List of 15 Big Ten “Candidates” is Who May Come With Texas or Notre Dame (not Instead of Them)

Lots of people have been discussing in the comments section on the “Template for Shooting Down Any Argument Against Texas Going to the Big Ten” post a story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel stating that the Big Ten has hired a research firm to evaluate an “initial list” of 15 schools, with a quote from Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez saying that Texas isn’t on that initial list.  (H/T to WolverinePhD, among others, for sending in the link.)  I don’t interpret this study as Texas not being a target.  As Dennis Dodd stated on CBS Sportsline (who has voiced skepticism about Texas joining the Big Ten):

[I]f Notre Dame and/or Texas showed a willingness to join the Big Ten, there wouldn’t be much research to do.  The two schools are seen as the only slam-dunk candidates in an otherwise muddied expansion picture.

Exactly.  The Big Ten doesn’t need to pay presumably tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) to hire a research firm to say that “Adding Texas and Notre Dame would be sweeeeeeeeeet!!!”.  The conference knows that already and its university presidents don’t need to be convinced of the attributes of those schools.  Instead, you hire a research firm to evaluate the schools that you AREN’T sure of and look at the positives and negatives of them.  A research firm that’s providing value is going to look at issues that aren’t obvious, such as whether Syracuse or Rutgers can really deliver the New York City market or Nebraska’s national brand name can compensate for its small home market.  It’s a waste of money to have someone come in and state that “Texas would really add a lot of eyeballs to the Big Ten Network while being awesome in sports and academics.”  No shit, Sherlock.  Tell me something that I don’t know.

The fact that the Big Ten has a list of 15 schools that it’s looking at is an indication that the conference is looking at numerous schools that are significantly outside of its conference geographic footprint.  To me, this exercise looks a lot more like an evaluation of “Who do we add on top of Texas and/or Notre Dame if we’re willing to go to 14 schools?”  From a realistic standpoint, schools from the SEC aren’t going to ever move while the 2 schools that the Big Ten would want from the Pac-10 (USC and UCLA) are no-brainers in the same category as Texas and Notre Dame where there’s no point in even examining them because they’re in if they want to join.  Here is my semi-educated guess as to who is on that list of 15 schools as well as the key questions that the Big Ten ought to be asking about them:

1.  Syracuse – Does it really bring in the NYC market?  Can it bring in the NYC market when it’s combined with Penn State?  If yes, does Syracuse or Rutgers do this better?

2.  Rutgers – See comment for Syracuse.

3.  UCONN – Can it make inroads into both the NYC and Boston markets?  It’s not an AAU member but its overall rankings are pretty solid, so is that good enough academically?  Is the youth of the football program at the Division 1-A level a complete non-starter?

4.  Pitt – Great for both academics and athletics, but can they really add much in terms of TV viewers with Penn State already delivering the Pittsburgh market, especially when there are other candidates that are similar but can bring in new markets?

5.  Maryland – Is it more trustworthy in its ability to deliver the DC and Baltimore markets than the other East Coast candidates with respect to their own markets?  What does a Maryland/Penn State combo do for the conference in terms of delivering the Mid-Atlantic region?  Is there enough commitment to the football program in terms of long-term competitiveness?

6.  Virginia – An unequivocal academic superstar, but are its athletic programs good enough to add more value?  Can it really deliver the DC market any better than Maryland?

7.  Virginia Tech – Rising in terms of academics but not an AAU member, so is that satisfactory?  Can it really deliver the DC market any better than Maryland or UVA?

8.  Boston College – Can it really deliver the Boston market?  Is the fan base large enough to justify inclusion?  Very strong undergrad program but isn’t an AAU member, so will it fit academically?

9.  Miami – Can it deliver the Florida market by itself?  It’s not an AAU member and doesn’t have great graduate programs, but it’s a top 50 undergrad school.  Is that enough in terms of academics?  Is the poor attendance and traveling fan base for the football program trumped by its extremely strong national TV drawing power?

