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12/05/2022

CFP Final Four Set

Add-on up top by noon, Wed. A very brief one…out of pocket the next two days.

[Posted early Sunday p.m., prior to conclusion of late NFL games and other stuff.]

NFL Quiz: Name the top five all-time in interceptions thrown. [3 of the 5 are in the Hall of Fame.]  Answer below.

College Football Review…Final CFP Rankings

[Comments written Sunday a.m. prior to release of the final CFP Rankings]

--No. 4 USC knew what it had to do Friday night. Win the Pac-12 championship against 11 Utah in Las Vegas and the Trojans were in the playoffs.

And USC got off to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter off two long drives, including a scintillating 59-yard run from quarterback Caleb Williams, culminating in two short touchdown passes from Williams, the Trojans totally in charge.

Until they weren’t…the Utes ripped off 24 straight points to take a 27-17 and cruised in shocking fashion, 47-24.

A stunner in how it all went down.

Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times

“The invincible quarterback was hobbled. First, the invincible quarterback lost his mobility.

“Then, the genius coach lost his mind.

“Eventually, the streaking USC Trojans limped and stumbled and went splat, their loveliest of dreams dying an ugly death in the desert.

“This Pac-12 championship game…was supposed to be a coronation for the No.4-ranked Trojans, the stunningly brilliant debut season for coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams scheduled to culminate in the teams’ first conference title in five years and its first College Football Playoff berth.

“Then Williams suffered a first-quarter hamstring injury. And Riley suffered several second-quarter brain cramps. And the Trojans eventually lost their resilience against a relentless Utah team that rebounded from a 17-3 deficit to run over tacklers, rush past linemen and eventually crush the Trojans’ hopes with the brutality of an angry craps table.

“USC went bust…. They were the best Pac-12 team during the regular season and yet they don’t even get to play in the Rose Bowl, that honor going to Utah for a second straight year….

“It started with Williams, who injured the hamstring on a thrilling 59-yard, first-quarter run yet continued to play in obvious pain….

“Throughout the night, Williams was the epitome of toughness. But he lost his ability to scramble and his ability to throw consistent pinpoint passes.”

His lack of mobility allowed Williams to be sacked seven times.

Yet Riley coached way too conservatively for many of the Trojans faithful and USC blew some opportunities in the first half to blow the game open.  At the time, USC had outgained Utah 228-89.

The rest of the game, it was Utah outgaining USC 444-191.

Did Williams hurt his Heisman hopes?  Probably not…28/41, 363, 3-1, is not bad.  [The deadline for submitting ballots is tomorrow, Dec. 5, at which time the finalists will be named.]  Coach of the Year?  Riley certainly lost votes and it should go to Sonny Dykes of TCU, if he doesn’t choke as well…yours truly writing this up before the TCU-K-State contest.

--So speaking of which, what happened in this one?

In a terrific game, 10 Kansas State (10-3) held off 3 TCU in overtime, 31-28, handing the Horned Frogs their first loss, 12-1.

TCU fought back from down 28-17 in the fourth quarter to tie it on a drive led by the heroic play of quarterback Max Duggan, who carried the ball for much of the 8-play, 80-yard drive, most of his 110 yards rushing on the day, taking it in himself from 8 yards and then converting on the 2-point conversion for the tie at 28-28.

Into OT they went and K-State stood tall on TCU’s first drive in a goal line stand for the ages.

Duggan carried the ball five yards to inches from the goal line on second down, but after a poor spot that took the ball back to the 1-yard line, and then a review that improved it only four inches from there, the Horned Frogs were left with 3rd-and-goal, inside the one.

And here is what TCU fans will remember forever if they do not get into the playoff field, and may remember forever regardless.  Coach Sonny Dykes chose to run conventional running plays into the line, Kendre Miller getting the handoffs from Duggan like at the five, Miller plowed ahead and was stuffed both times, the Wildcats’ D-line totally overpowering TCU’s line.

After Duggan’s heroics, we were all left wondering why they didn’t try to sneak it in with him.

K-State then got the ball at the 25 and it was academic from there as they ended up with the game-winning field goal, the Wildcats headed to the Sugar Bowl as Big 12 conference champs.

Duggan passed for 251 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for the 110.  For K-State, Deuce Vaughn rushed for 130 yards and had another 30 on two receptions.

So here we are.  Both USC and TCU lose.  5 Ohio State is in, replacing USC.

Last week I wrote that after Tuesday night’s CFP rankings, “the ESPN experts act like TCU is a lock regardless of how they do against K-State.”

I thought if K-State had blown out TCU, like 42-10, then you have a debate, but not with this performance.

No way 6 Alabama, 2-loss Alabama, gets in over the Horned Frogs.

So I’m writing that at 8:13 a.m. ET and in about four hours we’ll find out.

In the other basically meaningless conference games, except for New Year’s Six berths, 1 Georgia was up 35-10 on 14 LSU (9-4) 35-10 at the half and cruised 50-30, the Bulldogs 13-0 and waiting for Ohio State.

2 Michigan finishes 13-0 and will face TCU (because they can’t play Ohio State in the semi) after a 43-22 win over Purdue (8-5) in the Big Ten title game.  The Wolverines were only up 14-13 at the half, but J.J. McCarthy ended up throwing three touchdown passes and Donovan Edwards had another monster game, 25 carries for 185 yards and a score.  A Michigan-Georgia final would be superb.

[Coach Jim Harbaugh earned $1 million for the Big Ten title and $500,000 for advancing into the CFP semis, bringing his bonus total this season to $2.05 million, or more than at least 52 other Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches are making this season in basic annual pay from their schools, according to USA TODAY’s annual compensation survey.  Harbaugh’s annual salary is $8.05 million.]

9 Clemson (11-2) heads to the Orange Bowl to apparently face Tennessee after defeating North Carolina (9-4) for the ACC crown, 39-10, as freshman Cade Klubnik was brought in early at quarterback for the Tigers and was terrific, 20/24, 279, 1-0, with Clemson fans wondering why Dabo Swinney didn’t make this move far earlier in the season.  It could have been a difference maker for sure in whether Clemson is playoff bound.  It is a real shot in the arm for next season at least.  The headlines will read, “The Tiger Are Back!”  Book it.

For Carolina, which has lost three straight down the stretch, Wonder Boy, Drake Maye, sucked again.  He’s had his comeuppance these last three weeks.  Ask me if I feel sorry for the kid.

Meanwhile, 18 Tulane (11-2) wrapped up the Group of Five, New Year’s Six berth with an impressive 45-28 victory over UCF (9-4) for the AAC title.  Quarterback Michael Pratt passed for 394 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for another, and Tyjae Spears carried it 22 times for 199 yards and a TD.

Tulane will be playing USC in the Cotton Bowl.

Penn State vs. Utah in the Rose Bowl.

And, it is assumed, Alabama vs. Kansas State in the Sugar, which could be great.

Penn State bores the hell out of me, but hopefully their offense shows up.  Utah is fun.

I also need to note that Troy (11-2) defeated Coastal Carolina (9-3) in the Sun Belt Championship, 45-26, in a game that was 31-7 at the half.

[Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell agreed to a seven-year deal at about $4 million per to take over as the new head coach at Liberty, after Hugh Freeze left for Auburn.  Chadwell has gone 31-6 at CC the past three years, 39-22 overall.  The Chanticleers are said to be targeting N.C. State offensive coordinator Tim Beck to be the new head coach.  Chants fan Johnny Mac is in a foul mood as we enter the heart of the holiday season.]

--After acting like he had better offers than Colorado for the head coaching job, Deion Sanders is going to Boulder.  According to ESPN, Sanders was planning his exit and has been recruiting players already, though there was a story the current regime didn’t know they were out.

Sanders led Jackson State to an undefeated 11-0, during the 2022 regular season. 

So I’m writing this while watching the U.S.-Netherlands soccer game and would Sanders coach Jackson State later Saturday against Southern in the SWAC Championship?

Yes, Jackson State winning 43-24 to secure a perfect season and the SWAC title.

Colorado then announced the hiring of Sanders, for a reported $4.5 million annually.  Colorado AD Rick George said in a statement late Saturday: “Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I’m confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence while leading a team of high quality and high character.”

Colorado finished its season a godawful 1-11, firing former head coach Karl Dorrell after their first five games, with Mike Sandford Jr. in the interim.

No doubt, Sanders will attract both money and talent.  It would be a surprise if the Buffaloes aren’t playing in a bowl game in two seasons.

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in a statement: “Deion Sanders’ stature transcends sports, and his hiring elevates not only the football program but the university as a whole… This is an exciting new chapter in the long, storied history of Colorado football and I look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our students, supporters and fans to cheer on ‘Coach Prime’ and our student-athletes next fall.”

