Saturday, November 08, 2008

CFB Saturday Viewing Guide and Live-Blog:
And That'll Be All For This Penn State Talk

Evening Update 3: So I'm watching Florida eviscerate Vanderbilt (remember when Vandy was 5-0 and a Top 10 team?), and even though the Florida offense is toying with a very respectable defense and the Florida defense is totally shutting down the Vandy offense (as they should), but it's the special teams.

Here's how good Florida's special teams are: They are the best punt-block team in the country... AND they have the best punt returner in the country (Brandon James). Cripes: Who has BOTH? This team is playing better right now than the 2006 national-champ edition ever did.

Evening Update 2:
So Alabama survives. I didn't have them ranked No. 1 last week, and as long as Texas Tech beats OK St tonight, the Tide won't be No. 1 for me this week. If TX Tech loses, Bama will be -- should be -- No. 1. (BTW: No one can make the case that Julio Jones is "too young" for the NFL. That guy is the second-best WR in the country, after Crabtree.)

Evening Update:
Normally, I hate Iowa. Tonight, I was rooting for them like a nutjob fan. I feel bad for Joe Paterno and for Penn State, but I was in the camp that Penn State was just that smidgen unworthy of playing in the national title game ahead of the Big 12 and SEC champs. Now, it's a moot point.

What a massive win by Iowa. Look at the fans on the field. It's like Texas Tech fans, only colder. God, I love college football.

All the playoff talk and debate over Who's No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3... it's all so freaking premature. Because results like this happen that solve the debate for us. That's why I will continue to insist that college football regular season is, itself, one long playoff.

There are now 7 teams with any shot at playing for the national title. And by the time Texas Tech and OK State finish tonight, it will be 6, max. And there's still time for Alabama to lose at LSU, as well as Florida and USC to be shocked tonight by talented opponents.

But we know one thing for sure: Penn State is finished. Wow.

Late-Afternoon Update:
Bama-LSU is really a good -- if turnover-filled -- game. Looks like Iowa won't be the team to derail Penn State.

Big bounce win for Texas -- Colt McCoy won't hurt his Heisman chances with today's performance. Huge blowout for Ohio State -- as usual, vs. Northwestern.

Hmm: You think Boise State is trying to slow down the Utah bandwagon by racking up points? It won't help. If both Boise and Utah go unbeaten, can't we see them play each other in a BCS bowl?

In the aren't-they-all-just-kind-of-mediocre ACC, UNC has staked its claim as the league's best, with that big win over Georgia Tech.

Tennessee lost at home to Wyoming: Just when you thought the Vols hit rock bottom, they show you the skills they have to go even lower. Yeesh.

I think I'll be ranking Western Michigan in this week's BlogPoll Top 25g - they beat Illinois in Detroit. That WMU-Ball St game on Tuesday 11/25 could be a biggie.

South Carolina is going to be a test for Florida next week at the Swamp: The Gamecocks have only lost to Vandy, Georgia and LSU -- each by only a TD.

Ohio State fans who hate how much I rag on the Buckeyes enjoy at least one measure of payback every year -- the annual OSU ass-kicking of Northwestern. In my lifetime as a Northwestern fan, there have been a grand total of TWO moments of joy:

1995: Northwestern's dream season. Incidentally, that season didn't involve actually playing Ohio State. Instead, NU's trip to the Rose Bowl was sealed when favored Ohio State lost to Michigan, sending the Wildcats to Pasadena. Thanks for choking, Buckeyes. (OSU fans earned a measure of payback when Eddie George undeservedly beat out Darnell Autry for the Heisman.)

2004: The night before my wedding, Ohio State was playing at Northwestern in primetime. The rehearsal dinner festivities turned into a crazy game-watching party, where my Northwestern friends all went crazyin front of the TV -- and then my wife's Florida family all adopted the Wildcats for the game. When Northwestern won the game -- a rarity vs. tOSU -- everyone went crazy, adding to an already awesome weekend. (It helped take the sting from those on my then-fiancee's side who had to miss a Florida home game in order to be at the wedding, which was located close enough that they were still in Florida, but just too far away to go from the wedding destination to Gainesville and back, without missing a ton of festivities. Fortunately, we turned that into an excuse for a day-long tailgate/game-watching event.)

