Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year: 2018 Prediction Post

Following the lead of the Old Blog I think it wise to continue a tradition that I've held for a few years now by offering up my predictions for 2018.  Some of these are serious, some not so much. In this crazy world I'll leave it to you to determine which is which.....

1. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) will be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

This will return sports betting to legal status and will all but put an end to the Multi-Billion dollar illegal gaming syndicate and bring gaming into the light.  In some states. In others, like Texas where I live, gambling will continue to be illegal and underground so unregulated shops will still exist.  In states where there is already a sane policy toward gaming sports books will open in casinos across the land. Online sports betting will continue to grow and, unfortunately, so will the preponderance of commercials on television (or whatever replaces it).

This will, naysayers prophesies of doom notwithstanding, have a negligible effect on Vegas. People will continue to travel there as much as they do now.  Because it's Vegas.

2. 2018 will be the year that horse racing corporations finally end their takeout insanity.

They're going to have to. Because the Vig on sports betting is 5%, while the take out on horse betting can run as high as 30% (or higher).  Horse racing is a dying industry, but it doesn't have to be. What they don't seem to understand in the corporate offices is that there's no better feeling than holding a ticket on a 30/1 shot whose rushing down the stretch in the lead, or hitting a Pick 4 that pays 50/1 on your initial investment, or watching your 4th choice come in on the back of your Superfecta.

It's up to serious horse players to put a stop to all of this and stop wagering in jurisdictions that continue to approve high-takeout percentages.  This is not just a financial issue, it's a moral one as well.

3. Park MGM will open with slot machines, despite rumors to the contrary.

Failing to include these tiny individual profit centers would be a stupid decision by MGM. A company that, unfortunately, seems to lead the way in stupid decisions.

4. Vegas Casinos Will Continue to not understand the so-called "Millennial problem".

Instead, they'll continue to chop the odds and increase the house edge. By doing this they will ensure that people stop gambling as much in their casinos.  The BEST way to combat this is to support them when they stop doing these stupid things, CET has bettered the odds at the Cromwell make sure that you spend a portion of your gaming budget there when you're next in town.

Closer to Houston (where I live) I would advise that you stay at Golden Nugget but dedicate most of your gaming budget to L'Auberge, who has slightly better odds/rules across the board.

In Las Vegas, avoid MGM, WynnCore, Venetian/Pallazo and most of the Strip. Even the Golden Nugget downtown.  Stay in those places sure, see shows, go to night clubs, but move your gaming elsewhere.  If say, the Boulder Highway (which has much better odds) and other off-strip areas show marked increases while the Strip and Fremont (More on them later) continue to decline, even the dolts that run the big gaming corporations will eventually figure it out.

5. 18 Zero Roulette is coming.

It will have a bet minimum of .25 cents, a house advantage of 87% and the tables will be packed. (See prediction #4)

6. College Football will start to discuss a sea-change in realignment.

I don't think it will happen in 2018, but discussions surrounding 4 16 team super conferences will start to be seriously considered next year, just not implemented.

I predict that, eventually, the large schools will also determine that leaving the umbrella of the NCAA is better for business than being regulated in the same manner as Conference USA schools. I've already laid out how this would work, you can find it in the archives of this blog.

7. Lane Kiffin will return to a Power 5 head-coaching job.

I know, he just signed a 10 year extension at FAU, but if he keeps winning there will be a school that takes him in. In fact, were I the AD at Kansas I'd reach out to him and see if there's any interest right now, extension be damned. (The above advice also applies to Rutgers, Oregon State and Illinois.)

Hey, it can't hurt.

8. All things come to an end, and so will the career of Tom Brady.

I think that next year will be the last year for Tom Brady as an NFL quarterback.  Don't ask me why, I just do.

9.  Your team is going to be great, play honorably, and be a bastion of winning the "right way". Every one else is cheating.

Feel good about yourself.  It's sports.

10. I will have a winning year with sports betting. Trust me.

I have no historical evidence as to why you should believe this, but it's true. 

And....that's that.

Here's hoping that 2018 is good to you and that a vast majority of your tickets are winners.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part VII)

We're nearing the home-stretch now. Don't nap out on me.

Let's just get to the games....

TaxSlayer Bowl. 12:00 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 30th.

[8-4] Louisville (-6.5) vs. [8-4] Mississippi State  T: 63

This is your last chance to watch Lamar Jackson play in a college football game. Don't miss it. Unfortunately you won't get to see him take on Miss State's Nick Fitzgerald, who suffered that brutal ankle injury in the Egg Bowl. Add to that the fact that MSU head Coach Dan Mullen has taken his chin to Florida and I think the Bulldogs are in for a rough night. That said, Louisville's defense could be called "not good" so MSU has a puncher's chance at least.

Pick: Louisville to COVER -6.5 and OVER.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl. 12:30 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 30th.

[7-5] Iowa State vs. [10-2] Memphis (-4.0) T: 65.5.

What if I told you that Iowa State's LB/QB Joel Lanning was an Iron Man player who will see snaps on offense, defense and special teams? What if I told you that Memphis all-World WR Anthony Miller was a walk-on?  Iowa State's story this year has been great, but I think Memphis should easily be ranked higher than they are. I expect Tiger QB Riley Ferguson to come out and put on a show. Plus, the Memphis defense is not good but Iowa State's offense has been leaking oil down the stretch. Translation: A TON of points.

Pick: Memphis to COVER -4 and OVER.

Playstation Fiesta Bowl. 4:00 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 30th.

[10-2] Washington vs. [10-2] Penn State. (-2)  T: 55.

It's unstoppable force meets (sorta) immovable object as Penn State's outstanding RB Saquon Barkley takes on the Nation's top-rated Rushing defense from Washington. Up the middle, Barkley could find the going rough, but I think James Franklin has had plenty of time to realize this and we're going to see many, many variations of the toss sweep and screen passes to get Barkley the ball in space. Of note: on the three occasions Penn State did struggle, it was against teams that ran the ball well. The same argument could be made for Washington however, they just faced teams determined to run the ball less often.

Pick: Penn State to COVER -2 and UNDER.

Capitol One Orange Bowl. 8:00 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 30th.

[10-2] Miami vs. [12-1] Wisconsin (-6.5)  T: 45

The Orange Bowl is a classic motivation game. Both teams had designs on making it to the College Football Playoff and both teams fell JUST short.  Who shows up to play determines the game.  Miami's turnover chain was the most fun thing in college football this year and they're going to need it to make multiple appearances to win.  Wisconsin is not a team that typically turns the ball over but QB Alex Hornibrook can become loose with the football. I think Wisconsin has something to prove and Miami comes out flat.

Pick: Wisconsin to COVER -6.5 and OVER.

Outback Bowl. 12:00 PM ET. Monday, January 1st.

[8-4] South Carolina vs. [8-4] Michigan. (-7.5)  T: 43.

All season long I've refused to pick Michigan games. I'm a fan and am admittedly either incredibly positively biased or overly pessimistic. Call this game the latter. Don't get me wrong, I still have faith in Harbaugh, but it's not as much as it once was and I consider next year to be a critical year.  South Carolina and Michigan are almost identical teams. Very good to great on defense, sketchy as hell on offense.  Get ready for some hitting, sexy punting and field goals.

Pick: South Carolina to COVER and UNDER.

Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl. 12:30 PM ET. Monday, Jan 1st.

[12-0] Central Florida vs. [10-3] Auburn. (-9.5) T: 67.

There is so much wrong with the lines on this game I don't know where to start.  If Auburn wins by more than 9.5 there's no way the total is going to be close to 67. If UCF covers there's no way the game is not going over.  UCF has had a dream season but Auburn's defense is like nothing they've ever faced.  UCF also struggles defensively and Auburn QB Stidham should be able to take advantage of that. Idiots such as Paul Finebaum and others think UCF has no chance and are going to get "dusted". I think UCF has enough offensive firepower to keep it closer than the experts think. This is not going to be your grandparents SEC "defensive battle".

Pick: UCF to COVER -9.5 and OVER.

Citrus Bowl, 1:00 PM ET. Monday, Jan 1st.

[9-3] Notre Dame vs. [9-3] LSU (-3) T:  51.5

The public perception for this game is way off. Everyone sees LSU vs. ND and they think a defensive battle is brewing, but neither of these defenses has been especially good this year, and LSU doesn't do the one thing ND needs them to do: turn the ball over. LSU has been playing much better since laying an egg against Troy, and EVERYONE gets up to play the Irish.  Notre Dame still can't score. That's a problem for them.

Pick: LSU to COVER -3 and OVER.

And, except for the College Football Playoff, that's it.  We'll be back with one last installment before the Semi-finals, and then we break down the championship game and then we're done with college football (sob) for around 7-8 months.

Enjoy the games.

Friday, December 29, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Looking pretty good heading into the home stretch.)

After the horrible, no good, very bad day on Wednesday, Thursday looked a lot better.

I went 6-2 for the day missing (badly) on Virginia and by a couple of points on TCU. Still, I nailed the other two games and all of my over/under predictions were spot on.  That improves me to 29-21 (58%) for the bowl season and while it doesn't ensure a winning bowl season it gets me one step closer.

