Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Just dang.


Shameless Self-Promotion

I've got a post up at VodkaPundit regarding John Feinstein's recent dumb column on Nick Saban's dumb statements. Fair warning (which is more than Feinstein gave his WaPo readers): there's political content.

Monday, November 26, 2007

All Your Nutt Are Belong To Us

Forget Steve Spurrier. The real Evil Genius in college football isn't even a coach. He's uber-agent Jimmy Sexton.

According to published reports, Sexton's just-unemployed-at-Arkansas client Houston Nutt is in the midst of entertaining offers from Ole MIss and Georgia Tech, both of whom fired their own coaches within the last 72 hours.

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.

Even if this is just another example of Sexton spinning to gullible mediots, it's still amazing. Sexton's evil, but he's like, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter evil. You can't help but watch in awe.

UPDATE: Ole Miss "wins" the Nuttstakes, per this AP article in the Clarion-Ledger (I like the Department of Redundancy Department notice about Nutt's record: "He is 111-70 in 15 years as a head coach, compiling a 111-70 record at Arkansas, Boise State and Murray State").

It's obvious that Nutt will be a better coach than Ed Orgeron; then again, my sister's dog would be a better head coach than Ed Orgeron. The questions are whether Nutt can (a) recruit in a small state that unlike Arkansas, he doesn't have to himself, (b) manage the unrealistic (to be polite) expectations of the Ole Miss fanbase, and (c) keep his clown act in enough check to placate the "Ole Miss Whiteheads" who bankroll that program.

Fear The Toes

Back on September 22, the ESPN Gameday circus came to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Georgia game. UAT was 3-0, and had just watched Auburn slump to 1-2 with a loss to Mississippi State. The crowd behind ESPN's stage was filled with signs sneering at the cross-state archrival, and most of them were personally directed at Auburn's quarterback: "We Love Brandon Cox" and "Cox For Heisman" were prominently featured for the national television cameras.

As in most of the decisions made in Tuscaloosa over the past decade, putting those signs up turned out to be a spectacularly bad call. By the time the Iron Bowl rolled around, UAT had suffered its own ignominious Crooming, and worse. By the time the Iron Bowl was over, Brandon Cox finished his career with a perfect record against Alabama, and had his own sign for the bammies who'd mocked him a few weeks earlier:

It goes without saying that I've enjoyed all of Auburn's wins during the current streak, but with the possible exception of the 2002 upset, I don't think any of them have been quite as satisfying as Saturday's 17-10 triumph.

I'm willing to bet the Auburn team feels the same way. After eleven months of having The Great Saban shoveled down our throats by the in-state press and legions of loudmouth idiots in Alabama's fan base (as ever, please forgive the redundancy), watching the Tide get outplayed and outcoached for the duration went down sweeter than Toomer's lemonade on a hot August day.

For the last several years, you could get a good read on how Auburn was going to finish a game by watching how they started. Against Florida, Arkansas and LSU, the Tigers came out strong, scoring on their first possession and stuffing the opposition. Against Georgia and MSU, early turnovers led quickly to defensive breakdowns, and things tended to go downhill from there. When AU came out of the gate Saturday to slam Alabama for three-and-out and followed up with a solid opening touchdown drive, they set a tone that UAT couldn't answer, even with help from an interception and some awful officiating later in the game.

There were a lot of reasons why Auburn won again in '07, but the most important was this: Auburn is a lot tougher than Alabama, which is just this side of soft. Rather inexplicably, UAT's coaching staff tried to play AU straight up with the running game rather than attacking the Tigers' most glaring weakness, the long ball. Suffice to say, it didn't work, even with a freshly-un-suspended Glenn Coffee running the ball behind also un-suspended linemen. When Minor--whoops, sorry, Major Applewhite did try to go to the air, Will Muschamp showed that with a strong push up front and a steady cover-two, Sarah Jessica Parker Wilson is an exceptionally average passer.

