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11/24/2014

Down to the Wire

[Posted Sunday PM, prior to Giants-Cowboys]

NFL Quiz: Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles really has had an extraordinary career that it seems he is finally being recognized for, nationwide. His per carry average is 5.5, ahead of Jim Brown’s 5.2. But all time among running backs, there is one who is ahead of him at 5.7 per carry. Name him. [Michael Vick, 7.1, and Randall Cunningham, 6.4, are the leading rushers period. Minimum 750 carries to qualify.] Answer below.

CFB Review

Well that was the worst week of the college football season with practically zero drama. But the next two weekends should rectify that.

--No. 1 Alabama (10-1, 6-0) defeated Western Carolina 48-14.

--No. 2 Oregon (10-1, 7-1) easily handled a dreadful Colorado (2-9, 0-8) squad 44-10 as the Ducks outgained the Buffaloes 597-226, with your Heisman winner Marcus Mariota going 24/32, 323, 3-0, and another 73 yards on the ground with a fourth score. And Oregon covered, the line being 32 ½. Good day all around for my Ducks.

--No. 3 Florida State (11-0, 8-0) survived another scare, 20-17 against game Boston College (6-5, 3-4); the Seminoles 5th win by six points or less. FSU outgained BC 391-313 as Jameis Winston once again did just enough to win, 22/32, 281, 1-1, overcoming a BC ground game that piled up 240 yards on 51 carries.

--No. 4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1) blasted Vanderbilt (3-8, 0-7) 51-0.

--No. 6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-0) did nothing to help its playoff chances with a totally underwhelming 42-27 effort against lousy Indiana (3-8, 0-7). The Buckeyes led only 21-20 after three before Jalin Marshall bailed them out with three of his four second-half touchdown in the fourth quarter.

So Ohio State clinched a Big Ten title game berth against the winner of next week’s Wisconsin-Minnesota matchup.

--No. 16 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1) held off Iowa (7-4, 4-3) 26-24 as Melvin Gordon rushed for 200 yards on 31 carries, while No. 25 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) rallied late to defeat No. 23 Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) in Lincoln, 28-24.

--No. 7 Baylor (9-1, 6-1) is still in it with a 49-28 win over Oklahoma State (5-6, 3-5). Baylor has Texas Tech and No. 12 Kansas State remaining on the schedule with the Big 12 not having a title game. K-State (8-2, 6-1) defeated West Virginia (6-5, 4-4) on Thursday in Morgantown 26-20.

--No. 8 Ole Miss fell to 8-3, 4-3, and probably out of the New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day bowl picture with an embarrassing 30-0 loss to improving Arkansas (6-5, 2-5). At least the Rebels shouldn’t be a featured bowl team, unless they beat Mississippi State, which now doesn’t appear likely.

For Ole Miss on Saturday, fans got the ‘bad’ Bo Wallace, the quarterback going 16/31, 235, 0-2.

--No. 9 UCLA (9-2, 6-2) kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 38-20 win over No. 19 USC (7-4, 6-3). Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley had a great game, 22/31, 326, 3-1, as he’s been rounding into form after a so-so start to the season, at least by his standards. UCLA outgained USC 461-276 in the Battle of Los Angeles.

--No. 10 Georgia (9-2, 6-0) defeated Charleston Southern 55-9. Whoopty-damn-do.

--Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) continued to show its fans it’s not ready for prime time in losing to No. 11 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) 45-3, as the Spartans outgained the Scarlet Knights 520-234. Yuck.

--In other games, UCF moved to 7-3 with a 53-7 win over winless SMU (0-10). The less said the better; I think Paul P. would agree.

--No. 13 Arizona State (9-2, 6-2) outlasted Washington State (3-8, 2-6) 52-31, pulling away late. For the Cougars, with star QB Connor Halliday out for the season with an injury, backup Luke Falk threw for 601 yards, going 45 of 74 with three scores, but he also threw four interceptions. Washington State outgained ASU 622-330. But the Sun Devils picked up the needed ‘W’.

--No. 21 Oklahoma (8-3, 5-3) beat Kansas (3-8, 1-7) 44-7 and the story here was true freshman running back Samaje Perine. One week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set the all-time single-game rushing record with 408 yards, Perine bested it with 427 on 34 carries, including five touchdowns...none of which were cheapies...scoring runs of 49, 33, 34, 66 and 27. 

--Notre Dame (7-4) lost to Louisville (8-3) 31-28 as for a second straight week their kicker missed a late easy field goal. If the Fighting Irish are playing New Year’s Eve or Day, it will be a travesty.

--Thursday night, Duke blew their chance for a repeat ACC title game appearance as they lost to North Carolina, 45-20. Duke fell to 8-3, 4-3; Carolina is 6-5, 4-3. It’s Florida State vs. Georgia Tech instead.

--Wake Forest entered its home contest against Virginia Tech as the worst team nationally in rushing...34.1 yards a game. And at 0-6 in the ACC, they were hoping to avoid their first winless conference season since 1995.

Well the Deacs (3-8, 1-6) prevailed, defeating VaTech (5-6, 2-5) in a real shootout, 6-3 in double overtime.

Yes, it was 0-0 in regulation. Scintillating. Fellow alum Dr. W. said it was just atrocious to watch, “like watching two JV offenses.”

Hey, we did have 74 yards rushing on 42 carries (1.8 average)! The thing is the only player worth a damn this season, our freshman kicker Mike Weaver, who came into the game 13 of 14 on field goals (the only miss being from over 50), missed three in regulation, before coming through with two in OT.

I’m just happy for Coach Dave Clawson. He’ll get this program back on track, but it won’t be until 2016.

--So that brings us to a discussion of what the playoff selection committee is going to do with the ‘Group of Five’...the awarding of a major bowl game appearance to the best non-Power Five conference team.

Colorado State staked its claim with a 58-20 win over 3-8 New Mexico to advance to 10-1, 6-1. But CSU won’t even win its Mountain West division because its loss is to Boise State (9-2, 6-1). So what do you there?

And then there is Marshall, now 11-0 after a totally unimpressive win over 5-6 UAB, 23-18. Marshall has had the worst schedule in the conference and its why the selection committee has refused to rank them.

But one of these guys has to get a bid...that’s part of the agreement. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll say they select Marshall while holding their noses.

Before the AP releases their latest poll, with the CFP rankings released on Tuesday, I’ve gotta go with a final four of Oregon, FSU, Alabama and Mississippi State. Again, as long as ‘Bama beats Auburn, it won’t matter what the Crimson Tide do in the SEC title game.

Some assorted thoughts from around the country.
Chris Dufresne / Los Angeles Times

“It is not a question of ‘if’ anymore in Tallahassee, it’s a question of ‘how.’

“As in, ‘How in the world are they doing this?’

“The Florida State Seminoles pulled out another squeaker Saturday, needing Roberto Aguayo’s 26-yard field goal to eke out a 20-17 home victory against Boston College....

“The Seminoles are defending national champions but are playing a completely different brand of football from 2013, when they dominated every regular-season opponent on their way to a title-game victory over Auburn.

“This year’s Florida State is living on the edge....

“Florida State is sidling up to some of the best miracle-worker teams of the early century.

Ohio State’s 2002 national title team won six games by seven points or fewer before beating Miami, in double overtime, for the championship....

Auburn’s 2010 squad won five games by three points or fewer in a season that ended with a last-second win over Oregon in the BCS title game. Early that year, Auburn survived with a three-point win in overtime after a Clemson receiver dropped what should have been the winning touchdown.

“Auburn also rallied from a 24-0 deficit to defeat Alabama.

“Two more teams get a crack to dislodge Florida State this year: Florida next week, and then Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.”

