Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie

Pete Carroll to Seahawks? This is a great move for him, for a few reasons. (1) He'll have complete control in Seattle; (2) USC seems to have some NCAA issues looming; (3) money.

When things inevitably fizzle out in the NFL -- and they will, after he has pocketed $35 million -- he will be able to name his program and pick his price back in college.

I already had USC falling behind Oregon next season -- as they did this past season -- and this would just cement it.

(Who should USC hire? Well, they seem to want Mike Riley from Oregon State -- why would he leave? He's totally happy there. Sarkisian? Does he really want the NCAA headache? Jeff Fisher? Ugh: Pro coaches can't translate to big-time college football. Would be a horrible choice.)

Wizards start the healing: All signs of Arenas are gone from the franchise -- no posters in the arena, no jerseys in the shops. This is kind of horrible. I'll have more on Arenas on Monday, but as a huge Arenas fan, this remains so brutal. Hey, the Wiz beat the Magic last night, after Antawn Jamison publicly apologized to the crowd at the Verizon Center. Hmm...

Pro Football HOF Finalists announced: So when the room of folks deciding get to Emmitt Smith, do they just say, "All in favor? Aye? Ok, let's move on." It should take 5 seconds. (What if baseball went to a small committee model used by pro football? It's still way too opaque, but I think I have more faith in it.)

Peyton Manning wins NFL MVP: I think that some consideration should have been given to Chris Johnson, Brett Favre and Phil Rivers -- in that order.

Big win for G'town over UConn, btw.

Jets-Bengals at 4:30: I'll take the Jets.
Eagles-Cowboys at 8: I'll take the Eagles.

Should be a fun night of football.†

-- D.S.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Final BlogPoll Ballot: Alabama, Boise 1-2

Below, please find my final BlogPoll ballot of the season. Please leave feedback in the comments -- I'd really like to have this reflect the group's analysis. And thanks for the input all season.

1 Alabama
2 Boise State 4
3 Texas
4 Florida 1
5 TCU 3
6 Ohio State 3
7 Oregon
8 Iowa 2
9 Cincinnati 5
10 Penn State 9
11 Virginia Tech 1
12 Brigham Young 2
13 Georgia Tech 5
14 Wisconsin
15 Nebraska 5
16 Utah 1
17 Pittsburgh
18 LSU 7
19 Mississippi
20 Miami (Florida) 2
21 Southern Cal
22 Texas Tech
23 Central Michigan 1
24 Clemson
25 Navy
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Oregon State (#13), West Virginia (#16), Stanford (#18), Arizona (#21), Oklahoma State (#23), Northwestern (#25).

Quickie: Alabama Wins The Title (But...?)

Alabama is a fantastic national champ. Let's just say that right off the bat -- the running game is as good as any I've seen in the BCS era, and the D was terrific. They throttled Florida and they moved the ball on a Texas D that didn't have the excuse of missing its QB.

And while their title isn't asterisked in the least, it will always be accompanied by two qualifiers:

(1) "Not to take anything away from Alabama..."

This allows the speaker to both acknowledge Alabama's worthiness as a champ, but then proceed to qualify their worthiness as a champ.

(2) "...but if Colt McCoy had played..."

Aha! The great unknowable. What we have is the tiny sample size of McCoy's plays in the game, which seemed -- again, tiny sample size -- to be on the verge of out-playing Bama's D and, perhaps, leading Texas to the upset win.

Can you remember a championship game where the takeaway storyline was about the losing team? Maybe Miami against Ohio State in the 2002 season. Or about the losing player?

But short of this being the start of an Alabama dynasty -- and it very well could be -- when we look back in 1/5/10/20 years, we'll mainly remember "But if Colt McCoy had played..."

You can bet it will be legend among Texas fans, who will go down to their last days swearing that "if only McCoy had played," Texas would have won the game. Other fans, too.

(Despite Gilbert's struggles, he played admirably -- astoundingly, he nearly pulled it off. Blame Texas' coaches, not just for that awful decision at the end of the 1st half, but for choking on their own panic in Gilbert's first half-dozen series. Hope Texas fans recognize that from their $6 million coach.)

But Alabama fans are the only ones who get to say, definitively -- no "if" or "but" -- that they are the national champs of the 2009 season.

My End-of-Season BlogPoll Top 10:
1. Alabama
2. Boise St
3. Texas
4. Florida

(And I was very conflicted about not putting Florida ahead of Texas, for a lot of reasons.)

