Let’s take a look at the burning sports topics of the day (or week), shall we?

  • Kansas Loses to Tennessee. This kind of sucked. It was, arguably, KU’s most losable non-conference game at the start of the season. Tennessee was supposed to be good, played us tight for 39 minutes in Lawrence last year, and rarely get a chance to host a name team from outside the SEC. Then a third of their team decided to run afoul of the law, which changed the math a bit.

In theory.

Apparently it changed the math, just in the opposite direction that most people expected.

Plenty of KU fans had been wringing their hands about KU’s sometimes listless performance so far this season. I chalked it up to a typical Bill Self team that cruises through the first two months of the season, winning on pure talent, looking ugly at times, but with the expectation all will come together beginning in mid-January and they’ll be humming along come February and March.

That’s still probably the case, but there are certainly concerns. Cole Aldrich is a beast on the boards and defensively, but has yet to assert himself on offense. Things may have come too easy for Xavier Henry early on, and he’s turned into a jump-shooter only. Despite apparent depth in the backcourt, Sherron Collins is again being asked to play most of the minutes and make every big play. That didn’t work out so well last year, when he was playing on fumes the last two weeks of the season. And Tyshawn Taylor is apparently a big-time knucklehead.

I continue to believe this is just a bump in the road, an example of a team that is younger than most people remember learning how to play together. They’ll work things out. But it may not matter. The way Kentucky looks right now, I’m not sure anyone is going to beat them.

  • Mark McGwire. Yawn. We all knew he was juicing, so other than balancing his pathetic testimony before Congress a few years back, his admission of steroid use doesn’t change how I view him or his career at all.

I just read a book by Will Leitch, creator of Deadspin. He begins with a chapter about PED use by athletes, pointing out how little the difference between banned substances and cortisone shots are, yet cortisone shots are not only legal, but encouraged for athletes who are suffering. Leitch writes that one day there’s going to be a super drug that offers all the advantages of steroids, HGH, etc. but has no adverse side effects, and thus is safe and legal. How will we think of that drug: like andro or like cortisone? If a player doesn’t use that supplement, isn’t he cheating his team and his fans?

I can’t get too bent out of shape about steroids because I think most MLBers were/are using them, and the legal/ethical/moral lines are far vaguer than the talking heads want us to believe.

  • Pete Carroll / Lane Kiffin. Wow. I did not see this coming. I think Carroll is making a huge mistake going back to the NFL, but maybe he doesn’t want to be one of those guys who coaches well into his 60s and this is his last job. He’s always been far better suited to the college game than the pro, in my opinion.

I was at a friend’s house Saturday when the news broke and we were talking through the possibilities to replace Carroll. We mentioned Kiffin’s name, but then agreed that he didn’t have the established resume yet, nor could he leave Tennessee so soon. Shows what we know.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Kiffin handles the USC job. They’re probably looking at NCAA sanctions of some kind. He’s shown a tendency to view recruiting rules with some disdain. He’s yet to prove he can be an effective head coach. Yet, because it’s USC and he’s assembling a monster staff I have every expectation he could continue to win big. Or he could be a total disaster, which I know would make a lot of people happy.

Interesting that Kiffin and Rick Neuheisel are the two college coaches in LA right now. Kiffin is kind of Neuheisel 2.0: a media darling that may be more substance than style. We’ll see.

  • NFL Playoffs. I missed making predictions last week. For what it’s worth, I would have gone 1-3, I think. I’m not really sure why I’m sharing picks for the rest of the playoffs given that record.

The big game here is obviously the Ravens vs. Colts. They’re rescheduling high school basketball games all over the area because of the game. In basketball crazy Indiana! The Ravens worry me a little; they’re obviously coming together at the right time. The whole three weeks off thing could put the Colts in a hole early, and you don’t want to have to comeback against the Ravens D. But I think the Colts are too good to blow this one.
Colts 27 Ravens 17

The Jets are a nice story, the Chargers aren’t the balanced team they’ve been in the past. None of that will matter.
Chargers 31 Jets 14

I’m still in a bit of shock that the Cowboys have played so well for the last month. This isn’t supposed to happen. Romo is supposed to throw picks, the defense is supposed to get burned, and they’re supposed to go down in flames in December/January. The Vikings are the first balanced offense they’ve seen in over a month. I think the Cowboys D can contain Favre or Peterson/Taylor, but not both.
Vikings 24 Cowboys 21

I don’t care how much mojo the Saints have lost since Dallas pounded them. That Cardinals defense isn’t slowing them down. Hopefully the Saints D doesn’t show up, either, and we can perhaps have a repeat of last week’s basketball on turf game between the Cards and Packers. I would appreciate that, since I had to miss it to watch the damn KU game.
Saints 45 Cardinals 31

Current most likely Super Bowl pick: Colts vs. Saints, although there’s not a ton of confidence behind that pick.