Friday, October 31, 2008

"Lost" Friday: last-minute costume ideas

I'm almost certain I just turned on ESPN2's simulcast of Mike & Mike in the Morning, and I'm almost certain the two of them were dressed as Batman and Robin. I know it's early, but I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

In any case, I'm not attempting to do any more figuring on ABC's "Lost" for the moment -- so instead, here's a last-minute Halloween costume ideas related to the show. The ideas come courtesy of Give Me My

Happy Halloween, everybody.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday baseball ... and some weekend lines

I kept waiting to hear Karl Ravech say something to this effect on Sportscenter this morning:
Hi everybody, this is Karl Ravech. It's freezing out here, and we just watched this droll World Series conclude with a three-inning mockery that occurred because baseball lacks the guts to tell FOX to stick it and either a) play games in the afternoon when people might actually watch them, or b) just postpone Game 5 two days. Suffice to say, we all have opinions on this issue which we're not allowed to talk about on-air because ESPN doesn't want us to have actual personalities or insight. Anyway, pitchers and catchers don't report for 2009 until February, and there's no chance in hell you'll see any of us doing anything for television until then because we're all sick of each other. So, hope you enjoyed the season -- I'm going somewhere to drink something stiff and warm and think about how much more fun this show was when Harold Reynolds was here. For ESPN, this is Karl Ravech.
Even though they're the Braves' division rivals, I'm pleased for Philadelphia to win something, even if 20 years from now everyone will have forgotten who won this Series, just how it was played. Even so, good for the Phils, good for Brad Lidge, boo for baseball. Again.

On to something more pleasant -- lines for this weekend's games. As always, this weekend's lines come courtesy of (Also, Kurt insists on asking about my opinion of Auburn football. You can read this weekend's version at

South Florida (-3) at Cincinnati
Wisconsin (+4.5) at Michigan St.
Air Force (-8.5) at Army
Miami (+2.5) at Virginia
West Virginia (-4) at UConn
Kansas St. (+10.5) at Kansas
Auburn (+6.5) at Ole Miss
(Note: Stay away, stay away, stay away.)
Colorado (+3.5) at Texas A&M
Pitt (+5) at Notre Dame
Kentucky (+3) at Mississippi St.
Missouri (-20.5) at Baylor
Clemson (+4.5) at Boston College
Iowa (+3) at Illinois
Florida (-6) vs. Georgia
Duke (+7.5) at Wake Forest
Oregon (+3) at Cal
BYU (-14.5) at Colorado St.
Washington (+45) at USC
(Note: Take the favorite. Seriously.)
Louisville (-14) at Syracuse
Tennessee (+6) at South Carolina
(Note: Not as enticing a matchup as maybe it used to be. Click here for more on that.)
UAB (+8.5) at Southern Miss
Texas (-4) at Texas Tech
Tulane (+25.5) at LSU
(Note: We'll deal with this next week, but ... is LSU even that good? Do we know for sure?)
Arizona St. (+15) at Oregon St.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

wednesday youtube is ready for this

Obviously, this blog deals mainly with Alabama football, and college football in general as it relates to the first tenet. Even so, I can't help but be excited for this weekend's C---t--- P---- (the name was redacted), a great game between very proud, very irritating fan bases and two outstanding football teams -- as an added bonus, I have no rooting interest in either team. So that's good.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite moments in football history, courtesy of that game, courtesy of Larry Munson:

See y'all Thursday.


Monday, October 27, 2008

weekend thoughts -- rolled and smoked

With each passing week, I become more mystified about what to do with this Alabama team.

You've probably figured it out by now, but when it comes to my favorite team, I'm the ultimate pessimist. I've reviewed our weaknesses so many times it makes me sick; I keep looking at that schedule and wondering where the first loss is going to come; I've already prepared myself for a failure that simply must be inevitable.
I'd anticipated that the team would be decent in 2008. Decent, but not great. There were too many question marks -- the depth, the quarterback, the youth -- to predict anything but "better than last year, I think" for this year's team.
Of course, each week I've been proven wrong. This team keeps proving me wrong. Against Clemson (maybe they were overrated, but still). Against Arkansas. Against Georgia.

Still, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that the team isn't that good. Maybe my familiarity with the team keeps hurting my judgment -- I see John Parker and I keep thinking about the Single Worst College Football Play I've Ever Seen, instead of the guy who's torched Clemson and Georgia. All season, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. And as our team's ranking has continued to climb, I've lived with the knowledge that the shoe will fall harder and harder.
Which, naturally, brought me to Saturday. I wrote about this on Friday, but everything about this game felt wrong. We're ranked too high, we were missing our bellcow (Terrence Cody) and we were facing a Tennessee team that may or may not have figured out some things in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State (admittedly quite terrible). And, of course, there's the Fulmer factor -- the fat one hates Alabama above all others and would absolutely be expected to pull out all stops in a last-ditch effort to stay employed.
I wasn't alone. Multiple ESPN analysts -- even Lee Corso -- tabbed the Vols to pull the upset. And when I read 3d Saturday, everything was confirmed: were in trouble, serious trouble.
And the thought of everything accomplished this season going down in flames to a 3-4 Tennessee team -- any Tennessee team -- was loathsome. I was more nervous before this game than I have been all season.

By now, you know how it turned out.

