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MR. SPORTS: Manning is not at 100% yet, Tide clearly deserves top ranking, and Stars staying in Huntsville

By Bob Labbe

It was a game Peyton Manning wants to forget. It was a game that may have shown Manning is not fully back from a one-year layoff in the NFL. It was a game that clearly showed Manning’s arm strength is not 100-percent.

After a rousing success in game one last week, we witnessed a heart-wrenching performance in game two for Manning as his Denver Broncos were roughed up by the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football 27-21. The score doesn’t look that bad, but how the game started for Manning and the Broncos was embarrassing.

Manning tossed three interceptions in his first eight attempts, unlike Manning of yesteryear, and the entire Broncos team was unsettled from the opening kickoff. The Broncos did surge back in the fourth quarter to make the score respectable, but the game was basically over after the first quarter.

It was difficult to watch. It was horrifying to witness how Manning, the league’s top quarterback, may be well off his game with a new team that is uncomfortable with how Manning operates his offense at the line of scrimmage. But there’s a lot of football remaining this season.

College Football
Possibly the biggest upset of the college football season occurred last weekend as Stanford grabbed a victory from Southern California. The USC Trojans were thought to be a top contender for the national title. My preseason pick was USC would finish as the No. 1 football team in all of the land. The Trojans can still do it, but don’t look to be that awesome team that I and many others thought it could be.

Meanwhile, Alabama has played better than anyone in the country and deserves the No. 1 spot in the latest rankings. This weekend should be an easy game (they haven’t had a tough one yet) for the Crimson Tide as they face Florida Atlantic (4 p.m.-PPV). The remaining key college football games this week include Kentucky-Florida (11:20 a.m.-Channel 54), Missouri-South Carolina (2:30 p.m.- Channel 19), LSU-Auburn (6 p.m.-ESPN), Vanderbilt-Georgia (6:45 p.m.-ESPN2), Clemson-Florida State (7 p.m.-Channel 31), Michigan-Notre Dame (6:30 p.m.-Channel 48) and Kansas State-Oklahoma (6:45 p.m.-Channel 54).

Huntsville Stars
Our Huntsville Stars Baseball Team look to be remaining in Huntsville, at least for two more years, as the Milwaukee Brewers and the Stars have extended their player development contract through the 2014 season. The Stars have been a minor league franchise of the Brewers since 1999.

“Many of the players that the Brewers have assigned to Huntsville have gone on to become Major League stars. The Brewers are a classy organization and we are honored to have them back in Huntsville,” said Buck Rogers, Stars’ general manager.

There remains talk of the Stars’ ownership wanting better stadium conditions than what Joe Davis Stadium can serve. This latest agreement doesn’t mean the Stars will remain in Huntsville, as team ownership could move the team to a different city location. But, I don’t see that happening.

Bits & Pieces
The Professional Indoor Football League finalized its eight teams including our Alabama Hammers for the 2013 season. Besides Huntsville, the league consists of teams in Richmond, VA., Knoxville, TN., Columbus, GA., Albany, GA., Lake Charles, LA, LeHigh Valley, PA, and Charlotte, NC.

Season tickets for our Hammers are on sale now. Plus, the Hammers are offering its inaugural Fundraising Program to assist local clubs and organizations in reaching their fundraising goals. Information on tickets and fundraising opportunities is available at 256-551-2222 or by visiting http://www.alabamahammers.com/.

Huntsville Quarterback Club’s next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 25 with special guest speaker Kirk McNair. He was Director of Sports Information under Coach Bear Bryant at Alabama and publisher for Bama Magazine. Legendary coach Vince Dooley will be guest speaker at the Club’s Oct. 2 meeting. Details available at http://www.huntsvilleqbclub.com/.

There’s a great one-page self-written article by Chipper Jones in the Sept. 17 edition of Sports Illustrated. The Atlanta Braves superstar is winding down his final season in Major League Baseball at the age of 40. Jones wrote, “It’s time. I’m saying goodbye without a tear in my eye. I gave it my all.”

Madison’s two middle school football programs continue through the 2012 schedules. On Thursday, Sept. 27, Liberty hosts Sparkman Middle while Discovery goes on the road to face Meridianville. The following week, Oct. 4, the two teams square off for the Mayor’s Cup at Discovery.

College football was certainly fun last week as my predictions were 3-1 for the week, as I missed my upset pick of Tennessee over Florida. This week let’s try picks mostly out of the SEC. I do see South Carolina defeating Missouri, Florida State beating Clemson, Michigan on top of Notre Dame and Oklahoma edging Kansas State.