Saturday, November 10, 2007
They will not be ranked in the Top 2 again this season. They lost -- at home -- to an unranked team, with a clear path to the BCS title game. OSU fans can talk about "beating Michigan" next week, winning the Big Ten, going to the Rose Bowl -- but it just isn't the same.
Meanwhile, what a win for Illinois: You have to put Ron Zook in contention for Coach of the Year after this hugest of program-defining wins. What a great win for the Zooker, for Illinois, for Isiah Williams -- and for college football.
Will it be LSU and Oregon in the Top 2? Or will Kansas pull off a win tonight and, as the lone remaining unbeaten team among BCS-conference teams, finally get into the Top 2? (Or will KU feel the heat at Oklahoma State and get tagged with their first loss?)
What a season this has been.
CFB Games I'm Watching/Tracking Today (thank you, GamePlan): Michigan-Wisconsin, Arkansas-Tennessee, Illinois-Ohio State, Auburn-Georgia, Kansas-Oklahoma State and, of course, Florida-South Carolina. Rooting for that insane three-road-win SEC East parlay...
Yao vs. Yi in China: Want to know why David Stern, LeBron, Nike, ESPN and everyone else is so obsessed with China? Because in all likelihood, more people watched the game between Yao's Rockets and Yi's Bucks than watched the last four Super Bowls...combined.
A-Rod Watch: Joe Torre says he's open to A-Rod joining the Dodgers. I think this kind of public statement (along with the Dodgers' unique capacity to handle A-Rod's salary requirements) instantly makes L.A. the front-runner to sign A-Rod.
I think it will come down to the Angels and the Dodgers, which will make Scott Boras happy: When two teams from the same market battle, there is a zero-sum outcome that will naturally drive his price up.
NBA: Yes, the Celtics are the NBA's best team, and they have the unbeaten record (the last unbeaten record in the league) to prove it. Sure, you could question their schedule softness so far, but the Hawks are an up-and-coming team (that beat the Suns, no less), and the Celtics just destroyed them.
P.S.: Remember in August when I put Tim Tebow at No. 2 on my Heisman Watch list, and everyone mocked me? While I'm not going to bust out the "Told you so" about Ohio State, I don't mind doing it about Tebow. Yesterday was arguably his best game yet: 5 rushing TDs and 120 rushing yards, 2 passing TDs and a career-best 304 passing yards. 7 total TDs. 424 total yards. Wow. No question: He's a system QB -- a bulkier Alex Smith -- but you can not be a Tebow fan but still respect the way he's executing that system.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Today's Names To Know: Pat White, Brian Brohm, Pats vs. Bye,
College Preview and Picks: BCS Watch:
And for those of us desperately hoping for a bank-shot that allows Florida to back into the SEC East title, there are three games to watch: UF at Ol Ball Coach, Auburn at Georgia and Arkansas at Tennessee; we Gators fans need a three-road-win parlay -- no easy feat.
2 LSU over LA Tech (BCS-points killer)
8 BC over
19 Auburn over 10
11 VA Tech over
17 USC over
21 Clemson over
23 Penn State over
CFB Last Night:
(Pat White might not be on the Heisman radar anymore, but I'm not sure there's a more mesmerizing player in college football, with the possible exception of Percy Harvin. Meanwhile, Brian Brohm did nothing do hurt his status as the No. 1 QB of next spring's NFL draft – and possibly the No. 1 overall player taken.)
NFL Preview and Picks: This week's Top Storylines. The only thing that can stop the Patriots is... the Bye Week. Next thing you know, Don Shula will be claiming that because the Pats couldn't beat the Bye, they technically didn't go undefeated. But that's because Shula is a senile crank.
