Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday: a sound check, links

I know what you're thinking, and you're totally right: I've flaked out a little this week as far as the blog is concerned. Much like my favorite team, however, I'm a little weary. It's been a grind this past month, a lot of early mornings followed by late nights. I think my mother may have even forgotten what I look like.

Anyway, here's a half-hearted Friday in an attempt to make up for it — we'll start with a Derek Webb sound check.
(Important note: Peter von Herrmann is the man most responsible for turning me onto Caedmons Call, Bebo Norman and the genre of, for lack of a better term, Christian folk music. Anyway, one of the first CDs he ever played me of Caedmons was a special CD they sent only to members of their fan club, with special live cuts and bonus tracks. And one of the best tracks on that disc was entitled "Sound Check," which featured the guys a) talking about how awesome sound check is; b) screwing around during sound check on the system. So it's cool to see them back at it.)
(Another important note: I play basketball every week with a guy who looks just like Webb. Seriously.)

On with the links, then.
(One other important note: many of these links I found through Gentry Estes' link page yesterday. Hats off to you, sir.)

— Much of the off week banter has focused on the team's deficiencies, of course. First up: the passing game, which looked like gangbusters for a month and has since given way to ... um, whatever it's been the last three weeks (basically from the moment Greg McElroy went off about not forcing the ball to Julio Jones). The boys at RBR have a potential solution.
(You guys know you'd be better off just asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, right?)
— Unreported as a deficiency thus far: the defense's inability to punch itself off the field. Obviously, no one's going to fault the defense for anything: this last month, the defense has gone to an even higher level to keep this team undefeated. Nevertheless, if there is an improvement necessary, this is it.
Also, Dont'a Hightower "pretty much has a brand new knee." We who have suffered with knee injuries before salute you, sir.
— In other Alabama news, can Julio Jones cure cancer? The answer may surprise you.
(Left out of the little kid's comments: GET JULIO THE EFFING BALL!)

— Gimmicky columns for this week: Chris Low names the SEC's scariest players, and Tim Tebow's shortening career marks a good time to discuss Jesus & sports.
— Kevin Scarbinsky tackles Bobby Bowden & UAB. Wait, what?
— An interesting development over the last decade in recruiting: committed players acting as ambassadors for their eventual schools. Remember how some Alabama fans used the commitment of Will Oakley as a sure sign Tim Tebow was coming? Not only did Tebow NOT come, Oakley wound up largely an afterthought for four years (when he could stay on the field). Maybe it doesn't work as well when Mike Shula's involved.
— Tony Barnhart offers up his Friday Forecast.

— Finally, apropos of nothing, here's some trash-talk material about gymnastics.
Hey, Aubs, if you skeered, say skeered.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday lines: off-week edition

Gotta run off to Homer Smiles Field for tonight's rivalry game between Moody & Leeds. Before I go, though, here are the lines for this weekend, courtesy of

World Series

Philadelphia (+1.5) at New York Yankees
North Carolina (+15.5) at Virginia Tech

West Virginia (-3.5) at South Florida

North Carolina St. (+10) at Florida St.
Purdue (+7) at Wisconsin
Indiana (+17.5) at Iowa
Rutgers (+7.5) at UConn
Cincinnati (-4.5) at Syracuse
Mississippi (-4.5) at Auburn
Nebraska (-13) at Baylor
Southern Mississippi (+7) at Houston
San Jose St. (+36.5) at Boise St.
UAB (+7) at UTEP
Miami (-7.5) at Wake Forest
Michigan (-7.5) at Illinois
Iowa St. (+6.5) at Texas A&M
Duke (+7.5) at Virginia
California (-7) at Arizona St.
Kansas (+6.5) at Texas Tech
Georgia (+14.5) vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
UCLA (+10) at Oregon St.
UNLV (+35) at TCU
Penn St. (-17) at Northwestern
Kansas St. (+27.5) at Oklahoma
Mississippi St. (+3.5) at Kentucky
Washington St. (+27.5) at Notre Dame
Georgia Tech (-12.5) at Vanderbilt
South Carolina (+6) at Tennessee
Tulane (+36) at LSU
USC (-3) at Oregon
Texas (-8.5) at Oklahoma St.
Michigan St. (-4) at Minnesota

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: looking back, and laughing

We'll get to next week's death grapple against LSU (the fourth one in 5 years!) later. For now, I figure we could all use a healthy dose of humor. So, here's 2 minutes of various people getting punched (also known as, what most of us would do to Lane Kiffin if we could).

And since that bit of hilarity went over so well, here's Eli Gold calling last week's Rocky Block, courtesy of BSR.

Monday, October 26, 2009

of coaching, officiating and class

By now, you've heard everything you need to know about Lane Kiffin and his postgame commentary; he complained about the penalties assessed against his team, the ones that weren't assessed against his opponent and even his headsets (which went out for whatever bizarre reason at kickoff and came back after the first season).
Most of the commentary has honed in on his failure to understand the rulebook, which isn't a huge surprise as RBR notes in its explanation of the rule he failed to grasp: Kiffin generally carries himself like an entitled teenager. "Oops ... sorry ... didn't know I couldn't do that."

But there's a larger issue here, and it's one I haven't seen addressed on any blog hither or yon. Once upon a time, coaches didn't discuss officiating after the game, and it wasn't because they were afraid of being fined/reprimanded/suspended by the SEC.
Coaches didn't criticize the officials after games because they were better than that. And they wanted their kids to be better than that, also.

It's one thing for fans to complain about officials — we do it all the time (hell, I do it in this blog on an almost weekly basis). It's another thing for journalists & bloggers to complain about it; it wouldn't be an objective analysis of the game without noting key calls that might have had an effect on a game.
But coaches are supposed to be leaders, first and foremost. They're supposed to be the people who set the example for their programs (and, to a certain extent, their fan bases). Most of the people in coaching got into it primarily because they wanted to help affect the lives of kids, teach them football, yes, but mostly teach them about life, how to bounce back from adversity, deal with loss, that kind of thing.
Here's what we learned about loss from Lane Kiffin: if you lose, it must be somebody else's fault.

I don't mean to just indict Kiffin — he and Dan Mullen are only the most recent coaches to pipe up. And yes, Mullen had a case, just as Bobby Petrino did last week. It's beside the point. Everybody has a gripe with the officials every week. It's part of life. Once upon a time, coaches understood this.
In 1995, Alabama fought its guts out on the road against Auburn in a hotly contested football game. The Tide had the ball and a chance to win on the final possession, when Freddie Kitchens threw one of the best passes of his entire life, and Curtis Brown caught the football running through the back of the end zone for what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown.
No dice. The back judge ruled Brown out of bounds, an incompletion. Kitchens missed Chad Key on fourth down. Auburn won the game.
No, there wasn't instant replay at the time. Yes, a great number of 'Bama fans still walk around feeling like they got shafted by the refs that day.
But you know who never said a word? Gene Stallings. He never let out a peep after that game about officiating, about that call or any other. Instead, Stallings said Auburn had played a great game, that it deserved to win. At no point did he even that officiating might have cost him anything.
And that's because they didn't. Good teams don't let officials decide games for them. Winning teams go out and make things happen and win the damn game in front of them.

