Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Quickie:
In Orlando (via Blackberry)

Welcome to my experiment to file a post on the road via Blackberry. I'm in Orlando, and I can't promise how this will turn out. I picked the wrong day to... (Fill in your Lloyd Bridges Airplane refenence here) Try to file my NFL picks... And away we go!

COLTS over Ravens: Now that there are zero expectations, Indy will win, just to spite you.

EAGLES over Saints: Take what I just said about the Colts and multiply it exponentially. (Which is a shame, because I don't know any fans outside of Philly who want to see the Saints lose, including me.)

BEARS over Seahawks: Seattle gets one QB blunder per playoffs season, and they got it last week. Grossman defies the critics with a huge game.

PATS over Chargers: Now, I'm rooting like hell for the Bolts, but this fulfills a vow going back two seasons to pick the Pats in the playoffs until they are eliminated as an option. The bastards...

Three more non-NFL takes:

Beckham to MLS: Is it me or does $50 mil per year for Becks seem like a lot. Presumably, MLS chalks it up as.a marketing expense.

Bonds-Greenies, Day 2: Zzzzz.

Boykins traded to Bucks: Redd-Boykins instantly becomes one of the Top 3 backcourts in the East.

Wow, are my thumbs tired. Hopefully, alittle more later. Use the Comments to break down all the NFL playoff storylines,
intigues and x-factors.
-- D.S.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thursday 01/11 A.M. Quickie:
Bonds vs. Greenies, A. Peterson Going Pro

Barry Bonds tested positive for a form of greenies... six months ago. The NY Daily News broke the story, but you can expect it to get blowout coverage within sports media.

The interesting twist ("interesting" being relative) is that Bonds blames a teammate – though I'm not quite sure why Bonds would be taking a teammate's pills if he didn't know what was in them.

The more interesting twist is that the positive amphetamines test triggered six months of regular testing, which Bonds presumably passed without problem – which sort of undercuts the power of the story.

It's hard to get too worked up over MLB players taking amphetamines, considering that they were baseball's biggest, most widespread PED epidemic long before steroids ever made the scene.

Before they were banned last season, I guesstimated that 90 percent of players used some form of greenies over the last half-century. Notice how you rarely hear cootish old-timers ripping current players.

That's probably because the "Back in my day..." scolds are probably still too busy drinking 18 cups of coffee a day trying to recreate the daily high of their own amphetamine abuse.

Latest NFL Draft Declarations: And around the glory positions we go!

RB: Adrian Peterson! Poster guy for why college players should be allowed to declare for the NFL draft without age limitation. After his freshman year, he would have been a first-round pick. I still say he's the best RB on the board and a Top 10 pick.

QB: JaMarcus Russell! Rising buzz means he will likely battle Brady Quinn for position as first QB taken, though it'll be hard to overcome Quinn's "Notre Dame" mystique. Oh, wait: I mean "white" mystique. Nevertheless, Russell seems like a Top 10 lock.

WR: Dwayne Jarrett! You can keep Calvin Johnson, as amazing as he is. For my money, Jarrett was the best WR in college football – not just last year, but possibly of the last decade. Another guy who should be a Top 10 pick.

NFL Coaching Carousel: Coughlin returning to Giants. I don't think there's a piece of news that could depress Giants fans more. However, there is a bright side: One more year of getting his ass handed to him by power teams might convince Charlie Weis what the rest of us know: He'll never win the national title at Notre Dame, so he might as well go to the Giants. (More: Is Mike Martz the hottest coaching candidate? The Dolphins interviewed him, and the Raiders reportedly like him too.)

CBB Parity Watch: Georgia Tech stuns Duke. OK, this isn't about parity as much as it is about reaffirming that this Duke team was completely overrated to start the season. Now 0-2 in the ACC, Duke has been exposed. (But how about my boy, Jon Scheyer? Keep gunning, kid! This is the best-case scenario for me: Scheyer gets his, but Duke gets beat.)

But here's a good "Parity Watch" entry: Marquette, which had lost 2 straight, beat UConn, snapping the Huskies' 31-game home winning streak. Meanwhile, Butler lost to Illinois-Chicago, which should have you re-thinking the idea that Butler is this year's mid-major most likely to pull a George Mason.

NBA: The frenzy over Chris Webber is amusing. For $20 million? Keep him the hell away from my team. For, say, free? Come on over! The Knicks want him. KG wants to play with him (who doesn't KG want to play with?) And it looks like his hometown Pistons are going to get him.

(Meanwhile, the Sixers lost without him, which isn't much of a difference from the results they got with him. They lost to the Knicks, which is amusing for other reasons. The Sixers are doing it right: Hurtling closer and closer to the league's bottom -- and a lock for either of the draft prizes, Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.)

NBA Line of the Night: Dwight Howard's 30 points and 25 rebounds in a Magic win over the Warriors. Yeesh: Let's fit this monster for an All-Star jersey.