Dufresne on another topic.

“The worst game in modern college history is generally considered to be the scoreless tie in 1983 between Oregon and Oregon State.

“At least the fans of that game, known as ‘The Toilet Bowl,’ were spared the additional agony of overtime.

“That stinker may have met its match Saturday when Wake Forest needed double overtime to upset Virginia Tech, 6-3....

“ ‘We put offensive football back a hundred years,’ Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said.

“It was the first scoreless game to be settled in overtime since 2005, when Arkansas State clipped Florida Atlantic, 3-0.

“Virginia Tech fell to 5-6 with the defeat, which was not appreciated in Columbus, Ohio, where Ohio State is trying to state its playoff case despite a home loss to Virginia Tech.

“The Hokies, 13 ½-point favorites against Wake Forest, could take solace knowing their upset wasn’t even the worst on campus Saturday.

Virginia Tech’s basketball team, as an 18-point favorite, lost at home to Appalachian State.”

And...I should have noted that Harvard finished 10-0 with a 31-24 win over Yale, while Lafayette defeated Lehigh 27-7 in Yankee Stadium to commemorate the 150th meeting of these Pennsylvania neighbors.

Can you imagine that over 48,000 attended this one?! That’s terrific.

Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports...on Marshall’s plight.

“(The) inevitable Marshall snub (in the CFP rankings) may be a little easier to take (this week). The Thundering Herd reached 11-0 at Legion Field on Saturday, stuffing UAB on fourth-and-1 from the 10-yard line inside the final minute to preserve a 23-18 win. If 10 consecutive blowouts against a string of overmatched opponents didn’t impress the selection committee enough to put Marshall in their top-25, it seems unlikely a hold-on-for-dear-life victory against 5-6 UAB is going to move the needle much.

“And it leaves Marshall with a question for which there is no great answer because there is no precedent: Is beating everyone on the schedule, no matter who is on that schedule, enough to get a coveted spot in one of the ‘New Year’s Six’ bowl games?....

“(For) schools in the so-called ‘Group of Five’ conferences – the American Athletic, the Mountain West, the Mid-American, the Sun Belt and Conference USA, where Marshall plays – the committee’s decision on Marshall means everything....

“(A) decision that carries huge financial implications for those leagues and program-defining prestige for the team that gets the bid.

“According to the Sagarin Ratings, Marshall has played the 141st most difficult schedule in the country. There are only 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

“There is certainly nothing Marshall can do about the fact Conference USA is weak this year. But if the committee decides Marshall is the most-deserving champion even though it scheduled Miami (Ohio), Rhode Island, Ohio and Akron out of conference, does it not undercut the notion that strength of schedule was supposed to be rewarded in this new system? Though Marshall had beaten its opponents by an average of 30.8 points before Saturday, the only team with a winning record among that group is 7-4 Rice.

“So if that’s the route to a major bowl game, why would Mountain West leader Boise State ever challenge itself by scheduling Ole Miss and BYU? What’s the point of probable AAC champion Memphis playing UCLA and Ole Miss on the road?”

In defense of Marshall, they did have Louisville on the schedule for this season, but when the Cardinals switched to the ACC, they had to schedule Notre Dame. Marshall will play Louisville in the future, but it does their cause no good this season.

Finally, Laken Litman / USA TODAY Sports...on the plight of the Big 12.

“The Big 12 got a reality check about its playoff hopes this week.

“Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff selection committee released its fourth set of rankings and....TCU, ranked fourth last week, was fifth, and Baylor stayed No. 7.

“One of the main debates surrounding these rankings – the final one will be released Dec. 7 – has been how the committee views TCU and Baylor. The Bears rallied to beat the Frogs 61-58 and if both teams win the rest of their games, Baylor will win the Big 12 as the conference champion tiebreaker is whoever won the game between the two tied teams. Yet the committee – who values, wins, losses, and strength of schedule – sees TCU as the worthier playoff team.

“However, when all is said and done, will either team have a good enough argument to make it into the Top 4?....

“The Horned Frogs had to come from behind to beat the Jayhawks 34-30 on the road, and this did not sit well with the committee.

“ ‘The committee recognized that TCU did not control the game against Kansas,’ committee chairman Jeff Long said on ESPN. ‘When you add that to their body of work, it was obviously a close game, to come from behind at one point at Kansas, a team that does not have a strong resume this year. That certainly impacted it.’....

“And now all the Frogs have left are Texas (Thanksgiving night) and Iowa State....

“The Bears have the 55th toughest schedule in college football. Non-conference games against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, plus a road loss to unranked West Virginia, isn’t gong to help move them up. It hasn’t thus far.

Mississippi State has the 32nd hardest schedule, having played Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and UT-Martin, and its SEC West wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn lack the luster they had at the time. But the committee is keen on the SEC.

“ ‘They’ve diminished a little bit, but they’re still quality wins,’ Long said.

“If the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl at the end of the month, there’s a good chance they still finish ahead of Baylor and TCU. Plus, Long said the fact that Mississippi State kept it a 5-point game with Alabama helped its cause.”

--And now the new AP Poll...

1. Florida State 11-0 (37 first-place votes)
2. Alabama 10-1 (21)
3. Oregon 10-1 (2)
4. Mississippi State 10-1
5. Baylor 9-1
6. TCU 9-1
7. Ohio State 10-1...not good
8. Georgia 9-2
9. UCLA 9-2
10. Michigan State 9-2
11. Kansas State 8-2
12. Arizona 9-2
13. Arizona State 9-2...battle of Arizona on Friday...New Year’s bowl game on the line, says moi
14. Wisconsin 9-2
17. Missouri 9-2
18. Ole Miss 8-3...where they belong
19. Marshall 11-0...no way CFP ranks them
21. Colorado State 10-1
25. Boise State 9-2...uh...they’re back...

--A note on coaches’ pay.

The SEC has the highest average pay per head coach at $3.75 million, followed by the Big 12, $3.5m; Big Ten, $2.83m; Pac-12, $2.47m; ACC, $2.42m. [Steve Berkowitz / USA TODAY Sports]

NFL

--The Eagles moved to 8-3 as they prepped for their big Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, beating Tennessee (2-9) 43-24. Eagles QB Mark Sanchez was 30/43, 307, but had two more interceptions to go along with one score.

But for Coach Chip Kelly, he had to take pride in seeing his former pupil at Oregon, Josh Huff, return the opening kickoff 107 yards. Oh, don’t you know he is not sleeping these days, wondering how he can get Marcus Mariota in next year’s draft.

--New England is now 9-2 after beating Detroit (7-4) 34-9 at Foxborough. Remember when there were those saying Tom Brady was through? He had another efficient effort...38/53, 349, 2-1. For Detroit, Matthew Stafford was abysmal...18/46, 264, 0-1, 49.5.

--The Cleveland Browns are 7-4! Repeat...the Cleveland Browns are 7-4! Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions, but delivered on a final-minute drive that resulted in the winning field goal as the Browns beat the Falcons (4-7) 26-24 in Atlanta.

--Seattle is now 7-4 as they had a nice home win against the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals, 19-3. The injured Carson Palmer’s backup, Drew Stanton, couldn’t do anything, 14/26, 149, 0-1, 54.8, while for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson was his usual cool self, 17/22, 211, 1-0, 121.6...and another 73 on the ground in ten carries. I said Seattle would win it all again this season and I’m fully confident they will come through.

--The 49ers kept pace with Seattle in going to 7-4, surviving three turnovers to turn back the 3-8 Redskins, 17-13. RG3 sucked. 11/19, 106, 0-0, plus a fumble at the end of the game.

