December 21, 2014

G15: Minnesota at Dolphins: Hopes low for team, but stakes high for Philbin

1) It is SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21. No Random Evidence today; the Sunday notes-column package in print, and its Hot Button Top 10 blog version, are off for the holidays. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins/NFL Week 16 pix, Fleetwood Mac, bowl season, Marlins trade, Heat/Panthers morphing, NBA-on-Christmas verdict & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Watch for new DSM: The latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll will appear right here soon after today's game ends. Estimated posttime: 5 p.m. Watch for it, vote and be heard!

G15: MINNESOTA (6-8) AT DOLPHINS (7-7): LOW HOPES, HIGH STAKES: Minnesota is eliminated from postseason contention but dangerous. Miami is all but mathematically out with a playoff likelihood estimated at 0.7 percent, according to the computer 1aa1adolvikeprojections of makenflplayoffs.com. That constututes the low hopes. So what are the high stakes? The immediate future of the franchise, embodied in coach Joe Philbin's job status. The Dolphins are unlikely to luck into the playoffs, even if they win out. But their performance these last two games -- the fight left in them -- may either save Philbin's job or confirm his doom. He is 22-24 with no playoffs in not quite three seasons. Not good enough, But winning out to finish 9-7 would constitute improvement on the bottom line, at least. Despite that motivating factor for Miami the Vikings' upset shot is sizable here. Purples bring a stout defense to face a struggling Miami team that has been outscored 69-26 the past two weeks in a December swoon that has put that thin ice under Philbin. Miami-born Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater rates 103.3 across his past three starts. Visitors aren’t great on road (2-5), so we’ll stick with Fins, although Miami hasn’t done much to impress ever since blowing that game at Denver a month ago. I do wonder how much fight the demoralized Fins have left in them. Maybe we'll find out today. Meantime how’s this for strange: Outbound 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh might have his choice of the Dolphins or U-Michigan jobs, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is a prominent Michigan alum and major donor. The bright side, then: At least one of Ross’ two favorite teams might get the man it wants. My pick: Dolphins, 23-20.

A Dolfans' (pre) Christmas wish list: Miami's faint playoff hopes were further damaged last night by San Diego's comeback win at San Francisco. The Fins also are hurt by the fact the Baltimore-Houston and Kansas City-Pittsburgh games today mean at least two of the teams Miami is chasing for a final wild-card spot are sure to win. Dolfans should hope Buffalo loses at Oakland today. Cincinnati losing vs. Denver Monday is not a big deal because Bengals are assured of finishing with a better record than Miami. In the best case scenario, no matter this weekend's results, Miami would enter the final week needing an unlikely confluence of other results to all fall just right.

THE LIST: DOLPHIN HIGH GAMES VS. VIKINGS: Today will mark only the 12th all-time meeting between the Vikings and Miami. Dolphins major individual records vs. this opponent:

Category                Number    Record setter

Passing yards         431          Dan Marino, 9-25-94

Receiving yards      160          Irving Fryar, 9-25-94

Rushing yards         145          Larry Csonka, 1-13-74*

Team points            35            In 38-35 loss, 9-25-94

*-Csonka's performance was in Super Bowl.

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December 19, 2014

Dolphins, NFL Week 16 picks: 0.725%; plus Fleetwood Mac, state bowl-game winners, Heat 'n Panthers morphing, Marlins-Yanks trade, NBA-on-Christmas verdict & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20. No Random EVidence this week. The Sunday notes-column package is off for the holidays. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA-on-Christmas poll, Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden verdict, U.S.-Cuba relations & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 16 PICKS: "0.725%": The percentage at left represents the less than 1-in-100 playoff likelihood for Miami right now as it hosts the Vikings on Sunday, according to computer estimations 1aa1afripixfrom makenflplayoffs.com. Miami has the second-worst odds of any of 21 teams still mathematically alive (ahead of only Cleveland). It'll be win-and-pray for the Dolphins and several other teams as the better clubs clinch remaining playoff spots. Click on Week 16 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules, which have a playoff-piocture theme. (Strong start to our week Thursday night with a near exacto. Jags beat Titans 21-13; I had it 20-13). Also, click on Overlooking Landry for my weekly Friday Page column. It posits that the Fins' Jarvis Landry is having a season that, most years, would merit offensive rookie-of-the-year consideration, but that, unfortunately for him, this is a particularly bounteous year for rookie wide receivers.

LET'S GO BOWLING: The glut of 39 bowls games begins Saturday. Astonishingly, 11 of the bowls (28%) either involve a Florida team or are played in our state. We rank those 11 by interest in South Florida, with state ties underlined, and with predictions by ESPN's Mark Schlabach:

1aa1adepend1. Rose (College Football Playoff semifinal): Oregon 42, Florida State 31. Jan. 1, 5 p.m., Pasadena, CA.

2. Duck Commander Independence: Miami 27, South Carolina 20. Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m., Shreveport, LA.

3. Birmingham: East Carolina 27, Florida 23. Jan. 3, noon, Birmingham, AL.

4. Capital One Orange: Georgia Tech 34, Mississippi State 30. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., Dolphins stadium.

5. Miami Beach: Memphis 31, BYU 24. Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Marlins Park.

6. Boca Raton: Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38. Dec. 23, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium.

7. Bitcoin St. Petersburg: North Carolina State 21, UCF 20. Dec. 26, 8 p.m., St. Pete.

8. Outback: Auburn 42, Wisconsin 35. Jan. 1, noon, Tampa.

9. Russell Athletic: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 20. Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., Orlando.

