Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.
Friday's Big Questions
1. Which team will take home the Sears Trophy in January 2007?
2. Which player will win the Heisman Trophy?
We're less than one week away from the start of the 2006 college football season and we're giddy. Obviously, so is SportsNation as evidenced by their fast and furious participation in the many preseason polls that debuted today.
While Ohio State is the consensus No. 1 entering the season, there are many teams that have been mentioned as national championship contenders. So we asked the 'Nation to settle things before the first kickoff and they agreed that the Buckeyes are the team to beat, with a surprising runner-up in the balloting. And when asked to pick each conference and division champ, there were no shockers at all.
Which of the AP Preseason Top 25 teams will win the national championship?
19% Ohio State
15% Arizona State
12% Notre Dame
6% West Virginia
SportsNation's BCS conference champions (divisions where applicable):
ACC Atlantic: Florida State
ACC Coastal: Miami (Fla.)
Big 12 North: Nebraska
Big 12 South: Texas
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Ohio State
SEC East: Florida
SEC West: Auburn
In the "Something's Fishy" category - or devilish, even - Arizona State was ranked 26th by the 'Nation out of 30 teams, despite their No. 2 finish in the national championship vote. Here's SN's preseason Top 10:
1. Ohio State
3. Notre Dame
6. West Virginia
9. Florida State
10. Miami (Fla.)
As evidenced by SportsNation placing three of its teams in the top 10, the SEC gets the nod for toughest conference, edging out the Big Ten. Here's the top five:
2. Big Ten
4. Big 12
Brady Quinn for Heisman?
All of the preseason Heisman chat is sometimes rendered moot by the end of the first month, as surprising players emerge and some favorites, or their teams, struggle. We turned to the 'Nation for answers on who has the best chance of posing with the trophy in December in New York City and they picked a Golden Domer. And he also headlines SN's All-America Team:
Which player will win the Heisman Trophy?
1. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
2. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
3. Troy Smith, Ohio State
4. Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State
5. Brian Brohm, Louisville
SportsNation 2006 All-America Team
QB: Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma; Kenny Irons, Auburn
WRs: Dwayne Jarrett, USC; Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State
TE: Greg Olsen, Miami (Fla.)
OLs: Justin Blalock, Texas; Levi Brown, Penn State; Joe Thomas, Wisconsin; Sam Baker and Ryan Kalil, USC
DEs: Quentin Moses, Georgia; Tim Crowder, Texas
DTs: Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State; Frank Okam, Texas
LBs: Paul Posluszny, Penn State; Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma; H.B. Blades, Pittsburgh
DBs:Michael Griffin, Texas; LaRon Landry, LSU; Brandon Meriweather, Miami (Fla.); Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame
Thursday's Big Questions
1. Which National League team will earn the wild card?
2. Will Terrell Owens be ready for the Cowboys' opener?
Every night, the complexion of the National League wild card race changes. Maybe the word "race" is a little strong, considering that the Cincinnati Reds, who are just five games over .500, currently lead the wild card pack.
Either way, those Reds have been proving the doubters wrong all season long and must be taken seriously. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies have played better since dealing Bobby Abreu and are now in striking range, along with the streaky San Diego Padres.
It would have been difficult to find believers outside of southwestern Ohio even a month ago; but SportsNation has changed its tune and now strongly feels that the Reds are playoff bound. While many feel the Padres have a better chance of winning the West than the wild card, there is some pro-Phillies sentiment out there.
Which current non-division leader will earn the wild card in the National League?
The Phillies will make the wild card because of the trade they made for Moyer, because they needed pitching.
Tyler Rost (10 Nothpart Drive)
Please ignore the antics of the Phillies and the entire NL West. Reds/Cards loser gets the Wild Card.
I think it's interesting how the Bobby Abreu trade seemingly has put two teams into playoff position. The Phils still have some work to do, but wow, they seem like a different team.
And Keith Law offered up his wild card pick in chat today:
I'm saying the wild card comes out of the NL West - Padres or Dodgers. The Phillies intrigue me, though - a lot of Florida and Washington on their September schedule, and after Sunday they're done with the Mets.
Terrell Owens was already on "The List" for SportsNation, in terms of athletes they are tired of hearing about. And with his hamstring troubles, complete with daily updates on his condition and coach Parcells' thoughts on the matter, is it possible T.O. is on a list of his own now?
