This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 12/01/2008
A - Alabama. The Crimson Tide face by far their biggest challenge of the year next week against Florida. On Saturday they delivered a clear message that they are ready by making a mockery of the Iron Bowl with a 36-0 pasting of Auburn. Their defense was smothering, the running game was efficient, and intensity was high. If you want to voice a concern, it would be John Parker Wilson - just 8/16 for 134. The mere fact that Alabama is the only unbeaten major conference team with a quarterback like Wilson at the helm, though, clearly means that a performance like that isn't a negative factor.
B - Boise State. If Boise State's athletic department has a PR department they are going to be working lots of overtime this week. The Broncos are undefeated and impressive, but they would need a miracle to earn a spot in the BCS. They clearly want the chance, though. They let pesky Fresno State stick around until the second quarter - it was tied 10-10 - and then the offense kicked into overdrive, scoring 51 unanswered points against a decent team. The Broncos likely won't get their prayers answered, but that's a heck of a last impression for voters and the bowl organizers.
C - Cornhuskers. Nebraska still has a lot of work to do, but they took big steps forward this year under new coach Bo Pelini. They didn't measure up well to top competition, but they still won eight games, and they finished with three wins in a row. The last game against Colorado was clinched in appropriate fashion. Pelini asked kicker Alex Henery if he thought he could kick a 57-yard field goal, the kicker said yes, Pelini trusted his player, and the kick was good. The players are happy, Pelini is good, and the future is bright in Lincoln. It's amazing the difference competence can make.
D - Defense?!? Thanks to trades and other unrest, the current versions of the Knicks and the Warriors don't have a lot left to play for. That's not really an excuse, though, for the decision to totally ignore defense. In one of the more ridiculous games in recent NBA history, the teams combined to score 163 points in regulation on Saturday night. The stats were predictably stupid - Chris Duhon set a franchise record with 22 assists, David Lee had 37 points and 21 boards - both career highs - and Al Harrington, playing his old team for the first time, had 36 and 12. I suppose the game was fun to watch, but the league should really have a minimum required level of competence before a team can take the court. At least we know one thing - Mike D'Antoni's offensive principles are catching on.
E - Eastern Michigan. Jeff Genyk is out as coach after five mostly unsuccessful years at Eastern Michigan. His team sure found a good way to send him off. The Eagles erupted for 56 points to beat their much more talented rivals from Central Michigan. It was a meaningless game for the Chippewas, but that doesn't take anything away from the Eagles' performance. The real revelation was junior QB Andy Schmitt - 58 of 80 for 516 yards and five touchdowns. The 58 completions was a national record. Schmitt has had at least 480 yards passing in each of his last two games after having previously only gone over 300 yards once in his three years. Too bad for him, and for Genyk, that the season has to end now.
F - Fire him. Over the last few years, one of my biggest professional pleasures has been making fun of Charlie Weis. It's been very, very easy, but, strangely, that lack of challenge has only enhanced the experience. I'm conflicted, then, by what should be his impending demise. On one hand, incompetence like that must go - losing two games to a major rival 73-3, and gaining 91 yards of total offense, are not the things an offensive genius should do. On the other hand, his miserable presence makes me so happy. All is not lost, though - Marvin Lewis still has a job.
G - Gunshot. Plaxico Burress wasn't going to be playing on Sunday, and he apparently just couldn't stand to be out of the spotlight. The first reports were that he had been shot while at a club in Manhattan on Friday night, but that he was going to be okay. Next, we heard that he had accidentally shot himself. Now we have heard that he is going to be charged with criminal possession of a weapon, and that he will turn himself in. The combination of the wound and Roger Goodell's inevitable displeasure will likely keep Burress out for a while. It remains to be seen how the distraction affects the clear rulers of the NFC.
H - Harangody, Luke. Harangody had a strange week for his Fighting Irish. On Tuesday he played out of his mind as Notre Dame got a huge win over Texas. The next day, though, he was barely average as his team was thoroughly outclassed by North Carolina. The reason for the disparity of play soon became clear and was totally acceptable - Harangody had pneumonia. The ailment will keep him out indefinitely, and it's a big blow for the Irish. Fortunately, the team would likely be unscathed if he were unable to return until after Christmas because the schedule doesn't really get interesting until conference play.