Tiki to NBC? NFL Hall-of-fame-whore Tiki Barber is rumored to be headed to NBC, where he'll undoubtedly be used to spice up "Football Night in America," but also undoubtedly be pushing for airtime on "Today." (I predict they stick him on the upcoming extra 4th hour of "Today.")

Tags to Pro Football HOF? He's one of the first-year finalists with a shot. Actually, I want to know why players have to wait six years to be eligible but former Commissioners don't even have to wait six months? Tags is a lock, of course. First-year finalist Bruce Matthews is, too. Those are the only two I think will make it, along with the "senior committee" nominee you've never heard of.

StubHub has ultimate sale: Online ticket re-seller StubHub, which built its business on the back of sports ticket sales (uh, don't call it "scalping"), was sold to eBay for $310 million. In 2007, I really do have to make me one of those ol' online start-ups.

I want to thank everyone who jumped on the Webbies bandwagon and nominated this blog for "Best Sports Blog." I really appreciated it, and – as I said before – what makes the blog particularly fun to do (and, hopefully, to read) is the participation by you.

Finally, here comes an interesting test: I'm headed down to Orlando today for my brother's wedding this weekend. I'm not bringing my laptop but I am bringing my brand spanking new Blackberry, and I'm going to attempt to update the blog using it.

What it means practically is that I'll probably have shorter posts, tomorrow and/or later today, but hopefully a few more posts during the day. I don't know how to actually EDIT the posts via Blackberry, only how to post them to the site. So any glaring errors – oh and there usually are quite a few – will be up there for all to see. Apologies in advance, but I'm looking forward to the experiment.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wednesday 01/10 A.M. Quickie:
P. Carroll, Tony K Staying; Big Mac a Dud

Top storylines tracking today:

*HOF vote: The Reaction
*Carroll staying at USC
*Wisconsin: No. 1 in CBB?
*TK to stay at MNF
*Final Bloggies nag/beg

Pete Carroll staying at USC: Should it scare Trojans fans that Carroll even considered an NFL job? Or should it make them feel better, because the Fins job is just about as good as he would be offered by an NFL owner, and he still turned it down?

Either way, it's already time for me to modify my 2007 Top 5 to include USC: Michigan, West Virginia, Florida, Texas, USC – in no particular order.

There's a lot of hype to put LSU in that Top 5, but I think losing JaMarcus Russell will sting. And even though LSU gets the Gators in Baton Rouge next year (a game I think the Tigers will win), I think Florida wins a rematch/revenge game in the SEC title game on a neutral field.

(By the way, for all the talk about the BCS title game being an uncompetitive blowout – though the opposite direction from what all the experts predicted – it was still the 3rd most-watched BCS title game ever.)

HOF, The Day After: Has the BBWAA exiled its moron members who didn't vote for Ripken or Gwynn yet?

Meanwhile, if 75 percent of voters are eventually going to vote for McGwire but are simply exacting some vigilante justice now, those guys should lose their vote, too.

Who would've figured that the BBWAA and its membership were at least as corrupted as the Steroid Era players themselves?

More on McGwire below.*

TK to stay at MNF. It's silly season among NFL and college coaches: Interviews, hirings, rumors, spin. Here's a piece of news that isn't necessarily a shocker, but is sort of an upset:

Tony Kornheiser is staying on for another season at "Monday Night Football." After a very spotty rookie season that never really lived up to its potential that had me so giddy the day before he officially started, there were rumors that he would quit (or be yoinked) or that they would replace him with fame-whore Tiki Barber. Instead, he'll get a second year to build on Year 1. That, or the money and fame was so damn awesome that he couldn't possibly walk away from it, no matter how pained he might have appeared on-screen to be doing the job.

College Hoops: Game of the Night: Wisconsin beats Ohio State. Wow, Wisconsin might just be the No. 1 team in the country, which makes my preseason pick of Wisco to the Final Four seem smart, but it's a crowded bandwagon now. How brutal is Ohio State's schedule? Tough losses at UNC and at Wisco, sandwiching that blowout in Gainesville. But no harm: It's all terrific practice for March.

Meanwhile, how is Clemson still undefeated? Do they have "first-round tournament bust" written all over them or what? SEC: Alabama beats LSU. Florida beats Arkansas. Wow, that conference is going to beat itself up at the top, round-robin style.

Did you hear about the ex-high school hoops coach who faces 39 various counts, not the least of which is hitting his players in the groin?

Early contender for Biggest Non-story of the (New) Year: Belichick's playoff post-game push.

Louisville hires Kragthorpe: Other college teams should take note of how quickly Louisville pivoted from losing their coach to the NFL to hiring a replacement: Steve Kragthorpe from Tulsa. Ah, we're back to the good old days where mid-major programs create coaches who can leap into a Top 25 program.

