Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: NFL, Cubs, Dustin, USC

Today's Calls: NFL '08 vs. NFL '07, Mike Mussina vs. Carlos Zambrano, Dustin Pedroia vs. Carlos Quentin, Rudi Johnson vs. Tatum Bell, Georgia vs. USC, Tiger vs. the Stork and More. ↵The Opening Pitch: My faith in the NFL was restored at the end of last season. ↵

↵From Week 1, the Patriots winning the Super Bowl was an inevitability: The 16-0 regular season. The shattered records by Tom Brady and Randy Moss. The inescapable triumphalism of Boston sports fans. ↵

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↵Then, Super Bowl 42 happened. Manning-to-Tyree happened. The greatest upset in NFL history happened. ↵

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↵Now, as we enter the 2008 season, there is no such thing as certainty. Despite all evidence pointing to one result, it is still possible for another result to happen. ↵

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↵Oh, sure, Pats fans can say their team is more motivated than ever. New England may even win the Super Bowl this year (check back tomorrow for my picks). ↵

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↵But all you have to do is say "Giants over Pats," and -- at the very least -- we know that what we cringingly think will happen ... might just not happen. ↵

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↵At the start of the new season, it is not parity that rules in the NFL. ↵

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↵It is unpredictability, which is so much more satisfying. ↵

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↵CFB Top 25: The first week of the season is a funny thing. The preseason poll is based on ... well, nothing. The poll after the first week's games is based on ... something, at least, but not much. ↵

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↵But that was more than enough for the pollsters -- including me -- to vault USC ahead of preseason No. 1 Georgia. ↵

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↵Guess a win on the road -- even if it was over an ACC team -- trumps a win at home over a 1-AA team when you give up 21 in garbage time. ↵

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↵(If it's any consolation to UGA fans, the Bulldogs were going to get jumped by the USC/Ohio State winner in 3 weeks anyway.) ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: Uh-oh. The Cubs match their longest losing streak of the season (4) AND Carlos Zambrano has to leave the game with arm troubles. Longtime Cubs fans will recognize this as a "bad omen." ↵

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↵Dustin Pedroia is unstoppable: Unexpectedly batting cleanup again, he had a HR and matched a career-high 5 RBIs. Over the last week, he is batting .600. Last night's 16th HR brought his total to double that of '07. ↵

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↵If you like your MVPs to come from playoff teams, you're waiting to make sure the White Sox make the playoffs before giving Carlos Quentin the AL MVP -- if Chicago falls short, is Pedroia your guy? ↵

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↵More: Who had Mike Mussina with 17 wins this season? Anyone? (And he beat the Rays, no less). ... Fantasy Stud: Andre Ethier, whose HR (19), RBI and 4 R led the Dodgers over the Padres and within 1.5 games of the D-backs. ... More NL West: The Rockies are 8 games under .500 but only 5 GB the D-backs in the West. There's no way they do it again, right? ... In a possible playoff preview, it was the Mets over the Brewers, with New York carried by its -- what? -- bullpen. ... ↵

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↵Strangest NFL Story of the Preseason: Did Tatum Bell steal Rudi Johnson's bags when Johnson showed up to take Bell's job? How odd. ↵

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↵More NFL: Thoughts are with the teammates, family, friends and fans of Jaguars OT Richard Collier, in critical condition after being shot. (Here's an interesting take on the coverage.) ↵

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↵Weather Watch: In happier news, it looks like the Saints will play in the Superdome on Sunday for their season-opener. ↵

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↵Must-Read: Mike Florio on 1st-round QB busts like Alex Smith and Matt Leinart. Caveat emptor, Florio says. Smith's struggles aren't surprising; Leinart's, however, are very surprising. ↵

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↵(Is it possible that "team fit" is most important? If, for example, Leinart played for Norm Chow in Tennessee, would that have made a difference?) ↵

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↵NBA Spoiler Alert: (Well, not quite.) It's the worst secret in sports that the NBA tonight is going to "reveal" the Oklahoma City team name as the "Thunder." Now, if they were to call the team the "Palins," THAT would be a surprise. ↵

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↵NASCAR: Dario Franchitti is taking his open-wheel driving skills and beautiful, celebrity wife back to IRL. NASCAR might not miss Franchitti, but they'll surely miss Ashley Judd. ↵

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↵More CFB: A season-opening loss was enough for Frank Beamer to ditch the redshirt on electrifying QB Tyrod Taylor and hope he can help the Hokies salvage a season spoiled before the calendar saw September. ↵

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↵Here's one you don't hear about every day: A coach who got humiliated on national TV called the coach who inflicted it on him for advice. That's very sensible of Tommy Bowden, actually. ↵

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↵Heisman Watch: HeismanPundit.com's straw poll has Tim Tebow still leading the field, but Chase Daniel a strong No. 2. ↵

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↵Funny: I'm a huge Tebow fan and watched Florida in person on Saturday, and I came away acknowledging there's no way he'll win this season. ↵

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↵Daniel is a strong pick -- a Heisman finalist a year ago and one of my picks as a finalist for this year. But after Week 1, my vote goes to HP's No. 3 contender, Pat White. ↵

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↵Olympics: And there's your Jamaican steroid scandal.The only question is how quickly it takes someone to drop Usain Bolt's name (even though there is no evidence at all that he was involved). ↵

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↵The Last Word: Congrats to Tiger and Elin on the news that America's Favorite Young Parents are expecting another baby. ↵

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↵Elin is due sometime this winter and will deliver a sibling for Tiger's 1-year-old daughter Sam. ↵

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↵Tiger appropriately noted his injury has been a "blessing," if only because he can spend more quality time with his daughter and her mom. ↵

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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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