Archive for January, 2008

Seacrest Out
January 31, 2008

I will be on vacation until Wednesday, February 13. Upon my arrival, I will get into why Stu Jackson’s tenure as the men’s basketball coach will be brief, why I believe Barry Alvarez can get the football program to the Rose Bowl, and how the Redskins defeated the Bills in this year’s Super Bowl.

Oops, that’s my out of office reply from February of 1992. I need to update that.

Anyway, enjoy the Super Bowl, enjoy the Badgers (I hope), and we’ll see you back here before you know it.

JR

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25 Questions and Answers For Super Bowl 42 (Time To Give Up Those Roman Numerals)
January 27, 2008

All right, all right. The Channel 3000 Sports Blog will soon get off this football streak. There’s lots of other stuff to write about, from the good (Badgers, despite Saturday’s loss to Purdue) to the bad (Bucks, mired in yet another disappointing season). But for now we’ve got to pimp this Super Bowl game against the mighty Patriots and those pesky Giants. Given that this year’s championship game is the 42nd Super Bowl, here are 25 questions and answers to keep in mind as you watch it on FOX on February 3. I’ll start with the biggies.

1. Will the Patriots cover the spread? No. As of this writing, New England is favored to win by 11.5 points, despite the fact that they beat the Giants by only three on the last weekend of the regular season. New York will make it interesting.

2. Will the Patriots beat the Giants and become the first team to ever finish a season 19-0? Yes. New England 34, New York 27.

3. Will Randy Moss’s postseason lack of production continue? No. Despite catching only two passes total in two games in this year’s playoffs, Moss will torch a depleted Giants secondary that played over its head against the Packers. I look for six catches, 70 yards, and a score.

4. Will Plaxico Burress do his part to back up his talk that the Giants receivers are just as good if not better than the Patriots’ wideouts? Yes, but he’ll still be proven wrong. Wes Welker is to Amani Toomer what Ted Danson is to Hal Linden.

5. Will Bill Belichick honor the biggest game of the year by dressing better than a recently mugged hobo? No. Belichick delights in his status as worst-dressed man on the planet. Which is infinitely less imporant to him than his status as Coach of the Year.

6. Will Tom Brady’s alleged high ankle sprain affect his performance? Yes. He may have to settle for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

7. Will Eli Manning match his brother’s performance in last year’s Super Bowl. No. He’ll do better. Despite being named the game’s MVP, Peyton Manning was solid if unspectacular against the Bears in Super Bowl 41. (25 of 38 for 247 yards, one touchdown, and one pick). Eli Manning’s been hot, and he’ll stay hot.

8. Will Lawrence Tynes make more field goals than he’ll miss? Yes. Arizona promises to be a tad warmer and therefore kicker-friendly than Green Bay.

9. Will Tom Petty’s halftime performance be any good? Yes, although I suspect it will be underwhelming from a technical perspective. I predict Petty will do “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “American Girl,” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”
Overindulgent sidebar: The best 42 Tom Petty songs in no particular order:
1. Listen To Her Heart
2. I Need To Know
3. Refugee
4. Shadow Of A Doubt (A Complex Kid)
5. Breakdown
6. Even The Losers
7. The Waiting
8. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
9. You Got Lucky
10. Change Of Heart
11. Straight Into Darkness
12. The Best Of Everything
13. Jammin’ Me
14. The Damage You’ve Done
15. Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)
16. Free Fallin’
17. I Won’t Back Down
18. The Apartment Song
19. Alright for Now
20. Learning To Fly
21. Kings’ Highway
22. You And I Will Meet Again
23. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
24. You Wreck Me
25. Honey Bee
26. Crawling Back To You
27. Wake Up Time
28. Room At The Top
29. Free Girl Now
30. Have Love Will Travel
31. The Last DJ
32. Anything That’s Rock N Roll
33. Here Comes My Girl
34. Don’t Do Me Like That
35. It’ll All Work Out
36. A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)
37. Trailer
38. Keeping Me Alive
39. You Get Me High
40. Come On Down To My House
41. You Don’t Know How It Feels
42. Rebels

10. Will this year’s Super Bowl be the highest-rated ever? No. Given the fact that the Patriots are trying to make history against a team from the country’s largest market, I’m tempted to say yes. But a 49.1 rating (1982 Super Bowl featuring 49ers and Bengals) seems impossible to beat in today’s 6 million channel universe. If it falls short, I’ll blame the writers’ strike.

11. If the Patriots win, are they the best team ever? No. There was a lot of crap to come out of the seventies — Zanadu, What’s Happening! — but man, those Steeler teams were good.

12. Will the Giants be able to run the ball on the Patriots? Yes. Although they only ran for 79 yards against them in week 17, the Giants were without rookie Ahmad Bradshaw. With Bradshaw in the lineup, they should be able to get that total over the century mark.

13. Will Laurence Maroney continue his postseason success? No. The Giants shut down Ryan Grant last week and they’ll do a good job containing Maroney. Their success at stopping the run is one of the main reasons the Giants are still playing.

14. Does the post-Super Bowl time slot mean anything any more? No. FOX is running an episode of House, which is notable only for the fact that it’s a new episode. And it’s the last one they have. Good thing the writers’ strike didn’t start any earlier, or the only new programming FOX would have to run after the game would be its new sleazefest The Moment of Truth.

15. Will the Patriots be able to run up the score like they did earlier in the season? No. I look for the Patriots to score plenty, but they won’t match some of their totals from earlier in the season. The Giants are playing too good on defense.

16. Will Tom Brady be the game’s MVP? Yes. Add it to your reasons — good looking, rich, dates supermodels — for hating Tom Brady.

17. Will any of the commercials aired during the game be memorable? Yes. It looks like it will be a good year for advertising. A silent Pepsi spot highlighting sign language has the pre-game buzz, but I’m looking forward to the Bridgestone spot with Richard Simmons. I look forward to anything featuring Richard Simmons.

18. Will the game live up to the hype? No.

19. Will it be a good game? Yes.

20. Is it possible for any game to live up to the unbelievable Super Bowl hype? No.

21. Will “comedian” Frank Caliendo appear anywhere on the telecast? Unfortunately, yes.

22. Will “sideline reporter” Tony Siragusa appear anywhere on the telecast? Fortunately, no.

23. Will Eli Manning finally throw an interception, which would be his first in postseason play? Yes. He will be distracted thinking about the classic Seinfeld rerun he saw the night before the game.

24. Will Tom Coughlin’s sideline behavior be described as any of the following by the FOX announcers: “furious,” “livid,” “beside himself,” “hotter than Tennessee asphalt.” Yes, hopefully the last one.

25. Will the Giants continue to win the battle for field position? Yes. Punter Jeff Feagels is a veteran playing in his first Super Bowl and Domenik Hixon will continually give the Giants good kick returns. A big reason why the game will be close.

