Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday Andy: the Preamble

Since it's the off week, there's not much to post that might be topical from Andy. So instead, here's Barney reciting the Preamble to the Constitution of the U.S.

Back with more later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thursday lines: Open University

An early look at this weekend in college football, courtesy the good people at USA Today.
Florida St. (-3) at North Carolina St.

West Virginia (-7) at Connecticut

Clemson (-7) at Boston College
Louisville (+11) at Pittsburgh
Miami (-15) at Virginia
Purdue (+15) at Illinois
Oklahoma St. (-6) at Kansas St.
UAB (+10) at Southern Miss
(Note: Last year the Blazers took down USM on a Thursday night at Legion Field for the "breakthrough" win of the 2009 season ... only it didn't work out that way.)
Tennessee (+17.5) at South Carolina
(Note: You could see the Vols pulling this one off, right? I mean, it wouldn't totally shock you? It wouldn't totally shock me.)
Kansas (+19) at Iowa St.
(Note: I suppose this would be the part where I make some snarky comment about the guy Auburn could've hired coaching against one of the guys Auburn ran out of town after 2008. I could do that, but I won't.)
Tulsa (+8.5) at Notre Dame
Arizona (-10) at UCLA
(Note: Not nearly enough has been made of the turnaround at Arizona under Mike Stoops, which has been consistently overshadowed in the conference by Oregon, Stanford and USC. The Wildcats, right now, are a mere 2 points from being undefeated and in the national championship conversation. No kidding.)
Wake Forest (+5) at Maryland
Missouri (+7) at Nebraska
Cal (+3.5) at Oregon St.
Texas Tech (+5) at Texas A&M
Michigan St. (+6.5) at Iowa
Florida (+3) vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
(Note: Florida's getting 3? Really? C'mon, man.)
Duke (+14.5) at Navy
FIU (-6) at FAU
(Note: I only included this line so I could link to this incredible video of FAU's color analyst melting down on-air during last week's loss to Arkansas State. Actually, "incredible" doesn't quite cover it.)
Auburn (-7) at Mississippi
Vanderbilt (+22) at Arkansas
Baylor (+7) at Texas
(Note: Guess who would win the Big XII South if the season ended today.)
Stanford (-7.5) at Washington
Kentucky (+6.5) at Mississippi St.
Utah (-7) at Air Force
Oregon (-6.5) at USC
Michigan (-1) at Penn St.
Colorado (+24) at Oklahoma
Idaho (+14.5) at Hawaii

wednesday roundtable: couch week

Like our players, I'm looking forward to a stress-free Saturday that will involve some football that affects me not at all.Which should be fun. BUT, that doesn't mean we can't give you an Open Week Roundtable, courtesy, as always, of the good people at RBR. As always, feel free to comment here or chirp at me on Twitter.

The question this week is pretty simple:
How has this team matched up to pre-season expectations and what needs to be done to achieve those hopes over the rest of the run? Obviously the simple answer is "national championship" for the former and "win every game" for the latter, but given what we know about the team an the teams we must face, there should be some specific observations to be made.

This season, admittedly, has been quite strange for me. Since the sixth grade, I watched Alabama with one rather important question in mind: "When are we getting back to play for the national championship?" And it took 17 years, two NCAA probations, about a dozen coaching changes and a variety of small embarrassments along the way (long losing streaks to Tennessee and Auburn, for example), but we got there last year, in what one could easily argue was the best season in the history of the program (and possibly the entire SEC).
So how do you follow that up? When everything finally comes together, every break goes your way and you just can't lose ... what's left to accomplish the following season? How do you write a sequel for the best movie ever?

Unlike some columnists — lookin at you, Scarbinsky and Finebaum — I never really harbored any worries about "repeating" in 2010. My biggest concern was how this team carried itself as defending champs: would our guys be satisfied, and just give up at the first sign of adversity? Or would they fight?
Results have been kind of mixed thus far. The team has played like champs in spurts — the second half vs. Arkansas, the first half vs. Florida, the third quarter in Knoxville — and appeared to be on cruise control the rest of the time. Nagging injuries haven't helped: not having Marcell Dareus and Courtney Upshaw at full strength has adversely affected our ability to pressure the passer, and Dont'a Hightower still looks slow coming off last year's knee injury. That means the defense hasn't been as dominant as last year's (though it's looked much better the last two weeks), which means that the same lousy offensive efforts we had in 2009 — Ole Miss and South Carolina, specifically — were enough to get us beat (fortunately, it only happened once). Viewed through that prism, 2010 feels like a disappointment thus far.

On balance, though, I realize that prism is mildly insane. When I mentioned to one of my Auburn cousins that the fans were growing impatient during the Ole Miss game, he responded, "3 losses in the past 31 games should test anyone's patience."
Seriously, what exactly are we complaining about? The team is ranked in the top 10, and has all its goals still in front of it: SEC West, SEC, BCS. And we just pwned Tennessee for the fourth consecutive season (and 5th out of the last 6). If that's not enough to at least give us some perspective on this deal, I'm going to have to concede the whole "Bammers has CUH-RAZY irrational expectations!!!!1!!" myth circulated by the national press.

More to the point, as we discussed in this space Sunday, Saturday night in Neyland restored some of the "EFF YOU" intensity that's been a trademark of the program since the beginning of 2008. My favorite story that came out of Saturday (and Cecil Hurt mentioned it on Finebaum, which is probably as close to verification as we'll get): Saban wrote the score of the Auburn-LSU game on the board in the locker room at halftime, then passively informed the players that at least SOMEBODY in the state was representing us well.
Maybe that was the light bulb for the rest of the season, maybe not — the season could still fall apart in the final month (three of the final 4 are ranked). Even so, at least we know the squad won't go down without a fight.

It should be a fun final month. Roll Tide.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: 'Bama's greatest calls

Call me a sentimental fool: this post from Joe Posnanski, detailing some of the greatest calls in sports history, inspired me. So, realizing, of course, how subjective the topic is, I decided to cull through my own memory and find some of my favorite Alabama-related calls over the years.
Before we go on, let's establish what I consider the criteria to evaluate a great announcer call:
• Great announcers typically have a distinctive voice, so that listeners know exactly what they're hearing when his voice comes over the air. This may be the most important criteria of all — for example, no one would ever mistake Larry Munson for a good technical announcer, but everyone knew it was UGA football time when they hear his voice.
• Great announcers are homers, but not so much that it turns off their listening audience. Rod Bramblett, for example, is a decent announcer, technically speaking, but he and Stan White are such Auburn homers no one but Auburn fans would ever want to listen to them (and they probably like it that way).
• Great announcers aren't so in love with the sound of their own voice that they talk over the moment. There's a beautiful moment in the broadcast of Alabama's 2005 win over Florida, right after Brodie Croyle finds Tyrone Prothro for an 80-yard touchdown on Alabama's first play from scrimmage. Verne Lundquist, calling the game for CBS, calls the play "Prothro's down there ... HE'S GOT IT ... and HE'S ... GONE ... NO FLAGS!" ... and then he says nothing, allowing the crowd to cheer and cheer, and he's silent some more ... finally, the kicking unit comes on, and Verne says, matter-of-factly, "And just like that."
This, to me, is Brent Musberger's biggest deficiency as an announcer: he tends to shout over everything. The best of the best recognize the moment, and let the moment speak for itself.

Anyway, here are some of my favorites, in no particular order (except for the final one, as you'll see). Note that this features local broadcasters like Chris Stewart, Paul Kennedy and Eli Gold, as well as national broadcasts that were particularly poignant (Verne and Keith Jackson both show up). Note also that a number of these seem to come against Tennessee. Go figure. And one other note: not all of these videos are the "greatest calls" in their entirety; the famous call is contained either in the middle or somewhere towards the end. Feel free to add your own thoughts here or by finding me on Twitter.

And, my personal No. 1: a tie — or, better explained, two calls of the same play.

Fun, but not quite as good as this one.

