Friday, November 17, 2006

College Football Live-Comment Tailgate

I'm off to Gainesville for the weekend -- you're a REAL fan if you fly in to watch the games against the 1-AA patsies (ugh) -- so I'm opening up the usual CFB Live-Comment action early, because I likely won't be online Saturday. Have at it throughout the day, and I'll try to check in after the Florida game during the day's REAL game (OSU-Mich). Have at it and have a great weekend.

- D.S.

Ohio State vs. Michigan Mania:
The Impact of Bo's Death

Update: Obviously, the death of Michigan icon Bo Schembechler spirals the Michigan-Ohio St game into uncertainty and speculation, two things that the online sports world inhales and exhales. What's your take? Many of you have already started commenting. Can you see it impacting the game's result, given that it's in Columbus, not Ann Arbor? There's a lot more to discuss here. Rather than create a new post, let's just vault off the comments section on this post.

Ohio St vs. Michigan Mania, Cont'd: I don't really care about their rivalry. Like most rivalry games, I appreciate the depth and history of mutual loathing, but I'm a fan of neither team, so it's hard to get TOO worked up. Not when the rest of us have our own rivalries to worry about. If you're an OSU or Michigan fan, the rest of us salute your bitter enmity.

However: I care a TON about the consequences of this particular game: A one-game playoff to determine not just (at least) one half of the national game, but to find the team that will be favored to win it all.

It could be OSU-Michigan, it could be Little Sisters of the Poor vs. South Cracker State: As long as it's 1 vs. 2 in the final game of the season for each, it's so huge as to arguably earn the title "Game of the Century." (Uh, make that "Regular-Season Game of the Century.")

In our BCS-formulaic world, this is as close as we'll get to a real playoff. Come on: It IS a playoff game, if not actually officially sanctioned by semantics.

That's why it would be so bad for college football if the loser of this game could simply sit back, wait idly for the other teams in the Top 5 to lose over the next two weeks and back their way into the national-title game.

The beauty of this OSU-Michigan game is that we can determine – head-to-head, on the field – which of the two deserves to play for the national title game. One of these teams can EARN it. To reward the loser with a second chance makes a mockery of every fan like me who considers this game a playoff.

In one-and-done playoff systems, there are no second chances.

Pick: Ohio State.

-- D.S.

Friday 11/17 A.M. Quickie:
One Game To Rule Them All

Housekeeping: See the post below for a short explanation of why the blog looks the same today as it did yesterday, despite my claims of a so-called relaunch as "" on WordPress.

Ohio St vs. Michigan Mania: It's the "Regular Season Game of the Century!" (Certainly "Pre-Game-Hype Game of the Year," surpassing 1-vs-2 Ohio St vs. Texas.) I've got more on this game coming in its own post later this morning, but I absolutely agree with any argument that, on paper, it's the Game of the Century, Regular Season Edition. (The bar for overall "Game of the Century" is tough to top: That would be last season's Rose Bowl between USC and Texas.)

WVA 45, Pitt 27: West Virginia is positioning itself to steal Rutgers' BCS auto-bid as Big East champs. WVA meets Rutgers in Morgantown on Dec. 2; a WVA win sends the league to a tie-breaker, based on BCS ranking. Of course, if Rutgers can win in Morgantown to cap an unbeaten regular season, they'll have earned their spot in the BCS title game. No other team in the country (outside of the Ohio St-Michigan winner) would have a claim to two wins as "quality" as those.

Johan Santana wins AL Cy: Unanimously, as expected/projected/hoped here. The only question is where Johan ranks among all pitchers over the decade. He's certainly in the mix for No. 1, wouldn't you say?

A's promote Geren: Couldn't the A's have saved a lot of time, trouble and resources in their managerial search by simply promoting bench coach Bob Geren at the outset? Was he the best choice, the choice by default or what?

College Hoops: Another ranked team bites it. Unranked Michigan State beat No. 19 Texas. As usual, when Michigan State is unranked, that's usually a good indicator they're vastly underrated.

More CBB: Big night for two of my Final Four teams. Florida stretched its winning streak to 14 (34 and 17 from Horford/Noah, who should BOTH be first-team All-Americans); Georgia Tech routed Georgia State, putting up 103 points.

NBA: Baron Davis Rules. He had what could be the Stat Line of the Year (so far): 36 points, 18 assists (career high) and 8 rebounds, leading the Warriors to their 4th straight win, over the previously sizzling Kings, no less.

PFHOF first-time semifinalists: Bruce Matthews, Terrell Davis and Randall McDaniel. I don't see any getting in. Does Matthews earn it simply for having a career length that was so prolific? If you let TD in, you have to let every few-year wonder in.

Pro video-game league: I missed this last week, but I've always been enthusiastic about the prospects of creating a pro-sports league of video-gamers. (They even have a TV deal.) If you're curious (I was), you can check it out here.

This week in movies: All the hype is for the new James Bond film, but who else is like me and can't wait for the new Christopher Guest movie, "For Your Consideration?" Between "Guffman," "Best in Show" and "Mighty Wind" (not to mention "Spinal Tap"), Guest and his ensemble might be the consistently funniest movie-makers of all time.

Finally, in the Best Story of the Day: A new study shows that chocolate milk might be more effective than sports drinks for helping athletes perform. Hershey's Messy Marvin trumps Gatorade's Peyton Manning?

