Perfection Trifecta


The Indianapolis Colts did their part. Now, it’s up to the New Orleans Saints and the Penn State women’s volleyball teams on Saturday night.

Peyton and crew mounted yet another fourth-quarter comeback in dispatching of the Jaguars 35-31 in Jacksonville on Thursday night to run Indy’s mark to 14-0 this season and extend the Colts’s record regular-season run to 23 straight.

NFL Network benefited from the hoopla over the horseshoes, nailing an 8.0 cable rating and 6.2 million cable watchers to rank third and second during the pro football’s league four-year history with live games.

In the Superdome, the Saints will try to make Saturday night alright for marching past America’s Team to clinch their own 14-0 start. Unlike Indy, which has already made sure that every postseason game it plays is scheduled for Lucas Oil Stadium, Drew Brees and friends have yet to put away Brett Favre’s Vikings for home field advantage in the NFC and the right for the playoffs to center in NOLA.

Perfection’s pursuit, playoff positioning and the love-em/loathe-em ‘Boys, mixed in with an east coast snowstorm, should make for a puissant Nielsen gumbo that will see Nawlins-Dallas erase the Cowboys-Green Bay Packers from NFL Network’s record book. That Nov. 29, 2007 contest remains the network’s Nielsen standard-bearer with 10.1 cable viewers and 12.1 total viewers, when its over-the-air audience was calculated.

As for Penn State, they’re talking about jumping their winning skein to 102 matches and collecting a record, third straight national title. In what amounted to a struggle, Penn State dropped the opening set to Hawaii 23-25, before washing away the Rainbows’ 28-match winning streak. It marked just the sixth set the Lady Nittany Lions surrendered this season. (Still, this wasn’t anywhere akin to a threat to Penn State improving to 37-0,  as no gifts were needed a la New England coach Bill Belichick’s dubious fourth-and-2 gamble or the since-cut Washington placekicker Shaun Suisham missing a 23-yard field goal, respectively, to help the Colts — their 9th at the time –  and Saints — their 12th — maintain their perfect marks.)

The 101-match streak ranks as the second best ever in Division I team sports behind the Miami men’s tennis program’s 137 straight from 1957-64. The Nittany Lions haven’t lost since succumbing to Stanford in September 2007.

To make it No. 102, Penn State’s coach Russ Rose, who posted win No. 1000 on Dec. 17 in the national semifinals over Dave Shoji, who has 1,016 victories, must find a way past the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. No. 2 Texas, led by Destinee Hooker’s 17 kills, swept Minnesota’s Golden Gophers (sorry, Ben) 25-19, 25-20, 25-15 in the other semifinal, to raise its record to 29-1. Penn State, featuring 6′5″ Blair Brown, out-blocked Hawaii 15-0, so the battle above the net should be intriguing.

While I’ll be taking in Saints-‘Boys live at my favorite tavern Saturday (Carlyn’s Cove can thank Cablevision for what should be a large, if Nielsen-unmeasured, crowd), our TiVO will be capturing the Nittany Lions-Longhorns, beginning at 8 p.m. I’m also taking the over on the 53 points for New Orleans-Dallas, as well as NFL Network surpassing its aforementioned 12.1 million viewer record. I’m taking the over on Penn State pushing to No. 102 and, in the all-time lock,  the way under for the match’s audience against ESPN2’s November primetime average of 1.07 million, a number stoked by what else — football of the collegiate variety.