Magical. See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

Monday, October 25, 2010

gameday texts: 7th sequence

Welcome back to "Gameday Texts," one of the many running features of this blog (and one of the best liked thus far, from what I can tell). This week's edition features an all-star performance from my old co-worker, Jason Halcombe. As always, the time stamps on each message is accurate, and the names appear on this blog as they do in my address book. Also as always, please feel free to add your own awesome text messages — either sent or received — either in the comments section or by finding me on Twitter. Please note: any texts labeled "Stacey" actually came from my wife while she was sitting next to me. Please to enjoy.
Dad (8:33 a.m.): Y'all keep 'em straight up air.
Jamie (9:07 a.m.): Nice sweater vest gene.
Maguire (9:19 a.m.): We're Jayhawks ourselves.
(Note: This is a reference I'll cite for the uninitiated.)

Pedro (9:55 a.m.): Don't bend over in the garden, granny, you know them taters got eyes.
Dad (12:52 p.m.): Know what you mean. I'm a Hoosier m'self.
Chad C (1:28 p.m.): I'm in Auburn, hating life.

Pedro (2:00 p.m.): I'm not a dog person.
Whit (2:21 p.m.): Roll Tide.

Dad (2:25 p.m.): C'mon Sparty.
Pedro (2:38 p.m.): The best way to describe Texas students' faces is like they just caught their smoking hot girlfriend with the class dweeb — shocked, but more just confused.

Dad (2:55 p.m.): Here come the Irish.

Chad C (3:16 p.m.): Just saw a grown man (60+) holding himself like a 6 y/o boy trying not to pee himself. Typical AU fan.
Bart (3:18 p.m.): At zoo, awesome three-year-old with looong mullet and Auburn parents.
Eric St. Clair (3:37 p.m.): It's about time one of these damn teams lose.

Maguire (3:40 p.m.): Right now, Chizik, Cam & Co. are obnoxious.
Chad C (3:48 p.m.): Feels like something's missing. Tradition, nostalgia, championships? Can't really put my finger on it. Even the flyover was lackluster.

Dad (4:04 p.m.): First Tebow reference.
Rob (4:24 p.m.): Ted Roof is a wuss if I had cam on the other side I would blitz every down.

Jamie (4:57 p.m.): That's the 5th QB casualty of the year.
Pedro (4:59 p.m.): Les Miles likes to have 2 QBs — that way, if one does well, he can yank them. He's as impatient with effect QBs as Spurrier is with ineffective ones.

Dad (5:12 p.m.): 'Bama will be a 14-point underdog to both of these.

Jamie (5:16 p.m.): There was 9 seconds left. That play took 10. Still 1 remaining. Thanks home field.

Chad C (5:32 p.m.): Talk about a Debbie downer, lady behind us is spreading news of someone committing suicide. Prob a 'Bama fan couldn't suffer through another Cam for Heism ...
Jamie (5:47 p.m.): Strike the pose.

Jamie (6:03 p.m.): I guess fumble number 18 will be the limit.

Jamie (6:33 p.m.): This whole season at this point rests on the shoulders of Mario Fannin.

Jamie (6:48 p.m.): My God Nick Fairley is good.

Whit (6:54 p.m.): Did you know that everyone is out to get Auburn and hates Auburn?

Maguire (7:01 p.m.): Time to beat the Hillbillies. Tide, get ready to roll!
Whit (7:37 p.m.): All this orange makes me nauseous.

Jamie (8:02 p.m.): I'm getting to the point where I do believe no one can stop 2.

Maguire (8:12 p.m.): Stupid convenience-store robbing thugs.
Dad (8:50 p.m.): Right now I'll take TN straight up.

Halcombe (8:57 p.m.): Does Iowa State get an automatic FCS bye for beating Texas? If so, my bracket has them playing the winner of the Furman/Montana St. game.
Halcombe (9:00 p.m.): If I sign up for NBA League Pass during the "Early bird special" period, can I TiVo out gratuitous KG scowls during the OKC-ATL game?
Halcombe (9:05 p.m.): Isn't Holly Rowe the host of "The Biggest Loser" and the "fat girl" from "Days of Our Lives?"

Halcombe (9:06 p.m.): How many halftime F-bombs from Saban created that scoring drive?
Halcombe (9:12 p.m.): Wonder if any 'Bama conspiracy theorist is questioning how the lead official looks an awful lot like a "tanner" Fulmer?

Halcombe (9:14 p.m.): By his stats, I guess we could say Cam Newton is some Trent Dilfer/Frank Gore hybrid.

Halcombe (9:24 p.m.): Apparently Dooley doesn't spend much time at practice teaching his team to play second half football?
Pedro (9:28 p.m.): Go to 2 hr. 23 min on your DVR for a shot of Shaggy's response to Richardson's TD. No shots of Scooby or Daphne.
(Note: Thanks to RBR, we can cite this reference, as well.)

Dad (9:35 p.m.): O e o

Halcombe (9:46 p.m.): What dousche is holding up a Vandy jersey in the 'Bama fan section? Loser. Why aren't you at the USC game? A game Vandy could ACTUALLY win? Loser.
Stacey (9:50 p.m.): I can't shoot over this guy's fat head.

Jamie (9:54 p.m.): Backup QB = time to head for the cooler.
Pedro (10:01 p.m.): Did you see why they called that timeout? Can they not find a DB who will line up on the same side of the field as Julio?

Halcombe (10:12 p.m.): Just watched Renteria swing at a pitch low and way away. For a moment I was taken back to '06.
Halcombe (10:17 p.m.): Heard rumor that if Giants win Fox has already okayed a trade that would send the World Series to G4 for 14 old episodes of Arrested Development.
Halcombe (10:20 p.m.): Raul Ibanez bears an uncanny resemblance to the mummy in the film of the same name.

Jamie (10:17 p.m.): As much as I dislike Saban I thought his take on the off-week issue was pretty top notch.

Dad (10:20 p.m.): Cigar?
Pedro (10:23 p.m.): A fitting way to close it out. Rammer Jammer indeed.
Maguire (10:23 p.m.): 7-1. Roll Tide Roll.

Dad (11:18 p.m.): Aub may be No. 1 in polls.
Maguire (11:45 p.m.): Mizzou!

Maguire (11:47 p.m.): I'm glad we don't rush the field.
Travis P (11:48 p.m.): Zoo downs the Sooners!
Maguire (12:40 a.m.): Whooped 'em again.

Travis P (1:28 a.m.): I've been (to Neyland) 3 times with 3 awesome wins. I wanna go back every time!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

week 8 thoughts: all fun and games

"I thought we did this because it was fun."

My wife said that at halftime Saturday night, while we were attempting to squeeze into our seats in Section M at Neyland Stadium. Alabama had badly outplayed the homestanding Vols in the first half, with the exception of one long run, and yet had a mere 13-10 lead to show for it. The UT fans — who already watched 4 losses in 6 games and were downright apologetic about their team (the guy next to me said, "We're terrible") — suddenly turned vitriolic, egged by the student section chanting "F*CK YOU BAMA!"
"I thought we came to these games to have fun," she said.
We soaked in the derisive cheering a few seconds.
"Not this game," I said.

As it turned out, Tennessee fans' attempt to rile up their own team with their derisive chanting may have riled up the visitors instead. For the first time all season — except for, perhaps, the first half vs. Florida — Alabama played like the dominating defending champs from a year ago: four consecutive scoring drives that turned a close game into a blowout and sent those same fans scurrying for the exits long before the first chorus of "Rammer Jammer."

Now, every assessment of this game, naturally, has to be tempered with the follow phrase: Tennessee is terrible. It's the single worst Tennessee team of my lifetime, and I really have no idea how it happened. Saturday I read in the Knoxville News-Sentinel that Alabama in 2010 outweighed Tennessee in 2010 by an average of 21 pounds per man at every position and did a legitimate double-take: the same program of Fred Weary, Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson ... and we outweigh them that badly? It's hard to believe, but that's how thin times are on The Hill.
Having said that, the second half at Neyland underscores what's been the difference between the last two seasons and this one for Nick Saban's team: the '08-'09 Alabama team played with a "(BLEEP) YOU" intensity that set them apart from just about every other team on the schedule. Nick Saban used the word "dominate," and the team wielded it like a club. That's been missing so far in 2010. It wasn't missing Saturday night in Knoxville; 'Bama even tacked on a completely meaningless touchdown with 8 minutes to play in the fourth, just to drive home the point. (Bleep) you.

