B/R Daily Radar: Hottest Topics for Saturday, Oct. 1
Bleacher Report's daily radar is for all you sports junkies who have to spend eight hours at an office every day where your co-workers couldn't tell you the difference between football and badminton. We get you back up to speed with a quick overview of the day's biggest sports news.
From Terry Francona getting the boot in Boston to the unfortunate death of former NFL offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, it's been a busy day in sports. Not to mention the plethora of big college football games tonight that will have lasting BCS implications.
All that and much, much more ahead on B/R's daily radar!
No. 1: Terry Francona Axed by Boston Red Sox
Heat Index: 10 out of 10 (Move is overshadowing playoff games)
Terry Francona has been relieved of his duties after eight seasons at the helm of the Boston Red Sox. He won two championships during his time with the franchise and was one of the main reasons the Curse of the Bambino was finally laid to rest.
Francona won at least 86 games during every season with the club and the Red Sox won 57 percent of their games with him leading the way. However, due to the team's epic September collapse, a scape goat had to emerge and it turned out to be the 52-year-old manager.
Based on ESPN's expected win percentage tool, Boston was supposed to win 95 games in 2011. Francona only led them to 90, which led owner John Henry and the rest of the Red Sox brass to let “Tito” go.
It appears to be somewhat of a mutual decision. Francona said he thought it was time for a new voice to lead the way. That's a common problem in a redundant daily sport like baseball, players can only hear the same voice tell them the same thing so many times before it gets stale.
Both sides will land on their feet but you get the feeling that its a marriage that was ended too soon during a period when everybody was rightfully frustrated.
Biggest Question Asked: Will Francona find a new job before Opening Day 2012?
Biggest Question Answered: Yes, but only if he wants one. Even though Francona is a good manager, a manager can only go as far as his talent takes him. He won't take a job with a low-level franchise just to have a job. He'll wait out the right opportunity.
Related Links: Terry Francona Fired: Why the Red Sox Went Backward with This Choice (Bleacher Report)
Boston Red Sox: Terry Francona's Top 5 Career Highlights (Bleacher Report)
Could Francona get into Chicago White Sox managerial mix? (Chicago Tribune)
No. 2: Alabama Crimson Tide at Florida Gators
Heat Index: 9 out of 10 (The weekend's marquee college football game)
Alabama travels to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as “The Swamp,” to take on fellow undefeated SEC member Florida. The Crimson Tide have already knocked off ranked teams Penn State and Arkansas and will be the Gators' first test.
You'd be hard pressed to find a better duo than Alabama's Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. The running backs have combined to run for nearly 800 yards and 12 touchdowns in five games. Throw in wide receiver Marquis Maze and you have all the makings of a great offense.
Florida is one of just three hurdles for Alabama to jump en route to the National Championship Game. If they can escape The Swamp with a victory, the Crimson Tide will have just a home game against LSU and the SEC Championship Game stopping them from playing in the biggest game of the year.
The Gators are no pushover, though. Chris Rainey is one of the most dynamic players in the nation and leads the team in rushing and receiving. Jeff Demps can also break the game open with one touch and you can bet you'll see a heavy dose of both guys tonight.
The key to the game will be the Florida run defense, which is allowing just 57 yards per game so far. If they can keep Alabama's running game under control, they have a chance to pull off the upset.
Biggest Question Asked: Who will win this titanic SEC clash?
Biggest Question Answered: Alabama. Led by the combination of Richardson and Lacy along with a couple key throws by McCarron, the Crimson Tide will prevail in a hard-fought game.
Related Links: Florida Football: Why John Brantley Is Key to a Gators Upset vs. Alabama (Bleacher Report)
Alabama Football: Crimson Tide Running Game Will Swamp Florida Gators (Bleacher Report)
No. 3: Mike Heimerdinger Passes Away
Heat Index: 8 out of 10 (A sad day for the sport of football)
Mike Heimerdinger died at the age of 58 while in Mexico trying to find the miracle cure to end his battle with cancer. He was an offensive coordinator with the New York Jets, Denver Broncos and, most recently, the Tennessee Titans.
Heimerdinger was the driving force behind Steve McNair becoming the league's co-MVP in 2003. He had the appearance of a hard-working, down-to-Earth kind of guy and based on the comment by former players and those who have spent time with Mike, that's exactly who he was.
The most vocal of the supporters today has been Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. The two were college roommates and Shanahan called Heimerdinger his best friend and expressed how much he'll be missed by the football community.
Called “Dinger” by those who knew him, the long-time coach was let go by the Titans in February as he continued to fight cancer with every ounce of energy left in his body. It might be the first fight Heimerdinger didn't win, but he put up one hell of an effort.
RIP Mike Heimerdinger
Biggest Question Asked: Did Heimerdinger leave a lasting impression on the game?
Biggest Question Answered: You bet. Judging by the outpouring of kind words from all corners of the football world, it's clear that Heimerdinger left his mark of the NFL. Not to mention he was a pretty darn good offensive coordinator, as well.
Related Links: 'Dinger' leaves behind lessons, memories (ESPN)
Mike Heimerdinger, 58, Helped to Coach Super Bowl Winners, Is Dead (New York Times)
No. 4: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Wisconsin Badgers
Heat Index: 7 out of 10 (Another top-notch college football game)
A game between two top-10 teams would usually be the focus of the college football world, but Nebraska and Wisconsin will be overshadowed by the aforementioned SEC power struggle. That said, this game will be nearly equally as entertaining.
