142-Z-Takeoff: It's what's for dinner.
As we were walking down the aisle of section NN at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, exhausted but smiling after Georgia's overtime victory over Alabama, I said to my friend Kristen who had come down from Maryland for the game, "The over-under on the first Alabama fan to begin publicly doubting whether Nick Saban is worth all that money they're paying him: 5:35 p.m. tomorrow."
Turns out it was a sucker's bet from the start. In the "Instant Sound Off" section of the Birmingham News this morning, Tom O'Fallon of Trussville writes:
I'm writing about the Sound Off letter in Friday's paper informing us that Nick Saban is worth every penny of $4 million after last week's win over Arkansas. The writer obviously knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing. After Saturday's abysmal showing, how much does Saban owe the school in the form of a refund?
Ahh, yes -- the unforgettable moment at which the rabid college-football fan's eyes flutter open and he rolls over and discovers that the chick who's been in bed with him all night is not quite who she seemed with the beer goggles on at 2 a.m. I'm not saying Saban is the equivalent of some coyote-ugly skank, but Tide Nation would've had us believe for the past nine months that he was a Voltron formation of Melissa Theuriau, '60s-era Sophia Loren, and the last twelve Playmates. Sorry, guys, but he's really not that much hotter than any of the rest of 'em.
"No, you have the best hair in the SEC. I really mean that."
And that, I think, is the most satisfying part of Georgia's win -- the fact that the Great Alabama-Wide Nick Saban Fellati-O-Rama has been quieted down a little, for the next week, at least. You Dawg fans who are comfortably ensconced in your suburban-Atlanta environs and get a regular diet of Buck Belue rather than Paul Finebaum can't quite understand this, but the level of Saban-worship in my neck of the woods has been fucking unreal; I don't even know that "worship" covers it, exactly, because some of these folks talk about Saban in ways that they don't even talk about Jesus. The merest hint that Saban's kind of a dick, or that even he can't recreate the kind of dynasty that Bear Bryant did, gets you flamed as an idiot or worse on message boards and call-in programs all across the state. I'm quite confident that whatever radio silence we're experiencing from those folks right now is only temporary, but as a Dawg fan, all that matters is this: For the next 360-something days, I and the rest of the Georgia partisans stationed behind enemy lines in the B-hizzy are officially immune to any smack talk. Huzzah!
That was the most satisfying thing about Saturday night for me, because honestly, I don't think we played all that great. The dropped passes of 2006 are continuing in earnest; how Tripp Chandler could have thus far failed to make use of Martrez Milner's '06 season as a cautionary tale is an absolute mystery to me. As a result, the passing game is kind of like an '87 Jaguar XJ6: a sight to behold when it's running properly, but when it's not, it could very well end up leaving you stranded and crying in some Southeastern city you realize you really don't want to be in. The defense got some nice stops throughout the game, but not enough to keep Alabama from erasing two separate 10-point deficits. And there's a killer instinct that we had in, say, 2002 and 2003 that we just haven't quite recreated yet. You have never seen a grown man closer to tears than I was about five minutes into the second half Saturday night, after Georgia recovered a muffed KO return in Bama territory and returned a punt to the 45 on their first two drives, yet somehow Alabama was the only one who came out of that stretch with any points.
Trust me, this only looks like a sure thing.
But I'm done bitching about it, because seriously, if you can play sorta-crappy and still beat the #16 team in the country in front of 91,000 screaming Tuscaloosans who want. You. Dead, then you must be doing something right, mustn't you? And I'd certainly rather win nine ugly games than go 6-6 pretty. If you play in the SEC, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter, certainly not points, and winning ugly is something you just have to accept not as a bug but as a feature. I know every fan in the SEC wants to win their gimme games 70-0 and beat their big rivals by at least two TDs, but the biggest test of a team's character comes when a) things that usually go right for them aren't necessarily going right and/or b) when a rival you supposedly had dead to rights has suddenly leaped right back into the game. Alabama passed that test of character two games ago when they managed to beat Arkansas despite pissing away a 21-point lead, and Georgia passed it in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
Even though Alabama was probably slightly overvalued coming into this one, it still qualifies as a big win for Georgia, one that they really needed. It may not be pretty when we go up to Knoxville in a couple weeks, or when we face Tech at the end of the season, or even when we host Ole Miss this coming Saturday, but in a weird way, it does feel good to know that even if things get ugly, we've still got a chance.
So all in all, a pretty good Saturday, no?
