FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER
Hello Football Fans,
The first week of the NFL season couldn't have been much more exciting (except for Monday night games).
In college, there are four big games this weekend.
And I've got three quiz questions to challenge you, Krueg.
The 2016 NFL season kicked off on Thursday night with a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl 50 (Denver 24, Carolina 10).
DENVER 21, CAROLINA 20
The CAR Panthers (-3, meaning favored by three points) missed a 50-yard FG with 3 seconds remaining in the game to give the defending Super Bowl Champions the win.
The DEN Broncos trailed 17-7 at halftime, lost the turnover battle 3-1, and were out gained from scrimmage, 333-307, but scored two TD’s in the 4th quarter and earned the victory with inexperienced QB Trevor Siemian playing the whole game (2015 7th round draft pick out of Northwestern).
It was a pretty good game, but was marred by several non-calls of Carolina QB Cam Newton getting hit in the head while “defenseless”. One helmet-to-helmet hit was flagged (safety Darian Stewart, fined $18,231 by the league). One other hit was not flagged but is still expected to result in a fine from the NFL (LB Brandon Marshall hit in 3rd quarter).
NFL OPENING WEEK
Hold the phone (and texting), football fans!
The NFL is crazy; this may have been the most bizarre opening week in NFL history. The outcome of 11 of the first 14 games (before Monday Night) came down to the wire. There were four one-point victories, the first time this has happened in NFL history on the opening week of a season.
Only one game was a “blowout”: PHI 29, CLE 10.
These games are a complete crap-shoot.
UPDATE: The two Monday night games were yawning blowouts, but one underdog was victorious.
Oakland (+1h) at New Orleans
The NOR Saints were ahead 24-13 after three quarters, but Da Raidas kept hammering against a suspect Saints’ defense and ended up scoring a TD with 47 seconds remaining in regulation play to trail only 34-33. HC Jack Del Rio went for the win and called for the 2-point conversion try – successful, giving them a 35-34 lead and then Oakland held on to win after the Saints barely missed a last-second 61-yard FG.
FINAL: OAK 35, NOR 34, and the Raiders covered ATS by 2½ points.
In 1994 the NFL adopted the two-point conversion option. Oakland became only the fourth team since then to convert a 2-pointer in the final minute of a 4th quarter to win the game.
The other three: MIN over NOR (2002), TB over WSH (2005), and DEN over SD (2008).
Kansas City (-6) vs. San Diego
The SD Chargers were ahead 24-3 and still leading 24-10 after three quarters and then kicked a FG to extend the lead to 27-10, but the Chiefs tied the game by the end of regulation with seventeen unanswered points including the tying score with only one minute remaining in the 4th quarter. In overtime, the coin flip was won by KC and the home team marched down the field for a TD to win; the San Diego offense never got to touch the ball. Bummer.
FINAL: KC 33, SD 27 (OT), and this game was a TIE against the spread in our pool.
Minnesota (-2h) at Tennessee
The TEN Titans were ahead 10-0 at halftime, but the MIN Vikings scored two defensive TD’s (Pick Six and fumble return) in the 2nd half to prevail, 25-16, and “easily” cover ATS.
Minnesota used its backup QB Shaun Hill (age 36) the whole game, leaving newly acquired QB Sam Bradford on the bench (still learning the offense). Teddy Bridgewater is out for the year; he had successful knee repair surgery last week.
[Tennessee lost the turnover battle 3-0]
Seattle (-10) vs. Miami
Seattle (-10) trailed visiting Miami 10-6 until the Seahawks scored the go-ahead TD with 31 seconds remaining in the game (PAT was blocked). The Dolphins were unable to respond with such a short clock.
FINAL: SEA 12, MIA 10, but the Dolphins easily covered ATS.
The NY Giants (-1 in our pool) at Dallas
The New York Football Giants were ahead at halftime 13-9, but relinquished the lead early in the 2nd half and still trailed until scoring a TD with 6:13 remaining in the 4th quarter to take a 20-19 lead, after which punts by both teams and a lack of scoring ended the game.
