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Great, Old School Video Of Jets' Constant Bungling Of The Draft

With the Super Bowl tomorrow, I thought I'd share this video of a team that is always focusing on something else at this time of year - the NFL Draft - and obviously doing their best.

Red Sox Set To Bring Back Catcher Jason Varitek For $5 Million

ItalicI'm not sure why, but apparently the Red Sox are closing in on a two-year deal with catcher Jason Varitek. Boston has just backup catcher Josh Bard on the roster, but you had to think anything would have been an upgrade over Varitek, who has become an automatic out. You have to ask yourself if his leadership is worth that price and the Red Sox obviously believe it is. The Sox were offering a one-year deal worth just $5 million with a player option for the second so it's not a huge monetary comittment. Varitek (AP photo, top) batted .220 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI and pulled in $11 million last season. In the playoffs, he batted .118 with nine strikeouts in 34 at bats. He had an on base percentage of .189 and a slugging percentage of .206.

First & Goal Column: Voter Fraud In The Poll? Say It Ain't So

I guess it’s only fitting that this space turned something so innocent into a lighting rod of controversy this past week. After all, my goal was to get people talking about sports in our community in one place. I didn’t, however, expect such craziness from a poll question about the boys basketball season.

The poll started out well, picking up a good amount of votes in its opening day.

But all hell soon broke loose and we had ourselves a wild couple of days that had me writing and uttering the phrases “voter fraud” and “IP addresses” as easily as wins, losses, points and rebounds.

Nevertheless, I tried my best to keep the poll as honest as possible, as we didn’t want to get anywhere near the Nomar Garciaparra controversy of 1999 or the NHL All-Star game voting this year.

Fans around here should remember the Garciaparra episode fairly well. Red Sox fan Chris Nandor, after seeing that Garciaparra was trailing Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in the AL voting, voted 25,000 times using a computer program. Major League Baseball, however, did manage to figure out what Nandor was up to and disallowed the votes.

Of course, something similar just had to happen in our sports-crazed towns, right?

Votes in our First & Goal poll had to be discounted twice — once because a spammer was up to 100 picks in a manner of minutes for one player, and later from a private business that did the same (in lesser numbers) for another player.

However, when all was said and done — and believe me, I let out a huge sigh of relief because trying to keep everything legit was downright exhausting — we were finally able to crown a true winner.

So, the people have spoken and the player they would select No. 1 overall in an all-town, all-player draft is Bristol Eastern’s Cody Bayne.

And while there were votes spread out among several finalists, I don’t think anyone could argue with Bayne’s selection.

The Eastern scoring machine pulled in 34 percent of the vote. Bristol Central’s Jake Hasler was second with 32 percent. St. Paul’s Ryan Moore and Damon Alston joined Terryville’s Mike Garrow in rounding out the top five vote-getters.

Bayne, for many, was the easy choice. He is the leading scorer in the CCC South at 21.7 points per game. He also, not surprisingly, leads all local scorers in points per game. Jason Pranulis, of Terryville, is second at 20.1.

In the heat of the voting controversy, and with a showdown with Central on tap Friday night, Bayne had a game to remember. There, he picked up 25 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had two blocked shots and dished out three assists in the Lancers’ 19-point victory over the Rams.

Saving his best game for the biggest game of the season to date is why many voters went with Bayne as their first pick.

Hasler, the runner-up, finished that game with nine points. He got support from a host of people, including his brother Steve, who posted this on “I chose my brother, Jake Hasler, because of the hard work that he has put in over the years, ever since he was little. He’s definitely become a very good player and I wish him the best of luck.”

(Mike Orazz phot.)

It's Official: Yankees Bring Back Andy Pettitte For Next Season

Forget about Phil Hughes taking up the fifth slot in the Yankees rotation because Andy Pettitte will be back in pinstripes next year. Pettitte agreed Monday to a $5.5 million, one-year contract. He can make an additional $6.5 million on performance bonuses and bonuses based on time on the active roster.

“There was never another team brought up,” Pettitte said during a conference call. “I wanted to come back to the Yankees.” The Yankees rotation now consists of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte. Hughes and Ian Kennedy will be the fall back options. The 36-year-old Pettitte went 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA last year.

Virtually No Betting So Far On The Super Bowl In Las Vegas

I just read an interesting story about Super Bowl betting in Las Vegas. According to a story in The Daily News, there has been virtually no betting on the seven-point favorite Pittsburgh Steelers or the underdog Arizona Cardinals. That can't be good. I know most will say that the Steelers and Cardinals don't get anyone excited, but it's still the Super Bowl, and it's still one last chance to bet on the final NFL game of the year. Last year at this time, betting was huge on both the Patriots and Giants. Also, if you got $1,500 to spare, you can actually still get a Super Bowl ticket ... way less than in recent years. While the economy may be blamed for the lower ticket prices, betting shouldn't be effected. I wonder if the line will move to either 6.5 or 7.5 to spark some action.

By the way, Anquan Boldin (AP photo, top) is all but out of Arizona after the Super Bowl. Considering he demanded a trade in the offseason and then wasn't used late in the NFC Championship game, you have to think he'll be on the market. Enter, of course, the Jets, who desperately need a big-time wide receiver. If the Jets can't swing a deal for Matt Leinart, they should try and pry Boldin away. A first round draft pick (No. 17 overall) may be enough.

Spread The Word ... Vote In Our Boys Basketball First & Goal Poll

[UPDATE: Remember the Fun. That's All!]

Our First & Goal boys basketball poll is hitting its stride with a great amount of votes so far and there is still plenty of time left to vote. So, if your pick isn't in the lead, or if you want your pick to widen his lead, get on the phone, send out e-mails, get your school involved and get people to cast their vote. If you do that, things will take care of themselves and we'll have a legitimate winner at the end of the week. Several votes coming from the same IP address will be deleted ... so don't waste your time ... it's too much work for nothing to come from it. As for everyone else, keep on spreading the word and get people to vote. And, as always, comment right here with your thoughts on the poll and who you think should win.

Hard Not To Be Excited About New Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan

The Jets introduced Rex Ryan as the team's next head coach this morning and it would be hard not to be excited about the future. We all knew that his schemes as a defensive coach were out of this world - just look at the Ravens - but he spoke as a true leader of the franchise on Wednesday. Some of the best Ryan (AP photo, right, with owner Woody Johnson) quotes that should get anyone pumped up for what lies ahead.

