Saturday, December 06, 2008

Florida Beats Bama for SEC Championship! How Could They NOT Go to BCS Title Game?

Wow: That was an impressive, gritty win by Florida over the No. 1 team in the country.

Without Percy Harvin, the Gators hung 31 points on arguably the best defense in the country.

In an otherwise even slugfest, they absolutely dominated the Tide in the 4th quarter. (How about that 10-point Vegas line? And the Gators won by 11. Amazing.)

I know it's possible that Texas could stay ahead of Florida in the BCS ranking, but I cannot imagine it at this point. It would seem so ludicrous -- even more ludicrous than Texas being ranked behind Oklahoma.

I think there's a very good case to be made that Florida is not only one of two BCS teams, but the No. 1 team in the country, period. We'll see what the voters do, I guess.

As for the Heisman, I'm not sure how Tebow stacks up against Bradford and McCoy, but I know that while he isn't the passer either of the other two are, he makes the passes he needs to -- and on the ground, he's simply a quantum leap ahead of either. And I think his performance in this game was as impressive as any he has had in his career, considering the competition.

Make no mistake: This was the best team Tebow has faced in his 3-year Florida career -- including Ohio State in the national title game in 2006, when Tebow was a part-time player. And he led -- emphasis on "led" -- the team to 31 points and a sound beating.

Before the season, I really didn't think Tebow had a shot at the Heisman, mainly because he had such great weapons around him... like Percy Harvin.

In the absence of Harvin tonight, Tebow showed precisely why he is the best/most valuable/whatever-criteria-you-use-for-Heisman player in the country.

Now, either Oklahoma or Texas -- I predict it won't matter -- can look forward to a healthy Harvin and a Gators team with 4 weeks to prepare.

That is: If the BCS voters -- and computers -- recognize the decisive way Florida beat the No. 1 team in the country and won the SEC championship, a double-feat worthy of a spot and shot in the national title game.

More tomorrow. Hope non-SEC and non-Florida fans enjoyed that one simply as a taut, well-played game by both teams. I'm going to book my flight to Miami.

-- D.S.

UPDATE: I'm torn over who to root for right now. On the one hand, I think that Texas, by beating Oklahoma head-to-head, is the most worthy BCS team in the Big 12. On the other hand, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp owns Florida, and even that typically soft Big 12 defense might, under Muschamp, be able to stop Florida. They will certainly be able to stop Florida more than Oklahoma, which surpasses even Ohio State in BCS bowl-chokery. So I guess if I want to see a sure-fire NCG win for Florida, I'd want Oklahoma to win. If I want to play the most worthy title-game opponent -- even if it meant a tougher game, even a loss -- it would be rooting against Oklahoma and for Texas to get in.

Saturday 12/06 (Very) Quickie: SEC Mania

Is Florida-Alabama the biggest regular-season college football game of the BCS Era?

First, I'm not even sure it should be considered a "regular-season" game. It's a conference playoff game. That said, it counts within the "regular-season" record. Let's assume it is.

Next, the affirmative evidence: The winner (presumably) goes to the national-title game, making it the closest thing to a national semifinal in the final week of the season. Plus, it's 1-vs-2.

That said: What about Ohio State-Michigan in 2006? That was winner-goes-to-the-BCS-title-game. That was 1-vs-2. That was the teams' final game of the regular season.

Where that game had the "Best-Rivalry-In-College-Football" vibe, this SEC title game feels like the grown-ups' table. Conference title games aren't everyone's taste, but they can be a Big Deal.

(Especially in the SEC, where -- at least for the last 3 years running -- the winner has gone on to the national title game.)

It probably does a disservice to both game to try to rank-order them. We can all agree that UM-OSU '06 was a Big Game, and that Florida-Bama '08 is a Big Game.

It certainly boosts the stakes for a fan of the teams involved, like me. But I can't tell you how many folks have either emailed or stopped me around my neighborhood (seeing me in Florida gear) who have mentioned that they aren't really big CFB fans, but are excited in today's game.

It's a Big Game.

Meanwhile, there is the little matter of Oklahoma having to take care of business against Missouri tonight. All signs point to that, but it is precisely the conditions where upsets thrive. By the way, Burnt Orange Nation is calling this the Bowl, appropriately.

Unbeaten Ball State lost -- lost -- to Buffalo in the MAC title game. Going undefeated is hard. The Cards were a great story, but this just underscores the idea that they were the No. 12 team in the country -- No. 12?! -- was ludicrous, the product of simply going unbeaten, no matter who they played. (Under that logic, a mid-level big-conference team might as well go independent and schedule the easiest 12 teams possible, stringing together their own "unbeaten" season.)

That said, let's not take away from Buffalo. Turner Gill is one of the great young head coaches in the sport, and he should have massive opportunities going forward. Syracuse would be insane not to look just a few miles away in the state and try to bring Gill over. He turned Buffalo into a winner -- Buffalo!

OJ gets anywhere from 6-16 years in prison: Karma is a beeeee-otch, ain't it, Orenthal James?

