Saturday, December 01, 2007

CFB: Effing Bedlam! Who's Number 2?

I don't like to swear, but holy shit, it's fucking bedlam in college football. How appropriate, for the craziest season ever.

So: Who would YOU pick as No. 2?

UGA is next in line, based on last week's rankings, but I can't see taking UGA over LSU, either through the BCS' human or computer polls: LSU has the same number of losses, one more win total, better wins overall (tougher schedule) and a conference championship from the SEC.

I think it will be LSU. It's hard to bash them for losing to Arkansas at home last week when they just won the SEC title this week. (If the early comments are any indication, LSU has the inside edge. The ubiquitous BCS "analyst" Jerry Palm has LSU in the title game.)

Oklahoma just beat the No. 1 team in the country, but I can't get over those two decisive losses against unranked opponents. (LSU at least went to multiple OTs against both.)

Don't even say USC: You can't lose at home to a 41-point underdog and deserve to play for the national title, all other factors relatively equal.

Virginia Tech can't get past the clubbing they took from LSU earlier in the season.

Kansas couldn't beat the team Oklahoma beat twice. Hawaii? The perfect season is BCS-bowl-worthy, but hardly national-title-game worthy.

(UPDATE in the A.M.: It's interesting to see what seemed like an insanely confusing situation late last night coalesce this morning around the seeming inevitability of LSU's worthiness and selection ahead of others, like Oklahoma or Virginia Tech or USC, let alone Georgia or Kansas. That's fine for picking two teams to play for the title, but won't stop the "split title" scenario... keep reading below for more on that.)

A note about Ohio State: Congrats, Buckeyes fans. In a season where teams are losing their title shots on the field, it's refreshing to see a team win their title shot off the field, by backing into it like no team in college football history. (Even Oklahoma from a few years ago.)

If it makes OSU-haters feel any better, OSU fans can't possibly feel good about playing another SEC champ in the NCG. Of course, Buckeye fans were awfully confident heading into LAST year's NCG, too. (Presumably, they will display more humility this year.)

It would be entirely appropriate in a season as unprecedentedly insane as this one for OSU to lose in the national title game, likely creating a split national title (see below). No, that's not a prediction... yet.

(Wrapping in the other big story from yesterday, wouldn't it be interesting if the guy who turned down Michigan to stay at LSU showed Michigan what they missed out on by beating Ohio State when it mattered most, with his LSU team? You just KNOW Les Miles hates Ohio State as much as any Michigan man would/should.)

Bottom line: This season won't (and can't) end well. How glorious.

By the way: I think we will have a split champ, unless Ohio State beats whoever they play in the national title game (and I'm through making predictions... at least for now!). Wouldn't it be ironic for LSU to make/win the NCG only to be involved in yet another "split" title?

So if you're the Rose Bowl, do you use your Ohio State "replacement" pick (No. 1 overall) to create a traditional Pac-10/Big Ten matchup (Illinois?) or do you try to generate momentum to position your bowl as a de facto alternative (AP) title game by yoinking, say, Georgia?

(The Rose can't pick Oklahoma, because the Big 12 champ is obligated to go to the Fiesta Bowl if they aren't in the NCG. My understanding is that because Georgia didn't win the SEC, the Sugar isn't guaranteed to have them. I could be wrong. I was so very wrong about West Virginia, wasn't I?)

- D.S.

(PS: Speaking of "backing into it," I think Tim Tebow clinched the Heisman, with the losses of Chase Daniel and Pat White's teams. McFadden has a shot, too. We go from "You've got to invite 4 to NYC!" to "Do we have to have more than 2?")

Saturday 12/01 (Very) Quickie

Who else is bummed that it's the final Saturday of the CFB regular season?

Meanwhile, the Les Miles situation is crazy: Is he staying or going? The latest is that he's staying at LSU, which is an upset, unless you consider how much more cash LSU is willing to pony up than Michigan.

It has to be a slap in the face for Michigan fans. Who's number 2 on their Want list? For LSU, it's fine, but admit that you were intrigued that they might have been able to "trade up."

Meanwhile, it's D-day for the BCS. All eyes on Missouri and West Virginia. More later...

- D.S.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday 11/30 A.M. Quickie:
Favre, Isiah, CFB End, NFL Picks, More

Today's Names to Know: Brett Favre, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Missouri, West Virginia, Redskins, Dolphins, Tom Osborne, Tommy Tuberville, Darren McFadden, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Phil Jackson, Isiah Thomas, OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley and More! TONS to talk about today...

Cowboys beat Packers: The big story is that Brett Favre is hurt (twice: throwing-arm elbow, non-throwing shoulder), putting his consecutive-start streak at risk and putting the Packers' dream season in jeopardy. Adding insult to injury: T.O. has a pretty fun TD celebration, pouring a fan's popcorn into his facemask, and Tony Romo has eclipsed Brett Favre as the NFC's top QB.

Oh, and Dallas got the inside track in the NFC, which – this season – is pretty meaningless. Winning the NFC title will be a little like being the AFC runner-up: Congrats on making it as far as you can possibly go when going up against the inevitability of another team winning the championship, which is what we've got this season.

CFB Weekend Preview and Picks: It's very simple. If Missouri wins, they're in the national title game. And if West Virginia wins, they're in the national title game. If either lose (and Mizzou has a far greater chance of that than WVU), Ohio State is in the national title game.