10.  Missouri – Has the ability to draw in the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, but is that enough considering that there are options in more populous regions like the Northeast, Florida and Texas?  Many assume that it’s an academic fit as an AAU member, but it’s actually lower in the US News rankings than Nebraska, so does it really meet the Big Ten’s academic requirements?

11.  Nebraska – Is the national drawing power of its football program enough to compensate for its tiny home TV market?  Lots of questions as to whether it would be an academic fit even though it’s an AAU member already.  Does it meet the Big Ten’s academic standards?

12.  Colorado – Long assumed to be a top Pac-10 target, but could it be a viable Big Ten candidate since it’s actually a better academic and cultural fit with the Big Ten than anyone in the Big XII besides Texas?  Is the population growth trend in the Denver area more attractive than adding presently larger markets like the state of Missouri when looking at this decision 20 or 30 years down the road?

13.  Oklahoma – Obvious national football power, but without AAU membership (unlike Missouri or Nebraska) or high academic rankings (unlike UConn), can it fit in academically?

14.  Kansas – 99% of these decisions are about football, but Kansas isn’t any ordinary basketball school (where only Duke, UNC and Kentucky can compare nationally).  Is the elite status of its basketball program enough to compensate for a historically weak football program that no longer has the services of Baby Mangino?

15.  Texas A&M – Is the Big Ten truly fine with the thought of Texas A&M coming along with Texas in a package deal?  Are the Aggies really a threat to go to the SEC if the Big Ten doesn’t invite them?  What do they bring to the table that Texas doesn’t bring alone?

The Big Ten will NOT expand unless it adds Texas and/or Notre Dame.  The conference is in a financial position where it doesn’t make any sense to settle for anything less.  This “initial list” is examining who might come along for the ride on top of the main targets.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from Scout.com)

Big Ten Expansion Index Follow-Up #1: Superconferences, Conference TV Revenue and More Reasons Why Texas to the Big Ten Makes Sense

I received an incredible amount of great feedback on my Big Ten Expansion Index with comments on the post itself and circulation on various message boards.  This Texas alum perspective was particularly illuminating and indicative that my recommendation for the Longhorns isn’t nearly as far-fetched as a lot of people believe (albeit there are some hurdles).  I’d also like to point to this comment from a Missouri fan that runs his own blog in support of Mizzou’s inclusion in the Big Ten.  It’s a fairly thorough look at Missouri’s qualifications and how they would provide an advantage over the other “usual suspects” such as Pitt – I don’t necessarily agree with all of it but it’s well thought-out.

I’ll take a look at some additional schools that I didn’t initially consider in my original post (i.e. Kansas, Maryland, Miami) in the very near future.  In the meantime, there are a few issues that have been brought up in the expansion discussions that I’d like to address.

1.  Superconferences with 14 schools just aren’t in the cards – I’ve seen a whole lot of suggestions that the Big Ten would look to expand to 14 or even 16 teams in order to turn itself into a superconference.  Supposedly, sources within conference itself even suggested that it might be open to the prospect.  On paper, this sounds like a decent idea – if the goal is to get into as many new TV markets as possible, then having more schools would serve that purpose (particularly when considering the premium that the Big Ten Network places on adding more cable households).

A practical issue, though, is that it’s hard enough to get the current Big Ten presidents to achieve a consensus on one additional school.  So, the thought of them trying to add three more schools at the same time is simply extremely unlikely.

Even more importantly, there are diminishing financial returns for each school that is added after number 12.  The magic of school #12 is that the Big Ten is able to stage a conference championship game at that point, where if it’s worth something close to the SEC version, such game would bring in about $15 million per year.  That’s an instant $15 million pop from that 12th school without even taking into account new regular season TV revenue.  The conference won’t see that type of pop from any additional schools and, in fact, it’s likely that the value of that championship game won’t change with additional members – it’s going to be worth $15 million whether the Big Ten has 12 teams or 14 teams, so each school is obviously going to take in less from that game if the conference goes up to 14 teams.