"The players will have each other's backs, and if you take a swipe at one of ours, we'll take a swipe at two of yours."

"The only way I know how to handle a challenge is to hit that thing head on. The message to the rest of the league is 'Hey, the Jets are coming, and we're going to give you everything we got. And I think that's going to be more than you can handle.' "

"I'm not blessed with a silver tongue but I know one thing: I know how to coach this game."

On thinking that he thought the new president was in the building because of all the cameras pointed in his direction. "I think we'll get to meet him the next couple years, anyway."

And, on the Brett Favre question: "Anybody would want Brett Favre to be their quarterback. All the particulars we'll get into later. The rest of it, I'm not prepared to answer."

He also wanted the Jets fans to be part of the team's defense.

Again, how could you not like this guy?

Interesting Story About Tony Romo And The Undisciplined Cowboys

I just found out about a really interesting (and really pathetic) story regarding the Dallas Cowboys this past season. It turns out that the team, according to a story in the Dallas Morning News (Read The Story Here), was an undisciplined mess. Some of the low lights of the story: Under Bill Parcells, fines for being late to meetings was $5,000 and as much as $12,000 for missing an injury treatment session. Under Wade Phillips the fines are $100.

That's right ... one hundred dollars. Not surprisingly, there was reportedly a ton of lateness with players, including five flights to away games that left after their scheduled departure times because of players not showing up on time. Remember, there's just eight away games in a season. There's a bunch of stuff on Tony Romo, the coaching staff and, of course, Terrell Owens. It's an interesting read.

(AP photo)

Vote Now On Our Next Two 'First & Goal' Poll Questions

Hopefully everybody liked the changes I made to the sports section today, but more importantly, it's time to vote on our First & Goal polls for the next couple weeks. The first poll to the right involves the local boys basketball scene and which player you would take No. 1 overall in an all-school draft. The results of that column will run next Tuesday.

Also, the Super Bowl winner poll question results will run just before Super Sunday ... so take the time to vote in that one as well. As always, we welcome your feedback, so let you know right here in the comments section why you made the choice you did in either or both polls. Just make sure you leave your name with the comment so we can credit you in the paper.

The Opening First & Goal Reader's Choice Column: USC Are Champs

A week and a half ago my GameDay sports blog decided to take the power in crowning a national champion away from the evil BCS and put it in the hands of the people. Now, several days after voting began, a true college football champion has indeed been chosen by the ones who count the most — you.

And the people’s choice is — Southern California.

That’s right, our first national champ is actually a darkhorse that emerged from a four-team race to stake claim as the season’s best. USC beat out Florida, Utah and Texas for the title.

It wasn’t a blowout by any stretch of the imagination, although it did look like it as the poll hit its stride. After a handful of votes were spread evenly between the two favorites, Florida and Utah, in the early going, USC came on like a freight train and ended up blowing past the Gators and Utes to take a commanding lead. Texas, if you were wondering, was getting absolutely no love from the people.

While Florida and Utah managed to stay within striking distance, it was still Southern Cal’s race to lose heading into the final day.

But, much like they did in the BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma, Florida made its run when it counted the most and slowly but surely closed the gap to the point where in the final hours, the champion could have come from either down South or out West.

Southern Cal, however, held off the charge from the Aaron Hernandez-led Gators late to squeeze out the victory.

The Trojans ended up with 38 percent of the vote, while the Gators managed to pull in 34 percent. Utah came in with 19 percent and Texas picked up 7 percent.

My vote went to the underdog Utah Utes, who made it through the season as the only undefeated team in major college football. Not only did they finish a perfect 13-0, but they also went out and beat up on No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama was the same team that led Florida in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship. Utah beat Oregon State as well, which was the only squad to defeat Southern Cal this past season. So, I believed they were more than deserving to win the championship both in our poll and the AP vote as well.

Florida, however, copped both the BCS and the AP championships. That doesn’t mean a thing year, though, as USC is our champion.

Our first reader poll is in the books … now it’s on to the next one, which will be hosted at Check out the blog and vote, comment and even suggest your own poll questions. (And feel free to e-mail or call us with your vote or comments as well at (860) 584-0504 or at

Make sure you check back every Tuesday for the results and comments from you the reader. This is your space, so stand up and be heard.

Rex Ryan Could Be Named Jets Head Coach As Early As Monday

The ones breathing the biggest sigh of relief after the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship a short while ago was the New York Jets. Barring any last-second changes of heart, the Jets should name Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan their new head coach as soon as Monday.

If Baltimore beat Pittsburgh, the Jets would have had to wait another two weeks before they could hire Ryan as their coach, something they obviously did not want to do. The one question still left unanswered is the status of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. It originally was thought that Schottenheimer would hang around as coordinator with the new regime, but rumors have it that he wants to leave the team if he isn't chosen as the team's head coach. As a Jets fan, I'd gladly take the latter.

(AP photo.)

Bristol Central Wrestling Falls To Bacon Academy, Streak Ends At 41

BRISTOL — With their duel match win streak reaching 40 straight after a victory over Southington this week, the Bristol Central wrestling team knew that having that number grow and grow was becoming less and less likely as the season kicks into high gear. But no one on the Rams’ side thought they would see the end of the streak come so abruptly at home Saturday afternoon.

Bristol Central managed to increase the streak to 41 with a 32-28 victory over New Milford. But that number came crashing back to 0 with a stunning, 31-26, loss to Bacon Academy.

While the Rams knew the winning would end someday, this was truly unexpected.

“This loss shouldn’t have happened,” Bristol Central coach Brian Archibald said. “There were five matches that were as close as one or two points and we lost every one of them. We need to find a way to win those matches, and until we do, we’re not a really good team.”

The Rams did rebound to beat Fitch 58-22 after the loss to Bacon Academy to take home a 2-1 record for the day. Still, the one loss left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

“We’ll really see what the team is made of now,” Archibald said. “We just can’t keep making the mistakes we’re making now.”

Three wrestlers did do their part in trying to keep the streak alive by winning all three of their matches. Ryan Carbonell at 125, Alex Smith at 215 and Tim Chambers at 285 all went 3-0 on the day.

“Carbonell wrestled extremely well,” the coach said.

Nick Cyr at 130, A.J. Wojtusik at 135, Colin Lombardi at 119, Austin Darley at 152 and Miguel Ramos at 171 each went 2-1 at the meet.

