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Tom Jones' Two Cents: 10 underachievers

2012 Southern California football team

With quarterback Matt Barkley (above) returning, the Trojans started this season ranked No. 1 with hopes for a national title. Already, they've lost three games. I can understand losing to Oregon. That team comes off the bus and starts scoring. But losses to Arizona and Stanford, even if they were on the road, just aren't suppose to happen. Neither is a Monte Kiffin-led defense giving up 101 points in the past two games. This team has two Kiffins. They may not have any next season.

Alex Ovechkin

There's no question Ovechkin is a superstar with immense skills. He's a four-time 50-goal scorer, including a 65-goal season. He has been a league MVP. But he has scored 32 and 38 goals over the past two seasons. Part of the problem is the Capitals have played a tighter defensive style that limited his free-flowing abilities. But ultimately he's on this list because of his failure to lead the Capitals deep into the playoffs. Ovechkin's Caps are 2-4 in Game 7s, and three of those losses came at home. Making Ovechkin's career shortcomings seem even worse, his rival, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, has been to two Stanley Cup finals, winning once.

Michael Vick

What a strange career arc it has been for Vick. He was a star quarterback in Atlanta, although he was just 2-2 in the postseason with the Falcons. Then came the whole dogfighting mess and the prison stint, then his return to the NFL. He started stronger than expected after coming back to the NFL, but he has regressed and is 18-14 as a starter in Philadelphia, including 3-5 this season. His career is headed the wrong way and, at age 32, it will be hard to turn back in the right direction. It's fair to say he hasn't met expectations in the past year and a half.

Big Ten football

I don't get it. They play big-time high school football in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and all across the Midwest. Many of those kids go to Big Ten schools. The league is full of excellent coaches. And it has a great tradition, arguably the greatest tradition of all the conferences in college football. So how come this conference, from top to bottom, is so far behind the other big conferences, especially the SEC?

'Fox NFL Sunday'

The Sunday NFL pregame show on Fox is loaded with personalities — the funny Terry Bradshaw, the opinionated Howie Long, the charismatic Michael Strahan, the outrageous Jimmy Johnson. So why does it fail so badly? Maybe because those personalities are too busy trying to crack up each other. Other than insider Jay Glazer, this show can be hard to watch. And, oh yeah, why is Bradshaw even doing the halftime highlights? What the heck is host Curt Menefee there for? This show should be way better.

NASCAR's Chase for the Cup

Once again, the Chase is close going into the final two races. And once again, I don't care. Maybe it's the format. Maybe it's the length of the never-ending season. Whatever. It just hasn't been everything I thought it could be when NASCAR went to this format in 2004. The Chase is good in theory, bad in reality.

Red River Rivalry

This classic annual football game between Oklahoma and Texas at the Texas State Fair is one of the great rivalry games in college football. Well, it used to be. It still should be. After all, in each of the past three seasons, both teams have been ranked going into the game. Yet, Oklahoma has won the past three games 65-21, 55-15 and 28-20. Actually, only one of the past 15 games has been decided by less than a touchdown even though both teams have been good.

Philip Rivers

The Chargers quarterback is loaded with talent, and he has put up solid career numbers. He once led the league in touchdown passes and, in another season, led the NFL in passing yards. He's 67-37 as a starter. All good, right?

But here's the problem with Rivers: He just isn't as good as he should be. Part of the problem is that he was in the same draft class as Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, each of whom has won two Super Bowls. Rivers is just 12-12 in his past 24 starts. Part of the issue is that he has lost many of his weapons, including star receiver Vincent Jackson who is now with the Bucs. Still, he is putting up his worst numbers in years. He's on pace for 24 touchdowns, the least he has thrown since 2007. And he has thrown 30 interceptions in his past 24 starts.

Tennis' popularity

Television ratings, always an excellent barometer for how healthy a sport is, have decreased in recent years for tennis. This year's U.S. Open men's final had a 2.3 television rating, meaning 2.3 percent of all U.S. households with TVs were tuned in. That was the second-lowest rating ever. The women didn't fair much better. It's hard to understand why men's tennis is losing popularity in this country because we have two of the greatest men players ever in Roger Federer (above) and Rafael Nadal, plus emerging superstars Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Maybe the problem is none of those four men are American. Even though it doesn't technically make sense, those in tennis will understand this: There is no best American men's tennis player right now.

College basketball on TV

Few things in sports are as cool as March Madness. But the problem is wading through the regular season to get there. Maybe there are too many games on television. Maybe there are so many games between really good teams that so-called marquee games have been diluted. Maybe so many teams make the tournament that few regular-season games have real meaning. Maybe college basketball on TV starts at a time when we're all still into football. Whatever the case is, we should be pumped that college basketball on TV is cranking up. Instead, we are like "meh." Well, everyone except Dickie V.

tom jones' two cents

Today, Philip Rivers comes to town as the quarterback of the Chargers. Rivers has been considered one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for several years now, but then again, he and the Chargers never do much in the postseason, even if they get that far. • Football is not an individual sport, but Rivers just hasn't been quite as good as he should be. He has underachieved, and that's what today's list is about: failing to meet reasonable expectations. These players, places and things are not quite doing what they should be doing, and thus, they leave us empty. • This isn't the same as being overrated. Cowboys QB Tony Romo is overrated. This also isn't about being a bust, such as Ryan Leaf or JaMarcus Russell. This isn't about going downhill, like Alex Rodriguez. • This is all about 10 people and things that are good, just not quite as good as they should be. They are underachievers.

Tom Jones' Two Cents: 10 underachievers 11/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 10, 2012 10:05pm]

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