Friday, November 30

The Friday Random Ten+5 reminds you it's better to give than receive, brother.

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, I can safely get excited about Christmas. I like to have all my holidays kind of neatly ordered; there's no Christmas talk in this household before Thanksgiving, which apparently some people have a problem with. When I was down in Columbus visiting my parents the weekend before Halloween, some shopping center in C-Town already had the big shiny Santa/reindeer setup on their roof. Huh? Let's just say that if I haven't even bought my Halloween candy yet, you can be damn sure I haven't bought any Christmas presents. But it looks like Christmas is kind of turning into the holiday version of American presidential campaigns, where the season never really ends. Some department store is eventually going to hold a "Get an Early Start on Next Christmas!" Sale on December 26, and I'll bet it happens during my lifetime.

But, ahem, like I said, the Christmas season is now official, and it being November 30 and all, that's fine with me. I'm even going to give a helping hand to all you folks out there who were scratching your heads wondering what to get me. Herewith, the Five Potential Christmas Presents Of Varying Degrees Of Feasibility That You Can Get Me This Year (With Alternates):

A pair of red pants (about $75; I honestly have no idea)
The day you put on your first pair of red slacks is the day you know you have truly advanced into a new echelon of Georgia fandom; I guess it's kind of like when a Florida fan leaves his cutoff Wrangler jean shorts in the drawer and puts on his Abercrombie jean shorts. Yet as many pairs of red pants as I see on the Georgia campus on any given gameday, I haven't been able to actually find any in a store. My friend Kristen, who lives up in Maryland, has been looking for a pair for me for ages; "I live in a town that has a haberdasher. That's what the sign says, haberdasher," she once told me, "and they didn't have any." So if you can find a pair for me, you will be my hero. I can supply the requisite black polo shirt on my own.
Alternate idea: A "blackout" T-shirt from the Auburn game ($19)

Minichamps 1/18-scale Bentley Flying Spur ($220)
There's a dude in town who has the 1/1 version of this; I figure I'll never actually be able to own something like that, but I'm perfectly happy to settle for the scaled-down version. I don't know if they've actually shipped any of these to the U.S. yet, so you may have to go through a European distributor, but being a nice guy I'm happy to give you a hand with that.
Alternate idea: A 1/18-scale Bentley Continental GT, the two-door version ($160)

Panasonic TH42PX75U 42" plasma TV ($1,400)
Unlike a lot of guys, I don't try to compete with my dad all that much; given that he's a successful physician with a happy 35-year marriage and I'm a schlub middle-manager with a bachelor's degree who's never been able to keep a relationship going for longer than three months, it'd almost certainly be wasted effort on my part. So just because Pops went out and got a 50-inch plasma TV right before the Georgia game earlier this fall doesn't mean I feel a burning need to show him up by going one size bigger, or even matching him inch for inch (ugh, that sounded gross); I'm perfectly happy to settle for the 42-incher.
Alternate idea: The TC-32LX70 32" high-def LCD model ($900)

Two tickets to the Rose or Orange Bowl ($135/each, face)
That's it -- you come up with the tickets, I'll figure out how to get to Miami or Pasadena. If push comes to shove I figure I can always hitchhike; I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time before some hot cougar pulls up in her ex-husband's Mercedes and agrees to drive me cross-country in exchange for nothing more than sexual favors. That's how it always happens in the movies, at least.
Alternate idea: One ticket
Alternate alternate idea: One of the two girls in that picture

Lego Ultimate Collector's Edition Millennium Falcon ($500)
Yeah, I know, I'm a dork, but the way I figure it is, everybody should have at least one toy they loved as a child that they carry over into adulthood, and Legos are mine. This thing is nearly three feet long and has more than 5,000 pieces; the instruction book alone weighs nearly four pounds. The possible downside, of course, is that I'd be so busy putting this thing together I'd go on a blogging hiatus that could potentially extend for weeks. (For y'all, of course, that may the biggest reason to get me one.)
Alternate idea: Imperial Star Destroyer ($100)

So now you've got something to work on. Good luck! And here's the Ten:

1. Public Enemy, "Night of the Living Baseheads"
2. Nine Inch Nails, "I Do Not Want This"
3. U2, "Endless Deep"
4. James Brown, "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing"
5. Depeche Mode, "Waiting for the Night"
6. Air, "Remember"
7. Falco, "Rock Me Amadeus"
8. Morrissey, "I'm Not Sorry"
9. Pet Shop Boys, "Time On My Hands"
10. The Chemical Brothers, "Setting Sun"

Your own Random Tens and Christmas gimme wish lists are welcome in the comments.

Wednesday, November 28

Wednesday Mystery Meat ties up some loose ends.

Just a few things that have been zipping through my brain while I've been hanging out here with my good friend Mickey, twiddling my thumbs and waiting to find out whether I should book my plane tickets for Miami or L.A.:

· According to a source within the Georgia Tech fan base I consider reliable -- and no, it's not my cousin or the guy at the Varsity who says he gives Dan Radakovich a large Frosted Orange every day for the price of a small -- a couple names have taken the lead in the Tech coaching search. One of them is Will Muschamp, which should come as a surprise to exactly no one; I think he's a good guy (he did go to Georgia, after all), but suffice to say I'm a lot less worried about him now that the Dawgs have lit his defense up for 35+ points two years in a row. The other, though? Worries me a bit. That would be your friend and mine, Slick Rick Neuheisel.

There are thirteen billion tiny differences between these two pictures . . . see if you can find them all!

If a total 180 from the Chan Gailey era is what Radakovich wants -- and it pretty much is, for any number of reasons -- you couldn't do much better than Neuheisel. Whereas Gailey had the public image of the consummate old fart, Neuheisel's still in his forties; whereas Gailey's offense was so conservative he probably had a third-down punt somewhere in his playbook, Neuheisel likes it wide frickin' open; whereas Gailey considered even a lukewarm cup of Ovaltine before bed "too racy," Neuheisel apparently sits up and plays guitar with his players into the wee hours. And, of course, he's a hell of a gambler to boot. Does that frighten me a little? Well, uh, yeah; my admiration for Slick Rick is well-known (I pimped him for both the Georgia OC job and the UAB head-coaching position last year), and the one overriding common denominator of Tech's failures over the past six years -- namely, Gailey's head-slappingly subpar job of developing quarterbacks -- is something he seems eminently capable of turning around in a hurry.

And yet -- some car salesmen have a rule that no matter how perfect a car may be for a given buyer, if he can't picture himself in it, if it just doesn't "fit" his personality, he may not buy it. And I wonder if this might be that kind of situation, in both directions. I have just as hard a time picturing charismatic, guitar-playin' Slick Rick getting down with Tech's willfully nerdtastic culture as I do picturing Tech's fan base -- who love lording their alleged moral superiority over the Dawgs, to the point where sometimes you wonder whether they don't love it more than actually winning games -- embracing a guy with as much NCAA baggage as Neu has. Then again, Radakovich isn't a "Tech man," nor has he been all that quiet about his willingness to disregard all those old-guard conventions to get an energetic, program-defining guy. So what the hell do I know? In the end, as long as Neuheisel, Muschamp, or whoever promises to lose their first three games to Georgia so that we can run our streak to a nice round 10, I don't care what the hell else they do.

· Notice I said "alleged" moral superiority just now. Here's Trey Dunmon, "Tech man" and proud upholder of the GT tradition, explaining those high-minded ideals to Georgia DE Brandon Miller in the waning moments of last week's UGA-GT game:

Yes, that's what's known as a "clip," kids, and the refs considered it blatant enough to toss Dunmon from the game. Fine, he did it, he was appropriately punished, and I'd be willing to let it all go if not for this forum thread in which #74's daddy came to his little boy's defense.

Was a chop block that got him tossed. So the guy turned a little and caught it in the back.

The way we look at it, his stock with the Oakland Raiders may have just went up a few points.

But thanks everyone for the support.


Naturally, all those fine upstanding "Tech men" immediately condemned his flippant attitude, right?

breaking a UGAg players leg due to intensity is totally acceptable here.

I'm glad there was a GT player that had the intensity to try to make a legit play, but it turned out bad and got tossed. Those refs were total retards anyway.

Tell Trey we appreciate him, and to keep up the hard work!

