Sunday, November 30, 2008

and that, as they say ... is that

"Damn ... I don't want to lose to these folks again."

My dad said those words standing outside Mary Hewell Alston Hall in Tuscaloosa Saturday morning, eating and drinking and looking towards Bryant-Denny Stadium with a sense of foreboding.

Is he pessimistic? Are he and I overly negative? Absolutely. But the words illustrate the mentality of Alabama fans, particularly when it comes to Auburn.

See, we as Tide fans like to pretend we don't care that much about Auburn -- we like to pretend it's Auburn who's obsessed with us (that "little brother" thing), that the rivalry with Auburn is an important game, but only in the sense that it's another SEC game and a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Honestly, we just don't think that much about Auburn, we tell everybody who can hear.

The truth is slightly more complicated. As a fan base, we have great expectations. We want to win championships -- SEC championships, national championships. We want to be an elite program. Beating Auburn, in most cases, isn't going to make our season.
On the other hand, losing to Auburn sure as hell won't accomplish anything. Losing to Auburn means having to hear about "the streak" for 12 more months, to hear about how Alabama fans are irrational, have expectations too high, live in the past, blah, blah, blah.
Furthermore, we can't NOT think that much about Auburn. They're our neighbors. Our relatives. Our wives (in the case of my dad). We think about, read about and watch Auburn, just as much as we watch our own team -- after all, we're football fans.
So this was a big game for all of us, despite what some Auburn bloggers believed about Tide fans looking past it. Nobody wanted the comeback season of the Nick Saban Era to be cut short by a loss to our in-state brethren.

I don't guess I need to tell you how we're all feeling today.

The fact is, it's the first time in a while that Alabama fans have had occasion to feel completely positive about the team's performance. As I stated at this time two years ago, for every positive Alabama football has experienced in the past decade, there's been at least one negative. The SEC Championship in 1999 was immediately negated by a loss in the Orange Bowl and the mess that followed in 2000. The last moment of joy that came against Auburn -- 2001 -- was dampened quickly by the horror of the NCAA probation that followed in January. A 10-win season in '02 was slightly tainted by the knowledge that there was no postseason at the end of the rainbow -- then a loss at home to Auburn made everyone forget about the 10 wins to begin with. And, of course, there was the last 10-win campaign, which ended with the Brodie Croyle sackfest at Jordan-Hare and Tommy Tuberville snidely holding up four fingers in the middle of Pat Dye Field (or whatever it is).
So maybe that's the significance of Saturday, as well as the season overall: in the words of Oddball from Kelly's Heroes, "Positive waves, man ... positive waves." Not only is the team ranked number one in the nation, not only is it preparing to face Florida in the biggest SEC Championship Game EVAR, but the roster sports only 9 seniors. And the head coach has proven himself (arguably) the best recruiter and hiring of assistants in the country.
Maybe we're not entering a golden age here, but it sure feels that way. And yes, beating Auburn -- ending the misery in Tuscaloosa, ending the 6 years of frustration and anguish, sending them home without a bowl bid to squabble about their own problems -- was the necessary next step.

As for the game itself, I began thinking about the last 6 years against Auburn, and what each loss had shown about Alabama in each case. It occurred to me then that each game -- for each team -- was a microcosm of how each team's individual seasons had gone. From the perspective of an Alabama fan, every loss to Auburn since 2002 was symbolic of a team that couldn't rise to the occasion when it mattered most, for one reason or another (in '04 there was a giant hole at quarterback, in '05 the offensive line was dreadfully thin, in '06 ... well, let's not even go there).
Saturday was no exception. Likely there will be Auburn fans that will say -- as some of the Auburn players said afterwards -- that Alabama was handed the game, the same way they've been handed games all season, or somesuch. And that's partially true, sure.
But the other half of that is this: good teams force others to make mistakes in big situations. Bad teams commit mistakes in those same situations. In other words, what happened Saturday was a simple statement on everything wrong with Auburn, as well as everything right with Alabama: i.e., the Tide has been forcing other teams into bad spots all year, and Auburn has been killing itself in big spots all year. That's just the way it is.
The most telling part of the game came in the second half, when Alabama dominated Auburn up front in a way that hasn't happened since ... well, 2001. I, of course, have a long memory where these things are concerned, and I immediately remembered writing the following lines at this time last year:
No scheme Saban or Kevin Steele could design, however, could keep Auburn from pounding them up front with that big offensive line. And by the way, that's the same thing Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and even Mississippi State were able to do consistently to Alabama this season. Whether it's offseason training, recruiting or a mere attitude adjustment, Alabama has got to get better up front defensively. If you can't stop the run in this league, you shouldn't be able to win consistently.
Actually, all three things happened during the offseason. The presence of Terrence Cody, et al., was a huge difference from a season ago (when the "talent" up front included the likes of Wallace Gilberry). Clearly, an entire offseason under Saban's weight regimen has made a huge difference on both sides of the line. And it's obvious this team is all on the same page and has a clear identity: they enjoy being bullies, enjoy pounding the crap out of the opposition, enjoy watching the other teams wilt in front of them down the stretch.
In fact, the perfect emblem of the game was Andre Smith, in the fourth quarter, on his final play in the game, chasing a block downfield and losing his helmet in the process. That's this team's personality. And I love it.

