Can we get a close bowl game? | The Bruins are taking a big risk

Create: 2020-12-31
Update: 2020-12-31
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Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wow, it's finally here at long last: The final day of this godforsaken year. How are you spending your final day of 2020? I'll be over here just absolutely dreading the horrible New Year's Eve photo captions I'm going to have to endure on Instagram. Even money on "champagne problems" being the one that drives me the most insane. 
I've never really been much of a New Year's Eve guy myself, so I can't say that I'm too disappointed the pandemic has "forced" me to stay on the couch as the clock strikes midnight tonight. I'll still be having a few drinks while I watch hockey (Team USA has a big game against Sweden at the World Junior Championship) and think about what life was like when I actually did stuff. 
However you choose to celebrate tonight, I hope you do it safely and responsibly ... and I hope you have a great time. You deserve it for surviving this hellish year, and you deserve it for putting up with me for one whole calendar year. Thanks so much for sticking it out with me this year, even when sports were at a standstill and I was desperate enough to give you updates on my deteriorating daily hygiene. As a heads up, I won't be back in your inbox until Monday. 
Let's get this last newsletter out of the way and look ahead to a better second year together, shall we?

📰 What you need to know
1. Sooners run through Gators in Cotton Bowl 🏈
We're not even to New Year's Day and this college football bowl season has already had more blowouts than a Jersey Shore beach in the middle of summer. The latest lopsided box score came courtesy of the Cotton Bowl, in which the Oklahoma Sooners absolutely demolished the Florida Gators by a score of 55-20.
It was a bit of a disappointing result, at least from a competitive and entertainment standpoint. The No. 6 team in the country vs. the No. 7 team in the country? Sounds like a good time on paper. Oklahoma shifted from underdogs to favorites after Florida had some high-profile opt-outs go public, but the spread was only 8.5 so it was fair to expect a closer game than what we got. 
So, how'd the Sooners run away with it? Let's go to our Ben Kercheval for some takeaways:
  • Oklahoma's running game put up 435 yards on the ground-- a Cotton Bowl record 
  • Florida QB Kyle Trask threw three interceptions (including a pick-six) in the first quarter and the Gators fell into an early 17-0 hole
  • Florida's top four receivers -- Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland -- all opted out of the game and Trask failed to get into a rhythm with his new receiving corps
  • The Sooners' defense closed out very well. Florida was unable to convert a first down after getting four of its first five, and four of the Gators' six second-half drives went for 22 yards or fewer
I've had enough of these one-sided bowls, haven't you? (Yes, I was totally okay with the Longhorns dunking all over Colorado the other night, but that's neither here nor there.) We can hold onto hope that the College Football Playoff, which will kick off tomorrow, brings a bit more drama and intensity. Do we need to get Buffalo Wild Wings in here to smash that "close game" button that they flaunt in all their commercials? I'm desperate at this point.
2. What's next for the Bruins after Chara? 🏒
It's been a weird offseason for my Boston Bruins. After winning the Presidents' Trophy last year, it felt like they were going to be aggressive this offseason as they tried to fill out the roster and capitalize on the closing Stanley Cup window of their current core. But the team hasn't done much, and they've lost more than they've added.
That list of subtractions now includes longtime captain Zdeno Chara, who officially inked a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth approximately $795,000 yesterday.
  • Chara, in a statement: "The Boston Bruins have informed me that they plan to move forward with their many younger and talented players and I respect their decision. Unfortunately, my time as the proud Captain of the Bruins has come to an end."   
It's always tough to watch a team let a star player walk and finish out their career with another team rather than ride off into the sunset in the jersey you grew to love them in. But the case of Chara is a particularly strange one to cope with. He's no longer the player he once was, but he's still serviceable, especially on a minimum contract. And the Bruins, who have holes on defense, seem committed to keeping their current Stanley Cup window open ... so why weren't they willing to keep their beloved captain around?
