Blog Archives

Saban a Buckeye? Don’t laugh

Urban Meyer should not coach the Ohio State Buckeyes football team again, if there is any justice and morality in this world. He knew one of his golden boys, Zach Smith, was a woman abuser and covered it up. Meyer must not be allowed to roam the sidelines at Ohio Stadium, or any other college football field, again. He’s certainly not going to go poor in retirement.

Obviously, if the Ohio State job comes open, there will be a free-for-all as to who will be Meyer’s replacement. If I am OSU president Michael Drake, there is one name I put at the top of my list.

His name is Nicholas Lou Saban.

Yes, I did not stutter.

THAT Nick Saban, the one who has built Alabama so grandiose it has eclipsed that of Bear Bryant in the minds of many Crimson Tide fans and college football experts. That’s another debate for another post.

If Saban’s Crimson Tide wins the national championship this season, it will be six in 10 seasons, matching the total Bryant won in 19 seasons (1961-79), although two of Bryant’s (’73 and ’78) were split, and the ’73 title, along with ’64, saw Alabama lose its bowl game after being crowned national champion when a selector (or selectors) did not take another poll following the bowl games. Saban’s five so far are undisputed, including two in the College Football Playoff era.

Saban is the highest paid coach in college football, making at least $11 million per season, but he isn’t lacking for money. His kids are grown, and he and Terry now have grandchildren they can spoil. Saban, who turns 67 this Halloween, has surprised many by staying so long in Tuscaloosa after being so nomadic during the first 34 years of his coaching career, never staying more than five seasons in any place.

This will be Saban’s 12th season in Tuscaloosa. Why would he want to leave now?

In my opinion, the Ohio State position is the only one Saban should ever consider leaving Alabama for. Some thought he was considering Texas when it forced Mack Brown into retirement a few years ago, but it turns out those were only pipe dreams by the Longhorn faithful, many of whom have deeper pockets than anyone could dream of having.

As much of a monolith Alabama has become under Saban, and was under Bryant, Ohio State matches the Crimson Tide in many areas, and in some, the Buckeyes are superior.

First, there are many more people in Ohio than Alabama. The population of the Buckeye state according to a 2016 estimate was 11.67 million, compared to 4.88 million for Alabama.

Ohio is a gold mine for high school football players. The vast majority of the greatest Buckeyes prepped in their home state before making their way to Columbus to play for Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, Meyer and some of the less successful coaches (Earle Bruce, John Cooper). The dream of most Ohio boys who play football is to don the scarlet and gray and come out of the tunnel at “The Horseshoe”. There may be pockets of Michigan fans near Toledo, and some who are loyal to the smaller schools in the state (Cincinnati, Toledo, Miami, et al), but Ohio State is THE school in the Buckeye State.

Alabama doesn’t have that luxury. It has to contend with another SEC power, Auburn, on the other side of the state. And Mobile is so close to Florida State, Florida and LSU that it routinely gets picked clean and the Crimson Tide can’t get all of the top talent there.

Second, academics.

The Big Ten is considered the far superior conference academically among the Power Five. Northwestern is one of the most prestigious private schools in the United States. Michigan is considered a “Public Ivy”. Wisconsin has a strong academic reputation. So do Ohio State, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State, although there’s still damage control going on in State College in the wake of Jerry Sandusky.

The SEC’s strongest academic schools are Vanderbilt and Florida. Alabama has seen an explosion in enrollment in recent years and is now the second most selective school of the 14 members of the conference, only behind Vandy, but the Mississippi schools really can’t raise their academic profiles as much as they’d like, given how poor the state is and how bad the education system is there.

Money is not an issue. Ohio State’s football budget is on par, if not more, than Alabama’s. The revenues produced by the Big Ten’s TV rights deals are equal, if not more than those in the SEC. The Big Ten Network is in more homes than the SEC Network, where many cable operators outside the SEC geographical footprint have refused to carry another ESPN owned network due to the high fees ESPN charges cable companies to carry it.

Actually, I think Saban has it easier in the SEC West than he would in the Big Ten East. I just don’t see Gus Malzahn sustaining the level of success at Auburn he enjoyed last year and in 2013, when it almost won the national championship. LSU has struggled badly against Alabama, and unfortunately for me, that doesn’t look like it will change any time soon. Arkansas and Mississippi State don’t have the resources to consistently win big. Ole Miss is going to have to rebuild after probation, and

The only potential challenger to Alabama’s iron grip on the SEC West (where the Tide and Auburn should not be, but that’s another blog post) is Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher. However, Fisher has to deal with Texas in his own backyard, and TCU isn’t going anywhere as long as Gary Patterson is in charge. And what if Houston were to go to a Power Five conference?

In the Big Ten East, Michigan has been nothing but a big winner for the most part since Bo Schembechler’s day. Michigan State has been mostly good to very good under Mark Dantonio. Penn State appears to be on the straight and narrow again under James Franklin. Then again, the bottom of the Big Ten East–Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers–is pretty bad. Most of the West, Wisconsin excepted, can’t get its act together.