CU doesn’t really want students…it needs athletes, mused the editor.

--It’s hard keeping up, and I’m not going to really try to…but among the college quarterbacks announcing they are entering the transfer portal are Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec (one year left), Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne (three years), Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong (one year), and Michigan’s Cade McNamara, who confirmed he is transferring to Iowa, after losing his job early in the season to J.J. McCarthy.  McNamara has two seasons of eligibility left.

--Mickey Joseph, who served as Nebraska’s interim coach for nine games this season, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of strangulation and third-degree domestic assault, according to the Lincoln Police Dept.

Nebraska was 3-6 under Joseph, with the Cornhuskers hiring former Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule.

Joseph was to return as wide receivers coach and associate head coach as part of his contract.  No word on whether Rhule will retain Joseph.

Joseph had a number of run-ins with the law while he was quarterback for the Cornhuskers, 1988-91.

--Lastly, the College Football Playoffs are officially expanding to 12 teams for the 2024 season, as the Rose Bowl said it was willing to clear the way, as long as it can keep its traditional Jan. 1 time slot, which is what they seemingly got for 2024 and 2025, but no word on beyond that.

As it stands, the Rose Bowl will be the site of a semifinal each of those seasons.

I can’t stand the 12-team idea. I thought eight was perfect.  The conference champs in each of the Power Five, the Group of Five entrant, and two at-large.  That would very much keep the interest in conference championships, to say the least, and lead to mega-controversy on the two at-large.

So, for example, Purdue beats Michigan, Purdue goes…and Michigan would be battling it out for one of the two at-large bids.  Heck, 85-win teams can win the World Series!

The CFP selection committee would retain its role as it selects the two at-large and the Group of Five entrant.  But the ratings for the conference championships would be huge, instead of like this year, where outside of the Pac-12 and Big 12, who gives a s---?

Alas, my idea isn’t what’s happening.  World blows…film at eleven.

Anyway, I just hope I’m around in 2024.

---

And the final CFP Rankings!

1. Georgia
2. Michigan
3. TCU
4. Ohio State

5. Alabama
6. Tennessee
7. Clemson
8. Utah
9. Kansas State
10. USC
11. Penn State
12. Washington
16. Tulane
19. South Carolina
21. Notre Dame
24. Troy
25. UTSA

For the record, the final AP Poll of the regular season….

1. Georgia (62) 13-0
2. Michigan (1) 13-0
3. TCU 12-1
4. Ohio State 11-1
5. Alabama 10-2
6. Tennessee 10-2
7. Utah 10-3
8. USC 11-2
9. Penn State 10-2
10. Clemson 11-2…interesting CFP has them 7
11. Kansas State 10-3
12. Washington 10-2
13. Florida State 9-4
14. Tulane 11-2
15. Oregon 9-3
16. LSU
17. Oregon State 9-3
18. UCLA 9-3
19. Notre Dame 8-4
20. South Carolina 8-4
21. Texas 8-4
22. UTSA 11-2
23. Troy 11-2
24. Mississippi State 8-4
25. North Carolina State 8-4

The minor bowl matchups were coming in as I was writing this, and I like Pitt-UCLA and Notre Dame-South Carolina.

Wake Forest has Missouri in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.  J. Mac is trying to educate me on what Gasparilla is…sounds like a deadly greenhouse gas to me.  I won’t be in attendance.

--In the Division I-AA / FCS Playoffs….

No. 1 South Dakota State waxed Delaware 42-6 and will face 8 Holy Cross, 35-19 winners over New Hampshire.

2 Sacramento State beat Richmond 38-31 and will take on 7 Incarnate Word, which beat Furman 41-38.

In the other quarterfinals, it will be 5 William & Mary against 4 Montana State, and 3 North Dakota State taking on 6 Samford.

So you can see, boys and girls, that all 8 seeds advanced according to the chalk.

NFL

--It’s not a moral victory, but I’m very proud of my Jets (7-5) in defeat at Minnesota (10-2), falling 27-22.  At the start of the season, us fans were looking for something like 7-10, at best, which would show improvement and the hope would be we’d be entertaining.  With new quarterback Mike White in control now, we are.

Far from perfect on offense, five field goals, just one touchdown, at least White (31/57, 369, 0-2, just 59.8) and rookie receiver Garrett Wilson (8-162) have connected, and we have discovered a running back, undrafted North Carolina State Wolfpack Zonovan Knight, and there’s a different vibe than under the miserable Zach Wilson.

And the Jets defense is outstanding, the Jets outgaining Minnesota 486-287.

I know some fans will be bitching on sports radio tomorrow morning, and I’ll hear it all as I have a long drive ahead.  But to me this was a step forward.

--The Giants (7-4-1) and Commanders (7-5-1) played to a 20-20 tie.  As this was on at the same time as the Jets game, I caught very little of it.  These two immensely boring teams will be hooking up again in two weeks, the Giants facing the Eagles in between, the Red Clouds with a bye.

Meanwhile, there were scores of really, really crappy matchups in the first slot of games today.

To wit….

--My cousin Marilyn (who doesn’t read this column), wrote to tell me she was excited by Pittsburgh’s (5-7) win over the Falcons (5-8), 19-16.  I was happy for her.  We shared recipes, your editor in the midst of a delicious beef and mushroom dish.

--Kind of out of nowhere, both Aaron Rodgers and Justin Fields played, as the Packers (5-8) beat the Bears (3-10) 28-19, in the “Whatever, Just Keep Fields Healthy Bowl.”

--Steve G. (who reads this column) was no doubt drowning his sours in a local watering hole, yet again, as the Michael Badgley led Lions (5-7) whipped Steve’s Jags (4-8), 40-14; Badgley recovering from his costly miss on Thanksgiving from 29 yards to go 4-4 on field goals (45, 47, 38, 44) and 4-4 extra points. 

--Trader George’s Browns (5-7) beat the soon-to-be-relegated Texans (1-10-1…to be replaced by the CFP winner) 27-14.

“Citizen of the Year” Deshaun Watson made his return for Cleveland and sucked, which is a good thing, but Cleveland scored on a punt return, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Trader George and I have a huge bet on who has more wins…his Browns or my Jets…and he cut my lead to two games.   The winner gets a bunch of cans of Dinty Moore or Hormel Chili and copious beers on his porch in the dead of winter.

--In a game that mattered, the Ravens improved to 8-4 with a 10-9 win over the pathetic Broncos (3-9).  Lamar Jackson exited in the first quarter with a knee injury, but he didn’t look that bad on the sidelines, so we’ll see, as Baltimore needed a late 91-yard drive led by backup Tyler Huntley for the win.

--And the Eagles are 11-1, 35-10 winners over the struggling Titans (7-5), who’ve lost their way, Jalen Hurts superb…29/39, 380, 3-0, 130.3…A.J. Brown 8-119-2, Devonta Smith 5-102-1.

Derrick Henry had his second straight sub-40-yard game rushing.

--John Hadl died. He was 82.  The longtime San Diego Charger, before he bounced around in the latter stages of his career, was one of the leading quarterbacks of the old AFL, in a career spanning 16 seasons.

The University of Kansas, where Hadl played quarterback, announced the death.  No cause was given.

When the AFL and the NFL held separate drafts in 1962, long before the merger, it wasn’t clear whether Hadl was best suited to be a passer or a runner in the pro grame.

He had been an outstanding running back at Kansas as a sophomore, but played QB in his final two seasons in a run-oriented offense, gaining All-America honors as a senior.

The Chargers selected him in the third round of the AFL draft, envisioning him as a quarterback, while the Detroit Lions drafted him No. 10 overall and saw him as a running back who might throw option passes.

Hadl said he thought his career as a running back would be a short one and opted for San Diego. A smart choice.

The Chargers’ offense featured future Hal of Fame receiver Lance Alworth, as well as outstanding running backs Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln, as well as a solid offensive line headed up by Ron Mix, another future Hall of Famer.

Hadl played for the Chargers from 1962 to 1972, appearing in three AFL championship games, going 1-2.

Following the 1972 season, the Chargers traded Hadl to the Rams, who had dealt quarterback Roman Gabriel to the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Rams were 6-7-1 in 1972, but under their new coach, Chuck Knox, and buoyed by Hadl’s passing, they improved to 12-2, but lost their divisional playoff game to the Cowboys.

Hadl led the AFL/AFC in passing yardage three seasons, though his passing completion percentage was just 50.4% for his career, and while he threw 244 touchdown passes, he also was intercepted 268 times.

World Cup

As we entered the knockout stage, vs. form five teams didn’t make it, some shockingly so…Belgium, Germany, Uruguay, Denmark and Mexico.

Poland, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Morocco were the surprises, particularly Australia and Morocco, who were ranked fourth in their Groups by Sports Illustrated.