If both lose... you don't really want to think about that: I have a hard time giving it to a team that didn't even play for its conference title (Georgia, Kansas). I have a hard time giving it to a team that lost to two unranked teams (LSU, Oklahoma). I have a hard time giving it to a team that lost at home to a 41-point underdog (USC). I have a hard time giving it to a team that played the worst schedule in BCS-bowl-participant history (Hawaii). I guess that leaves Virginia Tech, whose two losses were to two teams actually playing for conference titles.

UPDATE: Upon further review, if LSU wins (even over an over-matched Tennessee team), you can't possibly take VT over the team that waxed it head-to-head. People will scream "SEC bias" and the "losing-to-two-unranked-teams" thing still bothers, but an 11-win SEC champ has a pretty strong claim.

See? You really don't want to think about it.

(Good thing it'll be a moot point: West Virginia simply isn't losing at home to Pitt with the national-title on the line. Quickie Curse, be damned. As for Missouri, they nearly beat OU in Norman, and MU QB Chase Daniel is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. And MU-WVU will be one of the most entertaining national-title games of all time.)

The Picks (BCS Implications):
1 Missouri over 9 Oklahoma (Big 12 Title, BCS Clincher)
2 West Virginia over Pitt (BCS Clincher)
6 Virginia Tech over 11 BC (ACC Title)
7 LSU over 13 Tennessee (SEC Title)
8 USC over UCLA (Rose Bowl clincher)
12 Hawaii over Washington (BCS Crasher)

More Top 25 Picks:
13 Arizona State over Arizona
Oregon State over 17 Oregon
19 BYU over San Diego State

Non-Top 25 Bonus:
Central Michigan over Miami-Ohio (MAC)
Central Florida over Tulsa (C-USA)
Navy over Army
Stanford over Cal

NFL Weekend Preview and Picks:
This Week's Top Storyline:
(1) Redskins Grieving: How will they respond?
(2) Dolphins 0-16 Watch: Home vs. 2-win Jets
(3) Pats 19-0 Watch: It will be ugly in Balto.
(4) Game of the Week: Jags at Colts
(5) Star Watch: D. Hester! A. Peterson? K. Smith.

The Picks:
At Titans over Texans
At Colts over Jags
Chargers over at Chiefs
At Rams over Falcons
Jets over at Dolphins
Lions over at Vikings
At Eagles over Seahawks
At Redskins over Bills
49ers over at Carolina
Broncos over at Raiders
Browns over at Cards
At Bears over Giants
At Saints over Bucs
At Steelers over Bengals
Pats over at Ravens

More NFL: Do Packers fans feel better about Aaron Rodgers, after his substitute performance for Favre? 18 of 26 for 201 yards, a TD and zero INTs. He also had 5 rushes for 30 yards. I'm sure the PT was unexpected, but he aquitted himself well, even in a Packers loss.

CFB Coaching Carousel: Tom Osborne names HIMSELF the interim coach. That's one way to handle things. I appreciate the need (recruiting), but wouldn't it be easier just to make the hard decision of naming a real coach? (Far better: I want Osborne to come back and coach the season next year; he'll make Bobby Bowden look involved, which is a trick.)

Meanwhile, is Tommy Tuberville headed for Arkansas? I guess Arkansas is a step-up from Auburn. I guess. What is obvious is that Tuberville is sick of Auburn and Auburn is sick of Tuberville. Staying in the SEC gives him a recruiting boost, one would presume.

Joe Paterno makes $500,000: My first reaction, like many of you... THAT'S ALL?!

Will Darren McFadden turn pro? He would be crazy not to, given his status as the top running back in college football and guaranteed spot in the Top 5 of the draft (No. 1, depending on who is doing the picking.) Given the way teams are regretting not taking Adrian Peterson higher than 7th (7th!) and that McFadden is even better than Peterson, he will go really high. Anyway, McFadden's "I'll wait until the season is over" is nice to say, but this is a done deal.

MLB Hot Stove: Johan Santana to the... Red Sox?! The most shocking part is what little the Red Sox seem to have to give up. Crisp? Lester? A top position-player prospect? Seriously, that's all?!

That would be a robbery, and I'm quite sure the Twins know a deal like that is a quick way to get the Yankees to pony up a better package.

Meanwhile, the Mets say they won't trade Jose Reyes for Santana. Cripes: Of COURSE not. Do you see the Red Sox dangling ANYONE they REALLY value in trying to get Santana? Hell no.

Is Santana more valuable to the Mets than Reyes (or more valuable to the Red Sox than most any position player they currently have)? Probably. But the market price for Santana has been set: And it is NOT a superstar in return.

MLB PED Scandal: HBO to turn "Game of Shadows" into a movie. I think it would make a much better documentary, but if they insist on fictionalizing it, it begs the question: Who plays Barry?

NBA: Phil Jackson staying with the Lakers for 2Y/$24M. You'd think he wouldn't want to stick with the mess in L.A. Perhaps the Lakers want Phil to be the transition between the Kobe Era and the Post-Kobe Era. He will most certainly not win another NBA title. He will, however, make a crapload of moolah.

Celtics obliterate Knicks, 104-59: The score is relevant not just because it is a massive ass-kicking, but because the 45-point win was the Celtics' largest since 1970.

