Raiders, Broncos, What’s old is new again

Raiders, Broncos, What’s old is new again

Last week in this space, I looked at the Chargers/Chiefs tilt. The smart money was on Phillip Rivers and co but Andy Reid’s group dumbed it down.

This week, a few good rivalries pop up on the calendar. The Cincinnati Bengals sent the Baltimore Ravens to the Rue Morgue on Thursday night. In the early Sunday games, divisional matchups include the Dolphins and Jets.

CharliesSports’ Football Picks can make the tough calls.
Subscribe now and benefit through Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.

Whenever this one rolls around, I always remember the Dan Marino Clock Play in 1994, when he faked spiking the ball then threw a perfect ball underneath to Mark Ingram with the final seconds draining in the fourth quarter for a comeback win.

The Vikings and Packers, Panthers and Falcons also hook up, not to mention a Texans/Titans meeting between new and old Houston franchises. In the late games, the Cardinals and Rams conduct some West Coast business before the Giants’ Sunday Night visit to a Cowboys side who shot themselves in the foot last week.

Since childhood, I’ve favoured AFC West tilts, however. That’s because I was always sent outside to play on Sundays with instructions to

  1. Have fun
  2. Be back before dark
  3. But not until just before dark.
  4. Never you mind why.

Rules three and four relaxed a little when my mother became pregnant with my sister but as dusk fell around 5pm during southern Ontario winters, West Coast games were the ones I saw most often. Except for the Rams, the NFC West was a lost cause in the 70s, but the AFC West was filled with great teams, even when the Seahawks joined the mix.

I used to root for the Raiders. They had a cool Snake at quarterback long before Kurt Russell hit the theatres in Escape from New York. Mark van Eeghen was a great rushing fullback who paved the way until Marcus Allen arrived. That was before the 49ers began teaching their blocking backs to catch passes. Dave Casper was a brilliant tight end who could do no wrong, even when he fumbled on the goal line. Fred Biletnikoff could catch anything Ken Stabler threw in his direction. So could Lester the Molester Hayes with respect to opposing QBs. I wore his jersey and kept asking the local Canadian Tire to stock Stickum in the sports department even after the league banned it.

To Lester Hayes' delight, the Raiders' clubhouse had no signs stating employees must wash their hands before returning to work.

To Lester Hayes’ delight, the Raiders’ clubhouse had no signs stating employees must wash their hands before returning to work.

The Broncos were a tough side even before John Elway arrived. An ageing Craig Morton took them to their first Super Bowl humiliation against the Cowboys but the Raiders always won theirs when they made it to the big dance.

Things change over the course of a lifetime. Al Davis’ defiance turned into bitterness. The Raiders lost a Super Bowl to former coach Jon Gruden. People point to Marcus Allen’s defection but drafting Todd Marinovich was the beginning of the end. JaMarcus Russell merely confirmed the team’s mediocrity. Even a second turn from Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken in Escape from LA couldn’t help.

Recent seasons brought hope. Derek Carr has an arm when healthy. Management doesn’t inspire, though. Bringing back Gruden to coach after a decade in the booth and Marshawn Lynch following a year in retirement isn’t long-term thinking.

Week 1 proved woeful for the Silver and Black. Carr threw three interceptions. Lynch was limited to just 11 carries for 41 yards when the team began chasing the game. Jared Goff and the Rams picked the defense apart. Chucky needs to turn things around before Mark Davis decides to replace him with Jennifer Tilly.

All’s fair in love and football.

Denver’s management is another story. John Elway knows what he’s doing. After rotating through Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch following Peyton Manning’s retirement, the team president settled on career backup Case Keenum, this season. The move paid dividends against the Seahawks in Week 1. Keenum threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns to eke out a 27-24 victory. Emmanuel Thomas was the main target with 10 catches for 135 yards and a score. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman split the rushing duties down the middle. Each had 15 carries for 71 yards.

The game was close in part because Keenum also matched Derek Carr with three interceptions. Denver coach Vance Joseph expects that to change in Week 2 but expect Gruden’s front seven to pressure Keenum, testing his resilience. Von Miller and the Broncos defense will be hunting Carr, as well.

