This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 12/08/2008
A - Auburn. Tommy Tuberville is out as coach of the Tigers, but the circumstances, if the reports are to be believed, are odd. Even though his job was reportedly safe despite a lackluster 5-7 season, Tuberville stepped down this week. The administration says they were shocked, yet they decided to pay him his $5.1 million buyout even though they didn't have to. Generous. Or stupid. The wish list for a replacement is long, though mostly filled with guys they won't get - Jimbo Fisher, Houston Nutt, Paul Johnson. There are some more likely possibilities, too - Mike Leach is interested, and Buffalo's Turner Gill, a coaching savant, has been interviewed.
B - Buffalo. I went to the first college football game of the year this year - a Buffalo win over UTEP. It wasn't a classic game, but it was clear then that Turner Gill was running an impressive show, and that the team was going to do some damage. As impressed as I was, though, winning the MAC was beyond my expectations. But that's just what they did on Saturday when they convincingly beat previously undefeated Ball State. Next up for the Bulls is a surprisingly good International Bowl against UConn. It's the second bowl Buffalo has ever qualified for, but just the first they will ever play. If you don't know the story of why they passed on the 1958 Tangerine Bowl it is well worth checking out.
C - Curry, Stephen. Here's the newsflash of the week - Curry is pretty good. His latest feat of heroism was pretty much single-handedly beating a decent NC State team. He scored 44 of Davidson's 72 points, including the last 10. He had a pretty impressive one-man cheering section, too - LeBron James was in town to play the Bobcats, and sat courtside cheering wildly for Curry, his text buddy. This was Curry's first game since being held scoreless, so obviously the effects of that setback weren't lasting.
D - De La Hoya, Oscar. I was about to say that De La Hoya should have retired before this last fight against Manny Pacquiao, but really he should have packed it in five years ago before he lost to Shane Mosley. The Golden Boy was thoroughly overwhelmed and outclassed by Pacquiao before packing it in after eight rounds. The eighth round was a farce - Oscar was dangerously unaware of his surroundings and defenseless. Here's hoping the great champ never fights again.
E - East Carolina. Skip Holtz led his team to some redemption. After a strong early start to the season that caused the media to toss around the BCS-buster tag, the wheels fell off a bit. They wound up just 8-4, but that was enough to get them into the C-USA title game, and they came out with a close win over Tulsa. The fans better enjoy Holtz while they have him, because t seems almost certain that he will be in Syracuse soon.
F - Florida. Well, that was certainly decisive. Florida and Alabama struggled back and forth for much of the game, and the Gators even looked like the might be in a bit of trouble at times, but in the end they were just too much for the Tide and it showed. The big thing you always hear about this team is their speed, and it was on full display on Saturday. The decisive win sets up the national title game with Oklahoma - one of the most intriguing games in a long time. I haven't seen a total yet, but I know I like the over.
G - Greene, Khalil. It wasn't that long ago that Greene was a budding superstar with a bright future. Now the Padres are dumping him to St. Louis for two uninspiring minor leaguers. The Padres are in a sell-off mode that would make the Marlins proud. Greene desperately needs a change of scenery to provide a spark to his dimming career, so St. Louis has taken a worthwhile risk with good upside. The most surprising thing is that this is basically the biggest deal of the week in baseball when so many free agents are awaiting new homes. It's like a standoff - no one wants to make the first move.
H - Houston. The Texans are as seductive as a 6-7 team can be. They have won three in a row, and they have done it with an entertaining aerial performance and the emergence of Steve Slaton. They problem is that they are as streaky as a team can be - they lost their first four, then won three, then lost three, and now they've won three. Anything between 9-7 and 6-10 is totally feasible at this point.
I - Indiana Pacers. At 7-13, the Pacers are far from a good team. They sure have their moments, though. They capped the week by taking Boston to overtime. The gem of the week, and the season, though, was a comeback win over the Lakers. L.A. closed the third quarter with a 17-0 run to take a 15-point lead, so the game seemed like it was over. The Pacers stormed back to win the final quarter, 32-16, though, to win by one. Troy Murphy had a big game with 17 boards and the winning tip-in at the buzzer, but the star, with 32 points, was Danny Granger, the most under-appreciated star in the league.