Enjoy the game. Yes, the Packers aren’t in it, but come on, it’s the last meaningful NFL game for seven months. You’ll still watch.

Haven’t We Seen This Before?
January 21, 2008

I can still remember it: The heavily favored home team found itself tied at the end of regulation in the NFC Championship Game. Though they had clearly lost momentum, the fact that they won the coin toss and would have the ball first in overtime seemed to signify that they would still find a way to pull the game out and advance to the Super Bowl. But to the disgust of the home crowd, they were unable to move the ball nor stop the other team, who eventually won the game in overtime on a dramatic field goal.

Cheers you up, doesn’t it? Remembering the 1999 NFC Championship Game that the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings lost at home to the Atlanta Falcons? Oh, you thought I was referring to this year’s NFC Championship Game between the Packers and the Giants? Why would I do that? Wouldn’t it be best for us all to forget that game as quickly as possible?

Actually, the 23-20 overtime defeat will be hard for most Packer fans to forget for a long time. While a trip to the NFC Championship Game seemed a ridiculously lofty goal at the beginning of the season, the Packers’ 13-3 romp through the regular season and their 42-20 manhandling of the Seahawks in the divisional playoff round made most fans think that the impossible — a Super Bowl berth — was very possible indeed. And then when number one seed Dallas went down last weekend, meaning the Packers would host the NFC Championship game against the fifth-seeded Giants, a trip to the Super Bowl became almost a given, to the point where local fans and national pundits alike were wondering out loud if the Packers could be the team to spoil the Patriots’ bid for an undefeated season.

But now the Giants will be the ones to attempt to derail the Patriots’ plans of going 19-0. And judging by Sunday’s game, they will have a much better shot at pulling the upset than this Packer team would.

Let’s be honest: Although the final score indicates a close game, Mike McCarthy’s Packers were badly outplayed and outcoached by Tom Coughlin’s Giants. Take away the sole highlight of the night, the 19-yard Favre-to-Driver throw that Driver turned into a 90-yard touchdown (the longest pass play in Green Bay’s storied playoff history), and you have a game in which very little went right for the heavily favored Packers.

Without the Driver play, the Packers had 174 measly yards of offense. They couldn’t run the ball at all, as Ryan Grant posted a ghastly 29 yards on 13 carries. Because they couldn’t run the ball, the Packers were continually in third and long situations, which translated into an awful one-for-ten third-down conversion rate. Because they could not convert on third downs, the Packers couldn’t keep their defense off the field, and the Giants held the ball for an astounding 40:01 in what turned out to be a 62:35 game.

Despite the statistical dominance, the Giants, thanks to several miscues, kept the Packers in the game. The Giants saw two decent early drives sputter and end in field goals. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who absolutely torched Packer cornerback Al Harris all night for 11 catches and 154 yards, dropped a ball inside the Packer 10 late in the second quarter that would have led to at least three more points. R.W. McQuarters intercepted Favre in the fourth quarter only to fumble the ball away, a blunder that resulted in a Packers field goal. And, most famously, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two field goals, either one of which would have won the game for the Giants in regulation.

Sorry, but the Giants won because they deserved to win.

Last week, I gave five reasons that the Giants might pull off the upset (though I did believe that Favre and the Packers would win in a close game). I thought that Tom Coughlin’s experience would win out over Mike McCarthy. That it did. Coughlin had his team much better prepared and McCarthy was too quick to give up on the run game that had been such a huge part of the Packers’ late-season dominance and McCarthy was too slow to acknowledge that Al Harris could not contain Plaxico Burress. Both were big mistakes. Also I believed that in a close game in frigid conditions that the Giants’ tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw would prevail over the Packers’ single running back set with Ryan Grant. That was clearly the case as both Jacobs and Bradshaw individually more than doubled Grant’s output.

What I didn’t see? That Eli Manning would outplay Brett Favre. Thanks for nothing, WLUK, but apparently your trick of pulling Seinfeld off the air on Saturday didn’t have much of an impact. I guess the Seinfeld curse only holds true for Michael Richards and Jason Alexander, and not NFL quarterbacks. I also didn’t foresee that the Giants’ linebackers would do a better job of disrupting the Packers’ pass patterns than the Packers’ secondary would on the Giants. I didn’t see that the Giants would dominate both lines of scrimmage. I didn’t see Favre throwing two of his worst interceptions of the season. And I didn’t see Curt Menafee refusing to wear a hat. Come on, Curt. The wind chill was 23 below!

So what’s next for the Packers? Assuming Favre comes back — and I don’t think he wants to go out having had his last career pass be intercepted in overtime of the NFC Championship Game — there isn’t much that needs to be done to “fix” this team. Given their youth and talent, the Packers should be a force in the NFC for quite a while. I believe that now that they’ve found Grant, they need to get him a partner in the backfield. The Vikings have Peterson and Taylor, the Chargers have Tomlinson and Turner, the Giants have Jacobs and Bradshaw — two solid starting running backs is the trend in the NFL, and while this direction might be bad for fantasy football players, it’s not going to change.

And which streak will end on Super Bowl Sunday? The Giants’ streak of ten road victories (if you can count the Super Bowl as a road game) or the Patriots’ 18-0 streak? Both are amazing accomplishments, but I would guess — surprise, surprise — that the Patriots will prevail. But if the Giants play as well as they played on Sunday, and if the Patriots play as poorly as they did on Sunday, we could be looking at another Manning lofting high the Vince Lombardi Trophy on February 3. Almost as unbelieveable as the fact that the Packers made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game in what was originally thought to be a building year. But they will be back.

NFC Championship Drinking Game
January 20, 2008

Too wimpy (or poor or lazy) to brave the NFC Championship Game in person? Well, see if you can handle this challenge. Starting with the FOX NFL Pre-Game at 5 PM, take a drink any time someone on the game broadcast says “cold.” You must take four (in honor of Terry Bradshaw’s I.Q.) drinks every time you hear the phrase “frozen tundra.”

This game is particularly recommended for anyone with Monday off in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

Note that Jeff Robbins, Channel 3000, WISC-TV, Morgan Murphy Media, or any of their employees, subsidaries, or parent companies does not endorse the drinking of anything with more alcohol content than an O’Douls or anything with more ginseng than a Diet Pepsi Max. You’re on your own.

Enjoy the game. In light of the temperatures and of Eli Manning being completely thrown off his game because those crafty geniuses at WLUK pulled their regular Seinfeld rerun (yeah, right), I’m amending my final score prediction to be Packers 17, Giants 10.

(Actually, what WLUK should have done instead of pulling the show altogether is schedule “The Bris” episode of Seinfeld, which is undoubtedly the worst Seinfeld episode of all time. That would have stuck in Eli’s craw more.)

