Thursday, November 29, 2007

When enough is not enough ...

Ah, yes. It's time to pull out my favorite ax again for a little grinding -- the BCS.

Turns out, there are quite a few interesting articles on the BCS today, some from bloggers and some from regular old MSM'ers. But I'll start with the MSM, just for the heck of it.

This first piece comes from the Lawrence Journal-World out in Kansas. The piece is written by Gil Lebreton from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and he is very much on the same page as I am:

The cynics and troublemakers want to see chaos.

They want to see upsets. They want to see Missouri, the college football Cinderella, turn into a pumpkin. They want to see Dave Wannstedt’s underachieving Pitt team spoil West Virginia’s heavenly dreams.

They want bloodshed in Baton Rouge and Columbus.

They want a total Bowl Championship Series meltdown. They want to see some sort of combination of aligned planets, howling dogs and Southeastern Conference losses where the final rankings send, oh, Hawaii and Appalachian State to the BCS title game.

And it’s hard to blame them. The BCS deserves all the misery and criticism that it gets.

Oh, hell yes! That describes my attitude to a T. I want outrageous injustice, something as over-the-top as anyone can imagine ... except apparently this guy -- Hawai'i and Appy State? But I like your thinking, Gil.

His argument is that whenever the BCS works out, it is more by accident than by design, and I think he has it exactly right, as is his ultimate conclusion:
As colleague Nico Van Thyn put it so well Sunday, the path to the BCS title game is often clearly drawn. It begins with basic geography: Play in a major conference that lacks major competition. If a team can count the dangerous opponents on one hand, it probably has a chance at playing in the BCS title game.
That's exactly what we have seen this year. Yes, we have seen the humans and to some extent the cyborgs try to insert some semblance of schedule strength in there, but with only a modicum of success. Extreme top-heavy conferences have a much easier path to the BCS championship than, say, any SEC team. Add the league championship game into the equation, and you wind up with virtually two different levels of football. Try to imagine, if you will, an NCAA basketball tournament where one team gets to play nothing but 7 seeds and lower until it gets to the championship game.

Sweet deal, if you can get it -- and some conferences have it (I'm looking at you, Big 10 and Big East).

The always outstanding Sunday Morning Quarterback sideswipes this issue in a recent post, where he quotes Kirk Herbstreit thus:
... Ohio State will gain more respect if it plays USC in the Rose Bowl and wins that game, than if it goes and beats West Virginia and wins the national title. From an image standpoint, Ohio State would score more points going to the Rose Bowl than by going to the national championship game. If you can believe that, that's the truth.
Well. So Kirk is sayin' that the Rose Bowl means more than the BCS championship, I guess, because the quality of the teams likely to be playing there are better than that of the BCS championship? How else could a victory there "gain more respect" for anyone, or is this some sort of nouveaux logique that keeps the Worldwide Leader ... well, the Worldwide Leader?

Naturally, SMQ reaches the same conclusion:
But this remains the only time I'm aware of that a well-known, mainstream talking head has suggested there is a greater reward than being selected for the concocted championship. USC got a little sympathy in 2003 with the AP vote, but that didn't seem to dent the myth of a real, be-all, end-all championship. I don't remember anyone on ESPN in 2004 arguing that Auburn should be considered on par with USC for its 13-0 season. The Tigers were just screwed. Sorry, guys, and better luck next time.
Let's see -- Does that only work for Ohio State, Kirk, or can, say LSU or Georgia play? Sheesh.

LSU's student newspaper, The Daily Reveille, has an excellent interview with SEC Commissioner and BCS coordinator Mike Silve about the BCS system. In spite of this year's season Silve is still sticking to one of two possible changes to the BCS:
One potential system would produce an additional set of standings after the bowl games. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams based on that week would then play in the title game.

The other possibility would mimic a tournament. The top teams would be seeded in bowls based on the regular season standings with the winners playing for the title the following week.

Slive said there are three components that he considers in developing such a system. He said he aims to protect the regular season, the bowl system and the length of the season interfering with the academics of athletes.
Silve also admitted that undefeated Auburn in 2004 being left out of the mix for the championship affected his thinking, but I personally don't think it affected it all that much. Still, either of the two possibilities Silve appears open to would be an improvement over the current (non) system.

AEM, writing for MVN's SEConds to Victory, notes that #1 Missouri is a 3-point dog against #9 Oklahoma in their face off in San Antonio for the Big 12 championship:

So, a neutral site, number one against number nine, a 11-1 team against a 10-2 team, should be that Missouri is going to be the favorite, since the BCS has them as the top team in the nation. Well, surprise surprise to one and all, Oklahoma is the team that is favorite in this game, by all means, a small 3 points, but it still makes no sense does it now. The number one team in the country playing either at home or on a neutral site should be favorite against anyone except maybe the number two team. However Oklahoma is the ninth team in the nation, not the second, and is favored in this game. And in my non professional opinion the Sooners will win this game pretty easily.

I don't really know who wins, but he has a point. There is no way that the #1 team in the nation should be a dog at a neutral site against the #9. The only way that happens is with a seriously flawed system, and perhaps this is the most egregious example of all. It might not be an issue if Oklahoma were #3 or even #4. But #9?

An argument would be that Vegas doesn't care about BCS rankings, but let's get serious -- Vegas probably knows these teams' potentials better than any voter in the BCS system. Not one of the BCS voters have any money at stake in the BCS, and the Vegas casinos most certainly do. The argument that "Vegas doesn't vote in the BCS" is true, facile and utterly flawed if applied to the argument.

Bottom line -- we need something better, and this year is just one more reason.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The SEC goes Nutts

Hump day. I posted that on a blog one day and somebody asked me what that meant. Maybe I am dating myself a bit, but good grief.

Just so all you Mississippi State fans out there don't get confused, hump day doesn't have anything to do with your gym. It means "over the hump", as in heading on the down side of the week. Just kidding.

Moving right along, there are understandably lots and lots of blogs and news items and what have you about Houston Nutt and his trip down I-40 to Oxford. I have to admit, I wasn't surprised Arkansas and Nutt parted ways. I was surprised that they spun it as an amicable parting when nobody is going to believe it. All I can say is, Nutt came out waaaayyy ahead in this deal money-wise, and all his recruits appear to be fleeing their vows to Fayetteville like rats deserting a sinking ship. Is this karma, Razorback fans?

HogBlogger writing for RazorBloggers has the explanation of why Houston Nutt had to go. Basically he cites a number of weird email exchanges that is just to complex for me to get my mind around, but sums it up this way:

It’s easy to say that the real issue was that a small group of fans were simply out to get Houston Dale…but that is a total cop-out. The things I’ve mentioned above are part of the public record today and have been so for quite a while. These things alone are enough to justify why Houston Dale had to go. No fan caused his, or his wife, or his coaches, or their wives, involvement in the e-mails. Houston and Diana Nutt did this to themselves.

Interesting. I think maybe you had to be there. Scott at the Hog Source says Nutt will be missed:

As you all know by now, Houston Nutt has “resigned” from the head coaching job at Arkansas. Not alot of resignations come with a payout of 2.4-3.5 million bucks, sounds more like a buyout where they let him go out on a high note. They are alot of people out there who dislike Houston Nutt, and those are the ones that really made it public. The unfortunate thing is that it wasnt public how many people really did like him. Love him or hate him there is one thing for sure, he will be missed.

He, along with his brother Danny Nutt helped bring in 2 of the best players that have ever played Arkansas Razorback football. We, over the last 10 years, have had one of the best running games in the country.

Sunday Morning Quarterback decides to skewer the Hog fans a bit:

Actually, I think Nutt did a fine job at Arkansas: three division titles, two ten-win seasons, however many bowl games, etc. He was 18-8 there the last two years with wins over Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee, and was a few minutes away in three very close losses this season from finishing the regular season 11-1, almost entirely with one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the country (Marcus Monk) on the bench. At Arkansas, that's a solid record on the field.

It's not necessarily his fault that the crazy underbelly of his Ozarkan fan base gave the impression the program was careening out of control and helped drive away possibly the program's most significant recruiting class in decades while specializing in vicious personal attacks, lawsuits, and melodramatic amateur sleuthing.