Central (14-1) takes on Newington next on the road Wednesday night looking to build up from the current streak of one.

“The streak is over so we need to take that and start over,” Archibald said. “It’s a new season now with new goals. We need to get better. It’s gut-check time.”

(Mike Orazzi photo, top, of Bristol Central's Tim Chambers.)

New And Improved Bristol Press Sports Section Drops Tuesday

If everything goes according to plan, the new era of The Bristol Press will kick off with Tuesday's paper. The changeover is supposed to happen on Monday, so the first changes you'll see would be that Tuesday. So, now's your chance to let me know what you think we should have in the sports section. I'm working feverishly trying to come up with some fresh ideas for a revamped section (some of that has already been in practice, as you may have noticed, with new page-headers and other things), but I'm open to ideas from the public. Do you want a reader's section with comments from the community? Do you want more poll questions on the blog and with posted results in the paper? Do you want more columns? Let me know. And this is more about extra, feature-type stuff and not cover more of my team stuff.

Also, I'll be writing something for that paper about Southern Cal winning the GameDay National Championship. I figured that would be a good way to kick off at least one new part of the paper and something to continue with reader's having their say. I'll post the story that afternoon right here, so check it out.

And, on a final note, even with the availability of Jon Gruden (AP photo, top), it seems like the Jets are still focusing on Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. I hope the Jets at least bring Gruden in for an interview. The Jets already messed up big time with the way they handled the Bill Cowher situation, they can't repeat it.

Tampa Bay Fires Coach Jon Gruden

Just minutes ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked the league by firing head coach Jon Gruden. This changes the landscape of NFL job openings across the country. The Jets, who have seemingly settled on Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, may have just tossed their plans in the air. With Gruden available, everything changes, and he could already have jumped to the top of many team's wish list.

Youkilis To Sign Four-Year Deal With Sox; Rex Ryan In Lead For Jets' Coach

Here's some quick notes on the day's events and also an update on the Jets coaching search.

** The Red Sox are reportedly closing in on signing first baseman Kevin Youkilis to a four-year contract worth over $40 million. Youkilis had a career year last season hitting .312 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI for Boston.

** The Detroit Lions hired Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to be their new head coach. Schwartz signed a four-year deal with the winless Lions. Believe it or not, Schwartz inherits what could quickly become a surprising team next year. The Lions have some great players on offense and should finally get a franchise quarterback with the first pick in the draft.

** Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan has jumped to top of the Jets wish list for a head coach. Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was thought to be the odds on favorite to get the job, but after an unimpressive interview, he has dropped below Ryan. If the Jets still considered Spagnuolo the favorite, then he most likely would have been hired already, as the Giants were eliminated on Sunday. The fact that the Jets are still taking their time most likely means they are willingly to wait for the Ravens' season to conclude to so they hire Ryan. Current offensive coordinator Brain Schottenheimer is also a candidate and I fully believe general manager Mike Tannenbaum would hire him if he could. Tannenbaum wants someone in the head coaching spot that he can completely control, and he would get that with Schottenheimer. But Jets fans would revolt if that happened. (Schottenheimer is part of the problem, not the solution.) Still, and this is some bad news, reportedly Ryan has agreed to keep Schottenheimer as the offensive coordinator if he is hired.

** Southern Cal QB Mark Sanchez announced today that he is entering the NFL Draft.

** Also, in a sign that college basketball is insane, seventh-graders are now officially considered prospects. The old standard was ninth-grade but that is out the window. I don't care what the NCAA says, that's just wrong. Three years from now we'll be talking about some fifth-grader signing with North Carolina or Duke. Watch it happen.

** Finally, vote for the true national champion right now. We've entered the final hours, so make sure to vote.

Bradford Will Return To Oklahoma, And Vote, Vote, Vote For Your Team

We've got some news out of the land of college football today. First, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, the Heisman Trophy winner and possible first overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, has decided to stay at Oklahoma. So the two quarterbacks from the BCS National Championship game will be back next year.

Florida QB Tim Tebow announced earlier this the week that he would be back with the Gators, although that was a much easier decision than Bradford's, as Tebow is nowhere near ready to play at the next level. Also, reports have said that Southern Cal quarterback Mark Sanchez will be skipping his senior season to go into the NFL Draft. That decision is probably as solid as they come now, because Sanchez' stock only rises without Bradford (AP photo, right) in the draft. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford will most likely be the first overall draft pick.

Also, we're heading into the final day of GameDay's Poll to see who is college football's true national champion. Surprisingly, Southern Cal has taken a nice lead and could take the crown. If you haven't voted already, do so now. GameDay will crown its first ever national champion based on the results, so make your voice heard.

Atlanta Braves To Add Former Red Sox Pitcher Derek Lowe

Another major blow is about to hit both the Mets and Red Sox as multiple sources have reported that free agent pitcher Derek Lowe has signed a four-year deal worth $60 million with the Atlanta Braves. The deal is pending a physical.

The Mets were considered the front-runner to acquire Lowe and the Red Sox were also players, although they probably dropped a lot of their interest after signing John Smoltz. Lowe went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings last year and drew interest from the Yankees, but they chose CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett instead.


Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Jets greatest achievement - winning Super Bowl III in the sport's great upset of all time. The Jets, led by MVP Joe Namath, defeated the Colts 16-7. I've never known what it feels like to win a Super Bowl, so looking back at this one shining moment is interesting. Even though it's pretty sad to look back on a team that I never saw (I was still years and years and years away from being born), I still take great pride in their accomplishment. It didn't hurt that I met Namath several years ago and he was a really cool guy. So, in a year where many thought the Jets were headed to the Super Bowl (anybody remember 8-3?) I guess fans will have to settle for remembering this Jets team that made the NFL what it is today.


Northeast Wrestling has signed yet another superstar to appear at WrestleFest XIII in Bristol on March 28, GameDay has learned. Wrestling legend Kevin Nash, probably best known as Diesel in the WWF, has committed to appear at the show. Nash, a six-time world heavyweight champion and an 11-time tag team champ, is currently part of the Main Event Mafia in TNA. In addition to being part of the nWo and The Outsiders, Nash's career highlight had to be winning the WWF heavyweight championship in an eight-second victory over Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden. Nash joins "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair and Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart as big-names signed to appear at Bristol Central High. Velvet Sky Talia Madison, NEW Champion Jason Blade, Eddie Edwards and Ron Zombie will also be on hand. Bristol's favorite troublemaker, Kurt Adonis, is back as well. This time, however, it will be for the final time as the Bristol Central show will be Adonis' last, as an injury is forcing him to retire. Read more about WrestleFest XIII, including exclusive interviews with Flair, Hart, Nash and Adonis, right here in GameDay and in The Bristol Press.