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Umm...Yeah...About That New Look...

Well, something was wrong with Blogger and so it wouldn't allow WordPress to import the site. Or, more specifically, MY site. So the glorious relaunch of this blog as "" is on hold, at least for the next few days. I'm working on a solution... and not happy.

-- D.S.

New Look Starting Tomorrow (Hopefully)

So about this "big announcement"...

Tonight, I'm going to attempt to migrate this blog over to another publishing system: From Blogspot to Wordpress. In addition, I'm going to attempt to migrate my working URL from to

From what my expert tech guru friend says, if you have bookmarked or blogrolled, it'll redirect to Nevertheless, I'm going to hammer you with requests to modify your bookmarks and blogrolls accordingly. Unless, of course, it doesn't take.

In the very short term, that means that Comments left after 6 p.m. or so may or may not make the migration. (Frankly, I'm a little nervous I'm going to lose comments, posts and anything else that has been built up over the last 2.5 months. But I've been assured it's a pretty simple switch. Famous last words...)

Anyway, this switch will hopefully result in a cleaner, faster site. The look might be a little different (because Wordpress blog templates are different than Blogspot templates), and I'll likely be tinkering with the look for the next week or so, but hopefully it'll all be for the better. As always, I'm absolutely open to all of your feedback about how it looks and works, etc. So hopefully starting tomorrow, we can start the process of the 2.0 version of this blog.

(Meanwhile, those of you who had "Dan got a job?!" in the "What's the announcement?" office pool are, unfortunately, not winners today. And, yes, I know that I didn't do an NFL Rankings this week. So I'm proposing that you use the remaining hours on the Comments this afternoon before the Switch-Over to offer your own... or maybe just big gainers or droppers...and why.)

-- D.S.

Thursday 11/16 A.M. Quickie:
Resuming My Oral Fixation!

Oral Roberts shocks No. 3 Kansas! I'm not willing to attribute this to the "SI jinx." (Kansas was SI's No. 1 team in this week's issue.)

No, in fact, I'm going to say: I told you so... seven months later.

Quickie regulars might remember my boldest/craziest call of 2006: That 16-seed Oral Roberts would beat 1-seed Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the first time that ever would have happened.

Well, ORU didn't win that game, but – if you think about it – if Kansas is the No. 3 team in the country, that sort of makes them a "preseason 1-seed."

If you are willing to stretch your imagination, you could say that I had this called. I just had ORU beating the wrong Top 4 team at the wrong moment of the wrong season. But I'm claiming it as a moral victory.

Wait for it...: Or is that an ORAL victory?

(What did I say the other day? Why was I avoiding picking Kansas to the Final Four: Because of their history of "SELF-implosion" when it mattered. I'd say losing at home last night qualifies. But why call it a "jinx" when we really should be calling out the magazine for a bad pick?)

Between this and UNC's iffy quasi-home win over Winthrop, I'd say my Final Four predictions of who is (and, more importantly, who ISN'T) going to make it look pretty good right now. Famous last words, but still...

More of today's big storylines:

Emmitt Smith wins Dancing With the Stars: This is an even bigger upset than Oral Roberts winning at Kansas. I'd argue that this is more impressive than any of Emmitt's Super Bowl titles; his Cowboys teams were loaded -- he had to accomplish this entirely on his own.

MLB Awards: Manager. In the most predictable outcome of the year, Leyland and Girardi won Managers of the Year. Girardi's bonus? Pink slip.

MLB Awards: AL Cy. This is another no-brainer. It's Johan Santana and everyone else. My only question is if any voters will be stupid enough to NOT give Johan their No. 1 vote.

OJ Mayo commits to USC: I'm not sure a one-hit wonder can qualify as a "program-changer." I suppose Mayo gives USC credibility on the national recruiting scene. But he's no Carmelo. Not even close. (Of course, I've argued that Carmelo had the most impact of any college player ever. That's a high bar for Mayo to hurdle.)

NBA Notes:

(1) OK, Morrison is good. I may have underestimated Adam Morrison, who put in 27 leading the Bobs to a win over the Spurs in San Antonio. Wow.

(2) LeBron: 32/7/7. With LeBron's awesome new shoes coming out today, he sure knows how to put on a performance to show them off.

(3) Kenyon Martin: Out for season. The Nets look smarter and smarter for letting him go.

(4) Kevin Martin Watch: He hits his average on the mark (24 pts), and the Kings won their 4th straight.

(5) Kobe is getting sued by a fan in Memphis who says Kobe elbowed him while going for a loose ball. Caveat emptor for fans in the arena.

(6) Michael Jordan wants to invest in new slot-machine parlors in Philly. He must need a place to go when the Bobcats play the Sixers.

MLB Hot Stove: My 2006 AL MVP, Frank Thomas, is on the cusp of signing a deal with the Blue Jays. I love the Jays' second consecutive offseason of aggressive dealing. (Wonder if they're going to trade Vernon Wells, who becomes a free agent after next season?)

Plus: A-Rod staying? After news of an opt-out after the '07 season came out yesterday, A-Rod reiterated that he wants to stay with the Yankees for the remainder of his three-year deal. Whatever.