Heh. Funny, that. What isn't funny is the whole recruiting class thing. As a Kentucky fan, though, I can't be too upset that Nutt's departure drove the best player in the state of Kentucky to decommit from the Hogs and become a Wildcat. So hey, I'm feeling a little sympathetic towards Nutt. For sure, though, he doesn't need it. Will Collier writing for From The Bleachers has this observation:
That's mind-boggling. Here we have a middling, just run off from his own alma mater coach who'd be the biggest clown in the SEC if not for Les Miles and Ed Orgeron (and I guess now I should limit that to Miles)... and Sexton's got two founding members of the conference firing their coaches and upping the ante to hire the guy. Yeah, they're founding members who ain't what they used to be by a long shot, but still.
Hey, that's mister 3.5 million-buyout+2.4million/year middling, just run off from his own alma mater coach to you, bub. Houston may be a Nutt-case, but his banker just don't care.

I have to give it to the Arkasas Athletic Administration -- they really know how to generate publicity for themselves. First they go through the whole Heath/Altman/Gillispie soap opera in basketball, and now this. The bad news is that it doesn't look as likely to work out well for the football team. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong about that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Iron Bowl in the rear-view mirror

The Iron Bowl. The biggest rivalry game in the SEC, in my opinion, and for pure bitterness and hatred, probably the biggest in the entire country.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any of the game whatsoever. Kentucky had a basketball game Saturday night, and well, loyalties are loyalties. But this Iron Bowl was significant not only for the usual bitter rivalry, but also for the fact that this was Nick Saban's very first Iron Bowl. I wonder how he likes it now?

Eight in the Box says he has heard this song before:

Congratulations to the Tigers for playing a solid game and turning the screw just that much tighter into the brain of the Alabama fan base. Alabama has had a decent opportunity the last two years to end the streak, but in both games have been unable to generate enough offense against an aggressive Tiger defense to pull out a win. So how will the Tide end the current slide against the Tigers? It will take some hard work on the recruiting trail, the weight room, the film room, and a whole lot of aggression. The Iron Bowl shifts to Tuscaloosa next year where the Tigers are undefeated against the Tide.
Classy, first-rate blogging, that. Here in Kentucky, we know a thing or two about being on the wrong end of streaks, so know where it is he is coming from.

The Tide Druid thinks mistakes by the Tide were the difference in this one:

So basically, here is what I think of this game if you want to skip all of what I said above: Auburn didn’t win because of fancy play calling, superstar athletes, or extra prep time. Auburn won because they didn’t make as many mistakes, which is what it takes to win big time games like this one. I don’t view this as an excuse, I view this as a major part of every single game out there: if you make the fewest mistakes, chances are good for a victory. It’s called leadership and discipline. Congrats Tigers, we’ll see ya on the recruiting trail.

Recruiting is a common thread in these two posts, and that has been an area where Saban as excelled lately. But it takes more than talent, it takes a common will and sacrifice, and I think Alabama was lacking a bit of both this year.

Memphis Tider looks forward to next year:
I expect the senior class for next season to be better. I expect this team to gel more because of the senior leadership. I don't forsee any discipline issues like we had this season. I don't forsee stupidity from the "leaders" of the team. I think it took an ending to the season, like the one we just endured, to get these guys to pull together. The off-season conditioning program will be ridiculous. The players will be stronger and better because of it.
Hope springs eternal in the breast of the Alabama fan.

What do the Plainsmen think? Understandably, they are much more satisfied with the outcome of the season, and are reveling in just a bit of schadenfreude. Jay Coulter at Track 'em Tigers writes:

It never gets old. After all these years, beating Alabama just seems to get better and better. You could see it on the face of Tommy Tuberville. You could see it in the smiles of the fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Is six the sweetest?

In a lot of ways it is.

Jerry Hinnen at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash thinks some lionization is in order:
Honestly? After the debacle against Georgia two weeks ago, I wasn't expecting it to feel this good.

But oh, for now, all is forgiven. Give Tubby whatever he needs and a pony. Ready the bronze for the Cox bust and the marble for the pedestal and square off the necessary area in Foy. Someone send Lester and Tate each one of those baskets of sausage and cheese, like, the hugest ones in the world.
Happy, happy.

Well, I have to say that Auburn was pretty well set up for this game, new coach at Alabama, playing at home. That doesn't make a rivalry win like this any less sweet, and I have a feeling the pressure on Saban to get this monkey off Alabama's back will be ratcheted up significantly in the post season. Yeah, he gets pretty much of a pass this year, but next year is another matter.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Week 13, and what a week it was!

The regular season is over. Bowl season will officially begin in a week, and the Heisman will be awarded soon. That is what remains of the football season 2007.

We will look at the rest of the football universe later this week, but first, I think it's better if we examine what happened this weekend. There is a lot to cover.

First, the SEC East championship was settled when Kentucky was defeated by the Tennessee Volunteers. This was an incredible, 5 hour, 4-overtime game, and was every bit as suspenseful and meaningful as the 3 OT thriller Kentucky had against LSU earlier this year. Make no mistake, Kentucky wanted to end Tennessee's 22 (now 23) year domination of the series, but alas, it was not to be.

Tennessee had a great game plan for this game, and seemed to be rolling to an easy victory after the fist half. But as has been the modus operandi for Kentucky all year, they came out and dominated the second half. Kentucky even had a chance to win the game outright, but Woodson missed a wide-open Keenan Burton in the end zone. I think Woodson just got rattled by the short time he had to make that decision, and he had to throw on the move, which has never been his strength.

Both teams played great football, each team dominating a half and neither team dominating the overtime. Kentucky lost when Woodson failed to make it into the end zone for the two-point conversion in the fourth overtime. It was simply a marvelous SEC game, and as disappointed as the UK fan in me is in the loss, the SEC fan in me loved the fact that both teams left it all on the field. Congratulations to the Vols for getting to Atlanta, and to the Cats for their second 7-win season in a row.

Messenger from Wildcats Thunder wants to talk about the state of Kentucky football, not the loss to UT:

I truly appreciate what Rich Brooks has done for UK's football program. When Brooks took the job in December, 2002, Barnhart couldn't give it away. At least five other candidates turned it down before Brooks said yes. Brooks' first three seasons in Lexington were miserable, and I know that directly from people inside UK's Athletics Department. Brooks persevered and took UK to bowls in 2006 and 2007. If he wants to keep coaching, he will have my support and, I hope, everyone else's.

But this kind of a season can suck some of the positive momentum out of a program, and out of a veteran coach. Closing with four losses in the last five games will, unfortunately, have a certain amount of negative impact on UK's recruiting class. Losing the seniors will present a huge challenge to UK's coaching staff in 2008. If this challenges excites and reinvigorates Brooks, then obviously he has earned, and deserves, his opportunity to overcome it.
I don't necessarily agree with his second paragraph. Yes, going 1-4 to finish out the season isn't ideal, but two of those games were very winnable, one lost only by the narrowest of margins in 4 overtimes. I think UK has made its case that it is a program that is moving up. Whether or not they can sustain that momentum remains to be seen, but the Wildcats have sufficient talent coming back next year to likely preclude a slippage back into the dark dungeons of the SEC basement. The Cats may not make the bowls next year, but they could just as easily do so -- I consider it a 50/50 proposition. It will be a bit more of a crap shoot than this year, but Brooks continues to improve Kentucky's depth, and that is what cost them most of their losses this season.

Joel at Rock Top Talk says this was a case of two even teams doing battle to the end:
The outcome was: indeed, like Everest, K2, and Mars, all wrapped up into one, just not for the Kentucky fans. Putting enough discernible distance between the Vols and the 'Cats for society to permit one of them to claim they were better on this day was a feat requiring enormous effort and dedication. Consequences? The SEC Championship. We're going to Atlanta despite the Cal, Florida, and Alabama debacles. We're spending the week plotting revenge on the LSU Tigers for 2001, when they trampled the rose clinched between Casey Clausen's teeth.
Indeed. It was a great battle, and I think the better team won this one. UT's depth wore us down, and they looked fresher on defense in overtime.

Jon at Fulmer's Belly is incoherent:
Heh. I think he's happy.

But how about Georgia fans? Well they were too busy exulting over the Dawg-pounding of the Yellowjackets to worry about the goings-on in Lexington. Oh, I'm sure they looked in on it, but they had other fish insects to fry. Paul Westerdawg saw it thus:
Tech lost because they couldn't handle the moment.
Tech lost because Gailey hasn't recruited or developed a QB in six seasons.
Tech lost because Tenuta is grossly overrated and takes too many chances.
Tech lost because their WRs have hands of stone.
Tech lost because UGA has more talent, depth and better coaching across the board.

They did not lose because of officiating or luck.
Senator Blutarsky says that the statistics tell the tale, and the result is what matters:

The box score doesn’t lie on this one. Georgia racked up 432 yards of offense - 214 passing, 218 rushing - on what had been the #7 school in the country in total defense. The only thing Tech’s defense did well was to hold the Dawg offense to a poor 4 of 13 performance on third downs.

