Quick thoughts on a Monday afternoon, awaiting the kickoff of the only college football bowl game that really matters:

-I’m most interested in how Cam Newton handles tonight’s game. The pressure of being the Heisman Trophy winner. The layoff between games. The hectic schedule required of a Heisman winner. The increasing awareness that he could have made money playing for Mississippi State and now he is, of course, trying to win a national title for a school that would never, of course, ever consider paying him.

-I hate college football’s system, but I love college football, and tonight’s matchup is an example of why this can be the most unpredictable and atmospheric sport of all. Auburn and Oregon never play each other, so the matchup is filled with mystery. Cam Newton will never get another chance at a national title. Few of the participants will get another shot at a national title. This is like Game 7 of the World Series, only with both World Series teams graduating or losing most of the players that made a World Series berth possible.

-Love the Oregon uniforms, and that’s not like me. i generally prefer staid, traditional unis, like Alabama and Penn State. To me, simplicity bespeaks class. But these uniforms work for Oregon. They’re named the Ducks, for one thing. They have little tradition of which to speak. They play in a college football outpost and compete with grander programs like USC, UCLA and Washington, and they play an innovative, breakneck style. Most teams would look silly wearing their garish colors and fake wings. For Oregon, it works.

-I think Chip Kelly is the best coach in college football. Others might say Nick Saban, but it’s easier to wake a giant than to build one. If you watch Oregon play, they’re really not all that fast. Or big. They have been coached to play with great skill and pace, in a system that creates huge running lanes and open receivers. I’d take Kelly over anyone.

-I missed on my Saturday NFL picks and nailed my Sunday NFL picks. I thought Dom Capers would find a way to limit Michael Vick, and I feel this is the postseason in which Aaron Rodgers will place himself among the top handful of NFL quarterbacks, if he hadn’t already. I love that Packers coach Mike McCarthy went to a power running game with an obscure back because he knew power running would work against the Eagles’ overrated front.

-I still don’t know why Jim Caldwell called timeout. His timeout late in the Colts-Jets game, as Cris Collinsworth said, gave a rattled young quarterback time to go to the sideline for a pep talk, and allowed the Jets time to realize that Braylon Edwards was matched up one-on-one with a smaller cornerback. I’m always amazed at how even good coaches (Andy Reid, McCarthy, Caldwell, Tubby Smith) can screw up clock management at the end of games. And Rambis, too.

-The Bears are receiving almost a free pass to the NFC title game. We should have known it was their year after the Calvin Johnson call, still the worst call I’ve seen, ever, in sports. You know why it was so bad? Because the officials all knew he had caught the ball and scored a touchdown, but on the field and then after reviewing the play, decided to make an example of Johnson to aggressively enforce a new rule. Also, that call has me trailing Brad Lane by one pick in our Sunday Morning Sports Talk NFL picks. Not that it matters to me. Just thought I’d mention it.

-Quite a week for me. Last Wednesday, my daughter had her wisdom teeth removed. Today, it was my son. Thank god for Tivo, and ice cream.

-The Big Ten Network has been a dramatic success in terms of ratings, but the announcing can be awful. When Talor Battle hit a big shot to beat Michigan State, one of the bozos yelled - in an outburst that I’m sure was in no way premeditated - ``You sunk my battleship!’’ I’m not making that up.

-Anyone else think the Wolves could be 5-10 games better if they had a coach who knew how to run a team in the fourth quarter? Maybe Kurt Rambis is learning on the job. But is he really going to get much better after all these years of learning under Phil Jackson, after all these years of playing for and working as an assistant coach on championship teams? Shouldn’t he know what he’s doing by now?

-Yes, Kevin Love is an All-Star. The guy leads the league in rebounding by about 2.5 a game, and he’s scoring in the 20s. What more can he do?

-I’ll credit the Gophers’ interior defense with taking Ohio State out of its comfort zone and turning the game ugly enough that the Gophers had a chance to win it late. But the most intriguing part of the day was Al Nolen’s assertion that his team should run more, trying to create more easy baskets. I could not agree more, especially since the Gophers seem so unsure of themselves once they set up in half-court. If they didn’t have Mbakwe attacking the offensive boards, they would be even worse offensively.

-Matt Garza to the Cubs? I like it for both teams. The Rays have to be aggressive in trades, so they don’t get stuck with overpaid players killing their payroll and leaving in free agency, and the Cubs have no reason not to spend money on pitching. Especially now that the Brewers have dramatically upgraded their rotation. I can’t ever think of the Cubs without remembering a conversation I had with Andy MacPhail after he took over in Chicago. We were talking in spring training, and he said he didn’t believe in the `C’ word. That was before Bartman. I think he believes in curses now.



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