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Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Week in Sports: November 2, 2012

I'm not sure what happened to the font in my last Weekly Update.  My apologies if anyone had to see an optometrist due to eye strain.  I took a few extra days to get this column together, so hopefully all the kinks are worked out.

The Week That Was:  The World Series came and went within the span of one week.  The landscape of college football changed significantly.  And there was a blockbuster trade in the NBA.  It was a busy week, to say the least.

(H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)
MLB:  The Detroit Tigers won the American League in impressive fashion by sweeping the New York Yankees.  That meant that the Tigers had to wait nearly a full week for the National League to be decided.  The San Francisco Giants won the NLCS at home in Game 7.

The World Series began in San Francisco last Wednesday night.  Pablo Sandoval, the Giants third baseman, had a historic night in Game 1.  The Kung Fu Panda hit a home run in each of his first three at-bats.  That powered the Giants to an 8-3 victory.  Game 2 was a classic pitcher's duel.  Doug Fister and his mates in the Tigers' bullpen held the Giants to just 5 hits.  But, Bumgarner and the Giants' relievers held the Tigers to just 2 hits.  The Giants won Game 2 by a score of 2-0.  The series then moved to Detroit for the weekend.  But, the change of scenery did not change the Tigers' fortunes.  The Giants' pitching dominated again in Game 3 and carried them to another 2-0 victory.  The Tigers showed heart in Game 4, but timely hitting by the Giants propelled them to a 4-3 victory in the 10th inning.  The Giants completed the sweep on enemy soil and won their second World Series championship in three years.  Pablo Sandoval, hero of Game 1, was named the World Series MVP.

College Football:  #1 Alabama, #3 Kansas State and #4 Oregon handled their business and remained undefeated.  As expected, #1 Alabama hammered previously unbeaten but also untested #11 Mississippi State at home.  The #4 Oregon Ducks beat the horrendous Colorado Buffaloes by a score of 70-14.  And, #3 Kansas State made another huge statement by beating #14 Texas Tech at home by a score of 55-24.  Perhaps the most impressive performance from a national championship contender was handed in by the #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  For some reason, the undefeated Irish were a touchdown underdog when they headed to Norman, OK to face the #8 Sooners.  But, the bookies missed the mark on this one.  The Irish made a strong claim for a spot in the BCS title game by routing Oklahoma 30-13.

Those are the good teams that turned in good performances.  But, there was also plenty of heartbreak.  Undefeated #2 Florida's championship hopes took a big hit when they lost 17-7 at home to #10 Georgia.  That is certainly not a shameful loss for the Gators, but Georgia now has the inside track to winning the SEC East the spot in the SEC title game that goes with it.  Three other teams fell out of the ranks of the unbeatens.  #15 Rutgers got beat at home by Kent State.  And #23 Ohio lost on the road to interstate, conference rival Miami of Ohio.  Neither of those teams were realistically being considered a national championship contender, but #7 Oregon State had creeped its way into the conversation.  But, that talk was virtually silenced after the Beavers lost on the road to a very mediocre Washington team.

James Harden ... And his beard
NBA:  The NBA season got started this week.  But, the NBA worked its way into the sports headlines over the weekend due to an preseason trade.  Oklahoma City, the reigning Western Conference champions, dealt away the reigning 6th Man of the Year.  Perhaps more importantly, they dealt away his beard.  The Thunder sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets in a multi-player deal.  In addition to Harden, the Rockets will also get center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward.  In exchange, the Thunder will receive guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.  The Thunder will also receive two first round picks and a second round pick.  One of those first round picks actually belongs to the Toronto Raptor and will likely be a lottery pick.  NBA pundits are fairly divided on the wisdom of this trade for both teams.  Only time will tell.

The Week Ahead:  The NBA will play it's first full week of games, but football and horse racing lead the sports stories for the upcoming week.

College Football:  About two-thirds of the college football season is in the books.  The national championship picture is starting to take shape.  For the handful of teams that still have legitimate championship aspirations, every week is important.  Three games in particular stand out from the rest of the week's schedule.  Unfortunately, all three games are being played at basically the same time.  Thanks to the upsets last weekend, Kansas State has risen to #2 in the BCS standings.  On Saturday night, Kansas State hosts pesky #24 Oklahoma State.  That game will air on ABC at 8:00 p.m. EST.  Out on the west coast, the undefeated #4 Oregon Ducks are headed to Los Angeles to play #17 USC in the Colosseum.  That game will be shown on FOX at 7:00 p.m. EST.  But, on Saturday night, the nation's eyes will be turned towards Baton Rouge, LA.  #1 Alabama will face it's toughest test of the season when they head to Death Valley to face the one-loss #5 LSU Tigers.  CBS will show that game at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Game On Dude
Horse Racing:  It might come as a surprise to some of you, but there are other horse races besides the ones in the Triple Crown.  This weekend, the Breeders Cup will be held at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles, CA.  The two-day event culminates with the $5,000,000 Breeders Cup Classic on Saturday night.  Game On, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Raphael Bejarano, was installed as the opening line favorite at 9-5.  Another horse that many of you may be familiar with is Mucho Macho Man who placed third in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.   The entire event will be shown on NBC Sports.  The Classic will be run at approximately 8:40 p.m. EST on Saturday night.

NFL:  This week will mark the halfway point in the season for most NFL teams.  One of the most intriguing games of this weekend is one that no one had circled when the schedule came out this summer.  The 4-3 Miami Dolphins will head to Indianapolis to face the 4-3 Colts.  Neither of these teams was projected in the preseason to be serious playoff contender.  Both teams feature rookie quarterbacks and new coaching staffs.  But, the Colts and Dolphins are right in the thick of things for a wild card spot in the AFC.  This head-to-head matchup could go a long way towards deciding who advances and who stays home when the season ends.

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