It's a good thing Bill Belichick wasn't coaching THIS Boston team: The Celtics mercifully worked down the clock, rather than humiliate the Knicks further.

Will Isiah be fired... finally? If there was ever a symbolic moment to fire Isiah, this is it. (As symbols go, it also is the biggest one yet representing the Celtics' dramatic single-season turnaround.)

It was one of the Knicks' worst losses ever, but for all intents and purposes, it was the Knicks' worst loss ever -- the nadir of the Isiah Thomas regime.

CBB Last Night: Spotlight on Mayo and Beasley. The USC Mayos, playing at home, beat Oklahoma. (Mayo: 18 points on a team-high 19 shots, though he did score 11 straight points down the stretch; Davon Jefferson, a fellow USC freshman, is stealing Mayo's spotlight: 23 points on 7/12 FG and 9 rebounds.) The Kansas State Beasleys, playing at home, couldn't stop Oregon in OT (Beasley: 24 and 12).

CBB This Weekend: Game of the Weekend (Sunday): Texas at UCLA... Game of the Weekend (Saturday): Indiana at Southern Illinois... UNC at Kentucky could be ugly for the home fans... Michigan vs. Harvard is, like, the most awkward game of the year, wouldn't you say?

CFB Last Night: Louisville ends their disappointing regular season with an impressive finish: The Cardinals scored the final 17 points to come back and beat rival Rutgers, 41-38, in a game worthy of its preseason expectations. Brian Brohm was hardly dominant, but the Louisville run game was, rushing for 240 yards (to Rutgers' 153) with 4 TDs.

Coming Monday: A bold new experiment in Commenting. (Intrigued, Commenter "Regulars?" See you Monday.)

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday 11/29 A.M. Quickie:
Miles, Plus-One, Young, Howard, More!

Today's Names to Know: Les Miles, Cowboys-Packers, "Plus One," Rutgers-Louisville, Greg Robinson, Delmon Young, Matt Garza, Dwight Howard, Tim Tebow, Mark Murphy, Erin Andrews, Tim Raines, Sean Taylor and More.

LSU will let Michigan talk to Les Miles: I believe this is end-game. I think that the deal will be done by early next week. That's just speculation, given the realities of recruiting and the whole "if you don't want to be here, we don't want you here" thing. (Brian Cook from MGoBlog feels the same way.)

That, plus LSU will have to start their own coaching search, and that's where it gets interesting. I said it last week: I think, right now, LSU has become a better (if far tougher) coaching gig than Michigan. Which coaches might be lured by the Bayou? How about Rich Rodriguez? Steve Spurrier? Bobby Petrino?

Cowboys-Packers play in NFC Game of the Year tonight: Supposedly. How would you know, if you can't watch it because it's on the NFL Network? What a debacle when the conference's best game of the year -- and the NFL Network's best game in its short history -- is not widely available nationally. Pick: Cowboys. (Complete NFL picks coming tomorrow, as usual.)

BCS won't have a playoff, but a "plus-one" might happen eventually (via USA Today): I would like to see a playoff as much as the next fan (despite my firm belief that college football's regular season IS a de facto playoff system, unique in all of sports). But let me be clear:

The "Plus-One" system is a TERRIBLE idea that solves NOTHING. Take last season: What would you do – make Florida play Ohio State... again? And this season will be even more of a mess, which I will get into once the bowl lineup is set. But you can already see it:

If you think it's hard to pick two teams to play for the title now, try picking two more teams after the myriad possibilities of results AFTER the bowls.

The only way it could possibly work is if two existing BCS bowls, rotating on an annual basis, matched 1-vs-4 and 2-vs-3, with the winners meeting in the Plus-One title game.

Problem 1: How do you determine the Top 4? Through the BCS formula? That formula can barely get 1-vs-2 right. Selection Committee? Eh. That works best when you're picking 30 at-large teams, not 4.

Problem 2: Particularly in a season like this, how would you fairly determine 4 teams when there are at least 8 in that conversation?

The Plus-One only seems to work in those rare seasons when, after the bowls, there is a clear-cut pair of teams you'd like to see play for the title. The most common example is 2003, when LSU and USC split the title. Great: 1 out of X years, the Plus-One makes sense. Do it!

Luckily, it's a moot point: I don't think the Pac-10 or Big Ten would EVER go for a "Plus-One" model, just like they will never go for a more traditional playoff system. I dog both for their stodginess, but in this case, they're right to reflexively gag at the Plus-One.

(You know, for all of its flaws, the regular season DID manage to get the list of consensus contenders down to a mere THREE, with national -- perhaps continental U.S. -- consensus that if Missouri and WVU both win, they are the obvious choices for the title game.)

CFB Tonight: Rutgers-Louisville. This was supposed to be a HUGE game. Both teams were supposed to be Big East contenders -- if not BCS national-title contenders. Now, it's merely a chance for Rutgers to follow-up last year's program-making win over Louisville with another, something to build on for next year...

And the chance for Louisville to partially salvage an otherwise dreadful season. If Louisville loses, will first-year UL coach Steve Kragthorpe lose his job? Let's keep the focus on one-time Heisman contenders Brian Brohm and Ray Rice, both of whom will do just fine in the NFL Draft next spring.

