Saturday, September 20, 2008

CFB Instant History

Late Afternoon:

USC's strength of schedule (or "strength" of "schedule") is going to take yet another big hit as Oregon is getting throttled at home by Boise State. (Now, Boise State is a very good team, but it also exposes Oregon as not nearly as good as they seemed to look three weeks ago. By comparison, Miami throttling Texas A&M in College Station -- even if A&M isn't what they once were -- is a defense of how Florida's win over The U. was perhaps better than you thought.)

Tim Tebow is making plays: The jump-pass TD was fine, but the shovel pass on 3rd and long to put Florida in FG range was better.

Missouri's defense is simply not good. It's offense is great, but its D is not good. (But Chase Daniel did nothing to make me think he isn't the Heisman favorite again this week.)

BYU is on a fast-track for a BCS bowl.

I find myself not believing in Penn State until they actually dominate someone good.

Early Afternoon:

And there goes East Carolina's BCS hopes and dreams -- and likely top 25 ranking.

The Terrelle Pryor Era begins: 4 TDs passing? Wow. Boeckman who?

Northwestern is 4-0, having survived its non-conference schedule for the first time in generations.

Saturday 09/20 (Very) Quickie

As far as omens go, the Rays being the first team to earn an overturned (corrected) HR call by an ump en route to a win over the Twins (bringing the Rays to 1 win from clinching a playoff spot) seems entirely appropriate, given their Cinderella season. If you don't have a rooting interest among the playoff contenders, how can you NOT be rooting for the Rays?

Mets win, Mets win: And with the Phillies' loss to the Marlins, that means the Mets regain first place in the NL East. (As always, with the ominous-sounding caveat: For Now.)

CFB: UConn holds off Baylor, behind Donald Brown's 150 yards and 2 TDs. Probably enough to stay ranked.

Adrian Peterson: So will he play tomorrow or won't he? Totally up in the air.

I'm sure you're simply shocked -- shocked -- to learn that Darius Miles was suspended 10 games for violating the NBA drug-abuse policy.

Ryder Cup: I just can't get into it.

Short this morning. More throughout the day as college football results merit.

-- D.S.

Friday, September 19, 2008

NFL Week 3 Picks

Week 3 Mania. Don't forget to make your picks.

Chiefs (+4.5) over FALCONS
Raiders (+8.5) over BILLS
BEARS (-3.5) over Bucs
Texans (+4.5) over TITANS
Panthers (+3.5) over VIKINGS
Dolphins (+12.5) over PATS*
GIANTS (-13.5) over Bengals
Cards (+3.5) over REDSKINS
BRONCOS (-5.5) over Saints
Lions (+3.5) over 49ERS
SEAHAWKS (-9.5) over Rams
RAVENS (-1.5) over Browns
EAGLES (-2.5) over Steelers
COLTS (-5.5) over Jags
Cowboys (-2.5) over PACKERS
CHARGERS (-8.5) over Jets

After Week 2: Tied for 43rd out of 173. Top quartile! (Little-known fact: Better than my high school GPA rank!)

Sports and Politics: Biden at Football Hall

"Well, folks, Americans don't want someone to run the ball for them. They just want their government to occasionally throw a block."

- Joe Biden at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, pulling out a great line based on an old quote by Gale Sayers. It's obvious that Biden's a real football fan. (h/t: Jake Tapper)

CFB Weekend Preview and Picks

No USC-OSU "Game of the Year" -- but plenty of games that should be a lot more compelling, led by a pair of games in the SEC:

(3) Georgia over @Arizona St
(4) Florida over @Tennessee - GOTW
(5) Missouri over Buffalo
(6) LSU over @(10) Auburn - GOTW II
(7) Texas over Rice
(9) Alabama over @Arkansas
(11) Texas Tech over UMass
(12) South Florida over @Fla Int'l
(13) Ohio State over Troy -- Upset Special?
(14) BYU over Wyoming
(15) East Carolina over @NC State
(16) Penn State over Temple
Boise State over @(17) Oregon -- Upset Special
(18) Wake Forest over @(24) Florida State
(19) Kansas over Sam Houston State
(20) Utah over @Air Force
(23) Clemson over South Carolina St.
(25) Fresno State over @Toledo

Other Games of Interest:
UConn over Baylor -- UConn DS-ranked
Michigan State over Notre Dame
Ball State over Indiana -- Winner stays unbeaten
Northwestern over Ohio -- NU going for 4-0!

