PORT ARTHUR —
One of the fun things about Super Bowl week is all the crazy proposition bets available in Las Vegas, and not just on the game itself. Here’s a few that have already been posted by Pregame.com. Will Beyonce be showing cleavage during her first song? Will both Harbaugh brothers be wearing hats inside the Superdome during the game? Will the longest touchdown of the game be over or under 45.5 yards? Will the Ravens win by two touchdowns or more (that one pays 9-to-1)? As always, one can wager heads or tails on the coin toss, or which teams wins the toss. Inexplicably, the NFC has won 14 of past 15 coin tosses. The betting line on the game is currently 49ers by 3.5, which is down from an opening line of 5 because 66 percent of the early action was on Baltimore. I like the 49ers to win, 27-20 . . . Southeast Texans have two good reasons to watch today’s Pro Bowl — Memorial’s Jamaal Charles and West Orange-Stark’s Earl Thomas, both of whom earned the post-season Hawaii trip for the second time. As best as I can determine, it’s the first time for two area players to be in the same Pro Bowl. Charles, in his first Pro Bowl in 2010, was the AFC’s leading rusher with 72 yards on 10 carries, with one of those an 8-yard TD. The game airs at 6 p.m. on NBC . . . The BCS college football powers are certainly out in the cold when it comes to this year’s Super Bowl QB matchup. What we’ll be looking at next Sunday is a Nevada (Colin Kaepernick) vs. Delaware (Joe Flacco) matchup. But that’s no more far out that the fact Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis’ first NFL sack, way back in 1996, came against 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who was then playing QB for Indianapolis.
Here’s two more stats on the Texans’ J.J. Watt that underscore what an incredible 2012 season he had. In 16 regular-season games, Watt was responsible for getting a defensive stop on 17.1 percent of the running plays when he was on the field. The next closest to that, San Francisco’s Justin Smith, wasn’t even close at 11.7 percent. Even more impressive is a FootballOutsiders.com compilation of a stat for defensive players called “defeats.” A defender is credited with a defeat every time he forces a turnover, gets a tackle behind the line of scrimmage or gets a tackle or tipped pass to prevent a conversion on third or fourth down. Ray Lewis set the all-time record of 45 defeats in 1999. Watt shattered that mark with 56 defeats . . . Since I’m trying to get started on a New Year’s resolution of writing five Sunday notes column in 2013 without ridiculing Jerry Jones, let me strongly point readers toward Randy Galloway’s column about Jethro elsewhere in this section. Among other things, Galloway refers to Jones as a clown. He also brings Jimmy Johnson into the fray. All in all, it’s a must read for anybody who follows the Cowboys and can’t stand the team’s idiot owner . . . Kudos to Sports Illustrated for the way it honored the passing of St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial. In a week when it’s cover would normally be tied into the Super Bowl, SI went with Stan the Man and in a most usual way. Instead of one cover, it had four separate ones, all presenting Musial at a different time in his remarkable career. For a sports-minded kid from Missouri, who grew up watching Stan play in the mid-to-late 1950s and early 1960s, seeing him saluted that way was heart-warming.
