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My College GameDay Picks Column For Tomorrow

Sports Editor Brad Carroll takes a look at the top college football games of the day
LAST WEEK: 0-0 (spread); 0-0 (overall); 0-0 (upset picks)
LAST SEASON: 52-53-1 (spread); 67-39 (overall); 7-13 (upset picks)

No. 3 Southern Cal at Virginia; 3:30 p.m.; ABC
The Skinny: What better way to kick off another year of GameDay than to dissect Southern California? USC has been the class of college football for the past 6 seasons, winning 11 or more games in each of those years. So here we go. USC must replace 10 starters that were drafted into the NFL, and return only 4 starters on offense. But there is good news: First, QB Mark Sanchez should be ready to play today, and second, the defense is awesome. The Pick: USC (-19.5) wins it 31-10.

No. 20 Illinois at No. 6 Missouri; 8:30 p.m.; ESPN
The Skinny: Missouri enters the season with its highest ranking ever and a whole lot of hype toward a possible national title run this year. QB Chase Daniel is back under center and is one of the early Heisman favorites. In fact, it was last season’s opener against Illinois that Daniel became a Heisman candidate, throwing for 359 yards and 3 TD’s in a 40-36 victory. Illinois had a surprising run last season after that loss and could make a quick name for itself with a win tonight. The Pick: Missouri (-9) wins it 45-31.

No. 24 Alabama at No. 9 Clemson; 8 p.m.; ABC
The Skinny: Here is a big reason to stay home Saturday night, as this game should be an early-season classic. Clemson has shown a knack for late-season collapses over the past decade after tremendous starts, but that actually plays into its favor tonight. Clemson returns the best passer in the ACC (Cullen Harper) and has one of the best defenses in the country. That will be too much for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. The Pick: Clemson (-4.5) wins it 38-28.

No. 17 Virginia Tech at East Carolina; 12 p.m.; ESPN
The Skinny: Virginia Tech had eight of its starting defensive players drafted by the NFL, a whopping amount that makes you wonder why the team didn’t challenge for a national championship. Maybe it was the offense, where coach Frank Beamer used a two quarterback system throughout. Well, that is over with, as Sean Glennon is the clear-cut starter. But the Hokies lost their top RB and top four WR’s from last year. They need to find its way on offense. The Pick: Virginia Tech (-9.5) wins it 28-12.

No. 18 Tennessee at UCLA; 8 p.m.; ESPN
The Skinny: Tennessee was a terrible 2-4 on the road last year, and that doesn’t bode well for the Vols heading into the Rose Bowl Monday night. Tennessee allowed opponents to average 39.5 points and 483.5 yards in road games, while only 18.3 points and 342.6 yards in its 7 home games. UCLA, on the other hand, has won 5 of its last 6 games at home against ranked opponents. Look for the Bruins and new coach Rick Neuheisel to start off with a win. The Pick: UCLA (+7.5) wins it 27-24.

Washington at No. 21 Oregon; 10 p.m.; FSN
The Skinny: Already heading into the season needing to replace QB Dennis Dixon and RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon got even more bad news when it learned starting passer Nate Costa would be lost for the season. Luckily, the team will be playing a very young squad in Washington in its season opener. With six returning starters on offense and a solid defense, the Ducks should be able to get by. Washington is playing for coach Tyrone Willingham, who is on the firing line. The Pick: Oregon (-13.5) wins it 31-10.

Bowling Green at No. 25 Pittsburgh; 12 p.m.; ESPNU
The Pick: Pittsburgh (-13) wins it 33-17.Have something to say about college football? E-mail Brad Carroll at bcarroll@bristolpress.com and you could appear in a future GameDay column. Brad's brother, Craig Carroll, is back to defend his championship from a year ago. He won the season-long battle by just one game. Here are his picks for the week: Southern Cal, Illinois, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Oregon, Pittsburgh.