Yesterday saw a couple of themes continue:

1. The B1G continues to play winning bowl football. Michigan State's demolition of Washington State improves their conference record to 3-0 so far, with many games ahead that I consider winnable.

2. Oklahoma State saw two all-time greats for their program go out in style.  Mason Rudolph and James Washington Jr. own most of the school's passing related records and closed the show with a Touchdown pass from Rudolph to Washington that was fitting as a capper to both of their careers.

3. The Pac-12's down year continues.  Thank goodness for Utah.  And while I think USC has a very good chance to win I don't think that Washington does. This was a bad year for the conference but I think they have good things to look forward to.

Tonight starts the "New Year's Six" games with USC and Ohio State playing in the Cotton Bowl.  The "little" bowl games are behind us, bring on the big boys.


College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part VI)

If you're not exhausted by now, you will be later.

Today's slate gives us the first of the inaccurately named "New Year's Six" bowls later in the day and a host of tasty appetizers before then.

Let's get to it.

The Belk Bowl. 1:00 PM ET. Friday, Dec 29th.

[7-5] Wake Forest (-3) vs. [7-5] Texas A&M  T: 65

The Demon Deacons and the Aggies have had uneven, at times frustrating seasons. Both SHOULD show up to play for this game with pride on the line.  The Deacons want to win close to home, and the Aggies want to both win for former coach Kevin Sumlin, AND impress incoming boss Jimbo Fisher.  As a happy surprise, aTm playmaker Christian Kirk is planning to play.  Despite all of this I think Wake Forest is the better team here, they've got better wins and the ACC schedule is tougher than the SEC schedule right now. Plus, they didn't get humiliated in any of their losses.

Pick: Wake Forest to COVER -3 and UNDER.

Hyundai Sun Bowl. 3:00 ET. Friday, Dec 29th.

[8-4] North Carolina State (-6.5) vs. [7-5] Arizona State.  T: 59.5

God bless the Sun Bowl, an American Treasure that's been going since the 1930's. Also, the only jewel in CBS' bowl package.  And it doesn't even feature the SEC.  I was not high on either of these teams to start the season but I did eventually come around to NC State.  That said I think that Arizona State has more talent than they've shown of late, something I don't see improving under new HC Herm Edwards (once he figures out the team's mascot that is). The Sun Devils will score points but their problem is that their defense is god-awful.

Pick: NC State to COVER -6.5 and OVER.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. 4:30 PM ET. Friday, Dec 29th.

[7-5] Kentucky vs. [9-3] Northwestern. (-7.5)  T: 51

I'll be honest, as a Michigan fan I thought this was to be our location with Michigan State in the Outback and Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl. But, the Outback Bowl had other plans.  What this provides us with an interesting match-up against two non-traditional football schools who have been running better of late. Northwestern is the hottest team in the land right now and Kentucky has been struggling, and might even lose their head coach after this game. I don't think this one is going to be all that close.

Pick: Northwestern to COVER -7.5 and UNDER.

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl.  5:30 PM ET. Friday, Dec 29th.

[6-6] Utah State vs. [6-6] New Mexico State University (-4)  T: 61.5

While most people are going to ignore this game, it's worth watching for the New Mexico State Aggies making only their 2nd bowl appearance of all time, right before they get booted out of the SunBelt and go independent next year. Neither of these teams has a win over anyone bowl eligible and neither team is going to set the world on fire but I'm going to be rooting for NMSU regardless. Occasionally, in sports, fairy tales do occur.  I'm pulling for one here between two teams that really don't have much to differentiate them from one another.

Pick: NMSU to COVER -4 and UNDER.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. 8:30 PM ET. Friday, Dec 29th.

[11-2] University of Southern California vs. [11-2] Ohio State (-7.5)  T: 64.5

The only thing that would make this game any better were if it were played in Pasadena and Keith Jackson came out of retirement and called it, in his prime of course. The Trojans vs. the Buckeyes ARE big time college football.  These are also two of the most supremely talented, yet disappointing, teams in all the land.  I think OSU is a little better on defense and I think Urban Meyer is going to do what he usually does and rely on the legs of Dobbins and 10th year Sr. JT Barrett. Will this be enough against a good and smoking hot USC team?

Pick: USC to WIN on the ML and UNDER.

Up next we'll round up the remaining non-playoff games and then focus on the final two.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (An update on a no good, awful, very bad day.)

Into every life a little rain must fall.  Yesterday felt like a deluge.

Prior to yesterday I was feeling pretty good about my abilities as a prognosticator, going 21-13 over the first 17 bowls I had high hopes leading into Wednesday.

It was not to be.


One lousy over and a Purdue team that barely covered the -2.5 line that I had them at. (note: good lines are good lines).  Everything else was a tire fire.

So now I sit at 23-19 and just over 50% (54.76%) with no margin for error in terms of overall profitability.

I need a good day, and a strong finish to salvage what has been an awful year.

Head up though, because these things happen.  Sports betting is not, as some puff-piece, over-hyped, pieces of questionable journalistic integrity will tell you, a "sure thing". In fact, MOST people lose, and lose badly at it.  If you don't think that the odds always favor the house then you have not been paying attention.

Touts, and trust-fund babies like Rob Gorodetsky, give you the washed and sanitized version of things, posting old lines (and then charging you for them despite the fact that you cannot find them anywhere), selectively choosing to update their record. ("an 8-0 run!!) ignoring losses etc. and, my favorite, playing fast and loose with "units" to make it seem like small hits are bigger than they really are.

Yes, I sometimes will post a stale line on this blog, because when I do my analysis that's the line that I'm writing about. I often make posts days in advance.

And I warn you of that.  I'm also not charging you for anything you read on here. Nor will I ever.

Because I don't WANT you to follow my advice. I don't WANT you to bet my plays. In fact, if I do bet them, the bet is already long made before you read it on here.  What I'm doing, and what the best do, is providing what I hope is entertainment.  Touts and people like Rob Gorodetsky don't want to entertain, they want to enrich themselves on your losing back.

Now, the sports betting world is a harsh one. Don't mistake that. The so-called "sharps" can be some of the most disagreeable people you've ever met. They're arrogant, angry to a fault, and too quick to demean people who don't see things their way.  Their numbers are their Bible and going against their play is akin to personally insulting their betting baby Jesus. They don't take it well.

Earlier this morning It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part V) ran and it included picks for five games, all of which will be played today.  If you're betting them I wish you luck.  I only hope that I get a little of it on the back end because I need it after yesterday's blood-bath.

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part V)

As we start to get into the heart of the bowl season it's time to recognize and acknowledge something:

The matchups so-far have been pretty good this year, with only one or two projected dogs. Of course, that doesn't mean that all of the games have been great, they haven't, but on paper at least the respective bowl committees got it right.  

The same can be said as we get into the big games, there are mostly solid match-ups featuring compelling games with just one or two potential dogs in bunch.

Off we go....

Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman. 1:30 PM ET. Thursday, Dec 28th.

[6-6] Virginia vs. [6-6] Navy (-1.5) T: 52.

Both of these teams backed into this bowl with Navy losing six of their last seven and Virginia losing five of their last six. The game is being played on Navy's home field, during the Christmas break.  What that means is that this could be a pro-Virginia crowd as many of the students (the fans who attend their games) will be out of town. I like Virginia here because their defense does do a pretty good job against the run and history has shown us that the time to play a triple-option offense is when you get three - four weeks to prepare to play a triple option offense. Bronco Mendenhall is building something at Virginia, winning here would be a good step.

Pick: Virginia to WIN on the M/L and OVER.

Camping World Bowl. 5:15 PM ET. Thursday, Dec 28th.

[9-3] Virginia Tech vs. [9-3] Oklahoma State (-5.5) T: 63.

This bowl is where all of the Austin sports scribes promised us the Longhorns would land, up until the point they lost their last game of the season to finish 6-6.  In reality they were probably playing more to avoid the Texas Bowl, and a match-up with aTm that no one in Austin really wanted. In the end the Aggies bailed and we get an excellent matchup between the Hokie's Bud Foster and the offensive mind (and mullet) of Mike Gundy for the Cowboys.  Both teams have played similar schedules, and lost games to similarly good teams.  I'm expecting an interesting game that ends up with only moderate scoring.

Pick: Oklahoma State to COVER -5.5 and UNDER.

San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl. 9:00 PM ET. Thursday, Dec 28th.

[9-3] Washington State vs. [9-3] Michigan State (-2)  T: 47.5

Luke Falk is a talented quarterback who tends to throw a BUNCH of interceptions, Michigan's State's defense intercepts the ball a lot. If those trends don't reverse in this game, Wazzu could be in a heap of trouble against a Michigan State offense that grinds it out with RB LJ Scott and quarterback Scott Lewerke. Washington State has the better speed, Michigan State has power.  Don't overlook the potential game-changing ability of Wazzu LB Hercules Fata'ata however.  That said I think Michigan State will have too much.

Pick: Michigan State COVER -2 and OVER.

