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      Smack Zone — Sports Rivalries

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      Longhorns Beat Oklahoma; Still Suck

      [caption id="attachment_1312" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Texas Longhorns Texas shocked Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry Saturday, but all that did was raise the question: Where was that performance against everyone else? Smack Zone illustration: Steve Hill.[/caption] OK, we'll own it. We were wrong about the outcome of the Red River Rivalry. We incorrectly wrote off the Texas Longhorns, and they came out Saturday and put it on the Oklahoma Sooners, 24-17. Good job, Longhorns. You deserved to win and you can bask in the glory of another upset of your biggest rival. Too bad you still suck. What? You won, sure. Congratulations. You're 2-4, 1-2 in the Big 12. You still lost to Notre Dame and Texas Christian by a combined score of 88-10. Yes, Coach Charlie Strong body-surfed his way out of the Texas State Fairground Saturday, and his players could congratulate themselves for "winning one for Coach." That can work -- once or twice. College football is great because occasionally, the young men who strap it on can get motivated to play above their collective ability and shock the world. In the long run, though, talent defeats motivation. That's how the Longhorns used to win: They had better players than the other guys. Now? Not so much. Oh, and here is the bottom line when it comes to the Red River Rivalry: As long as victories by Texas are considered "upsets," the Longhorns are a long way away from their former national prominence.      

      Where the Hell is the Red River, Anyway?

      [caption id="attachment_1298" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Texas-Oklahoma Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops pretty much eats the Longhorns for dinner. Smack Apparel illustration: Steve Hill.[/caption] By Erez Ladetzky, Smack Zone Contributor Three words that get two states’ collective blood boiling: Red River Rivalry. This weekend marks the 110th edition of this matchup between Oklahoma and Texas. In its glory years, this game used to decide who won the Big 12. Now, it is just another game between two schools that hate each other. Texas is to blame for that, considering how bad they have become this year. And don’t get us started with the name of the game, “Red River Rivalry.” I mean, Red River? Really? How many people in this country know where the Red River is? Or even care about it? At least make it a cool name. Florida and Georgia play in “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Now that’s a game worth going to! It’s not even the only Red River in the world. C’mon man! This rivalry has seen both teams go on long winning streaks. Texas went on a six-game winning streak in the ‘30s and an eight game streak in the ‘40s. Oklahoma won six in a row in the ‘50s and five in a row in the ‘70s. Texas has the all-time edge with a 60-44-5 record against Oklahoma. Superstar players used to play in this game. Not anymore. These teams now don’t have the caliber of players they used to. Oklahoma had Adrian Peterson, Mark Clayton, Keith Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Lee Roy Selmon and Roy Williams. Texas had players such as Ricky Williams, Earl Campbell, Vince Young, Stanley Richard and Bryant Westbrook. Now, outside of Texas and Oklahoma – or the Red River valley, whatever and wherever that is -- this is simply another game on the schedule. There will be no championship implications. These teams definitely hate each other still, but it just doesn’t have the juice it used to. Hopefully, one day, it gets back to being one of the top games of the year. But that day is not Saturday.

      Noles-Canes: a Faded Rivalry?

      [caption id="attachment_1285" align="aligncenter" width="474"]Hey, everybody! It's FSU-Miami week! Um ... hello? Anyone? Hello? Hey, everybody! It's FSU-Miami week! Um ... hello? Anyone? Hello?[/caption] They say a contest can only be considered a true rivalry if both teams have a realistic chance to win any given year. Oh, the tide might shift in favor of one team or the other every decade or so, but in general, rivalries tend to balance out over time. It is with this truism in mind that we remind everyone that this is, in fact, Florida State-Miami week. Cue the crickets. [caption id="attachment_1268" align="alignleft" width="300"]Florida State Click to get the shirt, Noles fans![/caption] It used to mean something. It used to mean a hell of a lot, in fact. Now? Meh. The No. 12 Seminoles bring a five-game win streak against the Hurricanes into Saturday's meeting in Tallahassee. That's two shy of the longest win streak by either team in the 59-game history of the series (Florida State won seven in a row in 1963-72). The most newsworthy thing about the U these days is Al Golden's immediate future with the program. In fact, a victory at the Doak might be the only thing that saves Golden's job. Um ... yeah. Good luck with that. Still, the Hurricanes can claim with pride the all-time lead in the series at 31-28. And Miami's five national championships still make the Canes the Kings of the Sunshine State. Oh, and Noles fans, lest you get a little full of yourself heading into the weekend, here's a little reminder of one reason why the Canes have won those five national titles. Two words: Wide. Right. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYTp7IbZ2uY]  

      If Only Cubs-Pirates Was More than One Game ...

