October 31, 2014

NFL Week 9 pix: 2 streaks end in Miami; plus LeBron's delightful homecoming fizzle, Noles demand respect & more

1aa1ahalloween1) It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31. Happy Halloween, kids of all ages! 2) I'm on the grounds of Random Evidence Laboratories today creating Sunday's notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FSU and LeBron debut make for big TV night, LeBron cheer-boo result, World Series & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Already? 2015 World Series odds: Bovada has L.A. Dodgers and Washington Nationals co-favorites to win it all next fall at 15-2 odds, followed by Tigers and Angels both 10-1. Marlins are 50-1, tied for 23rd of 30 clubs.

NFL WEEK 9 PIX: SORRY DOLPHINS, BUT STREAK STOPS HERE: Miami has won two games in a row, the 1aa1afripixbaby of streaks but a streak nonetheless. And San Diego has lost seven games in a row in Miami since famously last winning that 41-38 overtime playoff game on Jan. 2, 1982. (I was there at the Orange Bowl, cub reporting). I wish I believed that both streaks would continue here Sunday. I don't. Click on Week 9 Gems for all our latest NFL predictions. (Good start on our week last night; correctly had Saints covering at Panthers). Also, Click on Air Show for our Friday Page NFL column. It leads with Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning and includes our King Sport Halftime Awards.

1aa1ahomecomingMIAMI HOWLS WITH DELIGHT AS LEBRON FIZZLES IN HOMECOMING DEBUT: Evidently God belongs to Heat Nation. South Florida watched (though not admitting it) as estranged hero LeBron James scored only 17 points and was awful doing it, shooting 5-for-15 with eight turnovers, in a Cleveland loss to the Knicks in LBJ's homecoming debut. The way LeBron left Miami rankles many Heat fans. The torrent of these sappy homecoming ads annoys many of the rest of us. I am especially already sick of the one with the heartfelt voiceover by mother of the year Gloria and the churchy "Amen" vocal background. Gawd.

PROPS TO THE NOLES: I'm no Florida State fan but I am a Floridian who tends to wish our state teams 1aa1agraywell, so (sorry, Canes fans) I was watching and rooting a little last night as Jameis Winston and the Seminoles shut up that Louisville crowd little by little. Those people with a 21-0 early lead were acting like they'd never seen Winston before and didn't know who they were playing. (By the way, those gray Louisville uniforms are beyond awful). No, FSU isn't as good as last season's champions, but this unbeaten No. 2-ranked team deserves more respect than it gets. Having said that I am already looking forward to UM hosting FSU on Nov. 15. I think the Canes have a big chance at an upset.

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October 30, 2014

How to make Miami mad in 1 sentence: "Not sure what I'm looking forward to more tonight, the FSU game or LeBron's debut!"; plus Heat, World Series thoughts & more

1) It is THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30. I'm buttoned down at Friday Page HQ today creating this week's NFL predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for the pick on tonight's Saints-Panthers game. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat opener, Heat Nation film, LeBron poll, CFP rankings, Duke Johnson new SOPY, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

On Heat's Opening Night win: The eye-candy Maserati left town, drove to Cleveland. The Heat is more like a sensible sedan this season. But we saw Wednesday night the engine can still rev. We also saw Chris Bosh (26 points, 15 rebounds) looking like a guy who's up to the go-to-guy role. Click on Sun Came Up, Moon Still Bright for my column from the arena on the impressive launch of Life After LeBron.

FSU VS. LEBRON IN THE BATTLE OF GUILTY PLEASURES: You know you'll be watching, Miami. Might not admit it. But you'll watch. No. 2-ranked Florida State risking everything tonight at 7:30 at Louisville on ESPN. And LeBron James' Cavaliers debut in Cleveland vs. the Knicks at 8 on TNT. There's Saints-Panthers, too, if you happen to have Drew Brees on your fantasy team. But, tonight only, the NFL takes third place, at least in Miami. Even if Miami won't admit it...

1aa1afsulvMALIGNED SEMINOLES: I cannot recall another unbeaten, reigning champion as criticized and doubted as Florida State is this year. Can you? Case in point: So many thinking the 'Noles will lose in Louisville tonight to instantly shake up Condoleezza Rice's new College Football Playoff rankings. Yes, FSU was better all-round last season. Also yes: They still have Jameis Winston, and Winston starts with a 'W.' Tally stays unbeaten tonight.

1aa1ahomekingLEBRON's HOMECOMING: Yeah I'm already sick of the sappy LeBron homecoming ads, too. Especially the one with mom Gloria sounding all sweet and motherly (as opposed to that night in Miami when she was drunkenly brawling with a valet). But I am curious to begin to see how (and how quickly) the Cavs come together. No way Cleveland should be the favorite for the NBA title. That's driven by public sentiment, but, as a friend prone to wagering likes to say, "The masses are asses."

Admit it, though. You might be a Canes fan who hates FSU, or you might be a Heat fan who begrudges LeBron leaving (see poll results below). But you'll be watching some pretty compelling TV tonight.

Poll result: Views still mixed, but tide turning against LeBron: We had a second poll asking what reaction LeBron James will deserve when he returns to Miami for first time on Christmas. Bearing in mind a MiamiHerald.com blog might be weighted pretty heavily with Heat fans, we see an interesting shift againt LeBron:

                          Mid-Aug.        Now

Cheering            44.1%           28.7%

Booing               24.4%           27.9%

Mix of both         31.5%          43.3%

A REFLECTION ON WORLD SERIES AND GIANTS WIN: Game 7s are more rare than we'd imagine or like, 1aa1acelebrateand one that ends in a 3-2 game with the tying run on third base is pretty much the definition of excitement. So you have ample ammo to say Giants-Royals was a great World Series. It just didn't feel that way for me. Part of that is how much sweeter a Kansas City win would have been -- a team in its first postseason since 1985 vs. a team that just won its third WS in five years. But mostly I just found both sides starless and never escaped the sense we weren't watching the two best teams in baseball or even close. Series MVP a guy named "Bumgarner"? Perfect.

