Ratto's Top 25: Lamar Jackson, Vin Scully neck and neck


Ratto's Top 25: Lamar Jackson, Vin Scully neck and neck

First, a moment for Jose Fernandez, the extraordinary Marlins pitcher who died with two friends in a boating accident at age 24. There is no cautionary tale, no subliminal story, no stern lesson that needs to be taught, or learned – just a hideous tragedy done through cruel accident to a young man, his family and friends and compatriots. Sometimes the news is lousy just because it’s lousy, and people can acknowledge the loss without making it a teachable moment, save this:

Despite all the evidence we give each other every day, life is precious. Treat it like it matters. You want a teachable moment? Try this. Death stinks. 

* * * * *

And now, today’s nonsense.

There are some serious surprises in this week’s Top 25 . . . well, there would be if not for the fact that I’m the only voter, and I have a very difficult time surprising myself, especially on something so monumentally subjective, silly and stupid.

But as we all know, you can’t spell The Top Twenty Five without subjective silly and stupid, and even if you can, don’t argue. As always, the parentheticals are actual record, record against the spread, and record against the total.

1. LOUISVILLE (4-0, 3-0-1, 4-0): A push? To Marshall? Let that be a lesson to us all – the job isn’t done until Las Vegas says it’s done.

2. VIN SCULLY (53-30): Would have been a runaway No. 1 if not for his seventh career mistake in 67 years and 10,000 some-odd games, referring to Derek Law as Derek Lowe while he was doing play-by-play on two games at the same time Thursday night.

3. THE MAC WEST (16-7, 17-6, 14-9): For understanding that if you have to be great at either the line or the total, pick the line. You help more people that way.

4. MICHIGAN (the state, not the school – 16-3, 14-5, 12-6): Dovetails a bit with the MAC West ranking, but if Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio doesn’t reorder his priorities, this rating will certainly drop.

5. COLORADO (3-1, 4-0, 3-1): Put a fork in Oregon, kids. You dress up like a flock of mallards, that’s what happens.

6. MICHIGAN (the school, not the state – 4-0, 3-1, 4-0): This is Jim Harbaugh’s Super Bowl year – two years from now, though, if the presumptions are right, Nirvana becomes Narnia and then Nowheresville, and every bit of it will be entertaining as hell.

7. STANFORD (3-0, 3-0, 0-3): David Shaw is going to market his team as The Home Of The Hideously Bad Beat – Come And Get Yours. Of course, anyone who bet UCLA under any circumstances deserves exactly what he or she has coming to them.

8. ALABAMA (4-0, 3-1, 2-2): Not letting the other team score is a bad way to cover that over, Nick. You know that by now.

9. VIN SCULLY (kind of appalling the way nobody is quite sure how many games he actually did in his career in an era in which counting things is our only remaining export): “For those of you who wonder what I will do, put it this way, I’m looking for a much smaller house, and a much larger medicine cabinet.”

10. MIAMI (3-0, 3-0, 2-1): Idle this week, and idle is always good.

11. BRIGHAM YOUNG (1-3, 4-0, 1-3): Now this is a team that understands what’s important.

12. BAYLOR (4-0, 1-3, 0-4): And here’s one that doesn’t – in oh so many ways.

13. YASIEL PUIG (54-43): Brightened a mostly crummy season by helping midwife the global battle cry “Don’t Look At Me” beyond its normal purview of fifth grade schoolyards.

14. SAN DIEGO STATE (3-0, 1-1-1, 2-1): This is a West Coast-heavy ranking week, and even though the Aztecs didn’t play and are mediocre against the line, they are still winning the Closest To The Hole competition by having come within 1½ points of the line after three games, an average of a hook a week. It’s good for the game.

15. VIN SCULLY (Failed to fill out his network bingo card by never having worked for Fox): “Jon Gray with the long hair. As a rookie, he had to dress up in a wedding gown. I'm sure he was lovely.” Baseball Reference has no data, but if Scully says he was sure, I’m sold. Jon Gray looked absolutely scrumptious.

16. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (0-4, 0-4, 1-3): Hit the over against Central Florida, which is as brazen a condemnation of the Central Florida program as its gets.

17. MEMPHIS (3-0, 2-1, 1-2): In the biggest line miss of the day, gave 17½ to Bowling Green and won by 74. The comforting thought for bookmakers, though, is that anyone who bet that game is almost certainly under medical supervision.

18. MISSOURI (2-2, 3-1, 3-1): The good news is, they gave 52½ to Nicholls and covered by 26½. The bad news is, they don’t play Nicholls again, and shouldn’t. Ever.

19. VIN SCULLY (just fewer than 100,000 innings called, the slacker): “You know every time I say ‘Georgia,’ I think of Ray Charles... doesn't it just break your heart the way (Ray) says, ‘Georgia’?”

20. EDUARDO NUNEZ (does it honestly matter?): For doing in 130 feet what Buster Posey could not in 10 – finding a foul popup at dusk and racing to catch in a game that, well, ended up featuring Derek Lowe’s . . . I mean, Derek Law’s first blown save. Damn It! See? Even the great ones can’t get that guy’s name right.

21. TOOMER’S CORNER (one tree down): Auburn beats LSU, fans throw toilet paper into the trees as required by tradition, one apparently angry (and likely drunk) fan sets toilet paper alight, tree goes up in flames. The SEC – Where Arson Happens.

22. TEAM USA (0-3): Nice job, nice work. Cheer up, Torts. That Columbus season will feel better than this.

23. CALIFORNIA (the school, not the state – 2-2, 2-2, 4-0): It took a lot to cover the over last night, but giving up 31 to Arizona State in the fourth quarter while not making the game drag past the four-hour mark will do that for you.

24. CALIFORNIA (the state, not the school – 13-13, 8-15-1, 13-10-1): The below-the-408 line record of 3-10-1 demands mass firings, and nothing less than that will do.

25. VIN SCULLY (5-2 win over Colorado): “That'll do it, you gotta be fed up tired with me. That's for sure . . . wish you all a very pleasant, good evening.” Not bloody likely, wise guy. Get back to work.

And until next week, as always, go away. But not before you spare another thought for Jose Fernandez and those whom he loved and loved him. Bad deal all around.

WNBA All-Star sues Cal over alleged sexual assault


WNBA All-Star sues Cal over alleged sexual assault

BERKELEY — Former California women’s basketball player and current WNBA All-Star guard Layshia Clarendon has filed a lawsuit against Cal claiming she was sexually assaulted by a longtime member of the athletic department.

The school acknowledged the lawsuit Wednesday night and said the staff member, Mohamed Muqtar, had recently been placed on paid leave. The assistant director of student services, Muqtar has been working for the university for just more than 25 years, the school said. An e-mail to Muqtar’s Cal email account was not immediately returned.

Cal said in a statement “the University is aware of the complaint, but has not received a copy of the lawsuit nor had the benefit of reviewing the allegations.”

Clarendon, who plays for the Atlanta Dream and was at Cal from 2009-13, posted on Twitter her thoughts about the lawsuit.

She said in three separate tweets:

— “Regarding the news today: I want the shame to not be my own anymore, because it’s not my shame to carry, but it’s something that I’ve had to carry. It’s a horrible thing to live in silence, to carry that pain and that weight and the guilt.”

— “My biggest hope is that he never does this to anyone else. That no one else has to suffer under his hand, or him violating their bodies again. That this would be the end of him assaulting people. #TimesUp.”

— “It feels there is a big level of responsibility there for me, to make sure this doesn’t continue. And he doesn’t continue to harm other people.”

Cal explained in its statement that this case goes beyond the athletic department for investigation.

