Shanoff's WUC: Cowboys, 8-0, TCU, UNC-Isiah

Today's Calls: Cowboys vs. Giants, Wildcat vs. Brady-to-Moss, Vince Young vs. Josh Freeman, TCU vs. Texas, Jordan Shipley vs. Colt McCoy, Kentucky vs. the Field, UNC vs. Isiah and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Lot of talk this morning about "teams to beat." ↵

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↵Like the Cowboys as the new team-to-beat in the NFC East. ↵

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↵Although that doesn't make them the team to beat in the NFC, which remains the Saints. And it's not even clear the Saints are the team to beat in the NFL -- that should be the Colts... or do we all dismiss the Pats as team-to-beat at our own risk? ↵

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↵College football has a clearer picture of T.T.B., the same as it has been since August: Texas and the winner of Alabama-Florida. (But it's worth pointing out that TCU and Cincinnati are at least making it interesting, even if Iowa isn't anymore.) ↵

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↵College hoops tips off today, and last season's team-to-beat -- UNC -- tips off in a laugher against Isiah's FIU, but remains a Final Four favorite. Still: Kansas and Kentucky are clearly the teams to beat this season. ↵

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↵"Team to beat" is a neat organizing principle: It sets expectations -- who should win is all fine and good, but things only get really fun when the team to beat gets ... beat. ↵

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↵Just ask Eagles fans. Weren't they the NFC East's team to beat last week? ↵

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↵NFL Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Last night's win was Dallas' best in recent memory -- and all of the things that the Cowboys weren't supposed to be anymore: Tough, resilient, focused. ↵

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↵• Time to panic for Giants fans? If you want to make the playoffs, not really (although you might be tempted). But if you harbor any lingering early-season aspirations of competing for a Super Bowl title? Absolutely. ↵

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↵• Unbeatens roll on: Give the Colts credit for the "better" win (if barely a win), but the Saints get the best-start-in-franchise-history mojo. ↵

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↵• My go-to formation beats your go-to formation: Brady-to-Moss > Wildcat. Although I'm sure that, intellectually, Bill Belichick still loves the Wildcat as a concept and can't wait to deploy it next year with, say, Tim Tebow. ↵

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↵• By the way: Apparently, the Pistol is the new Wildcat. (At least based on the way Pat White found success with it.) ↵

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↵• Prove-It (Again) Result of the Day: Bengals over Ravens. Everyone keeps doubting Cincy -- they just keep winning (and beating good teams while doing it). ↵

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↵• Line of the Day: "I didn't know it was him." (Michael Turner on DeAngelo Hall, but a pretty good proxy for the way he ran past all of the Redskins, not just mouthy former Falcons.) ↵

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↵• Just-when-you-thought-you-understood-the-NFL moment: Coming off last week's home loss to the Panthers, the Cards destroy the Bears in Chicago in November. But totally expected? Anquan Boldin griping about... whatever. ↵

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↵• Vick Watch: Was Tony Dungy floating trial balloons, mentioning Buffalo as a good fit for Vick? After the fizzle with T.O. this season, not sure if Bills fans have an appetite anymore for high-profile projects. ↵

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↵• Titanfreude: Dare I say that they are... respectable? (I mean: They have more momentum than the Giants -- does that mean anything?) ↵

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↵• What makes the Lions so fun is that just when you think there can't be any further novelty in the way they are losing, they deliver. ↵

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↵• Injury Watch: Clinton Portis (concussion) ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: QB Josh Freeman (205 yds, 3 TDs) Anyone smartly start him? Anyone? (Besides the Bucs, I mean.) By the way, I think the Bucs should go back to the orange jerseys, which looked incredible. And, let's be honest: They won in them. Shouldn't that be enough? ↵

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↵CFB Weekend Hangover: A win is a win. Florida, Alabama and Cincinnati fans would agree. Iowa, Oregon and Penn State fans would agree. Only TCU fans might holler: "Hey, we're destroying people! Shouldn't that count for something?" (It does: No. 4 in the BCS and status as "this year's Utah." Coincidentally, TCU-Utah is the Game of the Week next week, and a win there would only bolster TCU's schedule strength.) ↵

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↵Heisman Watch: By the end of the afternoon, I was ready to add Texas WR Jordan Shipley to the Heisman mix ... by the end of the night, I was ready to do the same thing for Cincinnati (backup!) QB Zach Collaros. Throw Stanford RB Toby Gerhart in there, for good measure. He deserves consideration, too. ↵

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↵SEC Officiating Debacle, Cont'd: I understand refs on the field missing a call -- that's part of the game ... and why it's so great to have repl... -- What? You mean the SEC replay officiating is incompetent, too? Seriously: How can you screw up on REPLAY. How does everyone in America, watching on CBS, see that call the correct way -- but the guy in the booth does not? Given how important it was, I cannot believe that guy still deserves to keep his job. ↵

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↵Schadenfreude: Charlie Weis. We already knew Weis can't beat the really good teams. Now, he can't even beat the merely good. Every week Weis is still Notre Dame's head coach is another week to set the program back. (Irish fans know that the rest of us can gloat now, knowing that we are trembling on the inside at the thought of Brian Kelly at the helm.) ↵

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↵Jahvid Best Update: Given that Best suffered a mild concussion a week ago, it is worth asking what Cal coach Jeff Tedford and the Cal medical staff were thinking letting him back on the field on Saturday, undoubtedly making the latest concussion he suffered even worse. ↵

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↵BlogPoll Top 25 Ballot Top 10: (1) Florida, (2) Texas, (3) TCU, (4) Cincinnati, (5) Alabama, (6) Boise State, (7) Georgia Tech, (8) Utah, (9) Arizona, (10) LSU. (See the entire ballot here.) ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points ↵

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↵• Team to beat? Still the Lakers ↵

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↵• Depth issues catching up to Magic ↵

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↵• New ROY leader: Tyreke Evans ↵

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↵• Wiz season quickly getting away from them ↵

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↵SN CBB Countdown: No. 2 Kentucky. You all know how I feel about this team -- I think not only are they locks for the Final Four, but this team wins the championship, with the best freshman to hit college hoops since Carmelo in 2002. (He had 27 in his exhibition debut Friday.) ↵

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↵College Hoops: Starts tonight! UNC, Cal, Ohio State and Syracuse in action tonight -- headlined by the absolute schadenfreude-fest that should be Isiah Thomas's Florida International versus the defending champs. ↵

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↵Must-Read: Mike DeCourcy sums up the big story lines for the season. He's missing THE biggest story of the season -- I'll have that in my own college hoops season preview, coming later this week. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: How would Ken Griffey's interest in playing one more season with the Mariners mess up the presumption that the Mariners will be going after Hideki Matsui to be their new DH? ↵

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↵Management: Mike Holmgren to run the Browns? Did folks not learn anything from Holmgren's last turn as an exec in Seattle? He's not particularly good at it. As a coach? Great. As the guy managing your franchise? Not so much. ↵

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↵Uniform Watch: I love that Joe Girardi wants to change his number from 27 to 28. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "Let's say we kick the field goal. There's still a 50-50 chance to lose. Plus, now you're going first (on offense in the second OT). For me, that was an easy decision. You've got to get a half-yard. If you get a half-yard, you've got a chance to win the game. I thought our chances to get a half-yard were better than 50-50." -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, on the call of the weekend in sports, which carried Georgia Tech over Wake Forest in OT. Risk-averse coaches should understand that going for it was less risky than "playing it safe." ↵

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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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