Seven in a row.

Georgia winds up the season ranked 4th in the AP, which could guarantee them an at-large berth if the BCS works out the same way. Paul Westerdawg does the math for those of you who don't have the time or inclination. Congrats to the Georgia Bulldogs on a great season.

More on the weekend and what it all means later.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Who's your daddy now?

The strangeness of this season just will not let go. Just when you thought you knew how it would all turn out, wham!

The LSU loss has serious repercussions for the SEC. Gone are any realistic hopes for a representative from the SEC in the BCS championship game with LSU's loss to Arkansas last night. With Mississippi State's win, the SEC now has at least 10 bowl-eligible teams and possibly 11 if Vanderbilt somehow manages one more win. With LSU now out of the BCS championship, that means only 8 SEC teams are sure to get a bowl bid out of the ten eligible. But with Georgia looking pretty certain to wind up with an at-large bid in a BCS bowl, there should be nine SEC teams fairly certain of a bowl bid.

South Carolina or Alabama are looking like the odd team out at the moment, but that could shift strongly toward the Gamecocks if the Tide gets it done in the Iron Bowl today. If both USC and Alabama win, I say 'Bama gets the nod. If both teams lose, I would like to say USC gets the bid, but truth be told, Alabama is a much bigger draw, and when $$ are at stake, you have to like the Tide's chances in that scenario. Also hurting USC's chances would be a 5-game losing streak. If the Tide loses and USC wins, the Gamecocks should go bowling with 'Bama sweating it out.

So what does LSU's loss to Arkansas do to the SEC other than change the bowl picture a bit? On the one hand, it adds to the perception that the SEC is just too strong a conference for its own good, and argues much more strongly for a playoff system if you are an SEC fan. If you are a Big 10, Big East, ACC or Pac-10 fan, you are happy with the status quo. From their perspective, its fun to watch the SEC eat its own, and you know you don't have to worry about schedule strength -- in the six BCS conferences, that is only going to be an issue if a team has a loss. An undefeated team an any of the six BCS conferences will almost always get to the championship, regardless of their strength of schedule.

So this year, after the latest LSU loss, we are left to wonder if the SEC is really all that strong, or if LSU is just not the team that they were cracked up to be. Strong arguments can be made both ways -- LSU has looked vulnerable on more than one occasion this year, and has played much worse in the second half of the season than early on. One could argue that LSU is just not worthy of a BCS championship berth, and absent a playoff system of some kind, we will never really know. But whatever the situation, LSU will not be the national champion this year.

Not much reax from the bayou bloggers so far, but Geaux Tuscaloosa has a post up, and he agrees with me that LSU has been regressing:

Yes, that was a very disappointing loss, but honestly, have we looked like the best team in the country lately? Not really. We just kept winning. No matter what happened, we just kept winning. Yesterday, we weren't able to do it.
Ryan Ferguson of Fanhouse thinks Les Miles' luck just ran out:
I've contended at times this year that Les Miles has been lucky rather than good, or more specifically, his talent has carried him when his coaching acumen has not.

Today, he finally ran out of extra chances. LSU fans will now likely send Miles to Michigan with their compliments.
The old saying is, "I'd rather be lucky than good." I can't really decide how much of Miles' success this year has been luck vs. good coaching, but it will be very interesting to see what happens in the aftermath of this loss. With Lloyd Carr being run out of Ann Arbor retiring after this year, Miles will almost certainly be Michigan's first choice.

David Ching at the Georgia Bulldog Blog comes up with a scenario where the Dawgs wind up in the title game with Ohio State:
Updating a post earlier in the week, Georgia now needs the following to happen to play Ohio State in the national championship game:
1) Georgia to beat Georgia Tech
2) Oklahoma to beat the Missouri/Kansas winner in next weekend's Big 12 championship game
3) UConn or Pitt to beat West Virginia
4) It wouldn't hurt for Kentucky to beat Tennessee, enabling Georgia to play LSU in the SEC championship game; Virginia to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday; UCLA to beat USC next weekend. These things might not be absolutely necessary, but would greatly strengthen Georgia's case should items 1-3 take place.
As wild as this season has been, I wouldn't be at all surprised if something like this happened. I really don't think the stars are aligned for an SEC team in the BCS championship, though.

From an Arkansas standpoint, it's hard to argue that McFadden didn't just make a statement for his Heisman candidacy. Heisman pundit notes the results of Friday, and tries to sort through the madness:
Is that the kind of game McFadden needed to get back in the Heisman race? Yes, but it is most likely too little, too late. If anything, his performance will shake up the final order of the vote and will probably knock Dennis Dixon out of the top three. But I don't think it is enough to win. Hence, it's possible that McFadden may become the first two-time runner-up since Charlie Justice of North Carolina in 1949.

Heh. Well, the one thing helping McFadden over Tebow is his upperclassman status. Arkansas has somehow magically pulled eight wins out of the hat with this upset, and despite HP's doubts that this is enough, I am not so sanguine. McFadden may well have done all that is required -- after all, Tebow wasn't enough to get the Gators a win in Baton Rouge, and McFadden got that job done.

Stephen at Razorback Expats had difficulty watching the game:
* Being a true Arkansan, I watched the fourth quarter and the overtimes with an almost overwhelming sense of dread. I could hardly look at the television screen. I just knew we were going to get our hearts broken - the only question was how. My pessimism faded somewhat when Felix Jones scored the two-point conversion in the third overtime; at that moment, I began to wonder if the football gods were on our side. says that both Miles and Nutt could be elsewhere after this season

Nutt, who will have his team in a bowl game, may not be back with the Hogs next season after growing unrest in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas officials have yet to confirm that, however, and firing Nutt may be a less popular move now.

Miles job is not in jeopardy, but there's been talk he could be moving after this season, too. Miles, who played at Michigan and was an assistant coach there, is widely considered a top candidate to replace Lloyd Carr as the Wolverines' head man.

One thing is certain -- Houston Nutt's tenure at Arkansas, whether it ends this year or not, has been a roller coaster ride for Razorback fans.

In the final analysis, it looks to me that, barring a miracle, the SEC is out of contention for the BCS championship. In the end, the SEC's top teams were either too weak or too numerous, depending on who you talk to, to get there.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Some Friday SEC Action

Some hot and heavy action in the SEC for a Friday. We have one really important game today for the SEC (Arkansas at LSU) and one game that is really important for the two teams involved (Mississippi at Mississippi State, otherwise known as the Egg Bowl).

Well, the Egg Bowl is over and done, and MSU wins 17-14. Jeremy at Mississippi State Sports reports:

After trailing the rebels for most of the game, the Bulldogs tied the game on a punt return for a touchdown by Derek Pegues. Adam Carlson put the Dogs on top with a 48-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to play.
MSU is now 7-5, and has some really interesting bowl possibilities. MSU hasn't been to a bowl since 2000, so this has got to feel really, really good to Bulldog fans. Congratulations to MSU and to Coach Croom on a fine year. MSU is a team on the rise in the SEC.

Parish Alford, writing for Ole Miss, had this cryptic post:
I hope everyone saw it. You wouldn’t believe it otherwise. Read it tomorrow in the Daily Journal.
I will. Apparently, MSU came back from a 14-0 deficit after 3 quarters with scores including a 75 yard punt return and ended with a 48-yard career field goal for the MSU kicker. Croom was apparently running around the stadium with the MSU flag. Big day for the Dawgs.

As I write this, LSU is in serious jeopardy against Arkansas. Arkansas has just scored the go-ahead touchdown, 28-21, and now the Tigers have all of 5 minutes left to save their shot at the BCS title game. It doesn't look good for the Tigers. Fanhouse has the tale at the moment, and LSU needs another miracle comeback to save its championship hopes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this blog, or just happen across this post.

Enjoy stuffing yourselves, or the stuffing itself, or something. I know I am looking forward to a day of rest, because there are some big games coming up this week both in football and basketball.

I just saw South Carolina beat Penn State, and I am looking forward to more SEC basketball this weekend. Not only that, but we have Tennessee at Kentucky, the Egg Bowl, and the Iron Bowl this weekend. That's a feast for any sports fan.

I'll be back tomorrow, but today, I am taking a break. Enjoy your holiday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NIck Saban as the Jabberwock

The big news of today seems to be the firestorm Nick Saban caused by his comments using catastrophic historical events to compare to Alabama's loss to the University of Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Personally, I think it is a firestorm of hogwash.