Greg Maddux retiring: I would argue that pound-for-pound he is the best pitcher of our generation -- and one of the Top 5 pitchers of all time.

Leach gets offer from Texas Tech: 5Y/$12.1M? My reaction: That's all? For turning the school into a telegenic Top 10 program? That's like $2.5M a year. I can't believe that Auburn -- or any other big-name school -- couldn't top that by at least a half-a-mil a year. In college football, it is all about the head coach. Just look at the two teams in the SEC title game. Not sure how Leach isn't worth top dollar.

NBA: The red-hot Blazers -- currently tearing up an East Coast road swing -- got a reality check against the defending champs... If the Wizards can stay within 2 points of the best team in the NBA (Lakers), they should be winning more games than they are... Fantasy Stud: Paul Millsap (17 pts, 11 reb, 7 ast, 3 blocks)...

4 pm...4pm...4pm...4pm...4pm...

-- D.S.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Tim Tebow for Heisman 2008?

Couldn't resist. (Though when you combine that emotional post-Ole Miss speech with clips of what he has done since then, it's a pretty compelling case.)

Petersen to Mississippi St? I Feel So Proud

From disgruntled ex-commenters on this blog to breaking news and getting love at Deadspin. So proud!

Friday 12/05 A.M. Quickie:
BCS, SEC, Griffin, UT, Spurs, NFL Week 14

And so it has come down to this: If Oklahoma and Alabama win, they go to the national title game. If Oklahoma and Florida win, they go to the national title game (god help us all if not). If Oklahoma loses, Texas will almost certainly face the Alabama-Florida winner, even though Texas didn't win its conference division, let alone its conference.

There is your lead of today's SN column.

But let's not lose sight of the best game of the season, tomorrow: Alabama vs. Florida for the SEC title. It's AP No. 1 vs. AP No. 2 in the final regular-season game of the year. The winner (presumably) goes to the national title game. Bama has the best D in the country (or at least West of USC); Florida has the most dynamic offense in the country.

You can hate the BCS. You can hate the SEC. You can hate Saban. You can hate that I'm a Florida fan and talk about the Gators here a bit more passionately than I do about other topics. But any college football fan -- or even a casual sports fan just looking for THE college football game of the year to tune into on a cold December Saturday -- can appreciate that this sizes up as an awesome game.

Meanwhile, I was watching that Oklahoma-USC game when Blake Griffin took that shot to the jewels -- that was about as low of a blow in college hoops as I can remember. It seems fitting that, after that, he ate USC up and his inspired play was likely the difference between a close W and an emotional L in Norman.

I doubt Texas' win over UCLA in hoops was much solace to Longhorns fans freaking out about the BCS situation. But it was a signature win for their season -- it should put everyone on notice that Texas is among a very elite batch of teams for whom anything less than the Final Four should be considered a disappointment, even a failure. (UCLA remains one of them, but should take a backseat behind Texas.)

Question for UT fans: Could this year's hoops team beat last year's team with Augustine? Or how about 2 years ago with Durant? There is something to be said for mature talent trumping more talent. The NCAA Tournament is full of stories like that.

Meanwhile, maybe I was premature to call Chauncey Billups the Quarter-Season NBA MVP. Although when he struggles, you see what happens to the Nuggets.

Complete SN column here. More later. 4 p.m. tomorrow can't get here fast enough.

-- D.S.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday 12/04 A.M. Quickie:
Auburn, UNC, Rondo, Plax, Avery, More

Today's SN column talks a bunch about the Auburn coaching job, but I wanted to expand on that here. We talk a lot here about what college football jobs are "top" -- there is general agreement that there is at least a top tier: Texas, USC, Florida, Ohio State... and probably a 2nd tier: Oklahoma, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame.

Where do you rank Auburn? It's an interesting job, because the fans -- perhaps rightfully, perhaps delusionally -- consider themselves a top tier program, a BCS-worthy school that can and should compete for SEC titles every year. Hell, as recently as '04, they should have been national champs.

But I think there's a perception issue that it's not a top-tier job. It's not even the best job in its own state, which is generally a pretty big indicator you aren't a top-tier job. And the SEC coaching arms race is brutal. On the other hand, at Auburn, you should be a Top 20 team every year, with the quadrennial opportunity to be an SEC-title contender.

Is that enticing enough -- along with what would likely be gobs of cash -- to import Mike Leach, arguably the hottest available name in CFB coaching? Is that a job Leach should take? Is Washington better? (Lower expectations, certainly.) If he waited for next year, would a 1st or 2nd tier job come open -- would it even go to him?

If he wants to test his theories, the Big 12 is a nice lab -- the defense is so uniformly mediocre, he can try all sorts of things. Moving to the SEC would put him against much tougher defenses, but then again, that doesn't seem to be stopping Urban Meyer. I'll be Meyer's success has Leach thinking twice about the Auburn job -- I think the eclectic curious-minded foudation of the man has him intrigued about resprouting his system in a new place.

