Saturday, November 29, 2008

CFB Saturday 11/29 (Very) Quickie

It is the final regular-season college football game for many teams -- certainly the ones not playing in conference title games next week. Most notably, it could be the final game of the regular season for Oklahoma, if they lose at Oklahoma State.

But if Oklahoma wins, we set up a clusterfrack to end all clusterfracks. (h/t: BSG) The expectation is that the strength of that kind of win would vault OU over Texas and to the Big 12 title game repping the South. The 8 p.m. game means that the politicking will be condensed -- but no less brutal. Again, if Oklahoma loses at OSU, the entire debate is moot and both Oklahoma and Texas go home miserable.

Meanwhile, at 3:30, Alabama and Florida have to take care of business against their in-state rivals, to set up next week's playoff/play-in showdown in the SEC CG. If either loses, all bets are off. This is the under-the-radar BCS-obliterating scenario.

Finally, at 7 tonight, Oregon and Oregon State play their most meaningful Civil War game ever. If Oregon State wins, they go to the Rose Bowl -- relegating USC to a BCS at-large bid (not necessarily a bad thing, if you like great match-ups in your BCS bowls, although the Rose takes a massive hit... imagine USC in the Sugar against the Bama-Florida runner-up). Also, it removes any remaining BCS title-game legitimacy from USC; if they can't win their own conference title, how can they deserve the national-title game? If Oregon State loses, USC goes to the Rose Bowl for a (cliche-alert) "classic" match-up with Penn State. It also gives USC that "we're a conference champ" legitimacy.

Meanwhile, tip your cap to Boise State, which finished an unbeaten 12-0 season by destroying WAC rival Fresno State. This ain't Ball State: Boise State is a BCS Top 10 team and, as such, have earned a BCS at-large bid. I'm not holding my breath that they will be selected ahead of USC (if Oregon beats Oregon St); the Alabama-Florida runner-up or the Texas-Oklahoma runner-up. (Utah is already a lock and Ohio State is next in line.)

This is going to be a travesty: Any team that finishes in the BCS Top 10 should get an automatic at-large bid, even if another non-BCS team is ahead of it, as is the case this season. Personally, I think that if an ACC or Big East champ (or both) isn't in the Top 12, they should forfeit their spot -- if not their BCS payout. Think Boise State would play in a BCS bowl for free, giving its money to the ACC champ? Absolutely.

Lane Kiffin is going to Tennessee, ramping up the coaching star power in the SEC even more. I think he will find that the recruiting is more brutally competitive than anywhere he has ever been; this is no gift-wrapped USC recruiting situation. Also, it's not like Phil Fulmer is leaving the cupboard stocked.

Blake Griffin is the best player in college basketball
-- no offense to my preseason POY Stephen Curry. Griffin had 18 and 21 under a very bright spotlight -- the NIT championship game against a very very good Purdue team (probably the best team in the Big Ten.)

Meanwhile, Tennessee over Georgetown in a Sweet 16-quality match-up of teams. (Meanwhile, Gonzaga totally routed tournaments spoiler Maryland, as you kind of expected would happen as soon as the Terps knocked off tourney favorite Michigan St.)

NBA Last Night: 43 for Dwyane Wade in a Heat win over the Suns. Wade is SO back this season... Kobe scored a season-high 35 and the Lakers romped... again. At 13-1, is it too early to be talking about 72 wins? At this pace, they would finish with 76... AI: Team-high 17 off the bench in a Pistons W.

LeBron on Barkley: "He's stupid" to criticize LeBron for stringing along Cleveland fans by talking about 2010. Of the things that Sir Charles is, stupid isn't one of them. To the LeBron-slurpers out there, note the overly defensive reaction to even the slightest bit of public criticism.

-- D.S.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday 11/28 (Very) Quickie

Alas, those poor Lions -- can't even catch a break on Thanksgiving. (Did Chris Johnson just wrap up NFL Rookie of the Year with yesterday's performance?)

What a comeback week for Donovan McNabb on "short rest" -- it's like all will be forgotten about that whole "benching" stuff, right, Philly fans? 27/39 for 260 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs, a 121.7 QB Rating.

The Cowboys needed a game like that. (Although watch those injury reports about DeMarcus Ware and Marion Barber.)

