Here we go
From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...
College football Monday morning quarterback
Here are the five things we learned from this weekend's games:
- LSU and Alabama are the class of the SEC West, the class of the SEC and the class of the country. LSU did not play well (for LSU, that is) and beat Tennessee by 31. In Neyland Stadium. Alabama went to Ole Miss and made the Rebel Black Bears look like a jay-vee team. Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer said it well in Sunday's paper here (Wiedmer: LSU, Alabama way above rest). There's not much else for the rest of the SEC to do but get better. LSU and Alabama have dropped the gauntlet, who can step up and meet it? Until then, though, the 5-at-10 wants SEC commissioner Mike Slive to step in and force whichever team wins the SEC East to give their spot in the SEC title game to the loser of next month's LSU-Alabama game. Let's make this happen.
- Show your gold James Franklin. The Vandy coach went chest-to-chest with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in a heated exchange after the Bulldogs' tighter-than-expected 33-28 win over the Commodores on Saturday night. Grantham said Franklin started it; Franklin said he was trying to sort out an issue and things didn't go well. And by "didn't go well," that's translated to several cuss words from Grantham and the teams starting to do that mass of humanity dance that thankfully did not lead to a brawl. It was less than desirable, but Franklin's postgame news conference has to make Vandy fans feel better this morning: ""We just had a tough, emotional game and some things were said that I didn't think were appropriate," Franklin said. "I went to find (Georgia head) coach (Mark) Richt and didn't find him, so I found one of his assistant coaches and it didn't go well. We're not going to sit back and take it from anyone."
- The BCS could be in real trouble this year. Yes, it seems like every season when the first BCS poll is released there are something like seven or eight unbeaten teams. This year is no exception, but the top 10 teams in the AP poll are rolling opponents this fall. The top 10 teams in the AP poll are 16-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last two weeks and 38-14 on the season ATS (and 29-3-1 when favored by 27 or less). Some of the drama will be self-policed - No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama will play on Nov. 5 and No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Oklahoma State will play to end the regular season. (And just think if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had decided to join the SEC West. Wow, just wow.) Let's say that the winners of those two games run the table, they would meet for the BCS title. There could very well be three or more unbeaten teams on the outside looking in come bowl time. Boise State is unlikely to lose. Wisconsin is a very good team in a very mediocre Big Ten. Clemson has FSU in the rearview and the season-ending rivalry game against South Carolina just got a lot easier, which leads us to...
- Wow, what a painful week for South Carolina football. First, Steve Spurrier lashes out at a columnist for a story Spurrier felt was inaccurate, which is every coaches right. That the story in question was written in the spring makes the timing of this song and dance seem choreographed, though, especially since it preceded USC's dismissal of oft-troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia by a few hours. Fast-forward to Saturday, and all-world running back Marcus Lattimore is lost for the season with a knee injury. A season of much promise for South Carolina now looks less than hopeful.
- The Fab 4 (plus 1) went 3-2. It should have been better, but the South Carolina self-inflicted safety allowed Mississippi State to cover the spread. Yes, we know those things happen, and yes, there is no explaining it, but when a team purposely gives the other team points and that affects the outcome in gambling circles, eye brows will be raised and heads will be scratched. According to friend of the show RJ Bell at pregame.com, the safety - which was the final score in South Carolina's 14-12 win with the Gamecocks favored by 3 - cost Vegas bettors roughly $30 million bucks. Yes, 30 million with an 'M.' The 5-at-10's three wins were all recent trends that we should have been riding from the start of the season. LSU and Alabama proved the 'FIN' theory yet again and East Carolina covered against Memphis, which may be the worst FCS team in the country. On the year, the Fab 4 (plus 1) is a strong 22-10-1, but we have hovered around .500 for the last three weeks.
Tragedy in sports
Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon, a two-time winner of the Indy 500, was killed in a multi-car wreck at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was 33.
It was an emotional scene, the drivers crying openly when news started to circulate. The race was canceled, but Wheldon's peers went back out on the track and completed five laps in honor of Wheldon. Wheldon, who won the Indy 500 back in May, was participating in only his third race of the season, and was in Sunday's race as part of a challenge that could have been worth $2.5 million to himself and $2.5 million to a fan.
