This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 10/06/2008
A - Alabama. The Crimson Tide are still undefeated and perched near the top of the polls, but their performance against Kentucky took a little shine off of what had seemed like a nearly flawless team. Their passing game was hopeless, they turned it over three times, and they were as undisciplined on the field--10 penalties--as they were off the field during the spring and summer. It was far too close for a home game against a mediocre opponent. The only thing that saved the Tide was running back Glen Coffee. He scampered for 218 yards and a TD.
B - Boise State. We don't yet know if they are at or near their 2006 level, but there is no doubting that this Broncos team is good. Very good. There was no surprise that they beat Louisiana Tech this week, but the way they did it was impressive. QB Kellen Moore looks less and less like a freshman every game, and he led his squad to a 38-3 win, and an easy cover. The win was basically a lock - this is a team that just doesn't lose at home.
C - Cougars, BYU. It wasn't a completely dominating win against Utah State, and the AP voters noticed. QB Max Hall didn't have his best day, but it was enough to get by a terrible Utah State team. I'd say something about how BYU is better than this and needs to show it going forward, but the fact is that there is only one and maybe two games remaining on the schedule in which they have to be close to their best. This game was also crushing for BYU backers - they went out to a 34-0 lead then shut down. That allowed Utah State to score two meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cover the spread.
D - Daniel, Chase. The Heisman frontrunner kept his campaign going strong. Daniel's numbers against Nebraska weren't as gaudy as he has put up against lesser opponents, but they were still impressive - 78 percent passing, three touchdowns, and 11 yards per passing attempt. Mizzou hasn't faltered at all yet this year, so it will be very interesting to see how they do in their next two games against ranked opponents - Oklahoma State and Texas. As for Nebraska, this was a stark lesson that there is a pile of work left to do for Bo Pelini.
E - Evan Longoria. There is no way that this guy is a rookie. He's too good. Both Longoria and his team made their playoff debut this week, but you'd never guess it by their play. The inevitable AL Rookie of the Year knocked his first ever post-season pitch over the fence. He liked the feeling so much that he did it again his next time up. He's hitting .400 in the series through three games - in other words, he's already been more productive in his post-season career than A-Rod.
F - Florida, South. So much for the Cinderella story. The Bulls were sitting in 10th in the rankings, and had some credibility after beating Kansas earlier in the year. All that goodwill, as well as the lead in the Big East, went out the window on Thursday. That's when they lost to Dave Wannstedt and the Pitt Panthers, 26-21. South Florida took the lead in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't hold on. The loss dropped them to 19th in the polls, and ensures that people who like the good story will look elsewhere - like maybe Ball State, ranked this week for the first time ever.
G - Giants. I hate to admit it because I really, really don't like Eli Manning, but even I can't deny it any longer - the Giants are a legitimate team. Bold statement, I know. They are 4-0, 3-1 ATS, and have cruised to victory in three of four games. Brandon Jacobs has turned into a major stud, Manning has been efficient and effective, and you'd never guess that this team is without their two top pass rushers. I wasn't sure that this team was in the top three in their division coming into the season, but at this point they are the top one. Even if I don't want to admit it.
H - Helio Castroneves. Apparently even great dancers and fast drivers have to pay taxes. Castroneves, a two time Indy 500 winner, was released on $10 million bail after pleading not guilty to federal tax evasion charges. It's alleged that he failed to report more than $5 million in income. This will put a bit of a kink in his racing career since he can't leave the country. Thankfully for him, though, he's not the highest profile athlete or former athlete to spend time in court this week, and even his worst punishment won't be anywhere near what O.J. gets.
I - Indianapolis Colts. There is no luckier team in the league than the Colts. They were very badly beat by the Texans. But then Sage Rosenfels remembered he was Sage Rosenfels, made three truly brutal mistakes that each resulted in a turnover, and the luck-sacks from Indy scored three TDs in less than three minutes to take the lead for good. Needless to say, Houston fans didn't like it - those that weren't crying were booing as the game ended.
