Wednesday, September 30, 2009

a "Lost" Wednesday: crash landing

Since I have a busy afternoon, I'm flaking out on the usual "Lost" related post by giving you a four-part look at , or the reason we're all here.
Also, if you're interested in something football related, check out my post at, and be sure to skip the rest of the site.

(h/t: jmlani7, whoever you may be.)

As always, feel free to post any thoughts in the commentary section.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: a trip to the Bluegrass

Alabama and Kentucky have a rather interesting history together, as chronicled by RBR. Like most teams' relationship with the 'Cats, Alabama has dominated the series from a wins perspective, but never really blew them out.

Anyway, here are a few videos to carry you through your Tuesday. First, the most memorable trip to Lexington: the 1988 Bluegrass Comeback.

And, of course, in the interest of currency, last year's game in T-Town, which was sloppy, but not so much that bamafanzone couldn't make it fun.

And, since no video related to Kentucky would truly be complete without something basketball related, here's a clip from a 2007 date with the 'Cats at Coleman.

Monday links at lunchtime

Before we start with this week's version of the links, I feel as though I did poor justice to Trent Richardson's TD run that gave us our first moment of excitement on Saturday.

(h/t: AlabamaGameday)

Onward, then.
— The biggest story coming out of Saturday, of course, is the injury to Dont'a Hightower, and the subsequent speculation as to what we'll do on defense. RBR has the most comprehensive look at how we do that.
My take: Reamer's going to have to stay outside, because he doesn't appear fast enough to play inside. In run defense, he seems perfectly able — in pass defense, though, he looks lost. If we can clear up this situation with Jerrell Harris, then all this discussion may be moot. If.
— Of course, as Chris Low reminds us, all these negative waves are deflecting attention from this: this defense is good.
And really, the team still looks good. Mr. SEC has us #1 in his power ratings, a number of national pundits are showering us with love and even my favorite Auburn blogger couldn't find much negative to say.
Now, just keep thinking about that [negative] and ignore the fact that Greg McElroy has been playing like a man possessed by the demon of Ridonkulously Good Quarterbacking and that the defense just humiliated what was supposed to be one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. That stuff doesn’t matter. It’s just the running thing. (There’s also the “unfortunate year-ending injury to starting LB Donta’ Hightower” thing. Even at Alabama, replacing a ‘backer as good as Hightower is no mean feat, but with the Tide’s 47 scholarship linebackers and a coachbot around to hand-select the cream of the crop, they should be OK.)

It's also worth noting how fortunate we've been thus far, what with all the upsets and such.

— One of my favorite running segments is The Wiz's "Old Media" entry, in which he grabs the front pages of a number of different newspapers, to see what the local reactions look like.
— I went over to EDSBS to find my usual bit of irreverent humor and bawdy analysis, possibly as it relates to Tim Tebow's injury. Instead I found a reserved, very well thought out post with a great perspective. Frankly sir, that's not the EDSBS I know.
(One question that's fair to ask: what the heck was he still doing in the game?)
— Speaking of fans in need of perspective, it's Ole Miss! Mr. SEC thinks the Reb fans should calm down.
— Assorted Aub stuff: Dennis Pillion wonders who on the jumbotron refuses to spell out words during the National Anthem; and a bitter Tennessee fan discusses the respect and admiration he has for the Auburn family.
(And honestly, I feel roughly that way about Tennessee.)

— Two other tidbits from outside football: Demetrius Jemison is injured and done for the year, and the baseball team is starting fall practice in an unfamiliar scenario.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 4 thoughts: it's all happening

If the Crimson Tide isn't the most impressive team in the country through the first third of the season, then who is? Or, more to the point, what is Nick Saban's third Alabama team missing that would otherwise make it among the legitimate national championship favorites? ... But the Crimson Tide is the most serious challenger to the Gators' throne at this point. That's because Alabama is substantially better in almost every area from a year ago.
— Randy Kennedy, Press-Register (h/t: RBR)

Shhhhhhh ... don't tell. We haven't really proven anything yet. The real tests are still in front of us.
We have looked good though, right?
Yes, but don't say anything. You'll jinx it. I swear this will all make sense later

The first part of this season has been chock full of teams steadfastly refusing to fulfill their preseason expectations. Already one month into the season, Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, Miami, Ole Miss and even BYU have sent their hype machines careening off into a ditch. Even Florida and Texas — still undefeated — have turned in "meh" performances on the national stage.
Amazingly, of all those top-10 contenders, the one that looks the best right now is Alabama. We don't like to admit it around here, frankly.
This is, of course, the same Alabama replacing its quarterback and its offensive line. The Alabama that staggered through a lackluster Sugar Bowl loss to Utah. The Alabama that should be suffering some kind of Year 3 malaise that normally befalls a rebuilding program (and we still have one, for those who don't know).

E'en so, this team continues to have the same workmanlike quality we've discussed in this space before. Saturday was the perfect set-up for that precipitous fall: Arkansas is capable of scoring in bunches, and particularly after Dont'a Hightower was lost early in the game and the offense failed to move, things looked a little ominous — we were ripe for yet another upset bid, the same kind that had just wrapped up over in Starkville.
A funny thing happened on the way to that, though: Alabama wouldn't let it happen. Instead, the Tide hit the big plays Arkansas was daring them to make (the Hawgs crowded the line of scrimmage all day and dared Greg McElroy to beat them deep — he did) and locked down a pretty good Arkansas offense, ultimately pulling away for a pretty ordinary 35-7 victory.

There's really not much you can say about it. Here are a few thoughts from Section N-6:
— A theme that has definitely emerged over the first four weeks: Greg McElroy. He played like a guy who was lost on the field during the first three quarters at the Georgia Dome, and ever since has played exceedingly well. Inparticular, the deep ball he threw to Maze for an 80-yard TD was sweet — the coverage on the play was decent and McElroy just put the ball in the perfect spot.
In the interest of fairness, we should also note that he a) hasn't been hit that often this season and b) is playing in a system that doesn't require him to be a wunderkind. But you knew defenses were (and are) going to dare Alabama to beat them with something other than the run and Julio Jones. And thus far, Alabama is finding ways to accomplish that.
— Does Bob Petrino not know that fortune favors the bold? Twice on Saturday his team (with a supposedly explosive offense) faced fourth-and-short in Alabama territory ... and twice he punted. The second was the most egregious: trailing 21-7 in the third, the Hawgs needed less than a yard in plus territory (roughly the 'Bama 40) for a first down (it was basically a do-or-die drive). Instead, Petrino trotted out the punt unit — Lorenzo Washington blocked the punt, Alabama took over at the Arkansas 35 and scored to basically end the game.
Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Don't be gay in God's house, dude.
— OK, given my history as a football player, I'm the last guy who should call another team's linemen dirty. On the other hand, the following are statements of fact about Arkansas.
• On its first series, Arkansas was penalized for clipping (declined).
• On its second series, Arkansas was penalized for a chop block.
• Later in the same quarter, Alabama's best defensive player (in terms of talent) left the game with a season-ending knee injury.
(Are those three items related? You tell me.)
— Drive of the game: Alabama's 99-yarder to salt it away, beginning when McElroy (him again) drew the Hawgs offisdes at the one. That's the kind of thing a well-coached team does.
— If we blow one more kickoff coverage, I swear I'm going to have a coronary.
— Unfortunately, the final stats for Ryan Mallett — 12-31-1-1, 160 — don't really account for how many of his passes were on target but dropped. If his receivers could have held a few more of those, the game might have been a lot closer.
— As much as I enjoy Tuscaloosa, I'm really glad we're playing somewhere other than Bryant-Denny the next two weeks. The people in charge of the gameday experience at BDS have some real soul-searching to do. I'll let Matt Miller take it from there.
— Finally, to cap things off, here's a photo of Julio Jones taking on the entire state of Arkansas.

