Month: November 2007

No, She’s Not

I knew the questions might come when I posted the picture of our Christmas tree. And since a few people have inquired, I should go ahead and end the suspense for anyone else who is wondering: No, S. is not pregnant.

Some of you have noticed that we have five stockings hung, and with only four people living in the house, it makes sense to wonder if something is in the oven. However, we have five stockings because my wife is the prototypical type A physician. Everything must be planned in advance and then the plan must be followed. When we bought our first decorations four years ago, she decided to go ahead and buy five: one for each of us and one for the three children we were planning on having. It would mess up her whole decorating scheme if we had to buy a new, unmatched, stocking each time we had a kid. And since our stocking holders, which spell Peace, require five stockings to look right, we’ve been hanging all five for each of our five Christmases in the house.

So now you know. No fetus in the womb. Yet…

 

The Big Game

Well, that was disappointing. I’m starting to put together these thoughts at about 2:45 on Sunday afternoon, and suffering from a massive headache. I’m not sure if that’s from the beer I drank last night, my contacts/glasses giving me problems, or from dealing with the girls alone all week. Hopefully it won’t interfere with putting together some relatively clear thoughts.

First, it must be said that Missouri was much better than KU on both sides of the ball last night. In rivalry games, it’s easy to make excuses about this or that, but sometimes the difference is clear. I, like most KU fans, am bemoaning the fact it seemed to take a long time to exploit the MU secondary, the fact Todd Reesing couldn’t really step into the pass that turned into his first interception of the night, and of course the two missed field goals. It’s not difficult to see a scenario where KU had a 17-14 lead at the half. However, even with those changes, it’s difficult to account for how differently MU would have managed the game on offense if the score was closer. They seemed to making a determined effort to grind out drives and keep the ball away from KU. But, given how we showed an inability to control the short and middle games, I don’t know that MU wouldn’t have just run ten yard patterns instead of five and scored faster. But, with those scores, perhaps KU’s mental state is less fragile and we would have seen a very interesting game in the fourth quarter, instead of just a kind of interesting game.

I thought a big key was MU finding their mental and emotional footing, if that makes sense, quicker. After the initial drives, they seemed to settle into a fired up and focused state, where KU seemed to suffer from the pressure of the game. Even late, when KU was scoring, it wasn’t the smooth, methodical offense we’ve grown used to this season.

I was very disappointed in the performance of the KU defense. I don’t know how you can scheme Mizzou better than Bill Young did. You have to offer something, and it’s better to keep giving up short gains than getting beat deep. What killed us, though, was the inability to tackle. Far too many times KU defenders were unable to lock up guys they had hands on, and the result was often a long gain. There were a few third and longs that were converted because of this, and those were killer.

I wonder what happened to Jake Sharp. I love Brandon McAnderson, but he was not a good match-up against Mizzou’s defense. I think Jake could have made a difference when we were still floundering early.

As much as a loss like this hurts, I think it will be an important lesson to the program. MU is, in many ways, a blueprint for where KU can go. Todd Reesing can become as efficient and effective as Chase Daniel. While KU’s receiving corps isn’t quite as talented as MU’s, there is some good, young depth that can learn a lot from the players they saw last night. And both lines can learn to be more aggressive. It was obvious last night that MU had learned from its struggles last season. KU can put what it learned last night to use in the bowl game, and then as it builds towards next season.

Now we KU fans are left to wait for next week and the bowl assignments. Along with the wait comes an unholy dillemna. Do we root for MU next week, hoping they give Oklahoma a second loss and put us into a BCS bowl, even if that means the Tigers play for the national championship? Or do we hope our bitter rivals come up short at the cost of only playing in the Cotton or Holiday Bowls? That’s a tough one, and I’m not ready to properly ponder it.

Actually, I am. I’ve always said I’ll root for MU or K-State if it helps KU. Going to a BCS bowl is a monumental achievement. I won’t pull openly for MU next week, but if their win puts KU in a BCS bowl, I’ll tip my cap to them.