The much-vaunted Tide passing game rarely got anything done, and never hit the big strike that Auburn fans had been fearing all week. Even with "El Matador" Chris Capps confined to the bench for his last Iron Bowl, UAT's linemen were rarely able to do more than hold and pray nobody would notice; Auburn successfully rushed four defenders for most of the game. The only Alabama receiver even close to impressive was Nikita Stover, who was wiling to take a hit to make a big catch. That's a lot more than I can say for D.J. Hall, who appeared to be more concerned about messing up his pretty hairdo than playing physical football. Hall botched UAT's lone chance to take control of the game just before halftime; his end-zone bobble to Jerraud Powers was the biggest nail in the Tide's sixth coffin.

Not only was the Auburn defense more than capable of stuffing an anemic Tide offense--which is going to be feeling the bruises dispensed Saturday night by Tray Blackmon until roughly 2010--you could tell by AU's first offensive play that Auburn had come prepared for a physical game and Alabama hadn't. Auburn wide receiver Rod Smith laid a crushing, get-off-the-field block on UAT linebacker Rashad Johnson, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Here's a tip: when their wideouts are out-hitting your linebackers, you're probably going to lose. By the game's last meaningful play, Auburn had established dominance across both lines of scrimmage, making Brad Lester's in-your-face 12-yard run on fourth and one perfectly predictable, if no less satisfying.

Defensively, Alabama was lucky that things weren't much worse. Cox's standard workmanlike performance was good enough to win, but if he hadn't misfired on wide-open routes to Carl Stewart in the first half and Smith and Montez Billings in the second, the fourth quarter would have amounted to little more than a formality. Al Borges was able to take advantage of Saban's habit of setting the defense based on the tight end positions by returning to the shifts that served AU so well during 2004-05 (I should add that they've been sorely missed ever since), and turned in a solid game plan, although I think if he'd stuck to the run in the third quarter, the final margin would have been at least a bit larger. Then again, if Auburn had pulled away, we'd have missed the return of that icon of the Mike Shula era, the late, fruitless onsides kick. That would have been a shame.

Believe it or not, this isn't a criticism, but Nick Saban's defense is not one that's known for sophistication or trickery. Again, not kidding, that's to Saban's credit. When he has the players, he'll try and beat you straight up, and in my mind that's smarter tactics than, say, John Thompson's manic scheming. The weakness, of course, is when he doesn't have the players, and he definitely doesn't have them right now. Alabama's front seven is simply no match for a physical offense, and Auburn proved that again by gashing the Tide up the middle for the duration of the game (and with three true freshmen to boot). The contrast between the two teams was striking; on one side you had a finesse-oriented team trying to play smash-mouth, and on the other a physical team doing all the smashing.

Ah, it was fun, maybe best of all because Tommy Tuberville had coached up Auburn to play the kind of football that Alabama claims to take great pride in, while Nick Saban was unable do the same. Cutting corners on discipline and throwing your own players under the bus in the media will do that to you, Nicky. I can only imagine the grimacing among the UAT beat writers who'd been pushing the phony "Tubs is gone to A&M" story for the last couple of months as they watched the carnage. This is what they wanted to see for their team, but instead they had to watch it happen to their team.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

$666,666: The Paycheck of the Beast

So, let's see here. UAT's "savior" just finished 6-6 with loss #6 to Auburn. His $4 million annual salary works out to $666,666 per win (none of which, I hasten to add, was earned against Louisiana-Monroe, much less Auburn).

No wonder the little jerk is widely known as "Nick Satan." Makes perfect sense.

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Oh, and bammies: you could have kept Mike Shula, saved $3 million, and still finished 6-6. Heck, Little Mikey proved in '06 that could beat La-Mo (by a lot), so odds are he'd have probably done even better. Talk about wasted money. But then again, you've provided the rest of us with so much entertainment over the last month, maybe it wasn't entirely wasted after all...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Looking At The Numbers

With a combined twenty-two games in the books over the 2007 season, we might as well do a little statistical evaluation of Auburn and Alabama before this Saturday's closer.