Running backs pounding the ball. Quarterbacks airing it out. Defensive ends sacking them or forcing bad passes. Cornerbacks picking them off. This game should be an AFC West renaissance fair. I plan to dress the part. With a few alterations, I can still squeeze into that Lester Hayes jersey. I bet I can even find some Stickum on eBay.

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick. Side And Total.
Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

Advertisements

Ohio State rolls into Big D to face TCU in a battle of young coaching minds

CharliesSports’ Football ATS Picks lead the industry.
We deliver right through the Bowl Championship Series

SEC fans might argue LSU v Auburn is the weekend’s marquee college football matchup. For me, it’s Ohio State’s trip down to AT&T Stadium in Dallas to take on Texas Christian. The territorial clash between the 12th and 7th-ranked Tigers is enticing but the evening game promises all out war even though it’s an interconference battle.

Before I delve into that, I just want to say my thoughts are with the folks in the Carolinas dealing with Hurricane Florence’s impact. I live in South Florida, been there, done that, don’t wish it on anyone. If you live elsewhere and can, please help.

American Red Cross Hurricane Florence relief effort

Thanks.

We’re three weeks into the NCAA season. Both schools have been beating up opponents thus far. TCU handled Southern University 55-14 then put it to SMU 42-12. The 15th-ranked Horned Frogs scored 97 points while surrendering just 26. The #4 Buckeyes are even more devastating. They buried Oregon State’s Beavers 77-31. Eleven touchdowns effectively communicated how they felt about another school daring to refer to itself as OSU. Then they explained to Rutgers that New Jersey hasn’t yet earned the right to be known as Big Ten country, leaving the Scarlet Knights red-faced after a comprehensive 52-3 rout.

Gary Patterson, TCU's defensive guru

With a combined 226 points scored, all the pressure’s on the two defenses in this clash. That probably suits TCU coach Gary Patterson to a tee. He can put his reputation as one of college football’s best defensive minds to the test against Buckeye interim boss Ryan Day.

The 39-year-old has a tiny window to impress. Urban Meyer’s suspension is nearing its end. Failing to understand it’s one thing to figuratively beat up an opponent on the field, another to ignore that an assistant is taking his work home in a literal way doesn’t play well. Meyer’s a great coach. Hopefully, he used the forced hiatus to work on being a better human being.

In the meantime, Day’s done things a little differently. The young coach ignored Meyer’s respect for seniority, electing to go with sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Ryan Day and Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

It’s strange to discuss a youth movement in the college game, but the 21-year-old repaid the faith placed in him. After two games, he’s completed 42 of 53 passes (79%) for 546 yards, nine touchdowns and an interception.

Back-up Tate Martell completed 13 of 14 in mop-up duty, with another TD thrown. The Buckeye’s 82% completion rate leads the NCAA.

Opponents are accustomed to losing sleep over Ohio State’s running game. This week, Patterson probably lied awake staring at deep balls stretching the defence on his bedroom ceiling. The TCU headman will need to spare a few nightmares for the Buckeyes’ defence.

Defensive lineman Nick Bosa [yes, Joey’s little bro] is battling Haskins for honours as the team’s most valuable player. Bosa the younger already boasts nine tackles, five for a loss, three on the quarterback and a touchdown following a fumble recovery. Hello.

Nick Bosa zeroes in on Rutgers QB Art Sitkowski

Then there are linebacker Pete Werner’s seven tackles, including a sack, two passes defended and a forced fumble. Nice to meet you.

If Patterson can make the secondary put in a shift, he won’t enjoy the results. Safety Jahsen Wint has eight tackles. Cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Kendall Sheffield each made an interception. Come back to see us soon.

Patterson’s defense is on the small but quick side. The two most dangerous players are Alec Dunham, who can match Bosa’s fumble recovery for a touchdown, Arico Evans and Innis Gaines. Ridwhan Issaku, Garret Wallow and Niko Small made significant contributions, too.

Offensively, TCU is also yardage by committee, with three backs each just over 100 yards. One is starting quarterback Shawn Robinson. The sophomore also posts a 61% completion rate with 328 yards, four touchdowns and an interception thrown. The critical question, however, is whether the Horned Frogs’ defensive line can stand up to the Buckeyes’ front five? It should be fun to find out.

