Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Wild Cards and Bowls

Today's Calls: Wild-Card Road Teams vs. HFA, USC vs. No. 1, Shonn Greene vs. Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno, Big 12 vs. SEC, U.S. Army vs. Under Armour, Manny Ramirez vs. McCovey Cove, Charles Barkley vs. Himself and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: How wild might it get this weekend in the NFL Playoff openers? ↵

↵

↵How about all four road teams winning? By the unnecessary quirk in playoff seeding and scheduling, the four teams with home-field advantage — the "division winners" — aren't as good as their opponents. ↵

↵

↵All four road teams are favored — about as much novelty as you will ever see in the NFL playoffs. ↵

↵

↵Falcons over @Cardinals: The Cards scored as many points as any team in the NFC; they also gave up virtually the same number of points — a 1:1 ratio no other playoff team comes close to. Their 426 points allowed are also the most by any playoff team by nearly a TD per game. ↵

↵

↵Colts over @Chargers: No team in the NFL is hotter than the fast-finishing Chargers (four straight wins, to sneak into the postseason) ... except the Colts (9 straight wins), including a Week 12 win at San Diego. The Chargers have gotten better since then — but so have the Colts. ↵

↵

↵Ravens over @Dolphins: We have seen this matchup before. In Week 7, the Ravens went to Miami and limited the Dolphins to their second-lowest point total of the season and a mere 71 yards rushing from the then-still-novelty Wildcat. Does Baltimore O.C. Cam Cameron have his old team's number? ↵

↵

↵Eagles over @Vikings: It's not even clear that the Vikings fans are going to sell out this game. Maybe they know something the rest of us should — that the Eagles are the most dangerous team in the NFC and remain my pick not just to win the conference, but to win the Super Bowl. ... The Giants illuminated the path to a Super Bowl title last season: It all starts on the road. ↵

↵

↵ ↵

↵

↵CFB Bowl Mania: USC crushes Penn State, as expected. Maybe at some point the Rose Bowl, Pac-10 and Big Ten will realize there is no "pageantry" or hallowed "tradition" to watching the Big Ten rep get smoked by USC. Wouldn't you have rather seen USC play Texas or Alabama? ↵

↵

↵That said: USC's dominant arsenal — on both sides of the ball — was on full display. Mark Sanchez (413 yds, 4 TDs) may have played himself into the NFL Draft (or, at the very least, the Heisman short list in '09), as did his top target, redshirt sophomore WR Damien Williams (10 rec, 162 yds, 1 TD). ↵

↵

↵Are the Trojans the best team in the country? Critics will point to Penn State as an overrated one-loss team from a mild conference; it's a shame we can't see USC play Texas or ‘Bama — couldn't the Trojans have turned down the Rose Bowl and asked to be the Sugar at-large pick? ↵

↵

↵Meanwhile, between New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, can you remember a lamer batch of games? I know it's what we expected, but you always hold out for compelling games once the teams get on the field. And, no, a "3-0" final score may be close, but it's not compelling. ↵

↵

↵I was most disappointed by Cincinnati, which entered the game with all sorts of mojo and an innovative coach in Brian Kelly, not to mention the history of the ACC champ having lost eight straight BCS bowl games. But Virginia Tech's D was sensational and shut down the Bearcats' offense (4 INTs). ↵

↵

↵Bowling Today: So much of bowl season is spent deploying the Transitive Property. "Oh, if Northwestern shut down Mizzou's offense, the Big 12 MUST be overrated!" or "Oh, if TCU beat Boise State and Boise State beat Oregon and Oregon beat Oklahoma State, the Big 12 MUST be overrated!" ↵

↵

↵That makes the Cotton Bowl fascinating: Big 12 vs. SEC. Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss. The only team to knock off Texas vs. the only team to beat Florida. Winner earns its conference bragging rights heading into the national-title game — and sets fans of the Transitive Property spinning. ↵

↵

↵Meanwhile, the Sugar Bowl is intriguing: Alabama, No. 1 heading into the final week of the regular season, against BCS-crashing Utah, with the legacy of these teams upending the BCS order (a tradition started by Utah in 2004). Will ‘Bama feel Andre Smith's absence? ↵