And, of course, you can set your watch by the moment when a Techie steps up to compare Mark Richt's excessive-celebration order in the Florida game to the illegal cut-block. So, in case you're scoring at home, dancing in the end zone to celebrate a TD? Thugs! Deliberately trying to injure an opposing player? Intensity! Thank God for the infallible moral authority of those Tech guys, or else we'd never know how to respond in these situations.

Actually, I do know how to respond: Chip Dunmon, you're a piece of shit and so's your kid. Hey, lay off me, I'm just being intense! But if anyone sees a middle-aged, twice-divorced dude in a #74 Tech jersey at the UGA-GT game a year from now, I hope you'll be kind enough to inform him how we deal with that kind of thing in Athens.

Nope, not this year, kiddo.

· Now that I've laid into the Techies for a spell, I unfortunately have to toss some leftover vitriol at a few of my fellow Dawgs. I've been perusing some of the comment threads lately, reading the speculatin' on Georgia's bowl destination and this and that, and it's been brought to my attention that a few of you are still clinging to this idea that, by virtue of their identical conference records, Georgia and Tennessee are "co-champs" of the SEC East.

As Dennis Miller used to say before he became an unfunny Bush-administration ass-kisser, let it go. Walk away from it. It never happened.

I don't care what the SEC Web site says -- hindsight is 20/20, and the SEC East championship was decided back on October 6 when we went into Knoxville not giving a fuck and got pasted by the Vols 35-14. Tie, broken; championship, decided. We're not "co-champs" any more than John Kerry is the co-president. If you're a Dawg fan seriously expecting to get some kind of credit for this silly-ass "co-championship," you're no better than the Techies who claim an ACC "co-championship" from 1998 because they managed to finish with the same 7-1 conference record that Florida State did -- in spite of the fact that FSU crushed them 34-7 in the regular season.

Besides, we don't need to pull some contrived co-championship out of our asses to be proud of what the Dawgs have accomplished this season. We're ranked #4 in the country, we're rising a six-game winning streak (the last five coming against bowl-bound teams), and our ultimate bowl destination could very well be better than Tennessee's. All that's not enough to distract you from splitting hairs over "co-championships"?

What, you don't think I'm a lovable coach? I'M LOVABLE, DAMMIT!

· Finally, it is worth pointing out that Virginia coach Al Groh, last seen topping Stewart Mandel's list of the worst coaches in Division I-A, has just been named ACC Coach of the Year. This after overcoming a 5-7 season last year -- and, it should be said, a staggeringly awful performance against Wyoming in this year's opener -- to go 9-3 this year and come within a game of the Coastal Division championship.

But then this is hardly out of the ordinary for Mandel's worst-coaches lists -- not too long ago, he put Chan Gailey at the top, only to see Chan the Man go 9-5 and win a Coastal Division title one year later. With this kind of track record, I can only guess that if Karl Dorrell somehow manages to keep his job after this season, he'll top Mandel's list in 2008, and will follow up that dubious distinction with a 9-3 record and a Holiday Bowl berth. He'll probably go 6-6 and get the ax the very next season, but hey, it's all about makin' that paper.

Monday, November 26

BlogPoll ballot #14: In which I play the part of the big fat lazy sack of crap.

The Green Bay-Detroit game kicked off at about noon on Thanksgiving Day. From then until I left to come back to Birmingham on Sunday afternoon, it's safe to say I did nothing but eat, sleep, and watch football.

In short, it was glorious. In the words of Ron Livingston's character from "Office Space," "I did nothing . . . and it was everything I thought it could be."

Games watched: USC-Arizona State, Colorado-Nebraska, Arkansas-LSU, Virginia Tech-Virginia, Georgia-Georgia Tech, a little bit of Clemson-South Carolina, Auburn-Alabama, the end of Missouri-Kansas.

1. Missouri (last week: 5)

2. West Virginia (3)

OK, here's my thinking on the Who's-Number-One thing.

With these rankings, I usually try to lean a little toward a "power poll" -- i.e., #1 would beat #2 on a neutral field, #2 would beat #3, and so on -- as opposed to strict rŽsumŽ ranking. I think Mizzou, with a more balanced offense and a better defense than people realize, would beat WVU on a neutral field, but in the end I really don't have any idea. So let's look at the rŽsumŽs.

Missouri's best win is obviously their fairly dominating performance against then-#2 Kansas. West Virginia's? Ehrm . . . probably last week's 66-21 dismantling of a ranked UConn team (whose defense was supposed to be pretty decent). Advantage: Mizzou, by a nose. Next two best wins: Missouri beat an Illinois team that would go on to finish 9-3 and held a ranked Texas Tech team to just 10 points; West Virginia outlasted 9-3 Cincinnati and annihilated Rutgers, both on the road. Advantage: I'm going with Mizzou there, too, but by an even slimmer margin. Next two best wins: Missouri beat Texas A&M by 14 and Colorado by 45; West Virginia beat Maryland by 17 and East Carolina by 41. Man, this is hard . . .

OK, let's do losses. Missouri briefly led currently 9th-ranked Oklahoma before succumbing to a turnover-induced swoon and ended up losing by 10 in Norman; West Virginia went down to Tampa, committed six turnovers, and lost by eight to currently 25th-ranked South Florida.

If West Virginia had beaten last year's Louisville team by 7 and Rutgers by 28, that might be enough to earn them the top spot, but this year's Big East just isn't that great. For notching marginally more impressive big wins and having a less embarrassing loss, Missouri gets my #1 vote. Which means, this season being what it is, that they're going to get destroyed by Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game this weekend.

3. Ohio State (4)

4. Oklahoma (9)

5. Southern California (12)
Did y'all see what they did to Arizona State, in Tempe, on Thanksgiving night? Yikes. Whatever ailed the Trojans while they were losing to Stanford and dicking around with the likes of Arizona earlier this season, it doesn't appear to be ailing them now.

6. Georgia (7)

7. Florida (8)

8. Kansas (2)

9. LSU (1)
Eight spots might be too far to drop the former #1 for a three-OT loss to an underrated opponent, but the loss to Arkansas was the culmination of a nearly month-long stretch in which the Tigers really hadn't played like the top team in the country. The defense, in particular, seems to have fallen way off the unit that shut out Mississippi State and destroyed Virginia Tech earlier in the season.

10. Virginia Tech (11)

11. Boston College (10)

12. Arizona State (6)

13. Tennessee (18)
They've gotten reeeeeal lucky over the past few weeks, but it's not like LSU hasn't gotten plenty of lucky breaks themselves. I'm betting that this year's SEC title game goes right down to the wire.

14. Illinois (14)

15. Hawaii (23)
OK, fine, give 'em a BCS bid. After last year's Oklahoma-Boise State matchup in the Fiesta, I'm sure that both LSU and Tennessee are thrilled at the prospect of facing a pass-nutty WAC team they will get no credit whatsoever for beating, but peals of ridicule for losing to.

16. Arkansas (NR/30)

17. Brigham Young (21)

18. Cincinnati (25)

19. Texas Tech (20)

20. Boise State (15)

21. Virginia (16)

22. Auburn (NR/29)

23. Connecticut (19)
Somebody in the Big East front office needs to do some serious revamping of the conference's bowl structure, because the Huskies may have gone from "OMG what if we beat West Virginia and get a BCS bid?" to "Yay, Meineke Car Care Bowl" in the span of four hours.

24. South Florida (24)

25. Wisconsin (22)

The next five: Clemson, Kentucky, Texas, Rutgers, Michigan.

Dropped out: Texas (13), Oregon (17).

"If I die, tell my wife I said 'hello.' "

Chan "Beige Alert" Gailey, out at Georgia Tech after six years. Thanks for the memories.

Anyway, I hear Orgeron and Franchione are both available.

Sunday, November 25

"So sorry," I said.

Stop! It isn't funny anymore!

I didn't really get into this too much last week because I was trying to go the humble and thankful route -- you know, trying not to tempt bad karma -- but now that both the holiday and the game are over, it's time to get down to business. With apologies to my cousin Duff, a Tech grad who is as outstanding a human being and father as anyone out there, I hate Georgia Tech.