NFC Championship Game Preview
January 16, 2008

Packers fans had two victories over Divisional Playoff weekend: The obvious one came on Saturday when Ryan Grant rushed for a Packer postseason record 201 yards en route to a pasting of the over matched Seahawks. But the second one, the Giants upset of the Cowboys on Sunday, was almost as sweet.

The Cowboys being eliminated not only meant that the Packers could stay home, thus avoiding a trip to Texas Stadium where Brett Favre has never won, but it cemented in the minds of many that this Packer team, picked in most preseason polls to be mediocre at best, was a team of destiny.

The problem is, the Giants — overcoming an 0-2 start and intense media scrutiny that comes from playing in the country’s biggest media market with a quarterback named “Manning” with a coach that’s on the last year of his contract — feel that they’re a team of destiny as well.

But only one team can be right. So will the Packers or the Giants prevail on Sunday to become the NFC representative in Super Bowl XLII (featuring, we’ve been reminded ad nauseum by FOX, a halftime show featuring Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sponsored by Bridgestone)? Despite what you might think, a pretty good case could be made for either. So let’s look at five reasons why each could win, starting with the favorite.

Five Reasons The Packers Will Beat The Giants:

1. The Packers employ a quarterback by the name of Brett Favre. Well, this one’s easy. Favre only holds NFL records for career touchdown passes, career passing yards, and career victories as a starting quarterback. Oh, and in case anyone wants to argue that he’s not as good in the postseason, he holds the mark for consecutive playoff games with a touchdown pass and is one of only two quarterbacks (the other being Joe Montana) to throw for more than 5,000 yards in the postseason. And he’s led a team to a Super Bowl championship. Other than that, the guy’s overrated.

2. That Favre guy has some pretty good receivers. Even without the offseason signing of Randy Moss, Green Bay managed to amass the second best pass offense in the league, behind only the New England Patriots. Even if the Giants secondary wasn’t beat up — which it is — they would have a hard time containing the likes of Driver, Jennings, Jones, and Lee, to name only a few. And once they catch the ball (and drops are few), no team is better at the YAC than the Pack.

3. Ryan Grant. Forget that the Packers ranked 21st in the league this year in rushing. Anyone paying attention knows that since Grant took over the starting backfield job after the bye week, the Packers have had the most balanced attack in the NFC.

4. The Packers offensive line. Led by right tackle Mark Tauscher, the Pack’s O-line has dominated the line of scrimmage all year long. Even though the Giants have a mean pass rush and led the league in sacks this season, look for the line to give Favre enough time to hit his slant routes or enough time for Grant to find a seam. This is a great group.

5. Even the computer says it’s true. Something called AccuScore has punched in all the Giants players, all the Packer players, all the matchups, and all of the players’ stats. Somehow out of that the program predicts that the Packers will win 62 percent of the time by an average score of 25-21. So it’s close, but we all know computers are never wrong. Except when they’re evil, like in 2001 or WarGames.

Five Reasons The Giants Will Beat The Packers:

1. Tom Coughlin. This is not meant as a dump on Mike McCarthy, but Tom Coughlin has simply had more postseason experience than the Packers coach. This time of year, you can’t overestimate playoff experience — even mediocre experience, as Coughlin’s has been.

2. Two-headed backfield. Whereas the Packers have Ryan Grant, the Giants have been the more successful at developing the dual backfield system so crucial to success in today’s league. And what’s impressive is that as runners have suffered injuries, others have seamlessly entered: Currently rookie Ahmad Bradshaw and team rushing leader Brandon Jacobs are the favored tandem and they’re a good one. And Reuben Droughns and Derrick Ward are also available. It’s a solid attack that should have the advantage, particularly on the frozen tundra.

3. Special teams. One of the many reasons the Giants knocked off the Cowboys was the field position that Domenik Hixon put his offense in, averaging 31 yards per kick return. Also, the Giants have the services of veteran punter Jeff Feagles, who excels at pinning teams deep in their own territory. If the game is a close one — and many indications are that it will be — the old cliche that special teams could make the difference could hold true. And here the Giants have the advantage.

4. The game’s not at the Meadowlands. How else can you explain the Giants’ bizarre nine-game road winning streak except to conclude that the team obviously plays better on the road, where the “us against the world” mentality that Coughlin has programmed into his team can be used to maximum effect? That the Packers are playing at home, where they had a 7-1 record this season, can’t be seen as a disadvantage for them, but it appears the home turf advantage will be neutralized at least some by the draw of a cold-weather, road warrior team like the Giants.

5. The revenge factor. The Giants are eager to prove that they are not the same team they were earlier in the season. They were embarrassed by the Packers in week two by the score of 35-13 and then immediately turned things around, winning six in a row. They’ll be eager for some payback.

Bottom line: The Packers have more talent, have the veteran leadership with Brett Favre, and have the game where they want it. Fans looking for a repeat of the Seahawks rout will be disappointed, but the Packers should prevail. Final score from a bitterly cold Lambeau Field: Packers 27, Giants 17. The Packers will be the true NFC “team of destiny”; unfortunately this year’s NFC “team of destiny” is destined to become the final victim of the 19-0 New England Patriots. But more on that later.

Packers’ Dream Season Continues
January 13, 2008

All week long Packers fans were approaching me to tentatively ask, “Do you think they’ll win this weekend?” The level of doubt in their voices surprised me, as if most of them feared that the Packers had already given them more than they could have asked for this season and the end was near.

“No doubt,” I would assure them. “Seattle can’t run the ball and Al Harris and Charles Woodson will dominate their receivers. I don’t think it will even be that close.”

Perhaps knowing of my less-than-stellar predictions for the NFL’s Wild Card weekend, not many seemed to take comfort in my words of encouragement.

“Oh well,” I would think to myself, “they’ll tell me on Monday how right I was.”

And then the game started. And the first four minutes happened. And I quickly started to prepare my apologies for all of those who had come to me for hope.

Fortunately, the Packers bailed me out, as they scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions on their way to a 42-20 rout of the visiting Seahawks in Green Bay’s first NFC Divisional Playoff win in 10 years. Most of the game was played in a heavy snowfall that kept the grounds crew busy and gave the FOX announcers (including the always-irritating Tony Siragusa) something to talk about as the game progressed and became more and more one-sided.

The Packers will now face the winner of Sunday’s game between division rivals the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys; if the Giants pull off the upset, they’ll visit Lambeau Field next Sunday, while if the Cowboys win, the Packers will head to Texas Stadium.

No matter that the Giants and particularly quarterback Eli Manning are playing as well as anyone right now or that they’ve won eight road games this season; the Packers do not want to go to Dallas, where Brett Favre is 0-9 lifetime.

Regardless of which team or where Green Bay plays in the NFC Championship game, it’s likely to be a bigger challenge than Saturday’s game. Although a 22-point Packers victory couldn’t have been envisioned by too many at Lambeau Field after the Packers found themselves down 14-0 after just four minutes of play.