CFB Coaching Carousel: In a nice change of pace, Syracuse WON'T fire Greg Robinson. They'll just wait until next year, because firing after four years seems a little less unseemly than firing after three. Won't get them to respectability any faster.

Meanwhile, Nebraska is reportedly down to Turner Gill and Bo Pelini: After initially coming out against Gill, I switched and now I'm supporting his hire. Doesn't Gill have more head-coaching experience than Pelini? Pelini was a fine D-coordinator at LSU... of course, not-so-fine if you factor in the way his D was torched by McFadden and Co. last weekend. Let's let the Gill Era begin. (That's my prediction of who gets the job.)

MLB Hot Stove: Delmon Young traded to the Twins. He's a huge talent (and a huge head-case), and -- if you factor in cost and age -- he more than makes up for Torii Hunter's departure.

(From the Rays' perspective, they get another promising young arm, which can't hurt. Garza joining top draft pick David Price instantly makes the Rays' rotation stronger.)

But the real question on everyone's mind is: What does this mean for the Johan Santana deal?

(Yes, yes: Francisco -- not Chad -- Cordero. Fixed. Removed. Whatever. You can stop sending emails and comments now. Come on: Would you expect anything less from me?)

NBA Stud: Dwight Howard scores a career-high 39, with 16 rebounds, and the Magic rout the Sonics. You know: I was WAY too quick to fold in the face of the "LeBron as MVP" pressure. (I picked LeBron as my MVP two seasons ago, so I hardly need to establish my cred as someone who values LeBron as MVP-worthy.)

I'm back to sticking with my original "if the season ended today, Dwight Howard is my MVP."

And if you were starting a team from scratch and had your pick of ANY player in the NBA to build your team around (taking out marketing need as a factor), LeBron might be No. 1, but Howard would be 1B. Scariest of all: Howard still barely knows how to play.

Speaking of LeBron, he sprained his left index finger in a loss to the Pistons in Detroit and had to leave the game. The last time he was in Detroit, if you remember, he put on the greatest performance of his young career.

Heisman Watch: There's still plenty of time for Chase Daniel or Pat White to come from behind, but all early indications seem to point to a Tim Tebow Heisman. You can hate Florida (or hate that I love Florida) or hate Tebow's "golden boy" aura, but you have to admit that a sophomore (finally) winning the award would be kind of cool.

Northwestern AD Mark Murphy to lead Packers: In all the hoopla over the college football coaching carousel, how about the AD carousel? There's a fantastic post about this on the best (and only) Northwestern football blog, Lake the Posts. Here's an update post from today. Even if you don't care about NU, it's pretty fascinating.

CBB: Big Ten continues to get crushed by ACC in "Challenge" (ironic quotes required). UNC wins, BC wins. (Big Ten notches two wins last night with Michigan State and Penn State.)

Erin Andrews, America's Sexiest Sportscaster, as determined by Playboy. I think she's qualified as "hot for female sports reporter," but she is a phenomenon – leveraging her popularity on college campuses to become arguably the most popular female talent in sports. Yet another title for the Florida Gators, by the way.

Tim Raines for Baseball Hall of Fame: Baseball Prospectus is leading a "Rock the Vote" campaign, and I'm so in.

Sean Taylor Update: Police said they have no evidence to indicate the robbery and shooting was anything but random, making the mainstream sports media's coverage on Monday, focusing on Taylor's past and insinuating he had it coming (and mostly fuzzying the actual story that a guy was critically wounded), all the more disgraceful.

-- Dan Shanoff

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday 11/28 A.M. Quickie:
Taylor, Nutt, Turley, LeBron, Helio, More!

Today's Names to Know: Sean Taylor, Houston Nutt, Walter Camp, South Florida, Ricky Williams, Kyle Turley, Bill Willis, Michael Vick, Miguel Cabrera, LeBron, Robert Cade, Helio Castroneves and More!

RIP Sean Taylor, Cont'd: The story remains the top of sports-fans' minds, with very little sense to be made of it all. I'll stick to one superficial thing:

There is rumor that the Redskins will open on defense against the Bills with only 10 players, as a tribute to Taylor. That seems like as nice and fitting a moment as an NFL team can create on the field.

CFB Coaching Carousel: Houston Nutt in at Ole Miss, and he's going to be paid twice what Ed Orgeron was paid... and that's just to start. I could see Nutt being more successful than Coach O (not a high bar), and he's got transfer QB Jevon Snead for a couple of years to build on.

Meanwhile, Kirk Ferentz will not be moving to Michigan, contrary to rumors. Les Miles is still your clubhouse leader.

CFB Awards Season: The Camp Player of the Year finalists are Daniel, McFadden, Tebow, Dixon and Ryan. I think it'll be Tebow, with Daniel the dark-horse IF he has the game of his life in a win over Okla. McFadden is also a worthy choice.

CFB Bowling: South Florida – the sensation of the season early on and the only team to beat West Virginia – will be going to the Sun Bowl. Meanwhile, UConn will go to the Meineke Bowl in Charlotte.

Is USC going to play home games at the Rose Bowl next season? That's one way to ensure your team goes to the Rose Bowl. (No, seriously: How special could a trip to the Rose Bowl be in January if you played there 8 times during the regular season?)

Ricky Williams Watch: That was fast. Ricky is out for the rest of the season, making that oh-so-clever/get-you-into-the-playoffs waiver-wire pickup last week a huge dud.

