Hey, the San Diego Padres are actually alive.

Not thriving by any chance but they displayed a bit of a pulse by agreeing to terms with free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer on an eight-year, $144 million contract.

In reality, it is really a five-year, $105 million deal because the contract is frontloaded and gives Hosmer the ability to opt out. Since the last three years average just $13 million per season and Scott Boras is his agent, what do you think Hosmer will do after the 2022 campaign?

Yeah, pretty easy one. He will opt out.

But whether Hosmer is on the Padres in 2023 is a topic for another time. What the Saturday night signing really means is the Padres actually made a splash.

The Padres have been acting like they weren’t going to be a contender for a long time. Landing an All-Star first baseman like the 28-year-old Hosmer at least makes their everyday lineup better and creates some optimism.

San Diego’s other All-Star caliber offensive player, Wil Myers, will move from first base to the outfield and the Padres can now line up Myers, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe in the outfield.

Former Padre Chase Headley is back in town as the third baseman and slick-fielding Freddy Galvis is the new shortstop. Catcher Austin Hedges is a capable player too.

Of course, the pitching staff is a mess so there isn’t a realistic chance of breaking through this season. I’d be surprised if the club doesn’t experience its eighth straight losing campaign but now you can at least feel a little bit of success looms on the horizon.

There was none of that to be found last season — the Padres were brutally bad and were fortunate to only finish 20 games below .500.

Hosmer has smacked a career-best 25 homers in each of the past two seasons. He has driven in more than 90 runs in each of the past three and he has won four Gold Gloves in the past five seasons.

He was part of two World Series teams with the Kansas City Royals, including the victorious group in 2015. Homser also was MVP of the 2016 All-Star Game, held in … yeah, you remember, Petco Park.

Most importantly, he provides hope to a group of loyal fans and a city dying to fall back in love with the Padres. What was the name of that sad-sack NFL team anyway?

As the Padres build, Hosmer will be that face of the franchise they were lacking.

Will he be worth the investment? We will know in a few years. But what he represents now is this: The Padres are at least trying.

That wasn’t readily apparent prior to Saturday night.

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I never knew I had a favorite country singer. “Now I Know.”

I learned this Jan. 23.

Was doing one of the 40 or 50 online searches I do during a work shift and I saw a familiar face but the headline was out of my view.

I scrolled downward and the headline was crushing: ‘Now I Know’ Singer Lari White Dead at 52.

Whatever sports stuff I was searching for quickly took a backseat. I had to read that story immediately. Totally saddened me to learn how a rare abdominal lining cancer that she was diagnosed with four months earlier took her life and left three teenage kids without a mom.

They are holding a “Celebration of Life” for Lari White in Nashville on Monday evening and I decided I am going to do my part to keep her memory alive.

I once wrote an item on this website about rock singer John Waite’s top 10 songs and it remains one of the most searched things that causes people to land on my website. So five years from now, 10 years from now, people can still reminisce or learn about Lari White by seeing this post.

That works for me.

In case you didn’t know, Lari White would help people pronounce her name correctly by saying “it rhymes with starry night.” That is fitting because that certainly will be her star shining in the sky when you look upward at night.

Funny that I learned about her due to her three gigantic Top 10 hits off the “Wishes” album in the mid-1990s. But upon her death, I learned that she is famous to millions of other people due to her acting.

That is Lari White playing alongside Tom Hanks in the dramatic final scene of the movie “Cast Away.” … Yeah, I never knew … but here it is for you … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afiuJ2tsoVA&t=17s

The other thing that has stuck out to me since White’s death is reading hundreds of comments from people who either knew her well, knew her slightly or had a chance meeting with her.

Every single person raves about her. I’m talking gushing remarks with details of her unparalleled kindness and caring nature.

Most people reaching a high level of fame who sing their hits on the Letterman and Leno shows develop a bit of an ego. Remember, I cover sports for a living and have lots of firsthand experience of seeing arrogance at its highest level. Or lowest level (Hey, Ryan Leaf!)

So it is rare for someone this accomplished to remain so grounded and be so beloved by everyone. Usually, a person’s success alone is going to create jealousy from someone at a minimum, and typically the increased demands and attention pull out some hidden warts.

