Weekend Wrapup

Brett Favre Bowl III, World Series pitching and a "War Eagle" BCS battle cry.

Brett Favre Bowl III, World Series pitching and a "War Eagle" BCS battle cry.

Pitching Ain’t EasyGiants ace Tim Lincecum

The World Series lineup is finally set. The National League champion San Francisco Giants will face off against the American League champion Texas Rangers, with the first pitch of Game 1 on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

Pitching is at premium, with the G-Men proving that their starting rotation of four aces — Cy guy Game 1 starter Tim Lincecum, no-hitter-throwing lefty Jonathan Sanchez, batters-box brother-slaying Matt Cain and 21-year-old phenom rookie Madison Bumgarner — are more valuable than even the Yankees $200 million payroll. That is, if winning results matter more than TV, merchandise and concession revenues.

Not known for pitching in a hitters’ park, Nolan Ryan’s Rangers were led this far by playoff prodigy Cliff Lee, who is a perfect 7–0 with a 1.26 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 67 Ks in 64.1 IP over eight career postseason starts. Lee and Lincecum will go toe-to-toe on the rubber in Game 1 for the best playoff pitching duel since… well, Lee vs. Pettitte or Lincecum vs. Halladay a few days ago.

The year of the pitcher has become the playoffs of the pitcher. In an era of steroids favoring home run heavy hitters, the pendulum has swung back. But not everyone is able to keep up with the fastball of change, even after a full season of preparation.

“Everybody’s saying the Phillies didn’t hit. But they didn’t hit because we pitched this well. That’s why we really won the series,” said frustrated Giants GM Brian Sabean, during a champagne-soaked Game 6 postgame celebration win over the Phillies.

Once the Barry Bonds face of inflated hitting statistics, the San Fran franchise now embodies all that is pitching at its finest. Although the Giants ranked ninth in scoring and first in grounded-into-double-plays, the squad is playing for just its third World Series title — after losing in 1989 and 2002 — since moving to the Bay Area in 1958.

“They are a very solid team,” said embattled Rangers manager Ron Washington. “They can certainly pitch. And when you get to this point, pitching is the most important thing. … The two best teams are playing. That’s the way it should be.”

War Eagle

Auburn is the well-deserved No. 1 team in the second edition of the BCS rankings following a 24–17 win over LSU. After the demise of top-ranked Alabama, Oklahoma and BCS one-and-done Oklahoma in three consecutive weeks, there was really only one team — with all due respect to Oregon and Boise State — that should be atop the meaningless midseason rankings.

Heisman Trophy favorite quarterback Cam Newton continues to steal headlines and break records, with a career-high 217 yards and two trips to the end zone against the SEC’s top-ranked Bayou Bengal defense. The Florida transfer broke the conference’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback while also completing 10-of-16 passes for 86 yards in victory.

More than a one-man show, the Tigers also have a disruptive defense led by 300-pound junior tackle Nick Fairley, who was nearly unblockable during a 2.5-sack effort against the then-other undefeated Tigers from Baton Rouge.

At this rate, the Iron Bowl at Alabama will be not only a de factor SEC West title game but possibly a play-in to the BCS National Championship Game — that is, unless anyone from the SEC East (South Carolina? Florida? Georgia?) can put up a fight.

Brett Favre Bowl III

The 41-year-old graybeard gunslinger couldn’t win any of the coin toss calls in what could be his final business trip to Green Bay, as Brett Favre and Minnesota lost a controversial division showdown, 28–24, at Lambeau Field.

Favre completed just 16-of-29 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown and three costly interceptions — including a third-quarter pick-six to linebacker Desmond Bishop — in a bittersweet loss in Title Town.

Unlike last season, when tempers ran hot, the Green Bay crowd seemed more appreciative — if not protective — of the three-time MVP and Super Bowl XXXI winner who limped off the field with a bum leg and is currently under NFL investigation for sexual harassment of former Jets employee Jenn Sterger.

If this was indeed Favre’s last stand in Green Bay, it ended dramatically. Booth review overturned a potential game-winning scoring strike to Percy Harvin in the back of the end zone with 48 seconds remaining. Then, Favre slipped, regained his footing and sailed one last-ditch effort out of the back of the zone on fourth-and-15 from the 20.

As with most highly anticipated televised events, Favre’s career at Lambeau Field “ended” not with a bang but a whimper, with the Packers improving to 4–3 and the Vikings falling to 2–4.

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Brett Favre Bowl III, World Series pitching and a "War Eagle" BCS battle cry.

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