Tomorrow's Insider Column On The Yankees ... Today

The pitching of Mike Mussina and hitting of Jason Giambi may have given the Yankees a season reprieve Thursday afternoon after a dramatic win over Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox, but it won’t mean a thing if the team can’t beat the Blue Jays tonight.
With the win over Boston, the Yankees are now six games in back of the wild card race with 29 to play. So, if the Bronx Bombers actually want to give themselves and their fans any hope going forward, they must win tonight against A.J. Burnett and Toronto at the Stadium.
After that, the wins must follow in bunches, but first things first.
"We have a pulse," Giambi said after going 2-for-2 with a HR and all three RBI against the Red Sox on Thursday. "Hopefully this will jump-start this ball club."
If the Yankees can’t get up the desire to go out tonight and hammer the Blue Jays after Giambi’s dramatic, pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the seventh inning, and game-winning single in the ninth, then they never will.
The team, which was lifeless in the first two games of the series against Boston, including an 11-3 blowout loss on Wednesday, finally came up with a big victory in intense circumstances.
If the Yankees lost on Thursday, the season would have been all but over. They would have been eight games out of the wild card, a deficit that would have been insurmountable.
Yes, one win doesn’t turn a season around, but the team desperately needed a spark, and this victory should be it.
Still, the only offense on the afternoon came from the bat of Derek Jeter (3-for-4), and the only runs came from a guy who entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter.
That has to change.
The struggles of Alex Rodriguez is troubling, and the boos keep getting louder and louder from the Stadium crowd. A-Rod struck out three times and popped out with runners on first and third with one out in the sixth inning on Thursday. He was also 0-for-5 on Tuesday night. But his struggles have only mirrored the entire team’s play this season.
"We’ve been stale," Giambi said. "We haven’t been able to get the big hit. We haven’t been able to make a big pitch. Hopefully this turns it around."
If it doesn’t, the Yankees season is over and the postseason streak that began in 1993 ends with it.
The season may have been saved with the victory against Boston, but tonight is the real test for the franchise. Win and postseason hope is alive; lose and it will be time to start thinking of 2009.
The Yankees need a big-time effort from their offense, something that has been missing for the greater part of the season. It’s time for the bats to wake up — and it’s time for the team to wake up.
It must start tonight.
Brad Carroll is the Sports Editor of The Bristol Press.

Yankees Season Is Over

I just wanted to say this before the game ends between the Yankees and Red Sox Wednesday night, and I'll make it short and sweet because I have pages to finish here at The Press - the Yankees are officially done. It's over. Forget the postseason, the Yankees are cooked. This team of "stars" was completely lifeless and had no fight in it at all the past two games. Those two games were a joke and the players should be ashamed that they didn't even show up to play. August 27 ... the death of the Yankees. It's a sad, sad day in the Bronx.

Breaking: Strahan To Stay Retired

Michael Strahan is going to stay retired, spurning what could have been an $8 million offer to play one season for the Giants this year. "This has been one of the toughest nights of my life," Strahan told FoxSports.com today. "But after long deliberation and throwing around a million scenarios in my head for the past day, I think it’s just best if I stay retired."

Monday Afternoon GameDay

We're back for the Week 2 installment of Monday Afternoon GameDay and there is one big story that will have a major impact on the entire NFC - Osi Umenyiora's season-ending injury for the New York Giants. While that absolutely kills the vaunted Giants defensive line, it may not be a completely lost cause. The retired Michael Strahan could be on his way back to Big Blue. According to a story in today's NY Daily News, Strahan wouldn't rule out a return to the Giants, but the price tag would be huge - $8 million. But with the season in the balance, that shouldn't be a deterrent for bringing back one of the all-time sack kings. Meanwhile, Giants coach Tom Couglin says that Mathias Kiwanuka will move back to defensive end to take over for Umenyiora. But that was a necessary move for the team today, and won't stop the Giants from bringing Strahan back for one more season. If Strahan had any thoughts about returning to the game, then he will sign with the Giants as soon as he gets back from a vacation in Greece. Training camp is over, the preseason is almost over, which means he wouldn't have to go through the grueling two-and-a-days or repetitive practices in the heat of summer. He would only have to practice a couple times a week and play in the games. What could be better than that for a veteran? If Strahan doesn't come back, then you know he really doesn't miss the game and is ready to begin his new career as part of FOX's NFL coverage.

