Shanoff's WUC: Kelly, Heisman, NFL Week 14

Today's Calls: Brian Kelly vs. Lou Holtz, Steelers vs. Oblivion, Giants vs. Eagles, Mark Ingram vs. Ndamukong Suh, Colt McCoy vs. Trophy Cases, John Wall vs. Carmelo Anthony, Jason Bay vs. Citi Field, T-Mac vs. Steve Nash and More. ↵

↵Brian KellyThe Opening Pitch: Wake up the echoes? Better: Notre Dame fans can wake up from their nightmare. ↵

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↵The years of being a punchline — the laughingstock of college football, a national schadenfreude — are over. Hope the haters (and I include myself in that group) have enjoyed it, because with Brian Kelly, it's back to glory for Notre Dame. ↵

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↵I'm not saying he will have ND back in a BCS-level bowl next season — his first — but given the way Kelly took Mark D'Antonio's recruits at Cincinnati — a solid 7-5 team in '06 — and turned them into a nine-win team in '07, Kelly's first year, I feel comfortable saying he can take Charlie Weis' recruits and do better immediately. ↵

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↵But then wait for Kelly's system to kick in: After his initial nine-win season, Kelly has put Cincy in BCS-level bowls in back-to-back years. And Notre Dame has arguably an easier path to the BCS — not the national title game, but an at-large bid — than any conference champ. ↵

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↵All they have to do is finish in the Top 14 to be BCS at-large eligible. With a 10-2 season, that's a lock; with a 9-3 season, it's nearly a lock. (Consider that two teams with three losses — Virginia Tech and LSU — finished in the Top 12 and three other 3-loss teams finished 15-17. And ND would undoubtedly benefit from an annually inflated ranking from the human pollsters, too.) ↵

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↵Perennial BCS bowl placement is the goal, and it won't surprise me if Kelly gets ND into a national title game once in the next five years. But more immediately, Notre Dame fans — to the glumness of the rest of us — have something way more important, that they have been missing for years: Reason to cheer. ↵

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↵TNF: Steelers’ season over. The defending champs were already on the ropes, with that four-game losing streak and .500 record. But the loss to the pathetic Browns is, literally and symbolically, the end of the reign. What an embarrassing title defense. ↵

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↵I'm not going to say that this single loss represents the entire argument, but it puts an exclamation point on it: This season eliminates the Steelers from the "Best NFL Team of the Decade" discussion. ↵

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↵NFL Week 14 Story lines: With the Packers' softer remaining schedule, the three-team scrum at the top of the NFC East means that of the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants, one of those teams won't make the playoffs. That makes the Eagles-Giants primetime game about as close to a playoff intensity as you get in Week 14. (And both teams will undoubtedly be eyeing the scoreboard to see how the Cowboys did in their late-afternoon game against the Chargers.) ↵

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↵More: ↵
↵— Broncos more motivated than Colts? ↵
↵— Pats in must-win vs. Panthers? ↵
↵— Quasi-playoff: Is Fins-Jags must-win, too? ↵
↵— Unbeaten Watch: Saints at Falcons ↵
↵— Fantasy playoffs: Well, for some of you. ↵

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↵NFL Week 14 Picks: Saints, Jets, Jags, Ravens, Texans, Colts, Chiefs, Vikings, Pats, Raiders, Titans, Chargers, Eagles, Cardinals. (Last week: 10-6, year-to-date: 135-58.) ↵

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↵Heisman Watch: StiffarmTrophy.com still projects Mark Ingram as Saturday night's winner. Kudos to Ndamukong Suh, who could potentially receive more first-place votes than any other contender — no small feat for a defensive player, let alone a lineman. ↵

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↵CFB Awards Season: Colt McCoy cleans up. McCoy won the Maxwell (Best All-Around), the Walter Camp (Most Outstanding) and the O'Brien (Best QB), making him the big winner at last night's end-of-season awards. It's not a bad consolation prize for not winning the Heisman (although when the Maxwell voters start making the Heisman voters look progressive, it's time for the Maxwell to reconsider its voting criteria). ↵

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↵In the night's most intriguing race, Toby Gerhart beat out Mark Ingram for the Doak Walker, for the nation's top RB. It's fascinating that Ingram is likely to win the Heisman, but he can't win the top award for his own position (or an all-around award, like the Maxwell). ↵

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↵CBB Mania: Syracuse notched another quality win, over Florida (which didn't lose nearly as badly as I thought they would, which is sort of a moral victory of its own). Meanwhile: This weekend's best games: Georgetown-Washington and Butler-Ohio State (w/o Evan Turner). ↵

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↵John Wall Watch: Is Wall the best freshman ever? That's a heady claim, given that in the past four seasons, we've seen two of the best freshmen ever, in successive seasons (Kevin Durant in 2006-07 and Mike Beasley in '07-08). And this decade did include the best freshman ever — Carmelo Anthony, who I would argue is certainly the college basketball player of the decade. ↵

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↵But, after nine games, Mike DeCourcy thinks Wall might be the best frosh ever. (Finally: Something that Mike and I can agree on! And I love Mike's ultimate point: Until Wall wins a title, he's no Carmelo.) ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Jason Bay to the Mets? The desperate Mets have put a 4Y/$65M offer on the table, and given the Angels' interest in Bay has cooled, he just might take it. (The Mets also reportedly offered C Bengie Molina, who would be an upgrade but who is also 35 years old.) What the Mets really need to focus on doing is moving the outfield walls closer in at Citi Field so that David Wright goes back to being David Wright. ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: I'm a die-hard populist about fan voting — for just about anything — but outliers like Tracy McGrady currently in 2nd place for the NBA All-Star votes among West guards always cause trouble, triggering typical "See?! The fans are idiots!" talk from elitist pundits. My prediction is now that fans know where T-Mac stands, the rest of the fans will rally to correct things. (Early voting results always cause freak-outs among pundits: Remember when Manny was contending to start in the MLB All-Star Game?) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Anyone still talking about the BCS? No? That was my point on Monday. For all the griping, fans quickly move on. (Dan Levy weighs in with his playoff proposal: 12 teams, the 11 conference champs and the FCS champ. ↵

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↵I have two problems with his plan: (1) With no at-large bids, it inflates winning a weak conference (consider 2008: any playoff system that didn't include Texas — which Levy's wouldn't — would be a fail), and (2) he picked 12 rather than 16 — which would allow for at-large bids — not because he doesn't like 16, but because a 17th game of the season for the two finalists didn't feel right.) ↵

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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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