-- D.S.

Friday 09/19 A.M. Quickie:
Hochuli, NFL Week 3, CFB SEC Week, Ryder

It's an absolutely loaded SN column this morning. Tons to cover:

Perhaps not my absolution to bestow, but on behalf of non-Chargers fans, I forgive Ed Hochuli (and I was among the more vocal haters all week long).

Speaking of hating, I finally give up/give in and Tim Lincecum gets my pick over CC Sabathia for NL Cy -- ironically the morning after Lincecum loses his first game since July.

I'm having a hard time deciding which 9th-inning comeback was better: The Cubs (down 4 with 2 outs and no one on against the closest division rival) or the Twins (5-run rally against the best of the AL East and playoff oblivion pending if they didn't). Given that the Cubs' magic number is 2 and the Twins magic number is, like, "-6" I'm going with the Twins.

Wait: Why am I talking baseball? It's a football Friday. I'm wondering about Adrian Peterson. I'm wondering about Darren McFadden. I'm wondering about Tyler Thigpen. I'm wondering about JT O'Sullivan. I'm wondering if Brandon Marshall is going to be suspended again.

The CFB weekend is a little more clear-cut: It's SEC-dominated. Georgia at Arizona State. Florida at Tennessee. LSU at Auburn. That's 4 Top 10 teams, with the other two teams ranked in the Top 20 in the preseason (not that that counts!)

What I'm hoping is that in the absence of USC playing, perhaps pundits will recognize that the SEC's strength of schedule is so much more difficult than USC's that in the event that both the SEC champ and Big 12 champ go unbeaten, both would vault USC into the BCS title game.

At the very least, that Florida will stomp Tennessee and I will be able to listen to the lamentation of Clay Travis for one more year.

Full CFB Preview and Picks coming at around 11:30 this morning, but I've only picked one upset in the Top 25.

I will say, however, that my faith in Ohio State's ability to fend off feisty Troy is directly correlated to the percentage of snaps that Jim Tressel gives Terrelle Pryor. It will be 50 percent, as Tressel says -- right up until Troy keeps it close, at which point Todd Boeckman will be benched and never see the light of day again.

The SN column also has one of my favorite jokes of the year. About Auburn's dean of students telling fans not to boo, the natural response -- and apologies if others have gotten to this faster, as I'm sure they have -- is to say "They're not saying 'boo!' They're saying 'Boo-urns!'" That line has never ever been more fitting.

I was at Yankee Stadium last night, btw. I'm not a Yankees fan (as you all know), but I appreciated the moment of history, with the Stadium's last game on Sunday night. (It was also a chance for me to see Mike Mussina in person for the first time since his early years in Baltimore -- he's one of my favorite pitchers of all time, and it was nice to see him pitch another win in this remarkable Fountain-of-Youth year.) But, yeesh, that place is a dump. (The new one, though? Gorgeous, at least from the outside.)

Ryder Cup: I'm not particularly interested, although I appreciate it as golf-as-team-sport spectacle, with all that jingoistic nationalism thrown in for fun. But as I mentioned in the column, any homer chant of "USA! USA!" should be met by the Euros with "AIG! AIG!" And then we can all continue weeping over the state of the U.S. economy...

Complete SN column here

-- D.S.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Usain Bolt Would Have Run a 9.55

That's what the science says. 9.55 in the 100. Good gracious. (h/t: Sullivan)

Manny for NL MVP: Umm, Maybe Not

I like my pet theories, but -- for better or worse -- I am the first person to be convinced in the face of compelling evidence. Pujols for MVP!

Thursday 09/18 A.M. Quickie:
Brewers, Rays, Tarvaris, 'Eers, More

I feel like this morning is a lull before a sprint. As usual, there's still quite a lot of items in today's SN column, but it was quiet this morning. Maybe too quiet...

10 games to go in the MLB season (roughly -- 11 if you're a Mets fan), and it's likely nothing will be decided until the season's final weekend.

The pivot from Wednesday to Thursday in the NFL is always the nadir of the week; college football picks up tomorrow with the weekend preview and picks. (Find it hard to get too excited about West Virginia playing tonight at Colorado -- on paper, an interesting game -- although I'm curious to see if WVU abandons this passing schtick in favor of a return to RichRod's run-first option.)

