Friday, October 03, 2014

10/3 Oregon Whoa Quickie

Just like that, the college football playoff landscape is a mess.

Yesterday, it was all so clean: The four playoff teams would be the SEC champ (presumably unbeaten), unbeaten Florida State, unbeaten Oklahoma and unbeaten Oregon.

Now, Oregon has a playoff-killing loss on its resume -- at home, against an Arizona team that is undefeated but hasn't been all that impressive this season (but clearly has Oregon's number). Even if it runs the table and wins the Pac-12 title, its argument (and resume) is less strong than, say, a 1-loss SEC runner-up (if still stronger than Michigan State).

Look ahead: The SEC champ is in. Unbeaten FSU is in. A presumably unbeaten Oklahoma is in.

The fourth spot is now up-for-grabs among several would-be 1-loss teams: Pac-12 champ Oregon? Big Ten champ Michigan State (which lost to Oregon)? A 1-loss SEC runner-up in a year when the playoff committee will be focusing as much on regional diversity as picking the four "best" teams?

And that's all before Saturday's shake-out: Either Texas A&M or Mississippi State will be knocked out. Either Alabama or Ole Miss will be knocked out. LSU could absolutely beat Auburn. Notre Dame could (should?) lose to Stanford. Nebraska will be knocked from the unbeatens by Michigan State. And Oklahoma -- looking at a clear path to the playoff after last night -- could absolutely lose to TCU, which would make things even messier.

If you thought a playoff would make things less contentious, Arizona's seismic upset at Autzen in the middle of the night is a good reminder that it will be even more so this year than ever.

PS: Hard not to root for the Royals to dispatch the Angels.

-- D.S.

Monday, September 29, 2014

9/29 Fire Hoke Quickie

I'm still digesting the experience from the past few days at the Online News Association conference, which I'll hopefully have more to say about in the next day or two. Until then, a few faves:

*Everyone calling for Michigan to fire Brady Hoke today. A few representative samples: MGoBlog's Brian Cook ("Brady Hoke should have been fired walking off the field"), MaizeNBrew's Drew Hallett ("The Fireable Offense of Brady Hoke") and my USA TODAY Sports colleague George Schroeder ("The situation is beyond salvage.") It's not that he has to go at the end of the season -- he has to go right now. His pathetic explanations -- and the even more pathetic statements from the school -- are making things worse.

*The Nationals' no-hitter: I can't count how many baseball games I have been to in my lifetime, but I can count how many my kids have been to -- seven, including yesterday, when my dad took them to the Nationals' season finale, which everyone assumed would be a pro forma walk-through before the team heads into the playoffs. It ended up being one of the defining games of the Nats' franchise history in DC. (If I couldn't be there, it's nice to know that at least my kids got to see it in person.) Meanwhile, talk about mis-managing expectations: Forget winning the NL pennant -- I'll be bummed if this team doesn't win the World Series.

*Teddy Bridgewater: Instant sensation. (So of course he suffers that ankle injury -- but that's temporary; he's going to be good for a long time. Watch highlights here.)

*Steve Smith Sr.: Doing it for the Olds! (Enjoyed this on Smith from Grantland's Andrew Sharp.)

*JR Moehringer on Derek Jeter: My favorite of the many (many) things written about Jeter this past week. Click here - it'll take you 15-20 minutes. (I'm not much of a Jeter fan -- certainly not a Yankees fan -- and, still, that final at-bat on Thursday night was a bonafide sports Moment.)

*Matt Norlander on this past Saturday's 20th anniversary of the release of Dave Matthews Band's "Under The Table And Dreaming": I was 21 and not only in college, but in a fairly typical fraternity, so obviously I have vivid memories of this particular CD, which was ubiquitous. As Norlander notes, that is hard to reconcile with the polarizing opinions about DMB now, but at the time? Whew.

@SportsREDEF: Jason Hirschhorn's REDEF empire (and you should absolutely be subscribing to the MediaREDEF email newsletter) expands into sports, first with a Twitter handle, very soon with its own daily email.

*Re/Code's Kara Swisher: I tweeted about this on Friday from the ONA conference (and will have more later this week), but having been a longtime follower and fan of hers, this was the first time I had ever seen Swisher in person, and it is an understatement to say she is a dynamo. Airport issues kept her from showing up until all but the final few minutes of her assigned panel (on news start-ups, obviously a subject near and dear to me), and she blew the doors off from the second she bounded up the stage stairs and started talking. What an inspiring force of personality.

OK, quick related aside: On Friday night, we were walking in the same direction on the street (I was maybe 10 feet behind her), and I found myself having an internal debate ("Should I go up and introduce myself? How weird/off-putting, because she doesn't know me. But she would never hesitate to do it, if things were reversed and she wanted to talk to me. But still: I'm me, not her. What am I going to do - ask her to take a selfie with me? Ask her some dumb question? Autograph my conference program?" And so on. I had a lot of internal monologues during my few days in Chicago.) Anyway, she was in a conversation with someone, and I deferred to letting her have her night roll along peacefully, rather than interrupted by a fanboy. Hopefully, there will be another chance some other day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

9/28 Sunday CFB Hangover Quickie

Just got back from a few days in Chicago at an industry conference, so bear with me as I catch up...

The most important story in college football yesterday, by far, is the deplorable, FIRING-WORTHY conduct by Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who not only left in a player who obviously had a concussion, but he re-inserted the player later in the game.

In the most charitable interpretation, Hoke is so clueless that he shouldn't be a college football head coach; in a less favorable interpretation, he abdicated his core responsibility, disqualifying him for the role -- not at the end of the season, but today.

It compounds Hoke's mistake if the AD doesn't do anything about it. It compounds Hoke's absence of leadership that not a single assistant coach felt compelled to overrule the head coach's decision.

The editors of MaizeNBrew -- who care about the issue far more than I do -- have the best take on it.


*Legitimately stunned that Northwestern won at Penn State.

*Entirely unsurprised that Arkansas would simply try to run it up the gut on their final, futile play of the game.

*FSU has lost whatever air of invincibility it carried into the season.

*If the playoff was today:
(1) Texas A&M
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon
(4) Auburn

Oklahoma is on the outside looking in, with FSU next to OU. A&M's win over South Carolina at South Carolina suddenly doesn't look so impressive, given Mizzou was able to do the same thing.

*Next week's best: Arizona-Oregon on Thursday, Alabama at Ole Miss, LSU at Auburn, Texas A&M at Mississippi State, Oklahoma at TCU, Stanford at Notre Dame, Nebraska at Michigan State, Utah at UCLA -- that's as loaded of a weekend as you could want, with all of the would-be playoff contenders with resume-making (or season-breaking) tests. Hard to say what, but SOMETHING interesting is going to happen. At a minimum, I think Notre Dame and Nebraska take losses and, consequently, exit any shot at the playoff. I could see Oklahoma getting stymied at TCU. And of the three big SEC games, I don't see any upsets, but LSU-Auburn will be a slugfest.

-- D.S.