December 2, 2005
Army-Navy:
Hasn't really meant anything in the rankings in decades, but remains one of sports' best rivalries. TV shots of cadets in the stands is a highlight.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
BCS.  YES!

The BCS has won.

Presuming that USC and Texas both win this weekend, BCS haters will officially have to stifle their complaints, gripes, hostility and bitterness.

It's not even worth having a BCS debate because there IS no debate: The system is working perfectly.

That's not the same as calling it a perfect system. But don't let BCS-haters fool you: There IS NO PERFECT SYSTEM. Not even a so-called playoff.

("So-called" because CFB's regular season seems to do a pretty amazing job over 13 weeks of winnowing the championship field to two teams -- and even in the most crazy years -- three. It's a de facto playoff.)

How would a 4-team playoff solve anything? Two teams (USC and Texas) have a claim. The other two spots are a no-win argument among up to 7 other teams. And even an 8-team playoff would leave at least one team out this season.

The BCS haters are left with totally manufactured arguments about meaningless bowls: Whether the second-tier Fiesta should take Ohio State or Oregon to play Notre Dame.

The system might not be perfect. But unless something crazy happens this weekend, it will be this year.

Which is why the prospect of UCLA upsetting USC (or, less likely, Colorado shocking Texas) should have the BCS honchos in a cold sweat all night.

BCS Draft
What's fascinating is that even the purists and critics who loathe the BCS are so jaded that they take as a given Notre Dame's position as the top overall pick by the Fiesta in Sunday's "BCS Draft." (ABC, 5 p.m. ET)

Does it matter that the Irish are no better than the 6th or 7th best team in the country? Flashing their hypocrisy, BCS-haters are somehow OK with a competitively corrupted, money-grubbing Fiesta selection.

The Orange gets the No. 2 pick, and the consensus is that they'll take Penn State to face the ACC champ (hopefully, VA Tech over Florida St.). PSU is a great pick: CFB's Story of the Year.

Then the Fiesta picks again at No. 3, and although Oregon partisans might send me many angry e-mails, if the Fiesta takes any team but Ohio State to face Notre Dame, they're spiking the salsa with stupid sauce.

The Sugar Bowl (being played in Atlanta) gets the SEC champ (LSU is the better team; Georgia is the local draw) versus what has become the albatross of the BCS, the Big East champ (West Virginia).

(But again: If UCLA or Colorado wins this weekend, the Rose Bowl becomes college football's worst nightmare and all bets are off.)

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Akron: 21 pts in 4th caps thrilling MAC title (Zips' 1st)
Spurs: Edge Mavs in wild one; Parker scores '05-high 30 pts
John McEnroe: Will return to real doubles matches in Feb.
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Larry Brown: Reportedly needs more bladder surgery
Kansas: 2-3 for first time since '72-73 after loss to NV
Hopkins vs. Taylor: Boxing just doesn't have any oomph
 
NFL Division Clashes
AFC North: Bengals/Steelers
Forget the tight division race. Forget the Steelers' win a few weeks ago in Cincy. Forget that Bill Cowher calls this the biggest game of his team's season.

Here's THE subplot: What best-yet antics will Chad Johnson pull off in the end zone and what will Pittsburgh fans do afterward?

(Perhaps Johnson might want to incorporate a "thumbs-down" toward Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has a thumb injury that is worth tracking. Remember last year's AFC title game, a similar thumb injury and his 3 INTs?)

NFC East: Cowboys/Giants
With both teams coming off losses, the winner goes a game up in what is shaping up as a winner-take-all division race. Think the refs will be playing extra-close attention to the Giants wide receivers in the end zone?

NFC South: Falcons/Panthers
Winner gets the edge on the division race, the NFC wild card and bragging rights that they're the true team to beat in the conference. I keep hearing that this is DeShaun Foster's week to explode after season-highs last week in carries (22) and yards (74). For Carolina's sake, he better.

AFC West: Broncos/Chiefs
For those still waiting for Denver (9-2) to prove itself for real, would a win on the road at playoff-hungry K.C. (7-4) finally convince you? Doubters are desperate for a loss, a Plummer implosion, something.