The biggest dramas? The NBA, ironically, still a few weeks from training camp.

The whole Josh Howard "Anthem" thing. And, of course, Gilbert Arenas' knee surgery, putting him on ice until mid-December -- at the earliest, despite his projections of only missing a month. Regular readers know that Gil is my favorite NBA player (the Wiz my favorite NBA team -- no fairweather bandwagoneering this time, I swear!), and I continue to miss his on-court presence. Maybe he'll go back to serial blogging.

Complete SN column here. More posts coming later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

LeBron in Esquire

Sorry, Maverick: When I think of LeBron, the last thing I think of is "authentic."

BlogPoll Top 25 Week 3 - COMPLETE

Brian Cook has posted the finalized BlogPoll Top 25. Notably: USC 1, BYU 13, Ohio St 18, UNC 26.

Is Erin Andrews a Journalist?

I am a big Erin Andrews fan -- but not in the skeevy "heh-heh-she's-hot" mouth-breather way. And I have absolutely no problems with Erin Andrews getting endorsement deals.

But as with all sports-TV folks doing endorsements -- whether it's Dan Patrick or EA or Stuart Scott -- all I ask is that they stop calling themselves "journalists."

If she is going to take endorsement dollars -- and, again, I say go for it! -- Erin Andrews is not a journalist. That's great; hell, most of us would gladly take the money.

"Journalist" is just a title. But for those for whom that title means something, don't demean it by claiming it AND cashing that check from a sponsor.

The solution is simple and obvious: Take the endorsement money -- for god's sake, take the money! -- but stop claiming "journalist" status.

-- D.S.

(This doesn't include people like Dick Vitale or Kirk Herbstreit, who were never journalists to begin with -- but shouldn't be claimed under the "news" division if they're going to shill for products.)

USC Should Be No Lock For BCS Title Game

USC's spot in the BCS title game is a done-deal, if you believe the pundits Monday. But I am already obsessed with a messy end-game for this college football season.

Not only should USC's spot not be a guarantee, I can think of at least one scenario where an unbeaten USC gets bumped from the national title game:

Isn't it conceivable that if a team from the Big 12 goes unbeaten and a team from the SEC goes unbeaten, that both would have a stronger claim to the BCS title game than USC?

Consider that given how woeful the PAC-10 seems to be, USC's best win appears to be over a horribly overrated Ohio State team. USC appears to be getting credit for OSU being a great team from the theoretical preseason, rather than a rather ordinary Top 20 team they are in reality. Still: Count that as one "quality" win for USC. And, perusing the rest of USC's schedule, that appears to be the only one -- especially after this past weekend's Pac-10 massacre at the hands of the Mountain West Conference.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 champ (say, Oklahoma or Missouri) -- to go unbeaten -- will have to beat 4 3 other current Top 11 teams that will all likely end the season with 9+ wins. The SEC champ (say, Georgia or LSU or Florida) -- to go unbeaten -- will have to beat 5 4 other current Top 10 teams.

Then there's USC, which will have beaten 5 teams that couldn't beat 5 teams from the Mountain West last weekend. (And please don't suggest Oregon in a defense of USC's schedule: They're going to be playing USC -- if not the rest of the season -- with a backup QB and barely beat Big Ten mediocrity Purdue.)

If this plays out as described above (B12 champ, SEC champ, USC all unbeaten), I am quite confident that the computer rankings will be rightfully listing both the Big 12 and SEC champs ahead of USC. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about the human voters, where cognitive dissonance seems to be the main criteria for decision-making:

Uh, turns out Ohio State isn't the team we thought it was, but let's credit USC as if they were anyway (then overlook the not-good-enough-for-Mountain-West remainder of USC's schedule).

THAT is a championship resume? Or, at least, a more impressive resume than the one proffered by an unbeaten champ of the Big 12 and SEC?

Fortunately, the way these things tend to play out, there is very little chance that all 3 -- USC, the Big 12 champ and the SEC champ -- all go unbeaten. More likely, USC goes unbeaten through its soft schedule and one of the 2 "power" conference champs manages to go unbeaten. (Messier still: USC goes unbeaten and the Big 12 and SEC champs each have one loss.)

I won't go so far as to suggest that a 1-loss champ from the Big 12 and SEC are each more worthy of the BCS title game than USC -- but USC's schedule hardly counts as difficult and it isn't nearly as treacherous as the one that would be handled by an unbeaten Big 12 and SEC champ.

