Saturday, October 10, 2009

College Football Gameday Live

As my wife and I set up our apartment for my second kid's 1st birthday party -- "college football tailgate" is the theme, naturally -- I'm reminded that his due date was the night of last year's Florida-LSU game (Oct. 11), which my wife and I ID'ed as soon as we initially got the due date. Jonah held off his arrival until the 14th, allowing us to enjoy the Florida romp. How thoughtful of the kid. It's like he knew. For the record, he has never experienced a Florida football loss in his lifetime....

7:49 pm: Not only is Tebow cleared to play, but all signs point to him STARTING. Wow. It will be hard to watch him without cringing at the mere thought of a rough hit.

Tebow's Eye-Black tonight: Thessalonians 5:18 (Be thankful, no matter what has happened.)


*Alabama is very very good. (Yes, Jevan Snead is entirely overrated -- he's even flat mediocre. But Bama is a machine.)

*So much for Auburn -- my question for Arkansas is: How did you lose to Georgia, which got clocked at Tennessee. (I may have to make Arkansas a rare 2-loss entry in my Top 25.)

*That was a quality win for Ohio State. That was not a quality win for Penn State.

*That was a must-win for Oklahoma State (a game I thought they would lose). That was an even better win for Houston, at Mississippi State. Houston has more/better quality wins than most of the Top 10.

*I think I have been overrating Kansas.

Whew. Let's get this thing going.

Saturday 10/10 (Very) Quickie

It's going to be a long slog between now and the Florida-LSU kickoff at 8. See today's CFB picks below (biggie: Florida over LSU).

Aaand, that's why the Yankees got Teixeira. (More shocking: Yankees' walk-off win or that HR by A-Rod in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game?)

Is Angels pitching that good or are Red Sox batters that bad?

Quick: Who won the WNBA title this season?

Honestly, I need to crawl back into distracting myself for the next 13 hours...

More later.

-- D.S.

CFB Top 25 Picks: Florida Over LSU

This has been the longest two weeks of my Florida fandom -- and I'm sure that I am speaking for all Florida fans. Finally, tonight, we'll be done with speculation and get to the game. Gonna be a long day -- good thing there are a couple of good games to keep us occupied.

1 Florida over @4 LSU -- Game of the Year
2 Texas over Colorado
3 Alabama over 20 Ole Miss -- De Facto SEC West Title Game?
5 VA Tech over BC
9 Ohio St over Wisconsin -- Badgers unbeaten
10 TCU over @ Air Force
11 Miami over Florida A/M
12 Iowa over Michigan
13 Oregon over @ UCLA
14 Penn St over E. Illinois
Texas A&M over 15 Oklahoma St -- Upset Special
16 Kansas over Iowa St
Arkansas over 17 Auburn -- Upset Special
18 BYU over UNLV
19 Oklahoma over Baylor
22 Georgia Tech over @Florida St -- Bowdenfreude
25 South Carolina over Kentucky

Other Games of Interest
Northwestern over Miami (OH)
West Virginia over @Syracuse
Georgia over @Tennessee
Houston over @Mississippi St
Pitt over UConn
Oregon St over Stanford

Friday, October 09, 2009

Latest Report: Tebow "Definitely" Will Play

So there's an unconfirmed report that Tebow will "definitely" play tomorrow night. I'm skeptical -- what if Florida is winning decisively... what's the point of playing Tebow?

Further, what's the point of announcing with ANY certainty that Tebow will play? Why put pressure on the coaches to follow through, even in the event the context to play isn't right?

This also seems out of character for Meyer's normally tight-lipped coaching staff. I have a hard time believing that they would selectively leak to a local TV reporter.

In the end, something like "he will definitely play" sounds more like someone's idea of wishful thinking than reality.

I'm not saying he WON'T play. I still think that Florida will be executing well enough that Tebow won't NEED to play, that Meyer won't need to risk playing him unnecessarily.

It is possible that necessity will raise itself. But I'm not quite sure I see the logic in playing Tebow just for the sake of giving him a couple of snaps in what should be a game Florida can control.