1. Adrian Peterson's Encore
2. Dallas-NY battle for NFC East
3. Fins, Rams Oh-Fer Watch
4. Are Saints Revitalized?
5. Titans-Jags: Playoff consequences?
At Packers over Viking
Jaguars over at Titans
At Chiefs over Broncos
At Dolphins over Bills
At Saints over Rams
At Steelers over Browns
At Redskins over Eagles
At Panthers over Falcons
At Ravens over Bengals
Bears over at Raiders
Cowboys over at Giants
Lions over at Cards
Colts over at Chargers
At Seahawks over 49ers
Finally, will Clinton Portis' return to characters – "Choo-Choo" the dance instructor – inspire the Redskins for a season-ending run? Let's all hope so. The world needs more Clinton Portis characters.
NBA: David Stern makes a big threat. If
NBA Last Night: The Mavs beat the Warriors... oh, look at that: It was a game that didn't matter. Where was that win last spring in the playoffs? (I have broken my ban not to talk about the Mavs until after they get out of the first round of the playoffs, because of the natural post-script to last year's playoff debacle that yesterday's win should have reminded all fans of.)
Hey, look at that: The Bulls finally won a game. Maybe they shouldn't be so quick to dangle Tyrus Thomas as trade bait after his best game as a pro: 19 points and 14 rebounds in a win over the rival Pistons (who got 36 from Rasheed). Meanwhile, the Wizards are still winless. Yikes: This is the Worst. Example of the Quickie Curse. Ever.
College Hoops: If UConn is going to rebound from last year's disappointing season, they'll need a huge year from AJ Price. Price had a career-high 24 in last night's win over
NASCAR: Sam Hornish joins parade of Indy Car racers to move to NASCAR. Be interesting to see how he does once he makes a full transition. For those of you who recognize that NASCAR numbers define drivers more than any jersey number in any other sport, Hornish will wear No. 77 for Penske and his lead sponsor will be Mobil.
MLB Hot Stove: A-Rod is reportedly going to start meeting with owners of teams courting him. If you were an owner, what would you ask A-Rod? How about: "Would you make your $30 million contingent on our team winning a World Series?"
(Meanwhile, I love the little rumor that GMs are colluding to keep A-Rod's price down. Hell: They should! But, ultimately, they will do what makes the most economic sense for their team, whether that means overpaying or passing. If they all were smart and NO ONE bid on him, the price would naturally come down. One team would come out with a bargain over the others – Prisoner's Dilemma, anyone? – which will eff up the process, but it's interesting. What if they all said: NO THANKS.)
Finally, in the hottest part of the Hot Stove, is Johan Santana on the trading block? If the Yankees could get him, it would be worth trading any of their Big Three young pitching prospects. I would even say TWO of the three. (For Santana? SANTANA?! Totally.)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Today's Names to Know: Gardner Webb, Adrian Peterson, Chris Henry, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Al Horford, Deron Williams, Mike Modano and More!
Be honest If Tubby Smith had still been UK's coach and lost to Garner Webb – Gardner Webb – he would have been fired this morning.
New coach Billy Gillispie gets a little more wiggle room in only his second game, but it can't possibly be comfortable right now. This ain't losing to Tennessee or Florida.
For the record, Gardner Webb was 9-21 last year, with a stirring 7th place finish in the mighty Atlantic Sun Conference.
(Hell, no more jokes about either Gardner Webb or the Atlantic Sun: Not when they can waltz into
But one can only imagine how Ashley Judd is feeling this morning. No, seriously, take a few minutes and imagine....
NFL: More on Adrian Peterson, in a must-read from Darren Rovell.
NFL: Chris Henry was involved in ANOTHER problem? Ironically, it was right before his 8-game suspension was supposed to be lifted. It's like spitting in the face of the parole board the night before your release from prison.
Looks like Roger Clemens is ready to retire: His agent told the Astros that he wants to pursue his personal-services deal with the team. Presumably, if the Astros were contenders next season, Clemens would contemplate coming out of retirement (for a price, of course).
MLB Hot Stove: Is Tom Glavine going back to the Braves? That would be kind of cool, actually.
A-Rod Watch: The Angels admit they are interested, and simultaneously somewhere else in
The Yankees' new Boss makes a statement: Hammerin' Hank says that the Yankees' "Big Three" of young pitching (Chamberlain, Hughes, Kennedy) are untouchable in trades. What a difference a generation makes.