K-ROD THE BEST CLOSER?
Even though Francisco Rodriguez recorded his 50th save on Sunday, a great feat, I would still put him third on a list of the top closers in the game. Mariano Rivera of the Yankees is No. 1 and Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox is No. 2. But the top paid closer of them all following this season will probably be K-Rod. He is a free agent after the season and could be in line for a major deal from either the Angels or another team when he hits the market. It may not be right that he gets more cash than Rivera, but that's the way the free agent market is set up, so good for him. He'll get in the range of $15 million a year and it'll most likely be from the Angels.

THE RIVALRY CONTINUED
The Red Sox come into the Bronx Tuesday night for the start of a three-game series with the Yankees that could go a long way toward determining the AL wild card race. The Red Sox could put the first nail in the coffin of the Yankees by winning two of three, and could end the Yankees season with a sweep. Boston holds a five-game lead over the Yankees in the wild card race (and one game over the Twins). Winning two of three would put them six games ahead of the Yankees and a sweep would give them an eight-game cushion. There is little chance the Yankees could overcome either of those leads. That is why it is paramount that the Yankees take at least two of three this week. That would put New York within four games with about five weeks left in the season. A sweep would put them within two games and you would have to give the Yankees the edge in finishing out the season. So this mid-week series is as big as it gets. The Rays, by the way, aren't going anywhere. They have a 4.5-game lead over the Red Sox and 9.5 over the Yankees. Again, if the Red Sox take care of business against the Yankees they will have a shot at the AL East. If not, the Rays could take complete control of the division. How crazy is that?

FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT TIME
If you haven't already had your fantasy football draft, and mine are coming up this week, here is a quick glance at my Top 24 rankings (which should take you through the first two rounds of your draft). The top three are a given, and congrats if you got one of those picks, but after that things get a little dicey.
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers. 2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings. 3. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles. 4. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. 5. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. 6. Joseph Addai, RB, Colts. 7. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. 8. Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys. 9. Randy Moss, WR, Patriots. 10. Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs. 11. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins. 12. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. 13. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. 14. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills. 15. Terrell Owens, WR, Cowboys. 16. Ryan Grant, RB, Packers. 17. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans. 18. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. 19. Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots. 20. Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns. 21. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys. 22. Drew Brees, QB, Saints. 23. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. 24. Reggie Bush, RB, Saints.

Giants DE Osi Umenyiora Out For Season

A report in the New York Daily News says that Giants star defensive end Osi Umenyiora will miss the season after getting injured during last night's game against the Jets. He has serious ligament damage in his left knee and the recovery time is 3-4 months. This is unbelievably horrible news for the Giants, as they already lost defensive end Michael Strahan to retirement. That vaunted defensive front, which basically won the Super Bowl last year with the job they did against the Patriots, is a shadow of its former self now. With Justin Tuck and Umenyiora, the team was in good shape without Strahan, but now it is a definite weakness. No doubt the team will be scouting the waiver wire in the coming days, and might look for a trade to shore up the line. The Giants might even give Strahan a call to see if he would want come out of retirement. It's possible, as he wouldn't have to go through training camp, and would just have to practice a couple times a week and play in the games. That would be a good deal for Strahan. But he has his TV job now and might be content to just talk about games instead of playing them. Either way, this is no way to start a title defense.

Hideki Irabu Arrested After Drinking 20 Mugs Of Beer

Anybody remember the name Hideki Irabu? The former Yankee pitcher, who created a huge stir when he signed with the New York Yankees in 1997, was back in the news today after getting arrested Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a bartender after drinking - get this - 20 mugs of beer.

According to the Associated Press story, Irabu, now 39, became angered after his credit card was rejected. He then allegedly pushed the bartender against the wall, pulled his hair and smashed at least nine liquor bottles at a bar in Osaka, western Japan, a police official said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy. Irabu ended up paying the bill with another credit card.

Irabu's debut against the Tigers in '97 was such a big deal that I rushed to get tickets and so did everyone else, as the place was packed ... something that wasn't as common as it is now. He pitched great that night, striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings if my memory is correct. After that performance, I was a fan for life, even though he didn't stick around too much longer.