At the same time, part of the goal for every conference under the current BCS system is to get the maximum allowed 2 BCS bowl bids per season.  The 1st BCS bowl bid is worth $17.5 million to a conference and a 2nd BCS bowl bid kicks in an extra $4.5 million, which is all distributed equally among members in the Big Ten.  The thing is that the Big Ten is already virtually guaranteed to receive 2 BCS bowl bids every year because of the combination of the conference’s large TV markets and top-to-bottom great traveling fan bases in its current 11-team form – no conference has received more multiple bids in the BCS era than the Big Ten (yes, even more than the SEC).  So, every additional school simply dilutes those per school BCS payouts since that revenue is completely fixed.  (Note that this is why any knowledgeable Big Ten fan ALWAYS wants multiple schools from the conference to get into BCS bowls.  Even if your hated rival is the one going to the game, your own school still gets a big-time revenue boost from that extra bowl bid.)  Unless the BCS system (or whatever postseason structure that will govern college football in the future) changes to allow 3 or more schools from a conference to participate, there’s little incentive both financially off-the-field and competitively on-the-field to have a conference that’s larger than 12 schools.

Taking all of that into account and using a historical NBA superstar comparison, if the 12th Big Ten member has to be at least at the level of Kobe Bryant, then the 13th and 14th Big Ten members have to be both Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.  As a result, the Big Ten isn’t going to say, “Well, we can’t decide between Missouri, Syracuse and Rutgers, so let’s add all of them!”  There’s really only one combination that I could think of where the Big Ten could meet that standard with 14 schools: it adds Texas, Notre Dame AND Miami all at the same time.  Even then, there’s the basketball-esque concern that there are too many superstars involved for everything to work together – a team with 5 Michael Jordans sounds great in theory yet just wouldn’t work practically because a team would implode with that many hyper-competitive egos, while a conference with 6  legitimately elite power schools (Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Texas, Notre Dame and Miami) would turn the Big Ten from one of the most brotherly and cooperative leagues into probably the most contentious.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I’m 99.999999% sure that the Big Ten is simply looking for the perfect 12th school and won’t be going beyond that to 14 or more teams.

2.  Big Ten revenue is so incredibly and ridiculously FAR FAR FAR FAR ahead of the Big East and Big 12 that arguments such as “Syracuse and Jim Boeheim love basketball in the Big East too much” or “Texas completely controls the Big 12” are irrelevant – I made this point early in the original blog post, but it still comes up in message board discussions constantly.  So, let’s make it perfectly clear why any Big East school and probably any Big 12 school would leave for the Big Ten.  Here is the annual TV revenue for each conference as reported by ESPN’s Outside the Lines last month along with the average for each school:

  • Big Ten: $242 million ($22 million per school)
  • SEC: $205 million ($17.08 million per school)
  • Big 12: $78 million ($6.5 million per school)
  • ACC: $67 million ($5.58 million per school)
  • Pac-10: $58 million ($5.8 million per school)
  • Big East: $13 million for football/$20 million for basketball ($2.8 million per football school)

Take a look at those figures for a moment – every single Big Ten school makes almost twice as much TV revenue every year as the ENTIRE Big East football conference and even makes more than the entire Big East basketball contract (which that conference’s greatest strength).  There is no rational president of a Big East university that is fulfilling his or her fiduciary responsibility to such university that would turn down an invitation from the Big Ten for any reason whatsoever (whether it’s what the basketball coach says or anything else).  That’s not a personal knock on the Big East (as I’m also a law school alum of Big East member DePaul) but just a simple and glaring reality when you take two seconds to look at the numbers.

