Considering how competitive NASCAR can be, and the fact that a series champion hasn't repeated since Jeff Gordon in 1997-98, the odds were against Jimmie Johnson duplicating last season's title run. And just before the Nextel Cup campaign began when Johnson was out messin' 'round with the boys, fell off the roof of a golf cart and broke his wrist, there was more evidence that this probably wouldn't be his year.
But here we are 35 races later with only one to go, and Johnson owns a commanding 86-point lead over his teammate Gordon for the Nextel Cup Championship. All Johnson needs to do is finish 18th or better to win the title. No driver has ever overcome a deficit of 30 points going into the final race.
Of course, Gordon fans can point to the 10-race playoff chase as the true villain. Under the old format, which added up all 36 races, Gordon would have clinched the title a week ago. But with his current four-race victory streak, Johnson has now assumed control.
Ford 400 - The last race of the season is the Ford 400 Sunday from Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. This will be the final race for the old Cup cars, as next season the series will be run exclusively with what was known this year as the Car of Tomorrow.
Predictions: The pick here is Greg Biffle, who has won three consecutive races in Homestead. His second-place effort last week in Phoenix was a good tune-up. It's a near certainty that Johnson will cruise to the finish line somewhere between 2nd and 17th.
Notes - Television ratings were down this year, but they should go up a bit in 2008. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be much more competitive and make the chase as Johnson's and Gordon's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.
Congratulations to those who bet on Johnson to win the title, at odds as high as 5 to 1. If by some act of God Gordon wins it all, congrats to those who got him at 7 to 1.
The college football year becomes more serious as today some schools' seasons will come to an end, and others will be playing in huge rivalries.
As for the rivalries, Saturday there are important ones such as Purdue-Indiana, Idaho-Boise State and Vanderbilt-Tennessee. But surely the one to watch will be the game between Ohio State and Michigan tomorrow morning, which determines the winner of the Big Ten and who hopefully plays in the Rose Bowl January 1. Will Michigan's Lloyd Carr, rumored to be stepping away from his head coaching position, overcome the power of Jim Tressel's sweater vest?
Also, although the game is not bettable in local sports books, we must mention the huge battle between Harvard and Yale, with both teams this year undefeated in the Ivy League.
FOOTBALL FOR BREAKFAST
I've never been much of a fan of Texas Tech football, that is, until last Saturday. Head coach Mike Leach voiced his displeasure at a few referee calls, and the fact that the head ref in his game resides in Austin, home of the Texas Longhorn team he lost to.
Leach, among other things, said to reporters, "It's like breakfast. It's ham and eggs. The chicken contributes, but the pig commits. The players and the coaches are the pigs." The refs, obviously are the chickens.
Leach received a Big 12 conference record fine of $10,000 for all of his comments. But I must agree that there is no way a head referee should be working a game at the Division I level in his home town, especially in an area of the country where football is so important and everyone has a favorite college team.