Thursday, January 15, 2015

FOOTBALL NEWS AFTER CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

The 2014 college football season is over.


The NFL playoffs now have four survivors.

The Super Bowl will be played in less than three weeks - Sunday, February 1st.

There was some "football karma" going on last weekend.

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
                         
COLLEGE

THE CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Oregon ended up being a 5½ point favorite over Ohio State in our FFHL pool (Thursday night, 7PM, www.al.com/sprorts/odds ).



With the highest viewership in ESPN program history, the underdog OSU Buckeyes survived four ugly turnovers to pull away and beat the OU Ducks, 42-20, in the first-ever college football playoff championship game.  The viewership was about 21% higher than last year’s BCS Championship game.

Did you know?
The first-ever NCAA men’s basketball championship game was played in 1939, and it matched Ohio State against Oregon.  FINAL: Oregon 46, Ohio State 33.

Other factoids:
Ohio State is now 9-0 versus Oregon on the gridiron (5 games at OSU, 3 neutral site games, and 1 game at OU).

With Urban Meyer as their head coach, the OSU Buckeyes have been an underdog six times; Ohio State has won every one of those games (that is, 6-0 SU).

Ohio State started its 3rd string QB, Cardale Jones, for the Big 10 title game, the CFP semifinal game, and the CFP title game.  The preseason starting QB Braxton Miller injured his shoulder and had surgery prior to the beginning of the season.  Backup JT Barrett started every one of the regular season games for the Buckeyes, but he was injured in the season finale vs. Michigan.
College football junkies – who was the backup QB for the Buckeyes in the championship game Monday night?
If Jones had been injured, redshirt freshman wide receiver Jalin Marshall would have taken over; he was a quarterback in high school.  The next option would have been true freshman Stephen Collier, who didn’t play in a game this year.  Instead, he mimicked Marcus Mariota’s style as a scout team player to help prepare his Buckeyes’ team for the title game.


FINAL POLL RESULTS
(the final CFP Committee rankings were posted on December 7th)         
   
    
Associated Press                    USA Today
#1 Ohio State                          #1                    unanimous in both polls
#2 Oregon                               #2
#3 TCU                                   #3
#4 Alabama                             #4
#5T Michigan State                 #5
#5T Florida State                    #6
#7 Baylor                                 #8
#8 Georgia Tech                     #7
#9 Georgia                              #9
#10 UCLA                               #10
#11 Mississippi State              #12
#12 Arizona State                   #14
#13 Wisconsin                         #13
#14 Missouri                            #11
#15 Clemson                           #15
#16 Boise State                       #16
#17 Mississippi                        #19
#18 Kansas State                    #18
#19 Arizona                             #17
#20 USC                                 #21
#21 Utah                                 #20
#22 Auburn                             #23
#23 Marshall                           #22
#24 Louisville                          #24
#25 Memphis                          #25

THE FCS TITLE GAME (aka Division I-AA)

North Dakota State won its fourth straight FCS Championship in dramatic fashion on January 10th in Frisco, TX.  And loyal fans have unofficially renamed their fair city of Fargo, ND as “Fourgo”.
Illinois State led 27-23 after scoring a TD with 1:38 remaining in the game, but the Redbirds failed on their 2-point conversion attempt.  The NDSU Bison then retaliated with a TD drive of 78 yards in six plays, leaving only 37 seconds on the clock.
FINAL: NDSU 29, ILL.ST 27
Note: Former NDSU head coach Craig Bohl won three straight titles from 2011-2013 before moving on to take the HC job at Wyoming.  Replacement HC Chris Klieman carried on the tradition in his first year with North Dakota State; his only previous head coaching experience was at Loras College (Dubuque, Iowa) in 2005, after which he was a defensive back coach for Northern Iowa from 2006-2010 and then a defensive coach for NDSU from 2011-2013 (DC in 2012 & 2013).

NFL

RESULTS OF CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

All of the home teams were favored to win in last weekend’s conference semifinal games.
Three of the four home teams won their games, with the exception being Denver’s loss to visiting Indianapolis.  However, only one home team covered against the spread.

