December 19, 2020

The Road to Miami: On college football's Championship Weekend, CFP, bowl outlooks for Canes and OB; plus NFL Week 15 picks: Dolphins-Patriots, Chiefs-Saints, 3 big upsets and the rest; also, latest Greg Cote Show podcast a must-hear for pet owners & more


1) It's SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19. Note to readers: Not been writing as much lately because I'm burning a bunch of unused vacation time before end of year. But the blog still chugs on! 2) The Greg Cote Show podcast is now separately on Twitter and Instagram. Join us on both! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Greg Cote Show podcast new Episode 41, Chargers-Raiders pick, NFL Week 14 Pix 'n Fantasy results and QB rankings & more. 4) Join me on Twitter and Instagram.

THE ROAD TO MIAMI COMES CLEAR ON SATURDAY: Miami and Hard Rock Stadium will host the College Football Playoff national championship game on January 11, following New Year's Day semifinals in Pasadena and New Orleans. Here are the five games on Saturday (chronologically) that will have an impact in determining the Chosen Four teams invited into the CFP: 

CfpNo. 14 Northwestern (6-1) vs. No. 4 Ohio State (5-0): Big Ten championship, noon, Indianapolis -- It's simple. The Buckeyes, favored by 20, must win to get in.

No. 5 Texas A&M (7-1) at Tennessee (3-6): Regular season, noon -- Aggies, 14-point faves, will look to win resoundingly and pray Ohio State loses.

No. 10 Oklahoma (7-2) vs. No. 6 Iowa State (8-2): Big 12 championship, noon, Arlington -- With an upset, 6-point 'dog Iowa State would have a case for leapfrogging A&M into the top four should Ohio State lose.

No. 3 Clemson (9-1) vs. No. 2 Notre Dame (10-0): ACC championship, 4 p.m., Charlotte -- The big one. Irish beat Tigers 47-40 in double-OT November 7 -- but Clemson was missing star QB Trevor Lawrence. Not this time, so Tigers are 10 1/2-point favorites. Chances are good, though, that both will be in the CFP with even the loser likwly not dropping lower than fourth.

No. 1 Alabama (10-0) vs. No. 7 Florida (8-2): SEC championship, 8 p.m., Atlanta -- Crimson Tide are 17-point favorites and quite possibly would remain in top four even with an unlikely loss. The better question: Would a shocking upset lift the Gators into the CFP assuming Ohio State won?

Prediction on CFP semifinal after Saturday's results: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Notre Dame; No 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State. 

BOWL OUTLOOK FOR HURRICANES, OTHER STATE FBS TEAMS, ORANGE BOWL: Eleven bowl games have canceled because of COVID but 32 are still being played. Here's the is the outlook for the Orange Bowl, the Miami Hurricanes and other state FBS teams:

CheezOrange Bowl: January 2, Miami -- Oh, what might have been! December began with the OB looking like Frida Gators vs. Miami Hurricanes. Oh well. Settle for what's looking like North Carolina vs. Texas A&M. Canes fans and OB officials ate crestfallen.

Miami Hurricanes -- All indications are it'll be UM vs. Oklahoma State in the December 29 Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando. The good news? Big step up for Miami from the ignominy of last year's sad matchup with Louisiana Tech in the minor Independence Bowl after a 6-6 season. The bad news? With one spectacularly ill-timed, lay-down loss to North Carolina the Canes fell from the Orange Bowl to ... the Cheez-It Bowl. Which alone and in and of itself is a resounding, irrefutable answer to the ubiquitous question, "Is The U back?"

Florida Gators -- Pending Saturday results it's looking like Gators vs. Oklahoma in the December 30 Cotton Bowl.

FAU Owls -- Confirmed: Owls vs. Memphis in the December 23 Montgomery Bowl.

UCF Knights -- Confirmed: UCF vs. BYU in the December 22 Boca Raton Bowl. 

FSU Seminoles -- There is speculation FSU may face Louisiana in the December 26 Gasparilla Bowl. Yes, the Seminoles are 3-6 entering Saturday's finale vs. Wake Forest, but pandemic rules have waived minimum-wins requirement. Still, geez have a little pride, 'Noles! Your season deserves no reward. Stay home.

PicksNFL WEEK 15 PICKS: DOLPHINS-PATRIOTS, CHIEFS-SAINTS (GOTW), 3 BIG UPSETS AND ALL THE REST: Week 14 was rough on us, folks. We staggered in at 9-7 overall and [censored] against the spread. I cannot say what it was here because there are no obscenities allowed in the blog. Although you can un fortunately find it in the link below. We move on! Topping our Week 15 marquee: Patriots at Dolphins, a.k.a. rookie-killer Bill Belichick vs. Tua Tagovailoa. Miami at 8-5 is hanging onto the seventh and last AFC playoff spot going in and can ill-afford a loss in its regular season home finale. Also in this week's picks we highlight our Chiefs-Saints Game of the Week and our Upset of the Week among three upset picks in total. This is our 30th season of NFL picks in the Miami Herald, and we thank you for joining us on the journey. For our latest picks for the entire slate of 16 games, visit NFL Week 15 Gems. Our week got off to a luckless start Thursday night. Wehad the Raiders (-3 1/2) winning and covering at home over the Chargers, but the Bolts prevailed 30-27 in overtime. Luckless? Vegas QB Derek Carr's early injury-exit. Hey, no complaints, as the Luck Door swings both ways. Our picks appear Thursday afternoons every week online, and Fridays in print.

Coteshow PetsGREG COTE SHOW PODCAST: ATTENTION PET OWNERS! NEW EPISODE OUT NOW!: Our Miami Herald podcast debuted in March and the new Episode 41 is out now! A new pod drops every Monday morning on Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Megaphone -- wherever you pod, and of course at Find all 41 we've done so far RIGHT HERE for free. Please listen, subscribe, rate and review. In new Ep41 we welcome in a renowned animal psychologist who talks about how to raise happy dogs and cats in an informative, fun conversation. Also, Greg and Chris discuss the Dolphins' Sunday loss to Kansas City, the Canes' awful defensive collapse and the Heat/James Harden rumor. And the Mount Gregmore Name Game reaches its end with the X's, Y's and Z's. But will it be the end of Mount Gregmore? Listen to find out! Hear all of that and more in the new podcast. Appreciate you all listening each and every week and check out the new Ep41 now!

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Select recent columns: For Dolphins' Tua, Now Is When We Begin to See If Greatness Is In His Reach / Le Batard Leaving ESPN, But Assures Fans They'll Hear From Him Again Soon / Marlins Hit History-Making Home Run With Kim NG Hire As GM / In a Pandemic-Battered Season For FIU, Butch Davis' Love Of Coaching Survives / Stop the Silly Noise And Speculation. Give Dolphins' Tua Time And a Fair Chance / Fans of ESPN's Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz Should Prepare For Another Change / Turner, With COVID, Joining Dodgers Celebration A Sadly Fitting End to Season  / and Heat, Marlins, Canes -- now Tua. Miserable 2020 Suddenly Great Time To Be Miami Fan.

Heat NBA Finals last column: Game 6--LeBron Reigns, But Credit Heat For Unexpected Run to Finals.

Marlins postseason run last column: NLDS Game 3--Marlins Season Was A Miracle But Way It Ended Is Lesson On Work Still Ahead.

