Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday 10/17 (Vegas CFB) Quickie

It is my final day in Las Vegas. Mrs. Quickie and I stayed through tonight for two big reasons: We didn't want to be flying during the Florida game, and I wanted the chance to bet on college football -- on a full-slate Saturday -- for the first time.

I dipped my toe in the water on Thursday night -- successfully. But I have been touting Cincy for years -- let alone this season -- and I just KNEW that -2.5 was an opportunity.

In looking over today's schedule, I am feeling a lot less confident. I had every intention of putting my weekly picks on the line -- money behind mouth for once -- but it is not easy.

There is one game I feel strongly about (for myself... not for other folks -- for you all, it's for entertainment purposes only: Texas over Oklahoma (by more than the game's 3-point line). Probably USC (-10) over Notre Dame, given my constant anti-ND yammering. After that?

*Iowa at Wisconsin? Yikes -- so iffy, and I've gone back and forth between "classic trap!" for Iowa and "classic gag in obvious trap situation!" for Wisco.

*GA Tech over VA Tech? It's my Upset Special, sure... right up until I saw the Commenter who said to note my own Transitive property there. (Don't have to worry about the points there -- GA Tech is getting them.)

One thing I am sure of: I will NOT be betting on Florida in any way. It's a no-win proposition: If I pick them to win by more than 25 and they don't, will I find myself disappointed by a win? If I pick them to win by less than 25, will I find myself rooting against a rout?

And, so today, a very special edition of the weekly college football picks -- with and without the spread applied. (Still not sure which ones I'll actually bet on. Biggest prospects in bold. Will update on that.)

1 Florida over Arkansas
2 Alabama over 22 South Carolina
(But by more than 17 or 18? SC's D good enough to keep it closer?)
3 Texas over 20 Oklahoma
(But by more than 3 points? That's my bet.)
19 Georgia Tech over 4 Virginia Tech -- Upset Special
(GA Tech is getting 3-4 points. Gotta do it.)
6 USC over @ 25 Notre Dame
(But by more than 10? Back up your anti-Weis bias with cash, Dan!)
7 Ohio State over @ Purdue
(But by 2 TDs? At Purdue? Hmm...)
9 Miami over @ Central Florida
11 Iowa over @ Wisconsin -- Say...
(Hmm: Books have Wisco by 2 or 3)
12 TCU over Colorado St
14 Penn St over Minnesota
(But by more than 17? Hmmm...)
15 Nebraska over Texas Tech
16 Oklahoma St over Mizzou
17 Kansas over @ Colorado
18 BYU over @ San Diego St
23 Houston over @ Tulane
24 Utah over @ UNLV

More Games of Note
Michigan St over Northwestern
(But by 14? I kinda have to take the Cats, don't I?)
Clemson over Wake Forest
(But by 7 or more? Hmmm....)
Georgia over @ Vanderbilt
Cal over @ UCLA
Maryland over Virginia -- Not touching with 10-foot pole

More from this morning:

*One more reason the Yankees paid for Sabathia.

*Pedro! What a great effort, wasted.

*Sounds like Midnight Madness was as crazy as expected at Kentucky.

Sorry for the brevity on non-CFB stuff. I'm getting an early jump on what should be a fun day.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday 10/16 Quickie: Balloon Boy, Phillies,
Texas, Cincinnati, NFL Week 6, ALCS, More

LAS VEGAS -- So I'm wondering two competing things. (1) With my win on my first-ever sports-book bet (Cincy -2.5 over South Florida), should I call it a career? (2) Why did I bet only $50? I was SURE about that game.

My Vegas trip is halfway over. So far: A success. High-end hotel. Great meal. 1-for-1 on sports wagers. Terrific conference yesterday, seeing so many folks in person that I really only know by reputation or email correspondence, fun (free) party last night courtesy of the ESPN folks.

