Possibility of a USC-OU title game, Oregon's QB curse and more (cont.)
A couple of weeks ago, USC's venerable sports information director, Tim Tessalone, told me he had a "surprise" waiting for me at Saturday's game. My celeb-connected colleague Arash Markazi told me the same thing. It was all very cryptic. Around the same time, I had e-mailed Kaitlin to let her know I was coming to town. After initially expressing interest in meeting up at the game, she wrote back with her regrets that she had wedding-planning obligations that day.
It was all part of an elaborately planned ruse -- and it worked.
There I was, standing in the back of the Coliseum press box about an hour before kickoff, noshing on a hot dog (such a fitting stereotype for a sportswriter) when a very familiar face suddenly appeared before me and said, nonchalantly, "Hey Stewart." I've since been told by witnesses that the look on my face was "priceless." Adding to the surprise, her grinning fiancée/co-star/show creator Rob McElhenney appeared a second later. In my state of fluster, I embarrassingly called him by his character's name, "Mac," when he shook my hand.
Once the initial shock wore off, I had a very pleasant conversation with the two of them, while a series of bewildered and/or awestruck writers passed by. Every couple of minutes, someone would stop by to tell them how much they love the show. Kaitlin is ... there's no other word: awesome. What can I say? I'm 3-for-3. Talking to Rob was a bit intimidating. As Tim mentioned, Always Sunny is one of the most cleverly written TV shows in recent memory -- and he created it. I tried to pick their brains about the show as much as possible, but all they wanted to talk about was football. In fact, at that very moment, Kaitlin was vigorously checking her phone for updates on the Oregon-Purdue game.
Suffice to say, I'm happy to get the word out -- Season Four premiers Thursday night (10 p.m., FX) with back-to-back new episodes. Here are a few helpful primers for anyone who might be watching for the first time.
This article is the a great summation of what the show's all about. (Warning: There's some racy language in there. If it offends you ... umm, the show might not be for you.)
Finally, I had the opportunity to view advance copies of Thursday's episodes. The second one, "The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis," had me laughing harder than I have in a very long time. Enjoy.
After the way the Mountain West, the ACC, the Big East and even the Pac-10 and Big Ten have started out, is it time yet to evaluate which leagues are or are not deserving of BCS automatic bids? Or maybe will it at least be time to do that if the season continues as it is? What would have to happen for the Mountain West to get an automatic BCS bid? Or could that simply never happen?
It seems with the BCS, you learn something new every year -- and it just so happens that this past weekend in L.A., I found out about a complex, secret formula the BCS uses to determine this very thing. The most recent evaluation was based on a four-year period (2004-07) and consisted of the following three components:
Average BCS ranking of each conference's highest ranked team.
Average BCS ranking of each team in the conference.
Number of teams from each conference in the BCS top 25.
I'm not privy to the actual data, but if the Mountain West or any other league had finished ahead of the Big East (the most obvious suspect for demotion), it would have gained an automatic berth for this season and next (the last two of the current cycle). Obviously, that didn't happen, and based on the data we do have, you can see why. Over the past four years, the Big East champion's average ranking was 11.75, while the Mountain West's was 14.25. The Big East placed 10 teams in the Top 25, the Mountain West four.
That doesn't mean this couldn't change in the future. The way things are shaping up this season, it's conceivable the Mountain West could finish with two or three Top 25 teams to the Big East's one, and it's possible a BYU or Utah will finish higher than any Big East team. But again, the league would need to demonstrate this over a longer period of time. According to the BCS' media guide, "It is anticipated that before the spring of 2009, the conferences will devise standards for automatic conference qualifications for after the 2010 regular season." I take this to mean they will run another four-year evaluation at some point and, if anything changes, it will go into effect when the new contract begins in two years.
Stewart, Oregon apparently suffered another quarterback knee injury when Justin Roper went down on a read-option keeper in the first overtime vs. Purdue. Since 2005, five Oregon quarterbacks (Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon, Brady Leaf, Nate Costa [twice] and now Roper) have suffered season-ending knee or ankle injuries running the Duck's spread attack. Is Mike Bellotti snake-bitten or does he deserve serious scrutiny as these injuries are becoming disturbingly alarming? Thanks.
While it would be easy to blame it on Oregon's offense -- the assumption that your quarterback is more prone to injury if he runs the ball a lot -- most of the injuries could have happened in any offense. Clemens' came on a sack. Leaf turned his ankle on a non-contact play. Both of Costa's came while standing in the pocket. Dixon and Roper were the only ones in the midst of actual running plays.
When I spoke to offensive coordinator Chip Kelly a couple of weeks ago (this was after Roper's concussion but prior to his knee injury), he was as baffled as anyone. Personally, I think it's all some sort of karmic payback toward Phil Knight. Someone up there is punishing him for trying to buy himself a championship football program. If anyone has a more logical theory, by all means let me know.
I'm blaming the Oregon QB curse on you, Stewart. It all started during your visit to Autzen when Dennis Dixon partially tore his ACL vs. ASU. Since then four other Ducks QBs have gone down (Leaf, Kempt, Costa and Roper). Thanks a bunch.
I take it back -- no more theories, please.
In reference to your snarky 10-9 Notre Dame-Michigan prediction: It's 28-17 at the half right now. Great prediction, loser.
You knew it was coming, folks. Notre Dame is 2-0: Break out the trash-talking.
I apologize for underestimating the Irish. The 10-9 score was based on the assumption that ND wouldn't be able to crack 250 yards of offense against the Wolverines' defense. Had I known they'd make it all the way to 260 -- obviously, I would have picked something closer to 35-17.