Select other 2020 columns: Boycott Of NBA Playoffs Shows Nation That Injustice Is Bigger Than Sports Right Now / Having Fans at Dolphins, Canes Games A Bad Idea And Big Risk / As Panthers Move on From Tallon, Who's Next Miami Team Executive on Hot Seat? / 'Perfect Storm For Virus Transmission': Why Football Is Struggling to Lift Off / Marlins Delaying Home Opener For COVID Outbreak a Scary Lesson For All Sports / Don Shula, 1930-2020, R.I.P. / What Shula Meant to a Father & Son. They Boy Was Me / It Took George Floyd To Finally Wake Up White America / Goodell's NFL Response to Floyd Killing Is Hypocrisy At Its Most Ironic / and George Floyd Is Why Kaepernick & Sports Must Continue Fight For Social Justice

Revisit this blog often because it updates regularly. The Associated Press Sports Editors writing awards ranked the blog's author a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Greg is also a regular on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio. Finding Greg: TwitterInstagramFacebookColumnsPodcastPodcast on TwitterPodcast on InstagramLeBatard Show. Book: Fins At 50. Songs: Letting Go (audio) and The Ballad Of 1440 (video).

February 14, 2018

New: Canes on right side in Arkansas State mess ... but will the Force (Majeure) be with them?; plus video in honor of Black History Month, Happy Valentine's Day, newest Dolphins draft guess, America's Dog & more


Valentine1) It's WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14. Happy Valentine's Day to all the sweethearts out there, especially my wonderful wife! (I'd get credit for that, if she read my blog). 2) Click on Strange Signs! for the new Back In My Day video that debuted on Tuesday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio. 3) The Dolfans in your life may not know it yet, but they need this. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check out Fins At 50, our ultimate franchise history book. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot BUtton Top 10, latest Back In My Day video (Strange Signs!), D.Wade homecoming trilogy, LeBron flexes power, your Winter Olympics verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

NEW COLUMN: ON CANES VS. ARKANSAS STATE -- THE COURT CASE: Miami would have won the football game pretty easily. Because there was no game, there might now be a court case, and winning that won't e so easy for Miami. It's the football game that turned into a mess, with Miami on the morally right side, but not necessarily the legally right side. We explore in our latest column. To read, click on UM Morally Right, But Will the Force (Majeure) Be With Them?

Our most recent other columns: LeBron Wins In Latest Power Play, But So Does Miami. And the Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night / Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 / Welcome Home, D.Wade.

IN HONOR OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH: A poignant new video from the great Mavis Staples for her song, "If All I Was Was Black":
In a new mock draft from the Washington Post -- whose new doomsday-feel slogan is "Democracy Dies In Darkness," as an aside) has the Dolphins selecting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (pictured) 11th overall. Reasonable guess. Position of need. But I'm still banging the drum for Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, if he lasts that long. There seems to be building momentum for the Broncos taking Mayfield at No. 5 overall, although that seems high. Still think Miami could have a shot.

BichonFLYNN THE BICHON FRISE' NAMED AMERICA'S TOP DOG: Flynn is pictured at left. A Bichon Frise' looks like a poodle on steroids. Do they drug-test these canines? "Bichon frise'" is a French phrase meaning "curly lap dog." The small, button-eyed breed is in the non-sporting group, meaning it just sits around annoying the neighbors by emitting a high-pitched, strident bark. Nevertheless, Flynn won Best in Show on Tuesday at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York's Madison Square Garden in New York. Following the show the small, foofy champion was mauled by a German shepherd. OK I made up that last part. Flynn is alive and well: America's Top Dog!

Select other recent columns: Richt Building Something Big & Something To Last. Dear Canton: Call Zach. Also: Exploring Dolphins' QB QuandaryFarewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamA Heart Both Broken And Soaring Wins PegasusAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerNo Way to Escape Her ShameCanes' Late Swoon, OB Loss Don't Erase the Progress. Where The Swagger Was BornStanton Had All the Power -- And Used ItDo We Trust Jeter To Fix Marlins?Truex Jr. Takes Trophy, But Dale Jr. Wins The DayA QB, a Crisis & a Father's Love. The Hurricanes Are Back; Deal With It, AmericaThe Godfather SpeaksJeter Betting On JeterHope That Wasn't GoodbyeWade Will End Where He BelongsLarranaga Has Canes Flying High, Now ThisRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Specials: Thank You, Mae Riback

Thank You, Edwin Pope.Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

October 03, 2016

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 97.9%; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated); also, UM No. 10 after winning at Ga Tech 35-21, Richt's Bible giveaway, Noles' stunning defeat, FIU wins, our final Jose column & more


1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 3. UM-FSU next Saturday here has been set for an 8 p.m. kickoff. 2) Thank you for veering away from us, Hurricane Matthew. That's a good Matt. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins clobbered in Cincy with DSM poll, our trilogy of Jose Fernandez columns, Loria eulogizes Jose, NFL Week 4 picks, The List (Fins on TNF) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Dolphin-less Sunday: Admit it, Dolfans, you enjoyed a stress-free Sunday without the prospect of another discouraging Dolphins performance. Or more ghastly Creamsicle uniforms. Click on Week 4 Gems for our latest NFL picks.

Jose Fernandez: Reflecting on the good we saw in a brutal week: Sunday we offered our latest and last of four columns this week on the tragic death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, reflecting on a brutal week, but one in which something so awful brought out something so wonderful in our community. The column: With massive gentle force, Miami did itself proud this week with the love it showed Jose.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G4: 97.9%: Results are certified in the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 97.9 percent approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Saturday's 35-21 victory at Georgia Tech putting CsmUM's season record at 4-0 and 1-0 in the ACC. This the eighth season of our blog's CSM postgame polls, which are your invitation after every Hurricanes football game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the 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 8:45 a.m. today/Monday.

2016 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 97.2% following 70-3 victory vs. Florida A&M

G2: 91.9% following 38-10 victory vs. Florida Atlantic

G3: 98.2% following 45-10 victory at Appalachian State

G4: 97.9% following 35-21 victory at Georgia Tech

Next poll: Oct. 8 following game vs. Florida State

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (OCTOBER 2): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. JOSE FERNANDEZ: Mourning the tragic death of Marlins' ace: A broken team ends its baseball season 79-82 with a loss Sunday in Washington, but for the Marlins, their fans, Cuban Miami and all of South Florida, it all ended one week earlier with death of their most beloved player in a boating accident. R.I.P., Jose.

2. HURRICANES: UM spanks Georgia Tech, awaits Florida State: Now 10th-ranked Miami hosts the Seminoles (down to No. 23 coming off a stunning Saturday loss) in five days in the year's most anticipated game. It was OK for you and I to look ahead to FSU. Mark Richt's Hurricanes sure didn't Saturday in winning 35-21 at Georgia Tech.

3. DOLPHINS: Reeling Fins fall to 1-3 in Cincinnati: The Dolphins looked as bad as they looked Thursday night in a 22-7 loss. Those hideous orange uniforms clowned Fins players and made them look like animated Creamsicles, and the sartorial abomination was matched by the team's performance.

4. HEAT: Ready or not, the (fake) games are about to begin: Training camp in the Bahamas ended Saturday, now the new-look Heat open their NBA preseason schedule on Tuesday at Washington. No more D-Wade, no more Bosh, no more Big 3. Only big questions are left.

5. BASEBALL: It's O's-Jays, Giants-Mets in wild cards: It'll be Baltimore at Toronto in the AL wild-card game Tuesday and San Francisco at the NY. Mets in the NL WC on Wednesday, as the six division winners wait. Cubs fans, start your anxiety!

6. GOLF: Americans surge to huge Ryder Cup triumph: Americans surged past Team Europe 17-11 in Minnesota to earn the first U.S. Ryder Cup win since 2008 and only the third in past two decades. Meantime, U.S. fans were tough on the Europeans, especially on Rory McIlroy. Make America Boorish Again!