For one thing, people have often used historical events as a metaphor for catastrophe. We have seen bad losses referred to as "Pearl Harbor" games, "holocaust" is commonly used to describe debacles. But for some reason, when 9-11 gets brought into the equation, people feel the need to stand up and shout, "Wait a minute -- this is over the top!"

One fine day, we Americans are going to have to lose our hypersensitivity to metaphors that include 9-11. It is an unfortunate form of political correctness that we really must get past. We have gotten past Pearl Harbor. We have gotten past the Holocaust. These were all terrible events, but the communicate something visceral and important, and when people use them metaphorically, it is a reflection of seriousness and determination. When we think of terrible events, we often think of what was lost exclusively, and forget the braveness, effort and sacrifice it took to recover. The recovery, to me, means far more than the catastrophic event that precipitated it. That is the real metaphor Saban intended to use.

Saban's metaphor may have been too much for some, but I understood what he was saying, and leaving hypersensitivity aside, his point was apt. Catastrophic losses (and make no mistake, this was catastrophic for Alabama and the rest of the SEC) at this late juncture in the season when teams are supposed to be at their best, require more to recover from than dropping a game to Mississippi or Florida State, as any disastrous circumstance requires more to recover from than a simple setback. Many people may think, "But it's just a game!" Yes, but it isn't to Saban -- it is the method by which he earns his living and feeds his family. It isn't just a game to many Alabama fans, either -- it is one of their passions.

Lest you think I am biased, I don't care one iota about Saban -- I am a UK fan, and Alabama is just another foe to be beaten when I am wearing the Blue and White. But when I have my SEC hat on, Saban is in charge of an important part of SEC tradition, one of the crown jewel football programs in the conference. When Alabama is embarrassed, the whole league suffers. If Saban can't handle that charge, I will happily take as much umbrage with his performance as any but the most partisan 'Bama fans would.

Some of the real over-the-top stuff that I see in the media today include this from Kevin Scarbinsky (Hat tip: From the Bleachers):

That's right. The head football coach at Alabama included the lost lives in New York, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and Hawaii with the lost games against Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe in his very serious discussion of "catastrophic events."

What historical tragedy will he reference Saturday when Alabama loses a sixth straight game to Auburn? The Holocaust?
This is platitudinous hyperbole. Saban referred to 9-11 in a highly modal context, but sportswriters seem to feel perfectly justified in ignoring that fact to bash him. Besides, people refer to the Holocaust all the time for descriptive emphasis. Maybe he just forgot.

Huntsville-Times columnist Mark McCarter gives us yet another example (again, hat tip to From the Bleachers ):
Saban arrived with a rich reputation for his insensitivity. Usually it's directed toward media or minions.

On Monday, that insensitivity stretched well beyond the protected confines of his kingdom when he concocted such an insulting, ill-advised analogy. An experienced, expensive coach has to do better.

Maybe Saban was just too wrapped up in emotion and hyperbole. Maybe, like some fourth-and-two play, he didn't give it enough thought. Maybe it was dramatic effect. Maybe it was self-preservation, a bold statement to a fan base where some are already second-guessing the investment.

Whatever the reason, to borrow from his war-time comparisons, Nick Saban bombed.
Once again, where is the context the media has so demanded from bloggers and others using their comments to make examples of their remarks? It is absent.

"Sensitivity" is a word we often use when we don't really mean it -- instead, it is designed to prepare others for a visceral, emotional reaction. Nothing produces anger in the politically correct like the charge of "insensitivity," and the media employ that word like a rhetorical vorpal blade against any who dare invoke its sacred cows -- "Snicker-snack, you evil Saban, we'll take your head!"

GhostofNeyland at Third Saturday in Blogtober disagrees with me, and thinks Saban was off base:
Look, before I start, in no way do I think that Saban was comparing Alabama losing to Louisiana-Monroe with the terrorist attacks on 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. (I think this is the link where you can go down to the Saban teleconference and listen for yourself). That’s not what I’m trying to imply. And I promise you I would have written the same blog about this had coach Phillip Fulmer made the references that Saban did.
But to even invoke events such as those which not only shaped our history as a great nation but also were horrific tragedies that cost our families thousands of precious lives, is uncalled for in my opinion. Saban should not have mentioned those events during any type of football press conference. He’s let some of the psychotic Alabama fans (that’s not the vast majority of you guys, thank God) get to him, apparently.
I understand where he was coming from, but history is history. Saban making metaphorical references to history is not disrespectful to anyone, especially in the manner in which it was done. We do not honor the dead by placing historical events off limits for any type metaphor, however remotely dissociated from the loss of life.

The real problem, as we have seen, was his inclusion of 9-11. I believe that a Pearl Harbor metaphor by itself wouldn't have drawn a single remark, or the Holocaust if it were fitting (which it isn't) except for the predictable irrational charge of anti-semitism inevitably leveled when anyone uses "holocaust" in a "non approved" manner. What about Sherman's rampage through Georgia where many more people (including civilians) were killed? Nobody minds using those, and they shaped our history just as surely as 9-11. No, those events aren't as fresh in our minds, but I get the impression this outrage over Saban's metaphors are less heartfelt and more calculated than their purveyors would like to admit.

Brian Cook at Fanhouse also thinks Saban was wrong:
This is not quite a direct comparison -- Nick Saban, despite what LSU fans might tell you, is not history's greatest monster -- but it is high up on the list of embarrassing things coaches have said over the past 10 to 15 years. Even leaving aside the "America, eff yeah!" aspect of things, losing to ULM is just losing to ULM and not, say, a nation-altering surprise attack by foreigners, no matter how many kids on the ULM team speak Cajun. Trust me: I'm a Michigan fan. You get over it.
Well, he is right about one thing -- you get over it. The problem isn't that -- it is the almost pathological aversion we have to mentioning 9-11 in any kind of allegory or metaphor, and the virtual 100% certainty that anyone even approximately doing so will be "snicker-snacked" by the media as well as some bloggers. I don't believe either those unfortunate victims or the brave police and firefighters who died in that catastrophe would want their memory being placed above that of others who have perished over the course of history in disasters or war which are commonly used for hyperbole, allegory and metaphor. No right-thinking person would.

Let history be history. Let us learn from it, and move forward.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Tide are 0 for Louisiana

By losing to Louisiana-Monroe last night, the Crimson Tide has turned what could have been an acceptable rebuilding season into a debacle. Tide fans, God bless them, are notoriously unforgiving of such losses, the biggest reason being that they occur so rarely throughout Alabama history. This was one of the worst losses in Crimson Tide history, arguably much worse than the UCF loss homecoming day in 2000. This one stings.

Eight in the Box says that the team with the most heart won this game:

The 2007 Tide football team has a lot of talkers, and not many doers. Last week much was made of the Tide's post game locker and all of the bluster by the team over the poor performance against Mississippi State. That was wasted energy.
Wasted, indeed. It isn't as if this team was coming off a win -- in fact, now they have dropped three in a row, and in the SEC, that is a serious slump, especially with perhaps the most bitter rivalry game in America coming up next week.

Memphis Tider is embarrassed:
I could take losses to SEC competition.

Even Mississippi State on the road.

I could handle non-conference neutral site losses to BCS teams like Florida State.

But a 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Senior Day is unacceptable.
Ouch. Kentucky fans know well how that feels after their basketball team dropped a game to "Gardner-who?". I feel your pain, and I wish I didn't.

The Tide Druid has an apology post. He apologizes to his readers, Mississippi state, Auburn, the SEC ... pretty much everyone that counts. And of course, just to make me feel as bad as he does, he invokes "Gardner-who?":
How should one put this into perspective? It’s the Gardner-Webb loss of the football season for Alabama, if not worse. Good night, and Roll Tide.
Thanks for that unpleasant memory, TD. But truth be told, if Alabama finds some way to beat Auburn, this game won't hurt quite as bad. Of course, if it doesn't, the recriminations in Tuscaloosa will be a distraction for a long while to come.

Outside the Sidelines at Roll 'Bama Roll tries to make sense of it all, and puts it in historical context:

Bottom line: This loss is as bad as it seems, and probably worse. It could be the worst single loss for Alabama since the arrival of Bear Bryant.

That is about the worst indictment of this fiasco that could be applied. Alabama has had some relatively poor teams over the last decade, but this loss is one of those inexplicable things that hurts not only the 'Bama faithful, but the image of the entire SEC.

