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COVID Catches Up With NFL; College Chaos Continues; Pac-12 Out of Playoff; Wise Warriors

The absurdity of playing sports during a raging pandemic reached new levels of insanity on Sunday.

The Denver Broncos, with all four of their quarterbacks sidelined due to COVID, used a wide receiver from the practice squad, Kendall Hinton, to play the most important position on the field.

He threw nine passes, completed one for 13 yards, and had two intercepted as the Broncos managed just 112 yards on offense and lost 31-3 to New Orleans, their only points coming on a 58-yard field goal.

And for this, the networks are paying tens of millions of dollars?

The NFL had been very lucky throughout the first three-quarters of its season, with only one major outbreak (on the Tennessee Titans), some rescheduled games, but basically, no major disruptions.

That all changed last week. With 20 members of the Baltimore Ravens on the COVID reserve list, the NFL had to postpone its marquee Thanksgiving Day game between Baltimore and unbeaten Pittsburgh. The Ravens’ reigning NFL MVP, quarterback Lamar Jackson, was one of those on the list.

The game was postponed until Sunday, then Tuesday. We’ll see if it gets played tomorrow.

Then health officials at Santa Clara County blindsided the league with an order banning all contact sports in the county—including practices and games—through at least December 21 and requiring anyone traveling into the region from more than 150 miles away to quarantine for 14 days.

That means the San Francisco 49ers will need to find another place to practice and play their games on Dec. 7 vs. Buffalo and Dec. 13 with the Washington Football Team, both scheduled at Levi’s Stadium.

But the capper was the aforementioned travesty in Denver, where quarterbacks Drew Lock, Blake Bortels and Brett Rypien were forced to quarantine after contact with fourth QB, Jeff Driskel, who tested positive, which led to Hinton’s elevation from the practice squad.

College Chaos Continues: This week, No. 3 Ohio State had to cancel its game against Illinois because of an outbreak that included head coach Ryan Day and No. 1 Alabama played Auburn without head coach Nick Saban, who tested positive for the second time this year (the first was ultimately ruled a false positive). And for the second week in a row, Florida State cancelled a game on game day.

Unbeaten and unlucky San Jose State had its important matchup against Boise State cancelled on game day. A week earlier, the Spartans' game with Fresno State was also pulled.

What passes for a "season" will always have an asterisk next to it. And the players who enhanced their resumes in this abomination will be few and far between.

Pac-12 Out of Playoff: The Pac-12's slim hopes for inclusion in the College Football Playoff were extinguished over the weekend.

The league’s highest ranked team, No. 15 Oregon, was upset by Oregon State. And No. 18 USC had to cancel its game with Colorado because of a growing number of COVID cases.

The Trojans hadn't been playing all that well, anyway, but if they win out now, with only five regular season games (at best) and a win in the conference championship, they simply wouldn't have a big enough body of work to be seriously considered. Same goes for Colorado and Washington, the conference’s other two unbeaten teams, both of whom have also had a game cancelled due to the pandemic.

So for the fifth time in seven years, the Pac-12 will be sitting at home for the playoffs.

Fact is, the conference made the right decision initially by cancelling the season. Then, with the Big Ten's about-face and the arrival of a "game-changing" testing program—that proved to be far from infallible—they reversed course and started a season in early November.

It turned out to be too little, too late.

Me First: Three players from teams who have badly underperformed this season announced they were skipping the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft: LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr, Texas tackle Samuel Cosmi, and Florida State defensive back Asante Samuel Jr.

Whatever happened to loyalty, teamwork, and commitment?

Sorry, but no matter how badly your team is playing, that's inexcusable.

Wise Warriors: Faced with having to play another season without the incomparable Klay Thompson, who tore his Achilles in a pickup game in Los Angeles, the Warriors made a series of excellent personnel moves that should give them a berth in the playoffs and a shot at contending for the NBA title.

They traded for flashy but solid Kelly Oubre, an exciting wing player who averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals last year and should start alongside Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins.

They drafted 7-1 center James Wiseman, who has unlimited potential and will fill a huge hole in the middle. And they signed two free agents who will be solid rotational players—Kent Bazemore and Brad Wanamaker.

These moves are a testament not only to the ability of GM Bob Myers, but the willingness of owner Joe Lacob to spend whatever it takes to keep the Warriors' championship hopes alive.

Big Game: And finally, Stanford 24, Cal 23. Special teams errors killed Cal, and Stanford showed just enough on offense to give the Cardinal its 10th win in the last 11 meetings between the Bay Area's traditional rivals.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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