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At What Price 06/18/2010

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The new Longhorn League, er, Big 12 logo

The Big XII survived. After Colorado left for the Pac 10 and Nebraska joined the Big Ten, it seemed that the conference was history. Reports had Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State negotiating with the Pac 10, and Texas A&M talking to the Pac 10 and the SEC. That would have left the futures of ‘the little 5’ in doubt. At the last minute, Fox Sports and ESPN sweetened the TV money, and the little five ponied up promises of cash to keep the conference together.

The little five (Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor) apparently offered to cede any penalty monies collected from the Buffs and Huskers to Texas, TAM and Oklahoma. In addition, there are reports that the little five would make up for any potential revenue loss suffered by those schools for staying in the Big XII instead of going to the Pac 10. Additionally, Texas gets to form its own network, a dream they would have been made to forgo in a move to the Pac 10. And people thought that Texas had too much power in the old arrangement!?! The little five made these concessions for two reasons. They were afraid of becoming irrelevant, of being left out of the BCS picture. (Good luck beating Texas with the advantages they now have!) They also argued that with 10 teams, their cut of the pie would be bigger, even with the extortion, er, good will payments. That may have been true, but it is only one week past the agreement and there are already storm clouds on the horizon. The Knight commission looking into college sports recommended earlier this week to lessen payouts to conferences for BCS participation and NCAA hoops participation. If these were to come to pass, the potential financial loss to the schools would be significant. Perhaps an even more ominous threat is the one coming from the Texas state legislature. It seems that they want to force this Texas-centric league to add Houston and perhaps even TCU. So much for the bigger slices of the pie.

The little five were afraid of joining the Mountain West, or another smaller conference, so they sold their souls to Texas. The reports were wrong. The Big XII is dead. Welcome to the Longhorn Conference! Long live Texas!

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RIP 06/11/2010

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The Cornhuskers join the Big Ten

Colorado is heading for the Pac 10. Nebraska is joining the Big Ten. It seems that the Big XII is coming apart at the seams.

The league, formed 14 years ago when the Big Eight was somehow absorbed by the Texas schools from the dying SWC conference. Usually, the schools leaving a defunct conference are absorbed by a larger group of existing affiliated schools, but the nearly 100 year affiliation of the Big 8 schools was no match for Texas. The Longhorns are the biggest bull in the yard, and immediately control of the new conference switched from Kansas City to Dallas. It was a travesty to end the annual Oklahoma-Nebraska football game, but that donnybrook was a sacrifice to Texas wishes. The last straw for Nebraska was the Texas, um, Big 12 ultimatum to swear they were committed to the conference by Friday. Forcing the Big 10’s hand has set realignment into motion. The Big 10 was content to wait a while for Notre Dame to decide about joining them. Had that happened, Nebraska would still be in the Big 12 North and the Big 12 would still be in tact. Texas was the driving force behind the SWC demise, and despite having ‘done everything we could to save the Big 12,’ it is the driving force behind the demise of the Big 12. The Longhorns will also join the Pac 10, along with Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, forming the first 16 team Superconference. Be careful what you wish for, Pac 10. The Big 8 thought it had caught lightning in a bottle, too. It is just 14 short years after Texas joined and Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State (along with Baylor) are left to fend for themselves. Colorado made the first move West because there was a movement afoot to include Baylor and freeze out the Buffs. (Watch out, OSU!) Most of those teams will probably end up in the Mountain West.

Nebraska will fit fine into the Big 10. They will probably be better off. Now the question is, what’s next? Various outlets report thea the Big 10 (now with 12

The changes have just begun. Conferences are up in the air. Who knows where they will land.

teams) and Notre Dame are still talking. ND has always been the Jewel that the Big 10 covets. So that means 2 or 4 more teams will likely end up joining the conference eventually. It may happen quickly, or it may happen in stages. The focus now shifts east as the Big 10 eyes teams currently in the Big East and ACC. Rumors say Rutgers is in play, along with Syracuse, Pitt and others. There is a shakeup coming out east, and another conference will probably bite the dust when it is all said and done.