Friday 10/09 Quickie: Tebow vs. LSU,
Holliday, Hamels, Lackey, NFL Week 5

Well, of COURSE I was going to lead today's SN column with my up-to-the-minute take on Tim Tebow vs. LSU.

Will he be cleared to play? Yes.
Will he be dressed to play? Yes.
Will he actually play? No.

The only scenario I can see Tebow playing is if John Brantley is awful -- bad fumbles, atrocious picks. But here's the reality: Urban Meyer will have a system to save Brantley from downside risk.

It won't be pretty, but it will be effective. Florida will rely on its sick defense, its spectacular special teams and its depth of quality RBs. All Brantley has to do is be... good enough.

Florida wins 27-16...without Tebow.

More from today's column:
*Don't blame Matt Holliday (entirely)
*Don't blame Cole Hamels (entirely)
*Yikes: About that Red Sox offense...
*NFL Week 4: Belichick vs. McDaniels -- mismatch.
*McNabb is back, but I remain more intrigued by Vick.
*CFB Weekend Preview: SEC triple-treat, Big Ten unbeatens, Upset Special!
And a lot more.

Check it out here. More later, including weekly CFB picks.

-- D.S.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday 10/08 Quickie: LDS, Lee, CC,
Jeter, LOB, Edwards, Hammer, Tebow

Aha, so THAT's why the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee. Or the Yankees signed CC Sabathia. The pair lead today's SN column.

Jeter hitting first postseason homer in Yankee Stadium history: Predictable.

Dodgers and Cards combine for 30 left on base? Lamentable.

Braylon Edwards vs. Michael Crabtree? I'd actually take Crabtree.

Tebow update: Don't expect to know that he's playing at LSU until he runs into the game midway through -- and even then, only under extreme, low-probability circumstances.

Nebraska at Missouri tonight: I'll take Nebraska -- who has Mizzou played? At least NU nearly beat VA Tech in Blacksburg.

SN's Top Sports City of 2009: Pittsburgh. Can't argue with that. (CAN argue with Gainesville at No. 41.)

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wednesday 10/07 Quickie: MLB LDS,
Twins, Edwards, Crabtree, Tebow, LeBron

Start with this: I just posted my MLB playoff picks, below. For those of you who believe in the Quickie jinx (and how could you not?), I picked the Yankees winning the World Series in 5 over the Phillies. So it will probably be the Angels over the Rockies in 7.

Meanwhile, as I led in today's SN column, the 2009 MLB Playoffs field culminates the entire decade in baseball:

Most dramatic team: Yankees.
Biggest moment: Red Sox (04)
Biggest comeback: Rockies (07)
Best hitter/biggest flake: Manny
Most underrated juggernaut: Angels (02 champs)
Soul of baseball: Cards (06 champs)
Defending champs: Phillies

Oh, and the Twins, who just pulled off an unprecedented comeback over the final 4 (no: 5) games of the regular season, in an instant-classic playoff "play-in" game.

(It would be nice to represent the 2005 champ White Sox or the 2003 champ Marlins, but you can't have everything in an 8-team field.)

More you'll find in today's column:

*Braylon Edwards traded to Jets: Don't mess with LeBron.

*49ers sign Michael Crabtree: All that holdout...for what?

*Tim Tebow returns to practice: But no contact yet (and not cleared to play vs. LSU yet)

*LeBron/Shaq off to winning start in NBA preseason -- I think NBA GMs who picked them to win the East weren't paying attention last year.

*Gilbert Arenas: 10 assists in 24 minutes, as he begins his transformation from scoring maniac to facilitator. I'm still weighing whether to pick my Wiz to win the East.

There's a ton more in there. Check it out here. More later.

-- D.S.

Dan Shanoff's MLB 2009 Playoff Picks

As always, the Quickie jinx is in full effect...

Yankees over Twins in 3.
Red Sox over Angels in 4.
Cards over Dogers in 4.
Phillies over Rockies in 4.

