Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New at Roundtable for South Carolina

Here's a link to my contribution for this week's Blogger Roundtable.  A sample:

I suspect you're going to see Auburn diversifying the offense more over the next few games, but that's more thanks to the rest of the offense maturing than a desire to limit Newton's carries.  

It's taken some time for Auburn to get the running back situation established. Now that things have worked themselves out, I think you're going to see Mike Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb get a lot more snaps from here on out, and Newton (with, I suspect, plenty of help from Gus Malzahn) also did a great job last week of spreading the ball around to multiple receivers (achtung, Lutzenkirchen!).  

All that said, I don't think you take a player of Newton's abilities and then design your offense out of fear he might get hurt.  When you've got a thoroughbred, you let him run.  Newton himself seems to be more than happy to carry the load.  I can't remember the last time I've watched a player who's so obviously delighted to be on the field.
Since I wrote and submitted that (a couple of days ago), I did recall another player who always seemed overjoyed to be playing football:  Carnell Williams.

A Single Bound

You will believe a Cam can fly:

Thanks to Lein Shory for the capeification; click on the picture to embiggen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New at Rivals: Chicken Fried

Here's a link to my post-game column for South Carolina at  A preview:
It's become fashionable of late to say that [Steve] Spurrier has mellowed. His abject failure in the NFL and long stint of mediocrity at South Carolina have, on occasion, humbled the guy once known as "Coach Superior." Spurrier's pre- and post-game zingers have given way to a more human face over the years, but the old insufferable Stevie still pops out on occasion, and Saturday night was one of those times. In his post-game press conference, Spurrier peevishly charged, "It came down to the fumbles."

Well, no, Visor Boy. What it came down to was your career-long refusal to abide by the first two commandments of SEC football:
thou shalt run the ball, and thou shalt stop the run. Auburn lived and thrived by those commandments Saturday; your guys couldn't run or stop the run at all, and you paid for it.

Going all the way back to your years at Florida, your chronic impatience and ex-quarterback's obsession with airing it out has bitten your teams in the butt every time you couldn't simply out-talent the other guys. Those towering receivers and tricky routes of yours are still plenty impressive, but you got beat--again--because the rest of your team couldn't handle a physical SEC game on either side of the ball.

And as far as fumbles are concerned, you're plenty smart enough to know that if you didn't get two gifts from Auburn in the first half, that game isn't even close in the second.
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recommended Reading

ESPN's Ivan Maisel (for my money, consistently the best college football writer and analyst at the Worldwide Leader) has a great piece up on Auburn's win over South Carolina:
It may be next week. It may be next year. It may be never. But if Auburn ever figures out how to get out of its own way, the Tigers will challenge Alabama for supremacy in the SEC West.

Until that time, until the day Auburn stops losing two fumbles, stops committing false-start penalties on fourth-and-goal at the 1 and then missing the field goal, Tigers fans will have to live with way too much excitement.

For the second consecutive week, Auburn spotted a very good team from South Carolina a lead of 13 points or more. And for the second consecutive week, quarterback Cam Newton ran and passed the Tigers to victory in concert with a defense that clamped down in the second half.

Newton, a junior, rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 158 yards and two more scores. No. 17 Auburn overcame a 20-7 deficit to pound No. 12 South Carolina 35-27.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More At

As promised, has posted the second half of my Blogger Roundtable response for this week. Here's a sample:
Auburn Question: It's easy now to see why Auburn kept recruiting Marcus Lattimore so hard, even after Mike Dyer committed. With the Gamecocks coming to Jordan-Hare this week, which back would you rather have? Which will have the bigger impact Saturday? Long-term? Will you secretly dream about what could have been if both had come to the Plains?

It's way, way too early to judge either of these guys at this point. They've both looked good; Lattimore has (deservedly) made more of a splash, but he'll have to play against a bunch of top-notch defenses in the next couple of months, and so will Dyer.

We might not even know who has the upper hand after Saturday, since South Carolina and Auburn are right next to each other in rushing defense (#2 and #3 in the SEC, respectively). Like I always say when asked about recruiting and freshmen, "Ask me again in four years."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Question The Timing

Interesting story in the Tuscaloosa News today regarding the Tommy Gallion circus/trial from back in 2002. The presiding judge has a new book out:
[Retired judge Steve] Wilson says shoddy reporting by the state and national media led to a frenzy of anger that resulted in the $30 million judgment against Culpepper.