I can’t find a single person who didn’t like Lari White. All I find are people who adore her. Pretty touching.

Oh yeah, so you are wondering how the heck I even know of this woman since I grew up listening to The Cars and The Doors and whatever band John Waite was in (Babys, Bad English) when he wasn’t a solo act … OK, here are the details.

I only know country music from 1994-98 because my sister and one of my brothers used to hang out at the big country bar in the Mission Valley area of San Diego.

So pretty much, if I wanted to hang out with my sister, I had to go to that place. (Um, please refrain from jokes about hanging out with my sister. Someone might read this to her).

It was different music than I was used to on some levels, but there were plenty of songs that weren’t too far off my comfort level.

The first time I heard “That’s My Baby” at that country bar, I had no idea who was signing it but I instantly knew it was someone with a stellar voice. Then I saw the video for the song and it was amazing just how much fun the woman was having. Such magnetic personality with a total goofy side. Impossible not to like her.

This video was my first time seeing Lari White sing that Top 10 hit … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjPp01DQgsA

Then a few months later, I heard the stellar “Now I Know” and I somehow recognized the voice. I ended up buying the cassette tape (wow, might need a picture of that for the younger folks) as one of my few country music album purchases.

That song was not only a Top 5 hit, but it proved therapeutic for me following the end of the 1994 college football season. For whatever reason, when the work slowed down, I was hit with a lot of depression over a three-month span that I couldn’t seem to shake. So I would lay there at night (picture 3 a.m.) and play “Now I Know” five or six times in a row just looking for inspiration.

Eventually, I would get some sleep.

Here is Lari White’s biggest hit here … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLn5pdWeBLE

Also on the same album was “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love).” During the past few weeks, I have seen dozens of accounts of people saying that Top 10 hit was their wedding song and how people would write White to tell her that.

That is kind of cool. Almost as cool as having David Letterman inviting you to come sing it to the studio audience … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNEz8y5eYc4

And like all albums with three major hits, there is another song on “Wishes” that would be the best song on most people’s albums. Got to say “Go On” is a pretty good fourth-best song for one cassette tape (Yeah, I have the CD now) … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm8GTVRRiP4

My country music window closed a few years later and I never heard any other songs from White at the time of their release. I know now that she eventually put the music career aside and was concentrating on acting and starring in a Broadway musical and with being a mom.

But I did find a very lively hit song called “Take Me” from her “Stepping Stone” album. And I think we get a good glimpse of her personality at the beginning.

She is trying to teach a kid how to pronounce her name and he is saying “Larry” or “Lori” and she just can’t get him to say it right. Her reaction when the kid calls her “Lori” is pretty funny … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9ML95rnLY0

The title track song was new to me as well and here’s the link for that … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PowEaoFdr0U

So I was thinking … I really knew nothing about what was going on in Lari White’s life for about 23 years. Nothing about her music, nothing about her acting. Flat-out nothing.

But this whole situation hit me kind of hard — she was just 52! — and I have been reading a lot of things about how fast Lari’s health went downward.

As 2017 reached its midway point, White probably figured she would live another two or three decades. She even released her first album in 13 years earlier in the year.

Heck, I saw an interview of her that is from February 2017 where she is so full of life and encouraging her fans to get on her email list or contact her on social media.

More Heck, I saw a video of her singing at a concert from early September. Less than two weeks after that, she was diagnosed with cancer.

She had been teaching online songwriting and voice lessons to people and in mid-November, she penned a letter saying she needed to step away due to the cancer. Two months later, she was gone.

We all know life isn’t always fair. We never understand why a creep like Charles Manson gets to live to age 83 while some 8-year-old kid gets a rare disease and dies without getting a chance to live.

So yeah, somebody who is a fabulous person by all accounts dying at age 52 is bothersome. And I’m not even factoring in the talent part of the equation.

I think that is why it hit me so hard and continues to have an effect. This was one person the current world needed … badly.

But perhaps heaven needed some reinforcements too. As in another angel.

RIP to Lari White, the best country music singing voice I have ever heard.

There are undoubtedly a lot of people who knew her personally singing one of her spectacularly sung lines:

“I always wondered how I’d live without you. Now I know.”

We received a spectacular Super Bowl to enjoy and the ending was even better.

