Monday, August 31, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: entering the arena

Not much youtube available for this week's big game — as kleph notes in this excellent RBR post, the two teams don't have a ton of memorable history together (though I'm sure that 77-6 game in '73 was somewhat memorable). In fact, the only video I could find of any of these past matchups was of the 1998 Music City Bowl, the last time the two teams met.

So instead, this being Week 1 and all, here are two entrance videos. Va. Tech's is one of the more well-known in college football: charging out onto the field as Metallica blares in the background. Very well done, very cool.

OK, so we don't have anything quite that cool in Tuscaloosa. Even so, here are a couple cool jumbotron vids that always do the job for me on gameday.

And, of course, there's this one they added in '07: the camera that follows the team from the locker room to the tunnel.

It is, of course, eerily similar to ...

Roll Tide Roll.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monday: game week ... and links

And yes, believe it's real. By the time you read this (hopefully) we'll be into Monday of Game Week.

An embarrassing confession: I've barely had time to get excited for the upcoming season for much of this month, mainly due to the craziness at work (more on that later). But I'm planning the full-on Game Week routine this week — 'tube, weekly lines and so forth. That begins, of course, with Monday links.
Before we get there — and only because I'm obsessed with those "Where Amazing Happens" 'Bama vids — here are two more, both Prothro-related.

Let there be no doubt: I'm ready to roll (tide).

— The biggest story of the week (literally) is Terrence Cody's case of the swine flu, which undoubtedly has made him one of the more unpleasant people in all of Tuscaloosa. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure he'll be able to play at full strength on Saturday, if at all — weight loss and inactivity aside, having the flu takes a lot out of you, and it can take a while to recover.
Nick Saban's contract extension went mostly unnoticed this week, but it is an important step to securing the program for the foreseeable future. Does the contract necessarily keep Saban in place? No, but as Scarbo notes, the power he has just might. Also, Ray Perkins apparently likes it, too. So that's ... somethin'.
— As a former lineman, I definitely dug this: has a series up on the OLs. Speaking of which, looks at the matchups up front with VT, and, in former OL news, Andre Smith finally signed with Cincinnati. Yay?

— Various sites are still slapping up previews: here are two from OTS and
Speaking of Fox, they also slapped up a vision of this year in crazy.
— For those who haven't heard, Michigan took a publicity hit this weekend after some damning newspaper reports. Courtesy of 3SiB, here's some thoughts on the situation.
On the first hand, it’s an indication that Rich Rodriguez failed to really sell his program to the team. That happens, though usually not so early in a coach’s tenure. One season? Wow. You expect the infusion of the first recruiting class to result in players giving the standard quotes: “We didn’t really buy in last season, but this year we’re committed…” What you do not expect are multiple players going to the press to turn in their own program. Regardless of what the NCAA might do, the most damning thing for Rich Rodriguez is the mutiny that’s currently going on. Just ask Houston Nutt what happens when your players publicly criticize your coaching. Better yet, ask John Mackovic.

— And finally, click on this link, and tell me it's not the greatest gameday shirt of all-time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'd rather be blogging, and a Friday Webb visit

No, I haven't been intentionally ignoring the blog this week — this story about a new hospital has just monopolized all my time (scroll down the news section and you'll see what I mean.

The good news: a return of the Derek Webb Friday!

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

(The woman in the video is his wife, Sandra, also a fantastic musician.)

Better news: this time next week we'll have actual games to discuss. In the meantime, click on all the blogs on the left side of this site and learn as much about football as possible. May blog a little this weekend.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: where amazing happens

Some of the folks who make youtubes finally realized my dream: making a series of fake commercials based on those bizarre "Where Amazing Happens" NBA spots, only featuring Alabama football.

Please to enjoy ...

Back with more tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

mid-Monday links in Game Week fashion

Up first today in the links department: Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit's dreamy eyes talk SEC football.


(h/t: RBR)

A few other assorted links before I have to get back to actual work:
— The biggest story of the last two days, obviously, has been the pending issue with Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, which was enough to spark a meeting between the university and the NCAA. Much like the textbook business during the spring, the temptation is to say it's a non-issue — it certainly doesn't seem like much of a big deal — as evidenced by the university's refusal to self-impose penalties. On the other hand, as Tony Barnhart says, if it is indeed a non-issue, why is it even a story?

— Stuff previewing the actual football season: 3SiB profiles the Tide's linebackers; Cecil says this preseason is a mirror image of last year's (h/t:; BSR looks at the scholarship numbers one last time; Birmingham writes that this Alabama defense wants to be as good as the '92 version. I think we all remember how that turned out. Don't we?

— Other preview stuff: Fox Sports sees a conference wide rebound in '09, and SI's SEC preview (h/t: puts Florida and Ole Miss in Atlanta. Wait ... what?

— Other assorted things: CHSB takes its turn blistering the SEC's draconian media policy; Mr. SEC tells you why Utah & Florida should've made it work; and EDSBS suggests potential causes of Tim Tebow's latest injury.
–Tweaked it while throwing golden calf worshipped by UF MBA students into cauldron of fire.
–Overprayer injury from particularly intense church meeting.
–Recurring soreness from a prior, ill-advised public feat of strength.
–Threw it out after three straight years of making furious love to the game of college football, the only kind of sex he has had.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

AP Top 25 released ...

The new Associated Press poll came out today — it looks basically like the USA Today version.

AP Top 25

1.Florida (58)
2.Texas (2)
6.Ohio St.
7.Virginia Tech
9.Penn St.
9.Oklahoma St.
14.Boise St.
15.Georgia Tech
18.Florida St.
21.North Carolina
23.Notre Dame

Ranked fifth again. I feel sick.

links on the weekend

For those of you unfortunate enough to be stuck inside on a gorgeous day like this, here are a few links that will hopefully keep your interest for the remainder.
(As an aside: I'm currently watching "Dr. Strangelove" on TCM, and just like I remembered, it's at once both hilarious and terrifying. I often wonder if we shouldn't show this to all of our federal leaders on a weekly basis. And the hilarity of the title was enough inspiration for the best college football blog we currently have. So there's that.)