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October 29, 2014

Bosh powers Heat to Opening Night win; plus cheer/boo LeBron poll, why Duke should stay at UM in 2 words, CFP rank, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, SOPY Top 10 & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins whip Jacksonville, DSM poll, Heat, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HEAT WIN OPENER BEHIND BOSH: Miami tonight beat visiting Washington 107-95, led by 26 points and 15 rebounds from Chris Bosh, 23 from Norris Cole and 21 from Dwyane Wade.

NEW HEAT FILM: WE ARE BIGGER THAN LEBRON: That's me saying that, not the Heat. But that is the only defiant message that can logically be derived from a new Miami Heat six-minute film that debuted tonight at 8 on the team's website. Click on Heat Nation to watch it. The club describes the 1aa1aheatnationfilm as one that "acknowledges and embraces the Miami Heat fan base, players and organization and recognizes them collectively as a nation ... a people united under one flag." What stands out to me: No reference whatsoever to LeBron James. You get a brief glimpse of Shaq. LeBron? Nada. The film will be featured prominently pregame Wednesday night as the Heat open the NBA season at home vs. Washington. The club calls the film the "cornerstone" of an ongoing Heat Nation "campaign." This whole Heat Nation thing bloomed in reaction to LeBron bolting after four seasons and returning to Cleveland. The franchise wishes to convey that it is bigger than any one player, even this one. It also is an invitation to fans nationwide who hopped the Miami bandwagon because of LeBron to stay loyal to the Heat. The film is a good idea by the Heat, and another facet of the very interesting relationship now between Miami and LeBron, one that weighs all he did in four years here vs. the way he left awkwardly, privately angering Pat Riley and others. How Miami feels about LeBron won't be known concretely until his first return here on Christmas Day. But you can provide a hint with this poll. We asked the same question on Aug. 13 and will be interested to compare the results 10 weeks later as emotions have settled, and hardened. Vote now and say why you feel as you do.

CFP RANKINGS DEBUT: LET THE WHINING BEGIN!: Update: Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss are the inital Top Four. Big loser? Alabama. Original post: The first College Football Playoff ranking is out this 1aa1acfpevening, a Top 25 in which only numbers 1-2-3-4 really matter. In today's latest column -- click on Argument Is Good -- I write how the sport now has the best of both worlds: A playoff, but still the debate and discussion that is a lifeblood. The initial arguing should focus on who's No. 4? Most would agree that unbeatens Mississippi State and Florida and pedigreed Alabama are a consensus top three. But then? Here the first ranking gets interesting. Auburn, Notre Dame, Oregon, TCU and perhaps a few others have a claim. A penny for your thoughts, Condoleezza Rice!

2 WORDS FOR DUKE JOHNSON: HEISMAN TROPHY: That is an enticement Miami's Duke of Gables should be weighing as he considers whether to return for his senior season with the Canes. Big if, but if 1aa1adukejUM was 6-1 right now instead of 5-3, Johnson -- with the same numbers -- would be a considered a Heisman candidate. Here's why I say that: Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon right now is the top-ranked running back in the Heisman race, ranked third overall by ESPN, and he has 1,168 yards rushing (7.6 average) and 39 yards receiving for 1,207 total offensive yards. Johnson has 1,036 yards rushing (7.5 average) and 224 receiving for a total of 1,260. The supposition: This same Duke, on a better Canes team next year, is a legit Heisman contender. Though injury is alaways a risk, I think Duke should come back simply to improve his NFL draft stock, which right now is stamped second round. But it is the Heisman factor that isn't talked about enough.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS CONTINUE IN WEEK 8: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our fantasy- 1aa1afripix
1aa1aarkstateleague team. Pix: Still trending upward. Having a great (for us) season so far. We went 11-4 overall and 9-6 against the spread again, and stayed scorching hot on Upset of the Week calls by bull's-eyeing Steelers over Colts ("Aawwk!"). Fantasy: Still trending down. Greg's Lobos fell to 2-6 with a 203-137 loss. Larry Fitzgerald finally woke up for me (30 points), but can't do much when your opponent tops 200 -- a lot even for our lil' 8-team friends 'n family league.

SOPY: CANES' DUKE OF GABLES DASHES TO NO. 1 IN NEW STATE COLLBALL RANKINGS: Miami's Duke Johnson's huge 249-yard rushing game at Virginia Tech catapults him to No. 1 this week in our latest 1aa1asopyblog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Because our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 10:

SOPY WEEK 9 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk9    Season

1 (3)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         298     1,308

2 (2)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      156.5   1,185 

3 (1)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb        BYE     1,076

4 (4)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            52        975

5 (7)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           187      913 

6 (5)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            80        899

7 (6)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       BYE       813

8 (8)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb             BYE       720

9 (9)        Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb           BYE       667

10 (--)      Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb       106       646

Bubble: Alex Gardner, FIU-rb, 636. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: Miami, FIU, FAU and USF have played 8 games; FSU and UCF have played 7; and Florida has played 6.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 10: 1. FSU (7-0); 2. Miami (5-3);  3. UCF (5-2); 4. Florida (3-3); 5. SoFla (3-5); 6. FIU (3-5); 7. FAU (3-5).

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October 28, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 63.2%; plus defense, lucky pigeon lift Fins past Jax 27-13; also Heat ready for a fight, new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1aa1apigeon1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 27. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes clobber Virginia Tech, CSM poll, Friday NFL Week 8 pix, ominous Heat trend, 'Marlins Man' & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Find our gameblog and postgame thoughts immediately below the new CSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G7: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 63.2 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Sunday's 27-13 victory at 1aa1adsmJacksonville putting Miami's season record at 4-3. That's a rarity: a dip in the approval rating despite a win. The DSM, in its seventh season, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9 a.m. today/Tuesday.