He had a career record of 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA with the Yankees, Rangers and Expos. He retired in 2005.

Convicted Pedophile Must Give Back Award

Proving that there is still some semblance of right and wrong in this world, the Torrington Board of Baseball Umpires decided to take back its service award that was recently given to longtime umpire Tom Barbero, who just happens to be a convicted pedophile. The original story, reported in The Register Citizen, made it to the front page of the CBS Sports website. It took a while, but the board finally realized they made a horrible mistake and are now asking Barbero to give back the award.

According to The Register Citizen story, in June 2000, Barbero was convicted of second-degree sexual assault with a victim between the ages of 13 and 15 years old and two counts of risk of injury to a minor. He was sentenced to serve four years of a 10-year sentence and ordered to serve 35 years probation, according to court records.

His umpiring career ended there. It took the board of umpires a little longer to realize what a tremendous mistake they made, but I guess it's better late than never. It should have never happened in the first place, but at least they came to their senses.

Monday Afternoon GameDay

Every Monday afternoon I'll take a quick look at the events that happened over the weekend right here. Mostly, it will focus around the football weekend (both college and the NFL), so with the games and fantasy leagues, I'm sure there will be a lot of interesting stuff to say. Make sure you check in every Monday and feel free to share your NFL or fantasy league stories in the comments. I know everybody has fantasy horror stories, and a few improbable victory tales, so share them all. For all you gamblers out there, feel free to post those same horror and improbable victory stories as well. Of course, we here at GameDay do not endorse gambling ... wink, wink.

As for today, we'll kick off Monday Afternoon GameDay with a few ramblings from the world of sports and entertainment.

FAVRE OVERLOAD
I love the Brett Favre acquisition by the Jets, and after his debut Saturday night, how could any Jet fan not? He did everything the Jets couldn't do last year: he threw darts and he threw a touchdown pass in the red zone, to rookie Dustin Keller. It was an electric atmosphere with only half the stadium filled. The home opener against the Patriots will be insane. I was at last year's home opener against the Patriots in the CBS luxury box and the crowd was as loud as I've ever heard it. But that will be nothing compared to this year's game. So, needless to say, I'm excited as one could be for that game (and I haven't even mentioned the season-opener against Chad Pennington and the Dolphins).
But there is one thing that is out of control when it comes to Brett Favre being in New York - and that's television. And I'm not talking about ESPN or any other sports network's coverage of Favre and the Jets. I'm happy for all the coverage they get. What's killing me is the commercials. Those Wrangler jeans ads featuring Favre are on seemingly 24 hours a day and they're driving me crazy. But if that was all, then I could live with it. But things have gone overboard with HBO showing, over multiple days, "There's Something About Mary." That movie, of course, features Brett Fah-vra. Is it just me, or is that just taking this thing a little too far? It's something we'll have to live with here in the tri-state area. But I'll gladly trade that for a playoff appearance this year.

SUPER GIANTS?
Anybody remember the other New York football team? Eli and company are playing tonight against the Browns on ESPN. Something tells me the crowd won't be as juiced as the Jets' crowd the other night. The Giants won the Super Bowl, right?

JETS SAYING GOODBYE TO HOFSTRA
Read a great story in the NY Daily News yesterday about the Jets' history at Hofstra University, where the team is leaving for New Jersey sometime very soon. (The team hasn't said when). Growing up about 10 minutes away, I've got a ton of stories of days spent at summer practice. Before me and my brothers realized the team was staying at the freshmen dorm across the street, making for easier access for getting autographs, we would jump a fence in back of the Jets' complex and sneak into practice. We would watch practice, hang out in Weeb Ewbank Hall, look at the Vince Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl III, and, yes, stalk players for autographs. Hopping the fence was no easy task and some just couldn't do it. One day, I made the leap and my brothers decided they wouldn't do it, so I went in by myself. I went into Weeb Ewbank Hall and who's standing in front of me - Joe Willie Namath. Needless to say it was a great moment, and he was a really nice guy for the short time I was around him. He signed my Jets' hat, which I still have. Soon after, I left practice, through the front gate, and told my brothers that I had met and gotten Namath's autograph. Of course, they were pissed, and rushed to the back fence to get in. But it was too late, and I got a story to hold over them forever.
I haven't been to Hofstra in years ... I think the last time I was there was for Bill Parcells' introductory news conference as the new Jets head coach. Then, I was there as part of the media. Crazy how quickly things change.
But the Jets moving from Hempstead is a sad, sad day for the franchise. The Jets were always a Long Island team and they obviously had roots in the community. Even though they played in New Jersey, Jet fans could always say that they were based in New York. That is gone now. The team is moving to a state-of-the-art facility in Jersey. Simply, it's just not right. Sure, I haven't been back in a long, long time ... but it was nice knowing the Jets were still a New York team. It'll be harder to say that now.