Not a week goes by that I don't think, "Geez, I'm glad he plays for our team."
[Note: I think I'll be saying that about Trent Richardson very soon, as well.]

It's great to be from Alabama. Roll Tide.

Friday, September 25, 2009

tinkering with Friday: picks (and webb, also)

Editor's note: At the beginning of football season, I started writing a prognosticator's column for my old co-workers on the sports desk at . I'm replicating that here below, and will probably keep doing it every Friday (since they run it inside for Saturday's paper, it never sees the Web site). Also, at the bottom there's this week's Derek Webb video: "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again." And I do!

I'm no stranger to the rain
But there'll always be tomorrow
And I'll beg, steal, or borrow a little sunshine
And I'll put this cloud behind me
That's how the Man designed me
To ride the wind and dance in a hurricane
I'm no stranger to the rain

You're right. It's a hokey way to start a column. I can't help myself, though.

In a typical football season, a few things start taking shape after the first three weeks. We understand a little more about the season as a whole.

This isn't a typical season. I?m not sure, in the SEC, if we even really know anything just yet.

Here's what we DO know, so far as I can tell:
• Florida is not invincible.
• Auburn's offense is dangerous.
• Vanderbilt has gone back to being Vanderbilt.

That's about it, really. Every team in the conference has shown a few flashes, and every team in the conference looks eminently beatable. Prepare yourself.

It certainly makes picking your average college football weekend tougher. We rebounded from the debacle of two weeks ago with a 4-2 week last Saturday, which brings us to a very mediocre 6-9 against the spread so far this season.

Things don't look any easier this week — at this point I might as well ask my hound dog for help with these things.
(Home teams in caps.)

AUBURN (-31) over Ball State: The Tigers deserve a break after last week, a tense affair that featured a ton of different emotional swings. The good news: Ball State is terrible.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Confused cocking of the head, tilted slightly to the side. I think that means he agrees.)

Arizona St. (+12.5) over GEORGIA: When it comes to Georgia so far this year, there's no way to accurately predict anything. They lowered everyone's expectations by barely showing up for their opener, then followed that with outbursts of 41 and 52 points against SEC foes.
I have no idea what to make of this team. I really don't.
So whatever — take the points this week. The line's too high, anyway.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Jumping up and licking me on the face.)

LSU (-14) over MISSISSIPPI ST.: It may take the Bengal Tigers longer than people realize to cover this line: they're not quite as good as some people think, and State isn't quite as bad. Plus, the weird early start time has thrown some people for a loop so far this season.
Even with all that, I still can't reasonably expect this State team to stay within 14 points of them.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Rolling over on his back and asking for a belly rub.)

Florida (-22.5) over KENTUCKY: Everyone's down on the Gators after last week's failure to score 100 against Tennessee. So I?ll take the opposite tack and bet they turn in a big showing under the lights against UK.
This is the last time, though — if they slop around again like they did last week, I'm going to the mattresses.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Snoring uproariously.)

ALABAMA (-15.5) over Arkansas: Any Tide fan who says he?s not a little worried about this one is either lying or drunk (or both). The Hawgs' 41-point outburst against Georgia had nearly everyone making some version of the "track meet/basketball team" joke by the time it was over.
But it also exposed a terrible weakness: namely, Arkansas' defense, which had two weeks to prepare for Georgia and still gave up 52 points at home. There's also the tiny matter of Alabama's defense, which is miles ahead of Georgia's in terms of talent and coaching.
This one looks like one you're worried about until sometime in the second quarter, when Mark Ingram bangs his way in for a 35-10 lead.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Handshake. Glad to see you're on board, boy.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

your Friday links: the SEC beckons

As I type this, we're toggling Ole Miss-South Carolina with the season premiere of "Grey's Anatomy," which is either the best or the worst chick drama on television (and I can't figure out which one). There's definitely an awful lot of crying. This much I know.
(I'm almost certain I'm talking about the TV show.)

[EDIT: I'm finishing this on Friday morning, after the game has already been decided, and Ole Miss has already very publicly fallen from grace. I've said it all along, but I'll say it again: this, Reb fans, is what you got when you signed up for the Houston Nutt bandwagon. Week-to-week, he's the most erratic football coach I've ever seen. And last night he and his staff were brutal (repeat: BRUTAL), with the microcosmic moment coming on the final fourth-down play, a fourth-and-12 — the Rebs called timeout (their last) to set up the play, then had to take ANOTHER five-yard penalty because they came out of the huddle with 12 people. That's embarrassing, frankly.]

Anyway, I owe you guys some links because it's a Friday and that's what we do here. Before we get to those, here's a ubiquitous video of Nick Saban pandering to ESPN.

I like to think he took a shower immediately following that shoot.

— RBR spent this week discussing things with the other side: here's the boys' interview with Razorback Expats; and here's their interview in return.
— Individual features: sits down with Mt. Cody (a treacherous proposition); and Chris Low talks about the maturation of Marcel Dareus. Also, Brent at 8Box discusses Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB.
— Speaking of that, Tidesports takes a look at 'Bama's running game, which is, obviously, the bellcow for the team. One wrinkle for Saturday: there's rain in the forecast, which may not help us as much as you'd think — it's harder for the DBs to cut on a dime if the surface is sloppy. But we'll see.
— Prior to the 2005 season, I wrote a column proclaiming Alabama's need to defend its home turf if it wanted to return to the ranks of college football's elite. Apparently this has become a theme in Tuscaloosa.
— That first blockbuster signing class of the Saban era, the one that inspired the fan base to start wearing hilariously dumb t-shirts ... those guys, it turns out, are as good as advertised. And that's quite a statement to make less than two years into their time in Tuscaloosa.

— Random other assorted items: Mr. CFB makes his Friday forecast; and Ron Higgins says the SEC should provide more blockbuster matchups for its fans.

another Thursday tradition: shamelessly promoting myself

Since this week's Lifestyle column didn't make our paper's Web site, I'm re-posting it here for all to enjoy read and critique move on.
Thanks in advance for your feigning of interest.

If one positive thing has come out of the past week and its torrential downpours, flooding and general mayhem, it?s been this one: everybody?s had a chance to trot out his favorite rain joke.

Sorry, but ... I mean, did we move to Seattle during the night? Is Starbucks opening up on the corner? Where did all this rain come from?
Hey guys, I'm going out to find something to eat — should I take the ark and start collecting two of every animal?
Does anybody want to come with me tonight to the football game? No? Then how about the swim meet at halftime?

And on and on (and on) it goes. You couldn't pinpoint your favorite "it's really wet outside" joke even if you tried; furthermore, the longer it rains, the lines become more popular, not less.

Obviously, the weather of late has been frustrating for everybody, from football fans (who endured seemingly unending weather delays Friday and Saturday) to event organizers (had to plan their concerts and shows around the pending weather) to emergency personnel (who've had to stand by in case of disaster). It's a difficult proposition, waiting out the raindrops.