I don't know what the future holds for this Alabama team. It's about to take a week off at the most opportune time on the schedule, with three ranked teams remaining on the schedule (including the current BCS No. 1). I don't know if Alabama's got another trip to Atlanta (or beyond) in it.
I do know this: the team that played with the kind of mentality on display Saturday night in Knoxville is good enough to beat anyone in the country.

Some other thoughts:
— I'm going to disagree with OTS' assessment of Saturday a slight amount: Alabama did not play "poorly" in the first half, as he says: maybe it wasn't great, but the offense was moving the ball up and down the field, only it couldn't cash in opportunities (three FG attempts in the first half vs. 2 punts). As for his assertion that Tennessee "gashed" 'Bama with its run game, other than Tauren Poole's 59-yard touchdown run (which was a case of Alabama slanting away from the spot where UT was running, the only time all night we were really out of position), Tennessee's longest rushing gain was a 15-yard Poole run before half (with the defense playing back to protect vs. the pass).
— OTS is spot-on in his assessment, however, about the vertical passing game, which made a shocking cameo early and often Saturday night. It was obvious why this was possible: Tennessee spent most of the night with about 19 people in the box, selling out to stop the run. One expert on CSS referred to the defensive scheme as a "Eagle Over," in which both guards and the center are "covered" by a defensive lineman, and the ends play wide. It allows the linebackers to still play the flats, while helping against the run. But it leaves the corners perilously vulnerable against the deep ball, as we saw.
— Marcell Dareus affected the game last night more than he has in some time. His ankle is obviously still bothering him, but he still managed to affect the quarterback, and finished with a few tackles, as well.
— I'm no band expert, but you don't have to be to appreciate the "Pride of the Southland" and its circle drill. That was pretty cool.
— Stacey attempted to keep track of the number of times the UT band played "Rocky Top" Saturday night. Final count: 23. Although there's some dispute about whether the "playback" (when they play it through a second time) counts as a separate playing. Talk amongst yourselves.
— I hate to nag the offensive line, which played excellent Saturday, but there was a moment late in the second quarter that just killed me: Greg McElroy threw a jailbreak screen pass to Marquis Maze, a beautiful design that earned a first down and would've earned a touchdown had not William Vlachos been careening down the field, 10 yards in front of Maze, not touching a soul. I have no earthly idea what he was doing.
— UT fans have a much better sense of humor about the whole "13 men on the field" thing than I probably would. Seriously, had that happened to me, I don't know if I'd be over it, even now.
— Watching McElroy skip off the field to the cheers of the 'Bama fans still in the building Saturday night was fun. "They don't hate me this week! Woooooo!!!!"
— If we learned nothing else during the latter part of the 1990s, we should've learned that it's important to savor every win vs. Tennessee, even a weakened Tennessee team that looks ready to start winter workouts, possibly tomorrow. The Vols most definitely won't stay down like this for very long.

And that's OK. Because Alabama and Tennessee is more fun when both teams are good (well ... maybe not fun).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday lines: Friday edition

My apologies for not having any lines up yesterday — real life and all that jazz. In a slightly related story, during Oregon's blitz of UCLA last night, I asked Jamie to compare Oregon to Auburn at this point. His response: "Oregon wins by 8-10." So ... there's that. Guess it's the Ducks' turn at the forefront of everyone's consciousness, for today, anyway.
This week's lines come from USA Today, and only because I felt like mixing things up a little.
South Florida (+8.5) at Cincinnati

Michigan St. (-7) at Northwestern
Penn St. (-9.5) at Minnesota
Purdue (+22.5) at Ohio St.
Rutgers (+12.5) at Pittsburgh
Iowa St. (+22) at Texas
Duke (+26) at Va. Tech
Syracuse (+16) at West Virginia
Indiana (+13) at Illinois
Notre Dame (-7) at Navy
Mississippi (+9.5) at Arkansas
Maryland (+5.5) at Boston College
LSU (+6) at Auburn
Arizona St. (+3) at Cal
Texas Tech (PICK) at Colorado
UConn (-1) at Louisville
Nebraska (-6) at Oklahoma St.
Ga. Tech (+5.5) at Clemson
Kansas St. (+7.5) at Baylor
Wisconsin (+5.5) at Iowa
South Carolina (-12.5) at Vanderbilt
UAB (+20) at Mississippi St.
Texas A&M (-14) at Kansas
Alabama (-16.5) at Tennessee
Georgia (-3.5) at Kentucky
North Carolina (+6.5) at Miami
Oklahoma (-3.5) at Missouri
Air Force (+18.5) at TCU
Washington (+7.5) at Arizona

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

family conversations, 2010 version: halfway there

With Auburn now sitting at the top of the football world and everyone in the football world's consciousness, and Alabama still a threat to win 10 and challenge for the division, it seems like the perfect time to resurrect "Family Conversations," a much-belovedrunning segment in which I trade emails with my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie about Alabama football, Auburn football and life in general. Just for fun, here's the first version for this season, in which we pick the preseason SEC standings. Neither of us has LSU-Auburn as the biggest game of Week 8. As always, feel free to argue with us, either here or on Twitter.

Jamie: At this point in the season, we have seen enough football to have an idea where every team stands.
• Auburn: If there has ever been a more obvious example of how much difference one player can make to a football team, I can't name it. Maybe Vince Young. That is exactly who CN reminds me of. The other thing about Auburn's offense that makes it so dynamic is the fact that even though McCalebb, Dyer, Fannin, Adams, Zachary, Blake among others are not Cam Newton, they are good enough to at least require attention, taking just enough pressure off of Cam to let him do his thing. Other than the obvious physical presence CN has, he is THE unquestioned leader of this team. That goes a long way.
Here's the rub...Auburn's defense, at least against the pass, is the worst I have ever seen. I really can't put my finger on it. We have good enough players. The D Line is top 4 in the conference. We have basically the same LB's and same Secondary that were playing on some pretty good defenses 2-3 years ago. Our depth, though is a concern, can't really be blamed for getting roasted in the first 25 minutes of a game. The glaring thing I see here is our obvious inability to tackle the guy with the ball. That is a coaching problem. Our tackling fundamentals are horrid, and will likely be the reason we do not win a championship of any sort. The way I see it, Offenses have so many moving parts, so many opportunities to fail, turn the ball over, run bad routes, miss blocks, miss snap, inaccurate passes and so on. Defenses generally have much less of a chance to have an off game. See ball, get ball. I realize there is more complexity than that, but you rarely see good defenses "sputter."
Auburn's problem is if this offense ever sputters for 3+ quarters, we will not lose, we will get blown out. We have a tough stretch. I believe we win by 10+ points this week. I believe we are undefeated going into Tuscaloosa. I also believe in order for us to go to Atl, we must have it wrapped up before Thanksgiving.

• Alabama is proof that experience>talent. Even though Arenas and Jackson were really good players, few would argue that the two corners playing right now have more physical ability. Yet, at least in Demarcus Milliner's case, he should not be starting on a team of Bama's caliber. He is to Alabama football what Neiko Thorpe is to Auburn: Glaring weak spot. Bama has the ability to cover his weaknesses up where Auburn cannot. Big difference. If you are a Bama fan you can take a true freshman making some mistakes at the corner spot. What you cannot take is the inability to run the football effectively with that line and those backs. Can't really explain that one. Mcelroy has to be able to beat teams with his arm and right now he is not doing that. He has been timid with the ball having what I called "Jason Campbell Syndrome". If you remember, this is exactly what Mcelroy did last year, and he did play well down the stretch. Alabama's issues can be and I feel will be worked out.

