Friday, September 29

Friday Random Ten, Mo' Money Mo' Problems Edition.

So we all now know that Terrell Owens did not, in fact, attempt suicide on Wednesday (probably), but did any of y'all hear the comment from his publicist at the press conference later on?

"Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive."

So basically, T.O., your publicist just got up in front of a boatload of people and said money is pretty much all you've got left to live for. Not that some of us didn't think that already, but your publicist, T.O., she is not good.

Anyway, since T.O. apparently isn't suicidal after all, is it OK to start calling him a douche again? Get back to me on that one.

The Ten:

1. James Brown, "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine")
2. Thievery Corporation, "Universal Highness"
3. The Clash, "Train in Vain"
4. Supertramp, "Goodbye Stranger"
5. Beck, "Deadweight"
6. The Clash, "Wrong 'Em Boyo"
7. Level 42, "Something About You"
8. Pet Shop Boys, "Miserablism" (Electro mix)
9. Orbital, "Tunnel Vision"
10. Venus Attack Project, "Riviera Paradise"

Your Random Ten, and/or reasons to live, are welcome in the comments.

Wednesday, September 27

Nope, I got nothin'.

Various things that were happening on Tuesday, September 26:

· The most popular movie in America was Jackass Number Two, which took in $29 million at the box office.

· The most e-mailed story on Yahoo! News concerned a vintage Barbie doll being sold for nearly $6,000 at an auction.

· I was still living down the shame of having completely destroyed a toaster over a football game.

· Hollywood was abuzz with Lindsay Lohan's plot to get back at an ex by letting some other dude nail her.

· Falcons fans were screaming bloody murder about how the team's loss to New Orleans in the Superdome the previous night was "rigged," and

· my friend Meghan e-mailed me to let me know she was in Sierra Leone, working for a charitable organization called Peace Child teaching women and children about democracy.

One of these things is not like the other. Can you guess which one? Yes, it's the last one, the only one that does not involve silly people getting worked up about petty, unimportant bullshit.

This is not the first time Meghan has done something like this -- when I saw her in Atlanta around New Year's, she'd just gotten back from New Orleans, where she'd been volunteering with the Red Cross to inspect houses in the 9th Ward for unretrieved corpses -- but given that Sierra Leone is still technically in a state of emergency first declared during the country's horribly brutal civil war, I think it's safe to say she's at some risk to her life over there. And sometimes it's an e-mail like the one she sent -- not bragging about what an incredibly generous person she is, just letting people know where she was and what she was doing, drop her a line sometime -- that you need to snap you out of your focus on completely irrelevant minutia and remind you that, no, you're actually not the most unfortunate, put-upon person in the world just because you had to spend the previous day getting bored to tears in a software training presentation.

So Meghan makes it onto the blogroll with a bullet, and I hope she'll update her blog regularly just so I can find out a little bit about what life is like over there -- Lord knows I would never have any idea otherwise. Give her a look when you get the chance. In the meantime, no more bitching, moaning, or appliance-throwing over something as minor as not covering a goddamn point spread. For the next few weeks, at least.

Monday, September 25

"What the f%$! ahh you, ritahdid?"

So I fell asleep last night whilst catching the late NFL games, and I wake up and it's Denver-New England on NBC and there are all these "China Bowl" banners around the field, and in my addled, not-quite-awake-yet state I'm thinking, "What the crap, are they playing this game in frickin' China and I didn't know about this?"

Nope, as it turns out -- the China Bowl will be a Patriots-Seahawks matchup in Beijing to kick off next year's preseason, and apparently it will also "begin the countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games." Interesting that they'd begin the countdown to the world's biggest international sporting event with a game that hardly anybody outside the U.S. plays, but still, whatever brings the wonderfulness of the pigskin to people in other parts of the world can only be a good thing.

For halftime of the Pats-Broncos game, they introduced the "Friendlies," the Pokemon-looking mascots for the Beijing games. They're a little gay, but the same could be said for pretty much every Olympic mascot in history (with the exception of Sam the Eagle, of course), and they'll probably be a cinch to market to little kids here in the United States. The Olympic organizers might've made a bit of a faux pas, however, in turning the entire halftime show into something akin to one of those wack-assedly surreal Olympic opening ceremonies we get every four years:

Stay classy, Beijing.

I've been to Boston, I've known plenty of people from Massachusetts, and I can only imagine how a stadium filled with Bostonians and Mass boys (who were already surly at seeing their home team down 10-0 at the break) responded to these candy-colored knob jobs hopping around the field on what appear to be giant inner tubes.

I'd love to have a YouTube depiction, or even some random eyewitness's written account, of what the fans' reaction was.

Blogpoll ballot #5: Colorado game? I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with this "Colorado game" of which you speak.

See? If Google doesn't know anything about it, then it didn't happen.

Oh, well. No point in denying it, that was one drag-ass day of football, save for the one minute and forty-three seconds in which Joe Cox was fearlessly piloting the Georgia offense down the field for the winning score. But I've recovered from both the near-loss and the Toaster-Throwing of Lot 49 to put together what I think is a reasonably fair and coherent ballot for this week's Blogpoll, which is as follows:

Games watched: Georgia-Colorado, Mississippi State-UAB, most of Arkansas-Alabama, parts of Michigan-Wisconsin.

1. Ohio State (last week: 1)
With a couple of exceptions, everybody in the top 10 looked pretty much equally lousy on Saturday, so no changes in the top ten this week.

2. Auburn (2)

3. Southern California (3)

4. LSU (4)

5. Michigan (5)

6. Texas (6)

7. Florida (7)

8. Louisville (8)

9. West Virginia (9)

10. Virginia Tech (10)
Suddenly competitive Georgia Tech is right around the corner, and the Hokies had to suspend two of their most productive players. At my house we call them uh-ohs.

11. Tennessee (15)

12. Oregon (11)

13. Oklahoma (17)

14. California (16)
Doing a bang-up job of putting the Week 1 Tennessee shocker behind them.

15. Clemson (21)
Every week I seem to have one team in the middle of the rankings making a really huge leap, and this week it's Clemson. They could've come out flat (like so many other teams did this past weekend) after a huge road win over FSU last week, but instead they absolutely annihilated UNC, with the injury-depleted defense doing a spectacular job.

16. Notre Dame (12)
Sorry, I don't get all that giddy over fourth-quarter comebacks when it comes to rankings, because it's a when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife kind of thing: What were you doing down 16 to Michigan State in the first place?

17. Iowa (14)

18. Texas Christian (19)

19. Georgia (13)
Still don't get all that giddy over fourth-quarter comebacks, even when it's my team. You'd have to be clinically insane to call this a top-10-worthy team after the shitfest they pulled for 49 minutes against Colorado. The only thing keeping them this high is a keen awareness, developed through years of experience, of Georgia's tendency toward stank-assedly unfocused performances against early-season supposed-to-be-scrub opponents.

20. Boise State (18)

21. Nebraska (25)
Well hey, somebody finally put Troy away early.

22. Texas Tech (NR/27)

23. Georgia Tech (24)

24. Florida State (23)

25. Boston College (20)
You lost to Chuck Amato. Into the Shame Closet with you.

The next five: Missouri, Miami, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Rutgers.

Dropped out: UCLA (24).

Football betting

Saturday, September 23

How can you expect to be taken seriously?

I admit it, I'm a rageaholic! I can't get enough rageahol!

After the final seconds ticked down and Georgia-Colorado '06 came to a merciful end, my sister and I each did a shot in Joe Cox's honor and promised to never speak of the game again. This was the kind of game where you don't just burn the game tape, you shoot the ashes into deep space. And you take off whatever clothes you were wearing while you watched the game and burn those. So anyway, all I will say is this.

While I take college football a lot more seriously than some people, even engaging in some of the ol' football betting once in a while, I'd always figured that I could still approach it with a measure of reason and sanity, keeping a level head and venturing toward neither the extreme of overexuberance nor the extreme of seething despair as I see so many other people doing from time to time. Only once have I ever even come close to getting in a fistfight over a game, and I can't remember a single time when I actually destroyed property. But during the Colorado game, my feeling toward the team went beyond disappointment, where it has been before on occasion, and advanced straight into anger. Rage, even. Enough anger that Ann and I had to leave Loco's Deli and Pub in Homewood, where we had been watching the game, for fear that I would do something to get thrown out if we stuck around.

This turned out to be an astute decision on our part, because after Matt Stafford's fumble to end the first drive of the third quarter, I knocked a chair over in the kitchen, then picked it up and threw it a ways. And when Georgia's next drive also ended in a fumble, I yanked my toaster oven off the counter and hurled it off my balcony.

You shouldn'ta done that, he's just a boy. Poor little feller.

No, I'm not proud of it, but it happens. I'm moving on.

And now we'll speak no more of this, either.