This much is clear: While the majority of the 'Nation expects Owens to be ready on opening day in Jacksonville, they also feel strongly that he'll miss time at some point this season.
Will Terrell Owens be ready to play in the Cowboys' opener at Jacksonville on Sept. 10?
How many regular-season games will Terrell Owens miss this season?
47% One to three
33% Four or more
Oh no! T.O. is hurt and may not play in...A PRESEASON GAME! All other sports talk must cease until this subject is thoroughly overkilled.
Tom (Parkville, MD)
Why does everyone only talk about T.O. not practicing? Hines Ward and Steve Smith have been sitting out all preseason with the same injury, but no one talks about them.
T.O. to miss his third straight preseason game. The difference between him and Ward and Smith is that they have at least played with their QBs.
Jake (Virginia Beach)
Scouts, Inc.'s Matt Williamson even analyzed Owens from a fantasy perspective in his normally scouting-related NFL chat today:
T.O. has been my top WR on my fantasy board-by far - until about a few days ago. I am just too concerned that this injury will linger. I don't think he is dogging it or trying to be disruptive, I just think he is hurt. That being said, I think T.O. is the best WR in football and - if healthy - will have a monster year for fantasy owners. T.O. against the world is when he shines.
Wednesday's Big Questions
1. Did Carlos Beltran out-Pujols Albert Pujols on Tuesday night?
2. Which team got the best of a big NFL trade?
How do you drive in seven runs in one game and potentially lose ground in the MVP race? Just ask Albert Pujols.
The St. Louis slugger was at his best on Tuesday night, homering twice and driving in all seven runs scored by the Cardinals against the Mets. But Carlos Beltran stole the spotlight from Pujols, hitting a walk-off home run to lift the Mets to victory over St. Louis in one of the season's more memorable games. As a result of the loss and another win for the Reds, the Cardinals now hold just a one-game lead in the NL Central.
And just like David Ortiz and the Red Sox in the AL, a contending team's struggles appear to be shaking up the MVP race. Beltran is SportsNation's current pick, but only by a scant fraction of one percent. The final tally may depend on what happens to the Cardinals ... not that Pujols can do much more than he is to help them.
Who is the National League MVP?
37% Carlos Beltran
37% Albert Pujols
26% Ryan Howard
57% St. Louis Cardinals will win the NL Central
One game an does not make an MVP. Imagine what would happen if people actually pitched to Pujols and he had people on base?
Rob (Washington, D.C.)
Beltran doesn't get a chance for the walk-off if Pujols doesn't drive in seven runs. Pujols is the MVP.
The MVP key to me is the win, and right now Beltran is a winner.
Tom (Parkville, Md.)
I'd take Pujols. Beltran at least has Delgado, who cranks out just as many HR's in that lineup. Pujols has ... ? EXACTLY!
Pujols. This is like Papi/Jeter. One gets it done every single day, the other produces when everyone is looking. I'll take the consistency any day.
Matt (Washington, D.C.)
Better question: Where would each team be without their MVP candidates? Cards without Pujols are the Brewers. Mets without Beltran are still better than any NL East team this year. Advantage to Pujols.
Dennis (Austin, Texas)
By definition, Pujols gets MVP (most valuable to team). Take him off the Cards and they are a .500 club .If you would like to say Beltran gets player of the year, no complaints with that.
Jack (parts unknown)
The Atlanta Falcons are the NFL's best rushing team, in part because they have Michael Vick at quarterback and in part because they just like to run the ball. So maybe that explains why despite picking up a guy who SportsNation voters expect to be the team's most productive wide receiver, most voters think the Falcons were the big losers in a three-way trade that also involved Washington and Denver.
Voters give newcomer Ashley Lelie a slight edge over Michael Jenkins in Atlanta, but most prefer either T.J. Duckett going to Washington to back up Clinton Portis, or draft picks and headache cures going to Denver. .
Which team got the best of this trade?
Who will be Atlanta's most productive wide receiver this season?
42% Ashley Lelie
41% Michael Jenkins
17% Roddy White
Kansas City had Larry Johnson and Priest. Now the Skins have Portis, Betts and Duckett. I'm satisfied Al Saunders knows what he's doing, I was never sold on Betts.