At the same time, Texas, which had a best case scenario of having the most nationally televised games and a BCS bowl appearance last year under the Big 12’s unequal revenue distribution formula, still made only $12 million in TV revenue compared to the $22 million that schools like Indiana and (gulp) Illinois received just for showing up.  Every reasonable person knows that even the best programs go through hard times, so it’s not as if though you can count on the best case scenario every single year.  Case in point is the Longhorns’ own rival of Oklahoma, who will receive significantly less money this year for a middling football season after being in the national championship game last year.  Michigan was playing Ohio State for a national championship game berth in 2006, yet look at where the Wolverines are now.  The recent competitive issues at Notre Dame are well-documented.  That means that even a powerhouse school like Texas has to examine where it will be in the event of the worst case scenario when it’s in a conference with unequal revenue distribution, which is something that gives university presidents and athletic directors that have to worry about budgets and state legislatures cutting funding a whole lot of heartburn.  This significant worry would immediately go away in the Big Ten – every school gets that $22 million per season whether they win multiple national championships or lose every single game.

A “winner” under an almost exact replica of the current Big 12 unequal revenue distribution model recently switched conferences for that very reason.  Miami was the single greatest beneficiary under the Big East’s old unequal revenue distribution model, where the Hurricanes received outsized payments from the conference during their national championship runs in the early 2000s.  In fact, the Big East said that it would guarantee Miami more money than the school would’ve received from the ACC for 5 years in an attempt to keep the Canes.  However, Miami’s president and athletic director pointed to the equal revenue sharing in the ACC as the largest financial reason why Miami switched conferences, even if it meant less money in the good times.  What this shows is that university presidents are actually much more concerned about maintaining financial stability during poor seasons than shooting the moon in championship seasons.

What’s more interesting in the Texas situation is that even when it shoots the moon in the Big 12, it still only makes about half as much as the very worst school in the Big Ten.  In that sense, Texas has even more to gain than Miami since the Canes actually knew they were going to give up short-term dollars in exchange for long-term stability, whereas Texas doesn’t have to make that choice – they’re getting more short-term dollars AND long-term financial stability.

At the same time, Texas really doesn’t “control” the Big 12, which is another argument that I continuously see on message boards and blogs.  While it receives the most TV appearances out of everyone because it’s the conference’s top team, remember that the original Big 8 schools have been together for over 100 years and they form a supermajority voting bloc in the Big 12.  Certainly, Texas has clout in the Big 12 due to its national brand name in the same way that Penn State has clout in the Big Ten, but Texas is still the newcomer to the old Big 8 schools and a lot of them (if not everyone except for Oklahoma) are extremely resentful of the Longhorns.  So, the thought that Texas has some type of outsized control in the Big 12 is at the very least overstated.  Remember that Miami had very similar control in the Big East, yet they jumped at the chance to be governed by a bunch of crazy basketball schools based in North Carolina.  “Control” is such an intangible and fleeting notion that it’s unlikely to trump a massive amount of guaranteed revenue whether a school wins or loses.

3.  Traveling fans to road games don’t matter – In terms of sports road trips, nothing tops going to other college campuses.  While pretty much all NFL stadiums are bland outside of Lambeau Field, each college has its own unique feel and traditions.  However, it amuses me when I see comments on various blogs and message boards that say, “Team A won’t leave Conference X because Team A’s fans can’t take road trips anymore.”  Even the best traveling fan bases might send only a few thousand people to road games every week and that school doesn’t see a dime of extra money – under conference revenue sharing arrangements, the visiting school gets the same amount of money whether it sends 1 fan on the road or 20,000 fans.  Therefore, if we think about this for a few seconds, why would any university president prioritize the interests of a few thousand people that like to take road trips yet don’t provide a single extra cent of revenue through such road trips over the school making many more millions of dollars of television revenue while also providing exposure to millions of more people?  Worrying about traveling fans is a classic “penny wise and pound foolish” argument.

