Today's Names to Know: Jim Harbaugh, Andrew Luck, Terrelle Pryor, Brett Favre, Eric Mangini, Jeff Fisher, Carlos Gonzalez, Jeff Bagwell, LeBron, St. John's, Snooki and More.
Stanford rolls in Orange Bowl: There's not much more that the program, coach Jim Harbaugh or star Andrew Luck could have done to showcase the elite level that the program reached this season. It was a clinic of Stanford-Harbaugh-Luck-ness.
At this point, if there was a national college football playoff tournament, I think Stanford would be a popular pick to win the championship -- I think it's a good bet that on a neutral field, Stanford would beat Oregon (Stanford lost at Oregon after their only bad half of the season.)
Luck is very very good. I think it goes without saying that he is the best player in Stanford history. I'm more interested to figure out where he ranks among all Pac-10 players ever. Let's just stick with QBs: I'd take Luck over either Matt Leinart or Carson Palmer -- and over Troy Aikman, if you want to go back that far.
So what next? If Harbaugh and Luck went back to Stanford next year, I think Stanford would deserve to be preseason No. 1 and Luck would be a lock for the Heisman.
But I can't see Harbaugh staying: His stock is too high and the money that he will be offered will be too much (although I don't see why Stanford can't match any dollar figure, up to and including Saban-level money).
I know most people think he's going to end up at Michigan -- and I understand why he would like to be a college coach more than an NFL coach -- but old-school loyalties aside, Michigan is not as good of a job as Stanford, now and if Harbaugh chose to stay there.
But I think he will end up in the NFL. The 49ers covet him, as does Denver -- now run by Stanford alum John Elway, whose cutaway TV shots from the Stanford sidelines were conspicuous.
Here's a hypothetical: Harbaugh tells Elway he will come to Denver, but only if the Broncos flip-flop from the No. 2 draft slot with the Panthers to get Andrew Luck.
Alternatively, Luck could "pull an Elway" and tell the Panthers he'd rather sit out the season than sign with them, effectively forcing a trade down to Denver.
It would be even more intriguing if the Panthers said: OK, we'll trade with you. But we want Tebow. If the Broncos were going to ride with Luck anyway, trading Tebow is a necessity.)
Then again, I flip-flop: Harbaugh is so good as a college coach. He might very well be one of those successful college coaches who can successfully transition to the NFL, but I think all the rah-rah intensity works much better within college programs.
So we're right back to Harbaugh going to Michigan vs. staying at Stanford.
To me, the ideal scenario is that Harbaugh and Luck both stay at Stanford for another year and take their shot at a national title. Harbaugh will be an even BIGGER draw for NFL teams and Luck won't lose his spot as the No. 1 player in the draft.
Bowling Tonight: Ohio State-Arkansas in the Sugar, in the Big Ten's last chance to avoid utter humiliation (rather than just mere humiliation). All eyes on the OSU 5 -- including Terrelle Pryor -- who are playing their last game until next October... or ever for OSU.
Brett Favre and Jets sued for sexual harrassment: Based on the findings of the NFL's investigation -- with or without Favre's help -- Favre and the team would seem to be in some trouble, because you can totally buy the claims, given the Sterger background.
NFL Coaching Carousel: Eric Mangini is out in Cleveland, and while Mike Holmgren might WANT to coach the team, I don't think he will. (If I was the owner, I wouldn't want him to. I'm not a fan of your head coach also running your team as its top exec.)
But Gary Kubiak is safe in Houston. And Jack Del Rio is safe in Jacksonville. The only coach still hanging out there is Tennessee's Jeff Fisher. Meanwhile, on the hiring front, all eyes are on Jim Harbaugh, with the dominoes (John Fox?) likely falling depending on what he does.
MLB Hot Stove: Carlos Gonzalez getting 7Y/$80M extension from the Rockies? He certainly seems like a "foundation"-ish player that can join Troy Tulowitzki as the heart of the lineup for the next half-decade. But what if last season was the best he'll do? Always a risk, I guess.
HOF announcement coming tomorrow: Qualitative evidence suggests that Jeff Bagwell will fall short (crime), Tim Raines will gain but also fall short (crime) and Bert Blyleven will finally make it (justice). I'm ambivalent about Jack Morris, except to the extent that I buy the "You can't vote for Morris without voting for Blyleven" argument.
NBA: LeBron and D-Wade were named NBA co-players of the month in December, which seems fitting -- it's only a matter of time before someone makes the case that they should be league co-MVPs in June. Then the Heat rolled over the Bobcats, for yet another W.
CBB: St. John's had enjoyed a decent start under Steve Lavin, but there were those ugly non-conference losses. Well, those are now eclipsed by Lavin's signature win: Beating Georgetown. (Still not buying the Johnnies as a March threat in '11, but it's the right direction for the program.)
Media: And I'll consider it a personal failing that Snooki came out with her book (today) before I had a chance to publish my Tebow book. Oh well....