Some other thoughts ...
-- You knew Alabama fans weren't going to comport themselves with the utmost class after the game. But chasing Auburn players out the gate on their way to the locker room and holding up seven fingers may have been a step too far. Just saying.
-- My deepest sympathies in the game went out to Tez Doolittle, an Opelika alum who fought back from crippling injuries to receive a sixth year of NCAA eligibility, only to have it disintegrate into this. Tez really deserves better.
-- The future of Tommy Tuberville, obviously, is up for discussion. Frankly, it seems as though this season took something significant out of him, from the Franklin saga to his bizarre conference in which he insisted he hadn't had a stroke until Saturday. He seemed remarkably at ease in the postgame, which can be interpreted as a) a guy who's already made peace with his departure or b) a classy loser who's been assured he's coming back. Obviously, I have nothing to do with the decision-making process. I say his body of work has already shown what he is: a consistently good defensive coach with the ability to pull upsets in big games, but probably not a guy who's going to helm a championship program on a consistent basis. I say Auburn keeps him, but he needs to hit a home run with his next OC hire. Then again, I said the same thing about Mike Shula two years ago.
-- One of the reasons the right guy calling the plays can make a difference: early on, Auburn was controlling the line of scrimmage defensively and badly overplaying to Alabama's strong side. McElwain adjusted by quick-snapping at the line a few times (pushing Auburn out of its comfort zone defensively) and then running counter-action to the weak side. Once they'd gained a little momentum, it made all the difference in the world.
-- On Alabama's last TD: to me, it seemed like what Bill Simmons referred to as an "Eff You TD." In other words, you've rubbed our noses in it for the last six years, so ... Eff You (interesting because Saban's former boss, Bill Belichick, patented this idea last season). On the other hand, Saban DID have his second team in the game, and the pass was essentially a throwaway. So it's not as though he was running a full-court press with a 20-point lead with 2 minutes to go. The pass actually was eerily similar to the play that ended Tyrone Prothro's career in a similar situation against Florida in 2005, yet another difference between Shula and Saban.
-- Notable pregame appearances: Sara Evans (there to ruin the National Anthem) and Siran Stacy (apparently recovered enough from his injuries to jump around and jack up the crowd).
-- Other plays that might have helped turn the game in Alabama's favor: Saban's timeout at the end of the first half (taking 3 points off the board) and a dropped interception on Alabama's first possession of the second half (might have been 6 the other way).
-- Glimmer of hope for Auburn fans: on a second-half run right before his second fumble, Kodi Burns simply abused Rolando McClain and might have gone for a huge gain had not Rashad Johnson caught him by the foot. Also worth noting: Auburn's best drive of the game came when Burns was in a two-minute situation (aided twice by ridiculous blitzes brought by Alabama). If Tommy Tuberville can hire the right guy to shepherd Burns for the next seven months, that Auburn team will be back and back quickly.
-- My cousin Jamie referred to Auburn as "the meanest field positioners in the nation." Let's see them put THAT line in the media guide next year.
-- One other subtle adjustment I liked: in the second half, when it became obvious that Auburn was intentionally kicking away from Javier Arenas, the Tide sent Julio Jones deep in a double-safety set, essentially daring the Tigers to try kicking away from him again.
-- And finally, arguably the greatest moment of the game: the loudest Rammer Jammer I've ever witnessed.

You know what? We'll worry about Florida tomorrow.


Friday, November 28, 2008

just win, 'Bama

For tomorrow, forget about Florida. Florida doesn't matter.

For tomorrow, forget about the BCS. The BCS doesn't matter.

Forget about Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, USC and whoever else might lay claim to a national title this season. None of that matters on Saturday.

Forget about style points. Style points simply don't enter into the equation when you're talking about this game. Besides that, Auburn has too much talent and too much pride to get blown out by its in-state rival.

Focus only on what needs to be done. Win the game. Take back the state. Get it done.

There are no more excuses. Alabama is the better team. Alabama has better personnel on offense. Alabama has better personnel on defense. Alabama has a better punter and placekicker. Alabama has better coaches.

Forget about the 11 games you've won this season. They don't matter anymore. Georgia, LSU, Arkansas, Clemson ... all of it is immaterial. Beating Auburn is all that matters this weekend -- ending the streak, exorcising the demon ... whatever you call it, it needs to be done and done with authority on Saturday.

Most importantly, forget about what I think. I don't matter. This disjointed blog doesn't matter. A "Lost" Friday doesn't matter. Thursday lines don't matter.

Let's just finish this thing and move on. In the words of Tony from "Rocky IV," now you're the one. So do it. Do it.

Roll Tide, Roll.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

wednesday youtube is out of order

Decided to try something different for this week's youtube montage, and I promise it will all make sense when I get to the end. These are games from my own personal memory -- which runs from roughly the late '80s until now. And I'm showing them to you in reverse. Like I said, it will make more sense when we get there.

First, our last moment of joy in this series.

Before that, there was the first win at Jordan-Hare, or the night Shaun Alexander and 'Bama's offensive line took over the fourth quarter.

Like a smart person, I stayed away from Toomer's Corner that night. I'm not an idiot.

One of the weirdest nights in series history was the '98 game, weird for me because a) I'd scored a ticket that morning from a friend at church; b) I had to meet my group in the stadium (so I was actually walking in by myself, a big step for a 17-year-old); c) I was sitting in the Auburn section. It was weird for the series because a) both teams were just lousy -- Auburn was 3-8 and 'Bama wasn't much better; b) it turned out to be the last game Auburn ever played at Legion Field. As he would do in '99, Shaun Alexander basically owned this game in the second half.

Interesting note: on the way home, I was lectured by a friend of mine from church -- I'm pretty sure he was serious -- about how my soul would be in danger if I went to school at Alabama, that everybody there drinks heavily, that I'd have to join a fraternity, blah, blah, blah. Whatever.

My first trip to Legion Field had actually come two years before that, to see this game that turned out to be Gene Stallings' final one.

Quite a way to see this one first-hand. Interesting note: from 1995 until 1999, all of these games were broadcast as the night game on ESPN. Also, when you see Michael Vaughn mugging for the camera on his way off the field, note that the feed actually shuts off before he has a chance to scream, "Get off Freddie Kitchens' back!"

The great un-discussed game in the history of the series -- which consistently delivered the goods from an entertainment standpoint throughout the decade of the1990s -- was the '94 game, when both teams entered the game undefeated (Auburn was on probation and had tied UGA the week before but hadn't lost in a long, long time at that point).
It came down to a ball spot.

A great debate has raged since then about that spot. And honestly, I have no answer. If the Teagles hadn't surrendered 21 points in the first half, maybe they wouldn't have been in that spot in the first place.