** On another note, Tony Dungy is stepping down as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The team has scheduled a press conference for today to announce the decision. Jim Caldwell is expected to be named the team's new head coach.

** And, Rickey Henderson (first try) and Jim Rice (on his 15th and final try) were both elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today.


The Patriots have taken another major hit to the offense. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is leaving the team to take over as head coach of the Denver Broncos. He will be introduced at a press conference Monday night. McDaniels will replace Mike Shanahan, who was fired on December 30. He signed a four-year deal with Denver. McDaniels has been the Patriots offensive coordinator the past two seasons and became a hot commodity this offseason, although he was probably the only one in that category not to interview with the Jets. No word on who will replace McDaniels (AP photo, right) with the Patriots.


After surviving the drive home from work tonight, and getting to watch most of the second half of the Cardinals-Panthers game from the comfort of my living room, I got to thinking about the furture of the Jets while watching the blowout play itself out. While the Jets are never really out of my mind while watching football, this was a far-out idea that makes more and more sense as I type my thoughts right here. You see, right now, every single Jets fan in the country should be Arizona Cardinals fans. Why? Well, with every single postseason victory the Cardinals and Kurt Warner rack up (two already), the more entrenched Warner is as the team's starting quarterback for next year and beyond. But what does that have to do with the Jets? Besides a head coach, the one thing the Jets need next year more than anything is a quarterback. And while finding quality starting quarterbacks through trade or free agency is darn near impossible, there is one man that could very well become available depending on his team's success this postseason. That man, if you haven't figured it out already, is Matt Leinart. The more Warner wins, the more the Jets win. Now, there is still a big chance the Cardinals will refuse to give up on their 2006 first round draft pick (10th overall). And Warner is 37 years old, which means he has at most three more years left in him. But there is a great chance that the Cardinals will listen if the Jets come calling this offseason about Leinart. The Jets wanted Leinart (AP photo, top) so badly in 2006 that they tried to trade back into the Top 10 to get him, but couldn't find a willingly partner, so they would be interested. The only snag could be the Cardinals asking price - which would be high. If I was running the Jets, I would give up my first-round draft pick in a heartbeat. I'd also be willingly to part with a fourth-rounder as well. I think that could get a deal done. Leinart would be the perfect quarterback to take over the future of the franchise. It might be a longshot, but the Jets should make a big-time effort in getting the USC product in New York. As for now, root for the Cardinals.


With all of the hoopla surrounding the Carroll Battle, I totally forgot about something I promised to write about here while watching the BCS National Championship game on FOX. And that was the absolutely disgraceful announcing job by Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis. If you watched the game, then you know what I'm talking about. From anointing Florida quarterback Tim Tebow the second coming of Gandhi, to a frantic screaming match that Oklahoma should forgo a field goal and go for the touchdown - on third down! - to, well, pretty much every single word that came out of their mouths, it was simply an embarrassing night on the mic.

Of course, the lowest moment came when Oklahoma was preparing to run a play on 3rd-and-goal. Brennaman was screaming about what a big decision this was - do you go for it or do you kick a field goal? I was wondering what the heck was going on. Even with FOX displaying clearly that it was third down, first on the score-bar and later as an on-field graphic, Davis backed his partner with an even louder statement - "go, go go, go, go," he bellowed. Davis then said he was surprised that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was thinking about what should be an easy decision. Then, Oklahoma ran the play and was tackled short of the goal line. Brennaman yelled at what a big stop it was. It still took a while for Brennaman or Davis to realize their mistake. Say what you want, but that is totally unacceptable.

I also read this quote on a message board from the game that I missed (lucky me) spoken by Brennaman on Tebow: "If you’re fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes around Tim Tebow, your life is better for it." Yeah, he said it.

There is no way either man should be back calling a championship game next season, which is something most of the nation knew coming into the game anyway. Hopefully this was FOX's wakeup call.


Just because the college football season is over doesn’t mean the rivalries, arguments and disagreements have cooled off. In fact, all of those things have only intensified, especially in the Carroll Battle for college football supremacy. As everyone knows by now, with Florida’s 10-point victory over Oklahoma last night, both Craig and I finished with identical 65-61-2 records over the entire season. And just as Florida, Utah, Texas and USC say they should be the No. 1 team in the nation (vote now!), both of us are trying to make a case for winning this season’s crown. Needless to say, voices have been raised and theories have been put forth.

“In all of sports, there are tiebreakers,” Craig said in an exclusive interview. “So, in this case, the tiebreaker should be either the champion from a year ago keeps the crown or your bowl record. The latter is actually the most legitimate tiebreaker there is.”

My argument against that is simple: to use a tiebreaker to determine a season’s champion, then the tiebreaker should be set up beforehand. In this case, it wasn’t. So, I don’t think using bowl records is a cut-and-dry reason to give the title to Craig. I actually brought up the fact that if you wanted to break the tie, it should go by our Heisman Trophy picks. He went with Tim Tebow of Florida, while I went with winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma. Of course, he disagrees.

“The Heisman Trophy voting has nothing to do with picking college games,” he said. “If you go by that, you’re going by all these voters who didn’t have the guts to vote for Utah in the AP Poll. The Heisman scenario is ridiculous.”

“You blew your chance at the title,” Craig continued about GameDay. “That is the bottom line. If I blew a six-game lead with six to play, I would accept it. Technically it’s a tie, but the Patriots and Dolphins both finished 11-5 but the Patriots went home and the Dolphins played. That’s the way it is.”

Of course, the championship should have never come down to any arguing at all. There is absolutely no way that I could have or should have lost a seemingly insurmountable lead. With six bowl games to play, I had a six-game lead over Craig in the standings. Victory was already a foregone conclusion. Then came loss after loss after loss after loss and before you knew it Florida was hoisting the championship trophy and Craig was calling to say he had won the Carroll Battle championship. What went wrong? Well, everyone has already seen what I have to say, so I’ll let Craig give you his thoughts on the collapse.