Texas crushes Texas A&M: Despite the dominant "45-35" campaign theme in the stands, it won't help their BCS chances, particularly when Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State. (Computer formulas don't watch TV.) But I think that yesterday's 4-TD, 300-yard, command performance by Colt McCoy should put him back in front of the Heisman race. (Notice how in addition to all but KO'ing Texas Tech's BCS chances, the loss to Oklahama buried Graham Harrell on Heisman watch lists.)

Independent of my Florida biases, I remain torn about how to resolve a 3-way tie in the Big 12 South beyond insisting that coaches reveal their ballots. If you believe in a playoff system, you cannot pick Oklahoma ahead of Texas, no matter what each did against the common opponent, Texas Tech. You must believe in the integrity of head-to-head.

(Now, by that logic, you should put Texas Tech ahead of Texas and Oklahoma ahead of Texas Tech, but I'm going under the assumption that because Texas Tech lost so badly to Oklahoma, they are no longer in the discussion and it is simply between Oklahoma and Texas. OU fans need to keep Texas Tech top-of-mind for voters; Texas fans are hammering head-to-head. It's a fascinating political campaign that they all say they aren't willing to be engaged in, yet both sides are. Wild stuff. Someone's going home unhappy. Wouldn't it be wild if OK St beat Oklahoma and Texas lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with Texas Tech, making the Big 12 South a relatively clean finish? Texas is going all-in on the "head-to-head" thing. If OU loses to OK St, Texas is finished anyway; I guess that's why they are hammering their case in the event of a 3-way tie. They should be, by the way; it's good strategy -- and it works.)

Today in CFB: Boise State hosts rival Fresno and is trying to clinch that 12-0 record. This ain't Ball State. The Broncos are in the BCS Top 10 -- the fact that they will not be included in one of the 4 BCS at-large spots because there happens to be a higher-ranked non-BCS team (Utah) is a joke.

Meanwhile, even with virtually nothing on the line, think West Virginia wants a little payback at Pitt for the way the Panthers obliterated WVU's all-but-assured BCS title-game chances a year ago?

CBB: Maryland upsets Michigan State, and it's fun to be in D.C. to enjoy the vibe on this one. It reminds me of when I was a kid. Meanwhile, so much for that "big" UNC-MSU game. And maybe folks were sleeping on the Terps a little bit.

Fantastic triple-header this afternoon, if all you want to do is sit on the couch recovering from last night: Georgetown-Tennessee at 1:30... Oklahoma-Purdue at 3:30... Maryland-Gonzaga at 5:30 (replacing Michigan St-Gonzaga). Here's your chance to get a look at some great teams and some great players, including Blake Griffin against arguably the best team in the Big Ten. And I have Gonzaga in my Final Four (as long as they're not in the same region as Louisville); it would probably help for me to watch them live.

I love that Allen Iverson skipped practice on Thanksgiving -- like the Pistons didn't know THAT was inevitably going to happen.

I'm glad I didn't cut into my Thanksgiving dinner to go to the Verizon Center to watch the "new-look" Wizards get pasted by the Magic. That said: Dwight Howard is one of those player I would like to see play in person, and his 26-and-14 night leading Orlando backs that up.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday 11/27 (Very) Quickie Thanksgiving

There seems to be this debate whether the Lions "deserve" a Thanksgiving game, which is as stupid of an argument as arguing that November doesn't "deserve" Thanksgiving.

Traditions are sort of like that. And, for my money, if one time a year, everyone focuses on the Lions and Detroit, it's a very cool thing -- whether the team is good or not.

I love the NBA Christmas Day games idea. And every year, they cherry pick the very best match-ups to entice people to watch. And while that is great in its own right, that is simply its own tradition.

I root for the Lions today -- even under seemingly the worst conditions in the history of the Lions on Thanksgiving -- winless and playing the once-beaten, playoff-bound Titans.

Of all of my "fairweather" tendencies, this is one of my favorites -- and probably the most accepted. On Thanksgiving, we're all Lions fans -- no matter how well or badly the team is doing.


OK, UNC will get my vote this week as the No. 1 team in the country, after they dismantled a very good (perhaps not Top 10 good...but very good nonetheless) Notre Dame team.

What will the unsealed BALCO testimony say?

Big win for the Magic last night heading into a game vs. the revived (?!) Wizards tonight in D.C. I won't be at the game -- pesky T'giving family dinner! -- but we'll find a way to have it on in the background. After being a draft-night doubter, I've got JaVale McGee Mania!