Speaking of L'ville, is RB Michael Bush, who is jumping to the NFL, a bigger, bulkier, more talented version of Willis McGahee? The biggest difference: McGahee had four months to go from injury to draft day, one of the great rehabs in modern sports memory. Bush has an extra three months. I'd still draft him in the first round, ranking him just behind Adrian Peterson.

When Jason Kidd filed for divorce from his wife, he accused her of "extreme cruelty." Yikes. That can't simply be that she beat his ass in their nightly game of Boggle.

The dream is over for Rory Fitzpatrick: The NHL's story of the year – the write-in All-Star candidacy that earned a staggering 550K votes – fell 23,000 votes short. But it set a new standard for grassroots phenomena in the NHL and across fan-balloting in sports.

2016 Olympics: Chicago and LA are the finalists for the US bid for the 2016 Olympics. I'm on record a while ago as saying that Chicago would be the best choice for the USOC's support.

Fan-Generated Super Bowl Ad Selected: Congrats to Maine marketing guy Gino Bona, who won the NFL's contest to let a fan design a Super Bowl ad. His ad came in second in the fan vote, but the NFL yoinked it over the most popular fan choice, which kind of sucks for that ad, if you think about it. But congrats to Bona and congrats to the NFL on a clever, zeitgeisty campaign. Here's a link to the contest.

And here's the most important point -- a prediction, actually: Bona's ad concept will be better than 85 percent of the ads created by the so-called "professionals" who brands are paying a mint to create these hellishly expensive and notoriously hit-or-miss spots.

(This is different than the CBS-sponsored YouTube promotion where someone will have their "15 seconds of fame" when their 15-second YouTube clip is played during the Super Bowl, also a great idea by increasingly user-generated-content-friendly CBS.)

* - Last note about McGwire: "I'm not here to talk about the past" essentially ruined his chances of making the Hall of Fame, this year, if not ever. All he had to do was be a little more candid in front of Congress, and he would have been forgiven. That was arguably the dumbest choice of talking-point in sports history. As I wrote at the time, McGwire should have 'fessed up to it, then immediately directed his mouth (and money) to "PED-ucation" among young athletes. Two-plus years later, he would have been an HOF lock, because everyone loves a good rehab story. The crazy part? He could still apply that plan – today – and he'd be in by next year's vote.

Finally, if you haven't done it yet (or even if you have) and feel so inclined to humor me and the rest of this blog's readers, please head over to the 2007 Bloggie Awards nomination page and nominate this blog for "Best Sports Blog." Here's the link, with all the info. It takes just a few seconds. Nominations close today. Let's make this blog the Rory Fitzpatrick of the Bloggie Awards. Final push!

-- D.S.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2007 Bloggies Nomination: Last Call!
(Plus: Recapping a Day of Unread Posts!)

What you may have missed below while Blogger was down for most of the day:

(1) Hall of Fame Voting Scandal!
(2) Why a CFB "Plus-One" Won't Work!
(3) My Final CFB Top 10 Ranking!
(4) Quickie: How 'Bout Them Gators?

Just one day left to nominate this blog for "Best Sports Blog" in the 2007 Bloggie Awards
. For the last week, it's been the grassroots movement of the year. If you haven't yet (or, hell, even if you have), if you'd follow this link to the nomination page (where they have all the instructions), I'd really appreciate it. And, after all, I see this just as much as an award for the readers and those of you who comment as anything else. Huge thanks -- only one more day of me pimping this thing! (Meanwhile, what a terrible day for Blogger to go down for most of the day: This is my most prolific posting day since the first days of the blog!) -- D.S.

Baseball Hall of Fame Voting:
Ripken, Gwynn In; McGwire Way Out

Two questions on the HOF results: (1) Who were the 1.5 percent of voters (aka "Asshats") who didn't think Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were Hall-worthy? Can we please take away their privilege of being a Hall of Fame voter? The system needs an audit. (2) Who had "23.5" in the office pool for McGwire's percentage of ballots he would be named on? (Seems about right to me: Half the voters are never going to vote for him, and the other half were going to split evenly between those who would vote for him this year and those who will vote for him next year.) -- D.S.

Now, About That BCS Playoff System
(Why a 4-Team, "Plus-One" Won't Work)


See earlier posts:
My Final CFB Top 10! (Scandal!)
Tuesday Quickie: Gator Mania!

CFB Playoff in the future? The SEC commish and BCS coordinator Mike Slive says he's open to a four-team playoff that results in a "Plus-One" title game. However, this year serves as a cautionary tale:

Which four teams would you have picked to be in this so-called playoff that determines the champion "on the field?" Ohio State, obviously. Florida. Then who: Michigan? LSU?