What of the Pac 10? I find it interesting that at the same time they are adding 6 schools, one of those institutions, Colorado, is being sanctioned by the NCAA for failing to maintain academic standards and conference standard-bearer USC has been hit with a 2 year bowl ban and lost 30 scholarships for a lack of institutional control. The Pack 10 is a mess, and Texas has not even arrived yet!

Pretender 05/12/2010

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James was overshadowed by the Celtics all game long (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Fifteen points! Game 5 of a best of seven playoff series tied at 2 games each, at HOME, and the best he can do is score 15 points!?! With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, Fans in Cleveland are singing “where have you gone, LeBron James, ….” King James? He looked more like Harry Houdini last night. We couldn’t find him because he kept disappearing. The Witness Protection Service wishes they could hide people as well as James hid last night. Remind me again why they keep giving this guy the MVP trophy.

Can we now stop the comparisons with Michael Jordan? The only thing Jordan and James have in common is an ego as big as all they come. The difference between them is that MJ had a heart to match that ego. And the stones to fight. James needs to man up and grow his grapes, and build some heart. Perhaps a trip with Dorothy to visit the Wizzard is in order. FIFTEEN POINTS??? In his 179 playoff games, Jordan NEVER scored so few points.

James is no MJ

Last night was the 4th time James was held to 15 or less in his 70 playoff games. Jordanesque? Hardly. MJ grabbed 6 rings while with the Bulls, including his first one in his seventh season. This is LBJ’s seventh season. If the Cavs drop game 6 in Boston, James may have played his last home game in Cleveland. Rumor has it that James will land in New York or Chicago next season. The way he plays during the playoffs, perhaps he should consider the Harlem Globetrotters. There he can showcase his ego and antics and not have to worry about outcomes. He can throw the chalk in the air and pose for imaginary cameras, play the Clown Prince and not worry about the game. The outcome is pre-ordained.

To be sure, Nike will continue to pay him his millions. The NBA will continue to fawn over him. After all, he is the King! He represents all that the NBA has become. A mere shell of itself. A joke compared to what it was when MJ and Bird and Majic were the persona of the League. But come playoff time, the Clown Prince will continue to step aside for true basketball royalty. Just like he did again last night. The King is dead. Long live the Clown Prince!!

Trashin Tebow 04/23/2010

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Tebow shortly after he was drafted by Denver

The haters were ready to pounce. The venom came so quickly and with such veracity one would think that the articles were already written, just waiting for the team and coach names to be added. The Denver Broncos and head coach Josh McDaniels did what was apparently unthinkable. They drafted Florida QB Tim Tebow with the 25th pick. BAM! The haters did a quick edit and pressed the enter button. McDaniels has sealed his fate! Career suicide. Dead coach walking. The Broncos were the NFL clowns! Surely they were the butt of jokes in every other NFL war room. The crowd assembled at Radio City Music Hall to watch the draft live (I guess because they have no life. Come on. This is the Big Apple. Home to Broadway, the Yankees and about a million other distractions, and they choose to attend the draft? And they make fun of Midwesterners for watching corn grow for entertainment! But I digress…) laughed and jeered the pick.

To be sure, there have been poor QB picks in the first round. The Chargers picked Ryan Leaf from Washington State with the number two overall pick in

Tebow after winning the National Championship

1998. Former Broncos coach picked Tommy Maddox with, interestingly, the 25th pick in the 1992 draft. Those picks did not pan out. While Leaf did lead his WSU team to the Rose Bowl, they lost to Michigan, he had only 24 total career starts and was considered by many to be a head case. He was a total bust in the NFL. Maddox came out after his sophomore season at UCLA and had done nothing of note. Reeves was fired as the Broncos head coach after the next season, but because of his problems with star QB John Elway, of which the Maddox pick was merely a part. In these cases, people were right to question the choices. People also have a right to question the Tebow pick. But be honest. All Tebow did at Florida was play a key role on the 2006 National Championship team (he was the number two QB at Florida behind Chris Leak, played in 14 games and threw for and ran for a touchdown in the National Championship game), won the Heisman Trophy in ’07, and lead the Gators to a 12-1 National Championship season in ’08. This kid is arguably one of, if not the best college QB’s of all time. There are questions about his mechanics at the NFL level, but, come on, this is not the worst pick ever.