And yet, there's a part of me that simply refuses to complain a great deal about rainfall. Maybe it's because I'm descended from south Alabama farmers, and learned very early on the value of the rain to our livelihood.

Maybe it's because I remember barely two years ago, when the entire state suffered through a debilitating drought. I'm pretty sure I vowed at that point never to complain about rain ever again. I'm attempting to stick to that.

It could be my football background. I recall spending several grueling hours per day in high school out in the oppressive heat and humidity, attempting to remain upright and functional in temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees.

In the heavy, moist air, a thunderstorm seemed inevitable. And when it finally came, we'd cheer like we'd just won something (playing football in the mud is, after all, among the most fun things to do on the planet).

True story: once during a punishing round of drills, a thunderstorm swept upon our practice field out of somewhere deep in oblivion. At first, we were ordered to ignore it and keep punishing ourselves — until a terrifying lightning strike sent everyone scurrying back towards the dressing room without even time for further deliberation. I like to think God rescued us that day.

Here's hoping He rescues everyone who's suffered because of this most recent rain. And here's to all those rainfall jokes, because they're not going anywhere, either.

Man in Heaven: Why didn?t you come and save me, God? I said I had faith You would come.
God: I sent two rowboats and a helicopter! What'd you want?

Thursday: lines, please

I plan on forsaking work productivity sometime this afternoon for the sake of a blog post, if I can. HOWEVA, I need to toss out these lines early today, just in case that doesn't materialize.

Onward, then.

Ole Miss (-3.5) at South Carolina

Missouri (-7.5) at Nevada

South Florida (+14) at Florida State
North Carolina (+2.5) at Georgia Tech
Minnesota (+2.5) at Northwestern
Indiana (+20) at Michigan
Michigan State (+2.5) at Wisconsin
Southern Miss (+13.5) at Kansas
(Note: Has anyone read about the simmering tensions between KU's basketball and football programs? Rock Chalk, baby!)
LSU (-14) at Mississippi State
Wake Forest (-2.5) at Boston College
Pittsburgh (push) at North Carolina State
Illinois (+14.5) at Ohio State
TCU (+3) at Clemson
(Note: This is a terrifying game if you're a Clemson fan. Terrifying.)
UTEP (+34) at Texas
Miami (-2) at Virginia Tech
Arkansas (+15.5) at Alabama
California (-7) at Oregon
Troy (+1) at Arkansas State
Florida (-22.5) at Kentucky
Colorado State (+14.5) at BYU
Ball State (+31) at Auburn
Arizona State (+12.5) at Georgia
(Note: Anyone who's putting money on UGA games this year should have his head examined.)
UAB (+15) at Texas A&M
Ohio (+20.5) at Tennessee
Louisville (+11.5) at Utah
Arizona (-2) at Oregon State
Vanderbilt (-8) at Rice
Iowa (+10) at Penn State
Notre Dame (-8.5) at Purdue
Washington (+7) at Stanford
Texas Tech (+1) at Houston
(Note: Seriously?)
Washington State (+44) at USC
(Final note: I don't know if there's a program in the country more worthy of our pity than Wazzu. In addition to having no money and very little to draw recruits in, the Cougs lost their leading rusher last week to compartment syndrome, which might've killed him. And now they have to go to Pasadena to play a ticked-off Trojan team. Yikes.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Lost" Wednesday: fix you?

For today's post related to "Lost," we're posting a sweet video tribute to Jack Shepherd set to a Coldplay song.

Jack has a lot in common with my beloved Atlanta Braves, who seem to be perpetually stuck in no-man's land: competitive enough that it doesn't make sense to blow everything up (particularly after this torrid "too little, too late" win streak to end the season), but not quite a member of the big leagues' elite, either.

As a Braves fan, I'm hoping our boys stop wandering in the wilderness sometime soon. Won't someone fix us, please?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: Hawg wash

A few videos to help get you through your Tuesday, whilst I attempt to cobble together a newspaper (you know ... my real job).
If you're looking for some historical background on the game, check out this post at RBR.

First up: the 1980 Sugar Bowl game, significant because a) it capped the last championship season of the Bryant era; b) my parents (newly wedded) were in attendance.

And by the way, that is definitely Lou Holtz on the Hawg sideline.

To be current, we'll fast-forward to
last year: Alabama got out early and never looked back. This would become a theme.

We'll leave things with Arkansas' last trip to Tuscaloosa, which turned out to be something resembling a life experience. Bamafanzone captures the experience.

Monday, September 21, 2009

quick-hit thoughts: rainy days & Mondays always get me down

Some sympathy for a moment, please, even if it's completely superfluous.
Stacey and I woke up super early Saturday morning, due to the rather bizarre kickoff time in Tuscaloosa. We endured the on-again, off-again rainfall, fought our way through the traffic and strode into Bryant-Denny Stadium just before kickoff (with my two brothers in tow). We took in the surprisingly satisfying blowout, mingled with some friends, avoided the rain (for the most part) and were back home by around 6:30 p.m., CDT.
Darkness was falling. Rain was, too. We'd picked up some supper from Chick-Fil-A, one of the greatest fast-food chains on the planet. All either of us wanted to do was veg out on comfortable furniture and watch Auburn, Georgia and Texas all play at once.

Unfortunately, the cable was on the fritz.

When I say "on the fritz," I don't mean "out completely" ? I mean, "on the fritz" in the sense that we could tell what was going on, but only vaguely. Also, no cable meant no Internet ... which meant no blogging.
All that to say, I apologize for having no thoughts in blog form after this weekend, but the dog ate my homework. Sorry.

So here are some quick-hit thoughts before we move on to next week.
— Alabama's win was, as I said, thoroughly satisfying. North Texas was clearly outclassed from the opening snap, but there were multiple causes for concern going in: the weird kickoff time, the injury situation, the weather and the general lack of interest from the crowd (owing to factors 1 and 3). But 'Bama stepped on the gas early and never let up — they even earned positive grades from BSR. That's what good teams are supposed to do when faced with inferior competition.
— The most awkward part of Saturday's game: Alabama chose this Saturday to honor the 1989 SEC champion team at halftime. I say "awkward" not because the team didn't deserve honor — they did win 10 games, the SEC and went to the Sugar Bowl. But it was awkward for two reasons:
• Head coach Bill Curry was on the field with the team, and most Alabama fans still despise him with a special flair, both for the way he left town (basically fleeing because he was tired of the pressure) and for everything that's happened since (he painted himself a martyr at every turn).
• For whatever else that '89 team accomplished, they're probably best remembered for what happened at Auburn in the last game of the season (which I will link to but not show, for reasons related to my father's mental health).

