ESPN on-air personalities have offered their predictions for Super Bowl XLIII. Of the 29 ESPN picks, 22 chose the Steelers, while just seven selected the Cardinals as the anticipated winner.
I’m going with the Cardinals, 24-21.
Here are ESPN personalities picks:
Chris Berman, host of Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown: 27-17, “Big Ben once again stands tall in the pocket like John Wayne on the Ponderosa.”
Mike Ditka, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst: 24-21, “The defense and special teams will prevail.”
John Anderson, SportsCenter anchor: 34-17, “Arizona makes it to the final two only to get blown out. Wait. Where have I seen this result before? Oh yes, Sen. John McCain (R) Arizona.”
Merril Hoge, NFL Live, NFL Matchup and NFL PrimeTime analyst: 24-17, “The Cardinals are playing all phases of football better than the Steelers, but the Steelers are just too strong and too consistent on defense and they pose too many concerns on offense for the Cards to handle for 60 minutes.”
Colin Cowherd, host of ESPN Radio’s The Herd: 31-21, “The better defense beats the better offense and what in the world is Arizona even doing here?”
Todd McShay, NFL Draft analyst and director of College Scouting for ESPN Scouts Inc.: 27-24, “The Cardinals are a scary team right now. They’re coaching staff is familiar with the Steelers’ version of the 3-4 defense, quarterback Kurt Warner can pick up the blitz effectively and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the ultimate pass-catching weapon. However, the Steelers will take away Arizona’s run game and eventually will find a way to get pressure on Warner. On the other side of the ball, Willie Parker will be the difference, as he provides much-needed balance for the Steelers’ offense.”
Ron Jaworski, Monday Night Football and NFL Matchup analyst: 21-20, “I like the matchup of Heath Miller and Adrian Wilson in man-to-man coverage. Miller will be the difference maker.”
Erik Kuselias, ESPN Radio host: 20-13, “Like my dad always said: Don’t confuse what you WANT to happen with what WILL happen.”
Chris Mortensen, NFL senior analyst: 27-23, “I admit I have waffled on the winner. In the end, Big Ben finds a way.”
Skip Bayless, First Take and 1st and 10 commentator: 27-17, “This is the NFL’s best defense vs. the worst defense ever to make it to a Super Bowl.
Jay Crawford, First Take and 1st and 10 co-host: 20-10, “Pittsburgh’s defense doesn’t completely shutdown Warner and Fitzgerald but they do enough to win.”
Scott Van Pelt, SportsCenter anchor: 30-20, “I think Arizona will score some…I don’t think they will win though.”
Russell Baxter, NFL research coordinator: 40-23, “Pittsburgh’s ability to win games on both offense and defense is the key and while Arizona has been very opportunistic throughout the playoffs, they must get takeaways to slow down an offense, which is something you can’t count on every game. The Steelers’ defense has been consistent throughout the season (they could come up with a defensive score and a safety here) will ultimately be the difference in the second half.”
Jemele Hill, ESPN.com Page 2 writer and 1st and 10 commentator: 27-23, “This is not a comfortable pick for me. Arizona reminds me a lot of how last year’s Giants transformed. And the most dangerous team is always the one with the least expectations. But I just can’t see them bettering Pittsburgh’s defense.”
Mike Golic, NFL Live analyst and co-host of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning: 31-21, “I’m going with the Steelers. I just think overall they are the better team.”
Mike Greenberg, co-host of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning and SportsCenter anchor: 27-15, “The Steelers defense is one of the greatest of all time and they will prove it one more time by shutting down a very good, but not great, Arizona offense.”
Steve Levy, SportsCenter anchor: 31-24, “The Cardinals have the best looking helmet in the NFL, but it’s not good enough to beat the best defense in the NFL. Two weeks between games gives the Steelers playmakers the advantage.”
Tom Jackson, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst: 21-17, “Because defense wins championships!”
Trey Wingo, NFL Live and NFL PrimeTime host: 28-20, “The Steelers pressure will do what no one has been able to do all post-season – get to Kurt Warner.”
Trent Dilfer, NFL Live analyst: 33-18, “The Steelers jump to an early lead and put their offense in the short-field position all day long.”
Marcellus Wiley, NFL Live analyst: 37-14, “They have the best defense and when you start to name all of the weapons on offense like Parker, Holmes and Roethlisberger, it’s just too much, so they win the game in the big fashion.”
Mike Tirico, Monday Night Football play by play commentator: 26-20, “The Steelers running game will control the second half and bring the team a sixth championship.”