      [caption id="attachment_1061" align="alignright" width="240"]Smack Apparel If the curse is going to end this year, it's gotta start Wednesday.[/caption] By Erez Ladetzky, Smack Zone Contributor The National League wildcard game takes place tomorrow night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It features a division rivalry as the Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. It also features two teams that finished with the second- and third-highest win totals in all of MLB, and both would have won any other division that didn’t include the St. Louis Cardinals. This will be the Pirates’ third straight year in the wildcard game, losing last year to the eventual World Series Champions San Francisco Giants. In 2013, they beat the Reds but lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS in five games. They are looking to finally get over the hump this year and take down their division rival Cardinals. The Cubs, on the other hand, are one of the feel-good stories of the year. They weren’t supposed to make the postseason this quickly, but don’t tell them that. Joe Maddon took this very young and inexperienced ball club and turned them into a legitimate World Series contender in his first year. Needless to say, Chicago fans love them some Maddon. Chicago hasn’t been in the postseason since 2008. That year, they ended up getting swept in three games by the Dodgers, a season after getting swept by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. Cubs fans are very confident in this team advancing to take on the Cardinals. That’s because Jake Arrieta and his MLB-history-best  0.45 ERA since the All-Star Break takes the mound. That’s right … A  0.45 ERA -- insane! This game has the makings of a classic October baseball clash. Two teams that both should be in the division series, but have to play this one-game playoff to advance (it would be nice if they at least could play a best-of-three series). A 3-2, or 2-1 game seems about right. Cubs fans will be traveling in droves to the 'burgh to cheer on their beloved Cubbies. Most people know the history of the Cubs, and how fans think the team is cursed. One college professor shows his sympathy for his student: Cubs Student That's our kind of professor! We're going to go out on a limb and take the Buccos in one.  

      Steelers-Ravens: a History of Hatred

      [caption id="attachment_1132" align="alignright" width="289"]Before Steelers fans hated the Ravens, they hated the Browns. They left Cleveland long ago, but the hatred runs deeper than ever. Before Steelers fans hated the Ravens, they hated the Browns. They left Cleveland long ago, but the hatred runs deeper than ever.[/caption] By Bob D'Angelo, Smack Zone Contributor You know sparks will fly when the Steelers and Ravens meet tonight at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. It’s a tradition between these AFC North rivals. Sure, some players and teams talk smack, but these two teams back it up. Hard-hitting, tough and intense. Plus, the Steelers and Ravens clearly don’t like each other. “It's just pure hatred – just like two old-fashioned bullies meeting in an alley,” former Steelers receiver Hines Ward told USA Today. There may be hatred, but there is plenty of respect. “It’s the best rivalry in football,” Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs told USA Today in the same article. “Hatred is a very strong word, but it seems fitting. “But there’s a lot of respect going there. Because the two teams are so similar.” [caption id="attachment_1188" align="alignleft" width="296"]The Ravens carved their own identity in Baltimore when they bolted from Cleveland. But tradition and history run deep, and hatred of Pittsburgh remains a franchise constant. The Ravens carved their own identity in Baltimore when they bolted from Cleveland. But tradition and history run deep, and hatred of Pittsburgh remains a franchise constant.[/caption] Since 2000, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls and reached the playoffs 10 times. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls and have made nine playoff appearances. In their own division, the two rivals have combined to win the AFC North 10 times in the 13 years since the NFL established its current alignment. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have met four times in the postseason, with the Steelers winning three times. The Ravens finally broke through in January 2015, winning 30-17. Here are some of the greatest hits from this intense rivalry: In the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2009, Steelers safety Ryan Clark put a crunching, legal hit on Willis McGahee. The Ravens’ running back had just caught a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco, but Clark knocked McGahee unconscious. The Steelers punched a ticket to the Super Bowl in Tampa with a 23-14 victory.