10. Citrus: Missouri 24, Minnesota 20. Jan. 1, 1 p.m., Orlando.

11. Taxslayer: Tennessee 28, Iowa 17. Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m., Jacksonville.

ON FLEETWOOD MAC: Saw the legendary band at the Sunrise arena last night and thought it was a great show. I've never been a huge FM fan beyond the obligatory heydays love of the Rumours LP, but as a huge pop music fan I am drawn to seeing all-time great perfomers I've not seen before. Thoughts: Lindsay Buckingham is a better guitar player live than is heard on records, but is rather insufferable as a frontman, his ego unhidden. Founding father Mick Fleetwood is terrific on drums and a delight to watch. Bassist John McVie gets too lost; he's too invisble, not musically, but onstage. Stevie Nicks is still playing the gypsy-poet. Not a huge fan of her voice but she is a commanding stage presence. The star, for me, is Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards. I don't think I would have gone to the show had she not rejoined the band.

 

1aa1ampradoMARLINS-YANKEES MAKE TRADE: Marlins today acquired infielder Martin Prado (pictured), pitcher David Phelps and cash from Yankees for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and minor league pitcher Domingo German. I'd call it a medium trade, certainly not a big one. Prado, 31, who hit .282 with 26 doubles and 12 homers last year, will compete to start at third base. Phelps, 28, could emerge as a No. 5 starter.

HEAT, PANTHERS HAVE BECOME SAME TEAM: For years the Heat preened and reigned, and the Panthers were the forgotten and forlorn afterthought. Now the two teams have met in the middle: Mediocrity. They have morphed into the same team. The previous four seasons, the Heat's winning percentage was .718 and the Panthers' .381. This season:

Team        Record            Pos.    L10    Strk

Panthers    14-16, .467    T-7th   6-4    W2

Heat          12-14, .462     7th      3-7    L1 

Poll result: Most don't like NBA playing on Christmas: With the LeBron-at-Heat Christmas Day game looming, we asked what you thought of the NBA playing games on the holiday, and 61.2 percent were against versus 34.0% who were OK with it. The other 4.8% were undecided.

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December 18, 2014

Should NBA play games on Christmas? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden result, U.S.-Cuba relations & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18. I'm up at Friday Page Headquarters today conjuring the NFL Week 16 predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for my pick on tonight's putrid Titans-Jaguars game. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): 'Tis the season for being average, Miami and Shaq, Philbin/Golden poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Marlins, meatballs & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1asantaA POX ON NBA FOR PLAYING ON CHRISTMAS!: One week from today LeBron James-at-Heat will be one of five NBA games played on Christmas. The NHL, conspicuously, 1aa1ajesusdoes not play on Christmas. I hate that the NBA does. I'm not alone. Stan Van Gundy once said, "I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game." Phil Jackson said, "I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day." LeBron James said, "If you ask any player in the league, we'd rather be home with our families. It's not just a regular holiday." I agree. I'm not especially religious; it just seems wrong to play on Christmas. You with me, or are you OK with it? Have a vote!

HEAT ON HISTORIC SKID: OK "historic skid" may be a bit dramatic, but last night's 105-87 home loss to reeling Utah marked the first time since 1990 that Miami has lost four consecutive home games by double digits. Heat is 1-7 overall in its past eight home dates, and fighting just to stay on the eight-team Eastern playoff grid nearly one-third into the season. The good news? Dwyane Wade had 42 points. Wasn't sure he had another 40-point game in him, frankly. The bad news? Everything else. Chris Bosh was out again, Miami couldn't buy a 3-point shot, and the defense was (again) lousy. Injuries haven't helped, but, bottom line: the post-LeBron era has set sail on much rougher seas than imagined. The Christmas game here against LeBron and Cleveland could be ugly.

PANTHERS FIND THEIR PULSE, PACE: It's funny. The Heat is 12-14 and No. 7 in their conference and it's a near-disaster to fans. The Panthers are 13-16 and tied for No. 8 and it's closer to a joyous miracle. That's one team coming down from four straight NBA Finals appearances, and the other dreaming of its first Stanley Cup postseason series victory since 1996. Florida got much attention for its record 20-round shootout win the other night, but Cats have been ascending for awhile; they're over .5000 since a 4-8 start, and 6-4 in past 10 games. (They've also won four of past five home games).

Poll result: Philbin edges Golden in "fire him!" sentiment: In the previous blogpost we asked you to make a choice who you want gone more, and Dolphins coach Joe Philbin edged the Hurricanes' Al Golden for the dubious prize, 52.6 percent to 47.4%.

A NON-CUBAN'S VIEW OF WARMING RELATIONS: [Preemptive strike: "Stay out of politics! STICK TO SPORTS!!!"] I am fascinated by the various reactions to yesterday's news that the U.S. has begun to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. To be clear, I'd guess the vast 1aa1aamercubamajority of America doesn't much care either way. To those who do care, I'd imagine (and hope) that most think diplomacy and civil relations in general are a good thing. But in South Florida, among many Cuban-Americans and exiles -- especially older folks -- this amounts to climbing into bed with the enemy and has inspired anger, even outrage. My take: U.S.-Cuba normalized relations were a long-time coming; Raul Castro taking over for brother Fidel obviously hastened the process. I call this "progress." To me an historical analogy is Japan. After the Pearl Harbor bombing it was unimaginable America would ever be on good terms with Japan, but times change, and Japan is now a strong ally. I respect that many Cuban-Americans can't and won't ever forgive Castro, and that is their right. But that outrage is too small in the national scope to steer American foreign policy.

