Saturday, November 15, 2008

Barack Obama to Push for 8-Team College Football Playoff on "60 Minutes"

Barack Obama will re-affirm his personal endorsement for an 8-team playoff in college football on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night.

What he doesn't do, of course, is explain how you'd pick those 8 teams:

*The Top 8 teams from some sort of composite ranking? Who gets to do the ranking?

*Guaranteed spots for the "big" 6 conferences? Any conferences? How is that fair?

*How do you convince obstructionists from the Big Ten and Pac-10 to participate? (Or, like me, are you willing to dare them to opt out and simply put together a playoff without them?)

*As hard as it is to pick from 3 or 4 teams for 2 spots in a title game now, try solving how you differentiate teams 9 through, say, 15 from 5 through 8. You're pushing the mess down -- and expanding it.

But it remains quite fantastic that Obama has made this his signature sports issue. But as with all lofty campaign ideals, the success is in the details.

-- D.S.

CFB Saturday Viewing Guide and Live-Blog

If you can hang 56 points on the 3rd-ranked defense in the country, perhaps you should disregard that pesky 1-point loss what feels like a lifetime ago and consider the possibility that Florida is the best team in the country. It's fine if you don't want to, yet. They have the opportunity to simply keep destroying people. If they do that 4 more times, they're champs. (Four games feels simultaneously like forever and nothing.)

Gary Danielson just made a great point
on what could turn out to be a very important issue: There is no "debate" between Oklahoma and Texas if OU beats Texas Tech next week. Texas beat Oklahoma head to head, on a neutral field no less. With all else equal, that's the only thing that matters. There are 4 teams with legit BCS title game chances: The Alabama-Florida winner (if both win out through the SEC CG), Texas Tech (if they win out) and Texas (if TT doesn't). That's it. Oklahoma should have beaten Texas when they had the chance. (Ask USC if they wouldn't have wanted a chance to play Texas head-to-head to establish their bonafides.)

Of course, the Coaches Poll inanely already has Oklahoma ahead of Texas. what you never hear in the complaints about the BCS is that both the Coaches' Poll and Harris Poll are staffed by hopelessly conflicted participants (Coaches) or bonafide-free shills (Harris).

You all know I love Tim Tebow,
but the most talented player on Florida is Percy "Oh, Mercy!" Harvin, and it's not even close. Sort of like Leinart and Bush in 2004 or '05, the QB gets the glory, but the RB/WR/Whatever is the unstoppable superstar. If you aren't watching the Florida game, be sure to see Harvin's 80-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage of the 2nd half at the Gators 20. Oh, yikes.

Also paying attention to Oregon State-Cal
... USC doesn't have much of a claim to the BCS title game if they can't even win their own conference, which the Beavers have a bee-line on.

How 'bout those Northwestern Wildcats? I don't care that Michigan sucks this season. I don't care that it was an ugly game. 8-3 is 8-3. Huge season-ender next week coming up against rival Illinois. Most fans thought 8 wins was realistic for NU; 9 wins would be a great season.

Well, Tubby McGoldendome sure escaped in this one vs. Navy. What a comeback by the Middies. Weis didn't DESERVE to win that game -- ND fans shouldn't give him all that much credit for merely surviving. The last 2 minutes were one ND snafu after another. Way to "coach," Coach. Man, I hate Notre Dame.

Too little, too late for Clemson. Same with Rutgers.

If Georgia loses to Auburn, does that make Florida's win over Georgia less impressive? Yes. (Update: Good thing they eked it out.)

Meanwhile, just a heads-up: Expect me to hammer that a low/close score between Florida and South Carolina is a result of Florida playing the No. 3 defense in the country. And putting up a lot of points? On the 3rd best D in the country? That'll be a talking point. (Oh, and if Florida loses? Will it matter? Their national-title dreams will be over anyway.)

Update: It's already an ass-kicking, and the Gators offense hasn't done jack.

Kansas is giving Texas a game in Lawrence -- at least halfway through the 2nd quarter. (Update: So much for that.)

Is it wrong to be openly rooting for Notre Dame to lose? Never.

I really had high hopes for a Northwestern win at Michigan, but the weather (and NU's playcalling) is spiking that.

Noon: Northwestern at Michigan (ESPN2)
3:30: South Carolina at Florida (CBS)
8 p.m.: Eh...maybe Bama-MissSt.