7. ARNOLD PALMER: Golf icon dies at 87: Younger generations know the name for his eponymous iced tea-lemonade drink, but for millions of older folks, Arnie was golf's first big star and the magnet that grew the sport. R.I.P.

8. PANTHERS: NHL season nears as exhibitions continue: Florida plays its fifth of seven exhibition games Tuesday in Dallas as the Oct. 13 opener looms. Panthers think they could be Stanley Cup-good this season. Go, Cats, go. A hurting South Florida could use the lift.

9. CHRIS BOSH: Heat says he's damaged good, but players vows to continue: Bosh defiantly says he will pursue a resumption of his career with another team. Meanwhile he says he learned of his failed Miami physical through the media. You're welcome!

10. SHULA BOWL: FIU wins! FIU wins!: It was Shula Bowl XV Saturday in a series FAU has dominated, but this one went to previously winless underdog host FIU, 33-31. Interim coach Ron Cooper is now 1-0. Quit while you're ahead, dude.

Missing the HB10 cut: A LeBron James signed rookie card sold at auction for $312,000. It's like that famous P.T. Barnum line: "There's a sucker with $312,000 to waste born every minute." ..... NASCAR in Dover today cuts its finalists field from 16 drivers to 12. Homestead getting close. Vroom. ..... Team Canada beat Team Europe to win the World Cup of Hockey. Now if Canada could only end that pesky 23-year Stanley Cup drought ..... UM Sports Hall of Fame announced nine more inductees. Not saying they let too many in, but was the sports-information intern who worked the summer of '98 really that special? ..... Joakim Noah declined to attend a team dinner at West Point because of his anti-war beliefs. That, or he wasn't hungry ..... Vin Scully has retired at age 88 after 67 years as Dodgers broadcaster. Slacker! No, seriously, farewell, sir. Miss your voice already.

G4: NO. 14 HURRICANES 35, @ GEORGIA TECH 21: TWO HUGE DEFENSIVE PLAYS POWER MIAMI IN ACC OPENER: Final thoughts: This was a pretty tight game busted wide open by those two UM defensive TDs by true freshmen Shaquille Quarterman and Joe Jackson. Ga Tech ran a lot more offensive plays (74--46) and offensive yards were about dead even. It was those two back-to-back plays on defense. Hey, whatever works. Whatever you need, right? An impressive win and a conference win by the Canes as Mark Richt's personal mastery over Georgia Tech continues. This could have been a losable game but there was no looking past Tech or ahead to next week's huge visit by Florida State. Miami took care of business in a game in which one team killed itself with turnovers and the other one did not. This was UM's first real test of the Richt era. They passed ..... 4Q: Canes interception on defense with 2:21 to play seals it ... This game is over. Tech does not have the passing game or quick-strike ability to make up two TDs in a short time ... Chris Herndon's 48-yard catch and run has Canes on the move ... Huge fourth-down stop by Canes D with broken-up pass in end zone. ... Tech driving. As expected, this is UM's biggest challenge of the season by a lot. ..... 3Q: Canes now up 35-21. That's more like it. Canes needed to get Kaaya going and did, as his 31-yard scoring pass to Stacy Coley ends a fast 75-yard drive. Tech had stoilen momentum; UM has it back ... Tech within 28-21 on short TD run ending 65-yard drive. ... Mid-third Q and Miami only 177 yards of total offense today. Defense is winning, but UM will need another offensive TD to close this out. ..... Halftime thoughts: Pretty even game but for those two huuuge defensive scores by a pair of Canes true freshman. Turnovers the whole difference as UM has played clean: no giveaways, no penalties. Tech has run 38 offensive plays to Miami's 21. Canes could use a long drive or two and a few quick defensive stops to bring that to better balance. Quick aside: Always interesting hearing TV analyst Butch Davis discuss the Canes, knowing he'd have killed to get the UM job Richt got ..... 2Q: Tech stops the bleeding, counters with scoring pass to pull within 28-14 with less than a minute left in half ... Wow. Seriously. Miami suddenly up 28-7 after second straight Tech fumble and defensive  TD by a true freshman, this time Joe Jackson ... Canes now 21-7 on sack and fumble scooped up by freshman Shaquille Quarterman and returned for TD ... Miami back up 14-7 with impressive 90-yard drive finished by Mark Walton's 14-yard scoring run ... Sack = big defensive stop for Canes. ... UM defense needs some 3-and-outx to counter GT's ball control thus far.  ... Tech ties it 7-7 on 7-yard TD run ..... 1Q: Tech threatening as quarter ends. Big ball possession so far for home team ... UM up 7-0 on Joe Yearby's 27-yard scoring run. A 25-yard pass to Stacy Coley was driver's other big play. ... OT Trevor Darling out injured for UM. ... Love the green UM jerseys we're seeing for only time this season. As opposed to Thursday's look by the Miami Creamsicles. ..... Game preview: Miami is 3-0 by a combined score of 153-23 against smaller, lesser competition -- including that comically overhyped, alleged threat-that-wasn't at Appalachian State. I'm not saying UM isn't really good. I'm saying they've been largely untested so far and haven't yet had to really prove how Umgatechgood they are. But now, at high noon Saturday, it begins. The proving. The season, really. This is Miami's ACC opener, and, although the Hurricanes are 7 1/2-point favorites over 3-1 Georgia Tech, it's still a conference game on the road. It's losable -- especially if the Canes are either overconfident or glancing ahead to next week's huge visit by chief rival and nemesis Florida State. I like Miami coming off a bye. Tech's run-heavy, triple-option offense can be a challenge, but Mark Richt makes this the best-coached UM team in a long time. UM fans should also feel good about this: While at Georgia, Richt's record vs. the Yellow Jackets was a nifty 13-2. Including his days as an FSU assistant, he's 21-2 vs. the Jackets, and is 12-0 in games played at Georgia Tech. Richt knows this opponent well, and how to defeat it. Brad Kaaya (368 yards, three TDs at App State) and Mark Walton (401 yards rushing, 8.1 per carry, in three games) will help put up too many points for the Jackets to outscore. Kaaya also must be careful, though; he has three interceptions in past two games. My pick: Hurricanes, 30-20.

BibleON RICHT'S BIBLE GIVEAWAY: UM coach Mark Richt, who is very religious, gave Bibles to all of his players this week. Not sure how I feel about that. He did say they weren't required reading. Still, I'm a bit uneasy with any coach -- Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist or anything else -- being a lockerroom evangelist for his beliefs. Don't misconstrue. I am not anti-religion. Not anti-Bible. I just think there should be a separation there. I ran a Twitter poll asking if you were OK with Richt giving players Bibles. It was 57 percent yes, 35% no, 8% undecided.

CanesjoseCANES HONORS JOSE: Friday on their @CanesFootball Twitter account UM wrote, "This past Sunday, we lost a big piece of our community. Tomorrow, we honor his memory. #JDF16." They did so on Saturday by wearing small circular helmet decals that read 'JF 16' in the memory of fallen Marlins star Jose Fernandez. That was a nice gesture. The helmet decal is pictured.

Other state FBS Week 5 games (all Saturday, in chronology):

No. 23 Florida 13, Vanderbilt 6: Gators are now 4-1 but were 10-point faves and sort of escaped Vanderbilt more than won. They were trying to shake off the sting of blowing an 18-point halftime lead in last week's loss at Tennessee, and not sure they did. Austin Appleby again started at quarterback for UF but Luke Del Rio may be back for next game.