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick. Side And Total
Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

Are you ready for some MNF? Better make it a double

Are you ready for some MNF? Better make it a double

Week 1 of the NFL season offers something weeks 2-18 rarely do: two Monday night games. I’m all for this. In fact, I think the league should consider doing it every week, on one condition. As is the case tonight, the games should not be broadcast simultaneously. In my experience, the game in the small screen [when you’re using picture-in-picture] is the one where everything happens. While you’re watching Ezekiel Elliot run for three yards and a cloud of those little black artificial turf pellets on the large view, a tiny Jalen Ramsey intercepts Andrew Luck’s pass into the flat, then runs it back for a pick-six. Is it just me or is everyone playing from behind while using PIP?

CharliesSports’ 2018 ATS Football Picks double the fun when you want to win.
Subscribe now and benefit through Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.

The league has it right, this week. The New York Jets land at Ford Field for a 7:10pm EDT kickoff against the Detroit Lions. Then the Raiders begin their first, perhaps only lame-duck season in Oakland against the Los Angeles Rams at 10:20pm. Given the Jets and Lions play their game indoors, there won’t be a Dolphins/Titans-esque marathon. Both games can be viewed in fullscreen with almost no overlap.

There are matchups to consider, as well. West Coast viewers have all the fun this time. With the game not kicking off around 6pm Pacific, they needn’t sneak away from work early to avoid being stuck in freeway traffic for the entire first quarter. It’s a nice change, considering the late game is far and away the more enticing affair. Let’s preview both games, anyway.

Jets at Lions

Both teams’ defences rank in the league’s bottom third. If you’re the glass-half-full type, that means scoring. Looking at Detroit’s offense, there’s every reason to be optimistic. Matthew Stafford can bring it at quarterback. Even if he can’t, Matt Cassel’s arguably the best second option in the NFL. Either one can hand the ball off to LeGarrette Blount or throw to a receiving corps led by Marvin Jones and Golden Tate.

Matthew Stafford knows where he wants to take the NFL's Detroit Lions in 2018.

Matthew Stafford knows where he wants to take the NFL’s Detroit Lions in 2018.

Unfortunately, the Jets attack leaves your glass half-empty. Sam Darnold and Josh McCown are the QB choices. They can’t target a thousand-yard receiver in Robby Anderson or Jermaine Kearse. Todd Bowles’ new starting running back, Isaiah Crowell, just spent four sub-thousand-yard seasons in the ultimate losing culture with the Cleveland Browns. I mean, come on. To make an omelette, you not only need to break some eggs, you must have some.

This game promises to be onesided. Hopefully, the Lions can provide enough excitement to keep East Coast fans awake for the second game.

Rams at Raiders

Okay, here we go. An interesting matchup between teams who both have weapons they can bring to bear, these two clubs also offer interesting histories.

They’re easily the most nomadic franchises in the modern NFL. The Rams first arrived in Los Angeles from Cleveland just after WWII. They hung around for nearly half a century before Georgia Frontiere moved them to her hometown, St Louis. Walmart inlaw Stan Kroenke brought them back to the West Coast where he’s built them into a contender. Meanwhile, Al Davis shuffled the Raiders between Oakland and LA. Now his heir Mark is taking them to [viva] Las Vegas.

Both the Raiders and Rams have solid arms in Derek Carr and Jared Goff

Both the Raiders and Rams field solid arms in Derek Carr and Jared Goff

Each blazed a trail encouraging diversity. Marlin Briscoe became the first black starting quarterback with the Denver Broncos in the AFL. He started just one game, though. James Harris was the first to play an entire season, for the Buffalo Bills. Later traded to the Rams, Harris started two full seasons, proving along the way a black quarterback could win a playoff game. The Raiders made a poor choice with JaMarcus Russell as their first black starting quarterback but are rumoured to have made an even poorer choice by converting first-round draft pick Eldridge Dickey to receiver even though he outperformed second-rounder Ken Stabler in pre-season. To be fair, the club broke ground previously with Latino quarterbacks Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett.

