Today's Names to Know: Utah, USC's D, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor, Jacory Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Montario Hardesty, Tim Tebow, Nyjer Morgan, Chase Utley, CC Sabathia, Labor Day Weekend, Hurricane Earl and More.
Here's to a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend everyone. I'm flying down to Florida this morning -- Earl-willing -- for my annual pilgrimage for a couple of Florida games at the Swamp (plus a family beach vacation plus the Jewish holidays plus plenty of work), but I will be posting all weekend and probably tweeting up a storm on Saturday, both from the game and about all of the opening Saturday of college football.
Let's get to it:
*Utah stakes its claim to being the best team in the Pac-10* (for now): It wasn't pretty, but the Utes (ridiculously unranked in AP poll/ranked No. 24 in Coaches', but ranked No. 18 on my preseason BlogPoll ballot) held off a Pitt team (over-)ranked No. 15.
Meanwhile, USC may have put up 49 points on Hawaii, but Kiffin's Trojans allowed 36, which is the foreshadowing you should pay attention to; USC is going to have a lot of trouble against teams in the Pac-10 with offenses superior to Hawaii but defenses slightly tougher. That said: Matt Barkley (5 TDs, incl. 3 to Ronald Johnson) had a huge game.
(Compare USC's sieve-like performance to the D-first throttlings of Ohio State -- 45-7 over Marshall -- and Miami, 45-0 over FAMU.)
* - Yes, I know Utah isn't in the Pac-10 yet. It's a joke, although I'm pretty sure Utah will be the best team in the Pac-10 once it gets in there, officially.
This weekend's best games: Boise St vs. VA Tech on Monday night, obviously, but keep an eye on TCU-Oregon St on Saturday night.
*Which is less surprising: That Byron Leftwich hurt his knee last night or that Terry Bradshaw went public with an opinion that Ben Roethlisberger's suspension should stand as-is? By the way, it looks like contrary to earlier reports, Big Ben won't ask Roger Goodell to reduce his suspension, which is the smartest thing he has done in any of this.
*Fantasy Football Watch: For those of you who have yet to do your fantasy football drafts, do NOT draft Browns RB Montario Hardesty, who suffered a knee injury last night. Jerome Harrison's stock just went up.
*Aside from injuries, nothing is more value-less than the final week of preseason games. Let's get to next week already.
*Tebow Watch: The good (in his most extensive playing time of the preseason, he was 12/16 for 167 yards and a TD); the bad (threw another pick); the ugly (fumbled the ball on his first snap, which was picked up by the Vikings' Erin Henderson and run back for a TD). He should be the Broncos' No. 2 QB, with a chance to contribute immediately in short yardage situations.
*How many games will Nyjer Morgan be suspended by MLB for? It becomes a bit of an accounting conundrum: He was already appealing a 7-game suspension BEFORE Wednesday night's charge-the-mound/hit-the-ground brawl-starter. So let's say MLB denies Morgan's appeal and keeps the 7-game ban -- but then throws another 5 games on top of that. Can Morgan appeal those? The possibilities are confusing.
*Chase Utley has been back for a little while now from his midseason injury, but last night's HR + 6 RBI in Philly's win over would-be Wild Card contending Colorado feels like his official "I'm back" game.
*CC Sabathia (19th W last night) is going to win the AL Cy Young because he has the most wins, isn't he? My vote would go to Felix Hernandez, who would set the record for fewest wins by a Cy-winning pitcher but whose performance -- independent of the shoddy team around him -- has been phenomenal.
*MLB Playoff Jockeying: With 30-odd games left in the season, it's hard to say "now-or-never" for a contender. But this really does feel like now-or-never for the Cardinals, playing a 3-game home series against the Central-leading (and nouveaux rivalrous) Reds. That wild Cards sweep of the Reds in Cincy a few weeks ago feels like forever ago. Plus: Keep an eye on the Padres-Rockies/Giants-Dodgers series this weekend; San Diego is faltering in the NL West.
We might be heading into a long holiday weekend, but the new sports year is officially here. Enjoy it, everyone.