North Carolina 37, No. 12 Florida State 35Oh. My. God. FSU falls to 3-2, beaten by a 54-yard field goal on game's last play. Miami hosts FSU next week and then North Carolina the week after, so Canes surely were watching this one. Noles were 10 1/2-point favorites. This is stunning. FSU will plummet in the polls now. There is little question the Canes will be favored next Saturday. The Florida State defense I saw today will not contain Brad Kaaya's Hurricanes.

RoncooperFIU 33, FAU 31: It was Shula Bowl XV in this natural rivalry that hasn't really ever taken off because A) both teams are usually bad and B) neither team has a great fan Fiufaubase. FAU led the series 10-4 including a 31-17 win last year, and Owls were 6-point road faves here. It was the Conference USA opener for both, and marked the debut of FIU interim head coach Ron Cooper, who replaces the fired Ron Turner. (The highest rise on the coaching food chain for Cooper, 54 (pictured), was three seasons spent as Louisville head coach in 1995-97; he was 13-20). Well, good for FIU, getting off the schneid in a result that left both local teams 1-4.

Also: UCF (now 3-2) won at East Carolina, 47-29; and South Florida (now 4-1) delivered a road-spanking to Cincinnati, 45-20.

National Collball Week 5 overview: There was a reasonable risk of change in current College Football Playoff top four because two teams currently in it both face ranked teams. No. 4 Michigan did its job against visiting 8-Wisconsin, 14-7. But No. 3 Louisville lost at 5-Clemson, 42-36.

JoseripOUR QUARTET OF COLUMNS ON THE DEATH OF MARLINS ACE AND MIAMI HERO JOSE FERNANDEZ: We had four columns this past week related to Jose's tragic death. I cannot apologize if that seems excessive. The quartet:

What Jose Meant Lives On -- The first, reacting to the tragic news that broke South Florida's heart last Sunday.

There is Crying In Baseball, And This Was the Night -- The second, from Monday's tribute night in team's first game back.

A Casket, a Hearse and a Miami Tragedy That Never Should Have Happened -- The third, in midst of Wednesday's public events and outpouring.

With massive gentle force, Miami did itself proud this week with the love it showed Jose: The fourth, latest and last, from Sunday, reflecting on a brutal week, but one in which something so awful brought out something so wonderful in our community.

Other recent columns, ICYMI or wanted another look: Week 4 Gems (our latest NFL picks). Instant Lifelong Rivals (our NFL column on QBs drafted 1-2). Time is Right For Bosh to Retire (and I guess the headline says it all). We Got Some Canes Over Here (UM impact in NFL). Demanding Racial Justice (on why those anthem protests keep going). Tebow's Dream (from his first Mets' instructional league workout). The Case for Zach Thomas and Canton (which about says it all).

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

November 19, 2015

UM's latest basketball recruiting gets a tribute to Larranaga's stewardship; plus Dolphins' playoff odds, David Beckham, cheetah picks NASCAR/Homestead winner, SOPY rankings, NFL Week 10 Pix 'n Greg's Lobos fantasy results & more


Paris1) It is THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19. PRAY FOR PARIS, AND FOR PEACE ON EARTH. 2) I'm back at Friday Page HQ today bringing forth my NFL Week 11 picks, girding loins for a better effort than last week. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's Titans-Jaguars pick. 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins win in Philly with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Dolphins' latest All-50'ers: Fins in random fives are announcing the club's all-time 50 greatest players. The latest wave: Bob Brudzinski, Norm Evans, Mike Pouncey, Patrick Surtain and Jason Taylor. Taylor is obvious. Evans and Surtain are expected. Brudzinksi for me is borderline but I'm OK with it. Surprised by Pouncey mainly for the lack of longevity.

 "BeckhamDavid Beckham has been named People's latest 'Sexiest Man Alive.' Too bad he hasn't been named 'Most Successful Man Alive at Closing an MLS Stadium Deal in Miami.'" --Greg Cote

On Canes' coach-search: This week's latest column from me is on the Hurricanes' search to replace fired football coach Al Golden and his interim fill-in Larry Scott. UM must find a great coach whose strength is recruiting and the ability to win back the South Florida talent-market. The priority should not be appeasing fans by necessarily hiring someone with Canes ties. Click on Recruiting The Best to read the column in full.

CANES' BIG RECRUITING GETS A TRIBUTE TO LARRANAGA'S STEWARDSHIP: UM basketball's 2016 recruiting class soared into the national top 10 rankings with the addition this week of Miami Norland 6- Larranaga10 power forward Dewan Huell and Massachusetts 6-4 shooting guard Bruce Brown. The biggest schools in the sport, like Louisville and Kansas, were after Huell. It's a tribute to coach Jim Larranaga and where he has the Canes program now and where it is headed under his stewardship. In Larranaga and women's coach Katie Meier, UM has one of the elite coaching duos in the entire country. Rock solid. South Florida is in good shape generally at the coach level at the moment among our top teams. The Heat's Erik Spoelstra is excellent, the Marlins made a promising managerial hire in Don Mattingly, and it seems the Panthers finally have a guy they can win with in Gerard Gallant. The questions are in football. Will Dan Campbell be a keeper for the Dolphins or will a postseason search open? That's to be determined. And the Canes job is wide open, of course. The U would do well to make a hire even approaching the quality of what basketball has in Larranaga and Meier.

DOLPHINS PLAYOFF CHANCES: A PULSE, BUT STILL A FAINT ONE: Winning in Philadelphia elevated the Dolphins' playoff chances from negligible to small. The computers of put Miami's playoff likelihood at 12.7 percent and has it at 7.2% entering this coming weekend -- both ranking the Fins 12th in the jockeying for six AFC postseason tickets. Patriots, Bengals and Broncos are the consensus definitely-in picks. The 4-5-6 seeds will be Steelers, Bills and Colts according to makenflplayoffs, and Steelers, Colts and Jets according to numberfire.

CheetahCHEETAH FORECASTS NASCAR/HOMESTEAD WINNER: Sorry, storybook-ending fans. Retiring Jeff Gordon won't be going out a champion in Sunday's season-ending race south of Miami. Koda, a 2-year-old cheetah and official Zoo Miami "wildlife prognosticator," chose Kevin Harvick from among the four miniature die-cast cars of the title-contending final four of Harvick, Gordon, Martin Truex and Kyle Busch. Koda is pictured ruminating over his decision. Zoo officials denied it was a publicity stunt.

SOPY: FLOWERS POWER! 'STATE HEISMAN' HAS A NEW LEADER: The fourth season of our blog's SOPY rankings --State Offensive Player of the Year -- is too close to call as we reach the final stretch. It's Sopynow South Florida QB Quinton Flowers narrowly ahead of Florida State RB Dalvin Cook. It's pretty much a two-man race because FIU QB Alex McGough has fallen to third place and has played one additional game than the players he must catch. Our weekly cumulative rankings measure the most productive QBs, running backs and receivers for the state's seven FBS teams: Miami, Florida, Florida State, FIU, FAU, UCF and South Florida. 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 2015 SOPY Top 10 entering Week 12:

2015 SOPY TOP 10 / WEEK 11

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                W11        Season

1 (t2)       Quinton Flowers, SoFla-qb   223         1,717

2 (t2)       Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb             167        1,661

3 (1)        Alex McGough, FIU-qb          37         1,543.5

4 (5)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb          153        1,236.5

5 (7)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb          290        1,206

6 (4)        Alex Gardner, FIU-rb             15         1,167

7 (6)        Joseph Yearby, Miami-rb       153        1,108

8 (9)         Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      139       956 

9 (10)       Kelvin Taylor, Florida-rb       126        929

10 (8)       Everett Golson, FSU-qb          26         889.5

Bubble: Will Grier, Florida-qb, 789. Other team leader: UCF--Justin Holman, qb, 713. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 290 (Wk11). Note: FIU has played 11 games; all others 10.

