Each week during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™ who to wager and what to drink while doing it. Ladies and Gentleman, the man who last week wrote a love note to the Nevada Gaming Control Board and ended up giving them their best idea since Keno…Kyle Magin:
Do you think the kids get why a big fuss is being made over Steve Spurrier’s sudden retirement? For anyone who came into sports fandom since Y2K, he’s been a washout in the NFL and a middling SEC head coach at South Carolina. To them he’s always been a has-been, results-wise.
But for those of us who remember: My God. In the 90s the Head Ball Coach was perhaps the most-feared sight to see on an opposing sideline. He took University of Florida football from a slimy southern backwater without an SEC crown to its name to a revered national program by winning a national title, six SEC titles, winning at least 9 games a year for 12 straight years, winning 10 games a year for six straight years and perennially scoring more than 500 points with his fun n’ gun offense. He’s the only Heisman winner to incubate another Heisman winner as a head coach and put more bodies in the NFL than CTE has taken out of it. At the zenith of his powers, his Gators were the Sunshine State program you least wanted to see on the schedule back when that was saying something. Where the booster-humpers at FSU and Miami did it with all the substance of an oil slick, Florida was a bomb and Spurrier was the tinkerer who connected the right wires just ahead of an explosion.
Look at his lone national title in 1997–Florida’s first. Spurrier’s Gators went into the game against Florida State having lost to the ‘Noles two games beforehand. Spurrier implemented a shotgun set to allow Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel more time to find his targets and the Gators scored only almost every possession they had on their way to 52-20 victory. It takes brass balls to tweak the offense on a team that lost one game all season and scored better than 50 points in seven games. But after Wuerffel chewed dirt for most of the first matchup against FSU, Spurrier re-tooled and instructed a group of 18-23-year-olds on how to run a new-look attack on the fly, then put up 52 on the best team in the land.
When Spurrier was hungry, before he became more of a regular at Augusta than he was on the recruiting trail, before Dan Snyder and Marcus Lattimore’s knees sucked out his love of the game, nobody was more intimidating in college football. It’s a shame that most millennials will only remember the HBC for strolling the sidelines at Columbia between golf rounds and looking perpetually tan, rested and ready for almost, not-quite-there campaigns (a fantastic 2013 notwithstanding).
I know you’re going to find this suuuuuper hard to believe, especially in light of my nearly every-other-day stroll down memory lane these last couple weeks (I’m also thinking about visiting a Porsche dealership, strongly considering hair plugs and in the process of taking out a second to afford Veneers as I price out pool cabanas at the Wynn for Super Bowl weekend), I have a little nostalgia snippet involving Spurrier’s Gators.
Back during the halcyon days of HBC’s Florida (think post-Wuerffel /pre-Tebow…the Rex Grossman Years) my buddies and me frequented a bar in North Beach called Shannon’s, kitty-corner from Eastside West and Beach Blanket Babylon near Greenwich and Fillmore. Note: If a reader knows what’s in that space right now, please comment below.
Shannon’s was divey and sticky and always had that bar-y morning-after smell even the day of. Pitchers started around $3 and the food was over-portioned for the amount of drinking that was being done which resulted in a lot of, um, premature evacuations in the easily accessed back alley. It always had the exact same lighting as 1 a.m. no matter what time of day, so there was no guilt associated with such actions.
As a couple Oregon alumns a few years older than me made it their spot to watch the program’s ascent through the Bellotti years, it became a second home on fall Saturdays.
But there was a problem: Transplanted Florida fans of a similar age had already staked their claim.
They were a raucous if not uniform bunch. Annoying in their white hats, white shirts, white jeans looking like they were about to board a plane to Guyana with Jim Jones one week and alternately looking like understudies from the Blue Man Group the next. In retrospect, it was more of a thing that they knew how to college football just slightly better than the somewhat bedraggled and (still) flannel-wearing scrubs from Eugene. Maybe we were just jealous. Or maybe it was just the awfulness of the Gator Chomp.
