Saturday’s List of 13: Our first look at college basketball for this season

I don’t go grocery shopping much, because I never cook, but while getting some junk food Friday, guess what was there? The Athlon college basketball magazine for 2019-20, already on newsstands on August 30. Here is what I learned from scanning this fine magazine:

13) Top 4 coaching hires:
— Fred Hoiberg, Nebraska— His grandfather was once Nebraska’s head coach. He might be the only person in America who would turn down the UCLA basketball job for this.
— Eric Musselman, Arkansas— My first instinct was that this is a bad fit, but he was great at Nevada and he coached two NBA teams.
— Buzz Williams, Texas A&M— He got Virginia Tech to the NCAA’s the last three years; they had been there twice in the previous 30 years. Va Tech is a football school, too.
— Nate Oats, Alabama— Went 31-5 in MAC last two years; his job is to entertain the locals until spring football starts.  

12) UCLA butchered its coaching search; they wound up with Mick Cronin, who is a solid coach but Bruin fans are going to hate his defense-first style (or lack of style). 

Last six years, Cronin’s Cincinnati teams’ national rank in tempo (out of 351 or 353 teams):

From 2006-08, Ben Howland made the Final Four three years in a row; from that point on, AFTER he made the Final Four three years in a row, UCLA went 58-32 in Pac-12 games, but only 2-3 in NCAA tourney games- they told Howland to take a hike. Why?!?!?!?!?

Cincinnati made the NCAA’s the last nine years, but since 2013, they’re 3-4 in 1st round, 0-3 in the 2nd round, and never made an Elite 8 under Cronin. Uh-oh. 

11) There are 354 Division I teams this year; Merrimack joins the NEC this year, after Cal Baptist  joined the WAC and North Alabama joined the Atlantic Sun. 

10) Keep in mind that the 3-point line has been moved back 16.75 inches, to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches. The NBA arc is 23 feet, 9 inches. 

They used the longer international arc in the NIT last spring; teams shot 2.2% lower behind the arc than they did in the regular season. 

9) Five coaches on the hot seat:
— Dave Leitao, DePaul— LY’s 19-17 mark was their best in 12 years, but then the NCAA came calling. Last 4 years, Blue Demons are 16-56 in Big East games, and they’re cheating. Oy.
— Danny Manning, Wake Forest- Deacons are 24-66 in ACC games under his watch.
— Matt McCall, UMass— When you finish 13th two years in a row in a league called the Atlantic 10 (they have 14 teams), your job is going to be in jeopardy. 

— Shaka Smart, Texas— His Longhorn teams are 31-41 in Big X games, and they don’t play the same fast-paced style his great VCU teams played. Why?
— Patrick Chambers, Penn State— 8 years, 0 NCAA bids; last year, 8 of 14 Big 14 teams made the NCAA’s. PSU is a football school, but Chambers still needs to show progress.

8) Gonzaga is the only team in the country that has made the Sweet 16 the last five years. 

7) Athlon Sports top 6 teams for this season:
6— Memphis Tigers
5— Florida Gators
4— Louisville Cardinals
3— Kentucky Wildcats
2— Duke Blue Devils
1— Michigan State Spartans

6) Brad Brownell has been Clemson’s coach for nine years; in four of those years, Clemson finished .500+ in ACC games but didn’t make the NCAA’s. They need to win more games in December, but they were in the Sweet 16 two years ago. Brownell is a good coach whose job is a tough one- they lost five of their top six scorers from last year’s 20-14 team. 

5) Five most impactful freshmen this year:
5— Nico Mannion, Arizona- Scoring PG whose dad played in the NBA.
4— Anthony Edwards, Georgia- 5-star recruit from talent-rich Atlanta.
3— James Wiseman, Memphis- 7-1 center who needs work on offense.
2— Isaiah Stewart, Washington- Young man from Rochester, NY is long way from home.
1— Cole Anthony, North Carolina- His dad Greg was UNLV’s PG in the Tark glory days. 