;

2014 DSM results

G1: 96.4% (following 33-20 victory vs. New England)

G2: 12.2% (following 29-10 loss at Buffalo)

G3: 2.0% (following 34-15 loss vs. Kansas City)

G4: 62.3% (following 38-14 victory vs. Oakland in London)

G5: 14.2% (following 27-24 loss vs. Green Bay)

G6: 80.7% (following 27-14 victory at Chicago)

G7: 63.2% (following 27-13 victory at Jacksonville)

Next poll: Nov. 2 (following game vs. San Diego)

G7: DOLPHINS @ JACKSONVILLE: TIME FOR MIAMI TO ASSERT ITSELF: Final: Bizarre game. Miami outgained in total yards and time with ball but wins with ease thanks to two interception-return TDs and a really, really bad opponent. ...... Fourth quarter: Jax scores first TD to make it 27-13 on 48-yard Bortles bomb to Allen Robinson ... Fins make it 27-6 on 29-yard FG with 3:57 to play. ... Tannehill intercepted in end zone on deflected pass. ..... Third quarter: MIA now up 24-6 on Tannehill's 3-yard TD flip to Rishard Matthews, completing 95-yard drive. ... A third drop by Hartline, by my count. ... Sadsacksonville within 17-6 on a 40-yard FG. ... A penny for your thoughts, Chad Henne. ... MIA 17-3 on Brent Grimes 22-yard pick-return TD, the second for the Fins today. First time since 1998 Miami has had two in a game. ... And the second half starts with a sack/punt for Miami. Ugh. ..... Halftime: One of the stranger games I have covered or seen. Miami trailing in total plays 40-19, in total yards 219-56 and in time of possession 21 minutes to 9 -- but leading 10-3. It isn't so much that Miami is lucky. It's that mistake-prone Jax is reminding us why they are 1-6. ..... Second quarter: Miami 10-3 on Sturgis 43-yard FG. ... Fins get first first-down of game with 3:37 left in half. ... MIA with another takeaway as Delmas recovers Bortles fumble. ... Jax within 7-3 on 30-yard FG. Miami down 36-6 in plays, 199-3 in net yards but winning. Bizarre. ... Boom! MIA 7-0 on Louis Delmas 81-yard interception return TD. It was rookie Blake Bortles' NFL-leading 11th pick of year. ..... First quarter: Miami lucky it's 0-0 after 1Q. Jags killing themselves with miscues. Like bad teams do. ... Miami offense six plays, three net yards after two drives. ... Jax makes 46-yard FG but points are erased by holding penalty. That's why 1-6 teams are 1-6. ... Sack ends Dolphins' first possession, not a good sign. ... Fins' Olivier Vernon blocks Jags 48-yard FG try to end opening drive. Miami run-D gave up 41-yard run by Denard Robinson, then toughened. ..... Original post: Start with this truism: The Dolphins at an up and down 3-3 have not proven themselves good enough to have a "trap" game or to 1aa1adoljaxtake any opponent lightly, even this one. Even at 1-6 Jacksonville’s defense has allowed only 17, 16 and 6 points the past three games, and, yes the Jags are capable of a home-'dog upset here. Jax has the sack-power to bother the Fins’ improved offensive line. Also, Miami's inconsistency and recent history of letting fans down means that the big win in Chicago last week does nothing to lessen Dolfans' inherent dread that this week may see a pratfall. Having said all of that, I don't see an upset. Miami's strong defense has the potential to dominate a limited Jax offense and make it a tough day for rookie QB Blake Bortles, whose league-leading 10 interceptions is a total likely to grow. Ryan Tannehill should stay hot against a generous J-Ville pass D, and the injury-loss of LB Paul Posluszny will hurt the Jags' run stopping and enable Lamar Miller. The biggest threat to Miami here isn't the opponent, but rather any overconfidence that might have crept into the team's mindset. We'll see Sunday how well Joe Philbin did in shooing that away. This isn't the time or place for a trap-game mentality. This is the time and place for the Dolphins to assert themselves and get on a roll with tougher games looming. My pick: Dolphins, 24-16.

1aa1abig3newHEAT READY FOR A FIGHT: Heat open the NBA season and the post-LeBron era Wednesday night, and the Herald's preview sectionis out today. Click on Ready For A Fight for my preview column on moving on since James' defection. The Heat has conceded nothing. Miami is ready now to fight for what has come so easily the past four seasons: the attention, and the victories. Pictured: The downsized new Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, an expanded, updated Hot Button Top 10. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton21. Dolphins: Miami seeks to avoid 'trap' in Jacksonville: The funny thing about 1-6 Jaguars being a "trap" game Sunday is the false presumption Miami is good enough to take any opponent lightly. In a state context, the Dolphins are better than Jacksonville or Tampa Bay, but that's faint praise. It's like being the best candidate in this Florida governor’s race.

2. Hurricanes: Duke of Gables reigns in huge win in Blacksburg: Duke Johnson ran for 249 yards, and UM’s defense played great in big 30-6 win at Virginia Tech on Thursday night. Al Golden’s team has now won two in a row and is playing the best it has all year. Canes fans used to complaining about something or firing somebody are feeling seriously deprived.

3. Heat: Post-LeBron era tips off Wednesday at home: Feeling down, Heat fans? Jilted? Here's a reminder how lucky you've had it: This is the 12th consecutive season that Miami's roster will have included some combination of Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal or LeBron James. A Heat fan's biggest challenge: Feeling sorry for himself without appearing spoiled.

4. Baseball: Royals-Giants World Series even into Game 5: The 110th Fall Classic is tied 2-2 as it wraps up its three-game midsection in San Francisco with Game 5 Sunday night. A Miami lawyer known as "Marlins Man," Laurence Leavy, 58, has been ubiquitous on TV behind home plate in bright orange team jersey. It's closest Marlins have come to being in the World Series since 2003.

5. Soccer: Ronaldo tops Messi in 'El Clasico': In the most anticipated match since the summer World Cup, the globe’s two greatest players faced off Saturday as Cristiano Ronaldo's goal led Real Madrid past scoreless Lionel Messi and Barcelona, 3-1, in a Spanish league match. Soccer agnostics, if this one didn’t pique your interest, there probably is no hope for you.

6. College football: First playoff rankings out Tuesday: The first College Football Playoff ranking is out Tuesday, after which about a dozen one-loss teams will be complaining they're not in the top four. Remember when we thought a playoff would end all the arguing and controversy. How cute!