5. TCU
6. Ohio State
7. Iowa
8. Oregon

(I will probably end up flip-flopping Oregon and Iowa.)

9. Penn State
10. Cincinnati

(I will probably end up flip-flopping Cincy and Penn St -- do we count Cincy as they finished the season, or being coached by Brian Kelly? I'm going to assume the latter -- body of work.)

As for next year, I think you have to install Alabama as the team to beat, but I've already laid out my scenario:

Alabama will finish the regular season unbeaten, including a signature win over Florida; then, Florida will come back and stun Alabama in the SEC title game. Meanwhile, Boise State and TCU will both finish unbeaten, with Boise earning a BCS bid because they beat TCU head to head earlier this week. Ohio State will be the only BCS-conference team that goes unbeaten. Boise will beat Ohio State in the national title game; the SEC will freak out.

(Of course, that theory falls apart if unbeaten Boise, with a win over a very very good TCU team, can't even crack the top 3 -- let alone the Top 2 -- in the final polls this season. The pollsters -- coaches and media alike -- will always favor the big-conference teams at the top.)

Check out the complete SN column here.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Quickie: Alabama Will Throttle Texas

I find it amusing that people are trying to compare this national championship game to the one following the 2005 season, when Texas upended USC.

It will be much closer to the trend we've seen since them: SEC dominance, via defense.

The biggest difference between the opponent Texas faced in January 2006 and the one they face tonight is: Defense. That USC D was overrated; this Bama D is brutally good.

(The closest analogue to this Alabama D is the Nebraska D, and you saw what the Huskers did to Texas' offense. And don't be fooled by the "scoring defense" stat -- Bama is the best D in the country.)

As I mention in the lead item of today's SN column, maybe I'm still shell-shocked from the SEC title game, but Florida had a pretty good offense -- Alabama snuffed it out.

Meanwhile -- and this should scare Texas fans even more -- Florida's defense was as good as any I have ever seen. Even without Carlos Dunlap, they were a sick D.

And Alabama steamrolled right over them. McElroy picked them apart. The game plan was brilliant and the level of execution was astonishing.

This game won't be close. I have Alabama winning 34-13 -- the score might be closer than 21 points, but the game won't feel that way.

This ain't 2005. This ain't the USC D. And Texas is going to figure that out pretty quickly.

More you'll find in today's column:

*OK, so about Arenas: I'm sad more than anything. Longtime blog readers know that Arenas has my favorite NBA player since the year he joined the Wizards. He acted like an idiot -- as we have come to demand he act -- and Stern seems to be taking this whole thing overly personally, like Arenas is intentionally trying to screw with him, rather than just being an idiot. I hope Arenas isn't banned for the rest of the season (as of last night, Arenas was saying all the right things -- finally), and I am even more nervous that the Wiz are going to void his contract and drop him.

*Dawson: See the post below.

*I'm happy for Charlie Weis. He's at his best as an NFL offensive coordinator, and expectations are low enough in KC that he might actually thrive. And he's rich.

*I'm less impressed with Kansas than Cornell, and I'm quite sure that last night's results will bias me in a disproportionate way in March when I'm picking brackets.


*I wonder if Saturday Night Live reached out to Tim Tebow as a guest-host before they settled on Charles Barkley.

Check out the whole column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I'm Happy Dawson Made The Hall

Two thoughts:

(1) Go Hawk! I have an irrational affinity for Dawson's candidacy, from my die-hard love of the Cubs from the time I was a little kid through college. (Why'd it atrophy? Eh...don't ask.)

(2) The BBWAA as a group should be pretty embarrassed for itself, although I suspect there's two camps, one with at least some appropriate sense of shame and one of ignorant gloating.

(Blyleven missing out by 5 votes is fascinating; he's a lock next year. Alomar is a lock next year. Larkin will take a few years. Edgar's going to be a Rice-like slog, so buckle up.)

- D.S.

Happy Anniversary, Daily Quickie

Seven years ago this morning, the Daily Quickie made its first-ever appearance on the front page of This was the column. (Wow.)

Very intentionally, it was unlike anything else you could find in sports media, online or off. I put the consumer first: What was the unmet need?

Something that, when you got to work (or woke up for class), gave you some perspective on the previous night and the day ahead. National, all-sport focus. Daily frequency, so you could feel confident making it a habit -- in looking for it every morning.

