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If It’s All About Hype, Then This Is the Game

Randy Moss and Terrell Owens share the same football field on Sunday, and with countdown to kickoff reaching its final hours, the level of hype is pretty much what you’d expect.

Sports Illustrated put Owens on its cover this week. ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” will devote a special segment to “the league’s most high-profile wide receivers.” CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf called the Moss-Owens matchup “must-see television” (Note: CBS is televising the Moss-Owens matchup).

And then there is the relentless and shameless promotion of the dynamic duo every time one of those TV commercials mentions the word “fathead.com.” Actually, fathead.com is a website where you can buy larger-than-life-sized wall decals of various NFL players, Moss and Owens included, not a website devoted to the moronic look-at-me antics of Moss and Owens. Although you can see how the casual observer might get confused.

Is Moss versus Owens really all it’s made to be?

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Some stats:

The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 since Moss left for Oakland, which is 0-2 since Moss arrived. No difference.

The Philadelphia Eagles, in games played this calendar year with Owens, including the Super Bowl, are 1-2. They lost to New England and Atlanta; they beat up on San Francisco. There are lots of teams and lots of receivers that can make the same claim.

Moss and Owens do not even rank among the top five receivers in the league, according to SI.com.

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Writing on the website, Paul Zimmerman rates Moss the seventh-best receiver in the NFL, observing: “He’ll wave his arm and if the QB can find him, it could be six points from anywhere on the field. Why don’t they throw more to him? Because his pattern running is so erratic that he could break one off at any time and cause a pick. A major concern is his mood that particular day.”

Owens comes in at No. 6, with Zimmerman writing: “If he’s not in the mood, he’ll loaf through his patterns or short-arm the ball, as he did at the end of the loss to the Falcons.”

If you’re in the mood, you can tune into Channel 2 on Sunday at 10 a.m. to see if Moss or Owens does anything interesting, with or without the football, in the end zone or on the sideline, belittling the opposition or his teammates, running his mouth or running free through the secondary, assuming the mood strikes.

Also available for viewing this weekend:

TODAY

* USC at Oregon

(Channel 7, 4 p.m.)

This is starting to sound a lot like last year, when the national college-football media, getting bored with the ongoing saga of USC and its winning streak, went wild trying to invent scenarios that said, yes, this is the Saturday the Trojans lose and here’s why!

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Today, it is: Oregon is ranked 24th! And: Oregon is the home team! And: Oregon beat No. 3 Michigan at home two years ago!

And ... well, that’s about it. USC has outscored its first two opponents, 133-34, Matt Leinart has completed 75% of his passes and the Trojans last weekend piled up 736 total yards against Arkansas. So the Case Against USC probably will have to rest awhile. Until next Saturday, when the Trojans play No. 18 Arizona State.

* Notre Dame at Washington

(Channel 7, 12:30 p.m.)

There are no ties in college football, but there is a Ty Bowl, as Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis has dubbed this matchup between Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham and the school that fired him and replaced him with Weis.

Domers are delighted in Weis, who has the Irish off to a 2-1 start, which is good, just not as good as Willingham did his first season at Notre Dame, when he opened with eight consecutive victories and widespread acclaim as Savior Of The Program. That was 2002.

Willingham isn’t that bad a coach, as Stanford fans realize. During his tenure at Stanford, Willingham actually took the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl.

Last week, Stanford lost to UC Davis.

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SUNDAY

* Presidents Cup

(Channel 4, 9 a.m.)

Johnny Miller, in an NBC promotional release, said this week: “Match play really exposes your character, who you are and how much of a will you have in your heart. It also exposes what kind of weaknesses your game has. If you have a tendency to get a little ‘yippy’ putting, it’ll be an even bigger ‘yip’ than in stroke play. It’s the toughest format.” So far, the United States is grappling with the character test, trailing the International team, 6 1/2 -5 1/2 , after Friday’s play.

* Tampa Bay at Green Bay

(Channel 11, 10 a.m.)

Tampa Bay at Angels

(FSNW, 1 p.m.)

Wonder which game will attract the most interest in Tampa.

* New England at Pittsburgh

(Channel 2, 1:15 p.m.)

A look at the NFL standings today shows Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Washington and the New York Giants tied for or alone in first place with undefeated records. In other words, it’s early.

Still, New England-Pittsburgh on the last Sunday of September has a January kind of feel, as Phil Simms noted this week in a CBS press release.

“If you think that this is a normal regular-season game, then you are completely wrong,” Simms said. “Of course the Steelers are looking for revenge from [last season’s AFC championship game]. It is definitely a factor. As an ex-player, I could hold a grudge for six to eight years. You know the Steelers are thinking about the AFC championship game and losing their opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. Revenge is a big part of this game.”

The Steelers, looking impressive in routs of two unimpressive teams (Tennessee, Houston), are favored by three points, with the Patriots coming off a 10-point defeat at Carolina. So the spread sounds about right, except for this: The Patriots have not lost consecutive regular-season games since December 2002.


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