Again, I don’t think Saban is leaving Tuscaloosa.

The reason: the lady Nick Saban has been married to for almost 47 years.

Terry Saban is one of the most beloved women in the state’s history, right up there with Bryant’s wife, Mary Harmon; Lurleen Wallace, George’s wife who served briefly as governor when her husband could not run in the mid 1960s; Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and of course, Helen Keller.

It is well known Terry Saban loves Tuscaloosa. She loves being the city’s queen bee. She loves living in close-knit college towns, and even though Tuscaloosa isn’t exactly Manhattan (the one in Kansas), Starkville or Stillwater, it still is a far cry from Columbus, which is now Ohio’s largest city and also has the state government. In that regard, Columbus is Baton Rouge (or Lincoln) on steroids. I don’t think Terry would enjoy Columbus as much, and that’s the biggest reason why Nick wouldn’t go to Ohio State.

On the other hand, Nick and Terry still have plenty of family in their native West Virginia, and Columbus is a lot closer to them than Tuscaloosa.

That said, Michael Drake should do all he can to try and lure Saban to Columbus. Drake should force Nick Saban to look him in the eye and say thanks but no thanks. It can’t hurt and would show Ohio State is committed to doing whatever it takes to keep Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State at bay.

First, Dr. Drake had better get it right and send Urban Meyer packing. That”s the biggest hurdle. If Meyer is allowed to return, then it shows Drake and Ohio State are in the football business for two reasons, money and titles, and not for truly educating young men, which would be a damn shame.

Of course, if Saban wants a REAL challenge, he could go to Ohio…back to his alma mater, Kent State.

Jersey girl booted by Bama

Last week, Harley Barber, a 19-year old from New Jersey, was expelled by the University of Alabama for two posts on an Instagram account in which she repeatedly used the N-word to disparage black people.

It watched the videos. They were deplorable. Sadly, she was acting like many white sorority girls do at Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida and other schools in the Deep South. She just was stupid enough to put her rants on social media, thinking she would not get caught. How naive. Once you put something on the Internet, it’st there to stay, no matter how many times you “scrub” it and think you’ve taken care of the cancer.

Here’s a bigger question: how does a young lady from Marlton, New Jersey end up at a university 947 miles from home without a good reason (read: athletic scholarship)?

Certainly there are plenty of good colleges in the Garden State. If she can’t get into Princeton (face it, most people can’t), there’s Rutgers, a pretty good university, the football and men’s basketball teams notwithstanding. Marlton isn’t too far from Philadelphia, which has Villanova, LaSalle, Drexel, Temple and St. Joseph’s (I’m not including Penn, because like Princeton, it’s an Ivy League school, and most of us, myself included, can’t sniff the Ivy League).

I can only think of one reason Ms. Barber wanted to attend school in Tuscaloosa.

Here’s a hint: they play on fall Saturdays in Bryant-Denny Stadium and other venues around the Southeastern Conference. They also are a permanent fixture in the College Football Playoff.

Alabama now has more students from outside the Yellowhammer State than from the 67 counties of the state (I’m guessing very few of those are from Lee County, where Auburn is located). Why? Alabama has the nation’s most dominant college football program.

Robert Witt, the University of Alabama president who hired Nick Saban in 2007, said Saban was a “bargain” and the “best thing I’ve ever done as a university administrator”.

I can’t disagree with Dr. Witt, because Alabama’s enrollment has zoomed past many of its SEC brethren, LSU included. It is now is the second most selective university in the SEC, trailing only Vanderbilt. Many who live in Tuscaloosa and the western part of the state might do better trying to attend Mississippi State or Southern Miss than the “Capstone”. At least there’s Auburn for those elsewhere in the state, along with South Alabama, Jacksonville State, UAB and two historically black colleges, Alabama A&M and Alabama State.

I had dreams of leaving Louisiana when I was growing up. I was seriously thinking about attending Kansas State, which is only a few more miles from New Orleans than Ms. Barber’s hometown is from Tuscaloosa.

However, Herb Vincent, then LSU’s sports information director who is now an associate commissioner with the SEC, convinced me LSU was the right place for a young lad who grew up in New Orleans. Ironically, Herb grew up in Little Rock and was a Razorback fan until he went to LSU and changed his allegiance.

I’m glad I stayed close to home. Lord knows I wasn’t ready to be 1,000 miles away from home in a foreign land, even if my grandfather was an hour and 40 minutes down the road.

If Ms. Barber went to Alabama because she loved the Crimson Tide’s football team, then she was in Tuscaloosa for the wrong reason. She probably could have found what she was looking for at Rutgers and saved her family a lot of money. Heck, if she wanted a school with a powerhouse football team, Penn State is only four hours to the west.

It would have been the same for me had I attended K-State. It wasn’t for Bill Snyder’s football team in my case, but it was to escape Louisiana and stick it to those who bullied me through high school. Those would have been terrible reasons to leave my home state. I certainly found what I was looking for at LSU, and Herb’s connections helped me in so many ways.