In its second season under Pat Knight, Lamar University is moving perilously close to the utter embarrassment of being ranked dead last among the 347 teams in USA Today’s Sagarin rankings. Prior to running their season mark to 2-18 and their SLC record to 0-8, with a 17-point loss at Oral Roberts and a 29-point shelling by Central Arkansas, Sagarin had the Cardinals at No. 342. Only teams below them were Houston Baptist, Presbyterian, South Carolina State and Grambling. With the SLC’s best two teams — Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin — headed to Beaumont for Thursday at Saturday games, rock bottom is within reach. Knight needs apologize to LU president Jimmy Simmons and Cardinal fans for such an inexcusable level of ineptitude . . . Tiger Woods seems to be scraping by fairly well for a guy who took such a hit in endorsement revenue after his 2009 sex scandal. Golf Digest, in its just published list of the 50 top earners in golf, listed Tiger’s total income for 2012 at $86.12 million. Phil Mickelson, who made the foolish gaff of whining about his taxes last week, was second at $45.33 million. Most surprising, considering they haven’t played tournament golf in years, was Arnold Palmer ($36 million) and Jack Nicklaus ($28 million) coming in at No. 3 and No. 4. Rory McIlroy was next at $22 million . . . The hits just keep coming for Notre Dame, in the aftermath of the Manti Ta’o non-existent girlfriend hoax. The Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger, a Notre Dame graduate, wrote about a swept-under-the rug 2011 incident that led to an apparent suicide of a female student at a neighboring girls college. After Notre Dame officials didn’t call for an investigation following the girl’s charge of sexual assault by a Fighting Irish player, and her receiving a threatening text saying, “Don’t mess with Notre Dame football,” the girl took her life. Henneberger, following Notre Dame’s all-in press conference on Te’o’s behalf last week, wrote: “My alma mater held the kind of emotional news conference for the fake dead girl they never held for the real one, Lizzy Seeberg.”
Word continues to circulate that a group of heavy-hitter University of Texas donors, who are seriously unhappy with Mack Brown, have gone rogue in an attempt to force Brown’s replacement with Alabama’s Nick Saban. The story that’s getting behind-the-scenes play is that a handful of the really big cigars approached Saban representatives with an unofficial seven-year, $70 million offer to coach Texas. Saban was said to be “weighing the offer.” It’s not going to happen, at least not this year, and nobody in a position of power is likely to acknowledge such an offer exists. I’m betting, however, that Deloss Dodds and Brown know that it does . . . CBS sports is the latest to jump on the Texas A&M-Johnny Manziel bandwagon. Its opening college football poll on CBSSports.com puts the Aggies at No. 1, followed by Alabama, Stanford, Ohio State and Oregon. Las Vegas’ early betting odds, meanwhile, have Alabama at 3 to 1 to threepeat as BCS champion. Next lowest odds are Oregon at 8 to 1, followed by LSU at 10 to 1, Ohio State at 10 to 1 and A&M at 14 to 1. It’s hard to understand the thinking on LSU, since 11 of its underclassmen are taking early entry into the NFL draft . . . Here’s the perfect argument for how screwed up it is to have computers playing a heavy role in the teams that play for the BCS championship. One of the six computer formulas the BCS uses — the Colley Matrix poll — continued to have Notre Dame ranked No. 1 after it got thrashed 42-14 in the championship game. That’s so screwed up Lou Holtz must be the one providing input to Colley Matrix.
With read-option offenses geared to athletic QBs like the 49ers Colin Kaepernick, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Washington’s Robert Griffin III getting a foothold in the NFL, you have to think former UT great Vince Young might get one more NFL shot. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see that opportunity come in Philadelphia with new coach Chip Kelly. Assuming, that is, Philly brass hasn’t totally written Young off after his previous stint there . . . The NFL has already started its propaganda campaign for how wonderful it’s going to be for the 2014 Super Bowl to be played in potentially frigid conditions in New Jersey. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is getting closer to Jerry Jones as a P.T. Barnum-type carnival barker, said at a Thursday press conference the league was going to embrace the wintery weather and that football was meant to be played in the elements. Easy enough for Goodell to say. He and the rest of the suits will be sitting in a heated suite. Fans who pay upward of $1,000 for game tickets may not feel the same way as they sit in the stands with their teeth chattering. Coupled with New York hotel and food prices, it’s certain to be the most expensive Super Bowl ever . . . Don’t think I’d want to be one of the NFC quarterbacks today in the Pro Bowl. In light of simplistic game plans and blocking schemes due to limited preparation time, and the fact that J.J. Watt’s motor is always revved up, he’s likely to spend a lot of time draped around the neck of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest at usa.net.