We saw Tom Brady and Bill Belichick walking off the field as losers.

Oh yeah, if a “football expert” tells you a guy can’t play, just assume that he actually can.

On a day when not much defense was played, it was a huge strip-sack by Philadelphia defensive end Brandon Graham that was the biggest play as the Eagles recorded a 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

Now we only hope that the city of Philadelphia still exists once the celebrating ends — or at least dies down.

The title is the Eagles’ first since 1960 — before the Super Bowl era — and quarterback Nick Foles gets to go through the rest of his life as a Super Bowl hero and Philadelphia sports legend.

Foles — you know, the guy that can’t play — was named Super Bowl MVP after passing for 373 yards and three touchdowns and also CATCHING one.

Remember that infamous time when Brady’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, complained that her husband can’t throw and catch the ball?

Wow, did she turn out right.

Brady dropped a big gainer when he went out for a pass in the right flat. So point made — he can’t both throw and catch.

But Foles can as he caught a scoring pass from tight end Trey Burton on a play that was superbly designed by the Philadelphia offensive coaches. It even included Foles wandering to his right guard and right tackle as if he is about to audible or adjust a blocking call as the ball gets snapped to running back Corey Clement who pitches it to Burton, who expertly hits Foles for the score.

That play will be the signature moment of the Eagles’ victory as time goes on. But the most important one was Graham forcing Brady to fumble with 2:09 left. That allowed the Eagles to kill time and tack on a field goal with 58 seconds left to leave Brady a lot less time to operate.

The Patriots helped out by calling for a poorly devised kickoff reverse that cost them both yards and time. And eventually Brady’s final last-second heave into the end zone came up empty and it seemed like 90 percent of the nation was happy.

Of course, we couldn’t get through the Super Bowl without some controversial ‘Is that a catch?’ moments and both went the way of the Eagles — one involving Clement and the other being the go-ahead score to tight end Zach Ertz with 2:21 left.

But the right team won this game, no question about that.

If you recall, the Eagles’ chances of winning a Super Bowl ended when star quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury. The football experts — a term that should be used loosely as ever — said no way a guy like Foles could guide a team to a Super Bowl.

But there was Foles competing with Brady (503 yards, three touchdowns) and coming up with the clutch throws and displaying incredible poise.

Hey football experts, there is a reason why they play the games. And there is also a reason why most regular people around the country have little regard for “experts.”

So the Eagles are Super Bowl champions and now we wonder what happens to the Patriots. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is off to coach the Detroit Lions, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to become coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Brady will turn 41 before next season starts.

Bill Belichick, who turns 66 in April, doesn’t seem like a guy who wants to go through breaking in a new quarterback. So let’s say Brady plays two more seasons, I say Belichick coaches two more seasons.

If Brady plays just one more, I say Belichick coaches just one more.

So we are close to the end of the Patriots’ dynasty and that can only come as great news to most of the nation. New England has won five Super Bowl crowns in the Belichick/Brady era but the franchise is strongly disliked by outsiders.

That is kind of what makes Sunday’s outcome so delightful — a journeyman like Foles shot down the big bad Patriots and shut the mouths of the annoying experts.

Super day indeed.

I’ve repeatedly been asked the same question since I was ahead of the curve and made the jump to FLM four weeks ago:

Where can I find your stories?

Pretty simple, just like the gig I left: Anywhere and everywhere on the online surface.

One of my co-workers alerted me to the fact that our work runs in the Daily Mail in London. That’s a new one for me.

My favorite place to land at the former gig was the New York Times. Didn’t matter that they stripped my byline off … I couldn’t ever have envisioned something I wrote being on the New York Times website when I was a measly print reporter.

After ESPN scrubs your byline off a couple hundred times, you really don’t worry about whether your name is on the article or not.

But hey, my new workplace actually has a legitimate website so perhaps that is where I should be pushing the traffic.

I handled Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour on Thursday during my many assignments. He shot even-round 72 at famous Torrey Pines and the second his final shot dipped into the hole, my bulletin was out to the world.

While Tiger was holding his press conference with the on-site writers, my rewrite with quotes from Tiger and leader Tony Finau was already out to the clients.

