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Sports Then and Now



DeShaun Watson Proving He Belongs in the NFL 0

Posted on September 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl
DeShaun Watson has already proven that he belongs on the field with the Houston Texans.

DeShaun Watson has already proven that he belongs on the field with the Houston Texans.

Sometimes the decisions made by teams in the NFL Draft can be very strange. Generally, the NFL is a performance-based league, however, when it comes to draft picks, and most especially quarterbacks, choices are often made based on projected ability, instead of how someone has actually performed on the football field.

That was certainly the case in the 2017 NFL Draft when two quarterbacks with relatively average college pedigrees were chosen ahead of one of the most successful quarterbacks in recent college football history. Something that can be confusing and frustrating for those who follow US Sportsbooks.

While DeShaun Watson was leading the Clemson Tigers to back-to-back National Championship Games following the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Mitch Trubisky at the University of North Carolina and Pat Mahaomes at Texas Tech were playing on mediocre teams.

Trubisky spent two seasons as a backup quarterback at UNC before he finally earned the starting spot for the 2016 season. Though he was a solid quarterback in his 13 stats, his performance on an 8-5 team hardly give the impression he was the next great NFL player.

While Trubisky tossed 30 touchdowns on the season with only six interceptions, in the five UNC losses, he threw only eight touchdowns while suffering all six of his interceptions. His worst performance of the season was against Virginia Tech when he completed only 39.4% of his passes for 58 yards and two interceptions.

Yet, the Chicago Bears thought enough of Trubisky to trade up to pick him with the second pick in the 2017 Draft.

The son of a former Major League Baseball pitcher, Mahomes had significantly more experience than Trubisky during his three college seasons.

Playing on a Texas Tech team that had only one winning year in his three seasons, Mahomes saw significant action as a freshman before starting the last two seasons.

The Red Raiders posted a 12-13 record during those two years while making one bowl appearance. Mahomes racked up huge numbers over the last two seasons tossing 77 touchdowns with 25 interception and compiling over 9,700 yards through the air. For his career, Mahomes completed 63.5% of his passes for 11,252 yards, 93 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football and Head Injuries: Who Is Responsibility? 1

Posted on September 15, 2016 by Matt Rhoney

college-football-headshotsFall will be here soon, and that means football season has come crashing onto the country’s TVs, yards, and stadiums. That’s right, it’s time for the weekly rough and tumble rumble of good ol’ fashioned gridiron. Helmets colliding, pigskins soaring, and bodies bashing. It’s all here.

Football casts a powerful spell on players and fans alike. The game’s appeal is so strong, so compelling that enthusiasts of all stripes—be it on the field, sidelines, bleachers, or the couch—regularly forget the risks into which football puts it players. Safety is crucial to football. Players, coaches, family, and even fans all need to keep the safety question alive if football is going to survive as one America’s great games. College football is a field in which safety needs to be top priority.

College Ball, Helmets, and Head Injuries

Let’s kick this off with the big one: head injuries. If football doesn’t deal with this room’s elephant, the game will soon be endangered species. Helmets, brain trauma, and the football industry’s role in these issues have been featured in the New York Times several times a month for a long time now, and there’s been no indication the buzz is dying down.

As it stands, head injuries are a normal part of football. They don’t need to be. For college players and coaches, this issue needs serious attention. According to personal injury attorneys, head injuries are a common result of negligence. College players suffer head injuries regularly, and the research into university football and TBIs is not in nearly as advanced a state as is similar research into the NFL. What is to be done about student heads, and who should be doing it? Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Championship Preview: Can Alabama Stop DeShaun Watson? 1

Posted on January 07, 2016 by Jim Hurley
The Alabama Crimson Tide will have to stop Heisman finalist DeShaun Watson if they hope to win another national title.

The Alabama Crimson Tide will have to stop Heisman finalist DeShaun Watson if they hope to win another national title.

We’re down to one more game in the college football season. On Monday night in Glendale, Alabama plays Clemson for the national championship. The Crimson Tide are a six-point favorite. What way do you play it?

Let’s begin by saying that the fluctuations of the pointspread mean that shopping for the right price and timing will be important. Some books in Las Vegas have the line as high as (-7). If you’re a Clemson backer you’d clearly like to get a clean touchdown. Just as clearly, Alabama bettors only want to give 6 or 6.5.

Both teams rolled through their semifinal games on New Year’s Eve and both did it by pulling away in the second half. Clemson trailed Oklahoma 17-16 at the half before ripping off twenty unanswered points to win 37-17. Alabama led Michigan State 10-0 at intermission before four unanswered touchdowns led to a 38-0 rout. The Tigers & Tide are clearly the best two teams in the country and playing like it right now.