CFB Top 25 Today: All eyes on Texas. They wanted to play this rivalry game on Thanksgiving night for maximum exposure, and now they'll get it. Texas needs a very convincing win to hold off Oklahoma, although the Longhorns are in a rough spot:

If Oklahoma loses, Texas loses the Big 12 South outright to TX Tech; if OU wins, they likely carry the momentum into the BCS-ranking tie-breaker ahead of the Longhorns, who will then be passed by the Alabama-Florida winner from their extra 13th game (provided Bama and UF both win their rivalry games this weekend).

Must-See Ad: And you won't be able to miss it on TV. I'm not the biggest LeBron fan, but the "chalk" part of his schtick I kind of like -- though it's a bit "self-messianic," don't you think? Anyway: Watch this ad.

This year, I'm especially thankful for the healthy birth of my second kid, the health and happiness of my first kid and the saintly patience of my wife.

And, more than ever, I am thankful to you for continuing to offer me your time, attention and conversation through this blog. Here's to another great year ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday 11/26 A.M. Quickie:
Thanks, BCS, Lions, Quinn, ND, Curry, More

Although I will be blogging all (long) weekend long, today is my last SN column of the week. So it is a mash-up of the usual mid-week CBB/NBA/obligatory Ball St football game on ESPN and a weekend preview. For those of you not planning to check in on the blog tomorrow through Sunday, this covers everything.

LeBron in NYC as NY-tastic as expected: What I don't get is why Cavs fans haven't revolted that he keeps offering up quotes that stoke the discussion of him leaving. I guess they're all so petrified he WILL leave (got news for you...) that they are afraid to say anything.

Ball State goes 12-0: One win away from the perfect season that earns them a Motor City Bowl bid. No controversy there!

Is Lane Kiffin headed to Tennessee?

Will we get clarity in the BCS this weekend? Not likely. (Although I'm finally no longer worried about Florida winning out but missing out on a BCS title-game bid. The secret is the BCS points that come with winning a 13th game that Texas -- and possibly Oklahoma -- likely won't be playing.)

I love Thanksgiving NFL. It is, by far, my favorite NFL tradition of the season -- my favorite NFL game of the season -- and, at least for one day, I become a big Lions fan. They could use it.

CBB Last Night: Yeah, ND over Texas was the Game of the Night, but I think that Stephen Curry-held-to-zero-points storyline is the most interesting. Of course, by double-teaming Curry -- seemingly even when he sat on the bench -- Loyola earned itself a 30-point loss. Great strategy! You might as well let Curry get his 35 or 40 or 60 and play D on the REST of the team.

Wiz win! Wiz win! (And win big!) I'm starting the season from scratch. 2-10? No: 1-0! (My Thanksgiving weekend will be spent in D.C., and I'm looking forward to Wiz immersion... and maybe even hitting up a Caps game, which I haven't done since I was a teenager.)

Finally: I lead today's SN column with what I'm thankful for in sports this year (by month, even!) What are you thankful for from the sports year? Leave 'em in the Comments. Good way to end the week.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday 11/25 A.M. Quickie:
LeBron, McNabb, Rockets, Cuse, Tiger, More

You know what I'm sick of? All the whining about all the LeBron-to-the-Knicks talk. Yes, two more years of it might seem endless, but at least now the discussion has some substance:

The Knicks cleared the 2010 cap room last week; tonight, LeBron plays at the Garden. I mean: If you're not going to talk about it NOW, when ARE you going to talk about it?

Today's SN column lays out the case: If your team isn't a contender, basically all you have to fall back on is the future -- what your team MIGHT do or COULD do.

"Wait 'til next year" is a tried-and-true component of the sports-fan ideal. In this case, "Wait 'til TWO years from now!" is simply an extension of that.

Meanwhile, Andy Reid starting Donovan McNabb on Thursday simply means that Kevin Kolb sucks too much to take the job from hi. It doesn't mean that McNabb won't be ejected from Philly this offseason.

Last night, I watched Florida get worked over by Syracuse. The Gators play zero defense, and their offense -- basically limited to tons of 3s and subsequent attempts after those 3s miss the mark -- is missing both size and athletes. We're such a long way from 2 years ago.

(Meanwhile, given that UConn obliterated Wisconsin by the Badgers' ranking -- 19 -- why are they not given more consideration for No. 1? I'm still waiting for the on-court result from UNC that would justify a No. 1 ranking, let alone a unanimous No. 1 ranking. There appears to be no analoge to college football's "resume ranking" -- what you did on the field/court this season is what matters. UNC has proven nothing; let me see what happens after the Maui tournament is over.)