Turning to the SEC's official site, the first thing that jumps out at you is how little separation there is between the two teams in most categories. Given Auburn's much-noted offensive woes, you'd think the Tide would be way ahead in scoring offense, but no, UAT is number 7 in the SEC with a 28.4 average while AU is just over a field goal behind at number 9 and 25.0. Conversely, Auburn's reputation as run-first vs. Alabama's more-heralded passing game would make you think the Tigers are way ahead on the ground, but #8 AU actually trails #7 UAT by an average of a rushing yard per game.

This goes on and on. In 15 of the 29 significant categories tracked by the conference, Auburn and Alabama are either right next to each other in the team standings or separated by just one other team (I didn't count stuff like on-side kick recovery, since that's such a rare occurrence that the stats aren't meaningful). One of the more surprisingly-even stats to me was passing efficiency, where both teams are essentially tied near the bottom of the conference pack (AU is #7 at 117.4, UAT #8 at 115.7). Neither team is very good at either converting on third down or stopping opponents from doing the same.

So let's look at where we do see some separation between these teams. The first item that jumps out at you is scoring defense, where Auburn leads the conference allowing 17.3 points a game; Alabama's defense is a respectable #5 with 22.3 ppg, but still nearly a touchdown behind the Tigers. On the other hand, the Tide's large lead in passing offense (#5 at 231.8 vs. AU's #9 at 178.8) gives Alabama a corresponding lead in total offense, but as noted above, that advantage hasn't translated into a lot of additional points on the scoreboard.

The most eye-popping differentials on the page come in a couple of exceptionally important categories. Alabama has a huge advantage in first downs, second in the conference with an impressive 259 over eleven games; Auburn is nearly bringing up the rear at number 10 with fifty (fifty!) fewer first downs. Then again, that offensive production just hasn't been translated into points for the Tide, and surprisingly to me, it also hasn't translated into an advantage in time of possession, where #7 UAT trails #3 AU 29:36 to 31:27. Two minutes can be a very big deal in a game like this.

The second big difference illustrates Auburn's team strength this year, namely the defense. AU is second in the conference in Red Zone Defense, allowing opponents only 15 touchdowns and 10 field goals in 34 red zone situations. Alabama is dead last in this category, allowing points to opponents in scoring position over 90% of the time (30-33, 8 field goals and--ouch--22 touchdowns). That's pretty lousy, especially for a team coached by a "defensive genius." I'd call it a game-decider--but that would assume the Auburn offense can drive to the red zone enough times. I'm not ready to make that claim just yet.

It's worth noting that two categories with big discrepancies could be turned upside-down Saturday due to injuries. Alabama has a big lead in kick returns, but their star returner, Javier Arenas, has a bad ankle sprain and won't play. On the other side, Auburn is bringing up the SEC rear in kickoff returns this year, but the Tigers will welcome speedster Tristan Davis back this week in the lead return slot after a season-long injury spell. How those changes will play out this weekend, I can safely say nobody knows.


From Mobile Press-Register columnist Neal McCready today:
Nick Saban said he saw it coming.

How clairvoyant. I wish he'd said something. I would have caught the first flight to Las Vegas, taken the 24 points and laid a bundle on my alma mater.

While I would have listened, Saban's warning would have primarily fallen on deaf ears. Many Alabama fans, as the Crimson Tide's $32 million man is learning the hard way, have an aversion to the truth.
We've learned that despite the considerable hype and the worshipping adoration of his followers, Saban isn't some omnipotent football god who can reverse the fortunes of a struggling program merely by showing up. We've learned that despite the absurd comparisons to a coach from a bygone era, Saban can't take his and beat yours and then take yours and beat his.
For myriad reasons, the regional and national college football landscapes have permanently changed. Alabama, like many other programs around the country and in the SEC, is still wandering in the wilderness a bit, searching for a comfortable spot to settle down. Shoot the messenger if it makes you happy, but all the bullying in the world doesn't change the truth in the message.