--San Diego escaped to get to 7-4 as they forced an interception at the goal line with St. Louis about to take it in for the win. Instead it was the Chargers 27-24, the Rams falling to 4-7. For San Diego, Philip Rivers was better, 29/35, 291, 1-1, 98.9.

--Denver is 8-3 after holding off gritty Miami (6-5), 39-36, with Peyton Manning throwing for four touchdowns; 28/35, 257, 135.4. As Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’ For Miami, quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to impress; 26/36, 228, 3-1, 104.9.

--Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr was set to tie Troy Aikman for the most consecutive losses as a rookie starter, 11, as Oakland went up against 7-3 Kansas City on Thursday.

But a funny thing happened on the way to No. 11. Oakland won, 24-20, as Carr threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:42 remaining.. Kansas City had won 7 of their past 8.

Running back Latavius Murray had 112 yards on just four carries for Oakland before leaving the game with a concussion.

--So the Jets game scheduled for Sunday in Buffalo was moved to Detroit, Monday night, giving the Bills an extra day to prepare, which was only fair. Bills Coach Doug Marrone was living at the team’s offices, sending game video to players electronically.

Tickets for the game at Ford Field are free and it would seem they are all gone.

--Sports Illustrated had a great tidbit. After the Patriots’ Jonas Gray’s superb effort the other day, 199 yards and four TDs against the Colts, New England has 10 players to lead the team in rushing since 2011. Only the Browns have had a bigger rotation in that time (QBs excluded). 

Aside from Gray who has led the team three times during this period, you have Stevan (sic) Ridley (31), LeGarrette Blount* (10), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (8), Shane Vereen (4), Danny Woodhead (4), Brandon Bolden (2), Julian Edelman (1), Kevin Faulk (1) and Aaron Hernandez (1).

*Speaking of Blount, having being cut by the Steelers, he returned to the Patriots and led the team with 78 yards on 12 carries. So make it 11.

Gray, who overslept and missed a meeting, didn’t play...that’s the Patriot way.

MLB

--Yankees fans should be excited over the prospects for first baseman Greg Bird, who led the Arizona Fall League in home runs with six (tied), and was second in RBI, while being selected league MVP. The pressure on Mark Teixeira to perform out of the gate next spring should be considerable with Bird now waiting in the wings...err, Bird waiting in the hallway.

--This is a minor deal, literally, but I was pleased to see Wake Forest’s Allan Dykstra, who played AAA for the Mets last season, sign a minor league deal with Tampa Bay, where I’m guessing he has a real chance to finally make the big time. [Good sleuthing, Phil W.]

--While there seems to be a relative groundswell of support for San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich to be selected Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year,” in this week’s issue of SI they build a case for Madison Bumgarner. You know, I certainly can’t disagree with this.

--MLB experimented with ways to speed up the game during the Arizona Fall League, such as a time limit between pitches (20 seconds) and pitching changes (2:30).

Batters had to keep one foot in the box at all times with some exceptions such as foul balls or an errant pitch. Intentional walks were automatic. A pitcher no longer had to throw four pitches.

No action has been taken by the owners’ Pace of Play Committee, yet.

In 1981, nine-inning games averaged 2 hours 33 minutes, according to MLB. Last season it was 3:02; playoffs 20 minutes longer.

NBA

--Since I last posted Wednesday morning, I have to note a few contests...Wed. night the Spurs beat the Cavs in Cleveland, 92-90, as Tim Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds (but 6 TOs), while LeBron sucked...6-17 from the field, 15 points.

That same night the Grizzlies lost to the Raptors in Toronto, 96-92.

Saturday, Philadelphia fell to 0-13 in losing to the Knicks (4-10) 91-83.

The Spurs beat the Nets 99-87 as Duncan played 25 minutes and had only 7 points. But, he also had 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks and 0 turnovers.

Bazooka Joe says: “Timmy D. played all four years at Wake Forest!”

Also on Saturday, Toronto moved to 11-2 in defeating Cleveland (5-7!) 110-93, as the Raptors’ third guard, Lou Williams, had a spectacular 36 points in 29 minutes... 15-15 from the free throw line. LeBron had another crappy effort...15 points.

--Jason Collins retired. No one made more money, over $34 million, with less ability than he did. 13 seasons, averaging 20 minutes, 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. [And I was saying that years...years ago.]

But he’s a good man, by all accounts, and in the end, when we’re all in our rocking chairs (and hopefully not hooked up to tubes those final days), I guess that’s all that really matters.

--The NBA suspended the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeffery Taylor for 24 games without pay for domestic violence. Taylor had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and a charge of malicious destruction of property at the end of October, which gave the league the go-ahead to levy sanctions on the third-year player.

Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, no penalties can be handed down unless there is a conviction. The minimum ban that can be imposed is 10 games.

Taylor hadn’t played this season for the Hornets. He’ll have rocking chair issues.

CBB

--Wednesday, No. 2 Arizona was hosting UC-Irvine and Irvine was up 46-43 with 8:45 left, only to have the Wildcats go on a 28-8 run the rest of the way to close it out, 71-54...the mark of a top five team for sure.

Wake Forest lost to Arkansas 83-53 as the Deacs were 1-18 from three-point land, after the game before, their opponent, Tulane, was 1-20. Then Wake lost to Iona at home, 85-81. 

I am not going to give the Deacs grief this season, just as I didn’t with the football team (except to point out they had the worst running game in the history of the sport). 

--Thursday, my San Diego State Aztecs took on CSU Bakersfield and it was another pathetic performance from the field...SDSU went 14 of 57, 24.6%, and just 3 of 24 from downtown, but Bakersfield was even worse, 12-56, 1-20, as the Aztecs prevailed 51-27. Good lord.

Earlier, after SDSU’s shooting woes in a win over Utah, Rich L., who hails from New Hampshire, told me his daughter is now at the school and he attended the game. “Need O! Maybe will come.”

But then you had Thursday’s contest. Rich, it’s going to be an interesting season.

--At a game in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gardner-Webb hit a three to tie the game at 70 with Clemson, 6.6 seconds remaining. Clemson then tried to inbound the ball when freshman Donte Grantham signaled for a timeout.

One problem. The Tigers didn’t have one. They were out. He pulled a Chris Webber, as it is forever after known...the gaffe in the NCAA national championship game from 21...21 years ago! Geezuz, how old do some of you feel now?

Gardner-Webb sank its free throws for a 72-70 win. A few days earlier, Clemson had lost to Winthrop, 77-74, at home.

--Jeff S. wrote that if Kentucky doesn’t go undefeated, he would be amazed. The team is “ridiculous.” Can’t disagree with you, Shu. Dec. 27 at Louisville will be a good early showcase.

--Interesting early season game on Monday from Brooklyn, Villanova vs. VCU, ESPN2, 7:00 PM. [But some of us will be watching the Jets-Bills, at least at the start.]

Stuff

--Manny Pacquiao defeated Chris Algieri to retain the WBO welterweight title, thus handing Algieri, who hails from Long Island (and still lives in his parents’ basement), his first loss.

The bout was in Macau and Pacquiao dominated the fight, which I didn’t pony up for, knocking Algieri down six times. I might have purchased it, but I saw the fiasco surrounding the weigh-in, with Algieri failing to make weight on his first attempt and that’s never a good sign.

The decision was unanimous...a mauling.

--Lionel Messi may leave Spain and his team, Barcelona, because of continued tax issues that could land him in jail, as reported by the Washington Post’s Marisa Payne. Messi earns $62.2 million per year and he’s complained Spanish authorities are unfairly singling him out – “even after he thought he settled the matter with the Spanish government,” writes Ms. Payne.

The government alleges he owes $5.3 million in income taxes and that he faces a criminal trial for tax evasion.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Messi broke the record for all-time top goalscorer in La Liga: 253 goals in 289 matches, topping that of Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra back in 1955. That’s pretty awesome.