Cote's State of the State ranking: 1. Florida (9-1); 2. Florida State (8-2); 3. Miami (6-4); 4. South Florida (6-4); 5. FIU (5-6); 6. FAU (2-8); 7. UCF (0-10).

NFL PIX 'N GREG'S LOBOS FANTASY: WEEK 10: OH THE AWFULNESS! RECORD EMBARRASSMENT!: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our two Greg's Lobos fantasy teams, and, this week, the admission pains us: Pix: A record-worst week: This is our 25th 1aacote2
1lobosseason doing the Friday Page picks and we have never -- ever -- had worse week than last week's 2-12 record overall and 3-11 against the spread. I mean, there were some weird results and losing picks I'd probably make again. But still. No excuses. Just abysmal. Or, as the Upset Bird muttered: "Aaawwwkful!" Greg's Lobos / family league: Another loss: The original Lobos lost 125-112 to fall to 4-6, off playoff pace but still in it with four weeks left in our regular season. Rode Adrian Peterson for 31 big points, but five positions scoring in single-figures and only 12 points from Drew Brees killed us. Greg's Lobos / radio-show league: Big loss to open playoffs: The LeBatard Show Lobos fell 117.1 to 69.4 to Bills in the first round of our playoffs. It's a two-game opening series so I'm still alive but would need to rout Billy next week to have any chance. Ill-timed bye weeks ruined me this week. Just-signed Joe Flacco was our MVL with 20.1 points but we had two guys score zero. Miserable showing for the 'Bos. Embarrassing. But, yes, I do believe in miracles, so watch us next week.

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August 19, 2015

Grading South Florida sports fans: We examine attendance for our 15 most prominent pro and college teams. Who has best fans? Poll. Vote!; plus Herald's 'Fins at 50' project, Heat projection, Jarvis Landry saving dogs' lives & more


1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with UM's Al Golden being ranked No. 1 in a preseason list of college football's "hottest coaching seats." 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My Don Shula video, Hot Button Top 10, fashionista Serena, Heat/Christmas verdict & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

Delmas out for season: Dolphins safety Louis Delmas will miss the entire 2015 season with a knee injury (torn ACL) sustained in practice, it was announced today. That's a fairly big blow to the defense, but hardly an insurmountable one. 

NFL yardage-leader odds: Via Bovada, Andrew Luck is betting favorite to lead NFL in passing yards at 7-2, with Dolphin Ryan Tannehill 33-1 (13th). Adrian Peterson is 7-2 fave to lead in rushing yards, with Miami's Lamar Miller 50-1 (tie 17th). And Antonio Brown is receiving yards pick at 11-2 odds, with Dolphin Jarvis Landry 66-1 (tie 21st). 

Con-men and South Florida sports: There's an in-depth piece this week at (click here to read) on how South Florida's hustler culture and engulfed Heat players in financial scams. All of this has been well-covered, but this is a comprehensive overview worth your time.

1aa1afinsat50 1aa1afinsat50HERALD'S 'FINS AT 50' SPECIAL PROJECT: The Miami Herald's massive "Fins at 50" coverage commemorating the Dolphins' upcoming 50th season is now online. Click on FINS AT 50 to access the entire project and all of its parts. My contributions: COACHING LEGEND is my column and accompanying video on the great Don Shula. 50 GREATEST is my list of the 50 greatest figures (not just players) in franchise history. ALL-TIME TEAM are my picks for, well, for the Dolphins' all-time team! And VIDEO INTERVIEWS includes my conversations with not only Shula but also with Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. Enjoy! 

1aa1acardreportGRADING THE FANS: EXAMINING ATTENDANCE FOR SOUTH FLORIDA'S 14 MOST PROMINENT PRO AND COLLEGE TEAMS: We examined the attendance of South Florida's 15 most visible sports teams (five pro, 10 college), compared how it ranks among others in its leagues, and doled out grades out how each team is doing drawing fans. Only two of the 14 earned a better than average grade. Our results:


1aa1aheatMiami Heat: Heat averaged 19,712 last season, officially 100.6 percent of capacity. That attendance ranked sixth of 30 NBA teams, even with no LeBron James and a non-playoff team. What Pat Riley has built continues to be a South Florida juggernaut of interest.


1aa1adolfansMiami Dolphins: The Fins averaged 70,035 per game last season, 92.7 percent of capacity. That attendance ranked 14th of 32 NFL teams. For a franchise that last made the playoffs in 2008 and hasn't won in the postseason since 2000, that isn't bad. An improved team and stadium-makeover both will help.

Miami Hurricanes baseball: Canes averaged 2,738 per game last season, which ranked 27th among NCAA Division I schools. UM was one of only 18 schools to surpass 100,000 (101,296) in total home attendance.


1aa1acanesfbMiami Hurricanes football: The Canes averaged 52,518 per game last season. That ranked 40th of 125 NCAA teams at the premier FBS level. "C" means average, and that is what UM attendance, like the team itself, has become.

Miami Hurricanes men's basketball: UM averaged 5,777 per game last season, 93rd of 344 NCAA Division I teams. Canes under Jim Larranaga have ranged from competitive to quite good and must find way to more consistently fill their modestly-sized (just under 8,000) campus arena.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers: The Strikers averaged 3,626 per game in 2014 (combined spring and fall seasons), which ranked ninth of 10 NASL soccer. But attendnace through seven home games in 2015 has risen to 5,551, ranking seventh of 11 teams.


1aa1aballparkMiami Marlins: The Marlins are averaging 22,263 this season through 58 of 81 home games, or 59.5 percent of capacity. That attendance ranks 27th of 30 MLB teams. Clearly, the new ballpark has not been a panacea. But this season has been a major disappointment and will mark a sixth straight losing season, which would be debilitating for most any city's attendance.

Miami Hurricanes women's basketball: UM's women averaged 1,254 per game last season, which ranked 113th of 344 NCAA Division I teams. The good news? That's better than 231 others schools did. The  bad news? Coach Katie Meier consistently fields a quality product that deserves better.

FAU football: The Owls averaged 14,122 last season, roughly half of the stadium's capacity. That attendance ranked 117th of 125 FBS teams. The nifty little campus stadium that Howard Schnellenberger saw built has not been the fan kick-starter hoped.   


1aa1afiufbFIU football: The Panthers averaged 11,966 last season, about half of capacity. That attendnace ranked 123rd of 125 FBS schools, ahead of only Akron and Ball State. FIU must grow to meet the NCAA's 15,000 standard or risk demotion from the top-tier FBS level.

Florida Panthers: The Cats averaged 11,265 per game last season, 66.1 percent of capacity. That attendance ranked dead last in the NHL, 30th of 30 teams. You can't get lower than that, so shouldn't the grade be rock-bottom, too? I can't see how this franchise can survive long-term in South Florida unless it starts consistently winning and the fan interest jumps commensurately.

FIU men's basketball: Panthers averaged 1,474 per game last season, 268th of 344 Division I men's teams.  

FAU men's basketball: Owls averaged 1,346 per game last season, 281st of 344 teams.

FAU women's basketball: Owls women averaged 601 per game last season, 294th of 344 teams.

FIU women's basketball: And playing the caboose, Panthers women averaged 355 per game last season, 310th of 344 teams. That's officially "friends 'n family" territory.