See, in hindsight, looking at Michigan's final AP ranking (8th), it is ludicrous to think that they would have deserved to be in a four-team playoff. Not just deserved to be, but a LOCK -- the 3-seed! After the bowls, the more accurate answer for those other two teams are LSU and USC, but even then: What about Boise, who finished 5th, a mere handful of poll points behind USC and with a vastly better record against the only common opponent Boise and USC shared?

Here's my point: A four-team playoff doesn't solve the problems. Not when the No. 5 team is as worthy as any of the two ahead of them in any given 4-team field. Not when picking those 4 teams is so loaded with problems. Let's sum it up with the label "The Michigan Problem."

Michigan's seemingly "obvious" place in a 4-team playoff this year (on Dec. 3) would have screwed either LSU or USC -- the omission of either of which would have been a travesty (not to mention the omission of Boise State).

Simply put: A 4-team playoff* just doesn't solve the basic structural problem with the system. And, as everyone barks for it in the aftermath of the BCS title game, they can't even explain how it would have worked THIS season. At least fairly. Or accurately.

-- D.S.

(* - Even if we had an 8-team playoff this year, it would have been problematic. Start with the assumption that any 8-team field must include the 6 BCS conference champs as automatic bids. You get two "at-large" picks, so tell me which team you're going to screw over: Michigan, LSU or Boise State?

Again, we have a Michigan Problem: On Jan. 9, everyone can agree that Michigan has no business being picked ahead of either LSU or Boise. But on Dec. 3, no one would have listened to you about that.

And, consequently, one very viable team -- a team that turns out to be better than Michigan -- would be left out, while Michigan would have received what we all now know would have been a patently ridiculous 3-seed among the 8 tems.)

My Final Top 10 CFB Rankings
(Plus Predicting Next Season's Champ)


Here is my final CFB Top 10
(Be sure to read through 'til the end for my wacked predictions for next season's national champ!)

1. Florida
2. LSU
3. Ohio State
4. Boise State
5. USC
6. Louisville
7. Auburn
8. Wisconsin
9. West Virginia
10. Michigan

My final Top 10 reflects what we all saw last night: Speed kills. Specifically, SEC speed kills. And I honestly believe that LSU's speed, particularly on defense, would beat Ohio State in the same way that Florida's did (without the sophistication on offense).

I really WANTED to put Boise State No. 2 or certainly No. 3, but I couldn't bring myself to put them over BOTH Ohio State and LSU (even though I'm not sure OSU could beat Boise or USC; I'm guilty of my own "inertia pick" that I throttled voters for all year long). However, I had no problem putting Boise over USC; just reference their respective performances against common opponent Oregon State.

Louisville and Auburn get that "speed bump." I hesitate to put Wisconsin so high, but you have to reward them for beating one of the Top 3 teams in the SEC. As for Michigan: I'm punishing them for the way they lost to USC, but also to reflect that West Virginia plays like an SEC team -- fast. And, as USC proved in the Rose Bowl, LSU proved in the Sugar and Florida proved last night, that would beat Michigan.

Looking ahead to next year? Hmm: Not obvious. USC loses Jarrett (and could lose Carroll and/or Sarkisian). Florida loses most of its defense. Ohio State loses most of its offense. LSU loses JaMarcus Russell. Louisville loses its coach (and probably its QB). Arkansas returns McFadden, but I can't see them getting through the SEC unscathed. Notre Dame? Don't make me laugh. Michigan might run the table, but there's no reason to believe they wouldn't have the same problems as Ohio State did last night against a team with speed in the title game. OK, I'm ready to call it: Next year's national title game result: Unbeaten No. 2 Texas over unbeaten No. 1 Michigan. Unbeaten No. 3 West Virginia over 1-loss No. 4 Florida. SPLIT National Champs: Texas (Coaches); West Virginia (AP).

-- D.S.

Florida Gators: National Champs
(Bowl Championship Shellacking)


I'm still filtering last night's result.
(And sincerely trying to avoid the type of gloating or other insufferable opinions that so many of you think I will display and/or have earned. Come on! This morning, the biggest post-game storylines seem to be:

*Florida's near-perfect execution and game plan. What was more impressive: The Gators racking up 41 points on offense or the D holding Ohio State's offense to 70 yards?

*Troy Smith's abysmal game that completely re-wrote his legacy as a big-game QB. (And Chris Leak's amazing game, completely re-writing his legacy as an uninspired fizzler.)

*Jim Tressel's early decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from inside his own 30, which was less about the resulting points than about how Meyer had thrown the normally unflappable Tressel completely off his game.

*That Harris Poll voter Jim Walden who picked the Gators as No. 1 back when the BCS title-game matchup was set.

*Ohio State's 51-day layoff (which is the flimsiest excuse, but is yet one more reason the Big Ten should schedule the Ohio State-Michigan game for the same day as the other conferences play their title games.)

