Friday’s Den: Ranking the months of the year……

1) March— Conference tournament basketball, March Madness, spring training games on TV every day, plus winter is winding down. March is a good time of year. 

2) November— Lot of football going on, plus college basketball starts

T3) June/July/August— Summer months are all good in upstate New York; hot weather, the horses are up in Saratoga in late July/August, baseball on the tube every night.

6) December— I spend 10 days in Las Vegas every December, wrapped around Christmas, so that ramps up this month’s ranking a lot. Walking on the Strip and seeing all the Christmas decorations is a little unique. 

College basketball games, the NFL stretch run, bowl games- good stuff.

7) September— When I was a kid, this was the worst month of the year, going back to school and all, but as an adult, football season starts, the pennant races in baseball, plus the weather is mostly still summer-ish. 

8) October— Slowest month for this website, which usually means a trip to the desert, never a bad thing. Football Sundays at the Westgate Theater are really good. 

9) May— Really the same month as April, except one more day and the weather is usually a little bit warmer. 

10) April— Baseball season starts, which is very good and winter is replaced by mostly rain, but the NBA/NHL playoffs start

11) January— 31 days of cruddy weather offsets the NFL playoffs and conference play in college basketball. There are no bad months of the year, but January is a damn cold month. 

12) February— Only 28 days (usually) but the same cruddy weather, plus only one football game, though the new AAF could start making February a little better. 

Wednesday’s 2nd list of 13: Catching up on college hoop

If you spent all of November watching football and you missed the start of college basketball season, here is some of what you missed…….

13) Gonzaga 89, Duke 87— Finals of Maui Classic was a terrific game; Duke led 2-0, but that was it- they were down by 16 with 15:54 left, before tying game late. Zags made 10-19 on the arc, and they were playing without Tillie, who made 47.9% of his 3’s last year. 

12) Virginia 53, Wisconsin 46— Predictably slow-paced game (58 possessions) in final of the Battle for Atlantis. Teams combined to go 6-28 on arc; Badgers only got to foul line three times and forced only five turnovers (-8). If you bet the under, this was a rocking chair game. 

11) Kansas 87, Tennessee 81 OT— Vols start three seniors, two juniors, led by 8 early in 2nd half, but three Jayhawks played 40:00+ in this OT thriller. Kansas made 44% of its 3’s in its 5-0 start. Tennessee is #36 experience team, Kansas #283. 

10) Virginia Tech 89, Purdue 83— Finals of Charleston tourney elevated Hokies into the top 25, which they may have floundered by losing at Penn State last night. Tech outscored Purdue 19-7 on foul line. Both teams made over 40% of their 3’s. 

9) Duke 118, Kentucky 84— Result like this in a season opener distorted everyone’s view of the season; did Duke become a little overrated because they played so well in this game? If you’re John Calipari, how do you restore the young Wildcats’ confidence- they were down 91-54 at one point. 

8) Louisville 82, Michigan State 78 OT— Chris Mack has a tough job, following Rick Pitino at a place where the fanbase isn’t exactly patient, but this win gets him off on the right foot.

7) San Diego 70, Colorado 64— Toreros are #6 experience team in America; they’re 5-1 with a 3-point loss at Washington. The middle of the WCC is better this season than it has been for a few years. San Diego starts four seniors, so this is a big year for them. 

6) Buffalo 99, West Virginia 94 OT— Bob Huggins has young guards this year, which isn’t a good thing, but Buffalo is really good and should dominate the MAC. Bulls were down 69-56 with 8:05 left in regulation, but they forced 19 turnovers (+8) and got a great road win. 

5) UConn 83, Syracuse 76— Orangemen don’t leave home before Christmas too much; they made only 23.3% of their 3’s in their first five games. This was Danny Hurley’s first statement win as the new UConn coach, coming in New York City, where it was like an old Big East conference tournament game. 

4) Michigan 73, Villanova 46— Wildcats graduated four guys from LY’s national champs, and Michigan took its frustrations out for losing the national title game to Villanova eight months ago- this game was 49-17 at one point. Another early season brickfest, with teams combining to make only 8-32 on the arc. 

3) Ohio State 64, Cincinnati 56— Good road win for Buckeyes squad that is experience team #281, while Cincy is #131 in experience. OSU led 55-39 with 5:23 left, before Bearcats made a late run but fell short. Buckeyes also have a road win at Creighton already. 

2) Seton Hall 83, Miami 81— Finals of Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton; when they announce the Field of 68 in March, games like this will carry some weight, even though it was played almost four months before Selection Sunday. Pirates are #233 experience team; this is a great win for them. 

1) Texas 92, North Carolina 89— Longhorns look to be improved this year, after going 30-37 the last two years. Texas lost to Michigan State the next night, but they’ve got this win and a neutral court win over Arkansas- the #256 experience Longhorns hope to be a factor in March. 

Wednesday’s List of 13: College basketball knowledge…….

13) Top four rated conferences so far this season:

Big X, Big 14, ACC and the Big East. 

12) Teams with least experience in country, among teams in the betting rotation:

Kentucky, UCLA, Cal State-Northridge, Maryland, Chattanooga and Duke

One of those six teams has a lot more talent than the other five. 

11) Minutes Continuity measures how much guys have played together more than their experience- teams cobbled together by transfers are rated low in this metric:

Highest: Washington, Kansas State, Brown, Cal State-Fullerton, George Mason

Lowest: Tex-Arlington, Chattanooga, Idaho, Wichita State, Oakland

10) Teams who used their bench the most so far this year:
Denver, Manhattan, Georgia, Princeton, NC State

Teams who used their bench the least:
San Diego, Furman, Georgia State, St John’s, Boston College

9) Challengers to Gonzaga’s dynasty in the WCC are changing a little. St Mary’s is only 3-3 to start the season, but San Francisco and LMU are both still unbeaten. Conference seems to be a little deeper this season; BYU is still pretty good and San Diego seems improved, too. 

8) Mike Davis is the guy who replaced Bob Knight as the basketball coach at Indiana, which was an enormous job for a rookie coach. That was 18 years ago. 

18 years and three jobs later (he has won at all his coaching stops) Davis is now the coach at Detroit Mercy in the Horizon League. His son Antone is a freshman for the Titans, and the kid can shoot a basketball- he’s made 24 of his last 38 3-point shots. 

Horizon League has slipped of late (ranked #24 LY, were as high as #10 in 2011) and Davis got this job because the Titans are 16-47 the last five years. Detroit’s last winning season was in 2013, when their best player was the then-coach’s son (Ray McCallum Jr). 

Detroit starts young Davis and four seniors, so they’ll be an interesting follow this winter. They also have five true freshmen, six JC transfers and two graduate transfers. 

7) Rough start to the season for the Pac-12; Oregon is their highest-rated team, but the Ducks lost at home to Texas Southern Monday, as a 24-point favorite. Not looking good right now for the Pac-12 to get a lot of at-large spots in the NCAA’s. 

6) Texas Southern uses November/December to fund its program, playing a ridiculous number of road games for guarantee fees. Here is who they’ve played so far:

Nov 6, won 72-69 at Baylor
Nov 10, lost 104-67 at Gonzaga
Nov 12, lost 85-73 at Iowa State
Nov 14, lost 103-64 at San Diego State
Nov 18, lost 85-63 at Evansville
Nov 26, won 89-84 at Oregon

Their first Division I home game is January 19th. January freakin’ 19th. 

5) Teams who have taken the highest % of 3-point shots:
Drake, Eastern Washington, Villanova, Siena, North Dakota State

4) Teams who have made the highest % of 3-point shots:
Indiana State, New Mexico, Detroit, South Dakota State, Creighton

3) Teams playing the fastest tempos so far this season:
FIU, Marshall, Eastern Kentucky, Citadel, Rider, Green Bay

Teams playing slowest tempo so far this season:
Virginia, Siena, Marist, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Houston

2) As of Monday night, there were still 15 kids in the country who’ve taken 2+ foul shots per game and made all of them, led by Oakland’s Jaevin Cumberland, at 26-26. 