NFL: IF THE BACKUP QB'S WERE STARTERS...:, evidently with time on its hands, used its computers to figure how each team's playoff likelihood would change if the No. 2 quarterback were to start all 16 games. The biggest dropoff was New England's minus 54.4 percent from Tom Brady to Jimmy Garoppolo. The least was Jacksonville's plus 2.3% from Blake Bortles to Chad Henne. Miami had a modest 11.4% dropoff from Ryan Tannehill to Matt Moore, which ranked midpack (17th) in the league. It was 52.7% with Tannehill and 41.3% with Moore, who had the third-highest percentage of any backup.

WHY PLAY THE SEASON? HERE'S HOW HEAT WILL FINISH:'s eighth annual NBA "Summer Forecast" is out, and its experts panel says Miami will finish fourth in the Eastern Conference at 47-35, after Cleveland (59-23), Chicago (50-32) and Atlanta (50-32). I think that's overestimating the Hawks and think the Heat have a great shot at third. Miami would host fifth place Washington in the first round of the playoffs if the forecast holds true. So there. Why even play the season?

JARVIS LANDRY WANTS TO SAVE YOUR DOG'S LIFE: The Dolphins' second-year receiver has recorded a public-service video for PETA urging you to avoid baking your dog in a closed car. Sounds like good advice! Here it is:


SEMI-HOT MARLINS: In a respite from The Lost Season, a small island in the roiling sea, your Marlins have won five of their past seven games, despite Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich all being on the DL. This rivals the second-best stretch Miami has had all season, deferring only to a 9-1 run April 22 to May 2. I continue to think this team can be very good next season, with a real manager and much better health the starting requisites.

THE LIST: NFL COACHING VICTORIES: The 10 winningest coaches for combined regular season and playoff career victories, and their percentage of losing seasons:

Coach                     Wins       Losing seasons

Don Shula               347          6.1% (2 of 33)

George Halas          324        15.0% (6 of 40)

Tom Landry            270        31.0% (9 of 29)

Bill Belichick          233        25.0% (5 of 20)

Curley Lambeau     229        18.2% (6 of 33)

Paul Brown            222         16.0% (4 of 25)

Chuck Noll             209         30.4% (7 of 23)

M. Schottenheimer 205           9.5% (2 of 21)

Dan Reeves            201         39.1% (9 of 23)

Chuck Knox           193         36.4% (8 of 22)

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April 24, 2015

Who've been Dolphins' greatest late-round draft finds? 12 choices, you pick top 4. Poll's close. Vote now!; plus Fins 'Stonewall Day' update (uh oh Dion Jordan), new 'Back In My Day' audio, Fraser statue unveiled, Jose = 'Citizen K'ing' & more


1aa1aincognito1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 25. "Hi I'm Richie Incognito of the Buffalo Bills. What was that you were saying about how 'Bullygate' would ruin me?" 2) No Random Evidence notes column in print this Sunday, but we'll have its online brother, our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10, here on Sunday as usual. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why Dolphins schedule lays out favorably, Greg Jennings, Mike Redmond, Jose Fernandez, Bob Dylan concert review & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

The new 'Back In My Day': Armpits: My latest Back In My Day segment from the Dan LeBatard Show:

Back In My Day - Armpits - 4-23-15

WHO HAVE BEEN BEST OF DOLPHINS' LATE-ROUND 'FINDS'? 12 CHOICES, YOU PICK TOP 4: The NFL draft was 17 rounds for a long time before paring to seven rounds in 1994. So defining what "late rounds" 1aa1adoldraft 1aa1adolphinseven means is not easy. For the purpose of this poll I make it fifth round or later. I offer you a dozen 5-or-lower guys who worked out the best for the Dolphins, better than anyone could have expected, and invite you to vote for your top four (4) -- the Finest of the Finds. Factor the round number into your thinking if you'd like. For me there are two easy choices and a clear third, but the fourth spot should be interesting. The list is alphabetical. Vote, say why and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Deciphering four-vote results: The maximum vote for any one player would be 25 percent if everyone cast the max four votes. A percentage over 25 indicates some people have voted only for that player. Multiply a total times four for an idea of total percentage of ballots that are including that player.

THE WIZARD COMES HOME: STATUE COMPLETES FRASER'S LEGACY: Short of a College World Series game, the days don't get much bigger than Friday was for University of Miami baseball. The No. 13-ranked 1aa1afraser statueHurricanes host No. 12 Florida State to begin a three-game series between rivals both angling for the 1aa1afraszerACC crown and a CWS trip to Omaha. But the game itself isn't the half of it. UM unveiled a bronze statue of longtime former coach Ron Fraser, the program patriarch who saved UM baseball, whose imagination saw the stadium built, and who retired in 1992 as one of the most important figures in his sport -- the Wizard of College Baseball -- not just here. I only wish the statue, some four or five years in the planning, had been in place before Ron died, at age 79, in January 2013. Here is an excerpt from my column: "I have always regarded Fraser and the Dolphins’ Don Shula as two of a kind in South Florida sports history, by themselves on that top echelon of combined coaching longevity and excellence — each enriched by the company of the other. Shula and Fraser both became a part of our life’s timeline, a comforting constant. We grew up, or old, with them. They were champions of their sport, but they also championed us. Unblemished by anything but good, they did South Florida proud." Click on The Wizard Comes Home for the entire column.

THE TWO INTERESTING THINGS FROM DOLPHINS 'STONEWALL DAY' PRESS CONFERENCE: It was well-attended by the media (including 1aa1ahickey
1aa1atannebnbaumme) yesterday at Dolphins camp in Davie, even though it was, as expected, largely fruitless. It was the Dolphins' annual pre-draft press conference, at which Miami roster architects Mike Tannenbaum, Dennis Hickey and assistant GM Eric Stokes parried media questions to impart as little information as possible, secretively and painstakingly offering no real clue as to what the Fins are thinking or where they may be leaning with the 14th overall pick. (Tannenbaum and Hickey are pictured in a contest to see who can stare off into the distance most intently). However here were two things I found interesting:

1. Heart and Dion Jordan: Lots of talk about wanting heart and passion and love of football in a draftee, so the Fins execs were asked if Dion Jordan missing this week's voluntary conditioning sessions called into question his own heart. Awkward silence followed. So did an awkward glance between Tannenbaum and Hickey. "This is pre-draft," Hickey finally blurted, diverting the topic. Clearly the Dolphins are extremely disappointed in their third-year defensive end but not quite ready to go there publicly yet.

2. The Hickey/Tannenbaum relationship: Executive vice president of football operations Tannenbaum would seem to out-title general manager Hickey, but Hickey contractually has final say over the roster, and Tannenbaum confirmed that. Asked who ends the debate or breaks a tie if there is not a consensus on whom to draft, Tannenbaum answered, "Dennis does."

1aa1acitizenkane 1aa1aCITIZENJOSE
Marlins young ace Jose Fernandez, Cuba-born and here since 2008, officially became a U.S. citizen Friday morning in a ceremony for 140 naturalized South Floridians in Kendall. My new nickname for him: Citizen K'ing (patent pending). Pronounced "kay-ing"; 'K' as in strikeout. Reads like King as in mound royalty. Plays off the 1941 Orson Welles film classic, Citizen Kane. You're welcome, Miami!

Moderation, please, on Marlins: When they were 3-11 owner Jeffrey Loria was panic-stricken and (reportedly) had to be talked out of prematurely firing manager Mike Redmond. Now they've won three in a row and it's happy-day-are-here-again? Moderation, please. Long, looong season. Even the good teams lose 60 to 70 games.

1aa1agoldpig 1aa1awoldporc"DEAR GREG...": "You blog's pretty good but would be even better if occasionally you would show photos of bizarre hybrid animals, such as either a half-wolf/half-porcupine or maybe  a half-golden retriever/half-pig. Thank you." Dear Reader: You may be certifiably insane.