There's a bunch more in the column today -- about how it might be time to take UNC more seriously as a title contender (I'm a doubter, of course), about how Sean Avery doesn't mean his apology, about how I can't quite trust the Giants or the NFL in the Burress thing.

More later. Big day tomorrow -- getting ready for Bama-Florida.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

BlogPoll Voters Pick Oklahoma Over Texas

I trust this bunch more than Coaches or Harris or Computers.

My Sportsman of the Year: Barack Obama

Unsurprisingly, Michael Phelps is SI's Sportsman of the Year. He should be everyone's Sportsman of the Year. He is arguably Sportsman of the Decade and, if you believed me back during the Games, he is the Greatest. Sportsman. Ever.

But he is NOT the Sportsman of the Year.

The Sportsman of the Year is Barack Obama.

Much as he will be named regular ol' "Person of the Year" in a consensus probably not seen in the history of "Person of the Year" award-giving, he similarly deserves Sportsman of the Year.

Here is the case for Barack Obama as Sportsman of the Year:

*Single-handedly re-drew the sports-cultural map, with basketball -- certainly pick-up basketball -- back in its center, thanks to the gravity of the man's passion for the game.

*Successfully used basketball as a centerpiece of his campaign, from the fields of Indiana to the UNC practice court in Chapel Hill to military-base gyms around the world.

*Inspired amazing T-shirts like this and this and this. (And video mixtapes like this.)

*Laid out a brilliant anti-fairweather summation of his fandom for the White Sox over the Cubs.

*Used the bully pulpit of the Presidency to lobby for... a college football playoff.

Mostly, Barack Obama is as close to a sports fan like you or me as has ever been in the White House.

He plays pick-up hoops. He watches SportsCenter. He has a strong opinion on a college football playoff. When asked, he answers questions about sports in the same way you or I would.

In short, Obama cares about sports like a fan cares about sports, and to that point, the strongest reason for his selection as Sportsman of the Year:

Obama became the ultimate representation of the fan ascending to the top of the power structure in sports
, a moment that has been building for the past decade.

That's why Barack Obama is my pick for 2008 Sportsman of the Year.

For your Comments: Who is YOUR Sportsman of the Year? And, if you think Phelps is the overwhelming choice, who would be your runner-up?

-- D.S.

UPDATE: And it appears that SI's Seth Davis beat me to it. Kudos on an inspired choice, Seth. (Although a bit ironic, given that Seth's father, Lanny Davis, was Hillary Clinton's designated on-air hatchet man against Obama during the primaries -- and even beyond into the general. You can't spell "Oedipal" or "Obama" without "O," I guess.)

Wednesday 12/03 A.M. Quickie:
Weis, Avery, Lakers, Duke, StarCaps, More

Coming at noon ET today: My Sportsman of the Year! (And it's NOT Michael Phelps.)

Meanwhile, I'm a little torn by the news that Notre Dame is keeping Charlie Weis, rather than kicking him to the curb. Although in today's SN column, I'm more laughing than leaning one way or the other.

On the one hand, it's offensive to me that such an inept college football coach would be retained.

On the other hand, as a Notre Dame hater, I love that they will continue to be terrible.

Consider: As bad as the 2007 season was -- and most ND fans could agree it was the worst season ever -- 2008 was arguably worse. Hey: Let's reward that coach with another year!

It is good for college football that ND will not just struggle, but be terrible. (Cheer up, Irish fans: It beats irrelevancy!)

What else you'll find in today's column:

*Eh: I can't get too fired up about Plaxico's 4-game suspension or the suspensions of the StarCap Six. Call me when there's jail time. The Giants are still winning the Super Bowl.

*I think the general consensus is that by suspending Sean Avery, the NHL indulges his fantasy that he is the "bad boy" of the sport.

BTW, I am guessing that for 95 percent of fans under the age of 35 -- I used to say 30, but now that I'm 35, I absolutely move the bar -- there is nothing that offensive about "sloppy seconds."

Now, that's not saying that it's not inappropriately misogynistic to talk about a particular person like that -- but the phrase itself is not nearly as inappropriate as it would have been 10 years ago.

*OK, so I was very very wrong about Duke against Purdue. Duke seems to be pretty good this year. Then again, they look pretty good every year, yet you can still expect a March meltdown.

BTW, did you see my boy Jon Scheyer? 20 points, and my SN colleague Mike DeCourcy calls him "the next Grant Hill" (though the analysis is more nuanced than the intriguing pronouncement).

Longtime readers know that I am more conflicted about Jon Scheyer than perhaps any other player in the history of my fandom.

I mean: He plays for Duke. And some say he's the heir to the "hatable white shooter" Redick rep (although I'd say that is Paulus, hands-down).

But Scheyer is the best Jewish player in college basketball -- leader of the great all-Jewish-starting-5 Glenbrook North H.S. team that won the Illinois state title a couple years ago.