Good move for the Falcons. Duckett was never going to start with Dunn and now Norwood, and they got a former first-rounder who could still be a quality No. 1 if he puts it together. It was not much of a gamble for them. The Skins just needed insurance. Worked well.
Jake (Virginia Beach)
Lelie has never lived up to the first-round choice that he was; it is one thing to run a 4.2 40-yard, and it is another thing to catch a football, which he could never do.
Great move for the Broncos. They get AT LEAST a third-round and a fourth-round pick for a receiver who whined better than he played. OK move for the Falcons. They got another underachieving first-round bust WR. Confusing move for the Skins. Gave up way too much for a guy who won't play much with Portis there. If he takes too many goal-line touches, Portis will just cause a scene.
Great move by the Skins. If Portis does miss a little time, they now have Duckett and Betts, and even if Portis is healthy, Duckett is a great change of pace back. Great move.
Tuesday's Big Questions
1. What should the Blue Jays do with Fightin' John Gibbons?
2. How do things look for the rest of the AL?
Ted Lilly and John Gibbons.
Shea Hillenbrand's image improved dramatically based on events in Toronto on Monday night, and he wasn't within 1,000 miles of the biggest city in Canada.
Ditched by the Blue Jays after a confrontation with manager John Gibbons nearly escalated into an all-out fight -- which seemed to be Gibbons' preference -- Hillenbrand watched with the rest of SportsNation as Gibbons nearly came to blows (minus the nearly, according to some reports) with another player on his roster.
The team's offense staked the Blue Jays to an 8-0 lead against the A's, but after Lilly had surrendered five runs and with two runners still on base, Gibbons had seen enough. What began as a verbal argument on the mound then appeared to escalate into a physical tussle in the tunnel of the dugout.
After the game, one Toronto executive was quoted as saying he didn't think any disciplinary action was in order, but SportsNation disagrees. In fact, more than half of voters think the Blue Jays should fire Gibbons.
Based on incidents with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly, how should the Blue Jays discipline John Gibbons?
John Gibbons' team is coming up short again, and he's trying to fight players. I would suspend him now AND fire him later. Those players can't possibly respect him.
Rafael (Blacksburg, Va.)
Did John Gibbons sign his walking papers last night? Seems to me that one incident is excusable (both parties). A second incident? Now it's an issue for the owner to step in and look at his manager's competencies.
Rob (Warwick, R.I.)
I think John Gibbons is trying to draw Toronto to the ballpark by making baseball more like hockey.
Tom (Parkville, Md.)
No matter who is at fault, as a Jays fan and a fan of baseball, I was thoroughly embarrassed last night. Both parties should really be given some sort of disciplinary action. Not to mention the Jays, still in the wild-card hunt, are pretty well out of it now.
Gibbons is worse than Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie verbally bashes you, but what the hell is Gibbons doing confronting two players like that?
Thomas (New York)
Gibbons is obviously running a nuthouse and needs to be fired immediately, but I thought that after he challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a duel instead of acting like a grown man.
Absolutely fire him now. The team is not going anywhere this season, and potential FAs are going to judge the Jays based on their reaction.
Christian (High Point, N.C.)
Maybe a slap-on-the-wrist fine for Gibby, but he was right. If Lilly got that close with an ump on the mound, he'd be suspended no questions asked. He disrespected his coach who was well within reason to pull him after being up 8-0 and then being tagged for seven runs. Lilly had no business staying out there and Gibby was doing his job.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Boot him now and apologize to Hillenbrand for running him out of town.
Brian (Madison, Wisc.)
The new AL MVP?
A five-game sweep at Fenway Park is a pretty emphatic statement about the contrasting fortunes of the Red Sox and Yankees, but perhaps even more stark is David Ortiz's vanishing MVP award.
SportsNation's overwhelming choice for AL MVP as recently as two weeks ago, Ortiz now ranks second to Derek Jeter in the eyes of 'Nation voters. And Ortiz wasn't even to blame for Boston's lousy pitching against New York. But with Jeter's Yankees surging in the AL East, the MVP vote is a clear reflection of SportsNation's take on the two teams.
74% Boston Red Sox are done
Who gets your vote at the moment for AL MVP?
39% Derek Jeter
36% David Ortiz
12% Justin Morneau
7% Johan Santana
5% Jim Thome
Which AL Central team would be the most dangerous in a postseason series?