“Obviously I didn’t think the collapse would happen,” he told me. “Looking back at the Mets collapsing two years in a row, and the Jets this year, I say you’d have to put yourself at the top of that list. You only had to be right on one game, but you blew it. It is a monumental collapse that will stick with you for years to come.

“For me coming back, once Utah beat Alabama, I knew I had a shot. The one game that I was nervous about was Ball State and Tulsa, but that worked out as well. I didn’t get lucky. You made questionable calls down the stretch. You thought there was no way you could lose this title and you got cocky. You went with who you wanted to win instead of who you thought would win. Why else would you take Buffalo over UConn? In the national championship game, I can’t see you thinking Oklahoma would win the game. So, you went with who you wanted to win because you wanted to cheer for those teams. Actually, thank God the Utah-Alabama game was in the second-to-last column, as you would have gone with Utah because you wanted them to win. You basically put out a bad product out because you weren’t handicapping, you were rooting. You wanted to bag on Connecticut. You wanted Oklahoma to win.”

While Craig may have a point, I don’t think I made a pick that went against my thinking. I really did think Oklahoma had a legitimate shot at beating Florida. After watching the Big 12 play horribly in the bowl games, however, I did think it would have been a big upset if the Sooners did win. But, by then, the pick was made, so I couldn’t change it. I actually still wouldn’t have changed it. And Oklahoma could have easily won that game. For UConn-Buffalo, I may have fell in love with the feel-good story of the Bulls and their unlikely ride to a January bowl game. Unfortunately, like anyone, I fall into a trap of believing in a team’s destiny (Kansas last year and Texas Tech this year). Sometimes it works out (Kansas) and other times it blows up in your face (Texas Tech). So, I made my picks with my head and heart, as always, so I don’t think you got a bad product. (Anyway, that is why I put another person’s picks on the board … to give you a second opinion.)

“It’s been a rough season,” Craig said, “especially in the beginning where a bunch of teams that were supposed to be good, weren’t. Nobody thought Michigan would be so bad. Nobody thought Ole Miss would beat Florida. But when all was said and done, and we got to the bowl games and knew what teams stood out among the others that is where I made my move. There are no ties in picking college games.”

So, who is the 2008-09 Carroll Battle Champion?

“I think I am the true champion because I came back from six games down with six to play. I had the better bowl record. I am the champion. I am still the champion – back-to-back.”

My take on it isn’t as simple, as you know. But I guess I get to make the final call since this blog is called Brad Carroll’s GameDay. First, I wholeheartedly agree that the trophy remains in the Craig camp for another year. So, for this year, I guess it comes down to either handing out a split-championship or giving the title to Craig for his better bowl record. Craig makes an excellent argument, but I’m leaning toward a split-championship. It only makes sense. Next year, we’ll set up the tiebreaker system to have one and only champion, but for this year, it’s a split. Unofficially, I would say Craig is the champion for this season, but a tie is a tie. Craig wins back-to-back titles and even though I end up with a piece of this year’s crown, it sure feels like a loss. And that’s what it’s all about. Let the arguing continue!

(AP photo, top, Florida celebrates its national championship victory over Oklahoma. Middle photo, Oklahoma's Mike Balogun (10) sits on the bench during the fourth quarter of the BCS Championship. Bottom photo, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates.)


The collapse is complete. With Florida's 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship game, I officially lost my six-game lead with six to play against evil brother Craig and we finish in a tie for the season. Already, Craig has made several calls to say he is the undisputed champion this year and is asking me to concede the championship to him. But I'm not ready to do that just yet. I'll make an official statement Friday afternoon right here on GameDay, so check back for that. In the meantime, I put up a poll to the right asking who you think should be crowned the NCAA national champions this season: Florida, Utah, Southern Cal or Texas. So vote and comment with your thoughts. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the final College GameDay column with statements from both myself and Craig.

(AP photo, top, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates the Gators' BCS National Championship victory over Oklahoma.)


In a year of monumental collapses, I guess it’s only fitting that I could end up with the rest of the choke artists in the scrap heap. After all, I had no problem ripping both the Mets and Jets with absolutely no remorse after their failures. But in the end, I joined the two of them in taking a major nose dive in our quests for a championship. Much like the two former squads, GameDay held a comfortable lead going into the final few days of the season and was looking like a sure bet. Of course, things don’t always go so easy. With six bowl games to play, I held a six-game lead over evil brother Craig in the Carroll Battle for college football supremacy. Well, now, with just the BCS National Championship game left on the ledger, a whopping five games have been erased from the lead and a winner-take-all fight is set for tonight. I went with Oklahoma plus the points, and Craig went with Florida. So, it all comes down to the final game of the season. This, ironically, is exactly the way the season ended last year, with Craig taking the title by one game on his pick in the national championship game.
How did we get here this season? It started on Friday with my picks of Texas Tech and Alabama going belly-up and taking a goose egg. Craig went against those selections and made up two quick games to set up the final GameDay picks column with a chance to earn a tie. (Which he says would keep the title in his camp since he won last year. Not sure if I agree with that, but I might have to live with it.) The slow death march then continued over the next few days with another three games going against me and into Craig’s win column. (I’ll break those down below so we can go full-tilt into tonight’s game).
But, overall, the one big difference between me and the Mets and Jets is that I still have a shot. Even with the huge collapse, I still control my own destiny on the final day of the season. So, let’s go Sooners!

Bowl Season: 10-9 (spread); 11-8 (overall); 2-3 (upset picks)
This Season: 65-60-2 (spread); 90-35 (overall); 8-9 (upset picks)
My Money: DOWN $100 (season)
Craig's Bowl Season: 13-6 (spread)
Craig's Season: 64-61-2 (spread)
Craig's Money: DOWN $310 (season)

Buffalo +7.5 vs. Connecticut, International Bowl
Actual Score: UConn 38, Buffalo 20
My Pick: Buffalo 23, UConn 21
This game was simply pathetic. I wrote in my picks column that it was great to see two teams that came from I-AA backgrounds to play in a January bowl game. I take that back. These teams embarrassed themselves on national television with a boring game that will do nothing in terms of recruitment. I can’t imagine the game got any kind of rating at all and that is probably a good thing. UConn threw six passes in the game – six! This is not high school football. That is unacceptable. And I don’t want to hear about Donald Brown. The dude got caught from behind on what should have been a long touchdown run. Good luck in the NFL. (By the way, if you’re not going to be a first round draft pick, you shouldn’t declare early. Fifty billion kids have graduated college, why can’t these guys? Would one more year in school really kill you? Just go to class.)