As I’ve done the last three weeks, I kept reminding myself yesterday that a bad result would not negate what has been a fantastic season. After we cut the game to 21-7, those words finally sunk in and I was able to relax a bit and just sit back and watch. As I said last week, when you’ve been playing with house money for so long, you can’t be upset when things go bad. Despite the miscues and struggles to adjust that could have made it a more interesting game, it was clear that Missouri was the better team last night. (Man, I wish we had held on 3rd down with 4:00 and change left. The game would have been veeerrrrrry interesting if we get the ball back with time to do something.) Because it comes to a rival, it stings a little more, but there’s no shame in the loss. Now, the guys get a few weeks to heal up, practice, and prepare for what could be the biggest bowl game in school history. Life is still good for KU football fans. For my Jayhawk brothers and sisters in KC, keep your heads up.

Late Update: Nearly a double-bummer as the basketball Jayhawks meandered through an overtime win over Arizona. I don’t expect much from Bill Self’s teams in the first 4-6 weeks of the season. He doesn’t concentrate on offense until late December, and for some reason his teams never rebound well early. Throw in the loss of Sherron Collins for six weeks and Brandon Rush’s continuing rehab, and this was a recipe for a loss. If you told me Russell Robinson would play like a walk-on, Mario Chalmers would be silent for most of the game, and the big men would leave 20 points on the court by either passing the ball to nobody or missing layups, and I’d be happy if we kept it close. So I was thrilled with the win tonight.

How about that final shot of regulation by B. Rush? I feel sorry for Chase Budinger who clearly didn’t understand what his coaches were telling him to do when he got his fifth foul. Then again, I’ve never liked Kevin O’Neil, so perhaps he did tell his leading scorer to foul when he had four fouls.

This by no means stands up to the classics KU and Arizona have played over the past ten years, but it was a nice rebound after Saturday’s loss. I hope there were some kids in the house who understand Miles Simon’s story and had some derisive signs prepared. I’m proud of how I’ve mellowed a bit in recent years, but if I was in Allen Fieldhouse tonight and was close to the Arizona bench, Simon would have heard me chirping at him all night. KU fans know what I’m talking about, how the fucker never should have been eligible for Arizona’s monumental upset of KU back in ’97.

Approaching Storm

Here we go. The Biggest Game Ever is only about 30 hours away and I admit the stomach is starting to churn a bit.

Before we get to the game, I wanted to share how much I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with people from both sides of the rivalry this week. To be fair, it’s not like my extended group of friends is full of a-holes who treat their friends like shit on game day. For the most part, we’re all well-behaved, respectful of each other, and never forget that we’re friends first. It makes this week even more fun that our group of friends is able to go through it together. Still, with the stakes of this week’s game, I expected a little more trash talk than I’ve received. I hope the 80,000 people who fill Arrowhead tomorrow night can find the perspective my friends have come to: they all really want to win, beat their arch rival, etc. but are appreciating this incredibly special moment above all.

Unfortunately, for about the last ten years, the students of both schools have done little to inspire confidence that there won’t be issues tomorrow. Granted, with that many people (I heard one estimate that there could be as many as 100,000 in the parking lots), lots of time, and millions of gallons of liquor flowing, there are going to be a few issues no matter who is on the field. Let’s all hope any incidents are isolated and don’t evolve into mass abuse of opposing fans as we’ve seen all too often in Lawrence and Columbia recently.

I guess I’m on the hook for some kind of prediction, right? I’ve looked at numbers, read tons of previews, talked to people with and without rooting interests, and here’s what I can say are my biggest impressions.

This will be the best offense, by far, Kansas has faced all season.

This will be the best defense, by a little, that Missouri has faced all season. I can hear people shouting, “What about Oklahoma?!?!” Oklahoma is certainly more talented across the defense than KU, but KU is more consistent and adjusts better than OU does.