4) Some programs win no matter who the coach is.. Check out VCU’s record:
1999-2002— Mack McCarthy, 65-55, 35-32 in CAA
2002-06— Jeff Capel, 79-41, 50-22 in CAA
2006-09— Anthony Grant, 76-25, 45-9 in CAA
2009-15— Shaka Smart, 163-56, 38-16 in CAA, 36-14 in A-14
2015-17— Will Wade, 51-20, 28-8 in A-14
2017-19— Mike Rhoades, 43-23, 25-11 in A-14

3) Five of this year’s better transfers:
— Omer Yurtseven, NC State to Georgetown- Scored 13.5 ppg for the Wolfpack.
— Quade Green, Kentucky to Washington- Will be Huskies’ PG after the 1st semester.
— Malachi Flynn, Washington St to San Diego St— Scored 15.8 ppg for the Coogs. 
— Koby McEwen, Utah State to Marquette— Bolted Logan after they fired the coach.
— Jalen Harris, Louisiana Tech to Nevada— Wolf Pack literally wouldn’t have been able to field a team the day they hired Steve Alford. Harris scored 15.3 ppg his last year at Tech. 

2) Under Chris Beard, Texas Tech is 8-2 in NCAA tourney games; before Beard became Tech’s coach, Tech was 8-16 all-time in NCAA tourney games.

1) Georgetown played the fastest tempo games of any Big East team last year, playing the 25th-fastest tempo in the whole country. I wonder what John Thompson thinks of that?

Patrick Ewing has changed the Hoyas’ program into one that plays fast, which helps recruiting— Hoyas are 34-29 under Ewing, 14-22 in Big East games, but they were 19-14, 9-9 LY. They’ll be an interesting team to watch this winter. 

Tuesday’s Den: 13 of my all-time favorite TV shows…….

13 of my favorite TV shows (in alphabetical order):
— Batman— When you’re six years old, and in the opening credits every week, they show “WHAP!!! POW!!! BIFF!!!” and your name is Biff, this quickly becomes a favorite show. 

The villains were some pretty big stars back then (Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Liberace, Ethel Merman)

I haven’t seen much of the Batman movies that have been made over the years, but the TV show had some humor; one week there was a 3-foot Martian on the loose in Gotham City, and Robin blurts out “Holy interplanetary yardstick, Batman!!!” Good stuff. 

— Billions— Showtime series about a hedge fund manager who pushes the boundaries of the law while his marriage falls apart. His arch-enemy is a prosecutor in NYC who is into S&M and his wife is his dominatrix— the wife is also the psychiatrist for the hedge fund manager’s company. 

Small world. This show is really well-written- the next season will probably run after football season. 

Trivia: Paul Giamatti plays the prosecutor; he is the son of former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti. I suggested a cameo role for Pete Rose, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

— CSI— I spent a good chunk of my work career searching fingerprints and working for the NY State Division of Criminal Justice, so I enjoyed all the CSI shows, but especially the one set in Las Vegas— the actors seemed to have a chemistry working together. 

One of my weirder ideas (a teacher friend of mine scoffed at this) is that CSI should be taught to all high school kids, so they realize how difficult it is to get away with crimes, so maybe there would be fewer crimes. What could it hurt?

— Green Acres— As a kid, I spent lot of hours watching Green Acres re-runs; my dad would walk into the room, say “Why the hell are you watching that?”, but within five minutes, he’d be sitting there laughing harder than me and would leave the room before my mother came in and saw the both of us laughing. She wasn’t a big fan of Hank Kimball or Arnold Ziffel. 

— Law and Order— 20 years, 456 episodes, a great launching point for lot of acting careers, not to mention the spinoff shows that branched off this original show. 

Take Billions; there are 32 actors who have appeared in 12+ episodes of Billons; 14 of those 32 actors appeared in at least one episode of Law and Order, and two others were in Law and Order SVU, and that doesn’t count Eric Bogosian, who was in Law and Order: Criminal Intent for 61 episodes, but was only in 10 episodes of Billions (so far). 

— Magnum PI— I’ve never been to Hawai’i, but if I ever went, would like to visit Robin Masters’ estate; I’m told you can visit there, it is kind of a museum or something. 

One of the best episodes was when Frank Sinatra played a retired New York City cop whose granddaughter was murdered— this was near the end of both the series and Sinatra’s career. 

The overriding themes of the show were that great friends will do all kinds of stuff for each other, and if you’re really good looking and drive a Ferrari, women will like you 🙂

— M*A*S*H— Years later, after watching re-runs of this show on our local channel 10 and the Boston channel for hours at a time, it dawned on me that this was actually a very sad show, with humor/jokes masking the grotesque sadness of wartime Korea. 

