Several non-local items top this week's list of rants

Friday, December 20, 2002
John Mesh

There are several items I would like to discuss. And good news, none of them are local.

- LeBron James -- The Ohio high school basketball star, who more than likely will be the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, made his national debut last week on ESPN.

You know ESPN -- the "Exploitation" Sports Network.

James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old.

He has representatives from Nike and Adidas circling him like sharks.

And he has Dick Vitale screaming about him on national TV.

I have one piece of advice for the kid -- know who your immediate friends and family are.

And tell all the strangers not to let the door hit them in the rear end on their way out. - Nebraska and Kansas State football -- Last year at this time, Nebraska fans were getting fired up about the Cornhuskers playing Miami in the Rose Bowl. Miami won 37-14.

The Cornhuskers struggled to a 7-6 record this season, but will still make their 34th consecutive bowl appearance.

Nebraska plays Mississippi (Ole Miss is 6-6) in the Independence Bowl Dec. 27 at Shreveport, La. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN.

Fans are not enthused about this year's game. Only 2,000 tickets have been sold to Cornhusker fans.

Nebraska coach Frank Solich fired three defensive assistants and is in the process of hiring an offensive coordinator. Solich has served as both head coach and offensive coordinator for the past five years.

Current NU assistant Turner Gill has applied for the position.

However, since he is well-schooled in the Husker tradition of run first, run second, run third and pass occasionally, it might be smart if Solich went looking for a coordinator with a passing background.

Ole Miss features quarterback Eli Manning. Yes, he's the brother of former Tennessee great Peyton Manning (now with the Indianapolis Colts) and the son of former college and NFL great Archie Manning.

It would not be a shock if much-maligned Nebraska QB Jammal Lord plays a great game. The Huskers would like to avoid finishing 7-7.

The Kansas State Wildcats, who thumped the Huskers at Manhattan, finished the season with a 10-2 record.

Kansas State plays Arizona State (8-5) in the always-entertaining Holiday Bowl game in San Diego at 7 p.m. on Dec. 27.

Arizona State is coached by Dirk Koetter, who has family ties right back here in McCook.

Kansas State leads the nation's NCAA Division I football teams in nearly every defensive statistical category.

Offensively, the Wildcats feature the 1-2 punch of quarterback Ell Roberson and tailback Darren Sproles, who have both rushed for better than 1,000 yards.

The Wildcats bounced back from a 6-6 record last season.

I'm not making any predictions on bowl games this year. I don't think Ohio State has much of a chance to dethrone Miami in the national championship game (the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.) Jan. 3.

I think the Orange Bowl matchup Jan. 2 at Miami between Southern California and Iowa is the most intriguing game.

The game features Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer from USC and Iowa QB Brad Banks.

- Major League Baseball -- Let's talk baseball. Yes I realize it's December.

What in the name of Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro (look them up kids) is going on in Atlanta?

The Braves let future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine sign as a free agent with the New York Mets. Then they acquire pitchers Mike Hampton (trade-Rockies), Russ Ortiz (trade-Giants) and Paul Byrd (free agent-Royals) and kept future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

It's sad that the Kansas City Royals could not come up with enough money to pay Byrd, who posted a 17-11 record for a team that lost 100 games.

Right now the staff ace in KC is Runnelvys (Run Elvis) Hernandez. Enough said about the Royals.

- NFL playoff picture -- The Kansas City Chiefs' slim playoff hopes may have officially ended when MVP candidate Priest Holmes was pulled down from behind on a 55-yard run and injured his hip.

The Chiefs aren't mathematically dead yet. The line hasn't flattened out.

By beating the Chiefs, the Broncos are still alive. Oakland leads the AFC West with a 9-5 record, followed by Denver and San Diego at 8-6 and Kansas City at 7-7.

Actually, 13 of the 16 teams in the American Football Conference are still alive with two games left on the regular season schedule.

And in a statistical anomaly, there is a chance that 12 of them could end up with 9-7 records.

In the AFC East, Miami leads at 9-5, followed by defending Super Bowl champion New England at 8-6. The Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets are 7-7.

In the AFC South, Tennessee and Indianapolis are both 9-5. Jacksonville and Houston have losing records at 6-8 and 4-10.

In the AFC North, Pittsburgh leads at 8-5-1. Baltimore and Cleveland are 7-7. The lowly Bengals bring up the rear with a 1-13 mark.

If Kansas City beats San Diego Sunday and Denver beats Oakland, Denver and Oakland would be tied at 9-6. Kansas City and San Diego would be tied at 8-7.

The Raiders host Kansas City Dec. 28, San Diego hosts Seattle and Denver hosts Arizona Dec. 29. If KC, Seattle and Arizona win, there would be a four-way tie in the AFC West at 9-7.

Chances are the Chiefs are done and sadly it is because of injuries. In addition to Holmes, the Chiefs lost fullback Tony Richardson and kicker Morten Andersen for the season.

Holmes has 24 touchdowns and could just miss breaking the NFL record of 26. He will also just miss out on his second straight rushing title.

That concludes this ranting piece of statistical fluff for today.

Now for the weather ...

John J. Mesh is the sports editor of the McCook (Neb.) Daily Gazette. He wishes you a Merry Christmas, he wishes you a Merry Christmas, he wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

There won't be a column next week because of the holiday, which I'm sure is a relief to some of the readers.

John can be e-mailed at sports@mccookgazette.com.

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