FINAL: NYG 20, DAL 19, and it was a TIE against the spread in our pool.
Detroit (+3h) at Indianapolis
The DET Lions were ahead 21-3 during the 2nd quarter and still leading 28-18 after three quarters, but the IND Colts ended up scoring the go-ahead TD with only 37 seconds remaining in the game to lead 35-34. But Detroit wasn’t done; they moved into FG range and kicked a 49-yarder with 0:08 on the clock, with the score 37-35. On the ensuing kickoff, Indy tried to lateral its way to the winning score, but was instead called for a penalty that resulted in a safety to end the game.
FINAL: DET 39, IND 35 and the underdog Lions won both SU and ATS.
Green Bay (-5) at Jacksonville
The JAX Jaguars threw an interception (the only turnover of the game by either team) on its first drive and the GB Packers used six plays to drive 29 yards for the first TD of the game. Jacksonville fought back and took the lead 10-7. The teams exchanged TD’s and then the Pack scored on a TD just before halftime to retake the lead 21-17. Both teams kicked two FG’s in the second half and the Pack still led by four, 27-23; with 3:17 remaining in the game, Jacksonville started from its own 37 and marched down the field with the game-deciding drive…3rd–and-1 from the GB 14-yard line with 27 seconds to go…incomplete pass…23 seconds to go, 4th-and-1….bubble screen pass behind the line gains nothing. Game over.
FINAL: GB 27, JAX 23 although Jacksonville did end up covering ATS by 1 point.
Jacksonville outgained the Pack from scrimmage, 348-294, but Green Bay was more opportunistic.
Cincinnati (-2h) at NY Jets
The CIN Bengals kicked the game-winner on a 47-yard FG with 54 seconds remaining in the game.
FINAL: CIN 23, NYJ 22 and the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets still won ATS.
New England (+6) at Arizona
The AZ Cardinals missed a potential go-ahead 47-yard FG with 37 seconds remaining in the game and the NE Patriots prevailed with backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo playing the whole game.
There were two blowout Monday night games on the opening week:
PITTSBURGH 38, WASHINGTON 16
SAN FRANCISCO 28, LA RAMS 0
NFL UNDERDOG WINNERS
There were SIX underdogs that won outright in 16 NFL games (37.5%).
See the above commentary. Here is the summary.
Denver +3 beat visiting Carolina, 21-20.
Tampa Bay +2h won at Atlanta, 31-24.
Oakland +1h won at New Orleans, 35-34.
Detroit +3h won at Indianapolis, 39-35.
New England (+6) won at Arizona, 23-21.
San Francisco (+2h) beat the visiting LA Rams, 28-0.
“NOT QUITE” AN UPSET:
See the commentary above for some of the craziness.
COLLEGE QUICKIE SUMMARY of 2nd week
After last week’s blockbuster lineup, this week gave us not even one Associated Press Top 25 team playing against a ranked opponent. And, only five ranked teams were playing opponents from another Power 5 conference. And, ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) projected that every ranked team playing this week would win, including 19 of the 23 ranked teams having a 90% or better chance of winning (Stanford and Michigan State were on “bye” weeks).
Of the Top 25 teams, six played FCS opponents and twelve faced non-Power 5 teams.
Only two of the AP Top 25 teams were upset in the second week on the gridiron: #15 TCU and #22 Oklahoma State (horrendously bad call to lose; see below).
The AP Top 25 posted an 8-7 record against the spread (ATS); the Top 10 was 2-2 ATS.
UPCOMING WEEKEND: Four big Top 25 matchups including the top 3 ranked teams. See below.
COLLEGE UNDERDOG WINNERS (FBS)
There were only SIX underdogs that won outright in 46 FBS vs. FBS games (13%).
SHOCKER OF THE WEEK
Central Michigan +21 won at AP#22 Oklahoma State, 30-27, fueled by a bad call at the end of regulation play that allowed the CMU Chippewas from their own 49-yard line to get off an untimed play to finish the game – a combination of Hail Mary and hook-and-lateral for the winning TD. The officials later admitted the incorrect application of rules, but the result of the game will not be changed.
