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Bo Jackson: The Best Dual Sports Athlete Ever 3

Posted on January 04, 2016 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 132 Bo JacksonNow, he’s the most entertaining star of television’s Heisman House football commercials.

But, back then, this fabulous football and baseball player was all the rage. Many sports fans regard him as the greatest dual sport athlete ever.

A 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, Bo Jackson not only dominated on the football field for the Auburn University Tigers. He also excelled at two other sports – baseball and track.

Voted #8 on ESPN’s list of the top 25 NCAA football players ever, Jackson dazzled as a fast and powerful running back while at Auburn. The 6’1” and 230 lb. Jackson rushed for an amazing 6.6 yards per carry. He amassed a staggering 4,575 career yards and scored 45 total touchdowns (43 rushing and 2 receiving).

This Heisman Trophy winner became the number one overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, because the Bucs inappropriately contacted Jackson outside of NCAA rules and regulations, the running back became ineligible for baseball during his senior season in 1986. As a result, Jackson chose not to sign with Tampa Bay and agreed to play professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals organization instead.

While at Auburn, Bo Jackson starred in two other sports. The football star qualified for the United States Summer Olympic Trials twice in the 100 yard dash. Jackson’s incredible speed became extremely evident during the spring of 1985 when he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time ever at 4.12 seconds at the NFL Combine.

In addition to track, the former Auburn Tiger excelled on the baseball diamond. In 1985 he batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 runs batted in while starring defensively in the outfield as well.

After graduating from Auburn, Jackson played eight years in Major League Baseball with the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels. He also left his mark in the NFL while playing four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

This phenomenal athlete is still the only athlete ever to be voted an all-star in two different professional sports – Major League Baseball and National Football League – and NOT be voted into either sport’s Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Bo Jackson’s brief but memorable dual-sport career ended prematurely.

Without his hip injury, he undoubtedly could have been a Hall of Famer in two professional sports…..

…..a fact, thanks to the 2012 ESPN Films 30 for 30 “You Don’t Know Bo” documentary, that every sports fan now knows. And not just Bo!

MIKE – on sports!

 

College Football Bowl Preview Part 2: Sizing Up the Big 6 Bowls 3

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Jim Hurley
The health of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook could be a big factor in their Cotton Bowl game against Alabama.

The health of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook could be a big factor in their Cotton Bowl game against Alabama.

The biggest college football games of the season are here! The six major bowl games will run on December 31-January 1, with the two biggest—the Playoff semifinals situated within the New Year’s Eve schedule. Whether you wager or simply want to watch, our job is to have you ready.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled the “Tale of The Tape”, a concise snapshot of all six games. It’s not comprehensive—if you actually plan to bet, this is a starting point not a finishing point. But it will provide the framework for an enjoyable (and profitable, if you’re so inclined) run of watching games.

Our tale of the tape includes…

*The basics of W-L record and most importantly, strength of schedule. The latter has to be a significant factor in how you weigh every other piece of data. Some of us rely on complex computer models to do it, others just keep it in the back of their mind. Just make sure you keep it in mind.

*Each team’s national ranking on offense and defense, as measured by points allowed.

*The basic stats of each team’s quarterback—their completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and TD/INT ratio.

*A notable player on the team besides the quarterback—usually an elite running back or defensive playmaker, and occasionally a wide receiver.

Now let’s dive into the games, in sequential order…

December 31: Peach Bowl—Florida State (-7) Houston (Noon ET, ESPN)
Houston: 12-1 (Schedule ranks 99th)
Offense: 10th
Defense: 23rd
QB: Greg Ward Jr: 68% 8.5 YPA, 16/5 and also ran for over 1,000 yards)
Notable: Linebackers Elandon Roberts & Steven Taylor combined for 33 tackles for loss

Florida State: 10-2 (56th)
Offense: 41st
Defense: 5th
QB: Sean Maguire: 62%, 7.8 YPA, 11/3
Notable: Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 1,658 yards (7.9 yards per carry)

Comment: It will be Maguire at quarterback for Florida State, with Everett Golson not making the trip to Atlanta. The balance of Houston both offensively and defensively gives them a shot at an upset, but the concern is that the offense is so heavily reliant on Ward that the excellent FSU defense may be position to dominate the football game.