Can you imagine any of the great coaches in football history delivering lines like these? Bryant? Jordan? Pat Dye? Johnny Majors? Anybody? I can't help but wonder where the class went in our coaching ranks.
It could be money. Or possibly all the media outlets: coaches do a lot of media appearances now that they never used to. Or it could just be the Spurrier influence — he's the first one I remember pulling this garbage after a game.
I wish it would go away, though.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

week 8 thoughts: a shameful admission

I've never done it before. OK, once: when Southern Mississippi came to Birmingham in 2000 and dismantled my beloved Crimson Tide — a low point in what would become a decade of low points — I did it. It was such a frustrating night, and when Andrew Zow tossed his umpteenth pick in the fourth quarter (in truth I can't remember what happened, but it was bad), I just couldn't take it any longer.
So I walked out.
I really had no idea what I was doing. It didn't occur to me until after I was already out of Legion Field that it was a stupid, impetuous decision — not only had I come to the game with a group of people, we'd come in on the shuttle from Five Points ... so I was basically stuck outside of Legion Field with no agenda until the game ended. A fitting symbol for a lost season.

I felt the same way Saturday. Alabama was outplayed, outcoached (yeah, I said it) and outclassed. Blessed with a better team, homefield advantage and multiple chances to wrest control of the game early on, the number-one ranked team in the country had basically laid a massive egg against a hungrier opponent, symbolized by alleged Heisman candidate Mark Ingram having the ball stripped from him, then alleged superhuman Julio Jones failing to catch an onsides kick. When the Vols' Jonathan Crompton found tight end Luke Stocker at the 'Bama 27 with 1 minute left, I could feel it. The UT fans were delirious, the bench was going crazy, the band kept playing that damned song ... it was all too much.
So I walked out.
It's worth saying again what a foolish decision this was, regardless of how it turned out. After all, I'd basically abandoned my wife & mother-in-law to their own devices, hoping nothing happened to them. Not to mention, how would I explain it to the folks at the tailgate when I showed up before the game actually ended? I wound up standing outside the stadium, waiting on them to come out.
By now, you know what I missed.

You should know, I'm pretty embarrassed. I'm at a loss for words. I almost even feel guilty claiming it as a win, given the final stats from the game. Tennessee outplayed us everywhere but on the scoreboard.
But there's a two-fold explanation here. The first is, quite simply, everybody has to win these kinds of games to win championships. On Saturday, Florida had to scrap through against Mississppi State, Iowa won on its final play at Michigan St. and USC survived a surprising offensive effort against Oregon State. These are the sort of things that happen to every good team during the course of a season — your best back fumbled, your defense can't get off the field, you can't catch a break from the refs — and what separates great from very good is whether your team can find a way to survive.

The second: it's the revenge of 2003.
You remember 2003, right? Alabama was a mess that season, owing to probation and arguably the most unbelievable offseason ever (Franchione, Price, Shula ... yeah). They'd lost 4 of 5 coming into Tennessee week, had a quarterback (Brodie Croyle) playing with one arm and were poised to get rolled at home by the Vols (an eventual 10-win team that finished in a three-way tie for the SEC East crown).
(As an aside, I watched this game alone at my apartment in south Georgia, which might as well have been in the Ukraine — nobody in the general vicinity even cared. It was misery-inducing.)
But the Tide played inspired football that day, kept counter-punching the superior Vols, and eventually held a 20-13 lead and the ball in the fourth quarter.
Of course, UT wasn't finished, either. After Alabama failed to make a first down, the Vols eventually drove the ball 80 yards in the final 2 minutes without a timeout, scoring to tie the game.
Alabama missed a field goal that would've tied the game on the final play of regulation, and went to overtime. They could've won the game in the second OT, leading by a TD with UT looking at 4th & 19. The Vols converted. Of course they did. Eventually, Tennessee prevailed in 5 OTs.
So yeah, I don't feel guilty about getting a little lucky on Saturday. Great teams DO find a way when there appears to be none. That's just the way it is.

Some other thoughts.
— Obviously, Terrence Cody continues to feel the love from the Alabama fan base (witness the number of facebook groups with his name on them), and rightly so: to block two field goals in a game like that is other-worldly. But please let's not forget about Leigh Tiffin, who made two field goals from 50 yards away that ultimately figured into the decision, as well. I know, it's fashionable to go after Tiffin — he has a punchable face and over four years has shown a leg that is heartburn-inducing.
On the other hand, we don't beat Ole Miss without him (five FGs!) and we certainly don't win this one without him. His line for the season: 20-23, with a long of 50 and 84 total points. He might deserve a little more credit than he's getting.
— One more follow-up note on Cody: I don't like saying "I told you so," but ... actually, yes I do. I love saying it. And I did. Tell you so, I mean.
— The guys at RBR already noted this, but it's worth reiterating: Jim McElwain got his butt handed to him by Monte Kiffin, and it shows in the final stats. To be fair to McElwain, the Vols had two full weeks to prepare for the game, and a handful of times we did have the right play called and simply couldn't execute.
Still, the failure to score late in the second quarter (the oft lamented 2nd & 1 at the 4), followed by the failure to generate anything in the third quarter ultimately hung the defense out to dry down the stretch. That ain't championship football, folks.
— While we're on the subject of coaching, Alabama's defense did a fine job Saturday, particularly given the rather prodigious discrepancy in time of possession. But he out-guessed himself on Crompton's pass to Stocker (yes, the one that sent me to the showers): inexplicably, Stocker had Marcel Dareus, a defensive lineman with limited hops, running with him down the hash. Really, coach? You're leaving it to a defensive end on the biggest snap of the game?
— Gary Danielson either has a poor grasp of college football rules or just sucks at life. Regardless, his assertion in the immediate postgame that "Alabama probably should've been penalized" on the final play is a moot point: the end result of the play was a turnover (Rolando McClain recovered the ball and downed it), meaning all that would've happened was Alabama would've taken possession of the ball 15 yards farther back.
(Note: After watching the replay & reading lips, here's coach Saban after the block, verbatim: (expressionless) "Where'd it go? ... Where's the f*cking ball at?")
— While we're on the subject of officiating, Tennessee's final drive never should've happened for a few reasons, not the least of which was a vicious holding infraction (uncalled) on Crompton's 14-yard completion to Gerald Jones (Chavis Williams couldn't even turn to pursue the UT QB because his arms were pinned to his sides).
— Finally, and coach Saban noted this in the immediate aftermath: this team badly needs a week off. Saturday the team looked tired, beat up and lethargic, as opposed to the Vols, who looked fresher and much better prepared (the same goes for LSU, who looked fantastic in the first half against a fading Auburn team).
Before we move on, one last look at the final snap I never saw.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 23, 2009

ut youtube, final version

I'm posting three different versions of last year's win over Tennessee last season at Neyland. It's easy to forget this now, but the game at UT was one of the moments when the '08 Alabama team turned into a championship contender (as opposed to just a surprise team).
Remember: a number of experts (including, well, me) picked 'Bama to lose that game — Terrence Cody was out, we'd just slopped through two mundane performances vs. Kentucky and Ole Miss, and UT was desperate (so people thought, anyway) to save its coach's job. The warning signs were there, no question.

Of course, by now you know what happened.