The national title was within reach in 1992 for the Stallings' squad, but first they had to go through Auburn -- disappointing but still tough -- on Thanksgiving Day. As if that wasn't enough, the night before the game, coach Pat Dye -- fighting some sort of liver sickness and the NCAA wolves -- announced his resignation the night before the game.
The game was predictably tough and physical. And, as was typical for Alabama that season, a defensive score broke it open.

Our final stop on this tour is 1990. Alabama had lost four straight to Auburn going into that one, including the '89 game, when an undefeated Tide team got ambushed in its first-ever trip to Jordan-Hare. That next season -- Stallings' first squad in Tuscaloosa -- the Tide exorcised its demons in Birmingham.
Listen to this one all the way until the end to hear Jim Nantz nail the final call.

Let's hope the frustration is to be at an end this Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And also, Happy Birthday to my mom, who's enjoyed the last 6 years much more than I have.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Links for The Game That Used to be the Iron Bowl

Links to whet your appetite for this week:
— In all of his honest, animated glory, Nick Saban tells reporters "it's not just a game." Thank you, sir. You may have figured this thing out after all.
— As he always does, Gump 4 Heisman delivers the goods with a column about why Nick Saban shouldn't smile. I mean, ever.
What if a small child saw Nick Saban smile? While he was building a treehouse? And then what if he thought ‘Eh, I’ve done enough.’ And then what if he thought ‘I’m going to sit back and enjoy my treehouse.’ And then what if he tried to climb his unfinished treehouse and broke his leg?
Do you want small children to break their legs? Then don’t ask Nick Saban to smile.
— As only he can, Cecil takes time from reporting on the Alabama basketball disaster to reflect on the Auburn-'Bama recent history.
(By the way, I didn't stay up to watch last night's debacle in Maui, but I heard from my friend Zach, an Auburn fan, "'Bama doesn't have any offensive plays other than isos." Wait ... what year is this again?)
— Fans on the game: RBR wants you to turn it up a notch, and PMR blogs about his hatred of Auburn, at least for the time being.
— Continuing his tradition of kicking whoever's down at the moment, Finebaum says Auburn shouldn't show up. Well-done, sir. Well-done.
— This isn't a link, but I figured I should share an email from my cousin's husband, Jamie, in preparation for the upcoming weekend.
I wish people would quit saying "throw out the records." One of many college football myths. The better team usually wins and I see nothing different Saturday. Emotions will keep it close, and if our coaches were into it, i'd feel better but they are not. A friend who works in the Ath Dept took some balls for TT to sign where coach promply responded "Not sure if they want these, I may not be here in 2 weeks." This is a bad attitude considering you are playing a team coached by a man who is more "into it" than any I have ever seen. I guarantee you Nick Saban has no idea Thanksgiving is this week.
I see a game much like 2004 in reverse. These teams are not real close. bama has the leadership, confidence, superior coaching and better QB, WR, RB, TE, DB's, Kickers and as good or better everywhere else. I just don't see how it can happen for us.
ua 23, AU 10

Back with more later.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

thought for the weekend ...

For a very long time, I've been one of the loudest voices speaking out against a playoff in Division I college football. I'm a traditionalist at heart, never believed in throwing the football if you can gain 4.5 yards/carry in a regular two-back set and favor the old-style 50 defense over everything else. So it's natural that I think nostalgically of the days when Alabama might have already guaranteed itself a Sugar Bowl trip and abhor the idea of a postseason tournament -- it just ... I don't know ... it seems wrong.

So I have no pleasure today in coming to you waving the white flag. Seriously, I give. I admit the BCS is ridiculous, admit the national championship process in football is flawed, admit we need to do something different.

(Taking a deep breath.)

My thoughts on exactly how to accomplish this have been myriad. I've been, alternately, a fan of 4 teams, 6 teams and 8 teams, all of which could be done while keeping the inferior bowls running.
Today, however, I submit to you that a 16-team playoff is the bandwagon upon which I'm hopping. Obviously, there are pitfalls -- you'd have to trim the regular season, first off, and you'd probably have to try and convince the conferences with championship games to dump them.
(While we're here, can we please drop the ridiculous notion that only conference champions would be admitted to a potential playoff, any potential playoff? The designation "conference champion" means nothing when it comes to crowning a national champ -- it's like saying the Red Sox shouldn't have won the World Series in 2004 because they weren't division champs. Who cares? Does anybody remember who won the Big XII basketball tournament last year? I bet you don't, but I bet you do remember that Kansas won the NCAA Tournament. Wait, where were we?)

The arguments against a 16-team playoff are myriad. I know because I've made most of them. So let's address them one by one.
-- It would kill the bowl system. First of all, there shouldn't be more than 10-15 bowl games under any circumstance, anyway. Does anyone actually get excited to watch 6-6 play 7-5 in Shreveport every year? What about the Bowl, which matches two mediocre teams from conferences no one cares about? These bowls need to go away, and I have no problem with that.
-- It de-values the regular season. The regular season has already been compromised to a staggering degree, starting with the SEC Championship Game -- a terriffic money-making venture but one that rendered much of October & November useless -- and continuing with the addition of a 13th game (used in large part to pad the schedule with another Citadel or Arkansas St.). When LSU is winning the title with two losses, and Nebraska's playing for the title three weeks after being de-pantsed on national television by Colorado, it's safe to say the regular season has already been de-valued. We're not breaking any new ground here.
-- You're lining the NCAA's pockets. The real reason college presidents are so dead-set against the idea of a playoff: the bowl system right now pays out huge chunks of money to the universities and their conferences (one of the many reasons Vanderbilt will never leave the SEC -- they get the same bowl share everybody else does every offseason). In a playoff system, it's likely the NCAA would receive the bulk of the money, as it does from the NCAA basketball tournament. So yes, it is fair to raise this question, and some people much smarter than I am will have to figure out how to make it profitable for everyone involved.

