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Kirk Herbstreit’s ‘conspiracy theory’ theory shows he’s oddly unaware of CFP preference for biggest brands

Jacob Scott

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Kirk Herbstreit is a fantastic college football broadcaster whose only apparent weakness through more than three decades as a fixture on ESPN’s “College GameDay,” and more recently as the analyst for its most important telecasts, is an addiction to the redundancy “true freshman.”

He didn’t invent that bastardization of the language, but no one has done more to spread its use.

MORE: Picks, predictions for all college bowls, CFP title game

We have learned to live with that, but his proclamation Tuesday regarding the propriety of the College Football Playoff reached a surprising degree of impudence.

After SEVEN years of bitching and complaining from a vocal minority that the CFP system is rigged and the “small guy” will NEVER GET A CHANCE-haven’t heard much from ya last couple days.
Everything okay? What’s the next conspiracy theory??
Can’t wait!
Cause that one is history.

— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) December 7, 2021

“After SEVEN years of bitching and complaining from a vocal minority that the CFP system is rigged and the “small guy” will NEVER GET A CHANCE — haven’t heard much from ya last couple days,” Herbstreit tweeted. “Everything okay? What’s the next conspiracy theory?? Can’t wait! Cause that one is history.”

It seemed to be entirely lost on Herbstreit that seven years is a terribly long time in athletics. Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator as Ohio State won the first championship game in 2014, has held two head coaching jobs and now is working with the Chicago Bears in the NFL. Oregon is on its fourth head coach since playing and losing in the first title game. Troy Hill, the Ducks cornerback now with the Cleveland Browns, is 30 years old.

In the lifespan of the CFP, Western Michigan (2016), UCF (2017 and 2018) and Cincinnati (2020) completed undefeated regular seasons and were dismissed as irrelevant. Memphis (2019) and Houston (2015) finished their regular seasons at 12-1 to no regard whatsoever.

It did not require a conspiracy theory to see that these teams were being dismissed by the committee charged with not only selecting the four entrants for the CFP but also presenting a more-or-less official ranking of the sport’s top 25 teams.

MORE: Updated list of college stars skipping bowl games for NFL Draft

From 2014 through 2020, only two teams from outside the Power 5 conferences were ranked in the final CFP top 10, and the average ranking for the foremost team from the “Group of 5” conferences was 14th.

It did not require a conspiracy theory to see that, even as recently as the day before the 2021 CFP field was announced, top “GameDay” analyst Lee Corso was lobbying furiously for Cincinnati’s exclusion. In addition to several members of the panel pushing Oklahoma State’s candidacy before they lost the Big 12 title game and removed any chance to have a one-loss Cowboys team supplant an undefeated bunch of Bearcats, Corso declared, “I don’t think Cincinnati should be in, win or lose. It’s not because it’s Cincinnati; it’s because it’s Group of Five.”

Corso previously had said, on the Nov. 20 edition of the show, “Cincinnati does not belong ranked in the top group. I don’t care if they win out or not.” He explained that the Bearcats were unworthy because they’d only played two Power 5 opponents.

Before the end of this past weekend’s show, Corso also said he believed Notre Dame should be invited ahead of Cincinnati. And when reminded that the Bearcats had won at Notre Dame — decisively, in fact — Corso dismissed that fact as if it were inconsequential.

It’s not a theory if the evidence is obvious, and it’s not a conspiracy if the evidence is broadcast on national television.

I mean, geez, Herbstreit was sitting right there.

As the presenter of the playoff, as the most popular sports media entity in the U.S., ESPN maintains a significant degree of influence in the discourse surrounding college football. No one here is suggesting that there are network executives butting into the committee’s deliberations, but those amplified voices can make a difference.

Just as the work of such media figures as Tim Brando of Fox Sports and Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic helped elevate the advocacy of fairness in the CFP process. This also is true of the voters in The Associated Press poll, who elevated Cincinnati’s Bearcats to No. 5 after the Notre Dame win, to No. 3 (ahead of recent powerhouse Oklahoma) a week later and to No. 2 when they got through their sixth game without a defeat.

MORE: Every FBS coaching change in 2021

It’s doubtful the Bearcats would have gotten the consideration they did without that sort of public pressure.

And still it required the most fortuitous circumstances for Cincinnati finally to break through to the playoff field:

— The opportunity to play at Notre Dame, which won every other game on its schedule.

— Multiple defeats for Ohio State, Oregon and Oklahoma.

— A surprisingly poor season for perennial playoff entrant Clemson.

— Baylor’s victory over Oklahoma State by the margin of six inches in the Big 12 title game.

— And, of course, maintaining a perfect record when some opponents abandoned all football conventions — throwing trick plays, onside kicks and other odd tactics into their gameplans — in order to be the one that knocked Cincinnati off its course.

The Bearcats had to be both lucky and good — no, they needed lottery-level good fortune and genuine greatness in their performance — to be included as the fourth team in the playoff field even though their record is superior to the other three teams involved.

This doesn’t make the CFP system any more just or egalitarian than it was in its first seven years of existence. It’s just that the Bearcats got dealt better cards than the committee and its congregation, and played them perfectly.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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