Saturday 11/15 (Very) Quickie

"What recession?" That's a worthwhile question when you hear the Yankees offered CC Sabathia $140M over 6 years. No, seriously: WHAT? No pitcher is worth that.

Missing the playoffs must have freaked the Yankees out entirely. I thought they were going to be more thrifty, not less. The funniest part will be when CC pitches like he did in the AL last season, not the NL and the Yankees miss the playoffs again.

Meanwhile, think the AI-Billups trade is working out for the Nuggets? They won in Boston, which is just about as big a win as exists in the NBA this season. (Meanwhile, the Pistons beat the Lakers in LA -- AI had a big game, but Rasheed was on fire.)

CBB Openers: So I think playing PG is going to work out for Stephen Curry. In addition to 29 points, Curry had 10 assists (and 9 steals!)... More studs: Blake Griffin (24 and 18)... Hasheem Thabeet (23 and 17)... James Harden (24 pts)... DeJuan Blair (17 and 13)... Freshman Watch: Al-Farouq Aminu (21 and 10 in his debut)...

Shocker...or not: Wasn't it just a year ago that Kentucky lost a couple of November games to vastly inferior teams? Maybe they were just learning Billy Gillispie's system. So what's his excuse this year, as Kentucky lost to VMI? UK has one of the best big men in college hoops, Patrick Patterson, and in 27 minutes, the guy got 4 shots. Looks like last season was no fluke in Lexington.

CFB Last Night: Cincinnati takes the lead for the Big East title. Brian Kelly is one of the best coaches in the country. I cannot believe he won't be a hot commodity this offseason, particularly if the Bearcats win the Big East's BCS spot. He seems to have a sweet spot in the Midwest (before Cincy, he was at Central Michigan) -- let me be an early voice to say it: Notre Dame should hire Brian Kelly as soon as Charlie Weis loses the Navy game today.

More CFB coming later today...

-- D.S.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Michael Lewis Revisits Mike Leach

Wow, two Michael Lewis links in less than 24 hours... My friends at NYT's Play Magazine caught up with Michael Lewis, whose seminal NYT Magazine article about Mike Leach a few years ago basically launched Leach's street cred -- and foreshadowed this season's breakthrough.

College Football Preview and Picks

This week is about maintaining BCS position. Alabama will be trying not to get Croomed, like they did a year ago. Texas and Florida are competing on style points, but both playing teams good enough to pull an upset. Talk about revenge games, how about USC vs. Stanford? Meanwhile, the ACC is a complete mess -- unlikely to find clarity, but it'll help.

(1) Alabama over Mississippi St
(3) Texas over @Kansas -- Worth Watching
(4) Florida over (25) South Carolina -- Game of the Week
(6) USC over @Stanford -- Revenge much?
(7) Utah over @San Diego St
(8) Penn State over Indiana
(9) Boise St over Idaho
(10) Georgia over @Auburn
(11) Ohio State over @Illinois
(12) Missouri over Iowa St
(13) Oklahoma St over @Colorado
(14) Ball St over Miami (Locked Tuesday)
@Maryland over (16) UNC -- Upset Special
(17) BYU over @Air Force
(19) Florida St over BC
(20) LSU over Troy
(23) Tulsa over Houston
(24) Wake Forest over @NC St

Other Games of Note:
Navy over Notre Dame -- Ha ha ha
Northwestern over Michigan -- Remember '95!*
Oregon St over Cal -- OSU in P10 driver's seat

* - I flipped on ESPN Classic last night just in time to see the final 1:30 of Northwestern's 19-13 win over Michigan in the Big House in 1995.

Many CFB fans remember that epic NU-UM 54-51 shootout in 2000, but the '95 game was, for me, probably the greatest feeling I have ever had at a sporting event.

Beating Michigan -- let alone at Michigan -- affirmed everything my friends and I had been feeling that entire dream season: That this Northwestern team was for real.

Not just bowl-eligible for-real, but win-the-Big-Ten-no-you-must-be-kidding-me-holy-sh*t-you're-not for-real.

I was in the stands in Ann Arbor that day and watching the end of the game last night brought back a flood of memories of how I felt at the end of that game: Disbelief and utter joy.

Friday 11/14 A.M. Quickie:
Jets, CFB, LeBron, MLB FA, FJM, More

See the post below: I remain bummed over the end of the FireJoeMorgan era, although as I noted, the "FJM Treatment" by other bloggers about dumb-ass columnists will live on, thankfully.

