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Football! This Weekend's Best Bets, "Taking The Escalator" Edition (Also, Praise For UConn's Jim Calhoun)

Escalator to the gambling stars
Escalator to the gambling stars

Sitting and watching Jim Calhoun's retirement press conference as I type this post, and I got to thinking....it's nice to build something.

In 1986, Jim Calhoun inherited a UConn men's basketball program that was 12-16 the year before and to that point had won just four NCAA tournament games in its rather lackluster history. At that point, UConn was more worried about relevance in its own state (NOTE: The Hartford Whalers were straight blown' up at that time.) than becoming a national power.

But, lo and behold, on Calhoun's watch UConn became a national power, winning three national titles with three different core groups of players (1999, 2004, 2011) and sending countless players onto NBA stardom.

Jim Boeheim called Calhoun the "greatest builder in college basketball history." And that's how I want all of you to think of me -- the greatest builder of bankrolls in gambling history. 5-1 last weekend! We must build on this!

Let's Calhoun this thing! Here we go....

The UConn press conference Thursday afternoon was part goodbye to Calhoun and a welcome to newly promoted Husky assistant coach (and longtime NBA point guard) Kevin Ollie. Truth be told, Ollie stole the show on Thursday, showing emotion and passion that made me want to run through a brick wall for him at home. Unfortunately, my home doesn't have any brick walls, and even less fortunately, my flimsy drywall now has a "pudgy middle aged man"-shaped hole in the wall. Lose-lose.

Ollie had several great quotes in the news conference, but my favorite might have been when he was asked about what will undoubtedly be a difficult 2012-2013 season for UConn's men's team, which is depleted by transfers and saddled with an NCAA tournament ban for past Huskies' academic sins. He said the team will "take the stairs, not the escalator," implying that the stairs are the hard way and escalators are for cowards...or pudgy middle aged men.

As inspirational as that quote was, I ain't gettin' any younger, so in the interest of expediency, and with apologies to Coach Ollie, I am taking the gambling escalator. Yes, I will be preying on a few easy "OVER" games this weekend -- games where the tackling and defense promise to be so nonexistent that the numbers on the scoreboard should be constantly escalating, like that billboard in Times Square that tracks the second by second increase in our national debt.

And those games are....

Houston/UCLA OVER 74 1/2 The Coogs gave up 30 points to a team playing its first FBS game in school history, and followed that up with a 56-point defensive performance against Louisiana Tech. They replaced both starting safeties this past week and essentially turned their practices into American Idol for positions on a porous defense. UCLA's Jonathan Franklin leads the nation in rushing (215 yards per game) by 40 yards over the next closest running back. Do the math. Escalator, baby!

Rice/LOUISIANA TECH OVER 66 The team that Jonathan Franklin opened the season against with 215 yards versus the team that was scored 56 on the Coogs last weekend. (These first two picks are so incestuous!) The perfect storm! Let's keep escalatin'!

Saints/PANTHERS OVER 51 In their two games last season, these two teams combined for 57 in the first game and 62 in the second game. Robert Griffin III threw for 320 yards and ran for 42 yards last weekend against this horrific Saints defense, and Cam Newton is like a souped-up version of Griffin. Drew Brees put up 32 points last weekend despite having his worst game since the thing on his face was dark brown. We take the last flight up on the escalator and go over in this one.

All right, to appease Coach Ollie, we will jump on the stairs and make a few picks the hard way...   MARYLAND +2 1/2 over Connecticut If you're keeping track somewhere in the 860 area code (that's Connecticut for those of you who suck at the "area code drinking game"), then you know that the state of Connecticut incurred the following body blows in the last two days:

1. UConn rival Notre Dame was the latest rat to jump off the Big East ship, taking their sports programs over to the ACC, and leaving Connecticut as one of a handful of actual schools in the east that are still in the Big East.

Perhaps you've lived on a street at one time where there were a bunch of cool families, tons of parties, easy-to-find a babysitter, lots of carpools, etc. And gradually, one by one, the cool families all move away and you're the one family left on the street surrounded by some transient hodgepodge of weirdos, jerks, and kids who eat paste. Well, the Big East is that neighborhood, and Connecticut is the last remaining original family. (I'll let the new schools coming in -- Boise State, Houston, SMU, Central Florida, Navy, Memphis, San Diego State -- decide amongst yourselves who exactly east paste.)

2. The patriarch of your men's basketball program, the sixth all-time winningest coach in the game, retired a month before the start of the season.

Well, these things happen in threes, and I can tell you there would be no bigger kick in the junk to UConn than to lose to their former head coach Randy Edsall (who could have only left UConn in a less classy fashion if he had ditched the team at the airport after the Fiesta Bowl...oh wait). In what's already been a bad week for UConn, get ready.

STEELERS -5 over Jets There was actually a segment on ESPN Thursday where whichever talking head was doing SportsCenter asked Adam Schefter if Tim Tebow would demand a trade if he wasn't named the starter. Schefter, visibly perturbed, noted that Tebow still had two years left on his deal. He left out the minor detail that Tebow is terrible at quarterback, but okay.

Lions +7 over 49ERS Part of me is picking the Lions because I sense a letdown for the 49ers after a huge road win over the Packers, part of me is picking the Lions because I think they'll bounce back from their lackluster Week One performance against St. Louis (late field goal to win the game), and part of me is picking the Lions because the football gods have to give Jim Schwartz his turn to give Jim Harbaugh an overzealous handshake, right?

Last Week: 5-1 Season Record: 5-1

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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