Now SEC fans must must listen to insufferable Pac-10 and Big East proponents (Appy State helpfully insulated us from insults from the Big 10) about how one of the SEC's flagship programs couldn't beat 3-6 (now 4-6) Louisiana-Monroe from the mighty Sun Belt conference on senior day in Tuscaloosa. It's one thing if Mississippi State gets crushed by West Virgina in Morgantown, but this loss will drag down the entire conference. OTS continues with the upside:
In his first season at LSU, Saban experienced a similar loss when his Bayou Bengals fell to lowly Alabama-Birmingham when they were coming off a painful conference loss on the road to Auburn. In many ways, that loss very much resembles today when his Crimson Tide fell to lowly Louisiana-Monroe when they were coming off a painful conference loss on the road to Mississippi State. In the grand scheme of things, the loss to UAB didn't slow down LSU one bit, and no one should expect the loss to ULM to slow down Alabama.
Probably true. But despite LSU's comparably recent ascension to SEC prominence, Alabama has a long and storied history of football success. In a 12 game season, a loss like this is impossible to recover from, perception-wise. Until Saban proves otherwise, this is still the Alabama team of Mike Shula, is it not?. The change to Saban so far has not produced the kind of improvement even the most glass-half-full Alabama fan would have hoped for -- it's not as if we are early in the season here. I hate to say that, but this Alabama team is 6-5 and hasn't beaten a single team they weren't supposed to beat, and lost to *ahem* Louisiana Monroe and has won exactly two road games in the SEC, both against the weakest teams in their respective divisions.

Shining the harsh light of reality on the Tide gives me no joy, and I actually hope Saban restores this great program to it's historical splendor. Seeing Alabama play this poorly at home on senior day is simply ... well ... it just ain't right. That is something you expect from Vanderbilt, the Mississippi's or Kentucky. Not Alabama.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday SEC blog piñata

Well, here we are again -- another Friday. Soon my wife will be home, and I'll be mixing the martini an cosmopolitan. Ahhh, sweet -- the Friday Night Cocktail!

But before that, I have a hodgepodge of goodies to bring you -- a Friday grab-bag if you will. A sports blog piñata.

First of all, a reader made me aware of this blog at The Legend of Cecilio Guante, which basically explains what we all know to be true -- the SEC is the best football conference in the land. Here is the money graf:

I hear a lot of hype about Ohio State/Michigan this week. Now you know what every game feels like in the SEC. Let me run down a list of SEC teams that have spent some time in the Top 25 this year; LSU, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Arkansas. That'd be 9 out of our 12 teams. Only one SEC team is below .500. Maybe they should call us the All-star Team Conference. And by the way, has Les Miles officially changed his name to Titanium Stones yet?
The author goes on to talk about the women, the angst, the glory of the SEC. Great read. Don't miss it.

Florida fans are getting silly over the Georgia-Kentucky game. Saurian Sagacity starts us off:
First of all let me say it was nothing personal in beating you on October 20th, purely business. I’m sure you understand. I hope you will also understand if we ask a favor of you. As far as favors go, it is one that is mutually beneficial, so we are certain you won’t mind.

Please beat Georgia.
Heh. You'd think these guys had something on the line, here, like maybe a trip to Atlanta, wouldn't you? Mlmintampa of Alligator Army also has a missive, and he offers ... things ... in return!
If it makes you feel better, by beating Georgia and Tennessee, you will keep out teams that lost by at least 21 points this season. (UGA at UT; UT at Bama and UF.) You're doing a public service! But, what else is in it for you? After discussions with our close personal friends in the UF Athletic Association, we have devised a very appealing prize package should you win out and Florida wins the SEC East.

1. We will not finish ahead of you in basketball this season.

2. Free Gatorade for a year.

3. A lovely fruit basket from the orange groves on the UF campus.
Tempting. Does this count as a bribe? All this Gator love is making me feel all funny inside. Even Orange and Blue Hue gets in on the act:

Hey, Kentucky… we love y’all.


All we need for you to do is to win your next two games. You do that, we go to Atlanta to (hopefully) ruin LSU’s national title hopes.

I mean, we're talkin' some serious reptilian amoré here.

Let's see -- what else do we have? Roll 'Bama Roll thinks that clarity has finally arrived in the race for the national championship. The Big 12 champion is apparently effectively guaranteed a spot in the national championship game, according to his reasoning (which looks sound to me). The big question, at this point, seems to be "who else will be in there?"

Clarity of a sort, I suppose.

A lot is on the line for Tennessee against Vanderbilt, also. Who Ya With thinks that this week could be the difference in the season for the 'Dores:
The commodores travel to the Evil Empire this weekend to take on the Great Pumpkin (Fat Phil) and the Vols. If the defense can show up like they did in Columbia, and Spuds can play the QB position as well as he did last week against UK, this game could be won. There is nothing I would love more than to see 105,000 disappointed Vols fans walking out of that stadium. How much money would Fulmer have to donate to UT to feel comfortable then?
Oh, the 'Dores and the Vols do indeed despise each other. They love to see the other cry.

Meanwhile, Jon at Fulmer's Belly decides to try a little poor-mouthing to get the Vols a win:
First off, we lost to a freaking Cal team at a game that I personally attended. A Cal team that has lost 20 games since beating the hapless Vols and their non-existant defense and special teams play. DeSean Jackson looked like a damn Heisman candidate after te UT game, and has been pretty craptacular afterwards. What does that say about our team? It says we suck. Hard.
Heh. For a team that has a chance to win the East, and the only team that doesn't need help, that is some poor-mouthing indeed. Joel at Rocky Top Talk is wondering WTF:
So what's the deal? Why can't we be negative when our team really needs us? Here's the thing: they're pretty good and getting better. The future looks bright indeed, and the Vols, even this season, are perfectly positioned to win out and represent the East in the SEC Championship. There, they'll be pitted against LSU, and the media will give them no chance against the Tigers, which is, of course, right where we want to be. Forget the pessimism. I love this team.
So we have a little plus and a little minus. It's been that kind of season for the Vols.

We may not know who will go to Atlanta from the East this weekend, but we will have a somewhat better idea of who is not going, guaranteed. The Gators need a Kentucky win or they stay home. Georgia, the converse. And Tennessee? Well, they just need to win two games back to back and they can book their flights.

Fun times.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dawgs and Cats, and Croom calls the Hogs!

Today was the beginning of the fall signing period for basketball. There were a few interesting things happening.

First of all, Scotty Hopson, one of the best players in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a very highly touted recruit who has verbally committed to Mississippi State University, did not sign his LOI today. Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger got in touch with Hopson about it.

What makes this somewhat interesting is that Chris Singleton, who was being heavily recruited by Kentucky and Florida State, chose the graveyard of high school talent over the Wildcats. Suddenly, a scholarship is open at Kentucky. What does this all mean? Nothing, probably, but you never know.

In other bad news for Kentucky, Jodie Meeks, expected to be a leading contributor this year, is out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture to his groin area. Is it just me, or do the words "fracture" and "groin area" put together like that cause you to cringe a bit? Yikes.

But of course, we are still in the throes of football season, so I think I'll return to that for now.

Kentucky and Georgia got a big game a-happenin' down in Athens this weekend. Kyle King of Dawg Sports is a bit nervous about it, too:

5) UGA 41, UK 31.This game really, really worries me. I just don't think we match up well against their offense. I think our best bet is to establish the run early and keep Woodson and his receivers from establishing a rhythm. If we can get a decent lead, then Knowshon and Thomas can step in to eat up clock. But unlike Auburn's plodding attack, this Kentucky team can put 21 on the board in a hurry. It will be a barn burner. I think the last thing we want is a shootout. As potent as our offense has been of late, there's no reason to go blow for blow with a team who's standard attack is to throw as many punches as possible.
The big thing with Kentucky is not letting them get you in a shootout. If you do that, your chances go down. Kentucky hasn't stopped anyone on defense this year, not even Vanderbilt and South Carolina. But if you let the Cats get in a rhythm, they can put up so many points so fast that only Florida can outscore them. The Dawgs definitely can't. But as Kyle points out, the antidote to André Woodson is to live in the Kentucky backfield, and that is most certainly possible for Georgia.

Dawgs of the World Unite dispatches a submarine on a northern run to espy the goings on in Lexington, but runs into trouble:
Unfortunately, due to a lack of submarine-navigable waters in the area around Lexington, we had to divert the recon team to a mission on behalf of DOTWU's closest blog ally. The crew is currently probing the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, seeking a potential embarkment point for the DFF IV Maritime Alcohol Consumption Expeditionary Force (DFFIVMACEF). So, this week's report will be based on information pilfered from the internets and our own wild conjecture.
In Kentucky, John Clay reports that Mark Richt wants a "redout", and reports on other strangeness in the activities of the Georgia coach lately. Mark is beginning to scare me. I think he is going all Spurrier on us, and I don't like it. Not one bit.