Meanwhile, um, yeah, so that was kind of a good game last night between the Pats and Jets. Arguably the best game of the first 11 weeks of the NFL season.

At first it was shocking to see the Jets lead by so much. Then it was comforting to see the Pats surge back. Then it was shocking again to see the Jets actually pull it out. Obviously, it led today's SN column.

For the anti-Favre contingent, it's hard not to look at the win at Foxboro, the 7-3 record, the first place status in the AFC East, the best-Jets-regular-season-win-ever? superlative and nod in approval.

Looking ahead to the weekend, with Jerry Jones' guarantee of the playoffs, that doesn't put too much pressure on the Cowboys and Tony Romo to win in DC on Sunday night, does it?

(Meanwhile, in my public Yahoo celebutard sports blogger fantasy league, I had a surplus of WRs and needed RBs, so I basically traded Brandon Marshall for what I thought was a rising, surprising BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who promptly ran for about 10 yards on 2 carries...about 58 yards less than QB Matt Cassel ran for. I was already out of playoff contention, but that might be a nice little window into why.)

CFB: Preview coming at midday, as usual, but without a truly marquee game, it's really a competition between Texas and Florida over style points against good comp. I'd give Florida the edge in opponent -- the Gators are the only BCS contender playing a Top 25 BCS team this week, although playing at Kansas is no cakewalk for UT.

NBA: Near-triple-doubles from LeBron don't do anything for me anymore. However, checking Derrick Rose's stats in the boxscores is probably one of the first 3 players I look for in the morning, when the Bulls are on the schedule. What a real deal he's turning out to be.

College Hoops: So Stephen Curry is my pick for Player of the Year. Louisville is my pick to win the national title. And Florida opens their season on ESPNU tonight as part of a tip-off weekend that sees basically every team launch their season (if they didn't earlier this week). Happy times.

Complete SN column here. More later. To those of you who won't check in after this until Monday, have a great weekend. I'll be posting through the weekend, as usual.

-- D.S.

FireJoeMorgan Shuts Down: End of an Era

What an unpleasant surprise to see a new post from the guys at FireJoeMorgan, only to realize it was a "goodbye" blog-retirement post. While I appreciate their reasons, needless to say they and their work will be missed.

One of the most influential and universally respected voices in the sports blogosphere: The "FJM Treatment" turned into a recognized form among bloggers critiquing inane commentary from mainstream sports columnists. Not a bad legacy to leave, guys. All best to Ken, Dak and Junior.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obamaball, Cont'd: "Just Give Me The Ball"

From Ryan Lizza's definitive piece on the election from this week's New Yorker:
"Obama, who is not without an ego, regarded himself as just as gifted as his top strategists in the art and practice of politics. Patrick Gaspard, the campaign's political director, said that when, in early 2007, he interviewed for a job with Obama and Plouffe, Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, 'I think that I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm gonna think I'm a better political director than my political director.' After Obama's first debate with McCain, on September 26th, Gaspard sent him an e-mail. 'You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,' he wrote. Obama replied, 'Just give me the ball.'"
"Just give me the ball." Amen.

Thursday Night Football

It's not a game between ranked teams, but I could see ranking the winner of VA Tech and Miami tonight. I really want to take Miami (a U win makes Florida's strength-of-schedule rating that much better), but how can you pick against VA Tech on a Thursday night? They own that.

Meanwhile, the spectacular Michael Lewis has a must-must-read on the economic catastrophe. In his usual way, you're like "Well of COURSE we're all screwed. (And how did we let it get to this?)"

-- D.S.

Thursday 11/13 A.M. Quickie:
Pats, Jets, Celtics, Lakers, Fight, Maddon

Expect a media overload on Pats-Jets today. Sigh. But what if you hate both the Patriots AND Brett Favre? What are you supposed to do then? That's today's SN column lead. (Watch CSI, I guess.)

Meanwhile, as healthy as the NBA seems to be right now, here's a quick temperature-taking of the league:

What will make more news: The fantastic game between the defending champ Celtics and the previously unbeaten Hawks, which went down to the buzzer? The almost-as-fantastic game between the unbeaten Lakers and one of their top competitors in the West?

Or the bit-more-than-a-scuffle-bit-less-than-a-melee during the Rockets-Suns game, which featured T-Mac throwing Steve Nash to the floor? I'm betting it's the latter.