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December 17, 2014

Miami interested in Shaq?; plus 'tis the season to be average, fire Philbin or Golden poll (vote now!), NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Marlins, meatballs & more

1aa1ahanukkah1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17. A happy Hannukah, which began last evening, to all of our Jewish friends. 2) See previous blogpost for results of our latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll. (Not pretty). 3) Click on Random Evidence for the return of our Sunday notes-column package after a two-week hiatus. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Patriots hammer Dolphins, DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, Manziel verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

MIAMI INTERESTED IN SHAQ?: Yes, that sure is a gratuitous, misleading headline! It's a "read me" hed 1aa1ashaqtdesigned to make you wonder if the Heat might somehow be trying to haul Shaquille O'Neal, 42, out of retirement. Instead, it means Todd McShay's Mock Draft 1.0 for ESPN today is projecting that the Dolphins will select Washington Huskies outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (pictured right) in the first round of next spring's NFL Draft, No. 16 overall. McShay pegs two UM Hurricanes for the first round: OT Ereck Flowers, 1aa1ashaqo12th overall, and ILB Denzel Perryman, sneaking in 32nd. Two FSU Seminoles are seen as 1R: QB Jameis Winston of course (2nd, after Marcus Mariota) and DT Eddie Goldman (18th). One Gator is projected a first-rounder: DE Dante Fowler (7th).

IN MIAMI, 'TIS THE SEASON TO BE AVERAGE: Let's get to the good news first. Won't take long. Miami Hurricanes men's basketball is 9-1 and ranked No. 18 in the latest Associated Press poll. Thus ends the 1aa1amediocrityhappy portion of today's program. Now on to our Big 5 teams: Hurricanes football -- After a bad-ending 6-6 season the Canes are headed to the ignominy of the Duck Commander Bowl in Shreveport, La. Dolphins -- Team has slumped to 7-7 with two damaging losses in a row and makenflplayoffs.com now estimates Miami's postseason chances at 0.7 percent. No, seriously. Heat -- The injured, limping, post-LeBron Heat are 12-13 with last night's win and currently the No. 7 playoff seed. Panthers -- Cats are 13-16 with last night's win and tied for the No. 7 playoff seed, which, grading on a curve, amounts to cause for celebration. And, finally, Marlins -- Positive headlines lately, yes. Encouraging. But let's not forget the Fish last season were 77-85 and missed playoffs for an 11th straight year. In the spirit of our combined funk, we offer a Survivor Poll. We have two football coaches under fire. Many fans would want both out. But you can only vote to get rid of one. You must choose. Nobody said life was fair. Or easy.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: SLUMPING AND FIZZLING IN WEEK 15: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixwe did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: Not satisfied with 10-6 overall and even less so with another 6-9-1 (Seahawks pushed) against the spread. Bull's-eyed another Upset of the Week with Cowboys over Eagles ("Aawwk!") and also had Bills, Vikes and Cards with points, but not enough else went right. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos not only failed to make the championship-round playoffs, but lost in the consolation bracket, 159-99, falling to 7-8 on the year. Not much good can happen when your high scorer (Marshawn Lynch) has only 16 points.

1aa1ammorseMARLINS ADD FIRST BASEMAN: Marlins agreed to terms with free-agent 1B Mike Morse, pictured (from Nova High), ESPN first reported. He batted .279 with 16 homers and 61 RBIs for the Giants last year and should be (they think) an upgrade over Garrett Jones. Morse, 32, is a journeyman but a solid one, with a .281 career average in 10 seasons with the Mariners, Nationals, Orioles and Giants. This continues a big offseason for the Marlins, including the re-signing of Giancarlo Stanton and the addition of base-stealing leadoff man Dee Gordon and starting pitcher Mat Latos.

1aa1ameatballsMEATBALLS & MARTINIS: Thanks to Paul Castronovo and the Paul & Young Ron Show (BIg 105.9) for having us out to their Meatballs & Martinis event last night at Anthony's Runway 84. It's a terrific fundraiser benefitting the Dolphins Cycling Challenge and the fight against cancer. Pictured from last night: Me being dwarfed by ex-Dolphs John Offerdahl and Kim Bokamper, the yuk factor undoubtedly fueled by libations.

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December 16, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 5.1%; plus New England routs Miami 41-13, ending realistic playoff hopes and, likely, Philbin's Fins future; also Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 15. Click on Random Evidence for the return of our Sunday notes-column package after a two-week hiatus. 2) Our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 also returns today. Find it here right below the Dolphins-Patriots post. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Johnny Manziel poll, Dolphins/NFL Week 15 predix, Marlins' winning week, The U Part 2 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Find Dolphins-Patriots gamepost and postgame thoughts immediately below new DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G14: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 5.1 percent overall satisfaction -- the season's second-lowest approval rating -- in the wake of Sunday's 41-13 loss at New England putting Miami's season record at 1aadsm7-7. 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 usually 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)

G8: 97.4% (following 37-0 victory vs. San Diego)

G9: 40.3% (following 20-16 loss at Detroit)

G10: 93.3% (following 22-9 victory vs. Buffalo)

G11: 38.9% (following 39-36 loss at  Denver)

G12: 69.6% (following 16-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G13: 6.1% (following 28-13 loss vs. Baltimore)

G14: 5.1% (following 41-13 loss at New England)

Next poll: Dec. 21 (following game vs. Minnesota)