Noon: Ohio State at Northwestern
, ESPN2.
(Mildly Tracking: GA Tech/UNC)
3:30: Alabama at LSU, CBS
(Closely Tracking: Penn St at Iowa, ABC)
8:00: Florida at Vanderbilt, ESPN2
(Very Closely Tracking: OK St at TX Tech, ABC)

Who says championships can't be won the second Saturday of November? Tonight, Florida can clinch the SEC East title -- their first (and most valued) step in winning a national championship (just ask Georgia a year ago). Urban's thinking is that if your season ends with an SEC East title, you will likely be in a position to be in the picture for the national title.

Live-Blog follows all day.

-- D.S.

Saturday 11/08 (Very) Quickie

Mostly NBA this morning, as we all gear up for another big Saturday in college football.

AI's Detroit debut: A loss, but at least it was exciting (24 pts, 6 ast, 50+% FG). But, ultimately, it was a Pistons loss to the Nets (Devin Harris 38 pts)

Billups' Denver debut: Not a ton of points. Not a particularly good FG percentage. But a win. (And I love that the Denver native wears the most hallowed number in Denver sports: 7)

How would Tony Parker follow up his double-nickel? With an ankle sprain, and the Spurs lost to the Heat (Wade: 33 pts, 9 ast, 10 reb)

Um, the Hawks are still unbeaten.

Worst team in the NBA? How 'bout my Wiz? Sigh. It's not the fault of re-signing Gilbert Arenas. It's the freaking injuries - for the Wiz, when ISN'T it about the injuries?

Redskins sign DeAngelo Hall: This can't possibly end well.

CFB Viewing Guide and Live-Blog coming later this morning.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 07, 2008

CFB Weekend Preview and Picks

What constitutes a big weekend these days? How about the now-weekly Big 12 Battle for Everything -- Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State. As 2 of the mere 8 remaining teams with any (even remote) BCS title-game hopes, one stays in the hunt; one drops out. (Yes, if Texas Tech loses, they are effectively done, at least in terms of BCS title game potential.) For Alabama and Penn State, it's simply about "survive-and-advance" in their toughest remaining regular-season games.

(1) Alabama over @LSU - GOTW2... no gimme for Bama.
(2) Texas Tech over Oklahoma State -- GOTW
(3) Penn State over @Iowa -- GOTW3
(4) Texas over Baylor
(5) Florida over @Vandy
(6) Oklahoma over @Texas A&M
(7) USC over (21) Cal
(8) Utah over (12) TCU -- Locked Thursday
(10) Boise St. over Utah St.
(11) Ohio St. over @(24)Northwestern
(13) Georgia over @Kentucky
(14) Missouri over Kansas St.
(15) BYU over San Diego St.
(17) Ball St over N. Illinois -- Locked Tuesday
(18) Michigan St over Purdue
(20) Georgia Tech over (19) North Carolina
(22) Florida St over Clemson
Virginia Tech over (23) Maryland -- Locked Thursday
(25) West Virginia over Cincy -- Surprisingly interesting game

Other Games to Watch:
Illinois vs. Western Michigan in Detroit
Wyoming at Tennessee -- Just how much worse can it get for the Vols?
Virginia at Wake Forest -- The ACC: Competitively lame
Notre Dame vs. BC -- And this bumped Florida to ESPN2??

Friday 11/07 A.M. Quickie:
Broncos, Brandon, Brady, BCS, Bissinger

Great to see the awesome turnout last night at Varsity Letters: Drew and Steinberg were hilarious, and Bissinger wowed with a very dramatic reading from Friday Night Lights and "3 Nights."

Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall is kind of a chucklehead -- a T.O./Chad Johnson wannabe. (See his belated attempt to "come back" at Joey Porter earlier this week.)

But, leading today's SN column, I think his heart (if not his head) was in the right place last night when he attempted to pull a John Carlos/Tommie Smith and raise a fist encased in a black-and-white glove.

What was his point? To celebrate the new national unity symbolized by the election of Barack Obama. Again: Heart in the right place.

He was dissuaded from doing it by his teammates, nervous about the impact of a personal foul late in a close game they just took the lead in after a crazy 4th-quarter comeback.

But the question lingers: Would we -- fans -- have been better off if he had done it and we could openly talk/debate/argue about what Marshall was trying to do and how he did it?