Fortunately for Shannon’s, the Florida game was usually the early morning undercard and the Oregon game was the late-afternoon/evening tilt. And the universities themselves had as much chance playing one another as Alabama does throwing a big five conference school on its early season schedule.
Our interactions evolved: It went from drunken and intentional shoulder bumping as they were on the way out/we were on the way in, to trash talking over the trough urinal to that magical day when my buddy Brian, you know, your typical hyper-kinetic young self-anointed Master of the Universe who worked a fledgling job in finance but still made more than the rest of us combined—or at least acted like it—convinced me and a couple others to come to the bar with him early one Saturday. “I’ve got a plan.”
I (still) don’t know what his actual plan was, but the execution went something like this: Brian came in, threw down his MBNA card and ordered a dozen pitchers. I helped him carry them upstairs and we set one on each Gator fan’s table and Brian introduced himself. After he made his rounds, they invited us to stay. After the game, we invited them to stay.
And so it went, for about three seasons to follow, I was a Gators-Ducks fan. And I’d like to think that to this day Brian still has some of those guys in his book of business.
Now, every time I turn on the a.m. SEC matchup to serve as background to pancake-making or vacuuming and it happens to be Florida, I get that incredible/nervous-with-anticipation pit in my stomach. My mouth waters in a not-so-good but anticipatory way, like at any moment someone is going to shove a Rumple Minze shot in my hand with a plastic-cup warm Bud Light chaser. The Pavlovian itch on the bottoms of my feet that radiates up through my spine about how long it might take me to run down to the bathroom should things go sideways, and what Plan B is should it be occupied or out of order makes my palms sweaty.
Those were the true days of my college football fandom Kyle. And Spurrier’s retirement, along with Oregon’s return to dormancy (or at least doormat-cy), signals something I can’t quite identify.
…Now back to pricing out that 2016 Macan.
Rumple Minze inspires a burn in my throat and a subconscious heave to this day. I understand the cold sweat.
Another development inciting sweat is this weekend’s Michigan State-Michigan game in Ann Arbor. For more than a few years now the balance of power in the state has tilted the 6-0 Spartans’ way, which is a truly strange development for anyone associated with the blood feud. For a long time it wasn’t whether or not State would lose, but by how much. Then during the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke administrations in Ann Arbor, Michigan State’s fans got to enjoy an almost annual demolition of Michigan and whatever bumblee-looking jerseys they decided to wear to their annual funeral. Now that Jim Harbaugh is in charge, and 5-1 Michigan’s defense has pitched three straight shutouts, I’m nervous and I think much of Spartan nation is as well. State has looked shaky at best this season behind a nicked-up offensive line and young, porous secondary. Stops have come only when they’ve had to, not when they could demoralize a team and cement a blowout or even really a comfortable win. If this game took place in a vacuum, I’d be frightened.
But it doesn’t.
Nothing about Michigan State-Michigan is context-free. Slights dating to before the Civil War, when Michigan attempted to block Michigan State’s very inception, are written into a text that now includes Michigan fans tarnishing the statue of Magic Johnson ahead of Saturday’s showdown. Real, honest-to-God rivalries have a way of cooling off a favorite and fueling an underdog, of giving somebody with no business covering the man across from him a shot of adrenaline, and conversely, of giving a solid player the yips. Many of these kids playing Saturday grew up in the state of Michigan, and they’ll be hearing it all week from friends, family and acquaintances on both sides of the green/blue divide. I expect both teams to come out tight. I expect…
Michigan State +8 @ Michigan
Look, set aside the narrative and you have a pretty classic Big 10 matchup on your hands here. Michigan’s strength is on the defensive side of the ball, where they have held opponents to just 38 points this year. They dominate time of possession by nearly 9 minutes and squash opponents on third down, allowing just a 19 percent conversion rate this season. Opponents get just 2.2 yards per rush. Michigan State’s strength is its offense, which has been surprisingly resilient given the injuries to standout offensive linemen Jack Conklin and Jack Allen. The Spartans average 13.7 yards per catch, have given up just four sacks, and average 4.4 yards per carry. QB Connor Cook has been picked just twice this year against 12 touchdowns and the Spartans have lost just one fumble all season. If it’s not always a flashy attack, it is safe and efficient. Contrast that with Michigan’s offense which feasts on its run game but struggles with turnovers (three lost fumbles, six interceptions) and often trades high-risk passes for potential highlights from shaky QB Jake Rudock when it has to rely on him, which wasn’t much at all last week as the UM defense and run game did a lot of the heavy lifting in a blowout versus Northwestern. Michigan State has the better scoring defense (41 points this year) and I’d look for them to pressure Rudock on at least a few series into a bad decision. Saturday may not go the Spartans’ way, but they do cover.