7. Panthers: Cats return from successful road trip: Florida is back on home ice Thursday after taking six of possible eight points on recent four-game roadie. For first time since Miami Arena days games are being broadcast in Spanish, too. That means you can now not listen in two languages.

8. Gators: Florida makes quarterback change: Young Treon Harris is replacing embattled Jeff Driskel as Gators' starting quarterback. UF fans I know are more interested in who'll be replacing coach Will Muschamp, and when.

9. NBA: League rejects new 'tanking' measures: NBA failed to pass new draft-lottery rules that would have lessened the incentive for teams to "tank" for better draft position. You know it's getting pretty bad when losing teams' late-season starters include assistant coaches and players' moms. 

10. NASCAR: Chase field down to eight NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup culminating next month at Homestead is down to eight finalists. Kevin Harvick called the new format "the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life." Imagine what drivers who didn’t make the cut think of it!

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October 25, 2014

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 80.4% (season high); plus Duke-led UM routs Va-Tech 30-6; also NFL Week 8 pix, Heat & more

1) It is SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Analyzing Dolphins playoff chances, SOPY rankings, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, World Series & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Find our UM-Virginia Tech gameblog and postgame comments directly below the new CSM poll.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G8: Results are in on the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 80.4 percent overall satisfaction -- a season high -- in the wake of Thursday night's 30-6 victory at Virginia Tech putting UM's season record at 1aa1acsm5-3 overall and 2-2 in the ACC. The CSM, in its sixth season, is your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9 a.m. today/Saturday.

2014 CSM results

G1: 6.7% (following 31-13 loss at Louisville) 

G2: 35.9% (following 41-7 victory vs. Florida A&M)

G3: 71.8% (following 41-20 victory vs. Arkansas State)

G4: 11.6% (following 41-31 loss at Nebraska)

G5: 73.3% (following 22-10 victory vs. Duke)

G6: 3.3% (following 28-17 loss at Georgia Tech)

G7: 29.6% (following 55-34 victory vs. Cincinnati)

G8: 80.4% (following 30-6 victory at Virginia Tech)

Next poll: Nov. 1 (following game vs. North Carolina)

G8: HURRICANES @ VIRGINIA TECH: DUKE-LED UM IMPRESSIVELY WINS FIRST ROAD GAME: Final: Miami's never-in-doubt 30-6 rout at Virginia Tech was all about the double-D: Duke and defense. Duke Johnson had 249 of the Canes' 366 rushing yards, while The U's defense held Va-tech to 242 total yards and pitched a shutout until the Hokies finally scored with less than two minutes left. Miami now 5-3 and still alive for the ACC Coastal title. Big, big road win. ..... Halftime: UM's 24-0 domination in a word? Duke! Duke Johnson has 148 yards rushing including a 29-yard scoring run, and 37 more yards receiving including a 22-yard scoring catch. And Miami's oft-criticized defense has held Va-Tech to 36 net yards of offense. A complete a-- whuppin' in Blacksburg thus far.  ..... Original post: Both old rivals are 4-3 overall and 1-2 in ACC play, and only the winner of this 8 p.m. game will stay alive for the conference's Coastal 1aa1acanesvtDivision title. More realistically, both teams should probably be thinking more about getting bowl-eligible than about getting into the ACC championship game. The betting line -- UM favored by 3 points -- seems odd at first, because Miami is 0-3 on the road this year and has lost the past three meetings in Blacksburg. Va-Tech has been a bit of a nemesis for the Canes, so a home-'dog upset would hardly surprise. I get why UM is favored, though. The Hokies are missing their top tackler on defense, and offensively don't have much of a ground game to take advantage of The U's defensive vulnerability. Brad Kaaya, Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett bring too much on the attack for the homies to outscore. By the way, remember how embarrassing Miami's home crowd was in the Cincinnati game and all that talk about how those things hurt recruiting? Small home crowds don't hurt recruiting nearly as much as winning on Thursday night on ESPN can help recruiting. This is a big-stage game. That's another reason why tonight is so important for Al Golden and UM. My pick: Hurricanes, 34-23.

Other Collball Week 9 state FBS games:

No. 23 Marshall 35, FAU 16: Uh oh, Owls. At least you kept the margin under 30. Call it a moral victory.

Also: Cincinnati def. South Florida 34-17 on Friday; and UCF def. Temple 34-14. Off this week: FIU, Florida, No. 2 Florida State.

NFL WEEK 8 PICKS: SURVIVING THE JAX "TRAP": Mixed start Thursday night as I had Broncos winning 1aa1afripixbut was wrong thinking Chargers would cover. Click on Week 8 Gems for all the rest of our latest prediction capsules. Dolphins face "trap" game at lowly Jacksonville but I think they'll be alright. Colts lose at Pittsburgh in our Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!"). Click on State of Despair for my Friday Page NFL column. It's on how Miami is closer than Jacksonville or Tampa Bay to trending upward, but how that's faint praise as all three state teams try to end playoff droughts.

1aa1acboshOMINOUS TREND FOR HEAT: Interesting results for Heat in ESPN's annual rank of NBA players. Ominously, only three of Miami's top-10-rated guys show a higher ranking than a year earlier. The top 10: 1. Chris Bosh (20th overall, +4), pictured signaling, "I'm No. 20!"; 2. Dwyane Wade (36th, -18); 3. Luol Deng (58th, -12); 4. Josh McRoberts (117th, +217); 5. Mario Chalmers (153rd, -31); 6. Chris Andersen (166th, -11); 7. Danny Granger (225th, -156); 8. Norris Cole (226th, +9); 9. Udonis Haslem (307th, -92); 10. Shabazz Napier (309th, rookie).

1aa1amarlinsman

MARLINS FAN HAUNTS WORLD SERIES:
 Fun story today by our Clark Spencer on "Marlins Man," the Miami fan in the bright orange Marlins jersey who is front and center and all over TV during this World Series (amid a sea of blue Royals jerseys). Click here to read. 

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October 23, 2014

Analyzing Dolphins playoff chances from here, game by game; plus 3 ex-Canes on Hall ballot, SOPY rank (new No. 1), KC-SF, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins win in Chicago, DSM poll, World Series rooting result, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

3 ex-Canes on Hall ballot: The 2015 College Football Hall of Fame ballot is out. Ex-Hurricanes on it are defensive greats Jerome Brown, Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp.