Saturday, the run for the USMNT ended, 3-1 to the Netherlands.  We made some mistakes, particularly on the back line, but we fought back after a 2-0 halftime deficit to make things exciting, though missing countless opportunities.

In the end, the U.S. did what it had to do, advance to the knockout stage, but you see our weaknesses on offense if we want to step up come 2026.

It was said before the tournament, and it proved true, we need a striker, which we were sorely lacking, a Harry Kane type.

Granted, there are only 5 or 6 Kane-type strikers in the world, but you didn’t feel once in our four games that we were going to head one into the net…which Kane does seemingly every game for Tottenham…and fans hope, for England.

We obviously don’t have a Mbappe either.  Christian Pulisic is very good…but he’s not an international superstar.

Pulisic, though, is still just 24 and he’ll get better.  Ditto Brendan Aaronson, 22, and 20-year-old Gio Reyna.

What Americans should be today, though, is very proud.  It’s a great group of guys, the Best of America, well coached, and on the upswing.

And for American Soccer, the excitement for the 2026 World Cup will begin building summer of 2024, with the event to be held in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.  It’s only going to help youth programs, high school, college, Americans following the MLS and Premier League more intensely.  All good.

As for other knockout games thus far…

Argentina and Lionel Messi move on, 2-1 over Australia.  Messi was making his 1,000th career appearance and scored his 789th goal, 94th for Argentina.

Today, Kylian Mbappe scored twice as France beat Poland, 3-1.

And England blitzed Senegal 3-0, Harry Kane with a goal.

This sets up a delicious quarterfinal next Sat., England vs. France.  Oh baby.

--In the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, we are down to a final four which will gather next weekend in Cary, N.C.

Unseeded Pitt vs. 13 Indiana and 3 Syracuse vs. unseeded Creighton.

Rather remarkable.  Go ACC!

College Basketball

--In Top 25 action since I last posted….

Wednesday…10 Indiana (7-0) beat struggling 18 North Carolina, 77-65, the Tar Heels’ third-straight loss.  From No. 1 to out of the Top 25 (or so they should be come Monday’s next poll).  Stunning.

Thursday…Utah (6-2) upset 4 Arizona (6-1) 81-66, Utes Nation on a roll; and 2 Texas (6-0) edged 7 Creighton (6-2) 72-67, as the Bluejays shot just 4 of 27 from three.

Friday…6 Baylor (6-2) beat 14 Gonzaga (5-3) 64-63, the Zags, like UNC, off to a rather shocking start, though they’ve played a brutal schedule, the other losses to Texas and Purdue.

Also Friday, Wake Forest (7-2) laid an egg at Clemson (7-2).  The Deacs, hot off their big road win at Wisconsin, had a 33-26 halftime lead and then imploded, the Tigers outscoring Wake 51-24, final score, 77-57.  Ugh.  Our big three (or what passes for a Big Three for the Deacs), Cameron Hildreth, Damari Monsanto and Tyree Appleby, was 9 of 35 from the field.

Saturday…3 Virginia (7-0) beat Florida State 62-57, which is a shocking 1-9!

1 Houston (8-0) held off Saint Mary’s (6-3) 53-48.

But I watched most of 10 Indiana (7-1) at Rutgers (6-2), as the Scarlet Knights looked terrific, winning 63-48.  RU’s Steve Pikiell is a helluva coach and they play super tough defense.  The home crowd is also terrific and raucous.  It was Rutgers’ ninth win in 10 against IU.

I watched the game because I’m going to see Wake Forest take on RU in two weeks and, boy, the Deacs better be prepared.

Today, Holy Toledo!  Virginia Tech (8-1) beat North Carolina (5-4!) 80-72…four straight losses for the Tar Heels.  That certainly wraps it up…no Top 25 for UNC!  Wow.

NBA

--Friday, Brooklyn won their fourth straight, 114-105 against Toronto (11-11) to move to 13-11.  Tonight, they are taking on the Celtics (18-5) at home.

--Dallas superstar Luka Doncic is averaging 30/8/8 thus far, including after Saturday’s 121-100 win over the Knicks…Doncic’s season line 33.4, 8.6, 8.6 (30-8-7 Saturday, as the Knicks, 10-13, continue to struggle mightily at home, 4-7).

Only three other players in NBA history have done so for a full season…Russell Westbrook, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson (4 times).

The Big ‘O’ and Westbrook* are the only ones to average a triple-double at 30 points per game.

*Yes, Westbrook has multiple triple-double seasons, if you’re thinking, ‘Hold on, Sheriff…’ but only the one at 30 points. 

MLB

--Jacob deGrom cemented his place in Mets lore on Friday, signing a beyond absurd five-year, $185 million deal with the Texas Rangers, who go into the December file for Idiot Franchise of the Year.

DeGrom reportedly turned down an offer from our Uncle Stevie, three years, $120 million, or $40 million per, essentially the same as ex-teammate Max Scherzer’s $40.3 million, and Mr. Cohen correctly didn’t offer deGrom more than the three years.

According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman and Mike Puma, New York never got to a final offer.

Owner Steve Cohen issued a short statement that spoke volumes:  “I wish him well.  He has the right to choose his team. Now this team has to move on to the next thing.”

Let’s just back up for a second.  DeGrom won back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2018 and 2019, 32 starts each season, 1.70 and 2.43 ERA, 200+ innings, 269 and 255 strikeouts.  As good as anyone in baseball history.

2020, he made 12 starts in the Covid season, now age 32, and was terrific again, 4-2, 2.38, third in the Cy Young vote.

In 2021, deGrom got off to a spectacular start, 15 starts, 7-2, 1.08, 146 strikeouts in just 92 innings, and then he was shelved by a forearm injury, missing the start of 2022 with a stress reaction in his right shoulder, and he didn’t return until August of last season, and after starting out well, he stumbled the rest of the campaign.  Eleven starts, 3.08 ERA.

DeGrom would make 26 starts out of a possible 62-64 over 2021-22.  The way he ended up 2022 led you to believe it would be difficult to ever envision the deGrom of 2018-19 again, for which you would pay $40 million per over two or three years.

But with the injury history, and him being 34, 35 next June, five years for $185 million?!  That’s nuts.

As the New York Post’s Jon Heyman put it:

“Six words came to mind upon hearing the Rangers’ announcement of the $185 million, five-year deal for Jacob deGrom: Not worth it. Not even close.”

There are some writing that Mets fans are upset with deGrom’s departure.  I sure as hell am not one of them.  Good riddance.  Jerry Koosman is an all-time Met.  Jacob deGrom is not.  When the Rangers come to town next August, it’s likely deGrom will be on the IL.  If he’s healthy and pitching well, it will be interesting to see the fans’ reaction.  I’m like ‘whatever.’

Heyman:

“This isn’t Tom Seaver leaving town.  This is a guy whose abilities far exceeded his accomplishments and who, at least in the final couple years, seemed very unhappy – presumably either unhappy to be in New York, or unhappy to have signed a contract he detested. It’s hard to know for sure, but one Mets executive said he doesn’t think deGrom is about money but merely preferred to be out of New York, even if a few teammates incorrectly suggested they believed he preferred to return.”

So now the Mets will be going hard after Carlos Rodon and Justin Verlander.  Maybe the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon, which I’d have no problem with.

This is inside Mets baseball, but Mets fans also know we need David Peterson and Tylor Megill to step up bigly, and they are capable of doing so.

It’s a long way to Opening Day.  More change is a comin’.

I lost zero sleep over deGrom’s departure.  When I wake up in the middle of the night these days, it’s over Wake Forest Football.

--Don Mattingly was hired by Toronto to be their bench coach. It’s a step backward for the 61-year-old, who has been an MLB manager for the past 12 seasons with the Dodgers and Marlins.

But good move for Donnie Baseball.

--Major League Baseball sold the remaining stake in its streaming video company to Walt Disney Co. for $900 million.  MLB, which sold its remaining 15% in BAMTech earlier in November, provides an influx of about $30 million per team.

The deal has piqued the interest of the Players Union, while will now follow whether that money is re-invested into player salaries and team payrolls.

As Bob Nightengale reports from USA TODAY, “There were nine teams who still had payrolls under $100 million last year, with only six teams that exceeded the lowest $230 million luxury tax threshold.

“The payroll disparities also resulted in a great divide of competitive balance among teams on the field. There were 14 teams that finished at least 20 games out of first place in 2022, including 10 that were at least 30 games out of first.  There were four teams that lost 100 games, and four that won 100 games.

“Now, with teams collecting uniform patch revenue for the first time, increased TV rights, and potential expansion fees on the horizon, there’s no excuse for teams – perhaps outside Oakland with its stadium woes – to intentionally tank.”

--Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry died. He was 84.