I believe on that first day, I got up at 4 a.m. to start writing for an 8 a.m. deadline. And it stayed that way for a long time, at least the first six months -- probably the first year. And that doesn't even include the hours I'd put in the night before. I was obsessed. (I was also transfixed by my traffic in those first days; there's nothing as gratifying as hitting "refresh" on the traffic monitor and watching the numbers surge by the minute.)

I would like to think that I designed it for inevitable success -- to be fail-proof. But it would be impossible to know until readers gave it a try. The response was overwhemingly positive.

And I had the job I had dreamed about since I was a kid: Not just a sports columnist, but one with a daily column and a national, write-about-anything focus. I loved every single day (and that included my Ripken-esque streak of 420 consecutive weekdays with a column, what has to be a record not just for but in sportswriting.)

Writing the Quickie opened up all sorts of doors: People recognized the column (if not always my byline). It got me my erstwhile career on "Around the Horn." I got to host a daily chat on (Morning Quickie alums: Holla!) I had the weird talking "Danimation" precursor to's podcasts. It introduced me to all sorts of great folks, both inside and outside of -- many of whom I'm still friends with today. And it introduced me to millions of readers -- tens of thousands of whom were generous enough to email me and many of whom are hopefully reading this now. Thanks for sticking around.

January 6 will always be a special day for me.

-- D.S.

Quickie: McGwire Doing It To Himself

I'm not nearly qualified to dive into the hard-core debates about the Hall of Fame merits of the players on this year's bubble: Edgar and McGriff (among first-years), Dawson and Blyleven (among hold-overs). I love reading the best arguments, and I'm obviously biased for the ones made with more SABR-minded analysis.

So in the lead of today's SN column, I don't even bother touching the debate over McGwire is or isn't Hall-worthy. The point I want to make is that he would get in -- immediately -- if he would just "talk about the past." It's so ridiculously simple that I almost want to keep him out for being so stupid to fail to recognize it. I don't know what his problem is, but it's there for the having.

He's going to get shut out this year. Alomar is a lock. Larkin is probably a lock. I'd love to see Edgar get in, but that's probably a year away. Dawson will probably get in, taking advantage of the lowered bar from the "Jim Rice Precedent." McGriff probably deserves to get in, if only because he represents the last vestiges of pre-steroid power. And, of course, I'm in the "Let Blyleven in" camp, and I think this is the year.


*That was a good win for Iowa -- shows what a few weeks of prep for the triple-option can do. But I'm much more excited about watching Dan LeFevour for the last time. He should go down as one of the greatest MAC QBs of all time, which is saying something.

*I'm not a particularly big Mike Shanahan fan -- hard to be if you've read "Three Seconds of Panic." I think Snyder is turning over too much power, he'll ultimately either regret it or balk at being cut out and this ends badly, without a Super Bowl win.

*Signing Matt Holliday ensures that Albert Pujols doesn't even think of leaving St. Louis.

*Wait: Are the Wizards going to go on some kind of dysfunctional run of success?

*So Tiger really did take a 9-iron to the face, eh?

Complete column here. More later. Big anniversary today.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Putting Tim Tebow's Career in Perspective

Check out my latest -- and final, presumably -- guest-post about Tim Tebow over at Yahoo's Dr. Saturday. I attempt to put his career into some kind of perspective.

Quickie: For Boise, Next Stop 2011 BCS

All of a sudden, my pre-New Year's prediction for 2010 that Boise State would not only play for -- but win -- the national championship looks pretty good.

Thanks to their signature win over TCU last night, Boise is as well-positioned as any non-BCS team ever to crash not just a "BCS-level" bowl, but the BCS national championship game.

All it will take is the usual pinball of improbable upsets among the BCS teams to make it happen: Texas stumbles -- just once -- without McCoy. Alabama runs the table in the SEC (including a win over Florida), only to lose a rematch to Florida in the SEC title game. The Pac-10 and ACC flake out. The Big East champ, even if undefeated, can't credibly claim to be stronger than Boise. I have Ohio State going 12-0, and even OSU fans tell me I'm crazy. It's not unreasonable.

And then, Boise steps in: They have the BCS cred. They have the momentum from this unbeaten season. Now, they have the head-to-head win over next season's next-best non-BCS team. They will start the season highly ranked, and they will simply stay near the top as everyone else falls short. Then, in the title game -- back in Glendale, ironically -- they will do what they do best: Win.

