January 3, 2006
Troy Smith:
Accounts for more than 400 yards of offense, leading Ohio State to a thorough win over Notre Dame.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

I can't tell you who's No. 1 in college football for 2005 (well, not until my Rose pick tomorrow), but why not take a stab at 2006?

I was all ready to hop on the Notre Dame bandwagon and set them up as the team to beat in 2006 -- until they were throttled on offense and shellacked on defense by next season's real team to beat: Ohio State.

Based on the way they flew past the Irish, QB Troy Smith and WR Ted Ginn will be the best pass-catch combo in college football -- the heirs to Leinart and Bush.

(The Buckeyes' biggest X-factor is how they will fill the void on defense by their three graduating LBs, the heart of 2005's best D in college football.)

But for one night, Smith and Ginn made fans forget about the pair's talented teammates on the other side of the ball -- not to mention Charlie Weis and the revitalized Notre Dame mystique. (Perhaps a bit overblown: In the end, did the Irish beat anyone besides teams they should have?)

Let's look ahead to 2006: OSU plays at Texas, but there's no reason the Buckeyes can't do the same thing to the home team as Texas did in Columbus this year (even if Vince Young comes back, which is no sure thing).

The Buckeyes' two toughest conference games (Penn State and Michigan) will be played at home in Columbus. They avoid Wisconsin and Purdue. That sets up like a champ's mix of returning talent and favorable schedule.

Even with all the 2006 hype over the USC dynasty, Texas (if Young returns) and even rising powers like Notre Dame or Florida, I'll nominate Ohio State as the preposterously premature (and proven) preseason No.1 for 2006.

Rose Foreshadowing
Allow me some liberties with the tried-and-true sports application of the "Transitive Property":

(For those needing a refresher: If A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.)

Texas edged Ohio State, barely.
Ohio State clocked Notre Dame.
USC edged Notre Dame, barely.

Transitive Property applied:
Texas will beat USC, barely.

Laura Quinn Watch
At some point during the Fiesta Bowl, I think Brady Quinn's sister (and A.J. Hawk's girlfriend) Laura Quinn realized that wearing a special jersey to root on both her bro and her boy was a little lame.

Maybe it was the 5th time brother Brady got his clock cleaned by the Buckeyes D (or maybe it was the 2nd time A.J. did it himself).

Texas: Reasserts itself as elite team with win at Memphis
Larry Brown: Knicks start '06 right with 3OT win over Suns
Tejada deal: Rumors flying that it could come *this* week
49ers: Lose coin flip w/ Raiders to drop to 7th draft slot
Mike Sherman: Pack axes coach; could Favre's exit be next?
Jim Haslett: Of the 5 fired, the least likely to get a job
But the problem with rooting for both teams -- why it's discouraged as a fan tactic -- is that at some point, you have to choose. She obviously went with her bro (which is admirable), but it was too little, too late.

Bowl Wrap
If West Virginia were a "sexier" school, the 1-loss Mountaineers would be finishing the season in the Top 5.

Troy Smith will join Monday QB studs Brady Quinn, Marcus Vick and Chris Leak on the 2006 preseason short list of Heisman contenders. (Count electrifying WR Ted Ginn in there, too.)

Happy retirement to Barry Alvarez, who finished his coaching career at Wisconsin with a stellar 8-3 record in bowl games.

Speaking of ends of coaching careers, was that the final game Kirk Ferentz will coach at Iowa? An NFL team looking for some Saban-esque magic with a Belichick pedigree might whisk Ferentz away.

Alabama WR Tyrone Prothro got my vote for Pontiac Game-Changing Performance of the Year, for his behind-the-other-guy's-back TD catch. 'Bama's offense was never the same without him. (But the Tide's D shutting down prolific Texas Tech was impressive.)

NFL "Black Monday"
The bodies are barely cold from the NFL's traditional "Black Monday," and the rumors are already flying:

The Rams want to talk to Bears assistant Ron Rivera! The Saints might like to talk with ex-Rams coach Mike Martz! The Texans want to talk with Broncos assistant Gary Kubiak! And no one wants to talk to Mike Tice!

It would be nice if there was a "Black Tuesday," "Wednesday," "Thursday" or "Friday," when teams that fired coaches weren't so quick to find a pet candidate and were willing to sincerely interview minority coaches.

(Related: Good to hear that the Packers are going aggressively after Giants D-coordinator Tim Lewis, perhaps the hottest name of any assistant; with so many openings, it's a good bet he'll be hired somewhere.)

Let's all remember the lesson of Steve Mariucci in Detroit: It wasn't simply that the Lions failed to interview a single black candidate -- it was that Mariucci was terrible, adding injury to insult.

My pick for the Matt Millen Award for Equal Opportunity? The Texans. With Dan Reeves acting as a consultant, watch for a fixation on Kubiak. We'll see if they interview others -- and whether it's a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, Norv Turner could be axed in Oakland as early as today. If Al Davis still loves his offense, why not pursue Titans assistant Norm Chow?

Bowlin': Orange
The combined age of Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden is:

A) Greater than the number of combined scholarship players on both teams.
B) Greater than the number of points scored in all four BCS bowls.
C) Greater than the number of critics who still think the game has passed either (or both) of the coaches by.
D) All of the above? (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Maurice Clarett:
Juxtapose last night's Buckeyes win with the image of OSU former star RB Clarett turning himself in after being wanted for aggravated robbery.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Monday's Quickie
Page 2 Index
Premature 2006 Top 5
Ohio State
Need to address loss on D
Only if Young comes back
Notre Dame
Still a brutal schedule
Only if RB White returns
Year 2 Meyer teams leap

Going pro early: I want to see an NFL combine one-on-one footrace between Miami's Devin Hester and Ohio State's Santonio Holmes. Both are burners.

MLB Hot Stove: Astros near a deal for Preston Wilson (25 HR, 90 RBI), who should add some lineup punch (in addition to more Ks: he had 148).

Welcome to the Big East, rookie: Marquette "celebrates" its league opener with No. 2 UConn (ESPN Full Court, 8 p.m. ET).

"NBA Tonight": Keep your eye on a matchup of two of the season's more pleasant surprises when the Grizzlies (19-10) host the Warriors (17-14).

Did anyone else catch that cool Big Ten ad with rapper Talib Kweli during the Fiesta halftime? (Disclosure: My sister helped produce the spot.)

Correction from Monday: The Colts and Seahawks would play the lowest-seeded opponent remaining, not necessarily the winner of the 4/5 game.

Missed Monday's Quickie? Then you missed my New Year's resolutions for the 12 NFL playoff teams. See Q It Up to catch up.

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