Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend Football Live-Comment Tailgate!

Happy Thanksgiving! If you're online and checking the blog out, be sure to weigh in on Thursday's NFL games (and, if I can't get online, Friday's college football games, too!) Mmm...tryptophans... -- D.S.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NFL, CFB Game Picks: T'giving Edition

Of all the things to be thankful for, sports-wise, during this holiday, there is nothing bigger than the annual tradition of Thanksgiving weekend football. I'm particularly partial to the Lions game on Thanksgiving Day and the slate of college football "rivalry" games. Here are a few picks. (Wednesday A.M. Quickie here, or below.)

NFL Week 12 Picks
Dolphins over Lions
: Thanks for the best NFL tradition.
Cowboys over Bucs: Thanks for Tony Romo.
Broncos over Chiefs: Thanks for LJ.
Falcons over Saints: Thanks for wild NFC South.
Jags over Bills: Thanks for giving me a rooting interest.
Bengals over Browns: Thanks for "Rivalry Week."
49ers over Rams: Thanks for coaching fashion.
Cards over Vikings: Thanks for Leinart jokes.
Jets over Texans: Thanks for 30-something head coaches.
Panthers over Redskins: Thanks for nothing, Dan.
Ravens over Steelers: Thanks for Super Bowl Curse.
Chargers over Raiders: Thanks for LaDainian's talent.
Titans over Giants: Thanks for Vince Young's year.
Pats over Bears: Thanks for the Game of the Year.
Colts over Eagles: Thanks for "Chunky money."
Seahawks over Packers: Thanks for "iron" streaks.

CFB Weekend Picks
18 BC over Miami (Thu.)
5 Arkansas over 9 LSU (Fri.)
11 Texas over TX A/M (Fri.)
23 Nebraska over Colorado (Fri.)
3 USC over 6 Notre Dame
4 Florida over at FSU
7 WVA over So. Florida
8 Louisville over at Pitt
18 Boise over at Nevada
13 Oklahoma over at OK St.
15 Rutgers over Syracuse
11 GA Tech over Georgia
17 VA Tech over UVA
19 Tennessee over Kentucky
20 Wake over at Maryland
21 BYU over Utah
South Carolina
over at 24 Clemson
25 Hawaii over Purdue

I'll be checking in throughout the weekend, but if you're planning to spend the long weekend offline, have an enjoyable holiday and a fantastic weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

-- D.S.

Wednesday 11/22 A.M. Quickie:
What are YOU Thankful For?

This year it's easy: I'm truly thankful for all of you who were readers of the Quickie who followed me over here to the new blog. I can't begin to express my appreciation, and I hope you've enjoyed reading (and interacting) as much as I've enjoyed putting it together every day. Now, with that out of the way, in the Comments section, I'd like to hear your nominations of what in the SPORTS world to be thankful for. (And, yes: Clever trumps earnest.)

On to the spin on today's top storylines:

Morneau tops Jeter for AL MVP: Doesn't this just reaffirm your faith in humankind (and the usually wacked BBWAA voting system)?

It's always fun to see the "extreme outlier" voters. This time, it was Joe Cowley from the Chicago Sun-Times, who voted Jeter 6th. When he next visits New York, he'll either get a punch (from Yankees fans) or a free drink (from everyone else). Check out this must-read voter analysis from FanIQ.

Is anyone really surprised that T.O. would refuse to send a get-well message to Donovan McNabb?

What does it say when it's news that the Giants aren't going to bench Eli Manning?

College Hoops: Marquette beats Duke. File that away for next March. This Marquette team was underrated, and Duke was... well, Duke was ranked like Duke. But it's a young team not yet ready for prime time. Marquette should be in the Top 10.

Plus: GA Tech beats Memphis, to face No. 5 UCLA tonight. When Tech beats UCLA and becomes everyone's favorite "young team to break out," just know that you and I were already there last week.

(No. 1 Gators win 94-33: I watched this on ESPN Full Court, and it WAS as ridiculous as the score implies.)

NBA: Sizzling Mavs win 7th in a row. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of my Wiz. I'll be home in D.C. for Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll swing by Gilbert's house to try to cheer him up. Plus: Is Kobe ready for an explosion? Scores season-high 40 in win over rival Clips. Plus-plus: Rising prep-to-pro JR Smith has career-high 36 in Nuggets win, which should completely mystify both his fans and haters alike.

The best position to be in? The top remaining free agent available in an exceptionally frothy MLB hot-stove market. Carlos Lee is going to get p-a-i-d by someone. The O's, Phillies and Astros are hot for him.