One last video, and it's from the creative media department at UA. Be sure to watch this one 'till the end, for Nick Saban's postgame speech to the team.

"It was a tough-ass physical game. And we went stroke for stroke with 'em, and they could not match. They could not match us in the game."

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

Roll Tide.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday lines: make sense of your weekend

No fanfare today, I'm afraid — I just got off the phone with a woman asking me about the lies I've printed (standard, of course).

Here are your lines for the week — today I'm taking them off, just because.

Florida St. (+3) at North Carolina
Rutgers (-10) at Army
UAB (+7) at Marshall
Georgia Tech (-6) at Virginia
(Note: Trap alert, big time.)
Indiana (+6) at Northwestern
Illinois (+10) at Purdue
Minnesota (+17) at Ohio St.
South Florida (+7) at Pittsburgh
UConn (+7) at West Virginia
Arkansas (+6.5) at Mississippi
(Note: This line makes no sense. So Arkansas goes to Florida and challenges the Gators stroke for stroke, loses mainly because of field goal breakdowns and some bizarre penalties; now they're going to play an Ole Miss team that has been, to say the least, underwhelming ... and they're GETTING a touchdown? Really?)
Iowa St. (+17.5) at Nebraska
(Note: Overlooked amid the big games from last week, the Huskers' complete collapse at home vs. the Red Raiders — NU was giving 6 and lost 31-10. You read that correctly.)
Oklahoma St. (-10) at Baylor
Colorado (+4.5) at Kansas St.
Maryland (+6) at Duke
(Note: The weirdest conference in America. Bar none.)
Wake Forest (+3) at Navy
Louisville (+18) at Cincinnati
Boston College (+7.5) at Notre Dame
Oregon (-10) at Washington
Tennessee (+14) at Alabama
Penn St. (-4.5) at Michigan
Oklahoma (-7.5) at Kansas
Clemson (+5.5) at Miami
Air Force (+9.5) at Utah
UCLA (+7.5) at Arizona
Texas A&M (+21.5) at Texas Tech
Iowa (-1) at Michigan St.
Vanderbilt (+13) at South Carolina
TCU (-2.5) at BYU
Auburn (+7.5) at LSU
(Note: At +10, I think I might love Auburn in this one. But at +7.5 ... I'm waffling.)
Florida (-22.5) at Mississippi St.
Oregon St. (+21) at USC
Texas (-13) at Missouri
(Note: Major, MAJOR trap alert here.)
Arizona St. (+7) at Stanford
Boise St. (-25) at Hawai'i

more Orange crushing: a place not far from here

Here are this decade's victories over UT, minus last season's (for reasons that will become clear later).

(Important note on Gerald Dixon's fumble return for a TD: it was like the only thing Smoke did in his entire four years at CB for Alabama. Somehow, he winds up on all the highlight reels forevermore. Not even Linnie Patrick could do that.)

Speaking of people who did very few things right but still managed to give us some memorable moments ...

Renovations or no, I've not heard Bryant-Denny as loud before, or since, that night.

But ... as anyone with a working knowledge of our recent history with the NCAA knows, that win was wiped off (at least for now) by the hateful Textbook Scandal, which wasn't uncovered until ... the day of the 2007 Tennessee game. So this one definitely counted.

That game was so much fun, it caused me to get all weepy in my postgame analysis.

Back with your weekend lines a little later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

hate week continued: guest blogging (and a "Lost" Wednesday)

Editor's Note: Like Ben Linus & Charles Widmore, Alabama & Tennessee are natural enemies.

Since it's not a proper Hate Week unless outside sources can confirm it (witness Peter's blog last year while preparing for UGA), I enlisted help. With that in mind, here's my friend Bart with his thoughts on the evil that is the University of Tennessee. If you wish to know more about Bart, he's working as a youth director at Liberty Crossing UMC.

When I was a boy, my father took our family on a trip to Tennessee. It was the third weekend of October. The autumn leaves were exploding in reds and oranges all across the Smoky Mountains. We rented a cabin in the mountains of Pigeon Forge. Enjoyed a picnic lunch in Cades Cove. Bought fudge in Gatlinburg. Watched Phillip Doyle kick a game winner with time expiring for a victory in Neyland Stadium.

And on the ride home through Knoxville, a blue haired woman in a Lincoln town car gave me the bird. Then a middle aged man in orange polyester mooned us from the passenger side of a truck. And that was my introduction to the glorious and awful rivalry that exists between Tennessee and Alabama.

Since we lived in Oxford, Alabama at the time, the Tennessee game was a one-week-a-year affair. We were dominating the Volunteers at that time. And since it had been a rough few years for a skinny boy in glasses wearing his #26 Bobby Humphrey jersey, I was more interested in sticking it to the Auburn Tigers for the Curry era.

Then we moved to the Tennessee Valley. That’s in Alabama for some reason. Huntsville was a city divided into four factions, Alabama fans, Auburn fans, Tennessee fans, and funny talking engineers who believed football was played on Sunday. It was during this time that Gene Stallings’ grip on the UT rivalry was loosening. David Palmer had to make an amazing effort to secure a tie in Legion Field. Some Manning kid was signed out of New Orleans. And I began to hate Tennessee more than Auburn.

My freshman year at the Capstone, the Tide was soundly defeated and that Manning kid earned my lifelong hatred. When Tennessee won a national championship in 1998, there was a parade through downtown Huntsville. Where was Bull Connor when he could have served all Alabamians? Then came the Dubose era. Four nauseating years of hand clapping our way through one embarrassment after another. Mike always insisted that the Lord was hard at work. Apparently the Lord forgot to explain to Mike that it was not His job to game plan for Peerless Price.

Around my first or second junior year of college, I was a bitter fan. Correction, I was a bitter person. I can’t blame that entirely on the Volunteers or Phillip Fulmer. But God help me, they were just such perfect heels! The obnoxious orange, the orange and white seersucker suits their frat boys wore, the coach who looked like he just swallowed a Stuckey’s, the players who inspired the makers of Grand Theft Auto 3, the national press who fawned over Peyton Manning. It was just too much. Victory on the field was not enough anymore. I wanted payment in flesh.

Unfortunately it has not been satisfying to watch the collapse of Big Orange over the past few seasons. Maybe it was just growing older. The marriage, the kid, the mortgage or the student loan bill. Did you know you have to repay those?! They all have taken priority over football season. But whatever the reason, I have not found victory sweet enough to make up for the scorched earth that I find when I survey the landscape of total warfare that is the Third Saturday in October. Sanctions levied, coaches subpoenaed, boosters disgraced.

To borrow from Waylon and Willie, maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of hate. Today I affirm that I will exhibit an appropriate level of hate on Tennessee and not blame the entire state or athletic department for all of the problems in my workplace, my relationships, my state or my team. But Kenny Chesney sucks and he’s friends with Peyton Manning so there’s still that. Roll Tide. Alabama, 38-13.

more UT youtube: 'we should pay taxes at Neyland'

We should pay taxes at Neyland Stadium, because we own Tennessee.

