Post-Turkey Day Thoughts and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 11/28/2008

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As I recover from my Turkey Day gorging (as well as possibly the worst offering of Thanksgiving Day football games in history, with all 3 NFL games and the Texas-Texas A&M tilt being blowouts), I’m feeling strangely good about the Bears this week.  Adrian Peterson will break a tackle or three, but I think the rest of the Vikings will be held in check.  The Illini basketball team isn’t half bad so far (I’ll eventually get to my postseason review of the football team once my anger subsists), while my man crush on Derrick Rose is growing exponentially on a daily basis.  Here are this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) West Virginia Mountaineers (-3) over PITTSBURGH PANTHERS

(2) Miami Hurricanes (-1.5) over NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK

(3) FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (+16.5) over Florida Gators

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Illini Games for the Season: 5-6
Overall Season: 18-20-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS

(2) GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3) over Carolina Panthers

(3) Chicago Bears (+3.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 1-2

Bears Games for the Season: 3-71
Overall Season: 17-16-3

(Image from ehow)

The Problem With Last Year’s Bulls, New Illini Basketball Schedule, the Blind Side, United Stock Scare, and Exception to Idiots-Out-Walking-Around – Land-o-Links for 9/10/2008

As both White Sox and Cubs fans watch their respective teams plummet, here are some links to take your mind off of Chicago baseball:

(1) Knowing is Only Half the Battle in Chicago (Wages of Wins Journal) – The always fascinating Wages of Wins Journal takes an in-depth look at why there was such a drop-off in wins for the Bulls from 2006-07 to 2007-08.  Through statistical analysis, the problem was simple to identify – offensive shooting efficiency was way down last year.  Of course, improving upon this is another matter.  As one of the commenters to the post noted and anyone who watched the Bulls regularly last season noticed, the team appeared to have a significant increase in the number of attempted jumpshots as opposed to shots in the paint.  I think this is a result of the Bulls’ previously weak-to-average post presence in P.J. Brown leaving for Boston, which left the team with no post presence whatsoever.  The key to Derrick Rose turning this team around over time is setting up those high percentage shots from the floor for his teammates.  I have been high on Rose since he was a high schooler and think that he’s up to the challenge, but Wages of Wins correctly notes that the immediate impact that he’ll have next season will be up in the air considering that you have to expect lower performance from a rookie (no matter how talented he might be).

(2) 2008-09 Illini Basketball Schedule Announced (Illini Basketball Fans Blog) – The test will be to see how the Illinois can get through the non-conference schedule in November and December without the services of Alex Legion.  For the team’s sake (but not for the sake of fan interest), the non-conference slate is a bit easier than last season.  Interesting games to note include a road game at Vanderbilt in the third game of the year on November 20th, Clemson at the Assembly Hall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on December 2nd, Georgia at the United Center a few days later on December 6th, and the Braggin’ Rights Game against Missouri in St. Louis being moved to the Tuesday right before Christmas on December 23rd.

(3) NFL Salaries: Believe in the Blind Side (New York Times: Freakonomics Blog) – Here’s a look at the average salaries at each position in the NFL, which reinforces what well-informed football fans know already: after the quarterback, the next highest-paid position in football is the left tackle.  As the referenced Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side” noted, this makes logical sense since the left tackle protects the blind side of the right-handed quarterback (if a quarterback is left-handed like me, it’s the right tackle that becomes the key offensive lineman), so it’s essentially an insurance policy to protect the most valuable player on the team.  (By the way, Lewis is one of my favorite writers on business and sports.  His first-hand account of being a bond trader in the 1980s in “Liar’s Poker” is a classic and entertaining read regardless of whether you’re interested in finance.)  Even more interesting is how little most running backs are paid considering how much they handle the ball.  This actually makes a lot of sense to me – while there are a handful of running backs today such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson that are truly unique talents, the success of most RBs is almost entirely dependent on the offensive line.  Hence, teams such as Pittsburgh and Denver that have historically had strong offensive lines have been able to plug in a number of running backs over the years yet continue to get great production.

(4) Google, Tribune Co. At Odds Over Spread of United Story (Chicago Tribune) – Speaking of financial matters, United Airlines stock plunged on Monday when a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel came across the newswires that the company was filing for bankruptcy.  It was later discovered that the report was a copy of the original Chicago Tribune story that was posted on the Sun-Sentinel website from when UAL filed for bankruptcy back in 2002.  Drive and Dish goes through a great analysis of how all news organizations and websites need to take greater care in getting accurate facts.

