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A house divided/The Red Line

November 25, 2011
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor (bveale@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

To understand my Thanksgiving probably requires going back to the early 90s and some of my first conscious memories of football.

Packers-Lions games were once occasions when radio DJs bet head-shavings on the result and within our family, there was a keen interest in the outcome.

I remember that Uncle Randy and his older brother, my dad, would call each other during the game. If the Lions scored, there'd be one ring from Uncle Randy, then a hang-up. If the Packers scored, same thing, from Dad. Sometimes Dad even let me do the deed.

My family is almost equally divided between Packers fans and Lions fans. Needless to say, Uncle Randy wasn't the only one we got to pick on as the Lions plumbed the depths of the NFL.

Over the last 10 years, the annual Thanksgiving Day game had developed into "Make Fun of the Lions Day," and even when they beat the Packers in 2003, it felt like something of a tremendously embarrassing accident, like backing your car into a tree at camp.

But Thursday, almost all the family was in one place, and both teams were worthy opponents. Uncle Randy even donned a Barry Sanders jersey for the occasion. If there was one game all year the Packers couldn't lose, it was this one. If Green Bay had flubbed last week against Tampa Bay, I could ignore it pretty easily: avoid ESPN, change the subject on Facebook. If Green Bay lost this one, I'd have to answer for it not only at dessert, but at Christmas and around the campfire on the Fourth of July.

Fact Box

Michigan Tech at St. Lawrence

Anchorage, Alaska to Canton, N.Y. is a journey of more than 4,000 miles. Mercifully, most of those miles have been covered in the air, but there's still more than 800 from the Huskies' temporary home base for the week in Chicago to this weekend's Tech series at St. Lawrence, located less than 100 miles from Ottawa in the northern part of the state. The Saints got off to a rough 0-5 start but have since won four of their last five. Not as easy an out as maybe they seemed a month ago, but I still think these are winnable games.

The Verdict: Tech sweeps 4-3, 4-2

Alaska Anchorage at

Minnesota State

It may be a holiday weekend, but it's business as usual for these teams in WCHA play. The momentum from MSU's back-to-back WCHA wins has most definitely fizzled, as evidenced by their getting swept in Duluth last weekend. It remains to be seen if UAA had any momentum at all or if Friday's win over Tech was more attributable to Jet Lag than any of the Seawolves. A tough call since both teams are so suspect, so we'll pick a split.

The Verdict: MSU 3-1 Friday, UAA 5-3 Saturday

Colorado College at North Dakota

Could karma be spelled NCHC? After announcing their WCHA breakaway over the summer, the breaks have not been kind to the Fighting Sioux, who are 2-6 in league play and find themselves in a tie for 10th in the league standings on Thanksgiving. One could have written off a bad October as small sample size, but the Sioux are now 1-3 in November after a weekend split in Bemidji included the third time ND was shut out in its last three series. Colorado College comes in off a pair of home wins over Wisconsin, and though the Tigers' 7-2 record and No. 4 national ranking looks appetizing, I just can't believe that the Sioux will be down for long.

The Verdict: ND 6-4 Friday, CC 4-1 Saturday

St. Cloud State at

Nebraska Omaha

A special Saturday-Sunday series looms in Omaha between the Huskies and Mavericks, and UNO fans had better enjoy it. It's the only home series UNO has between Nov. 6 and Dec. 29. In its last four games, UNO is 1-1-2, taking a single point out of Denver last weekend. St. Cloud split its home-and-home with Minnesota last weekend, beating the Gophers 4-3 at home before a 5-0 whipping in Minneapolis. That's become something of a theme for SCSU, which is 2-5 on the road and 3-0-2 in home games.

The Verdict: UNO sweep 5-2, 3-2

Minnesota at Michigan St.

The College Hockey showcase is no more, rendered irrelevant by the impending formation of the Big 10's hockey conference. But that's not stopping Minnesota from visiting East Lansing this weekend. The Gophers got knocked out of the No. 1 spot nationally with their loss to St. Cloud State Friday, but remain No. 3 with 11 first-place votes. Michigan St. is No. 20 after splitting at Northern Michigan last weekend and will be without two players after they received game disqualifications in a third-period fight. The road sweep is probably a bridge too far, but it's advantage Gophers tonight against some shorthanded Spartans.

The Verdict: UMn 3-1 Friday, MSU 5-4 Saturday

Mercyhurst at Wisconsin

In what doesn't exactly amount to a fair trade, it's not Michigan at the Kohl Center this weekend, it's Mercyhurst. The Badgers could probably use the lower degree of difficulty, coming into the weekend on a three-game losing streak and with a 1-4-1 November record. The Lakers are 6-1-1 in their last eight, but the Kohl Center is a bit too much for them to handle.

The Verdict: UW sweeps 3-1, 4-1

Princeton, Miami at Denver

A little coaching reunion is set for Denver this weekend, where George Gwozdecky proteges Bob Prier of Providence (an assistant at DU in 2000-01) and Enrico Blasi of Miami (played for Gwozdecky from 1990-94, assisted him from 95-99) visit for the Denver Cup Classic, which features all the fun of a tournament without the pesky possibility of having to play in the consolation game. The Tigers are off to a rough start, having dropped five of seven games in November. Miami, previously an NCAA powerhouse, has taken a point from every game this month. The second assignment sounds a little harder for the Pioneers, but both are well within their grasp.

The Verdict: DU wins 5-1 Friday, 6-5 Saturday

Last week: 7-4-1

For the season: 39-31-8 (55.1 percent)

There were TVs set up in the living room and the basement, so I used this as an opportunity to bounce from floor to floor in hopes of burning off the calories from the reuben dip I kept going back to over and over again.

Of course, the first half was rather uneventful until Clay Matthews' interception set the Packers up with a short field in the first half. Displaying the faith required to be a true Lions fan, I'm fairly sure their cries changed from "hold them to three" to "force a fumble" the closer Green Bay got to the goal line.

Another thing I've found that many Lions fans seem to have is an extra-sensory perception of doom. When Jason Hanson missed a second-quarter field goal, Uncle Randy declared it a bad omen. Turns out he's a pretty good prognosticator.

Of course, the Packers would score on their first two drives of the third quarter and the Lions' best player had a massive brain cramp. After enough replays were shown to prove that Ndamukong Suh had definitely stamped on Evan Dietrich-Smith, he didn't have many defenders, even in the basement.

I came downstairs for reaction (and more reuben dip) and found that the Lions fans had banded together toward the back of the room and weren't talking much, both facts that Uncle Rob (a Packers fan) quickly pointed out to me.

I must say I found Suh's apology quite entertaining. Perhaps next summer, I will claim to have pushed one of my cousins into Mehl Lake because I was "off-balance."

Any attempt at a comeback from 24-8 down was meager at best, and by the time Calvin Johnson made an appearance, scoring a touchdown that benefitted his fantasy owners way more than his actual owners, plans were already being made to carve the turkey and I was picking at olives on the relish tray.

If the pattern established by the NFL schedule and TV contract holds, the Lions' Thanksgiving opponent next year will be either Houston or Indianapolis, so I'll go back to being a relatively-neutral party.

But on New Year's Day in Green Bay, if I get one ring on Skype or my cell phone buzzes, I'll know that I'm going to have some explaining to do.

Brandon Veale can be reached at bveale@mininggazette.com.

 
 

 

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