NFLPA vs. NFLPA Alumni: Active players are making donations from their December 23 paychecks to the alumni fund. (Let's leave for a second the travesty that this is a necessary step at all.) I hope more players follow the lead of Kyle Turley, who is donating his entire payday.

Here's a must-read: Lion In Oil has a great post about Turley's effort on this front.

Packers to hire Northwestern AD Mark Murphy as Team President? That's the rumor. Make jokes about NU's athletics (outside of football and hoops, by the way, NU is arguably one of the Top 20 athletic programs in the country) or my quote-unquote "iffy" allegiance (bunk), but I am a huge fan of Murphy's. He's as smart as any college AD in the country, insanely credentialed and the perfect guy to lead a franchise as iconic as the Packers. Good luck to him, and I hope the next guy NU brings in can match the success in the non-revenue sports to football and hoops.

RIP Bill Willis, 86: A Hall of Fame guard with the Browns and Ohio State's first African-American All-American. I leave it to the substantial Buckeyes contingent who reads the blog to provide some extra analysis on Willis' life and career.

Vick Trial: The state trial will start in April. Book that vacation now to avoid having to deal with the media circus.

MLB Hot Stove: Is Miguel Cabrera headed to the Angels? Say this for LAA: They are pulling out all the stops to compete with Boston and New York. They might not have signed A-Rod, but to get Torii Hunter and Miggy Cabrera to hit next to Vlad Guerrero is plenty bold.

MLB PED Scandal: George Mitchell's report will come before the end of the year, making it either a really crappy holiday season for Bud Selig and the rest or a really terrible New Year's. (Or, alternatively, the report is buried during the distracting holidays.)

CBB: More ACC dominance over the Big Ten in their "Challenge." (Irony-signalling quote-marks now required.) Duke destroyed Wisconsin by 24. Clemson beat Purdue. Florida State beat Minnesota. Virginia absolutely destroyed Northwestern. In the annual one-game anomaly: Indiana edged Georgia Tech.

NBA Stud: LeBron had 38 and the Cavs beat the Celtics. OK, so maybe all that "if the season ended today, Dwight Howard would be the MVP" talk from me yesterday was a bit kneejerk-contrarian. I have seen the Cavs play in person -- besides LeBron, they are terrible not that great. There is no player more valuable than LBJ.

Kevin Durant Watch: Scored 25 in a loss to the Lakers. It was Seattle's 5th loss in a row and the 2-13 start is the team's worst start ever. Kobe had 35; hope Durant was paying attention.

RIP to Dr. Robert Cade, 80, famous for inventing Gatorade and thus sparking a sports and pop-cultural phenomenon that would include the myth of Michael Jordan, the NFL "Gatorade bath" and the entire "sport-drink" fad of the last decade. If you wanted to impact sports and culture, there are worse legacies to leave behind.

"Dancing with the Stars" finale: The jocks continue to dominate. Helio Castroneves won the comp, making him the second straight athlete to win (Apolo Ohno won last season, Emmitt Smith won the season before, Jerry Rice was the runner-up the season before that.)

The athletes have created a "Dancing" dynasty – if you're a sports fan and you wagered before the season began on a winner simply because they were the athlete in the bunch whose name you recognized, collect your prize. (If you're gambling on DWTS, alas, you have other problems.)

Follow-up point on a specific Taylor meme: Any angry talk (presumably from Broncos fans) about "What about Darrent Williams?" needs to cool off. No one is saying Darrent Williams' death -- murder -- wasn't a tragedy and wasn't remembered. Sean Taylor's death can be one of the more tragic in sports in "recent memory" without excluding Williams, and I don't need to name-check Williams in a post about Taylor just to prove it. A total focus on Taylor yesterday was hardly inappropriate.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday 11/27 A.M. Quickie:
Sean Taylor, Johan, Sherman, Caron, More

Today's Names to Know: Sean Taylor, Johan Santana, 3-0, Ricky Williams, Houston Nutt, Mike Sherman, Bobby Petrino, Caron Butler, Beno Udrih, Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2008 and More!

UPDATE: RIP Sean Taylor, Cont'd: If one detail about Sean Taylor's death has stuck with me -- and, no question, this is simply my personal filtering of the story -- it is that Taylor's daughter is the same age as my son, 18 months. I presume Taylor was as devoted to her as I am to mine. I can only imagine his horror at the thought of an intruder in his house, of his daughter (and his fiancee) in mortal danger. I cannot possibly imagine -- nor, frankly, do I want to -- her life without her father. If death is ultimately about the survivors, my thoughts and prayers for the future are -- more than anyone -- with his little girl.

Sean Taylor is Dead: Thoughts, prayers and condolences for his family, friends and fans in one of the more swift and stunning tragedies the sports world has experienced in recent memory.

We think of NFL players as being larger-than-life... real-life Supermen. When they are victims in something as violent and ultimately fatal as a shooting, it really rattles fans in a way that few other incidents involving (or against) athletes can.

Anyway: There is very little consolation to offer at a moment of such tragedy. If you are a Redskins fan or a University of Miami fan who rooted for him more deeply or directly than the rest of us, you have our condolences. To his family and friends, only sincere sympathy at what will undoubtedly be a brutal grieving process.

UPDATE: Gatorade inventor Robert Cade is dead at 80. More on this tomorrow. Here's one of my favorite TV ads from the past year, as a tribute.