Tim Tebow plays with heart. He is a leader. He seems to have the drive and desire to do what ever it takes to improve himself. He won a Heisman, was part of 2 National Championship teams, and he is, in the estimation of some of the haters, no better than a 5th round draft pick? Unbelievable. I guess it is his personal life that has them upset. While many athletes are getting in trouble with the law, skipping classes and creating problems, Tebow talks about his religious values. He helps in the community. He was even the subject of a ‘contraversial’ choose life Super Bowl commercial where his mom talks about having been advised to abort him because of a medical condition. Guess in the minds of the haters he would be better suited for a high draft pick if he was a rapist or ran around drinking and getting arrested. Well, I am sure of this: if McDaniels felt he could wait until the Broncos second round pick to draft Tebow, he would have. There were others looking at him in round 2 (not 5 or later). McDaniels wanted him, and he went and got him. Remember, also, that Tebow was Denver’s second pick. They drafted WR Demariyus Thomas with the 22nd pick.

Denver came into the draft with one first round pick, number 11 overall, and managed to turn that into the 22nd and 25th overall picks. And they still have a second round pick, as well as 2 third round picks after the nights activities. Was it a stretch to draft Tebow at 25? Perhaps. Was it worth the gamble? Time will tell. Was it as bad a move as the haters say? Not even close. I have never been a big Tim Tebow fan, but the bile and venom spewed immediately after his pick has put me in his corner. Not because he was drafted by the Broncos, but because the speed and fury with which the crap hit the fan made it obvious that this attack was going to be unleashed no matter who drafted him. Time will tell about this draft, as it does with any draft. I for one hope the haters are made to eat their words.

Tebow with his Heisman Trophy

Poor Decisions 02/19/2010

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A shrine to the fallen athlete

Bad decisions. A week into the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver, Canada, the games have been marred by bad decisions. unfortunately, many of the decisions that have impacted these games happened long before the athletes arrived. The unintended consequences of these decisions have ranged from annoyance to tragic.

The biggest questions center around the Whistler Sliding Centre, where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life towards the end of his training run just hours before the games began. The 21-year-old made a steering mistake, flew off the track and impacted a steel post while traveling over 80 miles an hour. He never had a chance. This track is reputed to be the fastest in the world. But in no competition should a mistake cost a competitor his life. Kumaritashvili reportedly told his father days before the incident that he was scared of the track. His was not the only crash that day, but it was the most devastating. After the incident, The mens start was moved some 200 yards down the track, and a wall was erected at the impact point for protection. If that wall had been there from the beginning, perhaps the Georgian luger would be alive today. The problems at the Sliding Centre are not limited fo the luge. There were at least seven bobsled crashes during the first training runs Wednesday evening. When competitions of this sort are contemplated, safety must be the first priority.

Safety concerns have not been exclusive to the Sliding Centre. The Women’s Alpine course has been shortened and the final jump, called Hot Air, has been shaved to lower the dangerous air time generated in Wednesday’s downhill final, which was marred by several spectacular crashes. In addition, there have been many glitches in these games. There were timing issues in both men’s and women’s biathlon events, leading to several times being adjusted after the events ran. The ice making machine malfunctioned at a long track speed skating event earlier in the week leading to stoppages in the competition totaling almost 2 1/2 hours.

Fans in Vancouver have complained about a lack of access to snap an unobstructed photo of the flame

Even the opening ceremonies were marred as one of the arms for the cauldron used in the lighting ceremony malfunctioned. Fans have also been inconvenienced. Over 20,000 tickets to last night’s mens half-pipe finals were voided when it was deemed that the standing room area had been made unsafe by weather conditions. The ticket price will be refunded, but that is of small consolation to anyone who traveled from far away and were left scrambling to find a way into the event. Heck, even the location of the Olympic Flame has been called into question. Usually the most iconic symbol of any Olympic Venue, there have been many, many complaints that the public can not get close enough to the flame to snap an unobstructed photo of the Flame. People want to photograph the flame, who knew? The restraining fence was moved Thursday, allowing greater public access to this most olympic of symbols. Any event of this size has issues, and things will probably settle down as the games go on. I have not even mentioned the fan transportation issues since they seem to plague all games. But for some, it is too late. When courses are designed, ‘safest’ should be given more attention than ‘hardest’ or ‘fastest.’ One has to wonder if the athletes were taken into consideration at all when these games were designed.

