Friday, August 31

A Bulldog Tempts the Wrath of a Vengeful God, Part XI: Kentucky.

Good for y'all and everything, but all things considered, I'd rather Georgia not be the cause of stuff like this.

Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky.
Last season: Rolled to a fairly shocking 8-5, third place in the SEC; notched upsets over Georgia and Clemson (in the Music City Bowl).
Hate index, 1 being Ben & Jerry's crème brulée ice cream, 10 being Hitler: Three and a half, maybe four. I know I should despise them for knocking us off last year, but one of the best bosses I've ever had was a Kentucky alumna -- this woman helped make Lynchburg, Virginia, tolerable for a few months when I worked there after college. Once she left, of course, I didn't stand a chance, but nevertheless, UK gets a pass from me. Unless they beat us again this year, though, in which case I'm logging on to to see if they have a suitable clock tower.
Associated hottie: No surprises here -- Ashley Judd gets props for being magically delicious and for being a loyal supporter of all things Wildcat athletics, including their hoops team (obviously) but also their hockey team:

You know, you're right -- I don't know why you should necessarily have to wear pants to a hockey match, either.

What excites me: Even while they were blowing Bulldog Nation's collective mind up in Lexington last year, the Wildcat defense didn't exactly qualify as Steel-Curtain-like. They gave up 389 total yards to a Georgia offense whose shit was clearly still not together, and finished with a triple-digit ranking nationally in rushing defense, passing defense, and total defense; they did manage to poke their heads up into double-digits with a #99 ranking in scoring defense, thanks to a second-in-the-nation turnover margin, but even then I think it's safe to say they ain't gonna be +15 two years in a row.

The good news is, eight starters from last year's defense come back; the bad news is, see preceding sentence. Linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley are pretty good, but nobody else on this side of the ball qualifies as any better than "acceptable." The D-line has a couple decent starting DTs but absolutely no depth behind them, while the secondary that was so awful last year still doesn't appear to have things sorted out. Oddly enough, defensive coordinator Mike Archer got hired away by N.C. State after last season -- apparently Tom O'Brien wasn't too turned off by the words "coordinated the 118th-ranked defense in D-IA" appearing on Archer's résumé -- and to replace him the 'Cats promoted Steve Brown, who, as defensive backs coach, “masterminded” that 118th-ranked pass defense. I understand about wanting to maintain continuity of leadership, but jeez, people.

On the other side of the ball, the offense that everyone raved about last year will have to replace three linemen, with the right side of the line being of particular concern. This, too, has been the subject of extended tinkering over the course of the summer, and while it may get sorted out by the time they roll into Athens on November 17, QB Andre Woodson should be prepared to take some pretty vicious hits until then.

What worries me: The skill players on that offense, of course. Woodson has been heralded by nearly everyone as the SEC's most proven passer; RB Rafael Little is a threat to both run and catch; and the entire corps of receivers is blazingly fast. Everyone’s immediate knock on the Wildcat offense is that they weren't quite so prolific in '06 against defenses that actually had a pulse -- against Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and LSU, they came up with a total of 36 points -- but that can only come as so much relief to a defense as green as Georgia's is going to be. Georgia hasn't lost at home to Kentucky in 30 years, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen again this season.

Player who needs to step up: FS Reshad Jones. Of the new starters on Georgia's defense, few have been touted more highly than Jones, both as a recruit and as a Bulldog attempting to work his way into the starting lineup; he had a pretty solid summer outside of a knee injury, and I've got to think the coaching staff will be trying to get him as much action on the field as possible. He's got the speed to hang with pretty much anything Kentucky throws his way, and the Dawgs are definitely gonna need that.

What I think will happen: Between the home-field advantage and the fact that Kentucky isn't going to be sneaking up on anybody this year, I'm probably more confident about Georgia getting its revenge in this game than I am with respect to, say, Vanderbilt. Though as with Vandy, revenge-lust alone isn't going to put a mark in our W column. Statistically speaking, Kentucky's offense hardly blew us out of the water last year (204 yards passing, 147 on the ground), but particularly late in the game, they always seemed to be able to come up with a first down when they needed one. That was a recurring leitmotif of Willie Martinez's defensive schemes last season, at least until we put Auburn’s nuts in a vise the week after losing to UK, and it's something people will expect him to have sorted out in '07.

The good news, of course, is that if Matt Stafford has really advanced as a quarterback as much as we think he has, Georgia will virtually be able to name their score. Kentucky hasn't fielded a decent defense in more than a decade, and it's not gonna suddenly happen this year, not with a new coordinator having to sort out the disaster that last year's unit was. My vision of this game is something along the lines of 2002: Kentucky will hang with Georgia for the first half, with the two teams putting together a nice little 30-minute shootout -- but Georgia will make the kinds of halftime adjustments we didn't start making until the very tail end of last season, start attacking the Wildcat offensive line with a vengeance, and pull away. There is the danger of us looking ahead to the Tech game the following week, but I think that’s balanced out by a desire to redress last year’s humiliation in Lexington. I wouldn't necessarily bet money on Georgia hanging "half a hundred" on the 'Cats like we did in '02, but if Louisiana-Monroe could put 40 on them last year, then by God, we should be able to.

If you're trash-talking: OK, so Georgia lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky last year. Go ahead, I've heard all the jokes. But part of the reason people made so many jokes about it was that losses of that magnitude are so uncharacteristic of the Bulldogs; Kentucky, on the other hand, has a solid tradition of absolute stinkers under Rich Brooks that one Music City Bowl win isn't quite going to wipe away all by itself. A sampling:

2003 -- At 4-5, Brooks's first UK team is actually doing better than some predicted, and with a win over 1-9 Vanderbilt, they'll be a game away from bowl eligibility. Not so much: The 'Cats get popped 28-17 by Vandy and drop their final three games.

2004 -- Sexy time! The Cats' third 2-9 season in four years includes a seppuku-inducing 28-16 loss to lowly Ohio -- not Ohio State, Ohio -- in front of the home crowd and a 22-7 pounding by Mississippi State in Starkville.

2005 -- One week after needing two late touchdowns to beat D-IAA Idaho State, UK gets shellacked 38-14 by Indiana. This, you'll recall, was the season in which Lexington radio station WKQQ erected billboards of on-air personality "Kitten" and offered to remove an article of her clothing for every game the 'Cats managed to win; Kitten only got down to her bra and jeans before community leaders called shenanigans and ordered the billboard taken down, but it hardly mattered, since that was as naked as she was ever going to get.

Even last year, the Wildcats' best season in what seems like forever, they had to survive shootouts against Central Michigan (45-36) and UL fricking Monroe (42-40). You got us last year, boys, but in the grand scheme of things I think we all know who's got the less embarrassing football program.

Up next: We close out the season with Georgia's hated rivals from over on North Avenue, the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. If you've just joined our coverage, we're going for seven in a row.

The Friday Random Ten+5(+1) wishes you would just can it already.

Just because football season has arrived and I'm in a good mood and stuff doesn't mean I don't think that quite a lot of you are idiots. This week's +5: Five Things That Just Need To Stop, Right Now.