Instant Replay in MLB? The GMs want it, but it won't be in place until after 2007, at the earliest. They are talking about using it for foul balls and home runs, but I'd suggest they use it for plays at the plate, too (perhaps in a limited NFL-style where managers can use one play-at-the-plate challenge per game). My argument for replay in baseball is very simple: The most important thing for the integrity of the game is to get the calls right.

NFL Notes: Trent Green will start for the Chiefs (at least, until he gets his bell rung one more time). Clinton Portis is out for the season, fulfilling the foreshadowing of his preseason injury.

College Bowls: The Birmingham Bowl is now the PapaJohn' Bowl, which might set a new bar for ridiculous bowl names. Is the apostrophe really supposed to be in there?

Ohio St-Michigan Countdown: Current players may not be willing to make predictions, but ex-Wolverine Chris Perry is happy to talk smack about a Michigan win. I say: Perry must be back on the special sauce if he thinks that Michigan is going to win.

Meanwhile, Bo Schembechler says that Troy Smith is the best player that Michigan has ever faced in the Michigan-Ohio St rivalry. That's a big compliment (uh, Archie Griffin), but it's true: Smith has come up huge in each of the past two years. How will Michigan stop him?

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I Repeat: No. 2 UNC Ain't Going to the Final Four

Like I said yesterday, UNC -- ranked No. 2 or (laughably) No. 1 (from some) -- ain't making the Final Four this season, no matter how much hype they have right now.

Now I have the instant-history evidence to back it up: I just watched them barely beat Winthrop at what was essentially a home game in Charlotte. (Yes, 7 is "barely.")

I'm not dissing Winthrop, a scrappy sub-mid-major, but this is the type of UNC "quality win" to file away for your March predictions.

I appreciate that UNC is young and still learning to incorporate a bevy of sick freshmen, but you'd expect a little more domination from them. Don't let the pro-UNC spin fool you. Foreshadowing...

Putting My "MBA" Hat On:
NHL Hooks Up With YouTube

If there was a marketing/business bent to the Daily Quickie, it was only because I sold the column to only after investing two years (and decades of future debt) to get my MBA from Harvard Business School. This might have made me the only sports columnist out there with an MBA, and it certainly made me the only HBS grad with a daily sports column. I don't say that to drop the name as much as to explain (to those who might not have known) why I maintain a fascination for occassionally viewing sports news through the lens of business.

That's all a lead-up to today's news that the NHL has struck a distribution deal on YouTube. We can perhaps disagree about the future prospects of YouTube, but this marks the smartest, most forward-thinking thing the NHL has done, marketing-wise, in years. I'm not sure it's going to increase the fan base -- though if they put together more funny/interesting video, it might -- but they are reaching the fans where they're currently hanging out. More "niche" leagues could learn from the NHL about bringing the game to the fans, not expecting the flow to go the other way.

-- D.S.

(Speaking of news, somewhat interesting news coming tomorrow relating to the future of this blog.)

Wednesday 11/15 A.M. Quickie:
Matsuzaka Makes Sox Team to Beat?

Red Sox win Matsuzaka lottery: Well, if out-bidding your nearest rival by an extreme amount is "winning." But if the new meme in MLB is that starting pitching is everything, then the Red Sox invested wisely in plunking down $51.1 million for the rights to try to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka. What price, top-line starting pitching? And if you put him in the mix with Schilling, Beckett and Papelbon, that's as good a foursome as there is in the AL.

Presuming they can sign him, the Sox are the team to beat in the AL East, if not the entire AL. I already said earlier this week that I'm picking Matsuzaka to win the AL Cy Young next season.

A sidebar that's going to be fascinating is seeing what kind of deal Boras gets for him. I'm hearing 4 years/$40 million, but doesn't $10 million a year seem a little low for a No. 1 starting pitcher? I mean, old-ass Mike Mussina just got $11 million a year for two years to stay with the Yankees. But when you combine Matsuzaka's $51 million with his actual contract with the Red Sox, you're looking at what could be a $20 million-a-year pitcher. Whoa.

(But I'm totally in agreement with the analysts pointing out the halo effect for the Red Sox in Asia because of this – for scouting, for marketing. What if they can make back their posting bid just on selling marketing rights in Japan?)

More of today's storylines:

Worst book idea ever? That would be OJ's upcoming book about how he WOULD have killed Nicole know...if he hadn't been...uh...innocent.

Brandon Webb wins NL Cy, beating out my choice, the ageless Trevor Hoffman, who both led the NL in saves AND set the career saves record, in addition to leading his team to the playoffs. Is Webb the least distinguished NL Cy winner of the last decade? Of the ESPN Era?

Today's Awards: Managers. This one is easy: In the AL, it's Jim Leyland in a rout. In the NL, it's Joe Girardi. Anything else is a joke.

Zitopalooza: The Rangers are reportedly interested in Barry Zito. Scott Boras just got giddy at the thought of the Rangers and Mets trying to out-bid each other. And that's AFTER he does his Matsuzaka deal.

A-Rod opt-out in '07? Interesting note in today's NY Post: A-Rod has an opt-out deal after '07, which could let him become a free agent (if he's willing to trade the $27 million per season owed to him for, say, $20 million and the right to pick his destination).

