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Teams Must Practice Cover-Six Defense

Times Staff Writer

USC football fans had to grimace at the sight of Trojans quarterback John David Booty, center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Sam Baker on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. Obviously, the Trojans are doomed.

But so too are the Buckeyes, the Fighting Irish, the Longhorns, the Tigers and the Mountaineers.

Employing the marketing strategy that misery must love company, Sports Illustrated decided to spread its cover jinx around, printing six regional covers that also feature national championship contenders Ohio State, Notre Dame, Texas, Louisiana State and West Virginia.

You know what this means?

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That’s right. Auburn wins the national title.

Trivia time: Has Auburn ever won college football’s national championship?

‘ello, Dawg Pound: Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner must love blue-collar towns and lost causes. With his NFL team apparently mired at the bottom of the AFC North -- the Browns have finished there the last three seasons -- Lerner has just bid $118.8 million to buy Aston Villa, the English Premier League soccer club based in Birmingham. Aston Villa placed 16th among 20 teams last season.

The pending deal has fans on both sides of the Atlantic buzzing: Is Birmingham the Cleveland of England? Or is Cleveland the Birmingham of the United States?

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Tale of two also-rans: Aston Villa last won a league title in 1981, which is this-just-in news compared with the Browns’ drought. Cleveland last won the NFL championship in 1964.

Some other Aston Villa-Browns similarities:

* Odds to win the championship this season: Aston Villa: 750-1. Browns: 90-1.

* Predicted finish: Aston Villa: consensus 13th. Browns: 20th in Pro Football Weekly’s preseason power rankings.

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* Battle cry: Aston Villa: “Up the Villa!” Browns: “Up the middle!”

* Heroes: Aston Villa: Steven Davis, dynamic young midfielder. Browns: Andra Davis, dynamic young linebacker.

* Villans: Aston Villa: That’s what the fans call their team. Browns: That’s what the fans call Art Modell and John Elway.

This just in: We interrupt this breaking story on Junior Seau announcing his retirement from the NFL with a breaking story on Junior Seau signing with the New England Patriots.

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Seau spent half his Monday news conference strangely shouting at reporters, “I’m not retiring! I’m graduating!” And he was right. In the AFC East, he just graduated from second to first place.

Trivia answer: Yes. In 1957, Auburn went 10-0 and shared the national title with 9-1 Ohio State, Auburn finishing atop the final Associated Press poll and Ohio State placing first in the United Press International rankings. Auburn was on probation.

And finally: According to the Orlando Sentinel, a South Sumter (Fla.) High football player might have the best name in sports “since Wonderful Terrific Monds roamed the outfield for the Atlanta Braves [organization]. When players address this linebacker-running back, they do so with an air of royalty. They should. His name is Yourhighness Morgan.”


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