I'm a sucker for college football awards season -- not just the Heisman, but the other awards, like the ones for positional excellence, and even the Maxwell, which is sort of the "poor man's Heisman." If you're asking me if I think Tim Tebow is a better all-around player than both Graham Harrell and Colt McCoy -- his fellow Maxwell finalists -- I'd say yes. Not sure how Sam Bradford and/or Michael Crabtree and/or Percy Harvin didn't make the Maxwell finalist list.

Meanwhile, some of the positional awards are very compelling: Andre Smith or Michael Oher for the Outland? Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin for the Biletnikoff? (I'm stunned that Percy Harvin didn't make the Biletnikoff finalist list -- he might be the most talented player in the country, regardless of position. Did the Biletnikoff folks not like he can run the ball, too?)

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Obamaball: Sunday Hoops Over Church?

Can you blame him? I know a lot of folks who had a near-spiritual connection to their weekly Sunday morning run.

Coaches Poll Must Reveal Individual Ballots One Week Early To Avoid BCS Shenanigans

Demand the AFCA release all coaches' individual Top 25 ballots for next week's poll, when it will matter just as much as in the final week of the season.

The Coaches' Top 25 poll has always been a little sketchy.

Coaches have agendas and vendettas. They are hopelessly conflicted. Some coaches don't even fill out the ballot themselves. No reasonable fan thinks that the coaches actually watch enough games on a Saturday to know who to rank and where to rank them.

Most appallingly, there is almost no transparency: The coaches who vote insist that only their final ballot of the season -- the one that impacts the direct selection of the BCS Top 2 -- be revealed to the public. In other years, that is offensively opaque, but we as fans deal with it.

This season, that is a problem. A huge problem. A Big 12-sized problem.

Because provided that the Big 12's Big 3 -- Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech -- all win out, there will be a 3-way tie for the Big 12 South, triggering a tiebreaking process that ends with the winner of the Big 12 South being determined by BCS ranking -- one-third of that from the Coaches' poll.

Effectively (and not to diminish Missouri's role in the Big 12 title game): One-half of the national championship pairing could very well be determined by next weekend's vote.

Unfortunately, under current Coaches' Poll guidelines, we will never know whether some coaches tank one team or another to help a buddy -- or hurt a rival.

The point is: There is no transparency, and it will taint whatever the result might be. (We can all disagree on a playoff system, but the point of last week's post about an Obamafied playoff is that, at the very least, we get more transparency in the system.)

That's why -- in the event the 3-way-tie scenario is engaged -- the American Football Coaches Association (which administers the Coaches' Poll) must reveal how coaches voted in next week's poll, and not merely the season-ending poll a week later.

Now, that's a little like asking the banking industry to write its own bailout plan -- the AFCA's interest is in placating its coaching fraternity, not in a fair process. It is a trade association, not an independent polling group. (Where-oh-where is the Nate of college football?)

That's why it wasn't able to insist on weekly transparency of coaches' ballots (the coaches scuttled that idea quickly), and that's why it shouldn't be part of the BCS process.

But it is, and fans and the media should insist -- demand -- that coaches' full ballots be revealed next week. If coaches wanted to be a part of this BCS process -- and all voting coaches opted into it -- they should be prepared to back up their ballot every week, and especially next week.

Given that both ESPN and USA Today are sponsors of the Coaches' Poll, it is their journalistic obligation to pressure the poll to reveal individual coaching ballots next week. (Let's set aside, for now, that their sponsorship enables this opaque ridiculousness to continue every season.)

We all suspect that shenanigans go on when it comes to the coaches poll -- a coach's first priority is to his program, not poll integrity. (See Jim Tressell's ludicrous 2006 abdication of his responsibility to the integrity of the sport, by not picking between Florida and Michigan.)

The only way we know for sure that some buddy of Mack Brown's -- as Pete Thamel suggested in today's NY Times -- doesn't rank Oklahoma, say, 20th in order to assure that Texas finishes ahead of OU (or vice versa in the case of Oklahoma) is to open the ballots up NEXT WEEK.

There are CFB sports-media voices with a hell of a lot more power than mine -- Wetzel, Thamel, Forde, Herbstreit, Mandel, Posnanski, Barnhart -- that can put the pressure on the AFCA to commit to releasing the ballots next week.