In that match-up lies the determining element of this game. I’ve seen KU adjust, time after time, this season to whatever opposing offenses have thrown at them. They get better over the course of each game as they tune into what the offense is trying to do. It’s difficult for me to see anyone pushing them around or consistently beating them.

At the same time, no one has stopped Missouri this year. It’s hard for me to see anyone covering all of their receivers and getting consistent pressure on Chase Daniel.

On the other side of the ball, Mizzou’s defense has been better than anyone expected this year. They’re physical and make plays. KU’s offense is so well-balanced and quick to adjust, that it’s difficult to shut them down.

I think it will be a lower scoring game than most of us expect. The emotion of the game, between the venue, the stakes, and the rivalry itself will make it a bit sloppy early on. The weather is supposed to be dry and chilly, but if memory serves, that Arrowhead turf is usually nice and chewed up by this time of year. I think that will slow both teams down a little as well.

Coaching will be a factor. I think Gary Pinkel gets a bad rap, mostly because he never found a way to fully harness Brad Smith’s abilities. But, in the small sample we can measure from, Mark Mangino has consistently shown he can create match-up issues on both sides of the ball for Pinkel’s staff. The second half blunders of last year are forgotten, and Mangino will pull the right strings throughout tomorrow’s contest.

The game will come down to two things: KU runs the ball a little bit better, and thus will be able to control the clock and grind out drives. And once they establish the run, Missouri will have trouble covering KU’s receivers. I think KU grabs the lead in the second quarter, and with the more balanced offense and ability to kill time, keep the lead.

And since I’m picking with the heart as much as anything else, it’s tough to pick against this team. They’ve answered every challenge they’ve met this season. People said they couldn’t win on the road, outside of Kansas, against a Big 12 South opponent, yet they proved that they could. The dream season will continue, but it will be the toughest victory of the season.

The Footie

Everyone Go Crazy And Act Like A Fool</span> week has arrived. The best-case scenario most people scoffed at six weeks ago has become reality. Tigers and Jayhawks congregating in Arrowhead on Saturday to play for a lot more than bragging rights. If KU can continue it’s run, they are just two games from playing for a national title. In football. Consider that again. Ridiculous, right? If MU wins, they probably get a second shot at a wounded OU team they hung with in October, brimming with confidence and with their own less direct but equally real path to the BCS championship game awaiting. The perfect end to a perfect season.

I’ll get more into the rivalry over the week, but there is a big part of me that is glad I’m not in Kansas City this week. The hype is going to be ridiculous. All the idiot fans of whichever school you did not go to will be coming out of the shadows to bother you. All the idiot fans of your school will be right there with them, making inappropriate comments that make you cringe. For once, I think I’m glad to watch this one from afar.

People are asking me what I think of the game. Honestly, I can’t make an assessment yet. I haven’t seen much of Mizzou this year. Most of their games on FSN have been preempted for local programming here in Indy. When they’ve been on ABC, there has always been a Big Ten game on. And when they’ve been on ESPN, I’ve often had other commitments. Plus, I didn’t expect to need to break the game down in such detail back when the season started. Based on what I can discern from a basic look at the stats, comparative scores, and people I’ve talked to who have seen both teams, I would say KU has the advantage on defense, MU has an advantage on offense, and both teams have excellent special teams. Neither team turns the ball over much. So how do I determine what the hell is going to happen?

Unfortunately, it sounds like some key players in KU’s defensive secondary and offensive line are a bit dinged up. KU will need 5-6 DBs on the field much of the game. It’s hard enough to try to contain Missouri’s receivers without starting the game two players short. If Reesing’s ankle is still tender, missing a key offensive lineman does not bode well.