So how would this 16-team affair play out? In my brain, the first two rounds would take place on home fields, with the BCS system used to determine 1 seeds for 4 different regions (in an effort to cut down on travel and thus increase the gates). It wouldn't always work, obviously -- right now Alabama, Florida, Texas and Texas Tech dominate the four top spots. But once the season plays itself out, that should resolve itself.
Furthermore, you give more chances to the little guys. If the playoff started tomorrow, TCU and BYU would get a shot. Even Ball State could play its way into things with a break or two. To me, that's better for the big guys, also -- the best way to get people to shut up about these "mid-majors" is to play them and whip them. The tournament would give everyone a chance to do this.

It's not a perfect system, of course. And it never really will be -- even in basketball, where 65 teams get in, there are still squabbles. But that's the way I'd play it out in my dreams.
Sadly, in reality, we're stuck with what we have.


a "Lost" Friday: smoke on the water

As we begin the countdown for the return of ABC's "Lost" -- an interminable wait already for people (like me) who genuinely enjoy picking apart a show with so many layers -- I must ask the question: is it really necessary for ABC to continue torturing us with promos like these, this far in advance?

Apparently, it is. In the meantime, let us now pause to consider the Smoke Monster, one of the features on the show I absolutely hated when I first started watching it and am slowly warming to.
Here's a vid that (sort of) gives some details about the Monster and some interesting tidbits.

The important questions remain:
  • What is this thing?
  • What exactly does it do?
  • Who does it target?
  • And -- as with most everything else on the show -- for the love of God, why?
Discuss amongst yourselves.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Line(s) forms just to the right

This week's lines come to us, as always, from As always, we don't encourage gambling, particularly on college football. It's a good way to become poor.

Miami (+3.5) at Ga. Tech
(Note: Thank God for Tech fans -- according to this story from the AJC, the university had planned for a "white out" in tonight's game, only it's likely the fans won't do it because it's "silly." Let's hope this becomes a trend.)
Fresno St. (-3.5) at San Jose St.
Army (+19) at Rutgers
Clemson (-2.5) at Virginia
Indiana (+12.5) at Purdue
Michigan (+21) at Ohio St.
(Note: Obviously, anytime you turn over a coaching staff, there are some growing pains, and the team will struggle a little -- for further evidence, see last year's Alabama team in November. On the other hand, I'm not certain this Michigan team has ANY acceptable excuse for losing 9 games. Seriously.)
West Virginia (-7) at Louisville
NC State (+11) at North Carolina
Tennessee (+3) at Vanderbilt
(Note: God bless Vandy. Also, they could still very easily get to 8 wins -- they have this game and Wake Forest left on the schedule, and both are very winnable.)
Arkansas (-1) at Mississippi St.
Syracuse (+20) at Notre Dame
Washington (-7) at Washington St.
Ole Miss (+4) at LSU
Illinois (-3) at Northwestern
Michigan St. (+14.5) at Penn St.
BYU (+7) at Utah
(Note: Arguably the best game of the day. And you think I'm kidding.)
East Carolina (-6.5) at UAB
(Note: Remember the beginning of the season, when ECU was looming as the potential spoiler in the Big East? Now they're giving less than a touchdown at sorry UAB? And we've all agreed not to talk about it, apparently?)
Texas Tech (+7) at Oklahoma

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday youtube is late, but focused

Make no mistake about it: Auburn is all I'm thinking about right now and about all I'll think about for the next 10 days. We owe them. 11-0, Atlanta, the BCS ... nothing matters right now except next Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Since we're in the bye week, we'll keep this simple for today -- here's an historic Iron Bowl (back when it was OK to call it that) for reasons beyond the rivalry.

The man made history, indeed. That was the culmination of a 9-year win streak over the Tigers, as well as one of the last enduring images from the greatest coaching career in football history.
Roll Tide, Roll.


a quick note on something that may only be important to me

Things have been so crazy here at work: dead bodies, fired public officials, bad drinking water and so forth. I meant to comment on something I've been pondering a great deal, even if it's a situation I have very little to do with at this point.

You might remember the stories about the imminent retirement of my old head coach, Spence McCracken, which broke last spring. Officially, his career apparently ended on Friday, as top-ranked Prattville hammered the 'Dawgs at Stanley-Jensen Stadium in the second round of the AHSAA playoffs. I was at the game, and I can say two things about it:
• Opelika hasn't been dominated like that once since coach McCracken took over, not even in his first season when we had 45 players on the entire roster and most of them were average at best.
• At their best, our guys are probably 14 points behind Prattville. They weren't at their best Friday, by any means, but probably wouldn't have won the game under any normal circumstances.

The focus now shifts to hiring 'Crack's replacement — Coach, for his part, insisted in today's paper that he's not retiring, but that he's definitely done as head coach at OHS.
“I just want to reiterate that I’m not retiring. I might coach again, I might not. I’m just keeping my options open right now.
“When I originally announced the thing about retirement, I knew that I had done everything I could do at Opelika and that I couldn’t possible accomplish more. I felt it was time for some new blood and a change.
“But for now, I still plan on working for (school superintendent) Mark Neighbors and (principal) Stan Cox for the next couple of years, and I’m looking forward to working with the kids in the spring and summer and doing whatever I can to lend assistance to the next coach at Opelika.”
The identity of that next head coach is arguably the most popular topic in the city right now. The heir apparent for the job all along has been offensive coordinator Brian Blackmon, who's served on the staff at OHS since (I think) 1996, has a younger brother who's already bolted for a head-coaching job (Ben, at 5A Greenville) and played for 'Crack at Lee (even caught a TD pass in one of those infamous playoff losses to 'Crack's Lee High teams back in the early 1990s). The prevailing wisdom has always been that Brian wouldn't have stayed an assistant this long, unless he believed he'd have first crack at the job when the old man called it quits.
(Here comes the part where I admit my bias on this subject: I played for Brian three years, have a huge amount of respect for him as a person and as a coach and would love to see him get the opportunity. I'm almost 10 years removed from that and have a little perspective. I hope. We'll see.)
Naturally, the opening has been the subject of much interest. One person with sources — and a huge affinity for exaggeration — claims applications have come in "from all over the country." The hottest name in the whole deal belongs to Al Borges, the former AU offensive coordinator who apparently never went anywhere after being canned in late 2007. He's been spotted at multiple Opelika games this fall, and conventional wisdom suggests he's interested in the head coaching job or a position on the staff. Some other high-profile names are bound to surface as well, though I couldn't even begin to speculate on which ones they'll be.
As the season wound to its home stretch, a fervent anti-Blackmon movement appeared to emerge on the 6A football forums (I say "apparent" because Internet forums are fairly easy to manipulate — three or four people can post continuously and appear to represent an entire community, when they're actually just representing their own conclave with an axe to grind). Brian isn't a good play-caller, the posters say (they might have a case); the kids on the team don't respect him (I find that hard to believe); giving the HC job to him would be a huge mistake (an interesting argument).
I have no idea what kind of head coach he'll make. I can tell you with some certainty that he'll have a head coaching job somewhere next season, at Opelika or otherwise. I can tell you that Oxford High was prepared to offer its head-coaching job to him in the winter of last year had John Grass not left Spain Park. And I can tell you that there will be a sizeable portion of the community that won't be happy if Blackmon doesn't get the job.

