Notre Dame @ Pitt (Noon Saturday-ESPN)
Luke Harangody vs. DeJuan Blair. That’s the story line that will be jammed down your throat all game. I think Harangody is one of the few guys in the country that can limit DeJuan on the glass, and I’m a little worried that Luke can extend his game a bit, and Blair struggles more than 5 feet from the hoop (better make that .5 foot). If DeJuan holds his own (and maybe even if he doesn’t), I think Pitt has a much better supporting cast. I think Jermaine Dixon shadows Kyle McAlarney all day and that’s a significant contribution even if he doesn’t score a single point. I look for Pitt to wear down Notre Dame. The Irish don’t have much depth at all. I think the most interesting stat to watch will be rebounds. Both teams are excellent at rebounding (especially through physical play), and are used to winning the battle on the glass.
Player to watch: Luke Harangody-Notre Dame
If anyone is going to single-handedly win this thing, it’s Harangody. I’m not putting him in here thinking he’ll have a great game. I’m putting him in here thinking he needs to have a great game for the Irish to win.
Prediction: I think Notre Dame is capable of catching fire from beyond the arc. If Pitt is mindful of that, and competes for rebounds, they’ll win.
Penguins @ Maple Leafs (7pm Sunday-FSN Pittsburgh)
So Pittsburgh just lost a heart breaker in Jersey (did you see that goal at the end of regulation? The hockey gods are definitely angry at the Pens). Luckily, they have a very winnable game up in Toronto to bounce back with the very next day. The Leafs aren’t exactly a physical force, so that will help. Especially on the tail end of back to back road trip games. I think you should look for the Pens to try to hold the puck in the offensive zone and win some of those battles along the boards. If they can’t do it against Toronto, they have some issues to address.
Player to watch: Matt Cooke-Pittsburgh
The cookie monster returns to the lineup after serving a two game suspension for a dirty hit. I liked how he looked giving some grit to the top line right before the all star break. Will he jump right back into form?
Prediction: These are the games the Pens have to come away with. Hockey is a funny game of funny bounces, but you’ve got to find a way to come away with 2 points in games like this.
Steelers @ Cardinals (6:28pm Sunday-NBC)
Of course I’ve gotta make a prediction on the big game. I think the Steelers will be able to move the ball on offense, but they have to take care of the football. Arizona is +9 in turnovers in the playoffs (mostly thanks to the Panthers). On defense, I think the Steelers blitz will force the Cardinals into some timing routes which will be much easier for the secondary to defend. I think Arizona will get at least one long touchdown pass, and we have to be mentally ready to respond. I think if we play a good game, the score will be tight at the end, and Arizona is very capable of making some big plays down the stretch. So, we need to be ready to put the game away when the time comes. Overall, it’s a good recipe for a lot of heart attacks in Pittsburgh.
P.S.: if you’re a truly sick betting man, the over/under on the amount of time it will take for Jennifer Hudson to sing the national anthem is 1 minute 57 seconds. Out of curiousity, and after some You-tube lookups, she averages a little over 2 minutes. I say she milks the Super Bowl spotlight and I’m going with the over.
Player to watch: Larry Fitzgerald-Arizona
Gatta go with Larry. He can really hurt the Steelers by punishing the few mistakes they may make. He’ll be the focal point. If he has a big day through the double teams the Steelers will put on him, it’s a long night for Steeler fans.
Prediction: Drum roll please……….I have to go with Pittsburgh. Great defense usually pays off on any day in any sport. It always gives you a chance to win. But that’s only a chance. I’m not nearly as confident with this pick as some fans seem to be.