No. 3 Texas -8 vs. No. 10 Ohio State, Fiesta Bowl
Actual Score: Texas 24, Ohio State 21
My Pick: Texas 34, Ohio State 24
When Texas came back to take an eight-point lead in the third quarter, I thought this was going to be an easy cover. But Ohio State not only tied the game, it actually took the lead on the Longhorns. Texas did come back again to win in the final seconds on a Colt McCoy touchdown pass, but the bet was long gone. Texas did nothing to help its case as national champion. And, worse yet for me, Texas made a strong case that the Big 12 is overrated. That’s not good for my Oklahoma pick to win the national championship. But give OSU credit as the Buckeyes showed up ready to play. They’re still a year away.

No. 23 Ball State Pk vs. Tulsa, GMAC Bowl
Actual Score: Tulsa 45, Ball State 13
My Pick: Ball State 41, Tulsa 38
I had to suffer through text message after text message from Craig saying how Tulsa was controlling the game and rolling to an easy cover. Of course, he was psyched, because the result meant that everything would come down to the national championship game. Yes, it is a miraculous comeback and a miraculous collapse. But it’s not over yet.

(AP photo, top, Oklahoma's Lendy Holmes (11), right, and Alan Davis (95) admire the BCS Championship trophy during media day at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Monday.)

(AP photo, above, Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, from Bristol, carries the ball during football practice Saturday.)



GameDay finally got its hands on the WrestleFest XIII event poster and it features (who else?) "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair. The show will be live from the Bristol Central gym on March 28. For tickets or more information visit Also, Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart will be on hand as well. As the event draws closer, look for exclusive interviews with Ric Flair and Jimmy Hart (and possibly more) right here in GameDay and The Bristol Press.


So, just who is the best college football team in the nation? Is it No. 1 Florida? How about No. 2 Oklahoma? And what about No. 3 Texas … can’t forget about them? Well, a case can certainly be made for all three, and for certain, the BCS national champion will either be the Gators or the Sooners … but there’s one team out there that didn’t get a shot at the BCS title game, but may end up getting more than just a sniff as a split national champion. They are the only undefeated team in the nation and made a huge statement in their bowl game – Utah. Now, I know it is darn near impossible for a mid-major to be crowned a national champion because they don’t play in a big-time conference. And, yes, I realize the schedules don’t matchup with those of Florida, Oklahoma or Texas. But every challenge put in front of the Utes ended in the same way – a Utah victory. Do they deserve a split national championship (which would be as AP national champs, because they are not tied into the BCS system)? Let’s look at who Utah beat this season. Utah won at Michigan in Week 1 (which was more impressive then, than it is now). The Utes beat Oregon State (a team that shocked Southern Cal and knocked them out of the top spot). Utah defeated No. 11 TCU (which went 11-2 and beat No. 9 Boise State 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl). And, finally, the Utes defeated No. 4 Alabama (a team that took Florida to the wire) rather convincingly, 31-17, in the Sugar Bowl. The latter was the most impressive in the bunch and gives the Utes a great argument that a split national championship is warranted.

Utah certainly believes so: “I know where I'm voting us. I'm voting us No. 1. End of story,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said after beating Alabama.

Since Utah defeated an Alabama team that kept No. 1 Florida on its heels in the SEC Championship, and could have easily won the game with a couple of breaks, a case can be made that Utah is slightly better or at least on par with the Gators. So, this is what might have to happen for Utah to get the AP crown. If Florida squeaks by Oklahoma on Thursday, I would vote for Utah as national champions. That is the best thing that could happen if you’re Utah. The other options aren’t so good. If Oklahoma barely beats Florida, a case can still be made for Utah, but I don’t think they would be able to jump the Sooners. If Florida waxes Oklahoma, then you’d have to go with Florida. Utah would be No. 2. If Oklahoma routs Florida, then the Sooners are the champs. Still, Utah is No. 2. So, if you want to blow up the BCS system altogether, root for a disaster of a game in the BCS National Championship with both Florida and Oklahoma looking terrible. If both teams play horribly, then Utah has a great shot as national champ. It’s asking a lot, but here’s hoping Utah can somehow pull off another upset and get a piece of the national title.

Anyway, let's get to College GameDay Rewind:

Bowl Season: 10-6 (spread); 10-6 (overall); 2-2 (upset picks)
This Season: 65-57-2 (spread); 89-33 (overall); 8-8 (upset picks)
My Money: UP $230 (season)
Craig's Bowl Season: 10-6 (spread)
Craig's Season: 61-61-2 (spread)
Craig's Money: DOWN $610 (season)

Iowa -4 vs. South Carolina, Outback Bowl
Actual Score: Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
My Pick: Iowa 20, South Carolina 10
Finally, it’s New Year’s Day and the real bowls begin … well, I guess Iowa and South Carolina will have to do for this early in the morning. But after Iowa rolled to the easy win, I love the fact this game was on the ledger. Craig was just as happy, as he went with Iowa as well. I’m 1-0 (8-2 overall in bowl season) in the GameDay mid-week special. Craig is 1-0 and 7-3 overall.

No. 19 Michigan State +7.5 vs. No. 16 Georgia, Capital One Bowl
Actual Score: Georgia 24, Michigan State 12
My Pick: Georgia 31, Michigan State 28
With the way this game ended, I would typically feel a bit snake-bitten, but with such a strong start, I just brushed it off. Michigan State had several chances to cover but ended up losing by 12. Craig gains a game as he picked a bad Georgia team to cover. He is 2-0 and 8-3 overall. I’m 1-1 and 8-3 in the bowl season.

Clemson -2.5 vs. Nebraska, Gator Bowl
Actual Score: Nebraska 26, Georgia 21
My Pick: Georgia 33, Nebraska 30
I’m sensing a downturn, and it’s not fun, as Clemson blows leads of 14-3 at the half and 21-10 in the third quarter to fall to the Cornhuskers. I thought this game was a lock and was focused more on the Georgia-Michigan State game, which was being played at the same time. Nebraska outscored Clemson 23-7 in the second half to beat me and the Tigers. Hopefully this is only a temporary run of bad luck. I’m 1-2 and 8-4 overall now. Craig felt the burn of picking Clemson as well, and drops to 2-1 and 8-4 overall.