NFL Notes: (1) Vinny Testaverde to the Pats. Who doesn't want to see him end up playing? Let him try a drop-kick! (2) Lions assistant coach Joe "Driving While Naked" Cullen is going to get a plea deal. (3) Apparently, Leon Washington's football card has him flashing the bird. He claims it's a hand-signal to his old neighborhood, but it doesn't matter: All of a sudden, that's his claim to fame. Enjoy. (4) Trent Green is cleared to play. If you're KC, do you stick with Huard after last week's impotent loss? (5) Albert Haynesworth is back from his suspension. Not sure if there's a welcome mat.

NFL Network vs. Congress: Ostensibly, they were talking about the subscriber fee that NFL Net is demanding cable systems pay them, or they'll hold out on actual game programming on, say, Thanksgiving. Cable systems are balking. Here's what I'd say if I was a cable system: Sure, NFL, I'll pay you 70 cents per subscriber for the NFL Network... IF you let cable systems have access to "Sunday Ticket," which is currently only available to DirecTV subscribers. I've never understood the NFL's judgment on this: Sure, "Sunday Ticket" basically made DirecTV's business, but aren't they keeping the NFL from millions of willing buyers by not letting it be available on cable?

OSU-Michigan Countdown: Has anyone else noticed that each team has just a single truly "quality" win? And OSU's win over Texas doesn't look nearly as impressive as it did a week ago. Meanwhile, does Michigan's blowout win at Notre Dame offset an otherwise sickly schedule?

(Please stop saying that Michigan beating Wisconsin is some kind of high-quality win. It's an OK win, but if you look at Wisco's creampuff schedule, they're the softest 1-loss team in the country. And please note that I actually like the Wisconsin program.)

The winner of this game obviously deserves to be in the national-title game, but the loser will have precisely one quality win to point to. Hardly championship-worthy.

Bobby Knight "slap" incident, Day 2: There IS no Day 2. This thing fizzled almost as soon as it started. His AD defends him. The player and his parents defend him.

Give Knight credit: For all his volatility, he knows how to defuse situations. He gave playful slaps on the rear to several of his players last night. Outraged columnists, this simply wasn't the incident to harp on.

(The one argument from his defenders I still don't get is that somehow "discipline" – in the larger sense, not just for Knight -- is equated to "physically touching someone." Why argue that's OK?)

More college hoops: It's cupcake time! No. 1 Florida won by 46. No. 2 UNC won by 22. Marquette won by 42. Let's get to some of the more interesting tournaments later this month.

Florida State fans rejoice: Embattled/crappy offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden has resigned, but – confusingly – he'll get to finish out the season. What's the point of THAT?

NBA: Melo's 33 trumped Dwyane's 37 because Shaq had 0 (in a DNP-Knee). It's hard to gauge the state of the Heat when they play without Shaq. Isn't the fact they were in the game late a signal that with a healthy Shaq, they're still the team to beat? Meanwhile, the Jazz are 7-1 after beating the Clippers by 22. Who turned them into the Spurs?

Finally: I'm always impressed with the way that MLB Hot Stove news finds a way to grab headlines during what should otherwise be a dead season for baseball. I think it really entrenched itself in the A-Rod/Red Sox situation a few seasons ago. Anyway, this is amazing: It's the middle of November. It's the week of Ohio St-Michigan, it's the middle of NFL season, it's the start of college hoops and the NBA is heating up -- and what is the biggest story of the midweek? The Red Sox signing a Japanese pitcher that the vast majority of MLB fans have never even really seen play.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

College Hoops '06-07 Preview:
Champ Pick: Florida Repeat
Final 4: G'town, Wisco, Georgia Tech

No, I will not let a "Dancing with the Stars" finale breakdown -- no matter how accurate my predictions have been or how relevant it is to sports fans -- stay up here for the afternoon.

Instead, I will attempt to wade into the new college basketball season.

Today's topic? Final Four picks.

Florida will repeat as national champs. I was on the record with this about a nano-second after the Gators' Big Three (Noah, Horford, Brewer) announced they would be returning to Gainesville for a title defense.

That meant the Gators would return all five starters from a national championship team -- plus the key frontcourt and key backcourt reserve. Keeping count? That's the Top 7 back on a defending champ.

The frontcourt of Noah, Horford and Brewer -- all NBA Lottery-quality picks -- is arguably the best in college hoops in the last 25 years. I've been racking my brain for another contender, and the best I could do is the Fab Five's Webber-Howard-Rose/Jackson. But those guys never won a title. (Got any other nominees? Augmon-LJ-Ackles? Remember: To win the argument, your pick really should have NBA-level talent across the line AND a championship.)

Many top college teams have a quality inside player. Hansbrough at UNC, Wright at Kansas, Oden at Ohio St, Big Baby Davis at LSU, Hibbert at G'town and McRoberts at Duke come to mind.

But how many have TWO? (In hindsight, that was one reason LSU emerged last season: The tandem of Davis and Tyrus Thomas was unstoppable.) Two that are as athletic or multi-skilled as Noah and Horford.

I go through the other contenders, and I can't find a team that can match up – player for player – with the Gators, across the starting five and first subs off the bench. (And that's BEFORE I layer in the championship experience, where the Gators have a vast advantage over every other contender.)

Here's the other reason to like Florida, even if you would otherwise be inclined to hate them: In this era where you can't go a season without complaining about players -- yours or simply the national "stars" -- leaving for the NBA early, isn't it unprecedentedly refreshing to see three players forego the NBA (Lottery, mind you) for a chance to repeat as college champs? How can you begrudge that? (Especially if you consider yourself a college hoops "traditionalist.") How can you not root for that?