The time difference continues to throttle me. I was up at 3:30 this a.m. to file today's SN column, which leads with my attempt to tie Balloon Boy to the biggest sports story of the weekend. In short: Both B.B. and Texas-Oklahoma are vastly overrated as "events." (I'll still be watching, obviously.)

I'm not sure what can top the gratification of putting my money where my mouth was on Cincy -- a team I have been pimping as a legit Top 5 team since the start of the season. That was a terrific win, especially with Tony Pike leaving with the arm injury.

(I'll tell you what I'm not betting on -- Florida. And not just because the line is -25 or something equally freakish. I don't want to be in a position of rooting for anything but a win, period. I have to presume that most teams' fans feel similarly. You don't s--t where you eat, so to speak.)

More you'll find in today's column:

*Here's a treat: Watching the Phillies-Dodgers game last night in the company of massive Philly fans AJ Daulerio, Enrico from The 700 Level and OnTheDL's Dan Levy. Carlos Ruiz!

*It's almost not worth talking about Yankees-Angels Game 1, because the game's going to be a rain-out, from all indications.

*The other two games to keep an eye on tomorrow: VA Tech at Georgia Tech -- which is going to be my Upset Special -- and Iowa at Wisconsin (Wisco is favored over the unbeaten Hawkeyes).

*My Top 5 NFL Storylines for Week 6 -- Giants-Saints should be fun. Same with Ravens-Vikings. Other than that? I actually found myself staring at the board of NFL lines at a casino last night and asking aloud how on earth people bet on the NFL against the spread, given how unpredictable the results are. I can barely pick correctly straight up.

*The Lakers were in LV last night. I skipped that -- had more fun watching Cincy-USF and LAD-PHI on two huge screens with a bunch of really great sports fans.

Plus a ton more. Check it out here, and I'll be trying to file throughout the day. Still collecting my thoughts to break down the big takeaways from the conference.

(Any of you all have any college football locks -- in the mold of my Cincy pick -- that you want to pass along? I'd love to make a wager on behalf of commenters. Put 'em in the Comments.)

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday 10/15 Quickie: Vegas Road Trip

So I was on the plane when Boise State-Tulsa kicked off, but if I had already landed in Vegas, I would have run to the nearest sports book and (legally) put my money on Tulsa, an 8-point underdog at home. Boise won by 7. I didn't win or lose any money and I'm already jonesing to explore the vagaries of the sports book in more depth.

Welcome to the Adventures of the Vegas Virgin! Yes, it is my first time (ever) in Las Vegas. Mrs. Quickie and I arrived in the early evening, checked in at the Wynn (v. nice) and managed to make it out for a ridiculously good steak at Prime before the time difference -- and my 4 a.m. (local) Sporting News filing deadline -- had me collapsed in a food-coma/time-differential heap.

Here's today's SN column, leading with my adventures in Vegas, but including takes on all the big storylines of the day. I've got the Blogs With Balls conference all day -- including a "Future of Sports Media" panel I'm moderating at 11 a.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) Posting will be spotty -- but I'll try to update via Twitter.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday 10/14 Quickie: A-Rod, LCS,
Rush, Tebow, Weis, Arenas, More

Prepping to fly out to Vegas -- my first time there -- later today for this week's Blogs With Balls 2.0 conference. Updates coming as they happen...

With the abrupt end to the LDS series on Monday night, today lines up as a slow day. It's a good moment, however, to step back in the lead of today's SN column and recognize that A-Rod is on the verge of something huge.

There is nothing more redemptive in sports than a championship. Just ask Kevin Garnett. (Or Dan Marino.)

A-Rod could be one of the least likeable stars in MLB history, but as soon as he wins that title, the whole perception -- and perspective -- about him changes.

It is all the more important because it is now clear that A-Rod having big games is a big reason -- perhaps the biggest reason, offensively -- the Yankees are the favorite to win the title.

It is not enough for A-Rod to draft on his teammates to that elusive championship. He's got to lead them -- even carry them. If the LDS was any indication, this is the year.