*What about Boise State? Ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll (ridiculously behind USC, despite the "Oregon State Factor") and No. 6 in the final coaches poll (ridiculously behind Wisconsin). Ranked No. 2 by Urban Meyer. Since all rankings behind No. 1 are cost-free, it's easy to WANT to rank Boise at No. 2. Where did I rank them? See below for my final Top 10.

*And what about that CFB playoff? The BCS honcho came out in favor of a four-team playoff with a "Plus-One" title game, but as I point out below, this season exposed that plan with its own problems.

I'm going to post separate items for my final CFB Top 10 and thoughts on a playoff, because I want your Comments on them, specifically. Coming shortly.

More of today's top storylines:

Baseball Hall of Fame Vote: Ripken and Gwynn are locks. The biggest question is how close to unanimous it will be. We know for sure that it WON'T be unanimous: There's a dipshit voter named Paul Ledewski out of Illinois who refused to vote for either, simply because they played during the purported Steroid Era; he should lose his voting privileges. This is the sportswriter equivalent of a baseball player throwing a game in the World Series.

The other huge HOF storyline will be how far away Mark McGwire is from selection. Wouldn't it be intriguing if he didn't make the minimum number of ballots to stay on the ballot next year?

The biggest winners in the 2007 NFL Draft will be the Tampa Bay Bucs, picking third but likely to end up with the draft's top talent – WR Calvin Johnson – because there's no way that the Raiders and Lions (picking 1st and 2nd) take him. (We've seen this before: Both Braylon Edwards and Larry Fitzgerald were the top talents in their drafts, but passed over because they were WRs.)

NFL Coaching Search(es): Wait: What if Pete Carroll left for the Dolphins AND Carroll's top assistant Steve Sarkisian left for the Raiders? And what is happening in Pittsburgh? Meanwhile, consider me bullish on Bobby Petrino's chances in Atlanta. He's too innovative not to unleash Michael Vick. (Or will he install his spread for... Matt Schaub?) Speaking of Petrino, his ex-team Louisville is reportedly targeting Tulsa's Kragthorpe, which would be a great hire (and yet another coach who professed to be happy where he is but ends up bolting.)

-- D.S.

Florida: 2006 CFB National Champs!
Ohio State Completely Dominated

It's just minutes after the end of the game -- the domination, really -- and I'm still trying to process. Here are the biggest storylines for me:

(1) Domination by Florida's D, allowing 74 yards total and completely shutting down the Heisman Trophy winner.

(2) Troy Smith's atrocious game (4/14, 34 yds, 1 INT, 0 TD), mirrored by Chris Leak's ultimate redemption. For the last four years, I've been up and down on Chris -- the last year, mostly down. But his legacy is secure.

(3) Hoops-Football titles back-to-back, making Florida the first team to hold both titles simultaneously in NCAA history.

(4) Urban Meyer winning a national title in Year 2, which can be attributed to a couple of things: His emphasis on speed, his instant-impact recruiting and his meticulous management of his program.

(5) Florida's offensive play-calling and balance -- the former which had been a problem all season long, the latter which had been the core of Urban Meyer's system.

I mean, it was such an ass-kicking that I think most fans -- whether you're a Florida fan, an Ohio State fan or simply a college football fan -- were left as shocked as possible. It was possible, though preciously rare, to predict that Florida would win (cough, cough), but impossible to predict that Florida would win in such a dominating way.

(Hell, even Kirk Herbstreit is giving Florida credit, which is saying something. It's easy to forgive him in victory, particularly knowing how frustrated and upset he must be over the way OSU lost this game. I'm especially impressed the way he rejects OSU's 51-day layoff as a factor, when that seems to be something everyone wants to attribute the result to.)

Here's my question: Can you remember such a substantial and consensus underdog delivering such a thorough ass-kicking in a championship game? The two most notable underdogs -- Texas last year and Ohio State in 2003 vs. Miami -- both barely squeaked by with upset wins.

More must-read game coverage:
Deadspin: 701 Comments!
Every Day Should Be Saturday
AOL CFB Fanhouse

I head off to bed way too wired, but also stunned at the level of domination by Florida in this game over Ohio State. National champs. Wow. I'm thrilled to know that I had faith it would happen, but I could have never allowed myself to imagine it would happen this way. Maybe more cogent thoughts during the day Tuesday. -- D.S.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Florida-Ohio State Live-Comment

At this pace, I am not going to make it through this. Seriously. I open the Comments to you all. Good gracious. -- D.S.

Update after 1st Quarter: OK, that was the best quarter I have ever seen Florida play. It was, dare I say it, perfectly executed (particularly on offense, where through the season, the play-calling has been iffy, at best). Here's the flip side: There is NO way that Florida can sustain this pace, and Ohio State is STILL within a score. Again: Good gracious. -- D.S.