My memories of the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry are frustrating. We were the better team in '96 and couldn't put them away at Neyland; Peyton Manning tore us apart in '95 and '97; Mike Dubose simply couldn't get over the UT hump from '98-'00 because the Vols were among the national elite (they stayed there until 2002).
There were happier moments, of course, coming from the earliest part of the decade that spawned the above quote — there's some debate as to who actually said it first (some accounts say Antonio Langham, some Roger Schultz).
We'll even include the crazy tie in '93, if only because it was the moment when Jay Barker went from Caretaker QB to ... well, Jay Barker.

We'll have something other than 'tube later today. Roll Tide.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

more Tuesday 'tube: crushing the Orange

Some other of my favorites from the Alabama-Tennessee series, from the 1980s.

And, just for good measure, we'll throw in this one from the 1990s.

Tuesday 'tube: Hate Week, Pt. I

Way too much youtubery is available for the history between Alabama and Tennessee. I'm going to have to break it up. After all ...

First up: two great ones from the 1970s.

A quick history lesson: the guy wearing the No. 80 jersey in that '73 game is Wilbur Jackson, the first black player to have ever signed with the Alabama football team (John Mitchell, a JUCO transfer from Arizona, was actually the first to play due to NCAA regulations prohibiting freshmen from competition).
Obviously, it worked out having him on our side.

More to come later.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Week 7 in brief: winning ugly is still winning

"It doesn't have to be pretty. 7-0! RTR!"

That's the text message I received from my friend Daniel Saturday night on my way out of Bryant-Denny, following Alabama's 20-6 win over South Carolina.
Unfortunately, I don't have much else to contribute at the moment.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 16, 2009

a cold Friday: Webb and links

OK, so it's only in the '50s. I refuse to let anyone from up North call me a wimp for saying it's cold, particularly since, every time the mercury rises above 95 up there someone dies.
Anyway, I owe you guys some Webb and some links. Let's get the Webb out of the way first — there's no video to accompany this, but it's an older Webb song called "Thy Mercy," from his days with Caedmons Call (the album was a praise album called "In the Company of Angels").

And with that, we move into your standard fare of Friday links. Before we get into the usual 'Bama football stuff, I felt moved to share this piece by Malcolm Gladwell from the New Yorker, a sobering look at what football players put themselves through to play and how new research may be uncovering just how much danger our bodies are in when we play such a violent game.
There are, of course, two sides to the coin, and I feel inclined to address them both (of course I do).
My first inclination is as a former player and a former athlete: there are distinct benefits to pushing the limits of physical ability, to get the most out of your body, see yourself doing things you never thought you could. When I tell people I played for Spence McCraccken at Opelika, that I played offensive guard at a 6A level (at a mere 175 pounds), that I survived and remained effective on a team that went undefeated and had a very real shot at a state championship ... there's a ton of pride in that. And I firmly believe that fighting through the pain and fatigue that came with playing football has enabled me (and still enables me) to fight through pain and fatigue now, both physically and otherwise.
The other side of the issue is this: things hurt for a reason. One thing I've learned from my wife — and, chillingly, what you'll learn from Gladwell's piece — is that the competitive spirit of animals is remarkably similar to ours. Horses will continue running on broken legs simply because they don't want to give up. Dogs will continue fighting even though they're bleeding profusely because that's what they believe their owners want them to do. Is there a difference between that and a 17-year-old saying to himself, "My coaches, my parents, my community ... everyone expects me to be out there tonight. I'm not sitting out because my shoulder hurts"? Probably not. And I have no idea what the solution is.

Anyway, to lighten the mood — and only because there are less weighty issues to tend — I'm posting this picture I stole from Tower of Bammer, and only because it's hilarious.

— It's Friday, which means everyone's going to be previewing this weekend. The best preview, as always, comes from OTS. Also, since it's Homecoming, here's an editorial from The CW about this year's theme: "Return to Glory."
(Note: It's fantastic to know that the people in charge of coming up with Homecoming themes are no more creative now than they were during our tenure there. It's enough to make me want to drive to Wesley and not participate in any pomping like we used to.)
— Since it wouldn't be fun without someone saying something crazy, here's a commentary predicting a Carolina victory. The author of the piece alleges that a) Alabama has more experience than Carolina (not really true); b) Steve Spurrier is a better on-the-field coach than Nick Saban (debatable but probably a wash); c) Alabama won't handle adversity well (good grief).
— The biggest off-the-field story this week has been the release of Alabama's appeal to the NCAA, which led to the NCAA releasing the redundant phrase "serial repeat offenders" in response. Of course, it's led to differing responses from various pundits, including Todd, who believes we "demolished" the NCAA in the process.
— A bigger on-the-field story that's sorta kinda related to off-the-field: Jerrell Harris is back this week, after sitting out the first half of the season for ... something. This gives coach Saban and Kirby Smart a little more flexibility at linebacker, though roles weren't clearly defined as of this blog.
It's hard to argue too much with what we've been doing — as Chris Low reports, Alabama's defense is eating opposing QBs for lunch. And that's not a Cody joke. OK, it's kind of a Cody joke.
— Speaking of Low, he spent an evening with coach Saban recently, and the resulting post is predictable for anybody who's followed the guy at all: 'Bama fans can't get enough of him, he loves football, he's a tireless recruiter ... and, um, his wife is nice? I guess that's about it.
It's hard to complain in either case: as this column notes, Alabama is one of the two hottest TV tickets in the country right now, as well.

— Other things football: Jerry at WBE reviews the Auburn buck sweep; TBL looks at the White RB in recent history; Dr. Saturday examines some of Saturday's worst games; and Mr. CFB predicts the weekend, with an encouraging result for Ga. Tech. Oh, they'll love that one on the Flats.

(Yes, Peter, I did that just for you.)

— One other non-football note: thanks to all who've been thinking about my brother Whit, who managed to bust his kneecap Sunday and underwent surgery Thursday morning to repair it. He's at home now, recovering, and still in a good bit of pain.
It's for him I'm posting this story from, about coach Grant and up-tempo basketball in Tuscaloosa.
Roll Tide Roll.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday: Boise & weekly lines

I did turn off "Glee" last night in time to see Boise's 28-21 survival at Tulsa, notable because it's one of the rare times the Broncos have actually been challenged during this torrid run they've been on the last few years.
Naturally, much of the conversation since the season began and the Broncos whipped Oregon (now famous because of LeGarrette Blount) has been whether an undefeated BSU team would be worthy of a national championship shot. And I'm going to have to agree with Tony Barnhart here and say an unequivocal "no."
Look, we can argue this one to death — the system's stacked against Boise; big non-conference foes won't play them during the regular season; they can't help that their conference stinks — but the fact is this: right now, Boise isn't one of the best two teams in the country. And since the BCS system is set up to pair the best two teams at the end of the season (and screw everybody else), that pretty much makes any discussion moot.
Moreover, have you looked at the remainder of Boise's schedule? The toughest game on it is a trip to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech in three weeks. Again, maybe it's not their fault, but ... well, when La. Tech is your toughest remaining game, you're not going to earn a ton of respect nationally.
The interesting (OK, terrible) thing about the college football system is that it can take many years to earn national respect (and, eventually a shot at a national title). Most people forget this now, but during the 1970s, Penn State (an independent) finished undefeated multiple times and received nothing in return, until Bear Bryant did Joe Paterno a favor by lobbying for a Sugar Bowl bid for the Nittanies in 1974 (and even then, PSU didn't get a real shot at the crown until the '79 season and didn't win one until '81). Miami suffered a similar fate: few people gave the Hurricanes any respect nationally until 1983, when they beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl (and even getting that OB bid was a huge step).
Boise State, unfortunately, is stuck in that type of mold. Their best shot at a title-game invite may be 2010: the non-conference schedule includes Toledo (better than you think), Oregon State and Virginia Tech. If they could (and this is far-fetched) sweep that slate and be impressive enough in the conference ... then, maybe. Maybe.