I hate their elitist attitude. I hate their misbegotten idea that it's that much harder to get into Tech than UGA, when in fact the HOPE Scholarship has rendered any such discrepancy negligible at best. I hate the fact that they act like their players, who are all pursuing some sort of nebulous "management" degree, have to meet much higher academic standards than Georgia's. I hate that a bunch of people who stay inside playing "World of Warcraft" on any given Saturday night have the nerve to call Athens a cow town. I hate the fact that they live vicariously through teams like Florida and Auburn who have actually beaten Georgia in the last seven years. I hate their claim to a "share" of the 1998 ACC title, even though the team they supposedly "share" it with brass-knuckled them to the tune of 34-7 that year. I hate the fact that a team that hasn't won a conference title since the first Bush was president habitually criticizes Georgia for "underachieving" when they so much as fail to cover a point spread. I hate their constant whining about the supposed bias of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as if a) the paper were any less cynical toward Georgia's slipups and b) Mark Bradley threw the ball away on fourth down back in 2004. I hate the twerps who tore up our hedges in 1998 and threw stuff onto the field against Boston College earlier this year, but whine about how "classless" we Dawg fans supposedly are. I hate George Godsey and his "three-and-oh" gesture back in 2000, as if he'd done anything other than hold extra-point tries for the first two. I hate their urine-colored jerseys, the stadium that they can't fill, the "GoldFellas," and George O'Leary, even though he isn't even coaching there anymore. I not only hate the fans who celebrated their fraudulent "victory" back in 1999 like they'd just won the Rose Bowl, I hate their parents, their brothers and sisters, and their children, both those living and those not yet born. God, I hate them good.

With any luck, somebody has outsourced these dillwipes' jobs to Mumbai by now.

Ahh, now I feel better.

So anyway, you'll have to excuse me for taking this year's edition of Clean Old-Fashioned Hate pretty seriously. In the arcane calculus of southeastern college football, with its complex network of intersecting rivalries, you can ask five different Georgia fans who their biggest rival is and potentially get five different answers, but even that group can agree pretty solidly that Tech is the team they can least abide losing to. In fact, sitting around the table at T.G.I. Friday's the night before the game, I told my family that I would rather beat Georgia Tech and have to stay home for the SEC championship game than win the SEC title a week after a loss to the Jackets. Missing a trip to the Dome would not necessarily represent a failure relative to expectations for this season, but a loss to Tech would, and besides, the last thing I'd want is a bunch of Techies strutting around boasting that they beat the SEC champs. (Because you just know they'd do that.)

In other words, I wanted seven in a row, bad -- bad enough to stress about it. Never mind the fact that the margins of victory had been growing progressively closer ever since the 51-7 blowout in 2002; this weekend saw a lengthy parade of ranked teams fall to lesser-ranked (or completely unranked) opponents, and particularly given the playing-for-Chan-Gailey's-job motivations on one sideline and the is-Kentucky-beating-Tennessee distractions on the other, all the intangibles seemed to be piling up against the Dawgs.

I was nervous when Tashard Choice danced 12 yards into the end zone in the second quarter for Tech's first touchdown, more nervous still when Colin Peek caught an improbable pass from Taylor Bennett about 10 minutes later and went in for another score, and close to spontaneously combusting when Morgan Burnett picked up Matt Stafford's botched lateral in the third quarter and appeared destined for six. And when Tech's very next punt was muffed back into the end zone for our second miracle recovery/touchback of the day, I was really starting to think that, after the end-zone celebration in Jacksonville, the black jerseys, and three near-turnovers that were inches away from being turned into 21 Tech points, we were poised to go over the cliff. I didn't care that we were still ahead by two; I thought we had finally bounced a check at the karma bank, that God was going to decide we'd gotten cute one too many times and Tech was finally going to claw their way to a win.

"Oh, yeah, I totally meant to do that."

But it never happened -- instead, Georgia decided to stop getting lucky and start getting good. Stafford, complete to Sean Bailey for 22 yards. Then, Stafford, complete to Bailey for another 55, Brannan Southerland punches it in from the three, and we're off and running. If it looked familiar, it's because we saw nearly the exact same thing a couple weeks ago -- Georgia, suddenly down by three to Auburn, spits and says "Enough of this" and launches a 45-yarder to Bailey; Knowshon Moreno takes care of the rest. In this most recent instance, Tech was able to boot a 44-yard field goal on their next possession, but after that they were done scoring for the day.

So was Georgia lucky on Saturday? Well, sure, and some Tech fans are no doubt attributing Georgia's win to that and that alone as we speak. But Paul Westerdawg has a quote that I think is quite applicable here: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Sure, there was a certain amount of luck involved in Georgia managing to cover up those fumbles before they turned into Tech touchdowns. But one could argue that there was an equal amount of Tech luck in those uncharacteristic fumbles occurring to begin with; the difference was that Georgia made the most of their luck and Tech didn't. There will certainly be much wailing and gnashing of teeth as to why that was, but I think Westerdawg, once again, summed it up pretty succinctly:

They essentially came out, saw our team's red helmets and promptly wet themselves. It's a sight that Georgia fans should be familiar with . . . it's the same thing we did in Jacksonville many a time. The weight of a huge streak facilitates choking, alligator arms, fumbled snaps and blown coverages.

So I guess you could say I got what I wished for: a seventh straight win over Tech rather than an SEC title. Believe it or not -- and the Techies and Vol fans out there almost certainly won't -- but I really don't care all that much about the fact that we won't be playing in the Dome this year. Yeah, a title shot would've been nice, and after the last month there's ample reason to believe we would've taken out LSU -- but we're ranked fourth in the nation in both polls and fourth in the BCS, which makes us automatic for an at-large BCS berth, so it's not like we're not getting our props for the way we've finished this season (on a six-game winning streak, the last five against bowl teams, three of them ranked, in case you needed a refresher). At the end of my preseason string of previews, I had Georgia at 10-2 and eyeing a bid to the Outback or possibly the Capital One Bowl, but it's safe to say our sights have been raised a notch higher. Would anyone have thought, back in August, that we'd be awaiting word from the Rose or Orange around this time of year? Hell, would you have thought that as recently as mid-October?

Yeah, about that: I know I was a wee bit hard on Coach Richt after that Tennessee debacle, but at the risk of being redundant, I'm incredibly thankful for him being our coach. Something reminded me of that toward the end of the game Saturday, and it wasn't Mark wearing black (because he wasn't), or the fact that we didn't take advantage of a first-and-10 at the Tech 33 with nearly three minutes left to tack on another fuck-y'all touchdown, or even the fact that we were about to wax Tech for the seventh straight year: Oddly enough, it was a shot of Katharyn Richt, "water girl" extraordinaire, laughing on the sideline with the players to whom she was serving up Gatorade.

Bulldog Nation's First Family.

I thought about the postgame smooch she was sure to receive (or give?) once the clock hit 00:00, I thought about how rare it is to see a coach's family members on the sideline period, and maybe it had to do with Thanksgiving and the fact that I was happy to be surrounded by my own family, but I thought there was something incredibly heartwarming about the whole thing -- the fact that we Dawg fans know Richt and his family so well and that his family has become almost as much a symbol of Dawg Nation as anything else. Think of some of the coaches who will be switching (or losing) jobs this year -- the underhanded Franchiones, the condescending Callahans, the wandering-eye Les Mileses -- and the roiling stomachs and sleepless nights they've caused their fans over the past couple weeks (or longer). Now think about how much fun we've had over the past few weeks and the kind of man we know Mark Richt to be, and consider how fortunate we are. Mark has made mistakes, but he's learned from them; he's lost a couple games he shouldn't have lost, but then he's turned right around and won a few nobody expected him to win. And he's poised to make the next few years a very, very fun time to be wearing the red and black.

You know, maybe the Techies got it right, accidentally: We did get really lucky -- in the coach we ended up with. We lucked out and got a coach who rarely needs to get all that lucky, or when he does, he manages to make some of his own.

So I apologize, Georgia Tech. We did get damn lucky Saturday evening, but it was no different from the luck we've been experiencing ever since December 2000. And while one or two might be "luck" the way you've come to understand it, seven isn't. Here's hoping eight won't be, either. If/when we hit nine or ten, maybe then I'll be satisfied.

Then again, maybe not. Now that Navy has finally knocked off Notre Dame, maybe it's time the competition for that whole "longest active losing streak to a single opponent" thing got a little fiercer.