Lower-back tattoos
When I first inveighed against lower-back tattoos right around this time last year, fellow Dawgblogger Kyle King expressed mild shock. Yes, I know that given my weakness for somewhat trashy women, I should probably get turned on by what my sister refers to as a "buttstache" or "tramp stamp," but here's my big problem with them: They're the very cruelest kind of mirage. See, one of the biggest cheap thrills in a typical guy's day is catching a glimpse of thong that has snuck its way up above a woman's jeans, and when we first get a glimpse of an LBT, we think that's what we're seeing. But then we realize it's just a stupid-looking tattoo, we're no closer to finding out what kind of panties this woman wears than we were ten seconds ago, and we're disappointed. Ladies, I assure you that whatever you're trying to accomplish with a lower-back tattoo can be accomplished every bit as effectively with a strategically revealed G-string -- also more cheaply, and with less physical pain.

Every year there's some new stupid trend in footwear: There were Ugg boots, then there were mukluks, and now we have Crocs. When Crocs first started becoming popular, I honestly thought they were the same kind of rubber shoes that the corrections system gives to prison inmates, and that people were wearing them to earn some kind of thug cred or something like that. Only later did the awful truth dawn on me -- this is just one of those things, and people apparently want to look like state prisoners for no reason at all. These shoes are so ugly that just thinking about them makes me shudder. And no, I don't care how comfortable they are; for the past three weeks of triple-digit heat here in Birmingham, walking around completely naked would've been the most comfortable thing imaginable, but somehow nobody cut me any slack when I tried it. Maybe my mistake was showing up at the Mountain Brook High School cheerleader tryouts like that. Yeah, that's probably where I went wrong.

Hummer stretch limos
Limousines are wasteful. For all their size, aside from a little more legroom and a mini-fridge just big enough to hold a couple cans of Schlitz, they offer little more than what you could get in a standard-length Mercedes S-Class. Hummers? Also wasteful, for reasons I shouldn't have to enumerate at this point. So I guess it was only a matter of time before someone decided to combine the two in an ultra-wasteful orgy of vehicular conspicuous consumption. What nobody could have predicted, however, was the Hummer limo completely replacing the standard Lincoln or Caddy stretch as the de rigueur pimped ride for everyone from hip-hop stars to overprivileged high-schoolers to partying bachelorettes. It was novel the first few times, I guess, but now when someone sees a Hummer limo, all they think is "dipshit" -- pretty much the same reaction people have to a regular-length Hummer these days, I suppose, only thrice as intense, proportional to the limo's greater size. Give me a plain old Bentley Continental Flying Spur any day over this rolling monument to unrestrained douchebaggery.

High-waisted jeans
Look, I understand where this is coming from. After years of watching waistlines sink lower and lower, until a "muffin top" became something entirely different from what Elaine Benes was trying to sell at Top O' the Muffin To Ya! and a bikini wax became virtually mandatory just to put a pair of jeans on, it was surely only a matter of time until some opportunistic designer sensed the time was ripe for backlash and proceeded to yank waistlines back up into the vicinity of a woman's armpits. But good Lord, isn't there some kind of happy medium here? Did they really have to go as far as bringing back Mom Jeans? And doesn't this look kind of, you know, uncomfortable?

Maxim magazine
Full disclosure: Once upon a time, around the fall of '99, I became a Maxim subscriber. I was 21; it was what 21-year-old guys did. It wasn't long, however, before the magazine wholeheartedly transformed itself into the male Cosmo that everyone feared it had pretty much been all along. And they unequivocally jumped the shark this past spring, of course, by naming Lindsay Lohan -- who was already well-established as a spoiled, coked-out skank -- the hottest of their "Hot 100" for 2007 (just days after the supposedly rehabbed starlet was spotted passed-out drunk in the passenger's seat of a friend's SUV). But bizarrely, even after a May DUI arrest and the infamous chasing-the-former-assistant-in-a-car incident a couple months later, Maxim went ahead and put LiLo on the cover (which you can see above) looking every bit as strung out as one might imagine her to be. Now, I understand that Maxim had already banked a considerable portion of their chips on Lohan with the "Hot 100" thing, so maybe this was just their way of steering into the skid, but still, even the horny teenage/college-age dudes who constitute Maxim's prime demographic wouldn't bring their pricks within 100 yards of Miss Linds at this point, which indicates to me that the mag has pretty much outlived its usefulness. As for me? My subscription lasted all of one year, and then, as men are wont to do, I put away childish things. And stuck with Esquire, who knows a hot chick when they see one.

Ahh, I feel better. And now the Ten:

1. Jam & Spoon, "Stella"
2. A Tribe Called Quest, "Description of a Fool"
3. The Who, "You Better You Bet"
4. The Farm, "Hard Times"
5. R.E.M., "Let Me In"
6. U2, "Babyface"
7. U2, "The Fly"
8. Paul Simon, "You Can Call Me Al"
9. King Floyd, "Groove Me"
10. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sweet Home Alabama"

And no kidding, this is what came up next, a bonus 11th:

11. Willie Nelson, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys"

Damn straight, Willie. Whether you're Bulldog, Cowboy or anything else, feel free to leave your own rants, Random Tens, or Random Elevens in the comments.

Thursday, August 30

Thursday Mystery Meat: Its business is pleasure.

Metaphors for Mississippi State's '06 season don't come much clearer than this.

Football season is back, and now I can feel whole again. The season kicks off tonight with LSU at Mississippi State, and tomorrow I will be headed over to Georgia for the Bulldogs' home opener against Oklahoma State. Once again, I will be a hanger-on at the world-famous Tent City tailgate, and once again, Jenna the Wonder Terrier will be in tow. Georgia people, if you're going to be up in Athens for the game, shoot me an e-mail -- I want to meet some of the yahoos who post comments on this site. You can even get your picture taken with Jenna, which is almost as good as getting your picture taken with Uga and way better than getting your picture taken with a smashed-up old car.

Speaking of fucked-up cars . . .

Dear Washington D.C. pranksters: Whichever one (or ones) of y'all pulled the wrapping-Karl-Rove's-car-in-cellophane prank, you did it wrong. You're supposed to a) soak the cellophane in gasoline, b) run a length of it down into the gas tank, and c) take the end that's still protruding from the car and light it on fire. Buncha amateurs is what you guys are.

Whatever happens this season for Georgia's football team this season, it will still be great to be a Georgia Bulldog: We came in at number five on The Princeton Review's annual ranking of Top Party Schools and number one in Kirk Herbstreit's rankings of the schools with the prettiest coeds. And nobody can take that away from us.

When we say "It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog," we have our reasons.

Georgia Tech did not appear on either list -- I'll give you a few moments to recover from the shock -- but nevertheless, the guys at Ramblin' Racket have assembled a guide for ladies seeking to be "the perfect football game date." This link is not meant to be any kind of endorsement; it is strictly for informational purposes. Actually, I'm just curious to see how my sister -- a proud feminist and equally proud UGA alumna -- reacts to it.

Also up: Preseason BlogPoll v2.0 at MGoBlog, and the return of our unscientific, frequently alcohol-fueled, wild-ass-guess-laden weekly SEC predictions at

Speaking of Fleabomb, Stanley has a pretty hilarious compendium of prominent Republicans and their furtive forays into the brave new world of Teh Ghey, complete with "Beard Status" ratings for several of their supposed heterosexual life partners. Now, before I get any indignant right-wing "But I thought you liberals were supposed to lurrrrve The Gays!!1!1!" comments, let me just say that no, we liberals do not have any problem with The Gays. We think they have the exact same right to form loving relationships with their chosen partners as we straights do. But when a prominent conservative rails against homosexuality as evil incarnate in public, only to be discovered prowling public restrooms asking for a mouthful of undercover cop, that's what's called "hypocrisy" and it's hilarious. And the irony is, if only these guys would stop condemning homosexuality and allow gay couples to conduct their relationships without shame, then they, too, could come out of the closet and pursue cock the conventional way, without resorting to complicated foot-tapping signals in the crapper. But I suppose that day may never come.