December 31: Orange Bowl—Oklahoma (-3) Clemson (4 PM ET, ESPN)
Clemson: 13-0 (39th)
Offense: 15th
Defense: 19th
QB: DeShaun Watson: 70%, 8.5 YPA, 30/11
Notable: Defensive ends Shaq Lawson & Kevin Dodd have combined for 37 tackles for loss and 18 sacks

Oklahoma: 11-1 (27th)
Offense: 1st
Defense: 24th
QB: Baker Mayfield: 69%, 9.6 YPA, 35/5
Notable: Samaje Perine rushed for 1,291 yards at 6.1 per carry

Comment: Those talented Clemson defensive ends need to win their battles or it will be long day for the Tiger secondary given how hot Mayfield is. The bigger area of concern for betting Oklahoma is the question of how much those dazzling offensive numbers are a product of playing in the wide-open Big 12 and the tendency of high-stakes bowl games to be a bit more conservative.

December 31: Cotton Bowl–Alabama (-8.5) Michigan State (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Alabama: 12-1 (17th)
Offense: 31st
Defense: 3rd
QB: Jake Coker: 66%, 7.4 YPA, 17/8
Notable: Heisman Trophy winning RB Derrick Henry ran for 1,986 yards

Michigan State: 12-1 (5th)
Offense: 45th
Defense: 22nd
QB: Connor Cook: 57%, 7.9 YPA, 24/5
Notable: Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge caught 79 passes for over 1,200 yards

Comment: The health of Cook’s shoulder is the overriding factor in this game. When healthy, he is by far the superior quarterback. When banged up, as he has been at the end of this season, he’s statistically inferior to Coker. Note that if you wager this game make sure to shop prices. The line of 8.5 can also go as high as 10 depending on the sportsbook. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Bowl Preview – Part 1: Football For Diehard Fans 4

Posted on December 17, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Bronco Mendenhall will be on the BYU sidelines for the final time during their bowl game against Utah.

Bronco Mendenhall will be on the BYU sidelines for the final time during their bowl game against Utah.

The college football bowl season kicks off this Saturday afternoon. Many of you will wager on these games and even more will enter recreational pools where you have to pick every game. If you’ve looked at the early schedule, you know there’s a lot of teams only the most diehard of fans and those of us in the business of handicapping are familiar with in detail.

To redress that, I’ve compiled a little “tale of the tape” on the nine bowl games that will between December 19-23. This is by no means a complete look at each game. What it will do is give you a basic statistical snapshot of how each team looks at what it does well. Each listing includes…

*The basics of W-L record and most importantly, strength of schedule. The latter has to be a significant factor in how you weigh every other piece of data. Some of us rely on complex computer models to do it, others just keep it in the back of their mind. Just make sure you keep it in mind.

*Each team’s national ranking on offense and defense, as measured by points allowed.

*The basic stats of each team’s quarterback—their completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and TD/INT ratio.

*A notable player on the team besides the quarterback—usually an elite running back or defensive playmaker, and occasionally a wide receiver.

If you just want to enjoy the bowls on TV and in a pool, this will do it for you. If you want to bet the bowls, this is one small step to get started on handicapping the array of personnel matchups and intangibles that are involved at this great time for college football.