AJ, Back over to you before we add a little wrinkle to this week’s proceedings…
Well, your wish is the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s command. It’s like they straight-up read your column last week and decided to do something about it. I’m referring, of course, to the board banning Draft Kings and FanDuel and lesser
scams fantasy sites for real money in the Battle Born state. Nevada joins 11 other states in the ban, but certainly their ruling will be the most influential (think California with gay marriage). So, everyone should fall in line and these sites will eventually be subjected to the same rules and regulations as everyone else who’s trying to lift your wallet while distracting you with wings and beer and boobs and then, and only then—will the ads start to go away.
I thought the reaction from FanDuel was rather funny: On behalf of our users in Nevada, FanDuel is terribly disappointed that the Nevada Gaming Control Board has decided that only incumbent Nevada casinos may offer fantasy sports. This decision stymies innovation and ignores the fact that fantasy sports is a skill-based entertainment product loved and played by millions of sports fans.
Skill-based? Innovation? Oh lordy lordy lordy. That’s like a food blogger claiming ordering your extra meal for take-home from Olive Garden takes an advanced degree in the culinary arts. At least the FanDuel marketing intern turned on the thesaurus and replaced “is being a dick to” with stymies…a favorite word.
(Wipes breadstick crumbs off hands…)
OK, now that that’s taken care of, let’s get to a pair of quick picks that are officially codified and sanctioned by the gaming board:
Utah -7 vs Arizona State
This is one of a pair of Pac-12 headscratchers Kyle. As much as I thought Cal would keep it a one-possession/one-score game at Rice-Eccles is how adamant I am that Utah goes up by 10 at the half and then stretches its legs against the Sun Devils from there. ASU has a bit of an identity problem this year. A pre-season top-10 and playoff hopeful, they got smacked around by Texas A&M to open the season, barely escaped the visiting Cal Poly Mustangs and then two weeks later were notched on Sark’s bedpost as the last victory as Trojan HC 42-14.
In the meantime, Utah’s been nothing short of perfect, ruining Harbaugh’s debut with the Wolverines (which a lot of people are already forgetting about) and running the table since. Utahns know how to eat hamburgers, wear red, yell loud and say endearing things like “oh my…heck.” It’s true. Look for the Utes to come up big and break that 0-4 streak (winless since they joined the Pac-12) against the Sun Devils with their pass rush alone; and if you need any more convincing, just think about what damage Utah RB Devontae Booker (averaging of 133 yards per game) can inflict on the Sun Devils’ cheesecloth front seven and mired secondary. It’s going to be a long flight back to Tempe.