(Let's not let those three games obscure two big events: Dwight Howard's first triple-double, which featured 10 blocks, and the Wizards' first win of the season. Finally.)

Jake Peavy to the Braves? That's a big move for Atlanta. And they needed it. The Phillies rule that division; the Mets already have an ace in Johan; and the Marlins seem to stay competitive despite that lowest-in-league payroll.

Which moron MLB award-voter didn't give Joe Maddon his first-place vote for AL Manager of the Year, instead voting for Ron Gardenhire? What a d'bag.

(UPDATE: I hear the offender in question was Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Isn't Pluto a generalist columnist? What special insight qualifies him to vote on baseball awards?)

You didn't hear it here first, but UCLA freshman guard Jrue Holliday is going to be a huge stud, particularly if he gets the shots he deserves.

(Totally not true fact: "Jrue" was a baby-name finalist for No. 2. You get all the value of the "J" first name, combined with the phoenetic advantage of the fine name "Drew," which was thrown out there very early on in the name discussions, but quickly dismissed by me because all I could picture was Drew Magary.)

Did you see Gilbert's Obama tattoo? Yikes, that had to hurt. And whoever said that he probably should have done it in a different order on his fingers was right. It looks like "In Believe We Change," not the other way around.

This was... Yikes.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday 11/12 A.M. Quickie:
49ers, Lakers, Hawks, Ball St, Curry, More

There are a lot of interesting storylines floating around this morning, but there wasn't anything really dominant. I realize now that I should have led today's SN column with my college hoops preview.

At the very least, I could have tied in last night's Davidson exhibition to my pronouncement that Stephen Curry is my preseason pick for National Player of the Year. I don't think there has been as much of a must-see player in years. (Any nominations for alternatives?)

As far as "Who's No. 1?" I put it out there on Monday: You can have UNC; I'll take the rest of the field. If you're forcing me to go somewhere beyond "Anyone But UNC," I'll say Louisville.

(You know what that means, right? It means that I'm destined to fulfill my own prediction by taking Louisville on my bracket, regardless of their region/seeding/etc. See UCLA last year.)

Now I'm feeling even lamer that I didn't lead with college hoops. Anyway, also on the radar:

The 49ers are a joke: Now Mike Singletary and Mike Martz are blaming the refs for the Monday Night Debacle.

The Lakers are unstoppable: But who saw the undefeated Hawks coming? Weren't they supposed to be a one-season wonder, especially without Josh Childress?

(What a monster game from Al Horford, one of my Top 5 favorite players in the NBA. The short list: (1) Gilbert Arenas, (2) Jordan Farmar, (3) Al Horford, (4) David Lee, (5-tie) Joakim Noah/Corey Brewer. That's not necessarily the same as the list of players I love to watch.)

Ball State is a nice story, but not BCS-worthy: It's a moot point unless (a) BSU beats Central and Western Michigans, back to back, AND (b) Utah and Boise State both lose.

Tim Lincecum wins NL Cy: And, as you can imagine, immediately afterward, I saw the wisdom of this pick -- then jump on my newly established high-horse to mock that Sun-Times BBWAA voter who didn't even put Lincecum in his Top 3.

OK, I admit I was being silly about Sabathia, but at least I'm not stupid enough to argue that the fact Brandon Webb had more wins than Lincecum means that he is better. If Lincecum was on the D'backs, he may have won 25 games or more; the fact that he was able to put together the record he did on a team as bad as his is supposed to be in his FAVOR.

Free Stephen Curry!: Curry scored 41 points last night in an exhibition on some ridiculous FG shooting. Here's the campaign: Free Stephen Curry! Let him do what he does best, not attempt to balance being a distributor PG with being the most lethal and mesmerizing scorer in college hoops since Chris Jackson.

Get the new Free Darko book. While you're at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, buy the Drew Magary book ("Men With Balls") and the Gasaway/Pomeroy book ("College Basketball Prospectus"), too. You won't be disappointed with any of them.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Barack Obama Plays Hoops On Election Day

I will never get tired of linking to video footage of Barack Obama playing basketball, particularly when the footage is from the final day of the campaign -- Election Day.

Mayne Street Debuts: Kenny Maye Is Funny (But Scott Van Pelt Might Be Even Funnier)

Very solid -- and slickly produced -- premiere episode of ESPN's new digital short series "Mayne Street." It was billed as "Office"-ish, but it's more "This Is SportsCenter," Extended Cut.

