This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 10/13/2008
A - Auburn. Only in the SEC could something this truly bizarre happen. Coming into the season, the Tigers brought in new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. He's a revolutionary offensive mind, and he was widely praised by Auburn faithful. Six weeks later he's out on his ear. Franklin was clearly blamed for the ineptness that Auburn has shown offensively, but even in the high-pressure conference it seems ridiculous to think that a new offense can take hold completely in half a season. Given the way that Franklin left town - in a hurry and not talking - it seems likely that there is more to this story than there appears on the surface.
B - Brett. Younger coaches will go to great lengths to try to get the faith and loyalty of their veterans, but this is ridiculous. Eric Mangini had a son this week, and actually lived up to a promise to name it after Brett Favre. The kids' middle name is Brett. What I really want to know is what Mangini had to do for his wife to convince her to go along with this hare-brained scheme.
C - Casino Drive. A step forward and a step back. Casino Drive, the enigmatic Japanese horse who was supposed to run in the Belmont but came up lame, won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Sunday to earn a likely start in the Classic. The horse is stunningly talented, but so untested, and unconventionally campaigned, that it's hard to know if he is going to rewrite history or fade into it. However, Big Brown was suddenly retired today due to a career-ending injury so horse racing fans will miss out on his anticipated clash with Curlin.
D - Dallas Cowboys. That sound you hear is the sirens of panic sounding in Dallas. The Cowboys were supposed to be the elite team in the league. The problem is that they can't seem to win. At Arizona this weekend they needed a long field goal at the buzzer to tie the game up and take it to overtime. The extra period was not pretty. The offense was inept, then their goal line punt was blocked and turned into a winning touchdown. If and when the Giants win on Monday night the Cowboys will find themselves looking way up to the divisional lead. Wade Phillips might want to get in touch with his realtor, because chances seem increasingly good that he'll be moving after the season.
E - EliteXC. The minor leagues of mixed martial arts learned a valuable lesson this week - you can't fix fights, and if you do you have to tell the fighters not to talk about it to the press. Fresh off a stunning knockout of Kimbo Slice, Seth Petruzelli told a radio station that EliteXC officials said that they would make it worth his while if he would stay on his feet against Slice and not go to their ground where Slice would be at a disadvantage. Not surprisingly, Petruzelli quickly backtracked, and officials denied any wrongdoing. Any damage had already been done, though. Not that EliteXC had a lot of credibility to begin with.
F - Fight. Is NASCAR a sport, or is it a soap opera? They certainly seem to be determined to give the WWE a run for its money when it comes to drama on and off the main stage. This week's drama came from Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick. The two guys weren't thrilled with each other after practice on Thursday, so they handled it like the mature men they are - they got into a fight in the garage. The highlight was when Edwards grabbed Harvick by the throat. Sadly, the dispute didn't spill over into the race on Saturday. It couldn't really - Edwards had ignition troubles and was never in contention.
G - Garcia, Jeff. I am a huge Jeff Garcia fan, so I am a very happy camper today. Garcia forced his way out of Jon Gruden's doghouse because of an injury to Brian Griese, and he showed yet again that he knows how to win. Garcia completed 75 percent of his passes and avoided mistakes as he led his team to an overwhelming victory over the previously impressive Carolina Panthers. The team looked more comfortable behind Garcia than they did with Griese, too. Garcia obviously doesn't get along well with all coaches, but when he's given a chance he is the real deal.
H - Holyfield, Evander. This guy seems absolutely determined to thoroughly destroy his legacy. Not that he has much of one left. Though the deal isn't completely done, the word is that the 45-year-old Holyfield is going to fight Nikolai Valuev for the WBA Heavyweight championship in December. You wouldn't think that Holyfeld will stand much of a chance in this one, but the only stone cold lock coming out of this one is that heavyweight boxing will be even more ridiculous and irrelevant when the final bell sounds.