I - Indiana. It's never a good week when you are sanctioned by the NCAA, but on balance Indiana has to be pretty thrilled with their outcome this week. The ugly, regrettable, and sadly predictably disastrous Kelvin Sampson era resulted in three years of probation, but no loss of postseason eligibility or TV exposure. That means that Tom Crean can continue to try to rebuild the mess he inherited. The best part of the story - the happy ending if you will - is that Sampson was essentially banned from coaching in college for five years.
J - James, LeBron. Call me sensitive if you want, but I have lost a lot of respect for King James these last few weeks. It seems almost certain to anyone who pays any attention at all that James' time in Cleveland can be measured in months, not years. He just doesn't need to throw that in everyone's face as he insists on doing. The only thing he could have done in New York to be more blatant about his intentions was to don a Knicks' jersey and start scoring for the other team. I don't say this often, but I agree with Charles Barkley - James is out of line and deserves to be criticized.
K - Kiffin, Lane. It's not often that you get fired and end up with a better job, but Kiffin pulled it off. He has gone from the most ridiculous franchise in pro sports to a storied college franchise that only needs tweaking to return to national relevance. Not only that, but reports are that his father Monte, perhaps the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, will leave Tampa Bay to join his son in Tennessee. The Vols obviously took a risk hiring a young guy with no college head coaching experience, but it's not a bad risk - he's a recruiting machine, and he'll be hungry to prove that he is better than the Raiders debacle.
L - LSU. Years from now, coaches will use this year's LSU Tigers as an example of precisely how not to defend your national championship. In losing to Arkansas on Saturday the Tigers secured their fifth SEC loss of the season - a losing record for the conference. The teams they beat - Auburn, Mississippi State, and South Carolina - weren't exactly the cream of the conference, either. Never has a coach been the subject of more criticism, or deserved it, than Les Miles.
M - Maryland. The Terrapins have made the college basketball word even more confusing than it naturally is this week. First, they went out and thoroughly demolished Michigan State. They had a halftime lead, and they built on it convincingly in the second half. Before we even had time to start the flow of praise, though, they went out and were totally handled by Gonzaga. So what did we learn from all that? Is Michigan State wildly overrated? Is this finally Gonzaga's year? Is the ACC up this year? Or down? How about the Big Ten? Your guess is at least as good as mine.
N - Nutt, Houston. It's too early to say that Arkansas will regret the sordid end of the Houston Nutt era, but the coach is certainly proving he can still coach. Nut deserves serious credit for the magic he has worked at Ole Miss. In one season he has turned a listless 3-9 program into a solid 8-4 squad with wins over rival Mississippi State, Arkansas, LSU, and even Florida. That last one is obviously the most impressive, and the further away from it we get, the better it makes both them and the Gators look.
O - Oklahoma. The talk has only just begun, and yet I am already completely and utterly sick of BCS griping. Oklahoma had a very good weekend. First, they came out ahead of a tough but ultimately outmatched Oklahoma State game in a thoroughly entertaining Bedlam game. Then they vaulted over Texas in the BCS standings to earn a spot in the Big 12 championship. Things aren't all bleak for the Longhorns, though - all it would likely take for them to end up in the national championship game is a Missouri win over Oklahoma next week. Missouri stands a better chance of winning now that Sam Bradford is injured - torn ligaments in his non-throwing hand. Most say the BCS is hopelessly flawed. I say this situation is proof that it's sadistically, uniquely captivating.
P - Pietrus, Mickael. If I was a member of Orlando's backcourt I would make sure that my insurance policies were topped up. Pietrus, in the midst of his best season, will miss three to five weeks thanks to a torn ligament in his right thumb. He's just the latest in a string of injured guards for the Magic. Keith Bogans has a broken thumb, and Jameer Nelson is trying to work through a pulled groin. That's a whole lot of heartache for a backcourt that wasn't exactly deep to begin with.
Q - Quinn, Brady. So much for the future being now. So far the Brady Quinn pro football story looks like this - one and a half years on the bench, followed by one good game and two pretty mediocre ones, followed by a season-ending finger injury that may still require surgery. There is still time yet, but it has hardly been the legendary start to a hall of fame career that many were predicting entering his senior year at Notre Dame. The post-Quinn era was not brilliant for Cleveland - Derek Anderson was unimpressive, giving up a fumble that was returned for the winning TD before having his MCL hurt by his own lineman. Ken Dorsey was uninspiring in relief, throwing an interception without managing a single completion in limited action. Goodbye, Romeo Crennel.