Jets Trading For Brett Favre Is A Great Move For The Franchise

Some how, some way, the New York Jets jumped to the head of the class in the National Football League late Wednesday night and into Thursday. No, they’re not the best or most talented team, but for the first time in their troubled history, the Jets are the talk of the town.

They own New York. They own the NFL. Feel free to chant loudly: J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!

It’s ok, Jet fans, this is your time, too.

Brett Favre, the legend of Green Bay, is now the starting quarterback of the New York Jets. This team, known more for historic incompletions, just connected on a Hail Mary bomb for a touchdown a month before the regular season starts.
And when Brett Favre boarded a plane in Mississippi with a Jets hat on, it all became real. Second-class citizens no more. The mood has changed — it’s all about Brett Favre and the Jets now.

Favre, Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum were all smiles at the quarterback’s introduction news conference in Cleveland Thursday night, where the Jets played the Browns.

How could they not be?

Overnight the team became an instant contender for the playoffs and a bona fide threat to the Patriots’ long dominance in the AFC East.

"I’m here for one reason," Favre said at the news conference. "Not to do commercials, Broadway, all those things. I’m here to help the Jets win."

And that already started on the Jets’ sideline last night, as he was talking with fellow quarterback Kellen Clemens during the game. No luxury box seat for him; he was on the sideline with his new teammates.

The way the trade came about, however, was just as a dramatic as Favre holding up his Jets No. 4 jersey for the first time last night. After weeks of speculation and trade talk, the Jets were always the odd team out. Everyone gave them absolutely no shot at pulling off the trade. The Buccaneers or the Vikings or anybody else would be the one to win this sweepstakes.

It couldn’t be the Jets. They don’t win these kinds of things. They haven’t won a big game since Joe Namath pointed his index finger high in the air after winning Super Bowl III. They’ve come close since, but that’s all.

More often than not, the team and their fans are left cursing the football Gods and find themselves looking ahead to the following year every December. January, if they’re lucky.

Minutes before midnight on Wednesday, that all changed. Brett Favre was the quarterback of the New York Jets.

"The last 24 hours have been crazy," Favre said.

The ride has been just as crazy for the fans as it’s been for Favre. The Jets have the most dedicated fan base in the nation. They sellout every single game, despite the fact the team is known more for losing than anything else.

So, finally, this is for them.

Favre acknowledged that playing in New York will be different. "To a certain degree, I don’t know what I’m getting into," he said.

But if he wins, Favre will be as big as Joe Namath was back in the day. No doubt he’s already ahead of the other quarterback in New York — Eli Manning.

The best part is that Favre has all the tools to succeed here.

The Jets went out and signed Alan Faneca and Damien Woody to revamp the offensive line in the offseason. The team has Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles to lead the receiving core and a solid running back tandem in Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Pair that with Favre’s arm, and the offense should score a ton of points this season.

The defense is wildly improved from last year as well, making the combination a lethal threat in the AFC, even with the Patriots, Chargers and Colts ruling the roost.

Favre holds league records in career yards (61,655), touchdowns (442), wins (160) and has started 275 consecutive games. Last year he passed for 4,155 yards and had 28 TDs with 15 interceptions.

The numbers, the arm, the name ... it’s all coming to the Jets.

They finally have the big name to lead the franchise. They have their iconic presence.

They have Brett Favre.