(What: Instead you'll stand behind UNC, whose title team stars from 2005 chose to leave en masse for the NBA? These Gators have shamed that UNC team and set a new example for future college stars that ultimately can do more for college hoops than any artificial NBA draft age-limit or high school "developmental" program. Again: They have made it easy to root for them, even if you reflexively hate Florida or reflexively hate defending champions. I'll settle for intensely begrudging respect.)

So, anyway, I think it's the Gators to win the title, and everyone else is playing for the chance to round out the Final Four.

(If I had a hesitation, it's that the Gators started last season unranked, showing you how much the "experts" know. And even heading into the Tournament, they weren't given much of a shot. If that isn't a cautionary tale about making predictions, I don't know what is.)

Who is this year's Florida? It's hard to make a direct comparison: No unranked teams have the talent that the Gators had last season. Kansas is intriguing: Two straight Tournament flame-outs beget the experience that could drive a young (but maturing) team to a four-game run in March.

But Kansas isn't exactly an unknown: They're ranked no. 3. Further, we can see just how well (or poorly) they match up with Florida – they play each other in two weeks in Las Vegas. (VERY Final Four-ish.) And, of course, there's no guarantee they won't "SELF-destruct" in March... again.

UNC? Balancing too many sick freshmen with sophs who are probably more mentally ready to contribute in March. Of course, these sophs were the same losers who lost to a vastly less talented George Mason team. Motivation or foreshadowing?

Ohio State? Too young without enough upperclassmen balance. Too bad Oden and Cook won't be around to try again as more seasoned sophomores.

Pitt? Please. Aaron Gray? There's a reason he pulled out of the NBA Draft. UCLA? Final Four experience, but not without steady PG Jordan Farmar. LSU? Smacks of a "dream run" one-year wonder a year ago.

But as we continue down the Top 10, I see two teams that I like to do damage in March:

Georgetown, the only team to give Florida a game in last season's NCAA Tournament (and knowing precisely what it takes to beat them), and Wisconsin, another team that plays deliberately enough to keep them in most games, particularly in March. (Plus, they have one of the Top 10 players in the country in Alando Tucker, who makes my first-team All-America list. That's coming later this week.)

My fourth Final Four team? I want to say Kansas but I'm scared off by Bill Self's recent Tournament coaching performances. He's shown he can eff up even the most sure-looking thing.

My pick: Georgia Tech, which combines a sick freshman class ("Fab Three?" Eh. Needs work.) with enough upper-class experience to reverse last season's 11-17 record into a dramatic March run. (Now, please don't blitz me for being internally consistent in touting GA Tech's youth but discounting the same factors for UNC.)

National Champs: Florida
Rest of Final Four: Georgetown, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech

Comments Question: Who's your pick to win the college hoops national title? Who else is in your Final Four? Which team aren't we talking about that we SHOULD be? Which darkhorse team could be this year's Florida? Which darkhorse team could be this year's George Mason? And which "contenders" are overrated?

-- D.S.

"Dancing With the Stars" Finale:
Emmitt Smith vs. Mario Lopez

Tuesday A.M. Quickie here

I believe that in my Quickie preview of this current season of "Dancing with the Stars,"* I predicted that Mario Lopez would win.

I was not as sure that Emmitt Smith would meet him in tonight's finale, but here he is.

Who else finds it fascinating that for two seasons in a row, the ex-NFL player (Jerry Rice last time, Emmitt this time) has made it to the DWTS finale? (You don't have to follow or watch DWTS to find this intriguing.)

Perhaps Jerry and Emmitt are exceptional -- after all, they are arguably the greatest to ever play their respective positions. Rice is arguably the greatest NFL player of all time, and Emmitt is in the Top 10-20.

Is it possible that there's something about NFL players -- particularly skill-position players -- that makes them uniquely qualified to succeed in a ballroom-dancing competition on national TV?

Obviously, popularity is a factor in these competitions, but I'd argue that football players combine essential footwork skills and hand-eye coordination, work ethic, performing under the pressure of live TV and an audience and -- most important -- "coachability": They are used to being given instructions and following them precisely. Combining all these things, Emmitt has been a smashing success.

(In fact, I would argue that his success on DWTS is even more impressive than his Super Bowl titles, which were as much of a function of his team as his individual stardom. In the case of DWTS, he's been doing it on his own -- and brilliantly, I might add.)

I'm not quite sure what it means when my most accurate "Sports Prediction of the Year" is going to be for "Dancing With the Stars," but I'll take it where I can get it: It's been an admirable season-long showing by Emmitt, but Mario Lopez wins it.

-- D.S.

(* - You can mock me for writing about this show all you want, but this show does better ratings than most sports on TV, and its ability to combine "athletic" competition with sports legends keeps it on the sports radar. Like Rice before him, it's phenomenal that Emmitt has made it this far, particularly in the impressive way that he has pulled it off week after week.)

Tuesday 11/14 A.M. Quickie:
Bobby Knight's "YouTube Moment,"
Steve Smith's "McNabb Moment,"
And My Picks for '06 NL Cy (and '07 AL Cy)

Bobby Knight has his "YouTube Moment!" What I'm looking for is this: A link to the YouTube clip showing him slapping his player, Michael Prince, on the bench during last night's game. I don't see it on YouTube yet. Can anyone help me out?