USC is a great team -- but you can't deny that its resume will read a little thin. (Even the sorry ACC champ, whoever it is, will have likely played a tougher, more top-heavy schedule than USC.)

In fact: Given the way the Mountain West just dominated the Pac-10 this past weekend, you could make the case that an unbeaten MWC champ BYU would have played a tougher schedule than USC.

I'm just saying: USC is obviously a great team, and you can't blame them for their conference laying an egg this season.

But I take issue with automatically slotting them into the national title game after they beat an overrated Ohio State team and with a Charmin-soft conference schedule ahead of them.

It seems premature at best and ludicrous at worst... especially when their schedule strength distantly trails that of the SEC, Big 12 and -- arguably -- even the Mountain West.

-- D.S.

PS: For more on USC and the "Not so fast" theory, see Mr. Saturday (ne SMQ), Matt Hinton of Y! Sports.

Wednesday 09/17 A.M. Quickie:
USC, Rays, CC, Manny, Vols, TK, More

I lead today's SN column with a theory about USC's "inevitability" for the BCS title game. Can't stand this. I appreciate USC as a fantastic team, but if the Big 12 and SEC champs both go unbeaten, both would be more worthy for the BCS title game than USC -- if resume matters. Anyway, there's a stand-alone post about that you can find linked in the column, but popping at the top of the blog around 11 a.m. ET.

Meanwhile, I think CC-for-Cy might be over with his first NL loss yesterday -- not to mention the Brewers' playoff collapse. He pretty much had to go unbeaten in the NL to have his shot AND have the Brewers make the playoffs. There's still time -- a few more starts. We'll see -- hey, the Brewers are now competing for the Wild Card with the Mets, and you know how THAT goes.

I am willing to concede Albert Pujols as NL MVP -- he is having a sick season -- if folks would be willing to concede Manny Ramirez as runner-up NL MVP. His NL-only stats are sick: .400+ BA, more RBI than games played, a higher OPS than Pujols... can we make a deal here?

The Rays' walk-off win didn't thrill me as a division-race thing as much as it, combined with the Twins loss, put the Rays up another game for a Wild Card spot with one fewer game to play.

I enjoy the Florida-Tennessee rivalry. I was at the game last year in Gainesville where Percy Harvin went crazy (and the Vols, perhaps, gave up). But my first distinct memory of life as a Gators fan was in the fall of 2001, when a rescheduled UT-UF game (postponed by 9/11) at the end of the season cost the Gators a shot at the national title. Tennessee played brilliantly, I was crushed -- as crushed as a 28-year-old fan on their first 3 months of new fandom could be -- and it would soon prove to be the end of the Spurrier Era, just as I was getting started. All that said: LSU-Auburn is a much bigger game in the scheme of the national scene... if destined to be a low-scoring slugfest that is hardly fun to watch.

Couple of bonus posts coming today: The first on this USC Theory of Inevitability at 11/11:30 and the second about Erin Andrews at 2-ish. No, it's not link-baiting...

Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Does Gary Smith Still Matter?

Through many awards and high-profile assignments, Gary Smith once held the title of America's Greatest Sportswriter. I'm not sure if that fits anymore.

Smith has a new book out -- a collection of his best stuff. And it's a good moment to consider whether Gary Smith matters as much in a sports-media landscape dominated by PTI, rather than SI. If you're under the age of 30 or 35, I suspect his relevance to you declines quickly. (And even if you're over 30 or 35, his relevance has also probably declined, aside from the bi-annual "Hey, Gary Smith has a new piece; maybe I'll get to it...."

I'm not saying long-form sports journalism doesn't have a place. Hell, if all we had was quick-hit, knee-jerk, tissue-thin, something-out-of-nothing sensationalism -- and that's 98 percent of sports media these days, "new" or "traditional" -- we would be worse off for it. (Smith CAN do short-form: See his memoriam for Gene Upshaw two weeks ago.)

I was more awed by Smith when I was younger than I am now. Maybe it's the era, maybe it's the vast new talent and consumer tastes that have emerged in the last 10 years, but -- with obvious exceptions -- Smith's stuff feels a bit formulaic. Like: We get it -- Radio is developmentally challenged and we're supposed to feel a tugging at the heartstrings about it.

There is one stirring exception.