Arizona (-11.5) New Mexico, Saturday, December 19, 2 PM ET
New Mexico
Record/SOS: 117th
Offense: 61st
Defense: 66th
QB: Lamar Jordan (53%, 8.3 YPA, 4/6), Austin Apodaca (51%, 6.5 YPA, 1/5)
Other: Dakota Cox (LB, 9.5 Tackles For Loss)

Arizona
Record/SOS:  56th
Offense: 19th
Defense: 107th
QB: Anu Solomon (63%, 7.6 YPA, 18/4)
Other: Scooby Wright (LB, one of best players in country but hindered by injuries this year)

Comment: The health of Wright, currently listed as questionable is a huge factor in this game. Also keep an eye on Solomon who’s had injury problems of his own this year. From a stylistic standpoint, this is a classic battle between a run-heavy offense in New Mexico and a pass-happy attack with Arizona and Rich Rodriguez. Note that the game is played on New Mexico’s home field and a key factor for handicappers will be weighing that—along with Arizona’s disastrous showing in last year’s Fiesta Bowl against Boise State—against the obvious strength of conference factor that works in the Wildcats favor.

Utah (-3) BYU, Saturday, December 19, 3:30 PM ET
Utah
Record/SOS: 9-3/32nd
Offense: 57th
Defense: 3rd
QB: Travis Wilson (62%, 6.8 YPA, 13/10)
Other: Gionni Paul (LB, 12.5 Tackles For Loss)

BYU
Record/SOS: 9-3/72nd
Offense: 34th
Defense: 31st
QB: Tanner Mangum (62%, 7.9 YPA, 21/7)
Other: Bronso Kafusi (LB/DL goes 6’7”, 15.5 Tackles For Loss)

Comment: Take note that BYU’s strength of schedule ranks pretty low at 72nd. The Cougars played a brutal early slate with four tough games right out of the gate and it drew national attention. That’s because, as an independent, they had to frontload the schedule with teams going into conference games. If that was the last you heard of BYU, don’t be under any illusions about the overall quality of their slate. Also note that Utah’s star running back Devontae Booker missed the end of the regular season and will miss this game as well. BYU is undergoing a coaching change with Bronco Mendenhall leaving for Virginia. Read the rest of this entry →

Breaking Down the Odds: SEC and Big Ten Bowl Games 2

Posted on December 10, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Derrick Henry had a huge game earlier this season against Wisconsin. Can he have similar success against Michigan State?

Derrick Henry had a huge game earlier this season against Wisconsin. Can he have similar success against Michigan State?

The Big Ten and the SEC are about as close to rivals as two leagues can be. The bowl season always offers several high-profile matchups, mostly on New Year’s Day, where the conferences match up. They’re easily the leagues with the most television exposure, with the Big Ten Network being owned by Fox and the SEC Network owned by ESPN. But until last season, their rivalry was about as hard-fought as the battle between a hammer and the nail.

Over a four-year period, the SEC’s bowl record validated its reputation as the best conference in the country. The SEC has a 26-14 record while the Big Ten is at 14-21 in that same timeframe, due in large part to the consistent New Year’s Day beatdowns the SEC delivered.

But last season marked a change. The overall performances were close to even, with the SEC going 7-5 and the Big Ten clocking in at 6-5. In the head-to-head matchups, Wisconsin beat Auburn and most important was the high-profile victory of Ohio State over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl/College Football Playoff semi-final.

It wasn’t the whole story—Missouri also beat Minnesota and Tennessee coasted past Iowa. But the two biggest stories of last year’s college football postseason were Ohio State’s national title and the collapse of the SEC West. In addition to Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all laid an egg in their bowl matchups. The defeats were a big blow to SEC prestige and an offseason where Michigan’s hire of Jim Harbaugh was the most significant development added to the positive buzz moving around the Big Ten.

The SEC reclaimed some mojo in non-conference play this season when Alabama handled Wisconsin, but the real test begins now. Each conference has put ten teams in bowl games and they’ll play head-to-head in five of those, including another Playoff matchup when Alabama meets Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

I want to walk through some of the factors my staff and I at WinningEdge.com are looking at with each game, both the head-to-head conference matchups as well as ones they’ll play against other leagues. But before beginning, I want to remind everyone of an adage that many in football handicapping subscribe by—it’s that the pointspread matters less in the bowl season than any other time of year.