(That's not to say it isn't funny -- btw, Mayne is highly respected as a funnyman, but Van Pelt actually steals the scene.)

And it comes in at a highly digestible 5 minutes. (Just curious: It took 3 credited writers to script 5 minutes? Can I get in on that gravy train?) Anyway: If ESPN was ever going to get into sit-coms, this is the way to do it.

(Solid, mildly related DS trivia: Six years ago, I had a pitch meeting with ESPN Original Entertainment for a sit-com. Complete with a pilot script! Lamentably -- for me -- even though it preceded it by years, it was sort of close to "My Boys" on TBS -- without the female lead character. It had a different recurring female character, but she was more periperhal. When that show came out, I came close to weeping at the missed opportunity.)

But I digress! Good start for Mayne and Co.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 11/11 A.M. Quickie:
Cards, Holliday, Pierce, NL Cy, Free Darko

Remember the old Quickie gimmick "Quickie Vocab?" I believe its finest hour was "T.O.-nanism."

Anyway, I have a new one: "Single Out," found in the lead of today's SN column. Definition: Vociferously blaming someone else for your own failings.

For the second straight game, Mike Singletary blames someone other than himself for the 49ers losing. Last time, it was Vernon Davis.

This time, it's Mike Martz, the "genius" who decided the Niners were better off running Michael Robinson than Frank Gore, from the Cards 2-yard-line with the game on the line.

Beyond that, we are living in a world where not only are the Cardinals winning on Monday Night Football, but they are 6-3 with the biggest division lead of any team in football. Whaaa?!

Meanwhile, other names to know today:

Matt Holliday: Billy Beane knows that Holliday will command premium trade value from a contender next July at the trade deadline. (Or, if it's the A's in contention, more power to 'em.)

Tim Lincecum: Or should that be Brad Lidge? (Or, in my fantasy world, CC Sabathia?) NL Cy announced today. If they included postseason results, Lidge would be a lock. Instead, it's likely going to be Lincecum. Good debate to be had there.

Paul Pierce: 22 in the 4th, leading the Celtics past the Raps. (BTW, how about OJ Mayo? 33 last night, affirming Sunday's 31-point binge. The guy can score. The Grizz still stink, but they are telegenic.)

Kyle Singler: 19 and 10 in Duke's romp over Presbyterian in the college hoops season opener.

(At some point this month, we'll dig into the absurdity of my affection for Jon Scheyer. Short version: He is Redick-like in his ability to inspire loathing, yet I can't help but root for him. Perhaps that's because he is the best Jewish basketball player in college hoops. No, that's exactly why. Otherwise, I'm quite sure I would hate him as much as the rest of you do.)

Free Darko: I am trying to get a post up today in honor of the release date of FD's new book, which is spectacular. Seriously, if you like the NBA, you need to own it. Amazing essays, fantastic graphics. In FD fashion, it really is like no other sports book you've ever seen. (And I mean that literally -- the aesthetics of the thing are remarkable.)

BlogPoll feedback: Thanks for the reality check. I flipped Alabama ahead of Florida, from 4 to 3. I kept Texas ahead of both, behind Texas Tech at No. 1. I can afford to be magnanimous about Florida in relation to Alabama because the Gators will have their chance to leapfrog Bama by playing them head-to-head on the field in a month.

(Totally random note: Does anyone out there have the new MacBook that just came out last month? Thoughts? Looking for first-hand feedback. Only from those who have actually bought it please; I'm totally fluent in the criticisms of the Mac fanboys who are disappointed by it, but didn't actually buy it.)

Complete SN column here
. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Should Nate Silver Do Next?

Some of us recognized the greatness on May 30. Others recognized it today. Either way, Gawker's Hamilton Nolan has some very solid advice for Nate Silver on his professional future. (And it ain't in baseball -- unless Mark Cuban pulls an upset, buys the Cubs and hires Silver as his Theo.)

Arenas and Obama: You Read It Here First

When you read about Gilbert Arenas' new Obama tattoo, remember where you first read about their connection. (It even inspired a T-shirt.)

-- D.S.

Alabama-Florida, TX Tech-Oklahoma Is College Football's De Facto 4-Team Playoff

As usual, Matt "Doc Saturday" Hinton has the best 10,000-foot BCS breakdown. The upshot: Alabama-Florida in the SEC title game and, in two weeks, Texas Tech-Oklahoma has all the de facto goodness of a 4-team, 2-game playoff to decide who plays for the national title. Sorry, Texas.