The rest:
• Georgia, typically, seems to be getting right just in time.
• Miss St could win 8. That's impressive.
• Two favorites had a chance to take grasp of the eastern division Saturday night. They both blew it. Losers.
will: I think the easiest thing for people like me to say is, "Well, if Auburn didn't have Cam, they'd be 3-4." But the thing is, Auburn does have Cam. And they're riding him like Seabiscuit, and they should — it's their best chance to win. The most impressive thing to watch about Cam: at this point he's like a great pitcher in baseball, and everybody knows what's coming ... and they just can't stop it. It's cool to watch.
The question about defense is a valid one, though. Even the best offenses have an off night every so often; hell, last year's Alabama offense was one of the best in the history of the program, and we went through a month where we couldn't throw, run, catch or block. Teams that win championships, at some point, have to rely on something other than their strength to win.
Then again, it's possible this is one of those seasons for Auburn, where enough good things keep happening and eventually a team gets the feeling it just can't lose. Alabama experienced a season like this in 2005: a blowout of Florida early, a fumble and timely field goal vs. Tennessee later ... it seemed like we couldn't lose.
Does that mean anything as far as this week? LSU will be the best defense Auburn has faced. Then again, LSU's head coach is an insane person.

Jamie: Watching what Cam Newton, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson you think the days of the drop back passer are numbered? Before you give a quick "no" look at how many teams in the nation, even big time programs, have gone to this style.
will: It's not like running quarterbacks or the option were just invented by Urban Meyer or Rich Rodriguez or Kevin Wilson: even during the era of "traditional" quarterbacks, people like Vince Young and Tommie Frazier started for teams that won national championships, while people like Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and even Dameyune Craig made names for themselves. There's always been a place in college football for quarterbacks who can free-lance with their feet and force defenses to stay honest against the run.
Besides that, football is cyclical. For most of the decade of the 1970s, the wishbone was the trendy fad; in the '80s it was the "pro set"; in the '90s the "West Coast" offense was everywhere. I don't see any reason to think things won't cycle back to more "traditional" passing in the future.

Wednesday roundtable: hate week

Welcome back to the "Crimson & White Roundtable," hosted as always by the outstanding folks at RBR. Feel free to play along at home, or just log in to tell me how stupid I am in the comments (you can also find me on Twitter).

1) Alabama returned to the win column against Ole Miss, but did the Crimson Tide's performance show the needed signs of improvement we were hoping to see?
Yes and no. It was good to see the defensive improvements, particularly intangible things like "better tackling" and "more hats to the football." And yes, Ole Miss helped us by dropping a few balls in big situations (does that phrase make anyone else uncomfortable? I'm going to keep doing it, though) but overall, we looked as good Saturday night defensively as we have all season.
Offensively ... yeesh. Everything looks like a mess right now: we can't block anybody, our backs are making the wrong cuts, receivers are dropping balls (see? See what I did there?) and the quarterback is making the wrong decision at almost every turn. In fact, as OTS ably pointed out Saturday, without one great effort by a great player (Trent Richardson) the game's 16-10 in the fourth quarter.
I'm also concerned about the playcalling, which appears to have regressed since the Florida game: fewer creative formations, fewer innovations off the Wildcat, fewer shallow crosses (our calling card over the past couple years when we need a few yards). Not sure what's going on there.
(Note: It's probably worth noting here that we went through this exact same scenario last season at roughly the exact same time, only our defense was so dominant, it kept us afloat. Hasn't worked out so far.)

2) Tennessee has clearly taken a step back this season with nary a win against a conference foe but are the Volunteers still a legitimate threat in any phase of the game?
Based on what I saw from the Vols during the debacle three weeks ago vs. LSU, they absolutely won't back up from anybody. To beat them you have to punch them out. It's that simple.
There's a fantastic post up at 3rd Saturday about the culture in Knoxville right now, how the constant shuffling and negativity off the field has created an atmosphere of losing on the hill. If it sounds familiar to 'Bama fans, it's because it's exactly what was going on here in 2007: a solid decade of mediocrity (and worse) had made it OK to accept underachieving football. Nick Saban changed it all. Whether Derek Dooley can do the same up there, I guess we'll have to see.

3) What does Alabama have to achieve in this game to set the tone going into the bye week and prepare for the final month of the season?
This will make me seem like a broken record of cheap football cliches, I realize, but Alabama must re-establish itself at the line of scrimmage. For the past two seasons, this is a team that has made its living cramming the football down other people's throats. To survive the last month of the season, our boys must return to that mentality.

4) When you need to get your hate on for the Volunteers, what tried and true method do you rely on?
This won't take much.

Oh yeah. Think I'm ready.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: they lowdown, they some snitches

Today's version of "Tuesday youtube" highlights two recent road trips to Knoxville that rank among my favorites. Listen for "Snake" Stabler heckling Casey Clausen toward the end of the '02 version.

Classic. And, since we're here, let's relive last year's classic one more time.

One for the books. See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

gameday texts: sequence 6

This week's edition of "Gameday Texts," like the version from 2 weeks ago, suffers from a few unforeseen circumstances: namely, AT&T service on Gameday is lousy (too much activity, I suppose). Also, an added wrinkle this week: Dad traveled with me to the game this week, meaning he has no entries in the text category (officially he says, "No comment"). As always, if you have texts you'd like to add, feel free to comment or do so on Twitter.

On we go.
Pedro (9:38 a.m.): Cam Newton — before stole our hearts, he stole our laptops.
Stacey (10:14 a.m.): Want me to call and karaoke Bon Jovi's "Always?"
Halcombe (10:37 a.m.): Bigger annoyance: Erin's choice of scarf or Herbie holding his pen like a mad day trader?

Halcombe (10:39 a.m.): I think if you put a hunk of cheddar in front of Tom Rinaldi he would become the rodent we all know him to be. I mean look at his teeth.

Halcombe (11:05 a.m.): Let's see, so Russ the Bulldog performed "admirably" according to Dari Nowkah? He licked himself and sat in an air conditioned doghouse. If that is so, then I perform admirably as well.

Pedro (11:10 a.m.): I'm glad the artsy folks at Kentuck are more skilled at port-a-potty locks than middle-aged women on the quad.

Halcombe (12:04 p.m.): Wouldn't be just like Ron Zook to beat Michigan State today and then go on a six-game losing streak and get fired at the end of the year?
Whit (12:59 p.m.): When you're in Texas look behind you.

Halcombe (1:57 p.m.): Third-grader statement of the obvious: "Vandy sure ain't very good."

Jamie (2:35 p.m.): (regarding level of nervousness) 5 — relative to preseason expectations.
Jamie (2:37 p.m.): 8 beers ago, nervous level was elevated.

Jamie (2:57 p.m.): Our one chance to score every possession is done. It was a good run.

Jamie (3:09 p.m.): That's 6-6 250 that you tasted 31.
Pedro (3:18 p.m.): The Mrs. on Chizik — "He's such a goob. Is that a wad of chew in his mouth?"
Pedro (3:22 p.m.): "If it's Dentyne, he's got the whole freakin' pack in there." Also, I'm impressed that Verne could mispronounce Mario Fannin's name — Mary-Oh.

Jamie (3:26 p.m.): I've asked this before but why listen to Bramblett? Like me listening to Jay Barker. I can't take homerism from my own side much less the other.

Eric St. Clair (3:31 p.m.): Kickers pumping their fists piss me off.

Jamie (3:41 p.m.): No idea why 80,000 people are booing. When you wrap your arms around a receiver, it will get called.
Pedro (3:46 p.m.): That Arky receiver went to the Nick Rymer School of Deception.

Whit (3:52 p.m.): Auburn apparently paying referees.
Jamie (3:52 p.m.): From the stands, with no review, that is a horrible call.
Maguire (3:53 p.m.): SEC officials have no concept of logic.
Whit (3:54 p.m.): CHEATER.
Pedro (3:54 p.m.): Helps us if AU is unbeaten, I suppose, but Arky got hosed on that one.

Maguire (4:23 p.m.): Ryan Pugh: the dirtiest player in college football, and also either deaf or an idiot.

Chad C (4:48 p.m.): (in response to Mallett's injury) Why the hell didn't we do that?

Halcombe (5:17 p.m.): Cam Newton did his best "Get to da choppa" dive. And now I must slap Scott van Pelt for keeping that in the back of my head.
Jamie (5:18 p.m.): McCalebb broke 1 tackle and almost housed it. Imagine if he could break 2!!

Chad C (5:21 p.m.): First one to 100 wins???
Jamie (5:46 p.m.): Basketball season is here.

