Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday 10/25 (Very) Quickie: CFB Mania!

Late-Afternoon Update: That is what you call "surviving" by Texas. Give Texas credit for gritting it out against an Oklahoma State team much better than most had ranked (I had them at No. 4).

Here's what I know: This week, I will rank Oklahoma State ahead of Oklahoma. Both have 1 loss, both lost to Texas. Oklahoma was run out of the building on a neutral field. Oklahoma State was about 60 seconds shy of winning in Austin. Of all teams with 1 loss, Oklahoma State has the "best" loss. Does that make them the highest-ranked of any 1-loss team? Hmm...

Meanwhile, if Georgia can get out of Baton Rouge, Florida-Georgia next week is going to be epic.

Early-Afternoon Update
: I'm willing to stipulate that Big 12 offenses are awesome, but can we at least agree that it is partially because Big 12 defenses are a joke? I'd like to see Big 12 offenses against a very good SEC defense. (Oh, we did: In 2003, when LSU shut down Oklahoma.)

Meanwhile, the AP poll is officially over. I love how ESPN is (entirely appropriately) referring to teams based on their BCS ranking. The AP poll is basically the BlogPoll with a couple more decades of history -- but a lot less transparency. Otherwise, effectively the same.

For those of you not watching Florida on GamePlan but following the scoring via the crawl or in-game updates, it IS that much of an ass-kicking. Pay attention, poll-voters.

Today's Viewing Schedule (with updates and commentary throughout the day):

12:30: Kentucky at Florida (GamePlan)
Tracking: Texas Tech at Kansas (ESPN)
3:30: Oklahoma St at Texas (ABC)
P-i-P: Georgia at LSU (CBS)
8:00: Penn St at Ohio St (ABC)
Tracking: Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN)

And I'll be flipping back and forth tonight with World Series Game 3 (if it's not rained out). You can not care about either the Rays (really?!) or the Phillies, but how can you ignore the ageless Jamie Moyer?

This is likely the oldest player you will ever see play a meaningful role -- let alone be the starting pitcher -- in a World Series. And if he isn't the oldest you've ever seen, it's the oldest you ever will see again. I'm rooting for the Rays, but I'm very sympathetic to Moyer.

More: Did Isiah Thomas try to kill himself? He OD'ed on sleeping pills, but I wouldn't use the "S" word without more evidence. I would, however, not be surprised if he bungled the cap on how many pills he was supposed to take. (Here's to a full and healthy recovery!)

I will never get over the double-standard between steroids in MLB (scandal!!!!1!!!111!!) and steroids in the NFL, which is basically ubiquitous to the point where fans and media (and, oh, Congress) don't really care all that much. It's like: Well, how else are they supposed to jack folks up? Anyway, there's a new report in today's NY Times about 8 more NFL players busted for PEDs. I'm sure it will be as ignored as all the others.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 24, 2008

CFB Weekend Preview and Picks: More UT

There will, by necessity, be some BCS shake-ups this weekend. In the Top 10 alone: (1) Either Texas or Oklahoma State will suffer their first loss. (2) Either Ohio State or Penn State will be effectively eliminated from national-title consideration. (3) Same with the loser of LSU and Georgia. (4) Unbeaten Texas Tech has a very tough road game at Kansas. (5) It's a moment for both USC and Florida to move up, in human polls and the BCS.

(1) Texas over (6) Oklahoma St - GOTW
(2) Alabama over @Tennessee
(9) Ohio State over (3) Penn St - GOTW2!
(4) Oklahoma over @Kansas St
(5) USC over @Arizona
(13) LSU over (7) Georgia
(23) Kansas over (8) Texas Tech
(10) Florida over Kentucky
(12) Boise St over @San Jose St
(14) TCU over Wyoming
(15) Missouri over Colorado
(16) South Florida over @Louisville
(17) Pitt over Rutgers
(18) Georgia Tech over Virginia
(19) Tulsa over Central Florida
(20) Ball St over E. Michigan
(21) BYU over UNLV
(22) Northwestern over @Indiana
(24) Minnesota over @Purdue
(25) Florida St over VA Tech

Other Games of Note:
Cincinnati over UConn
UNC over BC
Wisconsin over Illinois
Miami over Wake Forest
Michigan over Michigan St
Notre Dame over Washington

Friday 10/24 A.M. Quickie:
Rays, RISP, CFB, NFL, NBA, More

I'm still holding out for Tim Tebow showing up at the bris today... too much to ask?

I'm not particularly triumphant about the Rays' first-ever World Series win in today's SN column. Mainly because I know that weak RISP percentages usually find the mean, although the whole "regress to the mean" theory works a lot better with a sample size larger than the 5 remaining games of this World Series.