-- D.S.

Monday 11/10 A.M. Quickie:
BCS, Giants, Big Ben, Lakers, JJ, More

As you can imagine, I have BCS on my mind in the lead of today's SN column. This weekend re-affirmed that college football's regular season IS a de facto playoff.

You can love or hate Florida, but you have to admit they are playing amazing right now. What I don't understand is how any fan outside Texas or Oklahoma could not unconditionally love Texas Tech.

They play the most telegenic brand of football -- college or pro -- in the country. Graham Harrell is rightfully atop the Heisman rankings. Michael Crabtree is arguably the best player in the country. And their defense is -- for the Big 12 -- tremendous; they did a better job on Oklahoma State than Texas did, and did a better job on Texas than Oklahoma did.

As much as I would like to see the Big 12 turn into a mini-me version of an epic BCS clusterf--- with Texas Tech losing in Norman to Oklahoma in 2 weeks, I really want to see Texas Tech make it to the national-title game.

If you believe, like me, that the champ of the Big 12 and the champ of the SEC meeting for the national title is the optimal outcome to this particular season, Texas Tech deserves it more than any other team in the Big 12. (I fear that if they do lose to Oklahoma, they will drop behind both Texas and Oklahoma in the BCS standings; I'm sure Texas fans are even more freaked at the outcome that Oklahoma beats Texas Tech, then leapfrogs Texas in the BCS standings.)

Anyway, thank you Penn State, for giving college football fans a true gift -- the closest thing to a 4-team, 2-game playoff in advance of the national title game as we have seen since the BCS was implemented. More on that scheduled to be posted at lunchtime, so check back.

Meanwhile, the Titans may still be unbeaten, but the Giants are the best team in the league. (It's sort of like once-beaten Florida being better than unbeaten Alabama. OK, so that's a stretch.)

I'm not ready to assign credit to Peyton for the Colts' win in Pittsburgh as much as I am ready to assign blame to Big Ben.

In the same way I ask how you can not love Texas Tech, how can you not love the Dolphins' Wildcat formation? It was arguably more successful yesterday than ever. Where are the copycats? The Dolphins -- the DOLPHINS -- are 5-4 and in contention for a Wild Card spot, in large part due to the innovation on offense.

Begrudgingly -- but absolutely fairly -- I would like to point out that I was quite wrong about Matt Ryan's fitness as an NFL QB -- particularly a rookie NFL QB. (I was slightly more bullish on Joe Flacco, and he has also proven to be a capable NFL QB.) Here's a question: Given how sickly the QB situation is in the NFL right now, where would you rank Ryan -- top half? Top 10? Right now, Ryan is No. 8 in QB rating among non-injured QBs. And, after all, he's just a rookie.

OK, two weeks into the NBA season, I have reason to re-think my preseason pick that the Rockets would upend both the Lakers and Celtics en route to the NBA title. Last week, the Celtics beat the Rockets; yesterday, the Lakers absolutely clocked them, particularly defensively. It was almost as if the Lakers took it personally that anyone would even suggest that the Rockets were in a position to dismantle LA from the top of the West. Consider me convinced.

Why I don't get NASCAR, Reason Nth: What's the point of a playoff system if the final race is meaningless? How much cooler would it be if 10 or however many drivers made the playoff, then each week, the guy who finishes last among the group is knocked out of the playoff? Forget points: Go for total elimination-style. It would make the final race meaningful, at least. One of you NASCAR fans out there needs to explain to me why this current system has yielded a good result in this case.

College hoops season tips off tonight: Duke vs. Presbyterian. No, seriously. I consider myself a pretty big CBB fan, and I have to admit I had never heard of Presbyterian as a Division 1 team.

Meanwhile, I put a challenge in today's SN column: You can have UNC to win the title if you give me the field. After the past 3 seasons, I have zero faith in Hansbrough's ability to lead this team -- however absurdly talented it might be -- to 6 straight wins in late March. The facts are on my side, aren't they?

Complete SN column here. More later. Did some posts early this morning that I have scheduled to post throughout the day.

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

This Week's BlogPoll Ballot, Version 1

Yeah, yeah: It's controversial to rank a 1-loss team ahead of an unbeaten team. Let alone 2 of them. This week's criteria: Resume, comparable opponents, momentum, eyewitness evaluation.