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April 06, 2015

Another calamitous Opening Day for Marlins in rained-on loss; plus are Marlins a playoff team? New poll. Vote now; also Heat down in flames, why Duke wins, nattily dressed animals & more


1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 6. Hope y'all had a Happy Easter in celebrartion of the original comeback king, Jesus. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Marlins. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hut Button Top 10, Duke-Wisconsin poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins and Jeffrey Loria: I visited with the controversial team owner for my column in Sunday's season-preview section. Many still dislike Loria, but will a big-spending offseason help his image? Click on Judging Jeffrey to read.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Reeling Heat lose yet again. Outlook entering MondayA daily blog feature as one team fights to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 10th place at 34-43 (L4) after last night's 112-89 loss at Indiana, 1 game from 8th, 0 games (tiebreaker) from 9th with 5 games left (next Tuesday vs. Charlotte). Heat playoff likelihood: 49.2% (down 11.3) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Eliminated. 2 games left (next Thursday vs. Boston).

Check us out on Twitter, Instagram and Vine for new pix and vids from today's Marlins Opening Day. 

OPENING DAY! MARLINS UNFURL 2015 SEASON: Update: Marlins lose opener 2-1 to Braves this evening. More calamity. Field rained on when retractable roof doesn't close in time, and soggy field partly blamed for loss. Watch for my column from Marlins Park posting online very soon. Original post: There are a few things the National Pastime still does better than the almighty NFL. The all-star game is one. Another is Opening Day. The start of football never seems special the way to opening of baseball does. So the red, white and blue bunting 1aa1agstanton 1aa1adayopeningwill be out at Marlins Park late this afternoon as the new-look, high-hope Marlins host the Braves. Miami has made the playoffs only two of 22 previous franchise seasons (albeit winning the World Sereis both times), yet optimism helps welcome this season. Countering that: Baseball remains the toughest playoff ticket in American sports, even with the addition of the wild-card games. Can the Marlins hang close enough to contention until Jose Fernandez's summer return from surgery? While we wait to see, at-bats by Giancarlo Stanton (pictured) will continue to be some of the best minute or two in all of sports. I'll be at the park today, on one of those days I like my job. Meantime, take in a dip in our poll and help set expectations for this Marlins season. Remember, not asking what you hope will happen, but what you honestly expect will. Vote and say why.

ILL-TIMED HEAT SWOON: Four straight losses now and seven of the past nine after last night's embarrassed showing at Indiana have the Heat now struggling to make the postseason (see Playoff Chase above). Miami may need a 4-1 finish to do it and has four home games left to feather the cause. That would be a a win Tuesday vs. playoff-chase rival Charlotte, a split of the following games vs. playoff-qualified Chicago and Toronto, then a regular-season-ending sweep of East bottom feeders Orlando and (at) Philadelphia. Little margin of error now. Want the playoffs, Heat? Act like it.

1aa1adukewisDUKE, WISCONSIN: GREAT CONTRASTS. COIN, PLEASE?: The unexpected elimination of toppled unbeaten Kentucky has left tonight's NCAA Tournament men's championship game without a clear or even agreed-upon favorite. Some etting odds have Wisconsin favored by one point, most have it dead-even. Duke seeks its fifth national title, following 1991, '92, 2001 and '10. Wisconsin's only previous national championship was in early-days 1941. Tonight's event misses the cheering for, or against, Kentucky to go 40-0, but it leaves us an intriguing contrast of a matchup. Duke's searing defense vs. Wisconsin's big-scoring O. Young Blue Devils led by freshman Jahlil Okafor vs. veteran Badgers led by senior Frank Kaminsky. Buttoned-down Duke vs. free-spirited Wisconsin. Badgers may have the greater incentive, aiming for a first modern-era title and losing to Duke at home in December and also in last year's NCAA semifinals. But give me Mike Krzyzewski and his terrific defense tonight.

Playoff result: Duke by narrowest of margins: We asked, and you voted 50.7 percent for a Duke championship and 49.3% for Wisconsin.

"Your blog's OK but would be even better if occasionally you would show a picture of what the world might look like if animals were of supreme intelligence, walked upright, and dressed even better than we humans do. Thank you." Dear Reader: What an oddball request!

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February 18, 2015

Who is on your Mount Rushmore of all-time NFL quarterbacks? 12 choices, you pick 4. Vote now!; plus Westminster dog show, Lesley Gore, Tiger verdict, 'Back In My Day' & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tiger Woods poll, pro-rating South Florida's all-time pro coaches, Heat career ASG scorers, saving the newspaper industry & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

WHO SHOULD BE ON MOUNT RUSHMORE OF ALL-TIME NFL QUARTERBACKS?: Every once in a while we 1aa1amountrlike to do a 'Mount Rushmore' poll mainly to annoy WQAM radio host and friend Marc Hochman, who thinks he invented the time-worn idea. We got this idea from, which had the discussion earlier this week -- just the latest entity to steal Hoch's un-patented gem. We culled the ballot to 12 finalists who appear here alphabetically. No category for "other," but let us know in a Comment if we've egregiously omitted anybody deserving. You know what Mount Rushmore means, so vote for your top four (4) guys. Go!

Vote For Top Four (4)

Poll result: Mixed results, but mostly support for Tiger Woods: We asked how you feel about Tiger Woods and it was 43.3 percent liking/rooting for him, 38.0% not liking or supporting him and 18.7% neutral or disinterested.

BEAGLE WINS WESTMINSTER 'BEST IN SHOW': Miss P, an adorable 4-year-old Beagle from British 1aa1abeagleColumbia pictured right, won Best In Show last night at the prestigious annual Westminster Kennel Club pageant in New York City. (It was so good to see a winner and hear cheering in a full Madison Square Garden, a building rendered a fetid mausoleum by the Knicks). Controversy ensued, though. Random Evidence cannot 1aa1apoodlestandardconfirm but has heard that the owners of the Standard Poodle pictured at left are being sued for pet abuse and mental torture for inflicting the dog with the embarrassing haircut shown. "As if my name, 'Princess Precious," isn't bad enough, you try walking around looking like this," said the angry canine. "People stare. Other dogs taunt and bully. Even cats laugh at me. It's [bleep]ing humiliating!"

SEEING RACISM WHERE IT ISN'T: Yesterday on the Dan LeBatard Show (The Ticket Miami, ESPN Radio) my Tuesday "Back In My Day" segment excoriated athletes who complain about having to deal with the 1aa1aBIMDmedia. Marshawn Lynch and Kevin Durant were examples I used, not even considering that both are black and that I'd better toss in a white guy for balance. Mentioned Lynch and Durant as the two most prominent, recent examples, which I thought obvious. But because the rant was critical and questioned the general intelligence of athletes who grow up chasing sports more than an education, a few texters to the show and Tweeters to me heard the rant as racist. Man, that's listening so hard you aren't hearing. So if I said the same thing but with a fleeting reference to Bode Miller I'm OK on the Racism Sensitivity Scale? Sorry, but I can't be that politically correct.

PIECES OF CHILDHOOD KEEP FALLING AWAY: I never considered myself a Lesley Gore fan. I thought she was someone whose fans were girls. Besides, when she hit big in 1963 with "It's My Party," my interest in music was just beginning to awaken. But I cared enough to read the obituary when I found out this week Gore had died at age 68. Maybe subliminally, but her first big hit was a part of my early childood's background noise, her death making the sound an echo fading my degrees.