Two things I'd like to point out to Britney Spears:

1. That's not a dress.

2. Even if it was, that doesn't automatically mean you should wear it.

I have declined to post the full-length rear-view photo, which would perch this blog unsteadily upon the cusp of NSFW, but if you're really that hungry for cottage cheese, click here. For the first time all week, I can kind of sympathize with Larry Craig a little, because the sight of Britney's ass might be enough to turn me gay, too.

This woman has children, ladies and gentlemen.

Know who else has children? Denver Broncos running back and former Tennessee Vols star Travis Henry. Oh, lordy, does he have children.

Henry, 28, has fathered nine children by nine women in at least four Southern states and has been ordered by various judges to provide child support for seven of them, according to court records involving one child living in DeKalb County.

Records show that Henry's children are scattered across both the American and National Football Conferences -- including Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. Wellon said Henry talked about gathering them together to watch him at training camp. Indeed, part of the custody arrangement Henry reached with Beacham requires two weekend visits when he is playing pro ball.

Good. Freaking. Lord. Nine kids by nine women? If I'd managed to impregnate every woman I'd ever slept with, I might be up to nine kids right now. But I don't know. At any rate, it appears that sex ed isn't a big part of the UTK curriculum, though being Tennessee, they probably just give incoming freshmen a pamphlet that says "hands off your sister" and leave it at that.

A Bulldog Tempts the Wrath of a Vengeful God, Part X: Auburn.

Who's got five fingers and plans on continuing to whine about the 2004 national-title game this year?

Hometown: Auburn, Alabama.
Last season: Went 11-2, beating LSU and Alabama and winning the Cotton Bowl but also getting embarrassed by Georgia in a 37-15 blowout which was, to my way of thinking at least, only slightly less satisfying than licking whipped cream off of Jessica Biel.
Hate index, 1 being Michael Vick when he was leading Virginia Tech to the Sugar Bowl, 10 being Michael Vick now: Six and a half. Kyle King is going to slug me for this, but my personal feelings toward the Georgia-Auburn rivalry run more toward affection than bile; I grew up in Columbus, within an hour's drive of the Plains, and a bunch of my friends went to Auburn, so as much as I might hope we beat their football team by 30 points on the field, I can't hate 'em as a whole. OK, except for Tommy Tuberville. That guy fucking sucks.
Associated hottie: Once again turning to Wikipedia, we find that Auburn's famous alumni list includes such luminaries as Toni Tennille, AJC columnist Cynthia Tucker -- and "American actress and professional wrestling valet" Kimberly Page, whose Wikipedia bio is a thing of classic beauty:

DDP had a feud with Dave Sullivan, who objected to how DDP treated her. DDP won that feud but ended up losing Kimberly in a match to Johnny B. Badd (Marc Mero) in 1995. Johnny promptly freed her and she became his valet going by the name of Kimberly.

Mero eventually departed for the WWF and she became The Booty Babe for The Booty Man. In 1997, she rejoined DDP to help him feud with "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Soon after, she formed the dance team known as The Nitro Girls. They danced during breaks on WCW Monday Nitro to entertain the fans. They filmed a PPV that was released in 1999. She stayed with this until late 1999 when she rejoined DDP and even "wrestled" a match against David Flair at WCW Mayhem on November 21, 1999. In 2000, she turned on DDP to join Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff's New Blood stable. She decided it was "all about me" instead of DDP and it was hinted she was romantically involved with Bischoff. She had small feuds with Elizabeth and Miss Hancock. She was also briefly paired with Mike Awesome.

Seriously, the whole thing's like that. It also delves into Page's film career, which includes "a bit part as a Mexican prostitute in 2003's Seabiscuit" and "a bit part in 2005's The 40-Year-Old Virgin as the speed dater whose breast popped out of her shirt." Who says an Auburn education can't take you anywhere?

What excites me: In hard personnel terms, at least, this is probably the most question-mark-laden squad that Tuberville has brought onto the field since 2001, when only 11 starters returned from the previous year's team and Jason Campbell and Cadillac Williams were but babes in the woods. The entire offense, really, is riddled with question marks, and the case could be made that one of them is QB Brandon Cox, in spite of the fact that he'll be entering his third year as a starter; hopes were high for Cox at the start of the season, but things deteriorated quickly thanks to injuries and an underperforming offensive line, to the point where one scout quoted in The Sporting News's SEC preview magazine surmised that it was "almost like he gave up late in the season." As someone who was sitting in the lower deck of Jordan-Hare Stadium for every last painful snap of Cox's 4-12, 4-INT performance against Georgia last November, I can see how it might've looked that way.

So is Cox going to get better in 2007? You'd almost think he has to, but he's not going to get a lot of help. As bad as the Tigers' O-line was at protecting the pass last year (35 sacks total), it was a wellspring of experience compared to this year's line, which returns only one starter, left tackle King Dunlap. Cox's receivers, too, will have to step up from an extremely disappointing season last year; Auburn's leading returning WR, the inscrutably named Rodgeriqus Smith, had all of 26 catches in 2006 for a total of 452 yards.

On the other side of the ball, three out of four starters return in the secondary, but reports from the Plains indicate they didn't perform too well in the spring, and that Tuberville has continued to tinker with the lineup throughout the summer. I find it hard to believe that Auburn's secondary will all of a sudden become a sieve in 2007, but after allowing only 168 passing yards per game last year, there really aren't a whole lot of places for them to go other than down.

What worries me: The secondary does have plenty of experience, though, and assuming that Tubbs can find the right mix at cornerback, Auburn should field yet another ass-kicking defense. Up front, the line is experienced and deep; behind them, the linebacking corps, loses two of three starters, but one of the replacements will be the highly touted Tray Blackmon. Blackmon was suspended for the first six games of 2006 and sat out spring practice for undisclosed personal reasons, but when he has managed to find his way onto the field, he's been impressive; he stands to be a major force at WLB this year if he can manage to stay out of trouble. Statistically, the run defense actually fell off a little bit last year compared to 2005 -- 124 yards per game versus 116 and 3.7 yards per carry versus 3.5 -- but should be headed back in the right direction this season.

On offense, one of the few solid units is the RB corps, which is just as well since the running game is the bread and butter of Auburn's attack in the first place. Brad Lester (510 yards and 4.9 ypc) and Ben Tate (392 yards, 7.3) headline that group, and while Lester's status has been thrown into question this week for academic reasons, let's be real here -- Auburn once started a functional illiterate at running back, so expecting Lester to lose substantial playing time over something as piddling as academics is kind of like expecting Hugh Hefner to turn down a prospective Playmate because she can't cook. And even if Lester does get held out for an extended period, I'd be very careful about getting too excited about that; the guys behind Lester have precious little playing experience in games of actual consequence, but based on Tuberville's track record on the Plains, I find it hard to believe that any of the RBs in their stable wouldn't be ready to go.