Fumbles by running back Ryan Grant on the Packers’ first and third plays from scrimmage were quickly turned into touchdown drives by the Seahawks, and it looked like the Packers were set to lose their second straight playoff game at home (they fell to the 8-8 Vikings three years ago in the infamous “Randy Moss Moons Fans” game).

At that point I don’t think anyone — myself included — would have faulted head coach Mike McCarthy for benching Grant, but to McCarthy’s credit, he stuck to his game plan and continued to feed the ball to the rookie. Grant more than validated McCarthy’s faith in him and more than vindicated himself for his early turnovers, eventually setting a Packer postseason record by running for 201 yards. Grant also scored three touchdowns.

It was the best redemption story since Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman met at Shawshank State Prison.

Credit for Grant’s success has to be shared with the Packers’ offensive line, which completely dominated Seattle’s defensive front. Particularly noteworthy is the job Packer right tackle Mark Tauscher did on Seattle’s All-Pro defensive end Patrick Kerney. Saturday’s game was the first time in Kerney’s 142-game career that he did not register a single statistic, be it a tackle, assist, sack, or pass deflection. This just one week after Kerney and the rest of the Seattle defensive line had made life so miserable for Redskins quarterback Todd Collins.

On the flip side, the Packers defense never let Seattle get anything going on the ground, limiting Shaun Alexander to 20 yards on just nine carries. The Seahawks mustered only 28 total yards
rushing for a putrid 1.6 yards per carry.

Seattle quarterback and former backup to Brett Favre Matt Hasselbeck had greater success through the air, completing 19 of 33 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown, but he was crippled by his receivers, who were either injured — Deion Branch left early — or remarkably inept — tight end Marcus Pollard simply couldn’t be bothered to catch anything thrown his way.

Thanks to Ryan Grant, Brett Favre didn’t have to put up spectacular numbers on Saturday — he completed 18 of 23 passes for 173 yards — but he did throw for three touchdowns and no interceptions. Two of his scores went to Greg Jennings, while he connected with Brandon Jackson for the third, which was Favre’s first touchdown pass to a running back all season. Favre has now thrown touchdowns in 17 straight postseason games, and he also joined Joe Montana as the only two quarterbacks to throw for more than 5,000 yards in the playoffs.

After the Packers ceased turning the ball over, the Seahawks did mount two impressive scoring drives, one of 63 yards and one of 70 yards. However, both drives ended in field goals, and after the Packers started scoring, Seattle never got closer than 21-17 midway through the second quarter.

As for Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren, should he decide to retire, as he has recently hinted, Saturday’s game was a bad way for him to finish his impressive career.

As for Matt Hasselbeck, who’s sister-in-law, The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck, just gave birth in November to a baby boy, at least now he has plenty of time to spend with his new nephew.

As for the Packers, they await to find out whom they’ll be playing next week.

As for Packer fans, they hope that this dream season can continue. A win next week puts them in the Super Bowl for the first time in 10 seasons. And yes, if you were to ask me, I would say they absolutely could get there.

Picking The Divisional Playoff Games and Ranking Them In Honor of Steve Martin’s New Book
January 11, 2008

Here’s what I’ve done since writing my last entry here: Cursed the Buccaneers and Redskins for preventing me from looking like a football genius, changed lots of diapers (no, not my own), tried a new recipe (Pulled Pork in Root Beer Sauce; can’t go wrong with any recipe that has soda as a main ingredient), and read Steve Martin’s new memoir Born Standing Up.

I’ve always been a fan of Steve Martin’s and am embarrassed to say that his memoir was the first book I’ve read in a while (having kids will do that to you). After reading it, I became nostalgic for his stand-up career (even though I only experienced it after the fact, since he gave up stand-up when I was nine), and sort of freshly bummed that he traded it for a less-interesting film career that has had at least as many lows (Sgt. Bilko, Bringing Down the House, My Blue Heaven, Cheaper By The Dozen) as highs (The Jerk, Parenthood, Grand Canyon, Bowfinger).

What does all this have to do with this weekend’s NFL Divisional Playoff games? Well, besides picking the winners of each game, I’ll rate how watchable each game is in comparison to how watchable or listenable something is from Steve Martin’s career.

OK, it’s taken us a while to get here, but here we go:

Saturday at 3:30 PM: Seattle at Green Bay. I’ve already written about this game in my previous entry, and my feeling haven’t changed since that. While I definitely think the Packers have to take Seattle seriously, I just can’t see the Seahawks posing a real threat on the Packers’ road to the NFC Championship. Again, we’re talking about one team’s inability to run the ball making a difference, but this time it’s not the Packers who can’t run the ball, it’s their opponent. Forced to pass, I see Al Harris and Charles Woodson having great success against Seattle’s receivers. And I also see Favre getting the ball away quickly enough to negate Seattle’s pass rush. Final score: Packers 28, Seahawks 17. Compares with (if you’re a Packer fan): A Wild and Crazy Guy album — the most popular of Martin’s comedy albums or (if you’re just a football fan in general): the 1991 remake of Father of the Bride, which was enjoyable but toothless.

Saturday at 7 PM: Jacksonville at New England. Lots of people want to believe that the Jaguars can win this game. I want to believe that the Jaguars can win this game. People thirsting for a Jags upset point to Jacksonville’s stout running attack of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor and how the tandem will be used to keep Brady, Moss, et. al. on the sidelines. I suppose it’s possible, but no more so than my 69-year-old father buying calling me over to the house to challenge me to a Guitar Hero III showdown. Translation: Not going to happen. Final score: Patriots 35, Jaguars 13. Compares with: My Blue Heaven, a movie that some had high expectations for (Steve Martin as a mobster! With one of the McKenzie brothers!) but which ultimately stunk.

Sunday at 12 noon: San Diego at Indianapolis. This game could have been close if the Colts were forced to go without Marvin Harrison and if the Chargers had their full complement of weapons. Unfortunately for San Diego, tight end Antonio Gates appears to be out, and Harrison appears to be ready to go. It just seems inevitable that we’ll get Colts/Patriots again, which is what everybody wants anyway. Charger fans will have to be happy with last week’s playoff win, the team’s first in 13 years, and with the team salvaging what looked early on to be a disastrous season. Indianapolis 38, Chargers 20. Compares with: Mixed Nuts, a star-studded (Martin, Adam Sandler, Rob Reiner, Garry Shandling, Jon Stewart, Anthony LaPaglia) vehicle that bombed.