It was an interesting performance for Tiger in his return from his fourth back surgery. I won’t tell you everything about the round because you can read it here — right on the Field Level Media website: http://fieldlevelmedia.com/woods-shoots-72-return-pga-tour

I tell you, there is truly no time for dilly-dallying in the online world. Leaving the laptop for even two minutes could prove costly.

It makes me cringe over some of the newspaper silliness I used to see — kind of like the time the sports editor nicknamed “Tin Man” went to play in a hockey game DURING THE NFL DRAFT and left the desk hanging for about five hours before turning in his column.

There is no room for selfishness and people who aren’t team players in the online world. I think that is why it has proven to be a such good fit. Not to mention I make more money than print journalists in my area.

Being ahead of the curve has never felt so good. Enjoy the read on Tiger’s return.

There haven’t been a ton of good San Diego baseball moments this decade but there certainly was one on Wednesday when “Trevor Time” again arrived.

Trevor Hoffman, one of the most-popular Padres ever, was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The late Tony Gwynn will always be the most famous member of the Padres — heck, Tony is one of the most beloved people in all of San Diego County no matter what the line of duty — but Hoffman would likely rate as second in the baseball category.

Heck, his ninth-inning introduction is perhaps the most-famous entrance in baseball history. When the Padres needed their closer to come get the final three outs, the place erupted as the first bell chimed.

And when the opening rift to “Hells Bells” by AC/DC began, the ballpark was in a complete frenzy.

And most of the time, an opposing player would soon be wildly flailing at a Hoffman changeup as the Padres posted a victory.

“Petco and Qualcomm certainly got rolling with the Hells Bells,” Hoffman told MLB Network in an post-induction interview. “That was in the same time frame as ‘Wild Thing’ in ‘Major League II’ and the whole ambiance they wanted to create was something we were able to do in San Diego.”

Hoffman ranks second in major league history with 601 saves, trailing only Yankees’ great Mariano Rivera (652). A seven-time All-Star, Hoffman should have been winner of the 1998 National League Cy Young Award but six buffoons left him off their ballots because they didn’t believe relievers should win the award.

Hoffman received more first-place votes than winner Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves but the omissions cost him the honor in a season in which he posted a 1.48 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and recorded 53 saves in 54 opportunities.

Kind of a major problem in baseball — letting sportswriters vote for awards. Too many agendas, too much nonsense, and not enough intelligence and perspective.

Hoffman fell five votes shy of induction last year but this time received 79.9 percent of the vote. A player needs 75 percent to be inducted.

An often-forgotten aspect of Hoffman’s career is that he failed as a minor league infielder with the Cincinnati Reds, who turned him into a pitcher. He came to the Padres from the Marlins in the controversial trade involving Gary Sheffield and soon carved out a legacy with that changeup that baffled hitters.

The other thing about Hoffman is that all kinds of San Diegans tell great tales about meeting him.

Like seeing him at Children’s Hospitals giving back to the community. Like being spotted on the freeway and giving a cheerful wave. Like seeing him at an eatery or perhaps a country bar and Hoffman coming across as a normal person.

Right there pretty much describes Trevor Hoffman — no egomaniac symptoms despite being one of the best ever at his craft.

No question, the latest edition of “Trevor Time” is richly deserved.

Let me start with a little perspective — Boise State hasn’t had an NBA draft pick this century and has never won an NCAA tournament game.

Pretty much lets you know how the school rates in the tradition department.

But that draft pick drought is about to end because there is no longer any question that Broncos forward Chandler Hutchison will hear his name called in June’s draft.

The discussion of how high is one for after the season. But just know NBA teams are going to love the tape they view of Hutchison’s school-record 44-point performance against San Diego State on Saturday.

Hutchinson carried the team all night and made 15 of 21 shots, including 7 of 10 from 3-point range. He banked in two 3s, displayed mid-range ability, and repeatedly gained separation while driving to the hoop.

He carried himself like the best player in the building, which was a good thing as Boise State had to survive a last-second 3-point miss to notch an 83-80 victory over the Aztecs.

Making it more impressive is that San Diego State is one of the best teams Boise State will play this season. It also doesn’t hurt that NBA scouts are well aware of the Aztecs’ reputation for playing stellar defense.

This game will be the one where a few NBA teams say “We’ve got to get that kid” and a few others will take him off their bubble and determine he is draft-worthy and a few others will move him higher up their draft boards.

