Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Forget The Press, Worry About The Orgeron

If I were Alabama Coach Nick "I am not going to be the Alabama coach" Saban, I wouldn't worry about sending out whiny press releases regarding the now-infamous "coonass" recording. I'd be worried about what's going to happen the next time I run into this guy:

When asked for comment on Saban, proud Cajun Ed Orgeron ripped his shirt off and replied, "YAW YAW YAW YAW YAW YAW YAW YAW--DEAD MEAT!"

Friday, January 26, 2007

What In The Wide, Wide World Of Sports Is Goin' On Here?

The No Fun League lives up to its name once again:
Die-hard football fans attending the Super Bowl game at Dolphin Stadium are getting a rude awakening after finding out that no tailgating of any type will be allowed on game day within one mile of the stadium.

"There is no tailgating allowed in the Dolphin Stadium parking lots," Sue Jaquez, a member of the Super Bowl XLI Host Committee, confirmed on Tuesday. "And there is no tailgating anywhere within a one-mile radius of the stadium." "And there are no RVs allowed."

The Dolphins do not organize and oversee the Super Bowl, Jaquez pointed out. Instead, those duties are left up to NFL officials. And because of security reasons, no pre-game partying on (or very near) the premises will take place. Fans spotted tailgating could face charges, Jaquez said.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mustain to Megadeth--uh, I mean, Tulsa

Thought the Arkansas soap operas were over? Think again:
Mike Irwin has learned Mitch Mustain is leaving the University of Arkansas. Independent sources confirm that Mitch is moving out of the Athletic Dorms this afternoon and won't be attending the University of Arkansas this spring. This comes after yesterday's announcement that UA Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn is leaving for the University of Tulsa.

Yeah, I think that'll get some attention in Pigville. Brace yourselves for a full-on Wally Hall jihad tomorrow morning.

Seriously though, Swine people, you are better off over the long term without the Springdale Brat Pack. It would have done your program no good whatsoever to tie your fortunes to that bunch of overgrown little leaguers--and I include the parents and coach in that description. You've had some good reasons to be mad at Houston Nutt over the years, but this ain't one of them.

Frank Broyles, well, that's another story.

Dennis Dodd And My Sister's Dog

Several years back, a pre-season game picking contest ran ads in magazines with the tag line, "So, you think you know more about college football than Lee Corso?" As I glanced at the grinning mug of that miserable coaching failure, the first thing that popped into my head was, "Actually, I'm pretty sure my sister's dog knows more about college football than Lee Corso."

And thus, the My Sister's Dog Award, given as necessary to sports mediots, was born. Today's winner is CBS's Dennis Dodd. Dodd's online columns are easy pickings for mockery under normal circumstances, but Monday's pre-pre-preseason Top 25 is a real gem:
12. Auburn: Trips to Arkansas and Florida keep the Tigers from the top 10 and the SEC title. Have faith in the defense and in Carl Stewart to replace tailback David Irons.

It's not often that you see a national writer, working for a major network and presumably with at least one editor, make not one but two major goofs of fact in the same sentence.

Memo to Dodd: Carl Stewart is a fullback (and a darn good one). Not a cornerback, which was David Irons' position last season. Nor a tailback, which means he won't be replacing Kenny Irons in the offensive backfield; that duty falls to Brad Lester, who led the Tigers in touchdowns in 2006. You can look it up--if you could be bothered to check facts, that is.

(Just for the record, I don't have any beef with the actual ranking. Given AU's schedule and uncertain state on the offensive line, it's probably a bit generous.)

UPDATE: Either Dodd or his editor airbrushed in a correction (without noting it as such) on January 18.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

This Looks Too Much Like Work

Check out this remarkable post from a Nebraska fan on Bill Callahan's fake-punt decision in the Cotton Bowl. No insult intended to Jeffie; it might be the most detailed psychological/mathematical analysis I've ever read of a single football play.

Good blog, too.

Hey, Hey, Hey!

I had completely forgotten about this. I guess Maw Mooah had, too:
The former high school football coach of a player [Michigan State] briefly recruited in 1999-2000 told a federal jury Tuesday that MSU was among five schools that offered him money to convince the recruit to come to its school.

Lynn Lang, the former head coach at Trezevant High School in Memphis, Tenn., listed MSU along with Tennessee, Mississippi, Memphis and Arkansas as universities that offered money for Albert Means, but never paid. He also listed Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia as schools that paid Lang money to tell his defensive lineman to attend their schools.

Now, who exactly was the head coach at Michigan State in 1999?

The article goes on to note how MSU strenuously denied any hanky-panky on their part. But, of course, UAT issued very similar statements all along the way, didn't they?

Say, Maw, did you forget a little of that 'due dilligence' you were talking about last month?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Credit Where It's Due

A self-described old timer on an Auburn message board posted the following this afternoon:
Having graduated from Auburn 41 years ago, I have the vantage of seeing things from a fairly broad view. (Which is just another way of saying I'm old as hell.)