— First off, a few preview stories: first, Fox's Pete Flutak says you shouldn't sleep on Alabama as a national contender; second, check out this doofus who doubts 'Bama in 2009.
(Whoops, that's me. My bad.)
— Having fun with Nick Saban: Ray Melick pokes fun at Coach's latest rant, and the guys at Tower answer a few questions for players who might be confused by media reports. In a related story, major media outlets are fighting for rights belonging to them (and to the fans) with the SEC.
— OTS has a fantastic scorecard for your second preseason scrimmage. Which, of course, we're not allowed into, because we might speculate and hurt the players. Or something. Also, Christopher Walsh takes a look at the defense.
— Some AU-related stuff: ESPN's Chris Low visited with Gene (No Chance) Chizik) this week: here are parts one and two of that interview. Also, Lee Ziemba says the Tiger locker room needed a change from the Tuberville era, which is frankly what every player says anytime a new coach takes over.
— Elsewhere: Mark Schlabach has called the SEC East race in 2009 already (hey man, we got here first); UGA coaches are feeling the economy's effects; BCS Guru checks in with his BlogPoll ballot; and Mr. CFB has two solid entries for this week, about the rigors of preseason practice and 5 SEC players who will be missed in '09.

Friday, August 21, 2009

a "Lost" Friday: what did you do?

Another in the grand series of "Lost" videos: a "what did you do?" montage.

The premiere of the final season is mere months away.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

like a broken record, only more irritating

Football season in the state of Alabama means many things to many people. For Alabama fans, it means hope springs eternal — particularly this season, with a team that could contend for a championship with a break here and there.

It also means something else: Nick Saban tearing into the statewide media.

The pattern has repeated itself (at least) once every August, usually in the middle of fall camp, when very little else is going on: Saban gets angry at the press, either because someone asked him a question he didn't like, or someone talked to a player when he didn't have "permission" (the First Amendment doesn't exist in big-time football), or because, as in this week, someone reported something he saw at practice.

“We let you come to practice. If you’re going to speculate on the depth chart and who’s starting at what positions, then I’m going to close practice — for everybody. So nobody’s going to get to come at all.”
“When you say one guy’s starting in the newspaper and he’s really not starting that makes the guy that is starting come to me and say, ‘Why are they putting it in the paper that I’m not starting?’ You don’t understand what you do and how it affects people. We would like to manage that internally and as coaches and a coaching staff make those decisions, not make them in the newspaper — before they even get decided.”

Invariably, Saban's overreaction to a story — and that's what it is, by the way: overreaction — gets played up on the same blogs that regard him as some sort of evil overlord, and the 'Bama blogs go crazy in his defense, such as this hilariously predictable post from Capstone Report.

When you consider all the problems including the mental deficiencies of reporters and their lack of knowledge about the subject they are supposed to cover, is it a surprise Saban might resent them?

Well, OF COURSE it's the media's fault, guys! Everything is the media's fault! Up to and including America's failures in Iraq and the eventual decline of the nation!
Yup. Right here. Our bad.

Look, I'm not here to trade barbs with Capstone Report — really, this is the same blog that regularly features Shane from Centre Point ... as a columnist. So it's a waste of time and an insult to everyone's intelligence to banter with those guys.

The point is that Saban blows up at the press about once every two or three weeks, and most of the time it's over nothing. Saban and his coaches have fundamentally different goals than the writers who cover the team: Saban's job is to turn boys into men, and prepare his football team to win games and championships; the media's job is to report to the rest of us how Saban is doing his job.
Furthermore, as we've stated in this space time and again, the press in Alabama, for the most part, is pretty easy. Just give them a handful of quotes, a buffet and a parking spot ... and they'll pretty much do what you want. And the guys who do the job on a daily basis have told me that it's a complete misnomer to say Saban "hates" them, or that they loathe him in response — most of the writers who have covered the team this decade say they'd rather talk to Saban than to any of his predecessors ("Sometimes he gets mad and talks down to you, but usually he answers your questions").
Most importantly, if these guys weren't reporting the team's every movement, we'd criticize them for that, as well. The whole reason the largest newspapers have beat writers and send them to practice every day is rabid fans like me want to devour every tiny nugget we can about the team's progress before the season begins.

The fortunate thing about this cycle? It usually ends once we start playing some actual games. I think I'm looking forward to that part of it most of all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

some extra youtube for Wednesday: for my dad

Found this one randomly today — my dad actually told me about it, but I'd never seen it until now.
(Fair warning: if you're somewhere it might seem odd to cry unprovoked, might want to avoid this one 'till you get home. Just a suggestion.)

We'll have some football related stuff up tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: if you ever blocked one ...

Occasionally someone will bring up the old inter-sectional rivalry that used to exist between Alabama and Penn St., which began in 1974 when coach Bryant talked Joe Paterno into coming to the Sugar Bowl for the first time (Alabama won). After playing in the famous "Goal Line Stand" game in the '79 Sugar Bowl, the two began a yearly series that lasted throughout the decade of the 1980s.
Those kinds of games don't really exist anymore — at some point in the early '90s, just about everybody decided they'd rather play cream-puffs and mid-majors than major inter-sectional games (note: Alabama and Penn St. do have a home-and-home scheduled for sometime next decade). It's sad, really: games like those are part of the reason I started liking college football in the first place.
In any case, one of my favorite games in that series from the '80s is the 1989 game, which came down to a matter of inches ...

Note that this clip also brings back memories of the days when Doug Layton — the color analyst at the time — used to leave the booth early so he could be in the locker room for the postgame "Lay's Locker Room Report," which meant sideline reporter Jerry Duncan came up to the booth to call the final few minutes with Eli Gold. It's Duncan's incoherent shouting you hear over Eli's attempt to call the game there at the end.
"If you ever blocked one, you gotta block this one."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

start your Monday off with links

Just in case you forgot, #8 is a bad, bad man.