I mean, there's this feeling I have that if either of my kids were going to grow up to be college hoops players, I want them to be... Jon Scheyer. I will now go retch.

*Lakers lose a 15-point lead to the sub-.500 Pacers and lose their first road game of the season? Didn't see it coming last night. Who did?

*Chauncey Billups is my Quarter-Season NBA MVP.

Complete SN column here. More later -- check back at noon ET!

-- D.S.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Memo to UFL: Just Play Where NFL Won't

It doesn't take a Harvard MBA to figure out how the United Football League (UFL) can succeed, and it isn't by taking the NFL's taxi squad players or last-players-cut and trying to nudge them into players you might want to watch. And it isn't through alt formats (Arena) or tacky marketing (XFL).

(Although floating that they are interested in signing Michael Vick is a pretty clever idea -- guess what: He won't need to play in the UFL; at least one NFL team will be happy to take him back.)

The UFL simply needs to play where the NFL won't... or can't: Allow early entry for college football players of any age, not just players with at least 3 years of college behind them (seniors, juniors or redshirt sophs), as the NFL mandates.

If the UFL allows freshmen and sophomores into the league, they will gain instant superstars and instant traction with fans -- if instant enmity from the NFL. (That said: What can the NFL do about it, other than (a) scout the players in the UFL or (b) allow them in themselves.)

You cannot make the argument that true freshman Julio Jones isn't ready for the NFL right now; he is one of the Top 5 WRs in college football. It is absurd to argue that Adrian Peterson wasn't a first-round talent after his freshman or sophomore years. Or that Knowshon Moreno wasn't NFL-ready a year ago.

To turn the UFL into a true minor league, it has to take over the role that college football has traditionally played -- preparing the best players to play professionally.

Players are welcome to get that training in college.

I'm merely suggesting creating an alternative where young players can be paid salaries, earn endorsement money, not have to worry about academics or NCAA rules and can focus full-time on NFL development, trained by coaches whose job it is is to get them to the NFL, rather than worry about their own massive paydays. Two years and out.

The only threat to the UFL or minor league? When the NFL recognizes what is going on and accepts NFL Draft entry at any age over 18.

But let's allow the market dictate if NFL teams want to spend a precious draft pick on a raw or young talent. (Amobi Okoye obliterated that canard.) If a player isn't draft-worthy, by definition, he wouldn't be drafted -- and vice versa: If a team is willing to draft a player -- at any age -- he is, by definition, "draft-worthy."

And if the NFL team does draft a younger player (or even an older one), they should be able to ship their draftee to the UFL for extra seasoning for a year or two while retaining his rights. The draftee gets paid commensurately with draft position, regardless of whether he plays for the NFL or the minor-league team. Let the NFL team pick up the tab.

By the way, the UFL doesn't need "home" cities; they need 4 teams' worth of interesting players, who will barnstorm around the country playing one-night-only gigs in front of fans ready for a glimpse at the future of the NFL. They need to put their games on YouTube and make everything about the UFL experience transparent and accessible to fans -- a 24/7 documentary. They need to make the experience interactive for fans.

Even in a down economic climate, the UFL needs to make players available for sponsorships -- team names, logos, jerseys, the works. Turn it into football's NASCAR.

And they need to allow at least one franchise to be owned entirely by fans willing to chip in to own a real pro sports team.

If the UFL tries to simply be a pro football minor-league stocked with players not good enough for the NFL, it will fail. It will be the CBA -- not the D-League.

If, instead, the UFL recruits players -- college underclassmen -- not only good enough for the NFL, but draft-worthy NFL players who would otherwise be college stars, and markets themselves as THE place to see future NFL stars -- and develop future NFL stars -- it will win.

Through its own draft-eligibility policies, the NFL has left open an incredible opportunity for the start-up football league ready to take advantage of the NFL's heavy-handedness.

The "U" shouldn't stand for "United"; it should stand for "University."

(I previously wrote extensively about this in April. Click here for more.)

-- D.S.

Get Well, Paul Zimmerman aka Dr. Z

The most memorable -- and harrowing -- experience I had while working as an editor and columnist for (then in the late 90's was being bawled out by Dr. Z.

I edited his columns, both his weekly Power Rankings and his weekly, often epic Mailbag. Generally, I used a light touch -- read: None at all.

One day, I saw something online that I thought he would find interesting, so I faxed it to him. Big mistake. Huge mistake. All of a sudden, I get this phone call and he's on the other end of the line, screaming at me -- literally raging at me. I don't think I've ever been spoken to in that way in my life, up til then or since. I tried to stammer out an apology -- an explanation. Then, as quickly as it came, he hung up on me.

Shortly after, the phone rang again. I saw it was his number on the caller ID and you know I let that sucker go to voice mail. I winced as I retrieved the message; he was calling to apologize, which I appreciated, but my hand was still shaking. But, looking back now, I had a great story -- my "Dr. Z story."

