Sunday, December 18, 2005


Watching ESPN2 Saturday afternoon, I couldn't help but think that it could have been Capital out there playing for a national championship on national TV.

The Purple Raiders grabbed a 28-7 lead in the third quarter and held on to win 35-28 over the University of Wisconsin--Whitewater. In the quarterfinals only two weeks ago, MUC narrowly defeated the Crusaders in Alliance 34-31 in one of the best football games--not d3 games, not college games--any football games I had ever seen.

We know that this is Mount Union's eigth national title but first since 2002. We know all about wide receiver Pierre Garcon (everybody's favorite Proposition 48 player in Division III.) But let's focus on Capital and the OAC for a second.

When the Crusaders met Mount Union, few gave Capital a fighting chance to win; therefore, for most, predictions were way off. In a losing effort, senior wide receiver Lewis Howes put on a show (245 yards, three touchdowns) against the nation's No. 2 defense. In short, the so-called dominant 'D' from Mount couldn't stop him. Rocky Pentello exorcised his Purple Raider demons, at least in the sense that he played well against them. The win, obviously, is still elusive. Seniors like Joel Sickmeier, who put a devastating hit AJ Hawk-style on the Mount Union freshman phenom tailback, proved they could battle with Mount Union in the trenches. The Crusaders walked off the field with a tremendous amount of respect from the opposition and from all around Division III. It might have been the most prideful loss a team could have. The "Mount-Union-is-down-this-year" argument doesn't hold water after what happened this weekend. It's possible that Capital was the second best team in the country, but regardless, they made a historic run unforgettable to the Bexley campus. It will be interesting to see if this year was a zenith for Jim Collins and the program or merely a stepping stone. Either way, it was a lot of fun.

Staying with football, let me move from guys who pay money to play the game to guys who get paid millions to do it. I'll start with the Bengals to please the "Who-Dey" fanatics. With their 41-17 win over lowly Detroit, Cincinnati claimed the AFC North championship. They will be in the postseason, which I told you they would. I, however, told you they would win 10 games. They are at 11 and still rolling. Let me tell you, though: the ones that will matter most are in January. Cincinnati has proved they have one of the top two or three offenses in the NFL; it's good enough to win you a championship. They key will be defense, especially against the other great offenses. Great defenses come up with big plays to win games. No one shuts out the Colts, but you can force turnovers and come up with goal-line stands. If the Bengals can come up with these plays in the playoffs, they have as good of a shot to win the Super Bowl as anyone.

If you'll remember, in September I singled out the Steelers and the Vikings as my Super Bowl picks. In Minnesota, Daunte Culpepper went down for the season, the notorious "party boat" incident occurred (which is still being investigated, by the way,) and at 2-5, I felt like an idiot. Then came Brad Johnson, who in messianic fashion led the Vikings to six straight wins and playoff contention. Today the Steelers and Vikings met in Minnesota, both 8-5, in a pivotal game for both teams. Pittsburgh won 18-3, and a serious hole was punctured into the Viking vessel headed for the playoffs. I won't rule them out of it completely. With the NFC as weak as it is, they could still slip in. Pittsburgh got a loss from Kansas City yesterday, also, which means if the playoffs started today, the Steelers would begin on the road at either Denver or Cincinnati. Honestly, I would love to see a Cincinnati/Pittsburgh third meeting, so that as an unbiased observer, I can watch the trash-talking unfold. I'll stand by those Super Bowl picks, but we all know it's not going to happen.

Finally, Charlie Frye (from Wi....Wil....Willard, Ohio) notched his first win as a starting quarterback today as the Browns got themselves a 9-7 win in Oakland. You can tell by the score Frye didn't win this one, but he didn't lose it either. For a rookie who wasn't expected to play much, he is stepping in nicely. I think we can safely say the Browns won't be drafting a quarterback. At 5-9, the Browns are proving there are several teams (Oakland included) who are actually worse than they are and deserve a higher draft pick. Even though every win means a lower draft pick, every win also is a good sign for next year. In my opinion, next year has already started.

Another big star snubs the Tribe? My thoughts coming soon (tomorrow if you're lucky.)

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