FORTUNE .500: DECIPHERING DOLPHINS' PLAYOFF CHANCES FROM HERE: In my latest column I write that Miami is only 1-7 on making the playoffs seasons when it is 3-3 after six games. Hasn't 1aa1adolmorganhappened since 1983, Y.O.M. (Year of Marino). And so trusting and believing in the Dolphins is very tough; fans are wary. Click on Make Us Believe for the full column. We analyze Miami's 2014 playoff shot with a look at the remaining schedule:

At Jaguars Oct. 26 -- Miami isn't good enough to have a "trap" game or to look past anybody. Jax is 1-6 but plays pretty stout D and is capable of an upset. Miami win = 4-3.

Vs. Chargers Nov. 2 -- Home-field upset possible, but Philip Rivers a tough hurdle anywhere. Loss = 4-4.

At Lions Nov. 9 -- Very good Detroit defense, although Matthew Stafford's inconsistency and Calvin Johnson's health give Dolphs a big shot. Loss = 4-5.

Vs. Bills Nov. 13 -- Buffs defense is so-so and Kyle Orton is no answer. Win = 5-5.

At Broncos Nov. 23 -- Peyton Manning at Mile High. The one remaining game that feels like Miami has no real shot. Loss = 5-6.

At Jets Dec. 1 -- For NYJ, bad defense plus Geno Smith equals a current 1-6. Win = 6-6.

Vs. Ravens Dec. 7 -- Baltimore looking very good but home field counts here. Win = 7-6.

At Patriots Dec. 14 -- Tom Brady, in Foxborough, in winter, still sounds like a bad result. Loss = 7-7.

Vs. Vikings Dec. 21 -- No gimmies, but this could be surest win left on schedule. Win = 8-7.

Vs. Jets Dec. 28 -- Farewell, Rex Ryan! Win = 9-7.

Will 9-7 be good enough for a wild card playoff spot? Doubtful. As of right now, eight AFC teams have better records than Miami and two others also are 3-3. That's a 10-team scrum for six spots. But getting to 10-6 is doable. In the scenario above, a split of the Chargers/Lions games would do it.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: THE GOOD AND BAD OF WEEK 7: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we 1aa1afripix 1aa1alobosdid the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our fantasy-league team. Pix: The good. Went strong at 11-4 overall and 9-6 against the spread, and stayed hot on Upset of the Week calls by bull's-eyeing Jaguars over Browns ("Aawwk!"). Fantasy: The bad. Greg's Lobos fell to 2-5 with a 138-72 blowout loss. Not a good sign when your leading scorer (DeAndre Hopkins) has only 15 points.

SOPY: FSU'S WINSTON LEAPS TO TOP IN STATE COLLBALL RANKINGS: Florida State's Jameis Winston leaps to No. 1 this week in our latest blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- 1aa1asopy"the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college football teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Because our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye week (like the Canes) take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 9:

SOPY WEEK 8 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk8    Season

1 (3)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb        156.5    1,076

2 (4)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      287.5   1,028.5 

3 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         BYE     1,010

4 (2)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            BYE       923

5 (8)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            166       819

6 (5)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       114       813

7 (7)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           60.5      726 

8 (9)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb             94        720

9 (6)        Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb           (-) 4       667

10 (--)      Alex Gardner, FIU-rb             101       636

Bubble: Phillip Dorsett, Miami-rec, 580. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: UCF and Florida have played 6 games; FAU, FSU, Miami and USF have played 7; FIU has played 8.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 8: 1. FSU (7-0); 2. Miami (4-3);  3. UCF (4-2); 4. Florida (3-3); 5. SoFla (3-4); 6. FIU (3-5); 7. FAU (3-4).

WORLD SERIES: ROOTING FOR ROYALS: Main reason for fans of neither team to root for Kansas City over San Francisco in the 110th World Series starting tonight: Giants won it all as recently as 2012 and 2010, while Royals are in the postseason for the first time since 1985. Secondary reason: Silly San Fran radio deejays refusing to play the popular Lorde song, Royals. Seriously. Kansas City DJ's should fire back by refusing to play anything by the alt-rock group They Might Be Giants, although I don't know that TMBG has ever had a radio hit. Anyway, to protest San Fran's protest, here is Royals by Lorde:

 

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October 21, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 80.7%; plus Fins, hot Tannehill win in Chicago 27-14; also new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 20. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Noles edge Irish and other collball, Royals-Giants WS poll, NFL Week 7 picks, Jameis Winston verdict, Chelsea showers & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins-Bears gameblog and postgame report directly below latest DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G6: Results are in on the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 80.7 percent overall satisfaction -- the highest level since the season opener -- in the wake of Sunday afternoon's 27-14 victory at Chicago putting Miami's season record at 3-3. 1aa1adsmThe DSM, in its seventh season, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2014 DSM results

G1: 96.4% (following 33-20 victory vs. New England)

G2: 12.2% (following 29-10 loss at Buffalo)

G3: 2.0% (following 34-15 loss vs. Kansas City)

G4: 62.3% (following 38-14 victory vs. Oakland in London)

G5: 14.2% (following 27-24 loss vs. Green Bay)

G6: 80.7% (following 27-14 victory at Chicago)

Next poll: Oct. 26 (following game at Jacksonville)