R - Red Raiders. Texas Tech avoided some serious humiliation on Saturday. For much of their game it looked as if they were going to lose. To Baylor, of all teams. They were down by two touchdowns well into the third quarter, but they answered with the last three scores to win by seven. Graham Harrell won't be winning the Heisman, but he added to his legend in this one. Not only did he orchestrate the comeback, but he did it with two broken fingers in his non-throwing hand - serious enough that Sunday surgery netted him 17 pins and two plates.
S - Steve Nash. As Steve Nash gets older, Phoenix fans must cringe every time he takes a misstep - it could be his last. Nash sat out Friday's game with a sore thigh after a Wednesday collision with Kevin Love. This injury wasn't serious, though - Nash returned on Sunday and looked good, scoring 26 against New Jersey and adding nine assists. Unfortunately for the Suns he was, by a wide margin, only the second best point guard in the game. Devin Harris erupted for a career high 47 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Nets to the their first win in Phoenix since 1993.
T - Thanks for nothing. Like most of you, I have a lot to give thanks for. One of those things, though, most certainly isn't that wretched display of football on Thanksgiving Day. Detroit looked like a collection of guys taken from the crowd, and chosen specifically because they had never played football. Actually I take that back - the players from the crowd would have played with more pride. It would have been incredibly easy for the Seahawks to shine compared to Detroit, but they couldn't manage to do it. The lesson - there are some really bad teams in the NFL.
U - Unstoppable. Mark Clayton was a one man wrecking crew as the Ravens maintained their hold of a wild card position. Clayton had five catches for 164 yards, including an impressive 70-yard scoring strike from Joe Flacco. If that weren't enough, Clayton showed that he could toss the ball as well as he could catch it - he connected with Derrick Mason on a 32-yard touchdown pass. The Ravens have won six of seven, and Flacco keeps looking solid, but the Ravens have a tough schedule in the final quarter of the season. A playoff berth is absolutely possible, but as yet far from a sure thing.
V - Vexing. I finally thought I had the Jets figured out. I mean, I had gotten over my intense skepticism of Brett Favre, and I was willing to believe that they may be the class of the AFC. But then they went out this week and lost badly to Denver - one of the team's that I truly struggle to say anything positive about. Jay Cutler was solid, and certainly much better than Favre. Running back Peyton Hillis racked up 129 yards and a score despite previously only having 156 yards in his career. Thomas Jones was pretty much the only bright spot for the Jets, gaining 138 yards to move past 1,000 for the season.
W - Western Kentucky. It was probably inevitable that Louisville was going to lose at some point. It just didn't seem like Western Kentucky is the team that would beat them. The Hilltoppers got their first win over a Top 3 team in 41 years, and they did it by going small and fast, double-teaming Samardo Samuels all game, and limiting Louisville to only 27 percent shooting. Louisville will certainly learn from this experience, but it remains to be seen if they learn enough to overcome the fact that the rest of their opponents have learned how to beat them.
X - Xavier. It was a quiet week for the mascots of our column. They played just one game, and it wasn't challenging - they beat Miami of Ohio by seven without putting up a tremendous effort. Still, it was a good week. They entered the AP poll at 16th on the strength of their big win over Memphis last week, and their record and a reasonably easy schedule for the next couple of weeks should keep them climbing until they meet Duke and Butler.
Y - Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is a much-improved team this year, and they have done it by radically overhauling their approach to the game under first year coach Paul Johnson. Things aren't perfect, especially on defense, but the road ahead is clear. They couldn't contain Matthew Stafford on Saturday, giving up 407 yards and five touchdowns. They were able to overcome that, though, by running their brains out. They went for 409 yards and five touchdowns as they erased a 16-point halftime deficit to beat Georgia for the first time since 2000.
Z - Zzzzz. Sleep was a recurring theme in the NFL this week. The Patriots forgot to wake up Sunday morning, while Donovan McNabb woke up from a slumber that was beginning to look more like a coma. New England suffered a very costly blowout loss at home to Pittsburgh that makes making the playoffs much tougher. They were up 10-3, but they didn't look great - as the 30 unanswered points by Pittsburgh would indicate. McNabb was almost run out of town last week, but this week he rebounded in remarkable fashion, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for four touchdowns.