And then there's the fact that the game is taking place in Athens this year, which every knowledgeable Georgia fan was worrying about the minute the final gun sounded on last year's game in Auburn. I'm sure you've heard the statistics get updated every year, but just in case you need a reminder, the home team is 3-11-1 since 1992 in this series; things have improved a little lately, with the home team winning two of the last four, but Georgia still has only seven wins over Auburn since the series went home-and-home starting in 1959. And if you saw the games in Athens in 1999, 2001, and 2005 (like I did), you know that Georgia will pick the most bizarre of ways to lose this one in front of the home crowd. Don't try to predict how it's going to happen this year; no matter what you come up with, reality will find a way to top it.

Player who needs to step up: DE Roderick Battle. Last year's Georgia blowout on the Plains got a lot attention due to Matt Stafford and the offense breaking out in a big way, not to mention Tra Battle's three picks, but you could make the case that the game was truly won on the line of scrimmage, where Ray Gant and Charles Johnson destroyed Auburn's O-line on play after play and frequently scared Brandon Cox into making terrible throws. Auburn's offensive line is green enough this year that we should be able to do that again, but unfortunately our front four isn't much riper, so nothing's going to be given to them for free. Battle's speed will be imperative in flying around the right side of Auburn's line and getting to Cox as often as possible.

What I think will happen: I'll just come right out and say it: I don't feel good about this game at all. On paper, I think Georgia has the edge in talent; maybe it's just because everyone's too busy talking about Nick Saban or LSU's national-title chances this year, but I've hardly heard anything about Auburn at all. That kind of silence, however, is one that could be described as "eerie" when applied to Auburn. Under Tuberville, the Tigers have established a solid pattern of playing their best football when nobody's paying attention to them (and falling apart when expectations reach their peak), and if that holds true this year, Auburn could be in for a big season.

Even then, I don't see their offense blowing anyone's minds in 2007, but like home-field "advantage," that rates little better than a "so what" as far as this rivalry is concerned. In 2005, Cox picked us apart as a first-year starter; the following year, of course, a Georgia team that had just lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky returned the favor. Despite all the reasons I've listed above why Auburn's passing game should suck this year, I've got to think that Cox's strikingly Reggie-Ball-like regression last year was an anomaly, and that things will improve despite the rebuilt O-line and the shaky receivers. Cox appears to be healthy, at least, which is a big improvement over the 2006 situation right there.

My immediate read on this game a few months back was a fairly low-scoring defensive battle that Georgia would narrowly win, but because this game always seems to defy my expectations one way or another, I'm going to reverse that. If the season plays out for the Bulldogs the way I've described it in past previews, Georgia could very well be on the cusp of an SEC East title (despite the requisite loss to Florida), meaning there will be that much more of a chance that the Dawgs' young defense will tighten up and start playing not to lose; in a scene eerily reminiscent of 2005, the Dawgs will hold a thin lead toward the end of the game but let Auburn go on a late drive (not a 62-yard fluke pass, mind you, an actual drive) that nets the game-winning field goal. Whether we'll still be able to pray for a Steve Spurrier upset over Florida at that point is up to the scheduling Powers That Be at CBS.

I'm sorry, Kyle.

If you're trash-talking: The sociology grade-fixing scandal, the student-loan investigation, the blackface frat party -- if you can't find anything about Auburn to make fun of, then brother, you just haven't been paying attention. In a strictly football context, though, there's not much funnier to me than Tommy Tuberville whining last year about how the SEC can't put a team in the BCS title game because all the teams in the conference manage to beat each other, and then having to watch as Florida -- whose only loss that year was at Auburn -- went to the title game and whupped Ohio State's ass. I mean, that's some fucking mind-blowing irony right there. You could give O. Henry a million years and he'd never come up with something like that. It also prompted the joke, "What's the difference between Tommy Tuberville and a newborn puppy? Eventually the puppy stops whining."

In the off chance that you liked that one, then in the spirit of the, ahem, affectionate and collegial rivalry between Auburn and Georgia, I offer you a selection of my favorite Auburn jokes collected throughout the years.

Have you heard about the changes to Auburn's disaster-evacuation plan? In the event of a tornado, all students and faculty are directed to assemble in Jordan-Hare Stadium, because there's hardly ever a touchdown there.

Auburn's library was severely damaged by fire a couple days ago. The bad news is they lost more than 100 books, but the good news is they were already colored in anyway.

Q. What do you say to an Auburn football player in a three-piece suit?

A. "Will the defendant please rise."

Q. How do you break an Auburn grad's finger?

A. Punch him in the nose.

Up next: Another get-back opportunity presents itself as Georgia welcomes the Kentucky Wildcats to Athens. Commander Richt, set your phasers to "anally vivisect."

Wednesday, August 29

A Bulldog Tempts the Wrath of a Vengeful God, Part IX: Troy.

Nope? None of these? Not even close?

Hometown: Troy, Alabama.
Last season: Went 8-5, won the Sun Belt, and annihilated Rice in the New Orleans Bowl. Check that: the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. I'm trying to think of the perfect "Troy, Alabama"/"truckers" joke to make here, but honestly, wouldn't it be superfluous regardless?
Hate index, 1 being my sister Ann, 10 being Ann Coulter: Three. And none of those three points have anything to do with Georgia; they're all from the fact that UAB and Troy have sort of positioned themselves as in-state rivals. (Yeah, I know, go ahead and make your jokes, but Auburn and Alabama were taken.)
Associated hottie: Laura McDonald, a 2007 graduate who won the title of Miss Troy University last year. Her page on the Miss Alabama Web site says her platform is "Reading is Learning"; being illiterate myself, I wouldn't know.

What excites me: Since moving up to Division I-A in 2001, the Troy offense has rarely been what you'd call "electrifying." Last year was the first time in four years that they averaged more than 300 yards per game; their best season in D-IA scoring-wise was 2004 when, aided by a +11 turnover margin, they scored 23.8 points a game and earned a place in history as the last team to ever lose a Silicon Valley Football Classic. The new spread offense installed by coach Larry Blakeney last year appears to be a better fit for QB Omar Haugabrook, but against three BCS-conference opponents last year -- Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Nebraska, none of which exactly qualified as stone-cold killers against the pass -- Haugabrook still only averaged about 182 yards a game. Troy had to travel to Tallahassee, Atlanta, and Lincoln in successive weeks, which goes a long way toward explaining why the performance of Haugabrook and the rest of the team deteriorated so markedly over that stretch, but still, with only one returning starter on the offensive line, this is probably the least dangerous offense we'll face all year with the exception of Western Carolina.

Special teams was another weak spot for Troy last year, with kicker Greg Whibbs only making 6 of 14 field goals over 30 yards and punt returner Leodis McKelvin averaging only 11.2 yards per return. The overall unit should get better this year, but they do have to break in a new punter, which could open up some opportunities for Mikey Henderson.