Perry won 314 games (314-265, 3.11 ERA), was a 2-time Cy Young Award winner, including at age 39, won 20 games five times, and pitched 300 innings in six seasons, though he only made one postseason in his 22 years in the majors.

But as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes, when baseball fans think of Gaylord Perry, they remember one thing.

“So long to the great spitball artist.

“Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, who won 314 games in the majors while confounding and infuriating opposing batters, managers and umpires constantly accusing him of doctoring his pitches, died Thursday….

“A born and bred North Carolina farm boy who grew up in rural Williamston, N.C., working the tobacco, corn and peanut fields with his older brother, Jim, on their parents’ 25-acre parcel of land, Perry was a workhorse starting pitcher across 22 seasons with eight different teams….

“Throughout his career, however, Perry could not escape the persistent accusations of throwing spitballs – which he never actually denied.  Rather, he seemed to delight in flaunting and flummoxing the baseball establishment and, in fact, was only once – on Aug. 23, 1982 – ejected from a game (by home plate umpire Dave Phillips) for throwing two allegedly illegal pitches.  It was perhaps because of his reputation as a cheater, it took Perry three years before being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association in 1971 (with 77.2%), despite his long career of pitching excellence and endurance… his 43.9% completion rate in his starts is the highest of all the 300-game winners since World War II.

“According to Perry in his 1974 memoir ‘Me and the Spitter’ with Bob Sudyk, he first learned how to throw a spitter in 1964 with the Giants from Bob Shaw who’d come over to San Francisco in a trade from the Braves that winter.  Perry, who signed out of high school with the Giants in 1958 for a $60,000 bonus (half of which he gave to his father to help save the farm), was in his third season in 1964 but still struggling to make the San Francisco rotation when the veteran Shaw taught him how to discreetly wet his two fingers on top of the ball and enabling it to sharply break downward at the last split second.  It wasn’t until May 23 that season when Perry first was able to make liberal use of his new pitch while throwing 10 innings of shutout relief in a 23-inning game against the Mets at Shea Stadium.  He continued to pitch near-flawless relief through June before joining the Giants rotation in July and finishing with a 12-11 record with a 2.75 ERA….

“Perry found himself constantly subjected to accusations, harassment and body searches from umpires and opposing managers convinced he was cheating, especially after joining the American League.  In an early season game against the A’s in 1972, Oakland manager Dick Williams had Perry strip-searched and ordered to change shirts. Another time, then-Rangers manager Billy Martin brought a bloodhound to a game to sniff the baseballs Perry had used, while in June 1973 Yankee manager Ralph Houk actually charged out of the dugout to the mound and pulled the cap from Perry’s head, heaving it down on the ground and kicking it.

“For his part, Perry periodically made sly references to the different substances – Vaseline, K-Y Jelly, Slippery Elm tablets, pine tar – for which pitchers used to cheat, always with the idea of getting into the batters’ heads.  But through all the inspections he was made to endure no one ever found anything on him.  ‘I reckon I tried everything on the old apple but salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping,’ he jokingly professed in his book, ‘but of course I’m reformed now.  I’m a law-abiding citizen.’”

Perry’s brother Jim also pitched 17 years in the big leagues, compiling a 215-174 record, and picking up the 1970 Cy Young Award while hurling for Minnesota.  The two combined for 529 victories, second all time to Phil and Joe Niekro with 539.

Stuff

--The Women’s World Cup Alpine schedule hit beautiful Lake Louise in Canada (I was there as an 8-year-old and have fond memories), and Soffia Goggia of Italy won both downhills.

Mikaela Shiffrin skipped this weekend to go back to Europe to prepare for the slalom and GS, in which she has posted 63 of her 76 wins, as she chases Lindsey Vonn’s 82.

--Britain’s Tyson Fury stopped compatriot Derek Chisora in 10 rounds to retain his WBC heavyweight title and complete a trilogy of wins over his old rival on a cold Saturday night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Fury, 34, took his unbeaten professional record to 33 wins and a draw, and stays on course for a unification showdown with reigning IBF, IBO, WBO and WBA holder Oleksandr Usyk, who was ringside.

The two should be squaring off in the spring as the winner would become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis.

--We have a new ‘Animal of the Year’ candidate.  A Georgia sheepdog, Casper, is recovering from injuries after squaring off against a pack of coyotes, killing eight of them, while protecting his herd.

Casper works on John Wierwiller’s farm, and he fought off a pack of coyotes in a fight that lasted over half an hour, WAGA-TV reported.

Wierwillers says that Casper disappeared for two days after the brutal fight.

“We knew he was hurt because we found parts of his tail and blood and other things, so we were worried,” Wierwiller said.

Casper eventually returned to the farm with visible injuries.

“He was kinda looking at me like, ‘Boss, stop looking at how bad I look, just take care of me,’” Wierwiller said.

Poor Casper. The injuries were severe, but the LifeLine Animal Project, an organization with a mission to end euthanasia of healthy animals, stepped in to help raise money for Casper’s hospital bills.  A GoFundMe campaign has already exceeded its goal.

I hope “60 Minutes” does a story on Casper…one of those needed feel-good stories it specializes in.

--We note the passing of Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame. She was 79.

In 1970, Fleetwood Mac were fading as a blues-rock force, their leader Peter Green having left after major drug issues, when the remaining members decamped to a country house to try to find a new direction.

Christine McVie had already given up her own career as a singer and keyboardist after realizing she would hardly see her husband, Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, if they were in different bands.

But a few days before they were due to set out on a U.S. tour, Fleetwood Mac “suddenly felt they needed another instrument to fill out the sound,” she later explained.

“And there I was – sitting around doing next to nothing, and knowing all the songs back to front because I’d been watching them rehearsing for the past three months.”

So drummer Mick Fleetwood said the band asked her to join the tour as they were “walking out the door.”

Christine said “I didn’t think twice when they asked me.”

And so it was the beginning of a new direction for the band and superstardom.

The addition of McVie’s soulful vocals, her keyboard and piano playing, and her gift for writing timeless pop songs, helped define an era and fill stadiums…albeit there were lots of messy relationships, as well as excessive drinking and drug use.

The band relocated to Los Angeles in 1974 and invited a U.S. singer and guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham to join.  He said yes – but only if his girlfriend, singer Stevie Nicks, could join too.  And there was your classic Fleetwood Mac lineup.

Their 1975 self-titled album went to number one in the U.S., with McVie’s Say You Love Me  and Over My Head. 

Then came their artistic and commercial peak, 1977’s Rumours.  McVie’s tracks on Rumours included Don’t Stop, Songbird and You Make Loving Fun.

Erin Osmon / Los Angeles Times

“The woman born Christine Perfect  joined Fleetwood Mac unceremoniously in 1970 after playing in sessions along her then-husband, John McVie… Soon, she was known as the band’s secret weapon for her legacy of hitmaking and allergy to the spotlight.

“In reality, her gifts were no secret at all.  Her track record [Ed. as noted above] is rivaled by few in rock music; she wrote or co-wrote half of the songs that appear on Fleetwood Mac’s 1988 ‘Greatest Hits’ anthology, though she was just one of five members.  Her song ‘Hold Me,’ from 1982’s ‘Mirage,’ spent seven weeks at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100….

“McVie didn’t have the solo success that Nicks and Buckingham did, and told several reporters that she wasn’t the type to hold on to material for solo works, or even plan that far ahead. But the popularity of 1984’s ‘Got A Hold On Me” hinted at what may have happened had she summoned the will and corporate infrastructures.  Instead, she endures as a vital and unselfish contributor, a true-blue bandmate, someone who helped carry her friends but  never demanded their flowers.

“She sent her shy girl songs into the world as a blessing and they – along with her maiden name – were perfect.”

Top 3 songs for the week 12/2/67:  #1 “Daydream Believer” (The Monkees)  #2 “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” (The Cowsills)  #3 “Incense And Peppermints” (Strawberry Alarm Clock)…and…#4 “To Sir With Love” (Lulu)  #5 “I Say A Little Prayer” (Dionne Warwick)  #6 “Please Love Me Forever” (Bobby Vinton)  #7 “Soul Man” (Sam & Dave)  #8 “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Gladys Knight & The Pips)  #9 “I Can See For Miles” (The Who) #10 “An Open Letter To My Teenage Son” (Victor Lundberg…kind of bizarre, spoken word narrative about the Vietnam War and Patriotism…B+ week…)

NFL Quiz Answer: Top five in passes intercepted….

Brett Favre 336
George Blanda 277
John Hadl 268
Vinny Testaverde 267
Fran Tarkenton 266

Norm Snead 257
Johnny Unitas 253
Dan Marino 252
Peyton Manning 251

Very brief Add-on up top by noon, Wed.