Yankees over Red Sox in 7.
Phillies over Cards in 7.

World Series
Yankees over Phillies in 5.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New Yahoo/Tebow: Win-Lose, Play-Don't
Tebow's Injury Transcends Game Outcome

My latest Tebow-related Yahoo column is live, and the crux is that Tebow could play or not play -- and Florida could win or lose -- and his status is still THE story of the game.

LSU beats Florida without Tebow? "Yeah, but the Gators didn't have Tebow."

Florida beats LSU without Tebow? "Wow, the Gators won even without Tebow."

LSU beats Florida with Tebow? "Yeah, but Tebow was not Tebow."

Florida beats LSU with Tebow? "What CAN'T Tebow do?"

I also reiterate my week-long positions:

(1) I think Florida can beat LSU -- even AT Death Valley -- without Tebow.

(That's a combination of Florida's sick defense, sick special teams, sick RBs and very capable backup QB, plus LSU not looking particularly overwhelming the last two weeks.)

(2) Even if he's "cleared" to play, isn't the (re-)injury risk particularly acute?

Anyway, if you're interested, please take a read -- and, as always, check out TimTeblog for even more obsessive coverage of Tebow. (But I think you'll be surprised: It's not especially fawning. That's not the point. There's too much analysis to do to clutter it up with fanboy praise.)

-- D.S.

ESPN's "30 For 30" Debuts: "30 for 80s?"

ESPN's hugely anticipated "30 for 30" documentary series (starting tonight) is nothing as much as it is the triumph for sports fans of a certain age. That age is 37.5.

But let's call it ages 35-40: This would be ESPN's bulls-eye target market: Has enough money to spend on marketer messages, still considers themselves "young." I'm in that target. And don't forget the ultimate manifestation of that target: Bill Simmons, not coincidentally an executive producer of the "30 for 30" series.

As you look through the "30 for 30" topics covered -- at least in the first 3 months -- what you see predominantly are sports events from the formative years of someone who, at the time, was anywhere from 9-18 years old -- call it the age of sports-fan puberty -- when the event happened. Check it out, in the order the documentaries are going to be released:

Gretzky traded to LA: 1988
Colts moved to Indianapolis: 1984
USFL Dies: 1985
Ali-Holmes Fight: 1980
Len Bias dies: 1986
Jimmy the Greek: 1988
Miami's heyday: 1987-ish
Reggie vs. the Knicks: 1995

Of the first 8 subjects, 6 climaxed between 1984 and 1988. If you are 35-40 today, the events would have happened between the time you were 9 and 18. Most notably, if you are younger than 30-ish today, you will have no (or virtually no) at-the-time recollection of any of these seminal events.

Was sports that much more interesting back then? Arguably yes, for two reasons: (1) Media was vastly more limited than it was even 10 years later, let alone today, and so the stories -- while well-known -- are still appealingly opaque to us. And (2) your own (admittedly inflated) sense of nostalgia for the events of your own formative sports years.

For fans older than 35, the appeal of the documentaries is obvious: They will return you to the seminally transcendent sports events of your childhood.

I am intrigued by the interest of fans under 30 for these subjects: For all the first-hand memory, it might as well be documentaries about baseball during World War 2 or the ABA or Billie Jean King or Jack Johnson. You either have a personal frame of reference to a story -- or it's distant history. The "30 for 30" series has extraordinarily compelling topics, to be sure -- but still beyond personal recollection for so many fans.

Of course, that's OK. The series is intended to be about nostalgia. And, at least within these first 8 documentaries, it intentionally or not frames the mid-1980s as some sort of mythical Golden Era for dramatic sports storylines.

Is Gretzky being traded more interesting than Michael Jordan unretiring... for the Wizards?
Is the Colts' relocation to Indy more brutal than the Browns' relocation to Baltimore?
Is the USFL failing more wild than the rise of NASCAR?
Is Len Bias dying more tragic than Pat Tillman?
Is Jimmy the Greek's influence on sports gambling more compelling than the rise of fantasy sports?
Is Miami's heyday more insane than college football recruiting is today?