Meanwhile, what will be the more important dynamic of the World Series: RISP or Rain? The Phillies can't convert with runners in scoring position; rain might create havoc -- or at least no off-days -- with the World Series schedule. (I'll take it; compare that to the ludicrously endless NBA playoff schedule.)

What is less believable: That the Pats aren't annoyed with Tom Brady or that NFL teams don't actively offer bounties on opposing players?

CFB This Weekend: At least 4 games with BCS implications. Weekly preview and picks coming later this morning.

I want to salute blog reader Jason Schoming: He is leading BOTH Daily Quickie Reader picks games -- NFL and CFB. That is a hell of a double. In his honor, I will pick Ohio State to beat his beloved Penn State, thereby ensuring that Penn State wins via Quickie jinx.

I'm working on my NBA preview ("Shallowest. Preview. Ever.") for next week's season start. Any clever ideas for Finals predictions? I can't stand the thought of picking the Lakers and Celtics, like basically everyone else. How about the Rockets winning the West? Maybe the Hornets? And how about the Magic winning the East? Maybe the Pistons? Would love the input.

I have never been a fan of Lute Olson or Arizona. Can't say I'm sorry to see him go, although he WAS that program. Without an innovative pick for coach, the program will slide into irrelevancy.

Former Zona wunderkind assistant Josh Pastner has always kind of annoyed me (for no good reason, really -- he's sort of a Theo Epstein/Jon Daniel/Andrew Friedman of college hoops), but hiring the thirtysomething longtime Olson assistant (now a Calipari assistant at Memphis -- that's not a sketchy place to learn or anything) would inject the program with energy -- and much-needed youth.

More later. Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Should You Name Your Kid After Athletes?

So why didn't we name him "Tim Tebow Shanoff?" The must-read is here.

(That said: I continue to extend an open invitation to Tebow to attend the bris tomorrow. Will I let him do the circumcizing? Well, let's just say that if he is willing to make the effort to attend, I wouldn't rule it out.)

Thursday 10/23 A.M. Quickie:
Phillies, Hamels, Utley, McCoy, Magic

OK, so maybe it won't be the Rays in 5. But it's not like they haven't been stifled in Game 1 of a championship series before. The last time it happened, they scored 31 runs in the next 3 games.

Still: As I lead in today's SN column, that was an impressive display by Cole Hamels, who is the new Josh Beckett -- untouchable in the postseason. And by Brad Lidge, who probably deserves NL Cy. And by Chase Utley, who -- for all the MVP hype for Rollins ('07) and Howard ('08) -- is the real MVP of this offense. And by Jason Bartlett, who even Philly fans can cheer, given that he swiped them (and the rest of the country) a free taco.

Meanwhile, looking ahead to Saturday, Texas-Oklahoma State is the headliner (yes, Penn St and Ohio St fans, with your game thisclose behind). But the real news is Colt McCoy confirming that he'll return to Texas for the '09 season, which should scare the hell out of people. If he's this good in the offense now, how much better will Texas be next year?

It seems unthinkable, but when McCoy's career is over, he will likely be considered even better than Vince Young. Not bad, considering Vince Young is one of the Top 3 college football players of the last decade (Young... Bush... Tebow -- go ahead and retch now).

What would McCoy need to top Young? Not just a national title -- how about two of them? And a Heisman -- or two. Two national titles and two Heismans? Yup, that would do it. (Yes, I recognize this projection is fantastical. Then again, I was perfectly willing to argue that there was no way Tim Tebow would win another Heisman after last season. And he won't.)

Wow, that was a bit of a digression...

I'll dig into the start of the NBA season next week, but am I that wrong to think that the Magic can push the Celtics to contend in the East? Dwight Howard is unstoppable (except at the FT line, of course); Rashard Lewis is a near-perfect complement; and Mickael Pietrus is a defensive stopper. There's something about central Florida this year, isn't there?

More coming later. Complete SN column here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Can't Us? Almost Makes Me Root Philly

If you've been tracking "Why Can't Us?" over the past (less-than-a) week, it basically reached its apex today. (It doesn't hurt that Deadspin impresario AJ Daulerio is a Philly guy.)

Alas, any second now, it will be overexposed -- oh, you can bet it'll make the Fox broadcast -- and over, just like that. But let's all enjoy it now; it is rare to be able to smell a meme in full bloom.

It is a brilliant, bottom-up slogan. It almost makes me root for the Phillies. Almost. Go Rays.