Here's the thing, though: the search committee has to hire the best person, regardless. Being a high-school head coach is less about play-calling and rings, and more about building character in young kids, giving them direction in life and shaping them as better citizens for the future. And if you think Brian Blackmon is the guy who's going to do that better than anybody else, then give him the job. If somebody else looks like a better fit to accomplish that, then give it to that person. Ignore the negative response from the community; odds are those people will get over it eventually (as we learned with the Alabama situation — I doubt those people who were howling about Mike Shula's raw deal care that much about him anymore).

Anyway, that's my take on it. I want the absolute best for the kids in Opelika; a big part of me I owe to my four years as part of the program there. And I hope that's what they get.
So, as always, God bless Opelika, and God bless those 'Dawgs.


Monday, November 17, 2008

quick-hit thoughts from the weekend

This weekend in college football was largely a dud -- no high-profile matchups, really, and very few intriguing storylines. In the SEC, the title game participants have already been decided, meaning the stories for the weekend involved a) whether Auburn and Vanderbilt could be bowl-eligible (no and yes); b) whether Steve Spurrier could cook up something to shock his old school and ruin the upcoming SEC Championship Game (a resounding no); c) whether Alabama would play Rolando McClain vs. the Fighting Crooms (yes); d) whether Alabama would show up for the game and embarrass themselves a third straight season against the Bullies (nope).
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.
"I'm proud to have him on this team."
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 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:
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.
Thank you.
-- 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.
-- 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.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Nick Saban has no interest in a "Lost" Friday ...

Here's proof.

(Warning: strong language!)

Back with your weekly "Lost" installment later today. Provided I have time for this ... you know.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

line, please ...

Once again, we're back with Thursday's lines, once again courtesy of As always, we remind you that the site's proprietors don't gamble — at least, I don't — and we don't encourage anyone else to do so, either. Although if you do, refer to us first. Just saying.
(Also, if you have a few minutes and need a lark, my post at is now up. Notice all the Aubs whose back hair goes immediately up when I mention the similarities between Auburn '04 and Alabama '08. It's comical, really.)
Onward, then.

Va. Tech (+4.5) at Miami
Cincinnati (-3.5) at Louisville
Duke (+11) at Clemson
Notre Dame (-4) at Navy
Georgia (-9) at Auburn
(Note: I love Auburn in this game. Don't ask me why.)
Texas (-13.5) at Kansas
UAB (+5.5) at Tulane
Wake Forest (-3.5) at N.C. State
Minnesota (+14) at Wisconsin
Nebraska (-7) at Kansas St.
South Carolina (+23) at Florida
(Note: Love the Gamecocks' line here, as well. Remember the last time Florida was giving this many points at home in a conference game? It was against Auburn. Yeah ...)
Texas A&M (+8) at Baylor
Missouri (-28) at Iowa St.
UConn (-10) at Syracuse
USC (-23.5) at Stanford
Mississippi St. (+22) at Alabama
(Note: There are few certainties in life, but one of them is this: no circumstances exist in which this Alabama team should ever be giving this many points against any other SEC team. I mean, ever.)
Boston College (+7) at Florida St.
Troy (+18) at LSU
Vanderbilt (+4) at Kentucky
Oklahoma St. (-7) at Colorado
UCLA (-7) at Washington

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

wednesday youtube is trying to stay focused

Certainly, as much fun as this season has been, no one wants to lose either of these last two. It begins this Saturday -- we have some unfinished business with the Fighting Crooms (absolutely frisky if you let them hang around).
Youtube pickings are pretty slim for this series, which has (like most of the series) been historically dominated by the Tide. One of my favorite moments is 1994, a season that was marked by narrow escapes for 'Bama. The game in Starkville was no exception.

The quarterback in that video is now married to a country star and is a bland radio "personality." Funny how life works out.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

back with more, as promised

Saturday was one of those days that reminded me what's so enjoyable about football season. We had friends over, etouffe, jambalaya, drinks and football. Most of these are friends we don't see a great deal, including our friend Mandy and her ginormous dog (her husband Daniel didn't make it -- apparently, a baseball tournament was more important. Whatever).

Unlike the party we threw for our season opener against Clemson, this one felt less like a party and more like a life experience. Our guests barely moved for the 120 minutes that constituted the second half -- even Amanda, now only a few months away from the birth of her first child, barely got up.

As the minutes and seconds waned, and it became obvious that LSU simply wasn't going away quietly, a thought came to my locked-up brain.
Championship teams have to win games like this.

It's a thought that had been circulating through my brain since Alabama was thrust onto a national stage. I've tried my best to enjoy the ride without wringing my hands, but the question of "adversity" kept coming up. We haven't really faced adversity. Not yet.