Sunday at 3:30 PM: New York Giants at Dallas. Here’s the most interesting game of the weekend. Dallas has looked awful lately, and the Giants have earned the respect from even their most hated observers (yours truly included) for their solid game against New England and their domination of Tampa Bay in last week’s Wild Card game. Not only has the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw given the Giants a great backfield tandem with Brandon Jacobs, but Eli Manning has been much more hit than miss lately. And his receivers, particularly Amani Toomer, have actually been catching the ball. And even though Tony Romo did nothing wrong by taking assigned time off to go to Mexico with brainiac Jessica Simpson, he put himself in the unenviable position of having to play close to perfect to avoid major criticism of how he chose to spend his bye week. Dallas will be helped by having Terrell Owens back, but the Giants have only lost one road game all season. I see the upset in a very entertaining game that will put the NFC Championship Game where it belongs: Lambeau Field. Giants 27, Cowboys 20. Compares with: Steve Martin’s legendary late-seventies hosting gigs on Saturday Night Live, which brought the best out of Martin and the best out of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

Have a great weekend. Enjoy the games.

Packers Need To Pay Attention To Seahawks
January 7, 2008

After disposing of the hottest team in the NFC on Saturday, Mike Holmgren’s Seattle Seahawks are coming to Lambeau Field for a divisional playoff game next Saturday.

There are no shortage of intriguing storylines for this matchup. Mike Holmgren going against his former team in what may be his last season — he’s hinting at retirement. Brett Favre (no stranger to hinting at retirement) going against his former coach and mentor. Former Packer backup quarterback and current Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck competing against his former mentor Favre, who is enjoying one of the best years of his extraordinary 17-season career.

And then there’s the little matter of the last time the Seahawks and Packers met in the playoffs four years ago: After winning the overtime coin toss, Hasselbeck made the infamous claim of “We want the ball and we’re going to score!” Instead, Al Harris picked off a Hasselbeck pass and scored, winning the game for Green Bay. You can bet Hasselbeck would love to atone for that embarassment. And of course Holmgren and Favre — whether either retire at the end of the year or not — would love to emerge victorious over the other.

But for all the juicy plotlines, this isn’t the game the Packers or their fans are waiting for. Since losing to Dallas on Nov. 29 in a bizarre game that saw Brett Favre leave with an injury after playing horribly for the first time all season, fans and players have been itching for the postseason rematch.

But the Packers have to beat Seattle first to have a chance to go back to Texas Stadium this season (that’s if the suddenly-sputtering Cowboys win next weekend). And if Seattle — the proverbial “under the radar” NFC team this year — plays like they played against the Redskins on Wild Card Saturday, the Packers will have their hands full.

The Redskins’ offense entered Saturday’s game as one of the more balanced playoff teams and their defense was thought to be one of the more aggressive. But it was the Seahawks defense that dominated the game, holding running back Clinton Portis to only 52 yards on 20 carries, and generally making life miserable for quarterback Todd Collins, who was sacked three times, hurried 13 times, and was on the run all afternoon. Eventually Collins cracked under the pressure, throwing two bad fourth-quarter interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns.

While the Packers run game has improved dramatically in recent weeks, few people would say it matches Washington’s. Seattle knows that to beat Green Bay, it’s going to have to contain the Packers’ pass attack, which ranks second behind only New England in the league. That will mean getting pressure on Favre to disrupt the Packers’ timing routes. The good news for Green Bay fans is that rattling Favre won’t be as easy as rattling the journeyman Collins. Not only is Favre more adept at quickly getting rid of the ball, he has a wider complement of receivers to work with than Washington did. Look for the Packers to successfully nullify the Seahawks’ pressure by their quick passing attack, which will in turn allow them to run the ball with Ryan Grant easier.

That leaves the Packers’ defense against the Seahawks’ offense. Although Matt Hasselbeck is having a terrific season, the Seahawks’ once-dominant rushing attack is now just dormant, with former Pro Bowler Shaun Alexander averaging a measly 55 yards per game. (He totaled 46 against the Redskins.) The Packers should be able to shut him and colleague Maurice Morris down, while you’d have to give the advantage to Packer corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson over the Seahawks’ just-OK corps of receivers.

Besides having the better team, history is also on the side of the Packers: Seattle has not won a road playoff game since 1983, and Green Bay has only lost two postseason games at Lambeau Field, although both of those losses have come recently and to teams (the Falcons and the Vikings) that Green Bay was heavily favored to beat.

Bottom line, the Packers should win on Saturday. But by whipping Washington, the Seahawks warned that they should not be overlooked. The Packers need to heed that warning.

Wildcard Playoff Picks
January 4, 2008

All right, time for me to make my official picks for this weekend’s AFC and NFC wildcard games. Not that I’m contractually obligated to do so, but I just like to be on record about how wrong I can be.

Let’s take ’em in chronological order:

Saturday at 3:30 PM: Washington at Seattle. As much as I hate to pick against Seattle at home, Washington is just playing so much better right now. Seattle’s run game has fizzled heavily this year, and Washington’s 4th-ranked run defense is not the unit to give it any momentum. On the other hand, the Redskins should be able to run the ball effectively and Todd Collins should be able to do just enough to give them the offensive balance that the Seahawks won’t have. The only downside: Washington has been running on emotion since the death of Sean Taylor, and talent, not emotion, is what wins playoff games. But fortunately for the Redskins, their talent is simply more impressive now. Redskins 24, Seahawks 14.

Saturday at 7 PM: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh. Nobody seems to be giving Pittsburgh — at home, no less — a chance to win this game. Even the oddsmakers like the Jaguars to win this game. So I’m very tempted to take Pittsburgh. But there’s little reason to. The most logical argument is the Steelers‘ playoff experience, but that’s not as meaningful as the fact that Jacksonville just beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field three weeks ago, and that was before the Steelers lost Willie Parker to a leg injury. It wouldn’t stun me if the Steelers pulled it together to win this game, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. Jaguars 20, Steelers 13.

Sunday at 12 noon: New York Giants at Tampa Bay. If Eli Manning can play as well as he played last week against New England, the Giants will win this game. But I don’t anticipate that happening, especially since the Bucs have the best pass defense in the NFL. Also Jeff Garcia has owned the Giants recently in the playoffs, and I don’t see any reason why that dominance should stop now. The biggest reason to pick the Giants: The Bucs won the lousy NFC South with just a 9-7 record. But the Bucs are the better (i.e., less dysfunctional) team and should persevere. Plus the home team has to win some of these games. Bucs 20, Giants 10.

Sunday at 3:30 PM: Tennessee at San Diego. Remember all that bitching about how crappy a job Norv Turner was doing with the Chargers? No? Well, that’s probably because San Diego is riding a six-game winning streak into the playoffs. Remember all those Tennessee Titans games you watched this year? No? Probably you didn’t watch any. The Titans are short on playmakers and may be without their biggest, quarterback Vince Young. While I have lots of respect for Jeff Fisher’s defense, I’m not sure the Chargers will. This game appears to be the easiest to pick of the four. But you’ll watch it because you’ll want to stay tuned for Roger Clemens’s 60 Minutes interview right after. Chargers 35, Titans 17.