Of course, the truth hurts sometimes, especially when you refuse to open your eyes to see it.
A bit of background is in order here. McCready, who attended Ole Miss and graduated from Louisiana-Monroe (back when it was Northeast Louisiana), hosted a drive-time sports call-in show on Mobile's WNSP radio up until last Wednesday, when he was unceremoniously fired by programming director Tim Camp.

In an email sent to other journalists afterwards, McCready said, "While the ownership of the station has not spoken to me about the situation, I was told that I wasn't pro-Alabama enough," and went on to say, "I knew some Alabama boosters down here who were advertisers on the station were applying pressure to the Johnson family [the owners of WNSP], who are huge Alabama fans and boosters in their own right."

Camp has denied that accusation, but admitted in the same breath that he was responding to advertiser complaints by firing McCready. WNSP has reportedly suppressed callers complaining about McCready's firing over the last week, and a number of other sports writers who'd previously done call-in work for WNSP's shows have resigned in protest.

The whole fracas is interesting for a couple of reasons. Number one, it illustrates the UAT fan base's weird insistence on having smoke blown up its collective hindquarters at all times, particularly by the local media. Second, it's a sign that the old red (neck) guard of boosters is actively trying to intimidate the media in Alabama, and specifically in Mobile (hmm, why there in particular, I wonder?).

If so, that kind of buffoonery certainly isn't new. For decades, negative stories about Alabama football were spiked before they could see print in the state papers. In 1991, I knew personally about one very damaging story regarding an Alabama player that a reporter for the Birmingham News had chapter and verse on--but it never saw print. That kind of thing Just Wasn't Done in the days when a very few people controlled an even smaller number of media outlets.

What the guys trying to bully McCready and his colleagues don't seem to understand, as McCready notes in a different context above, is that the world has changed. Leaning on a radio station owner or depending on a "friendly" sports editor or publisher won't kill a story in the 21st Century. And if you try the old bullying tactics these days, you're just going to draw attention to yourself and cause more trouble.

I thought all intelligent people knew that. Then again, we're not really talking about intelligent people here, are we?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Off The Reservation

Over the last 11 months, the in-state media in Alabama has acted as an extension on Alabama coach Nick "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" Saban's press office. While the national media has given Saban a richly-deserved pummeling for his apparently endless reservoir of obnoxious attitude, empty aphorisms and utter lack of character, the in-state press and delusional Alabama fan base (please forgive the redundancy) motored along spouting happy talk about the "Great Saban," and seldom was heard a discouraging word.

Until today. Here's Kevin Scarbinsky, the feature sports columnist of the Birmingham News:
I've never heard, and I hope I've never made, a statement about college football as outrageous, over-the-top and offensive as the one Nick Saban made at his weekly press conference/psychology lecture Monday.

Listen. These were his words. His exact words.

"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said. "It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to a catastrophic event. Pearl Harbor got us ready for World War II or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event.

"And I don't think anyone in this room would've bet that we would lose back-to-back games to Mississippi State or ULM, no disrespect to either one of those teams."

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?
Here's radio host and Mobile Press-Register columnist Paul Finebaum, who led the charge to hire Saban, and who's been a relentless advocate for "Flipper" since January, going so far as to call Alabama's loss to LSU "inspiring" in a remarkably silly (and well-parodied) column a few weeks ago:
That sound you heard late Saturday afternoon was Bear Bryant rolling over in his grave. Nearly a quarter century after his death, his beloved football program has seemingly fallen and it can't get up.

On Saturday, against a directional school from northeast Louisiana, one who plays in a league whose champion earns an automatic berth into something called the New Orleans Bowl, the Tide(tanic) hit another iceberg, shredding this season into four million pieces and raising questions for the first time whether Nick Saban has a solid handle on his job as head football coach at Alabama.
Saban warned the Alabama faithful in the offseason that booing is bad for business. He repeated that admonition at every stop on the rubber-chicken circuit. However, based on Saturday's embarrassing scene, it appears the fans now pay about as much attention to him as his Alabama players.