— Coming into this Saturday, I remain a little afraid of Arkansas, a team that proved it's capable of scoring in bunches last week against Georgia. I'm less afraid now than before, and only because I believe this Alabama team is MILES ahead of Georgia defensively, and if Joe Cox can rack up that many points against this Arkansas defense ... I think we'll blow them out in the second half.
— For the sake of the game of football, Auburn had to win Saturday night against West Virginia. The 'Eers are a poorly coached fraud. Anyone who gives them a top-25 vote this season should have his voting privileges revoked.
— Does Auburn's 3-0 start make them worthy of a top-25 spot, as Jerry argued today? Possibly. I have no idea. In fact, I can agree with Tony Barnhart's assessment that we don't really know anything at this point. Even Chris Low seems confused in this week's SEC Power Poll.
— Monte Kiffin will, of course, receive much of the credit for Tennessee's moral victory on Saturday in Gainesville, holding Florida to a mere 23 points and making them look human at times. If you will, however, allow me to suggest a different culprit: Ed Orgeron.
Why? Here's what I wrote in late September 2007, after a similarly unstoppable Florida team had to grind out a 30-24 victory over Orgeron's Ole Miss team in Oxford:
Ole Miss provided the blueprint on how to beat Florida Saturday: keep things in front of you and make them drive down the field, hope they'll get frustrated and make a mistake. Unfortunately, Coach O's D isn't good enough to do it. ...
For all its frills, [Florida's] offense is geared around the abilities of two extraordinary players: Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. And because Harvin is a slithering dart of a football player, they can't rely too heavily on him to run between the tackles.
As they showed Saturday against Ole Miss, that leaves them with Tebow to get most of the tough yards in between the tackles. And he's a freak of nature, obviously -- a 6-3, 240-pound bull who delivers licks like a fullback and also throws the ball 95 miles per hour.
The thing is, Tyler Watts was like Tebow -- sans the big arm -- during his years at Alabama. And Tyler was hurt all the time. You can't ask your QB to carry the ball between the tackles 25 times per game, continuously getting popped by SEC linebackers and not get dinged at least once or twice over the course of a 13-game schedule.

That Florida team lost the following week to Auburn in one of the bigger upsets this decade. They wound up losing 3 more times that season.
Maybe it's not the same. Maybe it is. We'll see.
— USC, as is its custom, sleepwalked against a scrappy conference foe and found a way to lose. Dr. Saturday wonders how long we're going to continue to let this slide.
I'll say here exactly what I said after last year's stunning loss at Oregon State: USC can't keep getting passes for games like this. Three Four years in a row it's dropped out of the top two or three in the polls with a shocking, inexcusable loss to a vastly inferior outfit, with the exact same set of problems: Inconsistency at quarterback, a sketchy, makeshift running game and no go-to playmakers anywhere on an offense ostensibly overflowing with them.
Unlike last year, however, I'm no longer willing to concede that one-loss SC is certain to rebound and wind up running roughshod over the rest of the Pac-10, anyway. This bunch had a laundry list of obvious issues coming in, especially at quarterback, and it's not going to solve them by getting Matt Barkley back next week from his sore shoulder. These are not fluky problems: The Trojans are not good right now on offense; they're disconcertingly young on defense; and they're banged up everywhere.
USC, though, USC is the Same Old Trojans: Win the big one, gaffe away the little one. Four straight years and counting. Again, I'll repeat myself from last September's loss in Corvallis: If Ohio State deserves to be ridiculed and scorned and run out the mythical championship picture on a rail for its primetime, big game failures, when are we going to hold USC accountable for repeatedly losing the little one?

UPDATE (can't believe I left this one out the first time): What Florida St. did to BYU went well beyond impressive. I didn't see any of the game, but for the 'Noles to go on the road, to play a team riding a wave of momentum, in a game the home team HAD to have for its national title hopes ... and then they whipped them, and did so with authority. Obviously, it's too early to say FSU is experiencing a return to its old, dominant ways, but ... sheesh. That game looked hauntingly familiar.

And that's pretty much that. Here's hoping we get our cable back, and the world returns to something resembling normal by tonight.

Friday, September 18, 2009

your standard Friday fare: Webb & links

Editor's note: We tried a little something different this morning when putting together today's links; predictably, it didn't work perfectly. Hopefully all the errors are now fixed. Thanks to dmaguire27 for the heads-up.

Attempting to think a little outside the box for today's video of Derek Webb: today's song is one I don't really know ? it's called "A New Law."

And with that, we're off and running with this Friday's edition of the links. First up, in the preview section, are my friends from the sports branch of Tower of Bammer, previewing the game (warning: LANGUAGE)

It's not the most scientific preview in the world, but it works.

— For other unconventional looks at this year's Tide team, 8Box examines Alabama's kickoff team through the eyes of his Labrador.
— Elsewhere, in actual football analysis: the T-News looks at 'Bama's Pistol formation; Nico looks at and .
— Likely missing in action this week: Julio Jones and Roy Upchurch, according to Gentry Estes.
— That reminds me: if you're not reading Estes' "Bama Beat" on a daily basis, you absolutely must start doing so. Gentry works harder than anybody else in the business, and he almost always has the skinny on every situation before everyone else. And he manages to do it without making himself part of the story, as was Ian's wont.
Por ejemplo, here's a great story about Alabama WR Mike Bowman. Who is Alabama WR Mike Bowman? I didn't know, either.
— Here's another great Tide personnel story, about Terry Grant, whose fourth-quarter TD provided the cover for 'Bama gamblers everywhere (not noted in the story).
— This one kind of slipped under the radar, but it's pretty significant: 'Bama AD Mal Moore has now been at his job for 10 years. It doesn't really seem that long.
Devoting anything less than an entire column (or book) to Moore's remarkable career in and around Alabama football would be unfair. One note on Moore's tenure, for the record: it was my friend Amanda (who can be found blogging ) who originally predicted the demise of Moore's predecessor, Bob Bockrath, mere moments after a demoralizing loss to Louisiana Tech at Legion Field. Let the record also show that Amanda called Mike Dubose's ouster (not as big of a stretch, but still) after the loss at Tennessee the following season. Clairvoyant girl, that one.

— Some other assorted links: Mr. CFB checks with his Friday forecast; Dr. Sat. has a list of the worst games this weekend; reviews the SEC's best atmospheres (take a guess as to which one is first); and, finally, FSU fans go a little crazy in support of the Noles.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday lines: late and kind of surprised

Currently, I'm watching Miami pound Georgia Tech ? it's 33-10 early in the fourth and Miami has a chance to score again. I must say, I'm a little surprised, though I'm not sure why: a glimpse at Tech's schedule from 2008 reveals a number of wild swings, and it's kind of par for the course for the system Tech runs (it can look fantastic one day and disjointed the next). The only thing making it interesting: Miami just might be really good. I didn't see that one coming.
(One hilarious note: for some reason Gino Torretta is on Miami's sideline tonight. As a 'Bama fan, I'm not sure I could even look at him without laughing. What would that interview sound like? Gino, you're often referred to as the worst Heisman Trophy winner in the history of football. How do you feel about that?)

Anyway, I owe you some weekend lines, so here they are. As always, lines are courtesy of

Boise St. (-10) at Fresno St.
(Note: Has the potential to be a great game. I'm not kidding.)
Louisville (+10) at Kentucky
California (-14) at Minnesota
East Carolina (+7) at North Carolina
Boston College (+7) at Clemson
Duke (+19) at Kansas
Ohio St. (-21) at Toledo
(Note: Seriously? What's Toledo doing hosting BCS opponents in consecutive weeks?)
North Texas (+35.5) at Alabama
Wyoming (+7.5) at Colorado
(Note: When the local papers are openly speculating about your buyout, that probably means it's time to go.)
Tennessee (+27.5) at Florida
Tulsa (+15.5) at Oklahoma
Nebraska (+3) at Virginia Tech
UAB (+7.5) at Troy
Michigan St. (+11.5) at Notre Dame
USC (-23) at Washington
Utah (+4) at Oregon
Virginia (+14.5) at Southern Miss
(Note: Speaking of coaches about to be fired, it's Al Groh!)
Arizona (+5.5) at Iowa
Fla. International (+14.5) at Rutgers
(Note: Absolutely a great upset special if you're the gambling type. FIU is pretty frigging good. And Rutgers is not.)
Connecticut (+10.5) at Baylor
Navy (+8) at Pittsburgh
Cincinnati (+2) at Oregon St.
Northwestern (-3) at Syracuse
Rice (+31) at Oklahoma St.
Mississippi St. (+8) at Vanderbilt
Florida Atlantic (+21) at South Carolina
Florida St. (+6) at BYU
West Virginia (+5.5) at Auburn
Georgia (-1) at Arkansas
Kansas St. (+10.5) at UCLA

of homerism, bad writing and a big waste of time

Editor's note: I knew better when I started this. I couldn't help myself. Sorry.