Enjoy the games and come back next week to see how badly I predicted them. Have a great weekend.

Badgers/Volunteers Live Blog
January 4, 2008

Hey, for those of you who may have missed it, here’s my live blog from Tuesday’s Outback Bowl:

Badgers Fall to Tennessee 21-17
First Half Volunteer Offensive Onslaught Too Much For Badgers To Overcome


TAMPA, Fla. — 1:34 p.m. Happy New Year. Hope the rest of your day improves after watching Wisconsin lose close game.

1:33 p.m. Very entertaining game. Donovan played well but would love to have that last throw back. Defense played well in the second half, but gave up too many big pass plays early on. Hill did his job. Beckum non-factor, which was huge. Fourth down call will loom large as Wisconsin attempts to get over loss.

1:32 p.m. DONOVAN IS INTERCEPTED AS HE ATTEMPTS TO GET TO HUBBARD NEAR END ZONE. Not good throw. That’s going to do it.

1:31 p.m. Big completion to Beckum, only his second. Tennessee called for enroachment. Play getting sloppy as we near the end.

1:29 p.m. Wisconsin probably will benefit here no matter what. Can set up next few plays . . . They gave Graham first down. That seems questionable. But the Badgers will take it.

1:27 p.m. Confusion here about the clock. Clock stopped even though Graham did not get first down. Let’s see here . . .

1:27 p.m. Graham again for two straight completions. :45 seconds left.

1:25 p.m. Incomplete to Beckum. Third down already. Donovan’s down to only 11 out of 20.

1:24 p.m. Badgers will take it at their 12 yard line. Short pass to Kyle Jefferson. Volunteers will give us that all day.

1:23 p.m. Make that no time outs. Wisconsin just used their last one.

1:22 p.m. Foster stopped short of the first down. Badgers will get the ball back with not much time and only one timeout.

1:19 p.m. Big stop on second down. 3rd and fifteen. Tennessee runs clock down to 1:38. Even if Wisconsin gets ball back, which they probably will, don’t like their chances to get touchdown in such little time. Again, have to go back to that fourth down call as the pivotal play of the game. Defense has done their part in second half, holding Volunteers scoreless after giving up 21 points in first twenty minutes.

1:18 p.m. Michigan and Florida tied up now at 14. Tennessee letting that clock run down. Not looking good.

1:17 p.m. Don’t understand what’s taking so long — Tennessee retains possession. Unfortunately, the right decision.

1:15 p.m. Bielema’s going to have to answer some questions about that play call on fourth down and even the decision to go for it will undoubtedly be questioned. I have no problem with the decision to go for it, but the call was terrible.

1:15 p.m. Can I get Outback food delivered if I’m doing one of those Covance studies?

1:11 p.m. Those screen passes have been working all day . . . Hey, Tennessee fumbled! BADGERS FOOTBALL! Wait, officials are conferring . . . I don’t know. Looks like Badgers did not get possession in bounds. This is a huge decision. Don’t have a good feeling about it. We’ll find out after these words from Outback Steakhouse.

1:09 p.m. Big screen play conversion on third down for Volunteers. Time becoming a factor now for Badgers. Only five minutes left.

1:07 p.m. That play was huge blunder by Badgers. Could cost them the game if Tennessee takes momentum and gets a score here.

1:05 p.m. Travis Beckum gets his first catch. Odd that he didn’t get it beyond the sticks. Badgers go for it here. Disaster. Donovan on rollout and then threw it away. Why not run Hill or Brown? What’s with the trickery? Lousy.

1:04 p.m. Two straight stuffs on Lance Smith. Now it’s third and 11. Ouch.

1:03 p.m. 50 yard run for Hill! He’s got 134 yards now!

1:01 p.m. Hill running hard. He’ll get over 100 yards before the game is over. Brown and Smith haven’t really been much of a factor. Nor has Beckum. Hill is going all the way . . . . He’s down to the 18 yard line!

1 p.m. I can’t believe Charter took Game Show Network off of the analog tier. Can we get the the legislature involved in that?

12:58 p.m. That’s going to take the wind out of the Volunteers’ sails. Just like the WGA writers’ strike has taken the wind out of my sails. But hey, Letterman returns tomorrow night! That’s great news to start the new year with.

12:56 p.m. BADGERS BLOCK THE FIELD GOAL! HODGE REJECTS IT! Nice! Volunteers get nothing out of that long drive! Just like that, Badgers get momentum back. Huge play!

12:55 p.m. Great stop for Casillas on Jones. Another third down, which Tennessee has been completing with ease this entire drive. And why is Jones playing quarterback? What’s with Ainge? Wisconsin drops them on third down.

12:54 p.m. Wisconsin blitzes are not working. Completion to Jones for first down. Now the Volunteers are down on the 15 yard line.

12:52 p.m. Incompletion for Ainge on third down. Might go for it here on fourth and 3. Have to stop them . . .

12:51 p.m. Wisconsin had a great blitz there but Tennessee picked it up beautifully. Huge completion to Moore. All of a sudden the Volunteers are back in a rhythm, which Wisconsin had gotten them out of for a long time.

12:50 p.m. Big third down coming up here. Oh, and Florida has tied up Michigan 7-7.

12:48 p.m. Time to jump around! Eh, Briscoe gets a huge completion for 21 yards, in one play getting more yards than they did that entire third quarter.

12:45 p.m. Hardesty drops handoff and falls on it. Volunteers looking sloppy and just waiting to be put away in this fourth quarter. Volunteers did absolutely nothing in that third quarter, gaining only 12 yards.

12:44 p.m. Briscoe drops easy pass. All of a sudden Ainge’s completion percentage has dropped to nearly fifty percent.

12:43 p.m. Volunteers take the kickoff for a touchback.

12:41 p.m. Illegal formation. Mehlhaff in for field goal. He’s got it. Badgers close to within 21-17.

12:40 p.m. Smith does not pick up third down, but there is a flag. Let’s see . . .

12:39 p.m. Hill again. Badgers really dominating this third quarter in terms of yardage and TOP. Have to finish it with a score though. They are up 26 minutes to 17 minutes in TOP now.

12:38 p.m. Gerrit Graham for a third down conversion. That’s his fifth catch.

12:37 p.m. Badgers have now more than doubled up the Volunteers in yards gained on the ground.

12:36 p.m. Donovan runs for seven yards. Badgers doing a better job protecting him in this half. And there goes Hill again for a first down. Badgers on 29-yard-line already.

12:35 p.m. Hill goes for 17 yards. Nice.

12:33 p.m. Michigan’s up on Florida. Why is it that it’s OK to root for Big Ten in bowl games but not root for NFC North teams when it has no impact on Packers?