Cristiano Ronaldo has 197 but he only joined La Liga in 2009.

--FIFA suddenly reversed course and has agreed to release full copies of reports by lawyer Michael Garcia into alleged World Cup bidding corruption for Moscow, 2018, and Qatar, 2022. This is potentially huge.

--In the NCAA Men’s soccer championship, Wake Forest lost to UMBC at home, embarrassing, and Old Dominion defeated St. Francis (Brooklyn). So now I don’t care what happens from here. [I will, however, follow it.]

--Henrik Stenson won the European Tour’s season-ending event in Dubai, and thus finished second in the final points standings to Rory McIlroy. What’s interesting is that the three runner-ups on Sunday were Ryder Cup teammates of Stenson’s...McIlroy, Justin Rose and Victor Dubuisson.

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello had the lead with three holes to go and then went double-double to finish ninth.

--Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming his parents are responsible for his plight. Before signing a seven-year, $30.5 million deal in 2011, he granted power of attorney to his mother, Tina Johnson, that gave her full control of his finances.

Jack claims Tina and his father bought a house in Manhattan Beach, California, with his money but without telling him. They also supposedly borrowed $15 million against their son’s earnings, with one loan for $3 million carrying an interest rate of 24%.

Bottom line, the money is gone, and Johnson reportedly has debts of more than $10 million. [Katie Strang / ESPN.com]

--A federal district judge issued a ruling Friday night that continues to prohibit New Jersey from moving forward with its latest plan to introduce legalized sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

However, as this three-year saga continues, the state will now take the issue to the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where officials say they face much better odds of winning.

Some say it could yet end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, but were that the case, we might be talking another year (just my opinion).

--Tiger Woods selected Chris Como, 36, to be his new swing coach (or ‘consultant’ as Tiger is calling him). The Dallas area-based Como was named by Golf Digest as one of “the best young teachers.” He has a Masters degree in biomechanics, which means when it comes to the swing he’s real anal about it. Tiger said his buddy Notah Begay introduced him to Como.

I do hope Tiger comes back strong. The sport needs him. The networks need him desperately. But no one should believe he can stay healthy.

--There was a story this week that Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, according to former driver Philippe Streiff. The seven-time champion cannot speak and has memory problems.

Streiff is himself wheelchair-bound after a 1989 pre-season test run left him a quadriplegic. He’s a good friend of Schumacher’s and told French radio: “He is getting better but everything is relative.”

Schumacher, who suffered that freak ski accident in the French Alps last December, is now being cared for at his home on the shores of Lake Geneva.

--Speaking of Formula One, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton clinched his second title on Sunday at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by winning the race. Hamilton’s other title was in 2008.

Hamilton’s teammate, and bitter rival, Nico Rosberg, ended up second in the points race.

And as further proof no sport gets the girls like Formula One, Hamilton’s girlfriend is Nicole Scherzinger. [Cough cough...ahem ahem...]

Hamilton joins British drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark with two F1 titles, with Jackie Stewart having three.

--I haven’t seen if any of Buffalo’s suburbs officially set the record for snowfall in 24 hours, but the unofficial record had been 77 inches on the Tug Hill Plateau of New York on Jan. 11-2, 1997.

Back on Dec. 18, 1981, Valparaiso, Ind., had a record 22 inches in 3 hours!

The record for one hour is 12 inches, Dec. 2, 1966, Copenhagen, N.Y.

[Just looked up Valparaiso. I feel like an idiot. Never knew how close to the water it was.]

--What an incredible career, and incredible legacy, that Mike Nichols left as he died at the age of 83 this week. Films like “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Carnal Knowledge.” A Broadway career that included “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple” in the 1960s; Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” four decades later; and then an acclaimed revival of “Death of a Salesman.”

In 1984, as a producer, he propelled Whoopi Goldberg to fame, supervising her one-woman show.

He discovered Dustin Hoffman for “The Graduate.”

He won an Emmy for the groundbreaking AIDS drama, “Angels in America.”

The number of actors he directed over the years is a who’s who of film and Broadway.

But in the beginning it was Nichols and Elaine May, a smash comedy duo, with a recording of their Broadway run winning a Grammy...so he is one of just 12 to win an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy.

He was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin on Nov. 6, 1931. His father was a Jewish doctor from Russia who fled to America to flee the Nazis in 1938, changing his name to Paul Nichols.

Mike Nichols married Diane Sawyer, his fourth wife, in April 1988 and they were quite the couple ever after. 

--Drew Magary / GQ on Stephen A. Smith, as part of Magary’s “The Least Influential People of 2014” column.

“He went on ESPN and ranted about how Ray Rice’s fiancée may have egged him into knocking her out (‘Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions’), then tried to explain himself on Twitter and said something even dumber (‘What about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them?’). Did he get fired for it? Of course not! How can ESPN fire SAS for being an idiot when they hired him specifically to be an idiot?”

--Bill Nye, ‘The Science Guy,’ had a piece in the weekend Wall Street Journal and I like this comment of his.

“The best toy for a child is: a magnifying glass. I had a plastic one as a kid and looked at everything through it – sand, flowers, cement, fingernails. It sparked my interest in science.”

So, parents with young children. This holiday season buy them a decent one...and only that. Then, when they start crying they didn’t get a whole lot more, tell them to go outside and see if they can find their other gifts.

Just remember to bring them in before you go to bed. You could be liable if they were to freeze to death.

--We note the passing of Jimmy Ruffin, 78, the soul singer best known for the 1966 Top 10 hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” easily a top 100 on my personal list, but it’s surprising it never charted higher than #7.

Jimmy was the elder of the two Ruffin brothers.  David did another all-time fave of mine, “Walk Away From Love,” which was a #9 hit in 1975. This too should have been higher. David was co-lead of the Temptations from 1963-68 and died of a drug overdose in 1991 at the age of 50.

Jimmy Lee Ruffin was born in Collinsville, Miss., May 7, 1936. His father was a sharecropper, preacher and gospel singer. His mother, Ophelia, who bore several children before Jimmy, died when he was about 5, soon after the birth of brother Davis, who later adopted the name David.

“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” was originally intended for the Spinners. [Paul Vitello / New York Times]

And here’s something I didn’t know. As related in the Los Angeles Times by Randy Lewis, Jimmy was in line to join the Temps, but they liked David’s “grittier” voice better.

Berry Gordy, in a statement, said of Jimmy, “He was truly underrated...and ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,’ one of the greatest songs put out by Motown and also one of my personal favorites.”

Top 3 songs for the week 11/22/69: #1 “Wedding Bell Blues” (The 5th Dimension) #2 “Take A Letter Maria” (R.B. Greaves) #3 “Something” (The Beatles)...and...#4 “And When I Die” (Blood, Sweat & Tears...song gets better with each passing year...) #5 “Smile A Little Smile For Me” (The Flying Machine) #6 “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam) #7 “Come Together” (The Beatles) #8 “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” (Stevie Wonder) #9 “Suspicious Minds” (Elvis Presley...was his last to hit #1...) #10 “I Can’t Get Next To You” (The Temptations)

NFL Quiz Answer: Marion Motley is the all-time rusher from a yards per carry standpoint. 828 carries for Cleveland (1946-53...with a brief stint in ’55 with the Steelers), 4,720 yards, 5.7 avg.

Back to Charles, one year in his career really stands out. 2010...230-1,467...6.4 avg.!

Next Bar Chat, Wednesday....at some point...a super brief one just to delve into the CFP selection committee rankings.