Keyshawn Johnson, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst: 31-17, “Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley is in a groove calling the right play at the right time. He’ll make the right adjustments against the Pittsburgh D.”
Mark Schlereth, ESPN NFL Live and NFL PrimeTime analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion: 27-24, “Ken Whisenhunt’s familiarity with the Pittsburgh defensive personnel allows Kurt Warner to have a big day through the air.”
Cris Carter, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst: 23-20, “Larry Fitzgerald is in what great athletes consider “the Zone!” Fantastic finish to what has been a very unusual year.”
Sal Paolantonio, Correspondent: 27-21, “This is a bad matchup for the Steelers’ defense. Kurt Warner’s quick release will diffuse the effectiveness of the Steelers zone blitz. And Larry Fitzgerald’s constant pre-snap motion, speed and leaping ability will occupy the attention of Troy Polamalu, who then won’t able to attack the line of scrimmage with the same ferocity.”
Emmitt Smith, Monday Night Countdown analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion: 34-28, “I’m going with an upset. The ‘difference makers’ for this ball club are the reason for the win and they are: Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Coach Ken Whisenhunt and Kurt Warner.”
Steve Young, Monday Night Countdown analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion: 35-31, “Kurt Warner cements his place in Canton,
Stuart Scott, SportsCenter anchor: 27-24, “The Cardinals win in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.”
With John Madden calling the Super Bowl, viewers should expect solid analysis for the year’s most-watch football game, at least nationally. In Oklahoma City, it won’t beat out the BCS national championship game, which earned a 51.7 rating on KOCO-5. NBC will air the game at 5 p.m. Sunday.
In a conference call this week, Madden, play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and studio analyst Cris Collinsworth talked about the game. Here are a few of their comments:
MADDEN ON UNPREDICTABILITY IN THE NFL: “The NFL should stand for ‘Never Figure League.’ The minute you think you know what’s going to happen, you realize you don’t know a thing. Here we are with Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl. That’s the great thing about the NFL. You don’t have a vote. People ask if this is a good thing for NBC? It doesn’t make a difference. The teams that play the best at this time earn the right to play in the Super Bowl, and both of these teams earned that right. They both deserve to be here.
MADDEN ON THE GAP BETWEEN SUPER BOWL WINNERS AND LOSERS: “The greatest gap in sports is between the winner and the loser of the Super Bowl. The winner has confetti, parades, rings, the whole thing. The loser puts his head down and goes to his house.”
MICHAELS ON THE CARDINALS: “I’m struck by the fact that the Arizona Cardinals have become a major story. Everybody’s talking about them, and I’m very excited about this matchup because we know about the Steelers, They have great tradition. In total contrast, nobody could have anticipated the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. There’s a tremendous air of mystery about this Super Bowl now. We know about the Kurt Warner story and Larry Fitzgerald has become a megastar almost as fast as anybody that I can recall. I can’t wait; this is going to be a lot of fun.”
MICHAELS ON WHO WILL WIN SUPER BOWL XLIII: “We can look at a hundred different things and you can say, ‘OK here’s what has to happen in a game for this team to win,’ but the beautiful thing about sports and about football is that you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
COLLINSWORTH ON SUPER BOWL XLIII MATCHUP: “If you had said at the beginning of the playoffs that it would be a Pittsburgh-Arizona Super Bowl, a lot of people would have thought it wasn’t the best matchup for NBC or the Super Bowl, but now you look at what the Cardinals team has done, in particular offensively against tremendous defenses, there is an opportunity to see one of the best against one of the best. We all know about the Pittsburgh Steelers defense and what they’ve done.”
COLLINSWORTH ON THE STEELERS’ DEFENSE: “They have the opportunity to make Kurt Warner look really bad. If you play against Pittsburgh and Dick LeBeau’s defense, they are that good. You can throw five interceptions against them every easily.”
A few readers agreed with my column that Fox Sports went gushing about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, particularly for his off-the-field activities, during its telecast of the BCS national championship game. My colleagues also forwarded me a few items they had run across:
A text from Kerrie Green of Norman:
Seriously? Did they just say he lived in a leper colony? Who can beat Jesus? … On the way into the stadium, he prayed with the prostitutes; during the game he fed the crowd with only 2 hot dogs and 1 beer.
Today: Tebow is skipping his senior year and ascending directly into Heaven.
From Mark Boren, who has a batchelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from OU:
“Do you know Tim Tebow is a wonderful person? Did you hear the speach he gave after the loss to Ole Miss? He said…. Let’s listen to Tim Tebow’s speech since I just can’t talk about it enough.” … This was not the game for the national championship. This was the build up Tim Tebow night.
