Friday, November 04, 2011

11/04 (LSU-Alabama) Quickie

LSU-Alabama is everything you want in a college football game.

It is the two best teams. But, more than that, it is two teams seemingly playing the game at a different level. That's where this is more than just "1-vs-2," which historically has left plenty of room for the idea that No. 3 or 4 or 5 might be in the discussion.

In this case, there is no debate: These are the two best teams, and they will play each other for the presumptive right to play for (and, again, presumably) win the national title.

(This deciding-it-on-the-field stuff matters a lot, no matter how you feel about the BCS. You want a playoff? This is it. It is laughable that the loser of this game will drop in the rankings behind Oklahoma State -- and probably Boise and Stanford -- when the loser of this game is still the second-best team in the country.)

That parenthetical said, I am virulently against a rematch in any form this season -- say, in the national-title game. I don't care if it is the greatest game ever played and we all are begging for four more quarters. What makes this game so amazing is not just that it pits the best two teams, but that it is definitive. If the loser gets a rematch, this game is essentially meaningless -- more meaningless than any game that will be played in college football this season, actually.

The talent. The subplots. The stakes. This game has it all, and I cannot wait. I don't think it's understating to call it -- at least in pre-game theory -- the best match-up of the year, and that includes the Super Bowl, Heat vs. Anyone in the NBA Playoffs, whatever. Now, the game itself might or might not live up to that expectation -- but the expectation is there. By virtue of college football's system, the magnitude of the outcome alone ensures the game has about as much gravity as any championship elimination game has had this year.

Prediction: Alabama, decisively.

And be sure to check out the Alabama-LSU stream on Quickish. It is loaded with awesome stuff.


*Other CFB this weekend: Oklahoma State is going to throttle Kansas State... Expect Stanford and Boise State to put up big style points, too... If not for LSU-Bama, then Arkansas-South Carolina would be a damn good game of the week... Upset Special: Iowa over Michigan (would Texas Tech over Texas in Austin count?)

*NFL: Steelers-Ravens is the Game of the Week, but -- to the point above -- it is largely inconsequential who wins, because both teams seem to have a bead on the playoffs. I mean, the winner gets an edge for a Wild Card bye and home-field advantage, and that's not nothin'. But let's be honest: The game everyone is going to be paying attention to is the Broncos vs. the Raiders, because Tim Tebow remains the most talked-about topic in football, even if that drives everyone a bit crazy. (Fans and haters, alike.)

*NBA Lockout: This whole "decertification" thing feels like a badly executed feint. The union might as well cave now and save what is left of the season.

*MLB Hot Stove: There are few things I want to see more in 2012 than 49-year-old Jamie Moyer pitch in the Major Leagues again.

*Happy 9th anniversary to Around the Horn. I point to my career 0-4 record proudly.

Have a great weekend. Quickish is rocking the whole time.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

11/02 (Pay College Athletes?) Quickie

What to do about paying college athletes gets a bump today. In this week's SI, George Dohrmann takes a deep dive not on the morality, but simply the feasibility. On Grantland today, Charlie Pierce takes on the morality -- and the NCAA's impossibly FUBAR logic.

I go back to an old Shanoff staple: The crux of the problem is the perceived exploitation of the star college football players, the ones who are worth far more than any college could ever afford to pay them, under any system.

The simplest solution is to create a pro football minor league that allows the best/star players (read: top NFL prospects) to skip college at any point -- before their freshman, sophomore or junior years -- to enter a minor-league system that (a) prepares them for the NFL better than college would/could and (b) pays them rather well for it.

College football would be fine -- it doesn't need "star" players. It needs its teams and its traditions. That college football put an emphasis on its biggest future-NFL talents was a huge reason it got itself into this mess (the media have been complicit). The perceived exploitation -- not to mention the levels of compensation in a pay-for-play system -- would be mitigated.

The players would be better off: They would be getting paid. They would be focused full-time on maximizing their NFL potential. Back on campus, scholarship slots would be given to players with no pro future -- the ones for whom a full-ride college scholarship helps set them up for a non-football future.

The NFL would be better off: The league doesn't need the marketing bump of college football to get fans excited about its rookie players. And instead of college players learning college systems and playing for coaches with no incentive to train them for a pro career, they enter a system whose entire rationale is to maximize their NFL potential. While paying them.

I wish Mark Cuban would stop futzing around with a college playoff when the more valuable arbitrage is so obviously the three-year gap between the moment a star player enters college football and the moment they leave for the NFL Draft.