1) Oakland’s Braden Norris was leading the country in 3-point %age, making 12 of his 14 shots behind the arc. Ian Sistare of Dartmouth was next, at 11-14. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Sunday

Seahawks 30, Panthers 27— Carolina had ball nine times in this game; they got inside Seattle 20-yard line on seven of those nine drives, but scored only 27 points, which isn’t good, and it cost them this game- they also missed a 51-yard FG on one of the two drives that didn’t get into the red zone. Panthers also fumbled five times, though they didn’t lose any of them. 

Carolina lost its last three games, with no takeaways in any of them; this was their first home loss this season. Seattle passes the Panthers in Wild Card race; they’re 10-6-2 in last 18 games as a road underdog. 

Browns 35, Bengals 20— Maybe it IS Hue Jackson’s fault; Browns won two of three games since they sent Jackson away, scoring 28-35 points in last two games. Bengals brought Jackson on as an assistant coach and haven’t won since, giving up 51-24-35 points in their last three games. 

Cleveland’s offense in first half: 4 drives, 37 plays, 289 yards, four TD’s. They ran out the last 0:32 of the first half with a fifth drive. 

Andy Dalton hurt his thumb in this game, as Cincy lost for 5th time in last six tries. 

Browns ended a 25-game losing streak with this win. This was first time the expansion-Browns ever scored 28+ points in a first half; last time the old Browns (now the Ravens) scored 28+ points in the first half of a game was back in 1991. 

Buccaneers 27, 49ers 9— This doesn’t happen much, but every so often, handicapping is a simple game. Saturday night, 49ers’ LB Reuben Foster was arrested at the team’s hotel and charged with domestic violence. The night before a game- brilliant!!! This makes the 49ers a go-against play.

49ers released Foster after the game.

Buccaneers gained 400+ yards for 6th time in last seven games, but won for first time in last five weeks. For once, they didn’t turn the ball over, going +3 in turnovers. 

Eagles 25, Giants 22:
— Giants in first half: 5 drives, 38 plays, 346 yards, 19 points
— Giants in second half: 5 drives, 22 plays, 56 yards, 3 points.
— Philly was scoreless in first quarter for 5th game in a row.
— Eagles won 17 of their last 21 games against the Giants.

Unless Saquon Barkley is hurt and Giants are hushing it up, they committed malpractice here by not feeding him the ball enough. 13 runs, 8 pass targets wasn’t near enough in this game and for the love of God, if you go for two points from the 1-yard line, give him the bleeping ball!!!! 

Bills 24, Jaguars 21— This game was like a throwback to the 70’s; both teams ran for more yards than they threw for; Bills completed only 8 passes all day, but on an unseasonably warm day in western NY (44 degrees), Jacksonville lost its 7th game in a row. 

Bills’ rookie QB Allen ran the ball 13 times for 99 yards; unless he learns to slide or get OB and avoid big hits, he is going to have a short NFL career. He’s got talent, but he’s got to preserve his health, or else……..

Ravens 34, Raiders 17— Speaking of running QB’s, Lamar Jackson toned it down in this game, running only 11 times, after 27 runs LW; Jackson is 2-0 as an NFL starter while Oakland lost for 6th time in its last seven games. Raiders are 15 for their last 55 on third down. 

Patriots 27, Jets 13— New England is now 13-2 in last 15 series games; they gained 498 yards in this game, averaging 9.1 yards/pass attempt in a game where Jets had 10-yard advantage in field position. Patriots won last five series games played in the New Jersey swamp; they’re 14-7 vs spread in last 21 games as road favorites. 

Colts 27, Dolphins 24— Indy won its fifth straight game after a 1-5 start; they’ve scored 26 TD”s on their last 63 drives. Andrew Luck seems like a lock for Comeback Player of the Year. 

Colts were sloppy in this game; they turned ball over three times (-2), missed a FG, but scored all three times they had ball in 4th quarter and pulled this game out. Right now, Indy is #7 seed in AFC. Miami lost six of its last eight games after a 3-0 start; I’m guessing jobs are in jeopardy at this point. Dolphins lost their last five road games. 

Chargers 45, Cardinals 10— Arizona led 10-0 after first quarter, then they played the rest of the game, and they got crushed. Cardinals lost five of their last six games; they’re 1-4 on road, with all four losses by 10+ points

Philip Rivers completed his first 25 passes, was 28-29 for the game. Chargers scored TD’s on five consecutive drives spanning 2nd/3rd quarters, gaining 320 yards on 40 plays, in an impressive display of offense (or bad defense). Bolts won seven of their last eight games. 

Broncos 24, Steelers 17— Wild game, with lots of twists/turns:
— Steelers outgained Denver 527-308, but they were -4 in turnovers, which is almost always a recipe for disaster.
— Pittsburgh tied game on last play of first half, on a fake FG- the kicker threw a TD pass to an offensive lineman. Gutsy call, borderline insane, but it worked.
— Steelers had ball on the Denver 2-yard line with 1:10 left, but Roethlisberger’s pass was picked off by a defensive lineman— not Big Ben’s finest moment.
— Pittsburgh drops to #4 seed in AFC with this loss; they would play Chargers in first round, if playoffs started today. Pittsburgh hosts the Chargers this coming Sunday night. 

Vikings 24, Packers 17— Green Bay is 0-6 on the road, and Mike McCarthy’s job security has to be almost zero. Was thinking about possible replacements; how about Jeff Tedford? 

Tedford was Aaron Rodgers’ college coach at Cal; he was at Cal for 11 years, has been at Fresno State the last two years, and was HC in the CFL for a year in between.  It makes some sense.

Right now, Minnesota is the #5 seed in the NFC; three teams are a half-game behind them. 

Calgary 27, Ottawa 16— Stampeders lost the CFL’s championship game the last couple years, so they get some vindication by winning their second Grey Cup in five years- they also won in ’14. 

College football coaching carousel:
— Texas Tech fired Cliff Kingsbury
— North Carolina fired Larry Fedora
— USC retained Clay Helton, despite their 5-7 record. 

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a sports Saturday…….

13) Ohio State 62, Michigan 39
— Rough day for the Wolverines, the most points they’ve ever allowed in a non-OT game.
— Michigan has now lost its last nine visits to Columbus.
— Urban Meyer is 7-0 SU as an underdog with the Buckeyes.
— Ohio State had four TD plays of 24+ yards; they also blocked a punt for a TD.
— Michigan QB Patterson got hurt late in game; check status for their bowl game. 

Who does this promote to the #4 spot nationally? Oklahoma? Ohio State? Georgia? Oklahoma is 108th in country in yardage defense, giving up 449 yards per game. Oy. 

12) Texas A&M 74, LSU 72, 7 OT’s— Fifth 7-OT game in history, highest scoring game in I-A history. I actually felt bad that someone had to lose— kids were all trying so hard. 

Aggies ended a 7-game losing streak to LSU. 

Plays run: Texas A&M 107, LSU 90. By way of comparison, in the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Chiefs Monday night, plays run were: Rams 75, Chiefs 69

11) Arizona State 41, Arizona 40— Wildcats missed a 45-yard FG with 0:13 left; the kid had gone 4-4 on FG’s before that, but now Arizona doesn’t go bowling. 

This was first time since 2007 that ASU won a game after trailing by 19+ points. 

10) Purdue 28, Indiana 21— Boilermakers are bowl eligible, Hoosiers aren’t. Question becomes this for Purdue; will coach Brohm still be their coach for the bowl game, or will have bolted to Louisville by then? It is a fair question.

9) Baylor 35, Texas Tech 24— Bears are 6-6 and bowl eligible; Texas Tech is 5-7 and may be looking for a new head coach. Baylor coach Matt Rhule won at Temple, which says a lot; he is a very good coach. 

Baylor was 32-7 from 2013-15, so the fanbase was getting spoiled before off-field issues sent the Bears into a tailspin. Rhule has pulled them out of the tailspin. 