The world at large:

· Did anyone else hear Lou Holtz say during "Gameday Final" that Colorado's performance against Georgia proves they can make some noise in the Big Eight? At this point I'm not sure Sweet Lou's level of higher brain function could surpass that of Terri Schiavo's. What, too soon?

· The good news is I got to watch, in person, the heartwarming story unfold of Mississippi State finally winning a game in 2006. The bad news is, see first sentence.

Well, we still got your helmet. Nyeah.

· With USC missing the celebrity mojo of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, and Texas and Notre Dame both telling themselves "walk it off, walk it off" after dispiriting top-25 losses, we have a new media darling already being penciled in for a slot in the national-title game: Ohio State. First we had this column, brought to you by MGoBlog, in which the mind-blowingly glib Matt Hayes declares that there is no point in the Big Ten playing any of its remaining conference games because Ohio State is teh r0xx0rz, they're going to blast through the rest of their schedule like C4 through plywood, because they are without a doubt the best team in the country there I said it no takebacks. Then we had a discussion on "Gameday" this morning about who should be #2 in the country (i.e., Auburn, USC, or Michigan). Now, I've got Ohio State at #1 on my Blogpoll ballot and have ever since the preseason, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time casting aspersions on their ability, but why are we just taking the Buckeyes' #1ness for granted less than a month into the season? Given that Texas is clearly not the team they were last year, isn't it possible to argue that Auburn's victory over LSU is as impressive as OSU's over the 'Horns? Given that the Bucks got to avoid Vince Young this year, isn't it possible that we still haven't had a true gauge as to how good their massively renovated defense is (and won't, until they face Iowa and Michigan State, both on the road)? On the other side of the ball, OSU's supposedly solid offense wasn't exactly a Dresden air raid against a PSU defense that got comprehensively dismantled by Notre Dame. Again, I think Ohio State has a bad-ass team this year, but just once I wish our CFB punditocracy could remember that a preseason #1 is not cosmically preordained to go wire-to-wire.

· Well, maybe we shouldn't go closing the door on Notre Dame's media-darling status just yet. Game-of-the-century status is already being talked up for ND's 4th-quarter comeback against Michigan State on Saturday. Sure, a "one-of-a-kind" comeback, why not? It's not like the Spartans are known for ever choking in a pivotal game.

· And finally, it's not football-related, but here's the bus that was parked across the street from my apartment at Club Red all night Friday. Yup, the tour (or whatever) came through Birmingham. We're all quite proud.

Classy, I like to call it.

Football betting

Friday, September 22

Friday Random Ten, Come On Down Edition.

If you're Bob Barker, pimpin' is, in fact, easy.

I found an .mp3 of the theme song to "The Price is Right" the other day. It's on my iPod as we speak.

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

1. Led Zeppelin, "D'Yer Mak'er"
2. KRS-One, "Step Into a World (Rapture's Delight)"
3. Thievery Corporation, "Illumination"
4. The Roots, "Meiso" (DJ Shadow remix)
5. Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
6. The Clash, "Stay Free"
7. Orbital, "Acid Pants"
8. De La Soul, "Potholes in My Lawn"
9. Orbital, "Nothing Left"
10. Dead Milkmen, "Right Wing Pigeons"

As always, your own ten go in the comments, and extra points if any game-show theme songs come up.

Yet Big 'n' Rich still lives.

Yes, I know this is basketball. But he's awesome at that too!

Can it be true that ESPN has really demoted CFB announcer Ron Franklin from his usual Saturday prime-time slot on ESPN to the late-afternoon game on ESPN2? I don't understand the reasoning behind this, assuming there is any; it seems like just another needless plank in the Worldwide Leader in Sports's MTV-like plan to slowly but surely piss off and alienate all the people who faithfully supported them on their climb to the top.

This move won't be felt all that much this weekend, for, as these TV listings indicate, Franklin has been moved from likely a could-be-interesting-but-in-the-end-probably-not Florida-Kentucky game on ESPN to the could-be-interesting-but-in-the-end-probably-not Boston College-N.C. State tilt on the Deuce. But you can fully expect this void in your Saturday-evening football-viewing life to expand as the SEC season gets more and more intense and Franklin's absence from it becomes increasingly conspicuous.

Honestly, with Keith Jackson having retired, nobody in the business has a voice that more clearly means "college football" to me. Franklin's voice is deep, clear, and just Southern enough to be recognizable; he doesn't saturate his calls with a lot of meaningless facts or awkward jokes that thud to the ground like a Reggie Ball pass attempt. And it's his voice I remember from many a Saturday night in college and shortly thereafter -- after most likely coming home from whatever game Georgia had played that day, we'd switch on the telly to see what our hated rivals were doing before we headed downtown to get ripped that night, and it was Franklin who reliably told us. In the event that there was a road game I couldn't get to, Franklin was the one telling me what was going on. Sometimes these evenings were memorable for the wrong reasons -- I'll never forget the tinge of disbelief in his voice as he pointed out that Georgia hadn't converted a single third down in the course of their inexplicable, national-title-hope-killing loss to Florida in 2002 -- but there's just something about Franklin that makes you want him breaking the miserable news to you instead of, say, Todd Blackledge.

Come on, ESPN, if you're going to do Ron like this, you're going to have to give something back to your fans just to show us you still care. How 'bout you get rid of Big 'n' Rich and that hideous faith-in-God-sapping "Comin' to Your Ci-taayyyy" song in the intro to "College Gameday"? Or at least hook up Mark May to electrodes every Saturday and throw him about 500 volts every time he gushes about USC or Notre Dame? C'mon, Worldwide Leader, if your aim is to entertain us, entertain us.

Wednesday, September 20

Thursday mystery meat.

Did I forget to leave money on the nightstand again? Dammit! I always DO this!

· I don't want to show too much sympathy for any of Georgia's upcoming opponents, lest I once again have my UGA loyalty come into question, but you almost kind of have to feel sorry for the Colorado football program, looking at the shambles that Gary Barnett left it in. Actually, you kind of have to feel sorry for them that Barnett ever set foot in Boulder, because if you weren't already convinced that Barnett was a grade-A 10-megaton douchebag, his comments to the press this week should do the job:

"It tore me two ways," Colorado's former coach said Friday night. "I hurt for the kids. Those are my guys. I know the talent that we have there, the maturity and the leadership, and I want those guys to get everything they deserve, and I want them to play in the [Big 12] Championship Game again. Then, on the other side, I got taken out of that situation. I got removed from it and someone else made that decision. Part of me felt a little vindication because of it."

Let's completely leave aside Barnett's implication that his last three games as CU coach (30-3 home loss to arch-rival Nebraska, 70-3 anal vivisection by Texas, loss to Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl) are head-and-shoulders above Dan Hawkins's first three -- can't wait to watch him make that case, by the way -- and take apart Barn's stratospheric ego for just a sec. So on the one hand, he wants his talented, mature, leadership-filled guys to win, sorta, but on the other hand, if they have to be completely humiliated so that his fired ass can feel "vindication," then ehh, he'll take it, huh? What a cocksucker. He presides over a recruiting scandal in which the terms "booze" and "hookers" feature prominently, then shrugs off a female player's rape accusations because hey, she was a lousy kicker, and the program basically turns into a joke, but after getting his richly deserved walking papers, Barnett feels "vindication" because the program is . . . still a joke? I seriously hope the question Barn answered about possibly succeeding Fisher DeBerry at Air Force was just pulled out of some reporter's ass and wasn't based on anything that Air Force is actually considering. It's not like they don't have enough problems as it is.

· On the other hand, maybe I don't feel too much sympathy for the Buffs after all (quote via Paul Westerdawg):

"If you watch the South Carolina game, South Carolina shot themselves in the foot a couple of times," [offensive tackle Tyler] Polumbus said of an 18-0 Georgia win. "They drove all the way and fumbled in the red zone, just like we did last week [against Arizona State], and they had a bunch of turnovers [six]. [must mean both teams combined -- ed.] They were moving the ball well on them, but they just shot themselves in the foot a lot. So, you've just got to play your game. It'll work. They aren't superhuman. Anyone can score on them."

Well, apparently not just anyone, killer. Say hi to Quentin Moses for me.

It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog, Chapter MCMXXVIII.

· Westerdawg also passes along the news that Georgia will send two cheerleaders to your birthday party if you can cough up enough money. They do specify "child's birthday party" rather than "dirty old man's booze-soaked birthday bacchanal," though, so I'm not getting too excited about this just yet. In the meantime, if you're looking for birthday ideas for Yours Truly -- and why wouldn't you be? It's a mere 255 days away -- you might start by contacting these cheerleaders, whose appearances, as far as I know, are not saddled with any age restrictions.

· On the topic of cheerleaders: How is it that Oregon can make their cheerleaders look so hot, yet when it comes to their actual football players, they can't aim any higher than "extras in the original 'Rollerball' "?