What I keep going back to, and keep hearing from neutrals who have seen both teams, is KU’s defense. It’s a very good unit that doesn’t take plays off and doesn’t get down when it does give up a big play. In fact, I think the KU defense is a lot better than Oklahoma’s which tends to be indifferent about half of the time. I don’t think you can slow down MU all that much, but if KU can force MU to punt 3-4 times, or get a couple turnovers, that should be the game-changing element. I think KU’s more traditional running game will be very important, too, especially if the field is sloppy. That said, I can’t drop a score on you yet. I expect it to be a 10-12 point game, with a late score making it a comfortable margin, but can’t figure out which team will have the 35-40 points it should take to win yet. I’ll keep working on it, though.

The strange thing about this glorious season, from KU’s perspective, is that for all the national attention and importance it places on this game, it also takes a little away from it. If KU loses, they still have a shot at a BCS bowl, and worst case will be playing in a nice, non-BCS bowl. Given the historic place KU football has held, how can you be upset about that? If you told me at the beginning of the year KU will go 11-1, be ranked #2 in the BCS, and play in New Year’s day bowl game but would have to take a loss to MU in the process, I would have taken that and ran before you changed your mind.
Much more on that as the week progresses. In local news, the hometown team, Carmel High, has advanced to the state championship game for the second straight year. Unlike last year, Warren Central will not be waiting for them. The four-time defending champions were knocked out early this year. Instead, the undefeated and #1 ranked Pike Red Devils will greet Carmel in the Dome Saturday. My local bookie tells me the early line is Carmel -6.

I meant to write last week about how the Colts’ season was done the moment Dwight Freeney went on the IR. Sunday’s game with the Chiefs pretty much proved that. Peyton continues to be out-of-sorts, his receivers are dropping balls, his offensive line is going <span style=”font-style:italic;”>Back the Future</span> on him and disappearing before our eyes. If not for their great defense, and who would have ever thought that to be the case, the Colts might be in jeopardy of missing the playoffs despite their undefeated start. Back when I picked the Colts to make the Super Bowl again in September, part of my reasoning was that the older Pats would fall apart over the course of the season. Strange that the Pats are holding together while the younger Colts are decimated by injuries.

I keep wanting to buy into the Cowboys. But that defense remains a big problem. There’s a part of me that thinks, if they can make it that far, the Cowboys will have a decent shot of defeating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. I can see the Pats being over-confident, as the Rams were back in 2002, and the ‘Boys pulling the stunner. But I just can’t see the Dallas defense not giving up stupid, long plays to Randy Moss all day. I don’t get how a defense so talented can be so flawed. Perhaps if they dialed things back a bit and made the sound play instead of going for the big play it might help.

OK, probably enough for now, especially given teh fact I’m supposed to be watching the girls right now. Where are they, anyway? Was that the garage door I just heard? I kid, I kid.

Amazing Timing

Don’t worry, the weekly football post will come. This late Saturday Big 12 game, though, is making it even harder to rationally think about the next seven days. Dominos falling…

In an amazing coincidence, C. said both her name and her sister’s name for the first time today. She said “C.” to me several times this morning, although she would point at me and laugh when she said it. She picked it up again in the evening, so we asked her if she could say M. as well. For six weeks or so, her normal response has been “Shi-sher,” as she pointed at her sister. Tonight, however, she dropped a pretty clear, “M.,” on us. Like the great parents we are, we forced her to repeat each name for the next ten minutes, dropping in other family names to test her.

What made it even cuter was the first time she said M.’s name, M. got the biggest smile on her face and started laughing. It was as if she was saying, “Finally!”

It was, in many ways, a pretty crappy day as we dealt with the girls’ mood swings, crying, and whining (colds, flu shots, and teething are responsible). But moments like this just about make up for the rest of the day.

Weekend (Football) Update

Another full weekend of football.

First, as I may have mentioned and the pic above will show, we trekked up north to attend the Notre Dame – Air Force game. A good friend from KC has a friend rather high up in the administration at the Academy, and came to town for the weekend with access to some pretty good tickets. When I say pretty good I mean really freaking good. In the lower Air Force section, in the southwest corner of the stadium. Row 32, which isn’t nearly as high as it sounds, right above the Air Force band. A pretty great location to watch a game from.