Meanwhile, Utah is zeroing in on a BCS-busting at-large bid for a non-BCS team. TCU was a really good team; maybe if the game wasn't in SLC, TCU wins. But the fact is, Utah is still unbeaten; their schedule played is tougher than any other non-BCS team in the conversation (Boise St) -- hell, their schedule played is arguably tougher than USC's right now. And, unlike the Trojans, Utah BEAT Oregon State. They are a worthy BCS party-crasher.

Big weekend in college football -- they're all big, aren't they? But if Penn State is going to get tripped up, it's going to be at Iowa. And if Alabama is going to get tripped up, it's going to be at LSU. And if USC is going to get tripped up (again), it's going to be vs. Cal. Weekly preview coming later, as usual.

NBA: (1) Brandon Roy is so money. (2) Is Gerald Wallace getting traded? (3) Who will score more in their new-team debuts: Iverson or Billups?

MLB: Does anyone really think the Padres would trade Peavy to the Dodgers? I think he ends up with the Cubs. Meanwhile, why isn't every team trying to get Matt Holliday? It's fascinating that he could wind up with Philly. What a coup that would be.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More on Obamaball: The Arnovitz Theory

Barack Obama has won North Carolina, officially. And I'd contend it was partly from his basketball obsession.

I call it the "Arnovitz Theory," inspired by an exchange I had with super-hoops blogger Kevin Arnovitz, who is guest-blogging over at TrueHoop and was nice enough to link to my "Obamaball" theory from yesterday.

The Arnovitz Theory holds that Barack Obama's wins in Indiana and North Carolina -- incredibly, "flipping" both traditionally "red" states to "blue" -- can be attributed at least indirectly (but perhaps directly) to his two most high-profile campaign events related to his love of basketball:

*In Indiana, Obama issued that challenge, offering to play 3-on-3 with whoever registered the most new Indiana voters.

*In North Carolina, Obama scored a P.R. coup by playing hoops with the Tar Heels.

In hoops-crazy states where basketball transcends traditional party politics, those moments may well have each been THE defining moment for Obama when it came to wooing a majority of the voters in each state.

Folks talk about Obama being "post-racial" or "post-ideological" or "post-partisan," but -- in reality -- maybe he's just got game in the post.


-- D.S.

Big Daddy Drew, Buzz Bissinger, Dan Steinberg: Best Varsity Letters Ever?

When I founded the Varsity Letters Reading Series three years ago -- still the nation's only reading series dedicated to sports -- before turning it over to the amazingly more competent folks at Gelf, tonight's lineup was the type that I think was the aspiration:

Drew Magary
: One of the leading voices in the sports blogosphere, newly published author of the best-selling book "Men With Balls" and -- incidentally now, I guess -- a founding editor of Kissing Suzy Kolber and a contributing editor to Deadspin.

Buzz Bissinger: Pulitzer-winning author, "Friday Night Lights," "3 Days in August" yada yada yada, will likely be best-known for his nationally televised rant against bloggers. He and Drew are now pals, it is worth noting. When you blurb a book, it's like sleeping with someone.

Dan Steinberg: Creator and proprietor of the Washington Post's DC Sports Bog, one of the first mainstream newspaper sports blogs -- and certainly the gold standard for how newspapers can use the platform of blogging to add considerable value for their readers and their brand.

About a year ago, VL convened a "Blogger Night" that was about as packed and crazy as I think the reading space could allow for. I actually think tonight will be even more fun. If you live in New York, I highly recommend it. Complete details here.

(The image above was inspired by the cover image of "Men With Balls". Consider it my homage to the evening.)

-- D.S.

Thursday 11/06 A.M. Quickie:
Obama, Utah, Manny, TP, Amare, More

I didn't intend to lead today's SN column with continuing promotion of my college football playoff plan.

But I unexpectedly went on a local radio show last night, and we spend the bulk of the time talking about a CFB playoff -- and I think it was entirely driven by Obama bringing it up Monday.

The BCS/playoff debate is omnipresent, but it usually doesn't hit in full force until December. But because of Obama's mention of it on Monday, it is front and center. When the President-elect initiates a policy discussion, it tends to get attention. In this case, his policy is playoff. I want nothing more than to help.

And so on the show, I teased my "SEC-ession" plan -- but don't call me an SEC elitist. I have modified the plan! I now think the SEC and Big 12 should jointly secede, then dare the rest of the country not to follow. You can see the complete plan in the post below (or here).