4.  Sports team travel costs probably don’t matter – The thought that a school like Texas would worry about the increase in team travel costs in the Big Ten is probably another “penny wise and pound foolish” argument, although I’d love to see if anyone on the interweb has some concrete information about how much these expenses would be.  At a high level, my understanding is that Boston College, whose presence in the ACC would probably be the closest example of being a geographic outlier along the lines of Texas in the Big Ten, is still reaping significantly higher revenue in the ACC that more than compensates for its increased travel costs compared to when it was in the Big East.

Also, distance between schools isn’t necessarily the best indicator of travel costs.  If it’s far enough where you have to get onto a plane (and in the case of Texas, that would be the case for every school that it visits in the Big 12 except for maybe Texas A&M and Baylor), then how far you go on that plane isn’t going to change the costs that significantly (unless it’s a really long-haul trip to a place like Hawaii).  For commercial flights, distance is actually irrelevant – a plane flight from Austin to Chicago could easily be less money than a plane flight from Austin to Oklahoma City despite the much shorter distance since plane fares are more based on the frequency of routes and customer demand.  If an airplane needs to be chartered, the initial cost of procuring that plane is usually fixed where the cost is the same whether you go 50 miles or 1500 miles.  There may be some variance in the cost for fuel and airtime, but it’s still only a marginal increase over the initial cost of chartering that plane in the first place.

Considering that the jump in revenue for Texas going from the Big 12 to the Big Ten would be much larger than BC’s increase in revenue was from the Big East to the ACC, I believe that the increased travel costs (even for all of those non-revenue sports) would not be much of a factor.  If anyone out there has more specific details on this issue, though, please feel free to post it.

5.  Texas A&M is NOT tied to the hip of Texas – Here’s another argument that I’m constantly seeing on blogs and message boards: “Texas won’t go anywhere without Texas A&M.”  If past actions are the best indicators of future behavior, though, then that argument doesn’t hold water because Texas was more than willing to ditch Texas A&M when the old SWC imploded in the early 1990s.  Please take a look at this newspaper article that examines how Texas ended up in the Big 12 which includes interviews with the Texas president at the time of all of the conference moves:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/MYSA081405_3N_SWCbaylor_tech_1ca3e1c_html8528.html

As you’ll see in that article, Texas first really wanted to be in the Pac-10, which meant that the school made the decision that it wasn’t going to be in a conference with Texas A&M.  However, the Pac-10 requires unanimous approval for any new member and Stanford rejected the Texas bid.  After that, Texas approached… wait for it… the Big Ten.  Once again, Texas made the decision to unhitch itself from Texas A&M in that scenario.  While the Big Ten showed interest, the conference had a moratorium on expansion at that time since it had just added Penn State, so Texas was rebuffed there.

It was only AFTER Texas was rejected by the Pac-10 and Big Ten, where in both instances Texas had confirmed that it was more than willing to separate itself from Texas A&M, that Texas coupled itself back with Texas A&M and approached the Big 8 schools.  At that point, the Texas state politicians, who consider football to be of the highest legislative priority, got wind of the plan and forced Texas Tech and Baylor (who neither Texas nor Texas A&M wanted anything to do with) into the new Big 12.

So, let me summarize this for everyone: (1) the current Big 12 was the THIRD choice for Texas after the Pac-10 and Big Ten, (2) Texas would’ve broken away from Texas A&M if either of its first two choices had come to fruition and (3) Texas definitely wanted nothing to do with Texas Tech and Baylor.  Anyone that thinks that Texas is going to make decisions based on whether it can take Texas A&M along with it isn’t looking at how Texas acted during the 1990s conference realignment.  While Texas may care about whether A&M ends up in the SEC, as LonghornLawyer pointed out in his illuminating comment on my previous post, that doesn’t mean the Aggies are anything close to being brothers-in-arms with the Longhorns.

