Weekend That Was
By Lenny Del Genio
We begin on the college gridiron and what better place to start than on top? Top-ranked USC was off, but a lot is being said about the team they will face this Saturday night in primetime, the Ohio State Buckeyes, who were hit with a classic lookahead spot last Saturday against Ohio University. The Buckeyes played uninspired football for the better part of three quarters en route to an eventual 26-14 win, but non-cover as 34.5-point chalk. This marked the second straight time (teams last played in 1999) that OSU failed to score enough points to cover the spread against their in-state rivals. In that 1999 meeting, Ohio State was favored by 43, yet "only" prevailed 40-16. Interestingly, that game was tied at halftime.
The big question everyone is asking now is whether or not that was a sign of things to come for the Buckeyes? Clearly, they are better than the team that trailed OU 14-12 after three quarters of play, but is Tressel's team simply setting itself up for another big game disaster? And while people are really down on Ohio State right now, I think they are too high on the Trojans, who are now incredibly favored by 10.5-points for Saturday's showdown. All Southern Cal has done so far is beat up on a very bad Virginia team that came from a very bad conference (ACC). Two weeks ago, this line would have been around a field goal. Has that much changed over the last two weeks that the line should have moved a full touchdown? The public thinks so as they have jumped on USC since the line opened at -9. I will have a selection on this contest in a special Primetime 3-Pack this Saturday.
One team that is not getting enough recognition as far as I'm concerned is East Carolina. The Pirates own the best pair of wins of any team in the country, having beaten previously ranked Virginia Tech at a neutral site, then throttling previous Top Ten ranked West Virginia, 24-3. Folks, both of those teams played in BCS Bowl games a year ago! ECU may very well being doing the same this year as most probably had them penciled for losses in both of their first two games. The Conference USA schedule brings nothing nearly as daunting as what the Pirates have faced thus far. They are likely to be favored in all remaining games. By now, bettors should be well aware of what Skip Holtz has done in Greenville, going 28-11 against the spread. What could really be interesting is that ECU could be joined by either BYU or Utah in the BCS foray, permitted that one of those two teams runs the table in the MWC. Boy would the CFB powers that be really be irritated at that development!
A lot of people placed West Virginia on upset alert early last week. This week, we're doing the same for Wisconsin, who must travel cross-country to take on Fresno State, a 24-7 winner at Rutgers in their season opener. The Bulldogs are both ranked and hungry. Wisconsin is a great home team (won 16 straight at Camp Randall), but only so-so on the road. Last September, they went to UNLV as 25-point chalk and barely escaped the victor. FSU also owns a win in Madison back in 2002.
Over in the NFL, parity has taken its course after just one week. Just about every preseason favorite took a hit, whether it be on their won/loss record or an injury. Tom Brady is obviously the biggest loss for any team. His replacement Matt Cassel has not started a regular season football game of any kind since high school (backed up both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC). Sure looks like Brett Favre made the right decision to go to the Jets, does it not?
Other big injuries worth mentioning are San Diego's Shawne Merriman (also out for year) and Tennessee's Vince Young (likely gone for a month). Even with the Merriman injury and an opening week loss to Carolina, look for the Chargers to be OK, as they started slow last year and play in a week division. As for the Titans, they may be the only AFC South team at 1-0, but I don't like their chances nearly as much moving forward.
You don't want to declare any team's season over after just one game, but St. Louis, Cincinnati and Oakland all looked atrocious in their respective openers. The Rams and Raiders were outscored by a combined 78-17. I'm certainly not going to be looking to play on any of these teams over the next month.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Dallas Cowboys certainly look to be the league's best team after one week. They clobbered Cleveland, 28-10, in a game that wasn't that close. The Browns look to be another Cleveland team that will fail to win a championship. Other teams in the NFC that impressed me were Philadelphia and Carolina.
We'll be back on Friday with a preview of the upcoming weekend. Good luck, Lenny.
I know it was the Raiders...but the Bronco offense looked very efficient against what is supposed to be a good secondary. As a Denver fan, I hope they can keep up with SD scoring and somehow stuff LT. Doesn't SD have a couple lineman out?