Anyway, at some point, there will be a playoff. The fastest (if "exlusionariest") way to get there is my plan -- not sure what's holding the SEC and Big 12 back. They'd make more money dropping out of the BCS and creating their own playoff than staying in the BCS.

(UPDATE: As usual, Matt "Doc Saturday" Hinton has some of the most clear-eyed analysis about the current iteration of the BCS mess, specifically involving USC and Pete Carroll's recent complaints. The gist: If you had won, you'd be fine.)

But that's neither here nor there: It is an absolutely loaded column today. Among the highlights:

CFB: Utah/TCU tonight and it's big-big-big. One of the Top 3 most important games of the year, because -- presuming the winner wins out -- it should be for a BCS-busting BCS bowl bid.

NBA: Everyone is talking about Tony Parker's double-nickel, and it was impressive (boosted by the fact that it was the Spurs' first W of the season). But statistically, for my money, Amare's line was even more impressive. Points (49), rebounds, assists, blocks, steals. It was all there.

MLB: Dodgers make Manny a huge offer. And I say he's worth it.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Secession Is The Only CFB Playoff Solution:
SEC, Big 12 Should Join Forces, Force Issue

Like President Barack Obama, would you like to see a college football playoff? Did you enjoy hearing Bob Stoops join the chorus -- led by the SEC -- lobbying for a playoff?

Time to re-pitch the only reasonable playoff solution, now expanded for more awesomeness:

First, let's stipulate that the Pac-10 and Big Ten adamantly refuse to -- and even actively obstruct -- a playoff. (Sorry, Pete Carroll and Joe Paterno: Take your problems up with your conference commissioners. Not our problem.)

Next, let's stipulate that the Big East and ACC each bring very little to the table.

Finally, let's get revolutionary: The SEC and Big 12 should secede from the BCS and set up their own playoff system -- 16 teams, 8 from each conference. Each group of 8 competes in a 3-game playoff to determine a conference champ. The two winners play for the national title.

It doesn't even infringe on the schedule. The conference playoff quarterfinals would be played the day of the traditional conference title games. The next Saturday would be the conference playoff semifinals. The Saturday after that would be the conference finals. Two Mondays later -- in 2009, January 5 -- would be the "Big 12-SEC title game" or, as it would be universally recognized, the national title game.

We'll see how fast the Pac-10 and Big Ten fold when their teams are shut out -- shut out of championship legitimacy (who would crown an unbeaten Pac-10 or Big Ten team over a team that ran a 4-game gauntlet of Big 12 and SEC playoffs?) and, ultimately, shut out of recruiting. The Big East and ACC would do anything to join in; resist the temptation -- look what their inclusion did to the BCS.

And it would be backed by TV money -- a lot of it. Imagine how much ESPN would pay.

And it doesn't hurt the existing bowl structure, which can continue to cherry-pick the playoff losers for Christmas Week and New Year's Day bowl games... except the two title-game finalists, which can meet in a game that rotates quadrennially between the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, the Superdome and the Georgia Dome.

Watch how fast the rest of the country comes into line. The Big 12 and SEC would have to be willing to give up their 8 vs. 8 exclusive playoff in favor of a nationalized 16-team playoff. The rest of the country can guarantee a preponderance of the revenues to the founding two conferences (call them equity stake-holders) in exchange for the chance to be included.

If the Pac-10 and Big Ten want to continue to keep themselves out -- perhaps committing to the Rose Bowl -- more power to them. But let's be clear here: Given the option to join a playoff, they actively choose to take themselves out of it. That way, there are no complaints when the Rose Bowl champ finishes no higher than 3rd in the annual final polls.

Thoughts? I had previously created this theory as SEC-only, figuring the Big 12 was a natural ally to join in, once the model proved itself. I am happy to open it up to the Big 12 right from the start. An SEC-Big 12 joint-venture would be unstoppable.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obamaball: President Obama and Sports

From today's SN column lead item:
What will President Barack Obama mean for sports?

No. 44 already made news earlier this week by declaring that he would like to see a college football playoff. I predict that by the end of his first term, he has brokered one.

That's because President Obama is a die-hard sports fan.

Most presidents have been fans, but you get the sense that Obama follows sports with the same passion as you or me -- when he is, y'know, not leading the free world.

But if there is one out-sized sports influence that an Obama administration will have on the country, it is this:

Basketball will become our national pastime -- a return to "Big" sport relevancy in the U.S. after years of increasing marginalization.

