Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Super Bowl Prop Bet Roundup, Part One - Colts Props

The third-best day of the year to be a gambler is only five days away. Giddy up.

(By the way, with the recent withdrawal of Pinnacle Sports from the US market - damn you, Jim Leach - I'll be using lines from Bodog. This should not be construed as support for Bodog. I'd never take their crappy 20% vig on props. I'll also be giving you the line from Sportsbook.com if the difference is significant.)

Go ahead. Bet against 6'4" quarterbacks with rocket arms.
Better yet, bet on that quarterback's ability to get 2 yards running.

  • Peyton Manning total rushing yards over 1.5 (+105) [Sportsbook] - Remember, sacks don't go towards rushing totals in the National Football League. Dungy - oh, who are we kidding - Manning has shown a greater propensity to call for the run at the goal line this year. Plus, I'll take the chance that he scrambles at least once, especially with reverse juice.
  • Peyton Manning total touchdown passes + interceptions over 3 [Bodog] - This feels very pushy, but it will go high before it goes low. Remember, Cut That Meat has been a little picky-happy in the playoffs.
  • Joseph Addai total rushing yards under 65.5; Dominic Rhodes total rushing yards under 47.5 [Sportsbook & Bodog] - There's absolutely no way the Colts are going for 115 yards against the Bears defense. So take them both; at least one will win.
  • Starvin' Marvin Harrison receiving yards under 78.5 (even) [Sportsbook] - Marvin has gone for 48, 45, and 41 yards in the Colts' playoff games this year. I'll take those odds.
  • Reggie Wayne receiving yards under 76.5 [Bodog] - Again, the Colts have gone away from the receivers in the playoffs, in whay appears to be an attempt to limit interceptions thrown to corners. Wayne has had playoff receiving totals of 36, 51, and 68 yards. But if Harrison and Wayne don't get the yards, who will?
  • Dallas Clark receptions over 3.5, receiving yards over 50.5 [Sportsbook & Bodog] - Oh, yeah. Dallas Clark. Two things: Clark has been HUGE in the playoffs (as all former Hawkeyes are), going for 103 against the Chiefs and 137 against the Pats. Second, this is where teams have attacked Chicago all season, keeping the ball away from Tillman and Manning in favor of attacking linebackers in coverage. Clark should shatter these numbers.
  • Will a Hunter Smith Punt result in a touchback? Yes (+210) [Sportsbook] - He's only had five touchbacks all season. But more than 2:1 odds in a game where the Colts might take a touchback to keep the ball away from Hester? I'll take that bet.
I also like Dwight Freeney tackles + sacks + picks over 3.5 at Bodog and Bob Sanders tackles over 6.5 at Sportsbook. I think the obvious offensive strategy for the Bears would be keep-away, meaning a lot of tackles on runs and short passes for Bobby (plus, former Hawkeye in the playoffs).

Tomorrow, Bears props.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ross Verba's Descent Into the Seedy Underbelly of Illegal Check Cashing (a.k.a. Not Everything That Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas)

Oh, Ross Verba...

For those of you who don't remember our good friend Ross, he played guard for the last great Hayden Fry Iowa squad. He was seen as a genuinely good kid while at Iowa. He was a first-round draft pick of the Packers in 1997 (one of two Iowa first rounders, along with the long-forgotten Tom Knight). Believe it or not, he was a Christian missionary while at Iowa, and continued his religious pursuits in his first few...well, days, in the National Football League.

His pro career was going relatively splendidly through 2004. He had solidified himself as a starter on the Packers' offensive line. He was making good money. He signed a free agent deal with the Browns in 2004. But then, for reasons passing understanding, he negotiated a buyout of his contract with the Browns (might have something to do with living in Cleveland) and fell off the face of the earth. According to Deadspin, he was once accused of rape by a Cleveland woman, and he periodically surfaced in Vegas (once with $500k in winnings; once with Paris Hilton and Tara Reid). Although he had not played in over a year, Matt Millen signed him for the 2006 season. And if there was ever a kiss of death for a football career, it is a contract with Millen.

Apparently, the Vegas bug got him, because earlier this month he was arrested for failing to pay back a $50,000 marker at the Wynn casino (by the way, a gorgeous but thoroughly overrated casino). In essence, it was a bad check charge. His case was ultimately dismissed, after Ross paid back the marker.