What worries me: What Troy has lacked in terms of offensive power they've more often than not made up on defense, and this year's unit returns eight starters. But what worries me more than anything related to straight-up talent is simply the timing of the game itself, which is the textbook example of a "sandwich" or "trap" game. Coming right after Florida, we'll either be moping around after our 16th loss to the Gators in 18 tries or primed for a letdown opportunity after knocking off the defending national champions, plus we've got the traditional rivalry match with Auburn right around the corner. This season will mark the first time in 55 years that we've played an out-of-conference game between Florida and Auburn -- from 1953 to 2001, those games were played back-to-back -- so it's anyone's guess as to how we'll perform in this situation. Regardless of what happens against Florida or what kind of opponent Auburn shapes up to be in 2007, Richt and his coaching staff may have a tough job on their hands keeping the team focused on Troy, and after last year I'm hoping nobody's going to use "C'mon, Doug, it's Homecoming" to refute that statement.

Player who needs to step up: WR Sean Bailey. If past Georgia performances in OOC games are any indication, the most pressing concern for this game is that the offense is going to get listless and stagnant and allow Troy to hang around for a lot longer than they should. To counteract that and keep the home crowd's boo-birds at bay, the Dawgs are going to have to put some distance between themselves and the Trojans early, which means some long bombs right out of the gate, and that's going to require some electrifying, momentum-building receptions. Despite having to sit out 2006 with a knee injury, Bailey is the receiver best-equipped to make those kinds of catches, and even when he's not the designated target on a given play, his senior leadership will be needed to prevent the receiving corps as a whole from having the kind of season they had last year.

What I think will happen: As with Western Carolina, the outcome of this game shouldn't be in a whole lot of doubt; the final margin of victory all depends on which Georgia team shows up. But like I told Kyle King earlier in the summer, with Troy being a much more talented team than WCU and the timing of the game being dicier, there's a real danger of this game turning into Colorado '06 redux if the Bulldogs don't keep their minds on the opponent at hand.

Ultimately I don't think this one will be quite that close, but neither do I see it ending up on anyone's list of Top 10 Awesome All-Time Georgia Blowouts. I think Georgia will score on its first or second drive, get a big reaction from the crowd, and as has been the case with many such games in recent years, let off the gas a little too early; I can see them leading by as little as a single score at halftime. If they somehow hold a lead in the double digits, I'll be thrilled.

Fortunately, that three-game stretch of BCS opponents Troy played last year gives us a classic example of what happens when plucky underdog meets big-program depth. In closer-than-expected losses to FSU and Georgia Tech, Troy hung close in the first half, trailing GT by a single touchdown and actually leading the Seminoles 3-0; it was in the second halves of those games that they eventually ran out of gas, got outscored by an aggregate 45-27, and lost. Georgia has enough depth on offense to effect a similar outcome. Damon Evans didn't put this game on the schedule thinking there was a real danger we'd lose, and however uninspiring the situation may look at halftime, I think Georgia's depth (particularly at tailback) will take over in the second half and drive the Dawgs to a solid if unspectacular win.

Be that as it may, however, I'm already willing to predict Georgia won't cover the spread in this one, whatever the spread ends up being. And if I'm hurtin' for cash by the time November 3 rolls around, I may just throw fifty bucks or so on Troy plus the points. My kids gotta eat!

If you're trash-talking: Other than the usual condescension directed toward any team that competes in the Sun Belt Conference, I don't know that there's a lot to be gained by smacking around a team that's only been in Division I-A for going on seven years. If you really want to get involved, though, you could always point out that they play their home games in a venue called Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium, which always sounded funny to me, as if they were recognizing people who fought in a bloody battle between rival video-rental franchises. "I'll never forget that morning when the Blockbuster troops attacked -- they came in over the New Releases shelf and laid waste to the entire Drama section before we could regroup. We eventually held them off by tossing those giant-size Gobstoppers at them, but we lost a lot of good men that day, not to mention all but two copies of 'Stomp the Yard.' War is hell."

And then there's the fact that the stadium's 1998 expansion (which coincided with the sale of naming rights) was primarily bankrolled by one Richard M. Scrushy, the former HealthSouth CEO who would later be convicted of bribery, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice along with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Needless to say, the first half of "Richard M. Scrushy Field at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium" doesn't get mentioned a lot these days.

Up next: My personal favorite of the Bulldogs' many heated rivalries, Georgia vs. Auburn.

Tuesday, August 28

Hey Jenny Slater presents My Wife Will Be Out Shopping for Hours: A Discreet Guide to GOP-Acceptible Extramarital Hookups.

This summer alone, we've been treated to the following:

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) popping up in the D.C. Madam's "little black book";

Florida State Rep. Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island) getting arrested for offering to blow a guy in a park restroom;

Michael Flory, the former head of the Michigan Federation of Young Republicans, pleading guilty to sexual battery;

Glenn Murphy, the leader of the Young Republican National Federation, stepping down after allegations that he sexually assaulted a dude; and, just for fun,

Thomas Ravenel, South Carolina state treasurer and Rudy Giuliani's state campaign chair, getting indicted on crack-distribution charges.

So after all that, I guess it wasn't actually too surprising that Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) got charged with soliciting sex in an airport men's room. But what is surprising is his handling of said charge:

Craig issued a statement confirming his arrest and guilty plea, which were reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. But the Idaho Republican maintained that he had not engaged in any "inappropriate conduct" and that the airport police misunderstood his behavior.

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct," Craig said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

So basically he's saying he pleaded guilty just to speed the process along? Look, I've never been accused of soliciting sex in a men's room, so I cannot state with absolute certainty how I would handle it if I was, but I'm fairly sure my attitude wouldn't be "Well, I'm heterosexual and have never tried to have sex with a guy in a men's room, but I'll go ahead and admit guilt if it'll just speed this thing along. I mean, I'll be known publicly as a guy who tries to hook up with dudes in bathrooms, but I figure my reputation can recover from that."

Christ, Larry, even Bob Allen's smarter than that, and he offered a guy twenty bucks to let him blow him.

What struck me today as I was reading the details of Craig's arrest was how similar it was to the Bob Allen incident in Florida last month. As he was being led away from the men's room in question, Allen reportedly asked if "it would help" that he was a state legislator; when Craig was being questioned at the airport about what he was doing in the restroom,

Craig gave police a business card showing that he is a U.S. senator. "What do you think about that?" Craig asked the officer, according to the report obtained by Roll Call.

I guess the only thing left to comment on is the odd reaction from GOP sycophant Hugh Hewitt, who says:

I realize that I did not say this about Senator Vitter, but Craig's behavior is so reckless and repulsive that an immediate exit is required.

Well, at least he's good enough to admit point-blank that he's running a double standard here, but honestly I don't see how you can parse the differences between the offenses here. Craig cruised for sex in men's rooms, which is illegal; Vitter availed himself of the services of prostitutes, which is also illegal. He describes Craig's behavior as "reckless and repulsive," but I'm sure many of Vitter's Louisiana constituents might find his own behavior repulsive, and whatever else you can say about a sitting U.S. senator banging hookers within a few blocks of Capitol Hill, it certainly seems "reckless" to me.

I suppose it's just a coincidence that Idaho is a safely Republican state, while Vitter just barely avoided a runoff in his 2004 race with 51 percent of the vote.

But anyway, this has all provided some fascinating insight into the way the Republican mind works with respect to sexual morality. To recap: Democrat has adulterous sex with intern, bad (in fact, we'll go ahead and kick it up to impeachably bad); Republican has adulterous sex with prostitutes, not all that bad. But Republican tries to have gay adulterous sex with guy in airplane restroom, bad again.