The mystery of the effed-up call in the Oklahoma-Oregon game is solved: The refs were simply distracted. I don't know that I would've been looking at the field, either.

· As for actual, substantive, non-booty-related football news (unless you mean USC quarterback John David Booty, perhaps), this week's new Blogpoll results are up over at MGoBlog.

· TBogg, one of the funniest, if not the funniest, political blogs on the Internets turned this many (4) on Tuesday. If you're not reading TBogg, shame on you; his snark is so funny that sometimes it quite literally causes me physical pain. And yes, that is completely distinct from the crushing emotional pain of being incapable of carrying on a committed relationship, yadda yadda . . . anyway, go check him out.

"I was the reason people actually paid money to see "The Whole Ten Yards" and you know it."

· Watched the premiere of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" Monday night, and I might have a new favorite prime-time TV drama. I actually haven't watched a lot of prime-time network TV period since shortly after Aaron Sorkin, the creator of "Studio 60," left "The West Wing" after the '03 season, but this might get me started again -- the ensemble feel and quick-paced banter will seem familiar to anyone who was a fan of "West Wing," but whereas that show had an air of wide-eyed optimism about politics and creating a better America and blah blah blah, "Studio 60" really lets its sarcasm flag fly, and in many ways is the better for it.

· One more Georgia item: Former Bulldog and current Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack, who sustained a serious injury against Cleveland on Sunday, is out of the hospital and apparently doing pretty well for a guy who was carted off the field on a backboard just a few days ago. He's out for the rest of the season, which sucks, but the doctors say he'll make a full recovery, and it doesn't look like his career is finished. I wish him the best.

· Finally, wonders apparently will not cease, because doctors in China recently transplanted a new penis onto a guy who'd lost his in an accident. Maybe it's just because I'm a guy, but I see that as being way more impressive than a face transplant, even if they had to take it off two weeks later because it was apparently freaking out his wife. Good God, woman, the man's penis was restored! For once in your life, can't you think of somebody else?

It's OK, it happens to a lot of guys. We can still cuddle.

Roundtable #3: Predictions and donuts, and I don't mean the ones administered by Georgia's defense.

This week's Blogpoll roundtable arrives courtesy of Michigan blog Maize 'n' Brew, who, presumably in between cigarettes smoked with a satisfied postcoital grin after the Wolverines' dismembering of Notre Dame, somehow managed to come up with some pithy questions soliciting projections for the remaining season:

1. It's only the third week of the season and we've already seen some highly ranked favorites drop out of national championship contention. Preseason favorite Cal dropped to #21 after a loss and a pair of underwhelming victories. Who's your pick as the next NC contender to take a fall?

I guess it kind of depends on what your standards for national-title contention are, but I think the Florida Gators are going to find themselves looking over their shoulders for the next few weeks. This is not to take anything away from the Gators' coaching or talent, but it really says something about the overall strength of the SEC when a team as good as Florida might still be only the third-best team in the conference. We'll be able to make a final judgment on that in just over a month's time, however, once the Gators have finished running a gauntlet of Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia, the latter two away from the friendly confines of the Swamp. I sincerely doubt that any team in the country faces a more brutal stretch of defenses this year than that one, and I just don't see the Gators exiting it without dropping the proverbial soap at least once (though, as you'll see later, I still think they're the odds-on favorite to represent the SEC East in the conference title game).

Runner-up: Michigan. They did look terrific against the Golden Domers, but this weekend they commence a five-game stretch (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa) that doesn't exactly allow for a lot of error, and the Wolverines are certainly not immune to coughing up the occasional mid-season in-conference clunker.

2. By that same token there are several schools hanging around without a loss that all of a sudden look like surprise contenders. There are also a few one-loss teams with a legit shot at getting back into it. Looking at the rankings, who's the team no one's talking about with the best shot at crashing the party?

Virginia Tech began the season at 17th in the sportswriters' poll and 16th in the coaches', with both Florida State and Miami above them; that now looks like the biggest joke since Dubya's assertion that Michael Brown was doing a "heckuva job." (Don't want to go around spreading unsubstantiated rumors, but I heard that Brownie has since found employment as a Pac-10 official.) Now, however, the Hokies look like the only team in the ACC that can even remotely claim elite status, and given the utter sludge that the ACC has put on the field this season, it doesn't take a wild night of psychedelic-mushroom bingeing to start having visions of VT rolling through the season 12-0 and winning a 13th in the ACC title game. Unfortunately they're presenting all the symptoms of 2004 Auburn Syndrome -- low preseason ranking, weak OOC schedule -- which means they could go 13-0 and still not snag a national-title-game berth if there are two other undefeated teams when BCS bids are handed out. Nevertheless, I expect the Hokies to be in the mix for quite a while, and for their buzz to steadily increase as they hack their way through their conference slate. If you saw the last 30 minutes of "Kill Bill," you have an idea what VT is about to do here.

Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you've lost. They belong to me now. Except you, Miami! You stay right where you are!

Runner-up: Maize 'n' Brew picked none other than Georgia as his potential sleeper, and while I live in constant, mortal fear of jinxing my team with lofty expectations, I have to admit that things seem to be setting up very well for the Dawgs. They really won't have been tested until the October 7 matchup against Tennessee, but as I've said before, that game is looking more and more winnable as the season progresses. If the Dawgs take that one, then in all probability they'll be 8-0 when the Cocktail Party comes up on the schedule, which would match the two best seasons the Dawgs have had in Mark Richt's tenure (2002 and 2005). To duplicate those efforts with a team that was surrounded by so many question marks coming into '06 would truly be an inspiring accomplishment, and could conceivably put us on the way to becoming only the ninth program in the history of college football to string together five 10-win seasons in a row.

3. Every team has their quicksand away game. You know -- that place you should win but somehow find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory or at least scare the &*%^ out of you every year. Did you know that over the last 21 years Kentucky hasn't won once in Knoxville? Where is your team's yearly sandtrap?

Technically it's a neutral-site game, but if it's defeat snatched from the jaws of victory you want, no single rivalry in the world has featured more of that than Georgia-Florida (well, unless you're talking about Democrats-Republicans, and that isn't really sports). Yes, we've won only twice since Spurrier arrived at UF in 1990, and about the only bright spot at this point is that we're simply running out of ways to lose. There will be ample time in a few weeks to make myself clinically depressed analyzing this one, so I'll leave it at that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some train tracks to lie down on.

4. Now that you've looked into the darkest place in your football soul, free Escalades aside, turn and look into your crystal ball. Conference play is either just starting or a single game in. Based on what you've seen so far, give the order of finish in your conference, and if you've got a conference championship game tell us who the winner will be. Independents must predict the remainder of their schedule. The results your predictions will be held against you at the end of the season.

SEC East
1. Florida -- Sigh.
2. Georgia -- Second in the division, 10 wins in a major rebuilding season? Sold.
3. Tennessee -- Not prepared to write them off yet, but the Cal beatdown is looking more like an anomaly with each passing week.
4. South Carolina -- Though, as EDSBS points out, it's entirely possible that they'll be staring up Kentucky's anus at season's end.
5. Kentucky -- Mediocre but not terrible, which I guess qualifies as a moral victory in Lexington these days.
6. Vanderbilt -- Mediocre and terrible.

SEC West
1. Auburn -- Legit contender for the national title.
2. LSU -- Legit contender for an at-large BCS bid. Trust me, Notre Dame/Texas/WVU, you want no part of this.
3. Alabama -- Their offense is store-brand, but so's their schedule.
4. Arkansas -- Likely to finally snag a bowl invite this year, but shouldn't a team with Mitch Mustain and Darren McFadden have a wee bit more offense than this?
5. Ole Miss -- Yeah, who needs David Cutcliffe? Bowl games are stupid anyway.
6. Mississippi State -- Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings; every time MSU's offense takes the field, an angel gets an STD.

As for the conference championship game: Auburn wins the rematch with Florida in the Georgia Dome.

5. In keeping with the spirit of Maize n Brew, name your beverage of choice on game days and why. It need not be alcoholic, as there are some of us who choose not to imbibe on game day. Further, it need not be limited to a single brand/type/category. If you enjoy drinking PBR and Kraft Turkey Gravy at the same time (which I have personally witnessed), please, elaborate. Finally, if you should feel so inclined, and this is not a requirement, add an anecdote involving said beverage choice.

It most certainly does need to be alcoholic, friend, and shame on you for even suggesting otherwise. On most game days I can be found marinating my central nervous system in a light-colored pilsener like Spaten or Pilsner Urquell; Stella Artois is another standby. I know that's not an especially wild or exotic selection, but if you want to roll Hey Jenny Slater style on gameday, you gotsta pair it up with some Krispy Kreme donuts.

