Alabama and LSU will sqaure off in the title game.
After Thanksgiving, football on both the pro and collegiate level heads toward the goal line.
NCAA games come to an end for many fans—especially in Albuquerque, especially these days—long before Christmas. The bowl season extends further than it has in the past, sure, but that's mainly due to the proliferation of the so-called bowl games. We start with the New Mexico Bowl, which Temple took over Wyoming on Dec. 17, and continue all the way to the BCS.
The title game occurs on Monday, Jan. 9, when No. 2 Alabama will face first-ranked LSU. Between now and then, plenty of pretenders to the bowl throne will battle, but few of them are worth the time it'll take to play, much less to watch. Of course, no disrespect is intended, as I'm sure Michigan State and Georgia, at No.’s 17 and 16, respectively, are great football teams, and their fans care very much who wins the game. But outside that constituency, its hard to muster feelings for the Outback Bowl, amongst others.
The day before the title game, in fact, is somehow, for some reason, occupied by Arkansas State versus Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Just for fun, although I'm sure it's been done before, let's look at some of these corporate sponsorships: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Little Caesar's Bowl, TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl! All of these games have been or will be televised nationally. Advertising really has changed the world.
The end of the college football bowl season dovetails nicely into the end of the NFL’s regular season, where things are really heating up. The titanic Green Bay Packers are obviously still a favorite, and the Philadelphia Eagles (preseason favorites who have been extensively covered) have now been officially dismissed from the playoffs. Perhaps another year to gel will help them live up to the lofty expectations.
While Green Bay has wrecked the regular season (save a blip two weeks ago), the New England Patriots have gone under the radar to resume their traditional position atop the AFC. Plenty of spoilers await a slip from either side, including the surprising stories of the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans.
Romo and Manning will decide who wins the NFC East
With only one more week in the regular season, plenty of teams are still itching to play spoiler. The biggest end-of-season matchup, however, seems guaranteed to be the Dallas Cowboys playing in New York against the Giants. The teams will play for the NFC East Championship in the last game of the regular season, on New Year's Day.
Football's finale is always the best, save the drama regarding the need for a true playoff system in college football. This year should be no different, whether you'll be watching the boys play in the BCS title game, or following the pros as they make the final cuts for the playoffs.
Almost everyone in the world has weighed in on Tim Tebow. His general manager—former Denver Bronco great John Elway—said a few weeks ago that he wasn't quite sold on the young gun as a franchise quarterback. Then there was Charles Barkley, coming out of the woodwork and publicly pleading the Chicago Bears to beat the Broncos. (By the way, they didn't.) The discourse even turns up in seemingly tangential corners, such as young-adult author John Green's Tumblr and the pages of Rolling Stone. So what has Tebow done to deserve, in either sense of the word, all the chatter? Let's review.
Tebow, as we see him now, is a two-time national champion from the University of Florida. He is a Heisman Trophy winner, and one of the rare college athletes who succeeded so spectacularly and still played all four years— instead of making the jump to the pros early. He is enthusiastic in his love for the game, and most of his former associates, whether they be coaches or teammates, are nothing but effusive in their praise for him.
He also just so happens to be over-the-top religious. This, for a lot of people, is a deal breaker. Tebow's parents were missionaries, and he was raised with those beliefs. He has given numerous interviews stating that his ultimate goal in the NFL is to make enough money so that he can live the same kind of lifestyle as his parents did. The religious viewpoint is not unique to the NFL, nor to the Denver Broncos, but Tebow seems to raise a fervent attitude to people on both sides of the issue.
The real crux of The Tebow Dilemma, though, comes when examining the Broncos' record since Tebow was moved into the starting position at quarterback. In the words of DJ Khaled, all the Broncos have been doing since is winning. Often in ridiculously convoluted, dramatic fashion.
The Broncos were an anemic 1-4 before Tebow was slotted in to start, and have gone 7-1 since. The schedule, derided by critics at the beginning of the win streak, has gotten more difficult. The wins, counted as lucky by those same critics, have only gotten more and more tension-filled and climactic.
By most measures, Tebow is not, and should not be counted as a good quarterback in the NFL. Objectively, most scouts looked at him two years ago, before the draft, and said that he would not amount to much. (There were, of course, notable exceptions, such as Jon Gruden.) Subjectively, though, those critics, along with those who doubted his starting position or his worth to the Broncos at all, have had quite a few words to chew on in the last eight weeks. The wins keep piling up and, as of now, Denver sits alone in the top spot of the AFC West.
Steering away from the personal reasons people may or may not like Tebow, it seems now is a good time to remind everyone that we truly do live in the Moneyball age. Will Tebow continue to defy the numbers, or do statistical averages rule all? Will he break the numbers, or eventually conform to them? A third path exists: Perhaps Tim Tebow is making his own numbers, improving as he goes along. For now, the most entertaining words that any football fan can hear on any given Sunday go something like this: "It's the fourth quarter. The Broncos are down. But Tebow's got the ball." Tune in. Something amazing is going to happen.