More disturbing, though, is a follow-up today about a squabble between Google and the Tribune Company (which owns both the Tribune and the Sun-Sentinel), where it appears that the Google News engine put Monday’s date on the old Sun-Sentinel story.  Thus, this shock to the markets appears to have been caused by a news aggregator putting a wrong date on a link.  If you’re an investor like me, the speed with which the market reacted to what turned out to be an old news story is absolutely frightening.  It’s clear that there are journalistic standards that news organizations need to stand by in terms of getting stories accurately reported.  However, what obligation do news aggregators, who are in essence posting links from those news organizations, have in terms of ensuring that the date and time stamps to those links are correct?  The United scenario that played out on Monday has probably just opened up a whole new area of the securities litigation – shareholders that saw their stock dive as a result of wrong date and time stamps might have some ammunition against Google and other news aggregators.  Whether those shareholders could actually prove that Google and other news aggregators have some type of legal duty to the general public with respect to checking these date and time stamps, though, is another matter that can’t be answered at this time.

And finally…

(5) Black Heart Gold Pants – Once you get past the initial shock of discovering the existence of literate Iowa graduates, this college football blog devoted to the Hawkeyes and, by extension, the rest of the Big Ten will vault to the top of your must-read list.  Even the occasional/frequent thrashings of the Illini are entertaining enough that all is forgiven (and the blog’s love of all things J Leman has become legendary on the interweb).

Parlay picks for this weekend are coming over the next couple of days.  Until then, let’s hope that the White Sox can stem the tide of awfulness that is taking them over.

(Image from Arbiter Online)

Bearly Excited and Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay – 9/5/2008

What a difference a year makes – at this point last September, I had visions of a Bears team on the ascent to another Super Bowl run while hoping for a Motor City Bowl appearance for Illinois.  It turned out that I got a listless Bears team but an Illini trip to the Rose Bowl.  For the 30th season out of my 30 years on this Earth, the football gods refused to allow me to enjoy both my Saturdays and Sundays in a single year.  With the expectations for my respective football teams suddenly reversed along with a stellar baseball pennant race on both sides of Chicago, it has honestly been tough for me to get geared up for the Bears.  Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback by default, the running back situation is a complete unknown and the offensive line probably can’t open up holes anyway, the defense could be still solid yet Tommie Harris and other starters are either banged up or aging quickly, I’m horrified that Ron Turner is going to have Devin Hester run a slant pattern in the middle of the field that results in our one true scoring threat getting his legs crushed by some random safety looking to make a name for himself… these are issues that are just off the top of my head at this point.  Like the Chicago sucker that I always am, though, I’ll put on my Walter Payton jersey on Sunday and watch every moment of what will likely be a mashing at the hands of the Colts.  Well, at least I’m running three separate fantasy teams this season (yes, I have a gambling problem).  Following the form of the college football parlay, here are my three picks (including the Bears game) on the NFL side this week (home teams in CAPS):

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (-2 1/2) over Minnesota Vikings – I saw this line and quite honestly was perplexed with the love that the Vikings seem to be receiving from the football pundit class.  Granted, Adrian Peterson could have a breakout session on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field the same way Randy Moss did many moons ago (no pun intended).  Still, the Vikings have Tavaris Jackson at quarterback – ’nuff said.  I’ll take the potential suckitude that I don’t know in Aaron Rodgers than the absolute suckitude that I do know on the purple side of the ball, especially when the game is in Green Bay.

(2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6 1/2) over Houston Texans – The Rashard Mendenhall Era begins in the Steel City.  I don’t really care that the Texans are the sexy turnaround pick of the year (I seem to recall that the recent trendy picks of the ’06 Cardinals and ’07 49ers didn’t make anyone forget ’85 Bears).  The Steelers have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL, so my rule is if they are anything less than a touchdown favorite at home (unless they’re playing New England), I’ll give the points all day.

(3) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9 1/2) over Chicago Bears – I hate this, but what can I reasonably do?  Even if Peyton Manning comes out there with a cast set in concrete, the sheer emotion of the Colts opening up a new stadium combined with the general ineptitude of the Bears in nearly all facets of the game of football leads me to no other choice.  I hope that I’m very wrong here, but this feels like a two touchdown loss for the Bears to me.

So, it looks like I’m taking all the points for college football on Saturday and giving all the points for the NFL on Sunday.  Be sure to enjoy a plethora of sports this weekend and especially all of the football.  Go White Sox! Go Illini! Go Bears!

