December 5, 2005
Duke:
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Duke needs home-friendly 40-foot buzzer-beater to edge VA Tech. (No. 1 teams shouldn't have to win like that.)
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
SMELLING.  ROSY.

USC vs. Texas: For pure potential, this is the best title matchup of the BCS Era, the ESPN Era and possibly any era in college football history.

The quality of the teams is unquestionably head and shoulders above everyone else in college football: Saturday's romps (combined score: 136-22) would have been boring had the domination not been so compelling.

(Compare that to last year's game, which featured two unbeaten teams but the controversy of excluding unbeaten -- and arguably worthy -- Auburn.)

The star wattage features the three best players in college football:

Matt Leinart, the defending Heisman winner and arguably the best college QB of all time;

Reggie Bush, the likely Heisman winner and arguably the most scintillating college player of all time;

And Vince Young, among the best Heisman runner-ups ever and arguably more valuable to his team than either of the other two.

History is on their side: There have been other title matchups of unbeatens (but fewer than you think). But even the most notable have had lopsided expectations ('96 Nebraska over Florida).

And remember, in the pre-BCS era, pairing teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 wasn't a given. It happened notably in '92 (Alabama d. Miami), but 'Bama started the season ranked No. 9.

USC and Texas have been 1-2 since the season began. This is the matchup fans have wanted to see since the preseason and both obliged with unbeaten seasons.

Now, this is no guarantee that the game itself will be a classic. Just look at last year's 55-19 rump for USC.

USC vs. Texas is crystal-clear: No controversy about teams being left out. No question about a team's worthiness. Fans everywhere can finally agree on one thing: Winner takes all.

Who would have thought that such clarity could come from Rose-tinted glasses?

Chiefs Love Replay
KC's hold-off win is a testament to why every sport should have at least some form of limited replay challenge. Baseball purists would have you believe that a bad official's call on fourth down is simply part of the game. Getting the call right is more important, as Dick Vermeil well knows.

Cincy Wins at Pitt
Some are calling this the Bengals' biggest win in 15 years. For those doubters who were waiting for that quality win this season, this was it.

With Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo among the remaining four games, Cincy is looking at a 12-4 finish, a playoff bye week and hosting at least one playoff game sure to be the most rowdy crowd in the postseason.

The only letdown from the win over the Steelers was that Chad Johnson didn't get a chance to do his "best ever" end-zone celebration. Let's hope he wasn't TOO disappointed with the outcome.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
MLB winter meetings in Dallas: Secret password is "Manny"
UNC Hoops: Huge W at Kentucky; Roy's best coaching ever?
Suns: No Amare? No problem. PHX earns 6th straight win
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Oregon: Despite 10-1 record, Ducks left out of BCS party
Yankees: Reportedly LOST between $50-85 million in 2005
Gonzaga: Despite Morrison's 43, lose to rival Washington
 
(Meanwhile, without CJ to compete with, Carolina's Steve Smith upped the ante on creative TD celebrations with his "Change the Baby.")

More NFL W13 Notes
It's time to take Carolina VERY seriously in the NFC. After going 0-5 vs. Vick, it finally beat him, holding him to less than half his usual carries and half his usual yardage against them. Plus, DeShaun Foster (131 yds, 2 TDs) emerged as the team's go-to RB.

(But what if the Panthers have to go into Chicago, which won its 8th straight and pummeled the rival Packers? It's hard to imagine Carolina or New York or Seattle going into Soldier Field in January and winning.)

Vikings win 5th straight: Why isn't there more of a frenzy about this? Johnson-to-Robinson(s) is the new Culpepper-to-Moss, and the team has had one of the most dramatic U-turns in recent NFL memory. No more boat jokes!

Bench Favre campaign gains strength: He didn't throw a TD in Green Bay's loss to Chicago, unless you count the pick the Bears ran back. He also threw a drive-gutting end-zone INT. Hey, the rookie could play that badly (AND give the team a sliver of development for 2006).