It is obviously not fair -- or even worthwhile -- to compare.

However, the answer is yes -- if you are "of a certain age."

You want to think that your precious childhood memories are more interesting than everyone else's -- that they aren't simply part of an ongoing cycle of sports drama that continues every season, even every day.

Even if plenty of fans under 30 would love to argue with you about that, it would diminish your own childhood -- erode your own foundation of fandom -- to realize that the times were interesting, but some kind of "Golden Era" of sports.

Sports is not frozen back in the mid-80s just because it was your/my own youth. It reconstitutes itself every day -- with every new event -- and thank goodness for that. If it never got any better than it was back in the mid-80s, the last 25 years of sports -- and the next 25 years -- would suck.

It is worth noting that this is only the first 8 of the 30. Most of the rest of the doc subjects go beyond that mid-80s window: 1994 (Jordan baseball), 2003 (Bartman), 1995 (Rugby World Cup), mid-90s (Mat Hoffman), early-90s (rap culture embraces LA Raiders), 1999 (Charismatic), current (Right To Play), mid-00s (Marion Jones). The range of events over the last 30 years is well-covered, and I personally can't wait to watch every one, starting tonight with the Gretzky-trade story. "30 for 30" is arguably the coolest thing ESPN has ever done on TV.

But it is notable that the series -- which will run over 15 months, through December 2010 -- begins with such heavy representation of such a small window of time.

If you are a fan of my generation -- if your formative years happened during this wild era in the mid-1980s -- this will take you back. I think that's the point.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 10/06 Quickie: Favre, Twins,
Tebow, Bowden, McNabb, Cable, Rockets

I am going to let down my colleagues in the Favre-haters Society, but in the lead of today's SN column, I praise Favre's effort last night.

Oh, I had to watch on mute. And I had to replace my Favre-loathing with schadenfreude for Packers fans (eh: they deserve it, if only for believing in Favre even after it was clear he despised them). But I nodded my head and muttered: "Not bad."

Then I woke up this morning, flushed that out of my system in the column, then went back to the hatin'.

That's not to say that I hate all things Minneapolis -- actually, I'm rooting for the Twins today against the Tigers (even though I suspect that the Tigers have a slightly better chance of giving the Yankees a series -- what can I say... I'm a sucker for Joe Mauer like the rest of you.)

Lots more in the column today, and I've got a big post about ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary series -- which starts tonight -- coming between 11:30 and noon. Check back then.

-- D.S.

Monday, October 05, 2009

On's New SweetSpot Network's TrueHoop Network of NBA blogs, covering every individual NBA team and aligned -- if not owned or compensated -- by ESPN was a terrific (and successful) experiment.

So successful that they're replicating it with baseball -- but smartly: They are starting with promoting blogs of the 8 playoff teams, the expanding after that to all 30.

What do the two networks have in common? They both launched from a central, "national" blog run by a singularly gifted writer: For TrueHoop, Henry Abbott; for SweetSpot, Rob Neyer.

Compare that to the way that set up the two football blog networks: Division-by-division (or conference-by-conference) blogs, edited by full-time employees, most of whom brought in from newspapers to cover a batch of teams all at once.

(While never doubting the blogs would be successful, at the time the two homegrown football networks launched, I was bullish on CFB conference-by-conference blogs, but questioned whether fans -- especially NFL fans -- consume content on a division-by-division basis, rather than "just focus on my team.")

There is no single "national" blog for the NFL or college football -- and the two systems were set up after Abbott's TrueHoop acquisition really proved the blog model for them.

Remains to be seen whether they will create networks of individual team blogs in NFL and CFB, similar to NBA.

(One other place you're seeing create distribution and content relationships with bloggers: Local, which obviously makes a lot of sense. It is a super-efficient way to fill the content pipeline with highly relevant -- and high-quality -- content, in a way the newspapers can't...or won't.)