It should have been corrected. The OSU Cowboys were leading 27-24, still with possession, facing a 4th-down-and-5 from midfield with only five seconds remaining in regulation time. HC Mike Gundy called for a pass out of bounds to eat up the rest of the clock. It was ruled “intentional grounding” and loss of down and CMU possession (correctly), but there was no time on the clock. But then the officials applied the rule that states a game cannot end with an offensive penalty and gave the Chippewas its fateful untimed play. This was incorrectly handled by the officials, as there is an exception to the general rule for a “loss of down” play (per exception, the game can end with a penalty in this case). The game should have been over and CMU should not have gotten the opportunity to produce that miraculous last play that ended up winning the game. Wow!
Why can’t this just be fixed after the fact? I don’t have the answer.
Arkansas +7h won at Texas Christian in double overtime, 41-38. The former AP#15 TCU Horned Frogs and QB Kenny “The (former) Thrill” Hill are struggling this season.
Wake Forest +5 won at rival Duke, 24-14.
Ohio U. +3 won at lowly Kansas, 37-21.
East Carolina +5h beat visiting NC State, 33-30.
New Mexico State +12h beat visiting in-state rival New Mexico, 32-31.
“NOT QUITE” AN UPSET:
THE 91st “HOLY WAR”
Utah hosted rival BYU (+3h) and intercepted the first play from scrimmage for a TD and a 7-0 lead. The Utes were still leading 20-13 late in the fourth quarter, but the BYU Cougars put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a TD with only 18 seconds remaining in regulation – behind only 20-19 with the extra point try still to go. New HC Kalani Sitake decided to “go for two” for the win and the running play failed.
FINAL: UTAH 20, BYU 19 (Brigham Young, however, covered ATS)
Turnovers were rampant in this game: Utah 6, BYU 3
Utah won its sixth straight game in this rivalry, the longest streak since 1964.
AP#2 Clemson barely held on to beat visiting Troy (+35h, meaning the Trojans were a FIVE-touchdown underdog). FINAL: CLEM 30, TROY 24.
AGAINST THE SPREAD – “STRANGE TWISTS”
AP#1 Alabama was favored over visiting Western Kentucky by 29 points in our pool; the Tide won 38-10 to not cover ATS by one point.
Say What?!? The Crimson Tide was ahead 38-3 late in the game with possession and running out the clock. OC Lane Kiffin was still calling “fancy” plays to give the backups valuable experience…snap glances off man in motion, fumble recovered by WKU with 1½ minutes to go. Three plays later, the Hilltoppers scored their first TD of the game to get just enough points to cover ATS (with 45 seconds on the clock).
And ‘Bama HC Nick Saban berated Kiffin on the sidelines after the fumble, demanding discipline from his players and coaching staff. He’s gearing up for this weekend’s matchup at Mississippi and getting his troupes in the right frame of mind for the SEC season.
AP#5 Michigan was favored over visiting Central Florida by 35½ points; the Wolverines won 51-14 to cover ATS by 1½ points.
AP#18 Notre Dame was favored by 28 points over visiting Nevada; the Irish won 39-10 to cover ATS by one point.
There are so many others.
One good game on Saturday was the State of Pennsylvania rivalry that was rekindled this year between the only two FBS schools in the state.
Pittsburgh was favored by 5 points over visiting Penn State (+5), but the PIT Panthers won “only” 42-39 and did not cover ATS by 2 points. PITT won the turnover battle 4-2.
Pittsburgh RB James Conner is making a miraculous comeback from last year’s torn MCL surgery and winning his fight against cancer (Hodgkin's lymphoma, diagnosed in December in a follow-up examination after surgery on his knee). Conner injured the knee in Week #1 of the 2015 season, his junior year.
FBS AP POLL UPDATE
Since there were no key matchups in the Top 25 this week, the rankings didn’t change much. Following are a few items of note:
With losses, #15 TCU and #22 Oklahoma State dropped out of the Top 25.
