Bob Smizik: Bad news for Bettis' Hall of Fame candidacy

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• The path to Hall of Fame selection for Jerome Bettis has been more difficult than most expected and, according to Peter King, it doesn’t figure to get easier. King wrote the following at ''I think, and I have been wrong on this before (like, most years, as one of the 46 voters), that this would be my best guess as to the five finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame most likely to be elected Feb. 1: Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks, Marvin Harrison, Charles Haley, Michael Strahan. And I would list these three as the closest contenders to them: Will Shields, Tony Dungy, Aeneas Williams. Now, I didn’t say those first five would be my picks. I don’t know my picks yet, and won’t until we get inside the room."

• The lack of interest in free-agent utilityman Jeff Baker by the Pirates and other teams is a bit perplexing. Baker, a right-handed hitter, has a lifetime OPS vs. left-handed pitching of .875. Last year, in 105 at bats with Texas, it was 1.073. He also hit 10 homers in those 105 at bats. He has played first, second, third and the corner outfield positions in his career. How could he not help the Pirates as a backup and possible platoon partner with Neil Walker and occasional replacement for Pedro Alvarez? Walker's lifetime OPS vs right-handers is .655 and Alvarez's .604.

• Proof that a running game is still important in the NFL: The rushing rankings of the four teams still playing: 3, 4, 9 and 15 (San Francisco, Seattle, New England, Denver). The passing rankings: 1, 10, 26, 30 (Denver, New England, Seattle, San Francisco).

• Shame on the American news media for its overblown coverage on Dennis Rodman. And if that’s what viewers want, shame on them. The latest: Tape of Rodman arriving in the U.S. from North Korea. Good grief!

• The Baseball Hall of Fame voting is flawed, but so is almost every other voting process in this country. The outpouring of criticism of the recent voting was a bit much. The process could use a few tweaks, including a redefining of eligible voters. But the BBWAA does a good job of electing deserving candidates, as this year’s class indicates.

• This from the Nashville-based newspaper the Tennessean on new Penn State coach James Franklin, who has offered scholarships to players who previously committed to Vanderbilt: ''It was less than two years ago that Franklin stood before a signing-day crowd supporters at Vanderbilt’s Student Life Center and said players who decommitted from his program were not ‘men of honor’ and ‘men of integrity.’ Of course, Franklin had signed a quarterback who had decommitted from North Carolina — current starter Patton Robinette."

• The trade of Anquan Boldin from Baltimore to San Francisco for salary cap reasons in March has enormously affected the 2013 season. It gave the 49ers a spectacular receiving corps -- Boldin, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree -- to help still-developing quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It contributed to the decimation of the Ravens' offense, which went from 16th in the league in 2012 to 29th.

• This from a lengthy article on college entrance requirements for athletes by CNN’s Sara Ganim: ''As a graduate student at UNC-Greensboro, [Mary] Willingham researched the reading levels of 183 UNC-Chapel Hill athletes who played football or basketball from 2004 to 2012. She found that 60% read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. Between 8% and 10% read below a third-grade level."

• Big laugh of the week from Edinson Volquez: ''When San Diego put me on waivers (last year), the Pirates called right away. This winter, they called again. I thought, 'They must really want me, so let's do it.' " And the $5 million contract was not a factor.

• Considering the success he’s had in hiring football coaches, I envision a lucrative career in consulting for Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner, if he should choose such a career when he leaves his current position.

• The conference title games are a refreshing change for the NFL: The four best teams, not one or two that got hot at the right time. Which means after a bland NFL weekend, especially compared to the previous week, classic matchups exists Sunday between San Francisco-Seattle and New England-Denver.

• Looking ahead in the Baseball HOF voting: Top 2015 candidates: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield; 2016: Ken Griffey, Trevor Hoffman; 2017: Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez; 2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome; 2019: Mariano Rivera.

• ESPN’s Trent Dilfer’s high praise for Johnny Manziel: ''Watching his game tape, the only quarterback I can compare him to from an instinct standpoint is Brett Favre. Johnny Manziel has eyes in the back of his head. He flat-out sees stuff that other people don't see, and that's why he's special."

• As the participating teams might have indicated, the BCS title game was a bigger hit in the South than elsewhere. The top-rated TV markets for ESPN for the game: 1. Birmingham; 2. Jacksonville; 3. Knoxville; 4. Atlanta; 5. Orlando; 6. Tampa-St. Petersburg; 7. Memphis; 8. Greenville, S.C.; 9. Nashville; 10. Charlotte.

• A big eight days for Pitt basketball, now playing without sixth man (and No. 4 scorer) Durand Johnson. The Panthers are on the road tonight and Saturday at Georgia Tech and Syracuse and home on Jan. 20 vs. Clemson.

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