Jamie (5:49 p.m.): This is really pathetic.

Whit (5:57 p.m.): Reeediculous.
Chad C (5:57 p.m.): We called it down. Apparently, they didn't hear us.
Jamie (5:57 p.m.): A win and Roof's head would be the ultimate.

Halcombe (6:00 p.m.): The real beauty of ESPN is the fact that they will somehow very poorly segue between the Ark-Aub game to the Miami Heat's latest preseason game. An artform.

Pedro (6:01 p.m.): What's the over/under on number of weeks this officiating crew gets a "vacation?"

Jamie (6:03 p.m.): Told you to take the over.
(Note: No he didn't.)

Jamie (6:11 p.m.): Imagine how many we could score with a stop or two.

Halcombe (7:48 p.m.): Actual comment by my 2-year-old when seeing Desmond Howard during Gameday halftime show: "Dare's da 'Merica's Got Talent man. Dat's him."

Maguire (8:07 p.m.): I think Jamie Christensen just walked past us. I started to yell "Money!" but thought better of it.

Pedro (8:17 p.m.): I gotta say — I'm kinda enjoying Eli doing play-by-play off the ESPN2 broadcast. Looks like parity is the word of the day for the east.
Chad C (8:20 p.m.): Eli Gold just said the KY fans are headed to cut down the B-ball nets after tonight's big win vs. SC.

Jamie (8:27 p.m.): Got blocked into him.
Maguire (8:41 p.m.): There's the Dont'a we know and love. And Ole Piss is a bunch of thugs.

Jamie (9:04 p.m.): State beats UF.
Maguire (9:11 p.m.): Will Urban Meyer die before Florida fans can call for his head?

Maguire (9:23 p.m.): Dammit! I'm sick of settling for 3 in the red zone. Feels too much like the Shula era.

Maguire (9:29 p.m.): DAMMIT.
Jamie (9:44 p.m.): McElroy has Jason Campbell Syndrome.

Jamie (9:51 p.m.): Holly Rowe just performed the most difficult task in sideline reporting: interview Nick Saban.

Jamie (9:52 p.m.): (on the possibility of Auburn scoring 70 vs. Ole Miss) Maybe. And we'll win by 10.
Jamie (9:58 p.m.): (on revising that to 750) Either way, we win by 10.

Jamie (10:09 p.m.): Ole Miss = 41 total yards. Gulp.

Maguire (10:51 p.m.): Is it me, or has this 3rd quarter been going on for about an hour?
Jamie (10:55 p.m.): 3 losses in the past 31 games should test anyone's patience.

Jamie (10:57 p.m.): Milliner is a liability at this point.

Maguire (11:35 p.m.): 6-1. Wasn't pretty, but I'll take it. We're sure gonna need that bye week. Roll Tide.

Amanda von (1:22 p.m., Sunday): Send the rev another text at 12:28 a.m. Sunday and you'll lose both your thumbs. You woke me AND my ire.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

week 7 thoughts: the flat earth society

Nothing much to say about this week: much like last year's game, this one reminded me of the Gene Stallings days, when the offense would look lethargic, the crowd wouldn't be totally into it, the defense would make a play or two, the outcome would never really be in doubt and everybody would go home unhappy.

A few scattered thoughts, before we start thinking about Tennessee:
— The best thing about Saturday's defensive performance: much, MUCH better tackling. The fear that Jeremiah Masoli and the rest of the Bears'Rebels' backs would beat us to death with the zone-read never really came to pass. And yes, as RBR notes, we did struggle to get off the field on third downs in the second half. Baby steps, man. Baby steps.
— Things that seem to have inexplicably disappeared from the offense in the last few weeks: the illegal picksshallow crosses that we've lived and died by the last few years; the multiple Wildcat looks allegedly in the playbook; our sense of tough, physical football.
— The crowd was remarkably flat Saturday, the most deflated I've heard a 'Bama crowd for an SEC game since maybe 2006. The explanation is (probably) multi-faceted: Homecoming was a healthy distraction for everybody; Ole Miss is sort of a nondescript opponent ("Ho hum"); the weird start time threw everybody for a loop (at halftime it was already 10 p.m.). A good number of fans bailed before the fourth quarter, and this game wasn't exactly in the bag at that point.
— Dad came to the game with me, his first time in the stadium this season — meaning his first time listening to all the ridiculous pumped-in noise, the multiple videos for no reason and the rest of the general idiocy dreamed up by whatever jackhole decided fans can't be content just watching a football game. Let's just say, he's not a fan.
— The best part of Trent Richardson's game-sealing screen pass: William Vlachos, 50 yards downfield, attempting to throw a block. I don't think he blocked anyone else the rest of the game, and frankly, I don't blame him.
— In the second quarter, after Marquis Maze's fumble set up the Rebs deep in 'Bama territory, coach Saban spent a timeout in frustration, owing to improper personnel on the field. This is significant because the play Ole Miss was attempting to run was a screen to an offensive tackle lined up in the slot. Had to watch this play 3 times on DVR to realize what was happening.
— If we were to play Auburn right now, we might be getting 14. Seriously.
— That bye week can't get here fast enough.

That's all for tonight. It's Tennessee Week. Roll Tide.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A new Friday feature: Andy drops in

Since I haven't been able to come up with a good Friday feature since "Lost" ended, I figured I'd give "The Andy Griffith Show" a try. You may recall, if you read the blog a few weeks ago, me describing how Andy has been a huge part of my family life (weird because, of course, none of us has ever met him or anything) for several years.
So here's a new weekly feature: Friday Andy. It's something we can probably have a little fun with.

The first entry: Barney putting Andy on trial.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

shameless promotion (2.0), part xiv

In the ongoing efforts of this blog to promote its primary author's failed career as a writer, the DBH Dance Party presents this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, if you disagree, feel free to go get a life comment here or find me on Twitter.
Also worth noting: the quotes from Daniel are approximations of conversations he and I had in the past. It's my column and I'll make things up if I want to. And to be perfectly honest, Daniel probably DID say these things, or at least he wishes he did.
We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.

Free to vote, for better or worse

My friend Daniel the Red is a man of many rants. It could be the temperament that comes with the hair; I’m not sure.

His biggest concern, as we near the first Tuesday in November? Voting. He thinks there’s too much of it.

You read that correctly. Dan despises all the campaigns in popular media — most of them aimed at young people — encouraging them to vote.

“Rock the Vote.” “Get out the Vote.” “Vote or Die.”

He’s the inverse of whatever that sentiment might be.

“It makes my blood boil,” he told me.

It’s not as though he’s opposed to the democratic process, mind you — quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just that he wishes you’d study a little before going to the polls.

“It’s part of our mainstream culture of celebrity,” he told me. “You know how big a role that played in the last (presidential) election. People who don’t know anything should stay the (expletive) home on Election Day.”

Interestingly enough, this school of thought is one of the many reasons our Founding Fathers opposed the idea of a pure democracy so much; many of them equated a government in which everyone voted on everything with mob rule.

Thus, of course, was born what is now a democratic republic, with safeguards in place to ensure the majority can’t run roughshod over everyone’s rights. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature and three branches of government — for our protection.

The trouble with requiring voters to be “educated” is the historical precedent. Put simply, “voting tests” were among the many tools our forefathers used to keep large segments of the population (specifically, blacks and poor people) from having any say in government.
What? We gave them the right to vote! It’s not our fault he can’t tell us who fought in the Second Prussian War we just made up!

It was because of voting rights, remember, that Martin Luther King led a march on Washington, D.C., that Gene Hackman solved murders in “Mississippi Burning” (I’m almost positive he did all that in real life and wasn’t acting É OK, maybe some of that was made up) and that the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 went into effect (given a 25-year extension in 2006 by the last presidential administration).

Everyone seems to agree that the upcoming election — in which Alabamians will choose between two milquetoast candidates for governor, among other things — is “an important election,” just like every other “important election” that came before it. And you will undoubtedly be encouraged by outlets everywhere — including this one — to vote and let your voice be heard.

Might want to take a few minutes to study the candidates before you do it, though.