Bob and Judy Henry:
I read your article about the FOX announcers. Here’s the deal. Mr. Brennaman made those mistakes for the benefit of the OU fans. They felt like they were listening to Bob Barry.
Tebow entered the press room to wild applause. A reporter for a 24- hour cable sports network burst into tears when the 2007 Heisman winner entered the room. Another threw a pair of boxer shorts on the podium. Tebow smiled at the gesture and several sports reporters fainted.
“Sorry I’m late,” Tebow began. “There was a six-year-old boy with cancer in row 54 and I had to make my way through the crowd to heal him.”
“I want to start by saying that playing quarterback for the University of Florida, winning two national championships, has been a great honor. There has been some speculation about my future and I want to clear that up right now,” he continued.
“Don’t go, Tim!” a reporter shouted from the back of the room.
“After much consideration, I have decided to skip my senior season at the University of Florida and ascend directly into Heaven,” Tebow announced. Upon making the announcement, Tebow was bathed in a
blinding white light and vanished.
In response to the news, ESPN announced they will have a month-long tribute to Tebow. ESPN2 will now be known as ESPN-TEBOW and will feature Tebow highlights (including home videos of Tebow’s childhood), re-airings of past interviews, Tebow-centric analysis by ESPN air personalities, a Tebow quiz show and a reality show to find the “most Tebow-like” person in America. “He wasn’t just the greatest player in college football history,” said a college football writer at the press conference, tears streaming down his face. “He might have been the greatest person to ever walk on earth.”
Charles Davis, who will be the analyst on Fox Sports’ broadcast of the BCS national championship game, should give the Sooners a fair shake in the broadcast. He is well familiar with Oklahoma. His wife, the former Lisa Hales, grew up in the Oklahoma City area. He is a close friend of Ron Thulin, who has worked in the klahoma City media off and on for years, including hosting an afternoon talk show for the now defunct Jox 930.
In a recent interview, I asked Davis is he was excited about calling the game.
“I’m pumped beyond belief. I’m like that way for most of my assignments. But it’s a national championship game, what more can you ask for. This will be my third and it’s the last one I will be doing for Fox. Next year the championship games goes to ESPN/ABC because the Rose Bowl is the championship game. I still will do BCS games for Fox, but this is my last national championship game. I’m excited. Let’s be honest about it: Florida-Oklahoma. How could you not be excited.”
Do you think the offenses will be the story of the game.
“Yes. What Oklahoma is doing. Who has the thesaurus for it? How can you really adequately describe it? The best way I can put it, I was doing Arena Football with Dan (Hicks) when NBC took over the Arena package and tried to take it national for awhile. We’re doing a San Jose-Atlanta game, probably the third or fourth game in our first year. In the middle of the third quarter, the score was creeping into the 60s, and poor Dan had said touchdown about 8,000 times or so it felt to him. We went to a commercial break and he looked at me and said, ‘You’ve been doing these games for a number of years,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, Dan, I’m a pretty good veteran of Arena Football.’ He had this look on his face, I can’t even describe it. Grieved is about the best way I could put it, and he said, ‘Is it like this every week?’ And I just looked at him, and I said, ‘No, it’s not.’ And he went, ‘Oh, good.’ And I said, ‘Usually by now we’re into the 70s,’ and he said, ‘That’s it.’ And that was the last game he did. He called (director) Tommy Roy and said, ‘You’ve got to get me out of this.’ When I watch Oklahoma play, I always think of Dan Hicks and think, ‘Is it like this every week?’ And for Oklahoma, the answer is yeah. Five straight over 60. I know everyone wants to get in to ‘Is it the defenses?’ I just tend to focus on what they’re doing.”
CBS analyst Gary Danielson has criticized defense in the Big 12 defenses, saying Big 12 stats are like pesos, they are worthless. Do you agree with his criticism?
“I understand where Gary is coming from, and I’m never going to dispute a fellow analyst. It’s not my job. But I think we are searching for answers about these offenses, almost to the point that we’re taking credit away from them. They’re all in uncharted territory. We don’t have a touchstone that says, ‘We’ve seen this before and this is why.’ We’re not sure. So in a sense we’re trying to devalue the offense by sayings, ‘Maybe the defense isn’t that good.’ Maybe, but at the same time, are we sure? What we’re seeing right now is the future is here. We’re in George Allen territory. The future is now and these offenses are just tuned up and rolling like you wouldn’t believe. It would be nice to see them play a bunch of teams that were defensively oriented, like an SEC schedule, but it’s not going to happen, so we’ll find out Jan. 8.”