(h/T: RBR)

With the season now only weeks away, a variety of quality links are starting to crop up around the 'sphere. Here are a few that caught our attention here at The Party.
— First, on the subject of the scrimmage. Coach Saban said he was pleased (kinda) with what he saw, although it's worth noting that nobody really knows what that is because ... well, those scrimmages are all closed from public viewing. Which is why it's good to have Gentry Estes around, to tell us what to look for when reviewing those statistics (UPDATE: he has a post up today about what we've learned).
— Regarding personnel, Tidesports has a great story about one of the guys competing for the center slot in Tuscaloosa; the Advertiser talks to a potential safety for this fall; BSR analyzes the redshirt freshmen; and Jeramie Griffin goes down "with a knee." Also, Gentry covered the story of Ezekial Knight's transfer to Stillman.
(And if you're the sort of person who pays attention to these things, 3d Saturday gives you a recruiting update.)

— Auburn stuff: Tony Franklin celebrated Chris Todd's victory in the Auburn QB derby, and Ray Melick says Todd's story makes it harder to quit. Which is great, except that the guy I saw last year wasn't hampered just by arm strength; he looked about as confused as Frank Lapidus on "Lost." I wouldn't have wanted him quarterbacking my intramural team.
There is a precedent here, though: Ben Leard, who was the symbol for all the failures of the Terry Bowden era in a 3-8 1998 season that featured the firing of the head coach midway through. Most Auburn fans had forgotten Leard at the start of the '99 season; it was Gabe Gross who was the rising star at quarterback as the Tommy Tuberville era dawned.
But Gross played poorly in the '99 season opener against Appalachian St. and was yanked in favor of Leard, who wound up bringing the Tigers back in that game and eventually becoming the permanent starter the next two seasons. And ohbytheway, Auburn won the West during his senior campaign.
(Do I envision a scenario where Chris Todd goes to the Georgia Dome as anything other than a paying spectator? I do not. But it needed to be said, anyway.)

— The Orlando Sentinel has a great list of quality September matchups, and RBR has an entertaining sit-down with SI's Andy Staples.
— Finally, Scarbo relates the recent foibles of Rick Pitino to the Mike Price situation in Tuscaloosa.
He's leaving out one important detail of the Mike Price saga, however: MIke Dubose. The surreal events surrounding Mike Price's ill-fated Pensacola excursion happened in the spring of 2003, less than three full years after Dubose had to be sacked midway through a disastrous 2000 season that happened primarily because his players had little to no respect for him and his staff. It's arguable, obviously, that the players never really respected him, but (it was believed) they certainly did not after Dubose's interlude with a member of the Alabama staff and subsequent dishonesty (Shaun Alexander and a corps of strong senior leaders held the talented squad together through the '99 season, goes the mantra, and without them the team fell apart).
The point is simply this: Alabama's administration wasn't traveling down that road again. They would deal with the short-term consequences — angry student-athletes and fans, a sub-par football season and so forth — to rid themselves of another black eye.
Now ... does Louisville have the same situation? No idea. But it will be interesting, for sure.

Friday, August 14, 2009

on quarterbacks: there can only be one

As we've discussed in this space in the past, the role of quarterback at a high-profile college program is arguably packed with more pressure than any other job, anywhere else. As college football fans, we have a strange relationship with our quarterbacks — we call them by their first names, scrutinize everything they do and treat them like members of the family.
I remember being profoundly angry at people for criticizing John Parker Wilson during the latter stages of the Sugar Bowl earlier this year. Getting us to 12-0 and owning every significant passing record in the history of the program isn't good enough? Give me a break. But why do I even care? I don't know the guy, and it's likely he's going to care about me if we were to ever meet personally (I mean, I'm a member of the freaking media). And yet somehow I did.

One possible reason for that relationship: the quarterback position is an entity typically occupied by a single person. Just looking at Auburn's recent QB competition — won by the hilariously inept Chris Todd — one thing was very clear (as my buddy Kevin St. Ives pointed out): it has to be one guy. We can't go into the season with more than one guy at the quarterback position. We have to pick one guy and stick with him.
There's no other position in football (or in sports, really) that's like this. Football teams typically employ multiple sets of running backs, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs. The best teams have entire personnel packages they can shuffle on and off the field, depending on the situation.
Not at quarterback. With a few rare exceptions (the "Wildcat," for example) it's accepted that the quarterback has to be one guy, that the team needs one clear voice in the huddle, one guy calling plays and one guy who makes all the big throws.
It hasn't always been that way. Coach Bryant's Alabama teams famously would employ as many as three different quarterbacks per game during the wishbone era, all of them basically doing the same thing. But times are different now — players aren't willing to sublimate their egos for the good of the team. Anyone who attempts to play 2 or more QBs regularly is under the gun.

In fact, here's a list of offenses that employed 2 quarterbacks I pulled off the top of my head:
Steve Spurrier's Florida/South Carolina teams, ongoing. During his Evil Genius years, Spurrier was famous for yanking around his QBs, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. On at least two occasions it was Auburn's fault: in 1993, Terry Dean replaced an erratic Danny Weurffel at Jordan-Hare in an eventual loss; the very next season, this time at home, Dean (a Heisman candidate) threw 24 interceptions in the rematch with Auburn, got pulled for Weurffel and was never seen again (Weurffel wound up throwing a killer INT down the stretch and Auburn won the game).
With Weurffel as the unquestioned starter for the remainder of the '94 season, Florida went on to win the SEC championship; he started every game the next 2 seasons, and Florida went on its best run in school history — consecutive SEC titles and two trips to the national championship game (winning one).
Once Weurffel left, though, the quarterback roulette started up again. Spurrier rotated Doug Johnson and someone named Noah Brindise in '97, even switching them every snap in an upset win over Florida State. Johnson shared with Jesse Palmer for most of the next two seasons, before Rex Grossman took over to take the Gators back to Atlanta in 2000 (and would've done so again in '01 if the team had bothered to show up against Tennessee).
That problem has followed him to South Carolina — Blake Mitchell, Stephen Garcia, some guy whose name I can't remember and so forth. It's not like Spurrier has been completely unsuccessful during this time period — his Florida teams dominated the SEC in the '90s, averaging double-digit wins the whole time. But you always wondered if he'd be any better, had he been slightly more patient.
Alabama, 1999-2001. We covered this one somewhat in our previous entry about 'Bama QBs. The biggest problem: neither Mike DuBose nor any of the offensive staff seemed to have any notion of how to rotate Andrew Zow and Tyler Watts, and none of their moves appeared to have any correlation to the one before it. Broken down by time period, it looked like this:
— 1999: Zow enters the season as the unquestioned starter, largely due to his experience as the starter for most of 1998. The staff promises "playing time" for Watts, but really only uses him in garbage time or whenever Zow is injured (against Tennessee and LSU). In fact, Watts made several vague comments about "exploring my options after the season" throughout the '99 campaign until ... well, until Zow fell apart in the first half against Auburn, allowing to Watts to ride to the rescue. In the sense that "handing off to Shaun Alexander" is equivalent to "riding to the rescue."