The retired judge said his book contains details that show it was part of lead Cottrell attorney Thomas Gallion's legal strategy to use the media to mislead the public into believing that there was a University of Tennessee-led conspiracy to bring down Alabama football and that was what led to the defamation of Cottrell and Williams. He also said the book would show that lawyers withheld certain documents from the press to help deliver that message.

For example, the much-discussed memos from Fulmer to the SEC home office that raised questions surrounding Means' recruitment made no mention of Alabama's involvement, Wilson said.

The SEC's investigation of those memos resulted in the allegations being declared an “unsubstantiated rumor,” which in turn meant that none of its member institutions were warned that violations, specifically by UA booster Logan Young, were occurring in the recruitment of Means.

“(Another) thing that was not told to (the press) is that the Albert Means violation was not reported by the University of Tennessee,” Wilson said, “but by the University of Arkansas. ...

“All of these facts totally refuted the UT conspiracy in the case.”
News writer Jason Morton can't help gilding the lily here, though. Morton adds this editorial laugher towards the end of his story:
Still, Wilson said the penalties imposed against UA by the NCAA — a two-year bowl ban, 21 lost scholarships and five years' probation — forced the athletics department to correct its course and become the respected model of NCAA compliance it is today.

Gee, the last time I checked, the 'respected model of NCAA compliance' was back on probation, and not even a year ago, the NCAA itself referred to UAT as a "'serial repeat violator' with an 'abysmal infractions track record' and an 'extensive recent history of infractions cases unmatched by any other member institution in the NCAA.'"

But, y'know, tough times. Gotta sell those papers.

H/T: Blutarsky.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New at A Test Of Fanhood

Here's a link to my latest contribution to the Blogger Roundtable. I'm told there will be a "Part 2" posted later in the week. A preview:
Auburn Question: Auburn came away with the win over Clemson, but it was hardly a thing of beauty. What went wrong for Auburn early that went right later? What was it like as a fan to watch such a gut-wrenching game?

I wasn't surprised that Clemson came out with their hair on fire and playing well. Besides needing to make a big splash against an SEC team, Dabo Swinney is a Bama grad who wanted to put one on Auburn, and his staff clearly spent a great deal of the past several months studying and scheming for this game. Give them the credit--it worked. Clemson was supremely well-prepared, and took it to Auburn with a vengeance. After their first score, I figured, "Okay, they're ready. Now we get to answer."

Four Auburn three-and-outs and 17 Clemson points later, I was, um, somewhat less sanguine. Not only was nothing working on offense, Auburn was getting physically pushed around on both sides of the ball. Not good. An old friend in the stands asked me just before halftime ended if the game was already over. "We don't score on the first possession, probably," I told him.

New At Rivals: Catch A Tiger By His Toe

My postgame column for Clemson is up at Here's a preview:

I can't recall ever seeing an Auburn team play that badly, for that long, against a good opponent and still win.

The closest analogues might be the 1990 comebacks to beat Florida State and tie Tennessee, but even there the Tigers did better than being outgained roughly 15-to-one and failing to get a first down for the first 24 minutes.

Yes, Clemson had nine months to prep for this game, and it showed. Beyond one quick snap and that nifty pump-fake, trickery got Auburn almost nowhere on offense, and CU's Kyle Parker put on a clinic for aficionados of the blocker-release screen pass.

The ACC Tigers were immensely well-prepared, utterly dominating the first half. Making things worse, on the rare occasions when Auburn did get on track in the second quarter, AU reverted to bad habits, giving up a turnover and blowing drives with dumb penalties.

While the half-ending field goal drive wasn't half-bad, and a welcome display of good clock management, it was about the only thing that went right for Auburn in those first 30 minutes.

The dismal 17-3 score probably should have been even worse. Of course, things did get better.

While Auburn doesn't deserve any awards for coaching excellence in a game where they were so soundly outmatched for 30 minutes, the real measure of a staff is how it responds to adversity (or as Brent Musburger memorably mumbled, "diversity").

By all accounts, the coaches challenged the team in the dressing room, coming up with an entirely new game plan on the spot. AU's third-quarter explosion for 21 unanswered points (even after an early interception) indicated as strong a halftime adjustment as you're ever likely to see.

The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

I had way more materiel than I could fit into one column for this one, so there will be more about Tigers vs. Tigers I here at FTB later on in the week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New At Roundtable For MSU

Here's a link to my contribution this week at's Blogger Roundtable. A sample:

It was very heartening to see something that looked like an Auburn defense for the first time since last year's Alabama game. Other than that one, Tennessee '09 is about the only really impressive defensive performance we've seen out of the Tigers in quite a while.