Frankly, Z's voice (when not used to holler at me) was perfect for online -- given that he was doing his column in '98 and '99, he was as much of a pioneer of the distinct online-journalism form as anyone coming from mainstream sports media in that era, including Peter King (I also edited MMQB. Yes, really.)

Zimmerman possesses two critical elements for compelling online writing: Expertise and authenticity. Together, he is a must-read (if an acquired taste).

His reporting on the inner workings of the Pro Football Hall of Fame vetting process -- which I believe got him censored by his PFHOF peers -- was about as fascinating a backstage story as I have read. His game-charting (way ahead of its time) and draft analysis was legendary.

His book, "The Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football" -- which is SO due to be reprinted and re-released -- might just be the greatest book about pro football ever written.

Is Dr. Z the greatest pro football writer of all time, as Peter King argues? It is probably enough to say that he is in the conversation, particularly given the way his career has spanned a half-century, from print to magazine to online.

You all know I love a good superlative, and this is one I can support.

Get well, Dr. Z.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 12/02 A.M. Quickie:
Twitter, Plax, SEC, Celtics, MLB Arb, More

So late last night, there was this. I'm hoping it served as temporary catharsis -- or a BCS enema! -- that will allow me to enjoy the run-up to Saturday's SEC title game with some inner peace.

Meanwhile, today's SN column leads with Twitter -- first there was Shaq's takeover; yesterday, Lance Armstrong broke his own news by scooping the AP that he would ride the TdF in '09.

(If you're on Twitter, you can follow me @danshanoff. And if you know of other athletes or sports bloggers on Twitter, let me know so I can follow them.)


*The Texans are better off with Steve Slaton than if they had drafted Reggie Bush. Slaton is much better -- gee: he can actually run the ball, too. Seriously: If you were a GM and were offered Steve Slaton for Reggie Bush, you would absolutely make that trade.

*The Celtics are not going to be challenged by the Magic -- at least this year, as I had predicted in my season picks.

*Purdue is going to beat Duke tonight in the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

*Florida is favored over Alabama by 10, and I think that is wildly aggressive. Can you think of a No. 1 team that was that much of an underdog? That said: The Gators will either win by 20+ or lose; unlike the 2006 title team, I'm not sure this team can win late and/or close. Good thing they are built to blow teams out.

Complete SN column here. More later, including a noontime tribute to Dr. Z that I wrote late last night and a 3 p.m. analysis of the new United Football League, which I also wrote late last night.

(Wow, was I prolific last night or what? Must have been because I watched the series finale of "The Shield," then couldn't fall asleep for like 2 hours afterward. Probably the best TV series finale I have ever seen.)

-- D.S.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More BCS Crazy Talk -- Or Not

This sums up a pretty valid point -- whether you are a Florida fan or not.

I spent a lot of tonight considering where my head has been at the last 48 hours. Part of the complicating factor is that my team is one of the contenders in the conversation.

Good problem to have, you might say. But I wonder how I would gauge things if I didn't have a dog in the fight. Take Oklahoma vs. Texas: I really don't have a personal stake in it; I simply fall on the side of Texas, for a lot of reasons highlighted over the past two days.

I also think that I'm not particularly biased in arguing that few outside of Austin or Norman want to see Oklahoma-Texas II. We didn't want to see Ohio St-Michigan II two years ago, and we don't want or need to see OU-UT II this season. The argument they are 1-2 in the country is sketchy, at best -- consider that they aren't 1-2 in any poll right now, nor have they been.

I am plenty biased in laying out scenarios as they relate to Florida. I don't think it's crazy for me to (a) root for Florida to beat Alabama; (b) honestly think that Florida will beat Alabama; or (c) prepare for the various scenarios in the event that Florida does beat Alabama, but somehow doesn't finish in the Top 2 -- an idea that the more I consider it, the more scary-likely it seems.

That said: There is arguing about the BCS that is fun, and then there is the arguing that is debilitating. I think we're quickly reaching that point -- at least for Texas fans, in part for Florida fans and most certainly for fans without a dog in the fight. It is wearying, and it's not even next weekend yet.

By the way, a 4-team playoff wouldn't solve anything this year. An 8-team playoff -- if you insist on including all 6 "BCS conference" champs -- wouldn't solve anything either. A 16-team playoff would get us closest to where we need to go, but that's a pipe dream.

Between the suspicion of voter fraud -- or, at the very least, benign negligence by voters -- and an apalling lack of transparency (and even more apalling lack of respect for fans) by the people running the BCS, the system is truly broken this year. The funny thing is that it isn't even as egregious as 2004 -- but even 4 years later, it's such a moment of hyper-intensity that we're living in, it feels worse. It's still pretty tough to top the crappy feeling of Auburn '04 fans; they enjoy a lifetime free pass of saying, to any other fan base: "Oh, STFU. You know NOTHING of BCS misery."

I'm going to really enjoy the hell out of the SEC title game this Saturday -- I have kind of had it in my head that if Florida loses that game, at least they had their shot... they controlled their own destiny. What frustrates me is that perhaps that isn't really the case.

