Saturday, August 30, 2008

CFB Saturday: Afternoon Thoughts

USC will likely get my vote for No. 1 in next week's Top 25...

...But Georgia and Ohio State are not far behind...

Affirmed: Tim Tebow is not going to win the Heisman...

But Pat White might...

All of a sudden, Beanie Wells' foot is the most intriguing body part in college football...

I was so so so so wrong about App State beating LSU. There, I said it...

(It's not enough: So so so so so so so wrong. Let's not speak of this again. It's a long season, and poor predictions will happen - probably every week. Do I earn ANY counter-balancing credit if Utah holds on to win at Michigan? Or was that so obvious that it doesn't count as an upset?)

Aha, THERE's the Dave Wannstedt we all know...

What a big win for East Carolina; what a bad loss for VA Tech and the ACC...

Florida has plenty of "big-play" guys, but few "regular-play" guys...

God damn, was it hot and humid at The Swamp in the first half...

More later...

-- D.S.

Saturday 08/30 (Very) Quickie:
My Own Personal College GameDay

Gainesville, FL -- It is not unique to Gainesville, but there is something so awesome about Game Day in a major college football town. It's my one visit here this season and I'm soaking it up.

Local newspaper special section. Waffle House. RV lot. Campus bookstore (for yet another T-shirt). Tailgate scene. Stadium entry. 90+ degrees with stifling humidity. 90K mayhem.

I suspect that with that newly changed 11 a.m. kickoff and regional interest, the LSU-App State game will draw some attention this morning during the tailgate walk-through and stadium out-of-town-score updates. It was my "Upset Special," but maybe I should have hedged and simply said that App State would cover the 25-point spread.

After the noon schedule of games, most people seem to have an interest in Utah-Michigan -- which everyone seems to be picking as a Ute "upset," but begs the question that if everyone is calling the upset, how much of an upset could it be?

Heading into the evening, Bama-Clemson is the game that everyone around here will be tuning into; I will attempt to convince folks that Mizzou-Illinois is worth having on the 2nd TV or P-I-P.

Anyway, it's a great day to be a college football fan, no matter who you root for.

Meanwhile, this simple concept might be the awesomest thing of the year:

Chad Ocho Cinco.

That's a legal name. I said this when the rumors started a few weeks ago: It tops "World B. Free" as the greatest athlete legal-name-change ever.

Meanwhile, speaking of names, the Knicks traded for Patrick Ewing Jr.? Wow, give the kid a chance, why don't you?

In MLB, it's interesting to be down in north-central Florida, where folks actually talk about the Rays -- they're the closest MLB team and viewed with... curiosity? enthusiasm? Whatever it is, it is fairweather enough that I feel very comfortable, having jumped on the bandwagon back in May. (Really: Who isn't on the Rays bandwagon? How can you begrudge them their success?)

And the Cubs won their 7th straight: I'll be in Chicago next weekend, getting my first in-person taste of Cubs Mania. I believe I am going to start openly rooting for a Rays-Cubs World Series. (Speaking of Chicago baseball, Dice-K shut down the White Sox, in a nice bounce-back game for the Red Sox, in a playoff-quality weekend matchup.)

Michael Phelps is THE "get" for TV folks this fall: First SNL, now Oprah. Not that he doesn't deserve it. (Somewhere along the way, based on emails I have gotten, did I come across as disliking Phelps? Cripes: I labeled the guy the greatest athlete of all time. He transfixed me for an entire week. Couldn't be further from the truth -- I'm a huge huge fan.)

Politics: Reviews are predictably mixed about GOP VP pick Sarah Palin, but the sports connections are undeniable -- she calls herself a "hockey mom"; she is a former championship high school point guard; she wanted to be a sportscaster for ESPN; her husband is a pro snowmobile racer. (Snowmobile racing is the new NASCAR!)

Enjoy the day of games. I'm going to try to update the Twitter feed from The Swamp.

-- D.S.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday 08/29 A.M. Quickie:
CFB, Sports New Year, NFL, Rays, More

I'm too mellowed into my vacation (or "vacation") to truly reflect on where things have gone since the last Friday of August, two years ago. But suffice to say, it's not going unacknowledged.

Today's SN column can be found here -- a celebration of sports' version of "Happy New Year" that comes when the first full weekend of college football meets the first week before the NFL season begins meets the start of baseball's September surge meets the last real weekend of the summer.

I'm en route to Gainesville later today and trying to squeeze out every last minute of quasi-relaxing beach time this morning, so I'm not sure I'll post again before tomorrow -- but I will definitely be posting all (long-) weekend long.

Two years. Wow. Already?

-- D.S.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

CFB Top 25 Weekend Preview and Picks

God, I missed this weekly ritual.