 


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Bar Chat

11/24/2014

Down to the Wire

[Posted Sunday PM, prior to Giants-Cowboys]

NFL Quiz: Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles really has had an extraordinary career that it seems he is finally being recognized for, nationwide. His per carry average is 5.5, ahead of Jim Brown’s 5.2. But all time among running backs, there is one who is ahead of him at 5.7 per carry. Name him. [Michael Vick, 7.1, and Randall Cunningham, 6.4, are the leading rushers period. Minimum 750 carries to qualify.] Answer below.

CFB Review

Well that was the worst week of the college football season with practically zero drama. But the next two weekends should rectify that.

--No. 1 Alabama (10-1, 6-0) defeated Western Carolina 48-14.

--No. 2 Oregon (10-1, 7-1) easily handled a dreadful Colorado (2-9, 0-8) squad 44-10 as the Ducks outgained the Buffaloes 597-226, with your Heisman winner Marcus Mariota going 24/32, 323, 3-0, and another 73 yards on the ground with a fourth score. And Oregon covered, the line being 32 ½. Good day all around for my Ducks.

--No. 3 Florida State (11-0, 8-0) survived another scare, 20-17 against game Boston College (6-5, 3-4); the Seminoles 5th win by six points or less. FSU outgained BC 391-313 as Jameis Winston once again did just enough to win, 22/32, 281, 1-1, overcoming a BC ground game that piled up 240 yards on 51 carries.

--No. 4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1) blasted Vanderbilt (3-8, 0-7) 51-0.

--No. 6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-0) did nothing to help its playoff chances with a totally underwhelming 42-27 effort against lousy Indiana (3-8, 0-7). The Buckeyes led only 21-20 after three before Jalin Marshall bailed them out with three of his four second-half touchdown in the fourth quarter.

So Ohio State clinched a Big Ten title game berth against the winner of next week’s Wisconsin-Minnesota matchup.

--No. 16 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1) held off Iowa (7-4, 4-3) 26-24 as Melvin Gordon rushed for 200 yards on 31 carries, while No. 25 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) rallied late to defeat No. 23 Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) in Lincoln, 28-24.

--No. 7 Baylor (9-1, 6-1) is still in it with a 49-28 win over Oklahoma State (5-6, 3-5). Baylor has Texas Tech and No. 12 Kansas State remaining on the schedule with the Big 12 not having a title game. K-State (8-2, 6-1) defeated West Virginia (6-5, 4-4) on Thursday in Morgantown 26-20.

--No. 8 Ole Miss fell to 8-3, 4-3, and probably out of the New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day bowl picture with an embarrassing 30-0 loss to improving Arkansas (6-5, 2-5). At least the Rebels shouldn’t be a featured bowl team, unless they beat Mississippi State, which now doesn’t appear likely.

For Ole Miss on Saturday, fans got the ‘bad’ Bo Wallace, the quarterback going 16/31, 235, 0-2.

--No. 9 UCLA (9-2, 6-2) kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 38-20 win over No. 19 USC (7-4, 6-3). Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley had a great game, 22/31, 326, 3-1, as he’s been rounding into form after a so-so start to the season, at least by his standards. UCLA outgained USC 461-276 in the Battle of Los Angeles.

--No. 10 Georgia (9-2, 6-0) defeated Charleston Southern 55-9. Whoopty-damn-do.

--Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) continued to show its fans it’s not ready for prime time in losing to No. 11 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) 45-3, as the Spartans outgained the Scarlet Knights 520-234. Yuck.

--In other games, UCF moved to 7-3 with a 53-7 win over winless SMU (0-10). The less said the better; I think Paul P. would agree.

--No. 13 Arizona State (9-2, 6-2) outlasted Washington State (3-8, 2-6) 52-31, pulling away late. For the Cougars, with star QB Connor Halliday out for the season with an injury, backup Luke Falk threw for 601 yards, going 45 of 74 with three scores, but he also threw four interceptions. Washington State outgained ASU 622-330. But the Sun Devils picked up the needed ‘W’.

--No. 21 Oklahoma (8-3, 5-3) beat Kansas (3-8, 1-7) 44-7 and the story here was true freshman running back Samaje Perine. One week after Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon set the all-time single-game rushing record with 408 yards, Perine bested it with 427 on 34 carries, including five touchdowns...none of which were cheapies...scoring runs of 49, 33, 34, 66 and 27. 

--Notre Dame (7-4) lost to Louisville (8-3) 31-28 as for a second straight week their kicker missed a late easy field goal. If the Fighting Irish are playing New Year’s Eve or Day, it will be a travesty.

--Thursday night, Duke blew their chance for a repeat ACC title game appearance as they lost to North Carolina, 45-20. Duke fell to 8-3, 4-3; Carolina is 6-5, 4-3. It’s Florida State vs. Georgia Tech instead.

--Wake Forest entered its home contest against Virginia Tech as the worst team nationally in rushing...34.1 yards a game. And at 0-6 in the ACC, they were hoping to avoid their first winless conference season since 1995.

Well the Deacs (3-8, 1-6) prevailed, defeating VaTech (5-6, 2-5) in a real shootout, 6-3 in double overtime.

Yes, it was 0-0 in regulation. Scintillating. Fellow alum Dr. W. said it was just atrocious to watch, “like watching two JV offenses.”

Hey, we did have 74 yards rushing on 42 carries (1.8 average)! The thing is the only player worth a damn this season, our freshman kicker Mike Weaver, who came into the game 13 of 14 on field goals (the only miss being from over 50), missed three in regulation, before coming through with two in OT.

I’m just happy for Coach Dave Clawson. He’ll get this program back on track, but it won’t be until 2016.

--So that brings us to a discussion of what the playoff selection committee is going to do with the ‘Group of Five’...the awarding of a major bowl game appearance to the best non-Power Five conference team.

Colorado State staked its claim with a 58-20 win over 3-8 New Mexico to advance to 10-1, 6-1. But CSU won’t even win its Mountain West division because its loss is to Boise State (9-2, 6-1). So what do you there?

And then there is Marshall, now 11-0 after a totally unimpressive win over 5-6 UAB, 23-18. Marshall has had the worst schedule in the conference and its why the selection committee has refused to rank them.

But one of these guys has to get a bid...that’s part of the agreement. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll say they select Marshall while holding their noses.

Before the AP releases their latest poll, with the CFP rankings released on Tuesday, I’ve gotta go with a final four of Oregon, FSU, Alabama and Mississippi State. Again, as long as ‘Bama beats Auburn, it won’t matter what the Crimson Tide do in the SEC title game.

Some assorted thoughts from around the country.
Chris Dufresne / Los Angeles Times

“It is not a question of ‘if’ anymore in Tallahassee, it’s a question of ‘how.’

“As in, ‘How in the world are they doing this?’

“The Florida State Seminoles pulled out another squeaker Saturday, needing Roberto Aguayo’s 26-yard field goal to eke out a 20-17 home victory against Boston College....

“The Seminoles are defending national champions but are playing a completely different brand of football from 2013, when they dominated every regular-season opponent on their way to a title-game victory over Auburn.

“This year’s Florida State is living on the edge....

“Florida State is sidling up to some of the best miracle-worker teams of the early century.

Ohio State’s 2002 national title team won six games by seven points or fewer before beating Miami, in double overtime, for the championship....

Auburn’s 2010 squad won five games by three points or fewer in a season that ended with a last-second win over Oregon in the BCS title game. Early that year, Auburn survived with a three-point win in overtime after a Clemson receiver dropped what should have been the winning touchdown.

“Auburn also rallied from a 24-0 deficit to defeat Alabama.

“Two more teams get a crack to dislodge Florida State this year: Florida next week, and then Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.”

Dufresne on another topic.