↵

↵CFB Recruiting: This weekend is the apex of the professionalization of high school football, two competing "all-star" games (U.S. Army vs. Under Armour) run by rival recruiting services and, themselves, engaged in a recruiting battle to have the kids come to their game and not the other. ↵

↵

↵That said, it is a chance for college football junkies to watch next year's freshmen on the field in something besides grainy YouTube clips. And, in the highlight, a select number of players will actually announce their college decision live on TV — I like the ones who add a little drama and/or flair. ↵

↵

↵NFL Coaching Carousel: All the hot action is around the Browns. Will they land Scott Pioli? And, if they do, will Pioli hire Eric Mangini? Will he poach Josh McDaniels? Will he go to the college level and grab former co-worker Kirk Ferentz from Iowa? Or will he grab Pats-slaying Steve Spagnuolo? ↵

↵

↵Meanwhile, what's happening in Denver? Various reports have them interviewing Bucs D.C. Raheem Morris, Cowboys O.C. Jason Garrett, Spagnuolo and McDaniels. ... And it looks like the Jets will decide between Spagnuolo and the experience of Mike Shanahan. (Or are they serious about Rex Ryan?) ↵

↵

↵NFL Draft Watch: Iowa RB Shonn Greene is coming out. He picked a good day to announce it, rushing for 121 yards (100+ in every game this season) and 3 TDs in an Outback Bowl win, capping a Big Ten MVP season. Expect Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State’s Beanie Wells and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller to join him. (How about UGA’s Matt Stafford?) ↵

↵

↵NHL: The outdoor game at Wrigley was just as cool (and cold) as it was expected to be. The visuals were as stunning as the temperatures. So, merely two years in, the NHL has created one of the best annual traditions in sports. The question is: How to leverage (or replicate) that beyond novelty? ↵

↵

↵CBB Wrap: The Big East continues to deliver great games to open the conference season. Marquette edged ‘Nova in a statement game yesterday, and tomorrow, Georgetown is in its second straight HUGE game this week alone, hosting No. 3 Pitt. Can G'town knock off No. 2 and 3 in the same week? ↵

↵

↵Meanwhile, perhaps I should take advantage of the new calendar year to revise my college hoops picks for March. After Louisville's loss to UNLV, I can't believe I was so high on the Cards. UNLV was even missing its best player, Wink Adams. (Speaking of overrated picks: What's up with Gonzaga?) ↵

↵

↵MLB Hot Stove: Manny's Cove? If Scott Boras is looking for top dollar for Manny Ramirez, the Giants are a good place to go. They have shown they are willing to pay mindlessly through the nose (Barry Zito) and are desperate for a marquee slugger to fill the hole still there since Barry Bonds left. ↵

↵

↵Speaking of Bonds: Sounds like he wants to get back into baseball after his recovery from hip surgery. Will we go through another year where would-be and wannabe contenders continue to collude to keep him out of the game? You can't tell me he can't help a lineup. ↵

↵

↵NBA: Stephon Marbury to the ... Celtics? Yeah, nothing says "ubuntu" like "Starbury." ↵

↵

↵Scandal Watch: Charles Barkley wasn't just drunk driving, but racing around because he was about to seal the deal on a booty call from the passenger sitting shotgun. That's funny, but the underlying alleged offense is anything but: Barkley's appetites stop being amusing when they could hurt other people. ↵

↵

↵The Last Word: And so it begins. As expected, the Jets players have started to throw Brett Favre under the bus. He was anti-social, not the "leader" you get from his media reps. He was selfish and protected by the coaches, never considered to be benched in the best interests of the team winning. ↵

↵

↵You figured this was happening behind the scenes, but even the loudest player wasn't going to spout off in the media during the season, while the team was still fighting for a playoff spot. But now that they — or he — choked it away, it's time for a little myth-busting. ↵

↵

↵And Favre's "teammates" seem to be enjoying it. ↵

↵

↵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. ↵

↵

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

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.