You might perhaps think that beer and Krispy Kremes is a bad combination. You would, however, be completely wrong. I think it was the 2001 Georgia-Ole Miss game where I first tried this combination; it was one of those early-kickoff JP games, so I didn't see anything wrong with helping myself to breakfast food whilst doing my usual Saturday beer-recycling. (And let the record show that that wasn't the dumbest thing a Georgia football fan did for that game.) I now make every effort to include Krispy Kremes in my tailgating or whatever other kind of gameday festivities I'm taking part in. Give it a try this weekend . . . if you're man enough.

They go together like rama lama lama ka-ding-a-da-ding-a-dong.

Football betting

Monday, September 18

Blogpoll ballot #4: The smoke clears.

All in all, a pretty enjoyable week of college pigskin (unless you were a fan of Miami, FSU, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas Tech, etc. etc. etc.) that lived up to every bit of its "Footballpocalypse" billing. Of course, we end up kind of paying for it this weekend with a Saturday jam-packed with all of two inter-top-25 matchups, but you can't have everything.

Games watched: Georgia-UAB (in person!), parts of Auburn-LSU (listened to on the radio), Florida-Tennessee.

1. Ohio State (last week: 1)

2. Auburn (2)
Saturday's game showed that a good defense can indeed stack this team up, but you can't tell me there's a single team in America that wouldn't have trouble with Auburn's D. If I were taking schedules into account I'd probably rank Auburn first, because their path to the title game seems the clearest of any of the remaining undefeateds; their only major remaining challenges are Florida and Georgia, at home, and they'll probably be favored in both.

3. Southern California (4)

4. LSU (3)
My apologies if this comes across as rampant SEC homerism, but LSU was five yards (or, possibly, one outrageous pass-interference non-call) away from being in the #2 slot right now. If they can hold Auburn to just 182 yards of total offense, they'd probably destroy 95 percent of the teams in Division I-A.

5. Michigan (14)
A richly deserved nine-spot leap for the gentlemen who laid out the spike strips in front of a Notre Dame bandwagon that was traveling at unsafe speeds, dangerously overloaded, and generally out of control.

6. Texas (6)

7. Florida (7)

8. Louisville (8)
After Michael Bush broke his leg, everyone said the running game would drop off, and it hasn't (much). Then Brian Brohm strained ligaments in his throwing hand and that seemed to spell disaster, but his backup put away the Hurricanes quite nicely. The Cardinals can't afford any more major injuries, but their schedule over the next month is hardly a murderer's row; if they can get Brohm back in time for West Virginia on November 2, they should be in excellent shape.

9. West Virginia (9)

10. Virginia Tech (13)

11. Oregon (11)

12. Notre Dame (5)
They were #5 in my preseason ballot, dropped to #14 after the scare from Georgia Tech, leaped back up to #5 after annihilating Penn State, and now they're down to #12 after getting whupped by Michigan. I wanted to drop them further this week, but I'm not sure I should do that just yet -- watch them beat Michigan State 77-0 on the road just to make me look stupid again.

13. Georgia (15)
The defense is downright terrifying; the offense has a ton of promise and some time to develop before facing Tennessee. If Mark Richt and Mike Bobo can bring Matt Stafford along the way they're capable of doing, Georgia will be in great shape when the Vols come to town; a win there and they'll be in prime position for yet another SEC title run.

14. Iowa (10)

15. Tennessee (12)
Did anyone see Erik Ainge doing the Gator chomp after (I think) that long pass to Swain at the beginning of the third quarter? California game notwithstanding, I think he might be functionally retarded after all.

16. California (20)

17. Oklahoma (16)
Still not sure about these guys. They really haven't done anything that impressive all season long, yet consider that if that last on-sides kick against Oregon had been called properly, we'd all be marveling at how they knocked off a ranked Oregon team in Autzen Stadium.

18. Boise State (19)

19. Texas Christian (NR/28)
Nine spots might seem like a mighty big jump, but they held Texas Tech out of the end zone for an entire game, which has happened only one other time since Mike Leach brought his pass-all-over-the-freaking-field offense to TTU. That deserves some props.

20. Boston College (23)

21. Clemson (NR/27)
Wasn't sure whether to put them above UCLA. Ray Ray McElrathbey put them over the top.

22. UCLA (24)

23. Florida State (17)
Please lose to somebody else so I don't have to rank you anymore.

24. Georgia Tech (25)

25. Nebraska (21)

The next five: Penn State, Texas Tech, Minnesota, Miami, Utah.

Dropped out: Miami (18), Texas Tech (22).

Football betting

Sunday, September 17

Swear that there'll be murder, tell him that I'm ill . . .

I caught a little bit of heat for my divided loyalties in Saturday's UAB-Georgia game, and not just from my UAB overlords but also from a couple zealous, perhaps overcaffeinated, fellow Bulldog fans. Perhaps it was deserved, and I was duly punished, though not in the way I expected. If you go by The Inferno, my punishment as an opportunist who refused to take sides should have been condemnation to the vestibule of hell, unable to ever stay in one place but rather doomed to run in a circle for eternity, just as my loyalties refused to stay in one place. Somehow, though, I got the punishment usually afforded to virtuous pagans and unbaptized children instead -- an eternity in the first circle of Hell, which is a beautiful and brightly lit castle where everyone sits around being bored.

Yup, that about sums it up. Georgia played about the most conservatively called game I've ever witnessed in person, and UAB obediently responded by doing hardly anything to put the outcome in doubt, not even appearing particularly interested at the very end when they had a chance to ruin the shutout against Georgia's bench players. The score was only 10-0 at the half, and people were indeed muttering to themselves, "Dang, Georgia seems to have dominated them a lot worse than that," but not in a tone that implied panic -- rather, a tone that implied frustration at wondering when Richt was gonna take the ankle bracelet off Stafford and let him launch one downfield already.

I may have broken more of a sweat trying to find a place to park in downtown Athens than Stafford did on the field.

The play-calling was biased toward the run by a ratio of exactly 2:1, and Stafford only tossed two passes that could be classified as field-stretching bombs; one was dutifully dropped (there's the team that suddenly disappeared during the South Carolina game!), while the other had just a wee bit too much stank on it and sailed about two or three yards ahead of the intended receiver. I don't know where I read it, probably somewhere in the AJC, but somebody said to expect more of that since our receivers haven't really experienced the kind of power that Stafford puts on his throws. Given the dropgasms our receiving corps has been having for almost a year and a half now, I'm not sure I completely buy that explanation, but as long as they get it figured out by Tennessee I suppose I'll live. For a while I was a little disappointed that the coaches didn't let Stafford off the leash more than they did, but I suppose it wasn't reasonable to think they would let him go bombing all over the field in his very first start; as I've said before, I trust Comrade Richt implicitly, and if he says the best way to bring Stafford along is dip-your-toe-in-the-water slowly, then that's what we should do.

Evidently, our notoriously jumpy fan base is fine with this as well, and why shouldn't they be if a) we keep winning and b) we keep shutting people out, for as Erk Russell once reminded us, if you want to be confident about winning, not letting other teams score at all is a pretty dependable way of doing that. Good God, our defense is -- I mean, I'm looking for a word here, and "fast" or "strong" or even "brutal" doesn't even quite cover it. I think the word I'm looking for is punitive -- we don't just pound teams and push them around, we make them damn sorry they entered the stadium in the first place and make them think long and hard about what they've done.

ESPN is always on the lookout for "game-changing" plays. I think this one falls into the category of "pants-soiling."

So Georgia has now scored 100 points on the season while only giving up 12. We have shut out two teams in a row. Of our 11 touchdowns, one came on a punt return and another came on a blocked-punt return; the remaining nine have averaged just under 48 yards apiece, and all but three started on somebody else's side of the 50 yard line. Despite averaging a nothing-special 317 yards of total offense per game, we're winning by an average of four touchdowns every week. Does this remind anybody of anything?

It should if you've watched a Virginia Tech game at any point in the last, oh, eight or nine years: The Dawgs have brought BeamerBall to Athens. Basically you've got an apocalyptic defense that thrives on causing turnovers and handing a short field to a conservative, run-first offense that takes care of the ball and doesn't do anything crazier than it has to; throw in special teams that are almost as much of a threat to score as the offense is, stir well, and there you go. Some Dawg fans may like it and some may not, but the fact is it's won the Hokies 72 games over the last seven-plus seasons, so it seems at least somewhat effective. I mean, if you've got a team that inspires "Good God, what a specimen" comments even about your freakin' punter, then you have reason to be confident.

Gordon Ely-Kelso: Loved him in "Rounders" and "Fight Club."