G14: NEW ENGLAND 41, DOLPHINS 13 (FINAL): GOODBYE PLAYOFF HOPES AFTER 27-0 SECOND HALF: Final: The game  began with a 50-yard completion to Mike Wallace. The first half ended with momentum Miami's after a late TD. The second half was an unequivocal nightmare. What else can be said? Realistic playoffs hopes are now finished. So is the realistic chance that coach Joe Philbin will somehow save his job. Mediocrity, they record is 7-7. ..... Fourth quarter: Pats tack on FG for 41-13. ... If you're going for it on 4th and 18, why you wanna throw a way-short pass? Can this game end, please?. ... Dumb, dumb. Roughness penalty on Brandon Gibson, then Gibson gives the yards right back with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. ... All over but the wailing. ..... Third quarter: Suddenly, a rout. Pats up 31-13 on Brady-Gronkowski 27-yard TD pass immediately following Tannehill's second INT. This was off a deflection so not entirely on the QB. ... Pats tack on a 35-yard FG for a 24-13 lead. ... NE up 21-13 on 79-yard drive to open second half capped by LeGarrette Blount 3-yard scoring run. ..... Halftime: Though down by a point, a Dolfan might be reasonably if cautiously optimistic. The defense is looking great, with one Pats TD coming on a blocked FG return and the other set up by a long interception return. With a turnover-free second half Miami will have a chance. Meanwhile, the Dolphins offense has discovered the long ball, with seven deep passes in half. A welcome sight! ..... Second quarter: Tannehill-Wallace 32-yard TD pass -- Miami's longest scoring pass of season -- on an overturned call on review. Right decision. Jarvis Landry 32-yard punt return helped set it up. That kid's the real deal, man. ... Fins within 14-6 on 53-yard FG but it's more settling. Damien Williams dropped a shoulda-been TD pass. ... NE 14-3 on Shane Vereen 3-yard TD run, after Pats' Duron Harmon intercepts Tannehill overthrow and returns it 60 yards to inside Dolphins 10. ..... First quarter: MIA within 7-3 on 24-yard FG late in quarter but it's another red-zone disappointment. Fins had a 1st-and-10 but settled. ... Jason Trusnik intercepts Brady to abort Pats drive. ... Only the Dolphins, right? Miami begins game with 50-yard Tannehill-to-Wallace completion (a TD if not underthrown), settles for 41-yard FG try, sees FG blocked and returned 62 yards for Patriots TD by Kyle Arrington. Only the Dolphins. Geez. MIA's previous blcoked FG returned for a score was in 1991. Geez again. ..... Original post: Miami lost more than a game at home to Baltimore last week. It lost all margin of error in the playoff chase. Beat the Ravens and "at New England" becomes less than a must-win. Now? All but a must win. Beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady  in 1aa1adolpattheir chilly backyard today at 1 and postseason hopes are rescussitated. But lose and Miami is all but done, the season flatlining. Unfortunately for the Dolphins "at New England" is a tall task anytime and brutally so in wintertime. Miami has lost four in a row and seven of the past eight December-or-later games in Foxborough, and the exception was a 2005 game in which Pats had already clinched the dvision title and let Matt Cassel play three quarters. Pats are 6-0 at home this season, 52-9 in Foxborough in December under Bill Belichick and have much to play for today. A win here clinches yet another AFC East crown for NE, and Pats still gun for a first-round bye as well. Miami will get the A-game, in other words. Tom Brady averages 303.8 passing yards at home this year, with 17 TDs vs. only two INTs. I worry some about the Fins’ secondary as it welcomes back CB Cortland Finnegan but loses injured S Louis Delmas. I worry more about a run defense that has been pretty awful the past three games, making MIA stand for Missing In Action. Miami must both run better than it has lately and also stop the run to have a chance at an upset — a result that would make the playoffs hugely more likely. Dolphs beat Pats 33-20 in an exhilarating season opener. Don’t see a repeat in the chill, although I like Miami with the points. If only close counted for Joe Philbin. His job is slipping away from him, and Sunday won’t help. My pick: Patriots, 27-21.

HOT BUTTON DEC. 14: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, back after a two-week hiatus, is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Will Foxborough be the end of line for playoff hopes?: Miami must beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in their backyard, something done only once in past eight late-season meetings (and only then because Brady sat out three quarters), to keep postseason hopes alive.

2. Marlins: Team acquires leadoff hitter, starting pitcher in big week: First they sign Giancarlo Stanton long-term. Now they acquire MLB base-stealing champ Dee Gordon and quality starter Mat Latos. Not fair. This is seriously infringing upon my ability to complain about Jeffrey Loria.

3. Heat: Still looking for answers at Chicago visits today: Miami hosts Bulls in marquee Eastern matchup today that will be a chance for Heat to get back to .500, but it'll take better defense than we've seen. Phrase you'd hear in a courtroom or among Heat fans: "The defense rests."  

4. Hurricanes: UM accepts invitation to Quack Bowl: Choices for 6-6 teams are limited, so Canes are headed to Duck Commander Independence Bowl vs. South Carolina in Shreveport, La. Those are TV's "Duck Dynasty" folks. Please tell me there won't be ducks calls blaring across the PA system.

5. College football: First four-team playoff set amid controversy: No argument Alabama, Oregon and Florida State would be the top three, but much debate when Ohio State snuck in fourth ahead of TCU and Baylor. What, you thought a playoff would end the arguing? It didn't. (Ain't it great!?)