Today's news out of T-Town is the greatest compliment Auburn has ever been paid during all my years of watching and caring. Because of their own ineptness, Bama has managed to marginalize their place in the hirarchy of major college football. While they've beat their chest and screamed about how they have one of the top coaching jobs in the country and repeatedly yelled about their vaunted tradition, the rest of the country has ignored their rantings and looked at what they've done on the football field.

And of course, he's dead-on. After all the blown smoke clears, all the UAT "brain trust" has done today is overpay by about double for a football coach. At long last, it's a tacit admission that all the blather about "tradishun" and "class" and every other tired cliche spouted out of Turdistan hasn't added up to a hill of beans on the football field over the last quarter century.

As Ivan Maisel notes this evening, going out and bribing a coach out of the NFL is a classic desperation ploy. It's an admission that the Alabama job just isn't attractive to anybody who values his job security or sanity. In the end, they had to go for this crazy Hail Mary because it's all they've got left. They've tried everything else. And they've done it because being cemented in the wake of a successful Auburn is driving them completely crazy.

The Saban contract is a monstrosity that will do a lot of damage to college football (there's already been talk of revoking the tax exemption for college athletics, and these ridiculous numbers will fuel that particular fire), but it is also at its most basic level a sincere and fundamental compliment to Auburn University.

This is the crimson polyester set's weird and wacky last effort to get out from under the Thumb. No more. No less.

Well, Isn't That Special?

Hey, mea culpa. I made the mistake of thinking Nick Saban wasn't a liar when he said, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach." Bad on me, but I promise, it won't happen again.

So, what to make of it? Eh, not all that much. Once you get beyond the nadir of ridiculousness from delusional UAT fans and the in-state media in Alabama (please forgive the redundancy), you've got a decent college coach taking a job with a team that isn't all that good. The Turds have had one winning season out of the last five, and a quick glance at the depth chart, which drops off a good chunk of the defense to graduation, will tell you that they aren't liable to be much better in 2007 than they were in 2006.

Even given Saban's one magical season at LSU--when he still lost at home, and badly, to a weak Florida team--his overall record is a fairly pedestrian 91-42-1. Saban's LSU record of 48-16 is nearly identical to Terry Bowden's 47-17-1 at Auburn, and, of course, Saban comes in with a 2-3 mark against the Tigers. There's no doubt that he's a better coach than Mike Shula, but then again, my sister's dog is probably a better coach than Mike Shula. When you add in the fact that even lousy coaches like Shula, Bill Curry, and Mike DuBose all had at least one big year in Tuscaloosa, you have to expect that Saban will have one or two of his own somewhere down the line.

And if today is any indication, Saban will also have an in-state honeymoon to die for. While the national press is tearing Saban to shreds over the last duplicitous six weeks of denials (to say nothing of the gutless speakerphone call to his former assistants), the legions of desperate UAT fans and in-state media crowd (again, forgive the redundancy) are quite literally falling over themselves to lay hosannahs at the feet of the latest Savior. I'm not exaggerating at all when I tell you that these yahoos are treating Saban's arrival in Tuscaloosa as the Second Coming.

And you know, they're right about that. Just not in the way they think.

Nick Saban is the second coming--of Ray Perkins.

Both were NFL failures who got bailed out of losing jobs by an unexpected offer from UAT, but more importantly, both are arrogant, thin-skinned jerks whom nobody can stand to work with for very long. Both lied early and often about pursuing other jobs (Perkins blasted ESPN as "unprofessional" for reporting he was leaving UAT for Tampa, only a week before he did just that). Like Perkins, Saban will probably recruit well (if all those spoiled trust fund babies on the UAT board are willing to pony up $32 million to bribe in a coach, just think what they're paying for recruits by now), he'll probably have at least a couple of solid years.

He'll also alienate everybody around him, eventually including the Alabama press yahoos who're doing a fine Monica Lewinsky impression today. Last but certainly not least, he'll become increasingly frustrated with a disfunctional athletic program that neither he nor anyone else can actually control, and he'll probably be gone much sooner than anybody expects today.

But hey, he'll be the toast of the town for about another 11 months. Enjoy it, Nicky. The honeymoon ends on November 24, in a stadium where you've never won a football game. We call it Jordan-Hare. You already know it as Hell.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Great Cornbowlio

I've never much cared for Nebraska.

In the '80's, the Cornhuskers played a big role in creating the current media-darling "powerhouse" mold: play in a weak conference, run up the score on outmanned opponents, only play one or two real games a year, and rack up the accolades from a press corps that only sees the box scores (or today, ESPN highlights) from most games. Sure, there were occasions when Nebraska was every bit as good as their billing--just ask Steve Spurrier--but there were at least as many years when the Children of the Corn were exposed as ridiculously overrated during bowl season. Like, say, 1983.