Obama's passion for hoops is well-known, a daily ritual throughout his campaign and a constant presence throughout his life.

Obama will be "Baller-in-Chief." He will install a basketball court in the White House. He will resuscitate the visibility and cachet of the sport, inspiring a generation of kids to take up and follow the game.

If there is a phrase that might have defined his perfect campaign plan -- and will certainly define his transcendent presidency -- may I propose:

There is a lot more in this theory to unpack. Fortunately, there are at least 4 years (and hopefully 8) to figure it all out.

-- D.S.

Wednesday 11/05 A.M. Quickie:
President Barack Obama. Enough Said.

I remain utterly elated over the result of yesterday's election. That lingering feeling is kind of remarkable, actually. Maybe I'm projecting, but people on the street seem to be perma-smiling.

It shouldn't surprise you that I led today's SN column with an attempt to put President Barack Obama into his proper sports context.

Needless to say, it is a new dawn when the First Fan is a real sports fan, much closer to how you or I consume sports than recent times.

And it has massive implications for a longtime Shanoff construction about the state of "Big" sports. I will republish the lead item in full later this morning.

Meanwhile, what you'll find in the rest of the column:

*NBA: The Celtics exposed the Rockets as not-yet-ready to challenge for a championship. Maybe in six months, but not now.

*CFB: Pete Carroll is a whiner: There is an easy way to master the BCS system when you have the most talented team in CFB playing the least challenging schedule of any contender: Win.

(Why doesn't Carroll flex some of his muscle as the biggest big dog in the Pac-10 to influence his conference's commissioner, who is one of the biggest playoff obstructionists in the country?)

*NFL: The state of the Raiders is so bad that it may finally be necessary for the NFL to step in. The pending purge could be the lowest moment yet.

*MLB: There will be some high-payroll team out there willing to give AJ Burnett a deal worth him opting out for. And they will pay for it, all right. Call it the "Pavano Effect."

*Schadenfreude: A roster of experts have determined that Derek Jeter is the worst fielder in baseball, which is a label that is a long time coming. Jeter fans are going to go insane.

More later. Complete SN column here.

President Barack Obama. Yes.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes We Can. Yes He Can. Yes He Did.

Yes We Can. Yes He Can.

Yes He Did.

This is the most stirring national moment of my lifetime -- probably of many people's lifetimes.

From the Declaration of Independence to the Emancipation Proclamation to tonight. Defining moments in American history, running along a straight line of history.

What a glorious event. What a worthy man. I have never been more proud to be an American.

Hope is real.

-- D.S.


Everyone should have a voting story today. Your kids and grandkids will likely ask you about it -- if you are volunteering (or have volunteered) in some way, all the better... and thanks.

I voted early this morning -- hey, when you're up as early as I am, why not take advantage? -- and my wife and I brought our 2-year-old and our 2-week-old with us to the voting booth.

(We were fortunate: The line was short -- the whole thing only took 20 minutes or so. I cannot imagine -- but I salute -- those who have to deal with lines that last into the hours.)

Casting the ballot felt more exhilarating than any civic moment I have ever experienced. We are on the cusp of one of the greatest moments in American history. You can feel it.

I don't want to belabor the moment. Go vote.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 11/04 A.M. Quickie:
Election, Ben, Byron, AI, Fulmer, More

Today eclipses anything that could possibly happen in sports. It may turn out to be one of the most historic and important days in the history of the country.

It's a good thing, then, that we seemed to get all the fun storylines in sports out of the way yesterday, as broken down in today's SN column: AI traded to Detroit; Phil Fulmer on the outs in Tennessee; Byron Leftwich finding a moment of career renaissance in D.C. leading the Steelers to an Election Eve win; rumors of Jake Peavy heading to the AL...

Sorry for the short post this morning. Way too excited about the election today. More later. Complete SN column here. Go vote.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Iverson to Detroit, Fulmer Done at Tennesee

So much for a slow pre-election Monday. (Henry approves. Hall on Fulmer here.)

Monday 11/03 A.M. Quickie:
BCS, Titans, Texas Tech, Colts, CP3

Still recovering from Saturday's win by Texas Tech over Texas. (What: You thought I'd say I'm still recovering from Saturday's win by Florida over Georgia?)

