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Shooting from the lip

tom jones' two cents

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Strongest comment

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is a heck of a player. A heck of a jerk, too. Seems we can't go more than a few games without Suh doing something dirty. The latest incident was kicking Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving Day — the second straight Turkey Day that Suh used his foot against an opposing player.

Even worse, perhaps, than facing punishment by the league, Suh has lost the respect of many who played the game. That includes CBS NFL Today analyst Boomer Esiason, who laid into Suh.

"This is supposed to be a brotherhood," Esiason said. "You're supposed to have respect for one another. Bruce Smith, I could always shake his hand. Reggie White, I could always shake his hand after a game. I would never shake this guy's hand because, once again, he has crossed over the line, and it's obvious it was on purpose."

Best (and funniest) point

Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi did a good job summing up how Miami is self-imposing a bowl ban.

"Still can't believe the Miami Hurricanes, as another mediocre season comes to a close, are trying to head off the NCAA at the pass by self-imposing a bowl ban. Good grief, there should be a new NCAA rule: If you're going to a second- or third-rate bowl, you can't self-impose a post­season bad. In other words, the NCAA should make you go to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. Let's face it, some bowl games aren't a reward; they're a sentence."

Biggest hype

Ohio State finished the 2012 season undefeated after beating rival Michigan on Saturday. But let's hold off, please, on the talk that this team is some sort of national championship contender. There's even some suggestion voters could make the Buckeyes the Associated Press national champ.

Please.

For starters, Ohio State isn't going to play in its conference championship and it won't have to play an Alabama or Notre Dame or whomever in a national title game, meaning it will avoid what would be its two toughest games of the year.

In addition, Ohio State played in a mediocre conference. Other than Ohio State, only three Big Ten teams are ranked, the highest being Nebraska at No. 14. The Buckeyes' nonconference schedule was nothing special either: Miami (Ohio), UCF, Cal and Alabama-Birmingham.

Strongest opinion

Give some credit to Fox college football analyst Joey Harrington. While everyone, it seems, is ready to hand the Heisman Trophy to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny "Football" Manziel, Harrington isn't buying the hype.

He might have a point.

While Manziel was impressive in the victory at Alabama, he struggled against the other two marquee teams on the Aggies' schedule. Against Florida and LSU, Manziel threw no touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for only 87 yards combined. The Aggies lost both games.

Best broadcast

ABC's Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, as you would expect, did a bang-up job calling the Notre Dame-USC game on Saturday, although I did have one nit. Either the crowd noise was turned up too high or Musburger's microphone was set too low. Either way, it was hard to hear Musburger.

The best crew Saturday, however, was Brad Nessler, top, and Todd Blackledge, who called the Florida-Florida State game. It was a treat to sit down and enjoy one of their broadcasts. Normally, they're calling a game at the same time as ABC's featured game with Musburger and Herbstreit on Saturday nights.

Nessler did make one ill-advised comment, saying, "There are some NFL teams that would like (to have FSU's defensive line)."

No NFL team would like to have a college line, especially one that gave up nearly 250 yards rushing. But other than that, Nessler and Blackledge were sharp. As usual.

Three things that popped into my head

1. Notre Dame being in the BCS title game is great for college football, whether you like the Irish or not. As they say, it's good for business. And I have to guess ESPN executives are praying for Alabama to beat Georgia because an Alabama-Notre Dame game would deliver huge TV ratings.

2. The most exciting sporting event of the weekend was a vicious 12-round welterweight fight between Andre Berto and Robert Guerrero. The fight ended with both of Berto's eyes and one of Guerrero's swollen shut. HBO broadcaster Jim Lampley perfectly said, "Is it a brutal sport or the sweet science? This is both."

3. First Ravens safety Ed Reed was suspended a game for an illegal hit to the head. Then it was reduced to a major fine of $50,000. It wasn't bad enough for a suspension, but it was for a major fine. So someone please tell me: Was it an illegal hit or not?

Best topic

All the NFL pregame shows spent significant time talking about the 49ers switching starting quarterbacks from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick, and all did just fine. However, I'd give the edge to Fox, which had the benefit of having Terry Bradshaw, who has been involved in quarterback controversies as a player.

In the end, this is the type of topic that is most interesting on the pregame shows rather than the features and orchestrated controversies.

Funniest commentary

There is no finer broadcasting team in the NFL than NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Even in bad games, these two are a joy to listen to. Take Thanksgiving night, when the two called the Patriots' blowout of the Jets.

The Jets stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way through an embarrassing minute in the second quarter, when the Patriots scored 21 points. And Collinsworth didn't blow his chance to be the strongest analyst in the NFL.

"This is Keystone Cops," Collinsworth said. "Remember the old Football Follies? This is it. You're getting a chance to see it."

He wasn't done.

"The whole world is watching," Collinsworth said. "And they are sitting on the couch. And you got your wife and your grandmother, and they are asking, 'Do the Jets always play like this?' "

Brilliant.

Best feature

Go on ESPN's website and check out Tom Rinaldi's College GameDay piece on Rutgers fan Austin Starego, who battles autism and has become an outstanding high school kicker.

Best coaches

Even though the Big Ten is in a down cycle, it does have, perhaps, the two leading candidates for coach of the year. Despite an easy schedule, Ohio State's Urban Meyer did a splendid job. Meantime, the fact Penn State's Bill O'Brien, left, lost 10 transfers and kept his team focused enough to win eight games was quite remarkable.

Best feature

Go on ESPN's website and check out Tom Rinaldi's College GameDay piece on Rutgers fan Austin Starego, who battles autism and has become an outstanding high school kicker.

Shooting from the lip 11/25/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 8:22pm]
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