J - Jets. I remember when it seemed like the Jets were the class of the AFC. Come to think of it, that was only two weeks ago. Since then, they have lost at home to the Broncos, and now in San Francisco. They are struggling in every sense of the word, and Brett Favre looks like he wishes he was back in Mississippi. Let's not overlook the Niners in all of this, though. They have won three of four, and are 4-1 ATS since their bye week under coach Mike Singletary. That nut case may actually get to keep his job.
K - Kansas City. The Broncos owe the Chiefs a big debt. Kansas City had a 10-point lead halfway through the second quarter, but they couldn't handle the success. They shut down offensively, and the Broncos were able to come back to get the win and all but secure their playoff berth as division winners. Brandon Marshall put on a receiving clinic for Denver, but he wasn't the biggest story for Denver. An injury to Peyton Hillis made him the sixth Denver running back to miss action this year. Four are on the IR. Clearly, it's a curse.
L - Lions. Close, but not quite. Detroit hosted Minnesota this week, and they almost got their elusive first win. They had leads two different times in the game, and they were within one point until well into the final minute. With games against Indy and the Saints next 0-15 seems like a virtual lock. I'm worried about Green Bay in Week 17, though - the Pack just isn't that good. It would be crushing to see the pursuit of perfection end right on the doorstep. The story for Minnesota was the injury of Gus Frerotte. Tarvaris Jackson came in and was brilliant in relief. Until he plays a real team, though, we won't know if it was just a fluke.
M - Michigan. As a beaten down Michigan fan I am so giddy I can barely type this. For the second time this season, the Wolverines have upset a No. 4 team. They beat Duke, and they looked more than competent doing it. The team is now 6-2. Last year they didn't win their sixth game until well into February. The Big Ten now has two impressive out-of-conference wins, and Michigan owns both of them. I realize I am setting myself up for a fall with this one, but March Madness here we come. This win is a reminder of better days in more ways than one - the last time Michigan beat Duke was the day that Charles Woodson won the Heisman. The football team was ranked No. 1 at the time.
N - North Carolina. The Tar Heels are really, really good, and there is no way around it. They marched into Ford Field, the site of the Final Four, this week to play Michigan State, the class of the Big Ten. When the smoke cleared, UNC had ripped the hearts out of every Michigan State player and then spat on them. North Carolina won by 35 in a performance that was as dominating as one can be when two elite teams meet.
O - Oklahoma. I respect most viewpoints, but if you don't think that Oklahoma belongs in the BCS National Championship Game then you are a moron. The Sooners have scored at least 58 points in each of their last six games. It's like a real life video game. Three weeks in a row they have played pretty darned good teams, and in each case they have made them look varying degrees of ridiculous. Their massacre of Missouri was a tour de force, and Sam Bradford led the way despite only really having one hand.
P - Peter Laviolette. Laviolette was replaced as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes this week, but he shouldn't worry about selling his house because he'll probably need it again at some point. Laviolette replaced Paul Maurice at the helm when he took over. Now he in turn has been replaced by the new coach - Paul Maurice. In a few years, then, expect Maurice to be fired and replaced with Laviolette. Carolina is reasonably talented but struggling, so a change was needed to jump start things and make the playoffs a possibility.
Q - Quite a mess. Oakland really, really didn't look good against the Chargers. And it's really an accomplishment to look bad against the Chargers this year. JaMarcus Russell was back to his good old, terrible self in the first half. He left the game with an injury, and watching him leave the field on a cart was very telling of the problems the team faces - the QB looked relieved that he didn't have to play anymore. Hopeless.
