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Monday, October 20, 2008
This and That

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Each week I'll talk about the world of sports...

•Wow, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the World Series. What a performance by Matt Garza, David Price, Evan Longoria and Willy Aybar. It has been that was all season long, with different guys coming through in the clutch. The Trop was electric and now it is time for the World Series. This franchise did not have a winning season before this year. Joe Maddon and the front office have to be proud.

•The Red Sox looked like they were put away in Game 5 vs. Tampa Bay. Down 7-0 with seven outs left at Fenway. It looked like the end of the Sox. A hit by Dustin Pedroia got the ball rolling and it was 7-1. Then Big Papi, David Ortiz, hit a three-run blast and it was 7-4. J.D. Drew and company came through, and the relief pitching of the Rays, which has been solid all season long, failed to come through to back up six brilliant innings by Scott Kazmir. At the end of the ALCS, Boston just ran out of gas. What an incredible series it was.

•The Phillies are the opponent for the AL champion. Can this franchise win a World Series for the first time since 1980? Cole Hamels was sensational in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers. Shane Victorino came up with several clutch plays. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are big-time performers capable of coming through in the World Series. Charlie Manuel's team truly dominated the Dodgers.

•Our prayers and well wishes go out to golfer Seve Ballesteros, who is battling complications from a brain tumor. He recently underwent surgery and he is recovering. I remember watching him play brilliantly on the PGA Tour and he was such a competitor, especially when he was involved with the Ryder Cup.

•It is tough to see a coach in any sport stepping down in the middle of a season. That was the case at Clemson, as Tommy Bowden did just that. He put in so much time and energy there, but his team was 3-3 and after a discussion with the athletic director, the coach decided to move away from that situation. Expectations can dominate people. The Tigers were a top 10 team in the preseason poll, but that opening loss to Alabama really derailed the team's hopes and Clemson was never the same.

•Joe Paterno continues to roll on. His Nittany Lions are legitimate national championship contenders this season, and we will learn a lot about his team this week when it travels to Columbus to face the Buckeyes of Ohio State. I will say this, Paterno has earned the right to step down whenever he wants. Right now, he is concerned about one thing  Jim Tressel's team this week, and nothing else. Paterno continues to communicate to his players, getting them to perform at a high level. The come-from-behind win over Michigan was impressive since Penn State fell behind early. It ended up being blowout city.

•Don't be surprised if USC works its way back up to contention for the national championship game. Yes, the Trojans did have a stumble at Oregon State, but don't count Pete Carroll's team out yet. When it is all said and done, figuring out who is in college football's 1 vs. 2 battle will come down to the wire.

•Eli Manning and the Giants responded after a poor showing at Cleveland. Tom Coughlin's team bounced back and got a big W over San Francisco. Right now the Cowboys are really struggling with so many major injuries, plus the suspension of Adam Jones, which was a distraction. Getting blown out by the suddenly rejuvenated Rams could not make Jerry Jones happy. Jim Haslett has done a nice job in St. Louis.

•The Steelers had an impressive win over the lowly Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger continues to show his toughness and leadership on the field in Pittsburgh.

•Has anyone noticed the Chicago Bears are an offensive juggernaut all of a sudden? Nobody rips Kyle Orton these days and Chicago put up 48 against the Vikings!

•Midnight Madness hit big-time down at Maryland. Gary Williams is starting his 20th season coaching his alma mater and he popped out of an RV! Williams has brought a lot of pride and passion in College Park. Down at Lawrence, Kansas unveiled its 2008 championship banner. The Jayhawks lost six key players from the title team, but coach Bill Self has brought in a lot of talented newcomers. Self will have his team battling and scrapping, and the Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk people will see a lot of exciting moments.

•Down at Memphis, they should a tribute to the team that fell just short to Kansas in the championship game. This year's squad will be very different too, since Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey are all gone, listed on NBA rosters. John Calipari will have athletic people who run, press and score. Tyreke Evans should be a diaper dandy to watch.

•Out at Michigan State, Tom Izzo came out for Midnight Madness in nifty clothing, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of Magic Johnson and company beating Larry Bird and Indiana State. This year's Spartan team should compete for Big Ten honors, led by Raymar Morgan and lightning-quick Kalin Lucas.

•Practice has gone into full swing and college basketball will tip it of for real very soon. Midnight Madness started at Maryland, when Charles "Lefty" Driesell got it underway, saying the Terps would be the UCLA of the East.