Shanoff's WUC: Kiffin, Zito, Dice-K, Barkley

Today's Calls: Lane Kiffin vs. Urban Meyer, Barry Zito vs. Dice-K, Yankees vs. Jays, Matt Barkley vs. Aaron Corp, LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Darren Sproles, Michael Crabtree vs. the 49ers and More. ↵

↵Lane KiffinThe Opening Pitch: Lane Kiffin is smart. ↵

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↵He was smart in December when he taunted the Gators when he first got to Tennessee; he had to generate buzz for the program. (OK, maybe he wasn't so smart to accuse Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation.) ↵

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↵And he was smart yesterday to talk up the Gators' D: "I look at their defense, look at their 11 starters, and you have 11 NFL players. They're maybe the most talented defense ever to play." ↵

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↵What Kiffin is doing brilliantly is managing expectations. ↵

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↵Everyone already expects the Vols to get trounced. But is all the hype for an epic beat-down TOO much hype? Short of a 70-0 obliteration, any other result will feel like the Vols did better than expected. ↵

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↵Vols get shut out? But it was the best defense of all time! ↵
↵Vols allow "only" 40 or 50? But Tebow is the best QB of all time! ↵

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↵If Urban Meyer punishes Kiffin — say, with a humiliating late time-out like he used against Georgia last year — Meyer looks petty and vindictive, not like a champion. ↵

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↵But if — Jedi-mind-tricked — he doesn't, then Kiffin keeps it closer than expected, which is really all that matters. ↵

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↵Kiffin knows he has no chance to win. But he can still claim moral victory. ↵

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↵MLB: Doesn't it sort of feel like MLB has faded away? The NFL is back. College football is already in midseason form. And the MLB playoff race is one of the least dramatic in recent memory. ↵

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↵Three results last night shook that up: ↵

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↵— Giants beat Rockies, head to head: This is SF's final H2H series with the NL's wild-card leader, and they have taken the first two games of the series, to close the gap to 2.5 games. Still feels out of reach, but with a win tonight ...? ↵

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↵— Dice-K is back, and he even helped beat the Angels — Boston's potential ALDS opponent. (The AL wild-card race is essentially over. Sorry, Rangers fans.) Dice-K's return — and a quality return — feels like a surprise September trade for a quality starter. ↵

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↵— Yankees lack focus: If the AL's best can get drawn into a petty brawl with a non-contender like the Jays, they aren't keeping their eyes on the only thing that matters — winning the World Series. Acting like champs? Not yet. Good news for the Angels, Tigers and Red Sox. ↵

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↵NFL Injury Watch: LaDainian Tomlinson's gimpy ankle may keep him out of the Week 2 match-up with the Ravens — at the very least it will limit his effectiveness, much as it did Monday night. To those of you who handcuffed with Darren Sproles (or just drafted him outright, even if you didn't have LT on your roster, I salute you.) ↵

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↵Fantasy Watch: "WHICH RB DO I USE?!?!?" That is the trend that — as anticipated — has instantly confounded fantasy owners this year. Draft Ray Rice? McClain and McGahee get the TD touches. Draft Darren McFadden? Michael Bush gets the TD. ↵

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↵No team reflects the NFL's new fantasy era of "WHICH RB?!?!?!" than the Saints. Maybe you drafted Pierre Thomas. Maybe you drafted Reggie Bush. Then along comes Mike Bell. Of course, then Drew Brees THROWS for 6 TDs. (Personal gripe: And not ONE to Lance Moore.) ↵

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↵Mike Vick Watch: One step closer to making a return to a regular-season game. One week away. ↵

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↵NFL Must-Read: Mike Tunison's latest Designated Rush. ↵

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↵Crabtree Holdout: By leaking that they have reached out to Michael Crabtree, the 49ers have nearly shut the door on any remaining P.R. room that he has. The team looks like they're trying; Crabtree (still) looks like the jerk. They might ultimately lose him, but they won't lose their fans in the process. ↵

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↵Goats: Leodis McKelvin had his front lawn vandalized after he muffed that kickoff late that cost the Bills the win over the Patriots in Foxboro. What is this: European or South American soccer? The American way would be to SUE him for the mistake. ↵

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↵CFB: Is Matt Barkley going to miss USC's game at Washington with that injured shoulder? Maybe. If Aaron Corp fills in and plays well, will the Trojans have a minor QB controversy on their hands? ↵

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↵Fun with Rankings: Pitt is No. 1. At least in the Colley Matrix (and people said I was crazy for ranking BYU No. 1 last week). I actually like the computer rankings as a check on the human pollsters (who do dumb things like rank Oklahoma State ahead of Houston), but I would like to see more transparency from the quant jocks. ↵

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↵CBB Must-Read: Mike DeCourcy on key "glue" players who won't get the star's headlines, but will have a lot to do with their teams reaching their potential. Intriguing to see a highly-touted freshman at the top. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "This team is going to be gone in a year." ↵
↵— Coyotes "owner" Jerry Moyes, on the state of the "team" Is there a more dysfunctional ownership-city relationship in team sports? ↵

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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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