The lesson: Republicans, keep your extramarital affairs restricted to chicks. If the powers that be in the GOP find out you were chasing cock, they'll drop you like a bad habit. But as long as you were only going after poontang like the rest of us normal folk, you're golden.

(For more insight into the bizarre right-wing reaction to CruisingForCockInTheMensRoomGate® -- yes, I'm copyrighting that -- go here.)

Monday, August 27

A Bulldog Tempts the Wrath of a Vengeful God, Part VIII: Florida.

Urban Meyer, raising the bar for academics in the UF football program.

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida.
Last season: Went 13-1, beat Arkansas for the SEC championship, killed Ohio State 41-14 for the national title, blah blah I’m tired of talking about this.
Hate index, 1 being the Hooters waitress I dated a couple years ago, 10 being the Delta flight attendant who stood me up at the Bridgetown Grill in Atlanta a few years before that: Ten. The only reason I didn’t pull a Spinal Tap and kick the hate up to eleven is because I do have to respect them for their prowess on the field; beyond that, I hate them. I hate them. I hope all the bad things in life happen to them and only to them.
Associated hottie: Causing further infuriation is the fact that UF has a pretty impressive resume when it comes to hottie graduates -- Erin Andrews, Kendra from the third season of “The Apprentice,” soccer star Heather Mitts, Faye Dunaway. But on top of all that, they can also claim Rachel Specter, the ridonkulous brunette from the RGX body spray ads. I want to know which UF administrator made the deal with Satan, and what exactly was promised.

What excites me: You mean besides that ad? In a strictly football sense, I’d have to say I’m optimistic about the fact that Florida returns only two starters on defense, giving them the one defense in the SEC that may actually be greener than Georgia's. Only three guys on Florida's '07 defense have ever sacked anybody at the college level; only one (Tony Joiner) has ever intercepted a pass. Urban Meyer has recruited like gangbusters, and I'd be surprised if D-coordinator Charlie Strong wasn't offered a head coaching job the minute the regular season ends, but a dearth of experience like this one is not the kind of thing a team overcomes quickly, especially not in the defense-is-king environment of the SEC.

On the other side of the ball, Florida is without a real backfield rushing threat for what seems like the bajillionth year in a row, unless you count Tim Tebow, of course. But now that Timmeh's the starting QB rather than just a short-yardage novelty act, he's going to have to throw the ball some, which is likely to cut into his busy schedule of rushing for four or five yards on third-and-one. That's not to say that Tebow is in over his head, but there will no doubt be times this year when the kid does something stupid enough to remind Gator fans just how valuable Chris Leak's experience as a four-year starter was.

What scares me: With a lightning-fast receiving corps and four out of five guys returning on the offensive line, it looks like the pieces are in place for Meyer's complicated spread-option offense to have its biggest . . . man, fuck this. We all know what the most ominous aspect of this game is for Bulldog Nation, and it's the fact that over the last 17 years, Georgia has barely been able to buy a win, much less a streak of any kind. It's at a point now where Mark Richt could dress up the New England Patriots in red-and-black uniforms, send them up against a Florida squad composed entirely of special-ed kids and Medicare recipients, and you'd still be standing there stroking your chin and going, "I don't know . . . " If the mental block was too much to overcome for a senior-laden 2002 Georgia squad that was probably the best team we've fielded since Herschel Walker, you really have to be downing some happy pills to think a sophomore QB, a rebuilt offensive line and an experience-deprived defense are going to be able to get over that hump.

Player who needs to step up: Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Yeah, I know he's not even a player anymore, but I already used Matt Stafford for the Tennessee preview, so hear me out. As absurd as Georgia's ineffectiveness in this rivalry has become, it's not something you can pin on the defense; in Georgia's four losses to UF in the post-Spurrier era, they've allowed 21, 14, 16, and 20 points. No, if Georgia's ever going to get this rivalry back on an even footing, it's got to start with the offense, and the issues there have less to do with talent (David Greene was only 1-3 against Florida, ferchrissakes) and more to do with psychology. Particularly over the last few years, it seems we've been playing not to lose against Florida rather than playing to win, which both a) sucks and b) is something Bobo is in a position to change. He's got to turn Stafford and the entire offense into a steel-hearted fighting force and then call the plays that will win the game rather than just lose it by a respectable margin. Can he do that? Well, in Georgia's two wins over Florida in the last 17 tries, he was under center for one and on the sideline for the other, so anything's possible . . .

What I think will happen: Man, everything sets up so beautifully for this game. Georgia's offense should be clicking by this point, whereas Florida's defense might still be working through some growing pains, meaning the Dawgs could be in a position to put some real points on the board for the first time in ages; history's on our side, too, as the last Florida team to face Georgia as defending national champions received a 37-17 bitchslapping in Jacksonville. If ever there were a year to say "We're gonna beat Florida this year" and mean it, this is the one.

But a streak's a streak, and I've already tempted fate enough with this series; I'm afraid that for this one, I just can't be That Guy. Sorry, Bulldog Nation, you can drum me right out of the alumni association for this if you want, but until I get at least a reasonably unmistakable sign from God or Allah or whoever that says otherwise, I'm saying Florida, 31-27.

If you're trash-talking: For me to trash-talk the Gators is kind of like Jennifer Anniston trash-talking Angelina Jolie, but while recent history may not be on our side here, stereotypes are.

So happy over the Gators' 2006 national title that he almost forgot to beat his wife.

Stereotypes in general are bad, but what can I say? French people are rude, Asians are better at math, and Gators wear jean shorts. (They also don't zip up.)

Up next: Hey Jenny Slater salves the hurt with a get-well game against the Trojans. No, the other ones.

Saturday, August 25

A Bulldog Tempts the Wrath of a Vengeful God, Part VII: Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt football: Straight-up schoolin' sucka punks who think they know what's up since about, oh, 2005 or so.

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee.
Last season: Only went 4-8, 1-7 (last place) in the SEC – but of course we all know whom that one win came against.
Hate index, 1 being “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” 10 being “Bad Boys II”: 4.5. They were close to a 1 right up until they beat us last year on fucking Homecoming; they’re still too hard-luck to hate, but I wouldn’t mind seeing one of them get dismembered by the Dawgs up in Nash Vegas this year.
Associated hottie: Molly Sims (of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and “Vegas” fame) went to Vanderbilt for two years, and was a Tri-Delt, no less. She left to pursue her modeling career before actually graduating, but who needs a diploma when you look like this?

What excites me: The Commodores’ defense has improved fairly steadily over Bobby Johnson’s five years in Nashville, but it’s still not what you’d call a worldbeater (they finished 74th in the country in total defense last year, giving up around 352 yards a contest), and it looks like their primary weaknesses will once again be on the defensive side of the ball in '07. Just for starters, the 'Dores were 91st nationally in rushing defense (150 yards per game) and 94th in pass-efficiency defense.

With eight guys coming back, that defense should be stronger in 2007, but only two of the returners are on the defensive line. If Georgia's O-line has come together at all by midseason, the Dawgs should be able to put up some rushing yards on the Commodores -- they’ve averaged 175.5 yards on the ground over the last four games in this series, though that’s bumped up some by a spike in rushing yards in the 2004 blowout. And last year, Thomas Brown had 75 yards (6.8 ypc) just in the first two quarters before blowing out his knee returning the second-half kickoff; Georgia's three-headed rushing game should put up even better numbers this year.