“The worst game in modern college history is generally considered to be the scoreless tie in 1983 between Oregon and Oregon State.

“At least the fans of that game, known as ‘The Toilet Bowl,’ were spared the additional agony of overtime.

“That stinker may have met its match Saturday when Wake Forest needed double overtime to upset Virginia Tech, 6-3....

“ ‘We put offensive football back a hundred years,’ Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said.

“It was the first scoreless game to be settled in overtime since 2005, when Arkansas State clipped Florida Atlantic, 3-0.

“Virginia Tech fell to 5-6 with the defeat, which was not appreciated in Columbus, Ohio, where Ohio State is trying to state its playoff case despite a home loss to Virginia Tech.

“The Hokies, 13 ½-point favorites against Wake Forest, could take solace knowing their upset wasn’t even the worst on campus Saturday.

Virginia Tech’s basketball team, as an 18-point favorite, lost at home to Appalachian State.”

And...I should have noted that Harvard finished 10-0 with a 31-24 win over Yale, while Lafayette defeated Lehigh 27-7 in Yankee Stadium to commemorate the 150th meeting of these Pennsylvania neighbors.

Can you imagine that over 48,000 attended this one?! That’s terrific.

Dan Wolken / USA TODAY Sports...on Marshall’s plight.

“(The) inevitable Marshall snub (in the CFP rankings) may be a little easier to take (this week). The Thundering Herd reached 11-0 at Legion Field on Saturday, stuffing UAB on fourth-and-1 from the 10-yard line inside the final minute to preserve a 23-18 win. If 10 consecutive blowouts against a string of overmatched opponents didn’t impress the selection committee enough to put Marshall in their top-25, it seems unlikely a hold-on-for-dear-life victory against 5-6 UAB is going to move the needle much.

“And it leaves Marshall with a question for which there is no great answer because there is no precedent: Is beating everyone on the schedule, no matter who is on that schedule, enough to get a coveted spot in one of the ‘New Year’s Six’ bowl games?....

“(For) schools in the so-called ‘Group of Five’ conferences – the American Athletic, the Mountain West, the Mid-American, the Sun Belt and Conference USA, where Marshall plays – the committee’s decision on Marshall means everything....

“(A) decision that carries huge financial implications for those leagues and program-defining prestige for the team that gets the bid.

“According to the Sagarin Ratings, Marshall has played the 141st most difficult schedule in the country. There are only 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

“There is certainly nothing Marshall can do about the fact Conference USA is weak this year. But if the committee decides Marshall is the most-deserving champion even though it scheduled Miami (Ohio), Rhode Island, Ohio and Akron out of conference, does it not undercut the notion that strength of schedule was supposed to be rewarded in this new system? Though Marshall had beaten its opponents by an average of 30.8 points before Saturday, the only team with a winning record among that group is 7-4 Rice.

“So if that’s the route to a major bowl game, why would Mountain West leader Boise State ever challenge itself by scheduling Ole Miss and BYU? What’s the point of probable AAC champion Memphis playing UCLA and Ole Miss on the road?”

In defense of Marshall, they did have Louisville on the schedule for this season, but when the Cardinals switched to the ACC, they had to schedule Notre Dame. Marshall will play Louisville in the future, but it does their cause no good this season.

Finally, Laken Litman / USA TODAY Sports...on the plight of the Big 12.

“The Big 12 got a reality check about its playoff hopes this week.

“Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff selection committee released its fourth set of rankings and....TCU, ranked fourth last week, was fifth, and Baylor stayed No. 7.

“One of the main debates surrounding these rankings – the final one will be released Dec. 7 – has been how the committee views TCU and Baylor. The Bears rallied to beat the Frogs 61-58 and if both teams win the rest of their games, Baylor will win the Big 12 as the conference champion tiebreaker is whoever won the game between the two tied teams. Yet the committee – who values, wins, losses, and strength of schedule – sees TCU as the worthier playoff team.

“However, when all is said and done, will either team have a good enough argument to make it into the Top 4?....

“The Horned Frogs had to come from behind to beat the Jayhawks 34-30 on the road, and this did not sit well with the committee.

“ ‘The committee recognized that TCU did not control the game against Kansas,’ committee chairman Jeff Long said on ESPN. ‘When you add that to their body of work, it was obviously a close game, to come from behind at one point at Kansas, a team that does not have a strong resume this year. That certainly impacted it.’....

“And now all the Frogs have left are Texas (Thanksgiving night) and Iowa State....

“The Bears have the 55th toughest schedule in college football. Non-conference games against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, plus a road loss to unranked West Virginia, isn’t gong to help move them up. It hasn’t thus far.

Mississippi State has the 32nd hardest schedule, having played Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and UT-Martin, and its SEC West wins over LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn lack the luster they had at the time. But the committee is keen on the SEC.

“ ‘They’ve diminished a little bit, but they’re still quality wins,’ Long said.

“If the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl at the end of the month, there’s a good chance they still finish ahead of Baylor and TCU. Plus, Long said the fact that Mississippi State kept it a 5-point game with Alabama helped its cause.”

--And now the new AP Poll...

1. Florida State 11-0 (37 first-place votes)
2. Alabama 10-1 (21)
3. Oregon 10-1 (2)
4. Mississippi State 10-1
5. Baylor 9-1
6. TCU 9-1
7. Ohio State 10-1...not good
8. Georgia 9-2
9. UCLA 9-2
10. Michigan State 9-2
11. Kansas State 8-2
12. Arizona 9-2
13. Arizona State 9-2...battle of Arizona on Friday...New Year’s bowl game on the line, says moi
14. Wisconsin 9-2
17. Missouri 9-2
18. Ole Miss 8-3...where they belong
19. Marshall 11-0...no way CFP ranks them
21. Colorado State 10-1
25. Boise State 9-2...uh...they’re back...

--A note on coaches’ pay.

The SEC has the highest average pay per head coach at $3.75 million, followed by the Big 12, $3.5m; Big Ten, $2.83m; Pac-12, $2.47m; ACC, $2.42m. [Steve Berkowitz / USA TODAY Sports]

NFL

--The Eagles moved to 8-3 as they prepped for their big Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, beating Tennessee (2-9) 43-24. Eagles QB Mark Sanchez was 30/43, 307, but had two more interceptions to go along with one score.

But for Coach Chip Kelly, he had to take pride in seeing his former pupil at Oregon, Josh Huff, return the opening kickoff 107 yards. Oh, don’t you know he is not sleeping these days, wondering how he can get Marcus Mariota in next year’s draft.

--New England is now 9-2 after beating Detroit (7-4) 34-9 at Foxborough. Remember when there were those saying Tom Brady was through? He had another efficient effort...38/53, 349, 2-1. For Detroit, Matthew Stafford was abysmal...18/46, 264, 0-1, 49.5.

--The Cleveland Browns are 7-4! Repeat...the Cleveland Browns are 7-4! Quarterback Brian Hoyer threw three interceptions, but delivered on a final-minute drive that resulted in the winning field goal as the Browns beat the Falcons (4-7) 26-24 in Atlanta.

--Seattle is now 7-4 as they had a nice home win against the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals, 19-3. The injured Carson Palmer’s backup, Drew Stanton, couldn’t do anything, 14/26, 149, 0-1, 54.8, while for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson was his usual cool self, 17/22, 211, 1-0, 121.6...and another 73 on the ground in ten carries. I said Seattle would win it all again this season and I’m fully confident they will come through.

--The 49ers kept pace with Seattle in going to 7-4, surviving three turnovers to turn back the 3-8 Redskins, 17-13. RG3 sucked. 11/19, 106, 0-0, plus a fumble at the end of the game.

