Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday (Very) Quickie

There are two ways to think about the Yankees' wild comeback win last night in Texas:

(1) The Rangers are fine. It proved the Rangers can tag the best pitching the Yankees have to offer -- if they can put up runs on CC Sabathia, the rest of the rotation is plenty vulnerable.

(2) The Rangers are done. Broken. They had their chance to take instant momentum, riding a brilliant start from CJ Wilson, that would have set them on a path for a series upset.

Instead, they choked. That's the only way to think about it. (Not using ace closer Neftali Feliz in the 8th, when they REALLY needed the game saved? It doesn't take a sabermetric genius to intuitively grasp the value of using your best relief pitcher when your team needs it most late.)

And it's fair to wonder if this missed opportunity will linger in their minds for the next game. Even with a presumed win by Cliff Lee, they'll constantly be looking back to this game: What if?

I'm obviously projecting. You would hope that pro players would be able to shake it off. But the rest of us can't.

The Rangers missed the opportunity of a lifetime. And Yankee-haters everywhere are equal parts annoyed and disappointed.

Meanwhile, great day in college football: Ohio State at Wisconsin, Texas at Nebraska, Arkansas at Auburn. Some good potential for things to go topsy-turvy today.

-- D.S.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Best Line I Read This Week

"It's a bit like watching someone try to prizefight in a Jean-Paul Gaultier runway dress: there's all these rococo frills, but in the end someone ends up getting knocked the hell out despite the unnecessary finery surrounding it."

-- Spencer Hall, with a sublimely executed description of Auburn QB Cam Newton. (via EDSBS/SB Nation)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/15 Quickie: Doc, Freak, Favre, Ben,
Buckeyes, Ron-Ron, Midnight, Unsilent

Today's Names to Know:
Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum!
Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger!
Brutus Buckeye and Bucky Badger!
Bobby Petrino and Gus Malzahn!
Texas and Nebraska!
Ron Artest and Gilbert Arenas!
Midnight Madness and Duke's title defense!
"Unsilent Majority" and Sarah Schorno!
And plenty more.

Pretty terrific sports weekend ahead:

*Doc vs. Freak: The headliner is baseball -- not the NFL or college football -- and, surprise, doesn't involve the Yankees. It's the NLCS Game 1 match-up between Roy Halladay (coming off a playoff no-hitter) and Tim Lincecum (coming off a 14-K shutout performance that was arguably just as good as Doc's).

*Favre Watch: Will he play against the Cowboys, with that fussy arm problem? It's not an inconsequential question; Favre has an unmatched "ironman" streak of starts on the line. My bet is that he tries to start, is as ineffective as he was at the end of the Jets game, then sits down. Record intact, but he saves the wear-and-tear on his body. It would be another typical "me-first" moment for Favre.

(My favorite part about Favre at this stage of his career is that I no longer get hate email from Packers fans when I rip on him, Vikings fans know in their heart that they agree with me and the rest of the fans completely agree.)

More NFL Week 6: My 5 Favorite Storylines
*Game of the Week: Ravens at Pats.
*Big Ben is back: Expect him to throw for 400.
*Do or die: 1-3 Vikes vs. 1-3 Cowboys.
*Ultimate "prove-it" game for 3-1 Bucs: vs. Saints
*The bye week with fewest fantasy implications? Bills, Bengals, Cards, Panthers.

*CFB Weekend Preview: Some interesting games on tap with potential to shake up the national-title outlook, headlined by Ohio State at Wisconsin, in the toughest game the Buckeyes will have this season. Anyone outside of OSU fandom NOT rooting for OSU to lose? (Pick: Wisconsin. Damn you, Quickie jinx!)

More: Arkansas at unbeaten Auburn (pick: Auburn, in a wild shootout between Bobby Petrino and offensive guru Gus Malzahn)... Texas at Nebraska in the Huskers revenge game (pick: Nebraska, but not by much)... Upset Special: Florida at home over Mississippi State. (Ha. Ugh.)

*Looking ahead to 2012: Denard Robinson as a senior against what will be a typically awesome Alabama defense will be one of the games of the year.

*Leave it to Ron Artest to say something kind of awesome: He says the best player in the NBA is Kobe. He says the 2nd-best NBA player is Kevin Durant. He then refused to go deeper on a ranking, with the glaring omission of LeBron. Presume Artest has been added to LeBron's "list."