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February 11, 2015

Marlins All-Star Game in historical context; plus LeBron's grand plan, Kiper's new Dolphins pick, bad news for Al Golden, Chicago's cheaters?, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, armed goats & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot-Seat Index coaching poll, SI swimsuits, J-Law's snake, Marlins unis, 2015 college football rankings & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

LeBron's grand plan: LeBron James reveals in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter his grand plan including a future in movies and his dream of building a Hollywood empire. Click here for the story and related video. Must-read for LBJ fans. 

'Back In My Day': Many of you on Twitter and in emails ask for links to the "Back In My Day" segments I do Tuesdays on the Dan Le Batard Show. I have done 17. Click on BIMD Volume 1 for episodes 1 through 10 (which originally appeared in the blog on Dec. 11). I'll have a link to the most recent episodes soon.

"I liked Beck before it was cool." --Greg Cote

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS ALL-STAR GAME IS FIFTH FOR SOUTH FLORIDA: The Marlins will be hosting their first MLB All-Star Game in 2017, a direct result of the new stadium that so many complained about but that will prove a positive for generations to come. Getting this game is a big deal, and it's about time. Baseball's annual
showcase is far superior to the other sports'. Giancarlo Stanton in the Home-Run Derby seems a given. But Miami sports historians like myself know this Marlins first actually will be the fifth major (Big Four sport) professional all-star game in South Florida. The list, chronologically:

All-Star Game               Date                    Site

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 20, 1975       Orange Bowl

NBA All-Star Game        Feb. 11, 1990       Miami Arena

NHL All-Star Game        Feb. 2, 2003        Office Depot Center, Sunrise 

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 31, 2010       Sun Life Stadium, Miami

MLB All-Star Game        TBD, 2017            Marlins Park

KIPER APES MCSHAY ON FINS PICK: Dueling ESPN mock drafters Mel Kiper (pictured) and Todd McShay need to get together and fake some variety. Kiper in his new Mock 2.0 out today has Jameis Winston No. 1 1aa1akipermeloverall to Tampa Bay, Marcus Mariota No. 6 to the Stinkin' Jets and Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes No. 14 to Miami -- just like McShay did last week. Kiper on Waynes: "Dolphins need to add some effective youth at cornerback, and Waynes is a well-coached cover man with the versatility to help in both man and zone and brings a physical presence. He's effective taking on big receivers and will also not shy away from tackling and setting the edge as a run-defender. If you're going on pure upside, Marcus Peters (Washington) could gain a slight edge, but Waynes gets the nod for reliability. The Combine can shift perceptions at this position, but I think Waynes is a safe bet to be one of the top two corners taken and it's a need area for the Dolphins, who need more playmakers in their secondary."

Poll result: It's Golden over Philbin for the coaching hot seat: We asked who among So Fla's Big Six coaches should lead the Hot-Seat Index, and UM football coach Al Golden swamped the Dolphins' Joe Philbin by 65.9 percent to 32.4%. We figured a two-man race and man was it! Heat's Erik Spolestra, Marlins' Mike Redmond, UM hoops' Jim Larranaga and Panthers' Gerard Gallant combined for a scant 1.7%.

ON BRIAN WILLIAMS, JON STEWART: NBC suspends Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months 1aa1abrianwmswithout pay for the truth-fudging that has spawned a million Internet lampoons like the photo pictured. I get the punishment. U.S. presidents and network news anchors -- aren't those the folks you sort of want to trust most? I wonder if in six months Williams will return as if nothing happened or just sort of fade into shamed retirement. Elsewhere on the dial, Jon Stewart is leaving Comedy Central's The Daily Show, a major loss for hilarious, razor-edgy political commentary. I think Stewart is brilliant, by which I mean he shares my take on just about everything arising from today's headlines.

LITTLE LEAGUE A LITTLE TOO LATE WITH ITS DISCIPLINE: So Little League Baseball strips the U.S. championship from the Chicago team (Jackie Robinson West) that won it in the 2014 LL World Series by, we now are told, supposedly fudging boundary lines to improperly build a superteam. Two adults involved have been supposed for actions that spoils the heart-warming story of the first African-American team to reign. Better late than never on the discipline, I suppose, but Little League's due diligence on boundaries and birth certificates needs to come before a tournament not afterward. This story bears further examination. As it was the Chicago team's triumph was overshadowed, anyway, by the Sports Illustrated cover-spawning mania over the Philadelphia girl pitcher, Mo'Ne Davis.

1aa1agoatswithguns"DEAR GREG...": "I have heard rumors that a sect of anti-government separatists in the Deep South has formed a militia made up entirely of armed goats trained to perform as soldiers. Can this possibly be true?" Dear Reader: I find that almost impossible to believe, but I'll check into it and get back to you.

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January 28, 2015

SB Smirk II: Gronk's buttchecks, which may be an upgrade from deflated balls; plus Dan Marino, GoDaddy's Puppygate, greatest-Super Bowl-in-Miami poll, Marlins farm system & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk debut, Marshawn Lynch poll, God press-conference video & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adanmarinoSI piece on Marino: Sports Illustrated has a lengthy new piece on Dan Marino (read it here) as part of a celebration of the sports year 1985 (which began with a Dolphins Super Bowl loss to the 49ers). Marino is pictured circa that era. I'm among the folks who were interviewed and are quoted in the story, but it's worth reading, anyway.

"Calm your asses down!" --Ex-Hurricanes great Michael Irvin, to perpetually dissatisfied, griping UM football fans.

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK II: GRONK'S BUTTCHEEKS, AN UPGRADE FROM DEFLATED BALLS, AT LEAST: 1aa1agronkingToday's second of our five daily Super Bowl With a Smirk notes columns
leads with Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski enlivening Media Day with a 1aa1afirereading from a new erotic novel about him (pictured right) called, "A Gronking to Remember" (subtitle: "It was a passion that could not be 1aa1akimkspiked"), by author Lacey Noonan. The passage Gronk read included the word "buttcheeks." (Tight end, indeed!) The X-rated "novel" is 66 pages long and, unfortunately, is the first in a planned series. Click on Smirk II for the full column. Also included: A fire alarm, a prediction, Jay Glazer, a woman in Hungary, Kim Kardashian (pictured left), Roman numerals, ticket prices and a Radio Row brawl. [Previously: Smirk I].

SMIRK II POLL: WHAT HAS BEEN BEST/MOST MEMORABLE SUPER BOWL PLAYED IN MIAMI?: We list all 10 in the poll, chronologically, with the game's MVP in parentheses to give you a one-word memory jog. You tell history which game should rank as the best or most memorable of all the SB 305s:

Smirk I Poll result: Sharp divide on Marshawn Lynch: We asked in the previous blogpost your impression of Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (the person, not the player), and it was 52.2 percent favorable, 47.8% unfavorable.

GODADDY PULLS SUPER BOWL AD AFTER OUTRAGE: GoDaddy, the website-building company pimped by Danica Patrick and no stranger to controversial ads, has pulled its planned Super Bowl commercial after an online preview sparked a backlash. The ad, entitled "Journey Home," features a lost puppy named Buddy who find his way home only to be quickly sold by his owner. Awwww. Folks, the puppy is JUST AN ACTOR! Anyway, enjoy. Or, be outraged:


RANKING MARLINS' FARM SYSTEM: ESPN's Keith Law ranks all 30 MLB farm systems and slots Miami's 24th. His description: "Their system rarely ranks high because they promote players to big league roles so quickly, but there's a solid group of very young arms in the system that will be on the list for a while, as well as a teenage position player or two with some real upside. There's very little in near-term talent here, however.". Elsewhere in NL East, Mets' farm is ranked fourth, Braves sixth, Nationals ninth and Phillies 25th.

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