Dual threat quarterback Taylor Martinez is one of the toughest players in American to stop because he can beat you in so many ways. Whether it be running draw plays, taking shots deep, scrambling for big yards or running the option, Martinez does it all and is a nightmare for opposing defenses.
He has teamed up with Rex Burkhead to score 14 rushing touchdowns already in 2011 and those two will have to control the ball (and the clock) if Nebraska plans on shocking the Badgers. Not to mention the huge effort that will be necessary from the Cornhuskers defense.
The reason a monumental effort will be needed by Nebraska's 'D' can be summed up in four names: Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, James White and Nick Toon. Nobody has been able to slow them down yet and it's hard to see it happening anytime soon.
Look for this game to be a back-and-forth affair until halftime. During the second 30 minutes the Badgers will gain control of the game and Nebraska won't be able to make enough stops to get back into the contest.
Biggest Question Asked: Which unbeaten team will remain that way after Week 5?
Biggest Question Answered: Wisconsin. With the quartet of Wilson, Ball, White and Toon leading the way, the Badgers just have too many weapons for Nebraska.
Related Links: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Overrated Cornhuskers Will Be Exposed in Big Ten Debut (Bleacher Report)
Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Live Score, Highlights and Analysis (Bleacher Report)
This weekend's best party is Nebraska at Wisconsin (Seattle Times)
No. 5: Matt Moore Dominates Rangers
Heat Index: 7 out of 10 (Rookie introduces himself to casual fans)
When Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon announced that rookie Matt Moore would start the team's first playoff game against the Texas Rangers there was a debate about whether or not he made the right decision. Debate over, he did.
Moore did enough in his first career start against the New York Yankees on Sept. 22 to earn Maddon's trust. The 22-year-old lefty threw five shutout innings and struck out 11 in that start. The first rookie to throw that kind of game in Yankee Stadium.
He twirled another gem against the Rangers last night, going seven innings without allowing a run and striking out six. The win put Tampa Bay in the driver's seat in the series and will probably keep Moore in the rotation throughout the playoff run.
Major props to Maddon for running the kid out there in a high-pressure situation. After seeing Fredi Gonzalez manage the Atlanta Braves right out of the playoffs by keeping Derek Lowe in the rotation too long, it's nice to see a manager go with the best pitcher instead of “how it's always been done.”
Biggest Question Asked: Is Moore for real or just a flash in the pan?
Biggest Question Answered: He's for real. It took him just four seasons to work his way from rookie ball to the major leagues. Moore probably had the repertoire to pitch in the major leagues as early as 2009, but the extra two seasons of working on his previously wild control has paid off.
Related Links: How Matt Moore Personifies Tampa Bay Rays Superior Management (Bleacher Report)
Tampa Bay Rays Embarrass Texas Rangers in ALDS Rematch (Bleacher Report)
Rays rookie Moore dominates Texas in ALDS opener (Yahoo! Sports)
No. 6: Texas A&M Aggies Stunned by Arkansas Razorbacks
Heat Index: 6 out of 10 (Aggies upset after SEC move confirmed)
Texas A&M led Arkansas 35-17 at halftime and looked well on its way to a bounce back victory after a loss to Oklahoma State last week. However, the Aggies allowed 25 points in the second half and scored just three to end up on the losing side.
The shocking second half meltdown leaves the Aggies at 2-2 before starting the bulk of the Big 12 schedule next week. A season that had such high hopes two weeks ago is now on the brink of collapse if they don't right the ship quickly.
This is Texas A&M's last season in the Big 12 before moving to the SEC next season. They would have liked to leave on top, but a questionable defense makes that seem less and less likely as time goes on. They gave up nearly 600 yards today.
Credit to Arkansas, who kept fighting even though they were getting run over in the first half. Tyler Wilson completed some key throws to get the rally started in the third quarter and Broderick Green scored the game winner with less than three minutes to go.
Biggest Question Asked: What does the loss mean to Texas A&M?
Biggest Question Answered: If the loss to Oklahoma State didn't put an end to the Aggies' BCS dreams, this loss does. They still have a tough Big 12 schedule to navigate and a win against Arkansas would have been a nice boost, but they couldn't get the job done.
Related Links: Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: 5 Things We Learned About the Razorbacks (Bleacher Report)
No. 7: Michael Vick Will Play Sunday vs. San Francisco 49ers
Heat Index: 5 out of 10 (Anything that involves Vick is always big news)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will play through the pain and start the team's Sunday clash with the San Francisco 49ers. There was a cloud of doubt surrounding the electric QB after leaving last week's game with a hand injury.
The ailment wasn't as serious as originally thought and will allow Vick to suit up. It will be interesting to see how Vick plays through the injury, especially if he takes a few knocks on that hand from “innocent” 49ers defenders.
Philadelphia isn't the same team without Vick leading the way, so his inclusion in the starting lineup is paramount if they plan on reaching the lofty preseason expectations. Vince Young and Mike Kafka have had their moments, but neither of them are a game-breaker like Vick.
The worry is always injuring the hand further, but since it's Vick's non-throwing hand that is causing him the pain, that shouldn't be a major concern.
Biggest Question Asked: Should Michael Vick play on Sunday with his injury?
Biggest Question Answered: Yes. The NFC playoff race is going to be wild and the Eagles can't afford to let a winnable game slip through their fingers by holding Vick out. Unless he shows some ill-effects in the early going, he has to be out there.
Related Links: Michael Vick Injury: Eagles and Vick Can't Take Any Chances with QB's Health (Bleacher Report)
Michael Vick Injury: Should Vick Even Play on Sunday? (Bleacher Report)
Vick says hand is "sore" but he's ready to go (The Mercury)