I’ve come to accept Alabama is going to be college football’s King Kong until Saban retires, and who’s to say the Tide won’t continue to motor along after he departs? However, I would not want to be the immediate successor to Saban, because the comparisons will be brutal.

Ray Perkins can attest. He went 32-15-1 in four seasons after Bear Bryant retired and died in short order, but it wasn’t good enough for the Alabama boosters, and Perkins bolted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by far the worst NFL franchise at the time, in 1987.

Ms. Barber has apologized for her actions. Hopefully she can get her life back together. New Brunswick, home of Rutgers’ main campus, is a pretty good place to pick up her education when she decides it’s time. Just keep your thoughts to yourself, ma’am.

Saban vs. Osborne vs. Snyder: NO CONTEST!

For those who have been buried under a rock today, Alabama is the champion of major college football AGAIN.

The Crimson Tide won its fifth title in nine seasons last night, rallying from a 13-point deficit to defeat Southeastern Conference rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime.

Nick Saban has coached at Alabama 11 seasons, which happens to be the exact same length as his combined tenures at Toledo (one season), Michigan State (five) and LSU (five). He has won 127 games at Alabama and 218 overall as a head coach. Saban has now coached six national championship teams, tying him with Bear Bryant for most by any coach. The first was at LSU in 2003.

The 66-year old Saban has an excellent chance to winning more games in 25 seasons as a head coach than Tom Osborne did at Nebraska from 1973-97. Saban needs 33 to surpass “Dr. Tom”, and barring something calamitous, Saban will make it with room to spare. Saban will get to 300 barring something unforeseen, and I would bet on him passing Bryant’s mark of 323, which was the major college record until broken by the disgraced Joe Paterno and later Bobby Bowden.

I am well aware Osborne is revered in the Heartland, but I cannot accept he belongs on college football coaching’s Mount Rushmore ahead of the man in charge in Tuscaloosa.

Sorry,  Husker nation, but Saban runs circles around Osborne in most every way you cut it.

Alabama rarely gets to play weaklings in the SEC like Nebraska did in the Big Eight, and Saban will usually challenge the Tide with a very difficult non-conference game at a neutral site, whereas Osborne loaded up on lesser teams, especially later in his career. Nebraska could pencil in Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State as sure-fire victories nearly every year before the first day of practice. Osborne never lost to KU or K-State, and very rarely bowed to the Cyclones. Missouri was terrible during most of Osborne’s last 14 years in Lincoln. Colorado had a very dark period in the late ’70s and early ’80s before Bill McCartney arrived. Oklahoma State sank to the bottom after it was hit hard by NCAA probation after the departure of Barry Sanders in 1989. Even Oklahoma fell off its perch following Barry Switzer’s resignation.

The SEC is not 14 powerhouses, but the Crimson Tide has to play three of the stronger programs in the conference every year: Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M. And the Tide will have to play a hard game to win the SEC championship, save for 2011 and ’17, when they won the national title without playing in the SEC championship game.

Saban has learned to do more with less. Coaches cannot work with student-athletes more than 20 hours a week during the season, a restriction which wasn’t in place until Osborne’s last years in Lincoln. Osborne was notorious for three-hour, full pads practices during the season and during bowl preparation, and I have to believe that was a big reason the Cornhuskers often bombed in bowl games. Saban knows when to back off and save his players’ bodies. His practices are fast-paced, but much shorter, and there is nowhere near the hitting Osborne had.

Saban has to deal with strict scholarship limits. When Osborne succeeded Bob Devaney, the NCAA was in its second year of scholarship limits, but it was 105. It was reduced to 95 in the 1980s and 85 in the ’90s. Saban has always had to deal with the 85 limit, except his one year at Toledo in 1990.

Osborne could get any player he wanted in Nebraska, even though Nebraska’s population is so small he had to go out of state. Not only that, but there are no major programs in North and South Dakota, and the two Kansas schools were usually so pitiful that the top players there wanted to escape, either to Lincoln or Norman.

Saban on the other hand has to deal with Auburn within the Yellowhammer State. Whenever he goes recruiting in the south, he’s battling Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida State, Miami and others for the big names.

Osborne rarely had turnover on his coaching staff. Saban, meanwhile, has constant turnover, mostly because his assistant coaches are in high demand. Last night, he beat Kirby Smart, who was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator for nine seasons before returning to Georgia, his alma mater. Jeremy Pruitt, Smart’s successor at Alabama, will be coaching Tennessee next season. Jimbo Fisher, Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU, moved from Florida State to Texas A&M. Will Muschamp, who coached with Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, is at South Carolina after four seasons at Florida. Jim McElwain, the offensive coordinator on Saban’s first two national championship teams at Alabama, coached the Gators for nearly three seasons before being canned last October.

Osborne never wanted to change his offense or defense, until he finally realized the old 5-2 defense he ran was no match for the speed of Florida State and Miami in bowl games. It wasn’t until the Huskers went to the 4-3 that Osborne won a national championship.