J - Juice Williams. Michigan does not traditionally fare well against versatile quarterbacks who can run as well, or better than they can pass. Vince Young shredded them in the Rose Bowl, and this week it was Williams' turn. Juice set an all-time Big House record for total yards. He passed for 310 yards and two TDS, and ran for 121 yards and two more scores. One of those running TDs was on a fake handoff so good that the camera, the commentators and the crowd were all fooled by it. Michigan got off to a strong start, but couldn't keep it up in the face of the Williams assault, and they showed that they still have a lot of work left to do.
K - Kimbo Slice. So much for the legend of Kimbo. Slice should have had an easy fight on Saturday night in EliteXC action. Ken Shamrock cut himself over the eye in training Saturday morning and had to pull out of the fight. Seth Petruzelli, a 9-4 light heavyweight who was once on the Ultimate Fighter and was supposed to fight on the undercard, stepped up to fill the void. It should have been a short, one-sided fight, and it was. The shock was it was Petruzelli who ended it in just 14 seconds thanks to a knockout. Slice isn't nearly as scary or as impressive now that he got his butt kicked by a much smaller guy with bad hair.
L - Lions, Detroit. Maybe Matt Millen wasn't the problem after all. The Lions showed that they aren't willing to give up the race for worst team in the league without a fight on Sunday when they totally failed to show up against the Bears. Jon Kitna got benched, but that didn't help given the fact that this is a sick, sick team that has problems pretty much everywhere on the field. Kyle Orton must wish he could play Detroit every week - it takes a pretty bad defense to make Orton look as good as he did - 24/34 for 334 yards and two TDs.
M - Mets. New York's other team has only been living on the borders of relevance for years now, and their latest moves this week ensure that that is where they will stay. After consecutive late season flame-outs that cost them a playoff spot, the Mets did perhaps the least logical thing possible - they rewarded their manager and GM with fat contract extensions. I guess they don't want their new stadium exposed to the stresses of playoff baseball in the first few years of operation.
N - NHL. A long regular season on the ice is underway. Sort of. Four teams - the Rangers, Senators, Lightning and Penguins - traveled to Europe to open the season with two games each, played in Stockholm and Prague. The rest of the teams don't get into action until later in the week. For what it's worth, the Rangers are the class of the league so far, unbeaten in two games against the Lightning. Last year, the Ducks and Kings started off in Europe. Both teams went into losing slumps upon their return home.
O - One hundred. For the 100th consecutive year, the Cubs will not be winning the World Series. They are on the sidelines after a pathetic opening round sweep against the Dodgers. There's no problem with losing, but it's pretty shameful to not even put up an effort. Their sweep, and the 3-1 series defeat of the Brewers by the Phillies, sure doesn't say much for the NL Central. The division that looked like the class of the league through the regular season has been shown up as a virtual minor league.
P - Parker, Candace. Last year's college Player of the Year from Tennessee has even more hardware to go with her gold medal from Beijing. She won the WNBA Rookie of the Year, but that was a virtual lock before the season started. More impressively, she was also voted league MVP. To earn the honor she averaged 18.5 points per game and led the league in rebounds. Be honest, though - how many of you knew that the WNBA season was still underway? Or at least it was until Sunday when Detroit finished off a sweep of San Antonio to win the title.
Q - Quit. I'm talking to you, Norv Turner. You have a ridiculous amount of talent at your disposal, yet you can't even beat freaking Miami?!? The Chargers were just plain bad. Miami was able to march down the field far more easily than they should have, and their defense was able to contain the Chargers' offense. There were two aspects of the game that made Turner's need for a new line of work particularly clear. In the first half, the Dolphins used the direct snap to Ronnie Brown, and it was as if the defense had never seen it before. Miami was also able to shut down the Chargers four straight times in a goal-to-go situation. Not acceptable.
R - Rodgers, Aaron. The Packers' QB had a shoulder injury that kept him out of real practice action this week, but you couldn't tell on Sunday. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 313 yards and three scores. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough. Matt Ryan wasn't as good as Rodgers, but he didn't need to be. The Falcons won 27-24 to move to 3-2 - well ahead of schedule given where they were last year. Green Bay has totally blown a strong early start.