(Meanwhile, what a dumb-ass Knight is: 871 career wins and he can't even control himself enough not to physically smack one of his players ON CAMERA. At least do it on a game that isn't televised. In the over/under on games suspended, I'll take "Zero" and you can have every other number. Anyone dare to take me up on it? In the over/under on "media outrage," however, I'll take "too many to count.")

Ohio St-Michigan Countdown: Jim Tressel says that the game's loser should NOT get a second chance in the national title game, but not because it's a competitively corrosive concept (my feeling) -- he just doesn't like the idea of a team not winning its conference championship making the national-title game.


(1) Panthers d. Bucs on MNF: Donovan McNabb could take a lesson from Steve Smith, who upchucked on the sidelines, but not without catching 8 passes for 149 yards and a TD. Boot away!

(2) Brunell benched for Campbell: FINALLY, the Redskins give up on the terrible Brunell experiment in 2006 and go with the 2005 first-round draft pick who has been listed as inactive for 27 career games. The Skins will get better under Campbell, they'll barely miss the playoffs, and it'll be Joe Gibbs' fault for not starting him sooner.

(3) Randy Moss blames his mood: He blames his dropped passes on being unhappy. I'm serious. Even Moody All-Star, T.O. STFU and got the job done.

MLB Awards Season: Today: NL Cy! My pick is by attrition. Brandon Webb's team wasn't in contention; I can't reward Chris Carpenter's 15 wins (particularly after he won the Cy in '05 over a more deserving Roger Clemens). Carlos Zambrano – who is probably the NL's top starting pitcher – just isn't realistic.

So my NL Cy pick? Trevor Hoffman, who led the NL in saves and led his team to the playoffs -- not a bad season for one of MLB's elder statesmen who also happened to set the record for career saves.


(1) Matsuzaka to Red Sox tonight: The announcement will be made official that Theo won the rights to negotiate with the Japanese superstar. It only cost him $45 mil. And that's just to start talking to Scott Boras. (Yikes.) It's the bold move the Red Sox needed. I'm calling it now: Matsuzaka will win the AL Cy Young Award in 2007.

(2) Cubs eyeing Soriano: Having already spent big (5Y/$75M) to keep Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs are looking to drop another $100M(?) to get Alfonso Soriano. The Angels – who were hot for Aramis – likely won't let the Cubs take another player from them.

(3) Mets targeting Barry Zito: Is he a cornerstone pitcher? Does it matter? He'll get paid like one. If I was Omar Minaya, however, I wouldn't give up on trading the farm to the Marlins for Dontrelle Willis, too.

CBB: Vermont stuns B.C.! Chalk up another upset of a traditional power for the Catamounts. Lucky for BC, this was in the second game of the season, not the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But it should give everyone who thinks BC can contend in the ACC this season a moment's pause. (Obviously, quite a few did: BC was ranked 14th. Un-rank 'em!)

NBA Wrap: The Celtics don't just suck, but they suck as bad as they ever have since 1978. LeBron owns New York, both with his 29 points and his commercial presence. The Sonics can beat a solid team like the Nets, but they're still moving to Oklahoma City.

CFB: Butch Davis to UNC. Now, if they'd only, say, get rid of the basketball program, he'd have a fighting chance there.

San Francisco drops out of Olympics 2016 bidding. Down to LA and Chicago to be the US bid. My money's still on Chicago.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 13, 2006

MLB Awards Season: Rookies
Hanley Ramirez, Justin Verlander
Up Next: NL Cy Young

It's MLB Awards season, and the Rookie vote is in: Hanley Ramirez over Ryan Zimmerman, Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson in the NL, and Justin Verlander over Jon Papelbon and Francisco Liriano in the AL.

In the NL, I suppose that Hanley is as good of a choice as any, though I had him 4th, behind Uggla, Johnson and Zimmerman, in that order. As long as the Marlins' many stellar rookies were represented by the winner and the final order, I'm satisfied. Someone will surely know: Has any team ever had such domination in a single season's Rookie of the Year balloting?

As for the AL, I'm all for Verlander; he was the only one of the Big Three to survive the season. But you gotta be smoking some serious New England hype crack to vote Papelbon over Liriano. If you factor out time lost to injuries, Liriano was the best pitcher in the AL. (And, seeing how he's out for '07 and who knows how much longer, the least they could do is give him the freaking runner-up spot.) Papelbon? Yeah, we'll see how he measures up when he converts to a starter next season; I'll bet his Red Sox Nation slurpers that his stats next season -- full or injury-shortened -- don't come close to Liriano's.

Coming tomorrow: NL Cy, which is by far the most wide-open of the awards to be given out. So I put it to you in the Comments section: Who gets your vote for NL Cy? (And what did you think of the Rookie voting?)

P.S.: The Mets and Cards will meet in the '07 season opener. What a perfect way for Cards fans to re-live their 2006 playoffs glory -- and for the Mets to be reminded of what they left on the table when Carlos Beltran struck out looking with the bases loaded to end the series.

NFL Week 10 Wrap-Up:
Shallowest Analysis Anywhere!

Monday A.M. Quickie here!

Shallow thoughts from NFL Week 10...