Perfection is on the brain in the lead of today's SN column: The Titans' perfection, Texas' inability to maintain perfection, the idea that Florida needs a perfect ending to even sniff the national-title game. (OK, maybe that last part didn't make the SN column.)

As a Gators fan, what those wins did was give me at least a reasonable scenario where Florida could make the national title game: Win out, including a win over a (hopefully unbeaten) Alabama in the SEC title game, plus a loss by either Texas Tech or (more remotely possible) Penn State.

Given that there are only 8 teams with even the remotest chance of making it (and 4 of the 8 play in the same conference division -- it's really 4: Big 12 champ, SEC champ, Penn St, USC), I'm just happy to be in the conversation.

Meanwhile, the Titans may have the NFL's best record, but I think it's obvious that the Giants are the NFL's best team (though the Cowboys are pretty awful, making the Giants look better). The AFC East is the most interesting division. And the Raiders (77 yards of offense?) are the league's worst. (Re: the Vick rumors -- he could only help.)

Saturday night was the real spectacular show in the NBA; yesterday's games were merely to (a) remind that the Knicks aren't THAT "new-look" and (b) get OKC the team's first post-relocation win. (Zzz: Tell me when Chris Paul or the must-see rookies are playing again.)

Complete SN column here.

Please weigh in on the BlogPoll ballot below, with a particular emphasis on the Top 10. (Yes, I know that I rank Michigan State way too high. I'll fix it.) And check out the post below that, which lays out a schematic for each of the 8 BCS contenders -- looking for your help on that.

More later. Tomorrow is a big day, to say the least. (Hmm: Have you bought your T-shirt yet?)

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

This Week's BlogPoll Ballot, Version 1

As always, let me know what you think. As mentioned this weekend, we reach a point in the season where "resume" is supplemented by the context of how those wins (and losses) look now, along with that amorphous notion of "how well they're playing right now."

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

Dropped Out: Tulsa (#16), Minnesota (#18), Connecticut (#20), South Florida (#24), Central Michigan (#25).

The Path to CFB Title Game: 8 Teams Left

I was futzing around with the theory below. Please take a look and let me know in what way I need to adjust the parameters...

Only 8 teams have a legitimate chance to make the national title game, and only 2 control their own destiny, though 2 others are close. Here is how things lay out:

Destiny Controlled: If they simply win out, regardless of what anyone else does, they should make the national title game.

1. Texas Tech: Win out, they're in.
2. Alabama: Win out, they're in

Needs help, but not much:
3. Penn State: Win out AND needs EITHER Bama or TX Tech to lose.

(Yes, this presumes that if Texas Tech, Alabama and Penn State all go unbeaten, Penn State would be on the outside looking in. I think we could all agree that is reasonable.)

Needs help, but best shot of all 1-loss teams:
4. Florida: Win out (assumes beating Alabama in SEC CG) plus EITHER Texas Tech OR Penn State loses.

(Yes, this presumes that a 1-loss Florida team that wins the SEC title game over Alabama would be ranked ahead of a 1-loss Big 12 champ -- especially if Alabama goes into it unbeaten.)

Needs substantial help:
5. Texas: Win out;TX Tech loses, but NOT to Okla or Okla St; PLUS a loss by Penn State OR a loss by Alabama before the SEC CG + Florida losing again.

Needs a lot of help, in the form of Texas losing again PLUS:
6.Oklahoma: Win out (incl. beating TX Tech)
7. Oklahoma St: Win out (incl. beating TX Tech)

Needs a ton of help:
8. USC: Win out; needs Penn St to lose; needs TX Tech to lose twice; needs Florida to lose again; needs Bama to lose; and needs BOTH Texas and Oklahoma to lose again.

Sunday 11/02 (Very) Quickie: Guns Up

Wow. Wow. Wow. I'm still blown away by the way Texas Tech put away Texas last night.

The Red Raiders dominated Texas for all but the final quarter. But just when the game seemed to get away from them -- literally in the final minute, when you could see a "Texas being Texas" moment of triumph -- they dominated Texas with one of the awesomest last-minute, game-winning drives you'll ever see (particularly given that it came against a consensus No. 1 team).

BTW: Have you ever seen a two-play turnaround like the one at the end of last night's game? Texas HAD THE GAME WON WITH THAT INT -- which they dropped. Then, Harrell (my new Heisman leader?) hit Crabtree (um, perhaps my newer Heisman leader?) with that sicksicksick TD pass. Matt Hinton summed up that Texas two-step nicely.