The reason is that underdogs often end up winning outright—disinterested favorites are common and Las Vegas can misfire in pricing teams from disparate parts of the country with few common opponents. I mostly agree with this line of thinking and believe the focus of football betting should be picking the outright winner. For those of you who are in bowl pools where you’re required to pick every game against the number, that’s a good thing to keep in mind.

But for those of you who wager these games individually, be careful not to oversimplify. The spread still matters, even if not as decisively as in the regular season and knowing how to pick your spots—how to narrow the card down to which games to bet and how many units to invest still have to be settled by the number. I’ll be constantly evaluating how these conferences and others match up throughout the bowl season before making final gameday decisions. Read the rest of this entry →

History of College Football’s Heisman Trophy 15

Posted on December 07, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Heisman TrophyStanding 13.5” tall and weighing in at a hefty 25 lbs., the Heisman Trophy is unquestionably the most prestigious award in all of college sports.

The bronze trophy easily stiff-arms its way into today’s Sports Then and Now blog as the award gets presented later this week to college football’s most deserving player. And, here’s a little history of the sport’s most coveted prize.

Every December since 1935, the Heisman Trust in New York City awards the beautiful bronze trophy to “the nation’s most outstanding football player whose performance best exhibits the finest of excellence with integrity.”

Votes from 870 sports journalists, geographically located in six sections across the United States, plus previous Heisman Trophy winners and one collective vote from ESPN sports fans, are submitted to the Deloitte accounting firm where the ballots are tabulated and governed by the Heisman Trust.

Since 2005 the annual winner has been selected at the Best Buy Theater in the New York Hilton in Times Square, New York City, before a national television audience on ESPN.

Quarterbacks and running backs have dominated the Heisman Trophy selection process over the years. No primary defensive player has ever won the coveted trophy, although Michigan’s multi-talented Charles Woodson won the prize in 1997 as a game-changing defensive back, kick returner and punt returner.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston have been the most recent recipients of the venerated award. Read the rest of this entry →

Will the North Carolina Tar Heels Spoil Clemson’s Championship Party? 1

Posted on December 03, 2015 by Jim Hurley
The only loss for Marquise Williams and the UNC Tar Heels this season was the season opener to South Carolina. Another Palmetto State team will look to recreate history in the ACC Championship Game.

The only loss for Marquise Williams and the UNC Tar Heels this season was the season opener to South Carolina. Another Palmetto State team will look to recreate history in the ACC Championship Game.

If you’re hoping for some drama in the unveiling of the four-team College Football Playoff this coming Sunday, then your best hope is for North Carolina to upset top-ranked Clemson as (+5) underdog in the ACC Championship Game. If you’re a handicapper, it’s just as important to be aware of how strongly the Tar Heels are coming, both on the football field and at the betting window.

North Carolina lost its season-opener to South Carolina 17-13. It’s a mark of how long ago that was, that the Tar Heels were actually a (+1.5) dog to the Gamecocks, who have gone on to a disastrous season. North Carolina hasn’t lost since.

The turnaround wasn’t apparent immediately. While UNC won their next six games, it was a soft part of the schedule. The most impressive wins were against disappointing Georgia Tech, Illinois and Virginia—all of whom finished with losing records.

Then came a Thursday Night visit to Pittsburgh on October 29 to start the meat of the schedule, the games that would determine the winner of the ACC’s Coastal Division. North Carolina stepped it up in a big way—not only did they win their final five games, but they covered the number four times. The finishing surge made UNC 8-4 ATS (against the spread).

This five-game stretch started with the prime-time win at Pitt, and included home victories over Duke and Miami. North Carolina then survived Virginia Tech in overtime—the one non-cover in this schedule sequence, and closed out the season with a win over N.C. State.

All of these games were against bowl-bound teams and all except Virginia Tech finished with at least seven wins—and even at Virginia Tech, North Carolina had to deal with an exceptionally pumped-up Hokie team for head coach Frank Beamer’s final home game. Read the rest of this entry →

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