Scoring 44 points on 21 field-goal attempts demands attention from NBA personnel directors.

Look, Hutchison’s performance on Saturday could be tabbed the top moment in Boise State’s basketball history. Did I mention the Broncos have never won an NCAA tournament game? (Oh, I did … 0-7 is the record).

The school’s media guide says the Broncos have had just four NBA players in program history. Also, NBA draft records show just six picks from the school, the last being Roberto Bergersen in 1999.

The most notable NBA player from Boise State is Chris Childs, the point guard who averaged 6.9 points in 541 games over nine seasons from 1994-2003.

The previous school record for points of 42 was set by Ron Austin way back in 1971. The most-recent 40-point outing was in 1979 by Carl Powell and Hutchison’s performance marked only the fourth time a Boise State player reached 40.

It certainly was the best performance I’ve seen live by a Boise State player since I moved from Paradise (San Diego) to Paradise Junior (Boise). The previous best effort was a game I covered in 2013 when Derrick Marks scored 33 second-half points and 38 overall in a victory over Colorado State.

Oh yeah, some Boise media types actually were floating the idea Marks would get drafted and I cringed. As in where is the perspective? But yeah, many of them were also stunned when a Boise State quarterback named Grant Hedrick didn’t get selected in the 2015 NFL draft.

Take it from a guy who spent eight seasons watching NFL practices, Hedrick would’ve needed the NFL draft to go back to 17 rounds to have a chance to be selected.

You know, let’s not even discuss Kellen Moore.

The same media folks were stunned a basketball player named James Webb III didn’t get picked in the 2016 NBA draft. Well, I covered nearly 20 of Webb’s games at Boise State and I never once said the following to myself: “Hey, there’s a future NBA player.”

Webb plays for the Delaware 87ers. And if you have to be a minor league hoops player, at least having your team called the 87ers is pretty cool. Beats playing in Lithuania.

In other words, I’ll tell you the real deal. Saturday night at Taco Bell Arena was the very first time I’ve seen a Boise State player that caused me to say, “Now that’s a future NBA player.”

Chandler Hutchison will without a doubt be selected in the NBA draft. And perhaps he will become the fifth Boise State player to suit up for an NBA game. Maybe he ends up playing a decade in the NBA. Who knows?

What I know is that as of Saturday night, Hutchison is etched in the books as one of the top Boise State players ever. And the night he torched San Diego State for a school-record 44 points will still be talked about in 2071. 

Good thing I took that vow of objectivity a quarter century ago and don’t have to root for teams.

Because it would be really hard to choose a team to cheer for in Monday’s College Football Playoff title game.

Pretty sure most people who don’t live in the South are tired of having how great the SEC teams are. Unfortunately, the conference will be able to claim a national championship no matter who wins Monday when Alabama and Georgia meet in Atlanta.

It will be the SEC’s ninth national championship in the past 12 seasons.

The Crimson Tide are striving to win their fifth title during Nick Saban’s 11 seasons as coach.

Hey, not impressed? How about this: They beat Mercer by eight touchdowns.

Of course, most major-college programs wouldn’t play Mercer. (Wait, we LOVE Mercer, the basketball program that sent Duke home in 2014!)

And what about Georgia? The Bulldogs beat Samford by four touchdowns this season. OK, so nobody knows if Samford (and Son?) has ever accomplished anything big on the athletic stage.

But yeah, they still pay me to make a prediction so I do have a winner for you. Right here inside the stellar preview — https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/alabama-vs-georgia-preview-and-predictions/232916/

Both Georgia and Alabama lost one game this season and it was to the same team — Auburn.

That makes things a little dicey because Auburn lost to FOUR other teams.

Of course, Georgia got revenge by defeating Auburn in the SEC championship game but the Tigers lost their Peach Bowl matchup with Central Florida.

Unbeaten Central Florida … a school that has declared itself national champions and will hold a parade on Monday afternoon.

Might as well name yourself the national champion when you consider the fact that the chairman of the CFP committee is the athletic director at Texas Tech.

Um, yeah, nobody who is serious about identifying who the best college football teams are would ever choose the Texas Tech AD to play the leading role. Doesn’t look like Kirby Hocutt knows football that well when his own program has experienced three losing campaigns in the past four seasons.