6. Heisman Trophy: Oregon's Mariota takes top prize: Ducks QB Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy last evening. That's no surprise, although, since he plays on the West Coast with its late starts, Mariota is pretty much a rumor to a lot of fans on the East Coast.

7. Panthers: Cats semi-surge to NHL playoff pace: Florida today has won five of its past nine games and stands tied for No. 8 (the final spot) in the NHL Eastern playoff chase. Granted that's not exactly red-hot, but with this team we grade on a curve.

8. Johnny Football: Manziel makes first career start today: Cleveland is swooning but be careful what you wish for as we find out how much of Johnny Manziel, pro version, is all hype. New defintion of temporary insanity: You signed Manziel to start your fantasy playoff opener.

9. Canes hoops: For UM men, great start but real challenges are ahead: Jim Larranaga's guys are 9-1 and ranked No. 20. You know it's a promising basketball season when fans already are looking forward to a Jan. 13 date at No. 2 Duke.

10. Film: 'The U Part 2' can't live up to original: The first one in 2009 covered Canes football glory teams with all the swagger. The sequel premiering last night focuses on more recent, less interesting times. Pray there's no Part 3. Might lead with a 6-6 team preparing for the Duck Commander Bowl.

Poll result: Disagreement but prevailing doubt about Johnny Football's future: We asked and a plurality of 42.3 percent predicted Johnny Manziel in his NFL career would be OK -- neither a star nor a bust. But more than twice as many thought he'd have a short, failed career (36.3%) than prolonged stardom (17.0%). The other 4.4% were undecided.

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December 13, 2014

Will Johnny Manziel's career fly or fail? New poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins/NFL Week 15 predix, Marlins' big week, 'The U Part 2' & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 13. No choice. Guess I'd better start my Christmas shopping. 2) Watch for return this week (after a two-week hiatus) of the Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): "Back In My Day" -- the complete audio library, Marlins trade, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Philbin verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

THE MYSTERY OF MANZIEL: WILL HE LIVE UP TO HYPE?: In Cleveland, Johnny Manziel was to Brian Hoyer as Jim Harbaugh is to Joe Philbin in Miami. Possibility is so often so much more tantalizing than 1aa1ajmanzielreality. Change is exciting without ever knowing whether the excitement will be justified. With Manizel the uncertainty is part of the excitement. He isn’t seen as a certain star like Andrew Luck was. To doubters, he’s the next Tim Tebow, the college phenom whose talents don’t translate. To fans, he’s the next great pass/run dual threat, the refreshingly brash personality whose jersey sales will soar to No.1 on the charts. He was a Heisman-winning superstar at Texas A&M. Now, will he justify all the hype, or be crushed by it? The finding out will be fun, and it begins with his first career start on Sunday. But why wait? Take a dip in our poll and say now what you predict for Manziel's NFL career and why.

1aa1afripixDOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 15 PICKS: THE DAGGER: Dolphins will lose Sunday in New England and it will be the dagger to Miami's playoff hopes. Not wishing it, folks, just predicting it. Don't kill the messenger! Click on Week 15 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules. (Mixed start Thursday start. Wrongly had Rams winning, but did have Cards covering). Also, click on Hype, Meet Reality for my weekly Friday Page column. It leads with the formal introduction to the pro version of Johnny Football.

1aa1amatlatosA WINNING OFFSEASON FOR MARLINS: It started with signing Giancarlo Stanton long-term, of course. But it continued this week with deals to acquire leadoff man/base-stealing champ Dee Gordon and then, yesterday, starting pitcher Mat Latos (pictured). Mat With One T, from Coconut Creek High in north Broward, is a big boy with a top-of-the-rotation arm. If pitcher Dan Haren (part of the Gordon deal) opts to not retire, that'll be a bonus. Gordon and Latos alone give Miami needed speed and a bolstered rotation. Good week. Things looking up for the Fish. By the way [Brag Alert], my oldest son Christopher got a hit off Latos in a high-school game. I think it was a soft single to right, although my mind is reconfiguring it as a line drive to the gap.

ON 'THE U PART 2': I am reading "Rickey & Robinson," by Roger Kahn, the story of Branch Rickey integrating baseball by making Jackie Robinson a Dodger. It is holding my interest, and yet the story is so 1aa1atheupart2well-known and oft-told it can't but feel a little like a rehash. I think it's also fair to say Kahn has made a career of plumbing those old Brooklyn Dodgers for books, to the point you want to say, "Enough, already." This brings me to "The U Part 2," the Billy Corben sequel-documentary premiering on ESPN tonight at 9 p.m. The nearly perfect original, in 2009, focused on the mid-'80s to early-'90s football Hurricanes, the teams that invented swagger. They were big and bad and great and controversial and it was fascinating. There was national interest. Now, I wonder. Although the program resurged to win another national title in 2001, The U we see in the new doc simply is not as interesting or nationally relevant. A large chunk of the sequel is devoted to the Nevin Shapiro/NCAA scandal, an era well-known and best moved past, not exhumed and rehashed. Before agreeing, ESPN reportedly twice declined the pitch for this sequel. I get that original hesitation. Corben does good work and Part 2 will be riveting to many younger Canes fans (as the Miami unveiling was to swooning local media). But the sequel simply can't be as compelling as the original beyond South Florida because the subject matter plainly isn't.