NFC

#4 Carolina (+10h) at #1 Seattle
RESULTS: SEA 31, CAR 17
The SEA Seahawks were ahead 24-10 and seemingly in control with 10:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the CAR Panthers were marching and faced 2nd-and-4 from the Seattle 13-yard line….oops, Carolina QB Cam Newton threw a “Pick 6” to Seattle safety Kam Chancellor for a 90-yard interception return that increased the lead to 31-10 and sealed the victory with 6 minutes remaining in the game.

#3 Dallas (+5h) at #2 Green Bay       
RESULTS: GB 26, DAL 21
In last week’s wild card game, the Cowboys beat Detroit on a controversial “non-penalty”, and this game provided even more controversy from the reversed-call “non-catch” by Dallas’ WR Dez Bryant.  “Bad call, man, bad call!”  The “Calvin Johnson Rule” (a bad rule that needs to be changed) made the call debatable, but I still think it was a catch (separate move to dive for the end zone after the catch and three steps taken).
UPDATE: The overwhelming majority of rules experts say the call of “incomplete” was correct after the reversal, but I’ll still stay with the overwhelmingly small group that believes it was a catch.
[None of the analysts said anything about the Green Bay cornerback that stuck his leg out and made contact with Bryant (tripping him inadvertently) after he had “caught” the ball and ensured that Bryant would fall to the ground, albeit he was headed to the ground in any event].

From observer and author PT Rothschild, that’s “football karma”.

Here’s what happened:
After Green Bay scored a TD with 9 minutes remaining in the game (missed 2-point conversion), Dallas was behind 26-21; on the ensuing possession, the Cowboys faced 4th-and-2 from the Green Bay 32-yard line.  Dallas QB Tony Romo threw the long ball down the sideline to one-on-one coverage on WR Bryant, who went up high and snagged the pass with two hands and then transferred the ball to his left hand (firmly secured) as he took three steps, still leaning forward and “falling”/stumbling to the ground.  And then he reached out with the ball to cross the goal line, the ball hit the ground and bounced out of his control and then he caught it in the end zone.  GB Packers’ HC Mike McCarthy challenged the call on the field of a completed pass, and the Packers’ coach was successful on a “red-flag” challenge for the first time this season.  The result was an unsuccessful 4th down try by Dallas and Green Bay got possession with 4:06 remaining in the game (it should have been reset to 4:36 based on the ruling of “incomplete”, but that didn’t happen).  After that, Green Bay was able to run out the clock with several key plays, including a pass tipped at the line that still resulted in a 12-yard completion on a 3rd and-11 play.

AFC

#6 Baltimore (+6h) at #1 New England
RESULTS: NE 35, BAL 31
Baltimore led 14-0 in the first quarter, but New England bounced back and tied the game 14-14.  The BAL Ravens regained a fourteen-point lead, 28-14, with a TD early in the 3rd quarter.  The Patriots came back again and tied the score at 28-28 with 4:20 still remaining in the 3rd quarter.  In the final quarter, Baltimore had to settle for a FG with 10 minutes remaining in the game after a 16-play, 73-yard drive.  On the ensuing possession, the NE Pats drove 74 yards on 10 plays and scored the go-ahead TD to lead 35-21 with 5 minutes left.  The BAL Ravens came right back and converted on a 4th-and-3 play just before the 2-minute warning…”first down” with the ball on New England’s 41-yard line.  But soon thereafter on 2nd down, an interception in the end zone stopped the drive and virtually ended the game with 1:39 on the clock.

#4 Indianapolis (+7) at #2 Denver
UPSET RESULTS: IND 24, DEN 13
The IND Colts outplayed the Broncos in every way, looking younger, faster, stronger, and better on both sides of the ball.  Aging Denver QB Peyton Manning (38) may have played his last game in the NFL; his arm strength was noticeably weak and his deep throws were inaccurate.