More for Week 13
11-0 Colts looking ahead? I know they're only playing the 3-8 Titans, but Indy owner Jim Irsay said Dungy will make the call whether to rest starters late in the season or go for a historic 16-0. Too early to talk about it? Never!

Maybe if the Packers lose yet another game, they'll finally wise up and give rookie QB Aaron Rodgers a few snaps. (Bench Favre? Oh, the heresy!)

Speaking of rookie QBs ...

If you could start either Ryan Fitzpatrick (7th round) or Alex Smith (1st overall) on Sunday, who would you take? Fantasy GMs know the answer is the Harvard guy. Check the QB ratings: Smith's is 17.5; Fitzy's is 100 points higher. Draft gurus have a meltdown.

(What does it say that my would-be Rookie of the Year Kyle Orton (4th round) has elevated himself above that debate? When the Bears play the Pack, Rodgers proves that first-round money can't buy happiness.)

Role-reversal: Who would have thought that the Vikings would be the stable team and the Lions would be the train wreck?

Backup QB Watch: Jags QB David Garrard might not have Byron Leftwich's touch, but he brings a new dimension of mobility that will surprise.

Office-Pool Picks: CHI, JAX, MIN, IND, MIA, TB, NYG, CIN, CAR, BAL, STL, ARI, KC, NE, SD, SEA. (Last week: 13-3, Season: 115-57).

See Big 5 for more subplots.

Brown vs. Pistons
The Pistons are better off without Larry Brown, who makes his first visit as their ex-coach tonight in Detroit. (ESPN, 8 ET)

There's no question Flip Saunders is building on Brown's foundation, but the team doesn't need Brown to be stingy enough on D -- meanwhile, Flip has taken the reins off on offense, which is the real breakthrough.

Wide-open offense makes a control freak like Brown nervous; he'd never let his team have that much freedom. (That's the main problem with Brown's "right way" -- it should be called "his way.")

Brown's method of infantilizing his players works with vets who buy in -- but only to a point. Now that they've "grown up," they realize they can be even better without Brown's harness holding them back.

Flip let the players take their next evolutionary step past Brown -- and it's why they're even better now than when Brown led them to a title.

Michael Irvin:
Off-air for a week for not telling ESPN more promptly about his arrest last weekend. As usual: It's not the crime that snags you, it's the cover-up.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Index
Rate Larry Brown
 
More NFL Subplots
HOU at BAL
Call it "Hot Seat Bowl."
 
OAK at SD
Seat warm for Norv T, too
 
BUF at MIA
Playing for 2006 now
 
TB at NO
Bucs *better* win this
 
NYJ at NE
Pats' much-needed laugher
 

Hot Stove Edition:

OK, so maybe that sizzling stove rumor of Manny for Abreu won't be happening. Meanwhile, the Mets may get a huge return for Kris Benson.

Tom Gordon is going to move from Yankees' set-up guy to Phillies closer (at 3Y/$18M). Will he be as effective as Wagner? Better than nothing.

Don't ink Kyle Farnsworth into the Yankees' set-up slot just yet; the Rangers are making a move. All it'll likely do is drive up his price for NY.

Speculation of moving Jeter or A-Rod to CF will be moot if the Yankees can take advantage of the Marlins' fire sale to acquire Juan Pierre.

More Marlins' dismantling: 2B Luis Castillo is on the block (really: who ISN'T?) and the Twins, Cards, Mets and Red Sox are in the mix.

The Cards are eyeing their 2nd straight winter with a blockbuster pitching move: They're in the mix for AJ Burnett (4 years, $40-ish mil).

World Baseball Classic "J-I-N-G-O" Watch: Would the Mariners balk at King Felix pitching if he was throwing for the U.S. and not Venezuela?

No, Ben Affleck did not insist that Jennifer Garner name their baby, born Thursday, "Manny" or "Papi" or "Theo." Her name is reportedly Violet.

Backup QB Watch:

Office-Pool Picks: CHI, JAX, MIN, IND, MIA, TB, NYG, CIN, CAR, BAL, STL, ARI, KC, NE, SD, SEA. (Last week: 13-3, Season: 115-57).



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