CFB Awards Finalists: For the Doak (Top RB), give my vote to Arkansas' Darren McFadden, who should be getting more Heisman love. For the Thorpe (Top DB), any choice other than Florida's Reggie Nelson is insane. Obviously, I'm biased, but I've never seen a better defensive player ever.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

There is "Just-ice" in the World:
Morneau Edges Jeter for AL MVP

Sometimes you can believe that some things in sports aren't affected by karma -- a balance between good and bad. Then you see Justin Morneau beating favorite Derek Jeter for AL MVP and you realize that there might just be a force bigger than all of us making sure that, from time to time, shocking/amusing/wonderful things happen.

NFL Week 12 Rankings: Chargers Back on Top!

Short week! The schedule compresses for teams, pundits and fans alike. So here's this week's power rankings, as usual submitted without comment (because then you can supply yours). Have I overrated the Chargers? Who are your biggest gainers/droppers this week?

1. Chargers
2. Pats
3. Bears
4. Colts
5. Ravens
6. Broncos
7. Cowboys
8. Panthers
9. Jaguars
10. Saints
11. Bengals
12. Chiefs
13. Giants
14. 49ers
15. Seahawks
16. Falcons
17. Steelers
18. Dolphins
19. Jets
20. Eagles
21. Bills
22. Bucs
23. Rams
24. Vikings
25. Packers
26. Titans
27. Redskins
28. Texans
29. Browns
30. Cardinals
31. Lions
32. Raiders

-- D.S.

Tuesday 11/21 A.M. Quickie:
Do the Clothes Make the Coach?

Jack Del Rio looked out of place on the Jaguars sideline last night on national TV. He was nattily dressed in a suit – I'm not sure what really inspired him to do it. (Mike Nolan did the same thing yesterday for the 49ers; his dad used to wear suits and he's wanted to do it since he got the job.)

Del Rio should keep going with the look if it will inspire results like last night's 26-10 thumping of the suddenly reeling Giants, who got all of 26 yards on 10 carries from Tiki Barber. (Maybe he should retire.)

It begs the question what looks more out of place on the sidelines: Suits or sweats (as favored by a guy like Bill Belichick)? Beli's hoody took on mythical properties during the Pats' run – he was the monk who didn't care about his looks, only winning. When they lose, of course, he looks like a schlub.

Ohio State's Jim Tressel looks like a dorky dandy in his sweater-vest and tie, but as his team streaks to the national title, it's easy to imagine other coaches adopting the look. (Does a QB with the skills of Troy Smith come tailor-made with the fashion package?)

I guess the lesson is that when a coach is winning, whatever he is wearing looks good.

More big storylines for today:

AL MVP: Jeter's to lose? Jeter-haters may be rooting for Justin Morneau, but it's pointless. Derek Jeter is going to win his first MVP award; it's an individual honor he was glaringly missing.

The winning difference appears to be his RISP, which was 3rd – and significantly higher than his MVP competitors like Morneau or Ortiz. (Remember when people thought Papi was a lock? Ha.)

NL MVP: Howard tops Pujols. Confirms that Ryan is the new "Face of Baseball." (And only a sophomore!)

MLB Hot Stove: Or should that be "silly season?" Today's latest: Juan Pierre is going to get a 5Y/$45M deal from the Dodgers. There is some funny money being thrown around.

College Hoops: I still can't figure out whether youthful Duke is for real, so I'm really looking forward to seeing them versus Marquette tonight; I think 'Quette is one of the most underrated teams in the Top 25.

NBA: Jazz off to best start ever (10-1) AND they just sold the naming rights to their arena to a nuclear waste services company. (Does that mean we can start calling the arena "The Nuke?")

The NBA highlight of the night? Everyone will be talking about 5-9 Nate Robinson blocking the shot of 7-6 Yao Ming. Hopefully, the video footage will get to YouTube.

Hello: Mavericks (won 6th straight).
See ya: Aaron Rodgers (out for season).

-- D.S.

Monday, November 20, 2006

BCS Mess: My Playoff Solution

Lots of comments in the BCS post below about a playoff system. Here's my two cents:

I have yet to hear of a playoffs concept that actually works in a way to avoid controversy. A 4-team playoff is a complete joke and shows absolutely no insight by anyone who advocates it as a way to avoid controversy. If you think finding a 1-vs-2 is hard, try figuring out if the 2/3/4 teams are better than the 5/6/7/8 teams.

