On Saturday, after Ohio State’s nail-biter against Michigan and Auburn’s thrilling upset of Alabama, the BCS debate began in earnest.
I asked six bookmakers: What would you make the spread between Auburn and Ohio State on a neutral field? Only one of the six would favor Auburn. Southpoint’s Jimmy Vaccaro felt the strongest about Ohio State, making the Buckeyes a 4-point favorite in this hypothetical matchup.
You demanded it! Thank You for Not Coaching is back in its usual Tuesday time slot to review the sprawling action of Week 13. Of course, while the NFL stretched out and played this week's games over a five-day stretch, the most-discussed decisions of the past seven days both took place on Saturday, when Michigan and Alabama made calls that had an enormous impact on the college football season. There wasn't a coaching decision quite as meaningful in the pro ranks this past week, but one team did critically injure its playoff hopes with a surprising misstep. As you might suspect, they're at the very end of this week's column, and as always, we'll start on the positive side of things.
In case you were busy foolishly enjoying the company of friends and family this holiday season without a television on in the background, here's what you missed in sports over the holiday:
In one of the most stunning endings to a football game in recent memory, Auburn shocked Alabama in the Iron Bowl, winning 34-28 on a 109-yard field goal return for a touchdown as time expired. "No regrets," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said after the game when asked about his late-game management, "I thought to myself, What's the worst that could happen? And the answer was that the kick could hit a child in the head, creating a trauma that the boy would bury deep into his subconscious. This trauma would then only rear its head again when the boy had grown, fueled by his hate, to become governor of Alabama, and he would then decide by gubernatorial decree to make football illegal. But then I decided that, rightly I might add, that would be impossible; if anything could provoke a coup in the state of Alabama it would be the abolition of football. So I made the right decision, I just got a bad result."
In case you were busy clearing your name in the best place for levelheaded legal analysis: sports talk radio, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Knicks failed to make a late lead stand up, as Paul George and the Pacers topped New York, 103-96, in overtime. "But dad," a young boy in Queens said after the game, as he held his head in his hands. "All they had to do was not foul Paul George on the 3. Why would they foul him, dad? Why?" His father sat on the couch, staring forward, his gaze extending through the television, out to infinity. "Because, son," the father said, mindlessly crushing a beer can in his left hand. "Because the world is a cruel and ugly place. Because the universe bends toward entropic chaos. Because man is nothing more than a wad of rotten flesh stretched over an angry skeleton." The boy was crying a little now, but he managed to mumble, "But I don't understand." The father turned to his boy as he said with profound clarity, "Because Knicks, son. Because Knicks."
Despite a season-high 33 points from Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets
fell, 123-120, at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who improved to 6-0 at home. "Ha-ha, yes!" Howard said after the game despite his team's loss. "What a night! What a night!" When asked if he was talking about his own breakout performance, Howard replied, "Nah, man. Did you see when Dirk totally slipped and fell over? And I was all like, 'Nirk!' And he was all like, 'Nirk?' and I was all like, 'Yeah, Nirk D'oh-witzki!'" Howard then collapsed in hysterics before gathering himself and saying, "He didn't get it, but man, he got covered in Dwight-Out."
In case you were busy playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday-night battle of division leaders, the New Orleans Saints ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys in a 49-17 win. "It was always a tough matchup for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said with a deep sigh. "We lost Sean Lee, Austin is still out, Ware's at half speed, our GM and owner are the same crazy old man, and that's a good team we played." Garrett then paused, stared straight ahead unblinking, and added, "metaphorically speaking um, all of that was a metaphor."
In case you were busy being harassed by Brian McCann and the party police, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Detroit Red Wings made an early two-goal lead stand up in their first game as an Eastern Conference team, taking their season opener against the Buffalo Sabres 2-1. "It's tough," said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg after the game. "We had to get rid of all our board shorts and flip-flops, invest in some blazers and khakis." Zetterberg then looked down at himself, attired nattily by Brooks Brothers, and sighed, before saying, "The Eastern Conference sucks. I feel like I sold out, man."
The Tampa Bay Rays will be playing more postseason baseball after surviving their second consecutive elimination game, with a 4-0 win over the Cleveland Indians in the AL wild-card game. When asked how his team dealt with the pressure of back-to-back one-and-done situations, Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "Terribly. Everyone in the clubhouse is a wreck. Lots of shaking and crying. We were this close to just forfeiting." When asked if he was worried about facing the Boston Red Sox, who had the AL's best record this season, Maddon screamed, "Ahhhh! We get the Red Sox? Why?" before vomiting on himself.
In case you were busy reinventing the kneel-down, much to your own detriment, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a battle of the league's best defenses, the Seattle Seahawks leveraged a record-setting home-field advantage to pull away from the San Francisco 49ers and stake an early-season claim as NFC West favorites with a 29-3 win. "LET ME ANSWER YOUR QUESTION WITH A QUESTION," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll shouted in his postgame press conference, before being asked a question. "THAT WAS A FUN WAY TO WIN A GAME." After a reporter told him that wasn't a question, Carroll yelled his signature catchphrase, "PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL," before doing a set of jumping jacks so vigorously that he disappeared into the fabric of space-time itself.
In a Manning family battle, Peyton's Denver Broncos put together a big second half en route to a 41-23 win over Eli's New York Giants. "It's a good win, but it's just a win. I don't take any extra pleasure in beating my brother," Peyton said after the game while sitting on Eli's chest. Peyton then added, "We're 2-0 now, and our ultimate goal is getting to New York and winning a Super Bowl," as he licked his index finger and stuck it into Eli's ear. Peyton concluded his statement by saying "proud of my teammates today, proud of the coaching staff and their game plan, go Broncos," before grabbing his younger brother's wrist and making him hit himself, while cruelly asking Eli, who had already suffered through a four-interception game, why he was hitting himself.