8) Florida 41, Florida State 14— Seminoles finish 5-7, their first losing season since 1976, the first time they’re not going bowling since 1981. Over last 11 years, FSU is 1-6 vs spread when they’re a home underdog. 

7) Upsets of the Week:
— Charlotte (+17) 24, Florida Atlantic 21
— UNLV (+13.5) 34, Nevada 29
— Wake Forest (+12.5) 59, Duke 7
— Minnesota (+11) 37, Wisconsin 15
— Western Kentucky (+10.5) 30, Louisiana Tech 15
— Rice (+7.5) 27, Old Dominion 13
— Syracuse (+7) 42, Boston College 21
— Western Michigan (+6.5) 28, Northern Illinois 21

6) NC State 34, North Carolina 28 OT— A fracas broke out right after the Wolfpack scored the game-winning TD. Watching a replay of it, the funny thing is that there are no officials in the picture at all- they must have bolted to the locker room as soon as the kid crossed the goal line.

Tar Heels finish a putrid season 2-9, which started with a lot of their players being suspended for selling the free Jordan Brand stuff they get from the school.  

5) Southern Mississippi 39, UTEP 7— Eagles are the 78th I-A team to clinch at least a 6-6 record, so with 39 bowl games, there will be no 5-7 teams headed to bowls this season. 

Tulane 29, Navy 28— Congrats to the Green Wave on going bowling for first time since 2013. 

4) Central Michigan fired football coach John Bonamego this week, ending a cruddy year for the Chippewas. Earlier this season, Paulette Bonamego, the coach’s wife, was banned from Kelly/Shorts Stadium following an October 13 confrontation with CMU play-by-play broadcaster Don Chiodo in the press box.

Losing is often as hard on the coach’s family as it is on the coach. 

3) Washington 28, Washington State 15— Huskies win Apple Cup for sixth year in a row, and wins a spot in next weekend’s Pac-12 title game. 

2) University of Albany was supposed to be one of the best basketball teams in America East this winter, but both their returning senior guards bolted as graduate transfers, one to Villanova, one to Florida State. The grass always looks greener on someone else’s lawn.

As luck would have it, Villanova-Florida State play today in finals of the AdvoCare tournament at DisneyWorld in Orlando. Neither kid starts for his new team. 

1) Best wishes to NFL legend Mike Ditka 79, who had a mild heart attack in Florida this week. Get well soon, coach. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a busy Black Friday…..

13) Why the Redskins have a big problem; Alex Smith’s strength as a QB is “not losing” games; the last three years, Kansas City had a +45 turnover ratio (in 48 regular season games). This season, Washington’s turnover ratio was +12 in Smith’s ten starts. 

A +57 turnover ratio in 58 NFL games is pretty damn strong. 

But now Smith has a broken leg and Colt McCoy is Washington’s QB; a team that is built on good defense and protecting the ball on offense threw three INTs in Dallas Thursday, and now they’re not in first place anymore, though they’re still close. 

What happens if all four teams in the NFC East wind up 8-8? 

12) Oklahoma 59, West Virginia 56:
— Total on this game closed at 88, the highest total ever.
— How much do the defensive coordinators for these teams get paid?
— Seems like neither defense is very well-coordinated. Halftime score was 35-28.
— West Virginia gained 704 yards on 90 plays, but lost.
— Oklahoma gained 668 yards on only 65 plays.
— Sooners also scored two defensive TD’s. 

11) Virginia 53, Wisconsin 46— Cavaliers win the Battle for Atlantis; the last four years, team that won this tournament made the Final Four three times- the 4th team lost in the Sweet 16. 

10) Lamar Jackson will start at QB again for the Ravens this week; it will be his 2nd NFL start. 

Josh McCown will start again for the Jets; it will be his 75th career start, the first of which happened when Lamar Jackson was five years old. 

9) Central Florida 38, South Florida 10— Knights remain unbeaten but they lost their QB McKenzie Milton with what appeared to be a severe leg injury. 

8) Chicago Bears’ Eddie Jackson was a 4th round draft pick in 2017, out of Alabama; he’s scored five TD’s in his first 27 NFL games, and he’s a damn safety!!!

7) Baseball writers who plan on voting for David Ortiz for the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible better be voting for Edgar Martinez this year, too. 

Career OPS of .933, 309 homers, seven All-Star Games. Martinez shouldn’t be penalized for playing his whole career in Seattle, out of the national spotlight. 

6) Harold and Tina Ehrenberg, a couple from Mandeville, LA, were cleaning their house to get ready for hosting Thanksgiving dinner, when they found a lottery ticket they’d bought months earlier. The ticket turned out to be worth $1.8M; Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

5) Stanford’s basketball team scored 46-49 points in losing their first two games at the Battle for Atlantis; it was the first time since 1961 that Stanford scored less than 50 points in consecutive games. Cardinal rallied to beat Middle Tennessee 67-54 in the 7th place game Friday. 

4) Marquette has a 6-8 freshman named Brendan Bailey who is the son of Thurl Bailey, the former NC State star who played 13 years in the NBA, scoring over 11,000 points. 

3) Marquette 77, Louisville 74 OT— Every November I’m reminded of how much I dislike Jay Bilas as an ESPN analyst; its like the swallows returning to Capistrano. Bilas should be a referee supervisor, because thats about half of all his analysis- ripping the officials. 

To me, listening to really good announcers is like listening to a couple of friends talk about a game; we’re not going to agree on everything, but you enjoy the debate. When Bilas is on a game, half the time I feel like I’m being scolded. 

This was an interesting game, but not sure how good these teams are. Marquette is 77-61 in Wolciechowski’s 4+ years as coach (31-41 in Big East games), Louisville is rebuilding with Chris Mack taking over as they start the post-Pitino era. 

2) North Carolina 94, UCLA 78— Bruins led by 5 at halftime, so not only did UCLA lose both its game in Las Vegas, they were outscored by 20+ points in a half in both games. Safe to say that the natives in Westwood are getting a little annoyed with the Steve Alford era. 

1) Kent State 77, Vanderbilt 75— Commodores were a 12-point favorite and lost, but thats not the worst news; star freshman Darius Garland hurt his knee- the exact extent of the injury is not yet known, but the loss of the 6-2 NBA prospect would be a huge blow to Vandy’s hopes. 

Friday’s List of 13: Wrapping up Thanksgiving leftovers……

13) Bears 23, Lions 16— Chicago won its last five games, beating Detroit twice in 12 days. Chase Daniel won his first NFL start in four years, and only the third of his 9-year career. 

Chicago now has 29 takeaways, most in the NFL, and a +14 turnover ratio. 

12) Cowboys 31, Redskins 23— Three weeks ago, Dallas was 3-5 and pundits were calling for coach Jason Garrett’s head. Now Dallas is in first place in the NFC East, a division that figures to have a wild finish. What if all four teams wound up 8-8? 

11) Saints 31, Falcons 17— New Orleans won its last 10 games, covered its last nine. Some pundits are already awarding them the Lombardi Trophy. 

Falcons have a running back named Ito Smith, a rookie from Southern Miss, and apparently, he was named after Judge Lance Ito, the judge who presided over OJ Simpson’s murder trial. 

One of his parents thought young Mr Smith resembled Judge Ito right after he was born, so he was named after the then-famous judge, who was on TV almost every day for about a year. 

10) Its funny, you hear about these college basketball teams who take international trips in the summer and how much it helps them the following season, which it usually does. 

Except when it doesn’t; few years ago, a team I can’t remember who (USC maybe??) lost its point guard with a torn ACL on its international trip during the late summer and their season that winter was a total disaster. Goes to show you; there are no guarantees in life. 

9) Basketball referee Ed Corbett worked the Maui Classic this week, then retired from being a basketball official— pretty good way to go out. Corbett was a D-I referee for 33 years. 

8) Referee Ted Valentine, often known as TV Teddy for his tendency to attract attention while he referees, also worked the Maui Classic Monday-Wednesday, but then on Thursday, he was at Cal State-Fullerton working the Wooden Legacy tournament. 