"You know what I want to hear."
"No, I don't."
"You cranked it for him, you can crank it for me."
"Well, I don't think I can remember -- "
"If Knowshon can stand it, I can. Crank dat!"

And down the stretch they come:

· Should the Dawgs be chosen for the Rose Bowl next week -- which ain't likely, according to LD, but still -- they would probably face a suddenly resurgent Southern Cal team. Anyone who saw the Trojans' dismantling of Arizona State on Thanksgiving night knows that ain't necessarily a good thing. But my most lasting impression of that game wasn't SC's domninance, it was my burning mental daggers of white-hot hate for ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter. Was it just me or was Carpenter trash-talking after every single freaking play -- not just to Southern Cal players, but occasionally even to the refs? Kid was so animated at some points that even the great Reggie Ball would've been like, "Whoa, dog, that's too much." I can't stand guys who spend that much time jawing at everybody around them, and if I could insert a Bill Maher "New Rule" here, it would be: If you're down by more than one score, you officially have to shut the fuck up.

· No such rule for the fans, of course; naturally, it'd be unenforceable. But it's just as well, because watching my parents (Virginia grads) yak back and forth with my aunt and uncle (Virginia Tech grad/fan by marriage) throughout the Commonwealth Cup game on Saturday was marvelously entertaining. That Tech knows how to hold onto a lead, and they will now be facing Boston College in the ACC title game this weekend. I'd imagine that the Hokies are already just a wee bit amped for that one; either way, it can't be any worse than last year's.

· On the drive back to Birmingham Sunday afternoon, I obviously saw a bajillion cars flying Auburn flags -- strangely, there wasn't an Alabama flag to be found, not while I was driving, anyway. This year's Iron Bowl was a pretty pedestrian affair for the most part, actually, but I did think it was worth posting this.

· As for your former number-one team in the land, LSU . . . jeez, guys. On the one hand, a little part of me wanted to see them dispatch Arkansas just because I wanted to see an SEC team in the national-title game again, but then I remembered that, ideally, Georgia would whup 'em in the SEC title game so it would be academic anyway. But I gotta wonder if the Tigers' collapse against Arkansas -- which was not a sudden, out-of-character incident but rather the culmination of several weeks of half-assedness from the purple and gold -- might have just a little bit to do with the fact that Kirk Ferentz has popped up out of nowhere atop Michigan's new-coach wish list. And by "nowhere" I mean "19-18 over the last three seasons and, oh yeah, he just lost at home to Western Michigan." Maybe Miles really is just too spicy a meatball for Ann Arbor to handle.

· Anyway, with all that in mind, I'm not sure I care that Tennessee got handled by Florida and Alabama, or that they've been squeaking by teams in a manner that makes Virginia look like the Patriots, or that they just took four OTs to finally secure their berth in the SEC title game -- between their seeming un-kill-able-ness and LSU's sudden fallibility, I'd seriously consider betting on a Tennessee shocker in the Georgia Dome this weekend. You really think we're done with the upsets this year?

· And I would be remiss if I didn't give a little tip of the cap to (now former) Ole Miss coach and frequent HJS punching bag Ed Orgeron as he rumbles off into the sunset. I do hope, however, that the last three years in Oxford serve as a cautionary tale to any newly hired athletic directors who get a hard-on for firing a coach after one subpar season just because they want to put their stamp on the program and get "their own guy" in there. Given the way Tennessee has risen from the ashes since David Cutcliffe came back, can even the most Kool-Aid-soaked Rebel fan out there tell me that life wouldn't have been a lot better if Pete Boone had just kept his gun in his holster back in 2004 and given Cutcliffe time to get things sorted out?

Fine, you sons of bitches, I'll go. But I'm keeping the pillows!

· Finally, a little interactivity fo' that ass: Whom, readers, do you rank at #1 on this fine morning?

a) Missouri
b) Ohio State
c) West Virginia
d) none of the above

I've got a tentative answer that I'm leaning toward, but no definite decision yet. So give me some suggestions and state your case.

And now that it's after Thanksgiving, I finally feel comfortable saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever else. Seriously, Hey Jenny Slater does not play that "put the Christmas decorations up in mid-November" crap. But anyway, you can expect my Christmas list any day now. You'll need plenty of time to get to work.

Saturday, November 24

Caption contest!
(Sponsored by Clean Old-Fashioned Hate)

Here's mine, to get you started:

"Really, it's been great. If you need me to be a reference, just holler."

Your ideas in the comments. Full recap up whenever I get around to it; 'til then, happy holidays, mofos . . . and GO DAWGS!

Friday, November 23

Please forgive the Friday Random Ten+5 for going all sentimental for just a bit.

Sorry for being a little tardy with this one, but I consumed my own weight in Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, and rebooting my system took a little longer than I expected. The final tally: three helpings of turkey (with gravy and dressing), two helpings of cheese grits (a family tradition this time of year), four rolls, green beans, a dollop of cranberry relish, one piece of apple pie, one piece of pumpkin cheesecake, and just to annoy the hell out of my parents, two squirts of Reddi-Whip directly into my piehole. (Also a family tradition, in its own way.) Between the tryptophan and the colossally boring Cowboys-Jets game, I almost wondered if I'd wake up at all today.

But I did, and here's Five Things For Which I'm Sincerely Thankful This Year:

Being an American
Yes, I know I've spent the last few years being as outraged as any human being alive over the direction in which this country is being taken, but it's nice to live in a country that's at least worth getting outraged over. Think of how many other countries in the world where people simply say "This place is beyond saving," pack up their stuff and come here -- how fortunate are we that, even when our government can't find its own dick with two hands and a map, our standard of living is still better than 95 percent of the rest of the world?

Being a Georgia fan
Last weekend I was up in Big Ten country, shivering in a 36-degree drizzle; this weekend I'll be watching the Dawgs take on a team whose fans are 90-percent male and whose idea of a Saturday-night throwdown is a 12-man "World of Warcraft" game in somebody's rumpus room. So as you might expect, I'm thanking my lucky stars for survivable temperatures, expansive tailgating, and hot girls in red and/or black dresses right about now -- not to mention an awesome team and a coach who's a stand-up guy, whether he's in Good Richt or Keyser Söze mode. Like being an American, being a Georgia Bulldog -- even when it drives you frickin' nuts -- is still pretty awesome.

My dog
For a long time I didn't think I was a dog person. Then I realized I like dogs, but I didn't think I liked little dogs. Then I decided I liked Boston terriers, but I thought for sure I'd never be the kind of person who puts clothes on a little dog and walks it around -- though as you can see from the above picture, that, too, has gone right out the window. As with being a parent, having a dog makes you do things you never thought you'd do -- and occasionally makes you crazy -- but given that Jenna the Wonder Terrier is one of the best things that's ever happened to me, it's totally worth it. She's helped me make friends I never would've had the werewithal to make on my own, and you can't imagine how nice it is to come home after a shitty day at the office and have someone run up to you like your mere presence is the most exciting thing ever. Now if I could just find a human female who looks at me that way, and no, it's not necessary for her to lick my face.

My family
Every time we go down to Columbus for a weekend visit, my sister and I remark on how nice it is that we have parents we actually look forward to seeing, rather than dreading the prospect of spending three days in their presence. I've got a dad who's given me a role model for how someone should act as a member of society; a mom who is a pillar of hard work and morality, yet who also told me probably three quarters of the dirty jokes i know; a sister who has been full of support and good advice in my frequent clueless moments, and who can dog-sit at a moment's notice; and an overall family unit that has survived for decades without divorce, separation, addiction, or anyone getting thrown in jail (despite my best efforts). There is literally not a day that goes by that I don't thank the Lord for blessing me with all of them.

50 inches of high-definition plasma goodness
Hey, they can't all be life-affirming and profound.

And if I'm shallow enough to give thanks for plasma TV, I might as well also give thanks for my video iPod. What say you, iPod?

1. Underworld, "Born Slippy" (Live from Benicassim 2005)
2. Pet Shop Boys, "One More Chance"
3. Wu-Tang Clan, "Clan in da Front"
4. U2, "Salome" (Zooromancer remix)
5. U2, "Mysterious Ways"
6. Mr. Scruff, "Get a Move On"
7. St. Germain, "Rose Rouge"
8. The Clash, "Rudie Can't Fail"
9. Underworld, "Puppies"
10. Ice Cube, "We Had to Tear This Muthafucka Up"

Ah, yes, nobody gets me into that holiday spirit quite like the Cube.

