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Put up or shut up, for the ‘Ville

Boy, talk about kicking the hornets’ nest …
My tongue-in-cheek remark about the University of Louisville’s football team a couple of weeks ago has briefly sidetracked callers to this newspaper’s ‘Live Wire’ column.
Banter about ICAN, the animal shelter and who is calling who, ‘stupid,’ has been replaced by a couple of folks who are either A) Michigan fans like myself; or B) subscribe to the ABC (Anybody But Cards) rule of thumb in the sports world.
One caller had it right when she said that Louisville doesn’t play the same caliber teams as Michigan. Most opponents in Conference USA don’t prepare Louisville for the rigors of ‘the big game.’ Louisville has to play the hand its dealt in conference play(which is one main reason why it’ll move to the Big East next year).
So the rubber meets the road this week, Cards fans. It’s time for your boys to put up or shut up when they face No. 3-ranked Miami this Thursday night in the Orange Bowl.
History won’t be on Louisville’s side, as the Hurricanes are 8-0-1 all-time against the Birds, with the last meeting coming in 1985.
(Dare I mention that Michigan is 1-1-0 vs. Miami?)
Jeff Sagarin has Miami rated as the No. 2 team in the country. Louisville is 15th (having played a schedule that ranks 99th in college football).
At worst, Louisville emerges from the matchup where they came in: as a team that beats up on lesser opponents, but can’t win the big one when it counts (sorry, but that overtime win over a weak Florida State club a couple of years ago doesn’t cut it).
At best, a victory shakes up the Bowl Championship Series one more time.
My prediction is it’ll fall somewhere in between.
The Cardinals have too much talent to be blown out to sea, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to handle the hype of truly big-time college football.
Color it Miami 35, Louisville 21.
— Thursday night’s highly-anticipated matchup between Miami and Louisville isn’t the only local marquee game this week.
There’s a good, old-fashioned border war a’brewing: the River City Stompers, my fantasy football team in the Salem-opolis Yahoo! League, squares off against the Washington County Bashers, who are managed by none other than Salem Democrat Sports Dude George Browning.
Outside of Browning, I’m not sure who most of the other managers are, but I do know there’s a coach of an upstart football team from the eastern part of Washington County, a preacher who likes to talk smack on the league’s message board and a hilarious skipper who dropped Seattle’s Shawn Alexander.
The Stompers are 5-0 and in first place thanks to a powerful running game that features Alexander (how could I not pick him up?) and LaDainian Tomlinson, as well as quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The Bashers, who are 4-1 and in a three-way tie for the runner-up spot, sport a roster that includes such players as Jamal Lewis, Tom Brady and Warrick Dunn.
I think Big George’s boys will put up a fight ‘ just like his beloved Louisville Cardinals will against Miami ‘ but both of his faves will go down in flames.
— Out of four series in the baseball playoffs, three teams I predicted last week would advance are still alive. The only club that went down in flames was the Atlanta Braves.
Boo-hoo for me.
I’ll ride the rest of the predictions to the end, even though New York edged Boston last night.
Since the Choppers are out of the playoffs, look for St. Louis and their dominant offense to march their way into the World Series, where they’ll win in five games.

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