Anyway, here are a few scattered thoughts from Saturday ...
-- The prevailing storyline pushed by much of the television heads from Saturday was Florida vs. Alabama, which may explain why the networks chose to set up the Gamecock-Gator matchup to wrap up mere minutes before State-'Bama. Obviously, the game can't be broken down right now -- not when both teams have a gigantic archrival left on the schedule. Still, the two teams look remarkably similar in how they're built. Both of them run the football, both of them force turnovers on defense. And both of them are well-drilled on special teams -- Alabama would've ground to a tight finish vs. State without its kicking game, and Florida used its special-teams prowess to blow open Saturday's win over Carolina. Obviously, the Gators possess more speed, and no one employs a player quite like Tim Tebow. On the other hand, Alabama has Nick Saban, the ultimate X factor defensively.
-- Just an aside: Mississippi St. isn't a bad football team -- in fact, they're really no worse this year than they were a season ago. But, as we've already established, the Crooms are built in such a way that they a) can't win high-scoring games and b) can't come back from a deficit of greater than 10 points in the second half. It's just not happening. They're salty on defense, and Anthony Dixon's size and strength can't be adequately appreciated (Alabama's best guys were bouncing off him all night). But once they fall behind two scores, they're pretty much out of it. That's just the way it is.
-- I really liked the way coach Saban handled the Rolando McClain situation, declining comment, keeping his LB away from the press and finally saying the following:
"What he was involved in will be handled internally and as a family. He played well, and I'm proud of him. I'm proud of the way he represents our team. I think he's one of the best guys on our team. And if he made a mistake because somebody else did something, we all make them. I'm not going to penalize him and punish him. We'll discipline him and change his behavior so he does better and that's about it. Because he's done a lot for this university and he's a great leader.While we're here, some Alabama fans need to collectively grow up and have some perspective. Ian and the rest of the press have to ask these questions; if they don't, they're not doing their jobs properly. It's not their job to get Saban to like them, and it's certainly not their job to only ask questions off the approved list. It's their job to gather information and perspectives of the people so they can accurately tell stories people want to read. So give them a break; they're not actually vultures.
"I'm proud to have him on this team."
-- I don't know the people in charge of Alabama football game presentation, but on the off chance they'd read a random blog on a random Monday, here's an open letter to them:
Dear Whoever is In Charge of Gameday at Bryant-Denny:-- Auburn's game plan defensively against Georgia was very similar to the one Alabama used: play the safeties back, keep everything in front of you and hope they eventually get antsy and start trying to throw deep. State used a similar plan against 'Bama. The prevailing theme: make them earn everything. In Auburn's case, they came within a handful of plays of winning the game, and State had a shot until they made the suicidal decision to keep kicking to Javier Arenas.
Please stop. Please, just stop and leave us alone.
I'm speaking on behalf of roughly 100,000 people here. We've continued driving to Tuscaloosa in spite of ridiculously-high gas prices and a sinking economy. We patronize all the local businesses, keep buying tickets despite the fact that we're having to take food out of our children's mouths to do so, and we've continued coming even as the program sunk to new depths we never even thought possible.
We do this, of course, because we love Alabama football. We grew up listening to stories about coach Bryant, about Joe Willie and the Goal Line Stand. And we're hoping we get to see some great moments in our lives as fans.
So please, stop. Stop irritating us with this riduclous "entertainment" garbage. This isn't a theme park. It's a football game. We came to watch the football game.
Stop with the ridiculous effort to make Alabama fans chant after every first down. Stop sending the cheerleaders onto the field with a giant microphone in pregame. And for the love of God, stop broadcasting instructions -- GET UP AND YELL -- over the jumbotron. You may not believe this, but most of us are actually adults with self-respect capable of thinking for ourselves. And we're also Alabama fans, which means we don't carry ourselves with the belief that making more noise will cause the team to play better. Sorry, bu that's just the way it is.
We really want to come to games and enjoy the games. So please, please, please. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.
-- Judging officiating, obviously is very subjective, but Alabama certainly didn't get any favors from the stripes Saturday. On at least a half-dozen pass plays, Tide linemen were held with no consequence. On consecutive plays in the fourth quarter, Mark Ingram's facemask was nearly twisted off -- no call. And State's lone TD was the end result of an offensive push-off that was so obvious, even Chris Stewart recognized it as it was happening.
-- Alabama's biggest defensive liability continues to be its relative lack of a consistent pass rush. The Tide pretty much has to blitz in order to get pressure, and the few big plays State had came as a result of that.
-- Supposedly, Saban promised to take down the posters in the locker room displaying the score of last year's State game if the team took care of business Saturday. My guess is this week they're down ... and replaced with photos from Auburn last year. Seriously, any threat of looking past Auburn should be eliminated in about 5 seconds, just long enough for everybody to remember Tuberville dancing in the middle of Bryant-Denny two years ago. Also, this ...
Oh, it's on. Let there be no doubt.
-- One final note: Saban normally concludes every game by shaking the hand of the opposing coach, then running off the field as quickly as he can. Saturday he stopped midway through the end zone, just long enough to soak in the scene, wave to the crowd and give the thumbs-up all the way around.
Obviously, that's not the greatest display of heartfelt emotion in coaching history. But with the $4 million Man, it's about as good as it gets.