August 29, 2003
Welcome back,
Britney Spears:

In rare "reverse shark-jumping," Britney resurrects her relevancy with jaw-dropping lip-lock with Madonna at MTV Awards. Thursday, she headlines NFL Kickoff bash.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
LOSE.  NO. 1?

Forget "Who's No. 1?" The catch-phrase for the college football season is "Lose No. 1?" because winning the title takes such a simple strategy: Just don't stumble.

Yet how many would-be contenders won't clear that bar over an opening weekend filled with dangerous match-ups? Bye-bye, Maryland: Northern Illinois upset the No. 14 Terps on Thursday night, and that's just the start.

Three big "upset specials": Oklahoma St over increasingly irrelevant Nebraska... USC over trendy contender Auburn... Washington over defending champ Ohio State. Talk about starting the season with no mo'...

The upshot: The BCS title-game selection process has always had one glaring "TILT" scenario -- what happens if no teams go unbeaten and, say, more than two have only one loss?

Keep your pick for champs; here's the bigger prediction: By mid-November, "Lose No. 1?" and "Who's No. 1?" will collide -- and the BCS house-of-cards will finally collapse.

AL Central
Don't try to make sense of the race right now: The division (K.C. re-knotted lead Thursday) won't be decided until the last weekend of the season when the Royals play the White Sox in what will be a de facto playoff.

NL Central
In command of the division? Try the Brewers: Not even shouting distance from first place or even .500 -- but currently scorching opponents. With a remaining schedule including six vs. the Cubs and Cards each and eight vs. the Astros, Milwaukee will have more impact on who wins the division than any of the three contenders.

FINALLY, OUR SATURDAYS ARE "BOOKED" AGAIN
THE SET-UP: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR THE WEEKEND
1 Yankees at Red Sox: Headlined by Pedro-Pettitte on Sat
2 US Open: Don't expect many upsets
3 USA Hoops: Look for close out of rest of hemisphere
THE SIT-DOWN: DROP THESE FROM YOUR HOT LIST
1 Phillies: Swept by Expos; being crushed by road trip
2 David Wells: Bad outings could mean exit from rotation?
3 Lions RB James Stewart: Out indef. w/ shoulder sep.
 
NFL Preseason Finales
What chutzpah to charge full freight to see nervous backups battle it out for the three-spot on depth charts. Because the weekend mantra is: Protect your starters.

By the way: If the Cowboys match their 52-point outburst from Thursday night in the regular season, I'll parade around the Times Square ESPN Zone wearing a team helmet. That's the safest of bets.

Steer Eye for Race Guy
Kurt Busch's sponsor insists he participate in a mentoring program they are setting up for him, NASCAR's version of a Queer Eye "make-better." Which potential behavior coaches have some time on their hands? Possibilities: Mike Price, Larry Eustachy, Rick Neuheisel, Dave Bliss. Nevermind.

Mickelson's Dreams
So Phil Mickelson wants to try his hand/arm as a minor-league

pitcher? Amusing until he pulls a Conseco and blows out his elbow. He hits lefty -- too bad he throws righty; MLB teams are always desparate for good southpaws.

Fantasy Football
Looking for a sleeper with a dreaded late first-round pick? Two words: William Green. Haven't joined an ESPN.com fantasy football league yet? Two more words: Still time.

East Coast Bias
In honor of "East Coast Bias" week on Page 2: Obliterating the concept of "too late for this edition," the Internet has been the best thing to happen to West Coast sports since the East created (that's right: created) sports in the West by giving away the Dodgers and Giants.

USOC:
Scandal? Cover-up? Shocker.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
P2: College Football Hot/Not
NFL Preview
College Football Preview
 
"CFB Retro Jersey" Edition
Spurrier '66
Fla '03 QB outlook hazy
 
Brown '56
How many great RBs w/o Clarett?
 
Kelly '80
Miami QB Berlin starts fast
 
Campbell '77
Ced Benson good, not THAT good
 
Herbstreit '92
Gotta love Kirk retro!
 

Ironic word choice: Ohio St AD says Clarett will be suspended for "healthy" number of games (3 or more). Can we have a decision already? ...

Make way for the "Tweens Dynasty": The image-conscious WTA is considering removing its current age restrictions ...

Retro-jersey watch: NFL is out, and college is in. Nike has a new line that'll slay at the tailgate (see Big 5, above) ...

Just so things can get off to a great start if they are upset this weekend: Wisconsin is the sleeper pick to be nat'l champs ....



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