The two teams enter this season with more traditional quarterbacks Jared Goff and Derek Carr behind center. While Carr has Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson as wideouts, Goff makes up for his lesser experience with Todd Gurley backing his play. The all-purpose back rushed for 1,305 yards and caught 64 passes for another 788. Leading the team with 19 touchdowns, Gurley was Goff’s favorite target even though Cooper Kupp edged him in receiving yards. Kupp’s now third on Sean McVay’s depth chart behind Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods.

The Rams also hold the edge on defence with Ndamukong Suh anchoring the line while Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters patrol the corners. Across the way, Raiders DB Daryl Worley begins serving a four-game substance-abuse suspension.

Expect the Rams to win this one, even on the road, but the Raiders should offer a better fight as the underdog than the woeful Jets.

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick. Side and Total.

Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

Chargers and Chiefs catch the eye in Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season

Chargers and Chiefs catch the eye in Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season

The NFL waits for no one. That’s why, to my thinking, the Kansas City Chiefs’ visit to the cozy StubHub Centre to take on division rival San Diego [still doing it] Los Angeles Chargers is the must-see game in the 2018 season’s opening week.

CharliesSports’ Football Picks know where you’re coming from.
You want to win!
Subscribe now and benefit through Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.

The Chiefs won the AFC West and went to the playoffs in 2017. They lost a nailbiter to the Tennessee Titans in the wildcard. Fair or not, the defeat was the final nail in quarterback Alex Smith’s Arrowhead career coffin. The ex-49er completed 29/33 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans, but his immobility hurt the team. He was sacked four times. His strength is the short-passing game, too. Kansas City couldn’t stretch the field in the second half.

On the other side of the ball, Marcus Mariota’s agility paid dividends. Rolling to his left, the Titan’s third-year signal-caller caught his own deflected pass then ran it in for a morale-crushing score. It’s little wonder the Chiefs traded Smith to the Washington Redskins and shoved all their chips in on sophomore QB Pat Mahomes’ bionic arm.

The Chargers finished second in the division but their 9-7 record didn’t rate a playoff berth. It’s a new season, however. Observers are lavishing crazy love on the Bolts in the early doors. CBS Sports rates Anthony Lynn’s squad far better than the Chiefs on both sides of the ball. Charlie Red, the man whose name graces the masthead at the top of this page, expects the Chargers “to do big things.

Phillip Rivers and the LA Chargers are trending up ahead of the 2018 NFL season.

Phillip Rivers and the LA Chargers are trending up ahead of the 2018 NFL season.

Phillip Rivers remains the man behind center. After missing out by three measly yards in 2016, Mel Gordon’s now officially a thousand-yard rusher after racking up 1,105 and eight TDs in 2017. He also contributed 476 receiving yards with another four scores for good measure. Gordon’s presence relieves pressure for the veteran QB who’s thrown for at least 4,000 yards in every season [excepting 2012] since 2008. His 26 touchdowns in the off-year were his worst over the same stretch, as well. When the Chargers’ ground game lags, though, the NC State alum’s interception rate goes through the roof.

Rivers must be licking his chops at the news that Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry’s doubtful with a heel injury for this game. Brandon Mebane and Isaac Rochel on the left side of the Chargers D-line have to be looking forward to testing Chiefs right guard Laurent Duvarney-Tardif, fresh from concussion protocol. Meanwhile, the Chiefs can exploit defensive end Joey Bosa’s absence.

Andy Reid’s a far more experienced coach than Anthony Lynn, which must count for something. Still, the younger man can rely on veteran coordinators Ken Whisenhunt and Gus Bradley, both former head coaches in the league. Reid has a seasoned defensive coordinator in Bob Sutton but is taking a gamble on Eric Bieniemy. The former University of Colorado star brings extensive experience as a running backs coach both with the Chiefs and Buffaloes, but just two seasons directing the entire offense in Boulder. A new quarterback and an untested coordinator don’t bode well for KC to start the campaign. Bieniemy at least has a 1,300-yd Pro Bowl rusher to take some pressure off the passing game.

Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy may ask who needs to throw the ball if the Chargers can't stop your Pro Bowl running back?

Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy may ask who needs to throw the ball if the Chargers can’t stop your Pro Bowl running back?

In 2017, the new Angelinos weren’t able to exploit their compact surroundings. After a season to acclimate and an off-season to improve, maybe they can surprise opponents with an outsized game. They’ll be getting after the Chiefs today, that much is certain. But Kansas City’s out to prove they don’t deserve to be written off so easily.

Enjoy.

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick.
Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

Colin Kaepernick: Don’t hate the player; hate yourself

Colin Kaepernick: Don’t hate the player; hate yourself

If sport and the arts are microcosms of society, recent events demonstrate American morality’s dysfunctionality. Compare.

CharliesSports’ Football Picks don’t discriminate.
Anyone can win!
Subscribe now and benefit through Super Bowl LIII in February 2019.

Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback blackballed by the league for two years, starred in Nike’s 30th anniversary Just Do It ad campaign, which debuted during Thursday night’s NFL season-opener.** Despite his inability to practice his profession, Kaepernick maintained his principles, supporting and working with various groups to confront racial discrimination. People are burning their Nike shoes and sportswear in counter-protest.

The Nike campaign starring Colin Kaepernick on display in Times Square, Manhattan.

The Nike campaign starring Colin Kaepernick on display in Times Square, Manhattan.

Rick Pitino, the tremendously successful college basketball coach fired by the University of Louisville after an FBI investigation discovered Adidas paid a $150,000 bribe to an athlete’s family to steer the player to Pitino’s program, went on ESPN to promote his book. During the interview, he denied the charge and others while expressing reluctance to face the issue so he can return to coaching. Many Kaepernick haters advocate consumers buy Adidas products rather than Nike.

In 2016, Kaepernick took to kneeling during the pre-game national anthem. He did so without fanfare for two or three games before reporters noticed. Kaepernick is an educated black man adopted and raised by a white couple but who chose to explore his ethnic heritage. He explained he was protesting the disparately abusive treatment towards black suspects by police officers when compared to white, and nothing else. Those who prefer to keep political power in white hands made the protest about disrespect for the American flag and all the military personnel it allegedly represents.*

Kaepernick and 49ers teammates protesting in 2016.

Kaepernick and 49ers teammates protesting in 2016.

In 2009, Pitino became mired in an extramarital scandal when outed despite paying millions in extortion money to his former mistress to keep the affair quiet. Pitino, an educated white man, was in his ninth year as Cardinals coach. Rather than being drummed out of the profession, he coached another eight seasons before being tripped up by the FBI investigation into Adidas’ corruptive influence in college athletics. He denies knowledge of the payment to his player, as well as a concurrent scandal in which strippers entertained basketball recruits in a campus dormitory.

Kaepernick has not been offered a contract or invited to try out by a single NFL team. He quarterbacked the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII in the 2012/13 season with the same athletic style that inspired the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints to take a chance this offseason on Teddy Bridgewater. Some critics claim Kaepernick can’t get work because he isn’t good enough. He doesn’t have the physical limitations a catastrophic knee injury imposed on Bridgewater.  The Cleveland Browns traded for the mobile Tyrod Taylor this offseason. When he was injured, the club didn’t invite Kaepernick to camp as a backup for rookie Baker Mayfield.

Others claim Kaepernick’s skills only suit former coach Jim Harbaugh’s unique system. Come on. Harbaugh is an immensely successful college coach. He must and does find a new signal caller to operate his system every four years. The system is not that different from any other. Kaepernick can adapt. His success as an activist while in exile proves it. Teams simply refuse to give him the opportunity.

Last season, the Miami Dolphins signed the perennially woeful but white Jake Cutler to a year-long deal to stand in for injured starter Ryan Tannehill. The distinctly immobile but white Kirk Cousins inked a lucrative free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. The season-ending injury waiting to happen, Sam Bradford, a Native American whose white looks help him hide behind a generic WASP name, received his fourth opportunity at an NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals. Studies show that while 70% of NFL players are black, 80% of its fans are white. It’s clear the owners value the customer’s money over the talent that attracts it.

Louis CK performing before his sexual harassment became public knowledge.