Anyway, here are this week's lines, as always, courtesy of

Cincinnati (-2.5) at South Florida
Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Rutgers
Louisville (+12.5) at Connecticut
Northwestern (+13.5) at Michigan St.
Wake Forest (+6) at Clemson
Oklahoma (+2.5) vs. Texas (Dallas)
Iowa (-1.5) at Wisconsin
Ohio St. (-13) at Purdue
Georgia (-7.5) at Vanderbilt
Mississippi St. (-3.5) at Middle Tennessee St.
UAB (+22.5) at Ole Miss
California (-4) at UCLA
Arkansas (+24) at Florida
(Note: Too high or too low? I can't decide.)
North Carolina St. (+2.5) at Boston College
Texas Tech (+6) at Nebraska
Minnesota (+16) at Penn St.
Marshall (+20) at West Virginia
USC (-11) at Notre Dame
Virginia (-4) at Maryland
Stanford (+6) at Arizona
Va. Tech (-3) at Ga. Tech
(Note: One of the most intriguing games of the day, potentially.)
Kansas (-9) at Colorado
Texas A&M (-4.5) at Kansas St.
Illinois (-3) at Indiana
Kentucky (+13) at Auburn
South Carolina (+17.5) at Alabama
Missouri (+7) at Oklahoma St.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

a "Lost" Wednesday: who are they?

Often, life in the SEC is about as predictable as Craig Sager's wardrobe: you don't know what it's going to look like, but you're pretty sure it's going to be weird.
As an awkward segue, here's a video about The Others. Are they good or bad? Is Ben the bad guy? Charles Widmore? Jacob? That dude who dresses in all black currently inhabiting John Locke's visage?
In fact, I have no idea about these things. All I can do is look back and assess where we are at the moment.

It's the same in the SEC. Week to week, the conversation completely changes. Last week, the questions revolved around Tim Tebow's brain and whether Auburn could make a serious run at Atlanta. This week, we're back to predicting an inevitable Alabama-Florida game in the SECCG and trying to fend off crazy columnists' predictions of a championship in Tuscaloosa.
Anyway, before we go forward, it behooves me to look back and see where I went right and oh-so wrong in my SEC predictions, made all the way back in February.
(Note: Current standings are located here.)

6. Vanderbilt. It's been a painfully predictable regression to the mean for the folks in Nashville: they're last in the conference in just about every conceivable category. I'd like to say something about their fighting spirit or how everyone in the SEC should be leery of them, but ... well, when you're complaining on Tuesday about a missed call vs. Army, that pretty much sums up the season right there.
5. Kentucky. In the waning stages of 'Bama's victory over the 'Cats in Lexington, my friend Peter and I scanned Kentucky's schedule for the remainder of 2009 and determined they could "definitely" contend and possibly win the remainder of their games, and be right back in a bowl game at season's end.
Of course, then news broke that Mike Hartline is done for the season, meaning that Rich Brooks has to either a) go with Randall Cobb at quarterback (a complete non-threat as a passer) or b) play junior Will Fidler (who may or may not be Brandon Avalos in disguise). Which is really too bad. Cobb and Derrick Locke are two pretty exciting skill players, good enough to give Auburn fits on Saturday.
4. Tennessee. Yes, we're all very excited about Jonathan Crompton's offensive explosion vs. Georgia's defense. No, I'm not impressed to the point that I'm ready to start predicting a UT victory next Saturday.
(Please remember Ryan Mallett, a superior quarterback to Crompton in every respect who also hung ridiculous numbers on UGA's defense before coming to Tuscaloosa. Remember that one? Yeah. Thought so.)
3. Georgia. Not mentioned in the furor over UGA's 3-3 start: the 'Dawgs played one of the toughest opening months in the country. For a team definitely in a rebuilding mode, it's probably not the best thing to have to travel to Stillwater, Okla. (while Dez Bryant was in full-fledged smackdown mode), play consecutive SEC games vs. South Carolina and Arkansas, then come home to play pesky Arizona St. (currently 3-2) and then jump back into SEC play vs. LSU and Tennessee (at Neyland).
None of that scheduling talk, however, should excuse last week vs. UT, when UGA's defense turned Jonathan Crompton into Johnny Unitas and sent Lane Kiffin into full-fledged smug a-hole mode. I'll say it again: how Willie Martinez is still employed is beyond comprehension at this point.
2. South Carolina. A dangerous, dangerous football team. And I'm really afraid to say anything else.
1. Florida. Tim Tebow definitely did not look superhuman vs. LSU. Actually, he looked more like a regular guy who didn't want to get hurt. Which is fine, because it was very obvious from the opening bell that Urban's game plan was centered around defense and scoring just enough to win (and, of course, preventing Tebow from getting hurt).
The scary thing: Florida's defense is every bit as smothering as Alabama's right now, only nobody notices because of Urban Meyer and Tebow on offense (the inverse is true at Alabama, but we'll get to that in a minute). And for the record, I don't expect much out of this week vs. Arkansas. What happened the last time the Hawgs went on the road to face a defense this good? Exactly.

6. Mississippi St. Arguably the scariest team left in the conference. The Bullies have just enough to whip anybody left on their schedule, but they're not quite good enough to get over the hump. At least, not yet — one of the marks of a well-coached team is that it gets better over the course of a season. Auburn and LSU were fortunate to catch these guys early — 'Bama, Arkansas and Ole Miss won't have that luxury.
5. Ole Miss. I'm frankly not in the mood.
4. Arkansas. Read everything I just said about Mississippi State, then replace "the Bullies" with "the Hawgs." I don't expect much out of them this week in Gainesville, but they still have LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina and State remaining on the schedule. You might see them in the Cotton Bowl before all's said and done. Seriously.
3. Auburn. Everything I wrote about them at Warblogle today stands: the Teagles are light years ahead of where I believed they'd be at this point, but their lack of fundamentals on defense is disconcerting. Remember, they'd have two losses on their slate right now if not for Jarrett Brown's penchant for throwing the ball away, and they still have the balance of the division schedule remaining.
On the other hand ...
2. LSU. Give me one shred of evidence that shows LSU is any good. I'm begging you. And the recruiting stars next to the players' names on the roster doesn't count.
Currently 5-1, LSU needed the following things in order to get here:
• Washington fizzled in the red zone despite throwing for nearly 500 yards.
• Mississippi St. couldn't score on three plays from inside the 1, and that was after giving up a pick-6 and a marathon punt return.
• UGA — yes, the same team that just lost 45-19 to Tennessee — got hit with a ridiculous celebration penalty, then mysteriously quit on defense on the game's final possession.
(UPDATE: For more on this, read OTS' SEC assessment at RBR.)
So please give me one reason to believe in LSU. Seriously. I'm begging for one.
1. Alabama. I'll cede this final point to the fan commenter at RBR:
"When Alabama arrived yesterday, they looked like cloned, diciplined, suited warriors. Their whole demeanor is one of order and discipline. They were wearing coats and ties (like Alabama did years ago) and they looked like individual parts of a machine. There was no "individuality" displayed at all. Just a body. A body of soldiers. It was really impressive."

