Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Miami Central standout Dalvin Cook, ranked as the No. 2 running back in the country by 247Sports, signed a grant-in aid agreement with the Hurricanes Wednesday along with teammates Joseph Yearby and Trevor Darling.
But before you go throwing a party Hurricanes fans, understand this doesn't mean Cook, still a University of Florida commitment, will definitely be a part of Miami's 2014 signing class along with Yearby and Darling (longtime UM verbal commitments).
All this means is UM is now obligated to honor their scholarships, unlike the scenario for a traditional recruit who offers a non-binding verbal commitment. All three players are not tied to UM and could enroll elsewhere or sign a binding letter of intent with a different school as well.
On the plus side, UM is no longer limited by NCAA regulations that restrict in-person contact with Cook. That includes phone calls and home visits.
Cook (5-11, 190) met with UM coaches earlier this week and told Miami Herald High School Sports Writer Andre Fernandez the experience was "eye-opening" because he finally got a chance to sit down and really see how strongly UM wants him.
"In person you really see what people are all about," Cook said. "I think there is definitely a strong possibility Joe and I still end up playing together at the next level."
Cook also is still strongly considering Florida State. Central coach Roland Smith said Wednesday night at practice he wouldn't be surprised if Cook also signed a financial aid agreement with the Seminoles and Gators if he hadn't already.
Central is preparing for a Class 6A state semifinal showdown this week against Daytona Beach Mainland. Yearby, who is close with Cook, was lost for the season last week and had surgery Wednesday for a broken right fibula. Yearby told The Miami Herald he expects to be ready for spring football.
All three players plan on enrolling in college in January.
I just asked Brad Edwards, the BCS expert for ESPN, if Florida State beats Duke, which team does he think the Chick-fil-A Bowl would choose for its Dec. 31 game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
"The buzz I’m hearing right now is that they like Duke,'' Edwards said on a conference call. "I think the fact that Miami does not have a great track record of traveling a lot of fans to bowl games plays into that. Duke still is going to be the team that has the better season, they had the better record, they beat Miami head to head. I would think If they don’t believe that there’s going to be a tremendous difference in attendance between the two, that duke would be the direction to go."
"Even if Duke is crushed?" I asked.
"Yeah, you know here’s the thing,'' Edwards said. "With Duke" (he laughed right here), "I’m half-joking to say this, getting crushed is something Duke fans are quite accustomed to. I don’t think it would take the air out of the Duke fan base to get crushed by Florida State the same way it would for a lot of fan bases to get crushed in a conference championship game. This is a dream season for Duke regardless what happenes Saturday.
"Look at what Florida State did to them a year ago and that was a Florida State team that was not even as good as this year’s team. I bet most Duke fans are expecting to get crushed in this game. If they’re still in it at halftime maybe they’ll start to believe and hope and all that, but I don’t think anything that can happen Saturday night is going to cause fewer Duke fans to be interested in a bowl game like it would for a lot of fan bases."
I was told today by the bowl that the ACC and SEC teams each are allotted a maximum of 18,500 tickets (though there's a minimum amount they have to buy, and it's fewer than that). The game is already sold out, and Chick-fil-A officials are confident they'll fill the seats regardless of who plays in the game -- especially if they get a decent SEC draw (think Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M, or a UM-Georgia game). But Edwards still is projecting Duke over Miami.
"Yes there’s certainly the name factor you don’t get with Duke,'' Edwards said, "but there’s still the possibility that Duke could be ranked. They’re 20. Everybody is expecting them to lose the game so it’s not like people are going to kill them on their ballots for losing to Florida. They could get a ranked team with Duke. They definitely will get a 10-win team, which is something they wouldn’t have with Miami."
Note that Miami is 9-3.
"I can see it both ways,'' Edwards concluded. "I don’t know for sure that’s what they'll do. But that’s just what I’m hearing, that as of right now, Duke would be the choice for Chick-fil-A."
ESPN (and I'm not talking about Brad Edwards) will have a part to play in this as well. The station wants a good game, so I still don't think it's a done deal either way.
We'll all just have to wait, regardless.
Edwards believes the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando will take Miami if the Chick-fil-A does not. But if something really wacky happens, you never know.
El Paso, anyone?
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN