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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

MARC LAWRENCE: BEST COLLEGE & PRO UPSETS FOR THE WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 11-12

Navy over Army by 3 — Forget all those rambling, what-the-hell-does-it-mean soliloquies by Shakespeare that you had to memorize in high school. If you want to get a football team riled up for a big game, look no further than General George S. Patton’s speech to his Third Army in 1944 before going into combat in World War II. The speech was immortalized in the opening scene from the 1970 film “Patton”, where actor George C. Scott’s riveting, ferocious performance embodied a military genius who believed that America would never lose a war, because the very thought of losing was hateful to Americans. “We have the fi nest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world,” said Patton. “You know, by God, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against. By God, I do.” Fast forward to 2021, and the pride and bravado that led U.S. troops to victory over Germany and Japan is still a huge part of the nation’s three military academies. But unlike Patton’s soldiers, the football teams representing Air Force, Army and Navy are clearly not on a level playing field when it comes to competing in the FBS. Look at the recruiting results before the start of the current season: out of 130 teams, Air Force ranked No. 95, Navy No. 104, and Army No. 110. Unable to land the 4-and-5-star players that usually end up on a Power Five school’s roster, the military teams have had to adapt in order to stay relevant. That’s why all three programs settled on a run-heavy, triple-option attack on offense, to control the line of scrimmage and the time of possession, and give their typically undersized defensive units a fighting chance. The significance of the annual Army-Navy contest may have faded over the years, but as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over” – meaning the CFB regular season can’t officially end until these two square off. Army and Navy first met in 1890, and have clashed an amazing 121 times since then. Typically played in Philadelphia, East Rutherford was chosen for this year’s game because it is the closest suitable venue to the World Trade Center in New York City. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and MetLife Stadium sits just 8 miles from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. This series was dominated by the Midshipmen between 2002-2015 with 14 consecutive wins, but over the last five years, Navy is just 1-4 SU against Army. Win or lose here, the Black Knights will maintain possession of the coveted Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy – if Navy wins, they will share the Trophy, but it will reside at West Point as tradition dictates. Today’s head coaches appear to be heading in opposite directions. Army stands 8-3 under Jeff Monken, who has led his troops to a 43-19 record in the last fi ve seasons. Meanwhile, time appears to be running out for Navy HC Ken “Nine Lives” Niumatalolo, who has presided over a second straight losing season, and his third in four years. The problem? While Navy still owns a Top 10 rushing offense, they have failed to put points on the board, ranking No. 115 in scoring this year with only 20.4 PPG. That could be trouble against an Army squad that owns the No. 2 rushing attack in college football, averaging 301.2 yards per game, while also leading the nation in time of possession. However, our tireless database suggests we not give up on Navy this afternoon. The Midshipmen have gone 18-5 ATS as dogs when coming off one SUATS win-exact, including 4-0 ATS in military matters, as well as 7-1 ATS with a losing record. Army counters with a lackluster 2-5 ATS effort in this series of late, and has gone a weak 1-4 ATS as chalk in 2021. The Mids are also not lacking in incentive: with Army playing with an Armed Forces Bowl bid in their back pocket, and knowing the CIC Trophy stays with them regardless, the Swabbies have only one thought in mind: Beat Army, Period. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50’s with light rain, which could impact a game where both offenses must maintain ball security. With Niumatalolo now 40-21 ATS in games against opponents sporting a better record, and Navy’s season ending at the conclusion of this matchup, we’ll take the points in what looks to be a typical service academy tug-of-war.