UPDATE: Peyton Manning played the whole game with a torn quadriceps muscle (thigh, an injury sustained in the Chargers’ game on December 14th).  He presumably also had a deep thigh bruise in the other leg.  The severity of these injuries has come into question.  The NFL injury reports never mentioned the plural of “thigh” (supposedly required to be divulged if both are injured).

UPCOMING CONFERENCE TITLE GAMES
SUNDAY, January 18th

NFC – 3PM ET
Green Bay (+7) at Seattle
History:
The GB Packers opened the 2014 season on Thursday night with a road trip to Seattle, losing 36-16 as a 4½-point underdog.

Do you remember Week #3 of the 2012 season, with the replacement referees still calling all of the NFL games?  The Monday night game that week was GB at Seattle, with the Packers a 3-point favorite.  The phantom touchdown by Seattle at the end of the game gave the Seahawks the win, 14-12 (the “Fail Mary” game).
This was the last game the replacements referees worked that season, as miraculously a settlement was arranged before the start of Week #4.


AFC – 6:30PM ET
Indianapolis (+6h) at New England
New England earned its fourth straight berth in the AFC Championship Game by beating Baltimore last weekend.
History:
New England played at Indianapolis this year in Week #11; the NE Patriots won handily 42-20 as a 3-point favorite (as Filter King and The Fugitive played blackjack at The California Club and then ate pizza at the Four Queens in downtown Vegas).
In 2012, the IND Colts played at New England as a 9½-point underdog and lost 59-24.
In 2011, Indy played at NE as a 20½-point ‘dog and lost only 31-24 to cover ATS.

UPCOMING PRO BOWL EXHIBITION GAME
SUNDAY, January 25th

Michael Irvin and Chris Carter will select their teams from the list of Pro Bowl players.
The game will be played at the site of the Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ

ODDS TO WIN THE SUPER BOWL (www.vegasinsider.com )

Seattle                         7/5       1.4 to 1
New England              9/2       4.5 to 1
Green Bay                  5/1       5 to 1


Indianapolis                 8/1       8 to 1

CUMULATIVE RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) and STRAIGHT UP

NFL – CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL WEEKEND

                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               1-3-0  (25.0%)             3-1-0  (75.0%)
            HOME TEAMS           1-3-0  (25.0%)             3-1-0   (75.0%)

NFL - CUMULATIVE (through Conference Semifinals weekend)

                                                ATS                             STRAIGHT-UP
                                                Record                        Record

FAVORITES               126-130-4 (49.2%)      177-82-1  (68.3%)      
            HOME TEAMS           121-135-4 (47.3%)      149-110-1 (57.5%)


OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS

COACHING CHANGES - UPDATES

Dallas recently re-signed HC Jason Garrett to a new 5-year, $30MM contract; his previous contract expired at the end of the 2014 season (Garrett has a 41-31 regular season record with the Cowboys).  DC Rod Marinelli was re-signed to a 3-year extension.

Buffalo hired former NYJ head coach Rex Ryan to a 5-year, $27.5MM contract.  It seems strange that the Bills would bring in a defensive-minded coach when their defense is already solid and the weakness seems to be at QB, the same problem Rex had in New York with the Jets.  We’ll see how this works out.
UPDATE: Bills’ DC Jim Schwartz was fired, and Ryan brought in his DC from the Jets to join him.  The new OC will be Greg Roman (previously OC for SF).

The NY Jets hired former Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to a 4-year, $16+MM contract.  I could repeat the comments for the Buffalo Bills’ hiring and not be too far off.

As of Tuesday night, the search was still ongoing for new head coaches by these NFL teams:

Denver – added to the list when GM John Elway and former HC John Fox agreed to part ways, as they disagreed on how to get the Broncos to “the next level”.  Next in line could be offensive coordinator Adam Gase; if he is not hired for the head job, it may signal the end of Peyton Manning in Denver.  Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is sitting in the background right now. [Now all coaching staff are gone or going-Ed]

SF 49’ers – speaking of Adam Gase, he appears to be headed to San Francisco to take the HC job with the Niners.  A dark horse candidate may be Mike Shanahan.