6.  The revenue gap means that the Big Ten now trumps the Pac-10 for Texas – That historical article brings up another common argument that Texas might look to the Pac-10 instead, especially since it was the school’s first choice back in the 1990s.  This is certainly a fair point, although the revenue situation has changed so drastically in the Big Ten’s favor that a reasonable person is going to weigh things a lot differently today.  Take a quick look back at the conference revenue figures back in point #2 and you’ll see why Texas isn’t going to value the Pac-10 over the Big Ten as of today: the Pac-10 has even worse TV revenue than the Big 12.  Even if we acknowledge that the addition of Texas were to give a boost to Pac-10 TV revenue, it still wouldn’t come close to more than quadrupling that number which would be required to merely match what the Big Ten makes today (and note that the Big Ten figure would directly increase by a significant margin just from the addition of Texas state basic cable households for the Big Ten Network).

Also, putting money matters aside for a moment, there’s a pretty practical issue with respect to Texas being in the Pac-10: the time zone.  Most people east of the Mississippi River probably think of Texas as a “western” state.  However, it’s in the Central Time Zone (just like 5 of the 11 Big Ten schools).  This matters because prime time starts at 8 pm in the Pacific Time Zone (just like the Eastern Time Zone), which means that prime time games in the Pac-10 wouldn’t start until 10 pm Texas time and that’s simply a killer for TV purposes.  There are no such time zone issues with the Big Ten because all of the schools are either in the Central or Eastern Time Zones.

I know that I’ve put together some incredibly long blog posts, but just remember my two overarching rules of thinking like a university president as opposed to a sports fan and that 11 + 1 = 13.  The Big Ten didn’t come out and talk about expansion to do anything other than a blockbuster move.  If that blockbuster move isn’t available, then the Big Ten will stay at 11 schools.  I’ll be back soon with another post on additional expansion candidates.

(Image from NCAA Football Fanhouse)

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

turkey-day-thanksgiving-day-football

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)

Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/24/2008

Quick picks on a Bears bye week with the Illini visiting Madison (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (+4.5) over South Florida Bulls
(2) MIAMI HURRICANES (-3) over Wake Forest Demon Deacons
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (-2.5) over WISCONSIN BADGERS

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

Illini Games for the Season: 3-3
Overall Season: 13-10-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (+3) over San Diego Chargers
(2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3) over New York Giants
(3) TENNESSEE TITANS (-4) over Indianapolis Colts

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

Bears Games for the Season: 2-41
Overall Season: 9-9-3

Double Goose Egg and Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/17/2008

I was on a blissful vacation last weekend, which means that I thankfully didn’t have to watch a horrific couple of days of football from the Illini and Bears.  Therefore, I’ll direct you to Illinitalk and Blog Down Chicago Bears for their respective rants.  Onto this week’s parlay picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (+2.5) over Pittsburgh Panthers – I have few rules in life, but one of them is that a Dave Wannstedt-coached team is not allowed to be ranked for two weeks in a row.

(2) Miami Hurricanes (-3.5) over DUKE BLUE DEVILS – The mighty might have fallen a bit in Miami, but they’re still light years ahead of Puke football.

(3) ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (-15.5) over Indiana Hoosiers – The bookies are absolutely KILLING me with another double-digit spread in favor of Illinois for the second week in a row (and we know how that turned out against Minnesota), especially with the Hawaii-style defense (as in no defense) that the Illini appear to be utilizing lately.  Still, WTF was I thinking in picking Indiana last week after they put up an embarrassing performance against Iowa?  I should have known better than to choose those Satan’s Spawn enablers.  Let’s hope that the Minnesota game was the equivalent of the Iowa game last year – a Zookian brain fart against an inferior team.

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

Illini Games for the Season: 2-3
Overall Season: 11-9-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (+2) over Indianapolis Colts – The bookies have essentially made the Packers into my anti-Illini for gambling purposes this year, where I’m pretty sure every spread involving Green Bay so far has been within a field goal.  They’re way too enticing again, especially at home against an Indy club that largely running on reputation this season.

(2) CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3) over New Orleans Saints – You know that the spreads are FUBAR this week when I’m including this game, which involves two scarily inconsistent teams.  I’m still in denial that we are entering a world where the Dolphins are a favorite against the Ravens and Vegas is spotting double-digits to Brian Griese versus a Mike Holmgren-coached team.