The best college basketball refs work 70-80 games a year from November-March and rake in a six-figure income from a job that usually isn’t their primary source of income.  

7) Wisconsin 78, Oklahoma 58
Virginia 66, Dayton 59— Badgers-Cavaliers meet for the title at the Battle for Atlantis. 

6) Michigan State 87, UCLA 67
Texas 92, North Carolina 89— Think FS1 was hoping for Carolina-Michigan State for its Friday night programming, but the Longhorns spoiled the party. 

UCLA was down 51-26 at the half and now they have to play the Tar Heels in a consolation game tonight; going to be a long bus ride back to Westwood. 

5) Hawai’i 90, Utah 79— Solid win for the Big West’s Rainbows; it is Hawai’s first win over a Pac-12 team since they upset Cal Bears in the 2016 NCAA’s. 

4) At the Advocate tournament at Disney in Florida, all four favorites won/covered in the first round, which is pretty unusual. Also means there were four lousy games. 

3) Mississippi State 35, Ole Miss 3— Rebels lost their last five games, finished their season 5-7, on a night where a fracas broke out and every player on both teams was assessed a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Never saw that before. 

2) North Carolina had a football game cancelled by weather on September 15; they’re not going to make the game up, for financial reasons. 

Turns out the Tar Heels had game cancellation insurance worth $1.6M; with low fan interest in another game, only a few teams available to play, UNC chose not to pay to add a week to its second consecutive losing season- they weren’t going to a bowl game either way.

1) The bus carrying U of Washington  band rolled over last night, on its way to the Huskies’ rivalry game with Washington State. Luckily, no serious injuries were reported. 

Thursday’s Den: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!!

13) Bears’ backup QB Chase Daniel has been in the NFL for nine years, during which time he’s banked $28M while starting two games; one each for the Chiefs in 2013, 2014. Looks like it’ll be Daniel making the start for Chicago in their game at Detroit today— Mitch Trubisky’s shoulder is banged up, so it is likely he will take Thanksgiving Day off. 

12) Gonzaga 89, Duke 87— Quite a ballgame; Zags gagged pretty badly in last 0:30, going 0-4 on foul line, but Duke missed their last seven shots from floor and Gonzaga wins the Maui Classic. This is the triumph of a more experienced team over a younger, more talented group. 

11) On Duke’s last shot of this game, there was contact but no foul was called; ESPN analyst Jay Bilas (a Duke alum) offered a mild protest, but where was he Tuesday, when Duke shot 20 free throws before Auburn took one? Its not so easy when you don’t get every call.

Bilas/Bill Walton were ESPN’s two analysts for the Maui Classic; Bilas had the Duke side of the broadcast all three days. Is Walton not allowed to work Duke games? 

10) Thanks to Nike for saving me some money by designing the ugliest polo shirts ever this year; the polo shirts the coaches of Nike teams are wearing this week aren’t good. 

9) Fran Fraschilla is working games for ESPN in Brooklyn this week; I’m sure he thrilled the people in Cincinnati when he called Chris Mack’s move from Xavier to Louisville a “no-brainer” 

Mack went to college at Xavier and coached there for 18 years, nine as head coach- I’m guessing he put a lot of thought into the decision. Mrs Mack is from Louisville, which probably sealed the deal, but you don’t just bolt your alma mater, especially a school in the basketball-only Big East. 

8) Jim Hickey is out as pitching coach of the Cubs; manager Joe Maddon will be a lame duck skipper in 2019— Hickey also worked with Maddon in Tampa Bay. Not lot of appreciation being shown for Maddon winning the World Series in 2016. 

7) Tampa Bay Rays dumped 1B/DH CJ Cron, who hit 30 homers last year. There has to be some place in the majors this guy can play. His career OB% is .311 which hurts him in this age of analytics, but come on, there isn’t one MLB team that could use a 30-homer guy? 

6) Marquette has a very good basketball player named Markus Howard whose dad played football at Indiana— his coach there was ESPN GameDay analyst Lee Corso, who coached the Hoosiers for ten seasons (1973-82).  

5) Grizzlies 104, Spurs 103— Right now, Memphis has the best record in the west, which is a huge surprise. Golden State is 12-7 and is the 5th seed in the west right now. 

4) Georgia State 91, Georgia 67— Huge win for the erratic Panthers, who lost to Creighton by 25 on Tuesday. Tom Crean’s Dawgs had a rough week on the Cayman Islands. 

3) Dayton 69, Butler 64— Big win for the Atlantic 14, which is 10th-rated conference right now; last time they ended a season ranked this low was 12 years ago. 

2) Pittsburgh 75, Saint Louis 73— Panthers are already 6-0, after going 8-24 last year; they’re starting three freshmen and two juniors, are #299 experience team. Saint Louis is top-ranked team in A-14, so this loss hurts that conference. 

1) Knicks 117, Celtics 109— Boston is a disappointing 9-9 on Thanksgiving morning.

“(Bleep) Thanksgiving,” said Kyrie Irving after this game. Alrighty then. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday……

Texans 23, Redskins 21— 33 years ago Sunday, Joe Theismann broke his leg in a Monday night game; just a gruesome injury. In this game, Alex Smith broke his leg in third quarter, with Redskins down 17-7; Colt McCoy came off bench and led two TD drives, but Houston kicked FG with 7:30 to win the game and improve their record to 7-3. 

Skins’ TD that put them up 21-20 in third quarter was first lead change in any Redskin game all season, which is kind of hard to believe. Washington allowed 17 or fewer points in all six of their wins; they’re 0-4 allowing more than 17. 

Cowboys 22, Falcons 19— First three quarters of this game, no TD’s, five FG’s, which is very un-Falcon-like. Teams both converted 50%+ of their 3rd down conversions, but they were poor in the red zone. 

Dallas is 4-0 when it scores 20+ points, 0-5 when it doesn’t; they’re 27-16 vs spread in last 43 games as road underdogs. Under Quinn, Atlanta is 10-17 as a home favorite. 

Lions 20, Panthers 19— Carolina hit the left upright with 34-yard FG in 3rd quarter, then missed PAT on TD with 5:13 left to play, so when they scored TD with 1:07 left that made score 20-19, Ron Rivera decided to go for 2…..and that didn’t work either. Panthers are now 6-15-1 vs spread in last 22 games as a road favorite. 

Giants 38, Buccaneers 35— These is no excuse for the Bucs being 3-7; they’ve gained 500+ TY in four of their last six games, but they cannot protect the ball. In their last eight games, Tampa Bay has turned ball over 27 times (-25). As the Hall of Fame coach George Allen used to say, “More games are lost than won.” 

Bucs benched Fitzpatrick after an awful INT in end zone; Jameis Winston came in and looked like Dan Fouts, completing 12-16 passes for 199 yards and two TD’s, but Manning completed 17-18 passes on the day, as Giants won their second game in a row after a 1-7 start. 

Don’t think I’ve seen this before: on their last nine drives, Tampa Bay scored five TD’s but threw four INT’s. All or nothing. They were also stopped on 4th down inside the Giants’ 5-yard line on their first drive of the game. 

Ravens 24, Bengals 21— Rookie QB Jackson won his first NFL start, running for 117 yards and throwing for 150 more, playing against a defense that had allowed 500+ yards in their previous three games- Cincy fired their DC last Monday. Bengals lost four of their last five games. 

Steelers 20, Jaguars 16— With 2:00 left in 3rd quarter, Jaguars led 16-0; this is a brutal loss for Jags, making them 3-7 and basically ending their season. Jags started three drives in Steelers territory, but scored only three points on those drives. Jaguars passed for only 64 yards. 

Steelers’ first 9 drives: 33 plays, 125 yards, zero points, five 3/outs.
Steelers’ last 5 drives: 27 plays, 249 yards, 20 points. 

Roethlisberger ran for the winning TD with 0:05 left; Steelers won their last six games. 