Update at Halftime: OK, so I was sort of wrong. Florida nearly matched their first quarter in the second. The offense continued to push the pedal down. The defense has been playing out of their mind. I wonder what Ohio State is thinking in the locker room: Shell-shock? Motivation? I simply remain shocked that Florida has hung 34 on Ohio State and limited OSU to less than 100 yards of offense. But there is so much time left. Almost too much time left. I repeat: Good gracious. -- D.S.

Update after 3rd Quarter: Well, a 0-0 quarter wasn't particularly entertaining, but it puts the Gators 15 minutes closer to a national title. And it reaffirms that the story of the game isn't the 34 that Florida hung on OSU in the 1st half, but the shut-down play of the Gators' D, which has effectively held Ohio State to one offensive TD. One quarter away. Cripes. I can barely stand it. Why does 20 points seem like... well, still not enough? -- D.S.

FINAL: Florida 41, Ohio State 14. YYYYYEEEEEESSSSS!!! What a complete ass-kicking. What an utterly dominating performance, which should eliminate any doubt about which team is No. 1, though I'm quite sure that Ohio State fans -- gracious losers that they are -- will find reasons to explain this one away. Explain away being held to under 100 yards of total offense. What an absolutely awesome game out of Florida. Whew!

BCS National Title Game:
Yes, I'm Picking Florida to Win

Monday A.M. Quickie below (or linked here).

At the risk of delivering the most painful Quickie jinx of all time, I honestly think that Florida will beat Ohio State in the BCS title game tonight. That puts me in a very small minority that believes the Gators will actually beat the Buckeyes. I also happen to be a huge Florida fan, which both bolsters and erodes the value of my pick.

As a Florida fan, here are the Top 3 things that I worry will impede a win:

(1) UF's kicking game, obviously.
(2) Dumb, frequent penalties.
(3) Troy Smith late in a close game.

And here are the Top 3 things that should worry people who think Ohio State is going to win:

(1) Tim Tebow in short yardage.
(2) UF PR/KR Brandon James.
(3) Florida has nothing to lose.

I'm very surprised that pundits and fans (particularly Ohio State fans) have forgotten the lessons of Ohio State and Miami in the title game following the 2002 season. I have leaned on the comparison – however flimsy – since this FLA-OSU pairing was set.

But there's no getting around it: Miami was considered an unbeatable juggernaut; Ohio State was unbeaten, yes, but had won a seemingly endless and improbable series of nail-biters to get there.

I run through tonight's matchups, and I have a hard time figuring out why Ohio State is given such a decisive advantage (aside from the kicking game). For both teams, this is the best offense either has seen. Both teams' offenses have played against at least one team with as good or better defense (OSU: Michigan, UF: LSU). Player for player, Florida seems even.

Am I crazy to think that an "even" matchup favors the Gators? After all, everyone seems to think that Ohio State is going to blow the doors off this Florida team (or, at least, win by more than a touchdown). I'm wondering what will happen when Ohio State delivers its haymakers and the Gators not only stand pat, but hit back? How long does it take for an aura of invincibility to be eroded -- or shattered?

If there's one X-factor I think of more than others, it's this: Ohio State has played one meaningful game this season -- Michigan. (I discount the Texas game; it was too early in the season, Texas was playing with an inexperienced QB, and Texas turned out to be merely good, not great.) Even the Michigan game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. This is where Ohio State's average margin of victory comes back to haunt them: Where is Ohio State's grit?

Florida, on the other hand, has endured grit this season. Frankly, too much grit. Too many close calls. Too many "must-have" moments. Too many threats to obliterate its season. But the residual effect of all that grit is a hardened winner's mindset of "earn it" -- not entitlement or coronation, like I feel from Ohio State and its proponents.

Ryan Ferguson of has a great post about the game (caveat: From a Florida fan's perspective) on AOL's Fanhouse. Here's the link.

When that grit is combined with an underdog mentality, a coach who knows how to push those buttons and enough talent to offset Ohio State's talent, the formula is there for a Florida upset. I'm not going to predict a score, but I really believe that Florida will win. (Ugh: Curse!)

OK, here's your must-read of the day, related to the game tonight: SundayMorningQB's four-part breakdown. It's the best, most detailed you'll find. Worth your time.

Comments Question: We've had an unbelievably awesome season of Commenter analysis of college football, so let's end with a huge effort. How do you break down the game? What are the biggest storylines? The biggest X-factors? What will be the difference in the game, and – finally – how do you see it playing out?

-- D.S.

Monday 01/08 A.M. Quickie:
NFL Playoffs, BCS Title Game, More

Tracking this morning:

*Chargers-Pats: De facto SBXLI?
*Eagles-Saints: Who to root against?
*Giants: What next? (Fire/Hire)
*Is Petrino the new Saban?
*BCS Title Game: Gameday ramp-up

Remember when the NFC title game used to be the de facto Super Bowl? Who else suspects that the same will apply to next week's Pats-Chargers winner?