Washington +2 vs Oregon
I just…I don’t know. This one seems to be the Nevada thinktank making it WAAAAAY TOO easy on me. Maybe it’s a make-up for the Cal-Utah push last week. Maybe this is like rewards points for sticking with the oddsmakers and not being tempted by the FanDuels and Draft Kings acting as the supermodel arm of the #girlsquad beckoning me to come over wearing nothing but a clever grin and a Spirit Halloween pop-up naughty nurse’s outfit. Dunno. I could break it down by position (starting with HC Chris Peterson) why the Huskies are in every way superior to Oregon this year—plus they’re at home…plus they’re hungry (haven’t notched a W in the rivalry since Bad Boys II was in theaters)…but I’m just going to go with a more general narrative: Oregon football over the last decade has staked its claim on two things: 1) marketing and 2) speed. Their most offensive uniform combo of all time (unironically trying to honor Native Americans and shooting victims at once—I can’t make this shit up) in last week’s home loss to Wazzu displays the nadir there. And HC Mark Helfrich now has a trio of scout offense QBs steering his hapless Ducks into what I call a “Flex Running-Scared” offense. It makes for brutal television.
Washington and the moneyline. Bet the rent.
Kyle, I heard Lamar Odom isn’t the only one addicted to crack (too soon?) And by that I mean the crack of the bat…
Too true my friend, too true. As much as I’m enjoying this season of college football, I’m so firmly in orbit around baseball’s thrilling playoffs that I’m going to have to science the shit out of some LCS picks this week.
You and I talked this week about how baseball’s final four is almost perfect despite the fact that our rooting interests are taking in October either next to Kate Upton on a Harley or finding inner peace. Toronto is full of big boppers and brings an entire nation to the party as its +1. Chicago is your adorable chubby buddy with the red cheeks and good jokes who you hope can finally hit off with the hot chick who sorta looks like she’s digging him. The Mets just have really great hair and an adoring media who’ll help hold the NFL at bay for a few weeks longer. What KC lacks in star appeal or good-natured goofiness (he’s a bit of an asshole, truth be told) is the fact that he can probably needle Toronto into a fight or four before this whole thing is over.
All told, it’s a hell of a shindig and the lead-up has been nothing short of extraordinary. With the one-game wildcard and close races for the final spot in both leagues, we’ve essentially witnessed a 50-day sprint to this point in the postseason. So fill your Solo cup at the keg and come on in…
ALCS Game 1: Toronto -112 @ Kansas City
This bet won’t make you much money, but it’s a smart one. Blue Jays Game 1 starter Marco Estrada seems to rely on his fairy godmothers to pitch to contact as frequently as he does without surrendering gargantuan long balls. Just three Royals have ever eked out an extra base hit against the Mexican righty, and he’s bedeviled table-setter Jarrod Dyson (2ks this season) and table-clearer Mike Moustakas (3ks). Estrada took two no-nos into the 8th inning this season specifically because he induces a lot of poorly-hit dribblers his rock-solid defense can vacuum up.
NLCS Game 1: Chicago +108 @ New York Mets
I wonder how Jon Lester will feel about being the only adult in the room at the Citi Field tomorrow? The veteran of October battles as a Red Sox starter enters the game with a 1-0 record in two starts versus the Mets this season–the Cubs won both contests. Outside of Curtis Granderson, who has been stunningly effective against both Lester and Game 2 starter Jake Arrieta, none of the Mets with a sizeable amount of at-bats against the lefty have mustered more than a single RBI. Matt Harvey goes for the Mets against the Cubs, who have gone big (6 regulars are hitting better than .333 against him) in limited ABs while also whiffing quite a bit (he K’ed 9 North Siders in their only meeting this year, a no-decision). I think the Cubs are an unstoppable force, though. You’re just not going to find an inning when you don’t face somebody–Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Dexter Fowler, Addison Russell, etc.–who can’t tee off on you.
Enjoy the games and have a great weekend.
The PNP Recap:
Overall: 11 for 21
Michigan State +8 @ Michigan
ALCS Game 1: Toronto -112 @ Kansas City
NLCS Game 1: Chicago +108 @ New York Mets
Overall: 12 for 16 (and one tie)
Utah -7 vs Arizona State
Washington +2 vs Oregon