G6: DOLPHINS 27, CHICAGO 14: TANNEHILL, DEFENSE IN CHARGE: Final: Huge road win bringing MIA to 3-3, led by Ryan Tannehill, who completed his first 14 passes and finished 25-32 for 277 yards, two TDs and 123.6 rating. Excellent. Eight receivers with two-plus catches. And Tanny adds 48 yards rusing from read-option runs to lead a 137-yard ground attack. Defensively Miami wins turnover war 3-0 and dominates in time of possession 37  minutes to 23. All around Miami's best end-to-end performance of the season. ..... Fourth quarter: Defensive stop clinches it for Miami! ... MIA 27-14 on 19-yard FG just outside 2-minute warning, after Charles Clay holding penalty wipes away Miller TD run. ... Jamar Taylor bad pass interference penalty cost MIA 39 yards, leads directly to 1-yard Forte TD run as Bears within 24-14 with 7:38 to play. ... Fins muff FG try set up by Starks, waste chance. Kick was partially blocked. ... Cortland Finnegan knocks ball from Brandon Marshall, Randy Starks recovers. Third takeaway for MIA defense. ... Fins 24-7 on 32-yard FG after Cam Wake sack/fumble recovery sets up team at CHI 16. ..... Third quarter: MIA 21-7 on 2-yard Lamar Miller TD run after Tannehill 30-yard run on 4th down made it 1st and goal. Huge for Fins to answer CHI's TD and keep momentum. ... Matt Forte 10-yard scoring pass from Cutler puts Da Bears right back in game. ..... Halftime: Miami thoroughly dominated half and probably should be ahead more than 14-0. Tannehill superb at 14-for-15, 176 yards, 2 TDs. Been sacked four times, though, about the only negative for Fins in half. ..... Second quarter: Wallace 10-yard TD catch makes good use of Jones' INT. Tannehil now 10-for-10 for 136 yards, two TDs. Man! ... He's baa-aaack. Reshad Jones intercepts Cutler, returns ball 49 yards. ... Sturgis pushes a 50Y FG try wide right. This is an average NFL kicker, not a good one. That 3rd-down sack cost Miami three points. ..... First quarter: Fins 7-0 with first 1Q TD since Game 1, a 13-yard Tannehill strike to TE Charles Clay. Of course it was Clay. I benched him on my fantasy team today! ..... Original post: One of the mysteries and intrigues of today's 1 p.m. game is that "Dolphins at Chicago" is one of the most rare phrases in the Dolfan lexicon. This marks only the club’s fifth visit to Soldier Field, following earlier trips in 1975, 1988, 1991 and 1aa1achimia2006. (With apologies to the superstitious, Fins did not make the playoffs any of the four previous seasons they played in Chicago). Joey Harrington pitched for Miami when last the Dolphins ventured into Soldier Field. I’d fancy Jay Cutler over Ryan Tannehill in the duel of present-day arms. That’s mostly because Cutler’s targets, ex-Fin Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, have a combined 11-inch height advantage over Dolphin mini-corners Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. Also, Tannehill is 0-4 with six picks in career road games vs. NFC teams, and he could face a bunch of third-and-longs if Chitown’s run-D is as stout today as it has been the past few weeks. I also wonder how Miami will respond after last week’s last-second, sort-of-blew-it heartbreak loss. (Here comes the “but.”) But the Soldier has hardly been magic lately for the Bears. Chicago, a mere 3 1/2-point favorite, is 0-2 at home this season, and is 1-10-1 against the spread in the past 12 home games. This is a huge swing game for Miami, with lousy Jacksonville on deck. Win today to go 3-3 and playoff hopes will be rekindled. Lose to go 2-4 and a here-we-go-again pall will revisit. Alas, I see the latter as likelier. My pick: Chicago, 23-20.

Poll result: Royals dominate World Series rooting interest: We asked un the previous blogpost who you hope wins the World Series, and it was 78.6 percent for the Royals and 21.4% for the Giants. 

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our Random Evidence Sunday notes-column package has returned in print from summer hiatus (click HERE for today's latest edition), but due to semi-popular demand an updated, expanded Hot Button continues as an exclusive Sunday feature of the blog. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Miami makes rare visit to Soldier Field: Today marks only team's fifth visit to Chicago and only second since 1991. Will we see Good Fins or Bad Fins? Any Dolfan confident in the answer is probably lying to himself.

2. College football: FSU, Winston survive Notre Dame: As we await the firing of Gators coach Will Muschamp, Florida State and embattled QB Jameis Winston survived last night in Tallahassee, 31-27, when a last-second Notre Dame TD was nullified by a penalty. Luck o' the Irish ... not. 

3. Hurricanes: UM readies for Va-Tech after short bye: Miami prepares to face Virginia Tech this Thursday night in Blacksburg. UM was off this week but the bye rushed for 318 yards against the beleaguered Canes' run defense.

4. World Series: It's Royals vs. Giants starting Tuesday: Best thing about matchup? Contrast in SF having won two recent WS titles and KC in its first postseason since 1985. Worst thing? Maudlin media rehashing on 25th anniversary of '89 World Series earthquake in San Fran.

5. Heat: Countdown 10 days 'til season opener: Miami is 2-4 in preseason with two exhibitions left after winning in San Antonio yesterday despite Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng all sitting. Which pretty much tells you how significant preseason results are.

6. Panthers: Cats on road seeking second win: Florida has won only once and scored a league-low five goals in the first five games of the NHL schedule. Bad sign when you're two weeks in and it already seems like a long season. 

7. NASCAR: Elimination day in Chase: Today at Talladega the Chase for the Cup field will be reduced from 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the drivers in jeopardy of being eliminated, despite the wishes of televising network ESPN.

8. Tennis: Official suspended over Williams slur: The WTA has suspended a Russian Tennis Federation official who referred to Serena and Venus Williams as "brothers" and called them "scary to look at." If only he'd have said "scary to play," nobody would have argued.

9. Biogenesis: Bosch pleads guilty: Anthony Bosch, founder of the Coral Gables "anti-aging clinic" that funneled PEDs to Alex Rodriguez and others, pleaded guilty and faces sentencing. Bosch was only doing his part to keep Cooperstown quaint by keeping the population down.

10. Politics: Gubernatorial Fangate: The Florida gubernatororial debate between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist was delayed when Scott briefly boycotted over Crist's use of a small cooling fan. The irony? Based on the low approval and trust ratings for both men, I'm not either have many fans.

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October 18, 2014

FSU 31, Notre Dame 27: Winston's revenge; plus Royals-Giants World Series poll, NFL Week 7 picks, Chelsea in shower & more

1) It is SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jameis Winston poll, NFL odds, Rick Scott and the fan, local-leadership results & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Heat, Cats off the schneid: Miami Heat finally won last night (how strange does that sound to say), and so did Florida Panthers. Heat had been 0-4 in preseason. Cats had been 0-3 after an 0-6 preseason.