*Gilbertology: Injured, for real this time. He played 3 minutes last night before leaving with a groin injury -- a real one, not a faked knee injury (which didn't offend me nearly as much as other kneejerk scolds in sports media). Given the fragile state of his health, I suspect the Wiz shut him down for the rest of preseason, not unlike the way the Heat are treating Dwyane Wade. (By the way, in those 3 minutes he was solid: 3 steals, a rebound, an assist and a block.)

*As predicted, the NBA's new rules about technical fouls for excessive griping are causing players to... gripe. Nevermind the players actually restraining themselves (and, yes, I know the refs have been too touchy about it), expect the rule interpretations to re-correct in the other direction, allowing some whining, but certainly not the KG-LeBron variety. (But what happens when your biggest stars are your biggest gripers?)

*Michael Jordan says he could have scored 100 points in a game under today's rules. MJ is smoking something, but the claim will undoubtedly lead to some great analysis from the basketball blog world about whether this is actually possible.

*College Hoops: Midnight Madness! The favorite is for Duke to repeat -- and why not, given that they return Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and the Plumlees, then add incredi-frosh PG Kyrie Irving. But I think they'll miss Jon Scheyer -- and Greg Zoubek even more. I usually am a sucker for picking the defending champ to repeat, but I think Duke WON'T repeat. I'll take Michigan State.

*The Arizona Fall League starts today, with the biggest headliner: Bryce Harper.
*Biggest congrats to Jack "Unsilent Majority" Kogod and Sarah Schorno on their pending nuptials this weekend.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/14 Quickie: Favre, Heat, BlogPoll,
Chilean Miners, Hans Moleman, More

Today's Names to Know: Brett Favre, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Gilbert Arenas, Josh Hamilton and Ron Washington, Fredi Gonzalez, Oregon, Vince Jackson, Tommie Smith, Lana Lawless, Chilean Miner No. 21, "Fanhoo!", Jonah Shanoff and More.

Today is my younger son's 2nd birthday
. Like I feel about his older brother, I love him so much that I can barely contain it. He's just starting to find his voice, but I will say that he has shown a remarkable aptitude for shooting baskets on the mini-hoop. I'm going to try to dig up a video and put it on YouTube.

Favre Watch: Combining Brett Favre taking a football to the groin with the classic Simpsons "Man Getting Hit By Football" scene? Thank you, KSK.

(Meanwhile, the bigger issue for Favre is the tendinitis in his throwing arm -- will it cause him to sit out, ending his streak? Or will he put himself out there at well less than 100 percent, risking the win for the Vikings as a tribute to his own ego?)

Heat: Curious how the Heat would do without both LeBron and Wade? If last night's blowout loss to the Hornets is any indication, they would suck. Basically, it's like the Raptors with a sold-out arena and a dedicated section.

Gilbertology: I, for one, think it is an incredible sign that Gilbert Arenas faked an injury on Tuesday night (and fined for it) so that teammate Nick Young could get some run.

BlogPoll Top 25: Oregon is the new No. 1, in a nice contrarian outcome compared to the mainstream polls that used inertia as their No. 1 qualifier to move Ohio State from No. 2 to No. 1. (But 6 other teams earned 1st-place votes, including my pick TCU -- I wasn't the only one!).

Notably, South Carolina is No. 10 -- as it is in the mainstream polls -- and only fractions of a point behind Alabama. This makes no sense, of course, after last week's clear-cut Gamecocks win (which catapulted them to No. 2 on my ballot).

NFL: Vincent Jackson will apparently be back with the Chargers by the end of the month. They should play him on special teams.

MLB Playoffs: This wait between the end of the LDS and the start of the LCS is lame and interminable. If it wasn't for the fact that Halladay-Lincecum should be epic, I'd be griping more.

Good Read: Clay Travis nails the Rangers' appeal -- they went through TWO scandals (Hamilton's relapse and Washington's coke problem) and emerged unscathed because they handled the situations swiftly and transparently. Basically every other person in sports who screws up can take a lesson.

Fredi Gonzalez named Braves manager: That was quick. And that is precisely the point -- the Braves weren't going to let this manager thing hang in the air, like other less stable franchises would.

Most interesting story of the past 24 hours: Tommie Smith selling his shoes and gold medal from the 1968 Olympics (but NOT the black glove).

Name to Know: Lana Lawless, suing the LPGA over the league's rule banning transgendered women from competing.