Saban, meanwhile, adapts nicely to his personnel. He ran the 4-3 at Michigan State and LSU, but is running mostly a 3-4 at Alabama, although the Tide presents multiple looks which give offensive coordinators nightmares. Offensively, Saban would prefer to play smashmouth, but if he has a gifted quarterback, he won’t be afraid to open it up, like he did with Rohan Davey at LSU and A.J. McCarron at Alabama.

Osborne is one of two college football coaches who is revered like the Almighty Himself in this part of the United States.

Time to compare Saban to the other one.

Bill Snyder, who has coached at Kansas State since 1989, save for a three-year retirement between 2006-08, is already in the Hall of Fame, since there is a rule an active coach can be inducted once he turns 75. Saban will most certainly be inducted five years after he retires or turns 75, whichever comes first.

Nobody will deny Snyder has performed near-miracles at K-State, given how putrid the Wildcats were prior to his arrival. K-State was the only major college program to lose 500 games when Snyder arrived. Since then, Wake Forest has assumed the mantle of the lowest winning percentage among Power Five schools (surprising given how bad Kansas has often been), but the worry is

However, I cannot, will not, must not rate Snyder ahead of Saban. No way.

Saban and Snyder are diametrically opposed as far as scheduling philosophies.

Saban would rather the Tide play all Power Five non-conference opponents, but realizes he does not call the shots in scheduling, and thus has to take on teams from outside the Power Five in order for Alabama to keep its athletic department in the black. Saban is not afraid to take on the big games away from Tuscaloosa, such as facing Florida State in 2017 at Atlanta, or USC in 2016 at Arlington.

Snyder, on the other hand, loves cupcakes so much he could get sponsorship deals from Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. His scheduling formula is a source of constant ridicule outside of Kansas, as it should be. He attempted to buy his way out of a home game with Auburn after the Wildcats played at Jordan-Hare under Ron Prince, but Jay Jacobs made the buyout financially prohibitive. Snyder tried the same with Miami and couldn’t get out of it. Yes, K-State is starting to schedule SEC schools, but it’s Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri. I’m not saying it has to be Alabama and Georgia, but LSU and Texas A&M would be a major upgrade.

Saban recruits mostly high school players, young men he can mold and shape over four or five years. Snyder wants the “mature” player, and that’s why K-State almost always signs more junior college players than any other Power Five program. It may be a quick fix, but Saban’s methods have been far more effective.

Outside of recruiting, Snyder’s are so unorthodox that they would never work in Tuscaloosa. Saban is not known as a media-friendly coach in the mold of Mack Brown, Pete Carroll or Steve Spurrier, but Snyder is far worse with the press than Saban. Snyder was the first college football coach to completely shut the media out of practice, tightly limit access to players (there is only a very small window each week to contact players at K-State), and not allow the media to talk to assistant coaches at all. Saban has done that, too, but Snyder was the first and took it to an extreme in a time when there was more open access.

Saban and Snyder are very similar in that they put in very long hours at the office. That’s one regard where Spurrier had it right: work smart, not long.

K-State is dreading the day Snyder retires or dies. It knows it will be an also-ran in the Big 12 once that happens.

Would Snyder have won big at Iowa had he been Hayden Fry’s successor instead of leaving for Manhattan? I doubt it. You can’t argue with the results at K-State, but Snyder’s program is not for everyone.

Saban, meanwhile, won big at two SEC schools, and if he had stayed longer at Michigan State and not been hamstrung with severe penalties early in his tenure at East Lansing, the Spartans would have been elite under his watch. Toledo went 9-2 in Saban’s only season there, so that’s another notch in his belt.

Osborne and Snyder did it at one place. It’s impressive yes, but for Saban to do it wherever he’s been makes him one of the greats.

SEC vs. SEC, take two

The worst nightmare of many college football fans has come true.

Not to mention a nightmare for the Nielsen folks.

Next Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game is an all-Southeastern Conference matchup between Alabama and Georgia.

The howls were long and loud after Alabama received the #4 spot in the CFP semifinals, ahead of Big Ten champion Ohio State, even though the Crimson Tide not only did not win the SEC championship, they did not even play for the championship.

Auburn defeated Alabama 26-14 in the regular season finale to give the Tigers the SEC West division championship and the spot opposite East division champion Georgia in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs avenged a 40-17 loss to the Tigers with a 28-7 victory in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, moving Georgia up to No.3  in the final CFP rankings.

Yesterday, Georgia defeated Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes in the Rose Bowl, then Alabama suffocated defending national champion Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl to set up the second all-SEC championship game in seven seasons.

The last time this happened, Alabama happened to be in the same position it was this time.

In 2011, the Crimson Tide’s only loss in the regular season came to LSU, 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa. That allowed the Bayou Bengals to win the West division, and they went on to stomp Georgia 42-10 in the SEC title game.

Even though the Tide didn’t even win their division, they still made the championship game of what was then the Bowl Championship Series by the slimmest of margins over Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ lone loss was a 44-41 overtime setback at Iowa State two weeks after Alabama lost to LSU.