Johan Santana to... the Yankees? You KNEW the Yankees had to be players, just as you knew that all that talk about Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain being "untouchable" was bunk, if the right player came along -- say, the greatest pitcher in baseball in the prime of his career. If the Yankees got Santana, to go along with A-Rod, that gives them a 1-2 punch of the best pitcher and best hitter, both on one team.

MNF: Worst. Game. Ever? It is arguable that a 0-0 tie through 59 minutes and 43 seconds would have some ring of novelty, particularly when one of the participating teams is on pace for the worst season in history -- with a chance to either win (or even tie)... or continue the streak of futility. After all, the NFL hadn't seen a scoreless game go that long in more than six decades.

But, no: This game must have been absolutely brutal to watch. (I certainly didn't.) It does beg the question whether any game could be that bad when the outcome isn't decided until the game's final seconds.

It depends: In a highlight-driven culture, do you value games you are only tangentially following more for their dramatic endings or their end-to-end ebbs and flows?

(I will say this: For Dolphins fans, apparently, it can get worse. This result was a new low in a season where rock bottom has become a moving target. It's almost fun: How will the Fins find a way to lose next?)

Ricky Williams Watch: 6 rushes, 15 yards, 1 shoulder injury.

National Anthem Scandal: Because of the bad weather, they did not play the National Anthem before the Steelers-Dolphins game. Reportedly, there was no negative reaction from fans, which is curious, if only because playing the Anthem before sports events is such an ingrained part of our culture. I guess "get the game going already, in this nasty effing weather" trumps nationalism.

CFB Coaching Carousel: Arkansas' Houston Nutt resigns, which – despite seeing this coming from before the season – seemed strange, given that he just produced what was arguably the single finest win in the SEC this season.

I could see Nutt getting a gig quickly, perhaps even in the SEC at Ole Miss? He's a bit of a freak, and the Rebels are already coming off of four freaky years of Ed Orgeron.

Meanwhile, is Nebraska still talking about Turner Gill? (Shakes head. I got a lot of email yesterday from Nebraska fans agreeing that while Gill is one of the program's favorite sons, he isn't necessarily the ideal hire.)

Now, I'm all for increasing minority hiring among head coaches in college football – long overdue and desperately needed – but if you're putting a guy like Gill in a position where he's near-guaranteed to fail, that doesn't help anyone.

However: The appropriate response to the above statement would be to note that Sylvester Croom was also seemingly put in a position to fail, without any head-coaching experience, and he turned Mississippi State into a 7-win, bowl-eligible team that is one of the great success stories of the season -- and one of the great college football turnaround jobs of the decade.

There's another analogue that might pop up: Northwestern promoted then-32-year-old Pat Fitzgerald (like Gill, arguably his program's most beloved player ever) to head coach despite essentially zero experience. The big difference: That was Northwestern, which could afford to take a flier on a young coach; this is Nebraska, where -- despite recent problems -- fans still expect 9-plus wins a year and being competitive for the Big 12 title...right NOW and perpetually.

Viewed through those lenses, why not Gill? Hey, after Callahan, Nebraska can't do worse. OK, I have just convinced myself that Turner Gill would be a good hire. Perhaps it is Nebraska's shaky hiring record in the post-Osborne Era that has me thinking that anyone they are targeting can't be particularly good, regardless of experience level or any other factor.

Mike Sherman unveiled as Texas A&M head coach: I said this yesterday. Even with his college experience as an assistant, he is totally unprepared for the unique rigors of college football, in a way that many/most NFL head coaches are unprepared, if they haven't ever been a college head coach (particularly in the last 10 years, as recruiting has become WAY more of a sport than the games themselves).

(Tying the above two items together: TAMU is under fire for only interviewing Sherman, and not even attempting the perception of a diverse hiring process. Sometimes, the point of diversity in the process is not to actually hire minorities, but simply to give minority candidates the chance to go through the interview process, giving them good experience for future job opportunities. In a sport with as wretched a minority hiring history – and reality – as college football, a more open process wouldn't have been too much to ask from the Aggies.)

Does Bobby Petrino want out? Speaking of the transition from college to the NFL (or vice versa), Bobby Petrino's name came up, as it will for every major college coaching job between now and the day he actually leaves the Falcons for a major college coaching job (which he absolutely will, inevitably). Coaching the Falcons has sucked; his Louisville program, polished for a national title run, imploded without him. I can't see him leaving for any of the jobs currently open. But if, say, Les Miles goes to Michigan, would Petrino leave the NFL for LSU? I would if I was him.

More: Georgia Tech fires Chan Gailey... Duke fires Ted Roof... Southern Miss' Jeff Bower resigns... In a nice change of pace, Indiana gave interim coach Bill Lynch a deal through 2011, after he took over for the late Terry Hoeppner.

Coach of the Year: Today is your last day to vote in the first stage of the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award. After today, the Top 25 list goes to an expert panel (not me, btw) that will use a set of criteria (on and off the field) to pick the Top 10 finalists, which fans and experts will then vote on throughout December. Check out the voting at, and while you're there, check out the blog I have been filing for them all season long in a special partnership between and the LMCOY Award.

