Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Rays, BCS, Cowboys

Today's Calls: Rays vs. Phillies, Texas vs. Alabama vs. Penn State, Cowboys vs. Titans, Favre vs. Packers, Reggie Bush vs. Mewelde Moore and More.
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↵Much like the Cask N' Flagon, the Red Sox are No. 2.
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↵The Opening Pitch: All is right in the world of baseball. ↵

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↵At the beginning of this ALCS, your choice was between rooting for change we need versus more of the same. Gloriously, change won. ↵

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↵The Rays — the best team story in baseball in a half-century — have created one of baseball's best endings. Against an opponent less "Wild Card" than "Blank Check" — the very antithesis of Cinderella — the Rays staved off a legacy of losing. ↵

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↵Though they still have to beat the Phillies, history will remember these Rays not as the ultimate losers, but as Sox-slaying champions. ↵

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↵The Red Sox have been the gold standard for how to construct a winner: The ultimate mix of massive payroll and expert player development. Now there is a new standard, from the most unlikely place: Tampa. ↵

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↵Young solid starting pitching (ie, Matt Garza). Young ace relief (ie, David Price). Young stud hitters (ie, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton). All for the A.L.'s lowest payroll. So: What team wouldn't trade rosters with the Rays? ↵

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↵Dispatching the Red Sox in 5 would have been too easy. To have survived the Game 7 crucible makes the Rays that much more worthy of a champ. ↵

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↵Yesterday, Boston's dynasty looked unstoppable. ↵

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↵Now, it's Tampa's Time. ↵

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↵CFB 1st BCS Poll: Who's No. 1? (And No. 2?) The jockeying around this list is all that matters, from here on out. Texas and ‘Bama start in "poll" position, but have brutal roads to maintain it. ↵

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↵No. 3 Penn State is teed up for a spot in the final BCS Top 2 if they can run the table (a big "if" with a game in Columbus next week against a better-every-week Ohio State). ↵

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↵BCS-Busters: Now THIS is interesting. Any BCS-buster has to be Top 12, and — as of now — there are TWO in the Top 12: Utah and Boise St. (who could BOTH run the table), with TCU knocking on the door at 14. ↵

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↵CFB Must-Read: Spencer Hall's A-to-Z. ↵

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↵My BlogPoll Top 10: (1) Texas; (2) ‘Bama; (3) Penn State; (4) Oklahoma; (5) Oklahoma State; (6) Florida; (7) USC; (8) Texas Tech; (9) Utah; (10) LSU. ↵

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↵Looking ahead to next week: Four huge games, led by a third straight week with Texas as the headliner (vs. Oklahoma State); Penn State with its Game Of The Year, at Ohio State; unbeaten Texas Tech at Kansas; and Georgia at LSU, in a game where the loser is out of everything (and the winner is probably BCS Top 5.) ↵

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↵NFL: Wow, how fast did the Cowboys go from “Best in the NFL” to “Freaking Awful.” And it's not just Romo's absence; he doesn't play defense. ... (Losing Roy Williams — the safety, not the newly imported WR — for the rest of the season won't help.) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, Jerry Jones says Wade Phillips' job isn't in jeopardy — but everyone knows Phillips is a seat-warmer for Jason Garrett, whether Phillips is removed now or in the offseason. ↵

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↵Did Brett Favre scheme with the Lions about the Packers' offense?! No, seriously, this is as treasonous as claims get. ... (You figure players on new teams are asked about their old teams, but Favre had no reason to help the Lions besides HURTING the Pack.) ↵

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↵It shouldn't surprise you that Favre, via his designated mainstream-media mouthpiece, denies it. But rumors like this don't simply get fabricated. And given Favre's narcissism, would it surprise you that it was true? Tracking. ... ↵

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↵— Titans still unbeaten: What's the last full-time RB combo as good as Chris Johnson and LenDale White? (Jerome Bettis-Willie Parker? They weren't this good.) ... Oh, and Johnson's drum-banging TD celebration takes over as "Creative TD Celebration of the Year," endearing Johnson to even more fans. (I know the Titans are winning with stifling D, limited turnovers and a conservative offense, but they needed this flashy display.) ↵

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↵— Injury of the Week: Reggie Bush's knee (Out one week? Six weeks? More? And what might the long-term effects be?) ↵

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↵— Shootout in Chicago: Once is amusing, twice is a trend; Kyle Orton is a monster (Maybe Orton, not Peyton, deserves the TV ads?) ↵

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↵— This Week's Fantasy Stud: Mewelde Moore (Willie Parker? Rashard Mendenhall? Bah! The Steelers are the new Broncos: Plug-n-play RBs.) ↵

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↵— Things CAN get worse in KC: Sounds like Larry Johnson might be missing more than this past weekend for his off-field problems. ↵

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↵MNF: Broncos at Pats. Nothing like the primetime stage to affirm how much worse the Pats are without Tom Brady. ↵

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↵NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson won in Martinsville, extending his Chase lead with four races to go. This is the fundamental flaw with the Chase format; there is a vibe of inevitability surrounding Johnson as he races to a third straight title. ↵

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↵NHL Milestones: Sidney Crosby hits the 100-goal, 200-assist and 300-point career marks — all in the same game. ↵

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↵Media: The Oilers just don't get it. At all. ↵

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↵NBA Preseason Injury Watch: X-rays on Deron Williams' ankle came back negative, in what has to be the biggest relief of the season (pre- or otherwise) to Jazz fans. ... (Meanwhile, is Baron Davis out 4-6 weeks with a sprained ring finger? There's your Clippers curse of the Big Contract.) ↵

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↵CBB Top 25 Countdown: No. 22 Oklahoma. Like Michael Beasley a year ago, OU's Blake Griffin is probably the best player in the country, but will be eclipsed by the Tyler Hansbrough hype machine for national P.O.Y. honors. ↵

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↵The Last Word: How bad is a college hoops team when the highlight of the season is their Midnight Madness pep rally? ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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