Just think, Kirby’s committee lists Central Florida at No. 12. Yes, No. 12!

So the school that named itself national champs wouldn’t even have been part of an eight-team playoff. Now that is ridiculous.

But on Monday night, we put all this nonsense aside.

And we wait to see if playing Mercer helped prepare Alabama to win another crown. Or if that tussle with Samford was that piece of the puzzle Georgia desperately needed.

Hard to root for either team when you break it down like that.

There is no debate that Marshall Faulk is the best running back in San Diego State history. He still will be 100 years from now — well, if football still exists.

But it also should be pretty clear who ranks No. 2 on the top Aztecs’ back list.  

That would be the current star — Walter Camp Player of the Year finalist Rashaad Penny.

Penny leads the nation with 2,027 rushing yards and has a stellar 7.4 average to go with 19 rushing scores. He has topped 200 yards on five occasions this season and had just one poor contest when he gained just 53 yards on 21 carries during a loss to Boise State.

He also matched the all-time record for career kickoff return touchdowns with seven.

When this month began, Deacon Turner was still the second-best running back in San Diego State history. You can still call him BBF – Best Before Faulk.

But it is now clear that Penny is No. 2, which is plenty amazing when you consider he was the backup to NCAA all-time rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey last season. I wondered a few times if Penny was the best back on the San Diego State roster while he was rushing for 1,005 yards.

We got the answer. He was the best this season. He was the best last season. He would be the best in any season in Aztecs’ history other than the Faulk Years (1991-93).

So we need to have a definitive Top 10 list of San Diego State running backs. I saw most everyone on the list play — ummm, not Norm Nygaard (1952-54) of course — so I am the right person to compile it.

Surely don’t want anyone at the school messing up the list. When I was on the beat and Lynell Hamilton was having a big freshman season in 2003, the game notes didn’t have Darrin Wagner listed among the school’s top-ever freshman rushing leaders.

I told the guy of the omission and he just stared at me. He finally said, “Who?”

That’s what happens when universities hire people who don’t know the school history.

Anyway, the next year I turned to the page in the media guide and guess whose rushing yardage from 1989 had been added to the freshman leaders?

Yep, Darrin Wagner.

OK, here are the Top 10 running backs in San Diego State history:

 

1. Marshall Faulk — San Diego State had never landed a talent like this and benefited that major schools wanted him to play cornerback. Well, their loss as Faulk set the then single-game rushing record of 386 yards before he ever started a game and got the Aztecs unprecedented national publicity. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1992 as ESPN’s Lee Corso repeatedly belittled the fact Faulk played at San Diego State and single-handedly prevented him from winning the award. Faulk rushed for 4,589 and 57 touchdowns in his three seasons before becoming an NFL Hall of Famer.

2. Rashaad Penny — See above for the superlatives but ranking fourth in school history with 3,435 rushing yards (and likely soon to be third) is pretty impressive when you were just a starter for one season.

3. Deacon Turner — He had a first name of David but nobody ever used it when discussing his exploits. He was the star of back-to-back 10-1 teams – there weren’t 322 bowl games back then — and was part of the biggest victory in school history, the 41-16 slaughter of No. 13 Florida State in 1977. He fell on hard times after his NFL career ended and isn’t in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, which is a travesty. Claude Gilbert, who coached Turner, was a defensive coordinator at San Diego State in the mid-1990s and told me then that the committee had once decided to induct the Deacon but backed off because it was worried about what kind of shape he was in or if he would even show. Well, the guy is dead now so that’s not an issue. Turner’s absence needs to be rectified because he was one of the biggest difference-makers in school history.

4. Ronnie Hillman — You could go with any order for Hillman and the following two guys but Hillman (3,243 yards, 36 touchdowns) would have shattered Faulk’s then-record if he hadn’t mistakenly left for the NFL after two seasons. He was better than the Mountain West level and repeatedly put up big numbers.

5. Donnel Pumphrey — He’s the all-time NCAA rushing leader (6,405 yards) as long as they don’t reinstate bowl stats from the old days (then it will be Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne) and rushed for 62 touchdowns. The craziest stat is he racked up 33 100-yard outings during his career — heck, the ESPN folks will make a power-conference player a star with three 100-yard games.