Louis CK performing before his sexual harassment became public knowledge.

Last week, a second celebrity who shares Colin Kaepernick’s initials, if not his integrity, also made news. The comedian Louis CK, another white man, showed up unannounced to do a set at a New York comedy club last week after nine months in his own professional exile. He had been exposed publicly for privately exposing himself to women employed in his television production company, masturbating in their presence after implicitly threatening their careers to gain consent. On his unexpected return, he was not booed off the stage.

One comedienne expressed her outrage in a Times Op-Ed, angry that CK pulled off an end run around potential protests by appearing unannounced. Aparna Nancherla questioned whether he deserved a second chance so soon when his victims may not have been afforded fresh opportunities. In the end, Louis CK’s former fans will decide whether to welcome the comic back into the field. Democracy at least functions in an informal manner.

The point here is that Colin Kaepernick cannot show up unannounced at an NFL stadium on a whim, suit up and call the plays from behind centre, even though he is celebrated in the black community and by non-bigoted whites. On the other hand, sexual predator Louis CK can pick up a microphone and tell a few jokes on the spur of the moment.

The black man in this social experiment broke no laws. He harmed no one other than opposing defences. He merely expressed his constitutionally protected right to speak and demonstrate freely against prejudice and injustice. As a consequence, he cannot practice his craft. His continued media presence stirs up frenzied animosity among the masses. The two white men either engaged in, ignored, or tacitly benefitted from criminal activity, and exploited women. They remain free to choose their occupational path. Despite their corrupt immoralities, they’re missed.

This is who Americans are. Is it who we want to be?

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick.
Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

In fact, military personnel represent and defend the flag; it does not and cannot represent them. Their service should [not must] be appreciated because it is the ultimate selfless act in which the soldier sacrifices their freedom, time, often their health or life so that others can live safe, free, self-determined lives. Harsh as this sounds, that appreciation can never be held due, much less sacrosanct. When gratitude is demanded, the act is no longer a sacrifice. The freedom soldiers, sailors, airmen and women protected is now denied those who do not meet their price. Their service is diminished by their own hand. Many former military personnel understand this. It is why they voice support for Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Megan Rapinoe, and others’ right to protest. Sadly, too many have forgotten, as have many police.
** The Eagles beat the Falcons 18-12.

Colin Kaepernick Nike signature ad

Miami, LSU mark the 10th anniversary of AT&T Stadium with appropriately young squads

Miami, LSU mark the 10th anniversary of AT&T Stadium with appropriately young squads

The NCAA Football season cranks up the 2018 season with a preseason bowl game at the megalith built by a megalomaniac, Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium. This season, the eighth-ranked University of Miami takes on no.25 Louisiana State.

CharliesSports’ Football Picks lead the industry.
We deliver right through the Bowl Championship Series

Billed as the Advocare Classic despite just reaching its tenth anniversary, the game debuted with the stadium in 2009. The first game featured Brigham Young, ranked 20th, taking on third-ranked Oklahoma. It’s memorable as the game in which Heisman Trophy winner and current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford’s career unofficially ended. Just a few plays after becoming the Sooners’ all-time passer, the junior sprained his throwing shoulder.

Oklahoma OL Brian Simmons was perfectly succinct in summing up the defeat, but also Bradford’s injury and professional future.

This loss hurts.

Bradford attempted to come back later in the year then opted for season-ending surgery before the NFL draft. He then signed a mega-contract with the St Louis Rams but further injuries denied him the opportunity to live up to his potential.

Sam Bradford after Oklahoma's defeat to BYU in the first Cowboys Classic.

Sam Bradford after Oklahoma’s defeat to BYU in the first Cowboys Classic.

To date, the Cougars pulled off the lone upset in the <cough> Classic’s history, unless you count no.4 LSU defeating no.3 Oregon in 2011. That said, the series’ lone unranked participant, Oklahoma State, put a scare into top-ranked Florida State in 2014.

Two pre-season number ones graced AT&T Stadium for this one, the 2016 Alabama squad being the other. The Crimson Tide boast the most appearances and best record, at 3-0. LSU and TCU are the only other schools to play more than once. Although underdogs this season, the Tigers hope to equal ‘Bama’s three-win mark. Miami wants to spoil LSU’s dream in their first appearance.