What ensued the following week — as Alabama prepared for the SEC Championship Game — was a resumption of the odd tug-of-war: half the crowd said Zow had earned the starting job, half (including me) were rooting for Watts. Was race a factor? Maybe. I don't remember it. DuBose wound up alternating them every series in both the SECCG and in the Orange Bowl, which ... made little difference whatsoever.
— 2000: The same cloud hangs over the whole team for the entire summer and fall camp, eventually becoming a microcosm of the conflict (between Neil Callaway and Charlie Stubbs) that held the entire locker room hostage. Zow starts the opener (a deflating loss at UCLA) and the Week 2 win over Vandy, gets replaced by Watts for a week or two. Eventually, Zow takes over for good after Watts tears up his knee against Ole Miss ... Zow also plays his best game of the season in a 45-7 victory over the Rebs. It doesn't last, though — the offense fell flat the following week at Tennessee, and eventually Zow was actually on the wrong end of a booing crowd on Homecoming against UCF (an eventual loss). Poor Zow becomes the broken symbol of a broken season.
— 2001: New coach Dennis Franchione promises he'll name a starter and stick with him for the season ... but he doesn't bother telling anyone who it's going to be (choosing to keep it a secret until Week 1). Watts eventually takes the reins for 2 reasons: a) Franchione's style fit a quarterback like Watts better; b) Zow had just experienced the birth of his first child, and that kind of occupied his attention during fall camp. Of course, Watts eventually gets hurt again prior to the Auburn game, allowing Zow to ride to the rescue this time, and by riding to the rescue I mean this ...

And here's the point: at no point did this ever work as a true "2-quarterback system."

Georgia, 2002-2004. Another "2-QB system" that "worked" despite never really making any sense, UGA head coach Mark Richt vowed repeatedly to play both David Greene and DJ Shockley, and stubbornly stuck to it no matter how much it hurt him. Specifically, against Florida in '02, Greene came out of the locker room looking very sharp, but Richt removed him in favor of Shockley early in the second quarter anyway, long enough for the latter to throw a game-changing pick-6 and the former to cool off (UGA lost, of course, spoiling a run at the national championship). A supposed "offensive genius," Richt kept running his 2-QB rotation out there for the next two seasons, using Shockley as "a change of pace" (even though it was never entirely clear what DJ did well that Greene did not, aside from "being black").
As with those Florida teams from earlier, it's kind of difficult to prove the case that the rotation didn't work since UGA averaged 10 wins from '02-'04 and established itself as one of the best programs this decade. But it always seemed like Richt was forcing the rotation on his offense, at the expense of common sense and his fan base's sanity.

Florida, 2006. Ah, you say. A 2-QB system that worked! Umm ... kinda. Remember, however, the following 2 things:
— Chris Leak was unquestionably the established starter. There was never any doubt. The freshman Tim Tebow was never anything beyond what Mark Schlereth and Merril Hoge call "a package guy," no different than Arkansas using Darren McFadden in the shotgun during that very same season. Plus, the age gap — Leak was a senior, Tebow a freshman — meant a great deal of respect between the two.
— I know you're sick of hearing about how great a guy is Tim Tebow, but ... well, Tebow's personality made it easier on everybody. He never complained to the media about playing time or a lack of "touches," acknowledging the elder statesman as the starter and saying he was just happy to be playing Florida football. He never made the coaching staff choose or demand playing time behind the scenes. If a quarterback "competition" had ever truly occurred, it's likely Leak's ego would've fallen to shambles and that national title run might have never happened.
But since none of that happened, Florida won the title. With two quarterbacks. Well, one-and-a-half.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

shamelessly promoting my own career

Editor's note: On the occasion when my columns aren't posted online — like this week — I indulge myself by re-posting them here. This column wasn't very good, but it did run, so we must take the bad in with the good. In any case, feel free to post your own thoughts below. For more of what I actually get paid to do, visit

Ability to work together makes county one of the state's best

During my time as a sportswriter, one of my favorite things about talking to coaches was the clich├ęs they used.

My favorite: “Keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

In the case of St. Clair County, “what we’ve been doing” has been about teamwork. On either side of the county, among multiple municipalities … heck, even in law enforcement — everyone seems perfectly content to work together.

Recently, the town of Steele broke ground on a brand-new Love’s Travel Center, something that will greatly increase the town’s budget, according to the mayor.

State representative Blaine Galliher, in attendance for the groundbreaking, called the event a testimony to the county’s esprit de corps.

“It just goes to show how well the people in this county work together,” he told the crowd. “Unlike some other places that have been in the news recently, people in St. Clair have worked real well together to accomplish things for their citizens.”

It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed at other levels of government. When he officially announced his intention to leave his post at the county’s Economic Development Council, Ed Gardner Jr. expressed his thanks to the county for its willingness to work in concert with him and his staff.

“We’ve been really fortunate,” he said. “It’s blown me away the support we’ve gotten from our elected officials around the county.

“It’s been an amazing experience, all we’ve been able to do in the county, and it’s all because of the support we’ve received.”

