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A hard-to-top weekend that was

A GRIP ON SPORTS

It was an exciting weekend, even without the Seahawks playing (though they were in the news). An exciting weekend correlates directly to a link-filled Monday, something that doesn't happen often. So let's get right to it. Read on.

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• We have a link or two about the Eastern Eagles and the FCS playoffs. Yes, playoffs. It is not impossible to put together a more-than-four-team playoff folks. In fact, it runs pretty smoothly in the FCS, Division II and Division III ranks. Oh, sure, there are a couple teams each year that are upset when they are left at home. And a couple more who think they should be playing at home instead of on the road. But it works out. The best team usually rises to the top, which isn't always the case in the FBS. No that's wrong. The best team doesn't usually rise to the top. You win a 24-game tournament over four weeks and you are the best team, no matter what. You've earned the title. No being handed a berth in the championship game, you have to win a couple games – at least – to get there. So let's celebrate the fact the lower divisions get it right, celebrate the end of the BCS era this season and move on. Hopefully the big school's playoff will begin at four teams then gradually morph into eight, 16, maybe even 32. That would be fun.

• Can't move on without giving a shout out to the Eagles. Looking at their schedule before the season began, with money games at Oregon State – ranked in the top 25 at the time – and Toledo along with another tough non-conference game at Sam Houston State, plus the usual hard-to-navigate Big Sky slate, it was easy to see a handful of losses. But they were better than that. Much better. It started in Corvallis with the upset of the Beavers. The two early losses could have been demoralizing, but weren't. Wins at Montana and at home vs. Montana State, both top 10 teams, were the springboard to an undefeated conference season. And now the playoff journey awaits. It won't be easy. Each game will present challenges. But the 10-2 mark brought its reward, at least two games at home. That's what's so crucial about the FCS regular season. You are playing not just to make the postseason but for the opportunity to play in front of your fans on your field with your weather. If the Eagles had lost Saturday, that might have all been lost as well. So don't let anyone tell you a playoff system would devalue the regular season. It doesn't. In some ways it enhances it.

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• WSU: It is Thanksgiving Week, better known around these parts as Apple Cup Week. Both involve travel, competition and an occasional overdone turkey, so it is appropriate. Jacob Thorpe kicks off Apple Cup Week with this feature, though football wasn't his only friend yesterday. Nope, Jacob got to cover basketball as well as former Stanford coach Trent Johnson (pictured) made another trip to Pullman – where his Cardinal usually won – and pulled out a 64-62 victory with TCU. Jacob has a story and the box score. He also has a morning post today with links. ... The WSU volleyball team seems to have the knack of rallying from two sets down against ranked teams. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog has its bowl predictions – and an explanation about last week – along with the power rankings, helmet stickers and what we learned from last week's games. ... Bud Withers did some research and found this past weekend was the highest scoring in conference history. Still, the Pac-12 is so balanced and deep, it's killed itself in the BCS. ... It's basketball tournament week as well, so there is that.

• Gonzaga: Speaking of basketball tournaments, the Zags are in Hawaii again for theirs. Jim Meehan is there and has this advance. ... BYU is feeling better and should get an injured player back. ... Missed the latest win, but Pacific is already 4-0. ... USF lost last night at Oregon while St. Mary's had no trouble with Alcorn State.

• EWU: The Eagles gathered yesterday to see their postseason fate and Jim Allen was there. He has this story on the FCS playoff draw, which included Southern Utah, Northern Arizona and Montana. ... Basketball coach Jim Hayford played a three-games-in-three-days tournament to simulate for his Eagles the Big Sky tournament format. After winning two games, the Eagles had a third with the host school, again what usually happens in the Big Sky. Eastern didn't play well and lost, 81-58, to UC Irvine. But the Eagles probably learned a lot.

• Chiefs: Missed this yesterday but, despite what the headline says, Portland lost 5-4 to Seattle on Saturday.

• Seahawks: Pete Carroll didn't want any distractions during the bye week and he got all the way to Sunday before one. It was a doozy, though, as cornerback Walter Thurmond III has been suspended by the NFL for four games. That comes on the heels of Brandon Browner's groin injury and in advance of Monday's showdown with New Orleans. Will the Hawks reach out beyond their roster for some help? ... The legend that is John Clayton.

• Sounders: Real Salt Lake defeated the Timbers 1-0 Sunday and moved on to the MLS championship.

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• That's it for this morning. Except for a warning. There will not be a post tomorrow. I have a procedure scheduled in the morning that I will be preparing for all day today. It's scheduled early enough I won't have an opportunity to get on here beforehand. Sorry. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi





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