Valero Alamo Bowl. 9:00 PM ET. Thursday, Dec 28th.

[9-4] Stanford vs. [10-3] TCU (-3.0)  T: 48.5

If healthy, Bryce Love going against TCU's nasty front-seven is worth a watch in and of itself. But I'm just not sure that Love is going to be 100%.  I hope he is though, because if so this is one of the best matchups in the bowl season, PROVIDED both teams show up.  As the 'first bowl out' of the big bowls for both the Big and Pac Twelve conferences motivation is often a factor in how good these games are.  I think TCU's offense is underrated.

Pick: TCU to COVER -3.0 and OVER.

After these slates, take a rest.  There's plenty more to come tomorrow.

Enjoy the games.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Houston Texans: The Accountability Myth.

Since their inception, the Houston Texans have been a model franchise.  If, that is, you want to see how NOT to build a team from scratch. The only better model is the Cleveland Browns, but I'm assuming you don't want THAT type of ineptitude, you want something that's just going to be good enough to occasionally make the playoffs and continuing to hoover up fan dollars without actually having to make the tough decisions that lead teams to deep playoff runs.

Of course, this has some in Houston Media perturbed.

Rick Smith must answer questions!!!!!

Bob McNair must answer questions!!!!

Why should they?

Ignoring the fact that we're all better off when old Bob keeps his mouth shut there's very little that they're going to say which would indicate that they understand there is a problem.

Fire Rick Smith?  *pshaw*

Rick Smith and Cal McNair are inseparable.

Have Rick Smith answer questions?  And say....what exactly?  Do you expect some mea culpa to emerge that he doesn't know what he's doing and that the lack of an offensive line, the sorry state of the defensive backfield or the total lack of depth on this team is entirely down to his sub-par ability to evaluate talent?

Because you're not going to get that. You're going to get a "woe is me" picture of injuries and Cushing blaming and all of the other crap excuses that this team continually makes.

Yes, the Texans have faced some brutal injuries this year.  First it was JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus on the same play, followed by DeShaun Watson, but lest we forget, despite some big wins and offensive output, all the Texans were doing WITH Watson was losing in a spectacular fashion more often than not.

A healthy Watson probably gets this team to 9-7, without Watson they are a horrid 4-11 right now and having to beat the lowly Indianapolis Colts to avoid finishing in the basement of the putrid AFC South.

But by all means, lets have the owner and GM answer the media's questions, assuage their bruised egos. Not that it would do any good.  Because it's the writers themselves that are a large part of the problem in Houston.

A few weeks ago I was listening to sports talk radio (don't ask) when John McClain, the Chron's version of "he must be an expert because he's done it for a long time newspaper football scribe, was waxing authoritatively on Houston's quarterback future.

In short, he was making the case that the Texans needed to "bring in a veteran quarterback to "mentor" Watson" he suggested former Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Never mind that this advice was silly (clearly, Watson does not need mentoring) and possibly racist, it also revealed a general lack of understanding of the modern football game.

What the Texans should do is spend a 5th or 6th round pick on a quarterback who could come in, learn from Watson, run the same offense and do some of the things that Watson does. But that way of thinking is so foreign to McClain that he didn't even listen to the radio host (Sean Pendergast) who was laying that out to him.

Then there's the real problem:  The Texans fans.

On Christmas Day (Aside: STOP playing games on Thursdays and Christmas NFL, just STOP) the Steelers visited the Texans in a game that was neither competitive or all that compelling, except that the Texans quarterbacks continued the season-long trend of leaving the game after being concussed (about that O-line Rick Smith).

And Reliant Stadium was packed.

If you want to send a message you don't pack a stadium to watch a 4-10 disaster get boat-raced out of the stadium by one of the best teams in the league.

You stay home. You don't watch, you don't call into talk radio shows about it you ignore the team and pay attention to the Rockets or other things. (Hint: Find a provider that offers NFL Red Zone and keep the dial there if you must have an NFL fix) Take up a hobby, spend Sundays with your family.

You don't show up to the game.

Then again, when you think about it. Houston is a sorry excuse for a sports town, the Houston Chronicle is a sorry excuse for a newspaper and the Texans are a sorry excuse for a NFL Franchise.

They deserve each other.

Continue on then.

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!! (Update)

After 18 games my record stands at a fairly respectable 21-13. That's around a 62% winning percentage. (I did not have an opinion on the Celebration Bowl, although I did watch it)

What we've seen, so far, is that it's very difficult to figure out which teams are going to come to play, and which teams are just going to lay an egg. (Hi, Toledo!)  Overall the first 17 bowl games have been disappointing, given how enticing many of the match-ups looked on paper. Again, motivation among 17-22 year old men is often a difficult thing to grasp.

Now: A word about the lines.

MOST of these posts I wrote during the evening well before the games were played. The lines were accurate at the time that I wrote them to the best information that I could find.  I used The odds available on ESPN and, if unavailable there I used the consensus odds found on Odds Shark.

For the upcoming games, I updated these odds at 10:00 PM, December 26th. (Which is the time that I authored this post, to run in the morning)  I will try to update the odds on the playoff games prior to them kicking off but I cannot guarantee that I'll update them all before then.

IF I made bets on the games, and I'm not playing all of these, then the odds posted are what I took. Your mileage may vary.  Since I'm not selling these picks I feel no special obligation to keep the odds updated. In other words, if you can't find them when they publish they're probably stale.

Amazingly, there are still 22 games left to play and we're only 5 days away from the New Year which means that there are a ton of bowls being played over the next few days. (An average of 4 per day).

Good luck to you and enjoy the games, especially if you're off work. (Sadly, I work the rest of this week)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part IV)

Here's hoping that you got everything you wanted on Christmas Day, and then some. That you spent quality time with your loved ones and that you and yours had an all around good time.

Here's also hoping that your picks were winners.

It's after Christmas now so let's dive directly into the games.

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl. 1:30 PM ET. Tuesday, Dec 26th.

[6-6] Utah (-6.5) vs. [7-5] West Virginia  T: 56.5

The line for this game opened at -4 for Utah and immediately started falling the Utes way. Mountaineer Quarterback Will Grier has announced he's coming back, but all-star RB Justin Crawford is sitting out this game for business reasons (aka the NFL draft). That's too bad because a 100% WV defense vs. a healthy(ish) Utah defense would have been a sight to see.  If WVU is one-dimensional I think they are in some trouble, UNLESS Utah returns to having difficulties fielding a competent offense. There is a question if Grier can play due to his horrific looking broken finger against Texas. If not then WV will trot out Chris Chuganov and....oh boy.

Pick: Utah to COVER -6.5 and UNDER.

Quick Lane Bowl. 5:15 PM ET. Tuesday, Dec 26th.

[6-6] Duke (-5.5) vs. [8-4] Northern Illinois.  T: 47.5

This game is going to be all about the turnovers. When they win, the Blue Devils are a ball-hawking group who put their limited offense in a good position to score easily, Northern Illinois does not protect the football.  This game opened at minus two and a half and has slid toward Duke ever since. The primary reason for this is because. UNI will be without star running back Jordan Huff, which is going to put more pressure on the passing game, and the questionable quarterback play of Marcus Childers.  I don't expect a lot of points in this game, as both defensive units are better than the offensive units they will be facing.

Pick: Duke to COVER -5.5 and UNDER.

Cactus Bowl. 9:00 PM ET. Tuesday, Dec 26th.

[7-5] Kansas State (-2.5) vs. [6-6] UCLA  T: 64

Call this the "Goodbye Bowl", maybe.  You're certainly seeing UCLA QB Josh Rosen for the last time in College Football (He'll likely be the number one pick in the NFL Draft next year) and it could possibly be the last game for KSU legend Bill Snyder. If that's the case enjoy it, because I expect Rosen to try and put on a show and KSU to basically try and bully the Bruins into submission.  the problem for UCLA is that they are the finesse team's finesse team, lacking any physicality at all.  That makes them ripe for the picking by a K-State team that's tough and aggressive, but overrated as a well coached team that doesn't make mistakes to beat themselves (they do, quite frequently often, especially in big games).

Pick: K-State to COVER -2.5 and UNDER.

Walk-On's Independence Bowl. 1:30 PM ET. Wednesday, Dec 27th.

[8-4] Southern Mississippi vs. (6-6) Florida State (-16.5)  T: 49.

I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not watching this game and neither should you. To get to this game Florida State had to play funny with their schedule and re-add a game against UL-Monroe just to hit six wins. The Seminole's former head coach Jimbo Fisher is now an Aggie, which makes this the saddest continuation of a bowl-streak ever.  The feeling is that Florida State will out-talent Southern Miss, which discounts a little bit the fact that the AAC is very close in talent to some Power 5 schools. The problem for Southern Miss is that they really don't.  That said I think they're in with a chance given the situation at FSU.

Pick: Southern Mississippi to COVER -16.5 and OVER. (UPDATE: This line is falling. FAST. Now down to -14.5. I hope you grabbed this early.)

New Era Pinstripe Bowl. 5:15 PM ET. Wednesday, Dec 27th.

