It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites.
We hit Greg Echenique and Albert Pujols, Alabama and Oregon, the Tigers and Yankees, Jim Harbaugh, Rick Reilly and Nebraska’s struggles against mobile quarterbacks. But first, a little Husker history.
There’s a book coming out next month, written by World-Herald reporter Henry Cordes, that will be the hottest Christmas present this side of Elmo. It’s called “Unbeatable” and it examines Nebraska football from 1994-97.
Why is it outstanding? One, it’s fascinating to step back and digest that era as a whole. The sheer number of storylines is incredible. Two, Cordes uncovers fresh detail on the biggest events and personalities. Lawrence Phillips. Tommie Frazier. Scott Frost. And, of course, Tom Osborne, who reveals never-reported details on why he walked away at 60 years old.
There’s a reason I bring this up now — and it’s not to promote the book (though I strongly urge you to pre-order at Omaha.com).
Osborne has been gone longer than Mack Brown has coached at Texas, longer than Bob Stoops has been at Oklahoma. Fifteen years. A long, long time.
Yet tomorrow, a 73-year-old coach from a Midwestern cow town takes his Top 5 team on the road for a national showdown. Bill Snyder is still kickin’. Meanwhile, Nebraska is 4-2 and desperate to beat Northwestern.
I can’t help but look at those two situations and feel a little bit empty.
I can’t help but think that those glory years should’ve lasted 10-15 years, not five. I can’t help but think that Nebraska — fortunate as it was to have Osborne return as athletic director in 2007 — would’ve been better off had he decided to return to the sideline.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow at West Virginia — or at Northwestern. I do know that Kansas State is mentally tough, fundamentally sound and a better football program than Nebraska. And that feels wrong.
>> In today’s World-Herald, I wrote about the worst-kept secret in the Big Ten: Nebraska’s defensive problems against mobile quarterbacks. If Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t give Kain Colter at least 75 percent of the snaps at quarterback, I question his sanity.
>> Last time Nebraska played at Northwestern, Al Capone attended. Seriously, this is awesome.
>> Does Oregon have a defense? Sure looked like it in Thursday night’s first half at Arizona State. If so, the Ducks are going to fly through the Pac-12 unscathed. Let’s hope it happens, because Oregon is the only team outside the SEC with a chance at beating Alabama. It’s too bad there’s a month between the conference title game and the BCS championship game. That layoff always favors a defense.
>> If not Alabama v. Oregon, then who? That’s a tough question to answer at the halfway point of the college football season. Look at the obstacles facing the other undefeated teams in the Top 10:
Florida: South Carolina, Georgia, at Florida State, SEC championship game
Kansas State: at West Virginia, Texas Tech, at TCU, Texas
Notre Dame: at Oklahoma, at USC
Oregon State: at Stanford, Oregon, Pac-12 championship game
I don’t see any of those teams getting through unbeaten. Which means if Alabama or Oregon loses, it opens the door for Oklahoma, USC or LSU.
>> Steve Greenberg of the Sporting News gives his college football midseason report. Michigan and Wisconsin will meet in Indy, he says.
>> Most improved Creighton basketball player? You could probably find a few votes for Austin Chatman or Avery Dingman. But the big man, Gregory Echenique, appears to be generating the biggest buzz. The senior center looks leaner than ever. He moves better away from the basket and he’s quicker off the floor.
“He’s more focused,” Grant Gibbs said. “I think he understands how effective he can be if he’s focused and if he’s active.”
Doug McDermott expects Echenique to be vastly improved offensively, too.
“He’s playing smarter,” McDermott said. “He was in foul trouble a lot throwing elbows and getting stupid fouls. I think he’s starting to learn that we need him out there.”
Creighton’s offensive skill players — McDermott especially — are the identity of the program right now. But Echenique’s brawn allows the Jays to compete against the nation’s top teams. If he is indeed the most improved Bluejay, that’s a great sign for Creighton’s chances in March.
>> Jason Whitlock looks at Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, Lance Armstrong, A-Rod and Kobe Bryant and understands why athletes use performance-enhancing drugs.
>> Deadspin goes after Rick Reilly, who apparently got duped by a parody hockey site.
>> The worst sports tweets of 2012.
>> The Chiefs are a mess, but Scott Pioli’s seat may not be as hot as you think.
>> In case you missed it, Jim Harbaugh declined a safety in the waning moments of last night’s win over Seattle. Who cares, right? Gamblers, that’s who. Sometimes it’s hard to believe these coaches DON’T have money on their games. I’m kidding … I think.
>> The Detroit Tigers are back in the World Series. And they’ll be favored to win it. The one vulnerability we haven’t seen exposed in the postseason is Detroit’s defense. This was one of the worst fielding teams in the majors in 2012. Under pressure, I expect that defense to crack a few times.
>> I love that the Cardinals are knocking on the door of the World Series without Albert Pujols. It’s a great lesson that one man doesn’t make a franchise. The Cards knew Pujols’ contract would’ve crippled them at some point and they made a disciplined decision to let him go. I wonder what Big Albert will be thinking this month as he watches the World Series on his 138” TV.
>> When is the last time the Yankees and Red Sox were both this far away from a world championship? I know New York made the ALCS, but it wasn’t even close to good enough. Entering 2013, there might be three or four teams in the AL alone better positioned than New York and Boston to go all the way.
>> Joe Posnanski looks at the end of the Jeter era.
>> Driving through Iowa Thursday afternoon, I caught the end of a talk-radio discussion about who had the more exorbitant contract: Alex Rodriguez or Kirk Ferentz. I thought that was funny.
>> Not quite as funny as the front page of the New York Post today!
>> Have a great weekend. Thanks for reading.