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The beauty of football – and weekend predictions

By Zac

Let’s take a minute to enjoy this beautiful weather, the start of basketball season and what’s left of this beautiful football season (Browns and Bengals not included in discussion of such beauty).

Football is so beautiful that Indiana and Duke remain alive to play in BCS bowl games. That is not a misprint.

Football can create beautiful stories out of terrible circumstances. The Indianapolis Colts are 6-3, their head coach, Chuck Pagano, is now in remission and more than 20 Colts players have shaved their heads in a show of support for Pagano and his fight against leukemia.

The start of college basketball means the annual airing of the Jimmy V speech. I’ll watch it (as I always do) like it’s the first time I’ve seen it. I’ll cry (as I always do), too.

The Colts, Jaguars and Browns had the lowest season win totals posted by The Guys Who Know Stuff in Las Vegas prior to the NFL season. That’s more proof that two out of every three times, Those Guys are right.

While I’m doling out and dealing in life lessons, a reminder that cheaters never prosper. Remember when Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders faked that injury in the Bengals game a couple Sunday nights ago? The NFL came down on it hard, fining the Steelers $35,000 and Sanders $15,000.

The Steelers are the only team still on the Browns’ schedule that has a winning record. A blessing and a curse and, well, we’ve seen those movies before.

Football is so beautiful that Kent State, a program that hasn’t won in ages and hasn’t been to a bowl game in 40 years, sits at 8-1 entering tomorrow’s game at Miami University in beautiful Oxford, Ohio. Football is so beautiful that Miami is capable of winning that game if Kent isn’t careful.

Football is so beautiful that back in Kent tomorrow night, Massillon and Canton McKinley play for the second time in two weeks in the second round of the OHSAA playoffs. With Ohio State off this weekend and this kind of weather, I’d advise checking this incredible rivalry game out if at all possible.

If you’ve never been to a Massillon-McKinley game, the football is always worth the price of admission. The people watching is worth triple.

I have a Massillon story I haven’t shared. It goes back to August, when I stopped to see a Massillon practice on my training camp tour. I was impressed by Massillon’s talent, and the way a bunch of high school kids ran a no-huddle offense with the ball rarely hitting the ground. But something I saw at the end of practice left me thinking this really could be a special season in one of those most special football towns we have.

Practice closed that day with what the coaches called the snake drill. The players grimaced, and I soon understood why. They started in one corner of the end zone, at the pylon, and ran “up” the goal line, turned, and then ran back “down” the 5-yard line. They went up at the 10, down at the 15. All the way down the field, all the way to the opposite goal line.

That’s a lot of running.

The linemen went first, with the idea that at least most of the skill players would start 90 seconds or so behind and eventually catch them. There was one linemen in particular who was really struggling. He was overweight, and this drill wasn’t easy on anybody.

Twice, I saw different coaches intercept this particular player and move him up three or four steps on the snake. Still, he was getting passed. And he was trying like crazy to keep up.

By the time he reached the other 10-yard line, everyone else was done. And gasping for air. And waiting. But it’s what I saw then that told me more than any no-huddle offense or snake drill could tell me about any team, on any level.

Standing in the end zone and encouraging this player to finish strong were three or four of the team leaders. They yelled his name and told him to keep pushing and when he did, they high-fived him and celebrated like he’d just scored a touchdown. It was 85 degrees that day, and I had chills.

It’s the little things that make this game so beautiful.

And, finally, my weekend predictions. Check that yearly ATS record. I’m some sort of genius.

Giants (-4) 34, Bengals 24

Steelers (-12) 31, Chiefs 17

Kent State (-6) 28, Miami 27

Penn State 27, Nebraska (-8) 24

Akron (-18) 38, UMass 17

LAST WEEK: 5-0 straight up, 3-2 ATS

SEASON TOTAL: 35-15 straight up, 28-20-2 ATS

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