I tried to make sense of it in a column yesterday, but it's hard to understand why the team was so against giving Chara one more year. As a Boston guy, I've now watched Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Chara all depart in the twilight of their respective careers over the past calendar year. On top of that, Mookie Betts and Torey Krug left, too. For once, it hasn't been a banner year for sports in New England, and so I'm just going to hope 2021 has better things in store.
3. Pete Prisco's Week 17 NFL Picks 🏈
Well, here we are ... it's the final week of the NFL regular season and that means one last chance for Pete Prisco to wow us with his weekly NFL predictions. My guy Peter had a tough couple of weeks at the beginning of December but he's pulled himself together since then and aiming to finish strong. He's also aiming to finish above .500, as his ATS season record sits at 114-118-7 as we approach this weekend's final slate. That won't be an easy task, as there are a bunch of tough games to pick. 
Let's see who he's riding with in a few of the notable matchups:
  • Cowboys (-1.5) at Giants: The winner here needs Washington to lose in order to clinch the lowly NFC East, and Prisco likes what he has seen from Andy Dalton and the Cowboys' offense lately. He's siding with Dallas and expects them to cover ... but does he think they'll get into the postseason? Pick: Cowboys 30, Giants 20
  • Washington (-1.5) at Eagles: Can the Eagles spoil WFT's playoff party? Prisco thinks so. With Alex Smith's status uncertain, Jalen Hurts and Philly's improved offense have a good chance of playing spoiler. Pick: Eagles 24, Washington 21
  • Cardinals at Rams (+3): The quarterback situation here is intriguing. Kyler Murray is banged up but he could play. Jared Goff is out, so the Rams will rely on John Wolford. The winner gets in the playoffs, and that's a lot of pressure for Wolford, who has never attempted an NFL pass. Prisco likes Arizona but not enough to cover. Pick: Cardinals 23, Rams 20
There are a number of other interesting games on the schedule, even if some of them don't have any playoff implications. You can find Prisco's full card right here. Do you believe in him enough to say he'll cross the .500 threshold? 
4. Dark horse NFL coaching candidates 🏈 
A whole bunch of NFL teams will see their season come to an end this weekend. For some, the 2020 campaign ending without a playoff berth will be a major disappointment that cost some coaches their job. Of course, three teams (Lions, Texans and Falcons) have already made the decision to part ways with their coach this season, so it stands to reason that there will be fewer pink slips handed out immediately following Week 17 this year.
Still, there will be coaches axed this weekend -- perhaps Adam Gase in New York, Matt Nagy in Chicago, Anthony Lynn in Los Angeles or a few other hot seat guys. With that in mind, our Jason La Canfora put together a list of dark horse coaching candidates that could receive some interest this offseason. Here are five of his selections, followed by their current positions:
  • Orlondo Steinauer: Head coach, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
  • Scott Milanovich: Head coach, Edmonton Football Team
  • Chris Jones: Senior defensive assistant, Cleveland Browns
  • Josh McCown: Quarterback, Houston Texans
  • Dave Toub: Special teams coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
JLC has more candidates right here, so you should read up on these guys if your team had a crappy season and might be in the hunt for a new boss in 2021.
As for me, my team had a crappy season but I have a feeling that Bill Belichick's job is still pretty secure. Just a hunch, though.
📝 Odds & Ends
  • Becky Hammon became the first woman to serve as a head coach during a regular season NBA game last night
  • Kawhi Leonard wore a mask against the Blazers last night and the internet, predictably, went nuts
  • In a devastating turn of events, there was no mayo at the Mayo Bowl and Wisconsin shattered the Mayo Bowl trophy while celebrating their victory
  • The Buffalo Bills will allow fans to attend their Wild Card playoff game
📺 What to watch today
🏈 Liberty Bowl: West Virginia vs. Army, 4 p.m. | ARMY +6.5 | TV: ESPN
🏀 Kings vs. Rockets, 7 p.m. | HOU -4.5
🏀 Suns vs. Jazz, 9:00 p.m. | UTAH -3.5 
📝 Top scores from last night
🏈 Cotton Bowl: (6) Oklahoma 55, (7) Florida 20 
The Sooners had 435 yards rushing, including 186 for Rhamondre Stevenson and 110 from freshman Marcus Major.
💵 Winning wagers: OU -8.5, Over (65)
🏀 Heat 119, Bucks 108
Miami avenged their embarrassing blowout loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday night. 
💵 Winning wagers: MIA +209, Under (228.5)
 
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