It was great weather for a November football game: a little chilly, yes, but dry and not bitterly cold, thank goodness. I was disappointed we had to don the coats, though. I’ve always worn KU gear when I’ve gone to South Bend, as pretty much everyone who isn’t a big Irish fan does, but in the past it was just to represent. This year, I was carrying the banner of a team in the hunt for the BCS title game. I wanted people to behold the power and beauty of the bird on my chest. Alas, only one person stopped me outside the stadium to ask about the Jayhawks. But my blue shirt and hat made me fit right in with the Air Force fans, which was kind of cool.

It wasn’t much of a game. All the fanboys can say what they want about Notre Dame being young, which is true, but they’re also not very good. It was frustrating to watch them struggle to contain Air Force. Granted, Air Force runs a unique offense that is difficult to prepare for, but all those blue chippers on the ND defense should have been able to chase down a bunch of 5’10’’, 4.7-40 guys. And the Irish’s running backs don’t run with a purpose, instead tip-toeing to the line then just kind of falling over when there’s contact. When ND had handed it off for no gain for the third straight time at one point, a very loud AFA fan by us shouted, “Another great call by that offensive genius Weis!”

The funniest thing I saw at the game came outside the stadium, as our friend was getting our tickets from the Will Call window. That was the same moment as two Air Force jets did a very low fly-over. An Air Force student, or perhaps just a fan, was standing near us. As the jets roared overhead, the kid started jumping up and down, pointing at the jets, and cheering. He was full of enthusiasm, and perhaps beer.

Because of childcare restrictions, this wasn’t as lengthy of a visit to South Bend as my two previous trips, but it is always fun to go there.

Thanks to our early departure from the game (we left at the beginning of the fourth quarter) we got home just in time for the KU game, which thanks to good scheduling on the part of the Big 10, was on in HD here in Indy. To say I was a little cranked up for the game would be putting it lightly. When Todd Reesing threw that beautiful ball to Marcus Henry in the third quarter, which resulted in an 82-yard touchdown, I hopped around the room, trying to contain my glee (three of the other four people in the house were upstairs and asleep by then). Later, when Reesing and Henry did their best Montana to Clark immitation, I did a silent lap through the house, bouncing along and pounding my right fist into my left palm, since at that point I was the only person left awake. As the game wound down, I had to break into the more potent beers, because I knew there was no way I was going to sleep without some help from some strong alcohol.

Oklahoma State was probably the best team we’ve beaten this year, although Nebraska’s performance Saturday makes our victory over them look a little better. It’s hard not to get defensive when people knock KU’s schedule, because any slight of your team is a slight on you and must be defended, right? I’ve been trying to take it all calmly, reminding myself this is a dream season and I should enjoy it instead of arguing with people. Yes, we’ve played a soft schedule. But the goal this year was to find the easiest possible path to seven wins. No one expected us to be in the hunt for the BCS title game with two games left in the regular season. Comparing KU to K-State circa 1998 just doesn’t work. I have no problem with people who say they’re reserving judgement on KU until we get to Missouri, and then hopefully Oklahoma. I do have a problem with the people who have summarily dismissed us from the BCS discussion because of our schedule. Ohio State’s schedule wasn’t that much better than ours going into last weekend, yet no one questioned their place in the discussion. I think what people are missing is how well KU has done on the road. Four road wins against teams ranked between 36 and 56 in the Sagarin ratings is nothing to sneeze at. But people like Selena Roberts would rather see the same old teams playing for the BCS title, instead of KU and Oregon, a game she called boring on ESPN Sunday. And unfortunately for every Kirk Herbstreit who held his judgement until he saw KU and then said the Jayhawks were legitimate contenders and the best story in college football this season, there’s a Roberts running around looking at the name on the jersey, the cupcakes on the schedule, and deciding they don’t want to include KU in the discussion, regardless of what happens on the field.