With wins, previously unranked SEC schools Arkansas (who beat TCU) and Florida have moved into the Top 25 at #24 and #23, respectively.
Even with a win last week, SEC Georgia dropped SEVEN spots in the AP Poll from #9 to #16. Why? Because the UGA Bulldogs barely beat the unranked FCS Nicholls Colonels, 26-24.
Clemson has started the year with two lackluster wins. The CU Tigers dropped from AP#2 to AP#5 after beating lowly the Sun Belt Conference’s Troy Trojans only 30-24 last Saturday.
With wins in the second week, three teams moved up three spots in the rankings: Louisville up to AP#10, Iowa up to AP#13, and Texas A&M up to AP#17.
AP#1 Alabama got all but five of the 61 first-place AP Poll votes [FSU 4; Michigan 1]. In the Coaches’ Poll, the Crimson Tide got 62 of the 64 first-place votes [FSU and Clemson each got one vote].
“UPSETS” -- FCS beats FBS
FCS Illinois State won at FBS Northwestern, 9-7, and moved up four spots to FCS#5.
FCS North Carolina A&T won at FBS Kent State, 39-36, after four overtime periods and moved up five spots to FCS#19.
FCS Eastern Illinois won at Miami of Ohio, 21-17, but is still not in the FCS Top 25.
FCS UPSETS – “NOT QUITE”:
FBS and then-AP#9 Georgia barely beat unranked FCS Nicholls, 26-24.
FBS Arizona beat unranked FCS Grambling State, 31-21, after trailing at halftime 21-3.
FBS Bowling Green barely beat unranked FCS North Dakota, 27-26.
FBS LA-Lafayette beat FCS#13 McNeese State, 30-22
FCS vs. FCS
#1 North Dakota State hosted #8 Eastern Washington and prevailed, 50-44. Losing EWU still moved up one spot to FCS#7. The NDSU Bison remained at FCS#1 and play at AP#13 Iowa this Saturday.
#15 Montana won at #3 Northern Iowa, 20-14 last Saturday. The UNI Panthers dropped eight spots to FCS#11, while victorious Montana jumped up six spots to FCS#9.
#17 Northern Arizona lost at #18 Western Illinois, 34-20, and dropped seven spots to FCS#24. WIU moved up to FCS#16.
FFHL RESULTS – WEEK ONE (second week of pool)
Overall, we FFHL’ers bounced back with a decent week at 42-34-8 (54.8%) record ATS. In college games, we were 29-24-4 ATS (54.4%) and in the NFL games we were 13-10-4 ATS (55.6%).
We once again bet heavily on the favorites, picking only 16 underdogs out of 84 total picks (68 favorites). Results: We were 10-6 ATS on underdog picks (NFL 7-2 ATS; college 3-4 ATS).
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) Listed below is a breakdown of some of our significant picks.
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
OAK Raiders +1h at NOR 4-0 WIN, late TD drive + 2pt PAT for Oakland victory
CIN Bengals -2h at NYJ 3-0 LOSS, Cincinnati wins only by 1 point to not cover
HOU Texans -6 vs. CHI 3-2 WIN, Houston 23-14 victory gets cover ATS by 3
JAX Jaguars +5 vs. GB 2-1 WIN, Green Bay wins only 27-23 to not cover by 1
Ohio St -28h vs. Tulsa 7-0 WIN, Buckeyes win 48-3 to cover easily
Alabama -29 vs. WKU 6-0 LOSS, Tide wins “only” by 28 to miss by 1
Navy -4 vs. UConn 4-0 TIE, Midshipmen win 28-24 at home
Michigan -35h vs. UCF 4-0 WIN, ‘Ganders cover ATS by 1½ points
AZ State -2h vs. TX Tech 4-0 WIN, Sun Devils prevail 68-55
Wisconsin -23h vs. Akron 3-1 WIN, Badgers win handily at home, 54-10
SDSU -7 vs. CAL 3-0 LOSS, Aztecs hang on to win “only” 45-40
Clemson -35h vs. Troy 3-0 LOSS, CU Tigers lucky just to win the game
ACCUMULATED RECORDS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
In this first week of the NFL games:
FAVORITES 5-9-2 (37.5%) 10-6 (62.5%)
HOME TEAMS 7-7-2 (50.0%) 7-9 (43.8%)
COLLEGE – the 2nd week:
FAVORITES 27-18-1 (59.8%) 40-6 (87.0%)
HOME TEAMS 22-22-1 (50.0%) 35-10 (77.8%)
There was one neutral site game this week.