Nate Silver Is the MVP of 2008

Nate Silver has pulled off an unprecedented "double" this year:

In his role as guru of the PECOTA performance projection system at Baseball Prospectus, he correctly predicted the Rays' rise this season. Arguably, he sparked the bandwagon.

In his role as founder and lead voice of politics blog, he has become the breakout star of political polling punditry - it's in my heavy rotation.

Here is a must-read New York magazine story that puts it all together about Silver.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 10/22 A.M. Quickie:
Rays in 5, Favre Scandal, NBA Rooks, More

Rays in 5. And, unless you're from Philly, I cannot imagine that you can't root for the Rays. This is one of the great turnaround stories in sports history -- on the cusp of the superlative "greatest."

Here is a reality of the sports-media dynamic nearing the end of 2008: You cannot ignore a story and pretend it isn't there. There are too many outlets. Fans are too informed. It erodes credibility.

If the Favre story came from some random source with no track record, we could dismiss it as some no-account attempt to link-bait one's way to some short-term page views.

Jay Glazer is arguably the most intrepid NFL "info guy" on the beat today -- he wouldn't put his rep on the line with a claim like "1,000 percent" certainty of his story if he wasn't...certain.

And it's not like Brett Favre has a history of straight talk -- he talks, to be sure, but he ensures it is almost always with Favre-friendly folks.

(Here's a question: What will Peter King do when it turns out that Favre lied to him to his face -- or, at least, through a text message? Will he still have blinding, journo-undercutting fealty?)

Regardless: It's a story. (And now it's also a story about a story, what political campaigns and media call "process stories" -- inside baseball, rather than the game itself.)

Meanwhile, if you can set aside the presumption that Greg Oden has NBA Rookie of the Year locked up, the three leading candidates were on display last night: Derrick Rose (30 pts); OJ Mayo (28 pts); Mike Beasley (19 pts). I still say Kevin Love is the best rookie.

(Oh, and nothing will hurt the start of the NBA season quicker than a knee injury to its No. 1 star, Kobe. Presumably, he'll be fine. But it's a reminder.)

I ask a fair question in today's column: What's the bigger game -- Texas vs. Oklahoma State or Penn State vs. Ohio State? I default to the former (two unbeatens, with the winner worthy of the No. 1 ranking both in the polls and the BCS?), but I'm willing to entertain that it's the latter: If Penn State wins, they have a near-lock on the BCS title game; if they lose, the BCS dream is over. And Ohio State is playing better than they have all season -- and the game is in Columbus. If Penn State wins, they will boost their cred -- and, playing in the weak Big Ten, they'll need it.

More to come later. Complete SN column here. Root Rays.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday 10/21 A.M. Quickie:
Pats, Rays, 49ers, McCoy, Blazers, Tiger

I'm going to stop mocking the Pats now. As I lead in today's SN column: Who needs Brady? It's like the karmic rebound for Boston sports fans from Sunday's ALCS disappointment.

Meanwhile, how is everyone outside of Philly not on the Rays bandwagon? The David Price bandwagon? The Joe Maddon bandwagon? The Tampa-as-hot-sports-town bandwagon?

Growing up a massive die-hard Bears fan, I -- like every other Bears fan -- idolized Mike Singletary. It's hard to view his elevation to head coach of the 49ers with any kind of objectivity.

One more reason Tim Tebow rules: He is taking his Heisman voting responsibility more seriously than 90 percent of the 900 or so media hacks who get to vote. His new guy: Colt McCoy. Good choice.

Does the collapse of EliteXC spell the bubble bursting for MMA? Hardly. But the bubble will burst for fly-by-night UFC wannabes.

The Blazers are so easy to like -- they are sort of like the Rays of the NBA. That's not a perfect analogy, but it's not totally out of line. (SN previewed the Blazers today, which is why I was thinking of them.)

I'm no golfer, but I'd be willing to play 18 if Tiger was caddying.

Derek Jeter is dating Minka Kelly? Of course he is.

I never really weighed in on the Lou Holtz "Hitler" thing. It was absurdly out of line, and my problem with folks who invoke Hitler or Nazis (whether on-air, like Holtz, or online, like Hill) is that they lack a baseline sensitivity to the utter stupidity of what they're saying. I would have suspended Holtz for at least a weekend on the face of his own comment; in the context of the suspension given to Hill, it seems even more ludicrous he wasn't suspended.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday 10/20 A.M. Quickie:
Rays, BCS, Cowboys, Favre, Titans, More

Some things just re-affirm your faith in...well, everything. The Rays beating back the Sox surge to win Game 7 and the AL pennant is one of those moments.

The question, as I lay out in my SN column today, is whether this is a revolution or a blip?

