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Good morning! Smells like college football.
Milestones: Four Week Zero questions
In five days, we get college football. We made it. I’m proud of us.
We’ll have plenty of preview content over the next two weeks, but I want to start this week by expressing an emotion we’ve seen little of in a summer filled with conference realignment stress: excitement.
Four things I’m excited to see this season:
1. What’s a Carson Beck?
That’s Georgia’s new starting quarterback, coach Kirby Smart confirmed Saturday. He’s a relative unknown under enormous pressure. The hopes of the two-time defending champions ride with him. (OK, and a great defense.) Beck was a four-star recruit in high school and has looked good in limited mop-up duty action. Good luck, kid. Working in his favor: an incredibly easy schedule, even by SEC standards.
2. Who’s our midseason darling?
Over the weekend, David Ubben and Ari Wasserman published a great list of lessons from 2022 to apply before we enter the 2023 season. A key one: Don’t fall for the plucky undefeated team midseason. Me? I’m ready to be hurt again. Give me a 5-0 Kansas-type to stupidly place a Playoff bet on in November. (I really wanted this to be South Carolina, but the early slate is brutal.) This is what makes college football great. I will fall again.
Want to pick one? Antonio Morales has a fun Bandwagon Fan’s Guide to 2023 out this morning. Dibs on Oregon State.
3. Is Texas back?
I won’t believe it until I see it, but that doesn’t stop the hype train. On paper, the Longhorns have every tool available for a “Back” year. Starting quarterback Quinn Ewers was actually great when healthy last year, and he’s had another year to marinate in Steve Sarkisian’s system. Texas has one last year of the Big 12 schedule before heading to the SEC. A conference title is theoretically within reach, but again, I won’t be taking the bait until they’re close. It does mean we’ll be watching closely week to week. AP voters are also cautiously optimistic after putting Texas at No. 11 in the preseason poll.
4. What’s the vibe?
This goes back to our conference realignment chaos. Suddenly, we’re at the first day of senior year, and we know that everything is going to change next season. Conferences will collapse. Rivalries, too. Will Oregon sign Oregon State’s yearbook? Will Oklahoma and Oklahoma State stay in touch? This year will be a literal scrapbook of the Way Things Were. It’ll be fun, and we should cherish it, but it still feels weird. If you’ve blocked out conference realignment chaos, catch up with our handy reset explainer here.
There’s plenty more to satiate your college football appetite. See this weekend’s full slate here, including an intriguing Notre Dame matchup in Dublin. (Ireland, not Ohio.) Chris Vannini also ranks all 133 FBS teams here. I’m always fascinated by teams 11-20 in these preseason polls. Someone will vault out of there.
P.S. Yes, I know LSU’s expectations are high and yes, I am terrified and excited to watch. No further comment.
Things, Ranked: The NFL’s best and worst stadiums
You have to give Washington credit. Despite inconsistency on the field and instability in the front office, the franchise has reliably fielded a winner in one area: having the worst stadium in the NFL.
The Athletic’s NFL writers convened once again to rank NFL stadiums, 1-30, which was updated this morning by Jon Machota. I’ll give you top three and bottom three:
1. U.S. Bank Stadium (Vikings)
2. SoFi Stadium (Rams and Chargers)
3. Lambeau Field (Packers)
These all track. Lambeau is just a perfect setup, and has oodles more history than its fancy, new-construction upstairs neighbors. Now the bottom three:
28. Hard Rock Stadium (Dolphins)
29. TIAA Bank Field (Jaguars)
30. FedEx Field (Commanders)
The last two are understandable, outdated stadiums in serious need of an update. Even the weird pool can’t save TIAA Bank Field. Hard Rock Stadium surprised me — the venue underwent a huge renovation in 2015, and it’s still down here? Woof.
There’s plenty more to quibble about in the full story here. I’m excited to read the comments section later.
News to Know
It’s Ant season
There is a common conceit that an international tour with Team USA can mold an NBA superstar. It’s already happening with 22-year-old Anthony Edwards, the young Timberwolves hotshot who has become “the guy” during Team USA’s undefeated run through a World Cup exhibition tour, never more apparent than his herculean effort yesterday in a comeback win over Germany. Steve Kerr thinks he’s a superstar, so we do, too.
Next stop, Double-A
Two top baseball prospects — San Diego’s Ethan Salas and Washington’s Dylan Crews — are both headed to Double-A in record time, both teams announced yesterday. Salas is just 17(!) and spent all of nine days in High-A. By bio alone, he is the most impressive prospect in baseball. Meanwhile, Crews was playing college baseball (at LSU) two months ago and has crushed Single-A pitching. We’ll see if he makes a September appearance in the majors.
- After her massive win over Iga Świątek on Saturday, 19-year-old Coco Gauff went ahead and won the Cincinnati Open. She’s on a major heater just a week before the U.S. Open.
- Viktor Hovland carded one of the best rounds in recent memory yesterday, a Sunday 61 to win the BMW Championship against a loaded field. It’s a massive win for Hovland, who rises to No. 2 in the FedEx standings just before the biggest tournament of the season.
- Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner met with manager Yankees manager Aaron Boone over the weekend. It’s a sign changes could come soon in the Bronx. The 60-64 Yankees are in last place.
Photo of the Day: Yes, it’s a pencil bat
The Nationals beat the Phillies last night in what was one of the cooler games of the year. It happened in Williamsport, Pa., where the Little League World Series is happening right now. Even cooler: MLB sold no tickets for this game.
The entire crowd of 2,473 fans were Little Leaguers and their families (and some corporate sponsors for good measure). MLB has done a fantastic job with these one-off games the last few years. Bravo. And we got to see Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott rock a custom-made pencil bat, as seen above. A-plus.
Also, a few big-name Phillies attended a LLWS game earlier in the day to support the kids from Media, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. Imagine playing a little-league game and seeing Bryce Harper in the stands rooting for you.
Matt Gelb has a great story on the day, which may be commercialized, sure, but it didn’t detract from the spirit of it all.
Loved this: The coolest athlete around the Eagles might be Lauren Patullo, the 15-year-old daughter of passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo who has the swing of an LPGA golfer and the swagger of a Super Bowl champ.
Steve Buckley lauds the Patriots and Packers for doing the right thing in the scary Isaiah Bolden situation over the weekend.
The worst division in MLB history? Welcome to a weekend in the AL Central. More on this tomorrow.
I thought Brendan Quinn’s story on Scottie Scheffler, the best ball striker we’ve seen since Tiger, was fantastic. If Scheffler had a better putter, he’d be in a different universe.
A couple of interesting hockey stories today. Up first: Corey Pronman looks at every team’s future in his annual NHL Pipeline Rankings. A must-read for hockey fans.
Meanwhile, Allan Mitchell has an interesting look at the five riskiest moves of the NHL offseason and what they mean for 2023-24.
We have fantasy football breakout candidates from every team. That Deuce Vaughn is so hot right now.
(Photo: Tim Warner/ Getty Images)