In saying this, I realize two things: One, making oh-my-God comments about one's team is perhaps a little premature when that team's opponents consist of a DI-AA team, a 1-2 C-USA team, and a team that nearly found a way to lose to Wofford. And two, this conservative offense isn't going to stay conservative forever, not if Stafford continues to come along briskly (note that he went from 3 picks against South Carolina to 0 against the Blazers). Again, it's probably best to reserve judgment until we get a little deeper into conference play, but if the defense stays at its current level of excellence while the offense continues to improve . . . look out.

As for the Blazers, well, I said before the game that the defense would be pretty good, and it was; the fact that the offense (particularly the running game) struggled didn't come as that much of a surprise, either. But what did come as a surprise was the fact that Sam Hunt, who looked so cold-blooded against Oklahoma a couple weeks ago, got rattled so early against the 'Dawgs. He finished with 8 rushes for -10 yards, but if you measured how far he ran in actual distance, it probably would've equaled the length of a football field or more, that's how much time he spent running for his life in the backfield. I don't know that I'd call it a "controversy" here in Birmingham, but there definitely is a uuarterback "conundrum," and it didn't get figured out in Athens. Or maybe it did. Still, there's a bright spot, and that is that UAB coach Watson Brown can now lay claim to a Spurrier-style offense.

Kids in America:

· Forgot to mention this earlier, but they honored Columbus's world-champion Little League team at the UAB game, and the team was sitting right across the aisle from my sister, my dad, and me. I got to meet a couple of them, and they all carried themselves like people who were a lot older than 12 or 13 -- even had the firm handshakes of veteran politicians. I'm hoping that Dave Perno snags at least one or two of them for the baseball team at UGA.

· Take the checks and face the facts: The ACC in its current iteration is, as Homer Simpson so eloquently stated, the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. Miami's blowout loss to Louisville on Saturday pretty much ices it, because the Big East -- that conference that everyone pretty much left for dead after the ACC bogarted what were supposedly their three best teams -- has now taken four out of six head-to-head in matchups between the conferences, and the ACC's two wins are solely due to the fact that the athletic director at Wake Forest was astute enough to put the Big East's two worst teams on his team's schedule. Basically the ACC is down to one team, Virginia Tech, that can still lay any kind of claim to elite status; below them you've got two former elites (FSU and Miami) that'd be lucky to break even in just about any other conference, three more (BC, Clemson, and Georgia Tech) that might be just good enough to make the race for the Gator Bowl a real barn-burner, and . . . below that, nothing. The sexiest team in that six-team bottom-of-the-conference sissyfight appears to be Wake Forest, for cryin' out loud, unless someone knows a voodoo spell that can bring Maryland's offense back. At any rate, I think we can officially put the ACC's ambitions of becoming an SEC-esque "superconference" on indefinite probation, not to mention kibosh any talk of the Big East losing its automatic BCS bid.

· On that note, here's the conversation my dad and I had in the stands at Sanford Stadium when a Peach Bowl (sorry, I'm going to need a fat check before I start voluntarily calling it the "Chick-fil-A Bowl") promo ad came up on the Jumbotron:

Me: So if Virginia [his alma mater] ends up going to the Peach Bowl, will you buy tickets?

Pops: [thinks it over] Yeah, I suppose so.


Me: Will you also take my picture on a unicorn? 'Cause I think that's about as likely to happen.

Ian, I feel for you, dawg. Drinks are on me if you ever find yourself back in Athens.

· Bittersweet win for Michigan: On the one hand, they finally won a road opener, and in convincing fashion; they also did college football fans everywhere a priceless service by shutting up the ESPN punditocracy about ND's OMG aw3s0m3n3ss for a few weeks, at least. On the other hand, that fawning will now most likely be showered upon #1-with-a-bullet Ohio State. Oh well.

It's hard out there for a Wolverine.

· Nice to have the old Erik Ainge back, though I doubt anyone's going to be holding the Vols to 2 total yards rushing once Arian Foster is back at full strength. Still, the Georgia-Tennessee matchup is looking more and more winnable by the week.

· That cheer you heard coming from Tuscaloosa last night was not a cheer of victory for the Crimson Tide, since not even the most die-hard Tide fans seriously gave a shit about UL-Monroe, but rather a good old schadenfreude hip-hip-hooray for Dennis Franchione being brought yet another step closer to John Mackovic status as a taken-out-of-the-closet-and-dusted-off-once-every-couple-weeks minor analyst on "GameDay." Sure, they held on against Army, but is "held on against Army" something that should be on the résumé of anybody in a BCS conference other than maybe Duke?

· On the play-for-pay tip, yeah, I'm happy for the Falcons, but I'd hold off on any dynasty talk until they a) finish with a winning season and then b) do it again, i.e. back-to-back seasons, for the first time in team history. Though I guess I'm not one to talk.

I know I'm Catholic, but I'm still calling out a fatwa on this fucker.

Friday, September 15

Friday Random Ten, Brotherly Love Edition.

Something I neglected to mention in yesterday's Mystery Meat platter: According to Tigerpundit, Ray Ray McElrathbey, the Clemson football player who's currently raising his 11-year-old brother because of their parents' respective addictions (mom, drugs; dad, gambling), has been granted a waiver by the NCAA to receive outside assistance in the form of transportation, child care, and some other things. Not sure yet what this means in terms of being able to donate toys, clothes, etc. to the McElrathbeys, but if I hear anything from Tigerpundit about charitable funds or drives being set up for them, I'll let you know.

Partly because of that, but partly because of plenty of other things -- fall being in the air, jury duty being over, a historically big weekend of college football right around the corner, the Ukrainian waitress at the restaurant around the corner told me I looked hot yesterday -- I'm in a good mood going into the weekend. Let's see if the Random Ten can keep up.

1. Leftfield, "Snake Blood"
2. R.E.M., "Radio Free Europe" (Live at the 40 Watt)
3. U2, "Trip Through Your Wires"
4. 3rd Bass, "Sons of 3rd Bass"
5. Pet Shop Boys, "The Squadron"
6. Captain & Tennille, "Love Will Keep Us Together"
7. The Streets, "Geezers Need Excitement"
8. The Smiths, "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"
9. The White Stripes, "Fell in Love With a Girl"
10. The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, "Too Late to Turn Back Now"

Your own Random Ten, props, rants, "On Notice" lists, whatever in the comments.

Thursday, September 14

Thursday Mystery Meat, brought to you by Mercury, Wofford University, and Under Armour.

She came back to me with her mocking eyes
She told me she loved me but it could have been lies
And life can be up and down, life with a mercury girl
Life can be up and down, life with a mercury girl

· There's a new addition to the Hey Jenny Slater Potential Future Ex-Wife Roster, and it is Jill Wagner, late of the TV ads for Mercury cars. I know this means nobody will believe me when I tell them I was thinking about buying a Milan anyway, but I can't deny it: I love the Mercury Girl. I'm sure Melissa Theuriau is OK with this -- she lives across the ocean and everything, so she and I have, uh, an understanding.

Mercury Milan or Citroën C5: Which one would I rather drive?

· Here's a telling quote from former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

. . . Maybe that's because right-wing, knuckle-dragging Republicans like myself took over Congress in 1994 promising to balance the budget and limit Washington?s power. We were a nasty breed and had no problem blaming Bill and Hillary Clinton for everything from the exploding federal deficit to male pattern baldness. I suspected then, as I do now, that Hillary Clinton herself had something to do with 'Love, American Style' and 'Joanie Loves Chachi.' And why not blame her? Back then, Newt Gingrich felt comfortable blaming the drowning of two little children on Democratic values. Hell. It was 1994. It just seemed like the thing to do.

A pretty succinct admission that the "Republican Revolution" of '94 has turned into Animal Farm, with the Republicans having come in promising dramatically reduced spending, smaller government, greater accountability, more ethical behavior -- and instead giving us skrocketing deficits, the most intrusive government since the McCarthy era (if not before), more government secrecy, and the same old unethical behavior we've decried in politicians since the beginning of time. The pigs are walking around on two legs and drinking martinis, folks. It's also interesting to note that Scarborough appears to be tacitly admitting that the current "hate" directed toward President Bush is, in reality, in no way worse than what was directed at the Clintons throughout the '90s.

· Fortunately, some Republican senators are apparently willing to demonstrate some integrity and a desire to keep the United States's good name from being further dragged through the mud -- to wit, standing up to Bush's desire to withhold evidence from terrorism defendants, use evidence gained through torture, and declare secret American interrogators immune from the Geneva Conventions. Sullivan says this may have thrown a big monkeywrench into Rove's 2006 election strategy. I think Rove may still be too wily for that, but I hope Sullivan's right.

· On a sort-of related note, here's an interesting argument against racial profiling, only replace "race" with "species."

Having a razor-sharp, barbed or serrated cartilaginous spine growing from your tail is not a crime.