It won’t be easy for the Hurricanes. Head coach Mark Richt brings a young team to Dallas. Tight end Michael Irvin II won’t be there. The second-generation ‘Cane is lost until early December with a knee injury, a post-season bowl game his solitary hope for action this campaign. Senior QB Malik Rosier is a rarity. Richt intends to play several freshmen, true and redshirt, on both sides of the ball. The coach was particularly enthusiastic about 6’ 6” 250lb DL Greg Rousseau during his weekly radio show.

It feels like he’s been here two years, but he’s a true freshman. You can’t deny what he’s done since camp began.

With so many inexperienced players, you might expect Miami to rely on its defense to contain LSU.

Two veteran coaches in Mark Richt and Ed Orgeron; two young squads in UM and LSU.

Two veteran coaches in Mark Richt and Ed Orgeron; two young squads in UM and LSU.

On the other hand, Ed Orgeron’s Tigers begin a new cycle as well, featuring a handful of transfers, including starting quarterback Joe Burrows, who came from Ohio State. In addition to Burrows’ debut, LSU enters the season with a running back corps that hasn’t scored a touchdown in a meaningful game. Burrows top receivers are junior Jonathan Giles, a transfer from Texas Tech who sat out last season, and true freshman Terrace ‘Don’t call me Terrance’ Marshall from Bossier City, LA.

Expect both squads to be chomping at the bit to start their seasons on a rare Sunday night for the NCAA. After watching the entire country strut their stuff, all those freshmen and transfers will be eager to prove what they can do. No doubt, Mark Richt and Ed Orgeron will be equally impatient to find out.

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick.
Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.

 

Florida Atlantic’s Owls see wisdom in betting on Lane Kiffin for the long haul

Florida Atlantic’s Owls see wisdom in betting on Lane Kiffin for the long haul

People dance with the devil all the time. The song always begins with the same question. “How badly do you want it?” When the answer is ‘bad enough’, the experience rarely ends well. Florida Atlantic University want it bad enough to extend head coach Lane Kiffin’s contract for another ten years.

FAU play seventh-ranked Oklahoma to kick off their 2018 NCAA football season this afternoon but the Sooners aren’t the dance partner who should concern the Owls. That would be Lane Kiffin.

CharliesSports’ Football Picks lead the industry.
We deliver right through the Bowl Championship Series.

No one should portray any college coach at a major program as a paradigm of virtue. Joe Paterno and Urban Meyer demonstrate the moral depths that must be plumbed to climb to the top in the NCAA. Kiffin hasn’t been accused of covering for an abuser but he’s surpassed both legends in turning on his own program.

After giving up his playing career as a junior at Fresno State to become a student assistant, Kiffin’s rise was meteoric. He joined Southern Cal in 2001, began sharing offensive coordinator duties with Steve Sarkisian in 2005 while also becoming head of recruitment. His three classes were all ranked number one in the country but sanctions against USC for his predecessors’ illegal payments to Heisman Trophy running back Reggie Bush failed to limit his ambition.

Hired from the Trojans to become the youngest head coach in NFL history, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis soon fired Kiffin for being an “out and out liar.” Never mind that Davis, who defied his fanbase and the league by moving the club from Oakland to Los Angeles, then back again, was hardly trustworthy himself. The venerable Silver and Black icon successfully defended his decision to deny Kiffin’s severance package when a court of law agreed with his opinion regarding the young coach, finding Davis had just cause for termination.

Lane Kiffin couldn't hold Al Davis' trust with the Raiders.

Kiffin became head coach at Tennessee, quickly angering his Raiders replacement and former assistant, Tom Cable, by plundering from his staff just as the playoffs approached. The same ‘no honor among thieves’ philosophy later brought him to FAU. First, though, he caused riots in Knoxville when he abruptly abandoned the Volunteers to return to USC as head coach.

Hit with belated sanctions from the Reggie Bush scandal in his first season, Kiffin soldiered on. To his credit, the new coach posted 8-5 and 12-4 records while ineligible for bowl games, despite losing several top players to other schools when the NCAA allowed them to leave without penalty. His team then struggled to a 7-6 record in his third campaign, after being ranked number one in the pre-season.

