Frank the Tank’s Super Bowl XLIII Parlay

71465420MS005_Arizona_Cardi

As much as I’d love to pick the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII solely because they feature the long snapper/placekicker combo from my college days (which goes to show you how little performance in college really matters in terms of predicting success at the pro level –  my undergraduate time in Champaign coincided with the worst four year stretch in Illini football history, including a one win season that was followed up by a winless season, yet the special teams tandem from that team are playing together for a chance at the world championship), I simply have to believe that Mike Tomlin is going to do what the Eagles should have done two weeks ago and make sure that Larry Fitgerald is covered by at least two men at all times without exception.  If Philly had used its second half zone defense for the entire length of the NFC Championship (instead of allowing three first half touchdowns by Fitzgerald), we would be looking at an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl.  The bottom line is that Pittsburgh has proven from the the beginning of the season until now that it is one of the best defenses ever to play in the Super Bowl, particularly considering how much scoring is up this season.  I have faith that they will find a way to shut down Fitzgerald and, ergo, the Arizona offense in general.  At the same time, I have noticed that most of Vegas has dropped the line on the game from the Steelers being a 7-point favorite to only 6.5, which must mean that way too much money is flowing in Arizona’s direction right now.  I’ll take my chances betting against the rest of America here (and in favor of the house).  Since a single pick does not make a parlay, here’s a whole slew of sports predictions for Super Bowl Sunday (home teams in CAPS, if applicable, and all prop bets are actually offered in Vegas):

  • Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) over Arizona Cardinals
  • Under 46.5 combined points for the Super Bowl
  • ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-11.5) over Iowa Hawkeyes
  • LeBron James rebounds and assists (+5.5) over Arizona Cardinals points (-5.5)
  • Anquan Boldin receiving yards (+14.5) over Michigan State Spartans points (-14.5)
  • Highest scoring quarter by Steelers and Cardinals (+1.5) over Paul Pierce points (-1.5)
  • Under 38.5 for the jersey number of player to score the first touchdown

If I were anywhere near the Strip this weekend, I would be hammering those Super Bowl/basketball combo prop bets.  The long-promised Bulls midseason rant is forthcoming (it’s just going to end up being an extremely long piece).  In the meantime, enjoy the Super Bowl!

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Conference Championship Games: 1-1
Playoffs Overall: 6-3
Bears Games for the Season: 3-10-1
Overall Season: 27-25-3

(Image from Daylife)

Illinois and Northwestern at Wrigley? A Discussion of Illini Football Scheduling

wrigley-field-chicago-bears-football

Believe it or not (because I’m a dork), I had been thinking over the past few weeks that a neutral site game at Soldier Field between Illinois and Northwestern would be a very positive option for the U of I football program when the Big Ten moves its final regular season games to Thanksgiving weekend starting next season (as opposed to the traditional slot of the week prior to Thanksgiving).  The main issue is that Illinois hosts the state high school football championships every year on Thanksgiving weekend at Memorial Stadium, which is an event that the athletic department doesn’t want to give up since it amounts to a campus visit to Champaign for many top in-state recruits without having to count against NCAA recruiting limits.  As a result, a great way to solve this problem is to move the Illinois-Northwestern game to a neutral site in Chicago.  The majority of Illinois students live in the Chicago area and are more likely to be home than down on campus in the first place, while also providing the school’s Chicagoland alumni an opportunity to watch the team close by every year.

Lo and behold, the front page of Saturday’s Chicago Tribune sports section splashed an article of Northwestern’s investigation of moving a game against Illinois to Wrigley Field on the heels of the success of the NHL Winter Classic.  Wrigley Field actually has a whole lot more football history than hockey as the long-time former home of the Bears from the franchise’s first season in Chicago in 1921 until 1970.  (On a side note, an oft-forgotten part of Chicago sports history was on prominent display this past weekend with the Arizona Cardinals reaching the Super Bowl, which brought up a multitude of references to the franchise’s last NFL championship in 1947 as a Chicago-based team that played at old Comiskey Park.  With the Bears having been the clear #1 team in Chicago in terms of year-in year-out fan support for quite awhile, as alluded to in this great commercial, it’s easy to forget that the old-time football fans in town lived through a time when the Bears-Cardinals rivalry mirrored the Cubs-White Sox split between the North and South Sides of the city.)

It turns out that this is purely a proposal by Northwestern to move a home game from Ryan Field at this point and it has been confirmed that the Evanston school doesn’t need the permission of Illinois to move forward.  Seeing that Illinois wouldn’t be giving up a home game in Champaign, there would likely be an incredible amount of national press coverage by playing at Wrigley, and this would likely turn what is already a “mild” road game (since the Illini usually bring a large contingent of fans to Evanston when they play there) into a neutral site game or even a real home field advantage (considering that I felt like I was back on Green Street with the number of people I ran into in Wrigleyville every weekend for the first couple of years that I was out of college), this is a fantastic opportunity for the program without having any risk.