Most games are your typical Week 1 mismatch to get a team's feet wet. Mizzou-Illinois is a rare exception... If they even play the game with the bad weather, I think defending 1-AA champ App State pulls a "don't-call-it-an-upset-this-time" over defending 1-A champ LSU in Baton Rouge. (Yes, really...) I'll watch Alabama-Clemson just because it's a great barometer game for both teams (Clemson, a BCS title-game contender, especially)... I am totally intrigued by Utah at Michigan; it's RichRod's debut with a new offense and Utah is a tough non-BCS draw, even at the Big House (which is why I'm picking the Utes)... And, yes, I will be at The Swamp for Florida-Hawaii... Complete picks follow... Use the Comments to add in your own picks for Game of the Weekend, Upset Special and Storylines to Watch.

(1) Georgia over Georgia Southern
(2) Ohio St over Youngstown St
(3) USC over at Virginia
(4) Oklahoma over Chattanooga
(5) Florida over Hawaii - ATTENDING IN PERSON
(6) Missouri over (20) Illinois – GAME OF THE DAY 1A
Appalachian St over (7) LSU – UPSET SPECIAL!
(8) West Virginia over Villanova
(9) Clemson over (24) Alabama - GAME OF THE DAY 1B
(10) Auburn over LA-Monroe
(11) Texas over Florida Atlantic
(12) Texas Tech over E. Washington
(13) Wisconsin over Akron
(14) Kansas over Florida Int’l
(15) Arizona St over N. Arizona
(16) BYU over Northern Iowa
(17) VA Tech over East Carolina
(18) Tennessee over at UCLA - MONDAY
(19) S. Florida over TN-Martin
(21) Oregon over Washington
(22) Penn St over Coastal Carolina
(25) Pitt over Bowling Green

Best of Non-Top 25:
Utah over at Michigan (!)
Cal over Michigan St
Fresno St over at Rutgers

-- D.S.

Thursday 08/28 A.M. Quickie:
CFB 08, MLB Replay, NFL Preseason, More

Vacation continues, and I'm warily eyeing Hurricane Gustav... meanwhile, not even the threat of another hurricane can stop my enthusiasm for college football kicking off tonight.

My SN column today leads with a summary of my "BCS Mess" theory for this year, along with my annual argument that college football's regular season is unmatched in sports.

Meanwhile, I think the Yankees are finished -- you might say that's premature to say before we even get to September; if we learned anything last September, it's that 7-game playoff leads aren't safe. But this ain't the Mets or the NL West -- it's the Red Sox and they're 7 games up on the Yankees...and that's just for the Wild Card.

NFL: Happy to see Derrick Harvey sign with the Jags (finally), but here is a scenario where both sides came out as huge losers -- Harvey for holding out (only to finally get some contract bonus clauses) and the Jaguars for trading up only to not want to pay for it.

Wait: Shawne Merriman is going to play? I appreciate his tough-guy mentality, but his leg is going to snap off, right there on live TV.

Percy Harvin out for Florida's season opener: I kind of saw this coming, but as I'll be sweltering in 100 degree swamp-ass on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, I would have liked to see him -- but not at the expense of aggravating his problem heel. He can save it for the SEC season, as far as I'm concerned. It does basically spike his Heisman hopes, though.

(Tonight's CFB openers: Spurrier is always fun to watch, but I'll be tracking the performance of Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour, who should be a "20/20" player this season. Oh, and I'll be doing my weekly Top 25 picks, and I'm taking Wake to win tonight, with complete Top 25 picks coming tomorrow. Don't forget to sign up for the CFB and NFL Pick 'Em groups -- group name: Daily Quickie Readers.)

Does anyone care about Oscar De La Hoya anymore? I suppose he drives PPV sales, but boxing feels so...anachronistic.

Michael Phelps to host SNL: Do they know that the guy, while incredibly nice-seeming, isn't exactly a dynamic personality?

Jay Mariotti, Cont'd: Per Deadspin, it looks like he left in a huff over a column snafu, which makes his "newspaper is dead anyway" seem even more petty.

(God, there was a time in my life back in college when all I wanted to be was a lead sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times -- no joke. And that was before it came with TV benefits.)

Full SN column here with a ton more in it. (I'm posting to the main archive link; the column isn't up as of 8 a.m., but I'm offline for a bit. Will update with a direct link later.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jay Mariotti Out At the Sun-Times

The ultimate irony is that Mariotti got on TV in an everyday way (Around the Horn) because of his newspaper "cred," and now he is bailing on newspapers but will continue to cash in on TV (and whatever Web site will be suckered into paying for his name.) He flashes the worst kind of cynicism and hypocrisy. -- D.S.

CFB 08: Tim Tebow For Heisman? Nope

As promised, the shocking opinion, straight from my Sporting News column this morning:

I do NOT pick Tim Tebow to win the Heisman this season.