Last but not least, readers, I'm thankful for all of you; you boost my ego on the regular with your praise, your contributions, the fact that you're even interested in this blog to begin with. I can't tell you how much my life has benefited from the fact that y'all don't have anything better to do. Leave your own Random Tens, and whatever you're thankful for, in the comments.

Thursday, November 22

. . . And this nerd you cannot change: Revisiting the Yellow Jackets.

Above, students from UGA and GT demonstrate some of the dramatic differences between their respective student, uh, bodies.

What I said at the time: The loss of Reggie Ball, Georgia's MVP for four straight Clean Old-Fashioned Hate games, was lamented . . .

Even as [Georgia fans] were chanting “Reg-gie” and joking about having a ceremony to retire Ball’s jersey after last year’s game, they were wondering what life would be like without Game Ball to hand them gift-wrapped Ws year after year. Starting QB Taylor Bennett is the mother of all variables: He had a stellar performance against West Virginia, but the Mountaineers’ pass defense was nothing special, not that you can really draw overarching conclusions from bowl games in the first place; he almost has to be better than Reggie Ball by default, and yet he never managed to knock Reggie off the top of the depth chart. . . .

The kid is a puzzle, but if I had to make a decision, I’d say he worries me, for one simple reason: Whatever mental block Reggie had with respect to the Dawgs, Bennett isn’t necessarily going to have it. In a pinch, the Dawgs could sit back and count on Ball to find a way to blow the game, but whether Taylor Bennett is the next Joe Hamilton or the next Tommy Luginbill, the Bulldogs can’t automatically count on him to do the same.

. . . but "addition by subtraction" ended up taking a back seat to "6-0, bitches":

. . . [I]n 29 years on this planet, there are a few lessons I've learned that are major enough to stick with me forever: Good coffee is worth paying extra for, girls never actually want to be "friends," and you don't mess with a streak. Georgia's dominance over the Jackets has stretched to six games in a row now, a stranglehold that Georgia Tech would really have to prove profound superiority in some area to break -- and so far I haven't seen any unmistakable evidence that they've done that. . . . Georgia wins yet another heart-stopper. Why? Because it's what we do.

Like it was our job, lawya.

What's happened since then: For the Bulldogs, a light went on during the Vanderbilt game, and a season that was on the brink after a humiliating loss to Tennessee now stands at 9-2 (6-2 SEC), with the Dawgs ranked 7/8 in the polls, assured of no worse than second place in the SEC East, and still harboring hope of an SEC title-game berth if the Vols falter against Kentucky. If any such light went on for the Jackets, it didn't stay on long -- their 2-0 start was negated by a 1-3 run to start conference play, and they're now 7-4 (4-4) and destined for third in the ACC Coastal.

Care to amend your initial statement, sir?: Actually, yes: Mainly, I appear to have vastly overestimated the greater stability that Taylor Bennett would bring to the Tech offense. I'm sure he's got more upstairs than Ball did, and he certainly hasn't been beaten down by four straight years of failure against the Dawgs like Ball was, but there's no getting around it -- compared to anyone other than Reggie, Bennett just isn't that good. He's completing just a tick over 50 percent of his passes -- better than any of Reggie's last three years on the Flats -- but he's only averaging 173.5 yards per game, and his TD/INT ratio is 5/8. No, I didn't reduce that fraction down any; kid's only thrown five touchdown passes this year (and two of those came against Duke). Just for comparison's sake, Tim Tebow has scored that many touchdowns in four separate games this season.

It might occur to you, however, that any team that's still managed to go 7-4 with that kind of production (or lack of same) at the QB spot must have either a killer running game or a pretty good defense. I think it's safe to say that Georgia Tech has both. Despite nagging injuries that have limited him (or kept him out entirely) in four games this season, running back Tashard Choice has rolled up 1,176 yards (first in the ACC) and 17 TDs (tied for sixth). Meanwhile, the Tech defense is currently ranked seventh in the nation; they are particularly disruptive against the run, allowing an average of only 89.5 rushing yards per game. It is entirely likely that Knowshon Moreno's streak of five straight hundred-yard games will be halted on the Flats this Saturday.

I know, I know, it's hard to imagine, but still . . .

Or will it? As usual, Senator Blutarsky has compiled some veddy eeenteresting statistics, and as a whole they tend to indicate that a lot of Tech's gaudier numbers have been fattened up on competition low in nutrition and high in empty calories. Against teams with losing records, Tech's defense has clamped down to the tune of 243 yards allowed per game, but that average shoots up 150 more yards per game when you start talking about opponents with winning records. Similar case with Tashard Choice: Of his seven 100-yard rushing performances this season, only one of them came against a team that currently possesses a winning record (32 carries for 145 yards against Clemson). Granted, Choice is probably the healthiest he's been since going to Miami six weeks ago, but he's also facing the toughest rush defense he's seen since that Clemson game (at 118 yards per game, Georgia's run D is ranked 25th in the nation).

Overall, this is an on-paper situation that screams "Georgia ass-whipping," or at least sexily purrs it into your ear whilst pouring you a drink. And I'd be a lot more turned on by that if this series hadn't developed a marked distaste for blowouts over the last four years. In 2004, eighth-ranked Georgia had a 16-0 halftime lead on the Jackets but needed a Favre-ish final drive from David Greene and an epic brain fart from Reggie Ball on fourth down to seal a 19-13 win; in 2005, the Dawgs were ranked #13 and headed for an SEC title but were unable to breathe easily until the final 90 seconds of their 14-7 win over 20th-ranked Tech; in 2006, it was Tech who was nationally ranked (16th) and Georgia who had stumbled through a rocky four-loss season, but the game still came down to a Georgia TD pass with 1:45 remaining and a subsequent Ball interception. Yeah, 51-7 was a hoot, but let's face it, that was a statistical outlier as far as this series is concerned.

Why has this game turned into such an annual nailbiter regardless of records, rankings, or anything else? We could debate any number of possible answers to that question, but I think it all comes down to basically one thing: Tech's desire to win this one only burns hotter and brighter with each passing year (and each Georgia win). The longer the streak gets, the more single-minded Tech becomes in their need to break it; each successive year's senior class becomes that much more determined to not go oh-fer their careers against the Dawgs. I don't imagine that this comes as a surprise to anybody.

Tech fans like to brag about their "smarts"; Georgia fans like making them use that word as a verb.

But I think that fact becomes a little more critical given how much experience Tech brings to the table on both the offensive and defensive lines -- two seniors and a junior on the O-line, and an all-upperclassman defensive front (with two more seniors starting at linebacker). None of this is to say that the underclassmen don't care all that much about beating Georgia, but let's be real here -- having endured multiple losses to Georgia and staring at the prospect of going 0-3 or 0-4 lifetime against the Dawgs is an incredibly powerful motivator. Whatever struggles the Jackets have endured this season, they're still very stout up front on both sides of the ball, and Georgia is going to be taking their absolute best shot at the line of scrimmage every single down on Saturday.

That doesn't mean the Dawgs are going to be totally outgunned, however. It's been said many times over by Dawg bloggers far more insightful than I, but it bears repeating: first-year OL coach Stacy Searels is a fucking magician, coaching a cobbled-together offensive line containing two freshmen to only 14 sacks allowed all season long, same as Tech's far more experienced unit, and 4.27 tackles for loss per game (an astounding fifth in the nation). Our defensive line, meanwhile, has come on like gangbusters over the past month -- over their last four games, they've notched 17 sacks and allowed an average of 83.5 yards rushing.

You might also be surprised to find out that Georgia's defense has allowed only one 100-yard rushing performance all season long (to BenJarvus Green-Ellis of Ole Miss) -- which is of critical importance when you consider that Tech is 5-0 this season when Tashard Choice rushes for 140 or more. Of course, Georgia has yet to face a running back as talented or as dominant in his offense as Choice is. If Gailey has learned his lesson from last year's soul-crushing loss, then he knows Choice, not the passing game, will be what powers Tech to a win on Saturday; because of that, I have a hard time envisioning Choice not getting his hundred yards one way or the other. So the best strategy for containing him may be to put together sustained drives on offense and simply try to keep him on the sidelines for as much time as possible.