Seahawks 27, Packers 24— Seattle outrushed Green Bay 173-48; Packers converted only 3-11 third down plays. 46-yard FG Crosby missed when Packers led 7-0 turned out to be painful. 

Home teams are now 9-2 in Thursday night games this season. 

Colts 38, Titans 10— Tennessee crushed New England LW, so of course they come here and get their butts kicked. Titans’ QB Mariota hurt his elbow near end of first half; Gabbert played 2nd half. Colts have now won 17 of last 20 series games, 10 of last 11 played here. Indy has won four games in a row after a 1-5 start. 

In the first half, Titans’ DC, 69-year old Dean Pees was taken to the hospital with “a medical issue.” We wish him well. 

Saints 48, Eagles 7— If you don’t think the NFL season is long, consider this: the Saints lost at home to the Buccaneers in their season opener. Not exactly an omen of things to come. Saints won their last eight games, covered last eight- they scored 45-51-48 points last three games. 

Eagles are learning a fact of life in the NFL; it is never far from the penthouse to the outhouse. Philly lost five of its last seven games- they have one takeaway in their last four games. 

Broncos 23, Chargers 22— LA’s six-game win streak comes to an end; they screwed up clock management while trying to run out the clock. Chargers had ball at midfield at the 2:00 warning, but they took hardly any time off the clock before punting the ball back to Denver. 

Broncos won 12 of last 15 series games; five of last six Charger games, seven of last nine Denver games stayed under the total. Chargers’ loss gives Kansas City some breathing room heading into the Monday night headliner in the Coliseum. 

Chargers outgained Denver 479-325; they converted 9-15 on third down; six of those nine conversions were on plays of 20+ yards. But they didn’t win. 

Raiders 23, Cardinals 21— These two teams and the 49ers are all 2-8, tied for worst record in the league, which will be interesting when the draft comes around in April. Cardinals beat the 49ers twice; Oakland won this game but got crushed by San Francisco. 

Arizona ran only 52 plays, completed only 9-20 passes, converted 3-11 on third down, and their best player is Larry Fitzgerald, who will retire soon. Cardinals are minus-10 in turnovers in their last four games. Not sure how strong their future is. 

Bears 25, Vikings 20— Chicago won/covered its last four games; they’re 5-1 at home, 5-0 as a home favorite. Quick turnaround for Chicago; Bears had the Sunday night game, then play at 12:30 Thursday afternoon.  

Both teams turned ball over three times in this game; Minnesota threw 46 passes, ran ball 14 times. This wasn’t one of Kirk Cousins’ best nights. 

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a college sports Saturday

13) Ohio State 52, Maryland 51 OT— This was the strangest of games……..
— Maryland’s QB tore his knee up last week, is out for the year; they gained 535 yards in a game where their backup QB played the whole game.
— Terps had TD runs of 81-75 yards, just in the first quarter- they ran the ball for 339 freakin’ yards, which we’ll get back to later.
— Urban Meyer looks stressed out on sidelines, like he could keel over for good at any minute.
— Buckeyes have allowed 31+ points in three of their last four games.
— Maryland scores in OT to make score 52-51; did we mention they ran the ball for 339 yards? They go for 2 points and the win, but they throw a pass with their backup QB. No bueno.
— 47 of their first 61 plays were runs, but they threw a pass with the game on the line.

I was thoroughly entertained by this game, but the end just ticked me off. Do what you do best!!!! Run the damn ball. Maryland wins this game, and the interim coach might become the full-time coach. Now? Good luck interviewing for jobs this winter.  

12) Oklahoma State 45, West Virginia 41— Not everyone who plays college football is going to the NFL; senior QB Tyler Cornelius threw a total of 24 passes in his first three years at OSU, but he is the starter this year and this was a big day for him on Senior Day, going 30-46 for 338 yards and three TD’s as they upset West Virginia. 

Here are the distances between West Virginia and their Big X rivals:
— Iowa State 872 miles; Kansas 902, Kansas State 983
— Oklahoma State 1,086, Oklahoma 1,137, TCU 1,238
— Baylor, 1,299, Texas 1,401, Texas Tech 1,467

Why the bleep is West Virginia in this league and not the Big 14 or the ACC? 

11) UCLA 34, USC 27— Joshua Kelley ran ball 40 times for 289 yards, the most yards for any UCLA RB since 2004; Bruins are 3-8, USC is 5-6. Last time both of these schools finished with losing records was 1958, before I was born. Trojans have to upset Notre Dame next week to get to 6-6 and be bowl eligible— ain’t gonna happen. 

Where does USC look for a new coach? Would they dare consider Lane Kiffin again? How about John Harbaugh or Mike Leach? 

USC has had three former football players (Garrett, Haden, Swann) as AD’s; how about hiring an experienced administrator and running things the right way? 

10) Nebraska 9, Michigan State 6
— Neither team scored a TD, or completed half their passes.
— Total yardage was 289-248 MSU
— Spartans converted 9-20 on 3rd down, but only scored three points?
— Nebraska won four of its last five games after an 0-6 start.
— This is first time Nebraska had won a game without scoring a TD since a 3-0 victory over Kansas State in 1937.

9) Utah 30, Colorado 7— When I was in Las Vegas last month, my only college football bet was Colorado over Arizona State; the Buffs won/covered, but they haven’t won since, turning a 5-0 start into a 5-6 debacle. Colorado blew a 31-3 lead in an awful home loss to Oregon State late last month, and they haven’t recovered from that. 

In their last five games, Buffaloes were outscored 101-20 in the 2nd half.

8) Wisconsin 47, Purdue 44 OT— Boilermakers led 27:13 with 7:00 left in game, but they let game slip away and lost to the Badgers for 7th time in a row. Wisconsin had 13 penalties for 171 yards, but ran the ball for 385 yards. 

Purdue is 5-6, with four losses by 4 or fewer points; they need a win at Indiana next week to go to a bowl game. 

7) Upsets of the Week:
— Ball State (+9.5) 42, Western Michigan 41 OT
— Bowling Green (+7) 21, Akron 6
— Kansas State (+6.5) 21, Texas Tech 6
— Miami OH (+6.5) 13, Northern Illinois 7
— Oklahoma State (+5) 45, West Virginia 41

6) Utah State 29, Colorado State 24— Aggies were a 27-point road favorite, but host Rams scored with 1:36 left to take a 24-23 lead. Utah State then drove 71 yards on six plays for the GW TD, scoring on a 33-yard pass with 0:43 left to play. 

Colorado State appeared to score a TD on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game, but the kid who caught the ball had stepped out of bounds running down the field, so he was ineligible to touch the ball first, so that nullified the TD, luckily for 10-1 Utah State. 

5) Temple 27, South Florida 17— USF led this game 17-0 at halftime; Owls’ last two scores came on a punt return with 10:35 left and then a defensive score with 1:37 left. 

4) Florida State 22, Boston College 21— Seminoles hit on a 74-yard pass with 1:49 left to snap a 3-game skid and stay bowl eligible; they play the Florida Gators next week. FSU needs to win that game to get to 6-6. 

In itself, going to a bowl isn’t that big a deal, especially a minor bowl, but the practices teams have before those bowls are important— it helps coaches develop their younger players who might be starters next year. Also, it appeases the boosters, at least a little bit. 

The 3-4 hours the bowl is on TV also helps for recruiting; it is free advertising for the program. 

3) Furman 76, Villanova 68 OT— Paladins were a 16-point underdog; looks like the defending national champs might be in for a tough year. Wildcats took 44 3-pointers, only 27 2-point shots against a Southern League team, which doesn’t bode well for Big East play. 

Villanova is the first defending national champ since 1996 to start the next season 2-2 or worse. 

It is November 18 and Furman has already beaten two of last year’s Final Four teams; they won at the buzzer at Loyola, Chi earlier this month. 

2) Clemson 35, Duke 6— These teams are in same league, but since 2009, Clemson has had 52 players drafted by NFL teams; Duke has had four. David Cutcliffe is doing an excellent job of keeping the Blue Devils going to bowl games with lesser talent. 