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Awful Football Weekend and Land-o-Links for 10/17/2007

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After having a beautiful double revenge of the FIBs over the Badgers and Packers last week, it was followed up with one of the worst football weekends in the Frank the Tank household in awhile with the Illini and Bears both losing games that were more than winnable.

I noted last week that the road trip to Iowa City for Illinois was going to be a proverbial trap game since Kirk Ferentz just seems to have our number and that proved to be more than correct in an ugly 10-6 loss. The Hawkeyes kept our running game in check while we had virtually no passing attack until Eddie McGee came in to close out the game. Despite the fact that McGee threw a poor interception in the red zone on the final Illini drive that probably would have turned the outcome of the game the other way, his passing skills to even get Illinois into that position (as well as a gem of a throw to Joe Morgan – who has always thought that Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar could never hold a candle to him as second basemen – for an 82-yard touchdown that was called back on account of an illegal formation penalty) is forcing Ron Zook to start out all of his press conferences with a “Juice is our quarterback” speech.

Speaking of the Zooker, the recipient of a new contract extension from Ron Guenther made a few calls that must have had Florida Gators fans giggling by choosing to accept penalties on third down as opposed to declining them to force fourth downs not once, but twice. The first time backfired into the only touchdown by either team in the game, while the second time resulted in an Iowa first down conversion. This made me flashback to last year’s game against Indiana when Zook decided to go for a 2-point conversion on the first touchdown in the first quarter of the game for absolutely no reason at all, which we subsequently failed on (and we of course lost the game by 1 point). Now, I love that Ron Zook has brought Illinois back to football respectability way ahead of schedule, but these calls are just simply off-the-wall – it isn’t even about overall technical game strategy, but rather plain-old common sense. Anyway, the Illini are still in line to get to a pretty good bowl, but in order to make the Rose Bowl now, we’re going to have to win out for the rest of the season (which means beating Michigan in a monster prime time game next week and #1 Ohio State in Columbus). The fact that this is still a possibility shows how far Illini football has come over the course of the year, yet it’s still tough to stomach that we lost a very winnable game on Saturday.

The Bears, of course, couldn’t help but to pile onto that frustration on Sunday. Ever since the Vikings selected Adrian Peterson in the NFL Draft last spring, I’ve been telling everyone that would listen to me that Minnesota is the team that scares me the most in the NFC North since he’s such a special player. Well, he backed my thoughts up and then some by just shredding the Bears’ defensive and special teams units.  Honestly, I believe that Peterson is better situated to become an NFL superstar than even Reggie Bush since the former Sooner has the size and strength to pound the ball inside as an every down back as well as having breakaway speed to the outside and past the line of scrimmage.  I have no clue as to why Minnesota is still having him split carries with Chester Taylor.  While Devin Hester did everything he could to keep the Bears in the game with yet another touchdown return and finally getting an offensive pass play call for him that worked perfectly for another touchdown (I’m pretty sure that the Bears can just have Hester sprint down the field all day and he’ll burn anyone that’s on him), the rest of the team just couldn’t contain Peterson.  This season just has a bad feeling to it – the Bears  improbably stormed back with two touchdowns against the Vikings in four minutes to tie the game only to blow it within the final minute and a half.  Can the Bears go 8-2 the rest of the way to get to the 10-6 level that will probably be required to make the playoffs?  Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith in that (and even more unfortunately, I’ll continue to watch since I’m a glutton for punishment).

Let’s get off of the depressing news with some links:

(1) And Simpson Makes Four! (Mark Tupper Weblog) – After a year of continuously grim recruiting news for Bruce Weber and Illini basketball, this past weekend saw oral commitments to Champaign from four high-profile recruits.  Will this answer all of the concerns about Weber’s recruiting skills?  Let’s hope so.

(2) Indiana Punishes Sampson Over Recruiting Calls (ESPN.com) – Speaking of old oral commitments from recruits to Weber, have I ever told you how much I hate Satan’s Spawn?

(3) Local Recruits Infuse Illinois with ‘Swagger’ (Washington Post) – The Washington Post takes a look at how D.C. recruits have catapulted the Illini football program.

And finally…

(4) Can Anyone Explain Dane Cook to Me? (Freakonomics Blog – New York Times) – If University of Chicago economists can’t figure this out, there’s no hope for the rest of us.

(Image from Chicago Tribune)