But, as I said, I’m trying not to get bogged down in that. Worst case, KU is going to have a ten win season. Saturday, they’re playing for their 11th win for the first time in the program’s long history. If things go very well over the next month, as crazy as it sounds, KU will be playing in the final college football game of the season. As I keep saying each step along the way, I never, ever in my wildest dreams expected anything like this to happen to KU football. It’s been a remarkable season and I’m going to continue to enjoy every second of it.

Segueing a little, can we just get rid of the Heisman? After Saturday’s game, Todd Reesing has popped into the discussion, which is great. But I keep wondering why Missouri’s loss to Oklahoma has kept Chase Daniel out of the discussion. I think Tim Tebow is the clear leader right now, but after him, doesn’t Daniel have as good of a resume as anyone in the country? It’s just another example of how the national sports media is lazy. Darren McFadden can have a subpar year, drop out of the discussion, then have one huge game and is suddenly one of the favorites again. Yet the guys who put up stats every week, but weren’t part of the intial list of favorites in August, don’t get the same kind of slack. Besides, the Heisman just ain’t what it used to be. Look at the <a href=”http://www.heisman.com/winners/hsmn-winners.html”>list of winners</a> for the last 20 years. They don’t exactly stack up with Tony Dorsett, Archie Griffin, and Earl Campbell, do they?

Finally, what a crazy game Sunday night between the Colts and Chargers. I’m not sure what the proper spin should be for the Colts. Gutty comeback by an injury-depleated team that is a sign once they get healthy they are still the second best in the league? Or concern that they are dropping like flies and until they get everyone back on offense, Peyton is going to be out of his comfort zone and throwing picks left and right? For me, it makes the last four years seem even more impressive. Other than the occasional playoff game against New England or Pittsburgh, they’ve never really been off their game during that run. Everything is always clicking offensively, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Peyton out of sorts like he was for parts of the game last night. That’s a testament to the system they run. Despite its complexity and injuries over the years, they’ve always been able to put him in a position where he can look at every option, on every play, and find the one that works best. Even with his struggles last night, he was still getting them in position to win the game.

A few years back, when I was still employed at C. Corp., I used to piss off the people in our St. Louis office by telling them that Kurt Warner had, despite his public statements about his faith, in fact sold his soul to the devil to get the Rams their one Super Bowl title. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something like that going on with Adam Vinatieri. “Please, Satan, give me one ring away from the Patriots so I can carve out my own legacy.” How on earth does he miss that last field goal? I think his skills are either erroding rrapidly, he’s paying his debt back to the devil, or Bill Belichick has even more power than we thought and is somehow causing Vinatieri’s descent into normalcy.

The Streak Is Over

For the first time in her life, M. threw up today.* Appropriately, C. was laughing the entire time her big sister was puking up her dinner. I say appropriately, because the last time C. was sick, M. laughed. The fact it took M. over three years to throw up something other than formula bodes well for her college years, at least vis-a-vis her old man’s experience.

  • For my non-parenting friends, I make a distinction between puking up your food and babies spitting up. Babies can’t help it; it’s what they do. And once you get used to it, spit up really isn’t that bad, unless they soil your clothes five minutes before you’re leaving for work or dinner. Food-based puke, though, is disgusting no matter how cute the kid is who is doing the up-chucking.

‘Tis The Season?

We took advantage of M. being at preschool and C. not commanding the language well enough to share secrets to take our youngest one along with us today to Toys R Us to scout out the hottest toys for the holiday season. Place was packed. I’m not sure if it was people using their two hour window for voting to actually get a jump on Christmas shopping or maybe Tuesdays are always a busy day, but it was strange to find the place hopping at noon.

I was shocked – SHOCKED I say – that there are Star Wars Lego sets that run $99.99. I’m pretty sure I made an Imperial Star Destroyer that looked pretty sweet out of my box of random Legos 30 years ago. Sure, it wasn’t a “limited edition” but it was still pretty sweet.

