Let's talk about the three biggest sports storylines of the weekend:
(1) Donovan McNabb's Philadelphia homecoming vs. Michael Vick's folk-hero mojo: Oh, there might be a few boos -- and these boos will be entirely over-played -- but I think the vast majority of Eagles fans don't harbor enough resentment for McNabb (if any) to want to boo. I actually think almost all of them will give him a respectful cheer at the start of the game, then boo the Redskins QB, regardless of whether or it's McNabb. Meanwhile, at this point it doesn't matter whom Vick is playing against, he is the most must-see player in the league. This should be one of the most-watched games of the NFL season.
(2) Heavyweight CFB fight: Florida vs. Alabama. It's not even really a "rivalry" rivalry, like Texas and Oklahoma. In recent years, all they do is get in each other's way on the road to the national championship. In that way, it's bigger than a rivalry -- the last two times they have played, they have been de facto national semifinal playoff games, with a dramatic split.
In 2008, Florida's greatest win under Urban Meyer; in 2009, an absolute ass-kicking that was so complete that it actually made me feel less badly about losing the game.
I'm already on the record as saying that I think Alabama will win by at least 2 TDs -- Florida's D is largely untested, and even if it was, the Ingram-Richardson axis lays waste to any D it faces. (See last year's SECCG, which featured a Florida D that I thought was one of the best of all time, and Alabama rolled over it.) And Florida's offense -- last week's romp notwithstanding -- will have trouble with Bama's D.
(There is still a part of me holding out that Florida might win -- as I said yesterday, it is this sliver of my sports soul that Nick Saban will yank out and stomp on. The only solace I will take is that Florida learns enough to get it back in their rematch in the SEC title game in two months.)
More thoughts on the weekend in college football:
*Stanford-Oregon is the Pac-10 game of the year (I'm taking Oregon, reluctantly)...
*Red River Rivalry? Texas-Oklahoma is suddenly kind of weak (I'm taking Oklahoma, but only after witnessing the UT humiliation in Austin last week)...
*Separation Saturday in Big Ten: Wisconsin-Michigan State and Penn State-Iowa begin to offer some separation between a cluster of good-but-hardly-great Big Ten teams (picks: Wisco on the road; Iowa at home)...
*How can you not be rooting for BC to beat Notre Dame?...
*Upset Special: Does VA Tech winning on the road at NC State count? No?
*Trying so hard not to jinx Northwestern going to 5-0...
(3) Final weekend of the MLB season. Including:
*NL West: Padres vs. Giants. Last night's results -- Giants win, Padres shut out -- drains a lot of the excitement from this weekend's season finale. The Giants have clinched at least a tie for the NL title -- they only have to win 1 of 3 this weekend to clinch the division. And the Padres are now 2 back of the Braves for the Wild Card. With 3 games to go? San Diego is done. That means we don't have to be on "Bobby Cox Retirement Watch" on Sunday.
*AL East: The Yankees and Rays are tied for the division lead. The winner gets home-field advantage in the ALDS; the loser starts on the road. More intriguingly, the Twins sit 1 GB both for the best record in the AL (and HFA in the ALCS) -- if I wasn't so sure that the Twins were going to lose in the ALDS, this would matter.
*Last push for awards: King Felix won't pitch Sunday. Hopefully, enough AL Cy voters will get it and give him the award. Otherwise, the other awards feel locked up. Here's how I see it: Felix for AL Cy; Longoria for AL MVP; Halladay for NL Cy and for NL MVP: Joey Votto, slightly edging out Adrian Gonzalez.
*If your team isn't in the postseason, enjoy the offseason. Only 30 days or so until Hot Stove season really picks up. In the meantime, hopefully you can enjoy other teams' playoff games.
*Wild finish in Stillwater: After two scores late to tie things up and seemingly on the march to win on the road, Texas A&M throws a pick with 16 seconds left, which Oklahoma State turns into a game-winning FG at the final gun. Expect the Cowboys to join the Top 25 this week.
*Ryder Cup: Apparently, the Americans' rain-gear is horribly constructed, and it is actually having a material impact on their games. Seriously? (As of now, the matches are in rain-delay.)
*NBA Camping: LeBron has accomplished the impossible. He has actually made the Celtics... likeable? (Not quite, but when it comes down to Heat-Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals next May, I will be rooting for C's. No, wait, I haven't thought this through: Do I really want to deal with the Boston triumphalism if they eliminate the Superfriends? But what about my interest in seeing the Heat fail? At the very least, I'm conflicted about the Celtics, which is an upgrade from despising them.)
*No. 1 college hoops prospect Austin Rivers (son of Doc) commits to Duke: He decommitted from Florida, so you can imagine how I feel about that. He is a terrific player. It will be interesting to see if all-world frosh Kyrie Irving sticks around for a second year of college to play alongside Rivers.
*App State football moving from 1-AA (FCS) to 1-A (FBS)? Jumping out of your division is the new jumping out of your conference.
*Pop Culture Watch: The Islanders with the most street-cred they've had since the early 1980s when "30 Rock" guest-star Paul Giamatti wears a John Tavares jersey.
*ESPN is launching ESPNW, a spin-off brand aimed at women. I'm all for giving it a try (and I'm a huge fan of editorial lead Alison Overholt, a longtime ESPN Mag editor and erstwhile rec-league hoops teammate). If Holly Anderson's reaction at SB Nation is any indication, it is an interesting challenge: Is the target audience the women who already watch ESPN (who make up 25 percent of the audience)? Is it a lifestyle brand? Should it be ESPN's version of "Jezebel?"
At the very least, if it eliminates or mitigates the institutional misogyny that underlies most sports media, it's a worthy effort. I would encourage them to go outside of celeb female athletes and women in sports media for insights. Apparently, they are starting with a blog -- as good of a place as any. There is a lot of potential here -- I could spend my entire day just thinking about ESPN sub-brand possibilities. Just launch something.