Erik Ainge + David Cutcliffe = _____________
You can fill in the blank with the words you like best. Brilliance? Night and day turnaround? Potentially, the best non-Manning Tennessee quarterback ever? That last statement might be a bit much, but I know this: Ainge is the most talented passing quarterback the Vols have had besides Manning. He may lack Andy Kelly's leadership, Heath Shuler's athleticism, Tee Martin's speed, and Casey Clausen's 4th quarter presence...but when you look at him in his progressions and see what he sees and watch where he throws - especially with Meachem, Swain, and Smith - you see the passing game at its finest. It's a tremendous shame that he didn't get a crack at LSU or Arkansas, and it'll be tough in 07 without at least two of those receivers and probably all three...but watch him this week against Kentucky's defense, and then in the bowl game, and enjoy the ride while it lasts. David Cutcliffe and John Chavis are worth every dime.
Ohio State/Michigan or Auburn/Alabama?
Unintentionally, I found myself more enthralled with the Iron Bowl on Saturday than the #1 vs. #2 showdown. With both games on the line late, I was more interested and engaged with Bama/Auburn than the Buckeyes and Wolverines. Maybe that's just from living here in the south, but don't let anyone tell you that they do it any better than they do in the SEC. You can take the Vols, Gators, Dawgs, Tide and Auburn, and all of the rivalries that exist between all five of those teams would rival anything else that any game in America could throw at you. We simply do it better down here.
The Cowboys still hurt. When I was younger, like in middle school, I fell on the Cowboys side of the great Cowboys-49ers war of the early to mid 90s. I was a Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin man. I loved their two Super Bowl wins. And then the Cowboys became like the girl that you're in love with and the relationship can't be going any better, and then after awhile the scales fall from your eyes and you see her for what she is, and all of her faults...and enough is enough. So somewhere between Barry Switzer and Michael Irvin's felony of choice, I had enough of them Cowboys. Made the easy transition when the Oilers/Titans came to Tennessee. And over time, the became the ex that makes you clinch your jaw when you see them. But they were never important enough, or good enough really, to have a negative impact on me until today. Today they took down the undefeated Colts and roughed up my boy Manning. They did it after I was enjoying Mike Vanderjagt kick his way out of the NFL and into therapy. They did it with T.O. and Bill Parcells, and no one likes those guys. They're not good enough to get to the Super Bowl, but they're pretty high on the list of potential opponents I want to see for the Colts (being that the Titans are still coming along). I hate those guys.
It's great to be a Tennessee Vol...especially in the NFL this week.
In the aforementioned Colts-Cowboys game, Kevin Burnett runs an INT back for a TD and Jason Witten continues to benefit from Tony Romo. And even Manning, in the loss, was still Manning, doing that thing where the camera is in tight on him and he releases the ball at just the right moment, and you can't see downfield but you know somebody is open and that ball is on the money. How about Travis Henry (143 and a TD) and Jamal Lewis (91 yards, 3 TDs)? How about not being surprised when Al Wilson turns into one of the best defensive players in the entire league, still knocking heads with the permanently-furrowed brow in his eighth year in the league. And while we're at it, a continued hats off to ex-Vol assistant Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears. Winning ugly is winning. And who doesn't want to see the Colts and the Bears in the Super Bowl? Best offense vs. best defense? And don't tell me you wouldn't get an extra kick out of Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman.
LaDanian Tomlinson should be the #1 pick in every fantasy draft until he retires.
Look, Larry Johnson is solid and I'm all for Peyton Manning. But I had this mug last year, and beat whole teams in my league with just his points in two separate weeks. I made the playoffs squarely on his shoulders. As I type this, late in the third quarter, he's scored all three San Diego touchdowns to this point at Denver. There's just no logical argument for taking anyone else #1 next year, or any year. He - like Manning - is a Super Bowl away from being in the "best of all time" discussion.
Steve Spurrier to Miami?
The Ballcoach says he's flattered but not going anywhere, but you never know. Other candidates to fill the Larry Coker void? Greg Schiano at Rutgers, who's an ex-Cane assistant...and I'm also reading Barry Alvarez's name out there, wouldn't that be a kick in the pants for Wisconsin seeing how he's still the AD there?
Alfonso Soriano to the Cubs
Give Chicago credit for opening the checkbook and trying to be competitive now, which sometimes works (Mets) and sometimes falls on its face (Orioles). Obviously, the excitement is an everyday thing in Chitown, and if the most snakebitten pitchers in modern history finally get healthy...who knows? Aren't we coming up on the 100 year anniversary of the goat? "This is our year!"