Speaking over over-marketing, I know Dora and Diego are every-freaking-where but having C. with us really reinforces that. Every five seconds she was saying “Doh-wa!” “Gah-go!” “Boot!” “Bah-pah!” That’s Dora, Diego, Boots, and Backpack for you non-parents out there. You can’t walk five feet in that store without seeing something that is Dora/Diego branded. I hope the creators of the show got a nice piece of the marketing pie when they signed their contracts.

Anyway, I guess my whole point is that Christmas seems to come earlier every year. Of course, Woody Boyd would respond by saying that if I checked, <a href=”http://www.tv.com/cheers/thanksgiving-orphans/episode/14176/summary.html”>I would see it always comes on the 25th of December</a>.

Three Games

The calendar has flipped to November, baseball has ended (only 14 weeks until pitchers and catchers report!), the furnace is on, and there is frost on the grass. All sure signs that football will rule my TV for the next couple months. Three games will hold most of my attention this weekend. Some thoughts below.

Game One: Manchester United at Arsenal, 8:45 AM EDT Saturday. When I say football, I mean all kinds of football. I’ll be fighting the girls for the TV tomorrow morning, as this is the biggest game of the still-young season in the English Premier League. The teams are level on points, although Arsenal have a game in hand (That means they’re tied for first, but ManU has played one more game, if you don’t speak soccerese). Both teams come into the match in top form. Arsenal have looked awesome, scoring nearly at will in every game except for last week’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool (In soccer, a road tie against a good team is considered a very good result). ManU has been scoring nearly as often as the Gunners, but have only allowed four goals, to Arsenal’s seven, in the Premiership. The defending champs were expected to be a step or two ahead of Arsenal this year, given the Arse’s youth and the fact ManU practice voodoo, cannibalism, and several other forms of pure evil. Arsenal got two big wins over the Red Devils last year, including the epic match last January when Thierry Henry headed home the winner in the final minute of play, and they’re a much better team this year. If they can continue to make up for the loss of Robin Van Persie up front, expect another victory for the North London side. Arsenal 2, Manchester United 1.
Game Two: Nebraska at Kansas, 12:30 EDT Saturday. Two years ago, I did a celebratory lap through my home as KU pounded the Huskers to get their first win in the series since 1968. I had given up hope, after two close calls during my days in Lawrence, that KU would ever beat Nebraska in football. Then, magically, it happened. Last year, KU should have won in Lincoln, losing in overtime when a missed PAT in regulation would have given them the win. Things just keep getting stranger, as the Jayhawks enter this year’s game as 19 point favorites. Nearly three touchdown favorites over Nebraska? Dogs and cats living together!

You might think that with Nebraska’s poor record and nation’s worst rushing defense I would feel rather confident about sitting in front of the TV for three plus hours and watching my ‘Hawks extract a little more revenge for three decades of blowouts. I’m not. Strangely, this has turned into a classic trap game, falling between last week’s historic win in College Station and next week’s showdown in Stillwater. There’s also some mental resistance to the idea that we should have an easy time with Nebraska. I know times change, but all those years of watching the <span style=”font-style:italic;”>We Backs</span> and <span style=”font-style:italic;”>Black Shirts</span> treat my alma mater like a high school JV team left some scars. The faster Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp run all over the Huskers the better. I’ll be happy with a three point win and a 9-0 record. Kansas 35 Nebraska 10