Not much more coming out the UK folks about the game with Georgia yet. Too much roundball news over there.

Mississippi State could pick up their seventh win this year at Arkansas on Saturday. The question is, which Arkansas team will show up? The one that ran roughshod over the Gamecocks, or the one that was dismissed rudely by Tennessee last weekend? Terry Wood of WholeHogSports is wondering as well:

Throughout the season, Arkansas has had one of the most productive offenses in the Southeastern Conference thanks to the Razorbacks' rushing attack.

But twice in the last month, the Hogs have been held to a near standstill by Auburn and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Gregg Ellis says that for Croom, it's all about respect:
Sylvester Croom just wants respect. Period. And right now, he doesn't feel his team is getting its due.

To begin with, he was irritated the oddsmakers listed Alabama as the favorite this past weekend, even though MSU defeated the Tide last year in Tuscaloosa and was coming off an impressive win at Kentucky two weeks ago.
Croom is definitely getting the job done this year, much like Kentucky did last year. If he gets to 7 or 8 games, MSU could get a very nice bowl indeed, especially having beaten as many ranked teams as they have.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Operator? Could you help me make this call ... ?

I have noticed a lot of anger lately over officiating, and now we are hearing gripes from nearly every major conference.

References (in no particular order):

  1. Fanhouse -- Memo to the ACC commissioner.
  2. Fanhouse -- Down with Geriatric Replay Officials [Isn't this age discrimination? -- ed.]
  3. CSTV -- ACC keeps High-Tech Eye on Official's Performance
  4. Sunday Morning Quarterback -- They All Fall Down ... Until the Two-Minute Drill
  5. Lexington Herald-Leader -- Seven is So Much Better Than Six
  6. Fanhouse -- Mike Leach is Not Afraid of Fines
  7. Kermit the Blog -- If Only I Knew Your Name, Mr. Line Judge
  8. Fanhouse -- Pac 10 Officials Outdo Themselves
  9. Sunday Morning Quarterback -- Ask Mike Leach
  10. CSTV -- Red Raiders Coach Leach Stands Behind Comments On Officiating
  11. ESPN -- Tranghese punishes ref who made call; won't elaborate on penalty
  12. Fanhouse -- YouTubesDay: Pac Ten Referee Incompetence
  13. Fanhouse -- YouTubesDay: Refs Muff Huskies-Beavers

Seems like some people are not real happy about the officiating these days, and I have seen enough questionable calls this year to make me wonder what we have to do to get it right. More and more calls are either falling under the rubric of "unreviewable", or just plain, unalterable incompetence, that fans must be wondering where it all ends.

For me, I think everything aught to be subject to challenge. If there is a play where the call is blown, there has to be some way to salvage the situation. The same rules would apply, but all the things that are "off limits" should be challengable except non-called penalties. How many hits out of bounds have we seen this year, for instance, when the replay showed clearly that the player was not out of bounds? How many roughing the passer calls have we seen where it wasn't just marginal, but obviously wrong? How many interference calls have we seen where it wasn't Those are major penalties, yet they can't be reviewed by rule. And what about the "oops-I-didn't-mean-it" fair catch against Louisville? Is it not ridiculous that was unreviewable?

Any personal foul penalty aught to be subject to review, but only on challenge. Unlike the current system where the challenge only costs a time-out if the ruling on the field is not reversed, challenging a penalty aught to cost a timeout no matter what the outcome. That way, the trade-off will sometimes lead coaches to accept the judgment of the officials.

Some way must be found to eliminate the impact these badly missed calls have on the game, at least as much as possible. It is an epidemic, and the conferences are not doing enough to ensure they don't happen.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Crooming of Alabama, or, Is Mark Richt the new Evil Genius?

Alright, so what the hell?

First of all, what the hell is with Alabama? You bring in a coach. You pay him 4 million dollars a year. You watch as he gets Croomed.

Alabama fans must feel like this is something they could have had for far less than about $100,000 per game/hour. Hell, I'll bet Orgeron would have done it for less than half that! Just kidding, 'Bama fans, I know this loss sucks for you. Look at it this way -- it sucks far less than the suckage you could experience two weeks from now in the Iron Bowl.

Speaking of the Iron Bowl, what the hell is this CBS decision to air the Tennessee-Kentucky game instead? I'm a Kentucky fan, and I can't even believe that one. For my money, Auburn-Alabama is rivaled only by Army-Navy, and the football is always better in the former than the latter. There is so much bad blood and loathing between Auburn and Alabama, it simply dwarfs almost every other rivalry I can think of. Not that I don't want to see UT-UK on national TV, hell, we'll take all the help we can get with recruiting. But that decision is a head-scratcher to me.

I promised to update everyone on the South Carolina blogger's reax to the monkey-slapping they received at the hands of Mighty T and his Reptilian Rowdies, so here goes:

Garnet and Black Attack has a list of five reasons why Florida dominated this game. The big ones, to my mind, are number one and two. Tim Terrific and South Carolina (non) defense that sucks like a Dyson.

Chuck at The Cool Chicken searches for ... something.

This past weekend, Urban Meyer won a decisive victory over a South Carolina team that has been a skid. It was obvious early on that South Carolina did not have the defensive answer for Urban’s trickery this year. Then near the end of the game, unsatisfied with just winning, Urban Meyer may have done something to help the South Carolina team.

With a minute and a half remaining, a 13 point lead and the ability to run out the clock, Urban sent his star heisman caliber quarter back out on to the field and took a shot at the end zone. The pass connected and the Florida Gators notched their score up to 51 points.

There is not doubt in my mind and I am sure there is no doubt in Spurrier’s that Meyer was not taking a shot at South Carolina. That last touchdown was meant for Spurrier.
I can't say he's wrong, and Ryan Ferguson did note that Meyer had the starters in there late in the game, particularly Tebow. Perhaps Meyer was trying to shove it up Spurrier's nether regions and break it off. Or perhaps, to demonstrate to Florida fans that the legend that is the Visor was as much due to the program as it was the coach.

Either way, Spurrier cannot be even a little amused at suffering this kind of abuse at the hands of Florida. I can hear him breathing through his mask all the way from Columbia to Louisville. I'll bet he has used the dark side of the force on a few of his players by now. Fat lot of good it has done him lately, though. Maybe he can recruit Jabba the Hut to play defensive line line.

Georgia put a spank on the boys from the Plains this weekend down Athens way, and the Tigers are not happy. Track 'em Tigers says the Tigers were unprepared:

Emotionless. Unprepared. There are many words to describe Auburn’s thumping by Georgia on Saturday. In the end, it was just plain embarrassing.

The Tiger’s 45-20 loss at Sanford Stadium will go down as one of the poorest efforts in Auburn football history. Not since losing by 24 points to Alabama at home in 2001 has a Tommy Tuberville coached team looked so woefully unprepared to play a big game.

Hmm. That A & M job is probably looking a lot better to Tubby right about now. Jerry Hinnen is scratching his head, claws extended:
What ... the hell?

I don't even know how I'm supposed to react to a loss like that. Auburn claws back from 17-3 down, we're up 20-17 and have the Dawgs in second-and-long deep in their own territory, and in what seems like the blink of an eye it's yet another outright embarrassment to add to Tubby's annually-increasing stockpile of them.

It all happened so fast, even after sleeping on it, I'm left to wonder what the appropriate response is.
Heh. Georgia fans are understandably feeling their oats. Kyle King of Dawg Sports says that Good triumphed over Evil:

It isn't just that the team is playing well; it's that Georgia football has become fun. I don't know that I've ever been in Sanford Stadium for a game that was as enjoyable as yesterday's. The fans were in the stands early, dressed for the occasion, and offering their full-throated support from beginning to end. The players fed off of the crowd, played their hearts out, and had a fine time doing it.

So they are feeling the love down in Athens, and nothin' says lovin' like a big football victory over a bitter rival. Quoth Paul Westerdawg:
After the Florida game, Orson Swindle told me that Georgia brought Evil Richt to the Cocktail Party. Well, it looks like Kathryn sent Evil Richt to his second game of the season. (Image:

Evil Richt knows how to party. Evil Richt would drink you under a table. Evil Richt shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Evil Richt stares down officials and eats them for breakfast. Evil Richt fell into a burning ring of fire and laughed about it. Evil Richt once spent a night in the Starkville City jail for picking flowers. Evil Richt wears black.
And then, from Hey Jenny Slater, we have a skit that is just way to long to excerpt meaningfully starring Evil Richt. Read the whole thing.

