, either. Of course, Colorado benefited from some of the worst clock management imaginable by West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. Colorado still has some work to do, but the highlight of watching them was freshman running back Rodney Stewart. This was a guy that no other BCS program besides Colorado wanted, yet he exploded for 166 yards.
C - Colts, Indianapolis. I'm trying not to take too much pleasure from it, but there's definitely something wrong in Indianapolis. Peyton Manning has played three games, and he has only looked like himself for one quarter out of 12. He's not right, Marvin Harrison is suddenly playing like someone's grandfather, and the team seems to have problems across the field. I'm not suggesting they won't make the playoffs or anything, but this sure isn't the team we've become used to.
D - Dolphins. If you say you saw that coming you are lying. The lowly Dolphins, just a year removed from being the doormats of the league, thoroughly dismantled the Patriots on Sunday. Ronnie Brown was a one-man wrecking crew, running for four TDs on just 17 carries and throwing for another. The biggest sign of how bizarre things were was that the Dolphins direct snapped to Brown six times, and the Pats were completely unable to adjust to it. The AFC East is now officially a giant mess.
E - East Carolina. So much for some Pirates looting the BCS. After back-to-back impressive upsets of ranked teams, East Carolina learned what happens when you don't concentrate on a game - even an average BCS conference program can rise up and smack you down. NC State won the game in overtime, and though it wasn't pretty it was accomplished by hustle - the Wolf Pack forced a fumble in overtime, then capitalize on their opportunity to win it. The interesting thing now will be to see how East Carolina bounces back from what has to be a massive disappointment - in the minds of the fans and much of the media they were on cruise control to 12-0.
F - Florida. The Gators beat Tennessee badly on Saturday, and the strange part was that they didn't have to try that hard to do it. Tim Tebow had less than 100 yards passing, the running game was only average, and the defense didn't score any points, yet somehow the Gators won by 24. The lesson here is that Tennessee just isn't very good - something we have had to suspect since UCLA has been pretty much the worst team in the world after beating them. The Vols have no offense, their quarterbacking is putrid, and the heat stays high for them with Auburn and Georgia coming up right away.
G - Golden Gophers, Minnesota. I thought I'd mention this program because I'm pretty sure I never have before. Why would I? But under second year coach Tim Brewster things seem to slowly be heading in the right direction. They are 4-0, 2-1 ATS, and they are coming off a dominating blowout of Florida Atlantic. The key has been sophomore QB Adam Weber. He has been more than solid this year, and has taken giant strides forward from his play last year.
H - Halladay, Roy. I like the Blue Jays (as a Canadian I am obligated to), but I can't help but feel bad for Halladay. Yet again he's one of the two or three best pitchers in the American League, and yet again all he has to show for it is an early start to the winter golf season. Halladay won his 19th game last week, and he'll get a shot to make it 20. He'd be a lock for the Cy Young if it weren't for Cliff Lee, and he's the anchor of one of the most complete staffs in the league. If only they'd learned to hit before August.
I - In. Teams are clinching their playoff berths, and the two that managed to do so last week are interesting in their own ways. The Rays are in, capping off one of the most dramatic turnarounds in league history. Teams have gone from the bottom to the top in one year - Minnesota, Florida - but not after being so indescribably bad for so long. The Cubs are also in, thus ensuring that we will again be inundated with tales of how long it has been since they won. Be braced for some sort of conspiracy theory if this is yet again not their year.
J - Javon Ringer. With Beanie Wells seemingly retired because of an ouchy toe, the Big Ten needed a new top running back. Javon Ringer has emphatically stepped up to fill the void. Michigan State's star torched the Irish for 201 yards and two touchdowns. That was his second straight game over 200 yards, and it gave him 11 TDs on the year. Notre Dame has a bad habit of making opposing running backs look good - Michigan freshman Sam McGuffie looked like Barry Sanders the week before is his breakout performance.
K - Kansas City. Oh, it's going to be a long, long year for the Chiefs. After Brodie Croyle was hurt and Damon Huard was horrible the team this week turned to QB Tyler Thigpen to lead the squad. He was about as good as you would expect a rookie from a small school with no help around him to be - he was like a steak thrown to a pack of dogs. It's hard to conceive that his confidence isn't thoroughly shattered, and he won't improve playing in that mess of a situation, so the team now has a real problem trying to figure out who they are going to put behind center. I suggest some sort of fan contest - Joe Six Pack from the crowd wouldn't be any worse than what they have.
L - LSU. You don't have to like Les Miles, but you do have to respect him. The guy is absolutely fearless. The Tigers got their first win at Auburn in a decade, and it happened thanks to incredibly bold play calling by Miles. Down 14-3 in the offensively anemic SEC is usually a death sentence, but Miles called a halfback pass that resulted in a touchdown, then boldly went for a touchdown late when he only really needed a field goal because the TD meant Auburn needed more than a field goal. It was tempting to write LSU off coming into the season thanks to all the players they lost to the draft or to their own stupidity, but they look almost as good now as they did in 2007, and things ended very well for them then.
M - Missouri. The Tigers learned that Buffalo is a pesky team that can stick around and frustrate, but in the end they pulled away for a solid victory - though they did not cover the giant 34-point spread. Chase Daniel was impressive - he completed 20 straight passes at one point - and he is still the Heisman front-runner. I can't help but notice, though, that his one game against a BCS opponent - the opener against Illinois - was by far his worst performance statistically of the year. I want to see what he does now that he is moving into the Big 12 schedule and therefore facing much tougher opponents before I am willing to coronate him.