The story itself is sort of unremarkable: Des Moines kid makes a killing in the NFL, loses his way (and, apparently, his religion), falls into a life of decadence, and is ultimately in jail. But the Ross Verba story makes me scared for Chad Greenway. I mean, Verba went crazy and he was playing in GREEN BAY. What happens when Freddy Smoot and the rest of Sex Boat 2005 get ahold of Chad? May God help us.

Then again, I graduated from Iowa, and I have yet to meet Tara Reid. So he's got me there. Go get 'em, Ross.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Notice Board: NFL Championship Weekend Edition

It's back...

CBS - Let's just get the Big Kahuna out of the way immediately. I'm a Vikings fan, and an NFC guy in general, so I don't watch too many games on CBS (especially since they own one HD camera). I watch even fewer with the sound. I didn't believe there could be anything more annoying than the Fox robot.

And then I spent 4 hours with Phil Simms and Jim Nantz.

I've always hated Nantz (dubbed "King of the WASPs by Deadspin last year), never more so than after the selection show last year (when he and Billy Packer bitched for half an hour about the inclusion of George Mason and Wichita State...whoops). The cheezy puns, the neverending pursuit of lame human interest angles, the maniacal grin with Hootie Johnson in the Butler Cabin (just kidding; I love that grin). It's all obnoxious, and it all plays to casual fans and morons.

Hello friends, I'm Jim Nantz, resident turd sandwich

It's bad enough that we're subjected to him for at least three of the greatest sporting events of the year (Selection Sunday, the Final Four, and the Masters), especially since he's inevitably paired with a blowhard who can't tell his ass from his elbow. But this year he does the Super Bowl, and he does it with the Mother of All Blowhards, Phil Simms.

Ah, Phil Simms, a man who spends most of each Sunday telling us about football despite having medium-grade Voice Immodulation Syndrome (also known as Van Orton's Disease). He constantly rips fantasy football players with a level of consescension generally reserved for art majors and Sean Salisbury. He repeats basic points of the game of football ad nauseum (for instance, he told us you counter a pass rush with draws and screens - a concept understood by most 12-year-olds - at least seven times yesterday). He is the textbook definition of an obnoxious blowhard. And I have to listen to these two during the Super Bowl? Holy hell, people, are there no decent broadcasters left? Can't we get Chris Berman to make a PSA, talking about how easy it is to pick up leather-clad blondes when you're a sportscaster, just so someone might stop this ridiculousness? And I haven't even talked about the CBS studio show yet...

Bill Simmons - Your team lost. They blew it. And you came out Monday and said just that, and it was slightly noble of you. Of course, you then somehow tied it to the 2004 Red Sox, and I hate you again. And, oh, by the way, your Friday column (a direct counter to a column at Kissing Suzy Colbert) made absolutely no sense. Then again, most of what I post doesn't make any sense, either. So we're in good company.

- OK, I'll bite: What the hell is the glycemic index? And how do we tell "good carbs" from "bad carbs"?

Boomer Esiason's Eyebrows
- Bad News: They were apparently drawn on by Elaine Benes, just as Uncle Leo's were. And they have the same sinister downward slant. Good News: It gives you something to think about while Shannon Sharpe is attempting to explain the trap play. In sanskrit.

Bears - Or, more to the point, the Bear fan who put up this sign:

It's this kind of sportsmanship and tact that got the Cubs cursed. Stay classy, Chicago.

News Stories on American Idol - Did anyone else catch this last week? There was a flood of "American Idol is getting too mean" stories. Forget, for a moment, that nobody on Idol has openly blasted New Orleans (at least not that I'm aware of), but why is this news? To blatantly steal from Lewis Black, questioning whether American Idol is too mean is about #74 on our list of important questions, right behind "Are we eating too much garlic as a people?"

The Experts' Opinions - There will certainly be more on this in the next couple of weeks (I'm absolutely doing the First Annual Super Bowl Prop Bet Roundup), but Bears +7? Really?

Truthiness - In the wake of the Colbert/O'Reilly throwdown last week, I don't even know if the concept exists anymore...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Playoffs?! You Wanna Talk About Playoffs?!

OK, better get to the juggernaut. But first, a word from Jim Mora...