That thought was expressed in less eloquent fashion on during Friday's pick 'em:
This one goes one of two ways: Alabama pours on the points in the first half like they did against Georgia and wins by 10-15 points in the end, or LSU decides to tackle somebody and shows Alabama what it’s like to play against a real team. Note: Alabama has not played against a real team that has played like a real team for an entire game.
Obviously, Kurt in that paragraph was attempting to deflect some attention from the fact that his team has sucked wind since the season began -- be sure to order Auburn 37, UT-Martin 20 this December as part of the "Auburn's Greatest Games" series -- but his point was not without merit. Coming into Saturday, Alabama had dominated the first half of virtually every game it had played, had led for all but a few seconds all season and had spent much of every fourth quarter singing "Rammer Jammer" and cleaning up what was left. The closest 'Bama came to danger was vs. Ole Miss, when the Rebs scored 17 second-half points and came within a missed fourth down of a throw into the end zone that might have won the game.

So the anxiety about facing adversity was understandable. Every team that ever won a championship had to face down one of no bleeping way games, described thusly by Bill Simmons:
... where you are playing out a "season" against the computer and doing a little too well, so the computer gets ticked and make sure there is no bleeping way you are winning the next game -- dropped passes, improbable kick returns, random fumbles and so on. God, I hate the No Bleeping Way Game.
For the '92 championship team, that game happened in Starkville, when Mississippi St. scored an incredible 10 points in the fourth quarter to take a lead against the impervious Tide defense. Alabama fans were shocked; State fans were enthralled. But 'Bama forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter, hit a big play in the passing game and ultimately walked out with a win. At the end of the season, they received rings.
In 2004, the eventual SEC (and yes, People's National) champs from Auburn played a game at home against (appropriately) defending national champ LSU, a game in which nearly everything went against the Tigers. Ultimately, they held on defensively, converted an impossible fourth down on their last drive and scored, then got an incredible stroke of luck (a correctly-enforced penalty that no one even knew existed) and won 10-9. Whenever you think of 2004 Auburn now, you think of Jason Campbell to Courtney Taylor before anything else.

Twenty years from now, when people think of this Alabama team, they may well think first about Saturday in Baton Rouge, when the Tide made every mistake possible in the first half, got a break or two, withstood LSU's gutsiest performance of the season and ultimately walked out a winner anyway.
To LSU's credit, the Tigers have as much pride as they have talent. You knew they wouldn't lay down in the fourth quarter (like, say, Tennessee might) if they were behind. You also knew that Les Miles -- even though it is still quite possible he is a murderous psychopath -- wouldn't back up from Nick Saban's schemes; for the first time in three-plus seasons, I thought LSU looked the part of a well-coached football team Saturday night.

It all added up to adversity. But here's the thing: Alabama, God bless them, kept answering the bell. When the Tigers drove 74 yards for the game-tying TD, 'Bama answered with a drive into scoring position. When that drive died because of a (chippy) holding penalty, the Tide held LSU to three-and-out and got the ball back at midfield, then drove it into position for the game-winning field goal. When that field goal didn't pan out, Alabama simply shrugged its shoulders and won the game in overtime.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what championship football teams do.

A few other notes from Saturday ...
-- Kudos to CBS: in the midst of a raucous game between the top-ranked team in the country and one of its biggest conference foes, Old People Network chose to come out of a commercial break by showing us Phillip Fulmer crying through his resignation press conference. Great. Exactly what we all wanted to see. Thanks a lot for that "here's all the field goals Leigh Tiffin has missed in his life" montage, also. Really enjoyed that one.
-- How many schneids did Alabama climb off Saturday? Read BSR for the full report.
The losing streak to LSU is gone, fini, finito, kaput. The schneid was a schneid. Alabama has a two-game November winning streak.
And then there were the turnarounds from a couple of more specific - and bad - Crimson Tide memories. Remember September 23, 2006? On that date, Leigh Tiffin missed a short late-game field goal against Arkansas and the game went to overtime. Arkansas had the ball first, and was stopped on a Lionel Mitchell interception. Tonight, Leigh Tiffin missed a short late-game field goal against LSU and the game went to overtime. LSU had the ball first, and was stopped on a Rashad Johnson interception.
There the similarities ceased.
-- While crediting LSU's coaching staff, I must take this opportunity to wonder aloud why Gary Crowton flatly refuses to run the football, despite rushing for 4.4 yards/carry and 201 yards total. When something works that well, why not keep doing it? These are questions LSU fans are asking themselves (along with, "Why did Ryan Perriloux have to be such a moron?").
-- I keep saying it, but Julio Jones is scary good. Frankly, I don't want to see what he looks like after a year in college.
-- Understandably, there's some outcry about Alabama remaining at the top of the BCS Standings, ahead of the very flashy Texas Tech Red Raiders. It's not that I disagree. Just saying we maybe should let the Red Raiders win a game at a place like Norman before we start anointing them a college football powerhouse. Just a thought. Frankly, I'm just glad to be back in the discussion.

Anyway, I'm out of thoughts. I'm going to try to enjoy the rest of this weekend, before I start thinking about a Crooming.
For the best in college football blogging, as always, read Dr. Saturday and EDSBS.


let's all take a breath ...

I didn't breathe for about 3 hours yesterday. I'm pretty sure I blacked out at some point. Still, I'm almost certain this happened.

OK, I've checked with -- yeah, it happened. Just had to check to be sure.

Back with more later.


Friday, November 7, 2008

a "Lost" Friday with Thursday lines

Offering apologies for thin posting during such an important week would be puerile. Nevertheless, here are weekend lines, courtesy of

Ohio St. (-11) at Northwestern
Wisconsin (-10) at Indiana
Ga. Tech (+4) at North Carolina
Purdue (+10) at Michigan St.
Louisville (+6) at Pitt
Michigan (+8.5) at Minnesota
Baylor (+28) at Texas
Georgia (-13) at Kentucky
Arkansas (+13.5) at South Carolina
Iowa St. (+9.5) at Colorado
Kansas (PICK) at Nebraska
Oklahoma (-28) at Texas A&M
Virginia (+3.5) at Wake Forest
Clemson (+4) at Florida St.
Penn St. (-8) at Iowa
NC St. (+3.5) at Duke
Alabama (-3.5) at LSU
Notre Dame (+3.5) at Boston College
Florida (-24) at Vanderbilt
Oklahoma St. (+4) at Texas Tech
Cal (+22.5) at US
As for the "Lost" element of the site, I'll cede that today to the obsessed fans on youtube:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

wednesday youtube was up too late ...