There are a few items that would need to be cleared if Illinois were ever to agree to a permanent annual neutral site game in Chicago as opposed to just a one-time deal, though.  First and foremost, above all else, and most importantly (I can’t throw in enough emphasis on this point), the Illinois football program MUST have seven home games in Champaign every year before it should consider any type of neutral site game.  Seven home games is now the standard for any BCS program that wants to maximize its revenue and even more imperative for Illinois, which has just finished a massive renovation of Memorial Stadium.  Of course, Ron Guenther appeared to forget about this when he agreed to the series against Missouri at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis while at the same time scheduling home-and-home series against non-BCS teams.  The St. Louis games have been fine to get the border rivalry on the radar on the football side, but after a few years into the series, the neutral location is best left to the basketball side alone with the Braggin’ Rights Game.  (From a financial perspective, giving up a home basketball game has nowhere near the same impact as moving a home football game, while the Illinois-Mizzou basketball tilt is engrained as a St. Louis holiday tradition in a way that the football game probably never will be.)  Missouri would be great to keep on the schedule, yet it should be home-and-home.  The non-conference schedule after that should be filled out with three body bag home games against an assortment of MAC and Division I-AA opponents.  This is the modus operandi of essentially every power program in the country (one marquee non-conference game and then three home games against non-BCS opponents), so it would be in the best interests of Illinois to follow suit to keep up with its peers (or, more to the point, the programs that we aspire to be considered peers with).

Now, it could be argued that the Mizzou game could be kept in St. Louis with three non-conference body bag home games while the Northwestern series would continue home-and-home as it has for a century.  However, it would seem to me that it would be much more important for Illinois to have an annual presence in the Chicago market over St. Louis for numerous reasons.  I’ve already noted that the majority of U of I students and alums live in Chicagoland and even more significant is the fact that securing a place as the virtual home team in the nation’s third largest media market for marketing and recruiting purposes ought to be a no-brainer priority over the much smaller St. Louis market if it comes down to a choice between one or the other.

Finally, a one-time game at Wrigley Field is perfectly fine as a novelty for press coverage.  However, in order for an annual game in Chicago to be financially viable for Illinois, it must be played at Soldier Field.  For Northwestern, moving a game from Ryan Field (47,130 capacity), where the Wildcats almost never sell-out, to Wrigley Field (41,118 capacity), which would be a guaranteed sell-out and a premium could be charged for tickets, would likely be a net economic gain for that program.  Illinois, on the other hand, sold out Memorial Stadium (62,870 capacity) for all four of its Big Ten games last season, which means that the amount that we would get from splitting the gate at Wrigley (i.e. the equivalent of revenue from only around 20,000 seats) would not make any economic sense.  At least Soldier Field (61,500 capacity) would provide enough seats to make a neutral site move financially feasible from the Illini perspective.

Let me be clear once again – I absolutely DO NOT advocate Illinois having less than seven home games in Champaign.  As long as there’s seven home games, though, then playing neutral site games in Chicago on top of that makes a lot of sense.

(Image from Stadiums of the NFL)

Roundball Thoughts and Frank the Tank’s NFL Conference Championship Game Picks

mike-tisdale-illinois-fighting-illini

It has been a pretty good week for basketball in the world of Frank the Tank.  The Illini beat Michigan for program win number 1,600 and face the next test on their brutal start to the Big Ten season by heading to East Lansing to play Michigan State (which has improved over the past month to shape up into the conference’s one true national title contender).  Frankly, it’s a bit much to believe that Illinois will come out of there with a win, but I actually have a pretty good feeling about the game overall (particularly with how they played Purdue on the road in the Big Ten opener).  Meanwhile, the Bulls continue to confound me by beating probably the best team in the NBA in the Cavs (and without question the best player in the league in LeBron James – the man has been maniacal on the floor this year).  I’m in the process of putting together a complete analysis of the Bulls roster (hint: I like one guy a lot and the rest can pretty much suck it), so you’ll be seeing that come through over the next week.  (At least Vinny Del Negro has figured out one correct move in his player rotation, although me and 99.9% of other Bulls fans could have told him this back in training camp in October.)  In the meantime, here are some quick picks for NFL’s conference championship games (home teams in CAPS):

  • NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia Eagles (-4) over PHOENIX CARDINALS – I’ve done pretty well with the underdogs so far this postseason, but it has got to end at some point.  While I’m not enthralled at all about the prospect of taking a road favorite of over a field goal, it’s tough for me to fathom Philly handing over a multitude of turnovers and allowing Larry Fitzgerald run amok in the same manner as the Buzzsaw’s last two opponents.  The question is really whether the Eagles will provide its fans with a soul-crushing bombing this weekend or in the Super Bowl.  I’m thinking that it’s going to be the latter.
  • AFC Championship Game: PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6) over Baltimore Ravens – I have a problem with the Steelers having to lay 6 points against an all-world defense, but if the general rule of gambling is that you shouldn’t bet on an underdog that you don’t believe you can win, then I’m for Pittsburgh all the way.  If the crowd noise at Heinz Field is as loud as it appeared to be last week (even my wife mentioned how great the Steelers fans were, although I wonder if this might partially due to the sound technicians at CBS Sports since the crowd noise on their SEC telecasts seem to have the same prominence), then I have a hard time believing the Ravens will be able to do much considering that they were still in prime position to lose last week even with every single possible thing going their way.  For as great as the Ravens defense might be, I still think that the Steelers can run the ball and can open up the passing game a bit with Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.  On the other hand, the Steelers have almost as good of a defense at the Ravens and get to face a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco in a hostile environment.  I like the Steelers to cover here.

Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs Overall: 5-2
Bears Games for the Season: 3-10-1
Overall Season: 26-24-3

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Frank the Tank’s NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

Here are some quick picks for NFL’s Divisional Playoff Weekend (home teams in CAPS):

  • Baltimore Ravens (+3) over TENNESSEE TITANS
  • CAROLINA PANTHERS (-9.5) over Arizona Cardinals
  • Philadelphia Eagles (+4) over NEW YORK GIANTS
  • PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3.5) over San Diego Chargers

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-101
Overall Season: 23-23-3

Frank the Tank’s NFL Wild Card Weekend Picks

I’ll have my thoughts on Illini hoops, the Big Ten bowls, and the Blackhawks Winter Classic in a few days.  For now, here are some quick picks for NFL’s Wild Card Weekend (home teams in CAPS):

  • PHOENIX CARDINALS (+1.5) over Atlanta Falcons – Everyone seems to love Hot-lanta here, but the combo of a rookie quarterback with a team that is mediocre at best on the road is scaring me off.
  • Indianapolis Colts (-1) over SAN DIEGO CHARGERS – Much like the Falcons, lots of people have been talking themselves into a “scalding hot” Chargers team.  Of course, Indy has won 10 games in row, yet they strangely aren’t being referred to as the “hot” team in this scenario.  I’ll take Peyton Manning’s history of crushing other teams in the wild card round, especially with essentially a pick ’em line from Vegas.
  • MIAMI DOLPHINS (+3) over Baltimore Ravens – I don’t feel very good about this one – this is purely based on the fact that Miami has been pretty good to me in terms of covering this season and that they’re at home.
  • MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+3) over Philadelphia Eagles – I was on the record on loving the Eagles last week, but the Vikings have the loudest stadium in the league (albeit one that shockingly still hasn’t sold out this playoff game – bad economy or not, my respect for Vkings fans has plummeted over the past days) plus the best player in football with Adrian Peterson.  As a result, I’m taking the points here.

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-101
Overall Season: 21-21-3

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 11/21/2008

sweet-sioux-tomahawk-trophy-illinois-fighting-illini-northwestern-wildcats3

Back in 2002, Illinois followed up a BCS bowl berth in the previous season with a medicore and underachieving year where they needed to beat Northwestern in the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk game just to have a chance to get a lovely post-Christmas trip to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl.  The Illini looked they were were ready to pack it in for Thanksgiving and got trounced by the Wildcats, even though it was clear that Illinois had much more talent with pro prospects such as current Bears wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.  Hmmm… to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again.  The similarities between that Illini football team and this year’s squad are uncanny and I’m not holding my breath for a different outcome this time around.  (Meanwhile, I’m somewhat mortified that the Illinois basketball team has started to give me some hope that they might actually do something this season with their win at Vanderbilt last night.  Sure, Vandy might be a rebuilding team right now, but any win on the road against a BCS school is a great one, especially for Bruce Weber’s young lineup.  I was more than ready just to accept this whole season as a reconstruction project.  Now, I feel my brain beginning to cultivate expectations, which are probably all unfounded, particularly with Alex Legion joining the team next month.  This isn’t good for my stress level.)  Anyway, here are this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) LSU TIGERS (-4) over Mississippi Rebels

(2) MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (+6) over Iowa Hawkeyes

(3) NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (+3) over Illinois Fighting Illini

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

Illini Games for the Season: 4-6
Overall Season: 17-18-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) New England Patriots (+1) over MIAMI DOLPHINS

(2) ARIZONA CARDINALS (+3.5) over New York Giants

(3) ST. LOUIS RAMS (+8) over Chicago Bears

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-61
Overall Season: 16-14-3

Have a great weekend and, as always, Go Illini and Go Bears (even if they don’t deserved to receive any adoration)!

(Image from nusports.com)

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 11/15/2008

illibuck-trophy-illinois-fighting-illini-ohio-state-buckeyes

Here are this week’s parlay picks for Ohio State Week for the Illini (the mighty battle for the Illibuck) and Packer Week for the Bears (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) Purdue Boilermakers (+18.5) over IOWA HAWKEYES

(2) MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (-3.5) over Northwestern Wildcats

(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (+9.5) over Ohio State Buckeyes

Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay Record
Last Week: 0-3

Illini Games for the Season: 4-5
Overall Season: 16-16-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-4) over Minnesota Vikings

(2) Arizona Cardinals (-3) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

(3) Chicago Bears (+3.5) over GREEN BAY PACKERS

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

Bears Games for the Season: 3-51
Overall Season: 14-13-3

Have a great weekend and, as always, Go Illini and Go Bears!

(Image from fightingillini.com)