Similarly, an 8-team playoff is too few in a lot of ways: Either some conferences are excluded or some worthy "at large" teams are excluded. And picking the field is brutal: The difference between teams ranked 2-15 can negligible. You can usually make an argument that a team ranked in the high teens might be as good as the one ranked No. 8. Regardless: Significant controversy continues to exist. And isn't the goal of a playoff to eliminate controversy? If we're still going to have controversy, we might as well keep the existing system.

16-team playoffs begin to get there, but if you thought it was hard to distinguish the teams at the margin of a 4- or 8-team playoff, try arguing that No. 15 or No. 16 is decisively better than Nos. 17-25. Plus, I defy you to find an AD who will allot four weeks to play a playoff AFTER a full regular-season. Again: College football is going to have MORE scenarios like this season, not less. If eliminating controversy is the goal, then let's REALLY let the teams play it out on the field.

I still like my old idea, where the only people who get screwed are the ADs more concerned with money than with the game. It's very simple: Create a half-season-long playoff that lets everyone in and therefore produces the most meaningful, least controversial champion. It's unrealistic, but only because the powers-that-be lack the imagination to see its genius:

(1) Increase the number of D1-A programs from 119 to 128.

(2) Play 5 regular season games: Your annual "tradition" games, your homecoming, your cupcakes, whatever. This also allows teams to find their stride.

(3) National Bye Week. Rank all 128 teams, using the same committee system that fans have come to accept for college basketball. Except this committee is NCAA officials, media and a few computer gurus. Place into four 32-team regional brackets.

(4) Play Week 6. Number of playoff teams remaining afterward: 64. Losers are eliminated and have 24 hours to cut deals to play each other in Week 7.

(5) Each week, the bracket advances along. Winning teams move on to the next game on their bracket. Losing teams are eliminated and may cut deals to play any other eliminated team the following week, creating an innovative, musical-chairs-style free market of scheduling that will also keep fans engaged.

After Week 7, 32 teams are left. After Week 8, 16 teams are left. After Week 9, 8 teams are left. After Week 10, 4 teams are left. After Week 11, 2 teams are left. (Again, eliminated teams simply pick from the increasingly deep pool of eliminated teams to fill out their schedule.)

(6) Teams that are over .500 are eligible to be selected to play in the 25 different bowl games played in December and early January; bowls may invite any teams they want, again creating a vastly more efficient market than the current system where a team is slotted to a bowl by its conference finish.

(7) The final 2 teams play in the championship game.

The biggest problem is that schools can't finalize their teams' travel or ticket sales plans a year in advance, as they do now. If that's the biggest problem -- but in exchange fans get the best championship tournament in sports and an undisputed champion -- I think fans will take it.

Everyone in, controversy out.

Ryan Howard Wins NL MVP

He deserved it. As I said in an earlier post, he's the new Face of Baseball.

BCS: Ohio State vs.:
USC? Florida? (Hint: NOT Michigan)

Being down in Gainesville this past weekend, I had a LOT of time to ponder the state of the BCS. First, here's how it looks like it's going to play out:

If USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA, they will likely jump idle Michigan into that No. 2 spot. (If Florida beats Florida State and Arkansas, they SHOULD jump idle Michigan, too, but likely won't be able to jump USC.) In any other scenario, Ohio State and Michigan play in a rematch.

Everyone's got a reason NOT to be picked:

*USC lost to an unranked team.
*Florida has no "style."
*Michigan had their shot.

I understand the argument FOR Michigan, and it has nothing to do with who they have beaten (a thin list); it's about the "quality" of their single loss -- to the No. 1 team, on the road, by 3 -- which trumps the quality of every other one-loss team's single loss.

Urban Meyer is pretty adamant that, no matter what (even USC getting in the national title game ahead of Florida), Michigan should NOT get another shot in the national title game, that Michigan being there delegitimizes the title game.

I agree with him.

If this was a political race (and, really, it plays out more like that than anything having to do with football – and I'm surprised that teams like USC and Florida don't actually create political-style ads and buy TV air-time to run them to promote themselves), I would hammer the following point if I was USC and Florida:

Michigan had their shot.

Having beaten Michigan already, why should Ohio State have to beat them AGAIN to win the title? If Michigan beats Ohio State in the BCS title game, would Ohio State have a claim to a split national title? After all, that would merely EVEN the season series.

The point is: Michigan had their shot. With no clear No. 2, the team with the LEAST valid claim is the one who just had their chance to win but didn't. With Michigan, we've seen how it played out on the field.

