(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.)