Meanwhile, this week's BlogPoll Top 25 analysis was posted by BlogPoll executive Brian Cook of the great MGoBlog and AOL Fanhouse.
Reminder: Head on over to my blog at coachoftheyear.com (a special partnership between me and the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award) and have your say as the LMCOY race heads into its final stretch. Do you agree with my assessment that Mark Mangino should be leading the race right now? Go to the LMCOY blog and leave a comment.
NBA Wrap: Hey, maybe the Hawks' solid preseason WAS foreshadowing of a team on the rise.
Meanwhile, the Celtics' Big Three is every bit as good (and dominant) as fans had thought (even expected) them to be. Another night, another win. Plus: Deron Williams is
Durant Watch: 17 points on 3/17 FG shooting (ouch!) and yet another Sonics loss. Good thing it's not about the wins and losses this year for
NHL Milestone Watch: Mike Modano breaks the all-time scoring record for US-born players. I'm still trying to figure out how/why this matters, aside from highlighting that hockey isn't really a
Strat-O-Matic '86 Update: No game last night. Series resumes against the Cardinals tonight.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Today's Names to Know: Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Don Shula, MLB Replay, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Guillen, Matt Williams, Paul Byrd, Peja and Paul, Kevin Durant,
NFL Midseason Awards: These are as obvious as the fact that the Pats are en route to another Super Bowl title, whether it's 19-0 or otherwise. There's a certain comfort to this much dominance:
MVP: Tom Brady
Rookie: Adrian Peterson
Coach: Mike McCarthy/Romeo Crennel
Must-Read: Matt Ufford's guest-post over at Free Darko about Peterson.
As far as awards go, it would be more interesting to debate the runner-up for MVP (Brett Favre?) and Rookie (Marshawn Lynch?).
Don Shula is a crank: As if you didn't have enough reason to disdain the 1972 Dolphins, their coach Don Shula said a perfect season by the Pats would be "tainted" by their cheating scandal. Ridiculous.
Roger Goodell won't reduce Pac-Man Jones' suspension: Because Pac-Man is JUST that big of a fool.
MLB GM Meetings: Replay rules. The GMs have recommended that baseball adopt a limited instant replay system on boundary calls, mainly related to home runs. I'm all for replay, so this is a start. Now, it's just up to the owners to approve it (along with the players' and umps' unions). Let's hope no one pulls out the "slippery slope" argument.
MLB Hot Stove: If the Marlins are shopping Miguel Cabrera, who's buying? (Hmm: The Yankees have a big gaping hole at 3B, but presumably don't want to give up one of their young arms to fill it.)
MLB Scandal Watch: Jose Guillen bought HGH. I can't hear Guillen's name without thinking of the climactic scene in Sam Walker's amazing book "Fantasyland" (which, if you haven't read, is a must-read sports book – one of my Top 5 favorite sports books of all time).
Matt Williams linked to steroids, too: Honestly, at this point, the bigger question is who WASN'T involved?
MLB Free Agency: It isn't nearly as dramatic as the first time, but Curt Schilling signed (re-signed) with the Red Sox, giving the team a veteran presence to go with all that youth... and presumably giving new life to one of the great athlete blogs in sports (certainly the best in baseball).
Meanwhile, the Indians picked up an option on pitcher Paul Byrd, and you have to wonder whether they picked up the option on his now-tainted reputation involving the league's steroid scandal. (His early ALCS performance presumably overrides that.)
NBA Last Night: The Hornets are totally for real, putting up 118 in a 16-point rout of the Lakers. Peja had a team-record 10 3's and Chris Paul had a team-record 21 assists. I think fans and experts underestimated the Hornets in preseason projections.
Meanwhile: Dwight Howard vs. Al Jefferson matched two of the Top 3 young post players in the NBA (and two poster-guys for the absurdity of not allowing players to enter the NBA directly from high school). Howard won the battle and the game, with 28/16.