12:32 p.m. No runback at all that time. Wisconsin’s offense has to match intensity of its defense here. And Jefferson has to stop dropping passes.

12:31 p.m. No turnover, but three and out and Wisconsin should get the ball in very good position.

12:31 p.m. Wisconsin’s defense is playing much more aggressively now. Happy to see it, but wish they had started the game this way . . .

12:30 p.m. Strickland downs the punt at the one. Here’s a great place to have a turnover . . .

12:29 p.m. Argh! Jefferson just dropped a perfect pass! Have to make that play on third down!

12:28 p.m. Jefferson just dropped a pass. Not good. Third down already. Still waiting to hear
from Travis Beckum.

12:26 p.m. Hey there’s Lance Smith! Forgot about him! 11 yard pick-up!

12:24 p.m. So I hope everybody had a great New Year’s Eve and partied safe. The wife and I stayed home with our six-month-old daughter and watched some shows we had on our TiVo. Yeah, I know, we’re boring.

12:23 p.m. Another big return for Gilreath. He is making a big difference in this game. 24 yard return. Badgers will get the ball on their 46. Have to take advantage of this field position.

12:22 p.m. Terrific pressure on Ainge. And the Volunteers will have to punt again. Both defenses dominating game now.

12:20 p.m.Strickland great tackle on second down. Third and seven . . . Eh, complete to Rogers. Looks like Casillas wanted the interception, but he was embarrasingly late on the ball.

12:19 p.m. Another great stop on Foster. Looks like defense got a talking to at the half. Playing much better now.

12:17 p.m. I’m sort of looking forward to that Sugar Bowl game tonight. Haven’t had much opportunity to see Colt Brennan for myself. But what happened to June Jones? He looks older than Phyllis Diller.

12:15 p.m. Pass knocked down. Not what we needed there. Can’t let Tennessee get into offensive groove.

12:14 p.m. Donovan comes close to first down with rush. Tennessee comes close to getting hit out of bounds there. Second and two.

12:11 p.m. OK, Wisconsin will have the ball here with decent field position. Good time to get Travis Beckum the ball. But Hill’s getting a solid 5 yards a carry, so we can ride that horse for a while here too.

12:10 p.m. Great defensive series for the Badgers. Three and out. Exactly what was needed.

12:09 p.m. Great pressure on Ainge which led to incompletion. Third down and 16.

12:08 p.m. Big stop for a loss on Foster. Very nice. Let’s hope Wisconsin’s defense can cut down on the number of big plays.

12:07 p.m. Donovan pass batted down. Wisconsin will have to punt. Good play by Tennessee.

12:06 p.m. Wisconsin just eating up clock, with 18 minutes of possession to Tennessee’s 12. That’s how we are going to win.

12:05 p.m. Another early timeout by Wisconsin. What’s going on there? Unusual confusion on offense.

12:04 p.m. Donovan way off on Jefferson. His worst throw of the game.

12:03 p.m.Wisconsin already facing a third down on their first second half possession here. Nice throw to Kyle Jefferson! First down.

12:00 p.m. It’d be nice to see Travis Beckum in the second half.

11:53 a.m.I guess I have enough time to get my own pizza during this halftime.

11:51 a.m. Jeez, how long are these bowl halftimes? Are the Stones performing at Raymond James Stadium right now?

11:49 a.m. So what does Wisconsin have to do in the second half? Obviously protect Donovan better. If they can tighten up coverage in the passing game and get a little more pressure on Ainge, I think they’ll be OK.

11:46 a.m. Anybody give Michigan a chance to win today? I do. I think they’ll play hard for Lloyd Carr.

11:45 a.m. So nobody gives Illinois a chance to win in today’s Rose Bowl? Sounds about right. I’ll give USC the win by about 20.

11:37 a.m. I thought Robert Smith retired early to become like a neurosurgeon or something. Wasn’t he once considered the smartest guy in football? Here he’s just a studio analyst for ESPN. Hey, if Boomer Esiason can do it, I thought anyone could.

11:35 a.m. 21-14 at the half. What was starting to look ugly is now looking again like a winnable game for the Badgers.

11:34 a.m. Did they say the temperatures would be down to 20s in Tampa this week? What?

11:33 a.m. Big stop followed by pass batted down. We’ll go to the halftime only down by seven.

11:32 a.m. Can’t afford to let Volunteers score here with one minute left. Have to hold on to this momentum.

11:30 a.m. Donovan is 7 for 9 with a touchdown run and touchdown throw. Not bad for a guy who’s taking some serious abuse.

11:29 a.m. TOUCHDOWN WISCONSIN! Andy Crooks wide open in the end zone! Beautiful drive by the Badgers!

11:27 a.m. Jefferson wide open for a first down! Good play calling here. Nice mixing of run and
pass. Credit Badgers for not panicking after falling behind by 14.

11:26 a.m.Hill gets a huge first down on third and 2. Crucial to get some points here.

11:25 a.m. Looks nice and sunny in Tampa right now. Why didn’t I get to make the trip?
Graham gets another pass — that’s his fourth completion already. Surprising to see Graham as the leading receiver, but he is getting it done right now.

11:23 a.m.Donovan finally gets a little time and gets a first down pass to Graham. Plus Tennessee got a roughing the passer call. That was a little ticky-tacky, but perhaps Bielema’s complaining made an impact.

11:22 a.m.Well, Donovan is back in. Let’s hope we can protect him.

11:21 a.m. That play was to Cottam. Let’s see — the Volunteers have about 300 yards of offense. Donovan’s out of the game, at least right now. The only thing working for Badgers is the run game. Too early to give up on that.

11:19 a.m.Well, scratch that. Easy 16-yard pass play to Moore. Another big play . . . TOUCHDOWN VOLUNTEERS. Oh boy. They are completely having their way with Bielema’s defense.

11:18 a.m.Tennessee has ball again at midfield. Great stop by Badgers; Foster tackled for loss of two. Defense has to come up big here. Offense needs to get back on field and get into some kind of rhythm.

11:16 a.m.Donovan now looks better. Up and walking on sideline. Evridge still in. Brown drops pass! Officials are now saying incomplete pass. Evridge is dropping back about thirty yards to pass — replay makes it look like Wisconsin lucked out there since that play could have been called catch and fumble. Myabe officials are trying to make up for all of the cheap Volunteer shots on Donovan that they haven’t been calling.

11:14 a.m.Hey, while all of you are watching this game and probably gorging yourselves on goodies, I’m stuck here at WISC-TV drinking a soda and eating a Pop-Tart. Can someone get a pizza delivered to me? Thanks.

11:12 a.m.This is bad. Even worse than seeing that Rambo trailer.