Alabama 29, Tennessee 9. And it wasn't even really that close. It wasn't the best Alabama's looked all season -- I don't think this team can be much better than it was in the first hlaf against UGA -- but it was still pretty damned impressive. Tennessee's not a great team, by any stretch. But Alabama did what good teams do when faced with an inferior opponent -- they weathered the initial wave of emotion, executed in crucial moments and ultimately imposed their will as the game wore on.
Was it boring? If you're a casual fan, probably. But it was thorough, and that's ultimately what Alabama fans ask of their teams.

So, then, what to make of Alabama? I still have those doubts, of course, and I still don't like being ranked second.
On the other hand, where else can we be? Every challenge put in front of this team has been answered, and answered with authority. Maybe they don't have the flash of Texas or USC, but they've whipped two teams (Georgia and Clemson) considered to be on par with those powers in the preseason. When a team simply won't lose, eventually you have to get on board.
So that's where I am today: on board. This is my team. And if that other shoe drops anytime soon, I guess I'm going to have to let it fall right on my head.

Some other thoughts Saturday ...
-- As much as I'd like to exonerate the officiating in Neyland, I simply can't. Mark Ingram's "fumble" that Eric Berry ran back for a non-touchdown was probably the right call, but the offensive pass interference late called against Lucas Taylor was simply awful. The UT fans who are upset with that call should be upset. That's pretty much all anyone can say.
-- Speaking of Berry, what happened to the supposed danger he posed to Alabama's defense? After the Vols spent all week discussing how they were going to use him, here were his final numbers: 1 reception, 3 yards, 7 tackles. Furthermore, the amount of time the ESPN crew spent talking about him during the first half (they kept using words like "electric" and "special") was completely disproportionate to his actual impact. He made one big hit -- the lick on Marquis Maze -- and spent the rest of the time basically out of sight.
-- While we're on the subject of the announcers, I realize it's better for ESPN if the game is close, but is it really necessary for the crew to pump up the underdog that way? Todd Blackledge spent so much time discussing how well UT was playing that he failed to note that it was Alabama, not the Vols, that weathered the early storm, never surrendered a meaningful touchdown and put together a dynamite touchdown drive -- 66 yards in 6 plays -- to effectively put a stamp on the game.
-- Also, Todd: Tennessee's defense didn't "wear down" in the fourth quarter. They quit. Just like I predicted they would on Thursday.
-- Speaking of quitting, Senor CFB described Phil Fulmer thusly after Saturday:
In case you’re keeping score at home, Fulmer is now 3-5 against Mark Richt, 0-4 against Urban Meyer, and 1-4 against Nick Saban. The defense played hard but the offense is so bad it makes one numb to watch. And there is no reason to believe it is going to get any better. Tennessee (3-5) has four games left (South Carolina, Wyoming, Vanderbilt, Kentucky). The Vols will be lucky to win two. And here is the clincher: I was on the field for the last five minutes of Saturday night’s game with Alabama. I couldn’t believe how much Crimson was in that stadium and how loud they were. When you’ve got Tennessee people selling their tickets to Alabama fans then Mike Hamilton (Tennessee athletics director), you have a problem.
-- I continue to be impressed with how well-coached this Alabama team is. Defensively, they give up no cheap plays -- even when the score was 29-3, they weren't yielding anything -- and are rarely caught out of position. They rarely miss tackles and always have the other team backing up. And on offense, they're not perfect, but they can show teams a variety of looks and
-- Unexpected big contributor Saturday: Roy Upchurch, who actually played fullback a few plays in the game, including the first touchdown. We've been waiting for him to break out ever since he showed up on campus, and he may just have.
Which, of course, brings me to the point I'm afraid to bring up: Alabama may just be putting together a run like Auburn had in 2004. John Parker isn't a phenom like Jason Campbell, and the Coffee/Ingram/Upchurch trio may not have as much NFL potential as the Carnell-Ronnie Brown tandem, but otherwise the parallels are there: meager preseason expectations, a no-name defense, some early wins, and suddenly the fans believe nothing is impossible.
Will they make it there? We'll see. I'm just thrilled to be having this conversation right now.


Friday, October 24, 2008

a "Lost" Friday: connecting the dots

Scattered thoughts from last night's game between Auburn and West By-God ...
-- This was the second time Auburn has built a big first-half lead, then lost it after halftime (LSU was the first). Unlike the LSU game, however, Auburn didn't lose this game necessarily because the other team just played outstanding -- WVU gashed the Teagle defense in the second half, and Auburn tackled like they hadn't practiced it during their bye week at all. They did figure out some things that would work for them offensively, but fell into that disturbing pattern they've had for the last two seasons, in which they move the ball effectively early, grab a lead and then basically go into the tank for the rest of the game. Let there be no doubt: when the 'Eers went up 10 in the fourth, the game was basically over.
-- On the other side, West Va. basically did the opposite of Auburn, coming out with a head-scratching game plan centered around Pat White throwing the ball (???) before reverting to running the option with Devine and White and giving them chances to use their speed. I wouldn't have believed that kind of game would cause Auburn to back up the way it did. Shows what I know. While we're here, the last Moutaineer TD -- the zone read to Devine -- was an example of Pat White's intelligence and maturity as a QB: he read Auburn's defensive alignment, shifted Devine to the opposite side of the formation and then ran the play to perfection. Impressive. I'm willing to re-think the whole "Bill Stewart can't coach a championship team" thing.
-- Tommy Tuberville keeps taking subtle shots at Tony Franklin through the press. During last night's pre-game -- I was listening to it on the way home -- he said something to this effect: "We want to run the ball and establish a good line of scrimmage -- the last 6-7 weeks we've been putting our quarterbacks in positions that kids who haven't played much don't need to be in."
You get the idea. He does that a lot, and it's pretty clear the implication.
-- The bigger picture: Auburn suddenly looks like a team that will struggle to reach Shreveport. Remaining on the schedule: at Ole Miss, vs. UT-Martin, vs. UGA, at Alabama. All of those games look loseable except for Martin (Homecoming). And there's something else -- my cousin Jamie sent me the following text message: "Never have I seen a team so cursed again winning. Best the off. has played = worst def. has played."
Well, who does that sound like? Answer: Alabama in 2000 (or 2003, whatever). Sometimes everything converges in a perfect storm of bad -- poor coaching, a few bad breaks, an injury here or there -- and eventually it seeps into the team's (and the fans') consciousness, with everybody ready to jump ship at the first sign of trouble (the opposite of 2004 for Auburn, if you will).
Let's hope that's not the case -- I have no vested interest in seeing Auburn fail. But that trip to Ole Miss suddenly looks like a make-or-break moment for Auburn's season.