Any coach who doesn't like that is free to resign from the poll; that's as tell-tale of a sign as any that they were never going to take it as seriously as the fans, media and players do.

(In fact, the ideal would be that we pressure the AFCA to release the ballots AFTER the poll comes out next Sunday, so we can see just how tainted some ballots were. But I'd sooner push the transparency argument now, before it's too late, to get the most accurate and responsible result possible.)

By the way, if Oklahoma loses at OK St next week and makes this debate moot, the coaches are free to keep their ballots hidden from view, as usual. I'm only talking about this in the event that the 3-way-tie/BCS-tiebreaker situation is triggered.

(And, of course, a Missouri win in the Big 12 title game or an SEC implosion of one form or another changes things drastically. But we can only deal with the issue at hand.)

I'm not arguing for this to expose coaches who vote in the poll as unworthy of the responsibility -- even though I suspect many are. That's for another day.

But if this is the system we've got to deal withh, all I want is a little accountability -- a little transparency -- within the current structure to ensure the integrity of a process with little of it to begin with.

Demand the AFCA release all coaches' individual ballots for next week's poll, when it will matter just as much as --- perhaps more than -- the final week of the season.

It's a sketchy enough system as it is. Don't let the coaches get away with robbing fans and the sport of understanding how and why one team is advancing while another is staying home.

-- D.S.

Monday 11/24 A.M. Quickie:
BCS, Favre, McNabb, T.O., Turner, More

You think picking the BCS 1-2 is a problem? Try picking the champ of the Big 12 South.

It's a mess, and it could totally screw up not just the Big 12 title picture, but the entire BCS title picture -- given that Texas and Oklahoma both still have substantial BCS ranking leads over Florida. That's the lead of today's SN column.

(And, yes, as a Florida fan I am freaked: I am NOT taking it for granted that beating FSU next week and Alabama a week later will ensure Florida is one of the Top 2 in the BCS. The computers absolutely hate Florida, and it is crushing their BCS hopes right now.)

Meanwhile, I compliment Brett Favre in the column. Yes, without even retching. The Jets are the NFL's hottest team, arguably the best team in the AFC (now that they have beaten the previous best-in-the-AFC and last season's best-in-the-AFC in back-to-back weeks, both on the road). I even surprise myself by linking "Favre" and "MVP" in the same sentence. Ugh. I hate myself.

Otherwise, is Donovan McNabb done in Philadelphia? Sure feels like it... T.O. is hitting his stride just in time for the annual Thanksgiving game... Michael Turner may be the Fantasy Player of the Year... Matt Forte is the latest Greatest Rookie RB Ever (Have we ever had a rookie RB class this good or this deep? I can't remember one.)... Matt Cassel isn't better than Tom Brady, but he certainly deserves to be a starter in the NFL, which he won't be when Brady comes back.

Fire Charlie Weis. Today. Do you need to wait for USC to hang 60 on Notre Dame to do it? Why? I guess it makes it that much easier. This guy is one of the worst big-school college football coaches of the last 20 years. When Josh McRoberts - d'oh McDaniels leaves the Pats to go be a head coach for another NFL team, that O.C. job in New England will be a nice soft landing spot for Weis.

CBB Weekend: Memphis ain't what they were last year, but let's not forget that Xavier is arguably the best "mid-major" program in the country over the last decade. (Yes, that includes Gonzaga.) And what the hell is wrong with USC? Oh, right: Tim Floyd is still the coach... Meanwhile, Blake Griffin jumps ahead of Stephen Curry on my POY ballot.

NBA: Who saw T'wolves over Pistons in Detroit coming?... Look at Shaq's rookie numbers and then revisit your expectations for Greg Oden, who Shaq ate up on Saturday... The Lakers put 8 players in double-figures last night and are the best team in the league, unquestionably.

Myron Rolle was down to Florida State and Florida, and picked FSU, which disappointed me. Then he said it was because of FSU's academics, which shocked me (as it would shock anyone, certainly in comparison to UF). But he has made the most of the experience and parlayed it into a Rhodes Scholarship -- he has taken a football-first school and single-handedly said "No way," and I would argue that if you combine on-field and off-field, Rolle is the greatest player in the history of FSU's football program, including Charlie Ward, Deion Sanders and Derrick Brooks. Any of 'em. Rolle is as good of a player as anyone who has ever suited up for FSU, and he is certainly the finest student to ever compete in athletics for the school, too.