Kevin Durant Watch: 27 points (11-22 FG), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 turnovers in a 6-point loss to the Kings, dropping the Sonics' record to 0-4. At this rate, they will be in a position to draft high for a complement to Durant in
(It's been a rough start for Big Ten hoops:
CFB: Bill Callahan says he won't resign at
NHL: Eric Lindros expected to retire. Wow, remember when that guy was going to be THE next big thing?
Strat-O-Matic '86 Update: Heart-breaking season-opening loss! I lost my 1986 Cubs season-opener 5-4 on a walk-off pinch-hit single. As expected, my feeble bullpen (before games get to Lee Smith) is going to kill them/me this season. And check out yesterday's bonus post about Strat if you haven't had a chance.
Sports Media: The Basketball Jones rules. If you are an NBA fan and you are not listening to the Basketball Jones podcast every day, you are not an NBA fan. Tas and Skeets are fantastic, and it's the best sports podcast you'll find online. Go to the Basketball Jones to listen, or just subscribe via iTunes and make it easy on yourself.
NYC Readers: Tomorrow night, Varsity Letters returns with another great lineup that features ESPN's Bruce Feldman reading from his new book about college football recruiting, "Meat Market"; Steve Friedman reading from "The Agony of Victory"; and John and Rick Wolff, father and son, reading from "Harvard Boys." It's at 8 p.m. tomorrow night at Happy Ending (302 Broome). As always, it's free. Here is a link to all the info. Hope you can make it.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
When I was growing up, the Chicago Cubs were my favorite sports team. How that came to happen and why my once-diehard fandom atrophied are stories for another time.
But if you subscribe to the idea, as I do, that one's formative years of fandom come roughly between the ages of 11-13, the year 1986 -- when I was 13 -- ranks as one of the biggest fandom years of my life (in addition to being my bar-mitzvah year, but – again – that's a story for another time).
At the same time, I have no problems talking about the fact that I was hugely into Strat-O-Matic baseball during those same formative years. I'd say it probably started when I was 11 and lasted consistently (and obsessively) all the way until I was about 15, unsurprisingly, the long, wretched gap between the start of puberty and when I finally "got" girls.
("Got" meaning "understood," not "got" meaning "got," though "understood" was something I believed at the time, and in hindsight seems incredibly funny, given that I barely understand women now, 20 years later.)
Anyway: Strat-O-Matic. Loved it. Lived it. Some of you might have done the same. It's one of those things that, if you played it, you understand. If you didn't, you just think I'm even more of a tool. That's fine, either way.
Earlier this year, I was approached by The Sporting News' Strat impresario, Bernie Hou, who made me an offer I couldn't accept fast enough: TSN was going to replay the entire 1986 baseball season, through Strat-O-Matic Online, with various "guest managers" running their favorite teams.
I would get to manage my once-beloved Cubs (not unlike Jim Frey, John Vukovich and Gene Michael, who all handled the job that season), perhaps rekindling some of the memories and passions of the 13-year-old me that have undoubtedly been adulterated over the decades since.
Before I checked Baseball Reference, I tried jotting down the starters; I found I still knew them by heart: Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Ron Cey, Shawon Dunston, Keith Moreland, Bob Dernier, Gary Matthews, and – of course – my favorite player of all time, Ryne Sandberg. The pitching was a mess, but I had those names down, too: Rick Sutcliffe, Scott Sanderson, Steve Trout, Dennis Eckersly (as a starter), closer Lee Smith and two young pitchers: Jamie Moyer and 20-year-old Greg Maddux (2-4 in 5 starts with a 5.52 ERA).
The other managers in the league range from the random to the semi-famous to the famous-for-the-sports-blogosphere to the really famous. For example, I am starting the season with a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, coming off their NL pennant year, managed by uber-fan Will Leitch. Most intriguingly, the Strat-head managing the Boston Red Sox is Curt Schilling. (I had Terry Francona on my roster specifically to trade to Schilling, but I had to waive Francona in a roster crunch.)