[7-5] Iowa (-2.5) vs. [7-5] Boston College T: 45

Yes, it's going to be boring, a slog, a "good old fashioned defensive battle" but one that I think Boston College has the horses to win. The good thing?  If Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz plays BC close he'll probably get another contract extension out of the deal. Iowa had one of the greatest traditions this year turning around and waving to the Children's hospital after the first quarter. No matter how many times I saw that, or stories about it, the room got dusty. BC's Freshman RB Dillon is the real deal. Look for a defensive slug-fest though.

Pick: Boston College to COVER -2.5 and UNDER.

Foster Farms Bowl. 8:30 PM ET. Wednesday, Dec 27th.

[7-5] Arizona (-3.5) vs. [6-6] Purdue  T: 65

Go ahead and watch this game and get a jump on water cooler talk about next year's Heisman race in the person of Arizona QB Khalil Tate. The guy is electric and I'm sure he would like to have a coming out party here, with most of his games being buried late night or on Pac-12 Network previously, this will be the first chance for many to watch him play.  Purdue has a pretty good defense so I don't think a ton of points will be scored here but I do think Arizona has the better athletes and enough speed to pull of a comfortable win.

Pick: Arizona to COVER -3.5 and UNDER.

Academy Sports & Outdoors Texas Bowl. 9:00 PM ET. Wednesday, December 27th.

[6-6] Texas-Austin vs. [7-5] Missouri (-2.5)  T: 60.5

Let's get this out of the way early: The start time on this game is AWFUL.  Starting at 8PM local time it's not going to be finished until 1AM on the East coast.  And a ton of people have to work on Thursday.  Missouri has been read hot since the mid-point of the season and UT-Austin is learning that returning to prominence after a beloved coach almost destroyed the program is a tough ask.  Mizzou OC Josh Huepel is off to coach at UCF so it will be interesting to see how their play-calling goes.  IF they can continue to click on offense it could be a long night for the Fighting Hermans.

Pick: Missouri to COVER -2.5 and OVER.

In case you're not keeping count, that's two days and seven games worth of college football.  After this batch of games we start to move into the big-boys games including many teams that you've seen play all year several times.

Enjoy the games.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Believe, in the spirit of the Season

As is custom, the blog will be taking a break during the Holidays. Although I do have some posts schedule for bowl season in the coming weeks I'll mostly be taking a break from blogging to recharge and spend time with my friends and family.

It is my sincere hope that you do this as well, regardless of which Holiday you celebrate.

So Happy ChrismaHanukKwanSolstimas to all and to all a good ROI.

Friday, December 22, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part III)

Consider this group of bowls an early Christmas gift.

It's filled with games that, despite only featuring one Power 5 team, have the potential to be some of the better games of the bowl season, IF both teams decide to show up.

With that, let's get to the games.

Birmingham Bowl. 12:00 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 23rd.

[6-6] Texas Tech vs. [9-2] University of South Florida (-2)  T: 66

The secret to this game being entertaining is whether or not South Florida shows up. We already know their fan base isn't motivated, and it's not all that clear the team is either.  That said, Texas Tech should be happy to be in any bowl given their recent history.  The eyeball matchup in this game is USF's Sr. Quarterback Quentin Flowers vs. Tech signal-caller Nick Shimolek. Last year Flowers put on a show in this very same bowl game, a 46-39 overtime win over South Carolina. Both teams can score a ton, and both defenses are suspect. IF USF shows up willing to play this game could hit the over by halftime. I have a sneaking suspicion Flowers will be ready, and he'll make the rest of the Bulls ready to play as well.  It doesn't hurt that some will (wrongly) view this game as an NFL audition for Flowers.

Pick: USF to COVER -2 and OVER. (Way, way over)

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. 3:30 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 23rd.

[10-2] San Diego State (-6.5) vs. [9-3] Army  T: 46.

Minus 6 1/2 for a favorite is what's known in sports betting parlance as a "good line".  And this is a doubly good line because I think SDSU's rush defense is strong enough to put the brakes on Army's run it or nothing triple option. This game is also probably your last chance to see Aztec RB Rashaad Penny before he heads to the NFL. IF he plays that is. It's also a chance to enjoy, and appreciate, service academy football one more time this season. After this game all of the Seniors move on to graduate and fulfill their service commitments. Unfortunately my thought is they go out to NavyTown in a loss. (Despite beating Navy and winning the Commander in Chief's Trophy)

Pick: SDSU to Cover -6.5 and OVER

Dollar General Bowl.  7:00 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 23rd.

[8-4] Appalachian State vs. [11-2] Toledo (-7.5)  T: 61.5

Remember in Chapter II when I said this next chapter would include what I feel is a very underrated match-up?  This is that game. Toledo won the MAC Conference and features QB Logan Woodside, Appalachian State won the SunBelt and features QB Taylor Lamb. Both are excellent QBs and both have talent around them.  I think the difference in this game is the Mountaineer's ability to run the ball against Toledo's pillow soft run defense. Also, and this might be a little controversial, but I believe the tip-top of the SunBelt was better than the tip-top of the MAC this year.  Shoot out coming though. One last thing, + 7.1/2 is also considered a "good line" in sports betting parlance.

Pick:  Appalachian State to COVER +7.5 and OVER

Hawai'i Bowl. 8:30 PM ET, Sunday, Dec 24th.

[9-4] Fresno State vs. [7-4] Houston. (-2.5)  T: 49.5

If for nothing else, this game is worth watching to get one last chance to see Ed Oliver play. Houston's Defensive End is a monster and will certainly be a high first rounder should he stay healthy next year and bolt to the NFL Draft. He's that good. Jeff Tedford has done a good job with the Bulldogs this year, Houston has played much better since head coach Major Applewhite figured out that a quarterback with skills like D'Eriq King is required to properly run their offense. For the Cougars also this will be the last game for Stefen Bonnar III and Lance Dunbar, possibly the best WR tandem in college football this year. It's hard to tell what the motivations for both teams will be, but if both come to play then the Cougars have better dudes than Fresno. Third game today with a "good" number FWIW.

Pick: Houston to COVER -2.5 and UNDER.

And that gets us up to Christmas.  After the Hawai'i Bowl it's presents and egg-nog and too much food and finding ways to ignore the NFL game on Monday (Texans vs. Steelers??? Yuck) Still, the NBA is typically pretty good on the 25th or you could do the unthinkable and spend the day with your family.  The latter is my plan.

Merry ChristmaHannuKwanzolstis to all of you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part II)

Into life, a little sadness must fall.

With 40 (!!) games on the bowl schedule it's only natural that a dog or three is going to squirm into the mix somewhere. Unfortunately, we're going to have to get through these games to get to the good stuff.  That said, sometimes the games we think are going to be unwatchable turn into some of the more fun games of the year so let's see.

But first, a recap of Part I:  I went 9-3 over the first six games which is not half bad.

I don't have much hope for this first bowl however.

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl. 7 PM ET. Tuesday, Dec 19th.

[10-3] Florida Atlantic (-22.5) vs. [7-6] Akron.  T: 64.

Pity the poor Boca Raton Bowl, whose first choice of teams were off the board before they even got to make a selection.  They tried, grabbing home-town FAU which should assure a good crowd, but got stuck with Akron who are projected to be nothing more than fodder for the Owls.  Like him or not Lane Kiffin can coach offense, and his FAU Owls are very, very good at it.  They ran the table, and won, in Conference USA and I'm predicting they have no problems with a Zips team that backed its way into the MAC Championship before being blown out by Toledo.  Zips head coach Tommy Bowden says that this time it's all about improving the lives of young men. He's going to have a good chance to teach them how to deal with a blowout loss with class methinks. Still, this game is on a Tuesday night and if it gets bad you can always watch Christmas specials.

Pick: Florida Atlantic to cover -22.5 and OVER.

DXL Frisco Bowl, 8PM ET. Wednesday, Dec 20th.

[6-6] Louisiana Tech vs. [7-5] SMU (-5)  T: 70

SMU is the favorite in this game, but I'm unsure how a team that lost Chad Morris and downgraded significantly in the coach's office to Sonny Dykes should be viewed as such.   It's an open secret that Dykes wants the Texas Tech job once held by his father, in fact, it's rumored that Cal let him go because he was too open in politicking for the same, but his overall coaching record is sub .500 and I've yet to see any evidence that he's all that good of a coach. On the other side Louisiana Tech has Skip Holtz, another legacy coach who's not as good as Daddy, but probably better overall. What Dykes will have is one of the best WR tandems in the country in the persons of Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn. Louisiana Tech counters with Teddy Veal and Rhasheed Bonette. Both defenses are porous and rely heavily on getting turnovers.  That said, I think there are severe motivation concerns for SMU, which could lead to this being a dog of a game.

Pick: Louisiana Tech to win on the ML and UNDER.

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.  8PM ET. Thursday, Dec 21st.