Wait, this is supposed to be a "Lost" post, isn't it?

And you're right: it is. While searching for the connections that might help us better understand this complex program. And what I found was this site, through ABC. There's also this blog, with a very similar vein.
Please discuss amongst yourselves.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday, apprehension and lines

I have to be honest: this game on Saturday scares the hell out of me.

The other day one of my co-workers -- not exactly the biggest football fan -- told me he's not concerned about Tennessee at all. "The only game I'm worried about is LSU," he said.

And if that's true -- it may not be, since football fans tend to carry on like the old NWO in public -- then my co-worker is an idiot. Going to Neyland Stadium to play a team that's slowly gaining confidence (evidenced by last week's ugly win over the Fighting Crooms), minus the wide rear end of Terrence Cody, against a coach fighting to save his job -- and Fulmer despises Alabama over all others, let there be no doubt -- is a proposition so frightful it has my stomach in knots. Let there be no doubt: all the warning signs are there.

As cliche as it sounds, the key to the game is likely the first quarter. If Alabama can do to the Vols what Florida did -- hit some early big plays and work with a lead, kind of like they have all season -- then Tennessee will quit. I'll say that again: Tennessee will quit. They quit against Florida, and they'll do it against Alabama. Fulmer or no Fulmer.

Anyway, here are this weekend's lines, beginning with tonight's Disappointment Bowl in Morgantown. As always, this week's lines come courtesy of

Auburn (+3) at West By-God Virginia
(I like the Teagles. Just a hunch.)
New Mexico (+5) at Air Force
Boise St. (-7.5) at San Jose St.
Wake Forest (+3) at Miami
Minnesota (+1) at Purdue
Boston College (+3) at North Carolina
Texas Tech (+1.5) at Kansas
Kentucky (+24.5) at Florida
(Trap alert!!!!!)
Oklahoma (-19) at Kansas St.
Baylor (+11) at Nebraska
Duke (+10.5) at Vanderbilt
South Florida (-4) at Louisville
Virginia (+12) at Ga. Tech
Georgia (+2) at LSU
Oklahoma St. (+13) at Texas
Michigan St. (-4) at Michigan
Va. Tech (+5) at Florida St.
Wyoming (+31) at TCU
Colorado (+22) at Missouri
Texas A&M (+3) at Iowa St.
Alabama (-7) at Tennessee
Notre Dame (-11.5) at Washington
Penn St. (-2.5) at Ohio St.
USC (-17) at Arizona


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

wednesday youtube is an essay in streaks

When thinking about the history of Alabama and Tennessee -- at least for the last 20 years or so -- one can't help but think about streaks.

To wit: Alabama lost to UT in coach Bryant's final game at Neyland Stadium (1982) and didn't beat the Vols again for three more seasons. Then, in '86, 'Bama was undefeated and ranked second going to Knoxville.

That win kick-started a streak for the good guys. The very next season, Tennessee was undefeated and ranked in the top-10, coming to Legion Field.

Two years later at Legion Field, both teams were undefeated.

That was probably the day the Bill Curry era peaked at Alabama.
Anyway, the very next season 'Bama lost its first three games under Gene Stallings before finally getting off the schnide against Vanderbilt. Sadly, they had to travel to Knoxville to take on an undefeated Tennessee team.

One of my favorite 'Bama wins of all-time, even now.
The undefeated Tide that eventually won the national championship dominated the Vols at Neyland in 1992.

It was sometime around this point in history that either Roger Schultz or Antonio Langham (no one seems to know for sure) said that Alabama should pay taxes at Neyland Stadium "because we own Tennesee."
Sadly, the streak couldn't last forever -- the next season, Jay Barker and the Tide had to rally at Legion Field to salvage a 17-all tie in the fourth quarter, and even though Barker brought 'Bama back the next season at Neyland for a win over a young Peyton Manning, the Vols turned the tables the next season (unfortunately, no video). Alabama didn't win a game against Tennessee from 1995 until 2002.

And since then, it's been all even. Tennessee won in '03 and '04, but Mike Shula got his only win over Tennessee at home in '05. Yeah, that one.