Wasting an entire post on a rebuttal to someone else's blog that is clearly designed to entice people like to waste an entire post on a rebuttal is a waste of my time and yours. I'm aware of that. And so I apologize in advance.

At the same time, I couldn't let Kurt Branch's most recent post at Tigers Corner go without at least a mention. I'm doing this for two reasons: a) I know Kurt, and Kurt's enough of a publicity whore that he'll appreciate the mention, even if it's to tell him how dumb he is (in this sense, he's a lot like Lane Kiffin) and b) the post is so idiotic and erratic, it deserves an FJM-like breakdown.

(Which reminds me: did you note the brief reunion tour of FJM yesterday at Deadspin? It was like the reunion of the Mayberry gang, only with way more cursing.)

So here we go, then. God help us all.

Did you happen to catch the highlights of the Auburn/Miss. State game on ESPN's SportsCenter or Gameday Final last Saturday night?

No. I don't think very many people outside Auburn and Starkville cared all that much.

Neither did I because there weren't any.

Think that kind of proves my point. Is this the whole post?

This game had so many story lines it wasn't even funny,

Actually, it had a number of story lines that were hilarious.

but apparently Auburn is just too bad to be mentioned during two hours of highlights that included the bi-coastal battle of Wake Forest vs. Stanford, Utah vs. San Jose State, and Fresno State vs. Wisconsin.

... and that's one of them: you crying "MEDIA BIAS! NO RESPECT!" at the first opportunity. Just to humor you, though, let's examine those matchups one by one and dissect how all three of them were more interesting than Auburn-Mississippi St.:
? Wake Forest-Stanford was an intersectional game that featured a team (Wake) that's been one of the best in its conference the last couple years (admittedly, the matchup looks terrible on paper, but it was decided by 1 TD).
? Utah's a BCS team riding the longest win streak in the country (and I've got the scars to prove it).
? 'Sconsin-Fresno was one of the more exciting games all day ? it went to 2 OTs.

I don't know about you, but I just couldn't wait to see what happened in each of these monumental clashes.

Me neither!

I mean what about about the whole 3-2 thing from last year? What about two new coaches facing off in their first SEC battle?

These are both reasons to not watch Auburn-Miss St., if you're a casual fan. Also working against it: the combined record of these two teams in 2008 was 9-15.

What about Auburn going from 104th to 4th in total offense after two games? What about Auburn having two 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games for the first time ever?

Now these ARE things that we should be talking about: Auburn's 2008 offense couldn't have scored 49 points against air. And the fact that Gus Malzahn is figuring out ways to use average (and that's being generous) personnel to get this kind of production is a real head-turner. You'd think Auburn fans like Kurt would be celebrating right now.
Instead ... well, you know already.

I'm no TV producer, but even I know that these would have been great stories to portray in the highlights.

[slaps palm to forehead]

Is Auburn/Miss. State important to the national scene, or important to anyone outside of Alabama and Mississippi? Not really, but the same could be said for most of the games (and their respective states) that are given time on the show.

The wheels are starting to come off right about now, but we haven't gotten sufficiently ridiculous yet ...

Now I know over a hundred teams could make this argument (whine) every single week, but this is Auburn. This is the SEC. In fact, Auburn/Miss. St. was the only SEC game that wasn't mentioned, and most SEC teams at least got the score flashed on the screen.

I implore you to scroll back through the summer archives and read about the mammoth TV deal ESPN and the conference signed this past summer. Not only is the amount of money unprecedented, but the deal means that ? with FSN and CBS also picking up one game per week ??EVERY SEC GAME IS GOING TO BE ON TELEVISION EVERY SATURDAY FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.
(Read that last sentence again and breathe deeply.)

Does one bad year really mean that the world doesn't care anymore? It sure doesn't stop ESPN from showing teams who had a decade of bad years in recent history (See: Notre Dame).

Ah, the Notre Dame card. Everyone loves playing the Notre Dame card, even if there's no evidence that any ND bias exists anywhere except in the minds of Lou Holtz and Beano Cook.
But, since we're already waist-deep in this, what the hell: Notre Dame plays on television every Saturday principally because the university (not affiliated with a conference) signed its very own television deal with NBC. Similar to the one the SEC just signed with ESPN that guarantees that virtually EVERY SEC GAME WILL BE BROADCAST LIVE ON TELEVISION FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.
(I mean, how much do you really want out of life?)

I don't know much,


but I know that this post, no matter how stellar it is, won't change the minds of those in Bristol.

You're absolutely right: the people in Bristol, TN only care about NASCAR.
Wait, you mean ESPN? The people who just signed a $1 billion deal with the SEC that guarantees virtually EVERY SEC FOOTBALL GAME WILL BE BROADCAST LIVE ON TELEVISION FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE? Those guys?

All we can do is hope that Auburn goes out this week against West Virginia and proves that they belong amongst the ranks of the Spartans from San Jose State.

San Jose State's 2008 record: 6-6.
(Should we keep going? Eh, whatever ... this feels good.)

Maybe three consecutive games over 550 yards, a win over a Big East school (because a win over an SEC school obviously isn't enough),

I'm not sure why Kurt goes out of his way to slight this week's opponent: West Virginia is undefeated, won 9 games last year (one victory was even against perpetually disrespected Auburn) and won 10 games in '07, '06 and '05. A win over West Virginia would be very impressive, even if they are coached by a borderline invalid.

and another dual 100-yard rushing game will put Auburn back on the highlight reel, but let's not hold our breath. I'm sure USC is taking part in another epic battle this week.

So there you have it, folks. In closing: ESPN would rather show highlights of USC, the best program of this decade, than Auburn.
The biased jerks.
(By the way, this week's Auburn game kicks off at 6:45 p.m. ... on ESPN. Though they'll probably send bad announcers or something since they're so biased.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Lost" Wednesday: wash away

I heard this song during a commercial the other day, and could've sworn I'd heard it somewhere before.

Then I remembered — it was this.

I'll have a roundtable I'm making up myself later. Hopefully it will be better than the roundtable I made up myself the other day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: a little video inspiration

Since we're having a little trouble in the kicking game these days, I figured I'd post this video from tiderolls67. Thanks, buddy.

And, just so you won't feel cheated — this being midseason and all — here are last week's highlights (keep the volume turned down, just trust me).

Back tomorrow with more prep for UNT.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

week 2 thoughts: taking their best

Games like Saturday are a weird sort to attend as a fan. As a player, you're required to approach every opponent the same, treat them all with respect and play accordingly (even if we all know that's mostly just cliche). But fans aren't required to do that: fans, for the most part, understand the difference between big games and not-so-big ones, and carry themselves accordingly. That's just the way it is.