You must be tired after all that running. Here, have a seat and we'll bring you some Gatorade.

With our offense averaging 39 points and an even 200 rushing yards (4.6 ypc) over their last four games, that's actually not a half bad idea. I think, though, that the one who has to really take control of this game is not Knowshon Moreno but rather Matt Stafford. Jon Tenuta is as blitz-happy as any defensive coordinator out there, but as Nathan, our semi-faithful GT correspondent, points out, Tenuta's blitzes are a lot more run-oriented than people realize, and Tech's front seven is almost certainly going to be gunning for Moreno come Saturday. In a weird way, though, Tenuta's blitz obsession could end up working to Staff's advantage, and one need only look back to the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game a few Thursday nights ago to figure out why. Perhaps buying into the conventional wisdom at the time that the Hokie offensive line was shaky, Tenuta blitzed Sean Glennon like the fate of the free world depended on it, but with the GT secondary thus left with man coverage, Glennon suddenly morphed into Joe Montana. The Jackets did end up sacking him six times, but when he wasn't flat on his back, Glennon was cruise-missling the GT secondary for 296 yards and a pair of TDs, the second-best performance of his career.

. . . And doing so in a Georgia Tech jersey, the hilariousness of which is impossible to overstate.

If Sean Glennon can do that, Matt Stafford should be able to, assuming that the coaching staff lets him loose to throw the kinds of bombs he was completing against Florida and Auburn the last few weeks. Yeah, he ended up with only 99 yards against Kentucky, but the law of averages says that's not gonna happen two weeks in a row (assuming that the receiving corps steps up a little more than they did against the Wildcats).

One last intangible -- the Tennessee-Kentucky game, which will probably have been decided by the time Georgia and Georgia Tech retake the field for the second half at Bobby Dodd. Obviously it's possible to overestimate the importance of such things, but if the Wildcats do somehow knock off the Vols on Saturday, there's a real danger of the Dawgs getting distracted by their shiny new SEC East title, and Richt is going to have to account for that and make sure his guys take care of the business at hand. (Of course, an announcement of a Kentucky win would probably raise such a lusty cheer amongst the thousands of Dawg fans who will no doubt be packing Bobby Dodd Stadium that the PA announcer might just ignore it entirely.)

Regardless, this one's gonna be a dogfight; as we found out in humiliating fashion against Tennessee, a coach's job being on the line tends to make a team play with just a wee bit more intensity, and I see no reason why Tech should be any different, given that a loss Saturday would tie Georgia's longest winning streak in the series. I can see Georgia putting together a couple nice early drives at BDS this weekend, but I can also see those drives alternating with a few three-and-outs against the Jacket defense, meaning that Tashard Choice's running may be able to singlehandedly keep the Jackets within striking distance on the scoreboard. In the end, though, this is a very balanced offense vs. an entirely one-dimensional one, and that balance will make the difference as the Dawgs drive for a late score that the Yellow Jackets are unable to answer. Final score, Georgia by a touchdown, but no more -- there are any number of other predictions I could make subsequent to that (Tennessee-Kentucky, Georgia's bowl destination, Chan Gailey's employment status), but I'm sticking to the task at hand. Here's hoping the Dawgs do the same.

No, it sure doesn't.

I will run up and down Highland Avenue in front of my apartment building wearing nothing but a Georgia flag if: Georgia wins, period. As I've explained on numerous occasions, Tech remains the team I hate the most out of all of Georgia's hated rivals, and while I know we have to lose to them eventually, I'd rather we not do it on a day when a potential BCS berth hangs in the balance. And I will not deny that I've really developed a taste for drinking the Yellow Jackets' tears of unfathomable sadness year after year after year. Yeah, I know, I'm a horrible person! But I've been that way for going on 30 years -- what the hell do you expect me to do about it now?

Tuesday, November 20

BlogPoll ballot #13: After many hours spent deep in thought at the Detroit airport . . .

Last week, for the first time in 27 games, I missed a Georgia game entirely -- didn't get to attend, didn't get to watch it on TV, didn't even get to pick it up on the radio. (Somehow, the Dawgs overcame this negligence.) Thanks to debilitating post-Michigan-OSU fatigue, however, I ended up spending most of Saturday night vegetating in an Ann Arbor hotel room, and managed to catch up on a little bit of what was going on in the rest of the country.

Games watched: Miami (Ohio)-Akron (go ahead, make your jokes), Arizona-Oregon, Hawaii-Nevada, Ohio State-Michigan (you are looking LIVE!), most of Boston College-Clemson and Texas Tech-Oklahoma.

1. LSU (last week: 1)
Just when it looked like LSU's number-one candidacy was hanging by a very slim thread, two of the teams creeping up on them (Oregon and Oklahoma) got cracked. Fans better hope the Tigers spend this week focusing more on shoring up their defense than on Les Miles's future job prospects, because their defense seems to have slacked off a bit over the past few weeks -- just a hint, guys, you shouldn't ever be allowing John Parker Wilson or Brent Schaeffer to look like superstars -- and life isn't going to get any easier if Glenn Dorsey's knee injury continues to linger.

2. Kansas (3)

3. West Virginia (4)

4. Ohio State (6)
If you were bored silly by the OSU-Michigan game, blame the Buckeyes' defense; their dominance ensured that a 14-3 lead was more than enough to cruise on for the rest of the day. And they may have snuck right back into the national-title conversation, too.

5. Missouri (7)

6. Arizona State (10)

7. Georgia (8)
Three tear-your-hair-out turnovers in the first half against Kentucky had red lights and sirens going off all across Bulldog Nation, but it says something that they gathered themselves up and covered the spread on a ranked, bowl-bound team just the same. That wake-up call should serve them well as they prepare to square off against a Georgia Tech team that would really like to beat them sometime this century.

8. Florida (9)

9. Oklahoma (5)
Booted right out of the national-title race when Sam Bradford had to leave the Texas Tech game with a concussion; Bradford may come back this week -- unlike Oregon's Dennis Dixon -- but starting tailback DeMarco Murray will not. Which means the Sooners could still have their hands full keeping up with Oklahoma State on the scoreboard.

10. Boston College (17)

11. Virginia Tech (11)

12. Southern California (12)

13. Texas (15)

14. Illinois (14)

15. Boise State (16)

16. Virginia (20)
Not sure if they deserve a four-spot bump for doing nothing this past weekend, but at the very least they'll be rested enough to make the Commonwealth Cup game in Charlottesville very, very interesting.

17. Oregon (2)
If you saw any of the Ducks' performance at Arizona last Thursday, you know they're basically done, not just in the national-title race but perhaps in the Pac-10 race as well (they still have to face UCLA and Oregon State). Brady Leaf looked like he'd been accidentally given a playbook written in Sanskrit, and the coaches aren't going to be able to completely revamp the offense around him in the span of two weeks.

18. Tennessee (19)

19. Connecticut (24)

20. Texas Tech (NR)

21. Brigham Young (NR)
While everybody's been busy mulling over Hawaii's BCS chances for the past two months, BYU has very quietly overcome a 1-2 start to win seven straight and has a very good shot at a second straight undefeated MWC season. They're not going to sniff a BCS bowl, but I think a case can be made that they're the best mid-major in the country at the moment.

22. Wisconsin (25)

23. Hawaii (21)
Did their best to throw away a two-touchdown lead at Nevada but got bailed out by some clutch plays by their backup QB (and some head-slappingly bad clock management by Nevada's coach). That may not cut it against Boise State this week, though the Warriors have played their best games by far at home.

24. South Florida (NR)

25. Cincinnati (18)

The next five: Clemson, Kentucky, Rutgers, Auburn, Arkansas.

Dropped out: Clemson (13), Michigan (22), Penn State (23).

Monday, November 19

Streets like a jungle, so call the police . . .

Me and Honolulu homeboy Mark Niesse at Michigan Stadium, November 17, 2007.