The premise of the league is totally intriguing: Replay the 1986 season, seeing if things would turn out any differently. That begs a very important question:
Would you even want to?
After all, many (including me) think that the 1986 postseason was the greatest in the sport's history: Red Sox vs. Angels in the ALCS; Mets vs. Astros in the NLCS; then the Mets over the Sox in 7 games in the World Series, including the most famous baseball game of the last half-century, "Game Six."
Still, as far as intellectual exercises go, it's fantastic – and something I'm really excited to be a part of. TSN is really blowing it out: Among other awesome details, they're having actual "beat writers" covering the season as it unfolds. I have included a permanent link to TSN's coverage on the right-hand side, so you can follow the league if you're curious. I'll try to provide regular updates in the a.m. blog post.
Otherwise, here's the link. The season begins this week. Junior high was a pretty bad experience for me (as it probably was for most of you, too), but to be able to go back to this particular year, this particular season and this particular time of my formative development as a fan sounds like the greatest ride I could think of.
Today's Names to Know: Pats-Colts, Ben Roethlisberger, MLB Instant Replay, Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux, Derrick Rose, Dennis Franchione, Jason Terry, Steelers fans and More!
Sports Media: The Pats-Colts game drew the highest TV rating for a Sunday afternoon game since 1987, which is as far back as CBS' records go. This could confirm that Pats-Colts 2007 was not just the Game of the Year in the NFL, but the regular-season Game of the Century (this or last). In an era of extreme consumer fragmentation, this is one of the most remarkable statistics I have seen in a long time.
The Colts deny they artificially create noise in the RCA Dome: Sure they deny it. Wouldn't want to ruin that pristine image by admitting that they cheat. (The NFL cleared the Colts of any chicanery. Of course, the NFL has a vested interest in maintaining the facade that the Colts are the league's golden boys, in contrast to the Pats, who are the new Raiders.)
Steelers thump Ravens: I think
MLB GM Meetings: I can't understand the resistance to instant replay. They're talking about home-run "in-or-out" calls foul-line "in-or-out" calls. That's a start. (They need plays at the plate, but that will never happen.) Regardless, I can imagine this as a clusterf--- waiting to happen, because you know the implementation will be brutal. (Here's my think about instant replay: If it's good enough for the NFL and college football -- and even the NBA, at end of quarters -- then I'm not quite sure how it's not good for MLB.
MLB Hot Stove: Curt Schilling returning to Red Sox? That makes sense. (Plus, he's managing the Red Sox in the Sporting News' Strat-o-Matic recreation of the 1986 season, in which I'm managing the Cubs. Here's a link. The season starts today, and my Cubs begin with a series against their rival St. Louis Cardinals, managed by one of their most prominent fans.)
Greg Maddux IS returning to the Padres: 1Y/$10M, to extend his Hall of Fame career. Get to the ballpark to see this legend while you still can.
College Hoops: The Derrick Rose Era has begun. It will be a one-year stop in
The "official" AP preseason All-America team was announced: Hansbrough, Hibbert, Lofton, Neitzel, Collison. I would agree with Hansbrough and Lofton (and maybe Collison), but I'm not so sure about the rest.
More CFB: I/we will blissfully take a break from analyzing the BCS rankings. (But here is my weekly Deadspin CFB post, if you haven't seen it yet.)
Who will be the CFB Coach of the Year? In the latest week of blog posts I'm creating in partnership with the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award, I make the case for
NBA: Are the Rockets this year's breakout team? In a game against their in-state rivals from
Business: The Steelers may have been bumped from the top as
Monday, November 05, 2007
Today's Names to Know: Adrian Peterson, New England Patriots, Adrian Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Adrian Peterson, Terrell Owens, Adrian Peterson, Ohio State, LSU, Kansas, Navy, Darren McFadden, Lute Olsen, John Russell, Adrian Peterson and More.