Most of the home teams won outright this week, but many of them did not cover ATS. Rationale: Big-time schools schedule cupcakes early in the year, and most often have the power to get the game at home against these “lesser” opponents (and the point spreads tend to be large).
COLLEGE – CUMULATIVE RESULTS through two weeks:
FAVORITES 44-41-2 (51.7%) 68-19 (78.2%)
HOME TEAMS 35-40-2 (46.8%) 55-22 (71.4%)
COLLEGE CATCH-UP and OTHER MINUTIA
QB Greg Ward Jr. for the AP#6 Houston Cougars (potential Heisman Trophy candidate) was out of last week’s game vs. FCS Lamar with a shoulder injury. He has been getting treatments and will be available for the big game tomorrow night at Cincinnati.
Speaking of the Heisman Trophy, the newly-hyped leader in the race is QB Lamar Jackson, a sophomore out of Louisville, who has racked up some gaudy statistics against two lesser opponents. Against Charlotte, he threw 6 TD passes and rushed for 119 yards and 2 TD’s (in the first half) in a 70-14 blowout win by the LOUIS Cardinals. Last weekend at Syracuse, he passed for 411 yards (1 TD) and rushed for 199 yards (4 TD’s including 3 in 1st quarter), leading his team to a 62-28 victory.
NFL NEWS and MINUTIA
There has been a rookie QB to start Week #1 in the NFL for the 9th year in a row; both QB Carson Wentz (PHI) and QB Dak Prescott (DAL) started in their teams’ openers.
Every network that televises NFL games (NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN) has reported record advertising sales. The networks are reportedly charging from $300,000 to $700,000 for a 30-second commercial during a typical regular-season NFL game.
Tim Tebow was signed to a professional contract…with the NY Mets of baseball, to a minor league deal. He will report to Port St. Lucie, FL (Sept. 18th through October 8th) for an instructional league this autumn, although his baseball will take a back seat to his current gig as a college football analyst for the SEC Network. He will then report to training camp next spring and then head to the minor leagues – maybe to Single-A Florida State League in Port St. Lucie.
SD Chargers’ WR Keenan Allen is out for the year with a torn ACL.
CLE Browns’ QB Robert Griffin III is injured (again) and was put on Injured Reserve (out until at least Week #10) with a fractured bone in his non-throwing shoulder (not requiring surgery). Josh McCown will now be the starter.
LOOKING AHEAD – selected games, not the full slate
COLLEGE FOOTBALL - FFHL WEEK #2 (college FB’s 3rd week)
Thursday AP#6 Houston (-7h) at Cincinnati HOU QB Ward is OK
Friday AP#21 Baylor (-30h) at Rice
Sept 16th Arizona State (-19h) at Texas-San Antonio
Arkansas State (+9h) at Utah State
Saturday BIG GAMES:
Sept 17th AP#1 Alabama (-11h) at AP#19 Mississippi
AP#2 Florida State (-2h) at AP#10 Louisville
AP#3 Ohio State (-2) at AP#14 Oklahoma
AP#12 Michigan State (+8h) at AP#18 Notre Dame
AP#25 Miami of Florida (-3h) at Appalachian State
USC (+9) at AP#7 Stanford
UCLA (-3h) at BYU
Pittsburgh (+6) at Oklahoma State
Oregon (+3h) at Nebraska
FCS#1 North Dakota State at AP#13 Iowa
NFL WEEK #2 – SELECTED GAMES
Thursday NY Jets (-1) at Buffalo
Sunday Divisional Matchups:
Sept 18th Miami (+6h) at New England
Baltimore (-6h) at Cleveland Browns’ QB RGIII on IR
Cincinnati (+3) at Pittsburgh
Dallas (+2h) at Washington
Green Bay (-2h) at Minnesota Vikings’ starting QB unknown
Seattle (-3h) at LA Rams Seahawks’ QB Wilson questionable
Other potential thrillers:
Kansas City (+2h) at Houston 2015 playoffs’ rematch
Tampa Bay (+6h) at Arizona
Monday Philadelphia (+3h) at Chicago
FOOTBALL and other sports QUIZ QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: Which Power 5 team is the only one to never have won its conference and also to never have produced an NFL first-round draft pick?