Decisions. They have unintended consequences. The poor planning of the 2010 planning committee will be a defining legacy of these games.

Hawkeye Gone 02/12/2010

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Tucker on the end of Iowa's bench during his recent suspension

The University of Iowa announced today that basketball player Anthony Tucker has asked for, and been granted, release from his scholarship. The sophomore from Minnetonka, Minnesota, presumably will now transfer to another school.

Let the hand wringing begin. There have been many defections from the Iowa basketball program during coach Todd Lickliter’s three plus seasons as the head coach of the Hawkeyes. Now, with the departure of Tucker in season four, the coach Lick detractors will come out loudly. But, honestly, what choice did he have? The departure of Tucker has nothing in common with the players previously departed. Tucker’s is a sad story. His well chronicled issues with alcohol have led him to two suspensions in his first 2 seasons. Tucker came back this year after a lost season last year that found him arrested for public intox, having been found passed out in an alley behind an Iowa City bar, then being academically ineligible for the second semester. He entered his sophomore season with high hopes of puting that tough year behind him. Then, after starting Iowa’s first 11 games, came an altercation with a cab driver and another arrest for public intox. It was strike two in Iowa’s “three strikes” policy for student athletes. Tucker was suspended, and had made enough progress in the U of I’s progressive discipline program to be back practicing with his team mates. He even dressed for the last two games, but saw no action. The final straw for Tucker may have been Wednesday’s game against Northwestern. It was a game in which Iowa never trailed and lead by as many as 19 points in the second half. Despite this, Tucker saw no minutes on the court, even in mop up time. Message received. By asking for his release now, Tucker can contact, and be contacted by other schools, should anyone have interest. Hopefully for Tucker, a fresh start in a new location will help him get past his issues. For his sake, I hope so. But none of that is the fault of Coach Lick. He handled this situation well in my opinion.

For Hawkeye basketball fans, suffering through another losing season, the timing of this departure could not have been worse. Iowa had just picked up its

Tucker is a Hawkeye no more

third Big Ten win of the season. The team had performed well as of late. It was beginning to feel as if that light in the distance may, indeed, be the end of the tunnel, not just another oncoming train. Now the memory of multiple defections after each of the past few seasons are back in full force. Who will be the next to leave? Coach Lick has brought an entirely new system to Iowa. The most important thing he now needs is continuity. In each of the past two seasons, the team began to gel as the players finally seemed to grasp their roles. That appears to be happening again. What must happen now is for these players to return next season. With the recruiting class due to arrive next year, there is hope for the future. And, now, there is another scholarship available. I do not expect another round of players quitting the program. The players on the squad currently are still here because they want to be here.

The loss of Tucker was not Lickliter’s fault. He did everything right, in my opinion, including not rushing Tucker back in to the mix. He stuck to his guns, and hopefully the rest of the players will see that the decision is in their best interest, and Tucker’s. Interestingly, Tucker’s departure may end up helping Coach Lick and Iowa more than if he had stayed. As to the players that have left previously, let us not forget that they were the quitters. They either did not figure that they would get much playing time in this system or they left for greener pastures. What makes anyone think that this team would be any better off had they stayed? Do not lose sight of the fact that none of the players that left the program are in any danger of turning up on an All-American team any time soon. Several went down a division in competition when they left Iowa. One is out of basketball with legal problems of his own. This is not an effort to disparage those that left. It is just a reminder that they may not be the players many now seem to think that they were.