Incidentally, the “some places that have been in the news recently” that Galliher mentioned is another constant theme in the recent news. Elected officials won’t say it, but I will: they’re referring to Jefferson County, whose well documented predicament has actually led for the governor to declare it a disaster area.

Contrast that with St. Clair, which actually has money to spend on forward thinking projects (Grand River, St. Vincent’s, Coosa Valley Water and so forth). Odds are you won’t hear sheriff Terry Surles calling for National Guard help anytime soon.

(Please note: Cooperation isn’t the same as acclamation, which occurs when everybody agrees on everything without discussion. If you’re around a governing body doing that, be suspicious. Because something else is taking place.)

A quick story that might help prove some things: hanging around the courthouse in Pell City last week, I actually ran into the pastor from the church where my wife grew up. The church, incidentally, is located in Vestavia Hills.

“We came down here to see about getting our driver’s licenses renewed,” he said. “I mean, a 15-minute wait versus waiting 4 hours … that’s kind of a no-brainer.”

It sure is. And that’s why it’s a good idea to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday 'tube on Wednesday: a blast from the past

I have no idea who Michael Ventre is (note: apparently it's this guy). For all I know, he's a great writer with a thousand Pulitzers. I do know he gets taken to task in this outstanding video retrospective of the 1993 Sugar Bowl.
(H/T: theluckster)

Ah, well. We all have to be remembered for something.

mid-week and links

Many apologies for Monday's blog entry, which bounced all over the place and made very little sense. Note to you young bloggers out there: never post anything when you're tired and can't move your neck because "I've got to get SOMETHING up and this is the only thing I can think of." We should do better in the near future.

Anyway, here are some links to tide you over through the remainder of your Wednesday:
— Big news of the past 2 days: Va. Tech's top tailback, Darren Evans, is apparently out for the season with a torn ACL. I, along with my brother Whit, feel his pain immensely (UPDATE: Dr. Saturday has a post up about how this might affect them in '09). If it helps, here's a video of him running over a safety from Maryland.

Just for the record: I never, never, never, NEVER root for the other team's best player to be seriously injured. Never. Never. You would always, always, ALWAYS rather beat the other team at full strength. That's just the way it is.
(I have, however, rooted for something very heavy to fall on Phillip Fulmer from a great distance. I don't think it's the same.)
— As the first step in ESPN's blowout coverage of the SEC in upcoming years, here's Chris Low's visit with Alabama. Predictably, the main topic is the level of "back"-ness the Tide has reached, complete with this hair-raising quote from Don'ta Hightower.
"It feels like it's supposed to be. Alabama is supposed to be one of the powerhouses. It's Alabama's time now. Florida had their time. It's our time now. We're recruiting great recruits and great players. I think it's about time."

OTS has some early fall observations, as well, and Tommy Deas takes a look at the Tide up front and 3SiB covers the QB spot.
— Speaking of ESPN, its sticky evil fingerprints were all over the new media policies released earlier this week, which were (rightfully) excoriated and then retracted. It was more than a little short-sighted on the part of the conference to think it could control everything, but that's the way things are in the ESPN world: either we break the story or no one does, and damn the rest of you.
— RBR has indulged my dweeb-ish curiosity here recently with a series of historical posts, including this post covering historic game programs, and this one about Alabama's 1978 trip to Missouri. While we're on that subject, this post from Smart Football also caught my eye.

Always enjoyed watching this one, and not just because my parents were there on their honeymoon (yes, their honeymoon).
— Elsewhere around the 'sphere: Mr. CFB looks at some of the SEC's "trap" games for this fall; releases its 1-120 rankings for 2009; Jerry takes a look at Auburn's QB situation; and Mr. SEC looks at the attrition rates around the conference.
— Finally, apropos of nothing, here's a picture of Nick Saban apparently signing a baby.

Roll Tide Roll.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

computers, polls and why everything you know is wrong

Another college football season is on the horizon. Seriously.

And, while there are sooo many things about college football season we've grown to love — tailgating, rivalries, pretending we're still in college, etc. — there's at least one meme regarding college football that won't die: college football's postseason. Big-money conferences and their bowl tie-ins have for (at least) the last 20 years stood in between us as fans and the only satisfying end to any sports season: with the two best teams standing toe-to-toe in the arena, battling for the championship. We simply can't get that in big-time college football, and it grows more frustrating with each passing season for those of us who love the sport — we're tired of defending it from its detractors (mostly hateful Northern writers who thrive in the lifeless world of the NFL).
Everyone has his own theory about how to make a better postseason (even I've unveiled 2 separate theories). Most people who write about this for a living say a plus-one is the best model (except, of course, Mike Leach, who's completely freaking nuts).

Nearly everyone, however, has one principal complaint about the BCS: "Computers shouldn't determine our national champion." And they're absolutely right.

The truth of the BCS formula — a complicated mathematical equation that only a handful of people in the world can fully understand — is that it does incorporate computer-based rankings, along with human polls, to determine the top 2 teams in college football. Just about everybody thinks it's stupid that computer geeks should have more of a say in determining that top 2 than, say, a room full of dorky sportswriters or a group of coaches, most of whom don't actually vote anyway.

That's where they're wrong. The computers are the most reliable and objective methods of analysis we have at this point.
(Sidebar: I turned on Comedy Central's Roast of Joan Rivers — right now, Tom Arnold is bombing terribly. It's painful, frankly. Barely a chuckle in the entire room.)

Here's what I mean by "reliable and objective": assuming the formula is entered correctly, a computer is a better selector of the two best teams in college football than any human being. Why? Because human beings see uniforms, tradition, fan bases and dollar signs — computers only see the relevant criteria.