Rather than read a collection of his stories (most of which I and his target market have already read, or I could just as easily find for free in SI Vault), I would have preferred for Smith to take what I think was his greatest story -- about one of the Top 5 most important and powerful sports stories of the last century in American sports -- and turn it into the full-length book that so desperately needs to be written:

Pat Tillman.

Smith's utterly remarkable "Remember His Name" was published 2 years ago last week. (You can find it here.) I feel like Smith robbed us; he has this one-of-a-kind talent and has had one of the most charmed careers in the history of sportswriting -- this book needed to be written and he was the one to have pulled it off. But, hey, there's always another piece of treacle.

Here is the new book
. Obviously, rather than Smith, it was put together by the editors of SI -- and it was virtually costless. I'm not suggesting that he copped out by self-publishing a collection; I'm just lamenting that he didn't use his prodigious gifts to give the Tillman story the comprehensive book-length examination that it deserves from a top-flight journalist.

Who knows: Maybe Smith is doing it. It would be his greatest contribution to sports and sportswriting. We can only hope so.

-- D.S.

UPDATE: Apparently Jon Krakauer had a Tillman book slated for publication next month, but it was pulled indefinitely. I would put Krakauer as one of the authors -- like Smith -- who could do the story justice.

This Theory Is Basically True

The most interesting sportswriting almost always comes from sources that don't concentrate full-time on sportswriting. (Writers, too -- see DFW on Federer per Cook's point at MGoBlog.)

CFB BlogPoll Top 25 Week 3 Ballot FINAL

1 Southern Cal --
2 Oklahoma 1
3 Missouri 1
4 Georgia 2
5 Florida --
6 LSU --
7 Texas --
8 Brigham Young 3
9 South Florida 9
10 Texas Tech 4
11 Penn State 5
12 Wisconsin 2
13 East Carolina 5
14 Alabama 5
15 Auburn 6
16 Utah 1
17 Wake Forest 2
18 Ohio State 6
19 Connecticut 7
20 Nebraska 6
21 Oklahoma State 5
22 Oregon 1
23 Boise State 3
24 Ball State 2
25 Kansas 12

Dropped Out: Arizona State (#20), Georgia Tech (#22), Illinois (#23), UCLA (#24), California (#25).

Thanks to all who responded with comments and emails. Based on your persuasive arguments, I adjusted Wisconsin and East Carolina upward. Let's do it again next week.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 09/16 A.M. Quickie:
DeSean, T.O., Rays, Red Sox, Oregon, More

You can talk about last night's game between arguably the two best teams in the NFL. You can talk about T.O.'s 2-TD, milestone-setting performance. You can talk about Brian Westbrook's fantasy value.

But wouldn't you rather talk about DeSean Jackson and that wonderfully ludicrous play where he celebrated a TD bomb from McNabb by...dropping the ball before he got into the end zone? That's the lead of today's SN column.

I don't mind admitting: I watched about 3 minutes of MNF last night -- and it happened to be right before that play happened, then the ensuing replay and review. It was amazing.

Even more amazing: The guy did the same thing at a high-school all-star game. How can you not love DeSean Jackson? He's so talented, yet such a buffoon. He is what makes the NFL great; the NFL simply can't legislate away true buffoonery.

Meanwhile, I am not worried about the Rays. I am not worried about the Rays. I am not worried about the Rays, because -- while HFA is nice -- the division title is subordinate to simply making the playoffs, period. And the Rays have a 7-game lead on the Twins for the Wild Card.

Yes, they have 2 more against the Red Sox -- who DO seem motivated by the division title. And then they have 4 head-to-head with the Twins. If the Rays drop all 6 and the Twins win... well, THEN I'll get worried. Otherwise, with even a handful of wins before the weekend is over, the Wild Card race is as good as over.

Can't say the same thing about the Mets, who seem hell-bent on missing the playoffs again. This time, they won't collapse -- they'll simply dwindle. That is: Unless the Brewers psyche themselves out of the race entirely. Yes, firing your manager with 12 games to go -- and still very much in playoff contention -- is a remarkably good idea. That team must have HATED Ned Yost.

Finally, Oregon will be without QB Justin Roper for 2-4 weeks -- and they play USC in 3 weeks. It just adds to a theory I'm working on that if USC, the Big 12 champ and the SEC champ all end the season undefeated, there is no way USC should be ranked ahead of either of the other two. Not with the sorry strength of schedule (where then-overrated Ohio State is the headliner) that the Trojans are bringing to the table. More on that later.