N - Nadal, Rafael. American men's tennis is ridiculous. They were forced to play their Davis Cup semifinal against Spain on clay, so you knew it probably wouldn't go well. It didn't. Nadal was playing with a strained muscle in, well, his butt, and he was visibly limping as he walked to the court. Still, he beat Andy Roddick in straight sets. The American men, and especially Roddick, have such a huge mental block about clay that it's laughable.
O - Oregon Ducks. I'm not sure a team has ever had the QB issues in Spetember that the Ducks have had. They played their fifth different QB of the season on Saturday. They lost their starter to a knee injury at the start of the season, and two quarterbacks to concussions. Freshman Chris Harper wasn't doing well against Boise State, so they put in freshman Darron Thomas and used up his shot at redshirting. You wouldn't expect much from a fifth stringer, but he certainly delivered. In just a quarter of action, Thomas had 210 yards passing and three TDs. At that rate he sure hasn't seen his last action. It's a good thing he worked out - he's at the bottom of the depth chart - except maybe for the Duck.
P - Pryor, Terrelle. Ouch. Seeing what Pryor did against Troy was not easy for me to take as a Michigan fan. Ohio State started their freshman QB this week after lacking anything resembling an offense against USC. The knock against him was that he was a running QB who wasn't yet much of a passer - a la Vince Young at his age. Pryor threw that argument on its ear, throwing for four touchdowns, and looking far more veteran than he is. It only took Jim Tressel until Sunday afternoon to do the obvious and name Pryor the starter for another week.
Q - Quit. Scott Linehan should just save everyone the hassle and resign from his post as the coach of the St. Louis Rams. His team is indescribably bad, there is no way they will get measurably better this year, and there is absolutely no way he will be around next year. Heck, there's virtually no way he makes it to the end of this year. At least by resigning he would give the suffering fans something to be excited about - the hiring of his replacement.
R - Ryder Cup. It's hard to believe given recent history, but the team with more depth and talent actually managed to win the Ryder Cup. The Americans built a small lead through the first two days of action, then built on it on the final day in the singles. Three things were striking. First, the young guys, led by budding superstar Anthony Kim, were the driving force of the victory. Second, you couldn't help but get the sense that the guys were more relaxed because they weren't playing with Tiger. Third, Phil Mickelson is a lousy Ryder Cup player.
S - San Francisco 49ers. I'm back in a place I keep saying I won't go but always do anyway - the 49ers bandwagon. I'm not suggesting that they are really good, or that they will make the playoffs. For the second time in three years, though, this is a team that is much better than people think it is. Mike Martz has performed wonders with J.T. O'Sullivan, building an offensive system that lets him confidently and effectively play within himself. They are 2-1 ATS, have won two straight, and will continue to be a tougher matchup for teams than people will give them credit for.
T - Tampa Bay Lightning. As hard as it is to believe, the NHL preseason is underway. Tampa Bay was among the first to hit the ice, and they got to show off Steve Stamkos, the first overall pick in this year's draft. It didn't take Stamkos any time at all to make his mark - he scored the game winning goal in his first ever game. Stamkos is NHL-ready physically, and he is a massive talent. He'll be a very solid addition to a team that certainly shouldn't struggle to score.
U - Unanswered. Potential BCS Buster BYU barely squeaked by with a win against Washington two weeks ago in a game they were supposed to win easily. Some people panicked. It seems that the Cougars just got angry. Since then they have scored 103 points in two games. Their opponents haven't scored any. QB Max Hall has thrown for 460 yards and 10 touchdowns over the shutout streak, with just one interception. Utah State is up next, and BYU beat them 38-0 in their last meeting, so it's certainly possible that the streak continues.
V - Vanderbilt. The fairy tale start to the season continues for the SEC's perennial also-rans. Vanderbilt is 4-0 straight up and ATS, and they find themselves at No. 21 in the polls. That's the first time they have been ranked since jumping out to a hot start in 1984, and they hope that this leads them to their first winning season since 1982. They haven't just fattened up on non-conference patsies, either - they have two conference game already under their belts, including a win over South Carolina, a ranked team at the time.
W - Westbrook, Brian. A week after coming up short in a shootout, the Eagles beat Pittsburgh with a gritty, smothering defensive effort. The win may have come at a high cost, though. Westbrook left the game limping, and he is scheduled for an MRI on his ankle on Monday. Philly showed last week that they are good, but probably not the best team in their division. Losing Westbrook certainly wouldn't help to change that.
X - eXplosive. Brian Griese spent the last two seasons in Chicago, so he was probably pretty fired up to get the chance to lead Tampa Bay into action against them this week. He beat his old team, and he put up more than 400 yards passing in the process, but it was an odd performance. He had a staggering 67 pass attempts, and he had three interceptions against two touchdowns. Not statistically overwhelming, but if nothing else it made for an exciting game - one that eventually ended in overtime.
Y - Yankee Stadium. As strange as it may seem, the last days of Yankee Stadium are over. To steal a phrase - Yankee Stadium is dead, long live Yankee Stadium. Though the Yankees would likely rather forget much of what went on in this mess of a final season in the old palace of baseball, at least they managed to end it all on the right note. They beat the Orioles, 7-3, Sunday, fueled by a big performance by catcher Jose Molina. Now their challenge in their final six games is to maintain their two game lead over the Jays - their opponents for a series this week, to claim the moral victory of a third place finish.
Z - Zambrano, Carlos. Last week I wrote about his impressive and unlikely no-hitter that came right after he experienced arm troubles. This week I'll write about his follow-up to that effort. Wow, was it ever ugly. Zambrano couldn't make it out of the second against St. Louis, and he managed to allow eight earned runs. In his no hitter he averaged about four pitches per out. This time he was at nine. Ouch.