[6-6] Temple (-7) vs. [8-4] Florida International  T: 56

This game, named after a Pirate, not a flower, is the second chance for the American conference to prove their "Power 6" gap over the remaining Power 5 conferences.  But Florida International, coached by Butch Davis, has a better than average chance of upsetting the American apple cart, as teams have the past few years. In fact, since starting the power 6 marketing campaign last year the conference has gone 2-5 in bowl games. that's not very good considering they view themselves as vastly superior to the other four "non-power" conferences.  After the SMU game above I think they'll find themselves in yet another hole and they're going to look to Temple to bail them out.  I see this as a high(ish)-scoring affair and a close one. I think the spread of -7 is ludicrous.

Pick: Florida International to COVER +7 and OVER.

Bahamas Bowl. 12:30 ET, Friday December 22nd.

[8-4] UAB vs. [8-4] Ohio (-7.5)  T: 56

Regardless of the outcome of this game the story of the UAB Blazers is one of the feel-good stories in college football this year.  Having shuttered the program 2 years prior due to oppressive rulings from the parent University in Tuscaloosa which made competing difficult, the Blazers listened to public outcry and reestablished college football this year.  With a new conference (Conference USA) and the same coach (Bill Clark) the players and business community raised the funds necessary and revived the team, which is rewarding them with a bowl game and successful season.  They square off against an Ohio team that I picked (incorrectly) to win the MAC but who stumbled down the stretch and didn't even get to play in the championship game. For the Blazers, Freshman RB Spencer Brown is a star in the making but he's going to be facing a Bobcats defense that stuffs the run, but is vulnerable to the pass. The question will be whether UAB can pass the ball enough to score against Ohio, and whether their defense can stop a Bobcats running attack which is by committee, and keeps running out fresh legs.

Pick: UAB to COVER +7.5 and UNDER.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 4:00 PM ET. Friday December 22nd.

[7-5] Wyoming (-1) vs. [8-4] Central Michigan.  T: 44.5

I would not be surprised at almost any result in this game, other than a blowout one way or the other. Both teams have over-hyped quarterbacks (Wyoming has knicked-up Josh Allen [who might not play] while CMU has former Michigan signal caller Shane Morris) who have failed to live up to expectations. Both teams have trouble moving the ball and, most importantly, converting on 3rd down. Both teams have bend but don't break defenses who are excellent at getting turnovers. On the streaky front, CMU is hot (winning five out of their last six) and Wyoming is stone cold (losing their last two) and neither offense is what you call stellar. Still, 44.5 is a ridiculously low line for college football.  In games like this it comes down to coaching, and I like Wyoming's Bohl over Central Michigan's Bonamego to develop a winning game plan in just under 4 weeks.

Pick: Wyoming to COVER -1 and OVER.

We'll do a post later in the week examining the weekend games, including one of the games that I think might be THE non-playoff game to watch this bowl season.

Enjoy the games.

The Shield: Another crisis averted?

Something in this story struck me as wrong....

Panthers’ Jerry Richardson may have saved NFL from prying into dirty laundry. yahoo! sports

The lawyers who spoke to Yahoo Sports on Sunday said that was the massive red flag in the Sports Illustrated report on Richardson: That he allegedly used non-disclosure agreements with four former employees to shield his actions. An act that could potentially protect him from some form of litigation, but also keep him in the good graces of the league.

So, the problem (for the NFL) is not that Richardson was a serial sexual harasser, but that he used non-disclosure agreements to keep it from the League?

OK then.

The continued unraveling of the NFL is a horrific, sad, and often fascinating thing to watch. You can't imagine that their attitude on this one is going to help their public relations any.

Granted, it's not as bad as Mario Batali's apology and pivot to cinnamon rolls but it does continue to make an out-of-touch, poorly ran, tone deaf league appear even more so.

Friday, December 15, 2017

College Football: It's Bowl Season!!!!! (Part I)

40 Bowls (Not counting the Championship game)

So many bowl games, and so little time to watch them given your, likely, busy year end work schedule, Holiday Parties and gift wrapping, getting ready for Santa etc.

Fortunately, for you, I've taken a look at most of them and am ready to offer up totally irrational opinions here.  I won't be watching all of them, but I will be watching most of them.  Unlike some I love bowl season. It's like the dessert we earned from stuffing ourselves on the buffet of the College Football season.

R +L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. 1PM ET Saturday, Dec 16th.

[10-2]Troy (-7) vs. [9-4] North Texas  T: 62.5

The RLC New Orleans Bowl is the crown jewel of the SunBelt conference. They play in it (every year) and they often win the dang thing.  This year the SunBelt gives us Troy, of the 'we beat LSU at home' Trojans who are favored by a touchdown over North Texas.  Both the Mean Green and the Trojans feature strong offenses, and little in the way of defense.  As such this game is expected to be an offensive showcase to kick off the bowl slate.  I don't see anything to dispute that except for the fact that North Texas will be missing their leading rusher (Jeffery Wilson) due to a foot injury.

Pick: Troy to cover -7 and OVER the total of 62.5.

AutoNation Cure Bowl. 2:30 PM ET Saturday, Dec 16th.

[6-6] Western Kentucky vs. [6-5] Georgia State (-6.5) T: 53.5

I think it's safe to say that both of these teams are coming off disappointing regular seasons as both expected themselves to compete for their respective conference championships. These teams had remarkably different seasons to boot.  Western Kentucky started off strong, then faltered down the stretch before beating rival Middle Tennessee State in the "100 miles of hate" game to become bowl eligible.  Georgia State, on the other hand, struggled at the beginning (Maybe they were shell-shocked in their new stadium) before charging down the stretch to finish with a winning record. The problem for Georgia State in this game is that they aren't good at stopping what Western Kentucky does well, passing the football, and they don't have the offensive firepower to take that much advantage of the Hilltoppers shaky defense. This feels like a ho-hum bowl game which should still draw just under a Million viewers on TV.

Pick: Western Kentucky to win on the ML and UNDER 53.5

Las Vegas Bowl. 3:30 PM ET, Saturday, Dec 16th.

[10-3] Boise State vs. [7-5] Oregon (-7)  T: 61.5

This is the first bowl game that we'll see which features a "great player who won't be playing" in the person of Oregon running back Royce Freeman.  Oregon will also be without former coach, and new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart. Still, these are two good teams and since Oregon's QB Justin Herbert will be playing the Ducks are much better than they would be otherwise.  Oregon's problem? They won't be "up" for this game and Boise State (the Mountain West Champion) will. Because the Broncos pride themselves on beating Power 5 teams.  Should be a close game however, and I have it pegged as the best game of the day.

Pick: Boise State to WIN on the ML and Under 61.5

Gildan New Mexico Bowl. 4:30 ET, Saturday, Dec 16th.

[7-5] Marshall vs. [7-5] Colorado State (-5.5)  T: 58.5

Here's the thing about this game. If you watch it you're going to be subjected to those truly awful Blake Shelton underwear commercials and that's just harsh. Another thing is that Colorado State's offense is very, very sputtery and Marshall's defense fell off a cliff in the last half of the season. Both of these teams are incomplete, especially on defense and both teams come into this game with something to prove (to themselves and their respective fan bases) so this game certainly comes with barn-burner potential.  I, for one, am intrigued by the match-up at QB between the Rams Stevens and the Herd's Litton.  Points will be plentiful.

Pick: Marshall to cover +4 and OVER 58.5

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. 8:00 PM ET. Saturday, Dec 16th.

[6-6] Middle Tennessee State vs. [7-4] Arkansas State (-4)  T: 62

The line for this game started at -3.5 for Arkansas State and has slowly slid toward the Red Wolves since.  Part of the reason for this is that it's widely speculated that Middle Tennessee State has severe "mail this one in" potential after a disappointing season. The Blue Raiders do have a potent offense and Brent Stockstill makes the game worth watching, but I think that the Red Wolves have too much on defense and Stockstill could have a long night behind a bad offensive line who's going to struggle to stop an Arkansas State pass rush led by NFL prospect Ja'Von Rolland Jones.  Still, there will be a LOT of flinging the ball around the yard in this one.

Pick: Arkansas State to cover -4 and OVER 62.

Enjoy the beginning of Bowl season. There's still some fun football to play.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017: The year in Gambling

Now that my last gambling trip for the year is complete I thought I'd share some thoughts after what was a moderately active year for me. Remember, these are worth exactly what you paid for them. These are the results of Vegas visits and reading news reports. Some are what happened, some are what I think might happen.

On a personal note, it was a good year in that I ended up only slightly down after 9 gaming trips, 3 to Las Vegas and Six to the local.  I finally broke my Royal Flush cherry, and then hit one again in Vegas. Slots were brutal this year with zero hand pays but, to be fair, I played a LOT less of them this year than in years prior. Still, it seemed like I would lose a ton of money on slots, and then have to fight back on VP almost every trip.  I played a lot fewer table games this year than I had initially planned, which is something I plan to remedy in 2018. I also never found the time to play craps, which is something that was on my "gambling to do" list for 2017.