Pats dismiss Colts in
Now, the Pats have a clear shot at 16-0, and with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, it would be an upset if they DIDN'T go 19-0. What: Like the Colts are going to be able to beat the Pats in Foxborough in January?
Sure, the Pats didn't win as decisively as they had in the previous 8 weeks. But they beat their closest competitor -- if "closest" or "competitor" have any meaning relative to the Pats this season -- on the road and down late in the game.
UPDATE: Yeah, I missed the most interesting subplot of the game: That the Colts apparently piped in crowd noise. By the way, that's cheating. So let's end the holier-than-thou comparisons between the Colts and the Pats... or the Colts and everyone else.
More NFL: Rookie Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, and he set the single-game rushing record (296 yards) to prove it. (Oh, and he dominated his head-to-head match-up with LaDainian Tomlinson, if that symbolism could be any greater.) He also became the first rookie in NFL history with two 200-yard rushing games.
If you were starting a franchise today and could pick from any player in the league to start your team, there's a very good chance that Peterson would be the No. 1 overall pick -- which makes the fact that he was the No. 7 pick in last year's draft seem kind of strange.
More records: Antonio Cromartie set the NFL record for the longest scoring play in history, 109 yards on a TD run-back of a missed field goal. (And speaking of field goals, Sebastian Janikowski came thisclose to setting a new NFL record with a 64-yard try that hit the post.)
T.O., Cowboys beat Eagles: How nice was it to see that this game really didn't hit the radar, eclipsed by the Colts and Pats. TO had a huge game: 174 yards (on 10 receptions) and a TD.
Welcome back to relevancy, Jamal Lewis: The RB had 4 TDs in the Browns huge OT win over
Speaking of rookie RBs, how about Marshawn Lynch, who did it with his legs AND his arm? (If not for Peterson, Lynch would probably be the leading Rookie of the Year contender.)
CFB BCS Watch:
Meanwhile, it's nice to see
CFB Weekend: That Navy win over Notre Dame was the most thrilling ending of the year. I was standing on my couch, rooting for Navy to pull it off.
My BlogPoll Top 25: I have LSU and
I appreciate that
Heisman Watch: Darren McFadden's candidacy was done, the victim of the Razorbacks' weak start to the season. But he single-handedly lifted himself back to the top with his performance Saturday night: 323 rushing yards, an SEC record. (Three team losses? Who cares?)
My current ballot:
(1) Darren McFadden
(2) Dennis Dixon
(3) Mike Hart
(4) Percy Harvin (yes, over Tim Tebow)
NBA: Ray Allen had 33 and a ton of 3s, including the game-winner in OT, showcasing that on any given night, any one of the Celtics' "Big Three" could explode as the star... Meanwhile, how far behind have the Cavs fallen as an NBA power (if they ever were)? Even without Amare, the Suns still beat them.
CBB: Why has Lute Olsen taken a leave of absence from
MLB: Pirates to hire John Russell as manager. Extra points to any of you whose first reaction was "Who?"
MLB Hot Stove: Do you think anything will happen when the GMs meet in
NYC Marathon: Radcliffe (6 months after having a baby!) and Lel win NYC Marathon, which will always be best-known to most people for the cameo in Seinfeld: "You're all winners!"
Sunday, November 04, 2007
With Boston College losing, the door is open for a new contender to reach the BCS Top Two. The presumption is that Ohio State will be No. 1 (although many -- including me -- don't think they should be there). So who will it be... and who SHOULD it be?
Oregon? LSU? Kansas? Oklahoma? West Virginia?
The list is narrowing, and every one of those six contenders has a red-letter game against a very tough opponent -- including Ohio State, which should make no presumptions about a spot in the BCS until they beat a Michigan team that is seemingly on a mission.
For the record, my top two this week on my BlogPoll ballot will be LSU and Oregon, in that order, with Ohio State at No. 3 and Kansas at No. 4. Like most of the nation, I didn't watch the Buckeyes play, but I did watch both LSU and Oregon and both are better than the Buckeyes.