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that
democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

— Winston Churchill, 1947

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thursday lines: let's move on

The best thing about the Alabama game not starting until 8: we should have a chance to see most of the games Saturday before we all have to pile into Bryant-Denny for Homecoming. And Lord, that line is way, way too high.
But we'll get to those in a moment. As always, feel free to voice your opinion here in the comments section, or by finding me on Twitter. God help us all.
Kansas St. (-3) at Kansas
South Florida (+10.5) at West Virginia

Cincinnati (-3) at Louisville

North Carolina St. (-7) at East Carolina
Illinois (+7) at Michigan St.
Minnesota (+5.5) at Purdue
Maryland (+15) at Clemson
Missouri (+3.5) at Texas A&M
Southern Miss (-14.5) at Memphis
Pittsburgh (+1) at Syracuse
Boston College (+22) at Florida St.
Vanderbilt (+14.5) at Georgia
Miami (-19.5) at Duke
UNLV (+3.5) at Colorado St.
Army (+7) at Rutgers
Western Michigan (+24) at Notre Dame
Arkansas (+4) at Auburn
California (+3) at USC
Oklahoma St. (+3.5) at Texas Tech
Texas (+10) at Nebraska
Iowa (-3.5) at Michigan
SMU (+1.5) at Navy
BYU (+29) at TCU
UTEP (+2.5) at UAB
South Carolina (-5) at Kentucky
Utah (-21) at Wyoming
North Carolina (-6.5) at Virginia
Iowa St. (+24) at Oklahoma
Mississippi St. (+7.5) at Florida
Ohio St. (-4) at Wisconsin
Baylor (-1) at Colorado
Arizona (-23.5) at Washington St.
Boise St. (-40) at San Jose St.
Mississippi (+21) at Alabama
Nevada (-7) at Hawaii

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

wednesday roundtable: on the rebound

Much like this past Saturday, this week's edition of the "Crimson & White Roundtable" is sort of a new feeling for me: since I started blogging back in '05, I was hesitant to join in as part of the 'Bamasphere, which included jumping in as part of the roundtable ... until '08, which was around the time Alabama started winning all the time.
All that to say, this is the first time I've done a roundtable after a loss, as far as I can find. Hopefully it won't have an affect on the lousy quality of my responses. Judge for yourself.

1) What will Alabama have to do in order to regroup after the loss to South Carolina and prepare for Ole Miss?
I'm so glad you asked. You may recall that, two days ago, I drew a rather convoluted comparison between Saturday's loss and Rocky's beating at the hands of Clubber Lang. Not everybody digs on Rocky, I realize.
So here's something that may be slightly more relate-able for more people: pickup basketball. Most of us have played pickup basketball at one point or another, and most of us have seen a situation where one team takes over the court and can't lose, keeps taking on all comers — bigger teams, younger teams, teams with one dominant player and so forth — and becomes the bane of everyone's existence.
But, at some point, that team does have to lose, right? And it usually happens like this: they're tired from having to play every game for an hour; the other team is fresh (they just got there) and sharp; the shots they were making before suddenly won't fall; and eventually, they just kind of want to get off the floor and take a break.
So that's where we are right now. And we need to take a swig of water and go back to take over the court.

2) How does the Crimson Tide match up against the Rebels going into Saturday?
On this issue I have slightly less insight: I haven't watched a down of Ole Miss all season, aside from the final play vs. Jax State that was so amazing, I won't even bring up the fact that JSU had 3 linemen downfield on a pass that definitely was completed beyond the line of scrimmage.
Anyway, because Houston Nutt is prominently involved, I can say three things will definitely happen:
• Ole Miss will run the ball, repeatedly.
• Houston will talk like a televangelist.
• Something insane will happen. Possibly, several insane things will happen.

Whether we're good enough to withstand that, I guess we'll see.

3) What is the biggest area of improvement you'd like Alabama make in this game?
Defense. All of it.
You want more specific? Fine. As of right now, this team cannot control the line of scrimmage defensively. Whether that means more blitzing to affect the quarterback, more people at the line to control the run, or possibly sharpening everyone's chinstrap buckles to cause the other team to bleed, something has to happen. This team cannot continue to allow itself to be shoved around at the line of scrimmage, because it's making the rest of the defense seem much more vulnerable.
Also, I'm not sure what happened, but we're not a sure tackling team like we have been the last three seasons. And when you're facing a team that will almost assuredly put its quarterback (Jeremiah Masoli, the ultimate X factor) in situations that will force our defense to make sure 1-on-1 tackles in pressure situations ... that's, um, a little troublesome.

4) What are your thoughts on the Ole Miss mascot debate?
Um ...

Tuesday 'tube: Rebel yell

While the Alabama-Ole Miss series is historically one-sided — the history between Ole Miss and everybody is pretty historically one-sided — the game has rarely hurt for drama.

One of my favorite random Alabama games: a 1989 trip to Jackson to play Ole Miss. 'Bama fell behind 21-0 before fans even got settled in their seats. And then this.

As I said, though, Ole Miss almost always gives an accounting of itself. Here, then, are the Rebs' last two trips to Tuscaloosa, both of which went right down to the wire.

See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

Monday, October 11, 2010

gameday texts: sequence V

This week's edition of "Gameday Texts" is a bit different from most, since it begins on a sour note and pretty much ends that way. As always, those who receive texts from me should feel free to post those or let me know on Twitter. Time stamps are 100 percent accurate, and names appear as they appear in my phone book.
Whit (10:41 a.m.): OK I think I really like Dooley. I still hate UT but I like Dooley.
Whit (12:44 p.m.): What are we serving tonight, the chicken or the chicken?
Whit (12:49 p.m.): Richt at halftime — they nasty ... they lowdown ... they some snitches.

Maguire (1:24 p.m.): What worries you most about this game? I'm starting to get a little nervous.

Moody (1:40 p.m.): I'm with my buddy JR. We were just talking about how they should just put UT, Vandy, UTC, Sewanee, Rhodes and a few others into the "new Tennesee conf."

Whit (1:41 p.m.): The Zooker!

Jamie (2:43 p.m.): The McElroy undefeated streak is becoming the "Green and Pollack grew up together" story of this decade. In other words, yeah, I heard.

Pedro (3:08 p.m.): Julia's response to the Hanks drop — "heck, heck, heck." Funny part of it — pretty sure she learned that from her Nana.
Maguire (3:13 p.m.): WHY can we not bring anybody to the ground?

Whit (3:15 p.m.): Well ... that looked easy.
Maguire (3:23 p.m.): Son of a bitch.

Whit (3:30 p.m.): God, you are so depressing.
Maguire (3:30 p.m.): Hey, there's plenty of time left.

Chad C (3:30 p.m.): WTF? Did the secondary make the bus?
Halcombe (3:37 p.m.): Headlines out of Columbia: Crimson Tide overcomes strong showing from Cocks.

Jamie (3:38 p.m.): Gonna have to hand off in WC every now and then.
Jamie (3:39 p.m.): 1 thing is certain. There will be 44 sore individuals tomorrow.
Maguire (4:02 p.m.): What the crap?! More inexcusable garbage.
Maguire (4:06 p.m.): What do we do differently in the second half?

Eric St. Clair (4:08 p.m.): I want to have a text on your text msg blog post.
Dad (4:09 p.m.): Nothing to say.
Whit (4:09 p.m.): Wish I had some ribs like last week.

Whit (4:17 p.m.): Zook'd.
Whit (4:20 p.m.): I contend that you're not yelling loud enough.

Maguire (4:30 p.m.): I sure hope this is the momentum shift we need.
Whit (4:30 p.m.): He is sooo dumb!
Chad C (4:30 p.m.): Christmas in October?
Maguire (4:32 p.m.): Because he's fumbled several times this year. Probably coached to give up 2 rather than 6 because of that.

Whit (4:34 p.m.): Right tackle moved early on 4th down attempt.
Eric St. Clair (4:45 p.m.): Eh well. I'm not gonna have anything outrageous.

Maguire (4:52 p.m.): Dont'a doesn't look like he is playing full speed.
Dad (4:53 p.m.): Ball game.