Oakland – speaking of Jack Del Rio, he looks to be the frontrunner to get the Raiders’ HC job and is likely to take the job later today. 

Atlanta – Detroit Lions’ DC Teryl Austin?

Chicago – maybe Mike Shanahan will get the job; he previously coached both QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall in Denver.  UPDATE: doubtful that will happen.
Former Denver HC John Fox, former Buffalo HC Doug Marrone, or Detroit DC Teryl Austin?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

The 2015 Class of the College Football Hall of Fame includes 17 members, consisting of 15 players, one former head coach and one current head coach (must be at least 75 years old if still coaching).  Following is the list of inductees:

BILL SNYDER - Kansas State (current head coach)
Snyder, who built a winner from scratch twice, becomes only the fourth coach to earn induction into the College Football Hall of Fame while still actively coaching.
He joins Bobby Bowden (Samford [Ala.], West Virginia, Florida State), John Gagliardi (Carroll [Mont.], Saint John’s [Minn.]) and Joe Paterno (Penn State). Snyder has won 187 games during his 23 seasons with the Wildcats, which is 147 more wins than any other coach in KSU history.

JIM TRESSEL - Ohio State (former head coach)
Tressel was one of the best coaches at both the FBS (Ohio State) and FCS (Youngstown State) levels before being ousted in disgrace by the Buckeyes in the midst of an NCAA scandal. Tressel still has a “show-cause against” that runs through next year.  He won five total national championships, one at OSU and four at YSU, where he currently serves as president. He is the only head coach to win national titles at both the FBS and FCS levels.

BRIAN BOSWORTH - Oklahoma (linebacker)
Bosworth remains the only two-time winner of the Butkus Award.

RICKY WILLIAMS - Texas (running back)
Williams was the 1998 Heisman winner and left the UT Longhorns as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher with 6,279 yards.

TREV ALBERTS – LB, Nebraska (1990-93)
BOB BREUNIG – LB, Arizona State (1972-74)
SEAN BREWER – DL, Millsaps (Miss.) (1989-92)
RUBEN BROWN – OT, Pittsburgh (1991-94)
WES CHANDLER – SE, Florida (1974-77)
THOM GATEWOOD – SE, Notre Dame (1969-71)
DICK JAURON – RB, Yale (1970-72)
CLINTON JONES – HB, Michigan State (1964-66)
LINCOLN KENNEDY – OT, Washington (1989-92)
ROB LYTLE (deceased) – RB, Michigan (1974-76)
MICHAEL PAYTON – QB, Marshall (1989-92)
ART STILL – DE, Kentucky (1974-77)
ZACH THOMAS – LB, Texas Tech (1992-95)


NFL HALL OF FAME FINALISTS

Following are the 15 finalists for possible selection into the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame, with a maximum of five to be inducted.  The final selections will be announced on January 31st (9PM ET, the day before the Super Bowl).

1ST YEAR ELIGIBLE:
Junior Seau (RIP)     LB        SD/MIA/NE     (1990-2009; 10-time All-Pro)
Orlando Pace            OT       STL/CHI          (1997-2009; 5-time All-Pro)
Kurt Warner               QB       STL/NYG/AZ  (1998-2009; born in Burlington, IA)