· The third installment of that Blogpoll thingI've been participating in has been released, with Georgia having broken into the top 10 at #9. You'll note that I had them 15th in my ballot, which earned me a spot, for the third straight week, on the shortlist for the "Straight Bangin' Award" for the blogger whose opinion of his own team is most pessimistic relative to the rest of the voters. What can I say? I'm Catholic. Self-loathing is like mother's milk to us.

· Not appearing in your picture: South Carolina. Steve Spurrier apparently took Saturday's shutout loss to Georgia pretty hard. His quarterback, though, took it even worse.

· Not that you care, but Cooked Crackalacky's opponent for this weekend is D-IAA Wofford. It would be convenient to call them a creampuff opponent, but then again the Gamecocks were finding ways to lose to D-IAAs as recently as 1990, so maybe not. And besides, Wofford has college football's second-most-awesome mascot (after Georgia, of course) -- the Terrier. Go ahead and make your "little yappy dog" jokes, but I've lived with a terrier for more than two and a half years now, and they can be ferocious when they want to be. Ferocious enough to take down a mascot that looks like the hood decal on a late-'70s Trans Am, at any rate. Antichrist with a bar-fight-starting QB, or second-best mascot in the nation? I know who I'm rooting for this weekend.

Fear the terrier, bitches.

· Elsewhere in the SEC, Deep South Sports has a pretty funny "Office Space" takeoff on Bama's less-than-scintillating offensive performance against Vandy last week. It goes without saying, of course, that "Office Space" takeoffs are universally hilarious.

· Staying in the SEC West, a little birdie told me, or rather e-mailed me, the other day that Houston Nutt is feeling serious heat in Arkansas and is actually campaigning for the N.C. State head-coaching job that is likely to be available after this season, what with the Chuck Amato Death Clock clicking like a mofo after the Wolfpack's home loss to Akron. This becomes especially interesting when you consider that antsy Arkansas fans have had a wandering eye on former Miami coach Butch Davis, who played for the Razorbacks in college, for some time now. Stands to reason that if the Arkansas administration thinks they can snag Davis, they'd spend a lot less time worrying about where the hell Nutt ended up, doesn't it?

· And finally: Is Eva Longoria carrying an Under Armour purse?

We must protect these valuables!

Dammit, she was one of my favorites.

Ann Richards, former Texas governor and all-around ass-kicking chick, died yesterday at the age of 73. This is a really, really sad day for me, because Ann Richards was one of my favorite politicians ever, one of the few remaining people who would speak her mind and say what she thought without checking with a focus group first; her keynote address at the 1988 Democratic convention, for example, was dynamite, and the source of the now-famous George H.W. Bush "born with a silver foot in his mouth" quote.

And sometimes I wonder what would've happened if Ann hadn't vetoed the Texas concealed-carry bill after all and ended up winning re-election over George W. How much better would the world be right now?

Wednesday, September 13

Dancing with myself.

With Georgia's second matchup against UAB in four seasons right around the corner, it would appear that the Dawgs and the Blazers are developing quite a little rivalry here. We could call it "The Battle of I-20," except it'd actually be The Battle of I-20, Then Get Off At Exit 72 (Highway 138), Which Will Eventually Merge Into U.S. 78, Which BOOM! Takes You Right Into Athens, Or You Could Always Get On I-285 North And . . . well, you can kind of see how cumbersome that would be. At any rate, with UAB having taken Georgia to the very edge in their last meeting (a 16-13 Bulldog win), this seems like a game the Bulldogs can ill afford to take lightly, and a game that's a perfect candidate for a team-vs.-team roundtable like the one I did with Techie blogger Nathan last November.

Only problem is, there are no dedicated UAB sportsbloggers that I know of, and I doubt any of the corndogs at the Birmingham News would waste their precious time with little ol' me, so . . . what to do? I know: How about a roundtable with . . . myself?

Yup, I've been a Birmingham resident for almost four years now, and UAB is the one who sees fit -- for the time being, at least -- to give me a paycheck. (Not for any of the nonsense on this blog, though. This crap's on the house!) I dare say I've been to more UAB games than the rest of the Blogpoll members combined, so like Dick Cheney, I've taken a good long look at the list of candidates and declared that the best-qualified one is me -- and thus begins Hey Jenny Slater's first-ever Roundtable With Myself. I won't be doing too much of this in the future, though, I hear it can make you go blind.

LSU cartoonist Tom Sylvest Jr.'s reaction to the 2000 UAB-LSU shocker.

The big LSU road upset in 2000, the scarily close games against Georgia in '03, Tennessee in '05, and Oklahoma a few weeks ago -- how is it that UAB manages to give so many big guys a run for their money? Is it just a matter of the big-name teams not taking them seriously, or is UAB really better than we think?

Um . . . "yes"? I guess it's probably easy for teams like Oklahoma or Georgia to not give UAB the attention they deserve, but it's not all lack of focus on their part -- UAB really is a lot better than people realize. Since becoming a full-fledged Conference USA member in 1999, UAB has amassed a record of 29-23 in C-USA -- better than Memphis, South Florida, or Houston, all of whom went to bowls last year -- and 41-41 overall. May not seem like much on paper, but it becomes a lot more impressive when you consider that UAB has only had a football team since 1991 and has only been a member of Division I-A for a little over 10 years. Perhaps that's part of the reason why some people I talk to, even in the Southeast, don't even realize UAB has a football team at all. And many of the ones that do think we're some kind of scrub squad on the level of New Mexico State or UL-Lafayette. No offense to the Sun Belt, but UAB is a considerably stronger program than that. We may not be Ohio State or Texas, but our track record is too strong to be dismissed as, "Ehh, directional school."

Still, you do end up at kind of a disadvantage when your medical center is more famous than your football team. But even in spite of that, UAB has done a remarkably good job of pulling in good talent. Darrell Hackney, for instance, was getting attention from some big-name schools before he got hurt during his senior year of high school; UAB stuck with him, and he ended up being one of the most exciting quarterbacks the conference had ever seen. (You can't tell me that, say, Georgia Tech or South Carolina wouldn't have liked to avail themselves of his services during 2003-05.) Roddy White shattered C-USA receiving records and got drafted in the first round by the Falcons. Now we've got Sam Hunt, a QB who transferred from MTSU and appears to have our passing game in much better shape than we would've thought a year ago. A lot of these guys can go toe-to-toe with the BCS big boys in terms of ability, and everything you've heard about their motivation is true -- when I talked to Roddy White at the Falcons' training camp last summer, he said that he did feel like he had something to prove to the teammates who'd come from the Oklahomas and Miamis of the world.

Now, while UAB may have starting talent that can compete with the big football factories, they aren't able to recruit nearly the kind of depth that those schools are, which I think is the main reason why you see them nearly beating so many big schools but not quite getting over the hump. Still, every once in a while they knock off a player, and their BCS-conference opponents have to take great care to ensure that it isn't them.

If their talent is so impressive, how come they've only gone to one bowl and went 5-6 last year?

The bowl question is really a matter of UAB not managing to have a winning record at the right time. They had winning records in both 2000 (the year they knocked off LSU) and 2001, but Conference USA didn't have enough tie-ins and they stayed home. Even in 2004, when they went 7-4 and knocked off two bowl-bound C-USA teams on the way to their Hawaii Bowl bid, there was some worry that UAB still might not get an invite because they'd never been to a bowl before and people weren't sure whether the fan base would travel. That's probably going to be an Achilles heel for the Blazers for a while, but fortunately C-USA has added enough bowl tie-ins (including a deal with a new bowl right here in Birmingham) that there should be bids available if the Blazers can win at least six games.

Future first-rounder Roddy White hauls in a 51-yard TD pass against Hawaii in the '04 Hawaii Bowl.

As for last year's 5-6 record . . . well, that's a thornier issue, and I think most people would agree that they should've done better. I think a lot of it came down to the expectations game; in '04, UAB wasn't really on anyone's radar, but with that first bowl under their belts and Darrell Hackney coming back for his senior season, expectations were a lot higher for 2005. And honestly, everything was going pretty well in the beginning -- they went toe-to-toe with Tennessee in Knoxville, they dominated their in-state rival Troy, they beat Jacksonville State and pounded Rice -- and were favored to beat SMU pretty handily at home but lost the game on what was literally a last-second TD pass. After that, things kind of fell apart. Our veteran players, particularly on the O-line, started committing silly penalties and making silly mistakes veterans shouldn't make, and Watson Brown fully copped to over-coaching in some areas. SMU was the start of a very dispiriting three-game skid, and while we managed to upset Memphis and UTEP down the stretch, all bowl hopes were snuffed with an embarrassing loss to a lousy ECU team in the very last game.

With Hackney gone, few people figured UAB would do anything in '06, and I think we even got picked to finish fifth out of six in C-USA's Eastern Division in one poll. But with expectations minimal, you're seeing the team surprise people again, and what once looked like a major rebuilding year now holds a lot of promise. I'd say six wins is a completely reasonable goal, though the Blazers end the season with a three-game rope-a-dope of UTEP, Southern Miss, and UCF, all '05 bowl teams, the last two on the road. They may need to have six or even seven wins by that point if they want to be confident about a bowl.