Speaking of No. 1, I have no idea -- ZERO -- how ANYONE could possibly NOT put Texas Tech at No. 1 in the polls this week. They are unbeaten, from the nation's best conference, and thoroughly outplayed the consensus No. 1 team in the country. That they would "vault" from 7 to 1 (some of us had them at No. 4 this week...) is hardly a radical thought, given the way they beat the team formerly considered No. 1.

But, really, you are an intellectually bankrupt poll voter if you gave your No. 1 vote to Texas last week, then don't turn around and give it to Texas Tech.

Here's the other dynamic that I find intriguing: Yesterday was the first moment we had a "state your case" game from a non-unbeaten, 1-loss team. Given the way that Florida destroyed another team in the Top 10, I'd argue that Florida is better right now than both Alabama and Penn State, despite that one loss. (In what other match-up this season of two teams both in the Top 10 did one team so thoroughly overwhelm the other?) Then again, plenty of would-be champions had to settle for the "playing better than anyone else right now" label... while still sitting outside the Top 2.

But, really, let me be revisionist: Just how impressive is Alabama's win at Georgia -- outlasting, rather than beating -- now that Florida just obliterated the Bulldogs on a neutral field? And Penn State's status as both unbeaten -- on the strength of a very good win over a good but not great Ohio State team -- and king of the Big Ten ( that supposed to be impressive?) is one step up from Ball State: "We're undefeated, thus we're deserving!" Another year, another looks like another unbeaten Big Ten champ will ride a fluffy schedule to a beat-down in the national title game.

This isn't just about Florida; I'm seriously considering ranking Texas at No. 2, behind Texas Tech. Just as Oklahoma's close loss to Texas allowed them to hug tight behind the Big Three, Texas' close loss to Texas Tech doesn't mean they aren't the 2nd-best team in the country. If Texas played either Alabama or Penn State, I think they would work them over. I feel the same way about Florida.

Does that mean I should rank Texas No. 2 and Florida No. 3, ahead of Alabama and Penn State? At what point does "ranking by resume" turn into "resume, plus enough to know what those wins mean in context of everyone else." I also have been known to favor "how a team is playing at that moment," given that I named Georgia my national champ last season.

I don't want poll-jockeying to take away from that thrilling game last night. I didn't think anything would diminish or impact the high I was riding after the Florida win, but the way Texas Tech dismantled Texas did just that. It's not even that I'm anti-Texas; it's just that how can you not love a scrappy perennial second-tier rival, playing in (and delivering) the greatest game of the program's history, at home in front of an INSANE crowd (kudos to them for that, btw), just giving it to the team everyone presumed would roll through the regular season unbeaten.

The mainstream pundits have now been incredibly wrong twice in the past month or so: (1) USC was unbeatable; (2) Texas was unbeatable. Frankly, it's hard for me to put any stock in what they say anymore.

Here's what we know:

(1) Texas Tech earned itself the week at No. 1 -- with Oklahoma State coming next week, there's no guarantee that holds, but TT deserves to be in the pole/poll position. But given Tech's history, the chances of them running the table are not in their favor. (Personally, I find the Big 12 defense's more suspect than ever, particularly after watching Florida's defense opportunistically suck the life out of a Georgia offense considered one of the nation's best.)

(2) The polls may allow Bama and Penn State to back into 1-2 this week.

(3) I think Bama may have trouble at LSU next week, but they will certainly have trouble with Florida if the Gators and Tide both make the SEC title game and Bama comes in unbeaten.

(4) Penn State, god bless 'em, can simply ride out their cushy schedule, which doesn't feature a league title game, and go unbeaten.

: Actually, there is very little BCS mess, contrary to Brent's rabble-rousing. There are 3 teams that should end up with a claim: An unbeaten Penn State, an unbeaten or 1-loss Big 12 champ and an unbeaten or 1-loss SEC champ. Now, deciding between them might be hard (for now), but we're not talking about a particularly messy situation. (Besides, if an SEC or Big 12 team is shut out of the national title game for Penn State, isn't that what the mythical AP championship is for?)

But that's all poll-wonky and looking too far ahead (given last night's Midnight Miracle, obviously). Let's not take away from the truly marvelous game that Texas Tech played -- and its gloriously worthy result.

-- D.S.