Monday, October 24, 2005


On the football front . . .

I suppose that it wouldn't be right for me to blog on a Monday and not talk about the weekend's happenings on the gridiron. Mea culpa. And here goes.

Basically, it wasn't a perfect weekend, but it was better than average.

I look at it this way:

1) Northwestern, home of the Wildcats and my undergraduate alma mater, scored themselves a spot on the AP and Coaches polls this weekend with a mammoth win over Michigan State (49-14). Dude! So now the once Mildcats are on the move. They only need one more win to hit a bowl game this year, but somehow I think they might get at least a couple more.

Sure, the rest of the schedule isn't pretty - there's Michigan this weekend, followed by Ohio State and Iowa before finishing the season against the Fighting Illini. I think the Cats can take Illinois without much problem - and that's good enough for a berth in the Motor City Bowl against whoever wins the MAC. But I think they'll get one or two more than that. Ohio State's not likely; it's in Columbus and the Cats upset the Buckeyes for the first time in more than 30 years last season. But Michigan and Iowa? Not sure. I feel like one of them could go down to the Cats.

All of this said, however, what I want most is for Northwestern to go to a bowl game and win it. When I was a student there, we hadn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1949 (when we were still the Fighting Methodists), but at least we had won that game. In the 90s and the new century, there have been four more bowl games - one Rose, one Citrus, one Sun, and one Motor City. And four losses.

So go Cats. And let's finish the job.

2) Texas, home of the Mighty Mighty Longhorns and my graduate alma mater, not only destroyed rival Texas Tech 52-17. No sir. They not only cemented their standing in the polls (still #2 to USC). But they also stole votes from the Trojans, who beat up on a terrible Washington team.

More than that, this is the last big team the Horns will face until the Big 12 championship game and (hopefully) a return to the Rose Bowl for the national championship. The Horns are hot. Vince Young is just about incredible. And maybe, just maybe, Mack Brown finally has the monkey off his back. Maybe he'll prove he's not the John Cooper of Texas.

Keeping fingers crossed.

3) Ohio State beat up on Indiana. There's not much to say here. I like Indiana, too, but it's nice to see the Buckeyes winning a game they ought to.

And then there was one bad outcome:

Bad 1) The Cincinnati Bengals went down 27-13 in a matchup against Pittsburgh that wasn't as close as the score suggested. So here's the bad news. Carson Palmer was a mess. The defense couldn't match Pittsburgh's running game. Kind of a dreadful game in the rain and muck of southern Ohio.

On the other hand, here's the good news. The Bengals are still 5-2 and should have enough in the tank to make the playoffs for the first time since 1990. I'm a fan. I have to think about this realistically. The team is coming right along. They're not an elite team yet, but they are on the move. Pittsburgh is an elite team (probably the second best team in the league right now), and they took the boys from Cincinnati seriously for the first time in 15 years. We're seeing the rebirth of a good solid rivalry that's been erased by years of entropy in the Queen City.

When the Bengals come up against Pittsburgh later this year, it'll be tougher. They'll fight harder. The rivalry will get better. In the 80s, the AFC Central teams (Cleveland, Houston, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati) used to beat up on each other year in and year out. It was always an exciting fight to the finish. It's a slightly different division now, but those days are on their way back thanks to this matchup.

And by the way, where do I rank the Bengals in the NFL right now? Well within the top half. Behind Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Denver, New England, and maybe tied with Jacksonville in the AFC. Frankly, if I were a guessing man, I'd bet on the Bengals joining those teams in the playoffs. I'm not sure about San Diego.

But whatever. I'm no expert. On the other hand, I wouldn't have picked Minnesota for the Super Bowl, sex cruise or no.

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