Before we get started today, a few thoughts about last night's festivities:
  • The city of Moody may have taken the award for "Worst Crowd at an Election That Made You Question How Much You Actually Care About This" for the day. I went at 9:30, voted and was headed to work by noon. The line reportedly got progressively longer, and according to at least one person I talked to was estimating a 3-hour wait at 7 p.m. when the polls were supposed to be closing. Because of this, we couldn't go to press until after 10, and even then 5 precincts were still out. They may need to address this in the future.
  • While I didn't vote for Obama and likely won't agree with much of his policy, I do respect him and what he means to people of color in the country. Maybe that sounds trite, but it's the best I can do. I'm not black, didn't grow up during segregation and don't remotely understand the great civil rights struggle. But I do understand history when I see it. And, for better or worse, this election was and is historic.
  • At the same time, a good many people on both sides of the aisle need to throw some water on themselves. Barack Obama isn't the Anti-Christ, and Lord knows he's not a Savior, either. He's just a regular Illinois politician with a black dad. That's really about it. Calm down, everybody.
  • As in 2004, I became one of those dangerous "third-party voters" by casting a vote for the Libertarian candidate. That's right -- I wasted two hours just so I could waste my presidential vote. Abuse can be heaped in the commentary section. I do wish to say, in my defense, that the bailout bill was one of the last straws for me in either major party -- neither of these parties reflects my interest any longer, and neither of them earned my vote during this interminable campaign. If that sounds like a wasted vote, well ... I can't help you.
With that, we move on to more important things -- like Saturday in Death Valley.

Because LSU -- through a combination of Nick Saban and bad fortune in Tuscaloosa -- has dominated the recent proceedings with Alabama, it's easy to forget that the Tide once owned Baton Rouge and the Bengal Tigers in general.
Some of my personal favorites from the 1990s ...

Back with more later.


Monday, November 3, 2008

links for this week's Game of the Century

We can be assured of a few things in this life. One of them is that ESPN will relentlessly promote whichever games it carries or welcomes its Gameday crew for the week.
So there's no need to be-labor the point about how huge Saturday afternoon in Death Valley — that's right, coonasses! The game starts at 2:30 and you can suck on it! — will be for both teams. Bristol will remind us as much as it can.

In any case, here are some links to get you in the right frame of mind.
— Nick Saban has already let everyone know where this week's focus should be.
"It's going to be about our players and about our team. I don't care how hard anybody tries to make it about something else, it's not going to be. I'm kind of giving you a little forewarning.
"If somebody wants to get a you-know-what chewing this week, that'll be a good way to get it."
You've been warned. Ian, by the way, has already broken the rule.
— Best. SEC Championship Game. Evar. At
At least, that's what Barnhart says.
— Cecil Hurt goes on and on about the differences between this Alabama team and ones from the past. As Gump 4 Heisman opines:
They look better at everything they did under Shula. They’re better at standing on the sidelines than they were under Shula. They’re better at walking on the field than they were under Shula. They’re better at breathing than they were under Shula. They’re better at being better than they were under Shula than they were under Shula.
— Speaking of Gump, this post is almost a month old, but his "Nick Saban Ramblings" are simply hilarious. And appropriate, given the situation this week.
— Finally, Les Miles is tired of LSU players being all huggy towards Saban.
"Let's only hope that there's a lot of guys that (Saban's staff) brought here and introduced to this university that would be grateful for that opportunity. I certainly understand those things."

go. away. fat man.

And that's precisely what he's done, according to

Phillip Fulmer, who a decade ago brought Tennessee its first national championship in 47 years, will not return as the Volunteers' coach next year, multiple sources told

An announcement is being planned for later Monday at Neyland Stadium. The Vols (3-6, 1-5 SEC) have lost four straight games and are in danger of suffering their second losing season in the last four years.

Fulmer, who has won 150 games at his alma mater and is the dean of SEC coaches, met with Tennessee officials Monday morning, and they reached a mutual agreement that it would be best for all parties if Fulmer was not back next season.

The sides also agreed that Fulmer would coach the remainder of the 2008 season.

There had been increasing scrutiny on Fulmer, who took over full time as head coach in 1993 and has been at his alma mater as a player, assistant coach and head coach for more than 30 years.

The Vols won the national title in 1998 and were one of the top programs in all of college football in the 1990s, but the program hasn't been the same this decade. They've lost 31 games since the end of the 2001 season.
To be fair, 3rd Saturday had this story a week ago. So bully for them. Seriously.

To celebrate, a montage of Fulmer highlights from the season.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

weekend thoughts and some historical perspective

And so, here we are: Alabama almost assured of a number-one ranking in the next BCS, staring at two-loss LSU in Death Valley on Saturday. The last time Alabama ventured to LSU as a number-one team? 1979, when Charley McClendon refused to re-schedule a Saturday-night game for television purposes, in order to have a chance at beating Bear Bryant's Tide on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium (Alabama won the game 3-0 and went on to win the national title).