That kind of festive atmosphere was evident Saturday afternoon on the Quad in Tuscaloosa. People were tossing footballs, grilling, drinking, watching other games. Few of them even acknowledged the opponent — who were we playing again? — and fewer still bothered much with analysis of how Alabama would beat them. If anything, the prevailing wish of the fans was something like, "I hope we put this one away early so I can come back and watch Auburn/Georgia/Ohio St."

In fact, as Ray Melick noted in his column today, the only thing that could really happen to make Saturday notable to anyone other than a few players' mothers would've been something disastrous, along the lines of La.-Monroe/Northern Illinois/UCF, or maybe a key injury like WCU in '04. The idea when you're playing a team like Florida International — no matter how much we respect them — is to jump on them early, take away their fleeting hopes and allow your young kids to play in the fourth quarter.

So I expected the team to be at less than its best. What I wasn't expecting: FIU's actually pretty good.

The Golden Panthers played Alabama to the hilt for most of three quarters — they trailed only 20-14 late into the third and even led briefly in the second quarter — not because of a lack of hustle or desire on Alabama's part, but because a) their coaching staff put together a fantastic scheme for Alabama (to be fair, it was their season opener); b) these guys are good.

FIU's 2 WRs gave Alabama's secondary fits all night. Their quarterback, Paul McCall, took a pounding from a withering Alabama rush and kept right on coming. And defensively, the visitors were athletic and inspired — they hit every bit as hard as Virginia Tech did a week ago.
Of course, they didn't have the depth to keep up down the stretch — from the point Trent Richardson scored from 9 yards out to make the score 26-14, the Tide outgained them 168-74, with the majority of FIU's yards coming on a long drive after the issue was already decided. But there's nothing to say this program can't be a Southern Miss-type program in years to come: play anybody, a threat to pull an upset at any time.

As for the Alabama perspective, to me the biggest story of the game was twofold: first, that Alabama found a way to remain effective offensively without its best player (Julio Jones, who's apparently going to be fine); second, Trent Richardson. In fact, let's post this for posterity's sake:

Yeah ... the kid's gonna be alright, methinks.
Obviously, the question remains about whether this team will be great. It has talent, no question about it. But great teams have a special quality to them that you can't really even appreciate until they're gone. The 2008 team was a great team. Whether this one can be that remains to be seen.

A few other scattered thoughts from Saturday in Tuscaloosa ...
— Why, exactly, does the person in charge of in-game activities persist with this ridiculously orchestrated "first down alabama ... roll tide" cheer? Why? Why? It's annoying. Alabama fans don't do that. We never have. We don't want to start now. Stop it or I'm taking everyone in my section hostage. I mean it.
— A number of bloggers I've read today have gotten all over the play of Alabama's secondary. I saw things a little differently from my seat in N-6. To me, it looked more like a) FIU had our defense solved for most of the first half and b) when you blitz and can't reach the QB (and we couldn't in the first half) your secondary is vulnerable. That's just the way it is.
On the other hand, it's not as though the defense was porous on Saturday — FIU scored one offensive touchdown, and that was on a drive that was extended by a terrible (repeat: TERRIBLE) pass interference call against Kareem Jackson).
— I will join in the chorus wondering why the kick coverage has been so abysmal. In addition to the 97-yard TD, TY Hilton almost broke another one in the fourth (someone tripped him).
— Before both halves, a handful of FIU players came to the north end zone (opposite the student section), knelt down and prayed. I'm not opposed to praying, obviously, but it kind of threw me for a loop. What's so special about that end zone? Why did they run so far away from their own sideline? I'm brimming with questions, honestly.
— Greg McElroy's success came almost exclusively on slants and deep "in" routes on Saturday. Those appear to be his strengths because of his velocity. He still lacks some touch on deep throws — twice he had TDs with a little air — but that'll come. I hope it will, anyway.
— HIdden halftime adjustments on defense: Alabama took out much of its exotic blitz package that worked so well last week in Atlanta, mostly because McCall burned the Tide repeatedly on big blitzes in the first stanza. The results were satisfactory — the Tide was able to pressure McCall with a lighter rush, and the pass defense numbers were substantially better as well.
— Remind me to send another bouquet to another punter for kicking to Javier Arenas: this time to Carlos Munera, who inexplicably kicked three returnable punts to Javy in the fourth quarter, resulting in returns of 29, 20 and 46 yards, all three leading to Alabama scoring chances (the first return set up a Leigh Tiffin miss). Thanks, Carlos.
— Speaking of Tiffin, Alabama fans may just need to give the kid a break. He's attempted 8 field goals this year and made 6 of them ... meaning he's better than average (and it should be noted, he's an automatic on extra points as well).
At the same time, Tiffin may be developing a genuinely bizarre mental block on medium-distance kicks. Thus far in his career, he's near automatic on "gimme" tries (20-29) — he's only missed two in three-plus seasons. And he's nearly as good in the long-range department: only one miss from 50-plus in five tries.
It's the in-between kicks that plague him. Between 30 & 50 yards, Tiffin is 30-52, or nearly 65 percent. Is it terrible? It is not. But eventually, he's going to have to make a medium-distance kick in a big spot this season. I hope for his sake that he figures something out before then.

And that's about that. Time to start focusing on the lively looking Green Mean (yes, I did it on purpose) from UNT. In their honor, I'm posting this.

Friday, September 11, 2009

can't stop ... won't stop

Even though it's been 8 years, some things about Sept. 11 never really stop getting to me. The one that sticks in my throat the most, for whatever reason, is this one.

See you guys later this weekend. God bless America and Roll Tide.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Friday: Webb + links

This week's Friday Webb isn't a song. Instead, it's our hero discussing some of his problems with Christian music as a genre. In fact, it's very reminiscent of what Larry Norman said about contemporary music, as well.

And with that, here's a short version of the links for what's going to be a pretty busy Friday.
— First up, 8Box responded was the only one out there to really respond to our C&W Roundtable entry. Here's his response (UPDATE: 3SiB has re-posted it, too). Here at The Party, we salute you, sir. Even if by re-posting you showed that I somehow managed to post the same question twice.
— Preview stuff: Tower of Bammer looks to the Yi-Jing; RBR introduces us to Fla. International (who we all RESPECT VERY MUCH); the Press-Register covers the matchups; and Chris Low covers what to watch in Week 2.
— This Saturday, the BDS end zones are apparently going crimson. Feel free to scoff. I know I did.
— RBR has a pair of excellent posts up that appealed to the nerd in me. First, an examination of how many wins the program actually has; second, OTS defends the Wildcat. Also, if you're interested in nerdy stuff, check out Mr. SEC's offensive efficiency stat from Week 1, or read BSR to find out the unsung heroes.
— examines Alabama's passing game, in light of the (obvious) attention paid to Julio Jones.
— And finally, just because I thought it was neat, here's a photo collage from Week 1.

Thursday lines, and respecting the opponent

Count me among the people who finally saw the video from this week's "Saban rant" press conference and was underwhelmed. You be the judge.

Considering he was described by ESPN's Chris Low as "voice rising and arms flailing," seeing the actual video was kind of a letdown.

Anyway, I owe you guys some lines for this week, so here they are — as always (for this season), lines are courtesy of

Clemson (+4.5) at Georgia Tech
(OK, fine ... I'll do it.
Clempson is a redneck school
Doo-dah, doo-dah,
Clempson is a redneck school
Oh de-doo-dah day.