Let’s begin with the keys for Clemson. It all starts with quarterback DeShaun Watson, a dual-threat quarterback who used his running to great effect against Oklahoma, rushing for 145 yards. Watson also ran well in his team’s biggest games this year, going for 93 against Notre Dame, 107 against Florida State and 131 in the win over North Carolina.

The performance against Florida State is most relevant here because the Seminoles were a top five defense this season. With their speed on the edge, Florida State is the only team that comes even close to providing a test case for what might happen against Alabama. The fact Watson was able to make hay on the ground against FSU provides reasonable hope he might be able to do on Monday night.

Running back Wayne Gallman was vital in the win over Oklahoma, gaining 150 yards and that was no fluke. He also went over 100 yards against Florida State and North Carolina and got close to that against Notre Dame in monsoon-like conditions. Gallman and Watson together make for a diversified running attack where a defense can’t just focus on one player.

The key is going to be throwing the football. Michigan State had opportunities in the first half to make plays in the passing game, but drops killed one drive and an ill-advised pass that was intercepted on the goal line killed another. If Sparty doesn’t make those mistakes, they might have been tied at the half and who knows how the second half unfolds.

Watson’s season-long passing numbers are impressive, but he was erratic against Oklahoma, completing 16/31 for 187 yards and missing some receivers that were clearly open. There won’t be nearly as many opportunities against Alabama, and Watson can’t leave plays on the field, especially early in the game the way Michigan State did. If Clemson is going to win, we need to see the Watson that went 28/42 for 297 yards against Florida State.

Defensively, the Tigers have playmakers, but the health of Shaq Lawson is going to be crucial. The talented defensive end left the Oklahoma game in the first half with a knee injury, but is expected to play. He needs to be able to pressure the quarterback for Clemson to win.

On the other side of the defense is another terrific playmaker in Kevin Dodd. At linebacker, Clemson is anchored by B.J. Goodson, who is both steady at making the sure tackle and capable of blowing up a play behind the line of scrimmage. The top corner, Cordea Tankersley, leads the team in interception with five picks and it’s likely Clemson will need to get some mistakes from Alabama quarterback Jake Coker if they’re going to win this game. 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 →

History of College Football’s Heisman Trophy 4

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 →

MSU vs. OSU: Two Bad Bets Collide Saturday in Columbus 1

Posted on November 19, 2015 by Jim Hurley
The 2015 season has been filled with smiles on the field, but challenges off for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The 2015 season has been filled with smiles on the field, but challenges off for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State and Michigan State are indisputably successful on the football field. The record is a combined 19-1 as they prepare for their Saturday showdown in Columbus (3:30 PM ET, ABC) and it would be a perfect 20-0 if not for a terrible officiating blunder that cost Michigan State a win at Nebraska. But the Spartans and Buckeyes haven’t been so good to their backers at the betting window—a combined 7-13 against the spread (ATS).

Michigan State is the slightly bigger offender, going 3-7 ATS to Ohio State’s 4-6. But for Saturday’s game that can be cancelled out by the fact the Buckeyes have been atrocious bet at home, failing to cover in five of six home games.

It might sound harsh to call this game a battle of the overrateds, but ATS numbers like that make it difficult to dispute. The spread reflects how the teams are ‘rated’ by opinion that is informed (though not infallible) and coldly objective and these two haven’t measured up.

Maybe expectations were unreasonably high—when you see Ohio State (-13) against a team one point away from being undefeated themselves, it’s enough to make you wonder if these programs simply haven’t been bet past the capacity of any normal college football team to deliver. It happened to Alabama and Florida State last year, who covered a combined five spreads in the 2014 regular season, and it’s happening in Columbus and East Lansing in 2015.

Figuring out the reasons why are going to be crucial, because even beyond Saturday, both are going to play in significant games that will be fun to watch—meaning they’ll be fun to bet. Ohio State has its trip to Michigan. Michigan State has a less-marquee, though still very interesting game with Penn State. The odds say either the Buckeyes or Spartans will be in the Big Ten Championship Game and then we could have one of them in the College Football Playoff and the other in the Rose Bowl. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Joe Cronin: Player-Manager
      October 1, 2017 | 8:21 am
      Joe Cronin

      Joe Cronin

      In recognition of the start of the baseball playoffs, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a man who managed pennant winning teams in Washington and Boston and spent more than decade as a player-manager.

      When the Boston Red Sox acquired Joe Cronin following the 1934 season they didn’t just get an All-Star player, they also got a new manager.

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