It was the first win over Tennessee in Tuscaloosa since sometime around the turn of the century. People cried in the stands after Christensen's kick split the uprights.
And the Mike Shula era died a merciful death the very next year in Neyland.
I wasn't holding out much hope for the Vols' return trip in '07 -- after all, my boys were coming off narrow wins against Houston and Ole Miss.

And that's where we are today. Alabama, 3-3 in its last six meetings with the Vols, going to Neyland in an effort to start a new streak and possibly drive a final nail in the Phillip Fulmer era (fitting, since he's one of the people who helped the NCAA cripple our football program).

Once more, with feeling: I hate Tennessee. You should, too.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

roundtable, 3rd Saturday edition

No, according to the calendar, it's not technically the 3rd Saturday in October (we'll cover that in a minute). But it is Alabama-Tennessee week, and that's something special, regardless of records or anything else. I grew up in Opelika, so my primary preoccupation is Auburn-Alabama, but I always reserved a special place in my soul for UT week. And I think most 'Bama fans my dad's age -- as well as most 'Bama fans who grew up in the Tennessee Valley or (God forbid) in the state of Tennessee -- have always regarded the Vols with an equal level -- if not a superior one -- of hatred and loathing.
And it's in that vein that I'm willing to throw myself into this week's Crimson & White (& Orange) Roundtable. The host is 3rd Saturday in Blogtober, who's hosting a joint venture on their own site this week.

And with that, we're off.

Both teams at some point or another have been described as an Evil Empire. If your team is the Death Star, what is its planet-destroying weapon?
There are a number of facets on this Alabama team that are dangerous -- however, the team's (and the program's) biggest asset remains on the sidelines. When you're getting text messages from your Auburn friends telling you that they think your team is the best-coached team in the nation, that's saying something.
So is this stat: Alabama now owns a ridiculous (90-something to 3) advantage in first-quarter scoring. And we've trailed for slightly less than a minute -- last week vs. Ole Miss -- all season long. What does that mean? Simply that the staff is implementing an outstanding game plan, and the players are executing it damn near to perfection.

What is its two meter wide exhaust port?
Depth, depth and depth. Alabama simply can't afford injuries at key spots, as they showed in their ugly effort against Tulane. Curiously, they're dealing with an injury this week to behemoth nose-guard Terrence Cody. Hmmmmm ...

Everyone is looking forward to Eric Berry vs. Julio Jones. What is the next matchup you'll be keying on in this game?
Alabama-Tenessee games are almost always decided up front. That's just the way it is. And with Alabama's much-improved play up front, the Tide suddenly looks like they can actually match Tennessee on the line for studs this time around. Of course, there's that injury thing ...

The Tide and Vols will scrap it out under the lights at Neyland. Do you like this arrangement and does the later kickoff time provide an advantage to either team?
As a writer, I have a natural aversion to late anything -- deadline pressure and all. It's great for the fans because of the natural advantages to long, drunken tailgating days (not so great for postgame, when everyone decides to leave at once).
Any advantages to either team? Not really, I guess -- Alabama has played its best at night and away from home, so there's that.

Since the Tide had a bye week and the Vols didn't bother to play that weekend either (zing!) we're going to say this is the Third Saturday in October just to justify the name of one of the greatest rivalries in college football. In three thousand words or less, turn over the kettles of white-hot liquid hate upon thine enemy.
I decided to go with the less, and simply cede this section to my friend.

Like him, I hate Tennessee. And like him, I think you should, too.


Monday, October 20, 2008

links, 3rd Saturday edition

Weird question: does Alabama actually play better away from home?

I'm basing this on absolutely no facts or figures whatsoever. I'm basing this on nothing, actually, except what I can remember off the top of my head.
And what I remember off the top of my head is Alabama playing better away from Tuscaloosa.

For the last 10 years or so, I recall 'Bama hosting big games at Bryant-Denny. How many of those games do I remember winning? Three, actually. Here they are:
• 1999: Alabama 19, Mississippi St. 7. The Bullies were undefeated and ranked seventh, I think — this game cemented the SEC West for Mike DuBose's team, a sentence that's so ridiculous, I can't even read it without chuckling.
• 2005: Alabama 31, Florida 0. Needs no explanation.
• 2005: Alabama 6, Tennessee 3. Arguably the high point for the Mike Shula era. Actually, I don't even really think it's arguable.

What else is left? Alabama hasn't beaten Auburn at home since 1998 (and that was in Birmingham). Alabama hasn't beaten LSU at home since '99. Georgia's won twice in Tuscaloosa this decade. Tennessee won here in '01 and '03. Hell, even Mississippi State has won here this decade.

On the other hand, here are the list of impressive road wins in that same span:
• 1999: Alabama 40, Florida 39
• 2001: Alabama 31, Auburn 7
• 2002: Alabama 31, Arkansas 12
• 2002: Alabama 34, Tennessee 14
• 2002: Alabama 31, LSU 7
• 2005: Alabama 37, South Carolina 14
• 2005: Alabama 13, Texas Tech 10 (Cotton Bowl)
That trend has carried over into this season — Alabama's best performances have come against Clemson, Arkansas and Georgia, all of them on the road. They've stumbled at home in flaccid victories over Tulane, Kentucky and Ole Miss, and didn't exactly blow the doors off Western Kentucky, either.
Does that mean anything for this Saturday in Knoxville? I have no idea.
My dad contributes the following, however: "If we play well this weekend, I say we wear white every week." So there's that.