The McLean Stevenson episodes were the best; he was Colonel Henry Blake for the first 75 episodes, and a lot of them were classics, just funny as hell. 

— Mr Ed— This show ran on network TV from 1961-66, so I never saw it until the re-runs came on at 4:30 weekdays on a local channel in the early 70’s. Mr Ed was a talking horse, but he only talked to Wilbur Post, an architect who worked at home but never actually seemed to work. 

Mr Ed was a big Dodger fan; his favorite player was OF Willie Davis. In one episode, the horse takes batting practice against Sandy Koufax, and hits a ball off the wall at Dodger Stadium, with the bat held in his mouth. A fun show, not necessarily a realistic one. 

— Odd Couple— As a kid, Oscar Madison was one of my heroes; a sportswriter who always spilled food on his clothes but was a good natured guy who somehow dated a doctor or one of the Pidgeon sisters. 

To this day when I see my cousin’s husband, we recite lines from Odd Couple episodes; when they owned a greyhound racing dog , or appeared on Password (a game show), or when Oscar dated a princess from some obscure European country “You bought her a salty pretzel; oh, boy!!!” Great stuff. 

— Ray Donovan— The most violent program on this list; just about everybody on this Showtime series that isn’t related to the Donovans eventually winds up dead. 

Ray Donovan is a fixer for rich people, but he can’t fix his own family; his wife passes away from cancer, and the last time we saw him, he was still struggling with that. 

Live Schreber plays Ray, Jon Voight plays his father (a genuine creep); they’ve had guest stars like Susan Sarandon, James Woods, Wendell Pierce, Hank Azaria. Alan Alda, C Thomas Howell. 

Very good show but also very violent. 

— Suits— This show is winding down its last season on USA Network; it is about a law firm that hired a young guy with a photographic memory who had one small problem— he is a college dropout who never went to law school, but he gets paid to take bar exams for other people. 

The show had to change directions because one of the actresses (Meghan Markle) moved to England after she married Prince Harry in real life. Her character was married to Mike (the fraudulent lawyer) so they got written out of the last couple years of the show. 

— West Wing— Martin Sheen plays the President in this show; his cabinet included Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer— great cast.

Actor Duke Hill was in both West Wing and Suits; Mary Louise Parker was in this and is also in Billions. Alan Alda was in this, Ray Donovan and of course, M*A*S*H

Jimmy Smits, Mary MacCormack, Tim Matheson, Gary Cole, just a ton of excellent actors. 

In one episode, President Bartlet has to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles’ game, but he never played ball, so one of his aides has to teach him how to throw a baseball in a hallway in the White House, where an errant toss breaks an expensive vase. 

— White Shadow— Ken Howard plays a washed-up NBA player who becomes a high school basketball coach in Los Angeles. Show only lasted three years, because well, high school kids graduate so they would’ve had to turn most of the cast over every other year. 

The basketball scenes were really well-done; Gwyneth Paltrow’s father was the creator of the show. Lot of the issues they tackled in this show were issues that real high school in the inner city had to deal with. Ken Howard was great as Coach Reeves; he wasn’t some all-knowing guy; he had flaws but he fought for his kids and they respected him for it (most of the time). 

Teams’ record in series

Teams’ records in series (road/home)

Ariz        9-8-4……..9-9-1
Atl          13-5-2……12-4-4
Cubs      5-14-2……14-1-5
Reds       4-9-7……..9-6-5
Colo       5-12-3……12-5-3
LA          11-6-3…….16-3-1
Miami   6-11-2……6-12-3
Milw      7-11-2……10-6-4
Mets      7-12-3……10-5-3
Philly     8-8-3…….11-8-2
Pitt         8-11-2…….7-9-3
StL          8-11-2……10-6-3
SD          8-10-2…….7-11-2
SF           9-9-2……..8-9-3
Wash     8-8-4……..11-8-1

Balt        4-14-2…….3-14-3
Bos            11-9……….6-7-6
ChiSox    6-10-4………8-7-5
Clev         9-8-5……..11-6-4
Det          3-12-5……..3-16-1
Astros     11-8-2……..15-1-2
KC           2-15-2……..5-13-2
Angels    9-10-3………9-9-1
Twins     11-6-3………11-6-3
NYY         9-5-4………16-3-3
A’s            9-8-4………13-4-3
Seattle     9-11-1………6-12-2
TB           13-4-3………10-7-3
Texas       4-11-5………11-5-4
Tor            7-9-4………4-14-2

Sunday’s List of 13: Some early college football knowledge for Labor Day weekend

13) Oregon has their entire offensive line back from last year (153 starts), but last three years, they’re 3-11 vs spread as an underdog, 6-13-1 ATS outside Pac-12. Ducks also have a senior QB (28 starts)- they open with an Auburn squad that has five seniors starting on OL (104 starts), but Tigers have a new QB- they’re 8-16-1 vs spread in last 25 non-SEC games. 