All of a sudden, my Boise bandwagon for next season feels a little more full.

(As I point out in today's SN column, this development would be bittersweet for people who hate the BCS system: On the one hand, a non-BCS team would crash the national title game; on the other hand, the BCS folks could then argue that the system is entirely egalitarian. Frankly, if the BCS cabal wants to maintain its power, THEY should be rooting for Boise next season, too.)

More in today's column:

*Mike Shanahan in DC. I'm so underwhelmed.
*Are the Wiz ready to drop Arenas?
*Who's excited about the Orange Bowl?

Lots more there. Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Quickie: Fiesta, Wild Card, Arenas, Mayo

I'll be very clear: Tonight's Fiesta Bowl represents nothing less than a de facto national semifinal game for next year's national championship.

That runs counter to the early lamentations that the BCS cabal shunted off its two interlopers to face each other in a bowl; it may have assured that one of them crashes the big game next year.

Both TCU and Boise State will be undefeated next year -- both teams, loaded, will be even better next year than this year. Both will have quality wins. Both will have this recent track record of being BCS-worthy.

Voters will have to decide between the two of them which one gets to play what I predict will be the lone undefeated team from a BCS conference.

The way they will do that is by looking back to this game as their playoff. If both teams are virtually the same and both unbeaten at the end of next season, this is a fair head-to-head comparison. And it will be used not just in the preseason rankings, but the postseason one, too.

This matters: I think that next season, either Boise or TCU could beat the best of the BCS conferences. So who survives Boise-TCU tonight will most likely to get that shot.

The BCS folks are adamantly against a playoff system -- ironically, they will get one tonight that will reverberate for the rest of the year.

(By the way, this would not be possible if they were split up, with each thrashing Iowa, Cincinnati or Georgia Tech.)

That sums up the lead of today's SN column. More you'll find:

*I don't mind the tanking of games by certain NFL teams. What I mind is the cynical attempt to avoid calling it tanking. What the Bengals did last night was even more intentional than an individual player throwing a game -- it was an institutional decision to throw a game. Again: I don't care if they do it. But I'd like for them to call it what it is.

*The Patriots are screwed. They won't even get past the Ravens next week. (And I was going to take them to win the AFC.)

*My Super Bowl pick: Chargers over Vikings. (Can you imagine the Favre Mania for the two weeks of Super Bowl lead-up? I'm already nauseous.)

*If it's possible for Gilbert Arenas to change the subject, he has with his Twitter barrage. There is no way this was a calculated attempt to distract, but it sure was effective.

*Tweeted this yesterday: Can you imagine how bad the OJ Mayo stuff REALLY was, if USC is penalizing itself? Of course, I'm not holding my breath for similar treatment for the Bush scandal.

*Kentucky's win over Louisville revealed some emotional fragility for the Cats, but didn't dissuade me that they are going to the Final Four. On the other hand, the win of the weekend goes to Purdue, over West Virginia.

Lots more in the column, found here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday (Very) Quickie

So short of playing for a national title, the final game of Tim Tebow's career went about as well as possible. But the Tebow Era at Florida is over -- Tebow's pro career has begun. Tracking, now 'til the Draft...

Is it me or have the bowl games mostly sputtered? Northwestern's loss to Auburn was an amazing way to start the New Year's Day slate, but aside from that, it's been pretty lame. Kudos to Ohio State on beating a very good Oregon team. (I will now curse OSU fans by picking them to go unbeaten next year and making the national title game.)

I wasn't impressed by Kentucky. They could have stepped on the throat of Louisville early; they settled for a cheap forearm to the head and letting UL back in the game in the 2nd half. I'm not saying that UK still isn't on the fast track for the Final Four, but a team like Purdue wouldn't stand for that. If anything plagues Kentucky, it's the "head-case" factor -- don't discount it.

(Damn, maybe I need to reconsider my feeling that Syracuse is a potential Final Four team. Let's stick with Elite Eight. Meanwhile, Kansas showed just how good it is by throttling a good Temple team.)

Gilbert Arenas on Twitter this weekend has been mesmerizing -- if only because this is a personable athlete, entirely unfiltered. And it's freaky.

The end of the college football season always bums me out -- yeah, recruiting is interesting, as is spring practice -- but it's not the same as the season. I'm sure hard-core NFL fans feel the same way, particularly for fans whose teams' seasons are over today.

-- D.S.