R - Rutgers. Mike Teel did a pretty convincing Superman impression as Rutgers closed out the season with a blowout, 63-14, win over Louisville. Just check out the QB's stat line - 21-of-26 for 447 yards and seven touchdowns. He connected in the end zone with five different receivers. That's a heck of a way for a senior to finish out his Big East career. Teel definitely finished strong this year - he started all 12 games for the Scarlet Knights, but 20 of his 23 TDs came in the last five games. Up next for Rutgers is NC State in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
S - Sam Mitchell. The Raptors have not come anywhere near expectations, and it seems like Mitchell was the guy to blame. The coach was fired this week after only barely keeping his job after last season. The move was no surprise - Mitchell was in place before GM Brian Colangelo arrived, so he wasn't management's guy. The replacement is Jay Triano, a Canadian who was the Canadian National Team coach before joining the Raps as an assistant.
T - True north. The NFL came to my home and native land for the first time ever in the regular season on Sunday when the Bills and the Dolphins played in Toronto. It was a big event for Toronto, a city desperate for a team of their own. If all the games are going to be that boring, though, then you can keep your league - at least they score in the CFL. Miami smothered the Bills en route to a 16-3 win. The game signifies the end of all hope for Buffalo, and it allows us to make a compelling if not totally convincing argument that the Dolphins may be the best team in the AFC East right now. It's almost impossible to believe that they were just 1-15 last year. Maybe Bill Parcells is a genius, after all.
U - Upset. It wasn't the biggest upset of the year, but the Eagles definitely weren't supposed to head into the Meadowlands and come out with a win over the Giants. Not just that, but Philly looked pretty darned good doing it. Their defense gave Eli Manning a headache and controlled the Giants' running game. The offense didn't set any records, but Brian Westbrook had more than 200 combined yards and two scores. It'll be hard for the Eagles to make the playoffs, and I am sure that a lot of teams are glad about that.
V - Voting. The first results of the NBA fan voting for the all-star starters have been released, and it serves as proof of exactly why fans are too stupid to vote on such things. Either Kevin Garnett is not going to be voted in as a starter in the East. Why? Because China can vote, so Yi Jianlian has a big lead built up in the forward position. That's almost as ridiculous as the NHL all-star voting - the game takes place in Montreal this year, and there is a good chance that voters will choose Canadiens' in every starting spot in the East.
W - Washington. The Huskies may not have a win this year, but they do have a new coach. The putrid Ty Willingham era has mercifully ended, and Steve Sarkisian has been tabbed to take his place. Sarkisian is the 34-year-old offensive coordinator at USC. He took that job over from Lane Kiffin, now coach at Tennessee, so it's probably a pretty good career move for whoever is offered the job next to take it. Sarkisian's move is interesting in a few ways - it's surprising that he would want to go head on with USC, and it's also a bit of a surprise that the Huskies would choose an unproven guy like him when they also interviewed guys like Mike Leach and Pat Hill.
X - Xavier. It was an uneventful week for our mascots. Their only action was a home win against Auburn that was comfortable, but probably not as decisive as it should have been - they won by seven while favored by 12.5. The star of the game was B.J. Raymond, who finished with 32 points - by far a career high. This week will be more interesting, with a game against Ohio as a warm-up for a showdown with in-city rivals Cincinnati.
Y - Yikes. Wade Phillips saw his job disappear right before his eyes in less than a minute in the fourth quarter on a cold evening in Pittsburgh. That's how long it took for the Steelers to score two touchdowns to wipe out a seven-point Dallas lead. Dallas is still in good position in the wild card chase, but with every bad loss and every backwards step that Tony Romo takes it gets harder and harder to imagine Jerry Jones bringing Phillips back unless Dallas wins it all. And that's a lot to ask for a team that hasn't won a playoff game in over a decade.
Z - Zzzz. This weekend's NFL action ruled out a disappointingly large number of interesting finishes down the stretch in division battles. The Titans, Giants and Cardinals all clinched their divisions already, and the Broncos came very close as well. At least we can be assured of a good finish in the AFC East - the Jets, Pats and Dolphins are all tied at 8-5, and with Baltimore and Indy at 9-4 it seems increasingly likely that only one of the three teams will make the playoffs.