Gonna moo all night,
Gonna moo all day,

Clempson is a redneck school
Just like U-G-A.

h/t: these guys)

Colorado (-3.5) at Toledo

North Carolina (-3.5) at UConn
Iowa (-7) at Iowa St.
(Note: Arguably the weirdest line of the day, as Dr. Saturday notes — what the heck is Iowa, a team that needed TWO blocked field goals to survive last week at home, doing GIVING 7 on the road against a Big XII opponent? I don't get it.)
Stanford (+1.5) at Wake Forest
Syracuse (+28) at Penn St.
Fresno St. (+9) at Wisconsin
Duke (PUSH) at Army
Troy (+37) at Florida
Marshall (+19.5) at Va. Tech
(Note: After last week, I have exactly zero confidence that VT's offense can score 20 points on its own. With some help from bogus penalties, special teams and turnovers? Maybe.)
Notre Dame (-4.5) at Michigan
Houston (+14.5) at Oklahoma
Texas Christian (-12) at Virginia
(Note: Holy smokes, ACC.)
East Carolina (+7) at West Virginia)
Texas (-33) at Wyoming
(Note: One of the weirdest traditions in football remains Texas' willingness to travel to locales most Big-6 schools consider beneath them and allow their fans to overtake the stadiums. They've done it with UTEP, with Houston and a few others. And this week it's Wyoming.)
SMU (+11) at UAB
UCLA (+9) at Tennessee
Mississippi St. (+14.5) at Auburn
(Note: This is right up there for bizarre lines. I know Auburn's opener was encouraging, but ... I mean, would you give more than a touchdown with them against anybody? Really?)
South Carolina (+7.5) at Georgia
(Note: Don't bet on the over for this game.)
Fla. International (+33.5) at Alabama
Air Force (+4.5) at Minnesota
Vanderbilt (+14) at LSU
Kansas (-11) at UTEP
USC (-6) at Ohio St.
(Note: This may be the ultimate sign of disrespect to the Big 10: the conference's best team, playing a team with a freshman QB, at home — which is supposed to be worth a touchdown — and they're getting 6. Yikes.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Lost" Wednesday: roundtable that I just made up myself

Much like Michael Dawson from "Lost," I've grown tired of waiting for someone else to initiate the search for my son a Crimson & White Roundtable. And if you think I just posted that as an excuse to use this, you're soooo right.

Yeah, that's me.
Therefore, in an effort to renew last season's magic with the Roundtable — even though I've never considered myself part of the Bamasphere — I'm making up some questions for myself and then answering them. It's sort of like a columnist's form of schizophrenia. And if some of the other blogs read it and wish to join in, so much the better. Also, please feel free to leave your own comments at the bottom, as always.

Onward, then ...
1. What aspect of the game did Alabama control that shocked you the most? What aspect of the game was Alabama dominated in that shocked you the most?
"Shocked" probably isn't the right word, but as I said in Sunday's post, for this team to play as poorly as it did and still win going away is a pretty good indicator for the rest of the season (hard to believe we'll be this bad again this season). Looking deeper into the postgame stats, our offense rushed for over 250 yards, and that's with 38 yards coming off because of sacks. That's pretty impressive, particularly against a good defense like VT's.
As for BEING dominated ... um, that kickoff coverage has GOT to improve. And I mean now. Well-coached teams don't get beat on special teams. Period.

2. What are your feelings on Alabama's current position in the polls? Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?
I'm afraid to answer this question after my cousin-in-law Jamie texted (text'd?) me after the game saying "I would bet even money on 'Bama playing for the title." I think he's attempting a jinx. But I can't say for sure.

3. What are your thoughts on the high-profile opener?
I posed this question to myself only because the older gentleman next to me started saying during the debacle of the first half that THIS is exactly why he favors playing directional schools early in the season, over higher-ranked teams that can immediately take us out of the running for a title.
And I understand the logic — the '92 team played Southern Miss, Tulane and La. Tech on its way to a championship (USM nearly beat us, for the record). Those games are necessary learning experiences for the squad.
On the other hand, the Alabama teams of yore — from coach Bryant's days all the way through the 1980s — always played big out-of-conference matchups, usually early in the season. A look through the historical schedules reveals matchups against Southern Cal, Nebraska and so forth. So I'm all in favor of playing as many tough games as possible — to me, those games help much more than they hurt.
(But I DEFINITELY respect the team we're playing this week! And if you don't that's your problem! You're a common fan! And it's your fault common fans feel that way!)

4. What do you think about our ranking?
I'm terrified to answer this question after my cousin-in-law Jamie (an Aub) sent me the following text:
I would bet even money on 'Bama playing for the title.

I think that's a jinx. I think.

5. Name the most important player to the team on offense. And on defense.
With respect to Julio Jones, I'm going with Mark Ingram on offense. He's the back we'll most likely ride if we're going to achieve greatness this fall — the dude just has no handles.
Defensively, McClain has to be the pick. He's now in the position for '09 that Rashad Johnson was in for '08 — calling defenses and positioning some of his teammates. He's not quite the physical freak Dont'a Hightower is, but he's imposing enough.
One other wrinkle: because Nick Saban has more of the athletes on his defense this year, he's more willing to bring his trademark blitzes in big spots. And because his defenders understand his schemes (finally), the blitzes are confusing to the opposition — on multiple occasions Saturday (including the fourth-down that iced the game), 'Bama rushers ran free at Tyrod Taylor, with puzzled VT linemen standing at the line of scrimmage, blocking no one.
Personally? I think notice has been served. Again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: Agent 28

OK, so admittedly, finding historical youtubes for matchups against Florida International is kind of tough (ohbytheway, PLEASE don't mention to Nick Saban that this isn't a major game on the schedule — it might get ugly).
In any case, the lone highlight of Alabama's only ever meeting with FIU — in the midst of the morbidly depressing 2006 season — was this punt return by Javier Arenas.

Maybe it wasn't much, but in '06, it passed for explosive offense in Tuscaloosa.

UPDATE: This seemed kind of lame for a Tuesday tube, so here are some highlights from last week (h/t: 3SiB ... and sorry, coach).

Back (hopefully) with more later.

Monday, September 7, 2009

a labor day laugh

Many thanks to Daniel Maguire — friend of the Party — for sharing this email with the rest of the class. Please to enjoy ...

Random thoughts from people 25-35 years old

-I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

-I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

-That's enough, Nickelback.

-I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know"
feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

-Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the f was going on when I first saw it.

-How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

- I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

-The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.

- A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.

- LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a **** from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

- Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in'
examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

- I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

-Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

-Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find out that their profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if I do!

- Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.

-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?
Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

- I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste..

- As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

-It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet my a$$ everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

-It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on and the link takes me to a video instead of text.

-I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

-I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

-I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay Jewelers.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

week 1 thoughts: seeing things differently

It felt all wrong. I said it and so did several other people. Actually, it kind of felt like last year in reverse.

This time around, instead of playing the role of sneaky underdog nobody saw coming, we were the team favored to win (with nobody in the pundit world able to find a logical way for us NOT to win). This time around, instead of hosting a raucous celebration for the game, we were GOING to the game (more on this in a minute). And this time around, instead of Clemson, we had Virginia Tech.
Two things, by the way, separate Va. Tech from Clemson:
• Va. Tech is much better coached.
• In reputation and persona, Va. Tech is a tougher, much MUCH (insert "much" a few more times) tougher and more physical football program than Clemson. Against Clemson in 2008, Alabama slapped its opponent in the mouth and the opponent backed up. There was little chance Va. Tech would back up Saturday.