40% Minnesota Twins
30% Detroit Tigers
30% Chicago White Sox
If the Red Sox are this far behind on Sep. 1, it's over for the division. As for the wild card, they have a chance because the Twins, Tigers and White Sox will cannibalize each other.
Dave (Hazlet, N.J.)
The Red Sox are extra crispy. No need to keep false hope alive.
Mat (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
There still is enough time to rally, but the pitching is in such an awful funk (except Boomer), I just don't think they can make it.
John (Portland, Maine)
Red Sox are done. Not because of how much time they have left, because they do, but this series exposed their pitching for the sham that it is.
Mark (New Jersey)
I WISH the Red Sox were done for the season; then everyone would just shut up about them. News flash to the Yankees fans: No one likes the Yankees either.
John (Georgetown, Ky.)
Plenty of time. Thirty games is enough time to still make a run at the Yankees. Remember, MLB is a marathon and every team gets hot, and the Yankees are now. The Yanks will cool, and if the Sox get hot, they're right back in it for the four-game set in three or so weeks. Plus, they can still manage a WC at worst. The White Sox are looking horrid of late.
Jake (Virginia Beach)
Red Sox are done. They have the worst pitching (starters and bullpen) of any remaining contender. The Papi and Manny show falls short, through no fault of their own.
Monday's Big Questions
1. Where does Tiger rank among all-time greats?
Luke Donald and the rest of golf continue to fall in behind Tiger.
ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski says that after Tiger Woods' win in the PGA Championship that Tiger is now the greatest athlete of all time. Not just the best golfer, but best athlete. Ever.
SportsNation, however, does not agree. Nearly 70 percent of voters say Woods is not the greatest individual athlete of all time but SN does rank him second just behind Michael Jordan. Both dominated their peers with an uncanny knack for coming through in the clutch and impressive performances on the biggest of stages, but MJ gets the nod from The 'Nation.
Tiger falls in behind Jordan ranks ahead of "The Greatest" himself, Muhammad Ali, as well recent luminaries like Wayne Gretzky, Lance Armstrong and Jerry Rice. Even the golfer Woods is chasing, 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, is left in Tiger's dust in SportsNation's rankings.
Is Tiger Woods the greatest individual athlete of all time?
SportsNation's all-time greatest athletes
1. Michael Jordan
2. Tiger Woods
3. Muhammad Ali
4. Wayne Gretzky
5. Lance Armstrong
6. Babe Ruth
7. Jim Thorpe
8. Jesse Owens
9. Jim Brown
10. Wilt Chamberlain
11. Jerry Rice
12. Hank Aaron
13. Joe Montana
14. Jack Nicklaus
15. Magic Johnson
16. Willie Mays
17. Ted Williams
18. Larry Bird
19. Carl Lewis
20. Pete Sampras
Tiger over MJ? That is insane. MJ not only destroyed his opponents will to compete, but he also got his teammates to believe they were better than they really were. MJ also talked his opponents out of their game and then slammed it on their head for good measure!
MJ's high-flying act tops SN's all-time-greatest rankings.These "greatest athlete ever" questions come up every decade or so. Greatest of his generation? Yes. But to say Tiger's greater than Jordan, Ruth or Thorpe is just silly. He's only on their level.
Tiger is a great sportsman but not by any means the best athlete. Could Tiger's golf skills translate into success in soccer, basketball, baseball? Probably not. Michael Jordan, Derek Jeternd others are guys who could play multiple sports. They deserve consideration before Tiger.
Is Tiger a better athlete than Jim Brown was, who was a three-sport All-American in college and probably would have been a stud in whatever sport he played? I doubt it. He's still amazing though.
All you people who say Tiger is not a real athlete are idiots. Have you ever seen him workout? No one in here could keep up with him in the gym.
The fact that Tiger is physically fit and so much of his competition isn't doesn't make him a great athlete. What exactly is athletic about playing golf?
Matt (Memphis, TN)
Tiger is the best athelete of all time. Nothing more, nothing less
If there were a Mt. Rushmore of Athletes it would feature Gretzky, Ruth, Jordan and Tiger.
The important thing to remember is that Tiger has a gorgeous wife and pulls in almost $100 million a year. For him to still be motivated to win majors rather than nap and watch The Price is Right is amazing to me.
I think Tiger just made another long birdie putt.
Christian (High Point, NC)