The games that have me looking forward to football this weekend:

Cincinnati (-15) at Syracuse
– The Bearcats need to keep winning and winning big if they want to maintain their very slight national championship chances. On the other side, this is Greg Paulus’ last and best chance to make a lasting impression as a college athlete.

NC State (+10) at Florida State
– Both of these teams have been very disappointing in the face of high expectations this year. Like watching a train wreck, it will be fun to watch how bad it could get.

Ole Miss (-4) at Auburn
– Both of these teams are holding on to SEC relevance for dear life. A loss here will end that for one team. I wish it could somehow be both of them.

San Jose State (+36.5) at Boise State
– The Broncos need to win this one by about 100 to keep their BCS hopes alive. A tight game here would be disastrous.

Continue reading “College Football Storylines”

Yesterday we made team predictions in the NBA. Today it’s time for the players:

MVP: Kobe Bryant. Last year Kobe got a taste of what it’s like winning a title on his own. His team has the potential to be even better this year, and he knows that he’s not going to get a lot of better chances than he has this year to add another one. That’s a serious motivation, and nobody responds to motivation better than Kobe. As an added bonus, Bryant doesn’t have the distraction of looming free agency hanging over him like some of the other contenders for this award have.

Continue reading “The Dawning of a New NBA Season, Part 2”

Before we get too far into the season I had better weigh in with some predictions and prognostications. I’ll look at teams today and individuals tomorrow:

Western Champion:
Lakers. I think that the Artest experiment is going to work, and that will make this team tough to beat. If Andrew Bynum can stay healthy he’ll have a good year and another anther dimension to this team. The window isn’t going to stay open forever in L.A. and Kobe and everyone else knows it, so they will look to take advantage of their strength while they can.

Western runner-up:
San Antonio. Richard Jefferson should fit here like a glove.

Biggest Western surprise:
Golden State. I don’t think that they are a playoff team, but I also don’t think that they will be the doormats that most seem to think that they will be.

Hardest team to read:
Portland. I like so much of what they have, but I have never bought the Greg Oden hype, and I’m just not sure how far this team can go as it is. I want to think that they are a 50-55 win team, but I feel like they might disappoint as well.

Western cellar dweller:
Sacramento. If there is anything to like about this team then I can’t think of what it is. Tyreke Evans is going to be good, but he can’t do it alone.

Most improved Western team:
Clippers. I am going to fall into this trap. Blake Griffin will be a big help when he is healthy, Baron Davis can’t be as bad as he was last year, and Eric Gordon is ready to be a star.

Eastern Champion:
Boston. Like the Lakers, Boston knows that their window is closing. I think that the addition of Rasheed Wallace is brilliant, and that this team will be exceptionally hard to score on. I love the tone they set early by going into Cleveland and leaving with a big win.

Eastern runner-up:
Orlando. I don’t buy into the Shaq experiment in Cleveland, and I think that Vince Carter makes the Magic a different and mostly better team. Dwight Howard is older and wiser now, and he is good enough to carry this team on his back – especially with a healthy Jameer Nelson at his side.

Biggest Eastern surprise:
Toronto. I don’t think that their opening win over the Cavs was a fluke. It’s time for Andreas Bargnani to prove himself, and Jay Triano is the coach to help him do that. Adding Turkoglu was a master-stroke, and Demar DeRozan will contribute as the season goes along. Chris Bosh will be a focused player while the team is winning, and the loss of Jermaine O’Neal and Shawn Marion is addition by subtraction. This is definitely a playoff team, and I think they have an outside shot of hosting a playoff series.

Hardest team to read:
Detroit. They were lousy last year but the stories you hear about the chaos that Michael Curry caused are pretty compelling. With a new coach and an updated roster it’s hard to get a sense of how much better this team can and will be.

Eastern cellar dweller:
Charlotte. There is a chance that they could get their act together a bit, but I’m not betting on it.

Most improved Eastern team:
Chicago. The obvious first answer is Toronto, but we have already covered them. Last year the Bulls squeaked into the playoffs and then gave the Celtics a big scare.This year they certainly won’t need to squeak in. Last year Derrick Rose was rookie of the year. This year he becomes a superstar.

I’m posting late because I was at the Calgary Flames game tonight. I managed to score a seat from a friend of a friend – fancy, expensive corporate seats. We sat right in the front row against the glass. I wouldn’t want to sit there all the time – you can’t really see the opposite end very well – but it is a truly incredible view when the play is right in front of you. Three or four times during the game there was a big hit right in front of us, and it was amazing – your whole body shook. If you like hockey then you really need to see a game from that viewpoint – you see things you don’t notice from other places, and you get areal appreciation for the size, strength, and speed of these guys.

Continue reading “Random Wednesday Thoughts”

Yesterday I touched on how uneven and uninspiring so many teams have been in the NFL has been this year. It’s really striking how large the gap is between the good teams and the not-so-good ones – bigger than usual, I think. As I was thinking about that earlier I was particularly struck by the sad state of quarterbacking in the league. There are always some QB problems, but I’m not sure that there is also this many teams in such a hopeless situation. Here’s a look at the worst offenders:

Continue reading “State of the Union – Quarterbacks”

So, when did the NFL become less competitive than non-conference college football? Six of the 12 games played yesterday were decided by at least four touchdowns. That’s preposterous. It makes for ridiculously uncompetitive action, and therefore mostly uninteresting football. The good news, I guess, is that at least we aren’t taking bets on the games – books are getting absolutely killed by favorites covering monster spreads like this. The favorites were 8-3-1 ATS this week, and the three biggest spreads, usually the public money magnets that the books feast on, all covered. Ouch. The disparity in the league this year is amazing. For the first time ever we have three undefeated teams through seven weeks of the season. On the flip side, we have three teams that could quite conceivably not win a game, and for a couple more it seems impossible to believe that they have already won one (or more). I thought salary caps were supposed to bring competitive balance?