The casinos are getting tighter. Shocker right?  It's a trend I've noticed as good games seem harder and harder to find, at least in certain locations.  The Strip and Downtown Las Vegas are especially horrid right now, almost unplayable except for as a time-waster and while their are still good games to be found at so-called "locals" casinos in Vegas (Boulder Hwy, South of town, off-Strip etc.) getting to them can be a chore so it's a give and take.  It's the opposite for casinos outside of Vegas, where competition is less and the casinos there have figured out they can have their machines set at the minimum allowed and the rules at the tables can be crap and people will still come.

But there is heartening news.  The decisions being made at the Cromwell are promising and we should all reward them for it by playing there. Hopefully if the casino execs see an increase in handle as a result of improving the rules/payouts more casinos will follow.

Addressing the so-called "Millennial problem". One thing the casinos are constantly getting wrong is the so-called "Millennial problem".  They don't gamble (false) or they want so-called "skill-based" slots (false).  What they really like are social games like craps, roulette and some of the carny table games. They want to be able to Instagram or Snapchat their wins immediately on the casino floor.  And they want reasonable odds while doing it.  There's a reason gaming $$$ continue to drop on the strip and it's not because the entire casino floor isn't littered with Gamblit tables. It's because the odds are horrid and people are slowly figuring that out.

Vegas as outlet mall. In retrospect, the Fashion Show mall was about a decade too early. With word coming out that WynnCore has purchased the former Alon casino site and that a planned casino resort that is heavy with upscale retail is the most likely use of it there is now more actual or planned shopping on the Strip than ever before.  Retail is the new night club and pools are the new social lounges.

The continued scarcity of comps. Drink monitoring systems are in place currently at almost all of the Strip bars with VP and I predict that by 2020 comped drinks on the casino floor will be a thing of the past, except in the VIP/High Roller areas. I'm not entirely opposed to this since it should free up the VP terminals and will lessen "drink vultures" who are just trying to swoop in and get free drinks for nothing.  The bad thing is getting rid of drink comps entirely would probably put thousands of cocktail servers out of work. If nothing else, I could see it go away for the penny slot area but remain for dollar slots, table games and the high limit lounges.

New rooms bring higher room rates. You don't think all of this renovation is going to occur in a vacuum do you?  With high occupancy rates and Vegas attracting a record number of visitors per year I expect rates to continue to climb. It's to the point now that you HAVE to have recently upgraded rooms on the Strip to compete, and they have to have an increased supply of chargers, outlets, etc.

Resorts are copying the airlines, and it's going to get worse.  Resort fees, parking fees, baggage handling fees you name it and the resorts are going to find a way to charge you for it. As a matter of fact, some casinos have reportedly hired people from the airlines to duplicate their success in charging and marketing fees as a "win" for customers, even if the customer's aren't buying that line of reasoning.

"Locals" casinos will start doing better business. I look at it like this: You want to stay on the Strip because the rooms are nice and all of the entertainment is there, but you're going to want to be playing elsewhere. This is true if you pay attention to odds and paybacks. Unfortunately most don't. It would be nice if more people would tell NYNY "Thanks for the $5 blackjack, but I'm not touching 1:1 with the dealer hitting on soft 17, no DAS, and only double on 10 or 11"  or tell Sands "Appreciate the $5 Roulette table but you can take that 3rd house number and shove it up Sheldon's ample backside." but they won't.  Because most people don't gamble enough to really pay attention to the odds and pays, they only see the low minimum bets.  That said, there are enough people out that that do care and understand the difference between  getting 9/5 DDB and 7/5 of the same and will elect to take their money elsewhere.  This is why the Cromwell should be rewarded for their better odds.

PASPA being shut down by the SCOTUS will have minimal effect on Vegas. And I do think it will be shot down.  But for all of the articles and all of the doomsday predictions I don't see any sign of the sportsbook boom going away.  People will still go to Vegas because of the atmosphere, the total uniqueness of it all and the amenities that you really can't get anywhere else.

and finally.......

Most states with casinos in place will approve sports betting, those without mostly won't. The casinos will HAVE to push for it or they will be left out. Feelings are once PASPA is ruled unconstitutional New Jersey and Pennsylvania will be the first to get things up and running (New Jersey would probably only take about a week) with most of New England following.  Surprisingly, Oklahoma should move pretty fast because the Indians don't need enabling legislation. California, Louisiana and New Mexico, followed by Mississippi would be the next dominoes to fall, with Arizona somewhere in there. I'd be very surprised if a non-casino state allowed it. For those of us in Texas, forget it. It took a miracle to get horse racing and the lottery approved and it's still not certain how much longer either lasts with an active arm of the Texas Lege trying to undo what they consider to be damage.

So, that's my thoughts on the state of gaming in 2017.

What say you?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Open Letters: Dear NFL, It's not me, it's you.

Hello "The Shield."

Rough game last night.

In fact, Rough few years.

For all of the sturm und drang surrounding Colin Kaepernick, President Trump, your multi-Million dollar contract with the Military that's forcing all of this on us, my real problem with you of late is that your on-field product is increasingly unwatchable.

And violent.

By now, with all of the information that we have at our disposal surrounding concussions and CTE there's no reason that the 'kill shot' tackle is still a part of the game. There's no reason you haven't taken college football's admittedly flawed targeting rule and implemented it in a better way to clean up the game and prevent shit-shows like we saw last night from appearing on our TV.

I don't tune in to watch people get hurt, although I understand that's an unfortunate part of any sport, nor do I like listening to your paid analysts and team employees telling me, "It's just part of the game" or that it's "AFC North Football".

No, it's not.

Cheap shots and projectile "tackling" with the head down isn't a part of any football, nor should it be.

Now, granted, I give you that us, as fans, shoulder some of the blame. For a few years there we cheered mightily (and some still do) at "big hits" and ESPN ran "Jacked up" with players getting eight bells knocked out of them and we cheered. I think that all stopped though with the Junior Seau tragedy and it certainly has no place in the modern game.

The problem is that the "Modern NFL" game isn't all that good. You give us a slew of bad teams in prime time games in a league where maybe only a third of the teams put forward a really good product. You can't even fill a playoff bracket with 12 teams that deserve to be there.

Beyond the hits, the quality of play is atrocious. The coaching is overly conservative (Another field goal?) the offenses are stale and the defenses, when they're not busy knocking their opponents out, are about as sophisticated as the Wing-T offense of old.

There's little drama, an even smaller chance of upsets (have you seen how the favorites are doing in Vegas lately?) and no compelling reason to tune in.  In fact, there are more reasons to not watch your product than there are to spend most of my Sunday watching sub-par, poorly officiated, socially inept football players competing in a game that's feeling more like a grind than entertainment.

Everything you do is manufactured. You can't even get touchdown celebrations right. No one knows what a catch is or isn't any longer to the point that so-called "rules experts" for the networks are incorrect over half the time regarding the results of instant replay.

You've done a great job of creating an arbitrary rules framework for a game built on the precise. The result of this is an unwatchable product that drones on, 4 yard play after 4 yard play with the "wildcat" still being considered edgy. You're a copycat league, trailing behind college football innovation by around 5 years.

All of this and we haven't even mentioned Roger Gooddell yet.  Your commissioner seems to view the rules and norms of punishment and investigatory best practices to be annoyances to his wish to pursue and punish at his whim. But he's very good at negotiation apparently, which is why your labor contract is head and shoulder's more owner friendly than any other sport.

You think this is a good thing but the result is that there's a level of distrust between the players and the league that permeates every thing you do, every decision you make and taints every so-called "player friendly" action you take.

That you're mostly a bunch of unlikable sots only adds to the dysfunction. Every community outreach, charitable event that you hold feels forced, like you're only catering to the fans suddenly because you feel the need to after years of ignoring them.

The problem, NFL, is that many of us have decided that it's past time for us to start ignoring you.

I, for one, am finding better things to do on my Sundays, and I'm noticing that my life is no less fulfilled without you in it than it was when I was watching.

That should worry you, but I know it won't as long as the money is coming in and the taxpayers are still willing to be fleeced for Multi-Billion dollar shrines to your glory.

By the time you do worry it will probably be too late.  It might already be. (for you)

Monday, December 4, 2017

College Football: Bowl Hits and Misses.

40(!!!) Bowl Games. (Not counting the Championship Game)

If we're being honest that's about 10 too many. Despite this, there were three teams that obtained bowl eligibility but whose seasons are over.  Sorry Buffalo, Western Michigan and UT-San Antonio. (To be fair, they should be allowed extra practices the same as other teams who are eligible AND going to a bowl. Unless you're in the CFP, those practices are the main perk in becoming bowl eligible)

As is always the case we have some duds, and we have some games that should be a ton of fun to watch.  Here's my ranking of the bottom 5 and top 5 of all the bowl games. Staring with the worst.

***Note: I'm not saying these games are going to be BAD, only that the odds are they're going to suck. They could turn into instant classics and they sometimes do.***

40. Boca Raton Bowl:  FAU vs. Akron.

In a way you have to feel a little sorry for the folks running BR, the two teams they originally targeted were selected in front of them and they had to pivot to two conferences to which they had no ties and what we're stuck with is a dog of a game.

