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BIGGEST HUBBUB

ST. PETERSBURG TIMES STAFF WRITER TOM JONES LOOKS BACK FROM A WEEKEND OF TELEVISED SPORTS.

Doesn't it seem as if UCF football coach George O'Leary, above, is always in the middle of a controversy? The latest came Saturday when he decided not to play banged-up starting QB Brett Hodges and RB Brynn Harvey against Texas - a nonconference game UCF could not be expected to win. Instead, O'Leary decided to rest his stars so they could be ready to play an important conference game this week against Houston. Whether the two could have played is not the point, although that question has been raised.

The controversy stemmed from the fact that Bright House Sports Network's David Baumann reported on Friday that the two players would not play, a report that turned out to be 100 percent accurate. But for some reason, O'Leary was upset with Baumann's report and, for a few moments, refused to talk to the media after the 35-3 loss to Texas as long as Baumann was present. O'Leary eventually relented when Baumann made it clear he was not going to leave.

O'Leary too often comes off as shady and, perhaps, you could tolerate it if he was competing for national championships. Because he isn't, why does UCF put up with it?

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Best pregame

Fox NFL Sunday going to Afghanistan had all the trappings of being a self-promoting gimmick, especially when the show started off by showing how the crew traveled to the Middle East. But it turned out to be an inspirational two hours as Fox truly honored and showed appreciation for the soldiers fighting overseas. There was little football in the pregame as Fox focused attention on the troops, many of whom got air time by asking questions of the broadcasters. There were even a few tear-jerking moments as the broadcasters, one by one, offered their thoughts to the troops, none more powerful than the comments by Jay Glazer.

"Make no mistake about it, America, the bad guys are still out there, and they're gunning for us,'' Glazer said. "Back home, we feel so safe. We feel safe because of you people who sacrifice your lives for us, sacrifice your families, some of which you only get to see for 15 days a year. This week I met a young man who is recovering from the fourth time he has been hit by a bomb, and he's trying to get back out there in the field. I said, 'Why?' He said, 'My brother to my right and my brother to my left. I have to get back out there for them.' For your sacrifice, we will thank you forever."

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Second-best pregame

Fox wasn't the only network to honor the troops over the weekend. ESPN's College GameDay took its show to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the Air Force-Army game. It was mostly your standard GameDay, but just being there - instead of going to, say, Penn State or LSU for the millionth time - was effective enough.

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Worst use of replay

What's the point of replay in college football? How could officials not rule in favor of LSU on what was clearly an interception in the fourth quarter of its loss to Alabama? Not only did LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson get a foot in bounds, replays showed he had two feet in while in possession of the ball. Instead of LSU getting the ball down by six points, Alabama picked up a first down and kicked a field goal to go up by nine.

The thing is, this was not a rare instance of replay gone bad. Every week, there seems to be a handful of replays that are obvious to everyone except the officials. So what's the point? Let's just save time and scrap replay in college football.

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Final thought on Dan Sileo

Dan Sileo, the WDAE-AM 620 morning sports talk-show host who was suspended a week for what his station called an inaccurate story about the Bucs owners and their finances, was back on the air Friday with his normal shtick and no mention of his report. One could surmise the station told him not to talk about the story that landed him in hot water. If so, that's not okay. Somebody - whether it be Sileo, WDAE or Clear Channel, which owns the radio station - needs to say more than just the story was inaccurate. Some explanation is needed. Listeners need to know how the story got on the air and what exactly was inaccurate about it. And until that happens, Sileo's credibility remains in question.

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Best idea

Controversial Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry, below, used his "Coaches Corner'' segment Saturday night to talk about the play in which Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman suffered a concussion when hit behind the net by Ottawa's Chris Neil, as well as other similar plays. Cherry suggested allowing players, like in years past, to use their sticks to slow up attacking forwards in order to protect their teammates behind the net.

"As it is now," Cherry said, "these guys are getting a free shot at (the defensemen) behind the net."

Cherry also suggested removing the goalie's trapezoid, which means goalies would be allowed to handle the puck anywhere in their end of the ice. Don't be surprised if that idea gains enough steam for it to happen.

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Worst comment

The NFL Network's Steve Mariucci is one of the better football analysts on the pregame shows, although we can't help but poke a little fun at him for something he said Sunday. Talking about Ravens LB Ray Lewis, Mariucci said: "That nine-time Pro Bowler will not allow a 100-yard rusher (Sunday). No way, no how." Yes way: the Bengals' Cedric Benson rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati's 17-7 victory against the Ravens.

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Best player

ABC college football analyst Jesse Palmer has a new name to throw on the Heisman Trophy list - Texas WR Jordan Shipley, left, who shredded UCF for a school-record 273 yards Saturday. Shipley is on pace to catch 100 passes this season for 1,400 yards and eight touchdowns, and he already has returned two punts for touchdowns. "Everyone talks about (Texas QB) Colt McCoy," Palmer said, "but Jordan Shipley might be Texas' most valuable player."

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Best interview

NBC's Bob Costas, not surprisingly, did a solid job interviewing Eagles QB Michael Vick, who has had no impact this season going into Sunday night's game against Dallas. Costas' best question was asking whether Vick would stay with Philadelphia out of loyalty because the Eagles gave him a chance or leave to play somewhere else. Vick expressed his loyalty but hinted he wants to play. And NBC analyst Tony Dungy, who has advised Vick, said if the Eagles don't pick up his option, Vick could end up in Buffalo next season.

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Three things that popped into my head

1 How strange that the Oklahoma-Nebraska game wasn't on TV. It used to be the game of the year in college football and, yet, it wasn't good enough this season to be one of the 23 games on over-the-air TV here Saturday.

2 Before everyone starts griping about a bunch of undefeated teams - especially Cincinnati - possibly being shut out of college football's national championship game, let's wait to see if those teams finish unbeaten. After all, raise your hand if you actually believed Iowa was going to lose at home to Northwestern.

3 The Lightning does have a No. 1 goalie, and his name is not Mike Smith.

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