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Thursday, January 4,

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Press Notes

Pitt enters the contest ranked No. 10 in both the
Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls. Syracuse
begins conference play unranked. Pitt is 2-1 in road games this season after
claiming victories at Buffalo and Auburn
and dropping a contest to Wisconsin.
The Panthers are 9-0 at home on the season. Pitt opens Big East play with a 12-2
record. It concluded its December slate with a 77-51 Saturday victory over
Florida A&M. Pitt concluded a difficult three-game
stretch against No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 15 Oklahoma State and Dayton.
Pitt dropped consecutive contests to Wisconsin
and Oklahoma State
and defeated Dayton by 30 points.
The combined record of those three Panthers opponents was 33-4. The 30-point
win over Dayton marked Pitt’s
largest margin of victory since it defeated Penn
91-54 on Dec. 10, 2005. It marked Pitt’s largest victory
of the year. With its back-to-back games against Wisconsin
and Oklahoma State,
Pitt played two consecutive games against nationally ranked non-conference

Pitt and Syracuse
meet for the 95th time in series history. Syracuse
owns a 61-33 advantage in the series which began in 1914. The Panthers have
claimed eight of the series’ last 11 meetings. Pitt has won two of the last three matchups
between the two schools at the Carrier Dome. Pitt is 10-33 all-time vs. the
Orange in games played in Syracuse.

Santa Barbara-Long Beach State

Press Notes

UC Santa Barbara enters the week
with an overall record of 10-3 and a Big West Conference record of 2-0. The
Gauchos, winners of six of their last seven overall, swept a pair of games to
open league play last weekend. On Thursday, Dec. 28, UCSB
struggled past UC Riverside, 73-65, and then on
Saturday, Dec. 30, in an early-season showdown between the teams with the two
best non-conference records, the Gauchos defeated Cal State Fullerton, 84-76.
The consecutive wins came on the heels of a Dec. 22 loss at the University
of San Diego
which ended UCSB’s second four-game winning streak of the season.

Saturday, January 6,


Cincinnati-Middle Tennessee State

Detroit News

Brian Kelly will be coaching his new team, Cincinnati,
in the International Bowl on Jan. 6 against Western Michigan
in Toronto. There was some question
about who would coach the Bearcats in the game after Mark Dantonio
left Cincinnati to become the coach
Michigan State.
Pat Narduzzi, Cincinnati’s
defensive coordinator, was named interim coach before Kelly was hired Sunday. Cincinnati
athletic director Mike Thomas confirmed Tuesday that Kelly will have a coaching
staff in place to work the bowl. The number of CMU assistants who will join him
remains to be seen.



Sign On San Diego

The Indianapolis
run defense was by far the worst in the league, allowing 173 yards a game. The
Chiefs have Larry Johnson, the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,789 yards.
Nonetheless, Indianapolis is favored
by 6½ points, largely because it is 8-0 at home and has Peyton Manning and
Marvin Harrison to match anything Johnson can do – even though the Chiefs’
defense under Herman Edwards is certainly better than it was in January 2004.
For those who dabble in such things, the over-under is 51, a very reachable
figure unless the Chiefs keep the clock running with their rushing game. Funny
thing about the Colts: nobody expects much of them this year, unlike last
season, when they entered the playoffs as the top seed in the AFC. So maybe
they’ll go farther than most people believe.

Associated Press

Bob Sanders, who made the Pro Bowl last season, missed 12
of the past 14 games after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. His
absence exposed the Colts’ oft-criticized defense for what it lacks without
him: an energizing playmaker. At 5 feet 8 and 206 pounds, he is built like a
cannonball, hurls himself toward runners like a missile and is at his best in
run support. Without him, the Colts aren’t the same.In
2005, Sanders earned a trip to Hawaii
after helping the Colts allow the second-fewest points in the league. This
season, with Sanders primarily on the bench, the run defense dropped to No. 32
and set a franchise record by allowing 5.3 yards per carry. Coach Tony Dungy
warns Sanders cannot solve all the team’s defensive problems, but when he
plays, the Colts are different. The defense plays quicker, more aggressively
and with more confidence.

Sanders has practiced and we
expect him to play.


Sign On San Diego

The Cowboys are playing badly – the defense allowed 39
points to Detroit last week. The
Seahawks are playing better, perhaps in time for a push back to the Super Bowl in
a conference where nobody stands out. Seattle
is short at cornerback.

King 5

The bloom appears to off the Tony Romo
rose. But the Seahawks secondary woes may get him back on track. Seattle
could be down to converted safety Jordan Babineaux
and rookie Kelly Jennings on Saturday with Marcus Trufant
laid low by a high ankle sprain. This could give the Boys a chance to get Terry
Glenn and Terrell Owens free on the outside where both are most potent. The
smoothness of the Seahawks’ passing attack and the composure of quarterback
Matt Hasselbeck have evaporated. Maybe it was the injury Hasselbeck suffered
that cost him. Maybe it was getting used to not having an explosive Shaun
Alexander, the absence of guard Steve Hutchinson or getting Deion Branch
involved at wideout. Whatever it is, they’ve been off
much of the year and Hasselbeck’s regressed this
year. The Cowboys’ secondary has been a pack of big-play enablers all season.
Safety Roy Williams is laboring through an awful year in coverage and so is
fellow safety Keith Davis. Terence Newman and Anthony Henry, the corners, are
prone to giving up the big play as well. The Cowboys pass rush is highlighted
by DeMarcus Ware (11.5 sacks) but he’s been
hit-or-miss in a few games.

Sunday, January 7,


NY Jets-Patriots

Connecticut Sports

Patriots coach Bill Belichick
said Wednesday that safety Rodney Harrison is out of Sunday’s Jets-Patriots
playoff game. Harrison, 34, who returned to the lineup Dec. 24 against the
Jaguars after missing six games with a broken shoulder blade, sustained
ligament damage to his right knee in the second quarter of a 40-23 win over the
Titans Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.


The Jets trudged through the season, overcoming bad losses
to the Browns and Bills, earning emotional wins over the Patriots and Dolphins,
and now head into the playoffs. Finally, this team gets some respect.But then comes the nine-point spread from Vegas,
even though the two Jets-Patriots games this season were decided by an average
of five points, one of them a Jets win, and five of the last eight meetings
were decided by a touchdown or less. Following closely behind are the
statistical analyses, pointing out that the Jets are ranked 25th in
overall offense, 20th in overall defense and 24th in
rushing defense.


Memphis Commercial Appeal

Jeremy Shockey’s swollen left
ankle has improved considerably and there is a good chance the Pro Bowl tight
end will play for the New York Giants on Sunday in the NFC wild card game
against the Philadelphia Eagles. Shockey had a team-high 66 catches for 623
yards and seven touchdowns.

Gainesville Sun

A funk that lasted into late November saw Philadelphia
drop five of six to fall below .500, but more importantly, the team lost star
quarterback Donovan McNabb to a season-ending knee injury. Garcia, though, went
on to lead the Eagles to four consecutive victories – he barely played in Week
17 while Philadelphia won a fifth
straight – and a 10-6 record to win the NFC East.

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