Say It Ain’t So, Brett 01/24/2010

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While it was not all his fault, the ending was classic Favre.  To be fair, Favre had his Vikings on the cusp of the Super Bowl with less than 30 seconds left.  It was 3rd and 15 

Favre is left to ponder what if after his last pass is intercepted

 at the New Orleans 38 yard line.  Ironically, the Vikings had been moved out of field goal range with a 12 man in the huddle penalty just seconds before.  Those five yards probably made any field goal attempt difficult.  Now, Favre had to make something happen.  He took the snap, and Saints pressure forced him to roll to his right.  He appeared to have running room.  All he needed was 5 to 10 yards, call time out and put the game on the leg of Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell.  Then it happened.  Something came over Favre.  Sure, he was hobbled with a bad ankle, but he could have run the ball,  instead, he chose to throw the ball, across his body and across the field.  Mortal sins for an NFL quarterback.  The Saints intercepted the pass, killing any chance for the Vikings to win in regulation.  It was the third Viking turnover in the 4th quarter.  

New Orleans won the coin flip and took the ball to start overtime.  Favre and the Vikings never got the ball back.  The Saints drove down the field and converted a 40 yard field goal to win the game and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.   They will take on the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in Miami in two weeks.   The Saints came into the game as the best offense in the league, but it was the Vikings who moved the ball up and down the field all night.  The Vikes out gained New Orleans 475 yards to 257.  But Minnesota turned the ball over 5 times.  There is plenty of blame to go around, but it is the last pass by Favre that will stay with him.  

Flash back 3 seasons ago.  The Green Bay Packers were tied with the New York Giants in overtime of the NFC championship game.  On the second play of OT, Favre threw 

Favre's last pass as a Packer is intercepted in OT of the NFC championship game

an interception.  It was the last pass he threw as a Packer.  The Giants kicked a 47 yard field goal and then went on to win the Super Bowl.  Disheartened, Favre retired from the game, but the thought of that last pass haunted him.  Two teams and another retirement later, here we are again.   After all the drama, the two retirements, the trade to the Jets and signing with the Vikings, Favre faces another off-season retirement decision with that last, terrible interception on his mind.  Perhaps it is karma.  The demons are back.  Probably worse than ever.  Perhaps this is the way Favre was ment to go out.  I don’t know.  I do know that he deserved better in this game.  After all the drama  of the past 2 seasons.  After tarnishing his reputation, morphing from The Gunslinger into The Diva, after all the crap in New York and the agonizing courtship with the Vikings, Favre and Minnesota should be in the Super Bowl.  What was he thinking with that last pass?  Surely a 19 year veteran knows not to throw that ball.  So now, instead of going out in glory, Favre will have to live with that last pass gnawing away at him.  Will he retire?  Probably.  Will he come back again?  Well, we will not know that for months.  Here comes another off-season Favre watch.  Will he?  Won’t he?  How many twists and turns this time?  No one knows yet.   

Why didn’t he just run the damn ball!!!????!!!  

Favre walks off after he throws a pick late in the 4th quarter of the NFC championship game. Will this be his last pass ever?

Formation Flying 01/18/2010

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There is a surprise entrant into this years NFL final four.  Indy, Minnesota and New Orleans, no surprise.  But the New York Jets?  Who saw that one coming?

In winning at Cincinnati and then at San Diego, the Jets got some help.   Shane Graham of the Bengals  and  Nate Kaeding of the Chargers were a combined 0-5 in field goal

Shonn Greene scores the clinching TD

 attempts.  These two kickers were among the most accurate during the regular season converting a combined 87% of their attempts all year.  Heck, even drawing the Chargers at all was a stroke of luck.  San Diego flamed out once again.  I am frankly tired of hearing about how great the talent is on this team.  Their coach is a joke and this team of entitled prima donnas again shot themselves in the collective foot with inopportune penalties at the worst times.  Despite having great talent, San Diego has never sniffed the Super Bowl with Norv Turner calling the shots, and they never will.  They fade away when the pressure is on.  There is no discipline on the team.  Kicking a challenge flag and getting your team a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty when you are in the red zone and  trying to make a comeback?  Are you kidding me?   Grow up, Chargers.  They are, again, the ‘best team not to make the Super Bowl’ this season, coming into the playoffs on an 11 game winning streak and finishing one and done in the post season.  Good riddance.