I - Injuries. The biggest story coming into Week 6 of the NFL season was the number of high profile players who were missing in action. Brian Westbrook, Matt Hasselbeck, and Carson Palmer were all out of action, and Kellen Winslow seems likely to join them on Monday night. Of those players, Hasselbeck seems to be the most missed. Charlie Frye played in his place, and his biggest accomplishment was to remind us of exactly why the Browns cut him lose mid-season. He didn't come close to 100 yards passing, but he did manage to throw two picks.
J - Jim Haslett. Maybe we should just award NFL Coach of the Year now. It wasn't pretty, and it almost didn't happen, but somehow Haslett led his Rams to a win in his first game as coach. Not only did this team that looked like they may never win again get a W, but they did it by containing Washington, a team that was making a claim to be the best team in the NFC coming into the game. It won't always go this well for Haslett, but it was immediately obvious that the team had renewed focus and energy.
K - Klitschko, Vitali. The Ukrainian heavyweight made his comeback on Saturday since being out of the sport since 2005. Now be honest - how many of you knew he was retired? Or cared? It's amazing how a division that was once so packed with thrills is suddenly so bland and pointless. Klitschko beat Samuel Peter by TKO in the eighth round to reclaim the WBC Heavyweight belt, and earn the distinction of being one of only about 846 current heavyweight champions. One of the other champs is Klitschko's brother, though it is way too much to hope that they will ever meet in the ring. After all, that's something people might actually want to see, and heavyweights are opposed to that.
L - Longshot. The Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance to be truly awful this year. So, so bad that hope for them is impossible. Given that, it was no surprise to see that they opened the season as +272 underdogs in Detroit. The Stanley Cup champs were raising their banner, and their team this year is at least as good as last year. What was surprising, though, was that the Leafs managed to win it. Actually, that was stunning. Order was restored on Saturday, though, when the Leafs were crushed at home by Montreal.
M - Manuel, Charlie. It has been the best and worst of weeks for the Phillies' manager. His team won their first two games of the NLCS at home, and history says that they are in very good shape to go to the World Series. In the midst of that, though, Manuel's 87-year-old mother had a heart attack and later died. Mauel managed Game 2 on the day of the death, and the team's earl explosive start could be attributed at least in part to a desire by the team to help ease their skipper's pain.
N - Nebraska. The Huskers lost again this weekend, but in the process Bo Pelini showed that the future is very bright for his team. Last week the team was humiliated by Missouri and their high-octane offense. This week they faced a Texas Tech team that could score just as easily. Nebraska couldn't shut them down completely, but they showed a lot of heart to stick close to them, and took it to overtime. Graham Harrell had a great day by normal standards, but compared to his norm it was barely average.
O - Oklahoma State. The surprise wasn't that the Cowboys upset Mizzou. The surprise was that some people are calling it a massive upset. Oklahoma State doesn't get the attention of Chase Daniel and the Tigers, but they share a lot in common, starting with an explosive offense anchored by a very good QB and a great receiver. Like every Missouri game, the difference in this one was Daniel. Unfortunately, this time it was because he couldn't stop throwing interceptions. So much for the Heisman.
P - Pacman. Adam Jones is a gem. He's on what has to be his final last chance, yet he can't just keep his head down and play football. The Cowboys have hired bodyguards for Jones to keep his nose clean. Jones responded by getting into a brawl with one of them. In the process they apparently damaged a hotel and walked out on a bill. Despite that, the Cowboys are going to take no disciplinary action. No surprise - with Terence Newman out of action, they need Pacman regardless of what he does off the field.
Q - Quit. Mike Holmgren needs to retire early. It's becoming increasingly clear each week that this bizarre situation in which he announced his retirement in advance and already named his replacement just isn't working. The team can't win, and worse yet they don't look like they have a clue about what they are doing. They are disorganized and disinterested. It doesn't seem possible that the team is listening to their lame duck coach. Or their future ruler, for that matter.
R - Red River Rivalry. I thought that USC was the best team in the country. They lost. I thought Oklahoma was the best team in the country. They lost. Maybe I should take the hint and quit trying to figure it all out. Oklahoma had the game in hand in the third quarter, but then the defense seemed to decide that it had played enough defense for the day, and Colt McCoy and the Longhorns were able to march down the field repeatedly and turn the Big 12 upside down. On paper Sam Bradford had a much better day than McCoy. Yet more proof that games aren't played on paper.
S - Sun Devils. What a ridiculous fall from grace for the Sun Devils. Coming into the season, some people, myself included I am embarrassed to say, thought that there was a chance this team could challenge USC for the conference crown. It turns out that they couldn't challenge most high schools teams given the way they are playing. Dennis Erickson is a heck of a coach, but his mojo seems to have deserted him this year. The Devils didn't even show a sign of life against USC. The only team that can rival this fall from grace is East Carolina - the early season Cinderella story that suddenly can't beat a punching bag.
T - Tar Heels. I've said this before, but Butch Davis is one heck of a coach. Despite only being in his second year at a school that is decidedly lacking in football tradition, Davis has the squad at 5-1 and ranked. Given how unimpressive the ACC is this year, there is a very good chance they will end up in a solid bowl. Their latest conquest came over Notre Dame - a team that surely thought that they were scheduling an easy game than they got when they signed up to play UNC. The one concern, though, is that their pass defense couldn't contain Jimmy Clausen, a guy who suddenly seems to have figured out football.
U - Ugly. It's not a good time to be a fan of the Michigan Wolverines. Trust me. In losing to Toledo on Saturday, the team suffered their first ever loss to a MAC team in 25 tries. They now have as many losses at home in the last two years as they did in the previous eight combined. More significantly, the chances of making a bowl are looking very bleak, and the team looks like it will pretty much have to start from scratch at QB again next year. Basketball season can't come soon enough. Oh wait, we suck at that, too.
V - Vikings. Minnesota fans want a new coach, and I'm not sure that I blame them. They managed to squeak out a win against Detroit, but it took a late field goal to do so. Brad Childress has managed to take a team with tremendous promise, and run them completely into the ground. Their defense is more than solid, but offensively they are stunningly inept. They are a one-trick pony with Adrian Peterson, and even he is under used because of the total lack of creativity and insight that the coaching staff displays. It should have been a long year in Minnesota because of all the playoff games they would be playing. Now it's just a long year because they are so lousy.
W - Warriors. This story makes no sense to me. Monta Ellis lied to his Golden State team, saying that he hurt his ankle playing hoops when he was actually hurt riding a moped. To punish him for the lie, the team has suspended Ellis for 30 games. I understand why the team is angry, and I get that they would like to take some money away from him. I just don't understand why the team would choose to suspend him when Ellis is really their only good player this year. The team is punishing itself for Ellis' stupidity. Surely there would have been a better way to get their point across without tossing their season away in the process.
X -eXplosion. It took all the way until Week 6 of the season, but Indy finally looked like Indy. On paper they were in tough against a Baltimore team that was defensively stout and surprisingly effective on offense. Apparently not. Peyton Manning was good, the defense was virtually flawless, and the Colts didn't even make it interesting en route to a 31-2 shellacking. It looked bleak early on, but at 3-2 the Colts are still very much in the playoff picture.
Y - Yikes. JaMarcus Russell is just not figuring it out. He will certainly play tougher defenses than he faced against New Orleans this weekend, but he made the Saints look like the Iron Curtain. Russell completed just 13 of his 35 passes. That's 37 percent, and that just ain't good. It's not like he's just getting unlucky, either. He doesn't seem to have the capacity to make good decisions. This was just Tom Cable's first game as coach of the Raiders, but given what he has to work with on offense he might wish it was his last.
Z - Zoom. There were some concerns that the New York Rangers could struggle after coming back from starting their season in Europe. No need to worry, as it turns out. The team has been red hot, and their 4-0 start is their best in more than 20 years. One thing that sticks out from their start is the quick beginning by Nikolai Zherdev. He joined the team from Columbus this year. He's a ridiculously talented player, but he has struggled to find consistency. He has two goals already this year, though, and he looks more comfortable in New York already than he ever did with the Blue Jackets.