Bears (-2.5) vs. Saints

Let me put this out there first. I LOVE the Saints. In a season where my beloved Berserkers completely tanked, I had to root for someone, and that team was the Saints. And it had almost nothing to do with Katrina. They were, quite frankly, the most entertaining team in the league. They were 8-2 ATS as a dog (and if you ever needed an example of how ridiculous the NFL has become, a team that went 10-6 and got a #2 seed was an underdog 10 times). They were a phenomenal 7-1 ATS on the road. They were part of my most gratifying gambling victory of the year, a 42-17 beatdown of the 'Boys.

I hate the Bears. I didn't until I moved to Iowa City (I was actually a Bears fan from the ages of 5-9, the last of the Walter Payton years). And I really didn't until I moved within range of 670 AM, The Score, which devotes 20 hours of every broadcast day to Sexy Rexy. Their fan base has gone from zero to obnoxious in approximately 9.3 seconds. Quite frankly, they're nearing Conrnhusker/Gopher levels in the hierarchy of hatred. Oh, and my turncoat dad walks around every Sunday in a Marc Colombo jersey (after spending the last 40 years as a Viking fan) (and, yes, he knows Colombo no longer plays in Chicago). That's why it pains me to say this:

The Bears will cover.

And you know why? Because (say it with me) "the Bears are what we thought they were." Say what you will about Grossman (and there hasn't been a more overblown story this season, T.O. non-suicide included), but they're money in the bank in this type of game. They're 4-1 ATS against teams over .500 (that the Bears have only played 5 teams over .500 is the amazing part of that stat). New Orleans is only 2-2. The Bears are 8-4 ATS on grass. Oh, and the game will be played at Soldier Field in what is predicted to be snow. As much as I love my Saints, I'm not willing to send them north of Mason-Dixon in January in a snowstorm without at least 6 points. Trust me, I hope I'm wrong on this one. Coach Green, your thoughts?

It's time to crown their ass. Bears 28 - Saints 13.

Mannings (-3) vs. Bradys

Are there any other players in this game? I'm not going to psychoanalyze the players here (that's best left to mental health experts like Sean Salisbury). I'm just going to say what I said last week. New England is 4-0 ATS as an underdog this season, and 8-1 ATS on the road. This has been the year of the underdog in the NFL, as it is. And I'll take the Golden Boy, his coach Frodo, and 3 points against anyone anywhere. The kicking game worries me, for sure. But the probability of another Manning collapse worries me more (have you watched the previous two games?) So, despite the fact that Indy has more Hawkeyes, and the fact that the return of Bob Sanders (I grin just typing his name) has completely changed the run defense, I'm taking...*shudder*...the Pats. New England 28 - Indy 24.

POSTSCRIPT: I have updated the blogroll on the right with some of my favorites. Enjoy.

SECOND POSTSCRIPT: The fantastic MGoBlog has posted their review of Iowa's football season, complete with a comparison to their preseason preview. Just about dead-on, except for where they say Adam Shada was our best corner.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Notes and Errata

Time for the occasional grouping of things that don't deserve their own column (Bill Simmons has apparently decided that The Ramblings are no longer viable - what, with the time spent dissecting Brady/Manning again - so I'm picking up the torch).

Congrats to Iowa on their brave, (dare I say) miraculous comeback against Indiana. Iowa, who entered the game as 11 point dogs, were down by as many as 20 before coming back to beat the spread. It was like watching Super Bowl Gambling Memories all over again.

You can't spell "Freeman is only a turnover waiting to happen" without Tony Freeman.

Note from my brother (now known here as Panther County): "Remember when you were playing elementary school YMCA basketball, and you would try to identify the worst player on the other team and attack him mercilessly? That's what it feels like watching J.R. Angle."

Has there been a more ironic TV moment in the past five years than the UPS commercials featuring music by The Postal Service? Could you ever imagine the Yankees running ads with "More than a Feeling" by Boston? Or the Sierra Club including music by Smog?

We've all seen how Will Smith writes songs (in the most liberal use of the word) that reference his most recent movie release. But, with the new Shins album due out next week, don't you think they are writing songs specifically for use in the newest Zach Braff vehicle. Don't they walk into the studio and say, "We need a song that Zach's love interest can claim changed her life? Let's do that." At the very least, it could get them a little airtime at the end of the most recent episode of Scrubs.