Roll Tide Roll.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: THAT guy again?

The history between Alabama and South Carolina is, to say the least, a little one-sided. The two teams had barely played before the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992, and really haven't played that many times since then. Those meetings have almost uniformly gone Alabama's way — in fact, Alabama's only two losses to South Carolina were as follows:
2001: South Carolina 37, Alabama 36. I actually attended this game in Columbia, sitting by myself (no kidding) in the visitors' section. Revisiting the stats from that game, it's frankly incredible: Tyler Watts ran for over 150 yards, threw for 250 more, Alabama led by two scores with under 5 minutes to play ... and somehow still lost. It was the second time in my life that I've seen goalposts come down in person (the first was in 2000, when LSU beat 'Bama in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1969).
2004: South Carolina 20, Alabama 3. This one wasn't nearly so memorable: I was watching in Georgia and MIke Shula's team turned in a complete non-effort on national TV. Let the record show that this was the moment I first began to turn on Mike Shula, Alabama head coach. And I recall being told at the time that I was one of those trigger-happy, unrealistic Bammers who was part of the problem with the program.

So the history between the two programs may not be so rich. On the other hand, the history with the Gamecock Boss (or Steve Spurrier) is pretty splendid. Remember, as we said yesterday, the only thing that prevented Alabama from ruling the SEC during the Gene Stallings Era from 1990-1996 was Florida and Steve Spurrier. Four times they met in the SEC Championship Game in Birmingham and Atlanta ... Alabama's record in those meetings: 1-3.
Not only that, but as Gentry Estes pointed out today, Alabama may have had eyes for Spurrier during its last coaching search (there was just enough chatter on the Web to make you believe it might happen). Of course, Spurrier himself denied all of that as rumor while it was happening and won't talk about it now. Then again, South Carolina apparently believed the rumors — it extended his contract once it was clear Spurrier was staying in Columbia.

So, just for fun, let's post a few videos of the times Alabama made Steve Spurrier unhappy during the 1990s.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week 6 thoughts: that old familiar feeling

Alabama fans like me know the Bryant days are long gone.
Forget about the houndstooth baseball caps (trendy) and the creepy guy with coach Bryant tattooed to his back (trashy). Nobody expects to return to dominance the way our parents witnessed it. Those numbers, as we've documented in this space previously, were ridiculous. Nobody's going to dominate this conference the way Alabama did back then. We know that. We can live with it.
No, what Alabama fans like me want is a return to the days of Gene Stallings.
Very few people mention those anymore. Many of Stallings' seasons were viewed as somewhat disappointing, if only because the SEC wasn't exactly our personal playtoy — a different coach, one who was busy revolutionizing college football as we know it, was running things at that point. Further, Stallings' teams were never what you'd call "dominant" — many a day ended with my dad and I turning off the television (or the radio) after a mundane victory over the likes of Mississippi St. or Vanderbilt, one in which we'd hung on because of a blocked punt or a late interception, and the outcome was never really in doubt but it wasn't the kind of blowout we really needed (usually in the 24-6 variety).
Forgotten in the history of Alabama football, however, the Stallings era was a really good period for Alabama football: 70 wins, a national championship, an SEC crown and four division championships (every season in which they were eligible, and that's not counting the 1991 season, when no such divisions existed). The Alabama teams coached by Gene Stallings were always, always physical on defense, sound in the kicking game and completely dull on offense. Like watching paint dry, really. In fact, you could call him, along with the Tom Osborne/Frank Solich programs at Nebraska the last vestiges of winning football "the old-fashioned way."

(UPDATE: Apropos of nothing, I posted a video of Gene Stallings' last game, which is kind of emblematic for how to win the Bebes way.)

I thought about the Stallings era on Saturday night, sipping Sweetwater 420 and watchinghighlights of Saturday's systematic dismantling of Ole Miss, which ended 22-3 and was never really even that close. Just like during the Stallings era, Alabama went on the road to face an upstart SEC opponent in its building. Like the old days, it was on national TV with a ton of pregame (not to mention preseason) hype.
And, just like the old days, Alabama took them apart. Force a few turnovers. Block a punt. Kick a few field goals. Ho hum.

Look, I'm not here to tell you this game was a work of art. It's frustrating and at times infuriating to watch a football team that can't close in the red zone, and allows a clearly outmatched opponent to hang around ... and hang around ... and hang around, even when it's obvious they have about as much chance of winning as Groveton did in that game against the Titans where they broke Rev's arm.
But here's the other half of that coin: Ole Miss never had a chance. Alabama's defense squeezed the life out of them the way a python slowly kills its prey, Ole Miss defensed our boys as well as anyone has all season, and ... well, I'll let Dr. Saturday say it:
Still, the Tide cruised to another routine thumper against an overmatched upstart, an appropriate reminder that this team is still first and foremost about a) Smothering defense that always seems to be in the right place, and arrives with menace; and b) Wearing defenses down with a solid, consistent ground game featuring a couple Brinks trucks in the backfield. You could add "making field goals" -- Leigh Tiffin was 5-of-5 when the offense stalled in Rebel territory -- but the blueprint would have been sufficient today even he'd missed all five. Per its head coach, this team is a cold, consistent, mercenary machine on all fronts.

We've said it before, but this is the way Nick Saban's football teams operate. They don't blow assignments. They rarely miss tackles. They don't turn the ball over. They will make you beat them.
Is it the most entertaining brand of football on the planet? Frankly, if you're a casual fan, it's downright boring.
Having said that, it's also the brand of football played by the No. 2 team in the country right now. So I'd say it's working.