What a breath of fresh air Jets QB Mark Sanchez is.  When asked after the game about the win, Sanchez went on and on about the

Jets rookie QB Sanchez is now 2-0 in the playoffs

offensive line, and the game plan, and the head coach, and the offensive coordinator, and the defense, and the running backs, and the receivers, you get the point.  He even actually said that it was not about him.  This is a rookie?  It was great to see someone subjugate his ego to that of the team. In contrast, 19 year veteran (and Minnesota QB) Brett Favre was asked about the Vikings win and he came back with how great it was to be in the conference finals, but that of course it was more important to him and “it means more to me (Favre)  than to anyone else in this locker room.”  Yeah, because lets not forget that it is all about Brett, all the time.  

Speaking of rookies, how about the running of Shonn Greene.  The first year back out of Iowa broke off a 53 yard TD dash with just over 7 minutes left to give the Jets a 17-7 lead and provide the cushion for the 17-14 victory.  Greene finished with 125 yards rushing for the game, following up his 135 yard, 1 TD effort against the Bengals in round 1 of the playoffs.  The Jet defense shut down the Charger offense, and held running back  LaDanien Tomlinson to 24 total yards on 12 carries.  The Jets face the AFC top seed Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game next week and will have an uphill climb.  But it was great to watch a TEAM of players who believe in each other, believe in the game plan, believe in preparation and give credit team mates and coaches.  The Jets made us remember that football is a team game, despite what Favre may think.

Chargers QB Rivers walks off after yet another San Diego playoff meltdown

viKINGS 01/15/2010

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The time has come.  This is the reason that Brett Favre manipulated his way into Minnesota.  The journey begins now, and is a 3 game or bust scenario.  All Favre wants is another chance on the NFL’s biggest stage.  All Vikings fans want is to once and for all get the big game monkey off of their back.  All in all, not much to ask for.

We will not explore again all the events that brought Favre to Minnesota.  Lets just say that this journey has tarnished his reputation, and nothing short of a Super Bowl

The Vikings are looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since the Purple People Eaters lead teams of the 1970's

 victory will put the luster back on Favre’s career.  He is a Hall of Famer, to be sure, after he stays away for 5 seasons.  But two years ago he would forever have been known as the gunslinger.  Now, unless he can reach the mountaintop once more, his legacy will be that of the diva.  Just another self-centered manipulator who could only win the big game once.  That fact seems to get lost in all the Favre hype.  He has only led his team to the Super Bowl victory once, defeating the Patriots in SB 31, and becoming one of the biggest favorites to lose the big game in dropping SB 32 to the Broncos.  Favre could have been remembered as one of the greats to win once.  With luminaries such as Steve Young and Joe Theisman.  But the self-centered manipulation of the past few years will drop him into the likes of  Doug Williams and Jeff Hostetler.  Good signal callers to be sure, but not names that come up in any conversation about all time great QB’s.  Two years ago, Favre would have been in that conversation unequivocally.  Now, his name will elicit a “yes, but….” in the conversation.  The gunslinger turned diva needs a return to the top.  It is going to be an uphill climb.

The Vikings have not won an NFL championship since Bud Grant lead them to the league title in 1969.  For those of

Will former Packer Favre help the Vikings finally hoist the Lombardi trophy

you who are too young, that’s  pre Super Bowl.  The long-suffering Vikings fans watched their team drop 4 of the first 11 Super Bowls, and have not been back to the big game since 1977.   Not exactly loveable losers, the Vikings, in fact, have 26 playoff appearances since they joined the NFL in 1961, including 18 division championships.  But the first decade of the 21st century has been their worst decade so far.  After their playoff appearance in 2000, the Vikings made the playoffs only once until the 2008 season.  The Vikings won the NFC North in  ’08 for their first division crown in 8 seasons.   They had a good defense and one of the best running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson, but were lacking an established QB.  Coach Brad Childress had worked with Favre when he was a coach with the Vikings hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers.  Childress tried to land Favre a season earlier, but did not get Favre to the Twin Cities until this season.  Now, with a second consecutive division title in hand,  the Viking fans are rooting for perhaps their most hated rival to lead them to the promised land.  And you thought politics made for strange bed fellows. 