It all comes back to the concept (trademarked by the NCAA Basketball Tournament) of a "blind resume." Never, never, never judge a team by its history — judge it solely by its body of work. For example, the 2008 Utah Utes, who gained steam as one of the BCS casualties after drubbing 12-1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The lone undefeated team in the country, Utah's merits as a potential national champ — or, at the very least, a title-game participant — were shouted from the rafters all across the country.
But here's the truth about Utah: they didn't get a shot at the national title, because they didn't deserve one.
Seriously. Look at the Utes' 2008 schedule. Their biggest victory prior to the Sugar Bowl was a 3-point win over Oregon St. in Week 6. They sweated out a 2-point win over a Michigan team that finished 3-8, and needed TCU's kicker to turn into Ryan Pflugner to survive a 3-point win over the Horned Frogs in Week 10. And the rest of their schedule was spare: Weber St., Air Force, BYU, etc.
So you would them in the national title game? Really? Over who, exactly? Florida, whose only blemish was a 1-point loss to Ole Miss (who would also have drilled Utah)? Oklahoma, who only lost to third-ranked Texas at a neutral site? Or Texas, the team that lost on the road at Texas Tech on a last-second touchdown? What about Alabama, the team that lost once to (yes) Florida, in a game they led by 3 in the fourth quarter, also at a neutral site?
All four of those teams played tougher schedules than Utah. All four of them were more deserving candidates for a national title shot.
(Sour grapes from a 'Bama fan who was forced to congratulate a bunch of gel-haired idiots on Bourbon Street on Jan. 2? Maybe. But the facts are still the facts.)

Which is why the computers exist. Computers don't get caught up in nice stories, the way the voters did back in 1984 with BYU, as chronicled here by the guys at Braves & Birds. Computers aren't bogged down by shiny uniforms or East-Coast bias or any of the other garbage that affects our judgment. Computers deal only in cold, hard data. They're better at it than we are, and deep down, we know it.

Of course, we could get rid of all of it if we settled in the most object way possible. But that's probably asking too much.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

a Thursday link-fest ... strappin' it on

No, you're not imagining things, folks: it's really here. Football practice does begin today for everyone around the SEC, and that means actual games — tailgating! marching bands! road trips! — aren't far behind. I won't bother to wax poetic about what football season means to us around here, particularly not when BSR has already done a far better job than I ever could. I will, however, provide an overview of what the next few (frustrating) weeks will entail in terms of coverage (and this is no matter which team you follow):
• "(Player X) Happy To be Back After Injury-Plagued 2008"
• "(Team X) Says Last Season Doesn't Mean a Thing"
• "(Coach X) Wants His Team To Be Better" (note: already covered)
• "(Important Player X) Says Something Stupid"
• "(Player You've Never Heard of X) Ready for a Breakout Year"
• "Fans Ready For All These Stories To Stop So They Can Watch Some Actual Games"
We at the DP will do the best we can to cull the best of those stories to try to get you through to Sept. 5. If it helps, here's another great video by bamafanzone.

(That didn't help, did it? OK then, links instead.)

— Nico has pieced together a list of road trips he'd like to see, many of them outside your normal conventional wisdom. I'm a big fan of home-and-homes with teams like that — I say, if we're not going to schedule top-tier non-conference games, we might as well schedule second-tier teams from other large conferences (San Diego St., Maryland, etc). Those seem like more fun than playing UTC and La.-Monroe.
(Whoops. Maybe I should shut up.)
— Some good news on the character front: Javy Arenas has been nominated to the AFCA Good Works Team. How far we've come in a relatively short time. Is this the right time to post the updated version of the "Javy Arenas is a bad man" video? I say yes.

Mama may have called Sidell Corley, even though his name sounds perfectly suited to LSU. Also on the roster front, coach Saban confirmed four players from '09 aren't coming back. Sunrise, sunset.

— If you're into this sort of thing, here are today's practice notes from The Plains. Hey, was anyone else as shocked — SHOCKED — to read that Auburn's locker room in '08 was a wee bit divided?
— Like most major writers around this time, Tony Barnhart is into the "5 questions" method of banging out entries. Here are his entries on the SEC West and East.
— Two more solid football links: the Gurus look at the BCS automatic qualifiers in the future; and the Coaches Hot Seat Blog complains (rightly) about the USA Today poll.
We have all seen in recent weeks that the Coaches Poll is little more than a poll of sports information directors or other hangers-on in college athletic departments, because anyone with an IQ over room temperature knows that college head football coaches do not have the time that it takes to see teams play from across the country or to decide in a fair an unbiased way where teams should be ranked in a poll. With the fact that the Coaches Poll is an outright fraud, on top of that, here comes USA Today soliciting from the coaches and putting out in a Preseason Poll even before a damn football game has been played. How in the world could the coaches or anyone this side of a time-traveler possibly know where teams should be ranked before a game has been played is way beyond our cognitive abilities, but we are sure that the BCS Boys and BCS Lovers will find some half-assed and incredibly fraudulent way to explain way this absurdity as well.

— One more great reason for football season: to save us all from the frustration that is the Atlanta Braves. The guys at B&B break it all down for us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

on coaching and judgment

We'll get back to the links and the thrill of starting practice (I even have a column up about it today) in the morning. In the meantime, I want to discuss this blog entry from a few days ago by Tony Barnhart of the AJC.
In short, Barnhart argues that we shouldn't judge UGA's Mark Richt too harshly for having no national championships to claim (thus far).
You read that right. Having covered this sport for a long time I have concluded that national championships are not an accurate measure on whether or not somebody is a good coach or a great coach. Now if a guy like Urban Meyer has won two national titles in three years and is favored to win another, it’s a pretty good bet that he’s a great coach. But the absence of a national championship does not mean that someone is a lesser coach.
Mr. CFB makes a fantastic point. In Mark Richt's tenure at Georgia — which began in 2000 — he's won almost 90 games, two SEC championships and appeared in the BCS on two separate occasions. They've had the upper hand in nearly all their rivalry games: 7-3 vs. UT, 5-4 vs. Auburn and 8-1 vs. Ga. Tech (sorry, Pedro — that 1 was something else, though, right?). And they've been in the conversation for a national title on at least two occasions — 2002 and 2007.
And yet somehow that number – national championships: 0 — sticks out like a sore thumb.