"What if they lose?" isn't nearly as distressing as "What if they win, but don't make the Top 2?"

I'm sure I will work myself into a frenzy by Saturday night. And yet I can't even imagine what it must feel like to be a Texas fan. That's why I keep throwing out this "AP half of the title" scenario for the Longhorns; maybe I'm holding out for that consolation prize if it is Florida, and not Texas, that is iced out of the BCS title game.

So, in short, forgive me for the frenetic, frazzled posting on the subject. Not only do I root for the best for Florida, but I root for the best for college football -- this isn't one of the sport's finest moments. I hope we can all find ways to enjoy the next 5 weeks. At the very least, Alabama-Florida should be a great game worthy of "Game of the Year" status and national attention.

-- D.S.

BCS Ignores Transparency, Insults Fans

By the way, are we going to see which coaches voted which way on yesterday's penultimate ballot? Guess not. Way to be with the journalistic integrity, USA Today.

Meanwhile, no computer formula should be allowed to be part of the BCS process if they won't open their methodology to public scrutiny. Perhaps they remain "black box" because the poll operators are charlatans -- why else would everyone but Colley Matrix be afraid to show their work? Worse: The BCS enables them by allowing them to be part of the process, opacity and all.

Seriously: How hard is it to insist on some transparency in the BCS process?

Ballots for all voters -- Coaches and Harris -- available every week. Complete computer formulas available for scrutiny. And anyone who doesn't want to be transparent doesn't have to participate.

It's the least the BCS can do. But this "black box" stuff is offensive.

-- D.S.

Ultimate Schadenfreude: What If Florida Wins But Doesn't Crack the BCS Top 2?

In the event that Florida beats Alabama, if human pollsters want to ensure that we don't see an Oklahoma-Texas result from the BCS formula, they MUST rank Florida No. 1, even if they think Oklahoma is the better team.

Human pollsters should simply put Florida at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2. That's because the BCS computer polls hate Florida, and a No. 2 ranking in the human polls combined with a sub-1/2 ranking by the computers puts Florida in a precarious position. (Saurian Sagacity runs the numbers - via Doc Saturday - and it is scarier than you think.)

To avoid the Rematch No One Wants, fans will need a manual override of the computers, or I suspect folks will be freaking come Monday. This has been absurdly underreported -- see all the "playoff"/winner of the SEC Championship Game is in the BCS title game talk.

This is sizing up eerily like 2004, when an unbeaten Auburn was shut out of the BCS title game -- or even a split title -- because a Big 12 "contender" faked its way into the national title game, where they promptly got drilled.

-- D.S.

Monday 12/01 A.M. Quickie:
BCS, Texas, Plaxico, Steelers D, More

Texas got screwed. That's the lead of today's SN column and you can follow my posts from yesterday about the situation below.

By the way, I appreciate all of the arguments in favor of Oklahoma -- particularly the one about OU's season=ending quality road win, which Texas lacks. But I can't get around "45-35."

Let's be clear: This isn't a BCS mess; it's a Big 12 mess. Why they relied on BCS ranking as a tie-breaker, rather than doing what other conferences do -- use BCS to winnow 3 tied teams down to 2, then use head-to-head -- is beyond me.

Anyway, most glaringly, you'll see my latest BlogPoll ballot below is kind of a mess at the top: I dropped Oklahoma from No. 1 a week ago to No. 4 -- and that is AFTER they beat Oklahoma State on the road. It makes NO sense, from a "resume" standpoint.

But this penultimate rankings week, I had to go with a mish-mash of resume, eyewitness account, synthesis of a season (that Alabama and Florida are both better than either Texas or Oklahoma) and -- mostly -- my need to rank Texas ahead of Oklahoma. Thus: OU at No. 4.

My rankings, in a vacuum, aren't crazy -- that's what the AP came up with. But in the context of last week's rankings, the OU drop looks and feels ludicrous in light of their result on Saturday.

Anyway, at this point, I'm mainly concerned that Florida will beat Alabama yet somehow find themselves outside the BCS Top 2. There may need to be a campaign where human pollsters -- if they think the Bama-Florida winner should be in the title game -- need to rank that winner at No. 1, if only to ensure that the computers don't screw things up by giving us a UT-OU rematch.

Oh, there was NFL this week? I couldn't tell behind the haze of crazy related to the Plaxico Burress story.

I know that the Giants are the best team in the league. I know that the Pats are on the ropes, and that the Steelers put them there by force. I know that Peyton Hillis confirms that this is the best class of rookie RBs in the history of the league. And I know that I am far enough out of playoff contention in all four of my fantasy leagues that I barely noticed how my rosters did yesterday.

NBA: The Blazers are on fire.

CBB: I think that Xavier, Gonzaga and Oklahoma are 3 of the Top 5 teams in the country - and Louisville (my preseason pick to be champs) is not, at least based on their loss to Western Kentucky.

Complete SN column here
. More later, although I'm sure that BCS talk will dominate the airwaves and blog universe today.

-- D.S.