In the column, I lay out the reasons (briefly: Tebow Fatigue, Stat Drop-Off, Increased Comp). All together, I just don't see it happening. (now in partnership with the Orlando Sentinel, in a great move for both) did its preseason straw poll of influential voters -- Tebow won by a slim margin.

Again, I disagree. (I'm sure if we went back, Matt Leinart won the preseason straw poll the season after he won the Heisman. It's even more meaningless than a preseason Top 25.)

That's not to say that I don't think Tebow isn't the best player in college football. Absolutely, I do. But there's a huge difference between that and winning the Heisman.

So, who WILL win the Heisman? I think it will be Ohio State RB Chris "Beanie" Wells. He will be a candidate for 2,000 yards, two dozen TDs and the anchor of an OSU team that will likely end up in the national title game.

(Hmm: What's more shocking -- that I pick against Tebow to win the Heisman in '08? Or that I pick an Ohio State player to win the award?)

The other players I think will end up as finalists in New York will also see their teams spend time up near the top of the polls: Tebow; Chase Daniel, Pat White, Knowshon Moreno -- in that order of finish.

(If Percy Harvin stays healthy, I think he could be Reggie Bush to Tebow's Matt Leinart. But that's a huge "if.")

Regardless, I think Tebow won't repeat. It's fun to consider. He is a one-of-a-kind player -- probably my favorite college football player of all time (not that THAT is a consideration for Heisman-worthiness). He will be in the Heisman mix all season long -- if he can win the Heisman with the Gators going 9-3 in the regular season, what will happen if they go 11-1 or 12-0?

If Tebow didn't win last year, he would be the heavy favorite this year. But he DID win last year -- and that's a big reason why he won't win this year.

"Beanie for Heisman" -- that's a pretty catchy marketing slogan.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 08/27 A.M. Quickie:
Replay, Phils, A-Rod, CFB 08, More

Today's SN column leads with: I don't know how any reasonable fan can be against instant replay in baseball. (I won't get into the idea that it should be expanded to calls at home plate; for now, I'm satisfied with HR/Foul-Ball calls as a good place to start.)

Can't wait for replay to start tomorrow, and I can't wait for its first use -- it can't be worse than "ump's naked eye."

Meanwhile, it was a loaded night in MLB, led by a couple of New York chokes -- the Mets choked away a 7-0 lead (and the lead in the NL East) to the Phillies (who else?), and A-Rod choked away a couple of excellent RISP opportunities and the Yankees fell even further behind the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card. The Yankees are 2 straight losses away from basically being done for the season.

In the NFL, I'm already over the Strahan story and on to this story in today's Denver Post about the NFL going to an 18-game season (2 preseason/18 regular season), which I think everyone can agree would be a phenomenal advancement for the league. Too bad it'll take a few years to implement. But given the laughable final preseason games, it's the right direction.

Hey, Jay Mariotti is out at the Chicago Sun-Times. But will they continue to let him use the TV studio in the newsroom to tape "Around the Horn?" If he isn't bringing readers to the paper -- the ludicrous rationale for sports editors allowing their top columnist talent to dilute their effort for the newspaper by doing TV -- then why should they let him?

Finally, today's CFB 08 preview in my SN column contains something likely so staggering to you that I have to put it in its own post, coming at 10:45 a.m.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Launches

Even more than what ESPNU meant to coverage of college sports, the launch of is a pivotal event in the brief history of high school sports as spectator sport.

It'll be interesting to track. The site is heavy on the "social media" content and glitzy design -- but light on the meaty state-by-state news (with appropriate implications for colleges in recruiting battles) that I think fans of high school sports want to see: News, rumors, rankings.

Also, I believe it's only a matter of time before Yahoo takes Rivals free, as a counter-move. The subscription revenue Yahoo earns can't possibly top the page-view revenue they would see.

-- D.S.

CFB/NFL Pick 'Em Challenge: DQ Readers!

Just a reminder: Sign up for the College Football Pick 'Em. As usual, the group name is Daily Quickie Readers and it's open to anyone. Sign up now! (And there's an NFL Pick 'Em group, too: Same name -- Daily Quickie Readers. No password needed, open to all. Oh, and this year NFL picks WITH the spread.)

Barack Obama: No Fairweather Fan

Barack Obama would take my donation, I'm sure. But would he approve of my Florida fandom? Here's Obama on his rooting interest in the event of a White Sox-Cubs World Series:
"Oh, that's easy. White Sox. I'm not one of these fairweather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. Southside."
He leans on an old stereotype of Wrigley fans. As someone who used to live in Wrigleyville, I dispute that -- to a point. Wrigley Field DOES attract a lot of fans there for the stadium experience alone.