Do you think Saban will be able to go into the home of top recruits and make a case that Alabama is a program built on class, integrity and discipline?

Saban also appeared to be throwing his senior class under the bus in his post-game comments by saying part of the problem could be a "pattern of personality." He said the problems now seem to be the same ones that cropped up in the past.

Translation: This is Mike Shula's fault.

Well, no it isn't, Nick. This has happened on your $32 million watch.
So what's the problem here?

Saban said he stressed all week that you can't take a team like this lightly. Well, apparently, they didn't listen. Why not?

Could it be the team has tuned out the master of the process? Could it be they don't care what he has to say any more? Or perhaps, they simply can't relate to a coach who makes so much money and who has crisscrossed the nation the last few years like an Amway salesman.

One could assume that's the case with DJ Hall, the team's most talented offensive weapon. Hall didn't play in the first half (Saban said he violated team rules), but with Alabama struggling at halftime, Saban suddenly decided that Hall's suspension was over.

Asked for an explanation afterward, Saban said: "It was what it was?"


When a reporter challenged him, Saban silenced him like a stern father talking to a teenager asking for his car keys a second time.

At least Saban could been honest and said, "Hey man, I'm trying to win the stupid football game. Aight! That's what you people are paying me $4 mil to do."
Here's Huntsville Times columnist Mark McCarter:
[N]ot long ago I interviewed a former NFL player who was casually talking football with a friend on the 94th floor of a World Trade Center tower when the phone line suddenly went dead. "If there's a blessing, he never knew what hit him," the ex-player said of his friend, whose office was struck by the nose of a hijacked plane.

The ex-player lost his New York apartment near the World Trade Center and 150 people that he personally knew. I don't think he'd ever equate that with any games he lost.

Nick Saban did so on Monday.
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.
Sounds like somebody has worn out his welcome. I'm guessing the off-season of 2008 just might be a bit different from the extended Nick Sucking honeymoon of 2007.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Louisiana-Monroe's Charlie Weatherbie is the lowest-paid head coach in Division 1-A football, with a $130,000 annual salary.

D.J. Hall and The Incredible Shrinking Suspension

Alabama fans were greeted Saturday with the game-time announcement that the team's star player, receiver D.J. Hall, would be suspended for what was expected to be a "tune-up game" against lightly-regarded Louisiana-Monroe. AL.com bloggers Paul Gattis (Huntsville Times) and Ian Rapoport (Birmingham News) both reported before kickoff that Hall's suspension would be for the ULM game; there was no mention in the contemporaneous accounts of a "one half suspension."

Flash forward a couple of hours. As Alabama was tied with ULM in the second half and being dominated throughout the third quarter, Hall's suspension was magically lifted and he returned to play (as it happened, it didn't matter whether Hall was on the field or not; UAT was shut out in the second half). Gattis, to his credit, reiterated the point about Hall's suspension at that time:
Alabama leading receiver DJ Hall, who was said to have been suspended for today's game, started the second half for the Tide.

Hall did not play in the first half.

UA football SID Jeff Purinton said that Hall would not play today because of a violation of team policy.
After the game, Rapoport asked Alabama Coach Nick "I am not going to be the Alabama coach" Saban about Hall's sudden reinstatement, and received the following enlightening response:
I asked Saban post-game if receiver DJ Hall was suspended for 30 minutes from the beginning. As in, was it a game suspension that turned into a half suspension?

"It was what it was," he said.

So, I asked, a half suspension?

"What it was," Saban said.
C'mon, Flipper. Everybody knows you're a snake and a liar who'll do anything to win football games. Why not go ahead and admit it: not losing to a bottom-feeder was a lot more important to you than maintaining discipline in your program. You panicked and put Hall back in the game because you didn't think you could win without him (you were wrong, of course, but that's beside the point).