6. George Jones — One of the more muscle-toned running backs ever seen and he was the first to break Faulk’s single-season mark when he compiled 1,842 yards in 1995. He had four career 200-yard games while rolling up 2,810 yards and 34 touchdowns over two seasons.

7. Norm Nygaard — I was told by a longtime school expert that this guy was the top running back prior to Deacon Turner’s arrival and that is good enough for me. He rushed for 2,619 yards from 1952-54 and that was well before running backs got 20 to 25 carries per game so perhaps he could have doubled that total with today’s workloads.

8. Chris Hardy — He had a big junior season (1,150 yards in 1985) and then was one of the top players on one of the more beloved teams in school history — the 1986 Holiday Bowl team. He rushed for 2,341 yards and 22 touchdowns.

9. Larry Ned — He ranks third in school history with 3,562 yards and rushed for 36 touchdowns. He once rushed for 285 yards against Eastern Illinois in 2001 — the quarterback of Eastern Illinois was a guy named Tony Romo.

10. Wayne Pittman — Here’s a guy you don’t hear a lot about and that is because he had the unfortunate timing of being Faulk’s backup for three seasons. But he rushed for 1,136 yards in his lone season as a starter (1994) and that is good enough for me.

 

Missing the cut — Lynell Hamilton (2003-07) was a star as a freshman before a badly broken leg and a 22-month absence changed everything. … Adam Muema (2011-13) had rushing seasons of 1,458 and 1,244 yards before mistakenly turning pro and basically disappearing. … Paul Hewitt (28 scores from 1987-88) was a touchdown machine as a junior-college transfer. … Art Preston (34 touchdowns from 1949-51) has his name plate in the football locker room so that tells me all I need to know. … Jonas Lewis (1996-99) was consistently good while racking up 2,843 yards.

So I haven’t done Weekly Links in a while but the night before Thanksgiving seems like a perfect time.

It is a little bit foggy outside and I sure have no interest in hitting up any retail stores that think “Black Friday” started two, three or four days before FRIDAY.

Plus, it is also a good time to talk about turkeys.

Oh, I think I spelled Chargers wrong … um, yeah, turkeys equal Chargers.

You can upgrade that to buffoon if we bring Dean Spanos into the conversation.

But bad news for all San Diegans, I see the Turkeys defeating the Dallas Cowboys in their first Thanksgiving game since 1969.

People knew Dallas would miss Ezekiel Elliott during his girl-punching (allegedly) suspension but it appears that the team’s true MVP is left tackle Tyron Smith. The Cowboys have allowed 12 sacks during his two-game injury absence and Smith might sit out Thursday too.

Since you can’t double-team both Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, common sense dictates that Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott will be running for his life a few times.

Don’t tell anyone I picked the Chargers … of course, the proof is in the stellar preview: https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NFL/-chargers-vs-cowboys-preview-and-predictions/220578/

 

I had one goal when I got the national preview assignment for the Apple Cup showdown and that was this: To get into print that Washington State and Washington played to a 5-5 tie in 1900.

No typos there … a 5-5 football game. Now that is crazy.

Of course, I’m the same guy who covered the first 11-10 score in NFL history in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Steelers kicked a late field to defeat the Chargers.

But who has ever seen a 5-5 football score?

Funny thing about this game is that it is Washington State playing for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. Washington can only be spoilers. If the Huskies win, Stanford gets the berth.

That means Washington is currently only the third-best team in its division and fourth best overall in the Pac-12. And coach Chris Peterson is getting a bit touchy that some people aren’t thrilled that the very well-paid coach isn’t going to have his team in the conference title game.

But there was a moment in a press conference this week that defies all logic and it pertained to the Huskies scoring 10 points in the final minute to defeat Utah.

Q: Was that finish Saturday as exciting a finish as you’ve been a part of?

ME: Apparently, the media person never heard of the Fiesta Bowl between Boise State and Oklahoma.

Wow … here is the stellar preview:    http://www.espn.com/ncf/preview/_/id/400935330

 

The Iron Bowl is Saturday and Auburn needs a victory over Alabama to keep alive its College Football Playoff hopes.