39.  Independence Bowl: Florida State vs. Southern Miss.

It's a Florida State team that had to reschedule UL-Monroe to keep their bowl streak alive, and playing with an interim coach to boot.  Meh.

38. Belk Bowl:  Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

A pedestrian Wake Forest team against an Aggie team with Jimbo just watching who took this game specifically to avoid playing UT-Austin in Houston.  Blech.

37. The Fiesta Bowl: Penn State vs. Washington

Two offensively challenged teams who both feature fairly decent defenses.  The final score could be 3-0. On the bright side: The mid-afternoon start time should allow for a Saturday nap.

36. The Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU

On paper this bowl isn't that bad but in reality we all know that this bowl is always the "Disappointment Bowl" as both teams are coming off of humiliating losses in their respective conference championship games.

The theoretical "best".

5. The Cotton Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC

JT Barrett vs. Sam Darnold.  Count me in.

4. The Liberty Bowl:  Memphis vs. Iowa State

A good matchup between a high-scoring Group of 5 team against everyone's underdog this year. Very interesting data point surrounding the relative strength of the American this year.

3. The Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon.

Herbert is back for Oregon, and Boise State has a history of showing up big against P5 opponents in bowl games.  Both teams should be motivated in this game. As a matter of fact, it's a good thing that Boise drew a Power 5 opponent or their game would have been in the bottom five.

2. The Birmingham Bowl:  Texas Tech vs. USF

These two teams could break the scoreboard. Neither really plays very good defense and offensively they both have the ability to score a TON of points. If you're a college football fan this game is must-watch TV.

1. The Peach Bowl: Auburn vs. UCF.

This is a good test for UCF against the runner-up in the SEC. Yes, the SEC was down this year, despite the fact that the CFP Committee decided to put two of their teams in the playoff, I think Auburn is a great matchup for the Knights. Offensively will Scott Frost be able to crack the Auburn code and can his defense do enough to stop the Tiger's power offense?  Easily the best of the NY 6 games.

The good news?  We have 42 games of FBS football left to play (Army/Navy y'all) and that's better than not having 42 games left.

The bad news?  We only have 42 games of FBS football left to play.

College Football: Nine Angry Old Men.

Nine Men.

That's all it takes to undo years of competitive messaging, send a firm message to teams that scheduling soft will be rewarded and make totally irrelevant the regular season.

Nine. Men.

And it's not just that Alabama beat out Ohio State for the fourth spot, and inclusion, in the College Football Playoff although that's what people will point to the most.  But the fact is that the decision between the two was a false choice between two horribly flawed teams, neither of whom probably deserved inclusion in the party.

But, by dropping Auburn below Washington, AND elevating Alabama AND dropping Miami behind Penn State the CFP committee has given the signal to teams that you are far better off scheduling soft (Alabama's strength of schedule was 57th) than you are scheduling tough (Imagine if Ohio State had played say...Mercer, instead of OU) or sitting home instead of playing in a championship game. (Penn State benefited from not playing, as did Alabama for that matter).

We've also been sent the message that rivalry weekend didn't matter at all.  The Crimson Tide looked outmatched, and were overran by Auburn, who ranked 7th in the final poll, they had no wins over a team in the final top ten and their best win was over No. 17 LSU, yet they got in.

The fact is that the best argument for Alabama was nothing that they themselves did, it was OSU's loss column.  The best argument against Alabama was their win column, and that one ugly loss to Auburn.

What we are, sort of, forgetting is that, in order to get Alabama in (the only team to be in all four years) the committee had to ignore all of their talking points from prior years.  Suddenly not playing in the championship game doesn't matter (to be fair, they did the same thing with Ohio State a few years back) nor does the now-mythical "body of work" argument that they used against Wisconsin and, to a greater extent, UCF all year.  Depends on whose body of work is being analyzed one guesses?

In fact, the biggest problem with the CFP is that it's showing itself to be nothing more than the B(C)S minus the lie of computer rankings and plus two teams. In short, it's a farce. A farce to ensure that the blue bloods of the world (Sorry Baylor and Oklahoma State) keep a stranglehold on the sport.

What the CFP IS NOT is a way to determine who the top four teams in the country in order to determine a National Champion.  The CFP IS an organ grinder, whose job is to focus your attention on the dancing monkey. Their job is to try and get the four biggest revenue generating teams possible into the dance, to ensure the blue-bloods have a hammer lock on the seats at the table. Their job is to be fluid in their requirements and rules so that no one can seriously question who the number 4 team in the country is in any given year.

In a way, it works, because I'm writing, and people are talking, about them despite the fact that, outside of the B1G and American, "Championship week" turned out to be a string of duds. Oklahoma destroyed an over-matched TCU team, Georgia thumped Auburn and Clemson utterly dominated a Miami team that had to kick a sad-field-goal just to not get blanked. Thank goodness that Ohio State and Wisconsin remembered to both play, and for the American which gave us the game of the year for the second week in a row.

Which brings us to UCF and the so-called "Group of 5".

Is UCF one of the "top 4" teams in the country?  No, I don't think so.

Does UCF deserve a shot at the crown?  Yes, I think they do.

But, they finished ranked number 10, which is just another data point in the argument that no matter what the best group of 5 team in the country does they are NEVER going to get to play in the CFP. While they have to schedule hard, the CFP has just told the Power 5 teams to schedule pillow soft.

They might want to sit out their conference championship games as well.

Finally: It is ironic that, during one of their worst seasons on record the CFP decided that the SEC was so dominant in the college football landscape that they were able to secure two slots.

That logic alone is enough for people to call for the entire committee to be relived of their duties.

College football is the best sport in the world and it is also one of the most poorly ran. (This excludes soccer, which is at a dysfunction level all it's own)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Open Letters: Dear UNLV, A small school rebuild is HARD.

Hello Rebels,

I know it hurts. Coming THIS close to a program-altering bowl bid and falling short by losing to your rival stings.  Many of you are angry, frustrated, wondering what can be done to right this ship and propel yourselves to Mountain West glory.  I understand, because I've seen this journey before.

But first, why I'm writing to you today.

You see, I'm a newly converted fan.

Granted, not a fan like I am a Michigan fan. As a matter of fact, if you played Michigan I'd be hoping that the Wolverines beat you by 40.  But against every other school in the country I'd be pulling for you.

Part of the reason is that I like your story, a school with little football success trying to build a program out of the nothingness of the desert in a town fueled by tourism and just starting to understand, and embrace, it's community.  In an effort to grow you've hired a local high-school legend to coach your team in what must feel, to some, like a last-ditch effort to save FBS football in your town.

In short, you're the Houston Cougars before Art Briles came to town. With, one major difference.


Houston is geographically advantaged in that they're in Texas. All they need do every year is recruit a 150 mile wide circle and they can compete in, and sometimes win, the American.  They can also grab enough talent to occasionally knock off the big boys.

You don't have that advantage, so you have to work a little harder.  So you scratch, and claw (my wife has dubbed you the Desert Rug Rats) and hope to build a winner.  And I think you can.  Because over the past 13 years that I've been a Vegas regular I've grown to like you, a lot. I think you have one of the better fields in the country (The Big Roulette Wheel) you have great uniforms, a good mascot and, until recently, a good logo.  You also represent my 2nd home town. Las Vegas. A city that I love probably even more than my actual home town of Houston.

And I don't just mean the casinos. I love the things that locals do, I've even been to a UNLV hockey game for chrissakes.  You are my new #2, team that is.

But there are some things we need to discuss.....

1. If not Sanchez, then who?

I realize that there are quite a few of you who are ready for Sanchez to go.  The losses to Air Force, BYU and especially Howard were hard to swallow. Top all of that off with a loss to Nevada - Reno and you had to be crying in your Mimosa on Sunday morning.

The problem with this is who would you hire that is a better fit? When Art Briles took over at Houston he went 7-6 then 3-8 and then 6-6 before he started his run that got him the Baylor job where he got all rape-enabling and was rightly drummed out of coaching. UNLV however is a different animal altogether. You've never been nationally ranked to end a season and you've only had 3 bowls in your history, we're not counting the forfeited 1984 California Bowl, and you've never won a bowl not played in Las Vegas. You have zero winning tradition and zero history to fall back on. To counter that you need a coach like Sanchez who does have a winning history at Bishop Gorman, and who knows how to win championships.

2. 5-7 is better than last year.

I realize it's not much, but the team has shown steady improvement over the last 3 years of Sanchez coaching them.  You were 2-11 in 2014, then Sanchez took over and you finished 3-9 in 2015 and then 4-8 in 2016 before finishing 5-7 in disappointing fashion this year.

But the point is, you believed. You believed, even after the Howard loss, and especially after the Fresno State win, that you belonged, that you were going to be bowl bound after all this time.  Remember though, you've only been playing football since 1968, many schools have title droughts longer than that.

3. For the first time, you have talent.

Armani Rogers is going to be a great quarterback for you and Lexington Thomas might just end up as the best running back in school history. Oh yeah, you're loaded at the WR position as well.  Yes, you need a serious talent upgrade on defense, and on the offensive line (hiring a new strength and conditioning coach, a better one, would do wonders) and your special teams are not, but there's a base there that could compete in the Mountain West provided the young players develop.