Anyone else think that "Chilean Miner No. 21" will be a popular costume this year for Halloween? You have to convince two women to be part of the act: One's your wife, the other's your mistress. (It really is one of the most tremendously happy endings that have happened in recent years.)

Media: I am so totally publishing a post later today about what "Fanhoo! Sports" (the combination of AOL Fanhouse and Yahoo Sports, when the two companies merge) will look like. And I claim "first" on the short-hand "Fanhoo!"

-- D.S.

10/13 Quickie: Rangers, Lee, Agent, LeBron

Congratulations to long-frustrated Rangers fans, for their team's first-ever playoff series advancement. (I was partial to the Rays, but I can get behind that detail.)

So I guess that means that the Rangers are now America's team, because they stand in the way of the Yankees and an AL pennant.

Cliff Lee is awesome: Worth every penny the Rangers paid for him (and worth the tens of millions -- per year -- that he is going to command). Between Lee and Sabathia and Halladay and Lincecum, the LCS round doesn't lack for superstar pitching. What's the chance that all four end up in the Hall of Fame? (Good? Great?)

That must-read SI cover story on the agent revealing -- in wild detail -- that he paid players took over the newsday yesterday afternoon.

The person who -- in a mere cameo -- gets the worst of it? Mel Kiper. The problem for Kiper is that reality is kind of irrelevant; it is the mere appearance of impropriety that erodes his brand.

(Although it's fair to ask just how many people actually took Kiper's rankings seriously -- and by "people," I really mean "NFL execs.")

Favre Watch: The NFL says it is in fact-finding mode. I'm betting they find nothing they want to punish Favre for. (It all hinges on how active and public Jenn Sterger wants to be.)

Heat: So now LeBron is battling a hamstring injury? Let's review: With the Big Three intact, they are a title contender; with just LeBron and Bosh, they're good enough to be a top-seed in the East, but they wouldn't win the title. With just Bosh (LeBron and Wade sitting out), they are a warm-weather version of the Raptors (but probably good enough to make the playoff field). As always, the only thing that matters is that this team is healthy from April to June, but the past week certainly doesn't foreshadow an easy path to that result.

Wall: I'm obviously partial to John Wall, but I totally buy the argument that Blake Griffin (13 pts, 17 reb) is the instant front-runner for Rookie of the Year (with DeMarcus Cousins -- 20 and 8 last night -- as a strong alternative).

That coverage of the Chilean miners' rescue was intense, wasn't it?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sponsored Post: Jinxing the Juggernaut?

Your weekly update on my travails in the Blogger Football League, sponsored by Procter & Gamble. For background, see this intro post.

This will surely jinx the entire thing, but at this point, I have become convinced that my team this season is special.

Let's go back to where we were heading into Week 5: Tom Brady, my team MVP, had a bye week. And I was playing Aaron Schatz, who runs the No. 2-ranked team in the league.

Schatz held up his end of the bargain: His team racked up 115 points -- one of the best single-week performances of the season and more than any other team in the league by far...

Except mine.

My team blew out Schatz by 30 points, putting up 144 points -- a new record high for a single game.

Playing in place of Brady, Shaun Hill -- a desperation mid-week pick-up -- put up 3 TDs and 200+ yards en route to 22 points.

Miles Austin came back from his bye week to put up 23. My Chargers duo of Gates and Floyd combined for 42. Chris Johnson had 25.

After that, any combination of a handful of points from the rest of the roster -- LDT, Kevin Walter, Mason Crosby, the Bengals D -- would put me ahead for good. I could have left Brady's QB slot open and still beat a team with 115 points.

Up this week: I play Team Gunaxin, my fellow Old Spice-sponsored teammate. Phil has so many injuries that I feel like trading him some of my bench, just to help him out. (And it is precisely THAT kind of talk that will implode my season in an epic jinx.)

I am optimistic, but I also recognize that later in the season, I may want some of those excess points to cover tighter games.
But needless to say, I have never had a better-performing team in more than a decade of playing fantasy football. (Not even close.)

In honor of the Week 6 match-up, please enjoy this Gunaxin compilation of Old Spice Guy parodies, pegged off this week's release of the Sesame Street version, starring Grover.

Check out Brian Bassett's terrific league-wide recap (featuring a comparison of my team to the villain in "Bloodsport") and P&G's Take It To The House page on Facebook.

The P&G Blogger Fantasy League (BFL) is a group of 12 online sports folks competing on the fantasy platform for the chance to win a donation for a local charity, furnished by P&G. The NFL Entities have not offered or sponsored the sweepstakes in anyway.

