As the country prepares to spend the better part of Sunday afternoon glued to the TV, yelling at referees and enjoying party snacks, the Scout wants to make sure its readers are as informed about the big game as possible.
It can be difficult to filter through the hours upon hours of pre-game coverage and for this reason, the Scout would like to present you with this easy-to-understand guide to Super Bowl XLIII.
There is not a football fan alive who entered the 2008-09 NFL season thinking the Arizona Cardinals would be playing in Tampa on Sunday.
Playing in the weak NFC West, the Cardinals didn’t turn any heads after starting out the season 2-2 (a stretch that included giving up 56 points to the Jets). However, Arizona responded to that loss by winning five of its next six games, including a win over the then-NFC favorite Cowboys.
The Cards didn’t exactly give fans a ton of confidence coming into the playoffs, losing four of its last six contests and getting blown out by Philadelphia on Thanksgiving in the process to finishing up the regular season 9-7.
Nevertheless, Arizona has ripped its way through the playoffs – knocking off the 11-5 Falcons, handing Carolina its first loss at home and earning its way into the big dance by exacting its revenge on the Eagles.
Although quarterback Kurt Warner was a Super Bowl MVP during his time with the Rams, the whole playoff experience is still pretty new to the rest of the Arizona squad.
In fact, the last time the Cardinals brought home a division title, they were playing in St. Louis and Captain and Tennille were at the top of the charts with “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
While the Cardinals (or Captain and Tennille for that matter) haven’t had much success since those 1975 playoffs began, the team that ended up bringing home the Lombardi Trophy that year happened to be none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With a young head coach, a Super Bowl-tested quarterback and the league’s most punishing defense, the Steelers came into the 2008-09 season as the team to beat in the AFC North.
Picked second in the AFC only to the seemingly untouchable Patriots, the Steelers jumped out to a 5-1 start before losing by a touchdown to the reigning Super Bowl-champion Giants.
The Steelers finished out the season with a strong 12-4 record, despite battling chronic running back injuries. After losing both Willie Parker (the bulk of the team’s ground attack) and first- round pick Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh managed to win 7 of its last 9 games in a stretch that included a loss to the number one seed in the AFC, Tennessee, but also wins over Dallas, New England, San Diego and division rival Baltimore.
Unlike the Cardinals, the Steelers enjoyed a first-round bye in the playoffs, but still had to beat a San Diego team that had won five straight games and go head-to-head with the 11-5 Ravens.
And also unlike the Cardinals, the Steelers have not only been to a Super Bowl, but have won five, including one in 2006 with a team featuring nine members of the current Steeler defense.
Mike Smith, junior international business major
Cardinals 24, Steelers 20
“The Steelers statistically have the best pass defense in the NFL, however, two of their losses came to Indianapolis and Philadelphia, which both have top-six passing games. Arizona comes in with the league’s best receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, alongside Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Team those players up with an MVP quarterback and the only way that Pittsburgh will be able to stop the Cardinals will be to play 15 men on defense.”
Kyle O’Herron, junior finance major
Steelers 31, Cardinals 14
“Everyone is focused on the Steelers’ No. 1 pass defense coming into this game, however, they also allow the fewest points (13.9), the fewest total yards (237.2) and the second fewest rushing yards (80.2). There is no escaping the fact that Larry Fitzgerald will be able to make at least one spectacular play in this game, but ultimately, the Steelers’ defense will just be too much for the inexperienced Cardinals.”