But wait a minute ... I thought Evil was ... and Georgia was, er ... Oh, I'm so confused. Well, Georgia won, good or evil. For Tuberville, it's back to the drawing board. If Auburn loses the Iron Bowl, Tubby might start looking West ... a lot.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Florida makes the Evil Genius look average

A look around the SEC confirms a number of things that many SEC fans had long suspected:

  1. LSU is the best team in the league;
  2. Arkansas is indeed not a good football team;
  3. Neither is South Carolina;
  4. Georgia is looking like a good football team;
  5. Florida is looking better all the time.

The jury is still out on Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi State. MSU has three very impressive SEC victories, one at home and two away, and with Arkansas and Ole Miss remaining on their schedule, have a real chance at winning eight games this year. Of course, Arkansas has been tougher after getting smoked, so who knows what will happen next week. And despite the fact that Arkansas isn't a very good team, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones are very good, and on a given day can dominate anyone.

I was surprised at the beat-down the Gators delivered to the Ol' Ball Coach this weekend. The Razorbacks exposed the run defense of USCe last weekend, but the Gamecocks got creamed in their own house. Neither team, seems to me, can make any case at all for their defense -- South Carolina isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse, and still managed to throw up 31 semi-meaningless points on the Gators. Still, Tim Tebow has yet to be stopped by any SEC defense except Auburn [UPDATE: An astute reader pointed out that Georgia also stopped Tebow, and I carelessly omitted mentioning them. Sorry, Dawgs].

At this point, there is so little blog reaction in from the Gamecocks that I'll defer looking at this game in depth until they have had a while to ponder this latest debacle. Obviously, the Gates are happy, but Ryan Ferguson was wondering over at Fanhouse if leaving Tebow in to run up the score was actually smart. Good question.

Mlmintampa writing for Alligator Army had no such reservations:
As much as I want to protect Tim Tebow, um, how do I say this...NO MERCY URBAN! RUN UP THE SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111111111111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was nice wasn't it? If Lou Murphy had caught the other pass in the end zone, it could have been a lot worse. Lucky for Spurrier that Percy is at home sick. We could have hung 70 on him.
I think that pretty well sums up the Gator's feelings about the Visor. Ryan Ferguson has yet another post on the subject, quoting a Gamecock fan thus:
If history teaches anything, it really does not matter who coaches here, it has not improved by any discernable measure when you look at the "average" win loss ratios of the last 10-15 years or heck even more. Sure there have been ups and downs, but we always return to mediocre. So, SOS may as well stay. He can either tarnish his legacy like Holtz, or he can do something about. Heaven only knows which it will be. (sic)
Spurrier has recruited good talent to South Carolina, but so far, he hasn't been able to get the team to the point it can consistently compete with the best of the SEC. The SEC is quite unforgiving to program-building, and once you get down to a certain level, it is very hard to raise the bar in this conference. Just ask Kentucky, the Mississippi's, and Vanderbilt. Yes, all have had some success, but when was the last time any of those teams won the SEC, or even a division? Hint: It was Kentucky in 1976, the Bicentennial year -- they shared the SEC title with Georgia. Before that, you have to go to the Ole Miss teams of the 1960's.

The SEC is a very, very unforgiving league.

New Orleans Love says that Spurrier was "inconsolable" after this huge defeat. Senator Blutarsky at Get the Picture says it was karma, and karma is "a beyotch". The Visor no doubt agrees.

Friday, November 9, 2007

This post is about as much fun as crawling naked over broken glass

Well, I've been out for a few days on a project, and therefore, I have not blogged. I work, therefore I don't blog ... ?

Before I go all Decartesque on a bunch of people wanting to read about sports stuff, I think I'll stop right there.

Of course, the big news of this week was the beat-down Gardner-Webb laid on my Kentucky Wildcats. Now, when I started this blog, I promised it wouldn't be UK-centric, and I think I have lived up to that standard reasonably well. But this is big news, and believe me, I don't enjoy blogging about a mid-major with an enrollment of maybe 5000 students driving their rag-tag bus 6 hours northwest to Rupp Arena, and stomping the snot out of one of the most storied basketball programs in history. Every word I type here feels like I am punching the keyboard with severe arthritis in my fingers. It hurts that much.

I cannot tell you how ... chagrined I was watching this game. It told a story of a coach so committed to his system, he wasn't willing to change it when faced with the ultimate counter and absolute disaster. The Princeton (or Pete Caril) offense is what Gardner-Webb used to embarrass Kentucky. Any coach (or competent observer) will tell you that a pressure man-to-man defense is the single most vulnerable defense to the Caril offense. The most basic (but probably most important) reason is, offensive players know where they are going, and defenders don't. Gillispie was unwilling to change the defense, and G-W continued to be successful against the Cats.

Midway through the second half, when the game was really in jeopardy, Gillispie finally went to a conventional man-to-man, instructing the team to stay in between the man they were guarding and the basket. Kentucky went on a run, but by that point, G-W believed they could win the game, and began making big shots. A fatigued Wildcat team began missing assignments and the rest, as they say, is history.

For my part, I am as unhappy as you would expect facing a constant drumbeat of schadenfreude from teams that Kentucky has defeated year in and year out, or just general UK haters, of which there are many. Maybe not as many as Duke, but more than enough to make for a long, tiresome week of snarky comments and insults. Frankly, I don't have anything too negative to say about that -- we made our bed, and now we have to sleep in it, even if it is full of fleas.

So, let's see what the non-Kentucky SEC blogs are saying about this affair:

Charles Rich, writing for Fanhouse, thinks that Gillispie has a lot of work to do:

The Runnin' Bulldogs led the entire game. They outshot, outrebounded and outplayed the Wildcats. Gillispie's disapproval of the team's defensive effort in the exhibitions and first game appears quite warranted. Gardner-Webb was able to run backdoor cuts almost at will for easy layups and higher percentage shots. This was not a case of a team that got incredibly hot from behind the 3-point line. Gardner-Webb shot over 56% on 2-point shots.
What can I say? The guy is right, right, right and, oh yeah, right.

Eight in the Box (not exactly a basketball kind of blog) wonders, "Who is Gardner-Webb?" Heh. I wish I knew. What I do know is that they can play a little ball over there.

SEC Hoops is like me ... What the ...?:
Are you kidding me?!? In what was college basketball’s biggest upset in some time, Gardner-Webb absolutely dominated #15 Kentucky on their own floor tonight with a 84-68 win. Kentucky allowed GW to shoot 53.1% from the floor while managing only a 35.5% effort of their own, and was outrebounded 36-28. GW jumped out to a 14-0 lead early, and never trailed.
Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. But he clearly didn't see the game. Ramel Bradley impressed nobody. He didn't get credit for half the turnovers he actually made. Must be some kind of New York City bias in the official scoring.

The Hog Blogger has an interesting take:
Perhaps this is karma for essentially costing Stan Heath his job? It’s possible.
Eh? Oh, I get it -- Gillispie turned down Arkansas, and ... Ok, whatever. Maybe he's right. God knows, I am searching here.

Then, I have to put up with this crap from Orange and Blue Hue:
Ummmm . . . mandate may be a stong term . . . how about rephrasing this as ” . . . was hired as the 21st coach in Kentucky History with an optimistic request to restore basketball’s winningest program to previous heights.” instead??? While the football program is ascending to heights heretofore unseen in the school’s history, the basketball programs precipitous descent doesn’t look quite complete. Apparently the empty seats in Rupp arena were not just due to student apathy but perhaps instead of the foresight of fans not yet blinded by years of delusion. They just wanted to spare themselves the sight of such embarrassment and hoping to return later in the season when the team starts playing better.
Oh, kiss my entire ass, Keltic Gator. Just keep in mind, when we whack your butts twice this year, you are going to hear "Can't even beat a team that Gardner-Webb defeated." Karma, KG ... karma.

That's enough. I really don't want to read anymore. Yeah, I am embarrassed, just like the rest of the Big Blue Nation, and I'll have to put up with crap on this one for two more weeks at least.

Nobody ever said being a fan was always fun ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More Anit-SEC Cluelessness

Once again, a sportswriter comes forth not to praise the SEC, but to bury it. The media just can't seem to get enough of such pieces, promising to deliver an argument that proves once and for all the SEC is just average this year, then embarrassing themselves by making an argument a child could defeat with little effort.