--San Diego escaped to get to 7-4 as they forced an interception at the goal line with St. Louis about to take it in for the win. Instead it was the Chargers 27-24, the Rams falling to 4-7. For San Diego, Philip Rivers was better, 29/35, 291, 1-1, 98.9.

--Denver is 8-3 after holding off gritty Miami (6-5), 39-36, with Peyton Manning throwing for four touchdowns; 28/35, 257, 135.4. As Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’ For Miami, quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to impress; 26/36, 228, 3-1, 104.9.

--Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr was set to tie Troy Aikman for the most consecutive losses as a rookie starter, 11, as Oakland went up against 7-3 Kansas City on Thursday.

But a funny thing happened on the way to No. 11. Oakland won, 24-20, as Carr threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:42 remaining.. Kansas City had won 7 of their past 8.

Running back Latavius Murray had 112 yards on just four carries for Oakland before leaving the game with a concussion.

--So the Jets game scheduled for Sunday in Buffalo was moved to Detroit, Monday night, giving the Bills an extra day to prepare, which was only fair. Bills Coach Doug Marrone was living at the team’s offices, sending game video to players electronically.

Tickets for the game at Ford Field are free and it would seem they are all gone.

--Sports Illustrated had a great tidbit. After the Patriots’ Jonas Gray’s superb effort the other day, 199 yards and four TDs against the Colts, New England has 10 players to lead the team in rushing since 2011. Only the Browns have had a bigger rotation in that time (QBs excluded). 

Aside from Gray who has led the team three times during this period, you have Stevan (sic) Ridley (31), LeGarrette Blount* (10), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (8), Shane Vereen (4), Danny Woodhead (4), Brandon Bolden (2), Julian Edelman (1), Kevin Faulk (1) and Aaron Hernandez (1).

*Speaking of Blount, having being cut by the Steelers, he returned to the Patriots and led the team with 78 yards on 12 carries. So make it 11.

Gray, who overslept and missed a meeting, didn’t play...that’s the Patriot way.

MLB

--Yankees fans should be excited over the prospects for first baseman Greg Bird, who led the Arizona Fall League in home runs with six (tied), and was second in RBI, while being selected league MVP. The pressure on Mark Teixeira to perform out of the gate next spring should be considerable with Bird now waiting in the wings...err, Bird waiting in the hallway.

--This is a minor deal, literally, but I was pleased to see Wake Forest’s Allan Dykstra, who played AAA for the Mets last season, sign a minor league deal with Tampa Bay, where I’m guessing he has a real chance to finally make the big time. [Good sleuthing, Phil W.]

--While there seems to be a relative groundswell of support for San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich to be selected Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year,” in this week’s issue of SI they build a case for Madison Bumgarner. You know, I certainly can’t disagree with this.

--MLB experimented with ways to speed up the game during the Arizona Fall League, such as a time limit between pitches (20 seconds) and pitching changes (2:30).

Batters had to keep one foot in the box at all times with some exceptions such as foul balls or an errant pitch. Intentional walks were automatic. A pitcher no longer had to throw four pitches.

No action has been taken by the owners’ Pace of Play Committee, yet.

In 1981, nine-inning games averaged 2 hours 33 minutes, according to MLB. Last season it was 3:02; playoffs 20 minutes longer.

NBA

--Since I last posted Wednesday morning, I have to note a few contests...Wed. night the Spurs beat the Cavs in Cleveland, 92-90, as Tim Duncan had 19 points and 10 rebounds (but 6 TOs), while LeBron sucked...6-17 from the field, 15 points.

That same night the Grizzlies lost to the Raptors in Toronto, 96-92.

Saturday, Philadelphia fell to 0-13 in losing to the Knicks (4-10) 91-83.

The Spurs beat the Nets 99-87 as Duncan played 25 minutes and had only 7 points. But, he also had 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks and 0 turnovers.

Bazooka Joe says: “Timmy D. played all four years at Wake Forest!”

Also on Saturday, Toronto moved to 11-2 in defeating Cleveland (5-7!) 110-93, as the Raptors’ third guard, Lou Williams, had a spectacular 36 points in 29 minutes... 15-15 from the free throw line. LeBron had another crappy effort...15 points.

--Jason Collins retired. No one made more money, over $34 million, with less ability than he did. 13 seasons, averaging 20 minutes, 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. [And I was saying that years...years ago.]

But he’s a good man, by all accounts, and in the end, when we’re all in our rocking chairs (and hopefully not hooked up to tubes those final days), I guess that’s all that really matters.

--The NBA suspended the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeffery Taylor for 24 games without pay for domestic violence. Taylor had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and a charge of malicious destruction of property at the end of October, which gave the league the go-ahead to levy sanctions on the third-year player.

Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, no penalties can be handed down unless there is a conviction. The minimum ban that can be imposed is 10 games.

Taylor hadn’t played this season for the Hornets. He’ll have rocking chair issues.

CBB

--Wednesday, No. 2 Arizona was hosting UC-Irvine and Irvine was up 46-43 with 8:45 left, only to have the Wildcats go on a 28-8 run the rest of the way to close it out, 71-54...the mark of a top five team for sure.

Wake Forest lost to Arkansas 83-53 as the Deacs were 1-18 from three-point land, after the game before, their opponent, Tulane, was 1-20. Then Wake lost to Iona at home, 85-81. 

I am not going to give the Deacs grief this season, just as I didn’t with the football team (except to point out they had the worst running game in the history of the sport). 

--Thursday, my San Diego State Aztecs took on CSU Bakersfield and it was another pathetic performance from the field...SDSU went 14 of 57, 24.6%, and just 3 of 24 from downtown, but Bakersfield was even worse, 12-56, 1-20, as the Aztecs prevailed 51-27. Good lord.

Earlier, after SDSU’s shooting woes in a win over Utah, Rich L., who hails from New Hampshire, told me his daughter is now at the school and he attended the game. “Need O! Maybe will come.”

But then you had Thursday’s contest. Rich, it’s going to be an interesting season.

--At a game in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gardner-Webb hit a three to tie the game at 70 with Clemson, 6.6 seconds remaining. Clemson then tried to inbound the ball when freshman Donte Grantham signaled for a timeout.

One problem. The Tigers didn’t have one. They were out. He pulled a Chris Webber, as it is forever after known...the gaffe in the NCAA national championship game from 21...21 years ago! Geezuz, how old do some of you feel now?

Gardner-Webb sank its free throws for a 72-70 win. A few days earlier, Clemson had lost to Winthrop, 77-74, at home.

--Jeff S. wrote that if Kentucky doesn’t go undefeated, he would be amazed. The team is “ridiculous.” Can’t disagree with you, Shu. Dec. 27 at Louisville will be a good early showcase.

--Interesting early season game on Monday from Brooklyn, Villanova vs. VCU, ESPN2, 7:00 PM. [But some of us will be watching the Jets-Bills, at least at the start.]

Stuff

--Manny Pacquiao defeated Chris Algieri to retain the WBO welterweight title, thus handing Algieri, who hails from Long Island (and still lives in his parents’ basement), his first loss.

The bout was in Macau and Pacquiao dominated the fight, which I didn’t pony up for, knocking Algieri down six times. I might have purchased it, but I saw the fiasco surrounding the weigh-in, with Algieri failing to make weight on his first attempt and that’s never a good sign.

The decision was unanimous...a mauling.

--Lionel Messi may leave Spain and his team, Barcelona, because of continued tax issues that could land him in jail, as reported by the Washington Post’s Marisa Payne. Messi earns $62.2 million per year and he’s complained Spanish authorities are unfairly singling him out – “even after he thought he settled the matter with the Spanish government,” writes Ms. Payne.