(Alternatively, if he stumbles now and the Yankees DON'T win the title, he is an even bigger goat -- given what he proved he could do in the LDS round.)

More you'll find in today's SN column:

*Torre might retire after 2010, but I could see him coming back if the offer was right.

*SN was focusing on Sam Bradford being the clear -- perhaps only -- solid QB prospect of the 2010 NFL Draft (I'd argue McCoy is going to be very the right system), but the big news to me was that Tim Tebow was in SN's mock draft at No. 9, to the Raiders (Nooooo!)

*Oklahoma-Texas ain't what it was a year ago. (And, by the way, how "critical" could the game be if last year's winner didn't even end up with an advantage in the final BCS standings?)

*How quaint that Charlie Weis thinks that ND has a chance against USC this year. It'll be one more example of how overmatched Weis is against elite teams.

(I hope the BCS bowl honchos are taking note -- good TV ratings can't possibly be worth giving a BCS-unworthy ND a BCS bowl slot ahead of a clearly superior at-large team.)

*As a Wiz fan, I had been waiting on two things this preseason: (1) A Wiz win, and (2) Gilbert Arenas to have a very solid game. He was 9/11 FG and the Wiz won. I really want to pick the Wizards to win the East, but I know I'm not going to. I'll settle for "strong enough contender to give the Magic a series in the conference semis."

*I appreciate Jim Irsay going negative on Rush Limbaugh's ownership potential, but no one in the Irsay family is allowed to take the high road after the way they abandoned Baltimore in the middle of the night.

Complete column here. More later, more likely via the Twitter feed on the right side (or here, if you're on Twitter) than posts.

Happy 1st birthday to my amazing younger son. Having just experienced it, I will argue that there is no more of a blurry year that the 1st year of having a second kid.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Yahoo/Tebow: Tebow As Dilfer 2.0

Just wanted to point you to my latest Yahoo column about Tim Tebow, comparing him to Trent Dilfer and extolling the virtues of the QB as "game manager." Hopefully, it makes you think differently about Tebow -- as different as the new context he's playing in. Check it out here.

-- D.S.

Blogs With Balls 2.0 Countdown: 2 Days

Just a reminder that I will be in Las Vegas at the end of this week for the Blogs With Balls 2.0 conference. Beyond attending, I will be moderating a panel on "The Future of Sports Media" -- how weighty! -- featuring Matt Ufford, Bethlehem Shoals, Kevin Blackistone and Amy K. Nelson. Should be an interesting session.

Perhaps even more interesting: This will be my FIRST trip to Las Vegas. Yes, ever.

If you will be there, please drop me a note -- look forward to commiserating with folks there... when I'm not being overwhelmed by the experience.

Keep an eye on the Twitter feed for up-to-the-minute updates about the conference and my various tame adventures away from the conference. I will also have posts here, as I can file them -- particularly off the topics of discussion at the conference.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 10/13 Quickie: Wildcat, Phillies,
Edwards, Lidge, Ingram, Durant, More

I have been on the side of the folks who think that the Wildcat is a disruptive and transformational force in the NFL -- not an incremental gimmick or fad.

And while the rest of the league timidly pursues some implementation of it, the Dolphins continue to go all-in -- and last night was nearly the landmark that its debut was a year ago.

Even as defensive genius Rex Ryan dismisses it as a "gimmick," the question that leads today's SN column is this: If your team is terrible, why WOULDN'T you experiment more boldly with it?

Meanwhile, Huston Street is the new Brad Lidge, and Brad Lidge is the old Brad Lidge - and the LDS round concludes, rather abruptly. Here was my favorite stat of the night: In the last four seasons, not a single LDS series has gone 5 games. Despite a few fun finishes in individual games, this year's edition was a dud -- was there any sense of series-defining drama? (OK, maybe the Yankees looking unstoppable -- but otherwise, wasn't this LDS defined by the teams that were swept out?)