Besides all that, Nebraska has been an Auburn "bugaboo team" for way too long. Everybody has those bugaboo teams that they can't ever seem to beat: since the 80's, Georgia can't beat Florida. FSU hardly ever beats Miami. Alabama can't beat Texas (or Auburn, lately), and prior to yesterday, Auburn had never beaten Nebraska.

Suffice to say, I was not unhappy with Monday's outcome in the Cotton Bowl. It won't be recalled as a thing of beauty, but any win on New Year's Day is a good one, and a win over a bugaboo team is better still.

The early part of the game really did look like same song, different verse for Auburn as Nebraska unloaded a gangbuster first quarter. I'd had a bad feeling about the game going in, and that first NU scoring drive didn't do much to improve my mood. Fortunately, AU's defensive effort went up a notch after that score, and not unlike in the Florida game, several notches further in the second half. The secondary turned in a bravura performance after the poor first series, with David Irons in particular putting the lie to Tom Dienhart's sneer of last week ("Aubie can't cover").

This last game meant plenty to both of the Irons brothers. David had a great day, tipping up the ball for Karibi Dede's big interception in the first half and swatting away one third-and-long pass after another in the second. Kenny never got the big run we'd all been looking for since the early season, but he was still tough enough to get the critical yardage Auburn needed, and he did it against a very big defensive front without much help from an ineffective AU offensive line.

Auburn's overall offensive performance has taken a beating in the post-game coverage, and with good reason. A net gain of 178 total yards is not going to go down as a memorable day. Even so, after a terrible first half, and again echoing the Florida win, Brandon Cox and his offense did what they had to in the last two quarters, holding the ball, moving the chains, and keeping the other guys on the bench. It was especially heartening to see senior Courtney Tayor having the kind of game he hasn't had much over the last couple of seasons. Going out as AU's all-time receptions leader is one hell of an accomplishment for a "project" recruit who was snatched out from under UAT's trunk five springs ago.

The biggest drive of the game has hardly been remarked upon in the postgame coverage, but when the Tigers drove the ball off its own one-inch line to well past midfield late in the third quarter, the game was as good as in-hand. That extra breathing room turned out to be all a rejuvinated defense needed to shut down the Cornhuskers for the duration.

Nebraska was an interesting team to watch. They were as big and strong as advertised up front, but I thought they got visibly tired in the second half on both sides of the line. Quarterback Zac Taylor was great for most of the game, but like almost every other signal caller out there, he wasn't able to do nearly as much once the pass rush got heavy, and NU's running game lost its spark as Auburn started to dominate the front line in the second half. Bill Callahan's play-calling reminded me a little of Tommy Tuberville's early years at Auburn; he was trying to do too much a lot of the time. "Cute" calls like the botched fake punt cost you a lot more often than they pay off, especially in big games. Still, Nebraska had a solid game plan, and they were obviously ready to play at kickoff, and neither of which could be said about Auburn when the game started.

Going beyond the two teams on the field, it's hard to figure out which was worse, the Fox network broadcast of the game, or the Big 11 officiating.

I'm almost never bored enough to watch the No Fun League on television, but if Fox's NFL coverage is anywhere near as awful as Monday's bowl telecast, they ought to just run Simpsons marathons instead of football on Sundays. If Pat Summerall is a "legend," I'd hate to have to listen to a "washed-up empty suit." Neither Summerall nor his colorless color guy (I'm not even going to bother looking up his name) did any homework before the game, and neither knew much of anything about either team. The camerawork was lousy, and the sound was embarassingly bad, with random yaw-yaws from a coach too close to a microphone popping in at odd moments.

And don't even get me started on the televised replays--or rather, the lack therof, particularly in the case of Cox's late fumble, which wasn't replayed even once. Fox must have had their fifth-string director in the trailer for this one; after the mis-called Lee Guess touchdown play, the network bizarrely popped up a shot of fans eating pizza instead of a replay (although they did show the play plenty of times after it didn't matter any more). A bush-league performance all around; Fox has a very long way to go before they can get up to the rather bad level of CBS's SEC coverage. It was that bad; call it JP in HD.

I'm tempted to think that the less said about the Big 11 referees, the better, but next time we need an third-conference crew, let's go with the Mountain West, or maybe the Big South or a decent high school division. Described as an "all-star" squad by Summerall, the Big 11 crew did what I didn't think was possible, making SEC officiating look pretty good by comparison. It was obvious by the second quarter that holding and blocking in the back aren't actually penalties in the Midwest, and if anybody can explain how you don't review Guess's miscalled touchdown but do review the spot of a ball at the end of the game (the one and only time I've ever seen or even heard of such a review), please drop me a line.

Ah, well. As stated before, any win on New Year's Day is a good one. More on the team that's past and the team to come later.