So do you think UAB can play the Dawgs as close this year as they did in '03? What does Georgia need to be on the lookout for?

UAB at Georgia, 2003. Sorry the picture is small -- there weren't many on the Web, which from Georgia's perspective, at least, is probably not an accident.

Repeating 2003's performance is going to be tough because Mark Richt has already been through this once and isn't going to let his team come out flatfooted again. There may be a bit of a hangover from a very gutty road win over South Carolina last Saturday, but Georgia also gets back three very important starters -- O-linemen Dan Inman and Ian Smith and cornerback/punt returner Thomas Flowers -- who had been suspended for the first two games and will be itching to prove themselves. Georgia's defense will have to contend with a very mobile QB in Sam Hunt and a big, strong O-line that only gave up one sack to Oklahoma, but the Dawgs' front seven has straight-up murdered people so far this season, and I don't think even the Sooners brought as much pressure on Hunt as Georgia is likely to.

One of the main things I'd be worried about if I were Georgia, though, is UAB's pass defense. They've improved considerably over the past couple years, and while they've given up 504 yards in their first two games, opposing QBs are only so-so against them completion-wise (34-of-62) and have thrown three interceptions. An impressive number of yards, a mediocre completion percentage, a bunch of INTs . . . does that remind you of, oh, Matt Stafford in the South Carolina game? Stafford is an awesome talent, but he's a freshman, and against the Gamecocks we saw that he's prone to taking big gambles and throwing picks as a result. UAB will take advantage of those mistakes if he makes them, and recall that it was mainly four turnovers by Oklahoma, including two picks by Paul Thompson, that kept that game close. Georgia's offense needs to take care to avoid that happening again.

So if Georgia signed your diploma but UAB signs your paychecks, who are you going to be rooting for?

Uh . . . I know this sounds like a cop-out, but both of them. Obviously I'd like Stafford to have a big game, but I'd like Sam Hunt to perform well too, given that he's got such big shoes to fill. Georgia has more at stake in this game, obviously, but anything that earns UAB more respect is good too, and I'd like to see them put in a good performance. Since it seems like Georgia hardly ever beats the spread in these early-season out-of-conference games anyway, is it OK if I root for the Bulldogs to win, but for the Blazers to cover? Either way, I'll be wearing my red #4 Georgia jersey and a UAB hat, and I'm going to try to have both a UGA and a UAB flag flying from my car, too. If you see me on the road Saturday, be sure to honk.

(Kyle King has more on UAB here.)

Tuesday, September 12

A brand name you can trust.

The AJC brings us the news today that UGA football coach Mark Richt has gotten his picture on a Wheaties box, joining such sports luminaries as Walter Payton and Michael Jordan. I'd love to get my hands on a box of these, but living in Alabama I probably stand about as good a chance of finding a unicorn polo league as I do finding anything with Richt's picture on it -- one of you readers want to help me out?

Now, I'd like to say Richt is the first football coach to have ever gotten his picture on a popular consumer item, but obviously I can't. Richt follows such coaching tie-ins as . . .

Phil Fulmer Hot & Spicy Pork Rinds;

Special limited-edition Frank Solich cans of PBR, available exclusively in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Athens, Ohio; and

Steve Spurrier-brand Evil. "You really want to be evil? Then be Steve Spurrier Evil -- it's the one with my picture! Available at Walgreens or wherever evil is sold."

Any others I may have forgotten about?

Haaaaiiiillll to the . . . what? They did? OK, 15-1, then.

Minnesota 19, Washington 16

I blame Cruise. Seriously, I think they showed more of him last night than fucking Brunell.

It would figure that just as our owner hired a real coach and appeared to be allowing things to get back on track without Jerry Jonesing around every five minutes, he'd start hanging out with the Lance Armstrong of Crazy. I hope this doesn't mean we're going to start e-metering prospective draft picks.

Monday, September 11

Don't ask me to remember.

I'd like to have something positive and inspiring to write about 9/11 today. I don't.

Have you ever tried repeating the same word over and over again until it ceases to have any meaning and it becomes just a nonsensical-sounding collection of sounds and syllables? That's what it seems like 9/11 has become in this country. It's like the duct tape of national tragedies -- you can use it for anything, and we have. We've used it to justify everything from the war in Afghanistan (necessary) to the war in Iraq (anyone remember what the point of this was?), from increased airport security (duh) to banning gay marriage (wha . . . ?). Someone standing in your way politically? Then just accuse them of having forgotten 9/11, or not "getting" 9/11, or not understanding that "everything changed" after 9/11. And boom, instant shame, you win, game over.

That's the problem with the nonstop barrage of 9/11 memorializing I've seen, well, really since yesterday. Look, I'm not going to sit here and be the Grinch Who Stole Patriots' Day and try to say that we shouldn't memorialize the day, because we should. But I don't want people telling me to remember. And I really, really have to wonder how much of this is sincere. I'm sure in New York and Washington and Shanksville it is, but how many other places? Are we remembering and talking about and crying over this day because we're honestly trying to reflect on what it taught us and the ways in which our world changed, or are we just doing it to have something to grieve over and maybe get on TV? Or for candidates on both sides of the aisle to show how devoted they are to what remains Capitol Hill's favorite political football?

I'm also not going to sit here and try to tell people how to feel about it, but let's be honest -- we've got to have some sort of reaction to this that's greater than just being sad, greater than just feeling sorry for our country because it happened to us. Yes, it was sad, and yes, lives were torn apart that will never completely be put back together. But don't just feel sorry for the United States -- we're not the first country to have been sickened and horrified by wanton killing committed on our soil, and we're not going to be the last. Feel sorry for the entire world, the fact that we all live on a planet where people still relish the thought of treating other human beings so cruelly.

Then think about what you can do to change that. Everybody can do something, hell, even if it's just being nicer to people. Even if it's just holding back and not leaning on the horn for a full minute and unloading a Dresden's worth of F-bombs when somebody cuts you off in traffic. I think the emotion I recall most vividly from that day, beyond even my shock at seeing two of the largest buildings in the world virtually vaporized before my eyes or my sadness at the loss of life, was the despairing realization that there must be an enormous surfeit of hate in this world if people could commit an act like that. All I can ask is that people not contribute to that hate. Surely we can agree that we want our country to be better than that.

Sadly, I'm worried that we're going to end up spending a nice long cathartic day remembering and grieving over this for no other reason than because it was exactly five years ago and we've arbitrarily declared those five-year increments pretty significant, and come tomorrow morning we'll be right back to wandering aimlessly around not thinking about anything beyond our own noses or our own wallets.

I hope we'll all do proper justice to the day by taking it beyond one single square on a calendar spending more time looking forward than looking back. If you must look in the rearview mirror, stop to think about your disbelief at watching something so heinous, your despair at living in a world where such an attack could pop off the movie screen and happen in real life, and make an attempt not to add to all the hate we've got in the world. We're already crowded with people still stupid enough to believe that hate and violence will solve their problems. If the best answer we've got is more of the same, we're screwed. But if we can be wise enough to look for a different way, then maybe things aren't quite as hopeless as they looked five years ago today.

Blogpoll ballot #3: B-b-b-b-banned in the U.S.A.

Hey, did you know that this site is inaccessible from the Birmingham Public Library's WiFi connection because it contains material that may be inappropriate? Sorry, library patrons. But surely you're downloading porn from somewhere, aren't you? Well, just go to that computer and read it there.

Anyway, Blogpoll ballot #3 has been finalized, and it involves one team that got schooled by the #1 team in the country, one team that was way better than they looked in their season opener, and one team that I think I overestimated from the jump. Other than that, pretty minor movement overall.

Games watched: First half of Boise State-Oregon State; Auburn-Mississippi State; bits and pieces of Missouri-Ole Miss; most of Boston College-Clemson; Georgia-South Carolina; most of Ohio State-Texas; Atlanta-Carolina . . . wait, that doesn't count. Sorry.

1. Ohio State (last week: 1)
Unless you have any better ideas.

2. Auburn (3)

3. LSU (4)

4. Southern Cal (6)

5. Notre Dame (14)
After a one-week drop down to #14, they jump back up to #5 after eviscerating Penn State. Consider this my apology.

6. Texas (2)

7. Florida (10)

8. Louisville (7)

9. West Virginia (9)

10. Iowa (5)
KInd of a big drop considering that they did manage to pull off the win at Syracuse, but I originally had them at #13, pulling them back up only after I decided to give them the benfit of the doubt for having to put their backup QB in against Syracuse. Still, it's starting to look like I had the Hawkeyes a wee bit overranked to begin with.