12) Virginia Tech won three of last four games with Boston College, winning 23-10/26-10 in last two visits here- road team won four of last five series games. Since 2012, Hokies are 6-16 ATS as a road favorite. 

11) Georgia won four of last five games with Vanderbilt, winning 45-14/31-14 in last two visits to Nashville. Under Kirby Smart, Dawgs are 7-4 ATS as a road favorite; last two years, Vanderbilt is 1-5 ATS as a home underdog.

10) Last two years, Kentucky is 0-9 vs spread as a home favorite. 

9) Since 2014, Northwestern covered 14 of 17 games as a road underdog. 

8) Last two years, Fresno State is 22-6 SU, 5-0 vs spread as a road underdog, 8-2 vs spread outside Mountain West. Bulldogs have a new QB this year and an inexperienced offensive line, o they figure to take a step back despite having an excellent coach in Tedford.

USC has a soph QB (11 starts), three soph starters on OL; they crushed Fresno State 52-13 (-20) in last five meeting five years ago. Last two years, Trojans are 3-9 ATS as a home favorite; they start Pac-12 play (Stanford) next week.

7) Pittsburgh won its last four games with Virginia, winning 31-14/26-19 in last two meetings here. Under Narduzzi, Panthers are 17-11 ATS as an underdog- last three years, they’re 5-3 as a home dog. Since 2010, Virginia is 2-3 as a road favorite. 

6) Since 2014, UCLA is 4-13-1 vs spread outside the Pac-12; they’ve got 19 starters back, are 6-8 ATS in last 14 games as a road underdog. Last six years, Cincinnati is 10-18 ATS outside AAC; under Fickell, Bearcats are 4-5 as a home favorite. 

5) Utah won its last three games with rival BYU, by 1-6-8 points; Utes have senior QB (19 starts) but their OL has total of only 49 starts. BYU is 13-15 SU last two years; under Sitake, Cougars are 0-3-1 ATS as a home underdog. 

4) Since 2012, Tennessee is 11-23 vs spread as a home favorite. 

3) Colorado won its last four games with Colorado State by average score of 33-12 (3-0-1 ATS); Buffs have a new coach and a senior QB (27 starts). CSU has a very young OL (26 starts); last three years, Rams are 10-4 vs spread when getting points. 

2) North Carolina has a new QB, a new/old coach (Mack Brown) and a thin OL (48 starts); they lost last meeting with South Carolina 17-13 (+2) in 2015. Gamecocks covered six of last seven games on neutral fields; since 2012, SC is 2-5-1 ATS as a road favorite. 

1) Houston is 7-1-1 vs spread in last nine games as a road dog; they upset Oklahoma 33-23 (+12) in last meeting three years ago, but Holgorsen was 0-7 vs Sooners when he coached WVU. Oklahoma beat West Virginia 59-56 (-3) in LY’s meeting; Sooners scored 52.8 ppg in winning last five games against Holgorsen’s defense. 

Saturday’s List of 13: Clearing out a cluttered mind……..

13) This week, Toronto rookie Bo Bichette became the first player since 1900 to hit a double in nine straight games, and he did it in his 11th career game. Not a bad start to his career. 

12) Patriots 31, Lions 3— Total yardage in this game was 459-93, in a freakin’ preseason game. Neither starting QB played. I’m guessing the home fans weren’t too pleased with this showing. 

This is where I remind you that Detroit fired coach Jim Caldwell after consecutive 9-7 seasons, so they could hire New England’s defensive coordinator, who then went 6-10 LY.

Last time the Lions won a playoff game was 1991. No bueno.

11) I still struggle with analyzing NFL exhibition games and figuring out how much they mean; the Ravens never lose them, the Falcons never win one. Outcomes of a lot of the games will be decided by guys who will be bartenders or driving UPS trucks in a few weeks. 