OK, this is awesome:

I think the most annoying part of watching games on ESPN Plus (where Iowa has been forever relegated, now that we suck again) is that the announcers continue to marvel at Adam Haluska's quickness and speed. At least once a game, you hear "He might not be the fastest guy out there, but he can beat you to the hole if you're not looking." The problem is that, on most nights, Haluska actually IS the fastest guy out there. He was an all-class Iowa track champ in the 100 and 200. He's fast. By the way, he's also a dead ringer for Ethan Embry.

Don't be mistaken. That's not Haluska.

Really, this is a completely derivative Iowa team. Consider the following list:
  • Cyrus Tate is a poor man's Doug Thomas (who was, in turn, a poor man's Reggie Evans).
  • Kurt Looby is the second coming of Erek Hansen (long arms, too skinny, foul-prone to the point that he has to start every game on the bench in order to be on the court at crunch time).
  • J.R. Angle is obviously an unemployed, homeless J.R. Koch, who apparently had his name legally changed, scammed the NCAA into giving him 3 more years of eligibility, found his old T-shirt to wear under his jersey, and showed up on campus.
  • Tony Freeman is Midget Guy Rucker.
  • Seth Gorney was sitting in his house one day in 2003, deciding his future in basketball, when he caught an Iowa-Penn State game. He saw a Hawkeye center go for 18 and 11. It was at that point Gorney looked in the mirror and said, "My mind is made up. I am going to be the next Sean Sonderleiter." Mission accomplished, Gorney. Now, for the love of God, do what your mentor did and quit the team.
Ohio State later this week. Ouch. Until then...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Destruction of a Stupid Statement, Part 1

I had planned on quickly discussing Iowa-ILLINI today (a pretty ugly basketball game, to tell you the truth, and a game that exposed the massive shortcomings of both teams), but I woke up this morning to the dumbest statement I've heard in quite some time.

My clock radio is set to a nondescript Fox Sports Radio affiliate. I couldn't even give you the frequency or call letters, as it's rarely on for more than 2 minutes before I can fire up Imus on my television. Someone emailed to say that, "after another 2-5 bowl season," the Big Ten was "a mid-major football conference with larger fan bases." This statement (obviously made by an SEC supporter, as the rest was on the greatness of Florida) is, quite frankly, too stupid for words. Here's why.

"You are an idiot! That is stupid!"
  • There has not been "another 2-5 Big Ten bowl season" since 2002 - In 2005, the Big Ten went 3-4 in bowl games. In 2004, it was 3-3. In 2003, it was 3-5. In 2002, it was 5-2. In other words, the Big Ten was .500 in the past four bowl years. This was unquestionably the weakest top-to-bottom Big Ten season in the past decade (only four teams were truly deserving of a bowl trip), and the 2-5 performance proved that. But that was an aberration, not another year of the same. By the way, over that same period of time, the SEC was 2 games over .500.
  • The Big Ten performs consistently well against the SEC - Both Big Ten wins this bowl season came against SEC opponents (Wisconsin over Arkansas, PSU over UT). Their 2-1 mark is consistent with the recent past; over the last 5 years, the Big Ten is 8-6 against the SEC in bowl games. Speed does not necessarily kill, EDSBS'ers
  • SEC "Home" Bowls - This never gets brought up. Bowl game officials have determined that finding a team that "travels" well and pairing them with a team from in-state is a recipe for success; you sell the hotel rooms and restaurant checks to the tourists, and you get a stadium full of locals for the game. This happens repeatedly in SEC bowl games. When Florida doesn't win a spot in the championship game, they routinely play bowls just down the road from Gainesville ('06 Outback, '04 Outback, '03 Outback). How many times does LSU get to play in the Sugar Bowl (2004, 2007)? This even extends to the Big XII South (Texas has played in-state in the 2002 Cotton and 2006 Alamo; Tech played in the 2006 Cotton, 2003 Houston, and 2001 Alamo) ACC, and Pac-10 (honestly, does Michigan get blown out if they're not playing USC in LA?)
  • Bowl performance is an imperfect indicator - That leads to my biggest point. Measuring conference performance by bowl victories is a horrible indicator of the actual strength of the conference. The layoff between games is ridiculous (imagine if we played the Super Bown on St. Patrick's Day). The "neutral sites" are generally anything but. The bowl tie-ins give some conferences an unfair leg up (the Big East won each of their bowl games, but they were also heavy favorites in each of those games; Big East teams played more bowl games against true mid-majors this year alone than the SEC and Big Ten have played in the last five). To say that we know a conference's level based solely on these games is completely absurd.
Which brings me back to the idiotic statement made earlier. To say that a conference with Michigan, tOSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, MSU, etc., etc. is "mid-major" defies nine different forms of logic, and truly deserves no response. But to say that the Big Ten constantly underperforms, while vindicated by one-year results, is equally idiotic. Considering the circumstances, the Big Ten constantly overperforms. It was a down year in the Big Ten, to be sure, but it was an abberation nonetheless.

