Shanoff's W.U.C.: Florida, Tebow, NFL, More

Today's Calls: Florida vs. Oklahoma, Tim Tebow vs. Percy Harvin, Sam Bradford vs. "14," Utah vs. USC, Eagles vs. Giants, Beanie Wells vs. Michael Crabtree vs. Jeremy Maclin, Celtics vs. Cavs and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Let me explain, as a Florida fan, what it was like to watch last night's game ... ↵

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↵It was totally unenjoyable. ↵

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↵For 58 of the game's 60 minutes, I wanted to throw up. The unexpected defensive battle made every play a potentially game-turning one. (Hey: What happened to Florida's ability to score at will on Oklahoma's typically soft Big 12 defense? The "experts" KNOW NOTHING.) ↵

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↵Every 2-yard plunge up the middle for no gain made me mutter — OK: bark — something expletive-ish. Every time Oklahoma rushed to the line and FOX started that "count-up" play clock, I had some kind of mini-anxiety attack: "Will this be the play that Oklahoma zips past them?" ↵

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↵The first half was grueling — then, at halftime, my cable went out (mere seconds after that goal-line INT, thank god), so at least I could vent my frustration on the poor cable customer service rep. (It came back on just in time for kickoff.) ↵

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↵I felt slightly better early in the second half when Tim Tebow finally showed his emotion — the first half, he seemed unnaturally stifled. (Nerves? For Superman? Gack!) That first display of his trademark passion, even more than his bruising drive-sustaining runs up the middle, gave me hope. ↵

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↵Still: It was a valuable lesson in expectations-setting. For the last month, I was unnaturally confident; I was sure the Gators would roll. When they didn't, I wasn't just watching a taut winner-take-all game involving my team — I was watching my worldview crumble. ↵

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↵When the end finally came — just after I spent a minute screaming at the TV "It's too early to pour Gatorade! Gaaahhh!" — it wasn't bliss I felt. ↵

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↵It was relief. Woo. ↵

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↵Spencer Hall has the five must-read takeaways from the game. (Can we all agree that the FOX broadcast was almost unwatchable?) ↵

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↵Final BlogPoll Top 10 Ballot: (1) Florida; (2) Utah; (3) USC; (4) Texas; (5) Oklahoma; (6) Alabama; (7) TCU; (8) Ole Miss; (9) Penn State; (10) Georgia. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, in the final Coaches' poll, Utah earned the only first-place vote that didn't go to Florida. So Mack Brown backed down, eh? And yet, with mentor Urban Meyer's blessing, Utah's Kyle Whittingham obviously decided to go through with his symbolic gesture to rank his own team as national champs.) ↵

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↵In the final AP poll, Florida was the runaway No. 1, but it is worth mentioning that 16 voters thought Utah was the best team in the country, boosting them to No. 2. (I certainly hope their No. 1 ranking of Utah wasn't simply a protest vote.) Poor Pete Carroll could only lobby for a single vote. ↵

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↵Will Tim Tebow go pro? Here's the thing: His college football legacy is secure — I'd call him a Top 5 all-time player, after just three seasons. He is already an immortal of the game. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, he won't climb any NFL draft charts by playing another year in college. And even if he is "just" a second-round pick, he will earn a fortune in endorsements — quick: name the last time the biggest celebrity in a draft wasn't anywhere near a top pick? ↵

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↵Selfishly, I hope he stays in college. Not just to see what he can do with one more year, but because he might be the greatest ever embodiment of the sport of college football in a single player — it would be a shame for that player to leave school early, no matter how little he has left to prove. ↵

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↵(If he doesn't come back, consider that the vicious Sooner-stifling D will return at least 10 starters, and the Florida offense will feature speedsters Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Aaron Hernandez, incoming frosh stud Andre Debose and a QB in John Brantley who may not run like Tebow, but who throws like Bradford.) ↵

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↵NFL Playoffs: Division Round Mania! THE story line of the weekend: Is this the end of the line for the defending champs? ↵

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↵The Giants could have drawn no more brutal opponent than the Eagles, who have already beaten New York at the Meadowlands this season. It would be karmic payback if the Giants were beaten by a team on the road that might be said to be "pulling a Giants." (Pick: Eagles) ↵

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↵Meanwhile: ↵

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↵— BAL at TEN: If not for a late rally by Tennessee, the Ravens could have beaten the Titans earlier this season. This time it won't be that close (Pick: Titans). ... ↵

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↵— ARI at CAR: Before last weekend's performance against Turner and Co., I would have given the Cards no chance against the Panthers' running game; however, I do give the Cards no chance against their terrible record on the East Coast and the Panthers' unbeaten mark at home (Pick: Panthers). ... ↵

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↵— SD at PIT: No LaDainain Tomlinson? No problem. The Chargers are sizzling and Darren Sproles is the new mighty-mite headliner of the NFL; the Steelers have to wonder how many hits Big Ben can take before it would be inhumane (or just ineffective) to let him play. (Pick: Chargers). ↵

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↵Brett Favre Watch: Favre may not be ready to decide on his future in 2009 for a few weeks, but he certainly seems ready to milk his media sources to begin a typically Favrian spin campaign to diminish his sorry (possibly career-ending) performance over the last month of this past season. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Beanie Wells is in. He is a first-round lock, and the top-ranked RB in the draft class. He has probably been NFL-worthy since his freshman year, and he will be a worthy encore to the amazing corps of rookie RBs that took the NFL by storm this season. ↵

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↵More: Michael Crabtree is, too. Of course he is. He may be the best WR in the history of college football, and the translation of his skills to the NFL is a near-certainty. The only remaining question: Will the Seahawks take him as high as No. 4, or will he drop into the teens? ↵

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↵More: Jeremy Maclin turning pro? As the top all-purpose player in the country, he would be crazy not to. (Um, wait a second: I think Percy Harvin made a pretty good case last night that he is the top all-purpose player; unfortunately, his injury issues drop him behind Maclin for the NFL.) ↵

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↵NFL Coaching Carousel: Bill Romanowski wants to coach the Broncos, and he sent owner Pat Bowlen a PowerPoint presentation on why that should happen. (You may take as long as you need to stop laughing.) Did his deck include a slide about how he would incorporate steroids into team training? ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Quiet night. The Knicks lose again (but at least it wasn't to the Thunder), but the Spurs roll on (despite Tim Duncan's meager 8 points). ... Tonight: The best game of the season so far (sorry, Lakers) — struggling Celtics at unbeaten-at-home Cavs. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Two moves that will look very weird when we see them in the spring. John Smoltz, anchor of the Atlanta Braves for nearly two decades, will be in a Red Sox uniform. And Trevor Hoffman, who played for the Padres for a decade and a half, will wear Brewers blue. ↵

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↵NHL All-Stars: As expected, Alexander Ovechkin made the East roster (as a reserve), despite inexplicably not being voted to the starting lineup by the fans. (Another signal of Ovie's amazingness: The Caps lead the Southeast, yet Ovechkin is the team's only All-Star.) ↵

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↵Politics: I love that Barack Obama is a huge sports fan, just like you and me, and that he publicly advocated for a playoff. But it's time to let the guy off the hook that he'll actually deliver on it. He seems ready to drop it — BCS honchos must be relieved; Presidential pressure would have been tough. ↵

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↵The Last Word: So who's No. 1 ... for 2009? If Tebow comes back to Florida, keep the Gators at No. 1; if he doesn't, slot Texas at the Top. ↵

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↵Who is YOUR preposterously premature pick as preseason No. 1? ↵

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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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