Most coaches don’t game plan for exhibition games, but some do; Arizona Cardinals huddled in their game Thursday, but aren’t expected to huddle at all on September 8. 

Avoiding injuries and determining who will win the final roster spots are really the most important part of these games. 

10) Two years ago, Cleveland Browns went 4-0 in preseason, allowing a total of 29 points. There was a lot of optimism on Lake Erie. Then they went 0-16 in the regular season. 

For most part, I would disregard scores of exhibition games; injuries to key people matter, like the Eagles losing their backup QB for six weeks Thursday. 

9) Titans 27, Eagles 10— Eagles’ backup QB Nate Sudfeld broke his left (non-throwing) wrist Thursday night; the other two backup QB’s on Philly’s roster are suspects more than prospects, so they better keep oft-injured starter Carson Wentz healthy while Sudfeld’s wrist heals.

8) If any of you play fantasy soccer or are interested in starting to do it, here is an article I recommend, because my godson wrote it and he knows a lot about soccer:

7) Baseball stuff:
— Mets signed 2B Joe Panik, who was cut by the Giants the other day.
— Twins put DH Nelson Cruz (wrist) on IL. 

6) Someone bet $10,000 on the Vikings at CG Technology Friday, at 20-1 odds, which is a lot of faith in a team whose $28M a year QB has never won a playoff game. 

5) Bill Walton is going to broadcast a White Sox game with Jason Benetti when the Pale Hose go to Anaheim next Friday. They’ve done college basketball games together, but there is lot more dead time in a baseball broadcast. This should be interesting.

4) In case you wondering, Bryce Harper has hit his 204 career home runs off of 159 different pitchers. 

3) BYU basketball star Yoeli Childs will miss the first nine games this coming season because of a paperwork screw-up when he declared for the NBA draft last May, then decided to return to BYU after testing the draft waters.

2) This Antonio Brown thing isn’t going well…….according to Mike Silver:

“……..Brown, according to witnesses, typically glances at the screens of several tablets and his smart phone during meetings, distracting himself by engaging in activities which include perusing his bank accounts and “liking” photos on Instagram.”

“the meeting thing isn’t that bad… but the feet, helmet and going dark is an issue.”

1) Chargers’ backup QB Easton Stick has a great name; how many guys you know who are named after an aluminum bat? Stick was 49-3 playing QB at North Dakota State, where he took over for Carson Wentz. He looked good playing ball in Arizona Thursday night. 

Monday’s Den: NFL knowledge on a summer day…….

13) Since 1992, Detroit Lions are 0-8 in playoff games; but from 2014-17, Lions were 36-28 in regular season, their best regular season run since a 29-19 run from 1993-95, when they went 0-3 in playoffs those years under Wayne Fontes. 

But the Lions fired Jim Caldwell after going 9-7 in 2017, and went 6-10 last year, scoring 86 fewer points (5.38 ppg) than the year before, under new coach Matt Patricia. Go figure. 

Just because you know Tom Brady doesn’t make you head coaching material. 

12) Arizona Cardinals have a rookie QB and a rookie head coach, a coach who got fired LY by Texas Tech after going 35-40 in six seasons, 16-21 the last three years. He was 1-2 in bowls. 

Kliff Kingsbury is Arizona’s third HC in three years; not sure why they canned Brice Arians, but it was a big mistake. Now they’ve gambled on Kingsbury, who threw two passes (1-2 for 17 yards) in his only NFL game as a player, for the 2005 Jets. 

Kyler Murray threw 42 TD passes in his only year as Oklahoma’s QB; he turned down a baseball contract from the A’s, and now he will be in the national spotlight- his first game is at home against Matt Patricia’s Lions, who are 6-2 in last eight season openers, but lost 48-17 to the Jets in Patricia’s first season opener.  

11) Not to be a pessimist, but Arizona’s backup QB’s are Brett Hundley (3-6 as a starter for the ’17 Packers), Chad Kanoff (Princeton alum who was on Arizona’s practice squad LY) and Drew Anderson, who threw 20 TD’s with 15 INT’s for I-AA Murray State last year. 

Not exactly a stellar group of backups; if Murray stinks or he gets hurt, they’re staring another 3-13 season in the face. 

10) Joe Flacco will be Denver’s QB this year, their 8th different #1 QB in the last 13 years. 

Broncos won the Super Bowl four years ago, but haven’t been back to the playoffs; they went 11-21 the last two years, their first consecutive losing seasons since 1971-72. 