I think a better rationale for tOSU's crushing defeat against Florida comes from poor coaching and a long layoff. I'd never thought I would say this about Tressel, but did he even watch a Florida game tape? The defense looked completely confused by the Gators' passing attack. The offensive line leaked all night. Smith was flat (undoubtedly an effect of 60 days off). Ohio State's season ended two full weeks before Florida, and it showed. Florida was apparently the better team, but not by this much. In any case, that's the season. On to hoops (and...God damn it, Florida and tOSU are good there, too).

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Remember the Alamo

OK, I'm back...at least, sort of. My internet is still down, so I'll be publishing whenever I can find free wi-fi. I've missed a lot (Boomer Sooner/Boise, Big Ten domination of the SEC...again, Ross Verba's check cashing scheme, the possible rejuvination of Iowa hoops, the USC song girl commando scandal), but I figure I had better start with the Alamo Bowl.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Iowa performance in San Antonio. Remember, this was a game with the defending national champion and preseason #2, who was in the hunt for the BCS title game until the last two weeks of the season, in their own backyard. Keeping it within the spread was pretty good (after all, Iowa was an atrocious 1-10 ATS during the regular season). Getting the ball back at midfield with 3 minutes to go and a chance to win was great. Nevertheless, this game wasn't without its share of faults:
  • For the entire first quarter, the commentators were waxing poetic over Coach Kirk's involvement in practice these past few weeks. In the days leading up to the game, the players were constantly discussing the hard work they were putting into preparation for the Alamo. And that's great, but why did it wait until now? Shouldn't Ferentz have been more hands-on after two straight October losses to Hoosier Daddy and Big Blue? What about after the Northwestern loss, when Wiskey was on the way? It was good to see Captain Kirk show up (and bring his team along with him), but it was about 2 months too late.
  • On UT's first offensive possession, we were told that the Iowa defense blitzed 13% of the time, by far the lowest number the Texas coordinator had ever seen. To tell you the truth, I was surprised it was that high. But, with their newfound sense of preparation, Iowa comes out and repeatedly blitzes in the first quarter. The result was a quick start on both sides of the ball and a lead at the half. When we returned to our typical conservative (read: idiotic) defense, UT rolled up the points. Tell me again why we should keep Norm Parker.
  • Speaking of inexplicable playcalling, the O'Keefe end around (it is NOT a reverse) option pass from the 48 was quite possibly the dumbest call in the history of Iowa football (the only other available choices are the corner blitz on the last play of the first half of 2000 Iowa/Nebraska - which led to a 40-yard touchdown pass and a second-half whooping - and any play involving Ronnie Harmon in the 1986 Rose Bowl). This team used the most conservative offensive calls in the past decade throughout the regular season, then turns into Boise when the conservative call is finally the correct call? Kenny Boy has to go, as well.
  • Drew Tate was, in the end, a complete enigma. I don't think we'll ever know how the injuries were bothering him. I don't think we'll ever know what kind of effect (positive or negative) he was having on his teammates. I don't think we'll ever know the depth of his shortcomings, which were exploited by so many Big Ten teams this season. But Drew won't be remembered for the past two seasons, or the quiet revolt by his teammates, or the bad thumb and rib injuries. He'll be remembered for Tate to Holloway. And, trust me, there are worse things to be remembered for.
And so, the end is here. It was a disappointing season, to be sure. It was a season so difficult on the fans that it surely turned some off. But the highs were as high as any in recent memory. The Iowa State win, and the cheers of "Hawkeye State" (trademark pending) were satisfying on a level rarely seen. And when I think of gameday in Iowa City, I think of Iowa/Ohio State, where the stadium has never been louder or more rabid. It was one of the most exciting games I've ever witnessed, despite the loss. We probably should have known sooner; the warning signs were visible against Montana, and Syracuse and Illinois were absolutely too close for comfort. But, despite the struggles and disappointment, it was an interesting year in Iowa football. Let's just hope next year is a little better.