2013 FINALISTS NOT INDUCTED LAST YEAR:
Jerome Bettis            RB       LA-STL/PIT     (1993-2005; 6th all-time rushing yards)
Kevin Greene            DE/LB for LA/PIT/CAR/SF/CAR (1985-1999; 3rd all-time sack leader)
Will Shields                OG      KC                   (1993-2006; 7-time All-Pro)
Marvin Harrison        WR      Indianapolis     (1996-2008)
Charles Haley            DE       SF/DAL/SF     (1986-1999; only player ever with 5 Super
                                                                        Bowl rings!  He was a jerk to media during
                                                                        his career; hence his omission from the club
                                                                        so far.
SEVEN OTHERS:
John Lynch                S          TB, DEN         (1993-2007; 4-time All-Pro)
Morten Andersen      K          NOR/ATL/NYG/KC/MIN/ATL
                                                1982-2004, 2006-2007
                                                All-time NFL leading scorer; 6-time All-Pro
Tim Brown                 WR      LA-OAK/TB     (1988-2004; 9-time Pro Bowler)
Don Coryell (Coach)              STL/SD           1973-1986       Innovator of NFL passing game
Terrell Davis              RB       Denver            (1995-2001, injury-shortened career; 3-time
                                                                                All-Pro and 2 Super Bowl rings)
Tony Dungy (Coach; 1981-2008)     Head coach: TB 1996-2001, IND 2002-2008
Jimmy Johnson (Head Coach)        DAL 1989-1993 and MIA Dolphins 1996-1999
                                                            Super Bowl wins in 1992 & 1993

In addition, the Senior Committee will vote on whether to induct any or all three of the following (must get 80% of “yes-no” votes):
Minnesota Vikings’ offensive center Mick Tingelhoff (1962-1978, seven-time All-Pro and 10 division titles in 11 years)
Contributor Bill Polian (1978-2011) with KC/BUF/NFL/CAR/IND
Contributor Ron Wolf (1963-1975, 1978-1990) with OAK/LA/AFL, TB, NYJ, GB


COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015
ODDS TO WIN CFP TITLE GAME
(Already?? Yes, the bookies have set the opening odds)

OHIO STATE             6 to 1
TCU                            7.5 to 1
ALABAMA                  10 to 1
OREGON                   14 to 1
AUBURN                    14 to 1

Good luck to you in trying to guess what’s going to happen in the 2015 season still eight months away.  And to steal a line from John Taylor of www.profootballtalk.nbcsports.com on being less than stellar with his prognostications (and me, too), “I’m the resident Nostradumbass.” 

LOOKING AHEAD

FFHL WEEK #18C – FFHL PLAYOFF FINALS
(picks are due by 7PM every Friday – total of seven picks through Super Bowl)

NFL PLAYOFF GAMES
Two Conference Final games (January 18th)

Green Bay (+7h) at Seattle


Indianapolis (+6h) at New England

FUTURE NFL PLAYOFF GAME
Super Bowl XLIV (Sunday, February 1st)



QUIZ QUESTIONS

QUESTION #1: North Dakota State won its 4th straight FCS (Division 1-AA) title, the first football team to ever do so at that level.  Name the only other team to win four straight titles at any level, which was accomplished by a Division III team.
HINT:  Iowa and Illinois fans, you might know this without even having to guess.


QUESTION #2: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer won his third NCAA (FBS) football national title on Monday night, tying Tom Osborne (NEB), Woody Hayes (OH.ST), Darrell Royal (Texas), Bernie Bierman (MINN), Barry Switzer (OKL), and Bud Wilkinson (OKL) for fifth place on the all-time list.  Try to name the four coaches ahead of this group.  [Note: using only AP and Coaches Polls since 1936].
HINT: The all-time leader has six titles, and three others are tied with four titles.  One of these guys is still coaching.

BONUS: After winning the 2014 NCAA title, Ohio State HC Urban Meyer became only the second head coach to win a championship at more than one school.  He won two titles with Florida (2006, 2008 seasons).  Name the only other coach with titles at two different schools.





ANSWER #1:
Augustana College out of Rock Island, Illinois (in the Quad Cities).  The Vikings won Division III titles from 1983 through 1986 under head coach Bob Reade.

ANSWER #2:
Paul “Bear” Bryant won six titles with Alabama (1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979).
Tied with four titles are:
Frank Leahy (ND – 1943, 1946, 1948, 1949) and as a player at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne in 1929 and 1930.  Leahy’s college coaching record: 107-13-9 (.864), second all-time only behind fellow ND Irish coach Rockne.
John McKay (USC – 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974)
Nick Saban (LSU 2003, ALA 2009, 2011, 2012)

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