The Bears are the best team
in the NFC. But what does that even mean?

Steve McNair for NFL MVP ain't so crazy. (OK: How about AFC MVP?)

9-0 two years in a row says more about the state of the NFL than the Colts.

"WTF?!" of the Week: Falcons and Vick.

When all the excitement of a Packers win is "Brett Favre didn't throw any INTs!" you know his era is long over.

Who else started David Garrard? Ugh.

Is it so crazy to say that, at 3-6, the Dolphins are the most dangerous Wild Card contender in the AFC?

How many NFL coaches can say they own Bill Belichick's ass? Add Eric Mangini to the club.

Gore in '06! If the Chargers win "2nd Half Performance of the Year," does Frank Gore win "1st Half Performance of the Year" for rushing for 148 yards?

As it turns out, yes, the Redskins DO stink. (Portis out for the year? Things CAN get worse.)

Was that the real Steelers or was that the real Saints?

Who else has no faith in the Broncos as Super Bowl contenders?

I guess Seahawks K Josh Brown owns the Rams even more than Mangini owns Belichick.

Wait: Or is that Tony Romo for NFL MVP? (How about NFC MVP?)

MNF: Bruce Gradkowski in primetime on national TV. You cannot help but feel the excitement.

Got your own shallow analysis of the games, results, subplots and storylines from Sunday's schedule? Add them to the comments.

-- D.S.

Monday 11/13 A.M. Quickie:
Bears Showtime in Primetime

Complete NFL Wrap-Up coming later this morning, but a few thoughts on yesterday's games:

(1) Devin Hester's 108-yard TD return off of a Giants missed FG was the Play of the Year in the NFL. (Sort of like how Nathan Vasher's similar play was the Play of the Year in the NFL in 2005. Coincidence?)

(2) The Chargers' 21-point comeback (via 42 points in the second half) was the Half of the Year in the NFL. Not quite sure if that's an actual award, but it was an absolutely sick game, particularly from Philip Rivers. Any more doubters about him? Didn't think so.

(3) Who had protege-turned-nemesis Eric Mangini beating Bill Belichick in Foxboro? The student has become the master, and you could tell by the look on Darth Hoodies' face as he refused to look Mangini in the eye (let alone say anything) during the post-game handshake that Bill B. didn't think it would happen.

More NFL later this a.m.

BCS Update: USC leap-frogs Florida. You can read the post below for my expanded take on all things BCS. It looks like the USC-Notre Dame winner has the inside track on the second BCS title-game spot (provided that USC beats Cal next week, which is a strong possibility but no gimme).

FanIQ has the type of column I love to see: A detailed analysis of individual AP voters' ballots. They've ID'ed some really f'ed up ballots that make you question why these folks get to be part of a group that determines its own national champ. It's worth a look.

(Meanwhile, I was thinking about the strength-of-schedule hit that BCS No. 4 Florida will take for playing Western Carolina this Saturday, and I had an idea: What if they paid WCU to NOT play the game? Not a forfeit. Just a cancellation. I'm sure the Gators fans would understand; computer rankings would never know; and how could poll voters begrudge them a move to reject the type of cupcakes that ice the other contenders' schedules?)

Ohio St-Michigan Countdown: Yes, you WILL be completely sick of this story by, say, Wednesday. But it's the closest thing college football will get to an actual playoff: The winner will be in the national title game. (It remains to be seen if the system is so broken that it would allow for a ridiculous rematch in the national-title game. Honestly, that would suck.)

MLB Awards Season! Today: Rookie

AL: If it wasn't for injuries, the race between Verlander, Liriano and Papelbon would have been epic. (And remember my mid-summer obsession with Liriano?) But the winner/survivor was easy to pick. My ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Francisco Liriano
3. Jonathan Papelbon

NL: Ryan Zimmerman might have the best career, but this season, the success of the "AAA Marlins" was remarkable, making the NL award a run-off between a Florida's ace pitcher and one of its top hitters. My ballot:

1. Dan Uggla
2. Josh Johnson
3. Ryan Zimmerman

MLB GM Meetings begin today: The guy everyone wants to talk to is Marlins GM Larry Beinfest, who will determine where (if anywhere) Dontrelle Willis is traded.

Manny Acta to manage Nats: Great hire to go the opposite direction of Frank Robinson's old/stodgy and import Acta's young/fresh. He's only 37. He coached a few of these players (as the Expos) earlier this decade. And he brings a winner's vibe from the Mets.

Aramis Ramirez re-signs with Cubs: For whopping 5Y/$73M, putting him in the "cornerstone NL 3B" category with others like David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman. That the Cubs re-signed Kerry Wood is almost an afterthought.

CBB: Virginia shocks No. 10 Arizona. (But not really, given that Virginia had all the energy from opening a new arena in Charlottesville. Still, wasn't this Zona team supposed to be a Final Four contender? (I recognize I haven't done much CBB previewing. More on that this week.)

Duke wins opener: Most notably, three Duke frosh accounted for 42 of Duke's 86 points. (12 points on four 3's from my favorite CBB frosh of the year, Jon Scheyer, who is apparently the new Redick. You can appreciate my conflicted feelings -- on so many levels -- about this.)