1) Vanderbilt 36, Ole Miss 29 OT— This was a fun game to watch; a sketchy replay reversal nullified the Rebels’ tying TD in OT. Vandy plays Tennessee next week; the winner will be bowl eligible. 

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday

Cowboys 27, Eagles 20— Home side has now lost nine of last 11 series games; Dallas won five of last six visits here. With seven weeks left in the season, Redskins have a 2-game lead in the NFC East. Cowboys are 4-0 when they score 20+ points, 0-5 when they don’t; they ran ball for 171 yards in first game with their new OL coach. Eagles are 0-4 as home favorites this year. 

Rams 36, Seahawks 31— About 20 Rams players/coaches had to evacuate their homes this week because of the wild fires; the team didn’t practice on Friday, but did enough here to move to 9-1. Seattle ran the ball for 273 yards; they’re only NFL team that runs the ball more than they throw it. Costly win for the Rams; looks like WR Cooper Kupp tore his ACL.

I wasn’t going to mention this if the Rams lost, but since they won, hopefully the NFL will grade referee John Hussey very poorly for this game- he gave Seattle their third TD by throwing a flag on Rams’ DE Fowler when Fowler complained about being held after a 3rd-and-11 pass that fell incomplete. Fowler was walking away but the referee wouldn’t walk away and threw a flag that amounted to a turnover in Rams’ territory at a key point in the second half. 

Titans 34, Patriots 10— When your division rivals are three of the worst organizations in the NFL, you can afford to lay an egg now and then. Tennessee DC Dean Pees spent six years with New England— his defense was brilliant, holding Patriots to one TD and only 284 yards. New England ran ball for only 40 yards, was just 3-15 on third down. 

Right now, looks like the Patriots might be battling Pittsburgh for the #2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Tennessee is a game behind Houston in the AFC South. 

Browns 28, Falcons 16— Rookie QB Mayfield completed his first 13 passes, finished 17 of 20 for 216 yards, as Cleveland played their best game in a long time, ending Atlanta winning streak at three. Rookie RB Chubb ran 92 yards for a Cleveland TD; Browns ran ball for 211 yards, had three TD drives of 80+ yards. 

Bills 41, Jets 10— Matt Barkley started his first NFL game in two years, got his 2nd career win (2-5) as a starter, as Buffalo crushed the Jets, outgaining them 163-1 in the first quarter. Jets now have two TD’s on their last 35 drives. 

Friends of mine who are Jets fans were clamoring for Todd Bowles to be fired during the Jets’ bye week (this week). Buffalo outgained them here 451-199, playing with a QB they signed off the street a few weeks ago. 

Saints 51, Bengals 14— New Orleans won its last eight games and they scored 40 points in the game they lost; this was a total ass-kicking, as New Orleans ran for 244 yards, threw for 265 more and led 35-7 at halftime. 

Bengals/Titans are tied for the second Wild Card spot in the AFC, but this was a discouraging game, a total no-show; Cincinnati has lost three of its  last four games- good teams don’t lose this badly at home. New Orleans covered its last seven games. 

Redskins 16, Buccaneers 3— A very unusual boxscore:
— Tampa Bay outgained the Redskins 501-286
— Fitzpatrick threw for 406 yards, but Tampa Bay scored 3 points.
— Bucs had ball in red zone on five different drives; they turned ball over twice, missed two FG’s and kicked a FG.
— Tampa Bay was -4 (0-4) in turnovers, usually a recipe for disaster.
— Washington has allowed 17 or fewer points in all six of its wins; they’re 0-3 allowing more than 20 points, but have a 2-game lead in the NFC East.

When Dirk Koetter is applying for his next coaching job this winter, he’ll have to explain how his offense gained 501 yards but scored only three points. In their last seven games, Buccaneers are an incredibly bad minus-21 in turnovers- thats only seven games!!! 

Steelers 52, Panthers 21— Home teams are 8-2 on Thursday night games; think it is a big advantage to be at home with the short week. 

Steelers won/covered their last five games; they scored on a 75-yard pass with their first play of the game, after Carolina had taken a 7-0 lead. Panthers are two games behind New Orleans in the NFC South, but they play the Saints twice in the last seven weeks. Carolina +11 in TO’s in their wins, -5 in losses- they were -2 in this game.

Packers 31, Dolphins 12— Miami was in red zone three times, kicked two FG’s; they didn’t score an offensive TD for second week in a row (20 drives). Dolphins lost their last four road games, by 31-10-19-19 points- they’re 3-9 vs spread in last 12 games as road underdogs. Green Bay was in red zone four times, scored four TD’s. Packers are now 19-12-2 in their last 32 games as HF.

Colts 29, Jaguars 26— Indy scored 37-42-29 points in winning last three games, after a 1-5 start; Colts didn’t score in second half here, holding on for dear life after leading 29-13 a minute before halftime. Vinatieri missed a 52-yard FG that would’ve covered the spread with 2:53 left. Over is 5-1 in the Colts’ last six games. 

Jacksonville’s offense showed some life, but they’ve lost five games in a row, and were outscored 97-23 in the first half of those games. 

Bears 34, Lions 22— Chicago threw for 348 yards, was +3 (3-0) in turnovers; they’re 4-1 at home this year, 4-0 as HF. Bears averaged 11.2 yards per pass attempt- their defense sacked Stafford six times. Chicago kicker Parkey missed two FG’s, two PAT’s; last guy to do that (Cleveland’s K in Week 2) got cut after that game. 

Lions fired their special teams coach Monday, so they’ve got issues in their building; Detroit ran ball for only 76-66-34 yards in their last three games; they allowed 16 sacks in their last two games- maybe the OL coach should’ve been canned instead of the special teams guy. 

Chiefs 28, Cardinals 16— Since 2000, Chiefs were 23rd NFL team to be favored by 17+ points; those teams went 8-13-2 vs spread (they all won SU). KC was +2 in turnovers, won field position by 12 yards; Arizona holding them to 26 points seemed like a win for Arizona. 

Chargers 20, Raiders 6— Chargers won their last six games; they’re 5-0 outside LA, holding Oakland without a TD here. Raiders had ball on 2-yard line on their first drive after faking a punt for a first down, but they went for it on 4th down and got stuffed. 

Under Lynn, LA is 4-1-1 as road favorites, 3-0 this year- they held last five opponents under 20 points. Raiders lost last four games; they’re 3-7-1 vs spread in last 11 games as home underdogs. 

When you get to the red zone three times and score only three points, that not good. 

Sunday’s List of 13: Wrapping up a college football Saturday

13) Oklahoma 48, Oklahoma State 47— State scored with 1:07 left but went for two points and the lead, maybe because their kicker missed the PAT on their previous TD. 

We’ve talked about this couple times already, but I’m not a fan of going for two points and the win, yet every ex-player on TV applauds when a coach does it. There is a time to be conservative, to keep your team on national TV playing an exciting game (recruiting, anyone?!?!?!)

OSU had 39 first downs, gained 640 yards but lost. Entertaining game. 

12) Texas 41, Texas Tech 34— Longhorns led 34-17 with 7:00 left, but Tech rallied to tie the game with 1:45 left. Texas then drove the field and threw the GW TD pass with 0:21 left. 

11) Northwestern 14, Iowa 10— Wildcats are 0-3 in non-conference games, losing to Duke, Akron and Notre Dame, but they’re 6-1 in conference and clinched a spot in the Big 14 title game with this win. Four of their six conference wins are by four or fewer points; this will be their first-ever appearance in the Big 14 championship game. 

Iowa threw 41 passes, ran ball only 22 times, converted 3-13 third down plays; they’ve lost three games in a row after a 6-1 start. 

10) Pitt 52, Virginia Tech 22— Panthers won their third game in a row; they had TD plays of 73-78-97 yards, and averaged 13.9 YARDS PER PLAY in this game. Virginia Tech lost its last three games, allowing 44 ppg, and is now 4-5. 

9) Old Dominion 34, North Texas 31— Mean Green led 28-0 with 3:00 left before halftime, but let this game get away on the road, slip to 7-3. 

