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Sunday, October 21, 2012

This Week in Sports: October 20, 2012

A lot has happened in one week.  Most of it in baseball.  And, don't pass out, but soccer makes an appearance in this week's column.

The Week That Was:  When I wrote last week's column the ALCS wasn't even set.  And now, it's over.  It's been a busy week.

(Paul Sancya/AP)
MLB:  It took the New York Yankees all five games, but they were able to beat the Baltimore Orioles and advance to the ALCS.  Unfortunately for the Yankees, they ran into a buzz saw known as the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers' pitching staff dominated the Bronx Bombers, and their offense produced when it had to.  The Tigers swept the Yankees in four games and will have a week off before the World Series.

In the National League, things are a bit more competitive.  The St. Louis Cardinals needed a magical comeback in Game 5 to beat the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.  The Cardinals kept their momentum going when they beat the Giants on the road in Game 1 of the NLCS.  The Giants won Game 2 at home before the series moved to St. Louis for the next three games.  The Cardinals won Game 3 and Game 4.  That gave the Cardinals a chance to close out the series at home on Friday night.  But, Barry Zito gave the Giants a gutsy performance from the mound in this must-win game.  The Giants stayed alive with a 5-0 victory.  The series now moves back to San Francisco for Game 6 on Sunday and possibly Game 7 on Monday.

Soccer:  The World Cup doesn't start in earnest until the summer of 2014, but qualifying has already been underway for quite some time.  World Cup qualifying is a complicated system that I will not attempt to explain.  The thing that you need to know is that on Tuesday night, the U.S. men's team faced elimination when they played Guatemala in Kansas City.  A loss would have eliminated the U.S. from any further qualifying rounds.  A win would clinch advancement.  A tie would require the U.S. to wait on other teams' results to know their fate.  There were nervous moments early in the match when Guatemala jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a goal in the 5th minute.  But, Bocanegra of the U.S. quickly scored the equalizer in the 10th minute.  Clint Dempsey then tacked on a pair of goals for the Americans in the first half.  The 3-1 score would stand.  That means that the United States advanced on to the six-team Concacaf qualifying round.  Those matches will begin in February of 2013.

College Football:  In the biggest game of the week, undefeated #3 South Carolina traveled into Death Valley to take on the one-loss #9 LSU Tigers.  The Tigers were able to defend their home turf and won the game 23-21.  #13 Oklahoma turned the Red River Rivalry into the Red River Massacre.  They defeated the arch-rival #15 Texas Longhorns by a score of 63-21.  #7 Notre Dame remained undefeated by beating #20 Stanford 20-13 in South Bend.  The most surprising score of the day came out of Lubbock, TX where unranked Texas Tech knocked #5 West Virginia from the ranks of the unbeatens.  The Red Raiders hammered the Mountaineers 49-14.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
The Week That Is: With all the baseball in flux mid-week, I'm writing this post later than I normally do.  So, there is an extra weekend of college football that got played in between these columns.  I would have just ignored that fact if not for three games that require some attention.  One of the games was close.  The other two were noteworthy because of their lopsided outcomes.  Notre Dame played in the close game.  The #5 Irish hosted BYU.  BYU gave it the old college try, but Notre Dame remained unbeaten with a tough 17-14 victory.  West Virginia was once again the focus of one of the biggest games of the weekend.  And, once again, the Mountaineers were on the wrong end of a one-sided contest.  #4 Kansas State proved that they really are a force to be reckoned with when they stormed into Morgantown and destroyed the #13 Mountaineers.  The 55-14 victory moves the reborn Wildcats to 7-0 on the season.  Another team that made a loud statement that it belongs in the national championship conversation was the Florida Gators.  The #2 Gators annihilated #7 South Carolina in the Swamp by a score of 44-11.

The Week Ahead:  As I said before, I'm writing this column a few days late.  So, the week ahead is a bit abbreviated.

NFL:  It's hard to know exactly which games will turn out to have been the most pivotal once the season is over, but there are three games on this weekend's slate that stand out from the rest.  Heading into Week 7, there are only two teams in the AFC that have winning records.  Those two teams will face off in Houston when the Texans host the Baltimore Ravens.  This game will be on CBS in the early time slot.  The Redskins and the Giants are playing in another marquis matchup.  This is a big game because it is RG3's first trip to the Big Apple.  But, more importantly, the Redskins are just one game behind the Giants for first place in the NFC East.  Therefore, this divisional game is meaningful to both teams in their quest for the playoffs.  This game will air on FOX in the early slot.  Another big divisional matchup will take place in the AFC East.  The entire division is tied at 3-3.  This afternoon, the New York Jets will head to New England to take on the Patriots.  That game will be on CBS in the late game time slot.

MLB:  Game 6 of the NLCS will take place in San Francisco tonight.  The Cardinals hold a 3-2 advantage in the series.  The Cardinals will send Chris Carpenter to the mound.  Carpenter was supposed to be an ace heading into the season, but he was out of the lineup most of the year with injury.  Ryan Vogelsong will pitch for the Giants as they try to keep their season alive.  That game will be played at 7:30 EST on FOX.  If the Giants are able to force a Game 7, that will take place on Monday night at 8:00 on FOX.

The winner of the NLCS will face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  The World Series will start in the National League city on Wednesday night.  The times have yet to be announced, but the entire series will air on FOX.

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