Shanoff's WUC: Balloon Boy, Red River, Phils

Today's Calls: Balloon Boy vs. the Red River Rivalry, Carlos Ruiz vs. Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge vs. Cole Hamels, Giants vs. Saints, Cincinnati vs. the BCS, Midnight Madness vs. ALCS Game 1 and More. ↵

↵Balloon boyThe Opening Pitch: How is Balloon Boy like the biggest sports story of the weekend? ↵

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↵Imagine it's the middle of the afternoon. The news is shouting at you that something big is happening. All your friends are talking about it. Ultimately, though, it turns out to be a kind of hoax. ↵

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↵That's this "huge" Texas-Oklahoma game. ↵

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↵Everywhere I wander in Las Vegas — it's my first time here — I keep overhearing folks talking excitedly about the Longhorns-Sooners game. ↵

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↵I don't get it. This year's edition of the Red River Rivalry is the most overrated "big" game of the season: ↵

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↵(1) They both aren't national-title contenders; Oklahoma ruined this game the first week of the season when they lost to BYU. ↵

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↵(2) Even if they were both BCS contenders, last season's game proved that who wins this game DOESN'T impact the final BCS standings. ↵

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↵With my newfound sports-gambling contact high — don't worry about me: it's legal here! — the most interesting thing I can see about this game is Texas is only a 3-point favorite. ↵

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↵Here's my rationalization in thinking I should (but won't!) bet my kids' college fund on Texas: The Longhorns are VERY good. Oklahoma is not. Not only that, but Texas is carrying around the biggest grudge in sports after last season's BCS debacle. ↵

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↵The Horns will want to give BCS voters something to think about with this win. And especially given that the conventional wisdom is to discount Oklahoma this year, it puts an even bigger imperative on Texas to win decisively. ↵

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↵That's my thinking as I line up at the sports-book window, at least.* ↵

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↵As with Balloon Boy, Texas-Oklahoma might transfix you for an afternoon ... but if you're looking for some kind of larger meaning in the result, it's just not there. ↵

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↵*Note: My analysis is not meant for anything but recreational purposes — the usual function of killing a little time at the office or dorm room in the morning. ↵

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↵NLCS Game 1: Phils win. Lidge! The display of power was gaudy and Cole Hamels was good enough, but the story of the postseason continues to be Brad Lidge, reverting back to successful closer after a regular season that felt like a game of Jenga. ↵

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↵Given his iffy regular season, Lidge has been an unlikely hero — but not entirely unexpected. That obligatory "surprise postseason hero" role goes to Carlos Ruiz. We expect powerful shots from Raul Ibanez — but from Ruiz? That's how pennants are won. ↵

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↵NLCS Game 2 today at 4: Pedro! (Enough said.) ↵

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↵ALCS Gets Going: Weather permitting in NYC, of course. Here's the thing about those title-or-bust expectations for the Yankees — forget the ALDS. If they don't beat the Angels, no one will remember anything about this season but the failure. There is no similar pressure on the Angels — only the 300-pound weight of CC Sabathia looming at them from the mound tonight. ↵

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↵My Top 5 NFL Story lines: ↵

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↵— Game of the Week: Giants at Saints ↵
↵Winner should be considered NFC team to beat. ↵

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↵— Prove-It Game for Favre, Vikings ↵
↵Ravens challenge with new level of D. ↵

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↵— Tests for surprise elite ↵
↵Bengals host Texans; Broncos at Bolts. ↵

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↵— Can things get worse for the Titans? ↵
↵Yes! At New England? Chalk up another "L." ↵

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↵— Redskins: 6th "oh-and" opponent. ↵
↵If Zorn doesn't win ... yikes. ↵

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↵Week 6 NFL Picks: Bengals, Packers, Ravens, Saints, Steelers, Panthers, Redskins, Jaguars, Seahawks, Eagles, Patriots, Jets, Falcons, Chargers. (Last week: 10-4, Year-to-date: 56-20) ↵

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↵Top CFB Story line: "Who's No. 4?" The first BCS standings come out Sunday. Presuming that Florida, Alabama and Texas win, the big question will be which team sits directly behind them? ↵

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↵— The BCS projections actually put Virginia Tech at No. 3, ahead of Texas. That makes tomorrow's game at Georgia Tech even more interesting — it is also my Upset Special for the week. ↵

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↵— Meanwhile, Iowa is also unbeaten — and, for now, a favorite of the BCS computer rankings. The Hawkeyes travel to Wisconsin for a classic trap game in Madison. (If Iowa gets past Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes should be 10-0 rolling into Columbus on Nov. 14 for a huge game with Ohio State.) ↵

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↵USC at ND: Perhaps I was too harsh on UT-OU, because when it comes to overrated "big" games, nothing tops Notre Dame vs. USC. Charlie Weis is so out of his depth against the elite teams, let's hope the BCS bowls that would blindly give 9-win ND an at-large invite will take note. ↵

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↵Tebow Watch: Just because Tim Tebow has morphed into a Krenzel-style "game manager" doesn't mean he can't tee off on the soft Arkansas defense. (Speaking of D, Florida's can go a long way to affirming it is one of the best in a generation by shutting down the Hogs' slick O.) ↵

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↵No. 4? Why not Cincinnati? And not just because it made my first-ever sports-book bet a successful one. (-2.5? Yoink!) Cincy — a Top 5 team for me for weeks — earned a decisive win in a tough environment (and even despite star QB Tony Pike leaving the game with an arm injury) and has a clear path to going unbeaten. ↵

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↵CBB Midnight Madness: Tonight! One of the great traditions in sports. There is only one place to be this year: Lexington, Ky. — where the Wildcats will take the floor with a new coach, the most talented player in college hoops and championship-sized expectations. ↵

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↵NBA Preseason: Guess who else was in Vegas? The Lakers. (I was too busy toggling between Cincy-USF and the Phillies-Dodgers game to trek out to UNLV's arena to watch. But I'm sure it was appropriately glitzy.) ↵

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↵Injury Watch: Does LeBron have the swine flu? (For now, it's just the flu.) ↵

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↵More: Any predictions of the Wizards turning things around from last season were entirely dependent on the team's stars staying healthy -- as all Wiz fans know, that's never something to be taken for granted. Now, Antawn Jamison is out for the preseason with a shoulder injury. Precaution or foreshadowing? ↵

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↵SN NBA Countdown: No. 13 Jazz. Here's my thing about Utah — they might be a perennial playoff team, but they aren't a title contender. Is there ever a sense of progress with them? While they wait for the Lakers' reign to end, rising teams like the Blazers will pass them by. (Ironically, Utah beat Portland last night.) ↵

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↵Rush Watch, Cont'd: If it's true that it was Dave Checketts' idea to add Rush Limbaugh to be part of his would-be Rams ownership group, that makes Checketts as unacceptable of an NFL owner as Limbaugh would have been. Let's see if the Rush protesters pick up on that. ↵

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↵The Last Word: The flip side of the time difference in Vegas making my personal "wake-up call" so absurdly early? A 9 a.m. local kickoff for Oklahoma-Texas. Even if the game IS overrated — it's a treat to wake up, roll down from my hotel room to a comfy seat at the Wynn sports book and kick back for a morning of game-watching. It's a totally new rhythm from my usual noon-3:30-8 East Coast pattern. ↵

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↵My first-time-in-Vegas adventure ends tomorrow night, but I have had more than a good enough time to ensure that it won't take me nearly four decades to get back here. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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