NFL

Buffalo over TAMPA BAY by 10

How ironic was it Monday Night in a game laced with 25-35 MPH winds that New England head coach Bill Belichick ran a throwback offense at Buffalo, when Pats starting QB Mac Jones had two completions of three pass attempts for 19 yards – for the entire game! It was the NFL’s lowest passing attempts in a game since the 1974 Bills-Jets game, and New England’s fewest since Steve Grogan attempted five passes in a snowy 1982 game against the Dolphins. Per USA TODAY, in the ’74 debacle, Joe Namath attempted 18 passes, completing two to his own receivers, and three to the Bills. Buffalo quarterback Joe Ferguson threw two early interceptions to the Jets, but both were erased by penalties, and after that, head coach Lou Saban decided to stick with the ground game. Those were the last two passes Ferguson attempted – just two attempts with no completions in the entire game. FYI: In the game O.J. Simpson led the Bills’ ground attack with 117 yards in 31 carries. “It was murder,” Buffalo head coach Lou Saban said after the game. “Absolute murder.” Looking back, perhaps it’s where seeds of terror were rooted. Who knows? What we know today is that the Bills trail the surging Patriots by 1.5-games in the AFC East, and are clinging to the No. 7 spot in the current AFC playoff picture, while Tampa sits atop the NFC South with a four-game lead over all three of their other division rivals. In addition, Buffy enters on an 8-1-1 ATS win skein on the non-conference road as well as 5-1 SU and 4-1-1 ATS in games after coming off a SU favorite Monday Night loss. Yes, Tommy Seven Rings is 31-3 all-tie against Buffalo, but in each of those wins he had The Hoodie whispering in his ear. FYI: He is only 2-2 ATS against Buffalo when the Bills sport a .636 or greater win percentage. Moving to the here and now, though, you may be shocked to learn that Brady is 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS during the regular season with the Bucs versus .636 or greater opponents.

San Francisco over CINCINNATI by 13

Just when it looked like the world was right once again, along came a heavy dose of smelling salts when both the Niners and the Bengals where knocked down the NFL playoff picture ladder with disturbing losses last week. It was a bittersweet pill for Cincinnati to swallow who, after trailing 24-0 in the 2Q to the Chargers, stormed back to get the score as close as 24-22 entering the fourth quarter, before they melted like the Wicked Witch of the East in the end. Of major concern is the nasty injury to QB Joe Burrow’s pinkie-finger, as he played through it, despite the fact it grew larger faster than a Thanksgiving to Christmas diet. But it’s not just Burrow that is banged up. Linebacker Logan Wilson is expected to miss this week and maybe even more time, after suffering a dislocated shoulder, as well as LB Markus Bailey (stinger) and CB Chidobe Awuzie (foot injury). Both players are considered day to-day. The same goes for offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Trey Hopkins, who both missed Sunday’s game with ankle injuries. On the flip side, Frisco saw a potential game-winning drive end with an incompletion on fourth-and-goal from Seattle’s 3-yard line, thus ending the Niners’ three-game win streak. Nevertheless, head coach Kyle Shanahan has developed a broad home-road dichotomy, where he is 22-16 ATS away as opposed to 16-22-1 ATS at home with San Francisco (more on that below). Included in those numbers is a glitzy 7-2 ATS record on the AFC road, including 6-0 ATS the last six contests. Coupled with Cincy’s 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS mark under Zac Taylor in games against the NFC West, it paints an imposing picture for the suddenly fractured Bengals. We saved the best for last, though, and it comes in the form of THE CLINCHER: Shanahan is 11-2 ATS away in non-division games against foes coming off a loss, including 6-0 SUATS the last six games.

 Rams over ARIZONA by 4

 Big battle in the NFC West for both teams. The Cardinals got QB Kyler Murray back last week, and while Ravens QB Lamar Jackson puts the fear of God into opponents every time he runs out of the pocket, no one zigs-and-zags with more wild abandonment that Murray. To head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s credit they did not hurry the diminutive slickster back. They managed to go 2-1 without him. Remember, no coach was on a hotter seat that Kingsbury to start the season, yet he kept his cool and remained patient while sitting Murray throughout November. With WR De’Andre Hopkins also back it certainly helps in preparation for the stretch drive ahead. Still, Murray and Hopkins can’t do it alone. Any team with any realistic shot at a Super Bowl needs help from the defense, and it’s worth noting the Cards’ stop-unit has been out-yarded in three of its last five games. The Rams will look to exploit that tonight knowing they are 4-0 SUATS in their last four-division contests after surrendering fewer than 10 points in its last game, as well as 8-1 SUATS the last nine games in this series (the loss being a 37-10 defeat in L.A. in Game Four this season). Given the Redbirds’ ruinous 1-7 ATS mark in its last seven games as a division host, as well as its 2-10 ATS record at home on Monday Nights, and head coach Sean McVay’s 10-5 SUATS on the division road, including 3-0 ATS against foes coming off a SUATS win, which all sets up perfectly knowing that Arizona head coach Kingsbury is 4-8 ATS as a home favorite with the Cardinals, including 0-4 ATS as a favorite of fewer than six points. You know exactly what to do.

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