Game Three: New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts, 4:15 PM EST Sunday (Don’t forget to change your clocks!). Have you heard about this game? Not much talk about it. The 8-0 Pats come to the Dome to battle the 7-0 Colts, who have owned them over the past two seasons. I think most people accepted that the teams were 1A and 1B coming into the season. The Pats have clearly created some distance, but I don’t think that gap is has broad as some others would have you believe. First, the difference between the Colts and the league’s third-best team, Dallas, is staggering. So trying to draw conclusions about this week’s game from New England’s beat-down of the Cowboys last month is just silly. Second, the Colts defense is really good. Really, really good. It will be the best defense the Pats have faced this season (and let’s be honest: they haven’t exactly faced a murderers row of D’s so far. Even Dallas’, which is statistically good, is wildly inconsistent and pretty much sat out the second half of the Pats game.). Finally, the Colts both understand how to play the Pats and lack the fear of them the rest of the league has. If last year’s AFC title game taught them anything, it’s that you can come back on the Pats.

With all that said, I still expect the Pats to win. They’re healthier (Marvin Harrison remains a big question), firing on all cylinders, and have every intangible in their favor. (Quick aside: how stupid is it that they are allegedly pounding teams to get back at the league for punishing them for spygate? It’s like they’re saying, “How dare you catch us cheating and then penalize us for it!” I think the whole scandal was way overblown [Everyone is doing it on some level. The Pats were probably far more refined in the practice and dumb enough to get caught. Let’s not pretend they were the first or only team to try this and that it’s not still going on in every stadium in the league.] Their childish response is soiling their reputation far more than the actual crime.) I see this game getting nasty, because both teams need to be physical on defense. Tom Brady traditionally does better in nasty games than Peyton Manning does. I think the Pats will throw everything at rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh, who has performed exceptionally well so far this season, and that may be the difference. I expect the Pats to win, but should the Colts pull it out, I wouldn’t call it the huge upset some others will see it as.

New England 31 Indianapolis 27

Seems like some solid material for a wrap-up post on Monday, no?

Scary Night, Peaceful Night

M. was very excited for Halloween. We got the girls’ costumes about a month ago, and anytime we mentioned Halloween, M. would shout, “I’m going to be a GOOD witch!” Clarifying the good part was very important. She was literally shaking with anticipation last night, when we finally put the costume on and prepared to hit the streets. When other kids would come to the door, she would try to help give them candy, but would get a little too wound up and would just shout, “Happy Halloween! Take two pieces!” Then she would stand in the way of the door still quivering as she watched the kids walk away.
Our little fairy, C., wasn’t much more help. She stood in the doorway and stared at the kids, too. I don’t think she understood why all these kids were coming to our door and taking our candy. Each time she saw the candy bowl, she smacked her lips and said, “Mmmmmm!” We bought a scary witch that shrieks out various saying when you approach it to hang on the front door. When I leaned in to move the girls, that set the witch off, which they loved but always scared the kids who were walking away. </p><p style=”font-family:Helvetica Neue;”>Eventually we made our rounds through the neighborhood. Coolest treats were the Halloween colored Play Dough one family was handing out to all the little kids. The girls loved that. When we got home and let the girls have a Tootsie Roll pop each, it became a big game to keep them from chasing each other while they still had the suckers in their mouths. Pretty much everything in their paths got covered with sticky slobber, but they seemed to have fun.

M. got to double her fun today at pre-school. Since it is All Saints Day, the kids were supposed to dress as the saint they are named after. As far as we know, there is no Saint M., so we picked Saint Margaret since it’s kind of close and one of her aunt’s has that as a middle name. The kids were supposed to know a few things about their saint to share with the class. We’ve been practicing all week, “I’m Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland. I feed the poor.” I was at Gymboree with C., but S. reported that M. did pretty good. She had to go first, and perhaps was intimidated by all the parents that were in the chapel. She got through the Saint Margaret and Queen of Scotland part fine. But, she left out the feeding the poor part. Her teacher asked her, “Do you feed the poor?” and M. responded, “Yeah!” “Can you say it?” “Yeah!” Oh well, they got the point. And other than a few kids who clearly practiced for a month, S. said most of the other kids were about as smooth in their efforts.
Happy Halloween and All Saints Day! And to my Mexican friends, Feliz Dia de los Muertos.

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