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

Dropped Out: West Virginia (#18), Georgia Tech (#19), California (#20), Kansas (#21), Northwestern (#25).

(Happy to change things around before tomorrow's first BlogPoll deadline -- I can understand why ranking Florida ahead of Alabama will annoy some. I'm happy to flip it, even though I think that as of how they're playing right now, Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC CG in a month.)

Poll Absurdity: Bama Ahead of Texas Tech?!

As if the AP and Coaches polls could be any more ludicrous or less legitimate, they each have Alabama No. 1 ahead of Texas Tech. It's like the voters don't actually watch the games, but simply rely on the "name" -- if the team with Texas Tech's resume was named "Texas" they would be ahead of Alabama, for sure. Oh, wait: They already were. Get over it voters: Texas Tech is No. 1.

The Upside of Penn State's Loss

Even though it might not come across that way over the past month as I have attempted to discount Penn State's legitimacy as a national-title contender, I'm actually quite partial to this team.

I totally buy into the "aw-isn't-it-nice-to-see-the-old-man-succeeding" nostalgia (if not enough to corrupt the national-title process for it). I love Derrick Williams, who may be Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin's equal as one of the most exciting and valuable all-purpose players in the country. Of course I love the way they went into Columbus and beat Ohio State. And I love the idea of Penn State -- and Joe Paterno -- in the Rose Bowl, ideally against USC, in a classic match-up that wouldn't look out of place in the late 1970s.

What yesterday's Penn State loss did was free up those of us with a personal stake in the national-title debate to go back to rooting for Penn State again -- to appreciating the dream season that the team, the fans and Joe Paterno are having this season.

The whole BCS debate thing was distracting -- taking away -- from an otherwise amazing year from Penn State. Now we can fully enjoy it.

-- D.S.

Sunday 11/09 (Very) Quickie

I am baffled as to how any college football poll voter could not rank Texas Tech at No. 1.

If there was any confusion whether Texas Tech's win over Texas was some kind of fluke, the Red Raiders just demolished an Oklahoma State team that was not only ranked in the Top 10 of the BCS, but that nearly beat Texas in Austin. TT out-performed Texas on offense AND defense.

That said, after their bye next week, TT faces their toughest game of the season -- at Norman. We'll see if the transitive property holds up: If Texas beat Oklahoma and Texas Tech beat Texas, then Texas Tech should be able to beat Oklahoma. If not, the Big 12 has its own BCS-style controversy. (Let me get out in front of it: For the BCS to base second-order conference division tie-breakers on BCS rankings is LUDICROUS and begging for problems.)

Actually, for me the real question is Who's No. 2? I'm not sure it's Alabama. Yes, a win in Baton Rouge is impressive, but if you've watched LSU over the past few weeks, they're just not that great of a team (corrected: wow, are they missing a good QB...every other piece is solid).

But if they played right now -- or, say, in 4 weeks -- do you really think Alabama would beat Florida? Do you really think Alabama could beat Texas or Oklahoma? (I'm actually more convinced than ever that the Big 12 defenses contribute extensively to making the offenses look great -- I love Texas Tech's offense, but Oklahoma State's defense isn't exactly stout.)

Meanwhile, you see below my insta-reaction to Penn State losing. Hey, why isn't "JoePa gets to go to the Rose Bowl!" considered a perfectly fine consolation to missing out on the national-title game? And if Penn State really considers themselves one of the Top 2 teams in the country (or, at least, they did up until Saturday night), then they should be able to beat USC in the Rose Bowl, right? (Um, it is probably worth pointing out that USC doesn't even control its own destiny for the Pac-10 championship; that would be Oregon State.)

Speaking of USC, who else was unimpressed with the "style" in which they beat Cal, at home no less. I was actually impressed with USC's defense, but what happened to the high-powered offense?

I'm working on my Top 25 ballot now, but here's how I'm looking at the Top 10 right now:

1. Texas Tech
2. Texas
3. Florida
4. Alabama
5. Oklahoma
6. USC
7. Utah
8. Boise St
9. Penn St
10. Ohio St

There is a lot of football left to play, but it looks like we're heading toward a national title game that pits an unbeaten or 1-loss champ of the Big 12 against an unbeaten or 1-loss champ of the SEC. I don't think anyone will argue with that outcome, at least this season.

-- D.S.