While the blog ecosystem at the team level is thriving with amazing content and talent, it is also finite:

Other big players who want to craft partnerships on a team-by-team (or city-by-city) basis may want to follow Yahoo's lead and give the fine folks at SB Nation a call.

After that, the pool gets pretty shallow.

-- D.S.

(For my own benefit, I almost always dive into team blogs when trying to get smarter about individual team-specific storylines that are "going national." But for things like the playoffs, I usually set up an RSS feed of the 8 team blogs for easy reference. In this case, I'll grab both SweetSpot's network of blogs, along with SBNation's -- plus any "indies" that are really good.)

Monday 10/05 Quickie: Minnesota Mania,
Favre, Twins, Saints, Pats, Eli, LSU, More

Enjoy it, Minnesotans: Your position at the center of the sports universe starts now and lasts... oh, until the last out of Twins-Tigers tomorrow at the Metrodome.

If you can get past the Favre storyline (and that's a tall order), the Vikings-Packers game should be a pretty good one. (Would it be too much to ask for Percy Harvin to have an insane game?)

And I'm loving the idea of the Twins becoming the first team ever to win a division having been down 3 games with 4 to play in the regular season (although the "Game 163" is a bit of a cheat).

As I lead in today's SN column, the drama over the AL Central ends Tuesday night, because the winner presumably loses in the ALDS to the Yankees. (Then again, I presumed on Friday that there was no way the Twins were catching the Tigers.)

But for this small window, all eyes are on Minnesota.

More you'll find in today's column:

*NFC's Best: Saints
*AFC's Best: Steelers
*Fantasy studs: David Garrard Goodness!
*Must-track injury: Eli's heel
*Explain again why the Titans shouldn't start Vince Young?
*This past weekend's CFB slate? Relatively lame, as expected.
*Will Tebow play Saturday at LSU? As I'll argue all week: Won't matter.

And a lot more. Check out the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot: Bye-Bye

Here is my best guess at this week's (mostly) resume-based Top 25 ballot for the BlogPoll.

1 Florida 1
2 Texas 1
3 Alabama 2
4 Cincinnati
5 TCU 2
7 Boise State 4
8 Virginia Tech
9 Oregon 3
10 Southern Cal 3
11 Iowa 1
12 Kansas 3
13 Miami (Florida) 9
14 Ohio State
15 Houston 10
16 Auburn 3
17 South Florida
18 Georgia Tech 3
19 Oklahoma State 1
20 Penn State 5
21 Brigham Young 6
22 Mississippi
23 Stanford
24 Missouri
25 Wisconsin
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Oklahoma (#16), Michigan (#20), Georgia (#23).

*Oklahoma, Michigan and Georgia are out. Stanford is in.

*Couple of odd adjustments: I actually moved LSU down after a road win at Georgia.

*I moved Alabama down from No. 1, behind idle Florida and Texas -- now, I had been putting Bama at No. 1 as early as anyone (after Week 1). I based the drop on what I thought was a pretty interesting head-to-head comparison: I thought Florida looked better beating Kentucky in Lexington than Alabama did. (Moving idle Texas ahead of Alabama, too? Well, maybe that needs to be rethought -- Texas will not benefit from Oklahoma losing yesterday; it'll make a UT win in 2 weeks a little less impressive.)

*I'm still high on Cincinnati and TCU.

*Miami vaults back up, although I recognize that you can't value a win over Oklahoma for Miami and not give BYU more credit for beating Oklahoma, because they did it in Norman.

*I use a lot of direct and indirect transitive properties -- teams beating other teams head-to-head, and how teams did against common opponents.

*(Houston just screwed up everyone's resume-balloting: They have this incredible "plus" -- beating Oklahoma State in Stillwater -- and this insanely bad "minus" -- getting throttled by lowly UTEP. It'll be interesting to see how people reconcile it.)

Would love to get your feedback.

Sunday 10/04 (Very) Quickie

Baseball eclipses college football on a Sunday morning: Improbably, the Tigers have coughed up the AL Central lead, falling into a tie with the Twins and setting up the awesome quasi-"play-in" scenario for today's games.

