There are coaches and there are COACHES

The word in Vegas over the weekend was that the New England Patriots were overmatched in their opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Road game against a tough opponent, no Brady. So my friend Jim Donaldson, a sports columnist for the Providence Journal, who is taking a buyout after almost 40 years working for the Journal, called me up and talked about a "huge financial opportunity.''

Donaldson is also a Notre Dame graduate, which means he has an opinion about everything. He also is not a big fan of Patriot coach Bill Belichick, giving only grudging approval to the accomplishments of a coach who has won four Super Bowls.

Donaldson's argument was that without the presence of Tom Brady, Belichick would probably have 0 rings.

He told me to jump on the Cardinals, giving 6.5 points. When he heard that the Patriots would also be without tight end Rob Gronkowski and the line went to nine points, he was still calling the game a "Cardinal lock.'' The Patriots would also be missing a pair of starting offensive linemen, which further strengthened Jimmy D's resolve.

I listened and pointed out that any Belichick-coached team with more than six months to prepare for a game was dangerous. Donaldson discounted it, maintaining that the Cardinals would not only win but "cover.''

So naturally, I watched with a more than a little bit of amusement when the Patriots led by fill-in quarterback Jimmy Garappolo went out and performed like a team with Brady at QB in a 23-21 "upset'' of the Cardinals.

The magic of Belichick, who keeps doing this with different lineups, different quarterbacks, offensive linemen, wide receivers, was again on display. Donaldson is no doubt spending a few days in the Arizona desert, working on his golf game and worrying about ND's game against Michigan State on Saturday.

The point of this is that Belichick is a difference maker, no matter who plays. And it should also be pointed out that two of Belichick's disciples/friends/compatriots are Alabama coach Nick Saban and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Both Saban and Meyer have coached national championship teams at two different schools. Both Saban and Meyer have proven time after time that they can do a better job coaching than their brethren, no matter who is in their starting lineup.

Take Alabama. Saban is again proving that he can coach a championship caliber team with an untested quarterback. The Tide is the defending national champion, have another new QB in the mix and shows no sign of dropping from the top level.
At Ohio State, Meyer lost 17 starters from last year's team, which would suggest a drop off? Sorry, The Buckeyes simply changed the name tags and have rolled to easy wins in their first two games. Granted Bowling Green and Tulsa are not top of the line opponents, but clearly the Buckeyes are ready for the challenge of the season, winning their first two games by a combined score of 125-13.

Recess is now over for both schools. Ohio State must travel to Norman, Oklahoma for a show down game against the Oklahoma Sooners, while Alabama, after rolling past USC and Western Kentucky by a combined score of 90-16, opens its Southeastern Conference season with a road game at Ole Miss.

Bama is a 9.5 point favorite in the early betting lines and Ohio State is a 2.5 point favorite. Fair enough, but the biggest factor to consider here is who is on the sidelines. In the case of any games that Bama and Ohio State are playing, that the edge clearly goes to Saban and Meyer,

Just as , much to the dismay of Jim Donaldson, the Patriots always have an edge in any game that Bill Belichick coaches.

That does not mean that Alabama, Ohio State and the Patriots will all go undefeated. Stuff happens, especially with college players and even at the next level.

But in the final analysis, the level of coaches does make a difference.[/membership]