9) Oakland Raiders have had one winning season the last 16 years; they went 12-4 in 2016 thanks in large part to a +16 turnover ratio, but Derek Carr got hurt at the end of the regular season, and backup Connor Cook was overmatched in 27-14 loss to Houston in the playoffs, which is Cook’s only NFL appearance. 

Raiders are moving to Las Vegas next year; they’re 10-22 since that playoff loss, and Gruden has nine years left on his $10M a year deal. They open the season with divisional home games with Denver, Kansas City, then don’t play at home again until November. 

8) Over last 13 years, Washington Redskins are 0-3 in playoff games; QB Alex Smith is out with a broken leg, so this year they’ll have their 11th different starting QB the last 20 years. Keep in mind that New England has had one starting QB since midway thru 2001, except for the year Brady got hurt. 

Case Keenum is playing for his 4th team in four years; he went 21-18 the last three years, but now he is probably the placeholder for yet another rookie QB, Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State. 

Keenum will be able to write a hell of a book someday, and after this year he’ll have made $16M the last four years, but his wife is probably sick of packing. 

7) Eagles were -6 in turnovers LY after going +17 in Doug Pederson’s first two years as Philly’s coach; they still went 9-7, and upset the Bears in a playoff game, but now Nick Foles is a Jaguar and the pressure is squarely on Carson Wentz, who is 23-17 as a starter in his first three years as the Eagles’ QB, but it was Foles who orchestrated the Super Bowl run. 

Under Pederson, favorites are 7-2 vs spread in Philly’s divisional road games, but 5-10 in their non-divisional games. Eagles are 4-2 as a home underdog under Pederson, after going 0-8 from 2010-15. 

6) Deshaun Watson threw for 4,165 yards and 26 TD’s LY, 2nd most TD’s in Texan history (Matt Schaub threw 29 in 2009); Houston was 11-5, after starting season 0-3- they were +15 in TO’s, after going -12 the year before, when Watson got hurt. 

Under Bill O’Brien, Texans are 42-38 in regular season, 1-3 in playoff games; they’re 18-11-1 as a home favorite, 12-5 outside their division, 6-6-1 vs AFC South rivals. 

In O’Brien’s first four years, he had a different QB every year (Fitzpatrick, Hoyer, Osweiler, Watson), so at least now they’re settled at QB, which is no small thing. 

5) New Orleans Saints went 24-8 the last two years, with dramatic playoff losses to Vikings, Rams; Drew Brees will be 41 in January- he threw 184 fewer passes LY than he did in 2016, as Sean Payton takes heat off him by running ball more. 

Last year, New Orleans held six of its last eight regular season opponents to 17 or fewer points, as they became less free-wheeling while going 13-3. Last three years, Saints are 17-7 vs spread on road; since 2014, they’re 12-20-1 vs spread as a home favorite. 

Last five years, over is 26-14 in regular season games in the Superdome. 

4) Miami Dolphins are on their 7th head coach since 2004; they’ve played in one playoff game since 2002- their last playoff win was in 2000, when Dave Wannstedt was their coach. Now the Dolphins’ coach is Brian Flores, another guy who became a head coach because he knows Tom Brady. 

Who will be the QB, much-travelled Ryan Fitzpatrick, or 2nd-year guy Josh Rosen, who went 3-10 LY with 11 TD’s, 14 INT’s for a dysfunctional Cardinal offense. Fitzpatrick will be the first NFL QB to throw a pass for eight different teams- he is 50-75-1 as an NFL starter, wth his only winning season a 10-6 mark for the ’15 Jets. 

Miami plays the Jets in Weeks 9,14; their old coach Adam Gase was hired by Gang Green after the Dolphins fired him. Gase went 23-25 in three years with Miami. 

3) Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl seven years ago, are 49-47 since then, 1-2 in playoff games; Joe Flacco is in Denver after 11 years as a Raven, and mobile Lamar Jackson is in charge of running the Baltimore offense. Jackson was 6-1 as a starter LY (Flacco was 4-5); he completed only 58.2% of his passes but ran the ball for 695 yards, five TD’s. 

Ravens were -3 in turnovers LY after going +22 the previous two years; last three years, they’re 2-8-1 vs spread as a non-divisional road underdog. 