The government alleges he owes $5.3 million in income taxes and that he faces a criminal trial for tax evasion.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Messi broke the record for all-time top goalscorer in La Liga: 253 goals in 289 matches, topping that of Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra back in 1955. That’s pretty awesome.

Cristiano Ronaldo has 197 but he only joined La Liga in 2009.

--FIFA suddenly reversed course and has agreed to release full copies of reports by lawyer Michael Garcia into alleged World Cup bidding corruption for Moscow, 2018, and Qatar, 2022. This is potentially huge.

--In the NCAA Men’s soccer championship, Wake Forest lost to UMBC at home, embarrassing, and Old Dominion defeated St. Francis (Brooklyn). So now I don’t care what happens from here. [I will, however, follow it.]

--Henrik Stenson won the European Tour’s season-ending event in Dubai, and thus finished second in the final points standings to Rory McIlroy. What’s interesting is that the three runner-ups on Sunday were Ryder Cup teammates of Stenson’s...McIlroy, Justin Rose and Victor Dubuisson.

Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello had the lead with three holes to go and then went double-double to finish ninth.

--Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming his parents are responsible for his plight. Before signing a seven-year, $30.5 million deal in 2011, he granted power of attorney to his mother, Tina Johnson, that gave her full control of his finances.

Jack claims Tina and his father bought a house in Manhattan Beach, California, with his money but without telling him. They also supposedly borrowed $15 million against their son’s earnings, with one loan for $3 million carrying an interest rate of 24%.

Bottom line, the money is gone, and Johnson reportedly has debts of more than $10 million. [Katie Strang / ESPN.com]

--A federal district judge issued a ruling Friday night that continues to prohibit New Jersey from moving forward with its latest plan to introduce legalized sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

However, as this three-year saga continues, the state will now take the issue to the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where officials say they face much better odds of winning.

Some say it could yet end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, but were that the case, we might be talking another year (just my opinion).

--Tiger Woods selected Chris Como, 36, to be his new swing coach (or ‘consultant’ as Tiger is calling him). The Dallas area-based Como was named by Golf Digest as one of “the best young teachers.” He has a Masters degree in biomechanics, which means when it comes to the swing he’s real anal about it. Tiger said his buddy Notah Begay introduced him to Como.

I do hope Tiger comes back strong. The sport needs him. The networks need him desperately. But no one should believe he can stay healthy.

--There was a story this week that Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, according to former driver Philippe Streiff. The seven-time champion cannot speak and has memory problems.

Streiff is himself wheelchair-bound after a 1989 pre-season test run left him a quadriplegic. He’s a good friend of Schumacher’s and told French radio: “He is getting better but everything is relative.”

Schumacher, who suffered that freak ski accident in the French Alps last December, is now being cared for at his home on the shores of Lake Geneva.

--Speaking of Formula One, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton clinched his second title on Sunday at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by winning the race. Hamilton’s other title was in 2008.

Hamilton’s teammate, and bitter rival, Nico Rosberg, ended up second in the points race.

And as further proof no sport gets the girls like Formula One, Hamilton’s girlfriend is Nicole Scherzinger. [Cough cough...ahem ahem...]

Hamilton joins British drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark with two F1 titles, with Jackie Stewart having three.

--I haven’t seen if any of Buffalo’s suburbs officially set the record for snowfall in 24 hours, but the unofficial record had been 77 inches on the Tug Hill Plateau of New York on Jan. 11-2, 1997.

Back on Dec. 18, 1981, Valparaiso, Ind., had a record 22 inches in 3 hours!

The record for one hour is 12 inches, Dec. 2, 1966, Copenhagen, N.Y.

[Just looked up Valparaiso. I feel like an idiot. Never knew how close to the water it was.]

--What an incredible career, and incredible legacy, that Mike Nichols left as he died at the age of 83 this week. Films like “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Carnal Knowledge.” A Broadway career that included “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple” in the 1960s; Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” four decades later; and then an acclaimed revival of “Death of a Salesman.”

In 1984, as a producer, he propelled Whoopi Goldberg to fame, supervising her one-woman show.

He discovered Dustin Hoffman for “The Graduate.”

He won an Emmy for the groundbreaking AIDS drama, “Angels in America.”

The number of actors he directed over the years is a who’s who of film and Broadway.

But in the beginning it was Nichols and Elaine May, a smash comedy duo, with a recording of their Broadway run winning a Grammy...so he is one of just 12 to win an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy.

He was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin on Nov. 6, 1931. His father was a Jewish doctor from Russia who fled to America to flee the Nazis in 1938, changing his name to Paul Nichols.

Mike Nichols married Diane Sawyer, his fourth wife, in April 1988 and they were quite the couple ever after. 

--Drew Magary / GQ on Stephen A. Smith, as part of Magary’s “The Least Influential People of 2014” column.

“He went on ESPN and ranted about how Ray Rice’s fiancée may have egged him into knocking her out (‘Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions’), then tried to explain himself on Twitter and said something even dumber (‘What about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them?’). Did he get fired for it? Of course not! How can ESPN fire SAS for being an idiot when they hired him specifically to be an idiot?”

--Bill Nye, ‘The Science Guy,’ had a piece in the weekend Wall Street Journal and I like this comment of his.

“The best toy for a child is: a magnifying glass. I had a plastic one as a kid and looked at everything through it – sand, flowers, cement, fingernails. It sparked my interest in science.”

So, parents with young children. This holiday season buy them a decent one...and only that. Then, when they start crying they didn’t get a whole lot more, tell them to go outside and see if they can find their other gifts.

Just remember to bring them in before you go to bed. You could be liable if they were to freeze to death.

--We note the passing of Jimmy Ruffin, 78, the soul singer best known for the 1966 Top 10 hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” easily a top 100 on my personal list, but it’s surprising it never charted higher than #7.

Jimmy was the elder of the two Ruffin brothers.  David did another all-time fave of mine, “Walk Away From Love,” which was a #9 hit in 1975. This too should have been higher. David was co-lead of the Temptations from 1963-68 and died of a drug overdose in 1991 at the age of 50.

Jimmy Lee Ruffin was born in Collinsville, Miss., May 7, 1936. His father was a sharecropper, preacher and gospel singer. His mother, Ophelia, who bore several children before Jimmy, died when he was about 5, soon after the birth of brother Davis, who later adopted the name David.

“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” was originally intended for the Spinners. [Paul Vitello / New York Times]

And here’s something I didn’t know. As related in the Los Angeles Times by Randy Lewis, Jimmy was in line to join the Temps, but they liked David’s “grittier” voice better.

Berry Gordy, in a statement, said of Jimmy, “He was truly underrated...and ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,’ one of the greatest songs put out by Motown and also one of my personal favorites.”

Top 3 songs for the week 11/22/69: #1 “Wedding Bell Blues” (The 5th Dimension) #2 “Take A Letter Maria” (R.B. Greaves) #3 “Something” (The Beatles)...and...#4 “And When I Die” (Blood, Sweat & Tears...song gets better with each passing year...) #5 “Smile A Little Smile For Me” (The Flying Machine) #6 “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam) #7 “Come Together” (The Beatles) #8 “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” (Stevie Wonder) #9 “Suspicious Minds” (Elvis Presley...was his last to hit #1...) #10 “I Can’t Get Next To You” (The Temptations)

NFL Quiz Answer: Marion Motley is the all-time rusher from a yards per carry standpoint. 828 carries for Cleveland (1946-53...with a brief stint in ’55 with the Steelers), 4,720 yards, 5.7 avg.

Back to Charles, one year in his career really stands out. 2010...230-1,467...6.4 avg.!

Next Bar Chat, Wednesday....at some point...a super brief one just to delve into the CFP selection committee rankings.