In Favre, they found an egocentric 40-year-old who has developed the habit of late of melting down the stretch.  He did it at the end in Green Bay.  He did it in New York.  In Minnesota, the Vikings started 11-1, but finished 2-3 down the stretch.   All is not bleak, however.  The Vikes secured the # 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.  That gave the Vikings a first round bye, and guarantee that they would play no cold weather games during the playoffs.  Their two NFC games will be in domes (theirs or New Orleans) and the Super Bowl, should they get there, is in Miami.  Still, the Vikings have pinned their Super Bowl hopes on a quarterback who has a  3-7  record in his last 10 playoff starts.  He has 16 touchdowns in those 10 games, but he also has 16 interceptions.  Now, the Vikings are looking to him for 3 straight playoff wins.

Anything short of the Super Bowl will be a failure of the Favre experiment for Minnesota.  The diva may need a victory in the big game to once again become the gunslinger.

Icing on the Cake 01/06/2010

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Given the way the entire 2009 season unfolded for the Iowa Hawkeyes, you knew it was not going to be easy.  Iowa fought and clawed all season long, trailing at some

Brandon Wegher breaks free for the clinching TD in the Orange Bowl

 point in every game, save the Minnesota shut out, during the 10-2 season.  Who would expect the Orange Bowl to be any different?  But it was.  Despite the fact that Fox TV  talking head and former coach Jimmy Johnson during the pre game studio show all but apologized for the fact that Iowa was invited to the game, the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter  lead and never trailed during the 24-14 win.  A pick six thrown by Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi  kept the game close on the scoreboard, but the final score belied the dominance of the Hawkeyes over ACC Champ Georgia Tech.  Iowa dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage for much of the game, accounting for the Hawks 407-156 advantage in total yards.  Offensively, Stanzi was 17-29 for 232 yards and 2 TD’s while Brandon Wegher ran for 113 yards in 16 carries, including the victory sealing 32 yard TD scamper with 2:03 left in the game.  The defense, which shut down Tech’s vaunted triple option attack, was led by game MVP Adrian Clayborn’s 2 sacks and A. J. Edds interception.  It was the first BCS victory in Hawkeye history, in their second BCS appearance.

Iowa took advantage of the spotlight on the national stage despite fighting for respect for most of the season.  The

Iowa's defense was dominant

victory also capped off a very successful bowl season for the Big Ten.  Like Iowa, the conference had been suffering from a credibility gap nationally.  Last season, the Big Ten won only once (Iowa’s victory over South Carolina) in six bowl games.  The pundits thought the same would happen this season, making the Big Ten teams underdogs in six of the seven bowls involving conference teams.  But the Big Ten went 2-0 in BCS games, and became the first conference to defeat 4 top 15 teams in bowl games in the same season since the inception of the BCS system.  Besides Iowa’s victory over 9th ranked GT, Wisconsin upset 14th ranked Miami 20-14 in the Cap One Bowl, Penn State beat #13 LSU 19-17 in the Outback Bowl, and Ohio State dispatched Pac 10 Champ and 7th ranked Oregon in the Rose Bowl 26-17.  Wisconsin, OSU and Iowa were all underdogs heading into their matchups. The Big Ten is the only conference with 4 teams that achieved double-digit wins this year.

Iowa has now won 15 of their last 17 games, and are 20-6 over the last 2 seasons, with each of those losses having

Iowa won the Orange Bowl for their first BCS Bowl Win

 been by a TD or less.  You have to go back to November, 2007 to find the last time Iowa lost a game by more than 7 points.  The 11 wins this season tied the team record for most wins set in 2002.  The fact is that this years team was Junior and Sophomore dominated.  The returning players have been competitive in every game they have been in.  Iowa will need to replace probably 3 starters on the offensive line (including Bryan Bulaga who will probably go pro as a Junior), stand out tight end Toni Moeaki, wide out Trey Stross, and linebackers  Edds and Pat Angerer.  Junior DB Amari Spivey may also declare himself for the NFL Draft.  But the truth is that Iowa’s 100 plus man roster included only 13 Seniors in total.  That means that they return players like QBs Stanzi and James Vandenberg, RBs Weigher and Robinson (and now healthy Jewel Hampton and Jeff Brinson), wideouts DJK and Marvin McNutt, safetys Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, D Ends  Clayborn and Broderick Bings and so many more.  Hawkeye fans are already salivating about the 2010 campaign.