MississiPPi State isn't exactly a title contender this year, but I remain ferociously impressed with the turn-around job Dan Mullen has managed over the last 20-odd months. Holding MSU to 248 yards, one sustained drive and two total scores, in a game they've been keying on for nearly a year, was no mean feat.

I was particularly relieved to see how well the defensive line and linebackers were able to get consistent pressure on State's quarterbacks and stuff the running game. If DL Nick Fairley isn't the defensive player of the week [I wrote and submitted this on Sunday, before the announcement], they ought to retire the award. It took a bit for the defense to adjust to Mullen's new option read play, but Ted Roof did a much better job making that adjustment than, say, Georgia's Todd Grantham.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is USA Today

Jaw, meet desk. From Gregg Doyel at
Good thing I type for a living, because I'm stunned speechless. I just found out why college football is plagued by a preseason coaches poll, a poll that sets the tone for the entire season and is probably going to lead -- four months later -- to Boise State riding its Holiday Bowl resume into the national championship game.

What did I find out? I found out that it's the media's fault.

More to the point, it's USA Today's fault.

The coaches wanted to eliminate the preseason poll last year. USA Today, which operates the poll, talked them out of it.

This is not a guess. This is a fact. I just hung up with USA Today deputy managing editor Jim Welch, who relayed that story to me. Last year the American Football Coaches Association commissioned the Gallup World Poll to study its poll and to make recommendations for improving it. One of those recommendations, Welch said, was to do away with the preseason poll -- and to not release its first poll until a month into the season.

"The coaches seemed to agree with that," Welch said.

So why didn't it happen?

"We don't view that as a good idea," Welch said.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go break something expensive.

H/T: Blutarsky.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New At Rivals: Back To The Future--With Cowbell

Here's a link to my post-game column on the MississiPPi State game for  A preview:
Billed as a no-defense shootout, Auburn vs. MississiPPi State, 2010 turned into more of an old-school SEC defensive slugfest—although, thankfully, it did feature more than five total points.

Contrary to expectations, the game ball in this one goes emphatically to the Auburn defense. Led by the lights-out play of Nick Fairley, the “D” repeatedly bailed out an AU offense that seemed determined to focus on appendage marksmanship at every opportunity. State had chance after chance to either get back in the game or take outright control—the Tubervillian onside kick being a prime example—only to get stopped by nick-of-time (no pun intended) defensive stands.

While there’s still work to be done, particularly in the secondary—Auburn can’t count on future opponents being cursed with concrete-handed receivers—the defensive performance was (duh) miles better than in AU’s opener. Scores of national prognosticators figured the State game as a track meet with an allegedly-deficient Tiger defense coming out on the bad end. In reality, Auburn held State to less than 250 yards of offense and one sustained scoring drive. Unless anybody out there believes Arkansas State has a better offense than MississiPPi State, I think we can safely call that a significant improvement.

On offense, the bag was more mixed. Way too many dumb penalties—again—and other mental mistakes kept the Tigers’ attack in neutral at too many big moments. Cameron Newton was as good as advertised once again, making one crucial play after another, but even for all of his heroics, the offense seemed stuck on sputter after about the middle of the second quarter.

The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB

Nice Job

SI's Andy Staples has a very nice recap of last night's AU-MSU tilt.  A sample:

On the sideline, the offense sank. Those Tigers knew they had squandered opportunities to score. They prepared for overtime. In the backs of their minds, they worried Mississippi State might plow down the field and put the Tigers in an 0-1 SEC hole. But Fairley kept fighting toward Relf. Bell and Etheridge locked down their receivers. Bynes brought pressure from unexpected places. Relf threw four consecutive incomplete passes. When the fourth hit the ground, the sideline exploded. Receivers coach Trooper Taylor waved his towel and offered chest bumps to returning defensive players. Etheridge ran toward the cheerleaders. He picked up a sign that read "DEFENSE" and waved it at the crowd.

"It was a great something to build on," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "We said before this game that if we win this game or lose this game, it doesn't necessarily determine the outcome of the season. It only lets you have a great idea of where you are and where you need to move forward."

As the cowbells at Scott Field finally fell silent, the Tigers jogged up a ramp and into their locker room. After Chizik finished talking, the choir assembled.

Lean on me/when you're not strong/I'll be your friend/I'll help you car-ry on./Boy/it won't be long/til I'm going to need/some-body/to le-an on.