You know, this team looks more and more like it's still being coached by Mike Shula. Discipline problems, charges of favoritism from the coaches, long losing streaks and now a loss to one of the worst teams in the country. Has anything really changed other than the coach being a jackass and the school paying a whole lot more money for the same results? Why not just give Hall an ice cream cone and make it official?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nelson Muntz Alert

Final score: Louisiana-Monroe 21, Alabama 14.

The players on the University of Alabama sideline began to head for the locker room before the clock struck 00:00. Most exited without a handshake for the opponent, and all exited with their chins hanging in the dirt.

When the Crimson Tide's humbling 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe became official on Saturday, when the 92,138 at Bryant-Denny Stadium finished booing their team as it fled the field, even those who participated couldn't believe the result.

"Just looking at the scoreboard, seeing Louisiana-Monroe 21, University of Alabama 14 ... Kind of crazy. Real crazy," said Alabama receiver Matt Caddell.

22 Alabama players are part of the sixth consecutive senior class to head into a losing locker room on senior day. Instead, it was the third loss in a row this season for Alabama (6-5).

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Nutt-Cuttin' Time...

... in Arkansas:
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas head football coach Houston Nutt will not return in 2008, 40/29 News has learned.

Multiple sources have confirmed with 40/29 sports director Mark Lericos that Nutt will be leaving at the end of the season. Sources could not confirm whether Nutt would offer his resignation, be fired or possibly accept another position.

There is no word of any plans for an official announcement. The Razorbacks still have two games left to play this season.
More here. No official announcement yet, but when your hometown paper leads up a story with your name followed by the words "Stick A Fork In Him," it's pretty much over.

UPDATE: Or not. In Saturday's Ark Dem-Gaz:
While reports and rumors flew Friday on the Internet and TV and radio that Houston Nutt won't return to coach the Razorbacks next season, Nutt himself spent the day prepping Arkansas for today's 1 p.m. SEC West game with Mississippi State in Little Rock.

" I haven't gone anywhere, " Nutt said Friday by phone in Little Rock. " I've got these games to coach. And we're recruiting. That's what I am concerned with. "
Tysen Kendig, the vice chancellor of University Relations, issued a statement Friday night reiterating what White said Thursday regarding Nutt's future and also chastising some of the rumors and reports Friday.

At Thursday's announcement that the UA is merging its Razorback and Lady Razorback athletic departments, White said he always discusses the football program after the season with retiring athletics director Frank Broyles and in the meantime supports Nutt and his staff for today's game and the Nov. 23 game at LSU which concludes the regular season.

" It seems some media outlets chose to falsely legitimize baseless rumors with unknown details from unnamed sources without first seeking the benefit of fact from the University, " Kendig's statement read. " The fact is, there has been no determination regarding the status of Houston Nutt nor would there be until the normal review process for coaches takes place after the season. "

Kendig said White affirmed this Thursday and that " nothing has changed in regard to the coach's status with the Razorback football team since that time. Reports to the contrary are misleading and irresponsible. "
So there you are.

I think Nutt is toast at Arkansas, but things obviously aren't as cut-and-dried as they seemed about 18 hours ago.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Sorry for the long delay, life is busy these days (and let's face it, this isn't exactly a column I was looking forward to).

There wasn't much to take away from Auburn's collapse in Athens on Saturday night. There isn't the bleak despair that followed September's Crooming (which has gotten somewhat easier to bear with all the recent company in the Valley of the Croomed), but that's a decidedly low standard. Even after the LSU loss, as tough as it was, there was something to take away from the game: a solid performance against a top team on the road. This time? Not so much.

While driving over, an old friend asked me what I thought about the game. I told him, "Auburn's key is to prevent the big play, keep moving the ball, and not turn it over." Not exactly brilliant analysis, I'll grant you, but when the Tigers went 0-for-three on those points, the outcome might as well have been chiseled in granite.

