LAS VEGAS — If you’re an action junkie like me, Nevada is the only place to be this weekend. New Jersey should be so lucky.
In a span of about 10 hours you can step up to the windows here and have a go at an important stretch in Major League Baseball, an early taste of college football, the 3-year-old horse-racing event of the year, the most important week of the NFL preseason and then – to cap it off – the most heavily bet boxing event in history.
Is this a great state or what?
You have to get up early and eat one of those big, buffet breakfasts to get yourself energized for a long and enjoyable Saturday that will be bookended by the fighters. That’s right. Bookended. With the taste of their Motor City brawl still fresh in their mouths, the New York Yankees and their newest arm Sonny Gray are in the Bronx at 10 a.m. Pacific time to host Seattle. Don’t go to sleep on the Mariners, one of as many as nine teams still in the hunt for an American League wild card with the Yankees leading that pack.
Then at 11:30 Vegas time, Oregon State travels to Fort Collins to raise the curtain on the new college football season – and on Colorado State’s new $240 million stadium. The Rams are favored by 3½, but take a good, long look at the Beavers. Gary Andersen is an under-the-radar coach who has been putting together a decent team in Corvallis. Fourteen starters come back from a group that closed last year with wins over Arizona and arch rival Oregon.
Yes, Oregon State has lost its past 13 road games, but there is another reason to lean toward the Pac-12 lads in this matchup. They may have been only 4-8 straight up last year, but Beavers were an impressive 9-2 against the spread, even covering in road games against Minnesota, Washington and Stanford. And do not ignore what is coming up. After this game Colorado State has a short week leading to a showdown next Friday night in Denver against Colorado. That game has great significance to the Rams, who were destroyed by the Buffaloes 44-7 last September. If you can catch a favorite looking ahead to its arch rival, you have to consider the underdog.
Then it is off to the races at 2:44 p.m. Pacific time and the summertime derby at Saratoga. This the first time since 1982 that the Travers features three winners from Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby’s Always Dreaming (post 7), The Preakness’s Cloud Computing (1) and the Belmont’s Tapwrit (4). This race will either produce the 3-year-old champion of 2017 or, if one of the other nine horses wins, keep the confusion going until the Breeders’ Cup.
If you live out this way it is only appropriate to look at the No. 3 horse West Coast. He is a lightly raced colt that is coming into his own with three consecutive wins for trainer Bob Baffert. You may remember the last time Baffert brought a late bloomer to the Travers was last year. That worked out rather well for Arrogate – with 13 lengths to spare.
Once we have lined our pockets with money, it will be time to jump in on the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders and their 5 p.m. PDT visit to play the Cowboys, who are laying 3. Ezekiel Elliott is going to the post for Dallas, and it may be the last we see of him until October. The running back has an appeal hearing next week to fight his domestic-violence punishment, and I do not expect the whole, six-game suspension to be overturned. If it stays in place Elliott would not return until Oct. 29 at Washington.
In my opinion the best chance for Elliott is to see the penalty reduced by one game. That would mean he would return after the Cowboys’ bye week to play San Francisco, but he would still miss the Week 5 game against Green Bay. In effect that would be a six-week suspension rather than six games.
At 6 p.m. Nevada time Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers visit Denver, where the Broncos are favored by three as they try to ride into the season on the shaky arm of Trevor Siemian.
Those of us who are about engage in mortal combat in the Westgate SuperContest should play close attention to this third week of the preseason. This is when the regulars spend a little more time on the field, and injuries can always play a big factor in what’s ahead. So can sorting out the problems that some teams will have going into the season. For example it appears as though Jay Cutler will be able to operate the offense down in Miami, but he will need more protection from his left tackle that he got Thursday night. Second-year lineman Laremy Tunsil has moved over to that spot from guard, and it is clear that he is still learning. He was blocking air when Philadelphia’s Vinny Curry poured in to hit Cutler and force a second-quarter fumble.
Speaking of Philly, keep an eye on the Eagles in the NFC East, which is the best division in football this year. There are some who argue that it is the AFC West, but as long as the Chargers look awful, the worst team in the NFC East is better. The question is which team is the worst; there is no obvious choice. It is clear that the Eagles have given Carson Wentz more weapons than he had a year ago as a rookie. Just look at his touchdown passes Thursday night to his new targets Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. So I do think Philadelphia is going to contend for the division title.
So after the baseball and the football and the horses and more football, that brings us to the nightcap – the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. It amazes me that this is going to have more money riding on it than any boxing event before it, because in most ways this is an exhibition. It has to be when you consider McGregor is stepping out of his MMA comfort zone to try boxing against the 49-0 Mayweather. Think about all the great fights over the years that this state has bet on – both in and out of Nevada. We hear the handle may hit $80 million, far eclipsing the record $50 million for the fight two years ago between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
It was fun watching the big-money bettors growing increasingly antsy and stepping up to the counter Thursday, racing to get in at minus-500 for Mayweather. I could not stay away from it, but I am not going back, and I don’t imagine those odds will either. The guys who stepped up with $1 million timed this one just right.
The young MMA fighter Kevin Lee, who will be in UFC 216 here in October, has been working in Mayweather’s camp. He told me Thursday on VSiN’s “My Guys in the Desert” that McGregor will present something that Mayweather has never seen before.
“He can switch between those taekwondo stances and those side-on stances,” Lee said. “The arrangement can be a little bit different, because Conor understands the kicking range vs. the punching range. It might take Floyd a couple rounds to figure out his timing and his distance. People think McGregor is going to bully him. I honestly see McGregor keeping the distance, and Floyd taking a little bit of time. But once Floyd figures out that style and that distance, he’s going to kill him.”
While the age stat has been one focal point of the buildup, I believe it was South Point’s Chris Andrews who called Mayweather a “young 40.” It is hard to disagree.
My two favorite sets of stats on the fight are these:
Mayweather has answered the bell for 387 three-minute rounds in his 49-0 career. McGregor has had 37 five-minute UFC rounds in his 21-3 career.
And 99.95 times 4.5 million. That is the number of dollars multiplied by the estimated number of pay-per-view buys. The bounty of nearly $450 million will be divided between the parties directly involved in the fight.
I just hope the Supremes are watching how much fun we are having in Nevada this weekend. The Supremes in D.C., that is. Let’s hope within the next year that they allow New Jersey to join our party.
Join Brent Musburger on "My Guys in the Desert" on SiriusXM 204 and VSiN.com Saturday and Sunday from noon-2 p.m. Pacific.