NO. 2 FLORIDA STATE 31, NO. 5 NOTRE DAME 27: Original post: The Miami Hurricanes may be off this weekend, but UM fans looking for a collball fix have their game right here, and a chance to eyeball an 1aa1andfsuFSU squad that will be visiting Miami Nov. 15. Much sentiment among college football literati that Notre Dame (a 10-point underdog) is primed for an upset in this 8 p.m. game, but I don't see it. The Fighting Irish tend to be Failing Irish against the best. They are 1-16 against top-five opponents since 1999 including eight straight losses, the last seven by 13 or more points. Also this will be the first true road test for ND after four games in 1aa1andtshirtSouth Bend and two at nuetral sites. And FSU has 22 straight victories including 10 in a row in Tally. The wild card that leads to much of the upset supposition is of course all the controversy swirling around Noles QB Jameis Winston. (At left is a "Catholics vs. Criminoles" T-shirt they sell in South Bend mocking Winston's legals issues). But Winston has shown a blinders-on ability to mute the distraction and perform, and his team has something to gain from the turmoil, too. It is called motivation. FSU dropped from the top spot in the AP poll despite not losing, and this game presents a chance to get back to No. 1 and make much more likely a spot in the first College Football Playoff. My pick: Seminoles, 38-31.

Other Collball Week 8 state FBS games:

FAU 45, Western Kentucky 38: Visitors averaged 433 passing yards a game but allowed 38.4 points. Over/under must have looked like a bowling score. Gave Owls a big upset chance and was right. Huge game by dual-threat QB Jacquez Johnson as The Atlantic improves to 3-4. Hooooot! 

No. 25 Marshall 45, FIU 13: Unbeaten Marshall had not scored fewer than 42 points in any game and still hasn't. T-Herd QB Rakeem Cato was tyoo mcuh for FIU as it fell to 3-5, swamped after halftime. Didn't give The Int'l much of a shot, and with good reason.

Missouri 42, Florida 13: Florida and its two-headed quarterback were favored. I wasn't sure why. Mizzou brought pretty good defense, and it seemed the magic has been drained from The Swamp. I see less and less chance for coach Will Muschamp to keep his job. This was a crushing home loss.

Also: South Florida def. Tulsa, 38-30; and UCF def. Tulane, 20-13. Off this week: Miami.

ROYALS-GIANTS LOOKS LIKE EASY CHOICE FOR IMPARTIAL FANS: If you are not a fan of either team --which would be about 98 percent of America -- your World Series rooting interest should be pretty clear 1aa1akcsfwhen the 110th Fall Classic begins Tuesday. It's Giants vs. Lilliputians, David vs. Goliath. The betting odds may say otherwise (slightly), but the Kansas City Royals play the Lovable Underdog to the San Francisco Giants' Darth Vader. KC is in its first World Series -- first postseason at all -- since last winning it all in George Brett's 1985. San Fran has been in the playoffs nine times since then, including World Series wins in 2010 and '12, so recent the clubhouse probably still stinks of champagne. I'll be rooting for the Royals simply because their fans have starved longer. But that's my perspective. Your turn. Which team do you hope wins and why? Notice the poll does not have the answer option, 'I Don't Give a Crap.' Play along, people. If you were watching and you did care, who would you most want to win?

1aa1afripixNFL WEEK 7 PICKS: NO WIN IN WINDY CITY: Mixed start Thursday night as Patriots won but didn't cover. Click on Week 7 Gems for all the rest of our latest prediction capsules. I do not see Dolphins winning at Chicago, although Soldier Field has not exactly been an impenetrable fortress for Da Bears lately. Have winless Jacksonville getting off the schneid in our Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!"). Click on Murray's Law for my Friday Page NFL column. It's on Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray running counter to the league's escalating pass-first mentality.

Poll result: Mixed verdict, but most say to sit or suspend Jameis Winston: We asked in the previous blogpost (you may still vote) if FSU's star QB should still be playing in wake of several off-field controversies, and it was 61.9 percent no, 35.0% yes and 3.1% undecided. We are duty-bound to point out the obvious: That voters in a MiamiHerald.com blog may include many Hurricanes fans whose team happens to play FSU next month. I'm not sayin' I'm just sayin', you know what I'm sayin'?

1aa1achelseaCHELSEA HANDLER SHOWER SCENE: The Chelsea Lately late-night talk show on E! had a hilarious season-ending episode in which a fully clothred Ellen DeGeneres joins a fully naked Chelsea Handler in the shower. Spoiler alert: Late appearance by a dwarf! (Is it OK to say dwarf. Or is it Little Person?) Warning: Though Chelsea's private-est parts are pixilated, it is very obvious she is actually nude, so if that might offend you, whatever you do, do NOT watch the video by clicking HERE.   

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October 16, 2014

Should Jameis Winston be suspended? New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL odds, Rick Scott & The Fan, Heat still reign locally & more

1) It is THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16. I'm ensconsed in Friday Page Headquarters creating this week's NFL predictions. Pray for me. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Big 5 who-do-you-trust poll, Heat betting odds, SOPY rankings, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"My reaction to Brandon Marshall criticizing Chad Henne's time as Dolphins quarterback? Get in line, pal." --Greg Cote

WHAT TO DO WITH JAMEIS WINSTON: Florida State and coach Jimbo Fisher move forward as if there's no doubt QB Jameis Winston will play Saturday when No. 2 FSU hosts No. 5 Notre Dame. But Las Vegas 1aa1ajameishad enough doubts that the game was yanked off betting boards yesterday over the uncertainty. Plenty think Winston should be suspended over a cumulative effect of several off-field controversies. Click on Jimbo's Dilemma for today's latest column by me. The 2012 sexual-assault allegation against Winston has not gone away amid recent reports of collusion between the Tallahassee Police Department and the FSU athletic department. Now the school plans a disciplinary board hearing with Winston, which could lead to a decision he violated the student code of conduct. Beyond the overriding rape cloud there is this week news that he signed some 950 items of memorabilia, which would violate NCAA rules if he was paid. Jameis says he wasn't; Jimbo believes him. We won't even get into the stolen crab legs or the shouted mysoginist vulgarity that got him suspended from the Clemson game. The question is whether Jameis Winston -- all things considered -- should still be out there as the face of FSU on Saturday and beyond? It isn't an easy question with a clear answer. Your opinion is nonetheless invited.

