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Is it time to forgive Nick Saban? New poll. Vote now!; plus ND, 'Bama arrive; farewell, Ray Lewis; Dolphins' draft; Orange's lost gamble & more

[1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 3. See results of our biggest-Miami-sports-story-of-2012 poll in blogpost directly below this new one. 2) Louisville and Miami's Teddy Bridgewater put the sweetness in the Sugar Bowl last night. Florida added the diabetes. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

1aa1lewisRay Lewis announces retirement: The great ex-Cane and Ravens linebacker is saying he plans to retire following the playoffs. It sounds like the right decision, alas. Five words for his career: Hall of Fame, first ballot.

IT IS TIME TO FORGIVE NICK SABAN AND MOVE ON, MIAMI: I like to take jabs at Nick Saban as much as the next guy. Probably more than the next guy. (See item directly below for proof.) I mean, he's such an easy target! But I also think, more seriously, that, six years later, Dolphins fans should forgive him the clumsy way he departed here, first lying, then leaving. He was far from the first coach to be deceitful about his intentions or abruptly change his mind. He has expressed regrets. Saban deserves to be appreciated for what he has accomplished since -- going for a second straight national title with Alabama and third in four years vs. Notre Dame here Monday night in the BCS National Championship. I make my case for forgiveness in today's latest column; click Burying Nick Satan to read. But I also know many of you don't agree, and won't ever. The poll below will tell Saban exactly how South Florida feels about him, six years later. Vote and make your case why.

NOTRE DAME EVIL LEPRECHAUNS, ALABAMA CRIMSON SATANS ARRIVE!: Hype and anticipation for Monday's BCS National Championship game at Dolphins stadium ramp up to another level yesterday as both 1aa1nickteams arrived, No. 1 Irish in Fort Lauderdale, No. 2 Tide in Miami. It's the perfect dream bowl, because both programs are storied and deserve enormous respect, and yet each is vilified in a certain way in South Florida. So it's a matchup to love and hate all at once! Notre Dame of course is disliked by all but its fans in much the same way the New York Yankees are or the Dallas Cowboys (pre-irrelevance) used to be. Feelings for the Irish boil closer to hatred here on account of the bitter past rivalry with Miami's Hurricanes exacerbated by the Irish's rout-win this past season at Soldier Field. Remember when Irish fans called Jimmy Johnson "Pork-faced Satan?" What better segue to why so many locals will be rooting against 'Bama. It is because of Nick Satan Saban, who angered Dolfans with the way he lied left the Dolphins after the 2006 season. Saban is pictured here, practicing his creepy, robotic, fake smile alongside ND coach Brian Kelly. [Disclaimer: I don't dislike Saban. He's just such a ripe target and so damned much fun to make fun of!]

OBC gambles, loses on Northern Illinois: Sorry, Orange Bowl Committee. Points for thinking outside the box and tossing them dice, but Northern Illinois indicated in Tuesday's 31-10 loss to Florida State why a Mid-American Conference team hadn't ever before been invited to a BCS bowl. Huskies were no match for Seminoles on either side of the ball. Click on NIU Answers Whether It Belonged for my column off the game. OB last hosted a close bowl (under 10-point margin) in 2008. 

HEY HERE'S SOME COMICALLY EARLY NFL DRAFT TALK!: The draft is in 112 days. The reason I mention it here is because Monday's BCS title game include at least two players who realistically could be Miami's first-round pick at No. 12 overall. One is Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner (if he lasts that long). Another is Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert (if the Dolphins reach a bit or trade down). No wide receivers are rated worthy of being take higher than the low 20s. If Miami goes for a pass-rusher a plausible pick might be Oregon DE Dion Jordan.

GREG COTE'S FREE TIPS FOR PROPER LIVING (GCFTFPL): (One in a series) Florida drivers, those small 1aa1licenseyellow stickers are meant to be affixed to the upper right corner of your vehicle's license plate, as shown, and only there. When you get a new one, it goes right over the old one in the same spot. Get it? Do not -- as many drivers do -- place the stickers in all four corners or even in the middle of the plate. Doing so indicates to other drivers that the chances are very good you might not be a member of Mensa.

Click back. Will be updating/adding much more to this latest blogpost...