      *****

      On November 5, 2007, the Steelers romped to a 38-7 victory. Ward leveled Ed Reed with a huge block, knocking the Ravens safety out of the game. Ward also flattened linebacker Bart Scott, who said after the game that he wanted to “kill” the Steelers’ receiver.

      *****

      [caption id="attachment_1189" align="alignright" width="230"]In Pittsburgh, everything purple is anathema. In fact, purple is outlawed. (Or should be.) In Pittsburgh, everything purple is anathema. In fact, purple is outlawed. (Or should be.)[/caption] Suggs has sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethisberger 16½ times, more than any other player in the league. Days before the Ravens beat the Steelers 23-20 on November 6, 2011, Suggs conceded that Roethlisberger was a great quarterback. But … “God can have his soul,” Suggs said. “But his (butt) belongs to me.”

      *****

      During the Steelers’ 13-10 victory on December 5, 2010, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke Roethlisberger’s nose during a sack. Big Ben had to walk off the field, using a towel to stop the bleeding.

      *****

      During the Steelers’ 23-20 overtime win on September 29, 2008, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis hit Rashard Mendenhall so hard, the rookie running back suffered a season-ending broken shoulder. A few weeks later on Atlanta’s “2 Live Stews” radio show, Suggs suggested the Ravens had a bounty on Ward and Mendenhall. But he backed off that boast, claiming it was a joke.

      *****

      Even the coaches have gotten into the act. The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 for his actions in a November 2013 game. Tomlin drifted onto the field during Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return that had touchdown written all over it.  Jones had to slow down and veer away from the sideline and was tackled. But the Ravens won 22-20, thwarting a Steelers’ two-point conversion in the final minute.

      *****

      Harbaugh didn't endear himself to Tomlin in the 2011 season opener. Baltimore scored 21 seconds into the second half to take a 27-7 lead, then ran a fake on the extra point. Holder Sam Koch scored on the two-point conversion to make it 29-7. The Ravens went on to win, 35-7.

      *****

      There was a contentious handshake that was captured on video in 2012, with Baltimore’s John Harbaugh trying to congratulate his counterpart. Tomlin tried to brush it off, but Harbaugh grabbed his hand and tugged hard, bringing him back to say something face to face. Tomlin then walked away. The back story on that was a locker room clip of Harbaugh praising his team after its 13-10 win at Heinz Field on November 18, 2012. “The toughest team won that football game. The mentally tough team won that football game,” Harbaugh said. “The better team won the football game. “The team that knows how to win won that football game.” Typical locker room stuff, but Tomlin didn’t like it. So when the Steelers ended the Ravens’ 15-game home winning streak a few weeks later, he was in no mood for handshakes and pats on the shoulder. Both coaches have insisted there is nothing personal between them. [caption id="attachment_1190" align="alignleft" width="252"]This pretty much sums it up for Baltimore re. the Steelers. This pretty much sums it up for Baltimore re. the Steelers.[/caption] “Not personally, but professionally, he wants the same things that I want,” Tomlin said in January before the teams’ last playoff game. “He appears to be similarly as committed to it as I am, so we’re going to have problems. “He’s a good guy, but when we step into the stadium, we’ve got business, and that business is not the same.” Harbaugh agreed. “We have a little fun together,” Harbaugh told NBC’s Bob Costas. “We go to the owners meetings and laugh a little bit, but in the end we do want the same thing.” Both coaches preach hard-nosed football, and neither team will back down. With Roethlisberger out for several weeks after suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee last Sunday, he will be replaced by Michael Vick. That will create an interesting twist for tonight’s game -- Vick's mobility against an aggressive Ravens defense. It's likely to create a new chapter in the rivalry, particularly if Vick shines.