No. 5 Southern Cal -9 vs. No. 6 Penn State, Rose Bowl
Actual Score: Southern Cal 38, Penn State 24
My Pick: Southern Cal 44, Penn State 30
Southern Cal blew Penn State out of the water in the first half and held a 31-7 lead at the break. But after a scoreless third quarter, Penn State made it a game and cut the deficit to 14 late in the fourth. Still, it looked good for the USC bet, until the Trojans lost 37 yards on a botched punt to give the Nittany Lions a chance to pull off the miraculous cover in the final minute. So, Penn State had 39 seconds to go 14 yards for a very meaningful touchdown. After getting down the 7, PSU threw an incompletion and then an interception to give USC the win. Now that would have been one of the craziest covers in football history. But I’ll take the much-needed victory and move to 2-2 on the day and 9-4 overall. Craig went with Penn State (an attempt to make up ground in the Carroll Battle) and falls to 2-2 and 8-5.

No. 21 Virginia Tech +2.5 vs. No. 12 Cincinnati, Orange Bowl
Actual Score: Virginia Tech 20, Cincinnati 3
My Pick: Virginia Tech 27, Cincinnati 7
I called this the easiest pick of the bowl season, and it turned out exactly that way, as the Hokies had no problem beating the best the Big East has to offer. I improve to 3-2 (a nice rebound on New Year’s Day) and 10-4 overall. Craig, again, went against my pick (by guessing what team I would pick) and got burned again. He still is claiming that he wanted Virginia Tech and USC, and that he made a mistake by going this route so early. Either way, he drops to 2-3 and 8-6 overall.

No. 8 Texas Tech -4.5 vs. No. 20 Ole Miss, Cotton Bowl
Actual Score: Ole Miss 47, Texas Tech 34
My Pick: Texas Tech 42, Ole Miss 28
Things haven’t gone well for the Big 12 this postseason and Texas Tech didn’t help the case being made that the conference is overrated with a bad loss to Ole Miss on Jan. 2. (To jump ahead a bit, the Big 12 has got to be thanking the football Gods for that Texas win over Ohio State last night … otherwise, the whole conference may have taken a huge hit in determining rankings and bowl positioning for next year.) With the bad Texas Tech pick, I fall to 3-3 and 10-5 overall. Craig gains a game with his Ole Miss pick, and improves to 3-3 and 9-6.

No. 4 Alabama -9.5 vs. No. 7 Utah, Sugar Bowl
Actual Score: Utah 31, Alabama 17
My Pick: Alabama 35, Utah 24
I have to say I just don’t know what I was thinking picking Alabama to not only win, but to cover by 10 points. It went against my selection strategy for the whole season. But I’ll live with the pick. I was rooting for Utah from the outset and it was truly exciting watching the team jump out to a 21-0 first quarter lead. Alabama did make a nice comeback, so they get props there, but Utah took regained control and won easily. The Utes are 13-0 and should be given serious consideration as national champions. That’s right, I said it. Obviously, you’ve read my thoughts on that subject already. So, I drop to 3-4 and 10-6, while Craig improves to 4-3 and 10-6 with the Utah selection.

(AP photo, top, Utah coach Kyle Wittingham and quarterback Brian Johnson hold up the Sugar Bowl championship trophy in New Orleans, Friday. Utah defeated Alabama 31-17.)

(AP photo, above, Utah
offensive lineman Zane Beadles (68) holds the championship trophy.)


I never really bothered with the early week bowl matchups before, but now I’m kicking myself big-time for that mistake after ripping off a 7-2 record this bowl season. And if Georgia Tech actually showed up against LSU in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl, the record would have been even better. But I digress. Since there are so many bowl games and three GameDay columns in a one week span, I decided to break College GameDay Rewind into three parts. So, Part I is below today, and Part II will run tomorrow exclusively on this blog. Part III will run after the BCS National Championship game, where I will break down that game as well as the Carroll Battle Championship. As of today, with just three games left to play, Craig still has a shot at tying me overall. That was after getting wins from Utah (I still can’t believe I didn’t pick them in the upset) and UConn. So, it will come down to the wire, as usual.

On a quick NFL note, the Cleveland Browns are apparently ready to name former Jets coach Eric Mangini their new head coach. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here, this is exactly why the Browns are a disaster. What possibly can the team see in Mangini? Did he suddenly grow a whole new personality that gave Cleveland hope that he would turn the franchise around? I guess so. Good luck, Cleveland.

Anyway, let's get to College GameDay Rewind:

Bowl Season: 7-2 (spread); 6-3 (overall); 1-2 (upset picks)
This Season: 62-53-2 (spread); 86-31 (overall); 7-8 (upset picks)
My Money: UP $370 (season)
Craig's Bowl Season: 6-3 (spread)
Craig's Season: 57-58-2 (spread)
Craig's Money: DOWN $680 (season)

North Carolina +1.5 vs. North Carolina, Meineke Bowl
Actual Score: West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30
My Pick: North Carolina 24, West Virginia 20
After a 2-0 start in the early bowl games, GameDay gets a nice break with a half-point victory with North Carolina. West Virginia scored a TD with about 7 minutes left to ruin the upset pick, but that would have been just a bonus. I’m 3-0 in the bowl season, while Craig (who was 1-1 early) gets the win as well.

Florida State -6 vs. Wisconsin, Champs Sports Bowl
Actual Score: Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13
My Pick: Florida State 28, Wisconsin 21
Florida State rolled over Wisconsin and GameDay moves to a perfect 4-0. Craig went with the Seminoles as well and improves to 3-1.

California -8 vs. Miami, Emerald Bowl
Actual Score: California 24, Miami 17
My Pick: California 33, Miami 17
This game looked really good early on as Cal took a 14-0 lead, but Miami kept it close the rest of the way and ended up with a cover. Craig, the Miami fan, gets the win to tie me at 4-1 in the bowl season.

No. 22 Northwestern +12.5 vs. No. 25 Missouri, Alamo Bowl
Actual Score: Missouri 30, Northwestern 23 (OT)
My Pick: Missouri 30, Northwestern 24
I was pretty much right on here with the score, although the team’s needed overtime to get there. Again, Craig and I went with the same pick, and we both improve to impressive 5-1 records.

No. 15 Oregon +3 vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State, Holiday Bowl
Actual Score: Oregon 42, Oklahoma State 31
My Pick: Oregon 41, Oklahoma State 38
The roll continues for GameDay as Oregon comes from behind to take the upset. Oklahoma State was up 10 at the half, but Oregon outscored the Cowboys 35-14 in the second to get the win. I go to 6-1, while Craig falls to 5-2 with the Ok State pick.