It was an excellent weekend for UNM sports. The Lobo football team gets 21-14 conference win over UNLV, Steve Alford's men's basketball team opens the season with 92-40 triumph over New Orleans, and the men's soccer team takes the conference championship over Cal State Bakersfield.
Oh, also, Monster Jam was at Tingley this weekend all vintage-style.
Sexual abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky suggest his youth mentoring charity might have been a pipeline for potential victims.
Despite the UFC 137 main event changes, BJ Penn and Nick Diaz delivered an exciting bout featuring a back and forth, crowd-pleasing battle. In the first round, Penn was very aggressive by getting the better of the striking and momentarily taking Diaz' back. But in the second and third rounds Diaz' conditioning enabled him to give Penn the worst beating of his career. Diaz demonstrated pinpoint accuracy by nailing Penn with lethal combinations to the head and body. Despite Penn bleeding for the first time in his career, he still showed fighting spirit by not allowing the former Strikeforce champion to finish him. But getting beat up by Diaz forced BJ Penn to unexpectedly retire from the sport. No one knows for certain if Penn has truly retired, but if he has, Penn doesn't have anything to be ashamed about. Meanwhile Diaz’ performance was enough to convince UFC President Dana White to grant him a title shot against George St. Pierre. While GSP vs. Diaz will be a money maker for the UFC, Albuquerque fighter Carlos Condit lost his title shot and will be forced to climb the ladder again to regain his spot.
It wasn't all bad news for Albuquerque fighters as Lightweight contender Donald Cerrone destroyed Dennis Siver on the Spike TV prelims. Cerrone has gone 4-0 this year and can make a case to fight for the title. But his main goal is to stay active and now is rumored to face Nate Diaz at UFC 141.
Ray Rice had three TD’s.
Last Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens went through a nightmare when they got embarrassed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. So when the Ravens welcomed the Arizona Cardinals, many thought Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis would take out their anger on one of the worst teams in the league. Instead, the Cardinals humbled the Ravens defense by taking a 24-6 lead into halftime. But Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin’s seven receptions for 145 yards and running back Ray Rice’s three touchdowns helped fuel a 21-point comeback. The Cardinals tied up the game in the fourth quarter but Flacco’s pass to rookie Torrey Smith set up a Ravens game winning field goal.
Steelers vs. Pats
It's rare to see the New England Patriots get bullied by any team in the NFL. Often Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick push around and frustrate their rivals. But when New England traveled to Pittsburgh, the Steelers turned the tables and dominated the Patriots defense. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made Belichick’s defense look amateur by going 36-50 in the air with two touchdowns. Despite having long offensive drives, New England was unable to finish off their longtime AFC foe. Brady threw a red zone touchdown late in the fourth quarter to cut the lad to six. But a botched onside kick and a safety sealed Pittsburgh's 25-17 victory. With Roethlisberger finally finding his rhythm, the Steelers have recovered from their opening day disaster against the Ravens and look primed for a deep playoff run.
NFL commish Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith squash the lockout
On Monday morning, the good news started pouring in for fans of American football. The lockout which had threatened the country's (true, modern) pastime finally ended. The focus now turns to the actual start of the season, currently slated for September 8.
When the new NFL season begins, there will be a couple important differences, but most of them will be invisible. When it comes to the changes that both sides were pushing for, there was compromise instead of hard manifestation—at least to this point. The schedule will remain a 16-game affair —for now. Owners will be getting more money than they were previously. Practices will change, and there is already grumbling from those who are attached to the old schedule.
These differences, however, are inevitable when two sides are fighting for every inch. All told, in the process of negotiation, the NFL was officially locked out for more than 4 months, the longest lockout in NFL history. However, the good news is that no official games were lost to the labor dispute, save an exhibition game which had been scheduled for August 7.
A great summary of the winners and losers of the draft has been written up at espn.com. In regards to that article, though, I'd defy anyone to go out and talk to a football fan. There is a reason that this was the top story on ESPN for the last three days, and why it continues to get mentioned on CNN. In times like these, when people are looking toward August 2 as a potential for the United States government defaulting on its debt, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, took the time to point out that if football can get a deal done, certainly the bureaucrats in Washington should be able to follow suit; especially when the matter is of such increased gravity. For those who prefer their sports without politics, there's a handy comparison, too: The NFL lockout being resolved in a timely fashion gives hope to the fans of the NBA, which is still engaged in a lockout of its own.
At the end of the day, though, despite lists of winners and losers and total amount of time lost to this lockout, the easiest proof is in the pudding. Next time you're out and about, ask a sports fan—whether it's at a bar, at work, or even just at a stoplight—"Hey, how do you feel that the NFL lockout is over?" Chances are, they'll gripe a bit. They'll mention how it was millionaires fighting with billionaires. And they'll say how ridiculous it was to have to slog through the news. But, at the end of that conversation, most people, as Americans who love football above all others, will smile and say, "Hey, I'm just glad it's back."
Aaron Rodgers completed the transformation of the Green Bay Packers into his team. The days of Brett Favre are completely over with this victory, and it probably couldn't have come at a better time for the Packers. As Favre played out his (hopefully last) season in Minnesota, there were practically daily signs of Farve burning out as opposed to fading away. Forget the off-field drama, just look at the production of Favre versus the young gun who used to back him up.