Tommy Tuberville can identify with Richt. This decade, he shepherded the best team in the SEC at Auburn in 2004. It's the only team this decade that finished completely unblemished, yet it didn't even sniff a national title. Tuberville — who brazenly declared Auburn WOULD win the national championship before he left — leaves as something of a disappointment.

Is that fair? Not really. Richt's best season at UGA — 2002, when his team finished 12-1 — is just as good as every other team in the SEC that DID win a national title: '03 LSU, 'o6 Florida, '07 LSU and '08 Florida ALL finished with at least one loss and won the national title anyway.
The point isn't that coaching doesn't matter. The point is that national titles, especially in the BCS era, are as much about luck as they are anywhere else.
Consider, for example, the 1998 national champs from Tennessee. The Vols — a year after losing Peyton Manning to graduation — finished 13-0 and won the national championship. A great season, obviously. But it's fair to point that at least four of those games were about a minute away from being losses:
• Syracuse. Pass interference kept a last-ditch drive alive that ultimately won the game.
• Florida. An inability to kick broke the Gators' hex over the Vols.
• Auburn. The Tigers somehow failed to score on four tries inside the 1 and lost by a TD.
• Arkansas. Um, this happened ...

Again, no one here is implying that Phil Fulmer is a bad coach. But the fact that Florida's equivalent of Clint Stoerner didn't fall down and inexplicably lose the ball in the process — or the fact that UT lucked out by not having to face either UCLA or K. State (or a Florida St. team at full strength) — doesn't make him a greater coach than Richt.

Here's the thing about Richt's UGA teams, though, that does make me wonder if he's got the chops to be a great coach: they don't rise to the occasion when it matters the most.
By my count, UGA under Mark Richt has been a preseason national title contender three separate seasons: 2003, '04 and '08. All three of those seasons featured spectacular failures. And they never could rise to the occasion against Florida, which explains why we could be talking about Urban Meyer long after we're talking about Mark Richt: not because of the rings, because his teams came through when it counted and Richt's did not.

Which, obviously, raises the same question I've raised in this blog before: would you rather have what Mark Richt has had at Georgia (multiple 10-win seasons without a championshp) or what Auburn or Tennessee have had (seasons of mediocrity with one outstanding season stuck in the middle)?

Discuss, if you will.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: siren songs

Let's be honest: a number of things about college football — particularly southern football — are extra special. One of my favorite dumb traditions, though: the marching bands, not just because of the fight songs they play, but because every marching band has at least one popular song (either recent or slightly older) that they play, and it's become something of an understood tradition with the fans, and there's no real method behind it.

Case in point: the Million Dollar Band and its weekly rendition of "Basketcase."

Right up there: Auburn's band and its rendition of "Livin on a Prayer."

(Note: Auburn fans may wonder to themselves why I'm not acknowledging their rendition of Ozzy's "Crazy Train." I will, as soon as you guys learn to sing it correctly. And not one second sooner.)

Now you're getting the idea. Here are some of my other favorites:

See y'all Wednesday with some mid-week linkage.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

a lazy blogger's quarterback thoughts

With practice starting this week, much of the focus will be on the quarterback position (as evidenced in this 5 questions post from Gentry Estes). I actually had an idea that I might be able to dredge up an extended post about Alabama's recent history at quarterback (recent = since Jay Barker left). Then I remembered I actually wrote that column prior to the Cotton Bowl in 2006 (that link probably won't work unless you're paying for an online subscription to the DH). Obviously, it's missing a section on John Parker — I'll try updating that later on I've added a section on the madness that is was John Parker. Feel free to toss in your own thoughts in the comments section, as always.