(3) CHICAGO BEARS (-3) over Minnesota Vikings – The fact that the Bears have the same record as the Vikings right now is a complete abomination.  The New York Times pointed out that the difference between the Bears being 6-0 as opposed to 3-3 is a swing of a total of 8 points in an aggregate of 4 minutes at the conclusion of their 3 losses.  Meanwhile, the Vikings needed a questionable pass interference call to pull out a win against the pathetic Lions.  This really ought to be a double-digit spread for the Bears on paper, but Vegas correctly recognizes that there are still plenty of ways that we can pry defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter.

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

Bears Games for the Season: 1-41
Overall Season: 6-9-3

FIRST BULLS RANT OF THE SEASON

On a final note, if Larry Hughes starts another Bulls preseason game instead of Derrick Rose (yes, I’ve been watching preseason basketball – there’s some serious b-ball withdrawl on my end), I will personally see to it that Vinny Del Negro’s rims are ripped off his car and sold off on Maxwell Street next Sunday.  In a remarkable turn of events, Stacey King actually stated something worthwhile on Tuesday’s broadcast by noting that the rest of the Bulls need to adjust to Derrick Rose’s game as opposed to the other way around.  My gawd, I think he’s got it!!!  There will be a justifiable fan mutiny if we continue to hear crap that Rose needs to be coddled into the lineup.  I agree that all observers need to temper expectations for production out of 19-year old rookie point guard, but he needs as much time on the floor as possible since this team needs to be built around his talent and skills instead of trying to wedge him into a rotation with 18 other undersized guards.  The regular season hasn’t even started yet and the presence of Larry Hughes is already making me twitch – this isn’t a good sign.  At the very least, I need to be able to take in the sight of two of my man crushes in Rose and Deron Williams going at each other in a special exhibition game at the Assembly Hall in Champaign on Friday night – I’m officially getting all tingly right now.

Go Bulls, Go Deron, Go Illini, and Go Bears!

(Image from ESPN.com)

Well, I’m Glad it’s Football Season – Frank the Tank’s Football Parlay – 10/3/2008

It will be another short parlay post this week as I’ve got wedding duties for a good friend.  In short, this ought to be one of those banner sports weekends in theory, with the local football scene moving from Pennsylvania to Michigan with Illinois-Michigan on Saturday and Bears-Lions on Sunday, along with both the White Sox and Cubs trying to stave off early eliminations from the playoffs (ugh).  At least as a Sox fan, this playoff appearance is a bit like playing with house money at this point since absolutely no one has any expectations for this team compared to the others in the American League.  Plus, I didn’t expect much with Javy Vasquez yesterday – the next three guys in the White Sox rotation are going to give us much more of a chance to win.  I’m not sure if there’s much I can say to Cubs fans right now to make them feel better, other than Fox executives are flipping out just as much. (Note in that article the MLB executives have politically correct quotes talking about some great storylines for small markets, while the Fox sales exec straight-up says, “It’s all about the Cubs right now.”)  Anyway, let’s hope both baseball teams and the Illini turn it around (along with my horrid handicapping as of late after a pretty good start), with the strange feeling of the Bears being the overachievers of the past week.  Here are the football picks (home teams in CAPS):

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) Ohio State Buckeyes (-1.5) over WISCONSIN BADGERS
(2) Florida State Seminoles (+2.5) over MIAMI HURRICANES
(3) Illinois Fighting Illini (+3) over MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (Michigan played possibly the worst first half in terms of self-inflicted wounds that I’ve ever seen from any football team but came back to win.  Still, I feel strangely good about the Illini in this game, which probably means that I’m going to be crushed by Muck Fichigan for the 959th time in life.)