Some other scattered thoughts from Saturday ...
— I've no idea why, only a few days after grousing about his duty to find the open man, Greg McElroy seemed to be pressing so hard to force the football to Julio Jones on Saturday in Oxford. On at least four different occasions, McElroy threw the ball to Jones in spite of double (and on one occasion, triple) coverage — the most scathing indictment came from Steve Beuerlein (who acquitted himself in the booth pretty well, considering they made him work with Craig Bolerjack), who pointed out that McElroy forced a pass to Jones in the end zone in the midst of three red jerseys, despite the fact that Preston Dial was running free down the middle of the field, with no one within five yards of him. Saturday was the first time since the first half against Va. Tech that he looked like a rookie starter.
— If the last two weeks haven't taught our people something about this stupid "FIRST DOWN" business, I don't know what will. Both Kentucky and Ole Miss celebrated every first down like they'd just won the BCS title, and what's worse, their fans are apparently OK with it.
To everybody who participates in that garbage, both past and present, I hope you're properly ashamed.
— Alabama's repeated stripping of Ole Miss ballcarriers on Saturday is an illustration of why coaching and desire matter in football. On the coaching front, read this fantastic post from Smart Football about Nick Saban's pass-defense philosophy. But the other half of it, of course, is desire: Alabama guys were able to steal the ball away from Ole Miss' guys because (and I hate coaching cliches like these, but here goes) they simply wanted it more. There was a play like this one in an AFC Championship Game between New England and Indianapolis several years ago — recounted here by Bill Simmons — in which the Pats' Tedy Bruschi, a marginal talent (as NFL linebackers go) who had battled back from a stroke that same year, stole the ball from Indy's Dominic Rhodes. In an NFL Films retrospective of the game, you can see Bruschi bringing the ball back to the sidelines with him and shouting, "They don't got it!"
Let there be no doubt: Bruschi had it. And so does this Alabama team.
— I know, I know, I know. It's fashionable to rip on Leigh Tiffin. He's got a sour face and has been kind of erratic in the past and Daniel Maguire once called him "a great big (expletive)" in a text message he sent me. Still, he went 5-5 yesterday, which means he's (wait for it) 14-16 for the season.
You read that correctly: 14-16. He's missed two field goals this year. Two.
For some reason, this still isn't good enough for our fans.
— Not good enough for me: we nearly gave up another TD on a kickoff return yesterday. I swear, this is going to cause me to have an aneurysm at some point.
(Note: There's nothing funny about aneurysms. Probably.)
— Since I went after McElroy earlier, now seems like a good time to mention he hasn't thrown an interception since he took a hit on his arm in Week 1 against Va. Tech. And I promise I knocked on some wood after I typed that.
— I'm not positive about this — because we threw a party yesterday and I was pretty tired at 11
p.m. — but I think I saw one of the ESPN graphics listing Mark Ingram as a "Heisman hopeful." Frankly, I'm not interested. We don't win Heismans in Tuscaloosa. And we don't cheer like idiots over first downs.
(Just in case you weren't sure.)
— I'll cede this final point to Chris Low, even if I'm almost certain he's trying some kind of voodoo hex on us:
Granted, there’s still a lot of football left to be played. But a second straight No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the SEC Championship Game doesn’t seem that far away.

Roll Tide.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friday in October: Webb & links.

Currently I'm watching Nebraska and Missouri slog through a Thursday-night showcase in a driving rainstorm so significant, even Erin Andrews has been reduced to completely unflattering rain gear.
(The good news: every time Missouri plays on television, it results in thousands of texts and jokes related to "The Outlaw Josey Wales." Whooped 'em again, didn't we Josey? Whooped 'em again, boy.)
I'm telling you this for a reason: rain may affect your favorite team this Saturday. The good news for 'Bama: it's supposed to quit before kickoff Saturday in Oxford. That's all we need is to play Houston Nutt in the pouring rain. I'd rather drink gasoline.
(One other note before we go on: Nebraska's defense is playing way too well to lose this game. Seriously. They're going to lose because they can't move the ball on offense, and that's a damn shame.)

Anyway, I owe you guys links and some Derek Webb, since it's about to be Friday. Today's entry comes from his second album: "I Want a Broken Heart."

And with that, we move on with links to close out the week:
— Yesterday I pondered whether Julio Jones' injuries and the special attention paid him by opponents was hurting his production thus far this season. According to OTS, that's not the case, at least not against Kentucky. Shows what I know. The good news: we're still producing on offense, and a number of different guys are getting involved.
— Interestingly, the nation is taking notice of McElroy's fast start: he's one of three 'Bama players on an early-season watch list. Also, I'm told Mark May said something about him and the Heisman Trophy tonight. That ain't happenin, Mark.
— More player features: Rolando McClain said this week he's "not thinking about" the NFL right now, which is fortunate. McClain looks every bit the part of a seasoned veteran thus far this season — he flows to the ball on nearly every play, calls every defensive formation and does tons of stuff that isn't immediately obvious to a casual football fan. I'm glad he's on our side; he's basically been what DeMeco Ryans was in 2005.

— While we're on the subject of linebackers, Alabama did some shuffling this week in its linebacking corps, and word is Cory Reamer will be back outside when the D takes the field Saturday in Oxford. Probably for the best.

— Dr. Saturday has an interesting post about Ole Miss' need to perform Saturday against Alabama, even if it doesn't win.
I don't mean that Ole Miss necessarily has to win to save its season, which would be a pretty dire thing to say before the halfway point. But I do think the Rebels have to play well and stand toe to toe with the Tide into the fourth quarter to avoid the sense that they're just another middle-of-the-pack outfit sitting at 1-2 in the conference. We know what we're going to get from 'Bama -- disciplined, aggressive defense that doesn't offer any big windows for Jevan Snead, opposite a pounding running game backed up by the occasional big strike downfield -- which is what makes the Tide such an effective measuring stick; they're one of a very small handful of the most consistent teams in the country so far, as effective against Virginia Tech as they are against Kentucky. If Ole Miss can legitimately compete with that, then perhaps its fate can still be more Virginia Tech than Kentucky.

(Note: While I was typing these last few paragraphs, Nebraska scored twice in 2 minutes to take the lead. Once again, shows what I know.)

— Regardless of what happens Saturday, the (simulated) BCS should have an extra dose of the SEC on Monday. But, as B&B reminded us last week, target="_blank"it may not last.
— Two other posts of interest: Jerry deals frankly with Ryan Pugh's thuggery; and Mr. CFB throws water on any of us trying to concoct a scenario with Boise St. in the BCS title game.
(Aw, c'mon, Tony ... we can dream, can't we?)

Thursday lines will have to wake up mighty early

Before we get to this week's edition of Thursday lines, I felt the need to share this video from Tuesday's player session with the media, and only because Greg McElroy apparently a) is tired of answering questions about Julio Jones' (perceived) lack of involvement in the offense, and b) Greg apparently graduated from the Nick Saban School of "Condescending Responses to Irritating Questions."

Alabama QB Greg McElroy 10-5-09

One thing that's been somewhat underplayed in the "why isn't Julio getting the ball more?" storyline: he's been hurt since the FIU game, when he bruised his knee (remember: he didn't play at all against UNT). In that time period, AJ Green has done multiple superhuman things, including this ...

... which has led to multiple stories about his greatness as an athlete (and at least one blogger saying "[t]he debate as to whether he's better than Julio Jones is over and done with."
So, anyway, yeah: it's kind of an interesting discussion, anyway.