This Week's CFB BlogPoll Ballot, First Take:
Texas Over Oklahoma, SEC Big 2 Over Both

But, yes, I can understand why SEC-haters would be doubting Alabama and Florida right now; the conference, as a whole, is down this year -- esp. compared to last year. That said: I think either Bama or Florida crush Oklahoma. (Consider how much of a favorite Ohio State was over Florida two years ago -- and Oklahoma doesn't have nearly the defense that OSU team had.)

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

Dropped Out: LSU (#22), Florida State (#23).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oklahoma "Wins" The Big 12 South, I Guess

Oklahoma is No. 2 in the latest BCS poll; Texas is No. 3. Therefore, Oklahoma "wins" the Big 12 South, even though Texas beat Oklahoma head-to-head.

Distressingly to me, the computers continue to punish Florida -- 4th in the BCS; 6th in the computers. Alabama is 1st in the BCS and 3rd in the computers.

Is it possible that Florida could beat Alabama next week yet stay behind both Oklahoma and Texas in the BCS standings? I'm no BCS number-cruncher, but I wouldn't count it out as a possibility.

(There is the insane scenario where Florida beats Alabama yet remains behind both Oklahoma and Texas for the BCS title-game. In that case, it is all but assured that as long as Florida wins the Sugar Bowl, the AP will name them its national champ.)

Speaking of not counting things out, don't count out Texas in the BCS title game -- it will take Oklahoma losing to Missouri. (Yes, that goes against the "must win your conference" thing, but I never bought into that -- hell, Georgia was MY national champ last season.)

And, as posted earlier, there is a scenario where Texas earns a split national title via the AP poll: If Oklahoma beats either Alabama or Florida in the national title game, it could happen, given that as of today, the AP thinks Texas is better than Oklahoma, in opposition to the BCS cabal.

The dynamic already seems set: The AP voters are setting themselves up as the contrarian BCS-busters, ready for any excuse to illustrate the system's vagaries, including a split champ. That could be Texas. That could be (gulp) Florida. Hell, why not the USC-Penn St winner?

(That said, I think that either Alabama or Florida would smash Oklahoma -- and perhaps the myth of the Big 12's dominance this season. Oklahoma fans remember the ending to the 2007 and 2006 seasons, right? Not to mention 2003.)

-- D.S.

Coaches Poll: Oklahoma Ahead of Texas

The Coaches pick Oklahoma ahead of Texas. There you have it: "Momentum" trumps the clarity of a head-to-head decision, at least as it relates to who the Big 12 South champ should be, which is the only thing the pollsters should have been thinking about when ranking them.

But knowing that 1/3 of the formula is going to Oklahoma is enough to "call it" -- Oklahoma will be proclaimed the winner of the Big 12 South via the BCS ranking and play Missouri for a chance to win and earn a spot in the national title game.

(Hinton, as usual, is must-read and his verdict is, though more well-thought-out than mine, the same.)

The AP puts Texas ahead of Oklahoma, 3rd vs. 4th, with both behind Alabama and Florida. That 1-2 situation sets up the SEC title-game winner being No. 1 in the AP going into the national-title game.

Why is that important? Because of the AP's role in splitting the national title: If the Florida-Alabama winner wins the NCG, it will be hard for the AP to suddenly decide Texas is the champ, vaulting a sitting AP No. 1 who wins. However: If the Florida-Alabama winner loses the NCG to a team ranked behind Texas in the AP poll (say, Oklahoma), the AP is in a position to move No. 2 Texas into the No. 1 spot -- and crown them the AP national champs.

But it's pretty clear right now: Your national-title game will be between the winner of Alabama-Florida and Oklahoma, if the Sooners beat Missouri, or Texas, if the Sooners don't beat Missouri. (Bama fans shouldn't hold their breath that they hold the No. 2 BCS spot even if they lose to Florida, although it is mathematically possible for them to stay ahead of Texas.)

Meanwhile: Still no word on whether Coaches' poll sponsor USA Today is going to pressure the AFCA to reveal this week's ballots, even though it has as much impact on who is in the BCS title game as next week's "season-ending" ballots. Don't hold your breath.

-- D.S.

Sunday 11/30 Quickie: Texas over Oklahoma

Texas should be the BCS poll voters' pick ahead of Oklahoma.

Let's be clear: Deciding the 3-way tie in the Big 12 South by BCS ranking is NOT the BCS's fault. It is the Big 12's fault for putting their conference decision-making in the hands of (a) random Harris poll voters; (b) agenda-driven coaches from around the country; and (c) the computers.

No matter what the result, we should all demand transparency of the coaches' poll individual ballots, because you KNOW that without any accountability, there will be some shenanigans. (Wonder where Mack Brown is going to vote Oklahoma?)

So: Do you pick Texas or Oklahoma? (Sorry, Texas Tech.)

If you insist on eliminating Texas Tech from your reasonable consideration (as most people seem quick to do) and focusing only on UT and OU, that makes the choice clear: Texas.