Maguire (4:58 p.m.): We really need to shape up. I can stomach getting beat by a better team, but I can't take these stupid mistakes and beating ourselves.

Jamie (5:06 p.m.): Marquis killed Marquis.
Dad (5:09 p.m.): Can't stop anybody today.

Maguire (5:11 p.m.): LOWERY!
Jamie (5:12 p.m.); Good call, good def play.
Jamie (5:15 p.m.): Nice gd bomb.

Maguire (5:16 p.m.): WTF?! We need points on the board. Do we not trust Shelley?

Maguire (5:22 p.m.): I trust him more than a trick play at this point in the game. Odds of success are probably better, especially from the middle of the field.

Dad (5:25 p.m.): Over the top is a TD.
Maguire (5:26 p.m.): That's a hell of a throw and catch.
Eric St. Clair (5:30 p.m.): These refs are terrible. They didn't throw a flag on Kirkpatrick's pass interference.

Maguire (5:36 p.m.): What has happened to our O-line today?
Maguire (5:51 p.m.): Can we pull off a miracle?
Maguire (5:52 p.m.): I guess not.

Jamie (5:49 p.m.): That's a nice friggin unbeaten run.

Maguire (5:54 p.m.): It was bound to happen eventually ... still sucks though.
Pedro (5:58 p.m.): Hopefully we'll see 'em in Atlanta.

Dad (5:57 p.m.): Probably won't beat Auburn.

Dad (9:11 p.m.): Btw do you have to catch the pass on the fake FG?
Dad (9:20 p.m.): At least now there are no more streaks to talk about.

Jamie (7:06 p.m.): What a difference 1 player makes.
Jamie (7:40 p.m.): It's football. Not ballet.

Pedro (9:27 p.m.): I think I'll instruct everyone to call your firstborn Joker, regardless of their given name, or their gender.

Jamie (9:55 p.m.): You think Les knows what day it is?

Dad (9:59 p.m.): At least the Yankees win.

Jamie (10:39 p.m.): Remember when getting the ball back with a minute to score seemed insurmountable?

Moody (Sunday, 2:03 p.m.): I meant to tell us last night, but if Stan White would have said, "UK seems to have most of their offensive success when they start with a short a field," I think I would have been forced to email a complaint to ol' Mike and the Auburn Network. I mean how much school did it take to get that kind of insight/

Sunday, October 10, 2010

week 6 thoughts: snap back to reality

Before we start talking about yesterday, does anybody remember Rocky III?
I've spent a great deal of time thinking about this movie in the offseason, probably because I've spent so much time thinking about this football program in the context of the "Rocky" movies. Recall that Rocky didn't win his first bout with the champs; he simply went the distance and earned the respect of the nation — sort of like the 2008 team that won 12 straight and took the eventual national champs (Florida) to the wire in Atlanta. It wasn't until the second time around, a year later (as we discussed here last December) when Rocky finally reached the impossible, beating Apollo on a improbable double knockout — much like Alabama overcoming the invincible Gators in Atlanta in 2009 and winning the title.
In "III," Rocky, now the champ, spends the first 10 minutes or so of the movie whipping a string of tomato cans, including one he appears to knock through the ropes (yes, consider the parallels between that scene and last week's Florida game).
And then he meets Clubber Lang, a young, hungry challenger who disrupts Rocky's retirement scene, says some derogatory things to his wife and eventually goads him into a fight. Rocky doesn't work hard on his training — over the objections of his trainer — and, needless to say, the fight doesn't go well.

Look familiar? It should.

Since February, everyone's talked about this team's chances to repeat what happened in 2009. They've pumped up Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as the world's most dangerous duo (CBS even gave them a horrible nickname, "Fast & Furious"). Greg McElroy's undefeated streak as a starter has been dissected and discussed until everyone got thoroughly sick (including me). Even unheard-of players like Marcell Dareus and Dont'a Hightower became known quickly as the next big things on a defensive scale.
To put it simply, Alabama, the rough and tough football team that prided itself on brutality and ruthless football, got domesticated.
Our Clubber Lang moment was coming and we all knew it — then it happened Saturday. South Carolina 35, Alabama 21.

Let there be no doubt: nothing about Saturday's game was a fluke. South Carolina outhit, outplayed and outcoached Alabama Saturday, absorbed all of 'Bama's counter-punches, threw some more punches of their own and eventually delivered the knockout blow in the fourth quarter. They didn't win because of the officiating, a spate of turnovers or even Alabama's lousy long-snapper: they won because they were the better team, pure and simple.
How Alabama responds, then, is the true mark of a champion. In the movie, Rocky mopes for a while, gets Apollo as a trainer, moves to California to train for the rematch, mopes some more, has a bizarre shouting match with Adrian on the beach and eventually regains the Eye of the Tiger. I'll let you figure out how the movie ends.
Our boys don't have that kind of time or luxury. Ole Miss is not a team to be taken lightly, bad losses or no. Alabama can't afford to ride around on a motorcycle looking sad, or walk around with heavy feet. No, if the champs are to remain the champs, we must regain the Eye of the Tiger, and regain it quickly.

(Note: Whether we will eventually be forced fight an invincible Russian in Moscow on Christmas Day for no money, or fight our protege in the street on the 6 p.m. news ... I mean, we'll see.)

Some other thoughts ...
— It's difficult to describe how locked in Stephen Garcia was Saturday, but let's try: he hit 17 passes for an average of 10.1 per pass, 3 touchdowns and a pick. His second touchdown pass was his best: if you watch, you see Mark Barron in position to swat it away, only he misses it by a millimeter or two. The expression on his face says it all — "what?" That's just the kind of day it was.
— Having said that, I must agree with OTS' assessment of the play-calling. How could Trent Richardson get a mere 6 carries? Why weren't we running more inside the 10 on the drive that ended in a missed field goal? And where was all the ingenuity — the varied formations and personnel packages — that the offense showed against Florida a week ago? It was McElwain's worst game since ... well, last year's South Carolina game. And the defense couldn't bail us out this time.
— We're still displaying the same problems we've shown all season defensively: an inability to pressure the quarterback, control the line of scrimmage or make a key tackle. And by the way, I said these were problems last week vs. Florida, only they bungled things inside the 5 twice, so everybody pretended it didn't happen.
— Coach Saban took the blame for the failed fake field goal, saying it was "probably not a very good call." I didn't really hate it: McCarron playing holder opens up multiple possibilities, and it's not like the kicking game was altogether trustworthy Saturday. Then again, when you're throwing to a reserve linebacker and expecting him to break a tackle (or two) to achieve success, you probably didn't deserve it.
— If South Carolina were playing Florida today, who would you take? I know who I'd take.
— One more note and then we're done: I would be remiss if I didn't pay respect to the regular-season win streak itself, which stretched from August 2008 and included some of the most dominating performances I can ever remember. To put it in perspective: the last time Alabama lost a regular-season football game, I was sports editor in Talladega (covering the game, no less), Tommy Tuberville was still head coach at Auburn and only a fool would have believed the Tide would win the national championship in two seasons. I can't express in words what these last two years have meant to me, what they've meant to Alabama.
But the best perspective belonged to my wife, who shrugged and said the following last night: "Honestly, it's kind of a relief for it to be over. Now our guys don't have to worry about going undefeated or defending anything — they can just let it hang loose and go play football."

There's still miles to go in 2010. Let's pick ourselves up off the canvas and prove we're worthy of defending the title.

Roll Tide.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

shameless promotion (2.0), part xiii

My apologies for taking so long to post this edition of my column from the St. Clair Times. Like you cared.
Rental stores becoming thing of the past

An underrated sign of the times: Local video rental stores are quietly shutting their doors forever.

It’s true. Blockbuster Video, the standard bearer for video rentals since I was little, recently filed for bankruptcy, owing to a debt service of more than $1 billion and no improvements in sight. In the area surrounding my house, the only video rental place that now exists is a single box in a pharmacy parking lot.

Maybe you haven’t noticed. Wait, you definitely haven’t noticed, since you probably aren’t going to these places.

Much like landline telephones and U.S. mail, video rental has been rendered largely obsolete by the advances of modern technology. There just isn’t much of a market for it anymore.