Anyway, I owe you some links, so here they be:
— For Alabama-Tennessee week, there's nowhere better to be than the 3rd Saturday in Blogtober. Here's their retrospective on the history of the game.
— Everybody breathe with me here: Terrence Cody's going to be OK, in a week or two. Won't have him this week, though, and that's a concern.
— Per Deadspin: no babies in Neyland. Just saying.
— One more note from last Saturday: somehow, Mike Johnson got tabbed SEC OL of the Week, despite doing a pretty poor job from what I could see in Section E. Whatever
— From elsewhere in the sports world: Dr. Sat. takes on the country's disillusioned: Peter King warns of labor strife down the road; and, of course, Couch Slouch talks bowling.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

weekend thoughts: ungrateful wretch edition

Weekends in the fall are always full of football for me. They have been ever since I was in elementary school, when my dad and I used to attend Eufaula High games at old Senior Stadium on Fridays, then spend our Saturdays watching every game we could find on the dial -- especially Auburn and Alabama (not in that order, but you get the idea). The NFL (and the Braves through October) would provide background noise for the afternoon nap.
So this weekend, in some ways, was no different than it has been for most of my life. Friday, however, was quite different from my recent activity -- I actually took in a high school football game in Opelika, with no written agenda and not on the clock. It's the first time that's happened since 2002, before I graduated from high school and joined the workforce of professional media.

(Note: The Tampa Bay Rays just won the American League pennant, which is one of the most bizarre things I've ever witnessed. But, good for them. Also, damn Boston.)

In any case, my life as a football fan taught me about heartbreak at an early age (1989, at Auburn), gave me euphoria and insane expectations (1992, in New Orleans) and pretty much raised me to be who I am today. One of the most important lessons from the last 10 years? Don't ever complain about a win, especially in the SEC.

I found myself repeating that over and over again quietly on the way home from Tuscaloosa, following second-ranked Alabama's 24-20 squeaker over Ole Miss at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Like nearly every game against these guys -- and like every game involving Houston Nutt -- this game was a study in contradictions. Alabama should've won the game 31-3. Alabama also probably should've lost.
Consider the following things:
  • Alabama turned the ball over twice in the second half. Alabama also converted two Ole Miss touchdowns into 10 points. If not for the first sentence, the game's not even close. But if not for the second, um, Ole Miss wins.
  • Alabama dominated the game in the first half, then got thoroughly dominated -- physically and from a coaching standpoint -- in the second.
  • Alabama held Ole Miss in the second half twice on downs. Alabama also lost run-stopping beast Terrence Cody, definitely for a few weeks, possibly for the season (we'll see).
Even I was a study in contradiction. As the seconds ticked away in the fourth quarter, all I ould think about was how in the hell we're going to stop Tennessee -- rejuvenated after avoiding a Crooming at Neyland -- next week. At the same time, it occurred to me that this game might yet be lost, if someone didn't step up and do something.
As the game ended, I was too spent and too irritated to sing Rammer Jammer. Alabama didn't deserve to win the game, the way the second half went. But they came out on top, and being 7-0 ... can you really argue with that? I feel like an ungrateful wretch for even complaining about it.
But that's where we are, and still ranked second in the nation, both in the human polls and the new BCS standings. I guess I'm feeling like coach Saban at this point -- happy to be here, angry about the mistakes ... ready to go back to work.

Some other thoughts ...
-- People tailgating around where we were on the Quad actually couldn't remember the last time Alabama was 7-0. Really, folks -- it was three years ago. I wish I could pretend the Mike Shula fling didn't happen either, but it did happen -- I was here. Maybe the loss to LSU, followed by the sack debacle at Auburn took away the joy of that season, but it did happen.
-- 'Bama's staff added a few new wrinkles offensively during the off week, most notably a counter-trap with Travis McCall pulling that worked very well in the first half and then was never seen again (of course, the offense was barely on the field, so it's difficult to say).
-- John Parker also played well, continuing to show his deft touch on "touch routes" -- fades, post routes, etc., that call for a feathery touch on the football. His only real mistake of the day -- the interception in the third -- wasn't a bad throw as much as it was a busted assignment, although by whom, I don't know. We had pretty good seats behind the offensive bench, and the coaching staff seemed surprisingly diplomatic after that play (I was expecting a nuclear blast).
-- If I could become president of the world tomorrow, I'd tear down every jumbotron, everywhere.
-- While I'm praising the offense, let me add that I'm sick & tired of throwing on 3rd-and-1. I'm declaring jihad on a coaching staff that doesn't believe his OLs can gain a yard. C'mon.
-- Biggest play of the game? Kareem Jackson chasing down Enrique Davis in the first quarter to keep him out of the end zone. That was an outstanding play-call by Houston Nutt's staff -- he had Alabama badly out of position, something no one's really done to them all season. But Jackson made the stop, Alabama held Ole Miss to a figgie and -- of course -- won by four.
-- Saban's defense did an outstanding job of containg the vaunted "Wildcat" formation all game, allowing only one play of more than a yard or two and forcing a turnover -- Rashad Johnson's interception, which turned into John Parker's second TD. Good film study and outstanding coaching gets that done.
(By the way, I'm boycotting the term "W**d R*b**" because the name makes no sense. The formation is called "Wildcat" by whatever high school coach drew it up, Nutt adjusted it to "Wild Hog" at Arkansas in an effort to be clever (similar to Tuberville dubbing Al Borges' offense the "Gulf Coast" unit). But "W**d R***l" makes no sense.)
-- Jevan Snead reminds me more and more of Matt Jones. Ugly as hell to watch, but frustrates other teams' fans to no end.
-- Alabama's defense took a huge gamble on the game's deciding play, sending seven men at Mr. Snead and playing man-to-man in the secondary. It worked, but ... wow. What a chance.
-- I'm not giving any more money to the university until someone announces they'll no longer do the gimmicky "cheerleader-with-the-mic" thing in pregame. It's hokey, it's ridiculous and nobody digs it, not even the cheerleader with the mic. Let the band play an extra minute or two or something.
-- Alabama's offensive front didn't block a soul most of the second half. Those guys deserve to spend all week on the sled.
-- I understand coach Saban being upset at Marquis Maze after his touchdown -- he's not good enough to cost the team 15 yards for something so trivial as a first-quarter touchdown. On the other hand, the actions that prompted the penalty -- he posed with his arms crossed briefly -- seem pretty trivial. Was it as egregious as the official at Washington flagging poor Jake Locker for throwing the ball up after scoring a touchdown with 3 seconds to play against BYU? It was not. But it was still pretty bad.
-- Brad Smelley caught a pass Saturday. So it must've been a pretty good day for him.
-- If I'm Jim McElwain, I'm thinking of every conceivable way to get the ball in Julio Jones' hands this Saturday and Saturdays beyond. The kid needs it.