I guess the best-case scenario is that they either both win or both lose, and we get a one-game playoff between the two tomorrow, playing head-to-head for the division title. Credit the Twins for getting past the Royals on a Greinke start day, and rip the Tigers for not really playing as if they want to make the playoffs.

OK, back to college football observations:

*I know Oklahoma could still technically win the Big 12 title (although does anyone really think they can beat Texas, even with a healthy Bradford), but why would Sam Bradford jeopardize his future as a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick to play for a bid to the Cotton Bowl?

*So I know Alabama > VA Tech and VA Tech > Miami -- did Miami just join the first two back in the Top 10? At some point, who you lost to matters (although how you lost should matter, too).

*I'm glad that LSU won, because it makes next week's LSU-Florida game that much more Game of the Year -- but having watched near-complete LSU games over the past two weeks, I'm just not that impressed. One part of me wants to say "LSU on the road during the day isn't the same as LSU at home at night," but one part of me wants to say "LSU is simply not a great team." (Then again, good-not-great teams playing at home beat great teams in one-off situations all the time.)

*Still: Nothing I saw from LSU makes me think that Florida without Tim Tebow (and with John Brantley) can't beat them. They may have to grit their way through, but the Gators can/will win. (Georgia Tech this week beat Mississippi State more impressively in Starkvill than LSU did a week ago.)

*I think I'm going to put Florida over last week's No. 1, Alabama, in my BlogPoll Top 25 -- Florida looked better against Kentucky than Alabama did. (Although Bama looked good.) Is that enough to make up for the fact that Bama still has a much more impressive "affirmative" quality win (over VA Tech) than Florida has against anyone?

*As usual, USC looks terrific -- but they just won't be able to overcome their annual slip-up loss.

*Wow, what a deflating loss for Houston -- UTEP isn't a very good team. I had thought that based on their wins over OK St and Texas Tech, Houston was en route to an unbeaten season and a better-than-Boise case to be the non-BCS team to play in a BCS-level bowl.

*Boise rolls another soft opponent -- but another Oregon impressive win makes Boise look that much better. (I tweeted this earlier this week: If Oregon played Boise today on a neutral field -- instead of the first week at Boise -- Oregon would win.) I still think TCU is the best non-BCS team in the country.

(I have a suggestion for the Mountain West: Broker a "championship game" against the champion of the WAC, to be played the same Saturday in December when the BCS conferences play their championship games. They don't need to actually combine conferences, but couldn't they set this up? There's no precedent, but what -- the NCAA is going to tell the non-BCS teams they can't do a little more to compete with the BCS cabal?)

*That was a very good win for Notre Dame -- anytime ND can (even temporarily) take "transitive property" over rival USC, it's a good thing (although now USC has a huge motivation to crush ND, to mitigate its own loss to Washington).

But non-ND fans could be forgiven for thinking UW got a little jobbed. My particular problem is that the refs didn't automatically review the game-ending play, which featured illegal helmet-to-helmet contact by ND on that poor UW receiver and should have triggered an automatic Washington 1st down.

*I think it's time that AP voters finally put Auburn into the Top 25 (I already had them there). I think that Wisconsin will get into the Top 25 because they are unbeaten (with a decent, if not great, rivalry win on the road at Minnesota), even if they aren't really a Top 25 team. They'll have a chance to earn it next week in Columbus. (And look at that: The Big Ten has a bevy of ranked teams -- Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin. Michigan will probably drop out. Not bad for a not-great conference.)

*Looking ahead to next week, a sick SEC double-header: Bama at Ole Miss -- notwithstanding the Rebels' season-crushing loss at South Carolina, they can still resurrect their season and their chances in the SEC West with a win over Alabama (which would crush Bama's season, btw -- extra motivation) -- followed by Florida at LSU. Other than that, it's a pretty slow weekend of big games. ("Other than that" -- what more could you ask for than two huge games of national consequence running from 3:30 to midnight?)

Give one last check to your fantasy teams...

-- D.S.