Seems odd that a two-loss team can still have an opportunity to be one of the last four teams standing but there are different rules for SEC teams than the other leagues.

Kind of like nobody wants to make SEC commissioner Craig Sankey mad in case they want to take an athletic director’s job at an SEC school sometime. Or risk receiving a phone call from an irate Nick Saban.

The Tigers are currently No. 6 and if they beat Saban’s Crimson Tide, they would face No. 7 Georgia (one loss) in the SEC title game. You can kind of see what is on the horizon.

An Auburn win in the SEC title game gets the Tigers in as the No. 4 seed in the CFP. And a Georgia win just may get the Bulldogs in at No. 4 because then they split two games with Auburn.

That means the loser of the ACC title game between Clemson and Miami is in line to get shafted. So is Wisconsin unless it is 13-0. Being 12-1 with the loss to Ohio State isn’t going to do it for the Badgers.

Anyway, Alabama and Auburn should be a good game and here is the stellar preview: https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/football/NCAAF/-alabama-vs-auburn-preview-and-predictions/220799/

 

Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox squared off for the first time as NBA players on Wednesday night and their matchup was a draw.

Fox got to walk off the floor with a smile as the Sacramento Kings posted a 113-102 victory over Ball’s Los Angeles Lakers. But the statistical matchup favored Ball.

Ball had 11 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four turnovers, while Fox had 13 points, three assists and five turnovers.

Their first matchup received a lot of attention because of the way Fox terrorized Ball in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last March when he scored a career-best 39 points. That performance paved the way for Fox to rise all the way up to the fifth overall pick. Ball, of course, was selected second.

I have a sneaky suspicion that Fox will be the better NBA player. Check back with me in 2023.

Anyway, this was the stellar preview that was published before the game was played: https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/basketball/NBA/-lakers-vs-kings-preview-and-predictions/220583/

 

Can’t do a weekly links without this quick mention. Kansas is playing Oakland on Friday — that’s the Golden Grizzlies, not the Raiders — and a player named Jalen Hayes will be making his season debut for Oakland.

You see, Hayes received a four-game academic suspension from the NCAA for not making “satisfactory progress toward a degree” after he received a 2.5 in a class in his major last spring when Oakland requires a 2.8.

Oh, but Hayes is slated to graduate in December. Sounds like he is making a lot of progress toward his degree, doesn’t it?

But the same group of people who closed their eyes to academic fraud at North Carolina — a money-making school — penalized the star player from a lower-echelon university. Quite the joke — and count Kansas coach Bill Self among the folks who think the situation was poorly handled.

“They get him back,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said of Hayes. “He was ineligible the first four games for a screwy academic rule.”

Screwy academic rule says it all. Thanks, Coach.

Here is the stellar preview:    https://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/basketball/ncaab/oakland-vs-kansas-preview-and-predictions/220737/

The first World Series Game 7 between two teams that won 100 or more games since 1931 has arrived.

Bet you didn’t know it had been 86 years since that happened.

But the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers and 101-win Houston Astros play the deciding game of a very fine World Series on Wednesday.

And I know you are dying to hear which team I think will be really happy late Wednesday night.

Uh oh, it looks like I’m not going to make it easy for you to find out.

Yes, I am making you click twice to see which team I am predicting to win Game 7 of the World Series.

Not because I suddenly care about the number of “clicks” I get on my website (I don’t care at all).

Not because the website I am linking to is paying me (they don’t even know I exist, I just like that they keep them up forever, unlike the bigger sports websites).

But you get to click on the stellar preview because there is valuable information enclosed that just shouldn’t be obtained super duper easy.

Because then you won’t appreciate this great piece of knowledge you will know all day Wednesday.

So here goes, I am picking the … ohhh, almost … you will find the pick inside the stellar preview: http://www.scoresandstats.com/previews/baseball/mlb/astros-vs-dodgers-preview-and-predictions/215192/

Yeah, the last baseball preview of the season. Probably should count up someday to see how many I have written this decade.

But if I do that, I will want to count up all the NBA, NFL, college football and college basketball previews I’ve written too. And then the recaps. And then the breaking news. And on and on.

Yeah, so probably not that big of a deal to figure that out.

This World Series is much a bigger deal. Check out my pick and see if it comes through.