Is it too late to put Rolle on your Heisman ballot? Wouldn't it be amazing if he swooped in and won the award? Hmm... that might be my new campaign....

Complete SN column here. More later. I wrote a post last night about the Big 12's BCS mess, and it's coming at noon ET.

-- D.S.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday 11/23 (Not-So-Very) Quickie:
Big 12 Gahhh!, BCS Jockeying, Rhodes Rolle

Well, what the hell do we do about the Big 12 now?

Granted, Oklahoma could lose to Oklahoma State. That would put Texas Tech -- the team Oklahoma just beat by 100 -- back in the Big 12 South driver's seat.

Or, if Oklahoma beats OK St, they could lose to Missouri in the Big 12 title game. That might actually put Texas back in the BCS driver's seat -- despite not winning its own conference division.

(I would imagine that Mack Brown is in full spin mode this morning.)

The thing we can all agree on is that the Big 12's Nth-stage tiebreaker system -- the three teams' BCS rankings -- is the most absurd thing ever.

Yes: Coaches from non-Big 12 conferences should be voting on the Big 12 South -- by far, the heavyweight of college football -- to determine its champ. Or the Harris Poll. Frankly, I trust the computers on this one WAY more than the humans.

At the very least, it would be nice if the Big 12 convened the coaches from the 3 teams to hammer out a more reasonable way to pick between them -- maybe let the Big 12 Coaches decide, or a combination of Big 12 coaches and computer polls.

The fact is: It is an intractable problem, even if Oklahoma loses next week -- and especially if the Big 12 South champ loses to Missouri in 2 weeks.

Here's one thought: What if we've all been wrong about the Big 12 -- that they are all great teams, but none of them are a Top 2 team? What if the NCG should be the Alabama-Florida winner versus... Utah?

I pride myself on clever ideas for solving weird sports problems; I'm willing to admit I'm at a loss here. Make your own suggestions through the Comments.

(Sort of makes you glad for the situation in the SEC, where -- as long as Bama and Florida win their rivalry games next week -- the winner of the SEC CG goes to the national title game. My nightmare is that for some reason, the BCS title game does not include this game's winner. And, as Bama has a lock on the NCG if they win the SEC CG, you know what I'm talking about here.)

Sneak-peek of my BlogPoll ballot: (1) Oklahoma; (2) Alabama; (3) Florida; (4) Texas; (5) Utah; (6) USC; (7) Texas Tech; (8) Boise St.; (9) Penn St.; (10) Ohio St.

(This is a little unfair to Texas; if the Longhorns got to play Texas Tech in Austin instead of Lubbock, they might have beaten them -- although not nearly the way Oklahoma beat them. And I'm sure Texas fans are frustrated into rage right now, saying: "BUT WE BEAT OKLAHOMA!!!")

Myron Rolle won that Rhodes Scholarship: Let's take a minute from the CFB craziness to celebrate that. What a wonderful story.

In all the Big 12 mayhem, one BCS thing we know for sure: Utah will be a part of it. This isn't just a non-BCS team riding a soft schedule to an unbeaten season (Ball St, even Boise St to a lesser extent); this is one of the best teams in the country, just like they were in 2004.

I feel bad for Boise St -- they are one of the Top 10 teams in the country, but have virtually no shot at a BCS bowl that they deserve. Right now, the 4 at-large teams look like:

(1) Utah;

(2) a 2nd team from the Big 12 (presuming one Big 12 team is in the BCS title game);

(3) the Alabama-Florida loser (presuming the winner is automatically included in the BCS title game, there is no way the Sugar Bowl doesn't take the SEC runner-up, presuming that a 1-loss Bama or 2-loss Florida are both still in the Top 10);

(4) USC (presuming Oregon St wins the Pac-10 next week). If Oregon St loses and USC sneaks into the Rose Bowl, Ohio State would be the 4th at-large BCS bid.

NBA Match-Up of the Day: Shaq destroyed Greg Oden. O'Neal had 19 and 17 -- you have to believe he was motivated to school the young kid -- and Oden had 5 points and 5 fouls and 1 rebound in 14 minutes.

CBB Star of the Day: Blake Griffin -- 35 pts, 21 reb... and Oklahoma had way more trouble with Gardner-Webb than they did with Texas Tech.

The BCS standings later today will be so intriguing.

-- D.S.