I, for one, like the idea of Andre Collins Jr. and Kendall Keys lining up on the outside next year with a host of options in the slot. And I really like the young talent on this defense, they just need to get stronger. I think you have the makings of a good season next year, and an improvement on your 3rd place divisional finish this year.

The thing to remember is that you're on pace.  Yes, it's hard being a fan of the Desert Rug Rats, and it's going to continue to be hard as long as you remain in a Group of Five conference. But that's life in college football today.

What I can say is that you're about to graduate to the big leagues when the Raider's new multi-Billion dollar play-pen is built and you are allowed to play there.

But, be careful with that.  Many teams have moved off of campus only to look back wistfully at their old digs.  I, for one, LOVE the Big Roulette Wheel and will be sad to see that field go. You're doing some great things embracing an emerging city culture, don't goof it up.

Go Rebs!!



Thursday, November 30, 2017

Open Letters: Michigan, Go Blue!!

Hello Wolverines.

Yes, I'm one of your own.  Not a native son, I doodled around in High School and ended up attending a local Junior College and a school with no intercollegiate sports, but an adopted son. Whether or not you claim me is up to you.

I am a Wolverine fan. I have been since High School when I saw Bo Schembechler roaming the sidelines in his shades and big, burly offensive linemen plowing gigantic holes for running backs to gash through. A High School acquaintance of mine, who today would probably have no memory of me, attended there and the bond was sealed.  Jarrett Irons was one of the great Michigan linebackers of all time, and I had a couple of high-school classes with him.

Prior to adopting Michigan as my team I sort-of rooted for who my parents did. I was a (sort-of) Sooner fan because me father rooted for them and I was a (sort-of) Oklahoma State fan because my grandfather went there and played basketball for them under Iba. (Back when they were Oklahoma A&M).

I then dabbled in UH fandom, when I attended a university in their system, but I never could 100% get behind the Coogs because of my love for the Maize and Blue.  Add to that the fact that UH fans are..what's the word?.....interesting sorts, and I fell out of the pattern of rooting for them as quick as I fell in. As a sports free agent I settled back in with Michigan, knowing this was the pattern when UH went to the Big House and got walloped 50-3.  My UH fan friends were despondent, I was giddy.

All of this was before Appalachian State.

During that game I was sitting in an Austin bar watching everything unfold on TV.  I won't rehash it, we know what happened. Then a UT-Austin fan sitting next to me started screaming at me that I should "find a real team to root for" before he was ushered out of the bar by the biggest bouncer I have ever seen. The bartender apologized and gave me a free whiskey for my sorrows.

I married an Ohio State fan.  Which makes me somewhat odd among Michigan fans in that I don't hate Ohio State, I don't like them but I begrudgingly respect them, but instead reserve my rival vitriol for Sparty.  In fact, I've had way more intelligent (and friendly) sports conversations with Buckeye fans than I have with Sparty fans. I even get along with them.

Read into all of the above what you will.  I think my fan bonafides are solid but your mileage may vary.  But pulling for the Wolverines is one of the reasons writing this open letter was so difficult. It's much easier to pen an even-headed letter to a fan base when you're not a fan yourself.  When you are a fan, you need to ensure that the fog of disappointment has fully cleared.

So, here we are. Year 3 of the Harbaugh era and things are not progressing exactly as we hoped. Granted, the first year was pure job.  Harbaugh took a team that got progressively worse under Brady Hoke and went 10-3 with a Citrus Bowl win.  Next year he matched that record but lost the Orange Bowl.  Now this year, and we're sitting at 8-4 with a bowl coming that probably won't be what we want, and there's still the issue of losing all but one game in three seasons to Michigan State and Ohio State.

Now is not the time to panic. Now is certainly the time to take a few things into consideration however.

1. Year Four for Harbaugh will be key.

Don't listen to the Paul Finebaum's of the world, Harbaugh is doing just fine as Michigan's coach. Finebaum is a troll who's sole goal is to see the SEC dominate the football landscape. Harbaugh leaving Michigan would be bad for the B1G.  that said, if Coach Harbaugh doesn't improve on his 3rd and 4th place division finishes in year 4 it will be time to show some concern.

We're not paying Harbaugh to finish behind Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State, we're paying him to beat them, if not routinely then a majority of the time.  So what's happened so far is discouraging, but it's not a crisis.....yet.

2. We need a quarterback.

I would argue that Michigan's skill position players are as good as they ever were. On defense they might even be better. But the glaring hole for this team is the signal caller, and we're not sure if what's on the roster is the long-term fix.

I think we know what we have in Peters, but the unknown is Dylan McCafferey. IF McCafferey is the quarterback we all think he is things will be OK.  If he's not?  Then Peters had better develop because with Speight transferring to another school it's all in on the youth movement.

3. Recruit. Speed.

Harbaugh needs to continue along his path of recruiting fast, athletic players and big-guys on the lines.  It really is that simple.  He's rated high in the mythical recruiting rankings so far and he needs to keep that up and show results on the field.

I'm a believer in Harbaugh, even after year three.  I saw the holes in Rich Rod's game early, and I was never a huge fan of Brady Hoke, but Jim is one of ours, he's a Michigan Man through and through, a native son, not an adopted scoundrel like myself.

So, my advice to the Big Blue Nation is this:  Don't panic.

The program is in MUCH better shape now than it was 3 years ago, and it's infinitely better than it was 10 years ago, when Appalachian State happened.

What people forget however is that the Michigan team that lost to App State went on to finish 9-4 and win the Capitol One Bowl.

Their opponent?

The Tim Tebow led Florida Gators.

Go Blue!!



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

College Football: The Problem with the College Football Playoff

Here we go again.

Another year another in a long list of confusing interim Top 6 rankings from a CFP committee that continues to re-write the rules week-to-week depending on how it thinks it can generate the most controversy.

And it's a sham.

We're constantly told that "body of work" is important with the "eye test" being used (by supposed experts who watch a 'lot' of college football) only to intervene in situations where it's close between two teams.  They say they have criteria, and then they toss them out the window when Auburn beats a pedestrian Alabama team.

Here's the current Top 6

1. Clemson
2. Auburn
3. Oklahoma
4. Wisconsin
5. Alabama
6. Georgia

How you can justify Auburn being in the top 2 is beyond me, especially when you consider that they've lost two games, one to Clemson and one to LSU.  I'm OK with Clemson at number one. Their loss was on the road to Syracuse on a Thursday night when their quarterback was out with injury.  That's an excuse, Auburn doesn't have one of those.

Granted, using the "eye test" Auburn looks pretty good right now.  They boat-raced Georgia right out of the building and they handily beat Alabama.  Those are two quality wins.

But Wisconsin is undefeated, and Oklahoma's one loss is better than Clemson's one loss. If we're going on "body of work" then how in the world can you justify placing UCF at 14?

In short, you can't.  Because UCF's win over USF is much better than Wisconsin's win over Michigan. Ohio State (at 10-2) has a better body or work than Alabama (who, to be honest, have beaten nobody very good this year) and Stanford coming in at 12 is just mind-boggling.

Were I to rank the teams it would be as follows:

1. Clemson - I have no beef with this.  As I said, they're the defending champions and their only loss has a ton of asterisks around it.  Clear number 1 in my mind.

2. Wisconsin - Again, undefeated is undefeated folks and that's hard to get around. In retrospect, the win over FAU is looking pretty good, and they do have wins over Michigan, Iowa and ranked Northwestern to crow about.

3. Oklahoma - I don't see really any other place for them. Their loss to Iowa State looks worse after Farmageddon, but Iowa State is still a bowl team and it was on the road. They also have quality wins over Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas (a bowl team) and TCU.

4. UCF - You should not underestimate what they've done this year. Wins over Maryland, Memphis, USF and Navy are quality wins. Discounting those is difficult to do.

5. Alabama - While I'm not a fan of the Tide this season, they have the "best" one-loss of the year is much better than any other team's one loss.  They fall behind OU because they really haven't beaten anyone really good.

6. Memphis - I know, I know, but their only loss is to UCF and they have quality wins over UCLA, Navy and a pretty good Houston team. Their one loss was to UCF by a lot, but they get a chance at revenge this Saturday.

A lot of the rankings come down to how you view the American.  I view them as the single best group of five conference and the gap is not small.  In fact, I would argue the gap between the Pac-12 (the lowest rated Power 5 conference in my estimation) and the American is very, very small.  Compare the resumes and Memphis and UCF are right in there with the big boys.  Plus, my agenda does not include keeping the Group of Five out of the playoff as the CFP committee's obviously does.

Can you leave the SEC champion out of the CFP?

Of course you can.  Especially when they're having a down year such as this one.

It won't happen though, and either Auburn, Georgia, Alabama or (stunningly) two of the three might get in should OU & Clemson both lose.

A big part of me hopes for that latter scenario, so people can see just how corrupt and stupid this entire system really is.  We're not better off right now than we were under the old bowl system, which I think we should go back to.

If for no other reasons than to restore the primacy of New Year's day.

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