John Clay: Bengals provide welcome distraction

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistSeptember 24, 2009 

Random notes:

■ The understandable hype around here accompanying top-ranked Florida's visit to UK on Saturday has overshadowed the fact that there is a fairly attractive game up the road come Sunday.

True, of recent vintage, Cincinnati Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers has been almost as lopsided as Florida-Kentucky, but glimmers from last Sunday suggested this year could be different.

That was a big Bengals win in Green Bay, Marvin Lewis' club rallying from a 21-14 deficit to beat the Packers 31-24.

Carson Palmer overcame a pair of interceptions, including one that Charles Woodson returned for a touchdown. Cedric Benson ran with determination. And Chad Ochocinco truly appears to be back to his fun-loving, big-play self.

Plus, the Bengals' defense is pretty good. Coordinator Mike Zimmer has done a much underappreciated job over the past two seasons.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh blew a 14-7 lead at Chicago, losing 17-14 to the Bears. The Steelers have scored just 27 points in their first two games.

Not saying Cincinnati will break its five-game losing streak in the series. But this matchup looks to be much more interesting than it did before the season started.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: Tim Tebow had thrown a TD pass in 30 straight games before facing Monte Kiffin's Tennessee defense Saturday. Think he might want to jump-start another streak this week?

■ Speaking of Tebow, asked Rich Brooks, a former NFL head coach and defensive coordinator, whether "Superman" could be a pro quarterback. Brooks wouldn't bite. Said he has a hard enough time evaluating the talent on his own team. A moment or two later, he said fullback John Conner would be a high pick, then he winked.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: Gators backup offensive lineman Sam Robey is the son of ex-UK basketball All-American Rick Robey.

■ As an Associated Press voter, I have Mississippi ranked fourth. Too high? Could be. But we'll know a lot more after the Rebels visit South Carolina on Thursday night (7:30 on ESPN).

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: The Gators have intercepted at least one pass in 15 straight games.

■ You'd think, as much time as he spent in the end zone, Michael Irvin would be a better dancer.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: Saturday will mark the third time Florida has played UK as the nation's No. 1 team. The previous two (1996, '97), UF won by a combined 120-28.

■ Got no problem with John Calipari joining a country club. Do have a problem with UK paying the coach's country club initiation and fees, on top of his $32 million contract.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: The Gators' current 13-game win streak is the longest in school history.

■ Not buying the Reds' resurgence at the end of the season. There's some young talent in Cincinnati, but not enough. In fact, ESPN's Buster Olney said a scout told him that among NL teams, the Reds might be the farthest away from contending. Ouch.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: The Gators have not given up a single punt-return yard in 2009.

■ My TV-viewing friends tell me that ESPNU's production on Kentucky's two games this season has been no better than the old Jefferson-Pilot/Raycom networks.

■ Florida not so-fun-fact: Since 2007, the Gators have scored 117 touchdowns in 157 red-zone trips. That's 74.5 percent. That's impressive.

■ Did you see where the College Football Hall of Fame is moving from South Bend, Ind., to Atlanta? Seems everyone in college football wants to be in SEC country.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: Of the Gators' 22 straight wins over the Cats, just five have come by fewer than 10 points.

■ I thought the Steve Kragthorpe-Trevard Lindley mini-controversy was much ado about little.

■ Florida not-so-fun fact: There were 30 ex-Gators on NFL opening-weekend rosters.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or Read his blog at

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