With a young QB like Jackson, should the Ravens’ QB coach be a guy who played QB in the NFL and can be a mentor? Baltimore’s QB coach is a guy who was a D-3 receiver in college, not sure how much that helps Jackson, and Jackson’s development is essential for the Ravens- this backup Robert Griffin III has a broken thumb. 

2) In four years under Dan Quinn, underdogs are 21-11 vs spread in Falcon home games; Atlanta is 3-0 as a home underdog, 11-18 as a favorite. Falcons slipped to 7-9 LY after going 21-11 the previous two years (3-2 in playoff games). Home teams covered 10 of their last 12 divisional games. 

Falcons don’t play a game outdoors this season until November 17 in Charlotte; their first five road games are all in domes. Last two years, Atlanta is 4-12 vs spread on the road. 

Mike Smith was 56-24 in his first five years as Falcons’ coach, but after 4-12/6-10 years, he was told to take a hike after the ’14 season. Does Quinn need a winning season to keep his job? He went 7-9 LY, after a 29-19 run succeeding Smith. 

1) Minnesota will have same QB starting in consecutive years for the first time since 2014-15, but Kirk Cousins has a 34-37-2 career record with only one playoff game, a 35-18 loss to Green Bay in 2015. Cousins makes $28M a year, now he needs to play like it.

Last year’s offensive line coach passed away just before training camp, which was a tragedy with lasting effects. Now Gary Kubiak is in Minnesota and the OL coach was in Denver for 15 years. Zimmer is a defensive coach; Vikings are going to run the ball to protect their defense.

In five years under Zimmer, Minnesota is 22-10-1 as a home favorite, 10-6 as a road favorite, 20-16 as an underdog. He’s been a profitable coach to back. 

Saturday’s Den: College football knowledge……..

Numbers/ratings in this list are from Phil Steele’s college football magazine:
13) Top 3 quarterbacks in country:
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Justin Herbert (Oregon)

12) Top three offensive lines in country:
Oregon, Georgia, Clemson

11) Most experienced offensive lines in country:
Oregon, UL-Monroe, UL-Lafayette, Texas Tech

10) Teams who lose lot of close games one year tend to improve the next year; these teams had 4 net close losses last year:

Arkansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Western Kentucky (2 have new coaches this year)

9) Teams who win lot of close games one year tend to regress the next year; these teams had 4 net close wins last year:

Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas

8) Michigan State gained 18.3 yards per point LY, 2nd-worst in country, which means their defense/special teams provided very little help to the offense. As a result, Spartans regressed from a 10-3 record in 2017 to 7-6 LY. 

Here is how Michigan State fared the last six years:
2013-15: 36-5 W-L, +46 turnover margin
2016-18: 20-18 W-L, -1 turnover margin

7) Then there is Utah State, which gained only 10.46 yards/point LY, best in country, as they jumped from 6-7 to 11-2, and their coach jumped to Texas Tech for more money. 

Aggies were +14 in turnovers LY, after being -2 in turnovers from 2015-17. 

6) These four teams had the best defensive yards/point in country LY:

Clemson, Fresno State, Kentucky, Mississippi State— Bulldogs have only 9 of 22 starters back this season; other three teams all have only four starters back on defense. Experienced teams tend to get the most out of what they have, then take a step back when new guys step n. 

5) These three teams had the worst defensive yards/point in country LY:
Bowling Green, Louisville, Western Michigan 

Louisville went 57-21 from 2012-17, then went 2-10 LY and fired the coach; Bowling Green also fired its coach, who was 9-27 the last three years (they were 28-14 from 2013-15). 

4) Toughest schedules in country this fall:

South Carolina, Auburn, USC, Texas A&M

3) Since 1991, 353 teams went -10 or worse in turnovers; 67% of them improved the next year, only 23% got worse: 

-17: UTEP, UConn
-14: East Carolina, Rutgers
-12: Louisville, UL-Monroe

2) Since 1991, 440 teams went +10 or better in turnovers; only 28% of them improved the next year, 64% got worse:

+22 Georgia Southern
+16 Kansas
+14: UCF, Utah State
+13: Syracuse, Ohio U. 

1) Over the last seven seasons, 53 teams were +14 or better in turnovers; 45 of those 53 teams did worse the following season.

Kansas went 3-9 with a +16 turnover ratio, which isn’t easy; they fired the coach and brought in Les Miles, so the Jayhawks will be a fascinating study for the next couple years. Miles will improve their talent base.