No 24-hour rule is necessary for me with this one. All I can see right now is orange. And it ain't pretty.
Then again, when you're 7-0, can it be anything else?

For more, read Cecil, BSR and Dr. Saturday.

Friday, October 17, 2008

a "Lost" Friday feels that way after last night

Last night's ALCS game 5 briefly turned me into Culley from "The Once and Future King." Damn the Red Sox. Damn Red Sox fans. And damn Tampa Bay, for failing to crush them when they had the chance and ensuring an almost certain death certificate in Games 6 & 7. Damn Sportscenter for continuing these highlights repeatedly. Damn it all.

In any case, in an effort to more fully understand ABC's "Lost," I'm posting a video that, cut together, shows the events of the crash of Oceanic 815 in (something close to) sequential order.

Are we able to glean anything from this? I'll let the commenters decide.

Have a good weekend, folks.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

lines, lines, everywhere a line

Random thought #1: After watching the highlights of the Phils clinching the National League last night at Chavez Ravine, I have to think it's a little weird that Brad Lidge has gone the entire season without blowing even one save opportunity. Really? That's not even a little strange, particularly given his history?

Random thought #2: Be sure to check out my "behind enemy lines" post at Yes, my friend Kurt is a shameless Aub provacateur, and yes, he's not above promoting himself and his own blog relentlessly. You can read it for my sake, no? OK ... maybe not.

In any case, here are this weekend's lines, coming -- as always -- direct from

Florida St. (-11) at NC State
BYU (-1) at TCU
Hawai'i (+24.5) at Boise St.
Syracuse (+24) at South Florida
Wisconsin (+3.5) at Iowa
Purdue (+4) at Northwestern
Ga. Tech (-2) at Clemson
(Note: Clemson's fallen quite a ways from the beginning of the season -- from potential NC contenders to getting two points AT HOME against Tech. By the way, check out Dr. Saturday's blog post about the ACC, and how the championship is basically still wide open halfway through the season.)
Texas Tech (-21) at Texas A&M
(Note: Speaking of falling a long way -- the Texas Aggies GETTING three touchdowns at home? Yikes.)
Wake Forest (-2) at Maryland
UConn (-1.5) at Rutgers
Vanderbilt (+14.5) at Georgia
Nebraska (-7) at Iowa St.
Baylor (+17) at Oklahoma St.
North Carolina (-5) at Virginia
Pittsburgh (-3) at Navy
Ohio St. (-3.5) at Michigan St.
USC (-42.5) at Washington St.
Miami (-4.5) at Duke
Ole Miss (+13.5) at Alabama
(Note: Said this yesterday: stay away ... stay away ... stay away ...)
Kansas (+21) at Oklahoma
Marshall (-3) at UAB
Michigan (+23.5) at Penn St.
Arkansas (+8) at Kentucky
Mississippi St. (+7.5) at Tennessee
Va. Tech (+3) at Boston College
Missouri (+6) at Texas
LSU (-3.5) at South Carolina
California (-3) at Arizona


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

apologies and wednesday youtube

Can't apologize enough to the 14 people who read this thing regularly for the lack of posting of late -- I'm still getting adjusted to this new schedule. I do need to shape up, obviously, particularly with Tennessee and LSU still out there on the horizon.

Anyway, here's this week's youtube, in honor of Alabama-Ole Miss, one of the truly underrated series in the SEC. True, the Tide has dominated the Rebels numerically -- 44-9-1 all-time, 31-1-1 in the state of Alabama -- but the game is almost always interesting.

One of my favorites is this one from 1989, when undefeated 'Bama fell behind 21-0 at Ole Miss in the first quarter.

Tide didn't lose that season until the trip to Auburn ... and I'm still dealing with that psychologically.

In any case, the last three seasons have delivered on a consistent basis, starting in '05 with another undefeated Tide team being pushed to the wire two weeks after a big win over Florida.

(Note: if you're looking for reasons Ed O lost his job in Oxford, the following is pretty much a tribute to his entire reign -- just close enough to break his fans' hearts.)