The latest is from Rick Bozich one of my hometown newspaper columnists for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Rick isn't a bad guy, and knows basketball pretty well. But when it comes to football, he is a little more ... challenged. And since a good bit of his audience is Louisville fans, he knows he has a built-in admiring audience whenever he deigns to smack down Kentucky or the SEC at the expense of Louisville or the Big East.

As has become the norm, Rick wants to point to the SEC's record against out of conference foes to prove his case. Quoth he:

Here is the mighty SEC's record in those 10 games against teams from other BCS leagues:

Five wins.

Five losses.


I don't have a math degree from Ole Miss, but I'd guess that would qualify as average. I wasn't on the debate team at Auburn, but I'm prepared to argue there isn't one great league this season. There are a number of very good leagues.

Well, Rick, math really has nothing to do with it, but debate ... well, let me just respectfully suggest that you wouldn't have made the second string of the debate team at Auburn. One of the first things you learn in debate are all about logical fallacies, and the one you have thrown out here is known as a deductive fallacy.

Let's look at the six "BCS" conferences -- ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, and Big East, at the time of Bozich's writing (before the week 10 games):

  1. Big 12 - 3-13 -- 3 BCS wins, 7 BCS losses with 4 losses against non BCS foes and 1 loss against FCS
  2. Big 10 - 8-8 -- 8 wins (4 against Notre Dame) 4 losses to BCS (one to Duke), 2 losses to non BCS and 2 losses to FCS.
  3. Pac 10 - 8-8 -- 8 Wins (1 against Notre Dame) 5 losses to BCS (one to ND), 3 losses to non BCS
  4. ACC - 6-12 -- 6 wins (2 wins against Notre Dame), 6 losses to BCS, 6 losses to non-BCS
  5. SEC - 5-5 -- 5 wins, 5 losses to BCS, no non-BCS or FCS losses.
  6. Big East - 7-8 -- 7 wins, 7 losses to BCS, 1 non-BCS loss

Disclaimer -- I may have made an error or two, I did this pretty fast. If anyone spots one, please let me know and I'll be glad to eat my words if the error changes my calculus, or strongly argues against my conclusions.

Every other conference other than the SEC has lost to Non-BCS foes. Four of the Big 10's OOC BCS wins have come against the incredibly weak Notre Dame, and one loss providing the only victory for Duke this year, plus 2 FCS losses.

The only conference that even has an argument, using this measure, is the Pac 10, which is 8-8, but 3 of its 8 losses come from non-BCS schools, one win and one loss against the aforementioned Notre Dame.

Of course, a disproportionate number of the bad losses come from the cellar-dwellers in the respective conferences. But notice that the SEC has virtually no "bad" losses (at least, for the purposes of this analysis). I also don't meant to imply that non-BCS losses are always bad -- the aren't -- but the tendency is for non-BCS teams to be a bit weaker overall than BCS teams, taken together. Of course, any conference that has losses to FCS teams deserves a bit of ridicule (I'm looking at you, Big 10 and Big 12).

I guess one could argue that the SEC benefited from a weaker out of conference schedule than the other BCS conferences, and they may have a point there -- the SEC played significantly fewer BCS games than any other conference, and no less than 10 SEC schools scheduled FCS opponents (83%). Compare that to 7 for the ACC (58%), 8 for the Big 10 (67%), 6 for the Big East (75%), 2 for the Pac 10 (20%) and 8 for the Big 12 (67%). However, that argument certainly won't help anybody but the Pac 10, since 2 conferences lost games against FCS opponents and the other two have losing records against OOC competition.

Bozich continues thus:

Would somebody please explain how 5-5 translates to seven spots in the top 24 when no other league has more than four? And a really solid league like the Pac-10 has three?

I know the answer: Because it's the mighty SEC, the league with the largest crowds, highest-ranked recruits, highest-paid coaches, the most laudatory TV coverage -- and, typically, the most schools on NCAA probation. Oops.

Let's leave aside his appeal to moral superiority and look at his main question, which is why does the SEC have seven top 25 teams, and the Pac 10 only have 3?

Well, who else from the Pac 10 would you put in there? There are only two other teams with a decent argument for inclusion: UCLA, who has provided 1-8 Notre Dame with its only victory, and lost to Utah (who lost to 2-7 UNLV) and Pac-10 cellar dweller Washington State? UCLA's best win is against Cal, the only other team that could be considered for inclusion. And what of Cal? They have lost 3 games in a row, sometimes called a "slump" -- a sure formula to get run out of the polls -- just ask South Carolina.

And the SEC? Well, no reasonable person could argue against the inclusion of LSU, Georgia, and Alabama -- they all have 2 or less losses and the worst loss among them is Alabama at Florida State. Auburn has been hot lately and played LSU to within an inch of victory at Death Valley, so they can't really get tossed. Florida would seem to be a bit overrated, but their worst loss has been to Auburn in the Swamp, and they have beaten 3 top 50 teams against UCLA's 2 -- can't see how anyone would prefer UCLA or Oregon State (who's best win has also been over Cal) over the Gators.

So that leaves South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, who seem to be swapping in and out on the fringes. There are maybe three or four teams among the other major conferences with an argument -- just not a very convincing one, apparently.

So, Mr. Bozich, it seems that your "deeper look" really wasn't all that deep after all. You make a lot of snarky comments, but when you get right down to it, a reasonable man can't find any conference better than the SEC. The best you can do is argue that the Pac 10 may be just as good. Is it a runaway? Not from the Pac 10, but I would argue nobody else is even within shouting distance.

I have a suggestion for you, Rick -- before you try this again, why don't you actually look a little deeper. And while you're at it, read this.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Holy Gamecock, Batman! We just ran over a Visor!

Of course, by Batman, I refer to Darren McFadden, the Heisman favorite at the beginning of the year who ran into some kind of roadblock along the way called 0-3 in the SEC. Felix Jones plays the part of Robin, his trusty sidekick.

I suppose we all knew it would happen, but Darth Visor and his Cocktroopers were on the receiving end of the archetype, the very definition of "running roughshod" over a defense.

South Carolina has been exposed against the run several times this year, giving up 290 yards to LSU over the ground, and 150+ and 170+ to Kentucky and Tennessee. But surrendering 541 rushing yards to a team is, quite simply, gobsmacking. Batman and Robin ran amok to the tune of 323 and 163 yards respectively. Felix Jones had a mind-blowing 13+ yard average on 12 attempts!

As you can imagine, the South Carolina bloggers are ... less than pleased, especially since this loss is their third in a row. But I have to admit, I was well and truly shocked when I read this post from Garnet and Black Attack:

It won't be easy for me to write what I'm about to write.

But the time has come.

I have rarely, if ever, used this space (or Cock & Fire) to call for someone's dismissal. I pride myself on that. For the most part, I don't find it particularly constructive, and I think it can divide fan bases if it's done too often.

But I can't stay quiet any longer.

The continued employment of the South Carolina defensive staff needs to be seriously re-evaluated.

Coming from Brandon, this constitutes an out-and-out mutiny. Notice that he is not directing his ire at the legendary OBC, but at the defensive staff (and rightfully so, in my view). When a team is running wild like that, you might be better off to take your chances with single coverage and hope Casey Dick throws some bad balls, which he is certainly wont to do. G&BA notes some other occasions when the current regime's run defense has ... ahem ... sucked out loud.

Flounder at Leftover Hot Dog is also aghast, and laments the inevitable, unwelcome shuffle to the land of the unranked:
Geez.....Going into the game USC knew they had to stop McFadden and the run....well I guess that memo was not given to the team b/c Arkansas ran the ball with ease. So say hello 3 game losing streak and goodbye Top 25.
The best laid plans of mice and visors often go awry. The Cool Chicken compares Lou Holtz and Spurrier in their third year, and the OBC doesn't come out sitting pretty. He wonders if USC is on the right track, and for my money, I don't blame him. Back to the drawing board.

From the Arkansas side, Razorback Expats is at a loss for superlatives. The Hawg Blawg is equally amazed, pointing out that both McFadden and Jones have now crossed the 1000 yard mark for the year - with three games left. The Hog Blogger is also left searching for adjectives:
What’s there to even say about that? Unreal? Other-worldly? In a video game? Any doubt that Darren McFadden wasn’t by far the best player in college football is most certainly removed now, and all of a sudden, he’s right back in the thick of the Heisman race.
As Tom Cruise said in Minority Report "There is ... no question." That's right, HB. No question at all.