How dangerous is San Diego? The Chargers tagged the Raiders for 34 without a touchdown or a 100-yard game from LaDainian.

Colts go "12-and-Ho-hum." No one expects the Jags to give them a game next Sunday, but JAX QB David Garrard flashed wheels (including one 28-yard run) that the Colts haven't seen this season.

Just when Braylon Edwards (2 TDs) was fulfilling his promise as the top talent of the '05 NFL draft, he might have torn his ACL.

Um, so much for that Ryan Fitzpatrick bandwagon.

The Texans moved one step closer to the top pick of the '06 draft and snagging Reggie Bush; too bad their best player is RB Dom Davis.

MNF: Seahawks-Eagles
Even if Seattle is on track to lock up NFC home-field advantage, it should treat this night game at Philly like a playoff primer. (9, ABC)

Given the Seahawks' history of postseason chokery under Holmgren, they can use all the practice they can get, especially after clinching the NFC West yesterday.

(Eagles fans should be particularly jacked because they're retiring Reggie White's jersey. Over-under on TV shots of fans wearing No. 92? 20.)

More BCS Ratings
Rating the other BCS bowls:

Fiesta: Notre Dame/Ohio State
This might be the most-watched college football game in a decade (until the Rose tops even that mark two days later).
Grade: A-

Orange: Penn St./Florida St.
The participation of mediocre FSU (despite crushing VA Tech) is offset by CFB's Story of the Year (Penn St.'s return to glory under JoePa).
Grade: B

Sugar: Georgia/West Virginia
Yikes. Good thing it's in Atlanta, where the UGA alums will at least provide a respectable turnout.
Grade: Gentleman's C

Pujols in WBC?
More Tuesday after the World Baseball Classic rosters are announced this afternoon, but some details are leaking out in advance:

Albert Pujols will play for the powerhouse D.R., but apparently Chris Carpenter won't play for the U.S.

(Watch this dynamic: Will players be credited for putting their "money" team first or criticized for being unpatriotic?)

WWE to Drug Test?
Will the WWE's drug-testing be staged, like the matches? After a half-century of looking the other way as pro wrestlers turned themselves into cartoon characters, it's hard to believe that the WWE really wants to see what's under the rock when they turn it over.

Bush for Heisman
Unlike media bandwagoneers, some of us will be proclaiming Reggie Bush the Heisman winner for the second straight year.

If Leinart's win last December opened the door for the argument that he's the greatest QB in college football history (which he is), then Bush's will coronate him as the most exciting player in CFB history.

That full argument will be coming later this week, when I make my official Heisman pick and reveal my complete ballot.

Anna Benson:
As soon as the rumors that hubby Kris was on the trading block, you could see her hissy fit coming. Is she concerned with his career? Or her own?
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Critics
Page 2 Index
 
NFL Coach Ranking
Lovie Smith
8 in a row and counting
 
Marvin Lewis
Team culture does a 180
 
Mike Tice
Can't believe I wrote that
 
Tom Coughlin
Even on an Eli off day
 
Mike Holmgren
It's about time, Coach
 

MLB Hot Stove: Dodgers' new GM makes splash, signs SS Furcal (3Y/$39M). Ripple effect? Will likely shift Izturis to 2B and Kent to 1B.

MLB Hot Stove II: Mets get LoDuca from Marlins' fire sale, taking NY out of race for Cs Molina and Hernandez and saving money for other moves.

Kudos to Kansas State for hiring VA Tech offensive guru Ron Prince, increasing the number of black coaches in D1 CFB by 33 percent.

NBA Wrap: Well, now we know. If the Lakers didn't have Kobe, the team be worse than the expansion Bobcats. Bryant's FTs win game for LA.

The bright future of women's golf continues to emerge: Japanese women's golf star Ai Miyazato cruises to LPGA Q School win; Pressel qualifies too.

Who saw U. of Houston hoops coming? Beat 2 Top 25 teams this week (LSU, then Arizona on Saturday). They've earned a spot of their own in there.



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