10/12 Quickie: Favre, Moss, Jets, Cox, Lee

Did the Favre-Moss-Jets game live up to the hype? Well, it had all the ingredients of a Favre Classic: A stirring comeback effort ultimately undermined by a Favre pick-6.

Randy Moss caught a bomb for a TD -- although his most notable impact might have been drawing larger defensive attention from Percy Harvin, who showed how effective he can be when that happens.

But the Jets D ruined the "Favre-giveness" storyline: The Jets have staked their claim as the NFL's best team, and in the process gave Favre-haters another magical pick-6 ending.

(And then there's the sore arm: Sure. Sore from throwing the game away.)

Did Favre cry in front of his teammates about the Sterger distractions? You know: I'm actually not going to fault him on that one; it's been a pretty bad week for him. Obviously, there's a school of thought that you want your gunslinging QB to put up a strong face; it's probably an indicator of how badly he is taking this that he allegedly broke down in front of his teammates.

MLB Playoffs: Giants close out Braves, Bobby Cox's career. It's not like it matters; Philly is going to roll over either. Giants? OK. (It does set up a potential Halladay-Lincecum duel, which is as must-see as it gets in baseball.) As for Cox, it's next stop: Cooperstown.

Today: Game 5 for the Rays and Rangers at the Trop, featuring David Price and Cliff Lee. The Rays may have regained some mo, but I'm expecting a redux of Lee's job in Game 1. (The winner may be at an instant disadvantage against the Yankees in the ALCS, but at least they know they will win the game that AJ Burnett starts.)

Deion Branch back to the Patriots: Remains to be seen whether a few years away has made him better than the WR that Bill Belichick had no problems letting go. I doubt he has aged as well as Moss as a talent -- although I'm quite sure the teammates in the locker room will embrace him as a ring-winning alum.

Concussion Watch: Let's hope that the Packers don't rush Aaron Rodgers back onto the field. It feels insane that he would have a concussion on Sunday, then be back a week later.

BCS loves Boise? With one week to go until the first rankings come out, projections put Boise State at the top of the rankings, if they were published today. Good for Boise -- it should help their profile. That said: There's no way their flimsy schedule will let them stay there (unless other unbeaten contenders start losing, which could very well happen).

Oregon State's James Rodgers is done for the season (knee): That will really hurt the Beavers' chances at surging to a Pac-10 title after the early-season lessons from Boise and TCU. The win at Arizona (plus home-field advantage in the season-ending showdown with Oregon) showed that Oregon State had as good of a chance as anyone.

Julio Jones' broken-hand injury (even if he got it during the game and kept playing) is a lot less interesting now that Alabama has been proven mortal. Alabama could not throw a single pass vs. Ole Miss on Saturday and still win big.

Allen Iverson playing in Turkey? It's a shame that they couldn't (or didn't want to) find a place for him on the Heat. This isn't Kobe spending a post-retirement year playing in Italy; this is exile, of one of the NBA's greatest players.

Esquire named Minka Kelly the Sexiest Woman Alive, which has a tenuous connection to sports, because she used to be on "Friday Night Lights" and she is engaged to Derek Jeter. Has she even done anything in the past year besides make a cameo on FNL and get a ring from The Captain? She's off the radar, thus it's a lame choice. I'm not even sure why I'm talking about it.

(UPDATE: Apparently, she has done some work on "Parenthood," a show I don't watch or follow. And her showing up on "Entourage" doesn't count.)

-- D.S.

Monday, October 11, 2010

BlogPoll Monday: 1 TCU, 2 South Carolina

This week's BlogPoll speaks to larger uncertainty now that we have hit midseason: A handful of quality data points (wins, "quality" losses, who teams you played beat and lost to), but a big ol' clusterfutz that goes as high as the Top 2 and extends at least through the Top 10.

Who's No. 1? Take your pick. The establishment says Ohio State -- and for pollsters for whom "inertia" is their top ballot criteria, OK (watch out for the trap game at Wisco next week) -- but I think that two of the Top 3 teams in the country are TCU and Boise State, not just for their individual wins, but for the obvious strength of the Oregon State team they both beat earlier this season.

Meanwhile, nowhere will you see inertia in more effect than the rise of South Carolina in the mainstream polls. They only beat the overwhelming No. 1 team in the country -- and they didn't just beat them, but beat them soundly, undisputedly. For me, that was enough of a proof-point to put the Gamecocks at No. 2; I am not fazed by their single loss -- it was on the road to another Top 10 team by a mere touchdown.

