First word on today’s sports stories

Here’s what’s happening in sports today:

1. V for victory

The best pitcher in baseball is having his best postseason. And he’s enjoying the ride. Justin Verlander’s first two trips to the major league playoffs were somewhat disappointing. Not this one. He has been every bit the dominant pitcher that he is in the regular season, as he showed again Tuesday night in the Detroit Tigers’ 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. After his 132-pitch effort, Verlander is 3-0 in this year’s playoffs with a 0.74 ERA. Jon Paul Morosi reports.

2. What’s up with the Lakers?

Kobe Bryant went off for 23 points in one quarter Tuesday night in an exhibition game against Utah, so all is well in Laker Land, right? Hardly. The Lakers lost the game to fall to 0-4 this preseason, and Steve Nash had four turnovers in 12 minutes of play. How bad is the preseason going? The team bus got stuck in traffic on the way to the game.

3. Temperatures rising

The Philadelphia Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. The Cleveland Browns blew out team president Mike Holmgren. The NFL’s firing season began with a bang Tuesday.

There are plenty of coaches with reason to believe they might be next. Norv Turner’s San Diego Chargers have blown two straight big leads. Pat Shurmur was hired by Holmgren. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett doesn’t seem to own a watch. Romeo Crennel is off to a 1-5 start with a Chiefs team many thought could win the AFC West. And Andy Reid might have merely delayed the inevitable by firing his close friend Castillo. Alex Marvez takes a closer look at the coaches on the hot seat.

4. On the pitch

The United States soccer team got what it needed Tuesday, a 3-1 victory over Guatemala to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying. But it did not get what it needed to ensure success in that round. Clint Dempsey’s two goals couldn’t hide the fact the Americans have to get much better to make it to Brazil in 2014. Bill Reiter tells us why.

5. The case for Te’o

Can the Heisman Trophy go to a player who hasn’t scored a touchdown? Not only could it, but it should. Linebacker Manti Te’o has willed Notre Dame to a surprising 6-0 start and a return to national prominence. He’s the unquestioned leader of a defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in a month. Though no solely defensive player has ever won the Heisman Trophy, every offensive candidate this season comes with flaws. Te’o doesn’t. In fact, he’s an inspiration on and off the field. And he puts the "college" back in college football: He’s set to graduate before bowl season begins. Greg Couch argues his Heisman Trophy case.

6. Time for payback?

The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals get back in action Wednesday afternoon in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series after an off day. Did Giants tempers cool on the off day? They were livid after Game 2, in which Matt Holliday made a late barrel-roll slide into second base, slamming hard into second baseman Marco Scutaro. "That’s over. You have to move on," conciliatory Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Read more.

7. Think you’re tough?

Chael Sonnen may or may not be a world-class fighter. But he’s a world-class talker. And that’s good enough to make him a star attraction in MMA. UFC president Dana White has capitalized on Sonnen’s star power and drafted him and Jon Jones to serve as opposing coaches for the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter." And that’s just a warm-up. The two fighters with square off in a title fight in April. Basically, White gets months and months of reality-show drama to fuel the tensions between Sonnen and Jones. And, of course, to promote the event. Reid Forgrave gives us the skinny.

8. NASCAR plots new course

NASCAR has altered its Sprint Cup race qualifying process for 2013, dropping the automatic spots for the top owners and opening the field to the fastest cars. It also has reduced the number of starters for Nationwide Series to cut down on start-and-stop entrants. Larry McReynolds likes the changes. Hear from him or click the video above.

9. Armstrong rides off

It hasn’t been the best of years for cyclist Lance Armstrong. There was that whole doping scandal thing, teammates dropping a dime on him, public disgrace, yadda yadda.

But Armstrong always could point to the good work he has done as a cancer survivor who turned his experience into inspiration for others stricken by the disease, using his name for the greater good by battling cancer through his Livestrong foundation. Now, the scandal appears to have taken its toll. Armstrong on Wednesday resigned as Livestrong chairman, though he will remain on the charity’s board. See more.

10. Don’t let the bedbugs bite

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald might have a future as a preschool teacher. He’s quickly gaining experience with scheduling nap time. That’s right, the Wildcats’ game-day schedule for their game against Nebraska now includes a mid-morning nap. Seems players had blamed a sluggish start against Boston College on the fact the game fell during their typical down time.

"Unbelievable," Fitzgerald said. "This is what I get paid to do. Seriously. Create nap time. It’s pathetic." Yardbarker has more.