No, everything about this game felt ominous, right down to the Va. Tech fans' creepy color combination (which we ultimately decided made their section resemble a giant sweet potato casserole). And when I shared the giant knot in my gut with the elderly gentleman standing next to me in Section 121, he nodded in agreement.
"But I'll tell you this," he said. "If we can hang around and not beat ourselves, we'll win it in the fourth quarter."
Truer words, it turns out.

When I began watching some of the life-altering videos posted by bamafanzone from 2008 — and really, I watch them just about everyday now and I don't care how pathetic that sounds — I noticed a pattern from coach Saban's pregame speeches. Saban's pregame rhetoric seemed focused almost exclusively on the concept of identity, and it's pretty clear what he wanted for his team: to be a brutally physical team that could pound on the opposition for four quarters, ultimately breaking his will and causing him to falter. That was the identity of the '08 squad — they were simply tougher than everybody else, and that's why they won.
The identity of this '09 team still isn't entirely established — Saban brought it up again following Saturday's 34-24 win over Va. Tech — but it's clear they still carry some of that swagger. We win the fourth quarter. Every time.

I can't emphasize this strongly enough: this Alabama team is at least two touchdowns better than Virginia Tech. A glimpse at the postgame statistics drives home the point: Alabama outgained VT by a nearly 5-1 margin, out-rushed them 3-1, out-passed them more than 2-1. There was simply no way, our best against theirs, that Va. Tech could win.
But my worst nightmare (and probably Nick Saban's too) was that we wouldn't bring our best, not after a difficult offseason and tumultuous week leading up to the game, not with new personnel at key positions on the offensive line, with an unknown number of players possibly suffering from this mysterious flu. I had envisioned in my nightmare a game that featured multiple key turnovers, some big plays in the return game and a discombobulated offense that couldn't keep it together.

For three quarters, that's what we had. Just about everything that could go wrong did. Alabama essentially gave away 17 points in the first half — a kickoff return, an INT that set up a FG and one TD drive that was bolstered by a suspect pass interference call and two major-distance fouls against Rolando McClain — then missed a field goal to close out the half that would've given us the lead. Bullet meet foot.
Things only got more frustrating in the third quarter. A long run by Roy Upchurch was negated by a boneheaded fumble. A third-down strike from Greg McElroy turned into a DROPPED PASS by Julio Jones (how often does that happen?). The offense wouldn't stop killing itself with penalties.
No, it just felt all wrong.

Then came the fourth.

Obviously, the season in front of us promises to be long and arduous. We'll see multiple teams on the schedule who are better than Virginia Tech, some of them away from home. And there's no accounting for what will happen on the injury front or off the field.
On the other hand, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Alabama plays as poorly as it did for three quarters on Saturday. It's hard to believe they'll commit the kinds of penalties they did at such inopportune times. It's hard to believe they won't get better, be better down the road.
If you're in the SEC West, that's not good news.

Other scattered thoughts from Saturday ...
— They may have to do a better job reminding fans about the pregame handshake. When the two teams were approaching one another at first, it looked the rumble between the Greasers and the Socs, only I'm not sure which side was which.
— OK, before I say this, let me clarify: I'm well aware that no official anywhere has ever cost any football team a game, except in the minds of the fans (with the notable exception of the 1983 Alabama-Penn St. game). I get it. Loud and clear.
At the same time, I can't remember a game in which the officiating crew was more frustrating than Saturday. The stripes bolstered two different Hokie TD drives — first with a very suspect pass interference call on third down, then with a completely unwarranted late-hit foul on a kickoff return in the fourth (the dude wasn't even out of bounds). And that Ryan Williams TD run that made the score 27-24? Yeah ... Marquis Johnson had a hard time making the tackle because he was being mugged.
— Greg McElroy played a smart game for most of Saturday. As much as anything, he showed an adeptness for avoiding a mammoth pass rush, constantly stepping in between defenders to make his reads. And the fourth-quarter throw to Maze was right on the money.
— It's early, obviously, but Brandon Deaderick has a chance to become my favorite Alabama player who ever had a bullethole in his arm.
— It must be a lousy feeling to know you have to tackle Mark Ingram. The dude has no handles.
— Notable difference for this year's 'Bama defense vs. last year's: they're bringing much more pressure in the backfield. I won't know until after I see a tape, but it appeared the Saban/Smart combo brought extra rushers on roughly 40% of the snaps. And they were bringing them from such different angles, Tyrod Taylor didn't appear to know what was going on.
— This moment cracked me up: at one point during the third quarter, Va. Tech was facing a third-and-inches near midfield, and a Hokie lineman jumped offsides ... only Nick Saban had called a timeout seconds before because he didn't have the right personnel on the field (the eventual play actually came back because of a hold, resulting in a punt). I bring this up only because there was a very large man one section over from me who was furious about this turn of events. He screamed bloody murder about how Saban should know better than to call timeout in that situation, to the point that everyone in his section was alternately a) trying not to laugh at him; b) thinking about calling a medic to prepare for his inevitable cardiac arrest. That's what this game was like for all of us.
— The text-message MVP of Saturday was my old co-worker Jason Halcombe, watching the game from his home in Dublin, Ga. A few of his best:
• "So, how many potential dog-fighting ringleaders are currently on the field for Beamer tonight?"
• "When I think about value, I think Wrangler. When I think starved for attention, I think Brett Favre."
• "The statement 'He has great speed, but they really want to show he can pass the ball' best describes a) Mike Vick; b) Marcus Vick; c) Tyrod Taylor; d) any Va. Tech QB in history."
• "What band director in H@*$ dreamed up the bright idea of adding the xylophone into the Imperial March? Needs more cowbell."
• "I will cash out my disability policy and give it to anyone willing to slap Bretn Musberger, put him in a choke hold while whispering an anecdote from the LLWS!"
• "ESPN crawl at half: Saban to Lions if 'Bama loses to Hokies, Erin Andrews tells Oprah"
• "Flash Forward on ABC: Harold discovers Kumar behind worldwide blackout in attempt to steal all White Castles and run off to VT with Doogie Howser!"
• "Who in a recession mind, you, is droppin $24.97 for what amounts to a turkey hat that you get to wear all of six times?"
• "How much you willing to bank that Musberger is wearing white knee-hi sox with his Men's Wearhouse suit?"
• "ESPN crawl: Bradford blows shoulder, Tebow responds, 'Told you God said I should have won that Heisman. I mean, I do mission work in Asia for cryin out loud.'"
• "I think I could scare a bunch of kids at Halloween if I donned a Beamer mask and carried a ma-cheh-tay."
• "And ol' Tyrod has proven he can throw: at the goal post, to a Va. Tech trainer and almost to a 'Bama db. Great job Tyrod!"

— Finally, one more anecdote to share from inside the Ga. Dome: one of the advertisements they kept flashing on the jumbotron during the game was for Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital and its heart unit. The tagline read simply: "Is your Heart ready for some football?"
And ya know what? I'm not so sure anymore.
Roll Tide, anyway.

We'll try to have some thoughts from around the CFB universe either late today or tomorrow.