Friday, October 07, 2011

Sports Saturday: 10/8/11

Saturday could be a groundbreaking day in the statistical life of Chris Allen, so let's get the 30-minute Sports Saturday special out of the way this afternoon, shall we?


We interrupt the usual football discussion for this special announcement. Hockey is back!

Let's begin with a bit of a flashback. The year is 2005. The NHL has just emerged from a season-cancelling lockout with a hard salary cap, allowing traditionally lower-budget teams such as the Carolina Hurricanes to compete for the Stanley Cup. Alas, in the first year after the lockout, the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup. But now, league revenues are now high enough such that not every team can spend up to the salary cap. Carolina, certainly, is a team that is not spending up to the cap, and as a result, the Hurricanes only have one playoff appearance in five seasons since winning the Cup. It's much harder for a team like Carolina to compete with the I-95 corridor now than it was fresh out of the lockout, when the cap was low and nearly every team was maxed out.

So how can the Hurricanes win a second Stanley Cup? I see two paths to Cup Glory for a low-budget team:
- Suck for a couple of years and draft a game-changing player or two, such as Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos. Then, hurry up and win the Cup before they demand big contracts! Jeff Skinner was a nice find, but it's going to take another one of those, I think.
- Even a low-budget team will make the playoffs once in a while. Get something like the 7 seed every few years, and hope you get lucky in those years, because anything can happen in the playoffs. Make a trade or two at the trade deadline if you're feeling really ambitious.

Such is life when your team is $12 million under the salary cap and is forced to rely on AHL-caliber players to fill out the 4th line. But hey, at least they aren't the Panthers. And I'm still as excited as ever to be going to tonight's Hurricanes season opener against Tampa Bay, which will be my first season-opening NHL game. Tampa Bay at Carolina: Fri 7:00p, Fox Sports Carolinas

As for every other night this season, after four years subscribing to NHL Center Ice and watching lots and lots of hockey, I'm dropping my subscription this year. The main reason is the new Versus/NBC TV deal, in which all playoff games will now be nationally televised. Even though we get a two-week free preview, I'm only going to list non-Center-Ice games on my list of games, in order to get in the habit of only having limited viewing options each week.

Other locally televised games (non-Center-Ice): NYR/ANA (Sat 1:00p, VS), CAR/WSH (Sat 7:00p, FS Car), TB/BOS (Sat 7:00p, NHLN), MTL/WPG (Sun 5:00p, NHLN)


Last week's Jacksonville Jaguars game went about the way I expected it to. The defense kept them in the game, but the offense never got it going. I expect this pattern to continue, although I do recognize that Blaine Gabbert will get better as the season progresses. Cincinnati at Jacksonville: Sun 1:00p, DirecTV 707

After a last-second loss to the Bengals (of all teams), this week will give us a good idea of whether Bills' dream season will continue...or if they'll sputter back to 7-9. Philadelphia at Buffalo: Sun 1:00p, DirecTV 709

Has the "OMG Cam Newton is so awesome" euphoria worn off? Seems like the Panthers are coming back to reality. Just like the Jaguars, they are only 1-3. New Orleans at Carolina: Sun 1:00p, WRAZ 50

Six teams are on bye this week, which means I might go find something else to do during the late games. Tampa Bay at San Francisco: Sun 4:00p, DirecTV 712

Other locally televised games: TEN/PIT (Sun 1:00p, WRAL 5), NYJ/NE (Sun 4:15p, WRAL 5), GB/ATL (Sun 8:20p, NBC)

College football

Every week, I go through the same routine with college football. First I say, "You know, I think I'm going to more or less take the weekend off from college football, except for the Florida State and Penn State games." Then I look at the schedule and think, "You know, there's a lot of potential here."

FSU had better be careful here. This isn't last year's Wake Forest. Trap game! Florida State at Wake Forest: Sat 12:30p, ACC Network (WRAL locally)

Meanwhile, Penn State is making the Jacksonville Jaguars look like an offensive juggernaut. I can't remember the last time I was this "blah" about the Nittany Lions. Iowa at Penn State: Sat 3:30p, ESPN (ABC regional)

If Clemson is as good as I think they are, and as good as their wins over Florida State and Virginia Tech suggested, then they will win this game by 30. Boston College at Clemson: Sat 3:00p, Fox Sports South

I'll admit, having to play Alabama and LSU back-to-back is pretty brutal. Florida at LSU: Sat 3:30p, CBS

Still waiting for Utah's first win in the Pac-12. (I think. I'd look it up, but I'm up against my 30-minute limit.) Arizona State at Utah: Sat 3:30p, FSN

Remember when these teams were good? I kind of miss that. Georgia at Tennessee: Sat 7:00p, ESPN2

Wisconsin is the must-watch Big Ten team of the year, all thanks to Russell Wilson. I was wrong - the Wilson hype is warranted! But they're off this week, unfortunately. Ohio State at Nebraska: Sat 8:00p, ABC

Auto racing

NASCAR and Formula One in action Sunday, but I'm going in a completely different direction this week. Australia's top racing series is something called V8 Supercars, and their biggest race of the year is being broadcast live in the United States for the first time ever (according to a SPEED advertisement) this Saturday night. I've never watched V8 Supercars before, so I'm going to check it out. I'm assuming it will not be in high definition, but that's okay. V8 Supercars Bathurst 1000: Sat 7:00p, SPEED

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