If the defense was merely “mediocre” in 2007, though, the special teams qualified as “abysmal.” The ‘Dores averaged just 33.5 yards per punt (86th in the country), and weren’t particularly good in the return game, either (17.9 yards per kick return and a pitiful 4.7 yards per punt return, both in the bottom fifth of Division I-A). The new NCAA rule moving kickoffs back to the 30 yard line from the 35 may not affect Georgia too much to begin with, for reasons that Paul Westerdawg outlines, but against a return game this anemic, it might matter even less.

What worries me: Try Vandy’s entire offense. For all the hype over their upset of Georgia and their achingly close losses to Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida, they were “competent” as opposed to “spectacular” last year, ranking 52nd in the country overall in total offense and within a stone’s throw of that ranking in most of the individual categories -- but all I can remember about the Georgia-Vanderbilt game is how they always seemed to manage a big first-down play when they needed one, either on the legs of mobile QB Chris Nickson or with an amazing catch from wideout Earl Bennett, who could start for pretty much any team in the country at this point. Particularly against a defense as inexperienced as Georgia’s is going to be, this should be raising red flags throughout Bulldog Nation.

Player who needs to step up: WCB Bryan Evans. Obviously it's still way early, but if I had to guess I'd say Evans is the guy most likely to be assigned to Earl Bennett. Now, when you get right down to it, Chris Nickson might be more dangerous as a runner than a passer, but when he does pass, Bennett's more than likely going to be the target, so Evans is going to have his work cut out for him.

What I think will happen: After the 2006 season ended, I would’ve predicted this as a blowout Georgia win based on sheer bloodthirsty revenge-lust alone. The more I find out about Vanderbilt, though, the less confident I am that that’ll be the case. Outside of a few recent and nationally recognizable stars like Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt has never been a treasure trove of name-brand talent, but the overall skill level in Nashville has steadily increased during Bobby Johnson’s tenure, as has the level of discipline; thus the painfully closes of years past are starting to turn into actual upsets.

At the same time, though, it’s possible that upsets such as Tennessee ’05 and Georgia ’06 are getting so much attention that we’re ignoring some other facts about the Commodores -- namely, that they’re still pretty mediocre when judged against the rest of the SEC, at least as far as the statistics are concerned. This kind of got lost in the stunned silence that enveloped Athens in the wake of last year’s upset, but the VU offense really only mounted two sustained scoring drives against the Dawgs -- one of them, of course, being the winning FG drive at the very tail end of the game -- and ended up with only 291 total yards on the day. The real damage was done by Georgia, who shot themselves in the foot with stalled drives and fraidy-cat playcalling on offense. Greater consistency at the QB position should solve the first problem to some extent, and the playcalling will almost certainly experience a change of pace with Mike Bobo in charge of the offense.

Still, the effects of 18 returning starters, 10 of them on offense, can’t be ignored, and the Dawgs had better be prepared for another Vanderbilt squad that, on paper at least, is eminently capable of keeping up with them on the scoreboard. Georgia will almost certainly have better luck scoring on the ‘Dores than they did last year, but the ‘Dores will also be moving a lot more quickly against Georgia’s defense, and though Georgia’s superior ground game should allow them to hold a late lead, I don’t see Vanderbilt ever falling behind by enough to quite make that lead feel secure. My guess is that Georgia wins by the kind of single-digit margin that would’ve been considered embarrassing a few years ago but that will look better and better as the Vanderbilt program improves; conversely, if the Dawgs think they can win on revenge alone, they’ll be in big trouble.

If you're trash-talking: I feel a little churlish smack-talking a team that handed Georgia probably its biggest embarrassment of the Mark Richt era, but once-every-season upsets aside, when you look at Vanderbilt you're still looking at the Dexys Midnight Runners of the SEC, a group that hasn't done anything noteworthy since 1982 (the year Vandy last won more than three SEC games, had a winning season, and went to a bowl). They've averaged a mere three wins a season whether you're talking about the last decade or the five years of it that Bobby Johnson has been the coach.

But to me the funniest thing about the Commodores is that Vanderbilt's founder, Cornelius Vanderbilt, was never actually an officer in the Navy; he just wanted people to think he was, and insisted that people call him "Commodore." And that's how VU got its nickname when it was founded in 1873. That's like me founding an institution called Gillett University and calling its football team the Fightin' Academy-Award-Winning Sex Machines.

Up next: Those crystal-football-fondling sons of bitches from Florida. I may be too filled with rage to even write anything.

Friday, August 24

Friday Random Ten+5: The weekly feature men want to be and women want to be with.

A couple Saturdays ago, I was bored off my ass and not all that anxious to spend any time out in the 100-something-degree heat, so I stayed inside and threw in one of the DVDs I'd bought a few days prior -- "The Living Daylights," which came out in 1987 and was, if memory serves, the first James Bond movie I ever saw all the way through. And you know something? Even though it was 20 years old, it held up pretty well, both as a Bond film and as a movie period. The James Bond series is one I've been a big fan of ever since seeing "Daylights" way back then, and when I started thinking about which movies were my favorite, I eventually came up with these five:

5. "For Your Eyes Only" (1981)
"The Living Daylights" was the first Bond movie I saw all the way through, but this was the first one I have specific memories of watching -- from the back seat of my parents' Malibu station wagon at a late-night drive-in near Pulaski, Virginia, sometime during 1982 or '83. (I would've been four or five years old then, so my sister and I probably fell asleep long before it was over.) At any rate, this movie was kind of refreshingly normal after some of the more over-the-top Roger Moore outings such as "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker," which ended up on a fricking space station, for crying out loud. A minimal amount of special effects and not even all that many gadgets, now that I think about it; in the film's main chase scene, Bond's Lotus self-destructs before he can even saddle up, so instead he has to escape in a canary-yellow Citroën 2CV, of all things. Just taut action, beautiful scenery, and a fine-ass chick with a crossbow. Not to mention one of the greatest movie posters ever.
Fun fact: One of the women in this movie really was born a dude, though the actress in question, Caroline Cossey, wasn't a "Bond girl" per se; she was basically a featured extra in the scene at the Cuban assassin's Spanish villa where the assassin gets an arrow in the chest.

4. "Goldfinger" (1964)
Some people might consider it heresy to rate this one anything less than number one; maybe I've just seen it too many times. But this is still the movie credited with truly launching the Bond character into the cinematic big-time, and with good reason -- in the first 10 minutes there's a dead naked chick in Bond's hotel room painted gold. Not many other movies would've had the balls to pull something like that at the time, nor would they have had the balls to give their female leads a name like "Pussy Galore." The lasciviously named Bond Girl, the megalomaniacal supervillain, and the kick-ass (yet somewhat plausible) gadgetry justifiably set standards by which the rest of the series would be judged, and the scene in which Goldfinger threatens Bond's junk with a laser has become so ingrained in our popular culture that the dialogue from it ("No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!") got sampled in Moby's remake of the James Bond theme song in 1995. Also featured maybe the most underrated Bond girl ever, Tania Mallet, as Tilly Masterson, who seeks to make Goldfinger pay for the paint job he gave her sister.
Fun fact: An urban legend circulated that Shirley Eaton died from being painted gold for the movie, but she remains alive to this day. In 2003, "Mythbusters" debunked the myth that being completely covered in paint would kill you, although apparently it does make you feel pretty gross.