QUESTION #2: What was the largest worldwide crowd recorded at an enclosed stadium sports’ game (not necessarily a dome)?
QUESTION #3: The newly relocated Los Angeles Rams suffered an ugly loss to San Francisco on Monday night in Santa Clara, CA. It gave head coach Jeff Fisher his 157th loss in the NFL, surpassing Don Shula who suffered 156 losses in his NFL head coaching career. Name the two NFL head coaches that accumulated more losses during their careers.
Following is the unfiltered answer written by one of my loyal readers, who is a passionate Iowa Hawkeye fan, and obviously NOT a fan of the rival Iowa State Cyclones (aka “Clowns”). He wrote this prior to the rivalry game last Saturday between the two schools:
“It's the same team that has a winning record against the $4.5M man, Capt. Kirk [Iowa HC Ferentz]! He's 8 and 9 vs the Clowns in his 17 yrs at the helm. If it comes down to line play, the Hawks should win by more than the spread. But the Clowns will have their hair on fire, like they always do for this, their bowl game, and Capt Kirk will treat this as another ho hum non-conference game, not wanting to get his guys up too high too early in the season. The Clowns have 3 excellent wide outs, led my Lazar, and the Hawks have dumpster fire Mabin, the worst #2 cornerback in America. Lazar will have a career day if the Hawks don't help Mabin over the top, and with a pass rush. Plus the Clowns will have 8 and 9 in the box, but Capt Kirk will still try to establish the run. The IA O Line is not so hot on pass blocking, and almost got CJ Beathard killed a couple times when the Redhawks blitzed and the Hawks did NOT pick it up.
Bottom line: Bet the house and the farm on the Clowns and take the 15 points. They've won the last two in IC. While I think their line play is poor, due to the cupboard being bare, and the Hawks will eventually wear them down, I don't think it will be a runaway, and we all know Capt Kirk never runs it up on any team, so a win by the margin that Fry used to routinely enjoy is out of the question.”
THE SHORT ANSWER to the question: Iowa State
RESULTS OF THE GAME: Iowa 42, ISU 3
The crowd was 173,850 paid attendance in the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janiero, Brazil in the 1950 World Cup Final in which Uruguay beat Brazil, 2-1.
Just in case you were thinking along the lines of American NCAA football games:
2013 ND at Michigan 115,109
2011 ND at Michigan 114,804
2011 Ohio State at Michigan 114,132
But the reason for the question was due to a college game played last Saturday at the ½-mile stock car track at Bristol, TN. Tennessee played Virginia Tech at this neutral site, halfway between the two schools that are located 236 miles apart. The paid attendance was 156.990, which blew away the record for an NCAA football game.
Both teams had an incentive to play at the Bristol Motor Speedway, this strange neutral site, because both schools received $4.3 million for the “inconvenience”.
RESULT: TENN 45, VA TECH 24.
The VA.Tk Hokies jumped out to a 14-0 lead but lost control in the 3rd and 4th turns and the Volunteers got the checkered flag.
Dan Reeves 165 losses 190-165-2 overall (53.5% win percentage)
Tom Landry 162 losses 250-162-2 overall (60.6% win percentage)
Jeff Fisher 157 losses 169-157-1 overall (51.8% win percentage)
Don Shula 156 losses 328-156-6 overall (67.6% win percentage)
Fisher could break the all-time record by the end of this season, if the LA Rams go 6-10 or worse (or tie the record with a 7-9 record).