Two slalom results mean: Watch out, World Cup |

Two slalom results mean: Watch out, World Cup

Devon O'Neil / My $0.02
Beckenridge, Colorado

When you consider that a pair of American skiers swept the World Cup overall titles last year with virtually no slalom might, you start to realize how much easier it could be for Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn this year, given what they did in Finland last weekend.

Vonn won her first career World Cup slalom Saturday and Miller finished as the runner-up in Sunday’s men’s race, also held in Levi ” an improbable opening to the season that opened quite a few knowledgeable eyes in the ski racing world.

The irony here is that both Miller and Vonn grew up as technical specialists, something that is not unusual for juniors. But as they learned the nuances of speed skiing their technical ” and specifically slalom ” prowess faded.

Before last weekend, Miller hadn’t won a World Cup slalom in nearly five years and Vonn was coming off a memorable season in which she won the downhill title but ended up a lowly 32nd in the slalom standings. Miller, for his part, took second in the downhill standings and coulda-shoulda’d his way to 29th in the season slalom rankings.

With Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, the overall champ in 2007, having gotten off to a slow start (he’s tied for 24th after two races), Miller could build quite an early season gap if he manages to score hefty slalom points regularly. You might see a 200-point lead by Christmas, which is just when he usually gets going.

As for Vonn, she could turn this year’s women’s chase into a downright lambasting if she keeps up her fast start. And if the touch lingers? It might be three years before we see someone challenge her in the overall. …

You want parity in the NFL? How about 14 of the league’s 32 teams standing at either 6-4 or 5-5 or, in the case of the Eagles, who could only muster a tie with the hapless Bengals on Sunday, 5-4-1 after 11 weeks of play.

As they say, on any given Sunday. …

The Broncos got one past a very good team in Atlanta last weekend, and it made you think: If they can keep beating solid opponents with the contagious injuries they’ve had, it could make them a difficult team to read come playoff time.

Then again, if Peyton Hillis, Denver’s overachieving 250-pound rookie fullback from Arkansas, keeps leading the team in rushing, you can’t help but worry. …

Tony Romo is starting to look like to Dallas what Troy Aikman used to be to that team ” the painter who brings all those bright colors to life. Without him the Cowboys are average, which is saying something given the talent they have. …

My hometown newspaper has a section drawn from the weekly police blotter it calls “keeping track” ” as in, keeping track of all the crimes that go unsolved over the course of a year.

The Tallahassee paper should do something similar for Florida State. This past Saturday’s game, in which unranked Boston College upset the No. 20 Seminoles at home on national television, was the seventh game out of 10 this season in which FSU played without at least one suspended player. Nineteen different players have been suspended. …

Why is it immeasurably hard to build a program capable of winning back-to-back national titles? You lose so many kids whose draft stock goes up due to the exposure, you end up putting more into some recruiting classes than others by playing them early and, most important, every team in the country treats playing you like playing their archrival.

Take LSU, this year’s defending national champ, which has struggled to a 7-3 record and No. 19 ranking this year. The Tigers needed a mind-blowing second-half comeback to beat in-state rival Troy on Saturday night, scoring the last 37 points to win 40-31 after trailing 31-3 ” at home, on homecoming (sound familiar, Tennessee?) ” midway through the third quarter. …

Utah, meanwhile, looks like a certified giant killer in BCS waiting. The Utes are 11-0, ranked No. 8 in the country, and among a handful of impressive wins, they beat Oregon State ” the top team in the Pac-10 ” at home earlier this year.

They’ll guarantee a trip to a BCS Bowl, probably a good one, by beating archrival and 16th-ranked BYU (10-1, albeit against a much easier schedule than Utah’s) at home next weekend. …

In parting, I hope now that Barry Melrose’s coaching career is officially toast, he goes back to ESPN. I have actually missed his wit.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at HYPERLINK “”

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