Complete SN column here.

Thanks for the BlogPoll feedback. I'll have the 2.0 (and final) version up later this morning.

-- D.S.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Talk Soup Meets Sports?

If done right, I actually like this idea: It's one area where ESPN can't compete, unless it is ready to mock its own self-serious analysts (which it should, but that's another story). It's the "done right" part that may trip them up. (I actually pitched this concept to ESPN when Cold Pizza launched as a feature. Now, go off and parse all the ways that last sentence went off the rails....)

R.I.P., David Foster Wallace

Extraordinarily talented. Here is his must-read NYT Play magazine piece on Roger Federer from two years ago.

BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Week 3, Take 1

Here is this week's first pass at my BlogPoll ballot. As with previous weeks, please leave all comments in the Comments, and they will influence my final ballot, submitted Tuesday morning.

1 Southern Cal --
2 Oklahoma 1
3 Missouri 1
4 LSU 2
5 Georgia 3
6 Florida 1
7 Texas --
8 Brigham Young 3
9 South Florida 9
10 Texas Tech 4
11 Auburn 2
12 Penn State 4
13 Utah 4
14 East Carolina 6
15 Alabama 4
16 Wisconsin 6
17 Wake Forest 2
18 Ohio State 6
19 Connecticut 7
20 Nebraska 6
21 Oklahoma State 5
22 Oregon 1
23 Ball State 3
24 Boise State 2
25 Illinois 2

Dropped Out: Kansas (#13), Arizona State (#20), Georgia Tech (#22), UCLA (#24), California (#25).

Yes, I rank USC No. 1, of course, but I have only one other Pac-10 team in the Top 25, near the bottom. East Carolina dropped; Ohio State should have dropped even more.

Even though the Pac-10 obviously sucks, I gave BYU "transitive" credit for UCLA's win over Tennessee.

I give South Florida huge credit for beating Kansas -- the Big 12 is obviously very strong this year.

(Unranking Kansas entirely for losing on the road to a team I rank in the Top 10 is hardly fair; I'm sure I will move them back in, likely at the expense of one of the mid-majors in the 20s.)

UPDATE: Orson, whose poll I always respect, has Penn State at No. 5. I know the PSU commenters would agree with him, but am I fair to be suspicious enough to keep them out of the Top 10?

Monday 09/15 A.M. Quickie:
Cassel, Hochuli, Zambrano, USC, More

Now THAT was a good sports weekend.

Aaron Rodgers.
Matt Cassel.
Mark Sanchez (and Joe McKnight!)
Brandon Marshall.
Darren McFadden.
Carlos Zambrano.
Ed Hochuli.

It's a loaded SN column this morning. So much to dig into today:

Can we just start with NFL ref Ed Hochuli for a second? Because he commands a lot of respect (for a ref, presumably because of his biceps), but he screwed the pooch so royally that I think he should be suspended for next week out of sheer incompetence.

This wasn't merely blowing a call; this was obliterating a call -- and perhaps ruining the Chargers' season (before Norv could ruin it).

And NFL replay policy doesn't help if the ref blows his whistle too quickly; here's a new rule of thumb: Let the fumbles play out before tweeting, then use replay to sort it out. It beats totally screwing up a game result.

Otherwise, who finds it fantastically ironic that Aaron Rodgers is the hottest QB in the NFL right now (and if it's not Rodgers, it's Kurt Warner).

Or that Matt Cassel wins just as much as Tom Brady (if not as prettily).

Or that Brandon Marshall sat out Week 1, yet still leads the NFL in receptions -- and instantly puts himself at the top of the argument: Who is the NFL's best WR?

(Speaking of "bests": Darren McFadden. 'Nuff said. He did what he did, despite having quite possibly the worst QB performance for a winning team that you'll see this season.)

Or that the Panthers and Titans are 2-0 and the Chargers and Jaguars are 0-2.

It's already an amazing NFL season, and I haven't even had a chance to gloat about Brett Favre's game-killing INT. (But what else is new?)

Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano's no-no: What a relief for Cubs fans -- the conditions under which it happened (in Milwauke for a one-game "home" series for Houston) make it all the more interesting... The Red Sox may catch the Rays, but the Twins won't -- and that's all that matters... The Phillies have caught the Brewers and may still catch the Mets, who in turn may be caught by the Brewers, putting the Mets right back where they were a year ago.