The statement reads: “Our department policy states that once anyone in Cal Athletics is made aware of any instance or allegation of a violation of University policy involving a coach, staff member or student-athlete, those matters are referred to the appropriate departments on campus responsible for investigating them. Athletics does not have its own specific conduct process nor does it investigate allegations or cases on its own, but follows the University’s policy and works in concert with campus professionals who are responsible for those areas. All university staff are also required to complete sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training, and those programs have increased in recent years. Cal Athletics is and will always be committed to fostering a culture where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected. We encourage anyone who is feeling distressed or troubled to contact the PATH to Care Center and other campus resources.

“Layshia holds a special place in our history for her contributions to Cal women’s basketball both on and off the court and we are saddened to hear of the allegations that are coming to light today.”

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT


Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT


ATLANTA -- To add another championship to the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, Alabama turned to its quarterback of the future, and Tua Tagovailoa proved that his time is now.

The freshman quarterback, who had played mostly mop-up duty this season, came off the bench to spark a comeback and threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith that gave No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia on Monday night for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

"He just stepped in and did his thing," Hurts said. "He's built for stuff like this. I'm so happy for him." The Tide might have a quarterback controversy ahead of it but first Alabama will celebrate another national title.

For the third straight season, Alabama played in a classic CFP final. The Tide split two with Clemson, losing last season on touchdown with a second left.

What was Saban thinking as the winning pass soared this time?

"I could not believe it," he said. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, `Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."

Smith streaked into the end zone and moments later confetti rained and even Saban seemed almost giddy after watching maybe the most improbably victory of his unmatched career.

After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation , Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.

Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride for the national championship.

Tagovailoa was brilliant at times, though he had a few freshman moments. He threw an interception when he tried to pass on a running play and all his receivers were blocking. He also darted away from the pass rushers and made some impeccable throws, showing the poise of a veteran. Facing fourth-and-goal from 7, down seven, the left-hander moved to his left and zipped a pass through traffic that hit Calvin Ridley in the numbers for the tying score with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.

He finished 14 for 24 for 166 yards. The winning play was, basically, four receivers going deep.

"After the sack, we just got up and took it to the next play," Tagovailoa said. "I looked back out, and he was wide open. Smitty was wide open." Freshmen were everywhere for the Alabama offense: Najee Harris at running back, Henry Ruggs III at receiver, Alex Leatherwood at left tackle after All-American Jonah Williams was hurt. It's a testament to the relentless machine Saban has built.

But this game will be remembered most for his decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.

"I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did," Saban said. "He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable."

Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama's last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.

This was nothing like the others.

With President Trump in attendance, the all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and the five-star recruit from Hawaii entered. The president watched the second half from Air Force One.

"I don't know how Coach Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God he found me and we're here right now."

The Tide trailed 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia's freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.

Fromm threw for 232 yards for a while it looked as if he was going to be the freshman star for the game, the first to true freshman to lead his team to a national title season since Jamelle Holieway for Oklahoma in 1985.

"I mean, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they'll tell you because that's a really good defense he just went against," Smart said.

A little less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was more pain for many of the local fans. Two years ago, Georgia brought in Saban's top lieutenant, Kirby Smart, to coach the Bulldogs and bring to his alma mater a dose of Alabama's Process.

Smart, who spent 11 seasons with Saban - eight as his defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa - quickly built `Bama East. It was Georgia that won the SEC this season. Alabama had to slip into the playoff without even winning its own division.

With the title game being held 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens, Dawg fans packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it turned out to be sweet home for Alabama and now Saban is 12-0 against his former assistants.

But not without angst.

Alabama drove into the red zone in the final minute and Saban started playing for a field goal that would end the game and win it for the Tide. A nervous quiet gripped the crowd of 77,430 as `Bama burned the clock. With the ball centered in the middle of the field, Pappanastos lined up for a kick to win the national championship. The snap and hold looked fine, but the kicked missed badly to the left.

For the second straight week, Georgia was going to overtime. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in a wild Rose Bowl in double overtime to get here, and after Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a big loss on the first play, Alabama was in trouble - second-and-26.

Not for long. Tagovailoa looked off the safety and threw the biggest touchdown pass in the history of Alabama football.