I like the Cardinals. I'll eschew a lengthy introduction to that prediction, both because a breakdown really isn't the focus of the article and because, for ardent football followers, the last two weeks have been a wash of stats that simply begin to blur by the time the actual game comes about. I will note that my own prediction is more gaming based, although I'll give Arizona (at -7) a crack at both winning, and covering. The 'Cards are 12-7 against the spread; the Steelers are 11-7 -- so not much to gnaw on there. What grabs me is the postseason road, with Arizona having beaten a truly stellar field of Atlanta, Carolina and Philly to get to this game. And while an excellent Pitt bunch took down an enigmatic Charger bunch and then beat an offensively-challenged Baltimore team to get to Tampa, I'm going with the hotter hand -- and Kurt Warner -- and picking Arizona.
Of course, games-of-chance abounding the Game aren't the lone reason to watch -- especially here in the Bread Basket, where we can take genuine pride in a wealth of former Gophers and Vikings who are in the mix. Enjoy the Super Sunday, don't gamble away your entire paycheck, and have fun watching these local connections made good.
The mighty-mite Carter may not be as prolific a tackler in the NFL as he was as a two-time All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner at the U. Nonetheless, the U's all-time leading tackler has carved out a nine-year pro career as a Viking, Jet, and Steeler with a respectable resume that includes two career TD's, seven forced fumbles, seven interceptions, and over 300 tackles.
The St. Michael, Minn. product was a two-time All-Metro selection -- namely as a defender --
before eventually becoming the John Mackey Award winner at the U as the nation's top Tight End. He owns the all-time Gopher records for both Tight End receptions and yards, skills evidenced by his 22 catches and three scores in 23 games with the Steelers.
A Pro Bowl selection in Purple back in 1999, Berger punted for the Vikings from 1996-2001. He's perhaps best remembered for eating Snickers bars between action.
This dude is emblematic of what's ass-backward about our country. Russell had a
phenomenal 2005 in the Gopher backfield, scoring 19 total touchdowns and averaging over six yards-per-carry, numbers oft-usurping those of more celebrated backfield mate Laurence Maroney. He then proceeding to flunk out of the U, before enrolling at Inver Hills Community College to get his grades up to snuff. Didn't happen. Russell then got super chubby, had poor workouts before pro scouts, and went undrafted in 2007 before eventually inking a free-agent deal with the Steelers. He's bounced about their roster the last two season before finding a role as a short-yardage back in mid-'08. Now he's in the world's biggest game. Go Gary!
A far "moore" likeable figure in this guy, Mewelde spent the last four fine seasons with the
Vikings, regularly excelling when given opportunity. This year as a Steeler, he continued to show his skills, as readily evidenced by a particular three-game stretch (weeks 5,7,8) when, as fill-in for the injured Willie Parker, Moore accrued nearly 350 total rush and receiving yards and four TD's.
In the Bread Basket, Tomlin's name is seemingly spoken with more lament than celebration. Not that he didn't do a nice job -- he did a great job. As our d-coordinator in 2006, Tomlin had
the Vikings' ranked 8th in total defense, and #1 against the run. The noted lament for so many is that he's gone while his boss remains. It's almost difficult to even remember Tomlin in Purple, so brief was his stay. In the two years since, he's assembled a stellar 22-10 record as head coach in Pitt, and on Sunday, at the age of 36, he'll become the youngest-ever coach to lead his team in the Super Bowl. All one needs to know of the man's unique character, can be read in this succinct article
Larry Fitzgerald, Jr.
In Fitz, Minneapolis has now found a modern-day equal to St. Paul's claim of Joe Mauer. I think I read somewhere that his dad will also be covering the game or something. . .
But the job of his father aside, Fitzgerald's numbers speak for themselves. At just 25, the dude has nearly 6,000 receiving yards and is closing in on 50 touchdowns. He's made three Pro Bowls in five seasons and is already #155 on the all-time yardage list. Another 1,400 year in 2010 and he'll pop into the top-100. Among the top-50 active receivers, he's #26 in yardage -- although it's most notable that every guy both above him and below him on said list is older.
Minnesota football photos courtesy of GopherSports.com