For me, the only shame is that at no point this season will we see Oregon or Ohio State or the Big 12 champ challenged in nearly the same way that South Carolina -- or Alabama, actually -- was this past weekend.

(Oregon playing Stanford was tough, but it's not like Oregon showcased particularly tough defense. Ohio State's "signature" win over Miami -- in Columbus -- was debunked by Florida State; Wisconsin is a challenge only relative to the watered-down schedule Ohio State plays. And Nebraska-Oklahoma might be interesting; Oklahoma may be undefeated, but on a neutral field, I'm not sure they beat the Air Force team they edged in Norman last month.)

Here is this week's ballot. Fortunately, there are plenty of head-to-head games remaining -- TCU-Utah (and Air Force may play spoiler in that mix), Nebraska-Oklahoma, Alabama-Auburn (and each playing LSU), the SEC championship game for things to shake out. Can't imagine there are many folks outside of Columbus who wouldn't mind Ohio State getting KO'ed next week.

For the record, I left Florida off my Top 25 ballot entirely, then re-inserted them at No. 25, which has alternated between honoring an underrated team worth the Top 25 prestige and mocking a fallen power. (Call it the "Texas Spot.")

-- D.S.

Print to Web: Foreshadowed By Sports

Let's start with the thesis: Things may happen in online news that feel seismic, but it turns out sports has paced the way in online news innovation since "online news" was a conception -- say, 1995-ish.

There was a story last week about how, within newspapers, sports has tended to lead online innovation. Later, on Twitter, there were a couple of great points made about why that was: Pace, distance between news and consumer, attitude. (Mark Coddington has a really smart and comprehensive exploration of the discussion.)

I would argue that it starts with that hypothesis that sports was at the core of online news innovation from the start. Self-servingly, I would argue it started at a company called Starwave in 1995 and 1996, when the company created and produced (what was then ""). I was an editor there during that formative moment.

But since then, there have been plenty of milestones. Among the most important, Jamie Mottram's essential role -- launching Fanhouse at AOL (a model that AOL later embraced as the key component of its content strategy), then a few years later expanding the model at Yahoo (again, creating the model that Yahoo later applied to its wider content strategy). Again: Sports paces innovation in online news. But let's bring it to today's discussion, specifically:

There was a thought-provoking column by David Carr in the New York Times today, at least partially pegged on this idea that Howard Kurtz leaving the Washington Post for the Daily Beast or Howard Fineman leaving Newsweek for Huffington Post signaled a tipping point in the power between news-media incumbents and online-news insurgents.

But, once again, I would argue that sports was way ahead of the game. By itself, ESPN revolutionized the transfer of old-media talent into new media:

A decade ago, ESPN -- specifically for the dot-com side -- was signing industry-leading newspaper talents like Andy Katz (Fresno Bee), Ivan Maisel (Birmingham News), Buster Olney (NYT), Jayson Stark (Philly Inq) and Marc Stein (Dallas MN).

More new-school moves have included poaching JA Adande (LA Times), Jemele Hill (Orlando Sentinel), Mark Schlabach (Atlanta J-C), and the 1-2 punch of Wright Thompson (KC Star) and Jeff MacGregor (Sports Illustrated), arguably two of the Top 5 writers working in sports today.

Last month, when the site needed an ace reporter to cover LeBron James and the Miami Heat, it signed Brian Windhorst from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, arguably the biggest LeBron expert in sports media.

And that doesn't even begin to cover the biggest move of all: Signing Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated -- perhaps the biggest name in sports media over the last 20 years -- who ostensibly began as a magazine-to-magazine hire, but quickly turned into a magazine-to-online hire, at $3 million a year.

(As far as I can tell, there has yet been no analogue to the Reilly deal in news media; the closest I could think of was when Albritton gave the Washington Post's John Harris and Jim VandeHei the funding necessary to start Politico, a milestone in modern media history with exponentially more impact than the Kurtz and Fineman deals.)

This doesn't even count ESPN's original strategy -- 20 years ago, via John Walsh -- to go get newspaper folks to work on TV, a legacy which stretches from Chris Mortenson 2o years ago to Adam Schefter at the turn of the decade.