(Note: You wanted me to say “and newspapers” in that sentence, I know. I’m in denial. Just humor me.)

Too many outlets now exist for those in the mood for a video rental. Nearly every service that provides any level of television — cable or satellite — has an “On Demand” button that allows customers to order movies without ever having to dress or even stand up. For those who prefer to rent movies and watch them over the Web, there’s Netflix, which allows people like my brother to order films in which there’s very little action and people speak Afghani for 120 minutes.

And, if you just have to leave the house, there’s the aforementioned box: Redbox, a sort of video-rental vending machine. Rare is the occasion when I walk by the Redbox and don’t see a line of people waiting.

There’s another bit of social phenomena at work here as well, and we might as well call it “The Laziness Theory” because I can’t think of a better name for it. Because of the proliferation of cable channels and various cable “packages,” a movie freak can actually stay home and watch a hundred different movie channels — 14 different versions of HBO, Showtime, Stars, Cinemax and so forth — that there may be no need to order movies at all.

Heck, with cable channels like AMC, FX and USA, even special channels may not be necessary — just stay home and wait a few months, and you might be able to see “Spider Man 3” without paying anything extra. Why go to the trouble of going to the video store and having to fight off the urge to strangle the person who rented the last copy of “Slumdog Millionaire” when all those options are already available?

In time, the video-store trip will become a bit of nostalgia for people of a certain age, like drive-in movie theaters or malt shops. Many of the memories will revolve around the employees — usually bored-looking kids who had an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary cinema and sneered at you for renting a popular film like “Jurassic Park” (“the book’s way better, man”) over something more chic like “Noises Off” or “Clerks.”

Not sure what happens to those kids now. My “On-Demand” button has no such judgment.

Thursday lines: tortured logic

This weekend should be a fun one, even if some of the lines that have come out make absolutely no sense (you'll see in a minute). As always, this week's lines come courtesy of Please enjoy.
Nebraska (-10) at Kansas St.
(Note: Anyone else think this one could be fun? You wouldn't rule it out, right?)
Connecticut (-3.5) at Rutgers
(Note: Remember when Greg Schiano was the hottest coaching name on the circuit? He was considered a candidate for the Miami job, and turned it down because everyone assumed he was waiting on Joe Paterno to retire or die, so he could have the Penn State job. Well ... Penn State probably won't go near him now, right? His record since the magical Thursday night vs. Louisville: 29-18, and he's coming off two straight losses to outmanned North Carolina and Tulane. Yes, Tulane.)
Oklahoma St. (-22) at La.-Lafayette
Syracuse (+10) at South Florida
Boston College (+10.5) at North Carolina St.
Indiana (+24) at Ohio St.
Illinois (+9) at Penn St.
Minnesota (+20.5) at Wisconsin
Baylor (+2) at Texas Tech
(Note: Does it make Ga. Tech fans feel better or worse that Kansas gave up 55 to Baylor last week? Worse, right?)
Tennessee (+10) at Georgia
(Note: Actually opened at UGA by 13. UGA by 13? The same UGA team that's in the process of quitting on its season and its coach? The one that absolutely won't have a home-field advantage because its home fans will boo vociferously and possibly riot like soccer fans? They're favored by 2 TDs? Really?)
Memphis (+15) at Louisville
Colorado St. (+23) at Air Force
UCLA (+8) at California
Virginia (+8) at Ga. Tech
Pittsburgh (+6) at Notre Dame
Michigan St. (+3.5) at Michigan
Clemson (+1.5) at North Carolina
Arkansas (+7) at Texas A&M
Alabama (-8) at South Carolina
(Note: These lines are causing me to quote Antoine Dodson repeatedly.

Like that.)
Wyoming (+34) at TCU
(Note: I remain convinced that TCU & Boise are locks to cover these spreads — as I said last week, they need as many style points as possible.)
Oregon (-34) at Washington St.
Oregon St. (+9.5) at Arizona
Navy (-5.5) at Wake Forest
Utah (-7) at Iowa St.
Colorado (+12) at Missouri
(Note: This meeting will bring back fond memories of the famous "Fifth Down Game" from 1991.)
LSU (+7.5) at Florida
Purdue (+10.5) at Northwestern
Auburn (-9) at Kentucky
USC (+8.5) at Stanford
Mississippi St. (-3) at Houston
Florida St. (+7) at Miami
Hawaii (+10) at Fresno St.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

wednesday roundtable: blue collar men

The official song for this week's version of The Crimson & White Roundtable: Styx's "Blue Collar Man." Why? I have no idea. Just pipe down and enjoy it.

(Note: I was actually in the building the night Tommy Shaw randomly showed up to play that set with TSO after midnight. I remember thinking, "Wow ... Does anybody other than all these parents recognize how cool this is?")
Anyway, here are this week's questions and answers. As always, feel free to disagree or add your own thoughts in the "comments" section, or visit me on Twitter and do it in a character-restricted environment.

1) Did the decisive win over Florida answer all the questions about this Alabama team? Why or why not?
Yes and no. Alabama certainly rose to the challenge just as well as they have most of the last three seasons, and followed a pretty similar formula: some big plays early, forcing a few mistakes by the other side and slowly choking the life out of the other side in the final 30 minutes. Teams with championship aspirations are supposed to take care of business that way at home. So that was encouraging.
At the same time, the spate of columnists and bloggers saying Alabama's defense "answered all their critics" Saturday has been a tad mystifying. Remember: Florida moved the ball up and down the field Saturday, actually outgained us for the full 60 minutes, and would've made a game of things if they could've only gotten out of their own way (two turnovers at the 1-yard line? How often does that happen?). And Alabama didn't exactly dominate up front in the second half the way it did in Atlanta last December: at one point we'd been outgained something like 180-16 after halftime. Not exactly putting a stamp on things.

2) What is the biggest concern going into the game with South Carolina next Saturday?
Circumstances are relatively similar to the game two weeks ago at Arkansas: going on the road to face a quality SEC opponent whose fans have been getting "juiced up" for the game for two weeks. And ... um, I don't want to re-live the first half in Fayetteville, do you?
From a purely football standpoint, having watched most of South Carolina's gag job at Auburn, I came away very impressed with the Gamecocks' big receiver whose name I can't remember at the momentAlshon Jeffery (I'm told). Even if Steven Garcia is a massive head case and Steve Spurrier's ego inevitably gets in the way of his team being a true championship contender, for one week, there's no telling what might happen.

3) Should we expect the running game to have the kind of success it did last year against the Gamecocks?
I don't think anyone goes into any game "expecting" to set a bunch of individual offensive records and turn someone into a Heisman candidate in the span of three hours (OK, so I expected to shove Duke around). At the same time, I've been very impressed thus far with our offensive line, which shoved around a pretty good Florida front 7 most of Saturday. I think — and this is a terrible cliche I can't believe I'm using — that as long as our guys play well, we should be able to run the ball with consistency, irrespective of what the opposition does (Gawwwd).

4) Last year someone should have told Steve Spurrier the end zone fade wasn't going to work. What piece of advice should someone give the Old Ball Coach this year?
Steve Spurrier, to me, is one of the more fascinating people in college football. It's easy to forget this now, but he's the same guy who basically dragged the SEC into the modern era of football 20 years ago (nobody in the league believed you could win throwing the football all over the place). He remains one of the only guys in the entire country who can scare an entire fan base just by showing up, an offensive savant who never really gets called out for some of the dumb stuff he does because ... well, he's Spurrier, and Spurrier's smarter than you.
On the other hand, I think he's as big a handicap for the Gamecock offense as he is an asset. His unbelievably predictable quick trigger with his quarterbacks took away his team's chance to win at Auburn (inserting a true frosh on the road, in the nastiest road environment in the league, with the game on the line? Really?) and his insistence on calling the same play repeatedly (yes, like throwing the same fade pass 47 times, to the point that Marquis Johnson spiked the last one like a freaking volleyball) was so strange, nobody could say anything other than, "Well, that's Spurrier for ya."
So, do I have any advice for him? Um, not any that he'll listen to, no.
(Sorry if that doesn't answer the question. There really isn't a good answer for it.)