8) Florida 35, South Carolina 31— Gamecocks led 31-14 with 16:00 to play, but Florida went on TD drives of 75-89-66 yards to pull out the win and improve to 7-3. 

Georgia 27, Auburn 10— Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is in the first year of a 7-year, $49M contract; his Tigers are 6-4 and haven’t played Alabama yet, so they’re going to be 7-5 heading into their bowl game, which won’t be a great bowl (their other game is vs Liberty).

Not going to be a great winter on the plains for coach Gus.  

7) Upsets of the Week:
— UNLV (+22.5) 27, San Diego State 24
— Wake Forest (+19.5) 27, NC State 23
— Old Dominion (+14.5) 34, North Texas 31
— Minnesota (+12) 41, Purdue 10
— Northwestern (+11) 14, Iowa 10
— Bowling Green (+7) 24, Central Michigan 13

6) Indiana 34, Maryland 32— Terrapins ran ball for 59 times for 353 yards, outgained Indiana by 168 yards but lost- thats what four turnovers (-3) will do to you. 

Ohio State 26, Michigan State 6— Buckeyes’ punter Drue Chrisman pinned Spartans inside their own 6-yard line five times in the second half; he was interviewed on TV after the game. MSU completed less than half its passes for third time in last five games. 

5) UAB 26, Southern Miss 23 OT— UAB didn’t have a football team in 2015-16, but people fought to bring the team back and now in their second year back, the Blazers are 9-1 and are a hell of a story. Good for them. 

4) Arizona State 31, UCLA 28— Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils are 6-4, become bowl-eligible. 

3) Washington State 31, Colorado 7— Coogs ran 94 plays, injury-riddled Colorado ran 54; Buffaloes lost their last five games after a 5-0 start. Wazzu is 9-1 and rolling, in a story that is really interesting, in both happy and tragic ways. 

This time last year, Wazzu’s QB was Luke Falk, who is on the Miami Dolphins now. The young man who was penciled in to be his replacement this year (he threw 129 passes off the bench) took his own life after last season, in an unspeakable tragedy. 

Gardner Minshew was going to transfer from East Carolina to Alabama, with hopes of being a grad assistant coach in 2019; he knew he would sit the bench in Tuscaloosa this year. But when Washington State needed a QB, Minshew went to Pullman instead and is now having the time of his life. Life is weird sometimes. 

2) San Diego 56, Davidson 52— This I-AA game had some interesting stats:
— Davidson ran the ball 73 times for 789 yards, gained 852 TY.
— San Diego was 24-36 passing for 556 yards; they gained 625 TY.
— Toreros averaged 15.4 yards per pass attempt.
— Davidson had three TD runs of 80+ yards, in the first quarter alone.
— Davidson led 31-7 early in the second quarter.
— San Diego threw the game-winning 20-yard TD pass with 1:43 left. 

1) Eastern Michigan 27, Akron 7— EMU has a gray football field, much like Boise State has a blue field; when I watch clips of EMU home games on my laptop, it looks like the game is in black-and-white, except for the players. Weird.

Akron had six first downs, four turnovers, only 90 total yards. Eastern is bowl eligible

Wednesday’s Den: Wrapping up Opening Night in college hoop

13) Kansas 92, Michigan State 87— Jayhawks led this game the whole way, were up 50-36 at halftime, but Spartans fought back late and made the Kansas fans sweat. 

Dick Vitale started his 40th season on ESPN with this game; he surprised me by saying that he thinks college basketball season starts too early, and shouldn’t begin until after Thanksgiving Day. Don’t think I agree with that; after Thanksgiving would be too late. 

I liked the early season basketball marathon ESPN used to run for 24 hours, but they’ve done away with it now. That would’ve been early next week. Who needs sleep? 

12) Duke 118, Kentucky 84— Blue Devils led this game 34-13 at one point, and then it got worse; impressive display by a very young Duke team- game was 59-42 at halftime, 85-52 with 12:22 left. Wildcats don’t get whacked like that very often. 

11) Texas Southern 72, Baylor 69— When you pay an opponent to come to your gym and play, they’re not supposed to win. Last year, Texas Southern played its first 13 games on the road- their first home game was New Year’s Day. TSU started last year 0-13, lost by 31 at Baylor, but the Jonny Jones era gets off to an excellent start here. 

10) Arizona State 102, Cal State-Fullerton 94 2OT— Titans made NCAAs LY but weren’t given a big chance here; Ahmad/Allman combined for 64 points, but no other Titan scored more than 11 points- they’ll need a third scorer to emerge. 

ASU was only 26-44 on foul line; they took 18 more FT’s than Fullerton. 

9) North Carolina 78, Wofford 67— This game was tied 46-all with 10:30 left, but reality set in down the stretch. Credit to Roy Williams for going to Wofford’s gym and playing a real road game— it’ll make the Tar Heels better. Wofford has to be encouraged by this game. 

More teams need to have some guts and play some true road games. 

8) Georgia State 74, East Tennessee State 68— Couple of solid mid-majors hooked up here; ETSU had 27 offensive rebounds, but were just 4-23 on arc, 17-27 on charity stripe. Four Georgia State starters played 35:00+, so not a lot of depth there. 

7) Bills-Jets total this week is 36.5; it is the lowest NFL total since 2012. 

6) Penn 72, George Mason 71— Quakers win a nail biter despite going 6-18 on the foul line. 

5) Stony Brook 77, George Washington 74 OT— GW led this game 22-0 but lost; not exactly the best way to start your season. Stony Brook’s first points came 10:14 into the game; they were only 6-26 on arc, 17-27 on foul line, but they out-rebounded the Colonials 46-38, who were 16-34 on the foul line in at overtime loss. 

4) Providence 77, Siena 67— Friars made 13-25 on arc, Saints 12-28 in relatively foul-free game; only 20 FT’s were tried in this game. Siena started a soph and two frosh in coach Christian’s Siena debut; they have to be somewhat encouraged by this game. 

3) There are now 353 Division I basketball teams; Cal Baptist (WAC) and North Alabama (Atlantic Sun) are the two new teams this season. 

2) Boston College 73, Milwaukee 53— BC was down 10 at the half in this game; they outscored the Panthers 46-16 in second half. 

1) Louisiana Tech 71, Wichita State 58— Could be more of a rebuilding job than people thought for the Wheatshockers- they were a 10-point favorite here. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Happy Election Day– go vote!!!!

13) Today is Election Day; please go vote, if you already haven’t done so. Its our job as American citizens to go and make our voices heard- its one of the great parts of living in a democracy. Plus, sometimes they have bake sales at polling places so you can get fairly cheap cupcakes or donuts. 

Go vote!!! (After you read the rest of this……)

12) There is a TV program on WeTV called “Love After Lockup”; it is described this way:

“Couples meet their potential future spouses for the first time once the bars are removed from the relationship.” In other words, once the future spouse gets out of jail. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

11) Friday night in the CFL, after Ottawa scored a TD to grab a 23-9 lead with 0:59 left in the 3rd quarter, an Ottawa offensive lineman went to the front row of the stands, grabbed a can of beer from a fan, and chugged the beer— during the game!!!!

When I saw the clip, I figured it was just before the end of the game, but it wasn’t. Yikes.

10) There is a dog walking app called WAG; you pay someone to walk your dog for you. They get the keys to your house, they walk little Scruffy around the block, you can follow their progress on the app, and everyone is happy. 

In this day and age, if you think I’m giving the keys to my freakin’ house to some stranger who walks dogs for a living, then you’re bleepin’ goofy. There isn’t anything all that valuable here, but it is valuable to me. I’d get the dog a treadmill like George Jetson before I paid someone.

9) Sig Mejdal is a former NASA engineer and blackjack dealer who worked on the analytical team that helped the Houston Astros win the World Series LY; he’s let his contract with the Astros run out and will now look for another job. 

NASA engineer and blackjack dealer? Sounds like an interesting guy.