11. Oregon (11)

12. Tennessee (8)
What the crap was Fisher DeBerry thinking, going for 2 at the very end instead of trying to force OT? I hope Phil Fulmer at least sends him a basket of mini-muffins or something.

13. Virginia Tech (12)
I agree with Kyle that Frank Beamer's team once again looks like the best in the ACC, though that speaks more to the quality (or lack of same) of the ACC than anything the Hokies have actually done so far. Holy crap, what a bunch of stiffs this conference is.

14. Michigan (13)

15. Georgia (17)
I'm optimistic, though cautiously so, after an Attilla-the-Hun-quality defensive beatdown (and a flawed but promising showing by Matt Stafford) against the Ol' Ballcoach.

16. Oklahoma (19)

17. Florida State (15)
They're lucky they only lost two spots after nearly getting klonged by Troy on their own field. I seriously considered putting Boise State above them.

18. Miami (16)

19. Boise State (22)

20. California (25)
Good bounce-back against Minnesota, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the Gophers actually have a defense. It probably didn't help that Air Force was able to hang for sixty minutes at the same stadium where Cal was basically taken out of it by halftime.

21. Nebraska (20)

22. Texas Tech (18)
Shouldn't have needed OT to beat UTEP, and if UTEP hadn't botched an extra point and two subsequent 2-point conversion tries, there wouldn't have been an OT in the first place. Mike Leach's offense is fun to watch, but one way or another it's going to have to dawn on him that he's never going to win the Big 12 South without a defense.

23. Boston College (NR/30)

24. UCLA (23)

25. Georgia Tech (NR/26)
Watch out for Troy, bitches.

The next five: Penn State, Clemson, Texas Christian, Utah, Wisconsin.

Dropped out: Clemson (21), Penn State (24).

Saturday, September 9

The crowd all love the show, just how far will he go?

S.O.S.: Shut Out Spurrier . . .

Last week, I told certain people, Paul Westerdawg among them, that if Georgia shut out South Carolina on Saturday night, I would run up and down Highland Avenue wearing naught but a strategically placed Georgia flag to hide my thunder. I've thought for a long time that shutting out a Spurrier team -- which nobody ever did while he was at Florida -- would be pretty sweet, but to do it in Spurrier's house might be a poetic kind of payback for the Evil Genius hanging "half-a-hundred" on us at Sanford in 1995. For an offensive mastermind like Spurrier, putting a goose egg on the board would be the most humiliating kind of punishment, and with the Gamecock offense having looked pretty ragged against Mississippi State last week, it at least seemed possible, if not exactly probable.

Well, if you happened to be driving by the 2000 block of Highland last night around 11:30, you may indeed have seen Yours Truly running down the sidewalk with a red-and-black Bulldogs flag wrapped lovingly about his nether regions, because the Dogs went into Columbia and shut out Cooked Crackalacky, 18-bupkus. I may be a complete jackass, but I'm a man of my word. The biggest news, however, was not the shutout (or the slightly intoxicated young man running bare-assed through Southside) but rather the fact that Matt Stafford came in after Tereshinski got hurt, played the rest of the game, and appears to have dibs on the starter's job going forward.

. . . or Stafford, Our Starter?

I'm sure I've already made it clear that I've been a lot higher on Tereshinski than most people, and that my ideal situation for this season involved Tereshinski being a fairly secure starter all year long with Stafford being groomed as the future superstar under him. Of course, my ideal situation also involves rolling over tomorrow morning to find Erin Andrews delicately wiping the sleep from her eyes and asking me whether I think Urban Meyer's spread-option offense can succeed in the SEC, which is my way of saying that you have to be prepared for life to not play out at all like you were hoping it would. And while I'll fully cop to being awfully nervous when 'Shinski went limping off the field and it became clear that Stafford was going to be the one on the other end of the line when the BellSouth Call to the Bullpen was made, I was also fully prepared and willing to be a believer if Stafford showed he could handle it.

So . . . did he? My answer, at least, is a resounding "kinda." I'll say this for the kid: Whereas 'Shinski would frequently give you time to go into the kitchen, grab a beer, make a sandwich, and come back before he actually threw the ball, Stafford has a lightning-quick release, enough that it does make an appreciable difference in how long opposing defenses have to react to the play. And no doubt in part because of that, the offense just seems to move with a lot more speed when Stafford's under center. Not that Tereshinski couldn't move it, but he seems to be at the wheel of a steady, deliberate freight train, whereas Stafford seems to be piloting a 180-mph shinkansen, making you feel like they're gaining 10 or 12 yards at a time even when they're just calling 4- or 5-yard runs up the middle.

Of course, a train derailment at 180 miles an hour causes a lot more death and destruction than one at 30, and herewith we see the downside of the slow-and-steady vs. high-risk-high-reward dilemma -- Stafford's three picks, already more than Tereshinski has in his career, demonstrated the dangers of a hotshot young QB vulnerable to the temptation of going for the long touchdown bomb when a simple pass to the checkdown receiver running a curl route would get him the first down he needed. 'Shinski may not be that exciting with the ball, but the coaching staff is right that he won't do a lot to fuck you up, either; Stafford runs a more exciting offense, but you have to be prepared to occasionally watch it get exciting for the wrong reasons.

It's been interesting to see Bulldog Nation treat Stafford's 8-of-19, 0 TDs, 3 INTs as fanfare-worthy after grumbling about 7-17, 1/0 from Tereshinski last week, though Stafford did throw for a lot more yards and did so against a much tougher opponent. And obviously I'd rather see the fanbase support him and give him the benefit of the doubt than turn on him the minute he fucks up, as has been known to happen in the SEC. Still, the important thing for us is to remember that Stafford is going to have his share of upchuck games this season; even David Greene had some his freshman year. Fortunately, the next month's worth of games sets up pretty well for a guy in Staff's situation. Our next three games -- UAB, Colorado, and Mississippi State Ole Miss -- are all games Georgia should be able to win without getting to stressed-out about it, yet UAB and MSU Mississippi bring enough defense to the table that Stafford will face some actual heat before going up against Tennessee on October 7. I hope we'll manage to refrain from penciling ourselves in for any SEC title-game berths just yet, but I'm still more optimistic about the team than I was a week ago, and a lot more optimistic than I thought I'd be after the situation that presented itself in the first quarter Saturday night.

And our defense . . . yikes. Before last night, Steve Spurrier had only been shut out three times as any kind of coach at any level of football -- once as QBs coach at Georgia Tech, once as the head coach at Duke, and once while he was doing his level best to embarrass my Redskins -- and he hadn't been blanked as a head coach in the NCAA in 19 years. Hurts, donut? With a D like that, Matt Stafford will probably be losing a lot less sleep than most guys in his position. I know I'll sleep pretty soundly tonight.

Up in the great beyond, Erk Russell got so excited by that defensive performance that he head-butted Jesus.

Radiation ruling the nation:

· A friend of mine once told me that he thought the saddest song in the world was "Losing My Mind," written by Stephen Sondheim for the musical Follies and later covered by the Pet Shop Boys; he said it was so sad that you could be doing anything, even having sex, and hearing it would still make you instantly depressed. I think we've found the football equivalent of that song, and it is the Mississippi State offense. They have amassed 177 yards passing and 163 yards rushing, and 0 points -- in two games. I can remember watching Lou Holtz's first South Carolina team, who went 0-for-'99 and averaged fewer than 10 points a game, and thinking that that was the most brutal offense I'd ever seen, but State's might actually be worse. Given that he just got a contract extension last year, Sylvester Croom's job is probably safe even if MSU only wins one or two games this year -- but if I were Woody McCorvey, I'd be updating my listing, because he's the most likely victim of the tried-and-true embattled-coach-cleans-house maneuver in November.

· Speaking of brutal offenses, has any 2-0 top-10 team ever looked shakier than Florida State? Look, I'm really happy they beat Miami again and everything, but does anybody honestly think they'd get a win against anybody in the top 10 (heck, make it the top 15) at this point? To put it another way, as godawful as Missy State's offense is, their backup RB has almost as many rushing yards after two games as FSU's entire team.

· I don't want to go piling on Colt McCoy after the Longhorns' loss to OSU -- he does, after all, have the coolest name in college football, other than maybe Hawaii O-liner Hercules Satele -- but no, now that you mention it, I haven't ever seen him in the same room with Frankie Muñiz. His new nickname is Malcolm Under Center.

I guess I shouldn't laugh, though, considering that both of these guys are probably getting more ass than me.

· As you've no doubt guessed, I watch a lot of college football, but I don't think I've ever clapped eyes on a college stadium that has a nastier-looking field than Boston College. Every time I see Alumni Stadium on TV, it looks like there's something trying to seep up from underneath the AstroTurf.

I think the best adjective I can come up with is "ultra-absorbent."