Continue reading “A Mix of Monday Thoughts”

It’s early in the first set of Sunday games , and a lot of thoughts are running through my mind already:

1. What is the point of this farce in London? The field isn’t ideal, the crowd sounds like they are at a funeral, the broadcast doesn’t look or sound quite right, and the Bucs are pretty much the worst ambassadors for the league possible. Josh Johnson has thrown two interceptions already in the first quarter, and the game is already over. Of course, it was all but over before the kickoff. It can’t be long now until we see Josh Freeman start to play for the Bucs – it’s not like they have anything to play for, and Freeman can’t be much worse than the alternative.

Continue reading “Mid-Game Sunday Thoughts”

Here are the stories capturing my attention for today:

Minnesota (+16) at Ohio State
– The Buckeyes need a big win here in order to salvage something from this season. They also need Terrelle Pryor to look like the player that he is supposed to be.

South Florida (+6.5) at Pittsburgh
– Neither of these teams can afford a win as they try to stick close to Cincinnati and keep the Big East BCS bid in their sights.

Arkansas (+6.5) at Ole Miss
– Both these teams still have a chance to finish the season ranked, but a loss here would be a blow to those chances.

Boston College (+7.5) at Notre Dame
– I don’t have a whole lot of love for Boston College, but I couldn’t possibly be cheering for them more. A third Notre Dame loss would be, hopefully, a nail in their BCS coffin. That would make me very happy.

Clemson (+4.5) at Miami
– Miami goes back to playing real competition after a couple of easy weeks. The Hurricanes are by far the better team, but Clemson is playing well right now and can be pesky. This will be a test of Miami’s concentration.

Penn State (-4.5) at Michigan
– A win by the Wolverines at the Big House would be a clear sign that this team is on the right track – a fast one back to respectability. Penn State’s defense has been very good, but this is by far the best offense they have faced. Surprisingly, this one could be a contest for second or third in the Big Ten.

Oklahoma (-7.5) at Kansas
– The Sooners could actually be below .500 with a loss here. Hard to believe, but these guys haven’t had a single piece of luck.

Louisville (+17.5) at Cincinnati
– If the Bearcats want to prove that they belong in the discussion with the big boys then they can’t get caught looking past lightweights like the Cardinals have sadly become.

Oregon (-10) at Washington
– Washington has been playing well – better than their record, really. They will be desperate to keep the momentum rolling, and knocking off Oregon would certainly do that.

Tennessee (+14.5) at Alabama
– I don’t for a second think that Alabama will lose. I certainly hope not, because Lane Kiffin is hard enough to take now. With a win here he would be unbearable.

Iowa (+1.5) at Michigan State
– The Hawkeyes are in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten, but this is a dangerous spot for them. The public thinks so, too – the game opened with Iowa favored by 2.5.

TCU (-2.5) at BYU
– With a win here TCU will likely finish the season undefeated, and will have a real chance of earning a BCS bid. BYU wants to make sure that that doesn’t happen. This one will be one heck of a war.

Florida (-22.5) at Mississippi State
– Florida is badly depleted in their defensive front seven, and Mississippi State can run the ball. This could get interest. It probably won’t, though.

Texas (-13) at Missouri
– If Texas plays their typically lethargic, disinterested style of this year then the Tigers may be good enough t make them pay for it.This is a big test – probably the biggest they have had this year given the injury situation at Oklahoma.

Oregon State (+21) at USC
– You know that Oregon State is dreaming of another Trojan upset.

Potentially interesting story brewing in Gainesville. Florida is favored by 22.5 as they travel to Mississippi State this week. The problem, though, is that they are beat up on defense. Linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive tackles Jaye Howard and Lawrence Marsh are three starters fighting injuries, and all are questionable for next week. Spikes is battling a groin injury that he suffered last week, and when he was out his absence was definitely noted. Florida also has some depth injuries on the d-line already, so that could make for an interesting situation – Mississippi State has the 11th ranked run offense in the country, so they could potentially be in position to exploit Florida’s issues. I’m not at all convinced that that is enough to put the Bulldogs over the top, but it at least makes the game more interesting than it would be if the Gators were operating at full intensity and effectiveness on both sides of the ball.

Continue reading “Notes From All Over”

It is not a good time to be a referee. Or at least a bad referee. We have seen bad calls happen at at least the same rate as usual, but league’s are doing something about it. First, the SEC announced this week that  they have suspended the crew that made the bone-headed mystery calls against Arkansas in the Florida game. Now, MLB has changed their policy for selecting the World Series umpire crew. Typically they include at least one ump making his World Series debut so that they can add to the total of experienced World Series umps in the league. The large number of very poor calls in the playoffs so far, though, has forced them to get nervous about the situation and attempt to ensure the best refereeing they can get. To do that they are reportedly going to establish a crew made up mostly of crew chiefs, and entirely of veteran, experienced umpires. That won’t mean that there won’t be problems, but it is nice to see the league take things seriously and try to do something about it – at least until they can get a workable instant replay system in place.

Continue reading “Random Thursday Notes”

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