While I cannot stand Nick Saban and Alabama, I can see much more justification for the Tide getting into this year’s CFP than I could in 2011 when Alabama was selected to play for the BCS championship.

First, there was precedent for Alabama this season.

Last year, Ohio State lost to Penn State, its only loss of the regular season, keeping the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten championship game, since the Nittany Lions won the East division on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Penn State won the Big Ten championship over Wisconsin, but had to settle for #5 in the final CFP poll and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State, meanwhile, finished #3–ahead of Pac-12 champion Washington–and got to play Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers mauled the Buckeyes 31-0, then bested Alabama 35-31 in the title game.

Second, even with the loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma State had just as strong a case as Alabama to go to the title game.

The Cowboys defeated three other teams which ended up winning 10 games–Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State played a nine-game conference schedule, while Alabama played only eight. The Tide’s non-conference schedule for the most part was laughable–Kent State, North Texas and Georgia Southern. Yes, Alabama played Penn State in State College, but that was not a great Nittany Lions team, and the weight of the Jerry Sandusky scandal was about to come down and smash Penn State for the foreseeable future.

In 2011, LSU got screwed. Its reward for going 13-0 against what was determined to be the nation’s toughest schedule by the NCAA? A rematch with a team it beat on that team’s home field. Alabama won 21-0.

This time, Georgia and Alabama did not play in the regular season, which is not right. Alabama should be in the East division with Auburn, while Missouri and Vanderbilt should be in the West, but that’s another argument for another day.

Today, thousands upon thousands of people have taken to every social media platform available to decry the situation. Most of the comments read:

“The CFP committee is biased towards the SEC”

“ESPN wanted this matchup because it owns the SEC Network”

“Alabama always gets what it wants”

“Everyone kisses Nick Saban’s ass”

“Alabama doesn’t deserve to go ahead of Ohio State, which won the Big Ten”

“Central Florida (UCF) is the national champion because it is undefeated”

The last one makes me laugh. UCF played a pathetic schedule. It plays in a pathetic conference, the American Athletic Conference. Why should it get special consideration? If UCF wants that respect, it needs to play all of its non-conference games on the road against Power 5 conference schools. Then they can talk smack.

The television ratings for the Alabama-LSU game in January 2012 were the lowest for a championship game since the BCS’ first championship game in January 1999. I’m guessing 98% of television sets in Alabama and Georgia will be tuned in to the game this Monday, but the numbers will decrease rapidly the father away you get from Alabama and Georgia. Do you think someone in San Francisco is going to rush home from work to watch the game, which kicks off at 5:15 Pacific? Highly unlikely.

Many hotels in Atlanta are probably unhappy the Bulldogs are playing for the title. It’s only 72 miles from Georgia’s campus in Athens to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hotels in Atlanta are expensive to begin with, and I’m sure the rates are through the roof leading up to the game. Alabama fans probably won’t stay long in Atlanta, either, considering it’s a little over three hours from Tuscaloosa to downtown Atlanta.

Ticket brokers? That’s another story. A report today said someone paid over $104,000 for ten tickets to the game. That’s two new Impalas plus plenty left over.

It is what it is. At least we will not hear about it anymore by this time next week.

LSU-Alabama: the non-rivalry

LSU and Alabama play football tonight in Tuscaloosa.

It’s being called a rivalry. It’s being over hyped as it is each and every stinking year.

That is the wrong approach, especially for LSU.

Alabama would not make a big deal out of it if (a) Nick Saban hadn’t previously coached LSU and (b) LSU has generally been the last team the Crimson Tide has needed to beat to assure themselves of a spot in the SEC championship game.

Believe me, Alabama fans care much more about beating Auburn. Bear Bryant famously said he’d rather beat the “Cow College” (owing to Auburn’s status as Alabama’s primary agricultural university) once than Notre Dame ten times. Just substitute LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M or just about anyone else for Notre Dame and it’s still accurate.

LSU fans need to stop slitting their throats over the Alabama game.

I admit I did it last year. I went nuts on Twitter and Facebook when LSU lost 10-0 to the Tide in Baton Rouge.

I was wrong to have done so.

I’m not going to do anything this year.

Look, it’s going to take Jupiter aligning with Mars (sorry, Fifth Dimension) for LSU to win. The Bayou Bengals need Bert Jones to step into a time machine and go back to his senior season of 1972 to have a chance to score against Alabama’s defense. Since that’s not possible, I don’t see my alma mater scoring much, if at all.

LSU fans like to consider Alabama its biggest rival.

WRONG.

It’s only a rivalry if both teams hate each other equally. Not the case for Alabama, which will hate Auburn much more until the end of time. And for many Tide fans, Tennessee is a bigger rival than LSU.

LSU-Ole Miss? The last time both teams were in serious national championship contention at the same time was 1959, the year Billy Cannon returned a Rebel punt 89 yards for a touchdown with 10 minutes left, then helped stop Ole Miss quarterback Doug Elmore at the LSU 1 in the waning moments to preserve a 7-3 win.

