Making our college football title, playoff and Heisman predictions. Plus, Cardinals' QB room gets scrambled



This is an article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM Newsletter, the ultimate guide to every day in sports. You can sign up to get it in your inbox every weekday morning here.


🗽Good morning to everyone but especially …

THE NEW YORK LIBERTY

For much of the season, it’s been Aces this and Aces that. The Liberty are here to remind you it takes two to tango at the top of the league. New York beat Las Vegas, 94-85, in their final regular-season meeting, tying the season series 2-2 (not including New York’s Commissioner’s Cup championship) and closing the gap for the No. 1 seed.

  • Sabrina Ionescu had 25 points, and Breanna Stewart added 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
  • The Liberty are now just 1½ games back of the Aces for the No. 1 seed.
  • New York has won 10 of its last 11. Las Vegas, on the other hand, has lost two straight for the first time this season.

Ionescu and Stewart get the headlines, but a key role player came up big again, notes Jack Maloney.

  • Maloney: Marine Johannes didn’t change the game on Monday like she did in the Commissioner’s Cup championship when she came off the bench to pour in 17 points, but it was another solid performance from the Frenchwoman. She finished with eight points and four rebounds on 3-of-3 from the field, and once again showed the difference between the two teams’ reserve units.”

😄 Honorable mentions

  • Team USA crushed Greece, 109-81, at the FIBA World Cup.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wrist) will begin the season on the active roster.
  • The Browns have a new kicker: Dustin Hopkins.
  • The Eagles signed Isaiah Rodgers, who is suspended indefinitely for gambling.
  • Could Edwin Díaz (knee) return this season?
  • The Red Sox called up Ceddanne Rafaela.

😕 And not such a good morning for …

COLT McCOY AND THE ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon refused to name his Week 1 starting quarterback, but we know two players who won’t be it. Arizona made two decisions — one much more surprising than the other — Monday to narrow its quarterback options.

  • First, the Cardinals, as expected, won’t activate Kyler Murray off the physically unable to perform list before today’s 4 p.m. ET deadline for teams to get rosters down to 53 players. Murray cannot play in the Cardinals’ first four games and doesn’t count against the 53-man limit.
  • Shortly thereafter, the Cardinals released veteran signal caller Colt McCoy, a decision that may have raised more than a few eyebrows (though Cody Benjamin nailed McCoy as a surprise cut candidate). McCoy, 36, played in 12 games for Arizona over the past two seasons as Murray’s backup and started two preseason games this year.
  • That leaves fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune and Joshua Dobbsacquired from Cleveland last week — along with David Blough and Jeff Driskel as the remaining quarterbacks. Arizona visits Washington in Week 1.

No one is expecting the Cardinals to be especially good this season. According to SportsLine, they are the favorite for worst record in the league. Cutting McCoy is the latest in several preseason moves that indicate they’re perfectly fine with that. But that won’t make it enjoyable.

You can keep up with all roster cuts here.

😣 Not so honorable mentions

🏈 Expert picks for college football playoff, title, Heisman, more

We’ve waited and waited and waited — and watched a tiny bit in Week 0 — and now the college football season is here. As such, our experts have made their picks for basically everything from a national champion to the College Football Playoff field to the Heisman Trophy and more.

Let’s dig in, starting with the Heisman. The most popular pick garnered four votes, including from Chip Patterson …

  • Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State: Ohio State’s pursuit of a championship will provide plenty of high-profile opportunities, and in those biggest moments, the Buckeyes will be smart to turn to the player who has the biggest advantage over the competition. All of that shapes up for Harrison to emerge from a crowded field when voters are looking for a non-Caleb Williams option for the Heisman.”

We’ll talk about Williams more in a moment, but there’s a reason that only one player, Archie Griffin, won multiple Heismans. Call it pressure, call it voter fatigue, call it anything you want: Williams has a ton of history to overcome.

You know what also has happened just once? A three-peat. Yet Georgia is looking to do just that and join 1934-36 Minnesota. The Bulldogs received the most title votes of any team, and Dennis Dodd has a wonderful feature on Kirby Smart’s group.

🏈 2024 NFL Draft big board: Caleb Williams among six QBs in top 50

It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s NFL Draft — just ask the Cardinals (sorry, Cardinals fans) — and with the college football season getting fully underway (sorry, Week 0) this weekend, our top 50 prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft has arrived.

Here’s the top five:

  1. Caleb Williams, QB, USC
  2. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
  3. Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State
  4. Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
  5. Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

The offense-heavy top of the class continues at No. 6 with Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. Back at the top, though, Ryan Wilson has high praise for Williams.

  • Wilson: “It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but fully expect the “Caleb Williams is the next Patrick Mahomes” comparisons. The draft, in general, is full of hyperbole … but, man, this ain’t too far off. Williams is special, and while he’s not 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he’s always the best player on the field.”

If you’ve read this newsletter for any amount of time, you’ll know I’m in lockstep with Ryan on this one. The ridiculous arm talent, the off-platform throws, the creativity, the poise, the on-the-fly problem-solving … I could go on and on.

But Williams is far from alone in what could be a loaded draft class for quarterbacks. As you can see above, Maye is fourth on the big board, and four more signal callers made the top 50 …

  • Riley Leonard, Duke (20th)
  • Quinn Ewers, Texas (32nd)
  • Bo Nix, Oregon (37th)
  • J.J. McCarthy, Michigan (39th)

If you’re a college football diehard, you probably already know these guys. If NFL is more your speed, make sure you watch these guys on Saturdays, because you’ll be watching them on Sundays soon.

🏀 NBA offseason grades: Four teams with ‘A’ marks

The NBA is in its true “off” season. The NBA Draft is in the rearview, most free agent signings and trades are done, the FIBA World Cup is underway, and we’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Damian Lillard trade front (if it ever does).

That means it’s time for Colin Ward-Henninger’s offseason grades for all 30 franchises, and while 10 teams earned something in the “A” range, only four got an “A” or an “A+.”

  • Spurs — A+: “When the best NBA prospect since LeBron James walks through your doors, you’ve won the offseason.”
  • Lakers — A: “Getting Austin Reaves for four years, $56 million is borderline criminal, especially considering a cap space team could have presented him with a $100 million offer sheet.”
  • Cavaliers — A: “The Cavs desperately needed a consistent shooter to fill the wing around their young core, and Max Strus certainly fits the bill. They also added even more shooting, and some attitude, with Georges Niang coming over from Philly.”
  • Pacers — A: “The Pacers opened the checkbook (Venmo account?) for Bruce Brown, adding a secondary playmaker and defensive Swiss Army knife to a team that desperately needed both.”

Meanwhile, thanks to the Lillard and James Harden dramas, the Trail Blazers, Heat and 76ers earned “incomplete” grades. As we all know, though, the NBA often produces news when it’s least expected, so maybe those grades will change soon.

Colin’s analysis is excellent and thorough, and I encourage you to check it out.

📺 What we’re watching Tuesday

🏀 Mercury at Dream, 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 Lynx at Mystics, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 Sky at Sparks, 10:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network





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