The very next season -- the one that turned out to be the swan song for Mike Shula -- Ole Miss came to Tuscaloosa and pushed Alabama again, this time sending the game to OT. Interestingly, I watched the ending of this one in the press box at Auburn prior to the Tigers' big win over Florida.

And, of course, there's last season's ending, when poor Shay Hodge and Lionel Mitchell got caught up in this.

Obviously, the poster of this particular vid is more than a little biased, as are these guys -- even if the song is pretty funny.

I can't really say much more about that particular play than I did on the old LJ the day after it happened -- basically, that Jackson and the refs got it right, regardless of whether you think it should've been reviewed; that it was such an obvious call that I'm not sure how the zebra on the scene screwed it up the first time; and finally, if Ole Miss really wanted to be pissed at the right thing, maybe they should've been more angry about the fact that they let a flaccid Tide team score 10 points in the fourth quarter to take the lead in the first place. Just saying.

Anyway, be prepared for another nail-biter in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. If you're a gambler, stay away. You'll thank me later.


Monday, October 13, 2008

allow me to be the last ...

Tommy Bowden was fired today at Clemson — not a huge surprise, I suppose, given the unreal expectations at season's beginning and how it's panned out (and by the way, watching Wake and Clemson struggle to an epic 12-7 ... something, ranks as one of the more excruciating experiences in life).

If the timing strikes you as odd, consider this: Bowden's teams at Clemson have shown a propensity for finishing strong, winning five of its last six or four straight or something like that. And it always happens just as the head coach is going on notice, and then he always pulls in a strong recruiting class ... and the cycle repeats itself again the following season.

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that the powers would rather just get rid of him now, so they don't have to go through that again.

More on this and other things later. I think.


Friday, October 10, 2008

a "Lost" Friday: putting it all in order

Sometimes I think I'm far too obsessed with trying to figure out what's going on in "Lost," at least until I watch some of the fan vids on youtube.

My new favorite -- this one putting all of Season 4's flash-forwards in rough chronological order (though they leave out the finale, where Jeremy Bentham's identity is discussed).

There exist in the circles of those in the know about 100 theories about what's going on here. The most pervasive theme, to me, is the one we discussed way back in June, as the season was winding down:
If we can't live together, we're going to die alone.
In the words of Linda from "Coffee Talk," discuss amongst yourselves.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday: line up

Just came home from a county work session in time to see Wake Forest complete one of the worst goal-line sequences in college football history. If you didn't see it, I won't spoil it for you -- suffice to say Tony Franklin would've truly enjoyed it.
(Which reminds me: I had a few thoughts on Franklin typed out before the computer at work decided to erase them. So I've got nothing. For the best Franklin-related commentary or really anything Auburn, try Joe Cribbs Car Wash. He's also got several replacements in mind, as well.)

Anyway, we've got lines to throw out for this weekend -- Clemson-Wake is obviously locked out at this point, but we can give you Saturday, in all its glory.

Enough stalling. All lines courtesy

Louisville (-7) at Memphis
Texas (+7) vs. Oklahoma
East Carolina (-6.5) at Virginia
(Note: Weird season already for Skip Holtz -- he's only a 6.5 favorite at a thoroughly loathsome Virginia team. Strange.)
Colorado (+14) at Kansas
South Carolina (-2.5) at Kentucky
Kansas St. (-3) at Texas A&M
Vanderbilt (-3) at Mississippi St.
(Note: I like the Bullies in this one. Could explain but won't. Take them here and thank me Sunday when you're buying steak for dinner.)
Nebraska (+21) at Texas Tech
Tennessee (+13) at Georgia
Notre Dame (+8.5) at North Carolina
Michigan St. (-1.5) at Northwestern
Central Florida (+17) at Miami (Fla.)
Arkansas (+17) at Auburn
(Note: Weird line. Opened at 19 Monday and didn't move much, not even with the Franklin thing. Auburn can't move the ball, Arkansas can't stop anybody; Auburn's defense is rock-solid, Arkansas ... oh, whatever. Don't bet this one at all.)
Arizona (-7) at Stanford
Boise St. (-11) at Southern Miss
Oklahoma St. (+14.5) at Missouri
Penn St. (-6) at Wisconsin
LSU (+6) at Florida
UCLA (+20) at Oregon
La. Tech (+7.5) at Hawai'i

And with that, enjoy the rest of the high-school football, tonight on ESPN.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the Spread Eagle is no more

I don't know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Tony Franklin Era.

Sadly, it appears now to be over.

In a bizarre turn of events, Franklin was fired hours before Wednesday's practice in preparation for Saturday's game against Arkansas after he and head coach Tommy Tuberville apparently had words.
Franklin had vowed just the day before that that the "old Tony Franklin" was back and had led a high-energy, up-tempo offensive practice.

Damn. We'll never know what the old Tony Franklin looks like. Oh, well ...
(Also, if you're interested in a job, call Jay Jacobs. Seriously.)


wednesday youtube takes a quick look back

Regardless of what happens over the next six weeks, let's please not forget what's happened during the first six. And yes, I'm talking to myself as much as anyone else.

For example ...

Yeah, that one was fun.
You may also remember this one ...