Finally: College football. USC's domination of Ohio State. USC is obviously No. 1 (BlogPoll Week 3, Take 1 coming at 11:30 for your review and comments), but I have two concerns: (1) The Pac-10 is terrible; and (2) let's not forget the "Black Swan" effect -- highly improbable things actually happening... such as Stanford beating USC in L.A. (Now, given the probabilities -- and just how good USC looked -- it's probably a good thing USC got that out of the way a year ago.)

Meanwhile, Ohio State is out of the national-title picture, regardless of what happens the rest of the season. They looked awful, and I'm not quite sure it was all USC that exposed it; OSU's two questions are whether they can hold off Penn State and Wisconsin -- and whether Jim Tressel will have the vision to start Terrelle Pryor and bench Todd Boeckman (not to admit that this year is all-but-finished, but because Pryor gives the team the best chance to win, provided Tressel has the imagination to know how to use him, which is no given).

Otherwise, presuming USC runs the table, it seems that the No. 2 BCS spot will go to the survivor of the Big 12 and SEC. Even if Oklahoma and Missouri run the table, they'd have to play in the Big 12 title game; the SEC is a little clearer -- Georgia, LSU and Florida all play each other; either they'll cannibalize the cause or one emerges unbeaten.

Not sure how pollsters would decide between an unbeaten SEC team and an unbeaten Big 12 team -- except to point out that despite USC's domination over what appears to be an overrated Ohio State team, the Trojans will play a schedule of cupcakes in the Pac-10, most of whom apparently couldn't finish at the top of the Mountain West Conference.

By the end of the season, an unbeaten Big 12 champ and an unbeaten SEC champ would have run a gauntlet way more impressive than USC. So USC crushed Ohio State -- the SEC would say: Who hasn't?

Maybe ceding that BCS spot to USC shouldn't be such a given, even if the Trojans DO go unbeaten. Hmm...

Speaking of looking ahead, here's an interesting analysis of the BCS-busters from the WSJ.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday 09/14 (Very) Quickie

UPDATE: All of a sudden, Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL...

Here's what we learned last night: USC is very very good.

Though it is possible that Ohio State wasn't as good as we though -- it's a fair point. Just as we found in the last two national title games: Were Florida and LSU that good? Or was Ohio State simply not as good as their ranking?

As much as the Trojans put on a show to stake their claim as the best team in the country, the Buckeyes had arguably their biggest humiliation of the Tressel Era (though most OSU fans will likely point to a lack of Beanie Wells as a big factor -- he wouldn't have helped all that much).

The result: USC has pole position for the national-championship game. The rest of their schedule is entirely favorable, and the rest of the Pac-10 looks mediocre, at best. (Aside from USC, it was not a good day for that conference. UCLA was bad, but the loss was predictable; as bad as that margin of defeat was, Arizona State losing to UNLV was much worse for the league.)

And Ohio State has virtually no chance at making the national-title game, even if they go 11-1 en route to a Big Ten title. After this, I think it's possible even a 2-loss Big 12 or SEC champ would earn the poll votes to stay ahead of Ohio State.

Also helping themselves yesterday: Missouri, behind new Heisman front-runner Chase Daniel, and BYU, who took a UCLA team that beat Tennessee and handed them their worst loss since the Great Depression. Also, Penn State was presumably watching the Buckeyes' loss eagerly, even if PSU feasted on lowly Syracuse, proving nothing. Same with Wisconsin, which survived its own night game on the West Coast, against feisty (now-BCS-busted) Fresno State.

(I'm not going to defend Georgia, but in a slightly SEC-apologist way, I will say that recent history has shown that SEC defenses are brutal; don't let the low scores fool you, although I don't think Georgia played well enough to not drop behind Oklahoma and Mizzou. And having Arizona State unexpectedly lose last night didn't do anything for that "monster" schedule UGA had lined up.)

Not helping themselves yesterday: East Carolina. A win's a win, and no one will remember this game if they end up going 12-0, but I (and presumably others) will drop them in this week's poll.

Outside of CFB, it was a big night for K-Rod, who set the all-time single-season saves record, which last week I wondered was a record that won't be broken by the time he's finished (presumably over 60).

-- D.S.