8) I’m not a big Tom Cruise fan, but his best movie (in my opinion) by far is A Few Good Men, with Risky Business 2nd, and then probably Cocktail.

The scene where Jack Nicholson testifies in court: “You can’t handle the truth!!!!” is still one of my favorite movie scenes ever. 

7) ESPN’s Mike Breen had a tremendous euphemism as he tried to gently rip the Washington Wizards in their loss Friday night: “…….just a lack of consistent intensity”

Oklahoma City had 110 points AFTER THE 3RD QUARTER; Wizards weren’t trying real hard, which is why they’re 2-7 this season.

6) Mark Jackson told a neat story during the Wolves-Warriors game Friday night; when he was coaching Golden State, Jackson brought college teammate Chris Mullen in to work with then-rookie Klay Thompson on footwork, how to use screens, stuff like that- it obviously helped. 

When Thompson was playing at Washington State, you wouldn’t have figured him to be a star in the NBA, but he sure is now.

5) “Its not who starts, its who finishes.” Lot of basketball coaches say that to subs who might have their feelings hurt when they come off the bench instead of starting. 

Actions speak louder than words; JJ Redick hasn’t started a game yet for the 76ers, but he is 4th on the team in minutes played, second on team in shots taken and scoring (18.4 ppg). And his $12,250,000 salary (#3 on team) speaks pretty loudly, too.

4) Arizona Cardinals cut QB Sam Bradford, who has earned roughly $129M in his football career, while accumulating a career record of 34-48-1. Arizona wound up paying him $13.5M and he only played three games for them. No bueno. 

Bradford is better than any QB Buffalo has, but he’d last about 10 minutes behind that offensive line, thats 10 minutes of regular time, not game time.

Bradford had some success playing for Giants’ coach Pat Shurmur when Shurmur was OC up at Minnesota, so there are rumors Bradford could be heading to the Big Apple. 

3) A big reason of why college basketball has changed so much in the last decade; freshmen played 81.2% of Kentucky’s minutes last year- freshmen played 67.5% of Duke’s minutes. 

In the last four seasons, of the 20 freshmen Kentucky had, 12 of them stayed only one year. 11 of Duke’s last 19 freshmen have left school after one season. 

If you’re good enough to start for Kentucky/Duke, you probably already have one eye on the NBA, so it becomes difficult to tell who is invested in playing college ball and who is counting the minutes until they can bolt college and go to the NBA Combine.

2) Average ticket prices and team payrolls this past baseball season:
Red Sox $206M payroll, $56.97 average ticket
Astros $172M payroll, $40.25 average ticket
Bronx Bombers $161M payroll, average ticket $47.62
Indians: $137M payroll, average ticket $30.04

1) Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt hosted a 4-minute video last week urging all Americans to go vote on November 6th- it was a little odd seeing actors speak as themselves, we’re so used to seeing them play different roles.

But their point is valid— please go vote!!!!

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up an NFL Sunday……

Saints 45, Rams 35— New Orleans had 18 first downs, three TD’s on its first 32 plays in this game; then they blew a 35-14 lead- wild game, but they pulled away late. Saints have won their last seven games; average total in their four home games is 67.3. 

Former NFL ref Gene Steratore posted this Sunday morning:

“Through Week 8, the average number of penalties accepted per game is 13.4- that is the fewest since 2013. Despite what most may think, the refs are letting them play this season.”

Vikings 24, Lions 9— Minnesota is now 10-0 vs spread (9-1 SU) in its last nine pre-bye games; they’ve won four of last five games. Yardage in this game was just 283-209, and game was indoors. Under Zimmer, Minnesota is 21-7 as home favorites, 3-2 this year.

Vikings sacked Stafford 10 times; in its last two games, Detroit has run ball for 34-66 yards. Obviously, they’ve got some issues on the offensive line. 

Chiefs 37, Browns 21— Cleveland looked better on offense with Kitchens calling plays, but Kansas City has it rolling right now- KC averaged 10.6 yards/pass attempt, had an 11-yard edge in field position. Chiefs had a 499-388 edge in yardage. 

Chiefs won/covered 8 of their last 9 games; they’re 10-3 in last 13 games as road favorites.  Cleveland is 6-16-1 in its last 23 games as a home dog; they lost last four games, giving up an average of 33.5 ppg. 

Steelers 23, Ravens 16— One of key plays in this game was a 22-yard pass by backup QB Dobbs to Smith-Schuster when Steelers were backed up on own 5-yard line with 20-13 lead and 12:35 left to play- drive ended in a clinching FG. It was Dobbs’ only play of the game. This was just second win for Steelers in their last six visits here. 

Pittsburgh converted 10-16 on third down, outgained Baltimore 395-268 in a game with no turnovers. Ravens lost their last three games, are 4-5 heading into their bye week. 

Panthers 42, Buccaneers 28— Three of Carolina’s six TD’s came on drives of 42 or fewer yards; Panthers ran ball for 179 yards, are looking strong- they’re a game behind New Orleans in NFC South- teams have two meetings coming up. 

In their last six games, Bucs are an astounding minus-17 in turnovers. Over is 7-1 in Tampa Bay games; hard to believe the Bucs won’t be cleaning house again when this season ends- they allowed 30+ points in five of their last six games. 

Dolphins 13, Jets 6— This was an unusual boxscore:
— Jets’ offense ran 64 plays; they were outscored on those 7-6 by Miami’s defense.
— Neither team scored an offensive touchdown.
— Total yardage was 282-168, Jets- Miami had only 7 first downs.
— Teams combined to convert only five of 29 third down plays.
— There was only one play the whole game inside either team’s red zone.
— Not many team go +4 in turnovers and score only 13 points. 

Bears 41, Bills 9— This was an even more unusual boxscore:
— Chicago led 28-0 at the half; their defense scored two of the TD’s.
— The other two first half TD’s came on drives of only 37-23 yards.
— Total yardage was 264-190 Bills, and they lost by 32 points.
— Bills turned ball over four times (-3); Bears had 18-yard edge in field position, and thats not counting their two defensive TD’s.
— What Buffalo has done this year is just astoundingly bad; they made the playoffs LY for first time in 19 years, but quickly traded LY’s QB and are now the worst team in the NFL.
— New England’s three AFC East rivals scored a total of 28 points Sunday. 

Falcons 38, Redskins 14— Atlanta was 10-13 on third down in this game; they’ve converted 42 of last 68 third down plays- this was their first win in three outdoor games this season. 

NFC East teams are 1-8 vs spread as non-divisional favorites this season. Washington leads that division with an unimpressive 5-3 record. 

Texans 19, Broncos 17— Houston is first team since the 1970 New York Giants to start a season 0-3, then win their next six games. Broncos missed a 51-yard FG wide right in the last minute. 

Denver lost six of its last seven games, appears headed to its first consecutive losing seasons since the mid-70’s- they’re 2-5-2 in last nine games as home favorites. Under is 4-1 in last five Houston games, 6-2 in last eight Denver games.

Chargers 25, Seahawks 17— Seattle is now 1-8 vs spread in last nine games as home favorites. Chargers won their last five games overall- they won here despite converting on only 2-9 third down plays, and missing three of four PAT’s. Bolts are now 4-0 outside Los Angeles. 

Patriots 31, Packers 17— Game was tied after three quarters; Green Bay had the ball on the New England 28-yard line- they were driving. First play of the fourth quarter, Aaron Jones loses a fumble, and that ended that- Green Bay was useless the rest of the game. 

New England won its last six games, is 5-0 at home (4-1 as HF)- they’re 26-12-3 vs spread in last 41 games as a home favorite.

Mike McCarthy played college football (TE) at Baker University in Kansas; his dad was a fireman and bar owner in Pittsburgh. He is 134-82-2 as an NFL head coach, but he’s had Favre/Rodgers as his starting quarterbacks during that time. Pretty good gig.

Hell, what would Jeff Fisher’s record be if he had Favre/Rodgers? Fisher went 178-171-1 as an NFL head coach, with no one near as good as Favre/Rodgers at QB.