Ole Miss’ rivalry with Mississippi State (the Egg Bowl) has far more significance for the Rebels than it once did, largely because the Bulldogs are now the alpha team in the Magnolia State. Without much talent in the state to go around, Ole Miss and State have to battle tooth and nail for every prospect, and that’s not even mentioning Alabama, which is only 95 miles from Starkville, plus LSU and Arkansas, whose states border Mississippi.

Arkansas? The Razorbacks baited the line. LSU refused to bite.

Florida? Never. The Gators already have Florida State and Georgia. And I’m certain there is plenty of hatred in Gainesville for Miami, even if the teams haven’t played much in the last 30 years.

LSU, your rival is Texas A&M. Sure, Aggie fans hate the Longhorns more than they could ever hate the Bayou Bengals,

I don’t know how much I’m watching tonight. I’ve braced myself for the worst. I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, the world will still be spinning on its axis tomorrow morning.

F**K ALABAMA

So far, 2017 has been horrendous for me. Not very good. 

The only higlight was the trip to Norton last Tuesday. Then I came down with a cold and it forced me to wuss out of going to Stockton Friday. Sure, it snowed Thursday and was very cold, plus the side streets were all completely snowpacked, but why the hell did I stay home? That was pretty lame of me. 

I took NyQuil for my cold Thursday night and Friday night. HUGE MISTAKE. Made me sleep way too much. Then I used it as an excuse not to go to Stockton Friday. I don’t blame anyone at Norton for wanting to kick me in the nuts right now. They ought to. Staying home was pretty pitiful on my part. 

I’m feeling horrible in other ways. I’ve spent too much freaking time at home, watching too much bad TV. I’ve had enough football to last five years. Tonight is the national championship game for college football–Alabama vs. Clemson AGAIN–but I don’t think I’m going to watch. I’ve had enough of that fuckwad Nick Saban. What a real fucking asshole. I cannot stand that piece of shit. He enjoys treating people like garabage. FUCK HIM. Fuck Nick Saban and everything about Alabama football. In fact, fuck the entire state of Alabama. Everything about Alabama is shit. I fucking hate that place. I especially hate Tuscaloosa. Go too far from Tuscaloosa and it’s nothing but shit and piss. 

Tuscaloosa would be shit and piss too if it didn’t have the university there. Why in the fuck do people from other states want to go to college in Tuscaloosa? What, they like eating horrible barbecue? The SEC has some horrible locales. Tuscaloosa is at the very bottom, with Gainesville and Oxford right there. 

Yeah Bear Bryant was known to punch people in the nose, but at least he didn’t treat the media like shit the way Saban does. Saban is a complete shithead. But nobody should be surprised he’s a shithead, because his best friend Bill Belichick is a gigantic shithead. 

I wish Saban, Belichick and Gregg Popovich would be locked together in a tiny cell and forced to answer question after question for their freedom. Three assholes. Three shitheads. Three cunts I would not want to be caught dead with. 

I need to buy an Alabama state flag. I will start using it as a handkerchief to blow my nose. 

The calendar flipped. YAHOO!

2017 is here whether we like it or not.

I went to bed later than I should have last night, but when the clock struck midnight, I was finally asleep. The TV was on, but no way I was tuning it to ABC. I never watched Dick Clark on New Year’s Eve when he hosted, and I will never, ever watch Ryan Seacrest. Lucy Hale is gorgeous, but I’d prefer to watch her act, not host a New Year’s Eve party from New Orleans’ Jackson Square, which she did last night.

The most morose celebrations probably occurred in Columbus.

That’s because Ohio State was crushed 31-0 by Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. It marked the first time an Urban Meyer-coached team was shut out. That includes his stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, in addition to his five seasons with the Buckeyes. Ohio State had not been shut out since its 1993 regular season finale at Michigan.

The #3 seeds in the College Football Playoff–Florida State (2014), Michigan State (2015) and Ohio State–have been outscored 128-20. All of the 20 came by the Seminoles in the Rose Bowl vs. Oregon.

The semifinals of the CFP have been tremendously non-competitive. Only one of six has been decided by fewer than 17 points. Three have had margins of 31 points or more. Yikes.

Alabama’s 24-7 victory over Washington in the Peach Bowl was not as close as the final score. The Huskies scored on their first possession, but did absolutely nothing after. I don’t care if Washington could have brought back Warren Moon and Napoleon Kauffman in their primes. The Huskies weren’t scoring more than seven points against the Crimson Tide defense.

In 1961, Alabama’s first national championship season of six under Paul “Bear” Bryant, the Crimson Tide allowed just 25 points in 11 games. Imagine if this year’s Crimson Tide defense played in that era. Alabama may have gone unscored upon. Then again, players had to play both ways n the early 1960s, so you can’t compare peaches to pears.