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December 11, 2014

"Back In My Day": Complete audio library of every one we've done on LeBatard show; plus Marlins hit big in trade, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Philbin verdict & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11. I'm holed up at Friday Page Headquarters today summoning this week's NFL picks. It's Rams over Cardinals 19-17 tonight. Click on Thursday Gem for the full predix capsule. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins coaching poll, Panthers besting Heat, Canes in Homophobe Bowl, Elton falling off chair & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

'I Can't Breathe': Click on Athletes As Human Beings for today's latest column. I applaud stars like LeBron James for their social conscience on current issues.  

1aa1aBIMD"BACK IN MY DAY": THE COMPLETE CATALOGUE: My every-Tuesday appearances on the Dan LeBatard Show (3-7 p.m. locally on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 nationally on ESPN Radio) have spawned a segment called "Back In My Day," in which I ruminate on how things are different now. Yesterday was my 10th one. Unexpectedly the segment has become hugely popular with listeners, and many have emailed or Tweeted me asking how they can access ones that have aired. One way is through the show's podcast. Another I present to you here: The complete catalogue of all 10 "Back In My Days" I have done so far, in chronological order. Enjoy!

GERMOPHOBES: Folks' obesssion with cleanliness and germs -- BIMD #1. Aired Oct. 7, 2014. Sample: "Go out and eat a 40-year-old French fry and forget about it!":

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AMERICAN EDUCATION: U.S. kids lagging behind -- BIMD #2. Oct. 14, 2014. Sample: "How about you give Angry Birds a rest, put down your iPhone, get off Facebook, tell Iggy Azalea to stop screeching in your earbuds and crack open a bleepin' book!":

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MEMORABILIA: The dark side of collectibles -- BIMD #3. Oct. 21, 2014. Sample: "Your 'authentic' signature probably was an expert fake by the team trainer who was grinning like a donkey eating briars as he duped the rubes who would soon buy his forgery.":

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SENSORY OVERLOAD: Whatever happened to the simple art of pondering? -- BIMD #4. Oct. 28, 2014. Sample: "Forty percent of people on cell phones are believed to be faking the call in a desperate effort to appear important.":

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TIME FLIES: Time flies on its own, and yet we hurry it along -- BIMD #5. Nov. 4, 2014. Sample: "It's 2014 but I can buy a 2015-model car. Huh! Was I napping when we perfected time travel?":

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EXCESSIVE VARIETY: Life's unneccesary options -- BIMD #6. Nov. 11, 2014. Sample: "Ever try to buy toothpaste? First you have to navigate a roiling sea of options with myriad blends geared to extra whitening, tartar buildup, mouthwash built in, anti-plaque, halitosis, sensitive gums, buck teeth...":

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BLACK FRIDAY: The absurdity of America's kickoff to holiday shopping -- BIMD #7. Nov. 18, 2014. Sample: "We're a bunch of easily duped lemmings voluntarily herding ourselves to the nearest cliff.":

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BRAGGARTS (13.1): We have become a nation of braggarts -- BIMD #8. Nov. 25, 2014. Sample: "I don't assume that person actually completed a half-marathon. I assume they simply bought the window decal in a galling attempt at unearned braggadoccio.":

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STATS ON STEROIDS: Sports epitomizes the phrase too-much-information -- BIMD #9. Dec. 2, 2014. Sample: "Now we instantly know the homer's distance down to the millimeter, its exact trajectory, the speed at which it left the park, the number of rotations of the ball and the sphere's Dent Index.":

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DIRECTIONS: From asking for directions to Google Earth -- BIMD #10. Dec. 9, 2014. Sample: "Go into a 7-Eleven today, ask for a map and get a blank stare from the clerk. You're made to feel as ancient as Ferdinand Magellan looking for the East Indies.":

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MARLINS HIT BIG WITH TRADE, THANKS TO GORDON: Winter meetings trade with L.A. Dodgers brings 1aa1adeeg2B Dee "Flash" Gordon (pictured), righty starter Dan Haren (if he doesn't retire), infielder Miguel Rojas and cash considerations to Marlins, and sends pitcher Andrew Heaney and three prospects to Dodgers. I like this deal a lot, largely because it says "today," not maybe someday. It's a deal made by a team that wants to compete now. Gordon, 26, is a leadoff hitter who led MLB in stolen bases (64) and triples (12). Not a great defensive player, but oh that speed. Haren, 35, is an innings eater who'd be a very solid 3-to-5 starter if he agrees to the deal, but even if he retires Marlins get $10 million from L.A. to spend on another starter or a 1B. Hate to see Heaney and his potential go, but the's the "maybe someday," while Gordon (and hopefully Haren) are proven and about winning now.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: WEEK 14 SEES GOOD/BAD ON PICKS, LOBOS ELIMINATED: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy- 1aa1afripix 1aa1aarkstateleague team. Pix: We again went a fairly solid 11-5 overall but only 6-9-1 (Vikings pushed) against the spread. Nailed our Upset of the Week (Steelers over Bengals; "Aawwk!") and also called Seattle's upset win at Philly and had Bills with points at Denver, but it wasn't enough. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos won, 113-87, led by Calvin Johnson's 30 points, to end strong and finish 7-7. Alas, we tied for the final playoff spot only to be ousted on a tiebreaker. Consolation round, here we come. It's the fantasy equivalent of the 6-6 Canes pretending to be happy about the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

Poll result: Dolfans support pursuing Harbaugh, not keeping Philbin: We asked, and a plurality of 46.3 percent voted to pursue Jim Harbaugh "no matter what." Another 39.5% said to make a coaching change only if Miami does not make the playoffs, with 19.2% of those wanting Harbaugh and 20.3% preferring someone else. Staying the course with Philbin drew only 10.3%, and 3.9% were undecided.