Moving on, here are this week's lines. Bear in mind, all the SEC games for this week save 'Bama-Ole Miss and Florida-LSU begin before lunchtime (something about CBS having a "window" and ESPN not being allowed to violate it). So if you place any money on these games — and, as always, we don't recommend it — be prepared to wake up early.
Lines, as always, come courtesy of

Nebraska (-2) at Missouri
La. Tech (+7) at Nevada
Auburn (-3) at Arkansas
(Note: Possibly could take all afternoon. I've no idea what's the over here, but ... well, take the over. Looks like a lock.)
Purdue (+4) at Minnesota
West Virginia (-9.5) at Syracuse
(Note: Wasn't listed at Dr. Saturday's Upset Bait, but frankly, this one looks like a trap.)
Boston College (+13.5) at Virginia Tech
Georgia (PUSH) at Tennessee
(Note: On some services, this line has moved in favor of Tennessee, as much as 2 points. Which is insane — anyone laying money with Jonathan Crompton should just take $100 out of his pocket and just light it on fire.)
Iowa St. (+19) at Kansas
(Note: Anyone see what ISU did last week vs. K-St.? This looks like another potential upset.)
Kentucky (+12) at South Carolina
(Note: I think Kentucky is actually pretty good. If they can stop throwing the ball to the other team, they'll have a chance to win every game from here on out.)
Oregon (-6.5) at UCLA
Alabama (-6.5) at Ole Miss
Wisconsin (+14.5) at Ohio St.
Baylor (+23.5) at Oklahoma
(Note related to nothing: According to our Web source, Oklahoma St.'s home game against Texas A&M is completely off the board.)
Connecticut (+9.5) at Pittsburgh
Indiana (+6.5) at Virginia
Duke (+14.5) at North Carolina St.
Arizona St. (-19.5) at Washington St.
Utah (-6.5) at Colorado St.
Maryland (+10) at Wake Forest
Stanford (-2.5) at Oregon St.
Kansas St. (+17) at Texas Tech
Colorado (+32) at Texas
(Note: They can't make this line high enough. CU quit on this season before it even started.)
TCU (-11) at Air Force
Georgia Tech (+2.5) at Florida St.
Florida (-9.5) at LSU
(Note: I think LSU is a tad overrated — they're not a bad team, but I don't think they're a top-5 squad. Even so, how are they GETTING 9.5 at home? I'm confused.)
Michigan (+7.5) at Iowa
Arizona (-2.5) at Washington

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Lost" Wednesday: Who is Jacob's Child

Today's "Lost" post comes to us as a poll courtesy of The ODI. I'll quote them.

Jacob has a child and it's one of the people in the poll. Who do you think it is and why. Vote & comment away.

Poll: Who is Jacob's Child

Back with more later, I hope.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: danger, Will Robinson

Welcome back to Ole Miss Week, or Alabama's turn to spend a week as part of the Houston Nutt Experience (don't forget: Houston Nutt is insane).

Even without Houston Dale, recent history between these two teams suggests this game will be close, and most likely something genuinely bizarre will happen (note: for a complete look at the history between the two, check out RBR). Observe ....

Here's to everyone's blood pressure this weekend.

Monday, October 5, 2009

leftover thoughts, week 5

Many apologies for a lack of blogging. It was a long, long weekend. Here are a few scattered thoughts from it at large.

— All the rumors about Kentucky fans are true: the crowd that showed up Saturday was a laid-back, gregarious group of people. On multiple occasions fans in blue approached either me or Peter to ask how far we'd driven, whether we were enjoying ourselves, what we thought of our team, and so forth. Even when the Alabama team buses came charging up University Boulevard to Commonwealth Stadium, the collective boos from the UK fans were somewhat half-hearted.
Let's just say it was a little strange for two guys raised on football in the South. Peter and I walked around campus for a good hour before we saw any indication that anyone was coming to the game. As it turned out, the tailgating and party-type atmosphere was pretty lively around Commonwealth itself, but once you walked a few feet away, you'd forget there was even a football game going on.
Inside the stadium, the Wildcat legions (at least those that showed up — the stadium never really was full) conducted themselves the way overly-supportive Little League parents behave during their kids' games: they're very aware their kids aren't any good, but every time one of them does something right, they cheer like crazy. Deep into the fourth quarter, after the outcome was very much decided, many of them hung around and kept supporting their team.
But they never really believed they had a chance Saturday. Prior to the game, Peter and I stopped for a moment to listen to a portion of the pregame radio show, broadcast remotely in a large trailer. The announcers both agreed the following things: a) Kentucky didn't have a chance; b) the rest of the schedule appears winnable for them. "The main thing," one of them said, "is to make sure we don't let whatever happened last week and what happens today affect us the rest of the season."
At no point did either of them say, "To have a chance to win ..." or even, "To have a chance at keeping it close ..." They'd already resigned themselves to a lopsided loss. And none of the fans listening seemed to disagree.

— Having said all that, though, Kentucky had a chance to win the game. Here's where it happened:
The 'Cats, having dominated much of the first quarter (after Alabama's first quick touchdown), had pinned Alabama at its own 3-yard line with the second of two fantastic pooch kicks. On first down, Micah Johnson came through the Tide line unblocked, nailing Trent Richardson for a safety ... or, at least, that's how it looked from Section 219, Row 32. Officials on the field ruled Richardson had cleared the goal line, but barely. Incredibly, the replay showed they were right (a rarity for officials on this particular Saturday).
If Richardson doesn't clear the goal line, and if the official doesn't get that call exactly right, Alabama is trailing 8-7, and has to kick the ball back to a Kentucky offense that had experienced surprising success through much of the first quarter.
Didn't happen. Instead, Richardson burst off tackle on second down for five yards to allow a little breathing room, then Greg McElroy found Colin Peek down the middle for a big first down. Nine plays later, 'Bama was in the opposing end zone — McElroy to Peek again — and led 14-6.
Two plays later, this happened:

By the time Courtney Upshaw crossed the goal line, the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

— Biggest crowd pop of the day: Kentucky introducing its basketball team one by one during a TV timeout. They did it in the most confusing way possible, too: they introduced them as "14 of Kentucky's biggest football fans," then brought them out one-by-one calling them by their first names. Very odd.

— I didn't watch much of the replay, so I'm not sure how evident it was on TV, but it seemed like the wind played a large role in our passing game, especially in the first half. On a couple of deep throws, McElroy appeared to have his man open, but the ball appeared to be taking off with the wind at his back. And going into it made medium-distance field goals nearly impossible.

— Which, obviously, raises the obvious question (as posed by Todd): why were we screwing around throwing the ball in the first half? Why not pound Kentucky's smallish front with our big guys and see if they can stop us? Is that too easy? I'm confused.

— Defensively, Kentucky's success was a little disconcerting, particularly given the number of tackles we missed. The hallmark of Nick Saban's defenses through much of these first two-and-a-half seasons has been that our guys a) don't blow assignments and b) don't miss tackles.
Having said that, though, the defense never gave up the go-ahead points in a 7-6 game, even though UK started consecutive drives at midfield. And we were good enough defensively to force four Wildcat turnovers, including one incredible interception in which Rolando McClain tipped the ball up into the air like a basketball player, in order to give Eryk Anders a chance to come down with it. Pretty amazing stuff.

— After the game, Peter & I walked downtown — a good 25 minutes or so — and snuck into Rupp Arena. Now I want to go back.

— One more funny story and then we're through: Saturday night we wandered over to Buffalo Wild Wings on South Broadway, the better to watch the vast assortment of games being played in the late slot. A handful of locals — who were drinking and taking turns punching an electronic bag that registered their punching power engaged us after we sat down, wanting to know if we'd really driven "all the way from Alabama" and what we thought about the whole experience. One of them seemed more angry with us than anything for "hanging out in f*cking Lexington" for the night, finally asking us if we were staying at the Embassy Suites.
"No," I told him. "The Holiday Inn."
"Man," he said. "I knew y'all were a bunch of cheap m-----f-----s."
Hard to argue with him there.

And with that, a fond farewell to Kentucky week. We'll start preparing for Ole Miss tomorrow.