So it’s Alabama and Clemson for all the marbles. Again. The Tide is a 7-point favorite right now, but that line should change. The Tigers are looking to avenge a 45-40 loss in last year’s championship game. They may have the team to do it, even though Pitt won at Clemson in November, nearly derailing the Tigers’ title hopes.

It would be fascinating to see Nick Saban coaching in the era of limited substitution. How would he handle his best athletes? Would Jonathan Allen be able to survive the strain of playing both ways? Or would others in the past, like Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, and A’Shaun Robinson? Bear Bryant mastered the transition from limited substitution to unlimited subs. Then again, if you had limited substitution and limited scholarships, some of the best players would have to play at Auburn, Ole Miss, LSU or Tennessee instead of Alabama, unless they wanted to walk on and ride the bench for the Tide.

Today is the final day of the NFL regular season. Jeff Fisher was fired in Los Angeles earlier this month. Rex Ryan was fired in Buffalo last Tuesday. Chip Kelly will be canned in San Francisco. Gary Kubiak is resigning in Denver due to health concerns. Who else will lose their job? Will Sean Payton leave New Orleans? Questions will be answered within the next 36 hours.

I spent a very long day at Buffalo Wild Wings to end 2016. Started at 10 a.m. due to the Citrus Bowl. Stayed until 8:30. I’m back at 11 today. No wings. I’ve got to eat healthier.

 

Feeling stronger (apologies to Chicago the band)

I was in no mood to post for most of the previous week. Thankfully I am this morning. Time and a change of scenery helped.

I’m in another hotel in Kansas City, this time in Clay County. The hotel is on the dividing line between Kansas City proper and Liberty, the largest suburb of KC in Missouri. It’s about 20 minutes to Zona Rosa, not bad, especially at night, when the traffic is lighter. It’s not as far as Overland Park, but nowhere near as close as the hotels on I-29 in Platte County.

Last Saturday and Sunday, I was an angry person. Very angry. And not for a good reason.

Alabama beat LSU 10-0 last Saturday in Baton Rouge. The Bayou Bengals held the Crimson Tide scoreless for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, LSU’s exhausted defense finally gave way, yielding a 21-yard touchdown run to Jalen Hurts and then a field goal. LSU gained just 125 yards against Alabama’s defense, which may be better than half the defenses in the NFL, and were shut out at home for the first time in 14 years.

I was pissed. REALLY PISSED. I tweeted and posted on Facebook that (a) LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron should be fired, (b) Alabama was a horrible place and (c) losing 10-0 was much, much, much worse than Nebraska losing 62-3 to Ohio State.

None of the above was really true.

First, Orgeron can’t do anything right now. He’s playing the hand dealt him by Les Miles, who was fired Sept. 25 after LSU lost to Auburn. Who knows, maybe he could remake the offense with a recruiting class under his belt and a full season to work with the team as head coach. Orgeron wanted so badly to end LSU’s drought vs. Alabama. He was pretty emotional all night. I could tell it mattered a great deal to him.

Second, I can’t generalize all of Alabama just because I don’t care for one of the state’s flagship universities. I’ve enjoyed my time in Hoover for the SEC Baseball Tournament, and I’m sure Huntsville is a great place to visit, especially the Marshall Space Center.

Third, LSU gave it all they had. But it’s hard to defeat the top-ranked team when your offense just doesn’t have the talent to compete with the best defense in college football, designed by the best coach in the game today, Nick Saban.

I was still very upset Sunday and Monday morning. I got so despondent Monday I called and made an appointment with Dr. Custer. She had an opening that afternoon. I told her my blood pressure was running way high, my blood sugars were sky high, and my bowels were obstructed.

Only the last one was true, and not entirely.

Later that evening, I met Peggy at Walmart in Hays. I’m not a Walmart fan, but I agreed to help her shop. She was there not only to shop for her family, but for the student council at Norton Junior High, where she teaches. She stopped at Walmart on her way to Plainville for  a Mid-Continent League meeting. It was out of her way, but it was easier than driving the other way to Colby, or north to Lexington, Nebraska.

I did not watch election returns Tuesday evening. It wasn’t until 7 a.m. Wednesday I found out Donald Trump would be the 45th President of the United States. I certainly did not comment on social media like I did in 2012, when I made a complete imbecile of myself with lots of cursing and hatred.

I left for Kansas City at noon yesterday. No stops, not even for the restroom. I was at the hotel by 3:35. Pretty good, considering I had to go into downtown KCMO and then drive north on I-35 for 17 miles.

Buffalo Wild Wings went well. I saw Tori and Dana behind the bar, and played good trivia. Hopefully Robb and Dawn will be back soon. They took the election very hard.

Time to leave. Got a few errands to run before heading west.

 

 

Wall-to-wall football, day two

I saw plenty of football yesterday, especially from 11 am until 8:30 pm, the time I spent at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I had enough when Alabama started beating the stuffing out of Arkansas. The Crimson Tife won (again) 49-30, and if they lose in 2016, it will be a miracle. Who can beat them? I don’t think Tennessee can. I don’t think Texas A&M can. Not LSU. And certainly not Mississippi State or Auburn. Why bother watching the rest of the college football season? We know who will win the championship game January 9 in Tampa. 

