Eric Schmoldt says:Bad news for the state of Michigan — your chances of a Wolverine championship are now slim and none. On the bright side, however, you can now turn your focus to the Detroit Lions run at the NFC Central.The Lions’ defense forced three turnovers Sunday while its offense didn’t even have to flex its muscles in a 17-3 victory over the Packers.Let’s put it this way — when Marcus Pollard is your leading receiver while you have Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Charles Rogers on your team, and you can still pull off a victory over rival Green Bay, things are looking up.Many think that Joey Harrington will hold the Lions out of the top spot, but I don’t care if you’re a high school quarterback, you are going to win games with that receiving corps.I realize that Joey Heisman has been a lame duck, but seriously, his fourth and fifth options are better than some teams’ second.Not to mention Harrington has Kevin Jones to hand off to. Jones, in his sophomore season, will put up much higher numbers than the 87 yards that he had on Sunday.Let’s be honest, the Bears don’t stand a chance. Orton is not the immediate answer and hell hasn’t frozen over.The Packers, without Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, were already in trouble. Now they have lost their top receiver and they just have to focus on beating Chicago.Minnesota seems to be the favorite choice, but their performance against Tampa Bay doesn’t lend much support.All Culpepper did without Randy Moss was put up five turnovers, as the Vikings’ offense couldn’t find the end zone.While Culpepper continues to complete as many passes to Randy Moss and I as he does to Williamson, and defensive backs continue to be his favorite target, the Vikings’ ship will continue to sink.Steve Mariucci will finally get his division title with the Lions.Tom Ziemer says:Oh, there’s nothing like the massive overreacting that occurs after every opening weekend of an NFL season. Willie Parker is a sure bet for MVP. San Francisco is just crafty enough to be a playoff team. The Detroit Lions will win the NFC North division title. Please. Anyone who believes this foolish garble must have spent the last year in an opium hut with Ricky Williams.The Minnesota Vikings are the best team in the NFC North. Yes, Detroit looked impressive in dismantling Green Bay, the franchise that has had a stranglehold on the division for the last three seasons. But, look past the Lions’ talented trio of receivers and budding star tailback. This is a Detroit team that, led by quarterback Joey Harrington, simply finds ways to lose games. They have proven that over the last four years, compiling a paltry 16-49 record.And, yes, Minnesota looked pitiful in losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, if and when Mike Tice wakes up and realizes that in order to win football games it is required to run the ball more than 15 times, the Vikings will hit their stride offensively. Dante Culpepper is the best quarterback in the league not named “Peyton Manning” regardless of his five-turnover performance against the Bucs. Culpepper has bounced back from similar games before and will again. In Culpepper, Michael Bennett and the Vikings’ speedy stable of wideouts, Minnesota possesses one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, even without Randy Moss.An improved defense combined with the team’s quick-strike offense (once it wakes from the dead) will hand Minnesota the division title at the end of the season. So go on believing in the Lions. They’ll win it around the same time Ron Mexico learns how to play quarterback.
DULUTH, Minn. – Wisconsin junior forward Brianna Decker emotionally embraced her family and made her way to the podium Saturday afternoon as she became the 15th recipient of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.The award recognizes the best player in NCAA Division I women’s hockey each season – much like football’s Heisman Trophy. Decker was one of three finalists for the award, including Jocelyne Lamoureux of North Dakota and Florence Schelling of Northeastern.“It is quite an accomplishment,” Decker said. “I think it shows a lot about the depth of our program and the type of players that get recruited to Wisconsin. I think we have all-around staff and resources that are phenomenal.”Decker anchors one of the best offensive lines in hockey, playing alongside senior forwards Brooke Ammerman and Carolyne Pr?vost in a unit that combined for 77 season goals. Decker led the nation this season with 37 goals, and her 82 overall points tied for the nation’s best.Decker attempted six shots in the national championship against Minnesota Sunday but did not find the back of the net in the 4-2 loss.She became the fourth player in Wisconsin history to win the award, joining Sara Bauer (2006), Jessie Vetter (2009) and Meghan Duggan (2011). Four Wisconsin Patty Kazmaier winners in the past six years is quite an impressive feat for head coach Mark Johnson as well as the program.“We’ve had a couple of kids go though this arena before,” Johnson said. “Each one, if you look at all four, earned it. Brianna isn’t different than the other three; she went out and continues to grow as a player and continues to develop as a leader off the ice.”Although the Patty Kazmaier celebrates the nation’s best hockey player, Decker said the honor reflects the success of the team more than her individual play. The Greysolon Ballroom in Duluth, Minn. – host of this year’s ceremony – erupted with cheers from Decker’s teammates, a testament to the tight knit camaraderie within this Wisconsin squad.“I honestly don’t think this is an individual award,” Decker said. “Obviously it is given to one person, but it comes from the team and the team makes each player who they really are. I think that is exactly what my team did for me this year.”Johnson said the team held a dance contest after practice last Thursday, calling them an energetic group. That contagious attitude translated to Wisconsin’s play on the ice the season, uniting Decker and the entire Badger team.“If you are going to be successful in this game you have to play as a unit, and certainly players can make a difference, but it takes a group of players,” Johnson said.The success of Wisconsin’s program in recent years, including multiple national championships and Patty Kazmaier award winners also projects a good image to young hockey players.“I think it gives some young girls in Wisconsin some hope either to want to be a Badger one day or play hockey and be able to be successful, like Jessie (Vetter) and myself,” Decker said. “I hope the young girls take a lot out of it and come support our games.”As a sophomore last year, Decker cheered on Duggan – the 2011 Patty Kazmaier winner – never believing she would follow up her friend’s performance just a year later.Johnson believes playing alongside past UW leaders like Duggan helped develop Decker into the player she is today.“With the season last year, and the help of Meghan Duggan and Hilary Knight, she understood what she needed to do to make the choice to go to the next level and the type of player she wanted to become,” Johnson said.Decker’s work ethic and will to win can’t be undermined, but she said her award-winning season relied upon support of those around her. “I can’t do any of this without my team, and I give so much credit to them and the coaches because they made me the player I am right now.”