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December 08, 2014

Philbin vs. Harbaugh: The Dolphins coach-poll. Vote!; plus 'I Can't Breathe', Canes in Homophobe Bowl, Panthers trump Heat, Elton falling off chair & more

1aa1alebronshirt1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 109. LeBron James wears 'I Can't Breathe' t-shirt during warmups in honor of New York City choke-hold victim Eric Garner. 2) This week marked 34th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. R.I.P. to a music legend,  missed still. 3) See previous blogpost for results of our latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll. (Not pretty). 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose to Baltimore, DSM poll & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Everywhere you look, Dolphins collapsing: Click on Collapse for my column from the stadium off Sunday's Miami loss to Baltimore. The gist: Offense, defense, playoff hopes, Joe Philbin's future ... everywhere you looked Sunday, the Dolphins were collapsing.

DOLPHINS COACHING SITUATION: THE POLL: [Note: Poll closes around noon today because we'll have a new blogpost by early afternoon] They say timing is everything in polls. If so, then this poll 1aa1ajimh
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is admittedly unfair or at least disadvantageous for Joe Philbin, coming so soon after Miami's most damaging (see below) loss of the season. Nevertheless I trust my readers to take a step back and a deep breath and see the big picture, the body of work and the playoff possibility that remains with three games left -- not just yesterday's disappointment. I also invite you to consider the likeliest replacement's off-putting-to-some personality that is largely why he almost certainly won't be back with San Francisco. All things considered, vote and say why you feel as you do.

Quantifying Dolphins' tumbling playoff shot: The impact of the 28-13 home loss to Baltimore? This morning, Miami stands ninth in the jockeying for six AFC playoffs spots, including tiebreakers. Last week Fins were No. 6. This morning, makenflplayoffs.com puts Miami's postseason likelihood at 14.9 percent. Last week it was 33.5%.

PANTHERS HAVING BETTER SEASON THAN HEAT: I've been waiting a long, long time to be able to 1aa1acatsheatwrite that headline. Just to see what it looked like in print. Sure enough, now is the time. The hockey Panthers are 11-15 having won four of past seven games to move into playoff pace, while the Heat are 9-11 after four straight losses thanks to some of the worst defense in the NBA. Even sans LeBron, we did not expect this from the Heat. Nor did we expect the playoff season that now seems possible for the Cats.

FIVE BOWLS THAT SORT OF INTEREST ME OTHER THAN THE PLAYOFF GAMES: The two Jan. 1 College Football Playoff games -- 1-Alabama vs. 4-Ohio State and 2-Oregon vs. 3-Florida State, plus the championship game that follows -- are all that really matter. But there are 36 other bowl games for the 72 schools that weren't top-four and yet are trying to convince themselves they had a good season anyway. Here are the five that interest me at least a little bit:

1aa1aduckDuck Commander Independence Bowl (Dec. 27, Shreveport, La.): Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6) -- Two disappointing .500 teams that hoped to be in a (much) bigger bowl) are instead relegated to a bowl sponsored by the company run by "Duck Dynasty" reality-TV homophobe Phil Robertson (pictured). Fun! Because the Hurricanes are involved, I am interested by obligation. Beyond that, a game between 6-6 teams is Exhibit A for why there are too many bowls.

Capital One Orange Bowl (Dec. 31, Dolphin stadium): No. 7 Mississippi State (10-2) vs. No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-3) -- Could be a good game. But does anybody outside of these two fandoms care even a little? Another game that interests me only by proximity and obligation.

Birmingham Bowl (Jan. 3, Birmingham Ala.): Florida (6-5) vs. East Carolina (8-4) -- Any luck working up excitement for this, Gator fans? At least it offers the storyline of new coach Jim McElwain's debut.

Miami Beach Bowl (Dec. 22, Marlins Park): Brigham Young (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3) -- A blah matchup but a new bowl in an interesting venue. Giancarlo Stanton on the opening coin flip is a must, no?

Boca Raton Bowl (Dec. 23, FAU Stadium): Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2) -- Another new South Florida bowl, and this one gets what could be a fun, explosive game.

Honorable mention: Texas Christian vs. Ole Miss in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, only to see if TCU players will be wearing black armbands to protest being passed over for the four-team playoff.

1aa1aeltonfallELTON JOHN FALLING OFF A CHAIR: Happened on Sunday at a tennis event at Royal Albert Hall in London. Knowing the 67-year-old pop star is OK, it's funny. Click here to watch. Many will recall Elton's big hits including "Don't Let the Chair Go Down On Me," "Goodbye Yellow Broke Chair" and "Don't Go Breaking My Chair." 

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December 07, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 6.1%; plus Ravens club Miami 28-13 for mighty blow to playoff hopes

1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 8. It's Alabama vs. Ohio State, Oregon vs. FSU in first College Football Playoff. Feeling screwed: TCU. 2) Reminder, our Random Evidence Sunday notes column (and its blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10) are off but will return next Sunday. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 14 picks, college football's Championship Weekend, Winston verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Everywhere you look, Dolphins collapsing: Click on Collapse for my column from the stadium off yesterday's Miami loss to Baltimore. The gist: Offense, defense, playoff hopes, Joe Philbin's future ... everywhere you looked Sunday, the Dolphins were collapsing.