Wouldn't you now like to see how Ohio State would do against a team that has performed as well out of the non-conference as USC? Or against a team that has peformed as well in the sport's toughest conference as Florida?

Michigan had their shot and fell short. (By extension, you could argue that Michigan fans love the BCS system as it currently is and would argue against the idea of a playoff, which every other fan wants. After all, if there WAS a playoff and Michigan lost, their fans -- based on the last 48 hours' lobbying -- would whine that they didn't REALLY get eliminated and that they want another chance. Again, politics-style: Michigan fans are against replacing the BCS system with a playoff.)

Michigan just played in the closest thing that college football has ever had to a real playoff semifinal game, and they blew it. Let's treat it like the de facto playoff it was and leave Michigan behind and look forward: It's time for someone else to get to take their shot against the best.

If USC and/or Florida finish the season equaling Michigan's one loss, then -- all things being equal -- they deserve consideration for the BCS title game ahead of Michigan. Good thing there's a lot of football left to play on the field to help possibly clear this up.

-- D.S.

Monday 11/20 A.M. Quickie:
LaDainian, BCS, NL MVP and More

Back from a weekend in Gainesville...

Tomlinson is NFL MVP: LaDainian Tomlinson is this season's runaway NFL MVP. His 4 TDs in last night's 35-27 Chargers win confirms it.

For the record, that makes 19 TDs in his last 6 games; he's the fastest to 100 career TDs in NFL history. Move over, Emmitt and Brown.

(I'm actually kind of curious to wonder if LT's career ended tomorrow, has he already had a Hall of Fame-worthy career?)

McNabb's season-ending injury is obviously yesterday afternoon's huge story. Given the Cowboys' huge win over the Colts, the balance of power in the NFC has shifted dramatically.

Favre's elbow injury is similarly intriguing, but not for any playoff-drive implications – simply for its impact on his 251-game starting streak. (Oh, and Aaron Rodgers sucks.)

Colts no longer unbeaten: Count me among the ones who would argue this is better for the Colts than to clinch the playoffs early and lose all momentum at the end of the season before the playoffs. Just look at last season.

49ers shock defending NFC champs: If you had the chance to buy "futures" in a team's next five years, I'd recommend buying the Niners over buying the Seahawks. Back in January, who would have thought that? (By the way, if there was an NFC MVP award, who else is willing to at least CONSIDER 49ers RB Frank Gore? Team-record 212 yards.)

BCS Update: Ohio State versus...?! Being down in Gainesville this past weekend, I had a LOT of time to ponder the state of the BCS. I have a separate item planned for later this morning, but it looks like if USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA, they'll vault Michigan. Otherwise, Michigan will play Ohio State in a rematch, which I can get behind in theory but think it's an atrocious idea in reality. More on this later.

Spurrier denies rumors he's going to The U. That's all fine and good – he's certainly a great fit being back in the SEC – but he'd be crazy not to jump back to a "brand name" school, let alone one based in Florida. If he had known Miami would be available two years ago before he took the South Carolina job, I think he would have waited for it. (Hell, I think if Miami thought they could get Spurrier two years ago, they would have ejected Coker to make it happen.)

NL MVP: Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols? That's your choice. My vote is for Howard, because I expand the definition of "valuable" to account for the fact that Howard's performance single-handedly kept casual fans' interest in baseball going in the dog days. He has replaced D. Willis as the "Face of Baseball." (Please don't say: "But I thought Jeter was the 'Face.'")

MLB Hot Stove: $oriano to Cubs! So the Cubs ARE committed to spending their way to success. I suppose that in the NL, starting pitching isn't nearly the decisive factor that it is in the AL, so teams can load up on the arms race to try to "offense" their way to the playoffs. (The Cubs need to look no further than the Mets.) The number is staggering: 8Y/$136M, second-largest in Cubs history. Say this: They ain't kidding around.

College Hoops: Georgetown shocker! Lose at campus bandbox McDonough Arena for the first time in 24 years, to Old Dominion. Certainly makes me feel less good about my picking them to the Final Four last week.

NBA: Shaq out 6 weeks after knee surgery. I'll say the same thing about Shaq that I always do when he gets hurt – who cares how many regular season games he plays? Anything less than a complete and total concentration on having him ready for the playoffs is a waste. All that matters is the ring.

"Congrats!" to: Jimmie Johnson, 2006 Nextel Cup Champ. (My one problem with the NASCAR system is that the "champ" can finish 9th in the final race en route to a title. Hardly dramatic.)

"See ya!" to: Rutgers Mania. Sigh. Well, that was fun while it lasted...

-- D.S.