PROGRAMMING NOTE: Watch the SaberCats host the Iowa Barnstormers Saturday night at 7:30 on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area Plus 2
The 2012 regular season comes to a close Saturday night when the Iowa Barnstormers come to Cats Lair. San Jose back in April demolished Iowa 76-33, holding the Barnstormers scoreless for the final 30 minutes and 45 seconds of the game.
San Joses win last week against New Orleans coupled with a loss by the Chicago Rush, punched their ticket to the Arena Bowl Playoffs for the first time since 2008. Now seeding is on the line Saturday, as they are a game behind Utah for the third playoff spot and two behind Arizona for the division lead.
Here is what to watch for Saturday...
If Utah and Arizona lose their remaining two games, while San Jose wins Saturday, the SaberCats are nine time West Division Champions and will host a playoff game. If Arizona loses both games, and Utah beats Philadelphia in week 20, San Jose is the third seed and will travel to Utah for a playoff game. If Arizona wins one of its last two games and Utah loses one, San Jose will clinch the third seed. If all three teams finish with identical 12-6 records, San Jose wins the division if Utahs loss in the last two weeks is to Philadelphia, as this is a common opponent that would be used for tiebreakers. San Jose lost to Philadelphia earlier this season. A SaberCats win puts all these scenarios in motion, a loss and San Jose is the fourth seed and will be on the road for the Arena Bowl Playoffs.
Joe Sykes was credited with a half sack after last weeks win against New Orleans to give him 16 sacks on the season and became the new single season AFL sack king. Mark Grieb threw six touchdowns to set a new career season high with 105 scores. With seven net offensive yards Saturday, the SaberCats will break their 2011 AFL record of 5,786 total yards. And with 25 first downs, San Jose will break its AFL record of 427 also set last season. A win Saturday will give San Jose its 12th of the season for the fifth time in franchise history and will secure the best home record in the AFL at 8-1.
Is this heaven? No its Iowa
There have been a few bright spots this season for the Iowa Barnstormers. Jesse Schmidt, the Barnstormers number one target, leads the league in receptions (158), receiving yards (2,034), receiving touchdowns (52), total touchdowns (53) and points scored (320). Their number two target is former SaberCat Marco Thomas, who has 126 catches for 1,370 yards and 17 TDs. Thomas played the end of 2011 with San Jose appearing in six games while catching 45 passes for 398 yards and five touchdowns. Iowa has thrown the fewest interceptions in the league (11), with their starter J.J. Raternik throwing only nine. In their last meeting against San Jose, Raternik had 303 passing yards and five touchdowns. But was sacked seven times, fumbled twice and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Saturday night will be a special night for two former SaberCats who were inducted to the Arena Football Hall Of Fame this season. Barry Wagner and Sam Hernandez will become the first players in team history to have their numbers retired. Barrys 2 and Sams 55 will be hung alongside the teams championship banners in a halftime ceremony. Wagner is the AFLs only six time Ironman of the Year winner and was a key member in two of the three SaberCats Arena Bowl Championships. While Hernandez is the AFLs all-time sack leader and was named as the ninth greatest player in AFL history during this 25th season while also winning two rings with San Jose.