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

Illini Games for the Season: 1-2
Overall Season: 7-7-1

NFL FOOTBALL PARLAY
(1) BALTIMORE RAVENS (+3) over Tennessee Titans
(2) DENVER BRONCOS (-3) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(3) Chicago Bears (-3.5) over DETROIT LIONS (Will I get a Bears game correct this season? I feel like the Susan Lucci of the sports book.  If anything, this is empirical evidence that you should never ever gamble on a team that you are emotionally invested in.)

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

Bears Games for the Season: 0-31
Overall Season: 4-7-1

(Image from ESPN.com)

Arch Rivalry Rundown and Frank the Tank’s College Football Parlay – 9/4/2008

With week one of the college football season in the books, there are a few conference-wide trends: the Big East looks bad, the ACC looks worse, and the jury is still out on how the Big Ten is going to look at the top.  Illinois lost to a simply better Missouri team, which wasn’t a surprise, but at least hung in well enough to justify the Illini staying in the top 25 in both polls, which was personally a pleasant surprise (and in the end, fair considering that Illinois was playing a team over 10 spots ahead of them in the polls going into the game).  The two main concerns coming out of the game for Illinois were the horrendous lack of tackling, which resulted in roughly 8,000 YAC for Mizzou (and Chase Daniel shred the defense overall) and the completely dead running game in the wake of the loss of Rashard Mendenhall to the NFL.  At least the running situation was mitigated by the fact that Juice Williams had a banner day stats-wise and nailed more accurate passes than ever before.  Mizzou practically stacked eight guys in the box the entire game to take away the Illini running “attack”, which allowed Juice to find some mind-boggling wide-open receivers downfield on a number of occasions.  Hopefully, the fact that Juice burned a pretty solid Missouri defense with his arm will make future opponents think twice in terms of stacking the line, which would open back up the Illini running game.  There really isn’t an excuse for the sloppy tackling, though.  The one bright spot on defense was the coverage ability of Vontae Davis – if he continues playing like he did this past week, he’s going to be taken very high in the first round by an NFL team in the near future.

There aren’t any odds available on the Illinois – Eastern Illinois since it involves a Division 1-AA team (I will continue to refuse to use the FBS/FCS monikers), so that game won’t be part of the parlay this week.  However, I’ll throw out a prediction that Illinois will win by at least 24 points.  On to this week’s college football picks from the worst slate of games of the year that features a dangerous number of spreads of 20 points or more (home teams in CAPS):

(1) Miami (+21 1/2) over FLORIDA – When the marquee game of the weekend features a 21 1/2 point spread, that means it’s a pretty bad football Saturday.  (It will all be made up next week, though, with Ohio State – USC.) I know that the Hurricanes were brutal last season, they have a bunch of freshmen playing, and Tim Tebow has a Zen-like hold on Erin Andrews.  However, have the mighty Canes fallen so far that they would be over three touchdown underdogs to the Gators in the revival of a once-heated rivalry?  I think not – I’m taking Miami with the points.

(2) CENTRAL FLORIDA (+14) over South Florida – Staying in the Sunshine State, I’m selling off USF stock after a couple of seasons of outsized returns.  This is one of those games that means a whole lot more to UCF (who believes they were just as worthy of a Big East invitation as USF) and it’s on their home field, so I’m taking the points again.

(3) EAST CAROLINA (+8) over West Virginia – Here’s a true home game for East Carolina against a top ten team one week after upsetting Virginia Tech in Charlotte.  At the same time, one of the few items that I have been consistently correct on through the years is knowing that West Virginia finds a way to stumble every season even though there is always a contingent of pundits that believes the Mountaineers will back into the national championship game since they always have a schedule where they could theoretically run the table on paper.  I’m not calling a straight-up upset here for ECU (and I’m sure WVU is on notice after VT stumbled last weekend), but it looks like I’m taking the points across the board on this week’s parlay.

The NFL parlay picks come tomorrow.

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

Illini Games for the Season: 0-1
Overall Season: 2-1

(Image from Chicago Tribune)