Maybe the most shocking thing about this is to consider what things were like the last time Alabama played in Baton Rouge.
You remember that one, right? It was 2006, only two years ago. It feels like a million years ago. Perhaps you blocked it out of your mind.
Here was the setup: Mike Shula's (last, as it turned out) Alabama team came into the game having lost two straight, including a ghastly home loss to Mississippi St. They had disappointed in every big moment that season, losing in OT at Arkansas (the famous Leigh Tiffin Game), at Florida and at Tennessee. Shula's famous "Do What We Do" offense had crossed the line from "conservative" to "sad and predictable," and all signs pointed to the Tide -- 6-4 at that point -- losing out and possibly sneaking into Shreveport (and they did, and they lost there, too).
Meanwhile, LSU looked like a tour de force. Les Miles' second Bengal Tiger team really should've won the national title in '06 -- they lost by four at Auburn, and by 13 at Florida in a game where they turned the ball over something like 257 times (Florida wound up winning the title that year). The Tigers featured senior JaMarcus Russell, a physical freak of nature and the core of the defense that won the title the following season.
What followed was predictable: Alabama's defense -- not talented but well-coached and scrappy -- simply could not stop Russell for most of the first half, and the Tigers led 21-0 almost as quickly as the game started. And that was pretty much that: 'Bama lost 28-14, lost the next week at home to Auburn, fired Shula and lost in the Independence Bowl as well.

Two years later, things have changed indeed. Alabama has the best coach in the country -- not much argument right now -- one of the better defenses in the country, and an offense that simply continues to defy expectation. We as fans have spent all season waiting on the team to fail, but they haven't.
Maybe this is the week. LSU is a big, fast, physical football team, even if their two best wins all season were against Auburn and South Carolina (combined record: 9-9). The atmosphere is sure to be unreal -- ESPN Gameday is going, Nick Saban is coming back for the first time since 2004 and LSU fans will almost certainly make it difficult on the team and the coach. The Tide doesn't possess the psychological advantage in Baton Rouge it used to have back in the days when LSU simply couldn't beat them at home (1 loss and 1 tie on the bayou from 1969-2002).
Still, each time I think this team can't do something, they go ahead and do it. Alabama has answered every challenge placed before it all season, including a road thumping against the same Georgia team that hammered LSU two weeks ago.
Regardless, it's amazing to to think we're here right now, giving where we were in November two years ago. Simply stunning, really.

Other thoughts from Homecoming weekend:
-- To paraphrase John Madden, a win over Arkansas State, obviously, is a win over Arkansas State. And there were a number of things from the game -- a red-zone INT and a missed field goa -- that will need to be corrected before this Saturday. But our team handled everything in business-like fashion, they dominated a pretty good Red Wolves offense with their defense and they were never in any real danger of losing the game. That's almost exactly what you want from a Homecoming affair.
-- This is a leftover note from last week, but it's applicable this week as well: can we drop the whole "Julio Jones is gonna be a good player someday" thing? I'm pretty sure the dude's already arrived, aren't you?
-- That reminds me, speaking of announcers: the Alabama broadcast team handled themselves like unprofessional jerks in the first half on Saturday, gleefully calling out the Auburn score at every opportunity and carrying on as though Alabama was dominating the action (when the score was 14-0 at halftime and would've been 7-0 if not for Rashad Johnson's pick-6). I understand the hometown announcers tend to be homers, sure, but, in the words of my mother, "We can do better."
-- The strides made by this offensive line have been remarkable. As recently as the aforementioned game two years ago, this offensive line was considered as much a liability as anything else. Now they're one of the best units in the country. Incredible.
-- Weird facts that may or may not have anything to do with anything: in 1992, Alabama won its most recent national championship. That coincided with a presidential election, also: the American people chose Bill Clinton for the first of two terms. The last Democratic president before Clinton? You guessed it: Jimmy Carter, who served from 1976-1980. Alabama's last two national championships before '92 came in '78 and '79. Is it worth voting for Cyrus from "The Warriors" for the chance to win a national title? I have no idea.

Elsewhere in college football ...
-- Obviously, the biggest game of the night was Texas Tech's upset over the Teasips. At one point, however, nearly every game showing on my television was down-to-the-wire: Pitt-Notre Dame, FSU-Ga. Tech and Illinois-Iowa all had entertaining endings. Everyone except UGA-Florida.
-- That reminds me: before everyone falls all over themselves about Florida, keep in mind that they didn't exactly dominate Georgia statistically: UGA actually outgained the Gators by 25 yards, and out-passed them by more than 100 yards. The difference, obviously: turnovers. Georgia turned it over four times (to Florida's none), with more than 170 yards of returns off those miscues. And there's no statistical evidence suggesting that forcing turnovers is anything more than pure dumb luck, either -- keep in mind, the Gators blocked two punts to set up short fields in last week's beatdown of Kentucky, too. Is there much difference between Florida now and the Florida team that was struggling at the beginning of the year? Maybe, but I doubt it.
-- While I refuse to get on the "Fire Tuberville Now!" bandwagon, Auburn's coaching staff made some curious decisions Saturday. For starters, why did they allow their final drive of the first half to go dry without calling a timeout? What was the point? Then, in the fourth quarter, the Teagles faced 3rd-and-13 on the Ole Miss 20, trailing 10-7. Given the amount of trouble they've had scoring points, given that Kodi Burns isn't the greatest passing QB, something safe (a draw, a screen) seemed in order. Instead, interception, Ole Miss TD on the ensuing drive, ballgame. I don't get it. I really don't.
-- Phil Fulmer's Vols turned in another non-effort in another game that might have granted the coach a stay of execution. At this point, it's like Phil Fulmer is daring the university to fire him.
-- Just finished watching Central Florida and East Carolina. Pretty sad, actually, like watching a 2A high school game (except for fewer people).
-- Great win for Texas Tech. But they're not getting to the finish line without at least two losses. Just saying.

Not everything changes, after all.


anyone else wake up this morning feeling queasy?

While you were enjoying your Homecoming shutout, fans in West Texas were enjoying ... well, this:

What does it mean? Well, it means more than a few people in West Texas woke up with severe hangovers, obviously. And it means that Texas Tech -- never better than third a football-crazy state -- is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight.
Unfortunately, according to BCS Guru, it also means this:
1. Alabama
2. Penn State
3. Texas Tech
4. Florida
5. Texas
6. Oklahoma
7. USC
8. Oklahoma State
9. Utah
10. Boise State
11. Texas Christian
12. Ohio State
13. Georgia
14. Missouri
15. Ball State
Sigh ... I wonder what it's like to be an ordinary fan who just enjoys college football? Maybe someday ...
Back with more later.