"That's our theme song," receiver Darvin Adams said.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Posted Without Further Comment

Tennessee, 2009:

Tennessee, 2010: Dooley questions Tennessee's "Shower Discipline"

New At

My contribution to this week's Blogger Roundtable at is up. A sample:

It's yet to be seen whether Newton has the talent for improvisation that made Craig such a threat (although that 72-yard touchdown was a hell of a start), but Newton brings all that extra size and height to the table. He's a bit like stuffing Craig's make-something-out-of-nothing magic into Jason Campbell's body, while adding 20 pounds of muscle and simultaneously shaving several tenths off of Campbell's 40-yard dash. And you can tell from miles away that the kid just loves playing football. Sure, it's just one game, but Newton was a pure joy to watch on Saturday night.

There's quite a bit more.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Via the Birmingham News:
[Jacksonville State head coach Jack] Crowe and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who are friends and former colleagues, haven't talked in detail yet. They vowed before the game to give each other scouting reports of their respective teams afterward. 

"After the game, I had a sad place in my heart because I know what Houston is fixing to go through," said Crowe, whose season-opening loss to The Citadel in 1992 abruptly ended his time as Arkansas coach. "At least he doesn't have to go talk to Frank Broyles." 

Monday, September 06, 2010

New at Rivals: Go Go Godzilla

My post-game column for Arkansas State is up at Rivals'  A preview:
After a long spring and summer of anxious expectations, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more satisfying initial evaluation for Gene Chizik's high-risk, high-reward gamble on quarterback Cameron Newton. "Godzilla" was everywhere on Saturday night: running, passing, scoring and lighting up the sidelines with a delighted thousand-watt grin.
It's on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Recommended Reading

The blogging colossus known in some quarters as Orson Spencer Swindle Hall Mellencamp (why yes, I do like that joke; why do you ask?) is already in mid-season form--meaning, of course, that as a Florida guy, he's about to get run over by Auburn.

But never mind that right now.  Check out this excellent tribute to our mutual home sweet metro and its undying love affair with all things college football:

Telling someone the exact charms of Atlanta is difficult, particularly if you're talking to a transplanted Northeasterner repeating what everyone outside of Atlanta says: "This is a terrible sports town." They would be right in a certain sense. If I went to New Orleans I could say "This is a terrible restaurant town," since all the typical easy signs of modern food civilization are gone from the landscape of the Quarter. There is no Applebee's sign, no easy Olive Garden beckoning the eater in, only a series of stand-alone cafes, diners, and restaurants where you will not eat quickly, and where you may be denied entry for not wearing the right thing. 

This assumes correctly that the outsider has a fundamental lack of understanding of the situation, and bad taste. This is true, since sports fandom in Atlanta is almost wholly dependent on college football, the one thing suturing together the disparate group of people who come here for work, love, or because several months into a lengthy layover at Hartsfield, they decided to just stay and make the best of things. It is one of the few universal binders here along with a love of greasy food, the fear of being eaten in the night by kudzu, and a general curiosity as to Monica Kaufman's real beauty regimen. (Hint: she's a vampire, and does not age. Why do you think she does only the evening news?) 

On both radio stations it is possible to discuss college football in June...for an hour. In fact, it's encouraged. Hit the 75/85 connector on a Friday, and the waggling of car window flags turns the odious traffic into a slow moving river of tailgate potential on the move. The flags appeared about a month ago in my neighborhood. Last weekend, wandering around Kirkwood, i turned a corner to find a huge inflatable elephant staring at me from a yard. An Alabama fan had decided it was time not just to shine up the ceramic elephant in the yard, but to deploy the inflatable for the duration of the season. I only notice the inflatables, since the team-themed porch flags never really come down. I can look out my window right now and see the Tennessee flag of my neighbor waving orange in the light wind blowing down the street today, a reminder that football is tonight, and that I need to burn that flag as soon as possible but in the safest manner possible. 

(He is my neighbor, after all. Don't want to make a lifelong enemy here, just one on Saturdays.)
Read the whole thing.

UPDATE:  Read this, too.  Among many other things, it's a peek into why Mellencamp has been absolutely on fire (in a good way) lately.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


To commemorate the day before FOOTBAW, an annual tradition here at FTB, and elsewhere. From 2000, the great Geoffrey Norman:
We were supposed to be talking politics but we couldn't help ourselves. It was hot. It is always hot in the black belt of Alabama in the middle of August, and it feels like it will be hot for all eternity. So we talked about sports for some relief.

"You know," the man said wearily, "I just can't wait until they kick it off again. I mean, I feel like if I can just make it for another two or three weeks, then they'll be playing football again and then everything will be okay."
Hallelujah, Amen.