More you'll find in today's column:

*Braylon Edwards: Can't complain about his debut.

*Kevin Durant finally gets plus-minus (he was plus-24 last night).

*NFL coach who needs to be fired: Fox? Zorn? How about Del Rio?

*Greatest moment of the decade in college hoops: George Mason making the Final Four, obviously. (And, oh, how I tried to make it "Florida wins back-to-back titles.")

*Rasheed Wallace is crazy: 72 wins for this Celtics team? Guess what: They're not even winning the East, let alone winning 72.

A lot more in the column today -- check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday 10/12 Quickie: Broncos, Florida,
Yankees, Red Sox, Lidge, McNabb, More

I don't care that so many people are taking the day off for the holiday -- it's an absolutely loaded SN column today.

You can imagine the temptation to lead with something pointing out that yesterday was just about as bad of a day for Boston sports fans as you can get -- not "18-1" bad, but pretty bad.

The Pats' loss can be rationalized away -- it's only Week 5, let's see the Broncos do that in the playoffs, yada yada yada... still: The Pats don't look like a Top 3 team in the AFC.

The Red Sox loss -- season-ending -- was a little more ignominious: Not just a sweep, but losing that 9th-inning lead. At Fenway. While the Yankees are advancing. Insult piled upon insult.

I fully expect the defensive "well, we didn't expect much anyway" reaction -- please, spare us. The Red Sox are built to contend for a title, not limp out of the playoffs in an LDS sweep.

But, no! I didn't go for that low-hanging fruit. Instead, I wanted to reinforce that the best teams in the NFL and college football are doing it with dominating defense.

Forget Kyle Orton's newfound respect -- or the Tebow sideshow (well, don't forget it entirely). The most impressive thing about these teams -- their foundation of success -- is defense.

You won't take the opinion from me, because I have an obvious bias, but I think this Florida defense is one of the greatest in college football history. Start with the way they shut down the most prolific offense in college football history last January; after that, it all seems easier.

The Florida offense isn't nearly as prolific as thought -- well, the running game might be, and Aaron Hernandez is the best TE in the country. But the defense is so good that the offense doesn't HAVE To be good to win a national title. Just good enough.

Anyway, that's today's lead. The column also has talking points for every NFL game (McNabb-to-Maclin! Titans need to face reality! Redskins stimulus plan! Austin Fantasy Mania!), a renewed call for SOME kind of expanded replay in baseball, a sarcastic cheer for Brad Lidge and a bit of sympathy for Cardinals fans.

Check it all out here -- tons to cover today. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Big 3

Here is my first pass at this week's BlogPoll Top 25 ballot. Florida locks down No. 1, but I jumped Alabama over Texas on the strength of Bama's road win at Ole Miss, making the Rebels look absolutely awful; Texas dominated Colorado at home -- it simply wasn't as impressive of a win.

That's not to say that Texas doesn't have a claim on "Big Three" status, along with Florida and Bama. To be honest, I had trouble finding worthy contenders after that -- and after I got to the high teens, my feeling generally was the remainders weren't worthy of being ranked, for one reason or another. Maybe I'm too focused on "national title contenders." Anyway:

1 Florida
2 Alabama 1
3 Texas 1
4 Cincinnati
5 Virginia Tech 3
7 Boise State
8 Oregon 1
9 Southern Cal 1
10 TCU 5
11 Nebraska
12 Miami (Florida) 1
13 Iowa 2
14 Ohio State
15 Houston
16 South Florida 1
17 Kansas 5
18 Arkansas
19 Penn State 1
20 Oklahoma State 1
21 Auburn 5
22 Brigham Young 1
23 Oklahoma
24 Georgia Tech 6
25 South Carolina
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Mississippi (#22), Stanford (#23), Missouri (#24), Wisconsin (#25).

As you can see: Arkansas gets a bump from me for beating Auburn and for being the best 2-loss team in the country. They play Florida next week in Gainesville -- maybe it's a trap game for the Gators... or maybe Arkansas becomes the best 3-loss team in the country.