DSM voting ended sooner than usual this week, at 1 p.m. today, in order to get to a new blogpost that's itching to fly.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G13: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 6.1 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Sunday's 28-13 loss to the 1aa1adsmvisiting Baltimore Ravens putting Miami's season record at 7-6. That's the second-lowest approval rating of the season. 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 usually certified official the morning after one full day of voting. This time, though, we closed it off around 1 p.m. today/Monday.

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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)

G8: 97.4% (following 37-0 victory vs. San Diego)

G9: 40.3% (following 20-16 loss at Detroit)

G10: 93.3% (following 22-9 victory vs. Buffalo)

G11: 38.9% (following 39-36 loss at  Denver)

G12: 69.6% (following 16-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G13: 6.1% (following 28-13 loss vs. Baltimore)

Next poll: Dec. 14 (following game at Ndew England)

G13: BALTIMORE @ DOLPHINS: IT IS, ALL BUT LITERALLY, A PLAYOFF GAME: Final: Complete collapse by the home team in a duel of 7-5 squads fighting for the playoffs. Miami leads 10-0 early and then hardly anything goes right anywhere on the field. Fins defense is beaten for four long TD drives and offense does hardly anything of substance after scoring on its first two possessions. A hugely disappointing performance by Miami as playoff hopes take a big hit. ..... Pregame: Lots of purple here at the park. I'd forgotten how many Ravens fans there are, local or travelers. ..... Original post: This feels like the Dolphins' biggest home game in a long time. This feels almost like a playoff game. Normally that's rote hyperbole 1aa1abaldol1"Playoff atmosphere!" But today I think it's legit. Both teams are 7-5, evenly matched and desperate 1aa1abaldol2to win. It isn't a playoff game because the loser won't be finished. But it nearly has those playoff stakes, in that the winner's chances of reaching the postseason will be greatly enhanced, and the loser's hopes will take a huge hit. Very few Week 14 games weigh heavier in the playoff race. Miami presently owns the second AFC wild-card spot via tiebreakers while Baltimore ranks ninth in the scrum for six spots, but those roles can flip-flop fast. Fins would lose their grip and tumble off the playoff grid with a loss here. It’s an interesting matchup beyond the stakes. A Miami run defense that has allowed 200-plus yards in consecutive games for first time since 1990 must find a way to contain the Ravens’ excellent and underrated Justin Forsett. Likewise, a struggling BAL pass-D augurs a big day for Ryan Tannehill. (I’ll even boldly predict Miami will complete one or two deep passes). Dolphins caught a break with this week’s PED suspension of Haloti Ngata, the Crows’ Pro Bowl run-stopper. MIA is coming off a short week after Monday night’s win over Jets, and has lost three straight to Ravens including here last year. But Fins are a better team now and should get a big home boost from what figures to feel like (yes) a playoff atmosphere. You think you’re playoff-worthy, Dolphins? Well Baltimore thinks that, too. One of you is likely wrong. Will the right team please stand up? My pick: Dolphins, 24-20.

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December 05, 2014

Dolphins, NFL Week 14 picks; plus NCAA's Championship Weekend, Winston verdict & more

1) It is FRIDAY/SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5-6. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jameis Winston hearing and poll, Scintillating vs. Silly at UM, Duke Johnson wins SOPY season title, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Barkley is right, RGIII video & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine: Art Basel." --Greg Cote

1aa1afripixDOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 14 PICKS: The Dolphins will win Sunday but there is high alert for a Ravens upset here i a game that has  major playoff-related stakes. Click on Week 14 Gems for all of our latest NFL predictions, and I hope they're better than my Thursday night start. (I had Bears in an upset). Also check out The Golden Age for my weekly Friday Page column. It leads with the historically great quarterbacking now going on in the NFL.

CHAMP WEEKEND IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL: The glut of bowl games starts soon enough but first, this weekend, major conference championship games threaten to shake up the top four teams 1aa1achampweekendwho'll make the inaugural College Football Playoff. Right now the chosen quartet is Alabama, Oregon, TCU and Florida State ... but will they survive? The six games to watch (all Saturday except Oregon-Arizona, which is Friday):

No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 16 Missouri in SEC championship in Atlanta -- Nick Saban's Tide rolls on.

No. Oregon vs. No. 7 Arizona in Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara, CA. -- Ducks win. Barely.

No. 3 TCU hosts Iowa State in a regular season finale -- No doubt. I-State is awful.

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 11 Georgia Tech in ACC title game in Charlotte, N.C. -- Yellow Jackets a trendy upset pick, but give me the doubted, disrespected Noles. Again.

No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Wisconsin in Big Ten champ-game in Indianapolis -- Buckeyes must win and hope one of the above four favorites loses.

No. 6 Baylor hosts No. 9 Kansas State in regular season finale -- Baylor with a win has outside shot of sneaking into CFP top four.

Poll result: Most don't believe Winston: We asked if you believe FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, who denied any guilt in the rape allegation against him in this week's student conduct code hearing. Most didn't. It was 58.7 percent "no" to 21.4% "yes." Other 19.9% said they could not answer because the answer was not knowable.

1aa1arobstoreSOME SIGNS ARE MORE UNFORTUNATE THAN OTHERS: The pictured protestor holding the pictured sign was seen in Ferguson, Missouri this week related to the Michael Brown police-shooting and subsequent outrage, which included violent protest and looting. Dear Sign Holder: About 90 percent of the folks reading your sign are likely incredulous at the implication that robbing a store is somehow OK or an unavoidable happenstance. I might also directly answer the sign's message by suggesting, "Yes, a mother probably should have to fear consequences of her son robbing a store."

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