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Ben Smith

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History says Ravens will knock off 49ers

– People keep asking, and we’re, like, 12 minutes away from the Preface To The Introduction To The Forward To The Super Bowl Pregame Show, so I guess it’s time now for the big reveal.

A football team will win Super Bowl XLVII today.

Someone named Harbaugh will be the winning coach.

Someone with more tattoos than Necktie Johnson in Cell Block D will at some point make a play.

Confetti will fill the fake sky inside the Superdome in New Orleans, and some of it will land on Jim Nantz’s head, ruining yet another great hair day for the veteran broadcaster.

And, yes, I know. You’re rolling your eyes at me right now.

You’re thinking I’m dodging the question, and I guess I am, because I’ve been batting this around for a few days and I still can’t tell you what’s going to happen. Maybe the Baltimore Ravens man up for Ray Lewis one last time. Maybe the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick read-option everyone into a coma. Maybe the zebras wave off Frank Gore’s winning touchdown, and Jim Harbaugh’s head explodes.

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve got working corneas and numbers, too, and they tell me the 49ers are the better team.

They’re the top rushing team in the playoffs, averaging 6.6 yards per carry and 236 yards per game. The Ravens, meanwhile, have given up more yards per game on the ground in the playoffs than any team save Green Bay – who, of course, got torched by the Niners for 245 rushing yards in the divisional round.

So, yeah. The evidence favors San Francisco. And don’t give me the Kaepernick argument – he’s only started nine games, so of course he’s going to jitter apart like a cheap watch in the Big One – because I’ll come back at you with Tom Brady, who’d only started 16 games before winning the first Super Bowl he ever played.

Kaepernick’s got that kind of cool about him. And he’s got a better defense to lean on than Brady did.

All which goes absolutely nowhere in explaining why I’m picking the Ravens today.

The 49ers might have the numbers and talent, see, but the Ravens have history, and I’m a history guy from way back.

History tells me the hot team wins this deal, and the Ravens are the hot team. They’re the team that found its mojo right around the first of the year and has ridden it all the way to New Orleans, taking down along the way a couple of teams the eyes and numbers said they had no business taking down.

Denver was the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they got Baltimore in the thin air on an icebox afternoon – and yet, if not for two kick returns by the Broncos’ Trindon Holliday, the Ravens win going away. Then they went up to Bill Belichick’s House of Delights in Foxborough, fell behind 13-7, and throttled the Patriots 21-0 thereafter.

All of this reminds me of the 2011 Giants, who were 7-7 before winning their last two regular-season games, then crushed Atlanta and Green Bay on the road en route to winning Super Bowl XLVI. It reminds me of the 2006 Colts, who lost four of their last seven games before somehow finding a run defense – in the couch cushions, maybe – that carried them to the Lombardi Trophy. It reminds me of the 1980 Oakland Raiders, the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl.

And so, in honor of Jim Plunkett and Cliff Branch ’n’ them, I’m saying the Ravens win one last ring for Ray.

Baltimore 27, San Francisco 24.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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