New Deadspin CFB column, out yesterday: Two corrections. (1) Add Virginia Tech to the list of teams worth considering if both Mizzou and West Virgina lose (Which. Won't. Happen.) (2) Darren McFadden had the best REGULAR-SEASON performance by an individual player I have seen in the last decade; the best performance, period, came from Vince Young in the national title game against USC. (Parsing? Yes. But that is how I've always rolled.)

NBA: I will lift my ban on talking about the Mavs long enough to point out that the Arenas-free Wizards hung the first home loss on Dallas of the season (and 3rd straight overall), behind 35 from Caron Butler, who has turned into a front-line (if still highly underrated) NBA star in the absence of Gilbert.

Last night's NBA Stud (Player): Beno Udrih, formerly of the Spurs, who scored 27 and locked down Tony Parker in leading his new team, the Kings, to a decisive upset win in Sacto. (You would have thought that one of the Spurs' main rivals in the West would have been interested in having a guy like Udrih around for the playoffs in the spring.)

NBA Stud (Team): The Magic, who became the first team to 13 wins, with a win over the Blazers in Portland. If the season ended today, Dwight Howard would be MVP (just edging KG), Stan Van Gundy would be Coach of the Year, and Rashard Lewis would be "Offseason Move of the Year."

MLB Hot Stove: Kerry Wood is back with the Cubs. Doesn't that $4.2 million feel a little bit like pity?

MLB HOF: I always love to see the first-time candidates. This year's field includes: Tim Raines, David Justice, Brady Anderson, Rod Beck, Shawon Dunston, Chuck Finley, Travis Fryman, Chuck Knoblauch, Robb Nen, Jose Rijo and Todd Stottlemyre. It's like a who's who of "Players I Watched In My Teens."

Raines is the only one on the list with even an outside shot at making it (most notable record: highest career SB percentage), but all are notable for at least one thing, that thing not necessarily being Hall of Fame worthiness:

Tim Raines began his career involved in MLB's cocaine scandal of the early 80s and ended it wanting to be called "Rock." In between, he was power + speed before that was cool.

David Justice divorced Halle Berry. (Too bad there's no Halle of Fame: No, wait: That would be being married to her in the first place.)

Brady Anderson had that memorable 50-HR year, back when baseball reporters negligently avoided MLB's growing steroid epidemic.

Shawon Dunston threw, like, 98 MPH from SS to 1B, but had a bit of a target problem. (He's on my 1986 Do-Over team, so I love ya, Shawon!)

Jose Rijo had that sick World Series in 1990 against the goliath A's, going 2-0 with a .59 ERA (against the best-hitting team of the era)

Chuck Finley joins David Justice in the "Hot Ex-Wives Hall of Fame," having been married to Tawny Kitaen.

Chuck Knoblauch won a 1991 World Series ring for the Twins by convincing Lonnie Smith he had a ball in his hands when he didn't.

See: Isn't that so much more fun than yet another argument for/against Goose Gossage or Jim Rice?

-- D.S.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday 11/26 A.M. Quickie:
Pats, Mizzou, Hester, 85, McFadden, More!

Today's Names to Know: Patriots, Sean Taylor, AJ Feeley, Chad Johnson, Eli Manning, Kolby Smith, Kurt Warner, Missouri, West Virginia, Mike Sherman, Darren McFadden, Turner Gill, Ricky Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Johan Santana, Chase Budinger, Jamario Moon and More!

Pats nearly lose, still 11-0: What does it say when a close win (but still a win) is the NFL's lead story about the Patriots. "Hey: Someone only lost by 3!"

Does it signal the Pats can be beaten? It will allow for the discussion; that if a team like the Eagles can keep it dangerously close, that any of the AFC's eclipsed contenders (Colts, Steelers, Jags) or even the best of the NFC (Packers) could give them a go.

Don't believe the talk. It's 11 games into the greatest season in NFL history, so the Pats are forgiven if they have a lull defensively. (If "lull" means "winning again.") They can't win every game by blowout.

UPDATE: A heavy meme this morning is that the Eagles have somehow exposed a blueprint for beating them -- or at least created the glimmer of hope (for the rest of us) that the Pats can be beaten... if not during the regular season, then when it counts, in the playoffs. I'm just not buying it. Sure, they woulda/coulda/shoulda lost, but they didn't. Off night, bad matchup, looking ahead, mentally unprepared, Thanksgiving hangover...whatever. I see it as a mere blip.

(Does it count as a moral victory for the Eagles? As Philadelphia isn't going anywhere in the playoffs, and it's a bit of a lost season, then yes. Meanwhile: Gotta love a QB controversy between Feeley and McNabb.)

UPDATE: Per a report in PFT, Sean Taylor was reportedly shot by home-robbers and is apparently "fighting for his life." Tracking...

CFB: Missouri and West Virginia lead BCS heading into final week. It's pretty simple:

If Mizzou beats Oklahoma and West Virginia beats Pitt, they will play for the national title, and everyone except Ohio State fans should be happy with that uncontroversial conclusion to the wildest season of all time. With those offenses, it will be one of the most entertaining title games in recent memory. (Chase Daniel and Pat White are two of the top 3 QBs in the country.)

If either stumble, idle Ohio State will fill in the spot. As I noted yesterday, both won't lose. Mizzou might lose, but WVU just won't lose to Pitt in Morgantown with a trip to the national title on the line. (Yes, yes: I know I said roughly the same thing about LSU, but Pitt is not Arkansas.)