(Original run date: 12/31/2005)
QB Curse at 'Bama?
Every franchise, I suppose, in its history, has had to deal with a curse of some kind.
Boston had the Curse of the Bambino. Chicago had the curse of the Billy Goat. Atlanta has the Curse of the Guys Who Bought the Team and Decided to Stop Spending Money.
For the past decade, one could argue, Alabama quarterbacks have suffered from the Curse of Jay Barker.
You may remember Barker as the fresh-faced kid from Trussville who quarterbacked the last Tide team win a national championship in 1992. You might also remember him from those Tuscaloosa Chevrolet commercials (‘Roll, Chevy, Roll!’).
I remember Barker more for his exploits as a senior (1994), when he led his team to come-from-behind victories in almost every regular-season game (including the final one, a dramatic win over Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl) and quoted Scripture almost constantly.
He was the guy we all bragged about in Sunday School. So did you see what Barker did last night?
All told, the blue-eyed dreamboat rolled up a record of 35-1-1. He played in the SEC Championship Game three times, went to three bowl games (he was injured in ’93) and still holds a dear place in the hearts of many Tide fans (hence, the Chevy commercials).
But it’s worth mentioning that since Barker’s graduation, Alabama has suffered a dearth of success behind center, with quarterbacks almost consistently underachieving.
We might as well break it down by eras, since each was distinct in its own right:
Freddie Kitchens (1995-1997): You may remember that, in Kitchens’ early days at Alabama, he was considered a stud at the QB position. Even as Barker was leading Alabama to a national title in ’92, Tide fans whispered that Kitchens was the quarterback of the future, that he or Brian Burgdorf would take the Tide to new heights, maybe as early as ’93.
It never happened. Instead, both Kitchens and Burgdorf languished behind Barker for two more years, before the festively plump Kitchens took over the position as a Redshirt sophomore.
His time under center is unfairly remembered as an utter disaster (mostly because of his size), even though Alabama won 10 games in 1996. Kitchens was actually part of some memorable games during his tenure, the most memorable coming in 1996, when he and Dennis Riddle combined for a game-winning drive in Gene Stallings’ final game against Auburn at Legion Field.
But he’s mostly remembered for his misses: ’95 against Auburn, ’96 against Tennessee, ’96 against Florida, ’97 against Auburn again (though he played brilliantly and was undone ultimately by a bone-headed screen pass call). He never really reached the expectations laid out for him.
John David Phillips (1998): Whatever. I think he’s married to Reagan Croyle now.
Andrew Zow/Tyler Watts (1998-2002): Ah, the quarterback debate to end all quarterback debates. For three full seasons, Tide fans everywhere had to live with that nagging question. Watts or Zow? Zow or Watts? Black or white? Pocket-passer or scrambler?
To be totally fair, the racial angle of the debate always seemed to be an invented thing to me, since Zow was the controlled pocket passer who ran like an old man, while Watts was the option-oriented scrambler with a soggy arm and happy feet. Not exactly your stereotypical quarterback argument.
(Note: the funniest moment of this ridiculous argument for me came prior to the 1999 SEC Championship Game, after Watts had come off the bench in relief of Zow to beat Auburn at Jordan-Hare. Following that game, a columnist ‑ and I can’t remember his name now for the life of me ‑ actually argued Zow as the starter against Florida … because “he’s such a threat to scramble.” Absolutely hilarious.)
Zow started most of the games in ’98 ‑ including a thrilling comeback at LSU and a win over Auburn ‑ and parlayed that into a starring role in ’99, turning in two absolutely brilliant performances at Florida and at Ole Miss. He struggled against Auburn and was relieved by Watts, who actually did very little aside from handing the ball to Shaun Alexander (I believe in the NFL they call that ‘game management’). The two platooned through the next two games, a resounding defeat of Florida in Atlanta and then a one-point loss to Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
It was the next season (2000) that was particularly hellish, as Alabama’s offensive coaches ‑ in the midst of their own squabble over who was more important ‑ constantly jerked the two of them on and off the field, before Watts injured his hamstring and then his knee. Zow became the permanent starter, lost his confidence quickly, was booed at home and eventually became the embattled symbol for a miserable 3-8 campaign.
Enter the Dennis Franchione era, whose option attack was tailor-made for Tyler Watts. The Redshirt junior started every game in 2001, until a groin injury forced him to the bench, paving the way for Zow to make his first start … and provide Alabama with an incredible 31-7 win over Auburn.
The worst part of that performance? It enabled columnists and talk-show hosts to dig up the Zow-Watts horse and pound on it a little more. Zow, incidentally, finished as Alabama’s all-time leading passer, in spite of his see-saw career.
As for Watts, his career concluded in 2002, a season in which he was injured again (a freshman named Croyle replaced him for a win over Arkansas and a loss to UGA), won some important games (blowout wins over Tennessee and LSU) and then lost at home to Auburn (in a not-so-shocking upset).
Remembered as one of the top prospects in the state as a high-school senior, Watts ‑ like Kitchens before him ‑ never truly achieved what many believed was inevitable.
Hey, speaking of that …
Brodie Croyle (2002-2005): There’s no need re-hashing Brodie’s career now as it’s winding to a close. Here are some of my personal highlights:
… Brodie’s announcement that he was coming to Alabama, when his entire school let out and pretty much the entire internet had decided he was going to Florida State. I was working in the University System office at the time; you’d have thought it was V-E Day all over again.
… Brodie and his teammates taking the podium following Mike Price’s firing in the spring of 2003, when all of them appeared to be about to cry. Asked if he’d learned a lesson from any of that ordeal, the rising sophomore said flatly, accusatorily: “Better make the most of your first opportunity.”
… Brodie trying to scramble against Tennessee in 2003, when he was playing with a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder and was wincing in pain with every breath. CBS had a camera fixed on his parents in the bleachers, and they both appeared on the verge of tears. Hard to blame them.
… Brodie’s injury in 2004 against Western Carolina, which was unfairly blamed on Mike Shula, even though it was a non-contact injury on the first series of the third quarter (when almost every starter was still in the game). It was like every Alabama’s worst nightmare.
… Watching Brodie get up ever so slowly after every vicious hit in 2005, when every Alabama fan was holding his breath and praying. It was like they were all expecting him to be torn in half at any point.
So what do we take from all this? Is there such a thing as a curse? Is it merely a symbol of the flux which has plagued Alabama’s football program since the retirement of Stallings in 1996 (or, even deeper, since the death of Paul Bryant in 1982)?
(UPDATE!!!!!! I added a few thoughts to this section for JPW, someone who I've spent endless hours trying to figure out the last three seasons.)
John Parker Wilson: Familiarity breeds contempt, goes the old saying, and it's definitely true of John Parker, a guy we've alternately loved and hated during his three seasons as a starter at 'Bama. His relevant stats — nearly 8,000 yards passing, 49 touchdowns, 29 INTs, a 121+ QB rating — don't tell the tale of how hot-and-cold the guy was at QB. He had some of the best games in the history of Alabama football — against Arkansas and Tennessee in '07, against Georgia in '08 — and also some of the worst — against FSU and Mississippi St. in '07, the Sugar Bowl against Utah in '08. He was tougher in the pocket and quicker on his feet than Brodie ever was (to be fair, Brodie has no knees) but at times didn't look capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. He gave us some fantastic individual plays — like the drive that beat Arkansas in '07 — and also gave us The Single Worst College Football Play I've Ever Seen. He was very good against Tennessee and not so good against Auburn. He deserves credit for the 12-0 regular season in 2008, and also some blame for the way that season ended. I never did figure him out and am glad that he's gone, but at the same time I think I'll miss trying to figure him out. If that makes any sense.
(Confused? Now you know how I've felt the last three seasons.)

It's a little strange: Alabama was, during its heyday, known for producing quarterbacks. Starr, Namath and Stabler everybody knows about, but few people remember Richard Todd or Scott Hunter, two others who played with some success at the next level. At some point, Alabama stopped producing great QBs, and there's not a great explanation for that.
Arguably the most pressure-packed position at any level of sports/government in the entire state of Alabama belongs to the quarterback of the Crimson Tide (up to and including the governor). If you're like me, you'll call him by his first name and agonize over his study habits, sort of like we do with our own family members. Very few people are capable of responding positively to that kind of pressure.
Sorry, Greg. I wish I could change it. The good news is you'll get your picture hung up at The Waysider if you handle business like Jay did.