Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Stop the Love for USC

Today's Calls: USC vs. Big 12 and SEC, Red Sox vs. Rays, CC Sabathia vs. Manny Ramirez, Ed Hochuli vs. Refs' union, Florida vs. Tennessee and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Why is USC getting a free pass to the BCS title game? ↵

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↵I am as impressed as everyone else with USC's beat-down of Ohio State last weekend, but since Saturday, the dominant meme has been: So who will play USC in the BCS title game? ↵

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↵Stop right there. If the Big 12 champ and the SEC champ both survive unbeaten, both would have a stronger BCS title-game resume than USC. ↵

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↵USC's case? Well, they beat Ohio State — an OSU team we all now agree isn't nearly as good as the preseason hype that preceded the so-called "Game of the Year." ↵

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↵Otherwise, USC's schedule is littered with Pac-10 teams that, as a group, couldn't compete in the ... Mountain West. USC sure will seem dominant — but against what kind of competition? ↵

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↵Meanwhile, unbeaten Big 12 and SEC champs would survive a gauntlet that includes a combined nine teams in the Top 11 of this week's AP poll. Their schedules are tougher than USC's by an order of magnitude. ↵

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↵Now, in all likelihood, all three teams — USC, the Big 12 champ and the SEC champ — won't all run the table. But in the event they do, it would be nice if poll voters wouldn't make up their minds two weeks into September — and one eye-popping (if overrated) win later — about one of those BCS title-game spots. ↵

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↵For more on this, check out the expanded argument at DanShanoff.com. ↵

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↵A.L. Playoff Push: Walk-off mania for the Rays! Trading haymakers with the Red Sox this week can't help but be good training for the playoffs ... ↵

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↵Meanwhile, the Twins were burnt twice by their walk-off loss to the Indians — they fell another game behind the White Sox in the division and another game behind the Rays for the Wild Card. (I know ... the Red Sox, not the Rays, are the A.L. WC right now. But if the Rays simply want to make the playoffs, the distance between them and the Twins is critical.) ↵

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↵N.L. Playoff Push: You know things are bad for the Brewers when CC is losing; Sabathia earned his first N.L. loss and the Brewers lost their fifth straight, Yost or no Yost. ↵

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↵The good news for Milwaukee: They're no longer competing with the Phillies, who moved into first in the N.L. East; they are now competing for the Wild Card with the Mets, who are similarly choke-ish. ↵

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↵(The bad news for Sabathia: If the Brewers don't make the playoffs, the CC-for-Cy effort will likely fall short.) ↵

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↵Speaking of N.L. awards going to carpetbaggers, I know Albert Pujols is the favorite for MVP, but I'm still lobbying for Manny Ramirez: In 43 games in the NL with the Dodgers, he is batting over .400, with 14 HRs and 44 RBIs — oh, and the Dodgers are about to make the playoffs. (Last night: 3-for-5 with an RBI double in an LAD W.) ↵

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↵MLB Deals: The biggest one has nothing to do with a superstar free-agent player. The Red Sox are close to signing Theo Epstein — the best GM in baseball — to a new deal. Lock in another few years of success. ↵

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↵MLB Milestones: Just in the nick of time, Derek Jeter sets the all-time hit record at Yankee Stadium, passing Lou Gehrig. ("The House That Ruth Built?" Sure, but also: "The House That Jeter Closed.") ↵

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↵Hochuli-Gate, Cont'd: The refs' union unsurprisingly backs their guy. Not coincidentally, Hochuli is a former NFLRA president. Sorry: If he's so competent, why did he screw up so royally? This wasn't a missed holding call (it also wasn't the embarrassment of Super Bowl XL); he directly cost a would-be championship contender a critical victory. ↵

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↵NFL Injuries: Mike Tomlin would like you to understand that Big Ben's shoulder is not separated, only sprained. Whatever the reality, neither is good with an intrastate brawl with the Eagles coming up on Sunday. ↵

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↵How bad is the Seahawks' WR situation? So bad that they are eager not just to lap up the Broncos' sloppy fifths (Keary Colbert), but also rehab project Koren Robinson, who the team let go after 2005 because of his issues with alcohol. (To his credit, he says he is two years' sober.) Still: The Fun Bunch this is not. ↵

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↵CFB Lead-Up: Florida-Tennessee is annually among the earliest "Rivalry Games" of the year. Florida LB Brandon Spikes tees it up: Tennessee "quit playing" last year. [Wince.] ↵

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↵Now, I was there — and, well, they sorta did. But it's probably not wise to provide b.b. material when the game is in Knoxville and the Vols could make their season by beating the Gators. ↵

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↵Tiger won't attend the Ryder Cup: Not even a token appearance to cheer on the team? See: It's things like this that drive the perception that Tiger is entirely about Tiger. Is that what makes him the greatest? Perhaps. But this isn't too much to ask. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Goes to Tony Kornheiser, for his apology for his insensitive, tone-deaf comment on Monday Night Football. ↵

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↵TK apologized, but it was obvious that what he was missing was a baseline sensitivity — that it MIGHT be perceived as offensive to some viewers, particularly in the context in which it was delivered. ↵

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↵It's not like he's Don Imus, but he scraped the bottom of the barrel for lame yuks. ↵

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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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