(It's worth noting: If BOTH Mizzou and WVU do lose -- I have known to be wrong about things like this...cough...LSU...cough -- the scrum over "Who's No. 2?" will be insane. Georgia is next in line, but isn't even playing for its conference title. Same with Kansas. How about the rest of the 2-Loss Crew: Oklahoma? LSU? USC? Virginia Tech? They all have fatal flaws. It would be ugly.)

More NFL: NFL Stud? Devin Hester (what a huge win for the Bears)...

NFL Dud: Eli Manning was awful (Pick-6... THREE times?!)...

Cards blow it: You don't know whether to laugh at or cry for Cardinals fans (where was Whisenhunt with a TO before that non-FG)...

Fantasy Stud: Chiefs RB Kolby Smith (don't bother looking for him on your waiver wire, because he's going to be gone)...

Tomlinson 10K: If the AFC wasn't a done-deal, you might just believe the Chargers had a run in them (meanwhile, congrats to LaDainian Tomlinson on reaching the 10,000-yard plateau)...

Chad Johnson Watch: He's watching US, with a made-for-TV performance behind the TV camera, plus a career-high 12 catches (making him the Bengals career leader) and 3 TDs...

MNF: All I want to see tonight is Ricky Williams have some sort of breakout game, either meaningful carries near the goal-line or some sort of unexpected long run. Meanwhile, all fans can hope for is to see the Dolphins continue their march for 0-16 "imperfection" as a bookend to the team's 1972 perfect season in the same season that the 1972 perfect season is eclipsed by another franchise.

More CFB: If you like to see non-BCS teams in the BCS bowls (I do, even if those teams aren't BCS-bowl-worthy), Hawaii is in, as long as they beat Washington; if they lose, they are unlikely to stay in the Top 12 to generate the automatic BCS invite.

(Wow, I wish the BCS would allow for more than 2 reps from any given league. I know it's about money distribution, but still. If Hawaii doesn't qualify and certain favorites win as expected, they're going to have to dig pretty deep to fill all at-large spots.)

In this week's BlogPoll, I've got Mizzou, WVU and Ohio State at 1-2-3, with Kansas and Georgia at 4-5. Georgia is the highest-ranked 2-loss team, but without the chance to play in their conference title-game, they will have to be content with a BCS bowl at-large invite. (Effectively, UGA is last year's LSU: The nation's best 2-loss team doubling as a Top 3 finisher. If the Bulldogs get a high-profile bowl matchup and win convincingly, they could finish as high as No. 2.) Here's the BlogPoll ballot link.

Heisman Watch: Tim Tebow played most of the second half against FSU with a broken non-throwing hand; as it was the last game of the season, why not? Still: It might not matter if voters were swayed by Darren McFadden's performance against LSU. (I certainly was, and as big of a Tebow fan as I am, I can't possibly be upset if the award goes to McFadden.) Chase Daniel remains in the mix, particularly if he has a huge game in beating Oklahoma. Pat White deserves an invite to NYC for the ceremony, too, but only 3 players can go.

CFB Coaching: Mike Sherman to coach Texas A&M. I know he has Aggie coaching roots, but I'm not a fan of NFL coaches with no college head-coaching experience trying to run a major program in this day and age (see Bill Callahan and the newly open head-coaching job at Nebraska). College football coaching demands totally different skills than coaching in the NFL, and Sherman has been out of the college game for a decade. A lot has changed since then, as he will quickly find out.

As for Nebraska, sounds like Tom Osborne wants to talk to (and presumably hire) Turner Gill. That's nice and all, but wouldn't he like a coach who has a bit more on his resume than "beloved alum" and "University of Buffalo?"

MLB: A-Rod can earn up to $30 million (or more) in "historic moment" incentives as he passes major milestones in the career home run chase. It's an unprecedented deal, which MLB has approved, and will allow his deal to escalate to up to $305M as he passes Mays, Ruth, Aaron and eventually Bonds.

Hot Stove: Johan Mania. Santana will be THE story of the Winter Meetings that start next weekend. Presuming the Twins will trade him and that they can only trade him to the "big-money" clubs, the question is: Who will be willing to give up the most to get him? I predict he ends up with the Mets.

CBB: USC obliterated Southern Illinois, with only 13 points (and 7 shots) from OJ Mayo... Kansas edged Arizona, but Chase Budinger had a national-TV statement game (27 points)... Michael Beasley Watch: Held to only 13 and 10, but K-State got the W... This week: Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which usually turns out to barely qualify as one.

NBA: LeBron had a triple-double... I don't know who Jamario Moon is, but I like his box-score line (15 points, 7/12 FG, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 steals)... The Bulls are awful... It's weird to say, but I think Carlos Boozer is one of the Top 3 post players in the West, right there behind Duncan and Yao... As if you thought the dynastic Spurs could get any better, they are off to their best start after 14 games in franchise history.

As you'll notice, Comments remain closed moderated as I work on a sustainable process to manage them. (Update: For a little while, I might be accepting comments via moderator approval, but that may not last -- and, even if it does, comments may not be posted for several hours.) Sorry for any inconvenience.

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday (Very) Quickie: Who's No. 1?

(1) Mizzou
(2) West Virginia

If one stumbles: Ohio St

If both stumble: Both won't.

More later. Comments under renovation. Travel safe.
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