Today it’s more football, this time NFL-style. The Chiefs are off, so Buffalo Wild Wings might not be as crowded, but it should pick up later when the Broncos play the Falcons. The night game is Giants-Packers in Green Bay. The Cardinals played and won Thursday at Santa Clara vs. the 49ers, so there’s no stress today. 

Hopefully Robb and Dawn show up. It’s the main reason I come to Kansas City now. I still know a few Buffalo Wild Wings employees–Morgan, Molly, Ethan, Sekou, Arlene and Megan, plus the mangers–but Liz, Lisa, Jaclyn, Shannon, Alex, Stephanie Suggs and Raymie are gone, as well as both Brittanys. 

I’m probably not staying as late this evening, but I could. I’ve got a lot of work done for Osborne, and what’s left I can knock out quickly. 

I still want to drive to Columbia at some point to get the thing I can’t get in Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, Salina, Russell, Hays or anywhere. The only options are going to Nebraska one day, or maybe they have it in Colorado. I need to get to Colorado, anyway, to see Liz, whom I have not seen since July 2015. She’s not happy about that, and neither am I.

Norton’s volleyball team went 2-3 in Scott City yesterday. Peggy and Caitlyn were not happy about having to play five matches in a single day. Three of those went the full three sets. 

There is a provision in the National Federation rules which allow matches to be modified, but the Kansas State High School Activities Association refuses to do so. In Louisiana, the third set of regular season tournaments is only played to 15. I didn’t think it was allowable, but I discovered last night in reading the rules it is. 

Also, the KSHSAA doesn’t allow two-day tournaments, except for leagues which have nine or more teams. In Louisiana, I never saw a team play more than four matches in one day, and there were lots of two-day tournaments. When Brenda was coaching St. Joseph’s Academy, the Redstickers played in FOUR two-day events, and the JV played in one in Hammond for a few years. 

The Mid-Continent League tournament went to two days in 2014, when Trego returned afte a one-year hiatus and Oakley and TMP joined, giving the league 10 teams. Instead of two play-in matches, the format which was used from 1978 through 2004, the principals and athletic directors took the advice of the volleyball coaches and went to two five-team pools. Teams play two pool matches Thursday and two Saturday morning before cutting down to four.

Tom Brady is back today. The Cleveland Browns are in big trouble if they weren’t already. 

Sparty washed away

Alabama and Michigan State each won a share of the 1965 college football national championship. The Spartans were number one in the final United Press International coaches poll, released following the end of the regular season, which was fortunate, since they lost the Rose Bowl to UCLA. The Crimson Tide won the title from the Associated Press, which took a poll following the bowl games. Alabama vaulted from No. 4 to No. 1 after No.2 Arkansas lost the Cotton Bowl to LSU, Michigan State lost to UCLA, and Alabama beat No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Half a century later, the schools met in the Cotton Bowl in a College Football Playoff semifinal.

Somewhere in the heavens, Bear Bryant was grinning from ear to ear. Duffy Daugherty was crying in his Guinness. And maybe, just maybe, Frank Howard has a line to Dabo Swinney, because Dabo is going to need all the help he can get in the next 11 days.

Alabama crushed Michigan State 38-0, with Crimson Tide quaterback Jake Coker completing 25 of 31 passes for 286 yards. Calvin Ridley, who has stepped into the No. 1 receiver role vacated by Amari Cooper, now starting for the Oakland Raiders, caught eight passes for 136 yards and both touchdowns.

The only solace the Spartans can take away is they limited Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to 75 yards on 20 carries. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, given Coker’s big night and the lack of offense produced by Connor Cook and his mates.

Michigan State has come a long way under Mark Dantonio. The bad news is it will have a devil of a time remaining amongst the elite of college football, as the Spartans play in the brutal Big Ten East, where Ohio State and Michigan have usually dominated.

Alabama now faces Clemson for the championship January 11 in Arizona at the Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium. The Tigers earned their berth in the final with a 37-17 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Swinney was a receiver on the Crimson Tide’s 1992 national championship, and he was an assistant under Gene Stallings and Mike DuBose at his alma mater. It wasn’t that long ago Clemson was almost always on the short list of underachieving teams, but tonight’s victory not only improved the Tigers to 14-0, but it showed once and for all Clemson can win and win big when the chips are down.

Clemson will be playing for its first national championship since 1981, when Swinney was 12 years old and most of the parents of the current players were in elementary school. Alabama will be in its fourth national championship game since 2009, and Saban will be coaching for his fifth championship, three at Alabama and one in 2003 at LSU. If experience matters, then it should be no contest. However, Clemson really has nothing to lose, even if it is 14-0. Nobody outside of South Carolina (save Gamecock fans) is going to give the Tigers much of a chance.

It will be 2016 in 15 minutes in Tuscaloosa, Dallas and everywhere else in the Central Time Zone. Whoopee.