We goin' to Sizzler!
Elsewhere in the land of the free:
· Now that I've bagged on Tide Nation a little bit, let me backtrack and say that I had an absolute blast in T-Town on Saturday, and were treated respectfully by the vast majority of Bama fans we ran across. Roll Bama Roll contributor Joel opened his blessedly air-conditioned apartment to Kristen and me Saturday afternoon, and his family members even gave up seats on the couch for us; rather than wonder how two Georgia fans had ended up in the Alabama section, the guy sitting next to us marveled approvingly at how many Georgia fans had managed to invade Tuscaloosa for the day.
And as someone who had never actually gotten to see a game in Bryant-Denny before, I was amazed at the stadium and the improvements made to it over the last few years; that place has become a palace on a par with any NFL stadium I've ever been to. The new north facade is gorgeous, the skyboxes are incredible, and I'm jealous of the jumbotron screens in both corners of the north end zone. And the place is loud -- louder than Jordan-Hare, louder even than Neyland, at least in my limited experience. I'm kind of glad our offense got a little baptism-by-fire there on Saturday, because if they can handle themselves with composure in an environment that loud, they have a right to be confident anywhere else they go. Big ups to the Bama fans for making life that difficult for the opposing team; I wish we could make Sanford that loud on a regular basis.
Never ran into these two, though -- and I gotta say I'm a little disappointed.
· Since Georgia had to sit by and watch as their shot at beating Florida in 2005 went up in smoke with an ill-timed D.J. Shockley ankle injury, I think it's only fair that God find a way to knock Tim Tebow out for a week or two next month. While the Gator defense fucked around for a few quarters and let Ole Miss's cadaverous offense look strangely competent, Teebs piled the team on his back and supplied four TDs and 427 total yards -- 166 of which came rushing, meaning that Tebow outrushed four SEC teams on Saturday and came within 7 yards of Darren McFadden's total against Kentucky's not-exactly-monolithic front seven. Come on, God, you don't have to mess up the kid's ankle -- just give him a busted pinky or avian flu or projectile diarrhea or something. Can you not let us catch one lousy fricking break in this rivalry? Please?
· Here's a hypothetical situation for you to play around with: Notre Dame vs. Louisville at a neutral site. The Irish "offense" vs. the Cardinal "defense." What's the final score?
· Then again, Notre Dame did move solidly into positive rushing yardage -- and actually scored not one but two offensive touchdowns -- in their loss to Michigan State on Saturday. But it almost seems like Notre Dame fans are issued a sheet of talking points each week by the same central information clearinghouse that supplies talking points to Republican TV and radio commentators, because the rationales that they've used to convince the rest of us that Irish football isn't going completely down the shitter seem strikingly similar from person to person, particularly the defenses of QB Jimmy Clausen. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard these two things in the past few weeks: "He's poised" and "He gets up after every hit." Here's an activity for y'all to do: Write down a list of QBs who get up after every hit and a list of QBs who don't, and I'll bet you cash money that the first list is longer than the second. Are we really facing an epidemic of quarterbacks who don't get up after every hit, but rather lie down on the field and kick and scream until someone picks them up and carries them to the sideline? Is this where the bar for Notre Dame football sits these days?
Jimmy remains in an upright position . . . and the Clausen legend continues to grow.
· Virginia 28, Georgia Tech 23. The Charlottesville Curse lives. Still, take heart, Techies: With 230 yards passing and 121 rushing (versus 233/121 for the 'Hoos), your offense is almost exactly as good as Virginia's.
· I have to give a shout-out to Jonathan Tu of the truly kickass blog 82 Sluggo Win, whose fascinating months-long journey through dozens of college football venues all across the United States took him through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa this past weekend. Dude, I can only hope that your memories of my adopted home state are positive ones, though if your comments about the Georgia and Alabama co-eds who descended upon Tuscaloosa on Saturday were genuine, I'm going to go ahead and assume "yes" for the time being. Good luck the rest of the way, and I hope our paths will cross again in Athens in a few weeks.
Jonathan, let me know if you decide to detour through Spartanburg, South Carolina, at any point this fall -- the hometown Wofford Terriers did, after all, knock off the Appalachian State juggernaut 42-31 on Saturday. SoCon football ain't nuthin' ta fuck wit, and neither are the Terriers. To honor my favorite I-AA team for their historic achievement, I'll let Bruce McCulloch of the Kids in the Hall sing me out on this one.