38 Season of Renewal
Brett Favre and others made fresh starts, but Tom Brady's injury cast a pall
By Damon Hack


50 Middle Managers
The Ohio State--USC showdown hinges on whose star linebacker takes control
By Austin Murphy


56 Not So Fast, Kiddo
Roger Federer beat two of his top young rivals to win his fifth straight U.S. Open
By L. Jon Wertheim


62 Art of the Steal
There's a new era of base thieving, a crime wave that could pay come October
By Chris Ballard


Kyle Busch sits atop the standings, but over the next 10 weeks he'll have his hands full as the top 12 drivers vie for the Sprint Cup

68 | Where does fast come from?

74 | Drivers size up the competition

77 | Scouting report: How they'll finish

83 | There's drama beyond the Chase


8 Leading Off

19 Letters

26 Players
• CC's the man in Milwaukee
• Daunte Culpepper retires
• A school's Katrina comeback

34 Faces in the Crowd

36 Just My Type by Dan Patrick
• Helping Rick Neuheisel

92 Point After
• A message to ordinary Joes and Janes: Go for it by Phil Taylor

Inside ...

86 College Football
• Penn State's new attack—in HD

88 Soccer
• No style points in a U.S. win

90 Fantasy Football
• A formidable air game in Philly

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (COWBOYS)38 SQUEEZE PLAY On the NFL's opening weekend, Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens took a playful shot at quarterback Tony Romo during their 28--10 rout of the Browns. PHOTOTODD BIGELOW/AURORA (BUSCH)