Monday, December 12, 2005
Page 2 Quickie: December 9, 2005
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
Reggie Bush is my pick for the 2005 Heisman Trophy.
(Just like he was last year. Does that count as a repeat?)
If you believe the Heisman Trophy should go to the best player in college football -- not to the player with the most pro potential, not as a default to the QB of the national championship team and not to a guy simply because he plays in the region you work in as a Heisman voter -- it's Bush in the same type of runaway he's flashed on the field all season long.
And the same type of runaway that makes him so worthy of superlatives -- like calling him the most exciting college football player of the ESPN Era. And most fans in SportsNation agree with me.
I edge him ahead of Barry Sanders, Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker. In fact, I didn't think I would see a running back dazzle like Sanders did in 1988 (2,629 yds, 39 TDs) until Bush this season, particularly his final two games, where he racked up 554 yards rushing.
And he's simply collected more (and even more spectacular) plays than recent "most exciting" non-RB candidates like Vick, Ismail, Howard, Deion Sanders, Moss or Fitzgerald.
Bush combined the best of all of those players: He broke spectacular runs only available to a tailback, but also could catch passes and even return punts and kickoffs; every time he touched the ball, he promised rewind-the-DVR highlights.
Perhaps the best evidence of Bush's thrill factor is how efficient he was: How he didn't need to dominate the play calls to have a Heisman-sized impact. Touch-for-touch, no player has been more electrifying.
Bush ranked 3rd in the country in rushing, but did it on less than 2/3 the carries of the other backs in the Top 20 -- splitting time with LenDale White. Bush's 15 TDs (9th best nationally) almost seem modest, until you wonder how many of White's 21 could have just as easily been Bush's.
And Bush led the country in yards-per-carry, a staggering 8.9. Consider this: He was at least 2.2 yards per carry better than his nearest competitor among the Top 40 rushers; most are more than 3 yards-per-carry behind him.
(Even in Sanders' sick '88 season, arguably the greatest by any RB in college history, he "only" averaged 7.6 ypc. Of course, Barry kept up that pace for nearly TWICE the number of carries Reggie had this season. Whew!)
Bush might not be the best college running back of the ESPN Era (that would be Sanders or Walker). But I would label him the most talented all-purpose player of the era.
And by far the most exciting.
Tejada Wants Out
MLB's week winter meetings ended with perhaps the biggest bombshell: Miguel Tejada -- he of the monster stats, perennial MVP contention and B-12 shots -- wants out of Baltimore.
Miggy for Manny? Speculation immediately formed that he'd be a perfect fit in Boston. He'd be a perfect fit almost anywhere, but Boston has the bankroll to carry his $12M/year deal for 4 years and a gaping hole at SS. (Hold on, RSN: Has Manny even said that Baltimore is a place he'd be willing to play?)
The O's have been snubbed by free agents all offseason, and the only way they'll boost their talent is via trade. If they don't get a stacked package for Miggy, they would be insane.
Manny included? Sure, as long as Boston eats a healthy portion of his remaining contract. And they should also ask for Boston's newest acquisition Andy Marte (but accept Kevin Youkilis and a starting pitcher).
NFL Game of Week
Bears at Steelers: After losing 3 straight, PIT has to rebound with a win to keep pace in the brutally competitive AFC. Big Ben's injured thumb contributed to 3 picks last week; what will happen against Chicago's sick ball-hawk D?
Meanwhile, the Bears have won 8 straight, but fans seem to be looking for any excuse to swap Rex Grossman in for Kyle Orton, whose QB rating is the lowest in the NFL. Grossman can't do much worse, and he can't help but have more upside. Watch the sideline warm ups at halftime!
Can you remember another surprise contender, that has run off 8 straight wins, contemplating making such a drastic change like swapping out the starting QB, especially for a replacement who has played fewer games in his three-year NFL career than the rookie has during the team's winning streak?
More NFL Week 14
Colts Unbeaten Watch: Monday's top story today!
If Indy wins at JAX to clinch HFA, watch the debate over whether to rest the starters (and possibly lose the perfect season).
More NFC South Mayhem! A week after stifling the Falcons, the Panthers host another would-be division contender, the Bucs (8-4). But if Tampa could muster only 10 points on the Saints last week, what will they do against Carolina? That's right: Bupkus.
AFC West logjam: Give the edge to the Broncos (9-3), who host the hapless Ravens. The Chargers (8-4) host the Fins. The Chiefs (8-4) have the toughest game, on the road at Dallas.
See Big 5, right, for the Reggie Bush Watch, a look at the five teams battling for the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Gary Barnett Gone
What a difference a decade makes:
10 years ago today, Gary Barnett was preparing Northwestern for the Rose Bowl, enjoying the apex of one of the great turnarounds in sports history (and my own Simmons-esque "Now I Can Die in Peace" moment).
In 1998, he took his dream job at Colorado, where his tenure was not marked by a return to glory, as he had hoped, but by scandal. Amazingly, it was humiliation on the field, not off it, that finally did him in.
CBB: Who's No. 1?
This week, 'Nova was my No. 1 college hoops team, after it posted the most impressive win of the young season, beating then-No. 5 Oklahoma last Saturday.
But to be consistent with my prove-it test, my No. 1 team on Monday will be the winner of Duke and Texas (ranked No. 1 and 2 by the inertia-based conventional polls) when they play Saturday in Duke's vacation home of East Rutherford, N. J. Who's got the edge?
If Indiana PF Marco Killingsworth could beat Duke last week, what will Texas big man LaMarcus Aldridge do? He's averaging 17.5 ppg and 10 rpg, and is the No. 1-ranked NBA prospect on Chad Ford's Top 100.
And, as usual, depth is an issue for Duke. The Blue Devils have six active players who average double-digit minutes-per-game (all more than 20). Texas has 9 players who average double-digits in playing time per game.
(Then again, of Texas' 8 wins, 5 have come by an average of more than 30 points, so it's been a little easier to spread the PT around. Duke hasn't been winning nearly that handily.)
Stern on NBA Shorts
"I don't have anything against long shorts. We just need to define 'long' and I don't think you should turn them into pants or slacks. Because then they wouldn't be 'uniform,' so we settled on within an inch of the knee. We're not talking about Jerry West or John Stockton shorts. This has been in effect for many years."
-- David Stern, NBA commissioner, chatting with ESPN.com users Thursday about fines issued this week for extra-long shorts.
Heisman Ballot, Cont'd
After Bush, here's the rest of my Heisman ballot. Not that "The Man" would ever give me a real vote:
(2) Texas QB Vince Young. As sensational as Bush is, if USC didn't have him, they would still be undefeated. (Although who would have pushed Leinart into the end zone vs. Notre Dame?) Young is the most valuable player. But that's not the same as being the best.
(3) Matt Leinart won't repeat this year, but he will end his career as arguably the greatest CFB QB ever. Between his stats, his titles, his record, his Heisman and his studly life of luxury, no other QB can match him.
(4) LenDale White, Bush's backfield mate, would get my surprise 4th-place vote. Splitting time with Bush? No problem: 6.7 YPC, 21 TDs, 1,000-plus yards. (Hmm: Where's the award for this USC offensive line?)
(5) Brady Quinn, the Notre Dame QB who exploded under the tutelage of Charlie Weis and finished in the Top 5 in passing efficiency, yards, TDs, yards-per-attempt and media love-fest.