That one was fun, too. Wait, is it possible to be proud and completely freaked out at the same time?
(Jeez ... sometimes I think open dates are the best things on the planet.)
Have a good Wednesday, everybody. Keep an eye out for my guest post at Also, Roll Tide. But you knew that already.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the table doesn't take a week off

Apologies for the lack of postage over the weekend -- there was the race, followed by the job change, which has gone over well thus far (the paper's at the press and everything's cool, so far as I know). I know you've missed me opining about Alabama's narrow victory over Kentucky, as well as that ... Vandy ... thing (perhaps you heard).
As penance, here's this week's Crimson & White Roundtable, which I'm now participating in as a full-fledged Alabama fan. This week's host is 3rd Saturday in Blogtober. Also, keep an eye out at, where I'll be guest-blogging this week.

1. What are your feelings on Alabama’s current position in the polls? Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?
Frankly, at this point, there's not a whole lot I can say. I don't like being the second-ranked team in the nation, but there's simply no way around it. Long as the boys keep winning, they're staying up there. So ... I guess it's fine. Whatever.

2. What aspect of the game did Alabama control that shocked you the most? What aspect of the game was Alabama dominated in that shocked you the most?
I heard a writer who attended Saturday's game raving about Julio Jones -- after seeing him in person, he says he's frightened at what the kid might look like next season or the season after that. And ya know what? He's got a point. A collegiate weight program will do incredible things for this kid, who already looks like he's from another planet.
As for where our guys were "dominated," like Palin and Biden, I can't address that question specifically. But I was surprised at the number of penalties, many of them preventable.
I recall one blogger -- and I can't remember which one, so I apologize -- grousing because some of us have cautiously reminded everyone that the team hasn't faced true adversity just yet. Well, a game like this is kind of where I was driving. Some games, no matter how good you are, your game plan doesn't work to perfection; sometimes you have to deal with BS penalties that take away key first-down plays; sometimes you fumble the ball inside the other team's 20 and get burned on a big play or two. Well, how will your team respond when that happens?
In our case, our team responded OK. We'll see what happens in two weeks -- you just know something weird will happen when Houston Nutt brings Ole Miss here.

(Hold on -- we're combining questions 3&4 ...)
3. Name your player of the game on Offense. Also name one on Defense.
4. We’re six games into the Process: Year 2, and the team has made vast improvements since last season. Who, in your opinion, has made the biggest jump since last year?
On offense, I'll go with Glen Coffee. During his first two seasons at Alabama, Coffee could best be described as "a nice back who does some nice things," and that'd be about it. But something happened this offseason. Maybe he saw the improvement being made by guys like Upchurch and Mark Ingram. Maybe he suddenly matured as an upperclassman. I have no idea what happened, but the dude became an every-down gamebreaker, enough that some very smart people have discussed him as a dark-horse Heisman candidate.
(Now, if he doesn't shed those fumbling woes, we'll re-visit this discussion. But right now I think it's important that we have it.)
Defensively, you could pick from a number of different guys for player of the half-season. Rashad Johnson, Rolando McClain, Terrence Cody. But what about Bobby Greenwood? Do you realize he was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week? No kidding! Bobby Bleeping Greenwood! I mean, I know good programs take a big leap in Year 2, but ... seriously -- Bobby Greenwood?!!!

5. Profess your feelings for Jim McElwain. Prose, poetry, in song, or in any other way you see fit.
Two ways I can profess how I feel about the man.
First, there's the obvious stat: 81-0 in the first quarter. The guy's putting together outstanding game plans, and they're obviously being well-executed.
Second, there's this: my friend Zach -- an Auburn homer from Opelika -- texted me on Saturday to let me know that my team is "the best-coached team in America ... and I love your OC."
When fans of your archrival are saying things like that, you know you're into something good.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

lines, lines, lines

A quick glance around the college football universe for the weekend. As has become a custom this season, this week's lines come courtesy of

Pittsburgh (+14) at South Florida
Memphis (-3.5) at UAB
Iowa (+7.5) at Michigan St.
Duke (+13) at Georgia Tech
Boston College (-9) at North Carolina St.
Kansas (-13) at Iowa St.
Florida (-25.5) at Arkansas
(Note: Pretty low point for the Hawgs, no matter who's the coach: at home, in conference and GETTING nearly four touchdowns. Seriously.)
South Carolina (+2.5) at Ole Miss
Stanford (+7) at Notre Dame
Kentucky (+16.5) at Alabama
Texas Tech (-8) at Kansas St.
Florida St. (+2) at Miami
Arizona St. (+9.5) at California
Illinois (+6) at Michigan
Navy (+6) at Air Force
Auburn (-4.5) at Vanderbilt
UConn (+7) at North Carolina
Maryland (-14) at Virginia
Texas A&M (+25) at Oklahoma St.
Texas (-14) at Colorado
Northern Illinois (+16) at Tennessee
Oregon (+16.5) at USC
Ohio St. (-2) at Wisconsin
Missouri (-11) at Nebraska
Washington St. (+11.5) at UCLA

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

wednesday youtube has the rabbit ears

Video highlights from over the years of Alabama and Kentucky on the football field are fairly slim -- not only have they not played regularly since the conference split into divisions in '92, but the 'Cats have only beaten 'Bama once since 1922.

In fact, we have the video of that one.

That was pretty much the beginning of the bad times in the Mike DuBose era, frankly.

For a random, slightly-happier moment against the 'Cats, here's a 1988 clash that featured Bill Curry and an early 17-0 hole.

UK head coach Rich Brooks is already comparing this game to last year's game vs. LSU ... and I'm guessing we all remember what happened there.