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12/05/2022

CFP Final Four Set

Add-on up top by noon, Wed. A very brief one…out of pocket the next two days.

[Posted early Sunday p.m., prior to conclusion of late NFL games and other stuff.]

NFL Quiz: Name the top five all-time in interceptions thrown. [3 of the 5 are in the Hall of Fame.]  Answer below.

College Football Review…Final CFP Rankings

[Comments written Sunday a.m. prior to release of the final CFP Rankings]

--No. 4 USC knew what it had to do Friday night. Win the Pac-12 championship against 11 Utah in Las Vegas and the Trojans were in the playoffs.

And USC got off to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter off two long drives, including a scintillating 59-yard run from quarterback Caleb Williams, culminating in two short touchdown passes from Williams, the Trojans totally in charge.

Until they weren’t…the Utes ripped off 24 straight points to take a 27-17 and cruised in shocking fashion, 47-24.

A stunner in how it all went down.

Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times

“The invincible quarterback was hobbled. First, the invincible quarterback lost his mobility.

“Then, the genius coach lost his mind.

“Eventually, the streaking USC Trojans limped and stumbled and went splat, their loveliest of dreams dying an ugly death in the desert.

“This Pac-12 championship game…was supposed to be a coronation for the No.4-ranked Trojans, the stunningly brilliant debut season for coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams scheduled to culminate in the teams’ first conference title in five years and its first College Football Playoff berth.

“Then Williams suffered a first-quarter hamstring injury. And Riley suffered several second-quarter brain cramps. And the Trojans eventually lost their resilience against a relentless Utah team that rebounded from a 17-3 deficit to run over tacklers, rush past linemen and eventually crush the Trojans’ hopes with the brutality of an angry craps table.

“USC went bust…. They were the best Pac-12 team during the regular season and yet they don’t even get to play in the Rose Bowl, that honor going to Utah for a second straight year….

“It started with Williams, who injured the hamstring on a thrilling 59-yard, first-quarter run yet continued to play in obvious pain….

“Throughout the night, Williams was the epitome of toughness. But he lost his ability to scramble and his ability to throw consistent pinpoint passes.”

His lack of mobility allowed Williams to be sacked seven times.

Yet Riley coached way too conservatively for many of the Trojans faithful and USC blew some opportunities in the first half to blow the game open.  At the time, USC had outgained Utah 228-89.

The rest of the game, it was Utah outgaining USC 444-191.

Did Williams hurt his Heisman hopes?  Probably not…28/41, 363, 3-1, is not bad.  [The deadline for submitting ballots is tomorrow, Dec. 5, at which time the finalists will be named.]  Coach of the Year?  Riley certainly lost votes and it should go to Sonny Dykes of TCU, if he doesn’t choke as well…yours truly writing this up before the TCU-K-State contest.

--So speaking of which, what happened in this one?

In a terrific game, 10 Kansas State (10-3) held off 3 TCU in overtime, 31-28, handing the Horned Frogs their first loss, 12-1.

TCU fought back from down 28-17 in the fourth quarter to tie it on a drive led by the heroic play of quarterback Max Duggan, who carried the ball for much of the 8-play, 80-yard drive, most of his 110 yards rushing on the day, taking it in himself from 8 yards and then converting on the 2-point conversion for the tie at 28-28.

Into OT they went and K-State stood tall on TCU’s first drive in a goal line stand for the ages.

Duggan carried the ball five yards to inches from the goal line on second down, but after a poor spot that took the ball back to the 1-yard line, and then a review that improved it only four inches from there, the Horned Frogs were left with 3rd-and-goal, inside the one.

And here is what TCU fans will remember forever if they do not get into the playoff field, and may remember forever regardless.  Coach Sonny Dykes chose to run conventional running plays into the line, Kendre Miller getting the handoffs from Duggan like at the five, Miller plowed ahead and was stuffed both times, the Wildcats’ D-line totally overpowering TCU’s line.

After Duggan’s heroics, we were all left wondering why they didn’t try to sneak it in with him.

K-State then got the ball at the 25 and it was academic from there as they ended up with the game-winning field goal, the Wildcats headed to the Sugar Bowl as Big 12 conference champs.

Duggan passed for 251 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for the 110.  For K-State, Deuce Vaughn rushed for 130 yards and had another 30 on two receptions.

So here we are.  Both USC and TCU lose.  5 Ohio State is in, replacing USC.

Last week I wrote that after Tuesday night’s CFP rankings, “the ESPN experts act like TCU is a lock regardless of how they do against K-State.”

I thought if K-State had blown out TCU, like 42-10, then you have a debate, but not with this performance.

No way 6 Alabama, 2-loss Alabama, gets in over the Horned Frogs.

So I’m writing that at 8:13 a.m. ET and in about four hours we’ll find out.

In the other basically meaningless conference games, except for New Year’s Six berths, 1 Georgia was up 35-10 on 14 LSU (9-4) 35-10 at the half and cruised 50-30, the Bulldogs 13-0 and waiting for Ohio State.

2 Michigan finishes 13-0 and will face TCU (because they can’t play Ohio State in the semi) after a 43-22 win over Purdue (8-5) in the Big Ten title game.  The Wolverines were only up 14-13 at the half, but J.J. McCarthy ended up throwing three touchdown passes and Donovan Edwards had another monster game, 25 carries for 185 yards and a score.  A Michigan-Georgia final would be superb.

[Coach Jim Harbaugh earned $1 million for the Big Ten title and $500,000 for advancing into the CFP semis, bringing his bonus total this season to $2.05 million, or more than at least 52 other Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches are making this season in basic annual pay from their schools, according to USA TODAY’s annual compensation survey.  Harbaugh’s annual salary is $8.05 million.]

9 Clemson (11-2) heads to the Orange Bowl to apparently face Tennessee after defeating North Carolina (9-4) for the ACC crown, 39-10, as freshman Cade Klubnik was brought in early at quarterback for the Tigers and was terrific, 20/24, 279, 1-0, with Clemson fans wondering why Dabo Swinney didn’t make this move far earlier in the season.  It could have been a difference maker for sure in whether Clemson is playoff bound.  It is a real shot in the arm for next season at least.  The headlines will read, “The Tiger Are Back!”  Book it.

For Carolina, which has lost three straight down the stretch, Wonder Boy, Drake Maye, sucked again.  He’s had his comeuppance these last three weeks.  Ask me if I feel sorry for the kid.

Meanwhile, 18 Tulane (11-2) wrapped up the Group of Five, New Year’s Six berth with an impressive 45-28 victory over UCF (9-4) for the AAC title.  Quarterback Michael Pratt passed for 394 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for another, and Tyjae Spears carried it 22 times for 199 yards and a TD.

Tulane will be playing USC in the Cotton Bowl.

Penn State vs. Utah in the Rose Bowl.

And, it is assumed, Alabama vs. Kansas State in the Sugar, which could be great.

Penn State bores the hell out of me, but hopefully their offense shows up.  Utah is fun.

I also need to note that Troy (11-2) defeated Coastal Carolina (9-3) in the Sun Belt Championship, 45-26, in a game that was 31-7 at the half.

[Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell agreed to a seven-year deal at about $4 million per to take over as the new head coach at Liberty, after Hugh Freeze left for Auburn.  Chadwell has gone 31-6 at CC the past three years, 39-22 overall.  The Chanticleers are said to be targeting N.C. State offensive coordinator Tim Beck to be the new head coach.  Chants fan Johnny Mac is in a foul mood as we enter the heart of the holiday season.]

--After acting like he had better offers than Colorado for the head coaching job, Deion Sanders is going to Boulder.  According to ESPN, Sanders was planning his exit and has been recruiting players already, though there was a story the current regime didn’t know they were out.

Sanders led Jackson State to an undefeated 11-0, during the 2022 regular season. 

So I’m writing this while watching the U.S.-Netherlands soccer game and would Sanders coach Jackson State later Saturday against Southern in the SWAC Championship?

Yes, Jackson State winning 43-24 to secure a perfect season and the SWAC title.

Colorado then announced the hiring of Sanders, for a reported $4.5 million annually.  Colorado AD Rick George said in a statement late Saturday: “Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I’m confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence while leading a team of high quality and high character.”

Colorado finished its season a godawful 1-11, firing former head coach Karl Dorrell after their first five games, with Mike Sandford Jr. in the interim.

No doubt, Sanders will attract both money and talent.  It would be a surprise if the Buffaloes aren’t playing in a bowl game in two seasons.

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in a statement: “Deion Sanders’ stature transcends sports, and his hiring elevates not only the football program but the university as a whole… This is an exciting new chapter in the long, storied history of Colorado football and I look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our students, supporters and fans to cheer on ‘Coach Prime’ and our student-athletes next fall.”

CU doesn’t really want students…it needs athletes, mused the editor.