ESPN is hardly alone: Ascendant online-first (or online-ONLY) sites have been snaring top newspaper talent for years. Dan Wetzel at Yahoo begat Jeff Passan and Kevin Kaduk (two more KC Star alums) and Adrian Wojnarowski (Newark Star-Ledger). went outside their print-magazine-side ranks to dip into newspapers to hire Don Banks, Andy Staples and others.

AOL's Fanhouse went on a newspaper ex-pat hiring spree over the past 18 months, most notably including Kevin Blackistone (DMN), Lisa Olson (NY Daily News) and, most recently, Jay Mariotti (Chicago Sun-Times), plus a slew of lesser-known newspaper folks (but people also very prominent in their local markets).

The point is this: Innovation in online news -- on the "news" side -- has almost always been comprehensively foreshadowed, tested and proven on the sports side first.

I'm not arguing these print-to-online moves (and let's not discount the role that Kurtz and Fineman's TV gigs had on their new employers' decision-making) weren't inevitable; I'm just saying that if you have been following sports media the last 15 years, you knew this was coming.

That is why -- as I founded and built my own start-up online-media company, launching its initial version in the next few weeks -- I knew both from personal experience and domain expertise that sports was the ideal category in which to start my company, if I ultimately foresee building it across any category.

(More on that coming soon.)

-- D.S.

10/11 Quickie: Cards, Favre, Moss, Phils

What a great "just when you thought you had a handle on the NFL season" week: The Cardinals beat the Saints (who looked ordinary). The Raiders beat the Chargers (who looked horrible early). The Lions put up 44 points in a rout win (behind Week 5 fantasy MVP Shaun Hill).

The NFC East is fascinating: The Redskins edged the Packers. The Giants throttled the Texans. And the Cowboys are now 1-3, losing at home (to the Titans) after a bye week.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs losing means there are no more unbeaten teams, after only 5 weeks (in the Stat of the Day, it's the first time since 1970 that no team has made it to 4-0.)

The big point: It is a best-case scenario for the league that after 5 weeks, it is impossible to pinpoint a clear-cut Super Bowl favorite -- and even at the division/Wild Card level, there is a ton of uncertainty. (Well, except in San Francisco and Carolina, where things seem pretty hopeless already.)

MNF: Vikings-Jets, with plenty of sub-plots -- Moss's return to Minnesota, Favre's return to NYC (where the whole cell-cam-pics thing happened), LaDainian Tomlinson showcasing in-his-prime form on a national stage, a Vikings team desperate to spark a playoff run, a Jets team desperate to justify Super Bowl aspirations. Could be the most-watched NFL game of the season so far.

(And then there's the Brady vs. Moss undercard: Why can't people take surreptitious cell-phone video of their teammates fighting, rather than photos of their junk? I love that they are reduced to complaining to each other about their hair -- Brady about Moss's beard; Moss about Brady's Bieber-cut.)

CFB Weekend Wrap: Even though the South Carolina win over Alabama should remind everyone that presuming undefeated seasons is foolish, the new meme is -- well -- the same as a week ago:

Sizing up like we'll have multiple undefeated teams (Oregon, Ohio State, Boise, TCU-Utah winner) and, most likely, a 1-loss SEC champ (Alabama) that by the time we get to BCS selection day should have a pretty good case for being picked for the BCS title game.

In the meantime, new No. 1 Ohio State (not No. 1 in MY Top 25, but the mainstream polls) gets its toughest challenge of the week, next week in Madison. Here's my BlogPoll ballot this week, but I have an explanation coming later today.

The initial BCS standings -- out next week -- should be more contentious than ever. I really hate to devolve into the old "there's a lot of season left," but the South Carolina win really should show you any team can lose under the right conditions. Then again, it is unclear that Ohio State or Oregon -- let alone Boise -- will ever have to prove themselves under those conditions.

MLB Playoffs: The Phillies now join the Yankees having swept their way through to the LCS. Halladay was near-perfect; Cole Hamels wasn't far behind.

The Rays and Rangers will have an epic Game 5: David Price vs. Cliff Lee -- two of the Top 5 pitchers in the AL this season -- with the Rays having come back from being down 0-2 to force a Game 5 back at the Trop. (And consequently the Yankees are going to get either a Rays or Rangers team without use of its ace to start the series.)

The Giants-Braves series feels kind of irrelevant; the winner is going to get the unstoppable Phillies pitching buzzsaw.