NBA: I'm still getting over Michael Redd's sick scoring binge from the other night. Meanwhile: (1) Yao is sizzling. His 34/14 last night gives him 69/31 over the past two games. (2) Could Kevin Martin (24 pts last night, 24 ppg in 2006) be this year's most unlikely All-Star? (3) The Clippers won their 5th straight – hottest team in the NBA... again?!

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

CFB Hangover:
Sorting Out the State of the BCS:
OSU-Mich loser, SEC champ, ND/USC winner, Rutgers

New updates below, including the new BCS ranking and the new AP poll.

K-State's utterly amazing win over Texas
was so invigorating in its impact on tilting the BCS – particularly when combined with the rest of the results of the day – that I was up half the night thinking about it.

Here's what we know: The winner of Ohio St-Michigan is in the BCS title game. The rest? Oh boy...

Well, here's who is OUT, thanks to losses this week: Texax, Auburn, Cal, Louisville.

(Please don't tell me that college football doesn't have a playoff system. As I've argued for years, the entire regular season is a virtual "double-elimination" playoff: Lose once and you're in trouble; lose twice and you're out.)

Here are the six teams who are STILL in the BCS title-game conversation:

Need to: Hope that ending a season on 11/18 doesn't cede momentum to the one-loss team that plays more games through 12/02.
Pros: The perception that the OSU-Mich loser is that much better than the No. 3 team; popular (read: human poll) interest in a rematch.
Cons: Michigan has exactly ONE quality win (at Notre Dame); Ohio St's single quality win -- over Texas -- doesn't look so special anymore.

Need to: Win out
Make-or-break: SEC title game; at Fla St(?)
Pros: BCS ranking; no more Texas
Cons: Have you watched them play? Ugh.
Wild Card: Arkansas must win out (including at LSU) to have ARK enter SEC title game with a BCS ranking between 4-6, for Florida's SEC title game win to have maximum impact.

Need to: Win out; USC to lose
Make-or-break: at LSU, SEC title game
Pros: The best team in the SEC.
Cons: Blown out by USC in Week 1
Wild Card: USC must lose again.

(4) USC
Need to: Win out
Make-or-break: Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA
Pros: Strong SOS to finish season.
Cons: Loss was to unranked team
Wild Card: How can you vault them ahead of any of the other 1-loss teams, who lost to teams that were actually ranked?

Need to: Win out
Make-or-break: At USC
Pros: Popularity
Cons: Blowout loss to Michigan
Wild Card: How can you vault them ahead of OSU-Michigan loser?

Need to: Win out
Make-or-break: at West Virginia
Pros: Cinderella story of the decade.
Cons: Strength of schedule

Needless to say, each of the Survivor Six is hoping for the rest to collect losses. Notre Dame plays at USC, so one of those teams will be KO'ed automatically. Rutgers has to win at West Virginia, which is hellish. Arkansas has to win at LSU, which is hellish. Florida has to play Arkansas, which -- if you've seen how each is playing lately -- is hellish.

So it essentially becomes FOUR teams with a shot:

(1) OSU-Mich loser

(2) SEC champ (presuming only 1 loss)

(3) USC-ND winner (presuming only 1 loss)

(4) Rutgers (presuming unbeaten)

The upshot? While the rest of these contenders with multiple games to play put themselves in position to lose, the Ohio St-Michigan loser can sit back and watch, knowing they don't have to play a tough game -- or any game -- again.

That's the OSU-Mich loser's biggest advantage – but also its biggest disadvantage: If any of the other 5 run the table -- while the OSU-Mich loser sits idle -- a compelling case can be made to put those teams ahead of the OSU-Michigan loser.

But, as we saw yesterday, that's a huge "if."

-- D.S.

Update (1:58 p.m.): AP Top 25 just released, though it doesn't have anything to do with the BCS formula. Florida's No. 3, so obviously they focused on the noun "win" rather than the adjective "ugly." Arkansas was a HUGE winner, jumping from 11 to 5. (Go back and look at where I had them in my Top 25 LAST week.) USC back in the mix from No. 7 to No. 4, but a ridiculously tough gauntlet to run over the next three weeks (Cal, ND, UCLA). Notre Dame went from 9 to 6 and still has to beat USC. Rutgers earned a big jump of 8 spots, but starting so low to begin with, they still only went from No. 15 to No. 7. I'll have them at No. 4 this week. A quick preview of my Top 5:

1. Ohio St
2. Michigan

3. Arkansas
4. Rutgers
5. Florida
6. USC
7. Notre Dame
8. Auburn
9. LSU
10. Louisville

Update (8:41 p.m.): The new BCS came out.

Observation No. 1: Did you notice that Rutgers didn't just jump to No. 6 -- they are ranked SECOND by the computers, AHEAD of Ohio St. That's amazing. That helps offset the egregious No. 8 ranking by the coaches and No. 7 ranking by the Harris poll.

Observation No. 2: Florida, sandwiched between No. 3 USC and No. 5 Notre Dame, is kind of screwed. If USC beats Cal next week, then no matter who wins the USC-Notre Dame game the week after, that team will undoubtedly stay ahead of the Gators. Florida needs USC to lose to Cal next week, then beat Notre Dame the week afterward. Tall orders.

(Someone needs to explain to me how a Notre Dame team with only a single decent win -- GA Tech in the season opener... and NOT impressively -- is No. 5? Have you seen ND's schedule? It's a joke. The one decent team they played -- Michigan -- smoked them.)