I do give Obama credit for sticking with his team -- there's no room for pandering when sports and politics collide. Empathetically connecting with locals? Sure. But not pandering.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 08/26 A.M. Quickie:
Politics, AL Central, NFL QBs, CFB 08

I lead today's SN column with an item about sports and politics, having watched Oregon State hoops coach Craig Robinson in prime time last night, introducing his sister Michelle Obama. (Blissfully, I did not see the Stuart Scott interview with Barack Obama.)

Don't worry: I don't inflict my own views on you in the column. In fact, I reflect the common wisdom that pops up every time I dip a toe into politics over here:

Keep politics separate from sports. We can agree to disagree on all sorts of stuff related to politics (as we do about sports), but we can agree that politics mixed with sports causes massive problems.

I'll continue to write about their intersection, when it happens. But I recognize that most fans don't want to commingle the two.

Meanwhile, the college football season starts Thursday night, and I couldn't be more excited. For me, it eclipses baseball (although that is plenty exciting right now) and preseason NFL (although fantasy drafting makes August much more fun). In the column today, I cover the must-see games of the season. I limited myself to 10, on different weeks. While the Biggies are obvious (USC-OSU, FLA-UGA, OK-TX), there are a ton of others. Hell, for this very opening weekend, I spurned the Bama-Clemson season-opener in favor of App State-LSU. (Got any must-see games this season beyond the obvious ones? Drop them in the Comments, and I'll post them as soon as I'm back online.)

That said: There's a ton of MLB and NFL news to cover, including that 9-year-old banned from his youth baseball league. Love that story. It's all in today's SN column here.

I'm heading back out to the beach. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday 08/25 A.M. Quickie:
USA Hoops, Giants, Phils, Olympics, More

Congrats to USA Hoops, but I don't think that USA Basketball has created anything especially sustainable. That's the lead of today's SN column. And here's today's director's cut:

Kobe likely won't be back in 2012. Neither will LeBron or D-Wade. Same with Coach K. They're all taking their success of "redemption" and leaving behind a legacy of... what, exactly?

The 3-year "commitment?" Anyone who watched the gold-medal game knows that the 3-year commitment isn't as important as finding the right on-court tactics and right personnel.

In 2008, USA Hoops got by with sheer talent -- particularly at the top (as predicted, Kobe was the ultimate difference between gold and failure). But that isn't replicable.

But Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade and Coach K can all walk away proclaiming they did their job and reclaimed basketball gold for the USA. I think the job has only just begun.

Meanwhile, who else thinks the Giants will call Michael Strahan about a comeback, now that the D-line is down one Pro Bowl player before the season even starts...

And in MLB, how about Rich Harden as co-Cy with CC Sabathia? Because Harden is just as impressive...

I'm starting my week-long college football preview in the SN column (continued here, of course). Today's topic: Top storylines for the season, and it won't surprise you that No. 1 is "BCS Mess...again?" But it also includes "This season's Hawaii," "This season's Kansas" and "This season's Tebow." (And, no, it's not Tebow.)

Complete SN column here, with more coming later.

-- D.S.

UPDATE: This post on Gawker about the Nike-China-Blogger-Liu situation is a fascinating breakdown of a pretty fascinating side story.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday 08/24 (Very) Quickie

USA Basketball exorcises the "USA Oops" label and "redeems" itself as "USA Hoops" again.

Give credit to Spain for giving the US a game -- as predicted 3 years ago when USA Basketball was re-formed in Jerry Colangelo's image, it took the presence of Kobe Bryant to be the difference between gold and failure.

(Meanwhile, can we all agree that Coach K is a terrible game coach, as he pretty much always has been? This team might not have won gold despite Coach K's coaching, but they certainly didn't win it because of him.)

MLB: The Angels weren't quite ready to roll over for the Twins again (thanks to Teixeira)... Carl Pavano!... Wow, the Rays can't be stopped (and gain a critical game of cushion on the blanked Red Sox)... Aramis Ramirez!... What was that about Ryan Bruan's back?... Big win for the D'backs...

NFL Preseason: 47-3?...Terrible: Brady Quinn, Bengals offense, Matt Leinart, Jeff Garcia, Jason Taylor (injured), Giants offense... hey, how about that Chad Pennington?... Is that the end of the season for Shawne Merriman?... With Joe Biden in the news, Delaware Blue Hen QB Joe Flacco didn't exactly set the house on fire vs. the Rams (18/37 for 152 yds and a TD, playing the entire game)...

Olympics: Angel Malodio Vatos, the Cuban taekwando guy who kicked the ref on the face, becomes one of the most memorable names from the Games...

Fay-induced rain and high winds are gone in north Florida -- all we got now is sunny and hot-hot-hot. I'll take it.

-- D.S.