It's a cliche that numerous people have used in the past -- perhaps even Wolverine fans themselves at times -- but to walk into Michigan Stadium is to walk back into the past, back before "Soulja Boy" on the Jumbotron, back before luxury skyboxes, back even before lights. I think it was a few minutes into the fourth quarter when I looked up, turned to Kristen, and said, "You know what? This place doesn't have any lights," and we looked around and sure enough, there were only two banks of lights, both on the Main Street side of the stadium, both apparently trucked in on rented cranes. Which goes a ways toward explaining the noon kickoff, a time slot the SEC normally reserves for who-gives-a-shit OOC appointments with the D-IAAs and UL-Monroes of the world. (OK, bad example.)

So the stadium was a big part of the reason why our football weekend in Annerber was kind of like the gameday equivalent of going to Canada: Everything looks familiar enough that you're not completely lost, but it's all just a little bit . . . off. From the outside, Michigan Stadium is no more gigantic or imposing than any county-fair arena where you've gone to see a rodeo, primarily because it's one of those old-school sunk-into-the-ground bowl stadiums as opposed to a holy temple like Bryant-Denny or Death Valley; once you walk inside, the place is a little more impressive, but it still doesn't strike you as the kind of place that should be able to hold 107,000 people on a regular basis. It's like one of those funhouse rooms that looks normal when you first walk into it, but the ceilings and walls and the checkerboard pattern on the floor have all been slanted and carefully messed-with to disguise the bizarre proportions. The backs of the end zones seem to be right up against the front row of bleachers, which makes the sidelines seem small as well, but then you look down and the entire Ohio State marching band has managed to fit in there, so . . . what the hell's going on here?

Michigan Stadium before the game started . . .

I don't want our Michigan hosts to think I'm being snooty or condescending here; it wasn't bad, just different. The only thing I'm going to be audacious enough to take major issue with is the restroom situation; for reals, y'all need to figure that shit out. One bank of restrooms on each of the stadium's four sides might have cut it back in '27, when most Americans probably would've been grateful for any kind of indoor plumbing at all, but 80 years later, a hundred-man line at the restroom door just isn't acceptable, no matter how quickly and steadily they're conveyor-belting through the place. Do something about this, Michiganders, plzkthxbai; the bladders you save may be your own.

. . . and a slightly more obstructed view during the second half of play.

The Russian-bread-line restroom protocol, however, did give me a chance to observe the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry at its most basic and visceral level. As they stood five-deep at the urinals, trying so hard not to wet themselves that they were quivering, the various Michigan and tOSU fans still had enough energy to curse a blue streak at each other about whose state was full of rednecks, whose team had managed to lose to App State, on and on and on. I've been to plenty of football games in my time, many of them between teams that qualified as hated rivals, but I don't think I've ever seen that hatred expressed as casually (or as frequently) as it was between the Michigan and tOSU faithful. Even on Tennessee or Georgia Tech weekend, even in the Georgia student section, a shouted F-bomb is a rare enough occurrence that you remember a specific instance later on, but on Saturday, from the streets to the stands to the very restrooms, it was as common as the word "the."

Put a Tennessee fan and a Georgia fan in adjacent urinals and there'll be some jawing back and forth about which state has the bigger rednecks or which team has the more extensive rap sheet, but profanity will be rare; not so between the Wolverines and Buckeyes. Yet at times there was a wink-wink feeling to it, too, as if the respective partisans knew the whole thing was ridiculous and were just going along with it to try and tally up more curse words over the course of the weekend than their opponents, just like they'd tried to donate more pints of blood to the Red Cross over the previous week.

Ohio State, incidentally, won that one by a mere four pints out of well over 6,500 donated; the actual game was substantially less close, and at times may have been even less interesting to watch. That, just so you know, is not my judgment but Brian's; he's got a greater familiarity with the people and plays involved than I do, so I'll leave any in-depth recapping to him. I'll simply say that from what I could see from high above the north end zone, exactly two players distinguished themselves: Ohio State RB Chris Wells, who ran for 222 yards and both tOSU TDs, and Michigan's punter, Zoltan Mesko, whose repeated attempts to flip the field-position equation in the Wolverines' favor were as heroic as they were wasted. It would be difficult to overstate just how painful it was to watch Michigan's offense on Saturday; quarterback Chad Henne, a senior, finished 11-of-34 for 68 yards and looked like he had never actually met any of his receivers in person, while RB Mike Hart (18 rushes for 44 yards) appeared lucky just to make it back to the line of scrimmage on many of his runs. Once Ohio State pushed their lead to 11 on Wells's 62-yard touchdown rumble to open the second half, Jim Tressel quickly sussed out that the Michigan offense was in no position to make up two scores and contented himself with simply throwing Wells or his backup, Brandon Saine, at the Michigan line over and over and over again. As we were leaving the stadium, I remember saying "I don't think Todd Boeckman threw more than two passes the entire second half," and Brian confirmed that with his post Monday; both passes, in case you were wondering, were incomplete, but it hardly mattered.

This is a comment on the outcome, by the way, not on the game itself.

There was a light-to-moderate rain nearly the entire game, and the temperature stayed just warm enough to ensure that it never became snow, but that we still froze our Bulldog asses off. I don't know how Mark, who came all the way from Honolulu to experience Michigan-tOSU for the first time, survived, but he did. Maybe it helped that we were huddled for warmth by default, crammed into the bleachers so tight that I thought for sure there had to be some section of the stadium that was being held completely empty. But there wasn't.

If the game was a bit of a letdown, however, the Annerber experience was not. Friday night we ate dinner at The Arena, where each booth had its own 13-inch LCD television screen, most of which were inexplicably set to the Big Ten Network's replay of the Michigan-App State game. From there we went to Conor O'Neil's and then (briefly) to the Monkey Bar, where no sooner had we walked inside than I saw a dude who looked like a skinny version of my best friend Matt from high school and I knew had to be none other than MGoBlog's legendary Brian Cook. After recovering from the bizarre coincidence, we all got annihilated at a martini bar down the street, and I also got to meet Jerry Hinnen, the Auburn expatriate who writes The Joe Cribbs Car Wash from A2 since having followed his med-student fiancee up there. (In retrospect I kind of regret not having had the energy to go out Saturday night, because I'm sure I would've been fascinated to hear the firsthand reaction of an Auburn grad to Alabama's shocker loss to ULM.)

We did get the chance to commiserate with Dave of Maize 'n' Brew, who was kind enough to let us co-opt some space at his table at the Grizzly Peak Brewing Company after the game. In addition to a Maize 'n' Brew endorsement, I also have to give a shout-out to Grizzly Peak, whose Swiss cheese/caramelized onion/Kalamata olive patty melt could not possibly have been any closer to what I wanted at that precise moment; to Kristen H., the waitress who brought it to me (along with the world's most richly enjoyed Jack on the rocks), I meant to ask you to marry me but I forgot. The offer still stands the next time I'm up in Ann Arbor, assuming you don't get any better offers between now and then.

Sunday morning at Cafe Felix, having a moderate amount of time for this shit.

On Sunday, after brunch at Cafe Felix, we went into Detroit and managed not to get shot at even once; instead, we drove around Grosse Pointe playing "Look At That House"/"No, Look At THAT House!" and did some very half-assed gambling at the MGM Grand. My ballsiest move was at the roulette wheel, where in honor of Knowshon Moreno I put ten bucks on #24; let's just say Knowshon's weekend was quite a bit more fruitful than mine was.

In the end, I can't say that I found my first Big Ten experience to be superior in any substantial way to the SEC, but it was still plenty worthwhile, and my thanks go out to Brian, Dave, and the justifiably venerated city of Ann Arbor for helping to make it so. If this was Canada, it wasn't half bad.

Needless to say, a lot of stuff happened whilst we were Maizing Out in Ann Arbor, so I'll try to get to it now:

Takin' that ass to school no matter what color the jersey is.

· Didn't get to see any of the Georgia game, obviously, but Nathan at The College Football Review was kind enough to put together a nicely detailed blow-by-blow for me via e-mail, which is posted more or less verbatim here. Sounds like there was definitely a focus deficit in the wake of the big Auburn win, much as I'd feared -- unless three horrendous first-half turnovers were part of the game plan all along -- but give credit to the Dawgs for overcoming it and getting their heads screwed on straight before things got out of hand. Definitely give credit to the defense, who only allowed Kentucky to turn those turnovers into 10 points and who held the Wildcats to their lowest scoring output of the entire season. If the offense has gotten their wake-up call and can match that effort next week against the Techies, we'll be in terrific shape.