If any team can derail the Chargers – even in San Diego – it's New England. Watch for Belichick to pull some of his classic Jedi Mind Trick stuff and use the Chargers' strength – LT – against them. What could be more motivating for the Genius than the challenge of stopping the player who just had arguably the greatest single individual season in NFL history?

As for the other AFC semifinal, I have zero faith in the Ravens. I also have zero faith in the Colts. However, I think this is the year that the teams who had zero expectations (like Indy and Philly) will ultimately succeed where they have previously failed with far stronger teams and greater expectations. It's just the ironic way this shit inevitably works out sometimes.

Eagles bounce out the Giants: Tony Romo could take a lesson from Koy Detmer about how to field (and hold onto) a snap on a game-winning playoff field goal. The Eagles' surreal season, mercifully, continues. The Giants surreal season, mercifully, ends.

I'm baffled by the Eagles-Saints matchup next week. Obviously, this season's Saints are the NFL Feel-Good Story of the Year (if not of all time). No one with a soul wants to see the ride end next week in New Orleans (improbable as this entire game set-up seemed four months ago). But these Eagles are riding some serious mojo. No one with a soul doesn't want to see the city implode when Jeff Garcia (and, notably, NOT Donovan McNabb) leads the team to a Super Bowl.

As for the other NFC semifinal, the Bears are going to cram some ugly down the throat of the defending NFC champs, clubbing the crown from the Seahawks' head (no matter how bad Rex Grossman might look while doing it).

Meanwhile, what about this past weekend's playoff losers?
What next for the Giants?
Let's start with this: They have GOT to dump Tom Coughlin as coach, and their best move would be to make a strong play to lure Charlie Weis away from Notre Dame. (And, based on last week's bowl result and the prospects of NEVER truly being a national-title contender at ND, he should be amenable.)

And good riddance to retiring GM Ernie Accorsi, who was so blinded by his lifelong man-crush on Johnny Unitas that, in his final act, he ruined the franchise by developing a myopia for Eli Manning that has turned his team into a Super Bowl contender. (Too bad I'm talking about the team that originally drafted him – San Diego.)

What next for the Jets? I'd like to buy stock in Eric Mangini, if his rookie season resulted in a playoff run. The Jets are on the rise, the Pats are static (at best) and the rest of the division is a disaster. Not a bad position for Mangini to be in.

Falcons hire Bobby Petrino from Louisville: Wow, I didn't see this coming at all. Here's my intrigue. Based on the way Nick Saban was vilified last week, what kind of treatment will Petrino get?

After all, he's bolting from Louisville just one year after signing a 10-year, $25 million contract, which strikes me as at least as skeevy as what Saban did (whether Petrino ever made any claims or not).

I honestly wonder if there's a perception difference between bolting from the NFL to college (Saban) and bolting from college to the NFL (Petrino), with the Petrino spin being "Can you blame him? The NFL jobs are SO much rarer than the college jobs" rather than "He made a prominent commitment for 10 years but only stuck it out for one, the rat bastard."

Anyway, if the Falcons wanted an innovative offensive mind to re-invent Michael Vick's career, they found it. Petrino is the top offensive mind in college football (and, perhaps, all of football). I presume that during the interview, he blew owner Blank and GM McKay away with the ways he'd innovatively use Vick.

(As for Louisville's future? In hindsight, this year's BCS appearance and Big East title might look like the high-water mark for a program that, as recently as a week ago, figured it was on the way to a permanent spot among college football's elite. What a reversal. And compare Petrino bolting to Louisville's two main Big East Rivals:

Rich Rodriguez spurned Alabama to stay at West Virginia (for now), and Greg Schiano turned down Miami to stay at Rutgers. Both of those programs seem to be where Louisville was a year ago: Seemingly on the rise with a firm grasp on their sizzling hot head coaches. See how quickly things can change?

College Hoops: Who's No. 1? Who cares? UNC beat FSU last night, which should lift them directly up from No. 2 to the No. 1 spot. I'm still not convinced that UNC is better than Florida, given the evidence of their head-to-head games versus Ohio State: UNC barely survived (at home, with the Buckeyes playing without Greg Oden), and the Gators won by 26 (at home, with the Buckeyes playing with Oden). Doesn't anyone else think that UNC is a little young to be No. 1? But in this wacky season of more parity (certainly earlier) than I can ever remember, No. 1 doesn't mean much. (Latest Parity Watch: Syracuse beats Marquette.)

Congrats to Cal Tech, which snapped an 11-year, 207-game losing streak in Division 3 hoops by absolutely destroying Bard (NY) College, 81-52. Where the hell did THAT rout come from, and how bad must Bard be?

MLB Hot Stove: Randy Johnson agrees to 2Y/$26M deal with the D'backs. Let's get to the trade already, so we can start the feverish speculation of when the Yankees will sign Roger Clemens.