Johnny Football is playing football this weekend in one of the biggest games of the season, so now feels like a good time to talk about this: Should we be rooting for Johnny Manziel? I've been torn. There are good arguments on both sides. But over the past few weeks I've stopped fighting it. Johnny Football is great.
He is the best, he is the worst, he is the best at being the worst.
In case you were busy getting bad news from Dr. James Andrews, because that guy has never once given good news in his life, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Miami starter Jose Fernandez dominated with his arm and bat, throwing seven stellar innings and blasting his first career home run, as the Marlins beat the division-leading Braves, 5-2. Fernandez's outing was not without controversy, however, as both benches cleared after Fernandez indulged himself by watching his home run. "I'm disappointed. He's a great kid, but he let this whole city down," said Marlins manager Mike Redmond after the game. "I mean, this is Miami. You can't just stand around in Miami to check out something because it looks good. This is a city all about hard work and discipline, not about showing off and preening."
New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter has been shut down for the remainder of the season, leaving new acquisition and defensive whiz Brendan Ryan as the Yankees presumptive starting shortstop for their playoff push. "Darn," said Yankees starter Andy Pettitte as he high-fived fellow starter Hiroki Kuroda. "Man, that's tough for Derek. I'm gutted. Just totally gutted. For him." Pettitte then did a giddy shuffle and mimed a shortstop going confidently to his left for CC Sabathia's benefit, before adding, "Don't know how we'll get by without the captain."
An appreciation of the word and fashion choices that make the unofficial kickoff of football season great.
Press conference MVP, coaches division: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
If every SEC Media Days kicked off with the Ol' Ball Coach listing everything about college football that was bothering him that particular season, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Topics of this year's airing of grievances: the desire among SEC coaches to pay players a stipend for games, Notre Dame getting a voice in playoff structure creation along with conference commissioners, and the inequality of scheduling paths to the SEC championship game.
While we're pleading with the universe for things like Larry Fedora in Juggalo makeup, let's discuss the highly regarded 2014 prospect saying Alabama's getting a waterfall in its locker room. "It's Alabama" is the answer to so many recruiting whys, but defensive end Davon Godchaux tacked on a splashy new twist in a Sunday conversation with Rivals, saying: "Honestly, Alabama just has the best of everything. It's Alabama. They are about to have a waterfall in their locker room. It's spectacular."
There was chatter, during the Great College Football Realignment Square Dance, that the SEC's new additions might not have what it takes to compete in God's Chosen Conference. The Aggies proved otherwise on the field in 2012, and are proving it this offseason with their blithe participation in that time-honored summer pastime of jolly, institutionally approved sniping matches.
We were all set to write about Mark Richt's genteel stab at Steve Spurrier — in June, this counts as college football news; also, for Richt, this counts as throwing an elbow in a postgame handshake — when lo! A challenger appears:
Do Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner have more in common than an ironfisted reign over your weekend appointment television for several months a year? Take this quiz and decide for yourselves:
1. "The roster that we have today may change tomorrow. It is what it is for right now."
2. "[We] sort of went a little bit rat trap out there."
3. "We have an idea of how we're going to use him, but we don't have an idea of where he is in terms of how much we'll use him. There's a difference."
4. "I think the pleasure some people get from the mistake makes more entertainment."
5. "That issue has gone under the bridge, under the next bridge, over the next dam and is gone."
6. "And to make any presumptions like you all make, really, really upsets me. It really does. It's so unfair."
7. "He's definitely a liar. I hope that you caught that. And I hope that you caught that he — you don't think he seems like an ambitious person jockeying for a job?"
8. "That's what it was about for me. Let's get to the destruction. Let's get to the loss. … He's going into hell. This is the descent. Maybe he'll come out on the other side, or maybe he'll just take up residence there."
9. "Our goal is to work against things we have not seen that we will see in the near future."
10. "I thought, this is going to be interesting to see how this works, especially since I had been so influenced by the books Sex and the Single Girl and The Feminine Mystique."
11. "Honestly, I can't even tell what closure is to this audience."
It's tough to convey, in print and pixel, the gap between the contempt that greeted new Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin at his first SEC Media Days appearance last year and the offense Sumlin actually committed, which for the record was "Showing up to SEC Media Days as head of a team that had the temerity to accept an invitation to join the SEC."
Questions lobbed his way in a ballroom of 700 reporters ranged from flighty to outright condescending. We are almost positive somebody went so far as to ask him how he overcame being named "Kevin." Our favorites, in no particular order, and his delightfully prophetic answers, in which the real difficulty now is not bolding everything for emphasis:
In case you were busy listening to Steve Winwood, wondering when you would be back in the high life again, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Despite being denied a late winner in regulation because of a delayed concurrent penalty call, Brent Seabrook's overtime goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference finals, where they will face the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. If they beat the Kings they will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they will be forced to forfeit after being held by the Kingsguard for attempting to usurp the throne. Justice will come quickly, as the Stanley Cup monarchy does not wait for due process or jury trials, and punishment will be severe. The Kings' public enemies are few at this point, and while many may support the Blackhawks, when the guillotine falls those supporters will stay silent, lest a similar fate befall them. Hope is a forgotten word in the NHL, but, futile as such wishes may be, best of luck to all four conference finalists!
While recovering from his fourth wrist surgery of the offseason, sources are reporting that Rob Gronkowski will undergo back surgery that will put his participation in the New England Patriots' training camp in doubt. While many are concerned about Gronkowski's long-term ability to contribute in the NFL with his continued injury issues, personally, I am concerned that Gronkowski is abusing his deductible. We get it Rob, you blew past your annual maximum on arm surgery no. 3. You don't need to rub your ability to receive quality medical care in our faces.