UPDATED NFL ODDS: Broncos are reinstalled as Super Bowl favorites (via Bovada) at 4-1, but Seahawks are still second at 6-1. Then it's Chargers/49ers both 9-1, Packers/Patriots both 11-1 and Cowboys 12-1. Dallas RB DeMarco Murray is slight MVP pick at 7-2, over Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers both 4-1.

RICK SCOTT AND THE FAN: The start of last night's Charlie Crist-Rick Scott guberatorial debate at Broward College played out like a Saturday NIght Live skit. The audience murmered and tittered awkwardly like 1aa1adebatethey weren't sure if this was a joke or not. If only it were. Click HERE to see what I mean. Gov. Rick Scott refused to take the stage, delaying the debate for seven minutes, because opponent Crist had a small fan at the bottom of his podium to cool him. Evidently "no electronics" was part of the rules. The presumption is that meant impportant things like teleprompters. But a fan!? Scott came off like a persnickety kid holding his breath to get his way. He turned himself into a national laughingstock in a way that even four years in office could not. Scott has been the worst Florida governor of my lifetime IMHO, and has taken negative campaigning to new depths in this race. I'm not a Crist fan, either. This state deserves a better choice. But the feeling of Crist as the lesser of two evils bobbed once again to the surface as Scott let something so small and silly be what people are talking about today.

Poll result: In Heat's leadership we trust. In everything else, not so much: Lebron James left but Heat remain our model franchise in terms of which Big 5 team's leadership you most trust. We asked in the previous blogpost and Heat led with 70.7 percent -- roughly six times more than runnerup UM football's 11.9%. Then it was Marlins 7.9%, Dolphins 6.1% and Panthers 3.4%.

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Which Miami team's leadership do you most trust (or not)? Poll. Vote!; plus latest NBA odds, two Canes top new SOPY ranking, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15. See results of the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll in blogpost directly below this one. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins fall to Green Bay, DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

The State of The Big 5: Dolphins. Heat. Canes football. Marlins. Panthers hockey. Those are Greater Miami's Big 5 teams. I provide a state-of report and prognosis for each in today's latest column, which is a companion to the poll directly below. Click on The Big 5 to read.

WHO DO YOU TRUST: WHICH OF OUR BIG 5 TEAMS IS IN THE BEST HANDS MOVING FORWARD?: I think this poll is well-timed for two reasons. First, October is the only time of year when football, baseball, basketball and hockey are all going on. Second, these are strange times for South Florida teams, with 1aa1atrustthe Heat sans LeBron, Dolphins and Canes fans less than happy, the Marlins (though improved) continuing their playoff drought and the Panthers off to a bad start in hockey. I am asking whose current leadership you have faith in, and you may vote for as many or as few as you like. I purposely didn't include "None" as an option because I'm after a realistic view, not morose pessimism. If you honestly don't have faith in anybody, vote for the team and leadership that come closest for you. When I say "leadership" I'm generally thinking owner/GM/coach, as in: Dolphins--Stephen Ross, Dennis Hickey, Joe Philbin. Heat--Micky Arison, Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra. Marlins--Jeffrey Loria, Michael Hill, Mike Redmond. Panthers--Vincent Viola, Dale Tallon, Gerard Gallant. With Hurricanes football I guess I pretty much mean Al Golden. Vote for one team, all five or any number in between. Your call.

LEBRON-GONE EFFECT SHOWS IN HEAT BETTING ODDS: New NBA individual betting odds from Bovada: MVP--Cavs' LeBron James the favorite at 5-6; Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade tied for 18th at 100-1. Rookie--Bucks' Jabari Parker fave at 5-2; Heat's Shabazz Napier tie-11th at 30-1. Coach--Spurs' Gregg Popovich fave at 3-1; Erik Spoelstra tie-15th at 35-1. Scoring leader--Thunder's Kevin Durant pick at 3-2; Bosh/Wade tie-16th at 100-1. Rebounds--Pistons' Andre Drummond pick at 9-5; no Heat player listed; Assists--Clippers' Chris Paul pick at 2-3; no Heater listed.

SOPY: TWO CANES, JAMEIS 1-2-3 IN STATE COLLBALL RANKINGS: Canes Duke Johnson and Brad Kaaya and FSU's Jameis Winston are a clear 1-2-3 in our latest blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the 1aa1asopyYear (SOPY) rankings --"the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college football teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 8:

SOPY WEEK 7 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk7    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         184     1,010

2 (2)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            154      923

3 (3)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb        173.5    919.5

4 (4)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      BYE    741 

5 (5)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       107      699

6 (8)        Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb          174.5    671

7 (--)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           207     665.5 

8 (6)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb             67      653

9 (7)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb            87.5     626

10 (--)     Phillip Dorsett, Miami-rec       155       580

Bubble: Alex Gardner, FIU-rb, 535. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: UCF and Florida have played 5 games; FAU, FSU and USF have played 6; Miami and FIU have played 7.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 8: 1. FSU (6-0); 2. Miami (4-3);  3. Florida (3-2); 4. UCF (3-2); 5. SoFla (2-4); 6. FIU (3-4); 7. FAU (2-4).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: DOWN AND FROWN FOR WEEK 6: We update you briefly every Tuesday 1aa1alobos 1aa1afripixon how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our fantasy-league team. Pix: That I had Dolphins in my Upset of the Week pretty  much summarizes my fortunes. Went 7-7-1 overall but at least 1aa1agorelsalvaged 8-7 against the spread thanks to four 'dogs-with-points (including Miami). Fantasy: Greg's Lobos fell to 2-4 with a 112-95 loss, getting 26 from Philip Rivers, 21 from DeSean Jackson and not enough else. Had a shot Monday night but needed a big game from Frank Gore, who didn't come through. Lesley Gore (pictured left) would have helped me as much.

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