This should weight most: Texas beat Oklahoma head-to-head on a neutral field, the closest thing we have to an actual playoff game between the two.

(If you want to give Oklahoma credit for hanging 61 on OK St, please assign a bit of a discount because they allowed 41. Let's not confuse Big 12 defenses for being stout.)

There's one factor that no one is talking about, and I'm not sure it should count, except that folks were more than willing to bring it up as a knock against Ohio State's inclusion in the BCS title game...

Look at Oklahoma's record in BCS bowl games the last two seasons: Arguably, worse than Ohio State -- the Buckeyes got pasted, but at least they got walloped by the national champs. Oklahoma got beaten by the non-BCS charity case and a West Virginia team that couldn't win at home against Pitt to secure its place in the national-title game. OU has been a BCS bowl embarrassment, the poster child for BCS unworthiness the past two seasons. (Let's not even count 2003, when they backed in and, naturally, got beat by LSU in the BCS title game.)

And in the biggest game of its season in 2008, against Texas, Oklahoma choked again. Let's not talk about these teams not having a chance to control their own destiny -- OU could have made this a non-issue by beating Texas head-to-head; they didn't. They were beaten solidly. Texas' only loss was on the road, after a brutal 4-game stretch, at a sizzling hot Texas Tech on a last-second TD.

As long as we're leaving it up to the human pollsters across the country to make the decision on behalf of the Big 12 (again: blame the Big 12 for setting up this ludicrousness!), Texas is the right pick as Big 12 South champs, and -- if they beat Mizzou in the Big 12 title game -- one-half of the national-title game.

(If OU is the pick, there is still a positive scenario for Texas: If Mizzou beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, I could see the BCS rankings shaking out that Texas is vaulted into the BCS Top 2 to play the Bama-Florida winner, even though they didn't even win their own conference division. I don't think anyone would complain about that, except USC -- and no one is arguing they should be in the conversation.)

Anyway, huge statement results from Alabama and Florida against their in-state rivals, setting up the best game of the season next week in the SEC title game -- a true, never-before-seen-in-the-BCS-era* "playoff" where the winner of the game goes to the national title and the loser merely gets a BCS at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl. (Not a bad consolation prize, but not the same as the NCG.)

* - Kudos to commenter Cannon for pointing out that, in fact, not only have we seen this before, but it happened a mere 2 years ago, when Ohio State played Michigan. Agreed. Of course, neither team really deserved to make the national title game that year -- see the bowl obliteration of both -- but that's another argument for another day.

You've got to feel sorry for Oregon State: With the Rose Bowl in its sights, the Beavers got blown out and now suddenly USC is going to the Rose Bowl to play Penn State and a BCS "at-large" spot opens for Ohio State -- oh, Boise State fans, did you really think it would go to you?

The At-Large Bids: (1) Utah (automatic); (2) Alabama-Florida loser (no way the Sugar doesn't take a team with regional appeal as its replacement for the team they lose to the BCS title game); (3) Oklahoma or Texas (whoever doesn't win the Big 12 South); and (4) Ohio State (even though Boise State would be the more deserving pick).

I feel no similar sympathy for Notre Dame, which got what it deserved for hiring Charlie Weis in the first place. (This is all a big fat karmic payback for tossing Tyrone Willingham, you know that right?) Weis keeps finding ways to set a new low for Notre Dame performance in an individual game. What are we at, like the 10th new low in the last 3 years? More?

Congrats to Cincinnati for winning the Big East's BCS bid -- they are a very very good team that gets little national credit because they aren't a "traditional" program. Brian Kelly is probably one of the Top 1-3 coaches in the country available to move to a new program. He would be a good fit at Notre Dame, because he's a -- y'know -- college football coach, not an NFL assistant coach pretending to be a college football head coach.

Speaking of coaches, it's too bad that Sylvester Croom is out at Mississippi State. His 2007 season was incredible, particularly in the most competitive conference in recent college football memory. (Compare the SEC from '07 to '08...yeesh, what a difference.) There is zero diversity in college football coaching, and it's not like there aren't great minority candidates out there. I cannot believe that this is the state of things heading into 2009.

Anyway, all eyes on the BCS rankings later today.

My initial BlogPoll ballot looks like this: (1) Alabama; (2) Florida; (3) Texas; (4) Oklahoma; (5) USC; (6) Penn St; (7) Utah; (8) Boise St; (9) Texas Tech; (10) Ohio St. That 1-2-3 follows logically that I think the winner of Bama-Florida should play Texas (presuming UT beats Mizzou in the Big 12 title game) in the NCG.

Meanwhile, how about that Plaxico Burress? He shot himself in the leg? The guy has just defined his career as the guy who shot himself in the leg.

NBA: Yeah, the Warriors' D is terrible, but Chris Duhon had 22 assists and David Lee had a fantasy-crazy 37 points and 21 rebounds (both career highs) and the Knicks rolled... meanwhile, Kevin Durant had 30 in a very very very rare Thunder win...