S - Sabathia, CC. It had to end sooner or later - you could see it coming. Sabathia was an absolute machine since joining Milwaukee, but there is no one these days who can stand up under the strain that he was facing. A lot of pitchers can't handle going once on three days rest. Sabathia was asked to do it four starts in a row. The last one was one too many. Sabathia didn't make it out of the fourth, and he allowed five earned runs and walked four. That's a career NL postseason ERA of 12.27. Ouch. That's not the whole reason that the Brewers went home with barely a whimper, but it's a big part of it.
T - Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are ranked No. 7, and in their Big 12 opener this week they served notice that they intend to climb higher. There were concerns earlier in the year that Graham Harrell wasn't entirely healthy, but after an off week he seemed as good as a player can be. He passed for 454 yards and six TDs as his team obliterated Kansas State, and he rushed for a touchdown for good measure. Though Michael Crabtree was obviously his favorite target, Harrell found 11 different receivers. Ridiculous. Next up is a suddenly disappointing Nebraska squad.
U - USC. I'm not anything close to a Trojans' fan, but I have a sense of how incredibly frustrating it must be to be one. A week ago they played so badly that they made the Beavers look unbeatable. This week you'd never guess that that happened. They thoroughly dominated the Ducks on both sides of the ball en route to a 44-10 thumping. Mark Sanchez was very good, and former Arkansas malcontent Mitch Mustain even had a TD pass in limited action. Oregon's QB woes finally caught up to them against a high-class defense.
V - Vanderbilt. Up until now Vanderbilt has been a nice story - the egghead school with no real history of success wins some games, stays undefeated and gets ranked for the first time since Abe Lincoln was in diapers. This week, though, the Commodores showed that they may be more than that. They lost their starting QB, Chris Nickson, to a shoulder injury early on against Auburn, but they didn't panic. Backup Mackenzi Adams stepped in and stepped up, leading the 'Dores to a tough 14-13 win, and a 3-0 start in the SEC.
W - Wildcat offense. The NFL has a new trend, and commentators have a new obsession. A week after Miami used the wildcat, a direct snap to the running back, so effectively against New England it was popping up everywhere. Miami used it again, and it worked well enough for them to beat San Diego. New England obviously knew how effective it was, so they employed it against San Francisco and netted a touchdown. The Niners even tried it out to figure out if the Pats defense had wisened up yet. It should be like so many previous offensive trends - we'll see it a bunch for a couple of weeks, and in three months we'll have forgotten it ever happened.
X - eXorcise the demons. Tony Stewart won't be haunted by Talledaga anymore. Stewart had raced at the Alabama track 20 times, but had never been able to win. Not that he hadn't been close, mind you - he'd finished second six times. It almost didn't happen this time, either - rookie Regan Smith had actually finished the race first, but Stewart had forced Smith over the out of bounds line, so Smith was dropped to 18th. Stewart badly needed the win - it was his first since Watkins' Glen last year, a streak of 43 races.
Y - Yikes. The Seahawks are terrible. Truly, truly terrible. Or at least they are when they play in the Eastern Time Zone. The Giants are a good team, but they aren't nearly as good as they looked on Sunday. Matt Hasselbeck was terrible, the team couldn't run, and they showed a hundred different ways to make a bad defensive play. Sadly for bettors, Seattle doesn't travel to the northeast again this year. They do have two long trips to Florida, though.
Z - Zarkava. It was impressive enough that this three-year-old filly was the favorite going into the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, perhaps Europe's most prestigious horse race, this weekend. What she did once she got there was even more impressive. She almost lost her rider in a rough start, then stayed at the back of the 16-horse field through much of the race. Nearing the stretch she started weaving her way up, sprinted to the lead in the final furlong, and pulled away to win by two lengths. She has now won seven in a row, and is unquestionably the best filly in Europe, and only Zenyatta could potentially challenge her on our side of the pond.