Wheldon agreed to start in the back of the field and if he had won, the pay out would have been the $5 million prize split between driver and a fan. Wheldon was reportedly going to replace Danica Patrick next season, and the deal was allegedly going to be signed after Sunday's race.
Wheldon was writing a blog for USA Today in the days leading up to Sunday's race. Here's one post he made Saturday: "This is going to be an amazing show," Wheldon wrote. "The two championship contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, are starting right next to each other in the middle of the grid. Honestly, if I can be fast enough early in the race to be able to get up there and latch onto those two, it will be pure entertainment. It's going to be a pack race, and you never know how that's going to turn out."
Wow, what a sad day. Wheldon is survived by his wife and two sons.
Baseball's lesson in balance
The World Series is set: St. Louis vs. Texas. Are these the best two teams in baseball? Maybe or maybe not.
Are these the two most balanced teams in baseball? Almost assuredly. Between lineups, starting pitching and bullpens, the Rangers and the Cardinals are no worse than good in each of those categories. And that was the difference for the last two teams standing.
Every other contender had a fatal flaw that fans, teams and even the media yahoos thought could be compensated for by an overwhelming strength in another category.
We thought the Phillies' rotation would be enough to cover their flaws. And the Yankees' lineup. And the Tigers lineup and Justin Verlander. And the Brewers' big sticks in the middle of that order. And the list goes on.
But the Cards and the Rangers are strong top to bottom. We'll take the Cards in seven, since Chris Carpenter could get three starts in the series and Albert Pujols is making a strong push for the St. Louis front office to pay him whatever he asks for.
This and that
- More college football: The Auburn Tigers have embraced the Malcolm X approach to winning football games - "By any means necessary." Saturday night, the Tigers used an opportunistic special teams and an improving defense to beat Florida 17-6 in a game that featured seven players taking snaps for the two teams. It may have set offensive football back three years, but the Tigers kept winning close games. This time the defense - yes, the same defense that was torched the first month of the season by Utah State, Clemson and Mississippi State - kept Florida out of the end zone. And beating Florida is still beating Florida...
- Even more college football: Beating Florida does not have the same meaning it once did. Florida is 8-8 in its last 16 games; the same number of losses the Gators had in their previous 64 games when they went 56-8. Better fix it quick Coach Boom.
- It was a wacky weekend for football coaches. In addition to the Vandy-Georgia square-off, Detroit's Jim Schwartz and San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh got into a war of words and gestures after the 49ers handed the Lions their first loss of the season. C'mon guys, you're supposed to be the leaders in this environment. Yes, it's a fine line between leaders and competitors, and yes, fans of each of those teams have to take comfort in the fact that winning and losing is every bit as important if not more so to each of those coaches as it is to each fan. But, c'mon guys, be better than that. You have to be better than that. (And this hasn't even mentioned New Orleans coach Sean Payton blowing out his knee in a sideline collision Sunday.)
- Matt Kenseth rolled to the checkered flag Saturday night in Charlotte, moving into the top three of the points standings in what is shaping up to be three-car dog fight. Carl Edwards leads Kevin Harvick, who is five back, and Kenseth, who is seven off the lead. The biggest news Saturday night was the late-race crash that dropped five-time points champ Jimmie Johnson to a 34th-place finish. Johnson's bid for a sixth consecutive title looks doomed - he's in eighth place, 35 points off the lead. In fact JJ is closer to Dale Earnhardt Jr. than the points lead, and being closer to Junior is a great thing on the earnings list but not such a great thing on the points list. So it goes, JJ, it was a great run.
Feel free to throw out your World Series picks, but today's question circles on the annual moaning about homefield advantage this time of year.
Yep, the Cardinals will have homefield advantage because a collection of NL all-stars that included all of two St. Louis players - Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina - used a three-run homer from Prince Fielder to win an exhibition.
Is there a dumber rule in sports? If so what is it?
There may be a dumber rule - we'll throw a few out there around 2 p.m. - but it's hard to see a more silly rule with this much at stake.