Sunday 10/11 (Tebow) Quickie

Read the post below (or check out TimTeblog) for my take on Tebow's return last night. But needless to say, the real story of the game is how jaw-droppingly good Florida's defense was/is.

Last night's game affirmed the Gators are the favorite to win the national title because of their D -- not unlike the Ravens winning the 2000 Super Bowl: Amazing D, "game-manager" QB. (Yes, I just compared Tim Tebow to Trent Dilfer -- first and last time that has ever happened.)

More from yesterday: Alabama is very very very good... For all the crying about the BCS system, it sure does look like it will very cleanly be the Florida-Bama winner vs. Texas... Earning credit: VA Tech, OH St, Arkansas. Losing credit: Iowa, Kansas, TCU(?)

MLB Playoffs: The Cardinals are out. Redbird Nation must be shell-shocked at how quickly and frustratingly they were swept out of it. Red Sox and Twins could be next (betting Boston survives at least one more game, but not Minnesota).

Soccer: Sounds like a great win for the US to get into the World Cup field. Too bad no one was able to watch it.

-- D.S.

Tim Tebow Is Back: Conservative, Effective

Republished from my post-game post at

In the end, Florida did exactly what I predicted they could and would do:

They beat LSU at LSU without Tim Tebow.

Now, obviously, Tim Tebow played (thrillingly) -- but it's not like he was TIM TEBOW, otherworldly greatest-player-of-all-time QB.

He was Tim Tebow, game-manager. He threw just 16 passes, with just one TD. He had 17 carries and averaged barely more than 2 yards per carry, with most of those 38 yards on a few key carries.

Oh, it was good enough -- more than enough, actually.

Why? For the same reasons I thought Florida would win the game with John Brantley at QB: Defense. (My god: That defense.) Special Teams. Creating LSU turnovers and limiting their own. Red zone efficiency. Urban Meyer's "Plan to Win."

Meyer: "Obviously, Tim came out and played his heart out. Our offensive line did a good job of protecting him for the most part. We were somewhat conservative. So much of that game plan depends on how your defense is playing and special teams. Those two phases were tremendous. This is a great win."

It was a great win -- instantly, one of the Top 5 wins of the Tebow Era. Yes, because of the context of what the win was -- but also because of what the win was NOT. It was not "classic" Tebow, in that he was dominating. It was classic Tebow in that he did whatever was necessary to help Florida win the game -- even subordinating his style to fit the extreme situation.

Tebow: "I'm not going to go out there and play tentative and scared. That's not me. I did try to play smart."

The gameplan was so interesting in the first half -- it was a tentative offense, run by a seemingly tentative Tebow. And it worked -- thanks to the running backs. (Has Emmanuel Moody had a better game for Florida?)

In the second half, we saw a glimpse of -- as Meyer put it last week -- "Tim being Tim." Taking the ball himself and plunging up the middle. But this more conservative Tebow was still very effective, in his own non-spectacular way.

Coming into the game, I was EXTREMELY nervous about the prospects of Tebow playing -- I was concerned that he would exacerbate the concussion. And, yes, throughout the game, when they called his number, I cringed.

And while I thought that Florida could beat LSU without Tebow playing like his 2007 or 2008 versions, I was thrilled to see him in there -- thrilled to see him playing within himself (even a temporarily conservative "himself") and within Florida's protectionist game plan.

And between Tebow, the running backs, Aaron Hernandez, the special teams (besides Sturgis' FG miss) and -- of course, more than anything -- the otherworldly defense, which might not just be the best in the country this season but among the best of all time, Florida is back on track as the team to beat.

Tebow is back. Not necessarily the old Tebow. But how could you not like this new Tebow?

(By the way, the best analysis of the game came from Dr. Saturday, Matt Hinton over at Yahoo. He correctly points out -- although not in these words: It's the defense, stupid.)