No. 24 Oregon State -2.5 vs. No. 18 Pittsburgh, Sun Bowl
My Pick: Oregon State 23, Pittsburgh 17
Actual Score: Oregon State 3, Pittsburgh 0
It’s not everyday you get to see a 3-0 final in a college football game, but that’s what you got here (that is if you chose to stick around and watch it till the end). I admit I didn’t. But the final was great for us, as it gave GameDay another half-point victory. I’m a stellar 7-1, while Craig also gets the win, and moves to 6-2.

No. 14 Georgia Tech -4 vs. LSU, Chik-Fil-A Bowl
Actual Score: LSU 38, Georgia Tech 3
My Pick: Georgia Tech 19, LSU 12
LSU scored 28 points in the second quarter in its rout of Georgia Tech. So, the first bowl week ends in disappointment, with a loss by the Yellowjackets. I end with a 7-2 record, while Craig drops to 6-3 with the loss as well.

(AP photo, top, of Eric Mangini and Brett Favre.)


Sports Editor Brad Carroll takes a look at the top college football games of the week
: 10-6 (spread); 10-6 (overall); 2-2 (upset picks) ... Craig is 10-6 (bowls)
: 65-57-2 (spread); 89-33 (overall); 8-8 (upset picks) ... Craig is 61-61-2 (spread)

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Florida ... 8 p.m. ... FOX
BCS National Championship, Thursday

The Skinny
: Depending on what happened late last night in the Utah-Alabama Sugar Bowl matchup, the Carroll GameDay Championship could be determined once again in the final week of the bowl season. [UPDATE: Utah defeated Alabama 31-17]. Last year, it came down to the national championship game, as both myself and brother Craig were tied after a long season of picking games against the spread. And when LSU routed Ohio State for the BCS crown, Craig ended up with the GameDay title and bragging rights for the year. This season, it will a whole lot harder for Craig to claim another championship. If Utah covered late last night, then the best Craig can do is tie me for the season championship. So, he’ll be picking the opposite of me in these final selections of the season. Now, finally, on to the BCS title game Thursday night. Everything tells me that Florida is going to beat Oklahoma and take home the national championship. There aren’t too many media-types picking the Sooners to win either. But with Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford leading a high-powered offense that has scored 60 points or more over the last four games, I’m thinking upset. Sure, Florida has quarterback Tim Tebow and a stellar defense, but I don’t think the Sooners can be stopped. That’s not to say that Oklahoma is going to run away with the game, because I see it coming down to a last-second field goal for the win. And in the end, I can only see the Sooners holding up the BCS Trophy. This pick is going against the grain, but I’m sticking with it .... Oklahoma holds on to win the national championship.

BRAD’S PICK: Oklahoma (+3.5) wins it 38-35
CRAIG’S PICK: Florida (-3.5) wins it 35-28

Connecticut vs. Buffalo ... 12 p.m. ... ESPN2 INTERNATIONAL BOWL — TODAY — The Skinny: This could be the one and only time Buffalo actually makes it onto the GameDay lineup, and I couldn’t be happier. Buffalo has done a great job this season of setting itself up for a run of success in the next several years. They have come from the same background as UConn, as both were I-AA teams that made the jump to I-A. So the fact that both are playing in a January bowl is a great thing. The Pick: Buffalo (+6.5) wins it 23-21. Craig picks UConn.

No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Texas ... 8 p.m. ... FOX

FIESTA BOWL — MONDAY — The Skinny: I’m sure Texas is still upset that it isn’t playing in the BCS National Championship. And while the Longhorns may have a case (Texas beat Oklahoma this year), I think the Sooners were still the right choice, especially with how they finished the season. Ohio State, on the other hand, is just happy to be back in a BCS game and could take advantage and pull off an upset if Texas isn’t ready to play Monday. The Pick: Texas (-8) wins it 34-24. Craig picks Ohio State.

Tulsa vs. No. 23 Ball State ... 8 p.m. ... ESPN
GMAC BOWL — TUESDAY — The Skinny: Ball State, believe it or not, doesn’t have a head coach right now. That’s because Brady Hoke has left the team to take over as head coach at San Diego State next year. And while coaches taking jobs and not coaching a bowl game isn’t new, the fact that no one knows who will run the team on Tuesday is. Ball State does have star QB Nate Davis under center, so that should be enough. The Pick: Ball State (Pk) wins it 41-38. Craig picks Tulsa.

(AP photo, top, Oklahoma football player Nick Harris, right, poses for photos with Obie, the Orange Bowl mascot, after the team arrived in Miami Friday.)


Here is an interesting New Year's Day story and one that would never happen in New York or New England: There is a big, big chance that the Vikings playoff game Sunday against the Eagles won't be shown on local television there because 8,000 tickets still remain for the game. Also, the Cardinals game Saturday against the Falcons is also 3,700 tickets short of a sellout, so Arizona fans could be on the outs as well.

If the games aren't a sellout, the NFL will blackout local TV from broadcasting the game. The NFL has given the Vikings until 3:30 p.m. their time Friday to sell those tickets or the Twin Cities and secondary markets in the region will not get to see their team in the playoffs. The last time the Vikings had a blackout was in 1997. The Cards have until 2:30 p.m. on Friday to sell out.

Just imagine having the chance to get tickets to a playoff game for the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Jets, or Patriots a couple days before they play. It would never happen. In a way, I would love it, because I'd be at every playoff game every year. But, then again, would anyone want to follow a team with such a lame fan base? Probably not. Remember, this is a home playoff game where Adrian Peterson (AP photo, right) is your star player. How could you not want to see him play? And, also, the game will be played in a dome, so weather isn't a factor. Oh well, I guess Minnesota is this generation's answer to the Atlanta Braves (who, despite their historic pace of qualifying for the playoffs, could never sell tickets for the postseason). Arizona? Well, Arizona is Arizona and the Cardinals are the Cardinals. So it doesn't surprise me.

[UPDATE: The Cardinals ended up making their deadline and their game will not be blacked out on Saturday afternoon. The Vikings, however, still have 3,100 tickets left for their game against the Eagles. They did sell about 5,000 tickets since being put on notice, so Minnesota believes they'll sell out by Saturday's deadline. We'll see.]