Monday, October 23, 2006

Big sports weekend, so let's summarize where I stand:

  • Michigan football survived what should be its last true test before the monstrous November 18 Ohio State game. This was a really tense game, but the defense again proved to be dominant. Northwestern and Ball State at home and Indiana on the road does not sound like any problem for a very good and a very steady team. If this does play out as everyone expects, one of the rivalry games on everyone's very very short list of best American sports rivalries will be played for the biggest stakes ever this year--and possibly again on January 8th if it's a super-close game and other dominoes fall right.
  • USC didn't play this week. In the next six, though, the Trojans play two conference road games, three consecutive ranked teams at home, and in-city rival fUCLA. Even as a fan I think it's unlikely the team gets through this stretch to finish out 12-0. Cal is the most obvious pitfall, but my hunch is that someone else does the deed--that USC over-focuses on that one and trips up against Oregon, Notre Dame, or even Oregon State. And this is too big of a rivalry for UCLA not to knock us off one of these years.
  • The entire preceding paragraph may simply be my denial of the possibility of a Michigan-USC championship game, which could make my head explode. By January 8th, I'd make Harvey Dent look well-adjusted and focused. I can't even think about this any more right now.
  • Pitt football. Ugh. Yeah, losing to Rutgers this year is different, but it's still losing to Rutgers. The winner here had a chance to play into the pre-ordained Louisville-WVU storyline for conference supremacy and a BCS game. The loser probably gets a ticket to whatever they're calling that Charlotte bowl now. That's us.
  • Beth-Center football. Go, go go, go you mighty Bulldogs! By virtue of a touchdown pass on the last play of the game, the Bulldogs knocked off Fort Cherry--the cradle of NFL coaches--for their first conference title in 12 years, setting up a possible run at their first WPIAL title game since I was in seventh grade, or possibly even first WPIAL title since 1975. In retrospect I should have put this at the end, because you've probably all stopped reading this part.
  • Steeler football. OK, here's what it comes down to. At 2-4, the Steelers play at Oakland and home against Denver in the next 2 weeks. Win both of those games and the season is back on track; lose either and it's over. The second half of the season features 5 divisional games, so if we're within striking distance then we have a fighting chance. But we also have Carolina and New Orleans, and a suddenly resurgent Tampa Bay. At 3-5 we would have to go 7-1 and pray, which is probably too much to ask. But 4-4 with a lot of offensive momentum and we'd be a team to be reckoned with. Note: there will be absolutely no reckoning if we don't learn to hold onto the goddamn football--12 fumbles in six games, losing 7, is way too many for a team that expects to do anything.
  • The World Series. I have to admit that I'm very torn on this one. On the one hand, I have no horse in this race and many of my friends are Tigers fans, so it would be nice to see the Tigers win for them. On the other hand, my National League pride is starting to get exercised much as my AFC pride was in the mid-'90s when I wanted an AFC team--any AFC team--to win the Super Bowl finally. At least the streak of sweeps has ended at 2, and I'm happy for that. But here's the thing--since 1990, only one NL team that existed in 1990 has won a World Series: Atlanta in 1995. The NL has only four total titles in that time period. I would really like to see the original 8 NL teams in particular reassert themselves. Of course, I'm not particularly holding my breath for the team I really want to see re-emerge. But maybe that's the final argument for cheering for Detroit--sucking for a very long time does not mean sucking forever. I think that's what they're calling the team highlight video this year.

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