In Week 5 of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Caroline Russomanno, challenges Staff Writer Kevin Lee, Sports Assistant Alex Wolfe and Senior Editor Bobby Olivier to answer questions about what the X-factor of Super Bowl XLV was, how the Yankees will cope now that Andy Pettitte is retired and if Americans Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn can bounce back and reach their Olympic aspirations.
1. Super Bowl XLV is over, with the Green Bay Packers reigning supreme. What was X-factor that allowed the Packers to overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers?
KL: The X-factor in Super Bowl XLV was quarterback play. The most important part of Aaron Rodgers’ performance last Sunday was his ability to keep control of the ball, with no turnovers. On the other hand, Rodgers’ nemesis, Ben Roethlisberger, threw two interceptions. The two interceptions were pivotal plays in the game as one was returned for a touchdown and the other led to a touchdown score. Put simply, Rodgers outplayed Roethlisberger in every facet.
AW: Plain and simple, it was the turnovers. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, and Mendenhall lost a key fumble late in the game, which led to the Packers scoring 21 of their 31 points. Without those key turnovers, the Steelers would have won the game in all likelihood. Other than the turnovers, Aaron Rodgers had a very solid game with his three touchdowns, and he helped Green Bay make the most of their turnovers. He threw for 304 yards, three touchdowns and over 60 percent completions. Overall, though, I think it was the Pittsburgh turnovers (and the lack thereof by Green Bay) that decided the Super Bowl.
BO: The X-Factor for the Packers was the fact that they were able to jump out to a lead early and keep pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is not a team designed for a shoot-out, much more so for a hard-nosed, low scoring game where they can control the flow of the game with their tightfisted defense. Falling behind 21-3 created a very steep climb for the Steelers to endure, and Green Bay’s pass rush was able to keep Big Ben off balance and caused many errant passes, including the pick-six that gave the Packers the 14-0 lead. On the final drive, when the Steelers had a chance to pull off a huge comeback, it was again pressure on Roethlisberger that caused three incomplete passes and sealed the win for Green Bay.
CR: Bobby gets the 3 for pointing out that the Steelers couldn’t play the game the way they needed to with the Packers taking the early lead. Alex gets 2 for stressing the importance of the Steelers’ turnovers. Kevin gets 1 for pointing out how well Rodgers played.
2. Andy Pettitte broke the collective hearts of Yankee fans last week when he finally retired. How will the Yankees’ rotation work without him?
KL: Right now the Yankees’ rotation is set at CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. With that starting five, the rotation is in serious trouble.
Burnett struggled all of last season and wasn’t even counted on in the post season. Nova and Mitre are unreliable in the sense that neither has the ability to hold up for a full season’s workload. However, I expect Phil Hughes to continue his growth as a pitcher and become a very reliable No. 2 behind Sabathia. The Yankees do have three outstanding pitching prospects in Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman. All in all, the Yankees farm system is deep, and they could pull off a trade for a starting pitcher, such as Francisco Liriano. It’s really the lack of depth behind Sabathia and Hughes that worries me the most.
AW: The Yankees’ rotation has the potential to either be good or bad this year, but if it ends up being good, it will likely be at the expense of their bullpen. Pettitte was probably due to retire anyway, but the problem this presents to the Yankees is who will fill their fourth and fifth slot in the rotation. They have Sabathia obviously, with Hughes and Burnett behind him. The four and five spots in the rotation are question marks, with Ivan Nova (who?) and Sergio Mitre listed on the depth chart currently. This could lead the Yankees to bring Joba Chamberlain back to being a starting pitcher once again, as they did a couple years ago, with the only problem there being that their set-up man position would be open again. Lastly, the Yankees did sign veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to minor league deals this year, so if one of those two can step up, the Yankees’ rotation could be very formidable.
BO: The rotation will work HARD without Andy Pettitte this season. CC Sabathia will work hard to maintain his 20-game-winning abilities, as they will need him to be the ace and then some. Phil Hughes will work hard to make sure last season’s success was not a fluke and that he can get wins without a ton of run support if he has to. A.J. Burnett, the crucial cog in this whole system, will work hard to regain focus and recapture his control and tenacity from 2009. And Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon will work hard to snatch and hold fast to a place in this rotation, as come the trade deadline, the Yankees will be working hard to find the missing piece. It’s going to be a bumpy season.
CR: Alex gets 3 for pointing out that Pettitte has been close to retirement for years and the Yankees should have been prepared. Bobby gets 2 for stressing the hardships the Yankees will go through this season. Kevin gets 1 for mentioning the minor league prospects the Yankees have.
3. Olympic champions and Americans Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn both underperformed at the Winter World Championships this past week. What can they do to step it up and reach their prior Olympic glory?
KL: For both it’s all about focus. After having incredibly successful winter Olympics, both have been involved in too much media. Their Olympic glory and fame has really retracted from Miller and Vonn’s abilities to hit the slopes and train. It’s a natural feeling to not have the same hunger after having success. Both have the natural abilities to be the best in their sport, but again, it’s all about getting their heads on straight. Soon enough, both will get back into the groove of things and once again will be back on the gold medal podium.
AW: Winter sports tend to be a young person’s game, so to me, it isn’t a huge surprise that Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller aren’t keeping up with the younger skiers these days. Vonn is now 27 and Miller is 33, and winter events tend to attract the going-pro-at-16 crowd. Yes, they both performed very well at the Winter Olympics last year, but it’s entirely possible that they might be getting beyond their respective primes. Overall, I think that Vonn has a greater chance to rebound than Miller because her lack of success has been mostly injury-driven, while Miller has a history of performing in spurts.
BO: I honestly know nothing about either athlete beyond them being the faces of U.S. alpine skiing, so I will answer this question to the best of my ability. I think that Bode Miller needs to eat more string cheese. You may be asking what string cheese has to do with alpine skiing, but think about it: If Miller eats more string cheese and performs better in the Olympics, he can credit the string cheese for a boost in energy and improved focus. If he does no better, well, the string cheese could not possibly have had anything to do with it. I mean, come on, it’s just string cheese. Lindsey Vonn needs to be shorter. She is 5-foot-10, and her lanky figure is clearly creating too much drag. Send her to Hollywood. They do stuff like that there, right?
CR: Alex gets 3 for talking about Miller and Vonn’s ages and injuries. Kevin gets 2 for saying that they need to get their heads in the game. Bobby gets 1 for not taking a question about a perfectly legitimate sport seriously.
Alex wins this week’s AtD, 8 – 6- 4.