--It’s hard keeping up, and I’m not going to really try to…but among the college quarterbacks announcing they are entering the transfer portal are Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec (one year left), Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne (three years), Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong (one year), and Michigan’s Cade McNamara, who confirmed he is transferring to Iowa, after losing his job early in the season to J.J. McCarthy.  McNamara has two seasons of eligibility left.

--Mickey Joseph, who served as Nebraska’s interim coach for nine games this season, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of strangulation and third-degree domestic assault, according to the Lincoln Police Dept.

Nebraska was 3-6 under Joseph, with the Cornhuskers hiring former Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule.

Joseph was to return as wide receivers coach and associate head coach as part of his contract.  No word on whether Rhule will retain Joseph.

Joseph had a number of run-ins with the law while he was quarterback for the Cornhuskers, 1988-91.

--Lastly, the College Football Playoffs are officially expanding to 12 teams for the 2024 season, as the Rose Bowl said it was willing to clear the way, as long as it can keep its traditional Jan. 1 time slot, which is what they seemingly got for 2024 and 2025, but no word on beyond that.

As it stands, the Rose Bowl will be the site of a semifinal each of those seasons.

I can’t stand the 12-team idea. I thought eight was perfect.  The conference champs in each of the Power Five, the Group of Five entrant, and two at-large.  That would very much keep the interest in conference championships, to say the least, and lead to mega-controversy on the two at-large.

So, for example, Purdue beats Michigan, Purdue goes…and Michigan would be battling it out for one of the two at-large bids.  Heck, 85-win teams can win the World Series!

The CFP selection committee would retain its role as it selects the two at-large and the Group of Five entrant.  But the ratings for the conference championships would be huge, instead of like this year, where outside of the Pac-12 and Big 12, who gives a s---?

Alas, my idea isn’t what’s happening.  World blows…film at eleven.

Anyway, I just hope I’m around in 2024.

---

And the final CFP Rankings!

1. Georgia
2. Michigan
3. TCU
4. Ohio State

5. Alabama
6. Tennessee
7. Clemson
8. Utah
9. Kansas State
10. USC
11. Penn State
12. Washington
16. Tulane
19. South Carolina
21. Notre Dame
24. Troy
25. UTSA

For the record, the final AP Poll of the regular season….

1. Georgia (62) 13-0
2. Michigan (1) 13-0
3. TCU 12-1
4. Ohio State 11-1
5. Alabama 10-2
6. Tennessee 10-2
7. Utah 10-3
8. USC 11-2
9. Penn State 10-2
10. Clemson 11-2…interesting CFP has them 7
11. Kansas State 10-3
12. Washington 10-2
13. Florida State 9-4
14. Tulane 11-2
15. Oregon 9-3
16. LSU
17. Oregon State 9-3
18. UCLA 9-3
19. Notre Dame 8-4
20. South Carolina 8-4
21. Texas 8-4
22. UTSA 11-2
23. Troy 11-2
24. Mississippi State 8-4
25. North Carolina State 8-4

The minor bowl matchups were coming in as I was writing this, and I like Pitt-UCLA and Notre Dame-South Carolina.

Wake Forest has Missouri in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.  J. Mac is trying to educate me on what Gasparilla is…sounds like a deadly greenhouse gas to me.  I won’t be in attendance.

--In the Division I-AA / FCS Playoffs….

No. 1 South Dakota State waxed Delaware 42-6 and will face 8 Holy Cross, 35-19 winners over New Hampshire.

2 Sacramento State beat Richmond 38-31 and will take on 7 Incarnate Word, which beat Furman 41-38.

In the other quarterfinals, it will be 5 William & Mary against 4 Montana State, and 3 North Dakota State taking on 6 Samford.

So you can see, boys and girls, that all 8 seeds advanced according to the chalk.

NFL

--It’s not a moral victory, but I’m very proud of my Jets (7-5) in defeat at Minnesota (10-2), falling 27-22.  At the start of the season, us fans were looking for something like 7-10, at best, which would show improvement and the hope would be we’d be entertaining.  With new quarterback Mike White in control now, we are.

Far from perfect on offense, five field goals, just one touchdown, at least White (31/57, 369, 0-2, just 59.8) and rookie receiver Garrett Wilson (8-162) have connected, and we have discovered a running back, undrafted North Carolina State Wolfpack Zonovan Knight, and there’s a different vibe than under the miserable Zach Wilson.

And the Jets defense is outstanding, the Jets outgaining Minnesota 486-287.

I know some fans will be bitching on sports radio tomorrow morning, and I’ll hear it all as I have a long drive ahead.  But to me this was a step forward.

--The Giants (7-4-1) and Commanders (7-5-1) played to a 20-20 tie.  As this was on at the same time as the Jets game, I caught very little of it.  These two immensely boring teams will be hooking up again in two weeks, the Giants facing the Eagles in between, the Red Clouds with a bye.

Meanwhile, there were scores of really, really crappy matchups in the first slot of games today.

To wit….

--My cousin Marilyn (who doesn’t read this column), wrote to tell me she was excited by Pittsburgh’s (5-7) win over the Falcons (5-8), 19-16.  I was happy for her.  We shared recipes, your editor in the midst of a delicious beef and mushroom dish.

--Kind of out of nowhere, both Aaron Rodgers and Justin Fields played, as the Packers (5-8) beat the Bears (3-10) 28-19, in the “Whatever, Just Keep Fields Healthy Bowl.”

--Steve G. (who reads this column) was no doubt drowning his sours in a local watering hole, yet again, as the Michael Badgley led Lions (5-7) whipped Steve’s Jags (4-8), 40-14; Badgley recovering from his costly miss on Thanksgiving from 29 yards to go 4-4 on field goals (45, 47, 38, 44) and 4-4 extra points. 

--Trader George’s Browns (5-7) beat the soon-to-be-relegated Texans (1-10-1…to be replaced by the CFP winner) 27-14.

“Citizen of the Year” Deshaun Watson made his return for Cleveland and sucked, which is a good thing, but Cleveland scored on a punt return, a fumble recovery and an interception.

Trader George and I have a huge bet on who has more wins…his Browns or my Jets…and he cut my lead to two games.   The winner gets a bunch of cans of Dinty Moore or Hormel Chili and copious beers on his porch in the dead of winter.

--In a game that mattered, the Ravens improved to 8-4 with a 10-9 win over the pathetic Broncos (3-9).  Lamar Jackson exited in the first quarter with a knee injury, but he didn’t look that bad on the sidelines, so we’ll see, as Baltimore needed a late 91-yard drive led by backup Tyler Huntley for the win.

--And the Eagles are 11-1, 35-10 winners over the struggling Titans (7-5), who’ve lost their way, Jalen Hurts superb…29/39, 380, 3-0, 130.3…A.J. Brown 8-119-2, Devonta Smith 5-102-1.

Derrick Henry had his second straight sub-40-yard game rushing.

--John Hadl died. He was 82.  The longtime San Diego Charger, before he bounced around in the latter stages of his career, was one of the leading quarterbacks of the old AFL, in a career spanning 16 seasons.

The University of Kansas, where Hadl played quarterback, announced the death.  No cause was given.

When the AFL and the NFL held separate drafts in 1962, long before the merger, it wasn’t clear whether Hadl was best suited to be a passer or a runner in the pro grame.

He had been an outstanding running back at Kansas as a sophomore, but played QB in his final two seasons in a run-oriented offense, gaining All-America honors as a senior.

The Chargers selected him in the third round of the AFL draft, envisioning him as a quarterback, while the Detroit Lions drafted him No. 10 overall and saw him as a running back who might throw option passes.

Hadl said he thought his career as a running back would be a short one and opted for San Diego. A smart choice.

The Chargers’ offense featured future Hal of Fame receiver Lance Alworth, as well as outstanding running backs Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln, as well as a solid offensive line headed up by Ron Mix, another future Hall of Famer.

Hadl played for the Chargers from 1962 to 1972, appearing in three AFL championship games, going 1-2.

Following the 1972 season, the Chargers traded Hadl to the Rams, who had dealt quarterback Roman Gabriel to the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Rams were 6-7-1 in 1972, but under their new coach, Chuck Knox, and buoyed by Hadl’s passing, they improved to 12-2, but lost their divisional playoff game to the Cowboys.

Hadl led the AFL/AFC in passing yardage three seasons, though his passing completion percentage was just 50.4% for his career, and while he threw 244 touchdown passes, he also was intercepted 268 times.

World Cup

As we entered the knockout stage, vs. form five teams didn’t make it, some shockingly so…Belgium, Germany, Uruguay, Denmark and Mexico.

Poland, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Morocco were the surprises, particularly Australia and Morocco, who were ranked fourth in their Groups by Sports Illustrated.