The Packers piled on the Steelers in the first half, capitalizing on every opportunity they could. They went up 14-0 in the first quarter alone. At that point, it looked like it would be another boring Super Bowl. The second quarter didn't bode well either when the Steelers were stymied in their drive for a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal.
But the Pittsburgh Steelers haven't gone to three Super Bowls in six years for no reason. After the third quarter ended, the Packers were up only 21-17 and the tide seemed to be turning. Mike Tomlin had done his job by firing up his troops and Ben Roethlisberger was poised to seal his legacy at the young age of 28.
The Cheeseheads grabbed up the momentum with an eight-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. Rodgers was in full command of the game with a 111.5 passer rating, compared to Roethlisberger's 77.4. Roethlisberger has been in (and won) two Super Bowls already. He was supposed to bring the savvy and the all-important Super Bowl experience. Instead, he was eclipsed by Rodgers who's ready to shine his championship acumen for a few more years.
When the Steelers scored with 7:34 minutes left in the fourth and commanded their defensive unit on the field to make a stand, things seemed headed for a Hollywood-comeback-ending. But the first word in the game is defense, and the Packers dug in. With 2:07 minutes left in the game and only one timeout, Roethlisberger completed two passes and then threw three incompletes in a row. The Steelers turned over the ball, Rodgers knelt on it and the transformation of backup quarterback to new big man in Green Bay was complete.
The field in the National Football League has been officially narrowed to two teams: the Green Bay Packers will play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Feb. 6 in Arlington in the new Cowboys Stadium.
In the first face-off yesterday, the Green Bay Packers crushed the Chicago Bears in what ended as a closer game than it really should have. Despite the low score, Chicago never seriously threatened Green Bay. When Jay Cutler went down in the first half—not to return for the rest of the game—the Bears seemed lost. However, third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie stepped up to his role in a big way and made something of a game of the second half. In fact, Chicago didn't even manage to put up any score until the fourth quarter. By that point, it seemed certain that the game was over, but Hanie refused to let things end without the Bears on the board.
The Packers have done a great job of stepping up their game as the season has creeped closer to the big game. Aaron Rodgers—more than proving his place as the post-Brett Favre quarterback for Green Bay—ended the night with a somewhat ugly line, but did everything that was asked of him. Most importantly winning. Along the way, he threw for 288 yards with two interceptions, ran in a touchdown and had a passer rating of 55.4—by far the lowest of his post-season. Despite all this, Rodgers and the Packers came out triumphant, defeating their long-time rivals in Chicago and setting up a meeting in Super Bowl XLV with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The New York Jets played in the same style of the Bears, refusing to put up points in the first half. It could have been considered a charitable gesture if it had been done on purpose—but no one believes that—and the Jets dug themselves too big a hole to get out of. The Pittsburgh Steelers, with their championship pedigree, proved to be too much to overcome.
While New York's Mark Sanchez has been impressive since being drafted last year, he was no match for Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. The Jets and their vaunted defense allowed 24 points in the first half, while only scoring three of their own. The good news: the defense woke up in the second half and held the Steelers scoreless. After the Jets managed a safety and a touchdown in the short span of four minutes, it seemed like hope was alive.
But Pittsburgh's defense isn't nicknamed the Steel Curtain for nothing and they held up their end of the defensive bargain.
Super Bowl 2011 will feature two young quarterbacks who are at different stages in their careers. Roethlisberger has been to the Super Bowl twice already and is accepted fully by his team and his city. Aaron Rodgers is still tending to that second bit. If there were any people in Green Bay who hadn't bought fully into Rodgers, surely this Super Bowl trip will convince them. Win or lose, Rodgers is now firmly in command of the Packers and the Cheesehead Nation. Combined with Roethlisberger's previous wins, this will make for an entertaining bowl game between two quarterbacks in total control with nothing really to lose and everything to gain.
The University of New Mexico football season may be done, but we still have one more thing to cross off our list before the new year arrives: the New Mexico Bowl. In the age of wildly proliferating bowls, I know it's not the honor it used to be. The fact remains, however, that we've got something of a special spot this year: the New Mexico Bowl is officially the first Bowl game and gets mentioned as such. Additionally, it'll be shown on ESPN, which is always nice for Albuquerque.
The NM Bowl pits Brigham Young University against University of Texas El Paso. While there's been some griping about the teams selected, at least they both sport .500 records. Much has been made of the fact that BYU and UTEP are headed in different directions but the New Mexico Bowl should be a decent game.
With the drought officially over thanks to the winter wonderland that's been pouring down here in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Bowl might actually resemble a football game in December, too. The game starts at noon, local time, tomorrow, and you can rest assured that tailgaters will be out in the parking lot of University Stadium as early as 8 a.m., no matter the weather. Tickets are still available so try to make it.
An interesting tidbit about the New Mexico Bowl is that it seems to be cursed: No team that's won it has had a winning season since. As we're now two years removed from our last appearance, perhaps this ominous statistic will provide some kind of cold comfort of hope for Lobo football next season.