(BTW: "Brooks Conrad" is a trending topic on Google, for his game-costing error in the 9th -- part of 3 errors in the game and endless errors over the past few games he has played. It's a brutal burden to bear, particularly for a journeyman bench player suddenly in the negative national playoff spotlight.)

Who had the best weekend? The fans in SF who like the odd combo of the Giants and the Raiders. Wonder how many cross-over fans there are? You'd figure that most Giants fans would also like the 49ers, and most Raiders fans would like the A's.

-- D.S.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Quickie: Ugh and Awe

Now THAT loss hurt.

The Alabama shellacking? Expected, accepted.

This LSU loss? Not quite as bad as I felt after the Ole Miss loss in 2008, but worse than I felt after the seemingly devastating Auburn loss in 2006. Certainly worse than I felt about the LSU loss at LSU in 2007.

It's not that Florida played well -- they managed to survive 3 quarters of atrocious offense, mostly because LSU just isn't that good, then put together an inspired first 12 minutes of the 4th quarter, only to blow it in the final 2 minutes of the game.

It wasn't even the fake field goal that was so disappointing -- Urban should have known that was a strong possibility, and perhaps even used his last time-out to "ice the kicker" (really, to sniff out a fake).

It was the subsequent play, where LSU gained 25 yards and put themselves in a position for a few chances at the end zone.

(I'm not football tactician, but shouldn't Florida have been committing pass interference on every single play on those final fade throws?)

This Florida team isn't great, but I at least figured they could beat LSU in Gainesville. I figured they could still win the SEC East -- they still can, but it will take a win over suddenly awesome South Carolina.

But even if this Florida team isn't a great one -- and even, for three quarters, Florida didn't deserve to win -- in the end, I expected them to win. They didn't. It was extremely disappointing.

Then again, I could be an Alabama fan.

What a game by South Carolina -- one of the great efforts of the past decade in college football, plus the greatest win in South Carolina football history?

I wrote a tweet last night that I think was misinterpreted: I wasn't suggesting that a 1-loss SEC champ (say, Alabama) should leapfrog unbeaten teams for a spot in the BCS title game; I was only suggesting that any SEC snubbing in the BCS title game could potentially hasten the implosion of the BCS, because the SEC -- itself feeling snubbed -- takes its ball and goes home. Longtime readers of the blog have heard this theory before.

The Alabama loss is a pretty good reminder that there is a lot of football to play before we simply assume that Ohio State or Oregon or the Big 12 champ goes undefeated. (We can assume that Boise and the TCU-Utah winner will go undefeated.)

I will say that neither Ohio State nor Oregon will play a game as competitive as playing South Carolina on the road. (OSU's signature win of the season -- over Miami in Columbus -- suddenly looks pretty flimsy in the light of Miami getting clobbered by FSU.)

Expect some shake-ups in my Top 25 ballot: Obviously, Alabama will drop from No. 1 -- I am still wrestling with how high to put South Carolina (they beat Bama, but lost to Auburn at Auburn, and the Tigers barely beat Kentucky last night). Both TCU and Boise benefit from Oregon State beating Arizona in Tucson (and Boise gets a lift from VA Tech winning its 4th straight).

As I said, Ohio State's "signature" win of the 2010 season is now devalued. Oregon can't play defense. Boise beats up on mediocrities. Auburn can't put anyone away. The good news is that, coming up, we get some head-to-head quasi-playoff games between Nebraska and Oklahoma and between Utah and TCU. And you can always hope OSU loses at Wisconsin next week.

For now, my best guess -- and it absolutely reflects the uncertainty I have about the BCS-league teams, but one thing's for sure: If Alabama was so clearly the best team in the country, the team that beats them (with only one loss on their record, on the road, to another Top 10 team) deserves to be in the Top 2 until proven otherwise.

1. TCU
2. South Carolina
3. Boise State
4. Utah
5. Alabama
6. Ohio State
7. Nebraska
8. Oregon
9. Auburn
10. Oklahoma.

(FWIW: I have Air Force at No. 11. With TCU at No. 1, Boise and Utah in my Top 5 and Air Force just outside my Top 10, let no one say I don't have love for teams from non-BCS leagues.)

Looking ahead to next week: Ohio State at Wisconsin (perhaps the closest OSU will come to a tough game remaining on their schedule), Arkansas at Auburn.

Non-CFB: Nice to see some life from the Rays. The Twins are owned by the Yankees like USC football is owned by Stanford. Double-check your fantasy rosters.

-- D.S.