Saturday, the run for the USMNT ended, 3-1 to the Netherlands.  We made some mistakes, particularly on the back line, but we fought back after a 2-0 halftime deficit to make things exciting, though missing countless opportunities.

In the end, the U.S. did what it had to do, advance to the knockout stage, but you see our weaknesses on offense if we want to step up come 2026.

It was said before the tournament, and it proved true, we need a striker, which we were sorely lacking, a Harry Kane type.

Granted, there are only 5 or 6 Kane-type strikers in the world, but you didn’t feel once in our four games that we were going to head one into the net…which Kane does seemingly every game for Tottenham…and fans hope, for England.

We obviously don’t have a Mbappe either.  Christian Pulisic is very good…but he’s not an international superstar.

Pulisic, though, is still just 24 and he’ll get better.  Ditto Brendan Aaronson, 22, and 20-year-old Gio Reyna.

What Americans should be today, though, is very proud.  It’s a great group of guys, the Best of America, well coached, and on the upswing.

And for American Soccer, the excitement for the 2026 World Cup will begin building summer of 2024, with the event to be held in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.  It’s only going to help youth programs, high school, college, Americans following the MLS and Premier League more intensely.  All good.

As for other knockout games thus far…

Argentina and Lionel Messi move on, 2-1 over Australia.  Messi was making his 1,000th career appearance and scored his 789th goal, 94th for Argentina.

Today, Kylian Mbappe scored twice as France beat Poland, 3-1.

And England blitzed Senegal 3-0, Harry Kane with a goal.

This sets up a delicious quarterfinal next Sat., England vs. France.  Oh baby.

--In the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, we are down to a final four which will gather next weekend in Cary, N.C.

Unseeded Pitt vs. 13 Indiana and 3 Syracuse vs. unseeded Creighton.

Rather remarkable.  Go ACC!

College Basketball

--In Top 25 action since I last posted….

Wednesday…10 Indiana (7-0) beat struggling 18 North Carolina, 77-65, the Tar Heels’ third-straight loss.  From No. 1 to out of the Top 25 (or so they should be come Monday’s next poll).  Stunning.

Thursday…Utah (6-2) upset 4 Arizona (6-1) 81-66, Utes Nation on a roll; and 2 Texas (6-0) edged 7 Creighton (6-2) 72-67, as the Bluejays shot just 4 of 27 from three.

Friday…6 Baylor (6-2) beat 14 Gonzaga (5-3) 64-63, the Zags, like UNC, off to a rather shocking start, though they’ve played a brutal schedule, the other losses to Texas and Purdue.

Also Friday, Wake Forest (7-2) laid an egg at Clemson (7-2).  The Deacs, hot off their big road win at Wisconsin, had a 33-26 halftime lead and then imploded, the Tigers outscoring Wake 51-24, final score, 77-57.  Ugh.  Our big three (or what passes for a Big Three for the Deacs), Cameron Hildreth, Damari Monsanto and Tyree Appleby, was 9 of 35 from the field.

Saturday…3 Virginia (7-0) beat Florida State 62-57, which is a shocking 1-9!

1 Houston (8-0) held off Saint Mary’s (6-3) 53-48.

But I watched most of 10 Indiana (7-1) at Rutgers (6-2), as the Scarlet Knights looked terrific, winning 63-48.  RU’s Steve Pikiell is a helluva coach and they play super tough defense.  The home crowd is also terrific and raucous.  It was Rutgers’ ninth win in 10 against IU.

I watched the game because I’m going to see Wake Forest take on RU in two weeks and, boy, the Deacs better be prepared.

Today, Holy Toledo!  Virginia Tech (8-1) beat North Carolina (5-4!) 80-72…four straight losses for the Tar Heels.  That certainly wraps it up…no Top 25 for UNC!  Wow.

NBA

--Friday, Brooklyn won their fourth straight, 114-105 against Toronto (11-11) to move to 13-11.  Tonight, they are taking on the Celtics (18-5) at home.

--Dallas superstar Luka Doncic is averaging 30/8/8 thus far, including after Saturday’s 121-100 win over the Knicks…Doncic’s season line 33.4, 8.6, 8.6 (30-8-7 Saturday, as the Knicks, 10-13, continue to struggle mightily at home, 4-7).

Only three other players in NBA history have done so for a full season…Russell Westbrook, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson (4 times).

The Big ‘O’ and Westbrook* are the only ones to average a triple-double at 30 points per game.

*Yes, Westbrook has multiple triple-double seasons, if you’re thinking, ‘Hold on, Sheriff…’ but only the one at 30 points. 

MLB

--Jacob deGrom cemented his place in Mets lore on Friday, signing a beyond absurd five-year, $185 million deal with the Texas Rangers, who go into the December file for Idiot Franchise of the Year.

DeGrom reportedly turned down an offer from our Uncle Stevie, three years, $120 million, or $40 million per, essentially the same as ex-teammate Max Scherzer’s $40.3 million, and Mr. Cohen correctly didn’t offer deGrom more than the three years.

According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman and Mike Puma, New York never got to a final offer.

Owner Steve Cohen issued a short statement that spoke volumes:  “I wish him well.  He has the right to choose his team. Now this team has to move on to the next thing.”

Let’s just back up for a second.  DeGrom won back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2018 and 2019, 32 starts each season, 1.70 and 2.43 ERA, 200+ innings, 269 and 255 strikeouts.  As good as anyone in baseball history.

2020, he made 12 starts in the Covid season, now age 32, and was terrific again, 4-2, 2.38, third in the Cy Young vote.

In 2021, deGrom got off to a spectacular start, 15 starts, 7-2, 1.08, 146 strikeouts in just 92 innings, and then he was shelved by a forearm injury, missing the start of 2022 with a stress reaction in his right shoulder, and he didn’t return until August of last season, and after starting out well, he stumbled the rest of the campaign.  Eleven starts, 3.08 ERA.

DeGrom would make 26 starts out of a possible 62-64 over 2021-22.  The way he ended up 2022 led you to believe it would be difficult to ever envision the deGrom of 2018-19 again, for which you would pay $40 million per over two or three years.

But with the injury history, and him being 34, 35 next June, five years for $185 million?!  That’s nuts.

As the New York Post’s Jon Heyman put it:

“Six words came to mind upon hearing the Rangers’ announcement of the $185 million, five-year deal for Jacob deGrom: Not worth it. Not even close.”

There are some writing that Mets fans are upset with deGrom’s departure.  I sure as hell am not one of them.  Good riddance.  Jerry Koosman is an all-time Met.  Jacob deGrom is not.  When the Rangers come to town next August, it’s likely deGrom will be on the IL.  If he’s healthy and pitching well, it will be interesting to see the fans’ reaction.  I’m like ‘whatever.’

Heyman:

“This isn’t Tom Seaver leaving town.  This is a guy whose abilities far exceeded his accomplishments and who, at least in the final couple years, seemed very unhappy – presumably either unhappy to be in New York, or unhappy to have signed a contract he detested. It’s hard to know for sure, but one Mets executive said he doesn’t think deGrom is about money but merely preferred to be out of New York, even if a few teammates incorrectly suggested they believed he preferred to return.”

So now the Mets will be going hard after Carlos Rodon and Justin Verlander.  Maybe the Yankees’ Jameson Taillon, which I’d have no problem with.

This is inside Mets baseball, but Mets fans also know we need David Peterson and Tylor Megill to step up bigly, and they are capable of doing so.

It’s a long way to Opening Day.  More change is a comin’.

I lost zero sleep over deGrom’s departure.  When I wake up in the middle of the night these days, it’s over Wake Forest Football.

--Don Mattingly was hired by Toronto to be their bench coach. It’s a step backward for the 61-year-old, who has been an MLB manager for the past 12 seasons with the Dodgers and Marlins.

But good move for Donnie Baseball.

--Major League Baseball sold the remaining stake in its streaming video company to Walt Disney Co. for $900 million.  MLB, which sold its remaining 15% in BAMTech earlier in November, provides an influx of about $30 million per team.

The deal has piqued the interest of the Players Union, while will now follow whether that money is re-invested into player salaries and team payrolls.

As Bob Nightengale reports from USA TODAY, “There were nine teams who still had payrolls under $100 million last year, with only six teams that exceeded the lowest $230 million luxury tax threshold.

“The payroll disparities also resulted in a great divide of competitive balance among teams on the field. There were 14 teams that finished at least 20 games out of first place in 2022, including 10 that were at least 30 games out of first.  There were four teams that lost 100 games, and four that won 100 games.

“Now, with teams collecting uniform patch revenue for the first time, increased TV rights, and potential expansion fees on the horizon, there’s no excuse for teams – perhaps outside Oakland with its stadium woes – to intentionally tank.”

--Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry died. He was 84.

Perry won 314 games (314-265, 3.11 ERA), was a 2-time Cy Young Award winner, including at age 39, won 20 games five times, and pitched 300 innings in six seasons, though he only made one postseason in his 22 years in the majors.

But as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes, when baseball fans think of Gaylord Perry, they remember one thing.

“So long to the great spitball artist.

“Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, who won 314 games in the majors while confounding and infuriating opposing batters, managers and umpires constantly accusing him of doctoring his pitches, died Thursday….

“A born and bred North Carolina farm boy who grew up in rural Williamston, N.C., working the tobacco, corn and peanut fields with his older brother, Jim, on their parents’ 25-acre parcel of land, Perry was a workhorse starting pitcher across 22 seasons with eight different teams….

“Throughout his career, however, Perry could not escape the persistent accusations of throwing spitballs – which he never actually denied.  Rather, he seemed to delight in flaunting and flummoxing the baseball establishment and, in fact, was only once – on Aug. 23, 1982 – ejected from a game (by home plate umpire Dave Phillips) for throwing two allegedly illegal pitches.  It was perhaps because of his reputation as a cheater, it took Perry three years before being elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association in 1971 (with 77.2%), despite his long career of pitching excellence and endurance… his 43.9% completion rate in his starts is the highest of all the 300-game winners since World War II.

“According to Perry in his 1974 memoir ‘Me and the Spitter’ with Bob Sudyk, he first learned how to throw a spitter in 1964 with the Giants from Bob Shaw who’d come over to San Francisco in a trade from the Braves that winter.  Perry, who signed out of high school with the Giants in 1958 for a $60,000 bonus (half of which he gave to his father to help save the farm), was in his third season in 1964 but still struggling to make the San Francisco rotation when the veteran Shaw taught him how to discreetly wet his two fingers on top of the ball and enabling it to sharply break downward at the last split second.  It wasn’t until May 23 that season when Perry first was able to make liberal use of his new pitch while throwing 10 innings of shutout relief in a 23-inning game against the Mets at Shea Stadium.  He continued to pitch near-flawless relief through June before joining the Giants rotation in July and finishing with a 12-11 record with a 2.75 ERA….

“Perry found himself constantly subjected to accusations, harassment and body searches from umpires and opposing managers convinced he was cheating, especially after joining the American League.  In an early season game against the A’s in 1972, Oakland manager Dick Williams had Perry strip-searched and ordered to change shirts. Another time, then-Rangers manager Billy Martin brought a bloodhound to a game to sniff the baseballs Perry had used, while in June 1973 Yankee manager Ralph Houk actually charged out of the dugout to the mound and pulled the cap from Perry’s head, heaving it down on the ground and kicking it.

“For his part, Perry periodically made sly references to the different substances – Vaseline, K-Y Jelly, Slippery Elm tablets, pine tar – for which pitchers used to cheat, always with the idea of getting into the batters’ heads.  But through all the inspections he was made to endure no one ever found anything on him.  ‘I reckon I tried everything on the old apple but salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping,’ he jokingly professed in his book, ‘but of course I’m reformed now.  I’m a law-abiding citizen.’”

Perry’s brother Jim also pitched 17 years in the big leagues, compiling a 215-174 record, and picking up the 1970 Cy Young Award while hurling for Minnesota.  The two combined for 529 victories, second all time to Phil and Joe Niekro with 539.

Stuff

--The Women’s World Cup Alpine schedule hit beautiful Lake Louise in Canada (I was there as an 8-year-old and have fond memories), and Soffia Goggia of Italy won both downhills.

Mikaela Shiffrin skipped this weekend to go back to Europe to prepare for the slalom and GS, in which she has posted 63 of her 76 wins, as she chases Lindsey Vonn’s 82.

--Britain’s Tyson Fury stopped compatriot Derek Chisora in 10 rounds to retain his WBC heavyweight title and complete a trilogy of wins over his old rival on a cold Saturday night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Fury, 34, took his unbeaten professional record to 33 wins and a draw, and stays on course for a unification showdown with reigning IBF, IBO, WBO and WBA holder Oleksandr Usyk, who was ringside.

The two should be squaring off in the spring as the winner would become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis.

--We have a new ‘Animal of the Year’ candidate.  A Georgia sheepdog, Casper, is recovering from injuries after squaring off against a pack of coyotes, killing eight of them, while protecting his herd.

Casper works on John Wierwiller’s farm, and he fought off a pack of coyotes in a fight that lasted over half an hour, WAGA-TV reported.

Wierwillers says that Casper disappeared for two days after the brutal fight.

“We knew he was hurt because we found parts of his tail and blood and other things, so we were worried,” Wierwiller said.

Casper eventually returned to the farm with visible injuries.

“He was kinda looking at me like, ‘Boss, stop looking at how bad I look, just take care of me,’” Wierwiller said.

Poor Casper. The injuries were severe, but the LifeLine Animal Project, an organization with a mission to end euthanasia of healthy animals, stepped in to help raise money for Casper’s hospital bills.  A GoFundMe campaign has already exceeded its goal.

I hope “60 Minutes” does a story on Casper…one of those needed feel-good stories it specializes in.

--We note the passing of Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame. She was 79.

In 1970, Fleetwood Mac were fading as a blues-rock force, their leader Peter Green having left after major drug issues, when the remaining members decamped to a country house to try to find a new direction.

Christine McVie had already given up her own career as a singer and keyboardist after realizing she would hardly see her husband, Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, if they were in different bands.

But a few days before they were due to set out on a U.S. tour, Fleetwood Mac “suddenly felt they needed another instrument to fill out the sound,” she later explained.

“And there I was – sitting around doing next to nothing, and knowing all the songs back to front because I’d been watching them rehearsing for the past three months.”

So drummer Mick Fleetwood said the band asked her to join the tour as they were “walking out the door.”

Christine said “I didn’t think twice when they asked me.”

And so it was the beginning of a new direction for the band and superstardom.

The addition of McVie’s soulful vocals, her keyboard and piano playing, and her gift for writing timeless pop songs, helped define an era and fill stadiums…albeit there were lots of messy relationships, as well as excessive drinking and drug use.

The band relocated to Los Angeles in 1974 and invited a U.S. singer and guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham to join.  He said yes – but only if his girlfriend, singer Stevie Nicks, could join too.  And there was your classic Fleetwood Mac lineup.

Their 1975 self-titled album went to number one in the U.S., with McVie’s Say You Love Me  and Over My Head. 

Then came their artistic and commercial peak, 1977’s Rumours.  McVie’s tracks on Rumours included Don’t Stop, Songbird and You Make Loving Fun.

Erin Osmon / Los Angeles Times

“The woman born Christine Perfect  joined Fleetwood Mac unceremoniously in 1970 after playing in sessions along her then-husband, John McVie… Soon, she was known as the band’s secret weapon for her legacy of hitmaking and allergy to the spotlight.

“In reality, her gifts were no secret at all.  Her track record [Ed. as noted above] is rivaled by few in rock music; she wrote or co-wrote half of the songs that appear on Fleetwood Mac’s 1988 ‘Greatest Hits’ anthology, though she was just one of five members.  Her song ‘Hold Me,’ from 1982’s ‘Mirage,’ spent seven weeks at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100….

“McVie didn’t have the solo success that Nicks and Buckingham did, and told several reporters that she wasn’t the type to hold on to material for solo works, or even plan that far ahead. But the popularity of 1984’s ‘Got A Hold On Me” hinted at what may have happened had she summoned the will and corporate infrastructures.  Instead, she endures as a vital and unselfish contributor, a true-blue bandmate, someone who helped carry her friends but  never demanded their flowers.

“She sent her shy girl songs into the world as a blessing and they – along with her maiden name – were perfect.”

Top 3 songs for the week 12/2/67:  #1 “Daydream Believer” (The Monkees)  #2 “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” (The Cowsills)  #3 “Incense And Peppermints” (Strawberry Alarm Clock)…and…#4 “To Sir With Love” (Lulu)  #5 “I Say A Little Prayer” (Dionne Warwick)  #6 “Please Love Me Forever” (Bobby Vinton)  #7 “Soul Man” (Sam & Dave)  #8 “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Gladys Knight & The Pips)  #9 “I Can See For Miles” (The Who) #10 “An Open Letter To My Teenage Son” (Victor Lundberg…kind of bizarre, spoken word narrative about the Vietnam War and Patriotism…B+ week…)

NFL Quiz Answer: Top five in passes intercepted….

Brett Favre 336
George Blanda 277
John Hadl 268
Vinny Testaverde 267
Fran Tarkenton 266

Norm Snead 257
Johnny Unitas 253
Dan Marino 252
Peyton Manning 251

Very brief Add-on up top by noon, Wed.