If the minor league gets a nominal, reasonable piece of the players' financial future (we're talking fewer percentage points than an agent would demand), the minor league could be self-sustaining within a few years. There is even a compelling (and ironic) case it be created as a non-profit.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

11/01 (Flag Football) Quickie

Excuse me, but I'm a little obsessed with Kevin Durant spontaneously showing up at an Oklahoma State frat flag-football game and playing, because one of the frat guys tweeted him about it.

(I appreciate the frat guy's hustle. When I was in college, I was the intramurals impresario for my house.)

Despite my complete aversion to tackle football as a sport any kid should be playing (or any parent should be letting a kid play), I have Gabe signed up for flag football, starting this Saturday. I guess I need to look into getting him a Durant Sigma Nu No. 35 jersey.


*Good for Tony La Russa: Impressive ending to an already Hall of Fame career.

*The Tim Tebow backlash (aka "The Tebacklash"): Can't say the schadenfreude was unexpected. I follow this pretty carefully (obviously) and think he'll get 3-4 more starts from John Fox, then get benched for the rest of the season (barring injury to Brady Quinn), then get cut in the offseason (then get signed by Bill Belichick, who will turn him into a QB/RB/FB/TE/WR hybrid who scored 10+ TDs per season).

*Chargers blow it: Yeesh.

*MLB Hot Stove: Yankees lock up CC Sabathia by throwing an extra $30M or so at him for a year down the road. Good move by both sides.

*NBA Lockout: I'm a little obsessed with the "amnesty" stuff. Prediction: The team that wins the NBA title will have in its playoff rotation at least one amnestied player.

*Kardashian and Humphries divorce after 72 days: Everything's kind of been said, hasn't it?

*Congrats to my pals at SB Nation -- now Vox Media -- on the re-branding of the parent company and the official launch of The Verge, instantly one of the great tech-news sites.

It's November already?

-- D.S.

Monday, October 31, 2011

This Week's BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot

The winner of LSU-Alabama will play for the national title (unless the winner of that game has some kind of freakish epic upset later this season). That is a phenomenal outcome -- among the best you can get in an inherently flawed system -- when the two best teams can play each other and the winner gets a clear shot at the national title. (And, really, does anyone think that Stanford or Oklahoma State or Boise can really beat the LSU-Alabama winner? Or LSU-Alabama loser, for that matter.) The other spot is Oklahoma State's to lose... that is, until they lose to Oklahoma. Then it's Stanford's to lose... that is, until they lose to Oregon. And then we'll have a ravaging national debate about whether Boise's unbeaten record built on top of a middling schedule deserves preference over a 1-loss team (Oregon or Oklahoma, neither of which have proven themselves worthy of a title shot) with a vastly superior schedule. Here's this week's ballot:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10/30 (Luck!) Quickie

Remember a few weeks ago when so many "experts" were worried about 4 or 5 or even 6 unbeaten teams this season? Ha: Quaint times.

We're down to just a handful now, after Clemson pulled a Clemson and K-State felt Oklahoma's wrath (let's not even speak of poor Wisconsin).

Stanford barely survived its trip to USC -- Andrew Luck looked brilliant (well, except for the pick-6 that could have cost the Cardinal its dream season). Stanford will lose to Oregon.

Oklahoma State throttled Baylor -- a very good Baylor team, I thought. The Cowboys have some swagger... just enough to peek past rival Oklahoma to the BCS title game. OKS will lose, too.

There is the winner of LSU-Alabama next week -- as it should be, at least one half of the national championship picture settled on the field, head-to-head -- and then... who?

I'd like to see Boise, even though I think Boise's schedule is a sham and a scam. As usual, there are probably a dozen teams in the country that could go unbeaten with Boise's schedule. I try not to let that obscure that they are, in fact, a terrific team in the absolute sense. (Frankly, I'm unclear that Boise could hold off Houston, another prolific unbeaten with even less of a chance of playing for the national title than Boise.)

But what we have -- and this is mostly perennially -- is the excitement that a single loss ruins aspirations for more (as if an ACC title and BCS bowl game is a terrible outcome for Clemson) and the clarity that comes with sports' most exciting and most(ly) meaningful regular season.

Clemson didn't make it. Stanford is still going. Oklahoma State looks strong. And the rest of us are captivated along the way.

-- D.S.

(Oh, NFL Week 8 today, so it's Red Zone Channel all day. Pats-Steelers might be the Game of the Week, but you should expect plenty of coverage of Tebow vs. the Lions.)