The Red Sox -- from sheer payroll by itself, let alone its expert front-office management -- will always be a contender. But the Rays did it on a fraction of the budget, with a surplus of young talent. If the Rays offered the Sox a roster swap -- straight up, team-for-team -- is there any doubt the Sox would take it?

They looked the defending champ -- arguably the best elimination-game team in MLB history -- in the eye and Boston blinked. I thought we were in the middle of the Red Sox Dynasty.

This might be the beginning of the Reign of the Rays.

Meanwhile, BCS BCS BCS. You know who was No. 2 in the first BCS poll a year ago? South Florida. Things will change. Texas and Alabama "control their own destiny," but things inevitably happen.

Well, perhaps not to Texas, which looks like an absolute juggernaut, even in the tough Big 12 (which isn't quite the monster it looked like a few weeks ago).

But Alabama still has a hell of a row to hoe, including the SEC title game (if they get that far). Penn State is sitting pretty -- IF they can win at Ohio State (no gimme), although it's hard to stomach another Big Ten champ making the BCS, given how mediocre the league is.

USC will cruise to 11-1, but its strength of schedule will continue to haunt it. And if Penn State beats Ohio State - or if Ohio State loses to anyone else -- that single signature USC win suddenly doesn't look so impressive.

There is a crack of light for Florida, although I'm certain it won't play out this smoothly: Beat Georgia. Win the rest of the regular-season games. Beat Alabama in the SEC title game. Not easy, but a 12-1 SEC champ should be more than enough (unless both Texas and Penn State both go undefeated -- even then, you wonder whether a 1-loss SEC champ is worse than an unbeaten Big Ten champ).

It's a rare Monday when the NFL is relegated behind two other stories. But here we are: The Cowboys are a mess. The Titans should have silenced all doubters (although beating KC isn't exactly beating, say, the Giants). I really want an enterprising blogger to find all the YouTube clips from Draft day where the Titans were mocked for drafting Johnson.

And Brett Favre is accused of helping the Lions prep for their Week 2 game against the Packers, which is so farcically predictable that it HAS to have some truth to it. It's so petty, so narcisisstic -- thus, so Favre. It's not against the rules, per se, but so against the spirit of competition; it's not like the Lions signed a Packers castoff who helped his new team scheme his old team.

Anyway, it's a fun Monday. They're all fun. Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Texas, Bama 1-2

With the first BCS poll coming out today, all that matters is Who's No. 1 and Who's No. 2 (and, by extension, who's close enough to take advantage if 1 and/or 2 stumble). I have Texas and Alabama, and I don't expect the BCS to be any different. Of course, there's a ton of game to play. Ballot here. Thoughts? Comments? Feedback?:

1 Texas --
2 Alabama --
3 Penn State --
4 Oklahoma 1
5 Oklahoma State 1
6 Florida --
7 Southern Cal 3
8 Texas Tech --
9 Utah --
10 LSU 2
11 Ohio State 4
12 Boise State 2
13 Georgia 2
14 TCU 7
15 Missouri 2
16 South Florida 2
17 Brigham Young 10
18 Kansas 2
19 Tulsa 4
20 Ball State 2
21 Georgia Tech 5
22 Minnesota 3
23 Pittsburgh 3
24 Boston College 2
25 Northwestern 1

Dropped Out: Michigan State (#17), Vanderbilt (#19), Wake Forest (#20), North Carolina (#24).

Sunday 10/19 (Very) Quickie

Yes, I'm now extremely nervous about the Rays. There's not much more to say, except in a one-game, winner-take-all (regardless of location), it would be silly to pick against the defending champs on a 2-game win streak, who haven't lost an elimination game in forever.

Yes, Texas should be the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country -- and No. 1 in the first BCS, released today.

(No. 2? Alabama. On the outside looking in at No. 3: Penn State, but don't feel bad for them -- they will ride that weak Big Ten schedule all the way to the BCS title game.)

Oklahoma had the 2nd-biggest CFB win of the day -- but top teams at home SHOULD win decisively. That's why Penn State's early struggles with Michigan were so startling -- or Alabama's limp finish vs. Ole Miss was equally so.

Even though Ohio State romped Michigan State in East Lansing, I'm not sure I'm sold on OSU -- their Game of the Year is next week at home vs. Penn State, with the Rose Bowl (perhaps more) on the line. It will certainly (and finally) legitimize Penn State's national-title candidacy.

Next week features four huge games, that will make-or-break several contenders' seasons: Oklahoma St at Texas; Penn State at Ohio State; Texas Tech at Kansas; Georgia at LSU. Wow.

NBA Preseason Injury Watch: Deron Williams' ankle.

More later.

-- D.S.