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It’s finally here

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Cue the Monday Night Football theme. Listen to a voiceover from the late Howard Cosell. Watch Brian Bosworth being run over by Bo Jackson, then cut in Marshawn Lynch's playoff run vs. the Saints. Now you are ready for this week's Game of the Century. Yep, it's time for New Orleans vs. Seattle my friends. NFC supremacy. Home-field advantage. Suspensions. Quarterbacks. Receivers. Defenders. Noise meters. This one has it all. Read on.


••••••••••

• My hope is tonight's game ends better than the Monday night game early last year. You know, the one vs. the Packers. The outcome was fine, but if there's another official screw up this time, I'm afraid it will go against the Hawks. And who would have the gumption to argue with referee Ed Hochuli, the barrister with the big ol' bare arms? Just kidding, of course. With the “real” officials on the field, nothing could go wrong, right? Hey, stop laughing. After all, everything that could go wrong for the Hawks in the past couple weeks has already gone wrong. Cornerback Brandon Browner injured, then reportedly suspended. Cornerback Walter Thurmond III suspended. Mr. Excitement, Percy Harvin, possibly too sore to play. Let's hope those three strikes don't add up to the Hawks being out. Because this game very well could decide who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl. It's really tough to win a playoff game in Seattle in January. And that's why will be just about guaranteed if the Hawks win tonight. They would hold what amounts to a 2 1/2 game lead over the Saints with five games remaining in the race for home field. But the stakes are even higher for New Orleans and that's what worries me. They know the odds aren't good the NFC championship game will be in the Superdome – a place they rarely lose – if they can't find a way to win tonight. So they will be extremely motivated. And I always remember the advice the late, great Bob Oates used to impart about the NFL. When teams are relatively even, the former LA Times beat writer used to say, the team with the most to lose almost always wins. Oates' theorem has held steady over the years but it isn't infallible. Let's hope the Seahawks are one of the exceptions to the rule.

• Sure, football is on my mind. But after I read this story this morning, I wanted to share something. Before he left Washington State, basketball coach Tony Bennett was a bit grumpy about recruiting. He wasn't real high on the class the Cougars were able to attract after their Sweet 16 season – though it included Klay Thompson, who was a late addition – so he became more involved the next year. The outgrowth: WSU attracted Brock Motum, who Ken Bone helped turn into a two-time Pac-12 scoring champion, and Xavier Thames (pictured with San Diego State coach Steve Fisher). Why bring up X, as he was known in Pullman, now? A fifth-year senior, Thames was named the Wooden Legacy Most Outstanding Player yesterday while leading San Diego State to the tournament title. The Aztecs have not been ranked following huge personnel losses in the offseason but after defeating No. 20 Creighton and No. 25 Marquette back-to-back, they should be. And Thames will be the main reason why. The last recruiting class Bennett attracted to the Palouse had a couple of pretty good players.

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• WSU: “Hey, buddy, got any bowl news? I need some. Bad. Please. Hook me up, will ya?” OK, we can help. At least Jacob Thorpe can, with this morning's post. And I will throw this in. Two of the more clued-in beat writers on the West Coast, San Jose's Jon Wilner and ESPN.com's Ted Miller, see the Cougars in the New Mexico Bowl. Bud Withers mentions that as a possibility as well. … Wilner's AP ballot is interesting as are Miller's power rankings. … The WSU basketball team finished its Orlando trip with a loss to St. Joseph's. Jacob posted the box score on the blog last night. … It may not happen, but Auburn's athletic director is already politicking for a one-loss SEC champion playing in the title game, even if there are two undefeated teams. What's he thinking? Has he been spending time in Toronto with the mayor?

• Gonzaga: Coppin State may have handled Oregon State on the road but the Eagles were no match for GU last night. Jim Meehan was on hand as Gonzaga routed Fang Mitchell's team, 86-61, and has this game story and blog post. He'll be back later this morning with another blog post. By the way, is there a better nickname in college hoops than Fang? … Portland is playing well right now. The WCC, top to bottom, should be even tougher this season than it's been.

• Chiefs: Seattle has been playing better lately and the Chiefs found out how much last night in the Arena. The Thunderbirds came away with a 5-1 rout of Spokane last night. Chris Derrick has more in this story and blog post.

• Preps: It's time to preview the upcoming girls basketball season and Greg Lee does just that. He has this story on the GSL favorites, the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups, and league glances for the GSL, GNL, Northeast A, Northeast 2B and Southeast 1B.

• Seahawks: The biggest stumbling block between the Hawks and a win tonight? Drew Brees (pictured) of course. Even if the secondary were at full strength, the Saints' veteran quarterback would be a challenge. It's even more so right now. Of course, the Saints have to deal with Russell Wilson as well. … Believe it or not, the Hawks can clinch a playoff berth if they win tonight. … Finally, we leave you with five things to watch.

•••

• How excited are we about tonight's game? About as excited as a camel on a Wednesday. Maybe even more so. Until later …


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Jim Allen Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Josh Wright Josh Wright is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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