11:10 a.m. Donovan did not slide effectively after that run. Looks like ankle way have gotten caught in turf. ESPN is loving showing Donovan’s parents agonizing over every hit. Donovan is now down and it looks like Evridge is coming in. Looks like left knee of Donovan is the problem. Very awkward slide on that last run.

11:09 a.m.Donovan is taped up. Again, non-throwing hand. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

11:07 a.m.That touchdown was set up by play action. Ainge is getting too much time to throw and Badgers secondary getting beat by Volunteers. I thought that without their leading receiver that Volunteers wouldn’t have this much success throwing the football. Ainge has 156 yards and we’re only one-third of the way through this thing.

11:05 a.m.Donovan’s bumps and bruises aren’t Wisconsin’s problem. Defense is. Another big pass play to Rogers. Tennessee is now ripping off yardage faster than I can write. They just scored a big touchdown. Briscoe beat Pleasant in the end zone. Volunteers up 14-7.

11:04 a.m.Tennessee good field position. Another nice screen by Tennessee. Sounds like Donovan has a cut and some swelling on his non-throwing hand wrist. Shouldn’t be serious enough to affect performance.

11:03 a.m.Donovan took another shot on what looks like a third down completion. Now they’re saying Graham didn’t make the marker. Three and out for Wisconsin.

11:02 a.m.Hill still in the game. Playing more than maybe I thought he would. 35 yards already.

11:00 a.m.Still tied at 7-7. Badger ball at their own 12. Be good to use up some clock here and get some points. Donovan throws incomplete. He’s on the run. Pass rush is getting to Donovan.

10:58 a.m.I don’t care how great a football career Joe Montana had. When I see him, all I can think of is that Saturday Night Live sketch where he repeats out loud his thoughts verbatim. Good stuff.

10:57 a.m.Nice screen by Volunteers. They’re certainly gaining the yardage on our defense. Ainge just overthrew Rogers, who had beaten Strickland. Dodged a bullet there. Volunteers have to punt.

10:56 a.m.Catch that commercial for Rambo in the last break? Most unnecessary sequel since Cannonball Run II.

10:54 a.m.Hardesty big play. Levy fell down.

10:53 a.m.Big pass play to Jones on 3rd down. Volunteer receivers are getting open.

10:49 a.m.End of first quarter. Tie game except passing wise where Ainge has big advantage over Donovan. Equalizer is the turnovers; which each team had one.

10:49 a.m.There’s David Cutcliffe. Like he cares about this game. He’s going to be partying with Coach K in a few days. Those guys know how to roll.

10:48 a.m.Good drive stopped way short. Volunteer ball at the 15.

10:46 a.m.Donovan is down again. He’s not getting good protection. Second sack and multiple hits.

10:45 a.m.Here’s to all of my WISC-TV colleagues slumming it down in Tampa. What is it, 70 degrees down there? Sounds awful.

10:44 a.m.Second timeout by Badgers.

10:42 a.m.Right now the Badgers are doing what they want. Dominating line of scrimmage and running the ball. Using the clock.

10:41 a.m.Another big run by Hill. He looks like he’s just fine. Good to see. Another first down as Hill carries again to Badgers 42-yard line.

10:39 a.m.Graham almost blew that pass but he came up with it. First down!

10:38 a.m.P.J. Hill is in the game. Gain of five for Hill on 1st and 15 after false start.

10:36 a.m.Fumble! Wisconsin recovers! Nick Hayden! Yes! What kind of play was that? Looked like something out of Football Follies. Can’t give Badgers too much credit for that botched play, but we’ll take it!

10:35 a.m.Wide open pass play to Hancock. Defense not looking good, which is exactly what the ESPN announcers are talking about.

10:34 a.m.More poor tackling on another big Volunteer run.

10:33 a.m.We can thank Gilreath for that last touchdown. Not very often you get the ball on the opponents’ 22-yard line.

10:29 a.m.Donovan up and walks off under own power. He’s getting the “where are you? what’s your name? which spears kid is currently pregnant?” test on the sideline.

10:28 a.m.TOUCHDOWN BADGERS! Donovan takes it in himself. But he is down holding his head. Great play but he took a huge hit. Let’s see if Donovan’s OK.

10:25 a.m.Now the Badgers get the time out. 3rd and goal as we go to time out. Badgers looking good here, particularly the run game.

10:25 a.m.Brown in end zone but nullified by illegal shift. Bielema is peeved. He tried to call time out.

10:24 a.m.Brown doing his best P.J. Hill impression and he’s down to the 2 yard line. Big answer to Volunteer drive happening right now.

10:23 a.m.Donovan to the end zone for Jefferson. Thought that was going to be six. Almost intercepted. Donovan late throwing the ball.

10:22 a.m.Nice run by Lance Smith. First down.

10:21 a.m. Great blocking for Gilreath on fantastic runback. Then add on to that a face mask penalty. Badgers have great field position. They are already on the Volunteer 22-yard line.

10:20 a.m.Back from first commercial break. Just checking on the chat portion. Not sure if that’s working. If you’re trying to join in on that and it’s not, sorry. I’ll try to work on it.

10:15 a.m.Touchdown Volunteers. Run by backup quarterback Jones. Terrible tackling by Badgers. Solid drive by Volunteers. Good mix of pass and run.

10:14 a.m.They are having an easy time getting outside on our defense. Line looks slow.

10:12 a.m.Another first down for the Volunteers. That fumble followed by the 40-yard pass
play was huge swing in momentum.

10:11 a.m.Forty-yard pass play! Good coverage but great throw. Big YAC.

10:10 a.m.Nice drop by Volunteer receiver. Remember they are playing without Lucas Taylor,
their leading receiver. Defense so far looks good. Early though of course.

10:09 a.m.Big sack on Donovan. Now we’ve got third and long. Hubbard fumbles! Argh! A great pass play ruined. Got to hang on to that ball.

10:07 a.m.Great defensive series by Wisconsin. Good field position. Big run by Zach Brown. Eight yards on first down.

10:06 a.m.Oh! Should have been intercepted! Remember the last time Erik Ainge played, he had two killer interceptions against LSU. Let’s make him as uncomfortable as possible.

10:05 a.m.Hey, Matt Kenseth does the intros. Big throw but incomplete. Good coverage by Strickland. He’ll need to do more of that in relief of Henry. Good play.

10:03 a.m.Big run but flag. Makes you wonder what Badger defense will show up here. But the call is holding against the Volunteers.

10:01 a.m.Kickoff. Touchback.

10:01 a.m.Be interesting to see how much P.J. Hill will play and what impact Zach Brown and Lance Smith will be able to have.

10:00 a.m.TV coverage has started. And it’s not only on the NFL Network!

9:58 a.m. OK, we’re going to try this again. For those of you who joined me for the Cowboys/Packers live blog and chat, I hope this one works as well as that one seemed to. However, I hope we have a better outcome this time than last time!