Athletic Director Pat Haden couldn’t have been happy with a scandal in which Kiffin was outed for criticising a rival for voting the Trojan’s the top team when he told reporters he’d never have voted USC number one. The USA Coach’s Poll revealed he’d done exactly that. The incident recalled an episode at Tennessee, where he accused then Florida coach Urban Meyer of telephoning a player while he was on a campus visit. That’s a recruiting violation, as was Kiffin identifying the recruit in question. It turned out Meyer hadn’t called the player at all. In the end, winning was paramount.  When Kiffin lost the first two conference games in his fourth season, Haden fired him.

Before the holidays arrived, he became the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Kiffin opened up the Crimson Tide offense, calling the plays that made Nick Saban’s side national championship favorites for the next two seasons. Kiffin made all the right comments about the hierarchy in Tuscaloosa, too, showing proper deference for Saban as the head coach.

Lane Kiffin wasn't happy playing second genius to Nick Saban at Alabama for long.

Then, in December 2016, while the Tide prepared for a national title game against Clemson, he accepted the FAU job. Kiffin promised to devote his entire focus to the Clemson game, only assuming his duties in Boca Raton afterwards.

Saban wasn’t having it. He fired Kiffin, bringing in his former partner at USC, Steve Sarkisian. Alabama lost the game, although a 35-31 score points towards defensive issues more so than Kiffin’s absence or Sarkisian’s struggle to acclimate at the last minute. As the pair worked in tandem under Pete Carroll at USC, the transition was comparatively smooth.

Kiffin hit the ground running at FAU in 2017. The Owls finished 11-3, Conference USA and Boca Raton Bowl champions.

The first four games were a struggle. Opening losses to Navy and Wisconsin by 23 and 17 points respectively came before the team took out its frustrations on local rival Bethune-Cookman, 45-0, but then lost a shocker to Buffalo in a tight contest in upstate New York. From there, the team went on a ten-game winning streak to complete the season. With Kiffin calling the offensive plays, FAU never scored fewer than 30 points during the run.

In his second season, the pre-conference schedule is another gauntlet to be run. The winning streak is in dire jeopardy against Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma. Then games against Air Force and nationally ranked Central Florida surround the annual game against Bethune-Cookman.

Games against strong competition are necessary for Florida Atlantic to realize its ambition. FAU President John Kelly explained he hired Kiffin to transform the team into a top-25 regular. Thrilled with the bowl-winning campaign after three losing seasons, all at 3-9, he rewarded Kiffin with a ten-year contract extension, one for every win in the streak. Kelly couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.

We’re obviously looking toward keeping Lane long term.

History suggests that’s asking seven or eight years too many. For now, the two men’s ambitions align. Kelly wants to make his school a perennial Division 1 power. So does Kiffin. After enduring fractious relationships at three major programs and an NFL side, the coach is anything but chastened, however.

Lane Kiffin and FAU share unbridled ambition for now.

FAU’s an intelligent choice to resurrect his career. The school nestles in a talent hotbed. The region is dominated by Florida State, Florida and the University of Miami. Elite prospects will always choose between the three or any other that interests them nationwide. But the very good blue chippers who want to

  • a] start regularly and
  • b] remain close to home

will be tempted by the Owls and Kiffin’s recruiting skills. Florida Atlantic can become another Boise State with the added advantage of an ideal location in a massive television market. Every winning season Kiffin registers allows him to recruit progressively stronger classes. It’s not difficult to envision FAU leaving Conference USA for the ACC if it can grow strong enough to compete for a major bowl bid.

Long before that happens, however, another Power Five school will decide it’s time to give Kiffin another chance at the big time. Further, Kiffin’s past suggests he won’t think twice about accepting.

That’s what happens when you dance with the devil.

 2018-19 Football Betting Predictions
Free Pick.
Play Online Poker Plus Other Casino Games.
Enter the internet’s best tournaments.
Bet Here

Martin Palazzotto is a freelance writer and author of strange bOUnce, a collection of sport fiction.