From today's USA Today Sports Media column: ESPNU is going to use my former colleague Bill Simmons as a guest-commentator on two college hoops games in the next two weeks. Very interesting!

I'm curious about the depth of his role in the broadcast. And is this a signal that BSG will become the Tony Kornheiser of ESPNU college hoops broadcasts?

Maybe they will add him to the College GameDay mix (though I can't imagine that Bilas, Digger or Rece would appreciate that Bill would be a bigger on-campus star than any of them)?

And will they ever let Bill crash an NBA telecast on ESPN, where he would REALLY add some value?

BCS Title Game Preview: Game Day! Full post coming around midday, where we can have it out over our pre-game analysis for the rest of the day. Here's a great recap of the improbability of Florida's place in this title game from the NYT's Pete Thamel (for my money, the best college football newspaper writer in the country)

Consider the way the Gators defy conventional wisdom about what makes a CFB champ contender: (1) No reliable true RB, (2) atrocious kicking game, (3) second-to-last in yards penalized, (4) top NFL prospect kicked off the team mid-season.

-- D.S.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday 01/07 A.M. Quickie:
Tony Romo: From Hero to Goat

Update: Feel free to add your live-comments off the NFL Wild Card games today in the Comments section. Meanwhile...

Romo's Blunder Ends Cowboys Season in Playoff Shocker
: So the biggest question, of course, coming out of the Cowboys' shocking playoff loss in Seatte is...

Will Carrie Underwood still want to be with Tony Romo now that he's one of the biggest NFL playoff chumps/chokers of the decade?

It seems fitting – even poetic (and certainly ironic) – that the Pro Bowl QB whose meteoric rise from backup to rockstar(ter) was one of the biggest stories of the season ended up botching what should have been Dallas' "automatica" win.

But now, Romo isn't defined by his underdog story, by his super season or by his much-hyped romances. He's "be-hold-en" to chokery.

Colts beat Chiefs: Wow, Peyton Manning kind of sucks, doesn't he? If he throws three picks vs. the Ravens, the Colts won't win.

(But why do I get the feeling that this is precisely the kind of Colts team, with few expectations, that could actually win the AFC title?)

NFL Today: Giants-Eagles, Jets-Pats. Living in NYC, there's no way I can escape it today, can I? (Of the four teams, I'm rooting for the Eagles. How amazing would it be if Philly somehow rallied its way to the NFC title behind Jeff Garcia?)

College Hoops Parity Watch: Pac-10 Mania! Oregon beats No. 1 UCLA. Washington State tops No. 7 Arizona. (I don't get it: Is the Pac-1o this amazing or is it simply this overrated?)

And by the way, does anyone have the YouTube clip for Deron Washington's nuts-to-chin dunk on Duke's utterly unlikeable Greg Paulus, during VA Tech's upset win over Duke yesterday? I think I'm too early to find it. AHH! Here it is. An absolute must-see.

(I predict it's going to be the most YouTubed college hoops moment of the week, thanks to the magical equation of: "Nuts-over-Chin" leap + Duke + Duke losing + Duke's most hated player = Video Gold.)

BCS Title-Game Ramp-Up: God, this wait is interminable. And I don't just think that's because I'm a fan of one of the two teams. So far, the biggest story of the CFB national-title game is that they've completely effed up the rhythm of the season by setting this game off so far from the rest of the major bowl schedule.

With all that said, are the Gators still expected to get crushed by mighty Ohio State? Fine, I'll take it. I love it that way. I'm trying to figure out just precisely where – aside from the kicking game – OSU has such a substantial advantage. QB? RB? WR? OL? DL? LB? DBs?

I'm just not seeing it, and I'm just not sure why everyone is underrating Florida. (And you know I'm the first one to bring up that Florida has, at times this season, looked mediocre. But with their best game of the season – the SEC title game – in most recent memory (and with a month to get healthy and prepare), I still like their chances.

Fresh off his superb, eclipse-Quinn performance in the Sugar Bowl, LSU QB JaMarcus Russell is reportedly turning pro early. I think he's in the mix to be the first QB taken (ahead of Quinn and Brohm, if he jumps), a lock first-rounder and potentially a Top 5 pick.

NBA: Frankly, all I've been consuming this weekend, NBA-wise, is the post-party info from Gilbert Arenas' birthday bash. Start here and use it to work your way backward.

(Gilbert is my favorite NBA player -- and I'm no bandwagoneer -- but I have to wonder when the backlash will start. No single player can stay this universally popular for long in this day and age, right? It's going to be interesting to watch the process, because he is obviously the consensus favorite choice of sports bloggers, whose preferences tend to trickle down to mainstream media, which influences the fans.)

Condolences to family, friends and fans of USC kicker Mario Danelo, found dead at the bottom of a cliff in what appears to be a tragic accident.

-- D.S.