Georgia exposed once again AU's lack of playmakers on offense, and also took advantage of a defense that stayed on the field too long and made too many mistakes. It's not an excuse, but it is a partial reason: Auburn played eleven straight games without a break, and there was nowhere near enough left in the tank to cover a relatively-fresh UGA. This defensive performance reminded me a bit of the Ole Miss game from three years ago, when an obviously tired and footsore Auburn gave up some big plays in the passing game. In 2004, Auburn had more than enough offensive firepower to overcome the general fatigue. In 2007, that kind of heavy ordinance just isn't on hand.

Give Georgia the credit: amidst the bush-league uniform switch and goofy sideline dancing, the Bulldogs put together a heck of a good football game. This is the second year in a row that Will Muschamp and Hugh Nall have been schooled by Mark Richt and Willie Martinez, and let's not even start on Greg Knox or Steve Ensminger. AU's been hurt all year by a receiving corps that can't get separation, and Georgia provided an object lesson in the value of that particular trait. In addition, the next time this season I see an Auburn defensive back look back for the football will also be the first.

I will, however give one bit of credit where it's due to the AU staff: for once, the kick return coverage was pretty good.

It said something about the character of this team when it was able to come back from a 14-point halftime deficit to take the lead, but it unfortunately also says a lot about the limitations of this team that it then proceeded to give up four unanswered touchdowns.

Where we go from here is obviously an open question. This Auburn team is an odd reflection of the entire SEC and national football seasons of 2007: calling it up-and-down is as big an understatement as you'd ever care to make, and the opposition in the final game is almost as mercurial. Auburn is certainly capable of bouncing back from the Georgia loss for a big win; they did so just last season, to say nothing of 2002 and 2003.

Whether they can and will do so again... we'll see.

Monday, November 05, 2007


As per my usual, I'm not going to go into any kind of detail about Auburn's Homecoming game against Tennessee Tech. It was what it was: a breather and a chance to clear the bench on a beautiful fall day. The only notable thing to come out of the afternoon was Blake Field's supplanting Kodi Burns as the second-team quarterback, but even that is a footnote; Burns will retain his job as a situational replacement for Brandon Cox, while Field will be the back-up should Cox have to leave the game. You could tell from the stands that Burns was hyped-up and over-excited, and putting too much on the ball as a result. That's going to happen sometimes--the guy's eighteen. Burns threw for nearly 9,000 yards in high school. He hasn't forgotten how in the last 10 months.

Oh, Auburn's kick coverage was terrible. Again.

Elsewhere, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the score updates from Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday. If there's any team in college football that deserves to have the score run up on them, it's Nebraska, and if any individual deserved to have to sit there and watch it happen, his name is Tom Osbourne. As any corn farmer can tell you, you reap what you sow. Along similar lines, if you can't enjoy the continuing implosion of Notre Dame and the fraud named Charlie Weis, you probably need a schadenfreude transplant.

We listened to LSU's radio network courtesy of XM during the drive home, and I nearly drove off the road laughing when color man Doug Moureau said, "The quarterback sometimes referred to as Sarah Jessica Parker Wilson is getting the kid-gloves treatment from the officials today." Yet another sign that the message board and blog cultures are just saturating college football.

Speaking of LSU, watching the Bengals make every attempt to self-destruct in Tuscaloosa made me think that the program is slowly reverting to the "old LSU," meaning a hugely talented team that's completely lacking in discipline either on or off the field. So far they're been more-or-less able to get away with it, but these things tend to snowball over time. If the trend of off-the-field incidents and on-the-field buffoonery continues, don't be surprised of LSU's results start to look a lot more like the DiNardo years before too much longer.

Oh, and regarding the Ivan Maisel Plan for a six-way tie in the SEC East? Still on track. It'll stay that way after this Saturday if: Auburn beats Georgia, Tennessee beats Arkansas, South Carolina beats Florida, and Kentucky beats Vanderbilt. All of those results are well within the realm of possibility.