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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This Week in Sports: September 26, 2012

In the past, I tried to publish this post on a Thursday or a Friday.  The NFL is the king of the sports world.  And the NFL week starts on Thursday and extends through Monday night.  So, from now on, it is my goal to get this column published on Wednesday.  But enough housekeeping.  We have a lot to get to this week.

The Week that Was:  Wow!  This was a big week in a whole slew of sports.

Golf:  The PGA Tour wrapped up its season this weekend with the fourth and final event of the Fed Ex Cup.  The Fed Ex Cup is golf's version of the playoffs.  Heading into the tournament at Atlanta's Eastlake Country Club, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were the biggest names who had a chance to win the $10 million championship prize.  But, it was American Brandt Snedeker who won the tournament and with it, the lucrative the Fed Ex Cup.


Ovechkin in the motherland
NHL:  Lost in all of the controversy in the NFL referee lockout is the labor strife in the NHL.  The NHL owners failed to reach an agreement with the NHLPA for a new collective bargaining agreement.  Therefore, the owners have locked out the players.  As of today, most of the preseason has been canceled.  The rest of the preseason is in serious jeopardy as well.  Meanwhile, several high profile players have signed contracts to go play hockey in their home countries.  Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and others have all started play in Russia's KHL, and Jaromir Jagr has started play in a Czech league.

MLB:  There is just about a week to go in the regular season, so the playoff picture is starting to take shape ... at least in the National League.  This weekend, the Cincinnati Reds clinched the NL Central, and the San Francisco Giants clinched the NL West.  In the NL East, the Washington Nationals have clinched a playoff berth, and they currently have a solid lead over the Atlanta Braves for the division crown.  Even if they cannot catch the Nationals, the Braves have at least clinched a wild card berth, and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals are in the driver's seat for the second wild card slot.

In the American League all the races are coming right down to the wire.  With only two games left to go in the season, the Detroit Tigers won the AL Central and eliminated the Chicago White  Sox.  The Yankees, the Orioles, the Rangers have all clinched playoff berths.  The Oakland A's are in a solid position to clinch playoff berth, but the divisional races are coming right down to the wire.

The only division with significant separation is the AL West where the Texas Rangers lead the upstart Oakland A's.  However, the A's are in solid position for a wild card.  In the AL East, the New York Yankees are clinging to a slim lead over the resilient and surprising Baltimore Orioles.  Even if the Orioles do not overtake the Yankees, the Orioles are still in a strong position to make the playoffs as a wild card.  The only team with a realistic chance to steal one of the wild card slots from the A's or the O's is the Tampa Bay Rays.  In the AL Central, there will only be one team that advances into October.  At this moment, the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox are in a virtual dead heat.

A familiar site for those of us old
enough to remember the old Saints.
NFL:  If you are reading this blog (or if you have turned on a TV or any electronic device in the last week) then you already know that the NFL has a mess on its hands with the replacement ref situation.  Certainly that is a worthy story.  But, there were some interesting developments on the field this week that did not involve officiating.  The most positive story so far this season is the Arizona Cardinals.  After three weeks, the Cardinals are undefeated.  And they have not had an easy schedule.  This week, the Cardinals dominated the Eagles at home.  This was a convincing follow-up to the Cardinals' victory in New England the week before.  On the flip side, the New Orleans Saints are finding out that they actually do need a head coach to be successful.  The Saints dropped to 0-3 this week after losing at home to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs.

College Football:  Saturday night was an absolute festival of college football.  In the PAC 12, #3 Oregon faced what was supposed to be an early season test when they hosted Rich Rodriguez and his #22 Arizona Wildcats.  The Wildcats were able to hang tough for a half before the Ducks exploded for 36 points in the second half. The final score in Eugene was 49-0 in favor of Oregon.  In the Big 12, #6 Oklahoma suffered a serious setback in their quest for a national championship when they lost at home to a resurgent #15 Kansas State squad.  #11 Notre Dame hosted #18 Michigan under the lights in South Bend.  In true midwestern style, Notre Dame remained undefeated by defeating Michigan 13-6 in a defensive struggle.  In the SEC, #2 LSU kept their national championship hopes alive by squeaking past Auburn by a score of 12-10 on the road.  The glamour event of the night was actually in the ACC. The undefeated #10 Clemson Tigers headed to Tallahassee to take on the #6 Florida State Seminoles.  The Seminoles prevailed 49-37 in an offensive shootout.


The Week Ahead:  Every week is a big week in the NFL.  Baseball is getting down to the bitter end.  And, NASCAR continues with its chase towards the Cup.  But it's golf that takes center stage this weekend.

Ryder Cup:  Golf is normally an individual sport.  But every other year, the sports world is treated to a dramatic three-day team event.  At the Ryder Cup, twelve of America's best golfers face off against twelve of Europe's best golfers.  The Ryder Cup is a three-day match play event.  Match play is different than stroke play because the team is awarded a point for each hole that is won, regardless of the difference in strokes.  The Ryder Cup is also unique because a variety of formats are used.  In addition to one-on-one competition, there is a 4-man alternating shot format as well as a better ball format.  The site of the event alternates between the U.S. and Europe.  This year's event will be held at Medina Country Club outside of Chicago.  The fun begins on Friday.  Coverage of the first day will be on ESPN from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST.  Weekend coverage switches to NBC.  Coverage will begin at 9:00 a.m. EST on Saturday and 12:00 p.m. EST on Sunday.

College Football:  At first glance, this week doesn't present the marquis match-ups that we had last week.  But, conference play starts in earnest for almost every team.  Perhaps the most interesting conference game of the weekend will be in the Big 12 when #9 West Virginia makes their conference debut at home against #25 Baylor.  Both teams enter the contest with perfect 3-0 records.  The West Virginia Mountaineers are one of the more fascinating stories of the college football season.  The Big 12 has many teams with storied histories and long-standing traditions.  Even though Baylor has played at the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, something tells me that the Bears have never been anywhere quite like Morgantown, WV.  It will be interesting to see how the Baylor Bears handle a crowd from the Rust Belt.


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