It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We hit Nebraska-Michigan, Matt McGloin and Shawn Watson, David Stern and Tyrann Mathieu, John Calipari and Ozzie Guillen, Lane Kiffin and Tim Miles. But first, a trip down memory lane.
ESPN Classic showed Game 6 of the 2002 World Series last night. The Giants are up 5-3 in eighth inning when Darin Erstad blasts a ball into the right-field seats. It sparked a three-run rally that pushed the Series to a seventh game, which the Angels won. Today is the 10-year anniversary of Game 6.
“Wow, it’s today? I knew it had been 10 years, but I didn’t know it was today.”
That’s Erstad speaking. I called him this morning to ask him about the homer.
“I led off the inning and just got a hanging change-up,” Erstad said. “Didn’t seem real. Still doesn’t seem real.”
I’m fascinated by athletes’ ability to stay in the moment in those situations. What do they think about? I asked Erstad if it was the most intense at-bat of his career.
“Noooo. Noooo. That was like any other at-bat. I was just trying to get on base. It’s just another game you were down. Keep fighting. We did that the whole time I was with the Angels. We just really never quit.
“You gotta train yourself,” Erstad said, to block out the circumstances. If you feel the pressure, “you’re going to absolutely do things you really don’t want to do. That’s for sure. Start pressing. Holy buckets, I don’t even want to think what would happen if I did that.”
If all goes well for Erstad at Nebraska, one of his players will echo that quote a few years from now — after the hit that puts the Huskers in the College World Series.
>> OK, back to football. If Nebraska loses Saturday night, it can kiss the Rose Bowl goodbye. That much is obvious. But let’s break down the Huskers’ chances if they WIN Saturday. They would be 3-1. Michigan would be 3-1. Let’s face it, those are the only Legends teams good enough to get to Indy.
Michigan still faces Iowa, Northwestern, at Minnesota and, of course, at Ohio State. The Wolverines are likely to lose in Columbus, but should have no problems with the other three. That means a 6-2 finish.
So Nebraska would have a one-loss buffer. Considering the Huskers still have road tests at Michigan State and Iowa — and a tough home game against Penn State — my guess is they lose somewhere. But getting to 6-2 is very manageable.
Conclusion: It’s not a done deal if the Huskers win Saturday night, but they would definitely jump into the driver’s seat.
>> Sometimes Nebraska’s fate each week seems as simple as this: Taylor Martinez makes 4-5 critical mistakes every game. If the ball bounces the opponent’s way, NU loses. If the ball bounces Nebraska’s way, NU wins.
>> For what it’s worth, Nebraska is 3-10-1 against the spread versus BCS-conference opponents since last September. Its last cover was the Iowa game. The Huskers are approximately a 2 1/2-point favorite over the Wolverines.
>> My Friday column in the World-Herald focuses on Michigan’s and Ohio State’s recent surge — and whether Nebraska can join them. What do you think?
>> I anticipate the TV rating for Notre Dame-Oklahoma Saturday night to be ridiculously high. That’s bad for Nebraska, because the Huskers and Wolverines are playing in the same time slot. Remember, this is the last Saturday for Big Ten night games.
>> What would you say if I told you the first-team, All-Big Ten quarterback wasn’t Braxton Miller or Denard Robinson. It wasn’t Taylor Martinez. It was … Matt McGloin? It could happen, especially if the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State Saturday. The former walk-on has been lights out. I’d hate to see what Bill O’Brien could do with a blue-chip quarterback like Christian Hackenberg.
>> It might make you grimace. It might make you happy. But Shawn Watson is finding redemption at Louisville. He’s working for an up-and-coming head coach, Charlie Strong. And he has a brilliant young quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. Watson said this last week:
“He’s running (the system) like a pro right now. He’s really playing the best football I’ve ever had a quarterback play. I’ve never had one play like this. He’s playing great ball.”
Watson, Bridgewater and the Cardinals have a big game tonight against Cincinnati.
>> Tyrann Mathieu had no chance to clean up his life in Baton Rouge, especially without the structure of football, writes Dan Wetzel. The Sporting News’ Matt Crossman shared powerful thoughts on Mathieu in his Twitter feed this morning.
>> Lane Kiffin has potential as a head coach. But he needs to cut out the childish antics, T.J. Simers writes.
>> Manti Te’o, in the midst of his own personal tragedy, comforted the parents of a dying girl, Greg Couch writes.
>> The Big Ten is the best basketball conference in the country, and it’s not even close. In other words, not the best year for Tim Miles to be a rookie. He’ll find humor in it. He was entertaining enough at Big Ten media days in Chicago to get his own story in USA Today.
>> The Class A football playoffs open tonight around the state and some of the match-ups are very intriguing. Southwest-Omaha North. Westside-Burke. Papio-Millard South. Some very good teams won’t make the quarterfinals. I think the bracket is wide open, with the possible exception of unbeaten Millard North. But even the Mustangs have had plenty of close calls this year.
>> A creative column on the absurdity of the Miami Marlins.
>> Adrian Wojnarowski does not like David Stern. Wow. He leads with this: “The biggest ego in the history of the sport, the emperor of the NBA gets everything he ever wanted now: 15 months of farewells and bows; a tidy 30 years to fit onto his Hall of Fame plaque; and a chance to repair and repackage a legacy that NBA commissioner David Stern had slowly, surely lost the power to manipulate.”
>> Gary Parrish (of CBS Sports) and Jay Bilas (of ESPN) engaged in a Twitter debate about ESPN’s All-Access Kentucky. I’ve blasted the show a few times for its fawning coverage of John Calipari and his program. Florida coach Billy Donovan went public with his disapproval this week. Bilas doesn’t see the show as any different than Notre Dame’s contract with NBC, or “The Journey” on Big Ten Network. But the issue, according to Parrish, is that ESPN features unsigned recruits on the show. I’m with Parrish on this one.
SI’s Andy Staples may have had the best line. Someone on Twitter asked how it was any different than The Longhorn Network. Staples’ response: “Because people actually get ESPN.”
>> Finally, I don’t often promote articles before they’re published, but I’ve been working the past few weeks on a story about former Nebraska All-American Jake Young, who was killed in the Bali bombings of 2002. The story is scheduled for Sunday. I hope you’ll pick up a copy.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.