· No thanks to Vandy, those unable-to-hold-a-late-lead son-of-a-bitches, but if Tennessee couldn't find it in their hearts to lose a game for us, two teams ranked above us did, and now we're sitting at #7 in the BCS standings; take care of business against Tech, guys, and you're a guaranteed #6 (since either Kansas or Missouri has to fall this weekend) and damn near impossible to be passed over by the BCS even if Tennessee holds on against Kentucky. Sucks that both Oregon and Oklahoma lost primarily because their quarterbacks got injured, but at least the Sooners are likely to get theirs back. Oregon isn't, which means they may have lost their starting QB, a Heisman Trophy, a Pac-10 title, and a shot at the national title all at once; if you've had a more disastrous Thursday night than that, by all means, let me hear about it.

"Well, it could be worse -- our backup could be a Leaf. Wait, what?"

· Bigger collapse this season: South Carolina or California? Discuss.

· Or do I need to throw Alabama into that discussion? Exactly one month ago, when the Tide was busy making Tennessee their bitch, it looked like Nick Saban's reclamation project in Tuscaloosa was running way ahead of schedule, but three losses later that project now looks to be running well behind. Who's responsible here? Roll Bama Roll says in no uncertain terms that "we just have entirely too many players who are, in fact, losers" and who constitute soon-to-be-cut "dead weight"; I guess that makes sense to a point, since there were bound to be some players who'd gotten used to Mike Shula's way of doing things and who weren't going to respond well to the much tougher Saban regime. I have to wonder, though -- how many of those players could there really be? And how do you go from annihilating Tennessee to losing to ULM -- whom, it should be said, even lame ol' Mike Shula managed to beat by 34? When Steve Spurrier's early Gamecock teams struggled, people remarked that the SEC was a much different conference from what it had been when he left in 2001; what we may be finding now is that it's even different from what Saban left in 2004.

· Now is probably as good a time as any to announce that we're planning our next big CFB road trip for USC-Notre Dame in sunny Los Angeles on November 29, 2008. If you've got any ideas about reasonably priced (i.e. less than a kidney) tickets, welcoming tailgates, or places to crash, by all means let me hear about 'em. I mean, I'm not proud; I'll bunk down with pretty much anybody.

Yup, anybody . . . anybody at all.

Friday, November 16

Off to see how the other half lives.

You probably won't be hearing anything from me until Monday evening at the earliest, since later on today I'll be getting on a plane to Detroit and heading over to Annerber for the Michigan-Ohio State game.

Earlier this year, a couple friends of mine from college decided that we should all get together and go see one big college football game each year that Georgia isn't involved in, so that before we die, we can say we've gotten to see all the big rivalry games -- Michigan-tOSU, USC-Notre Dame, the Iron Bowl, Army-Navy, et cetera. And Michigan-Ohio State '07 is how we're kicking things off. I'm looking forward to see how people party up in Big Ten country -- this will be kind of a My Life In An Alternate Universe weekend, since I applied to Michigan back when I was a senior in high school and almost decided to go there. But I'm even more excited about the game itself, and with Michigan looking to cap off a quest-for-redemption season by sending Lloyd Carr out with a win in what may very well be his last game in the Big House, it could be a very interesting game indeed.

"College Gameday" is going to be there, too, so I'm going to have to decide whether I want to check my "Erin Andrews, Will You Marry Me?" sign or bring it with me as a carry-on. Decisions, decisions . . .

Anyway, I'm counting on somebody out there to send me an exhaustively detailed recap of how the Georgia-Kentucky game goes. E-mail address is heyjennyslater (dot) blog (at) gmail (dot) com. I want every last sordid detail.

Have a great weekend, everybody. Go Dawgs, 'Dores, and -- sorry, Aunt Polly -- Big Blue.

The Friday Random Ten+5 is under its bed in the fetal position, and it's not coming out.

I got a couple messages from people who said they liked the "My Own Personal Hell House" idea from last week. Well, I'm glad you enjoyed that, but you should probably know, that stuff was only the tip of a very large and disturbing iceberg. My life has been fraught with a bewildering variety of fears and anxieties, some of them well-earned, some of them just plain neurotic -- and I'll be sharing a few of both with you today, in the Five Things That Have Induced Near-Paralytic Fear And/Or Anxiety In Me At Various Stages In My Life:

Age 4: Mr. Clean
OK, I know this sounds stupid. But at age four, you have no idea how scary it is when this gigantic, bald, burly motherfucker just appears in your floor. I mean, if you saw that, would you or would you not believe that some particularly muscular ghost was coming to kick your ass? When I saw this commercial come on TV as a child, I would literally run and hide; to this day, I can't wax my floors. (OK, that last one is mainly because I'm lazy, but whatever.)

Age 11: Vomiting
Throwing up is the absolute most disgusting thing the human body is capable of; that isn't even open for debate. (Diarrhea? Oh, please. That's coming out of an entirely different end of your body. I'm talking about something coming out of your fricking face.) And when I was in junior high, I went through this stage where, for some reason, I was mortally afraid of anything that might cause me to blow chunks. I think this is where my acute germ-phobia comes from. Loaf of bread slightly moldy at one end? Throw the whole thing out. Milk in the fridge is on its sell-by date? Pour it all out, I can always eat my cereal with George Dickel. And don't even talk to me about the "five-second rule"; you've got a death wish, fine, but don't drag me into your dangerous game. We'll see how brave you are when you're doubled over a toilet, re-tasting everything you've eaten in the past 24 hours.

Age 21: Winding mountain roads
This one, at least, has a rational basis, given that I totaled a car on U.S. 220 about halfway between Petersburg and Franklin, West Virginia. I don't know how, but the car ended up on its passenger side, facing the way it had come, and I got to experience what it feels like to have an airbag go off in your face. (Hint: It's not funny like it is in the movies.) Needless to say, for months afterward I approached West Virginia's curving mountain highways with the caution of a blue-haired great-grandmother driving her Buick to church, and I still avoid 220 whenever I'm up in my grandparents' neck of the woods.

Age 25: Walking up to someone in a public place thinking they're someone I know but then they turn out not to be the person I thought they were
I really don't know how to explain this; I just cringe at the thought of walking up to someone and going "Hey, Adam [or whoever]!" and then that person turns around and it's not Adam at all, or anyone else I know, for that matter. I'm kind of anxious in social situations as a general rule, actually. Yet I'll get up in front of a crowded karaoke bar and sing "Tiny Dancer" stone-cold sober. Still not quite sure why that is.

Age 29: Leaving voice-mail messages for members of the opposite sex
My best friend Brian, as I've no doubt mentioned on this blog before, describes me as "a guy who gets more first dates than anyone I know . . . and fewer second dates than anyone I know." I still haven't figured out why that is, but I have gone through a string of dates recently where we went out, had a good time, I called her a few days later, left a message, and never heard from her again -- so I think it must have something to do with the voice mails I'm leaving. Seriously, that shit is more nerve-wracking than open-heart surgery. It's like a 15-second audition: You have to provide a certain amount of information in a very short time and do so in a way that makes you sound attractive and engaging, because it's entirely possible that the girl in question doesn't give a rat's ass about how things went on your first date and is basing her decision whether to call you back solely on how much of a knob you sound like in your message. If that's the case, then this is an audition I fail time after time after time. I would text-message, but that sounds a little too 13-year-old-girl for these purposes; maybe I should just pay our office manager fifty bucks to play the part of my "executive secretary" and get her to do it. Unless you've got any better ideas.

Ahh, feels good to have that off my chest; I don't even mind that everyone knows what a freakshow I am. Here's the Ten:

1. The Corrs, "What Can I Do"
2. Eric B. & Rakim, "Don't Sweat the Technique"
3. J. Geils Band, "Centerfold"
4. U2, "Lemon" (Jeep mix)
5. Wu-Tang Clan, "7th Chamber -- Part II"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "In Denial"
7. Moby, "Bodyrock"
8. Eric B. & Rakim, "Extended Beat"
9. Blue Swede, "Hooked on a Feeling"
10. Ice Cube, "Integration"

Now that I've poured my heart and/or neuroses out, your own Tens and deep-seated personal anxieties are welcome in the comments.