3. "Casino Royale" (2006)
I think it's safe to say that the last few Bond movies under Pierce Brosnan were pretty terrible -- probably as bad as any of Roger Moore's cheesiest outings -- so it was a huge relief to see the producers reboot the franchise, strip out much of the over-the-top gadgetry and sci-fi plotlines that had infested the series, and assembled what turned out to be a fairly faithful adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel that started everything. This one might actually be the deepest and best-written of the entire series; because we're basically seeing the making of Bond as a super-spy, we get to see how he became a double-0 in the first place, we get to see what he was like before his rough edges were smoothed over, and perhaps most importantly, we get a pretty big clue as to why he won't ever stick with the same girl for more than one movie. I wasn't crazy about the casting when they first announced it, but Eva Green turned out to be one of the best Bond girls ever, and Daniel Craig, despite being blond, might actually be the best Bond since Sean Connery. In the end, I think fans should be very optimistic about the direction in which the series is headed.
Fun fact: In the scene where Bond is chasing Le Chiffre and the henchmen who have kidnapped Vesper Lynd, stunt driver Adam Kirley set a new Guinness world record by rolling an Aston Martin DBS seven times.

2. "The Living Daylights" (1987)
Again, I probably have a soft spot for this one since it's the first Bond movie I saw when I was old enough to really appreciate what was going on, but even so, it's surprising just how good and refreshingly un-cheesy it seems despite its mid-'80s vintage. For one thing, it was nice to see the series return to a harder, more serious edge after years of Roger Moore intermittently playing for laughs; but even more than that, if you think about it, "Daylights" was actually sort of prescient in that the main villain was not the Soviet government but rather a shady arms dealer trying to play the Russians and the West against each other. The head of the KGB, played by John Rhys-Davies, is written as a fairly progressive and reasonable individual who turns out to be an ally rather than an adversary. This movie had some awesome chase/fight scenes, a ridiculously hot Bond girl (Maryam d'Abo, who recently wrote a book about it), and a plot complex enough that you had to have a brain to follow it. And I'm sorry, but I even like the theme song (by a-ha of "Take On Me" fame, however fleeting).
Fun fact: The Pet Shop Boys were originally asked to record the theme song, but backed out when they were informed they'd only be doing the one song and not the entire soundtrack.

1. "From Russia With Love" (1963)
Not just my favorite Bond movie but one of my favorite all-time movies period. Varied and exotic locales, gadgetry that's neither throwaway nor overbearing, a performance from Connery that's smoother than a Maker's-Mark-and-maple-syrup cocktail . . . and maybe the hottest Bond girl of all time, Russian foreign-service functionary Tatiana Romanova, played by 1960 Miss Universe runner-up Daniela Bianchi. Doesn't matter that Bianchi's English was so heavily accented that they had to overdub every last word of her dialogue; the scene of her first run-in with Bond -- where he enters his Istanbul hotel room to find her in his bed, apparently wearing nothing but a velvet choker -- is so hot that it has been used to screen-test numerous prospective Bonds and Bond girls over the years. One of those rare movies that does nearly everything right and that you don't want to end.
Fun fact: After completing "Dr. No," the film series' producers chose to make "From Russia With Love" the second Bond film partly because President John F. Kennedy had named it one of his favorite books in an 1961 article in Life magazine. It was the only work of fiction of the 10 books on Kennedy's list.

And now the Ten:

1. Chemical Brothers, "Marvo Ging"
2. New Order, "Blue Monday"
3. Underworld, "Push Upstairs" (Darren Price remix)
4. Alex Heffes, "Afro Disco Beat"
5. Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues"
6. The Corrs, "What Can I Do"
7. Gnarls Barkley, "Who Cares"
8. Ice Cube, "Wicked"
9. Fatboy Slim, "10th & Crenshaw"
10. Gorillaz, "Man Research (Clapper)"

Put your own Random Tens and/or favorite Bond movies (or favorite spy films in general) in the comments.

Thursday, August 23

BlogPoll roundtable #1: "I don't fancy yours much."

The BlogPoll has begun and so has the semi-regular pollsters' roundtable, which this week asks a bunch of sports bloggers who have just gotten done assembling their fumbling, wild-ass-guess-heavy, and generally erratic preseason rankings two very simple questions:

Who is overrated?

This was a tough question to answer, because I'd look at a team in the BlogPoll, think "Hmm, that ranking seems a little steep," and then go back to my own ballot and find that they were only a couple spots higher than where I myself had put them. So I guess what you can take away from this is that I'm already subconsciously bailing on my own preseason ballot (though, in my defense, I did already inform you that it sucked).

At any rate, it looks like the team with the biggest gap between where I put them on my ballot and where they ended up on the BlogPoll is Tennessee, checking in at a not-unrealistic #17 in the poll but nowhere to be found in my own rankings (unless you count them in an "others receiving votes" sort of way, in which case they'd technically be 28th). Between that and my, shall we say, somewhat skeptical preview of the Vols from a couple days ago, I've no doubt karmically doomed Georgia to getting 70 points dropped on them in Neyland Stadium this October, but be that as it may, there's a lot about Tennessee that just doesn't impress me as much as I thought it would.

The conventional wisdom is that David Cutcliffe has singlehandedly raised the Vols' offense from the dead, and compared to their rock-bottom performance in 2005, that's certainly the case -- but toward the end of last season I think we saw the team hit a ceiling in terms of just how much Cutcliffe could do all by his lonesome. He couldn't work wonders on the running game, which ground to a virtual halt over the second half of the season behind an underperforming offensive line, nor could he exert much influence over a pass defense that was also showing a little wear and tear down the stretch. All of those are likely to remain sore spots in '07, with tailback LaMarcus Coker's status still up in the air and Jonathan Hefney the lone returning starter in the secondary; even if Cutcliffe could do something about that, he'd be up to his eyeballs with a brand-new receiving corps and a quarterback who's got an off-season surgery to recover from.

I'm not saying I see another backslide to a five-win season or something similarly disastrous, but neither do I necessarily think much improvement is in the cards for the Vols this year. They won nine games in '06, which was great, but there's absolutely no guarantee they'll match that this time around.

Who is underrated?

I would say Virginia Tech (#8 in the poll but #2 on my ballot, making me more higher on the Hokies' chances than any voter except for Dan Shanoff, who quite ballsily put them in the top spot), but in retrospect I can't blame the rest of the voters for not sharing my cockeyed optimism that Sean Glennon will have somehow transmogrified into a satisfactory quarterback by the beginning of the season. So I guess I'll say Arkansas, who's hanging around at #20 in the poll (I put them up at #13). Yeah, I know they have only three returning starters in the defensive front seven and only two back on the offensive line, but isn't Houston Nutt the guy about whom we always say "he does more with less than anyone in the SEC"? And honestly, how much of an offensive line do Darren McFadden and Felix Jones really need? The Razorbacks' silly soap opera of an off-season is surely giving some people pause as well, but to believe that that's enough to derail their 2007 season, you'd have to believe that Mitch Mustain and Gus Malzahn really were at the heart of the team's surprising success last year -- a belief that, as far as I can ascertain, is not shared by anyone outside of the Hogs' batshit-crazy fan base.

The real reason to doubt the Hogs' success in 2007 mainly has to do with the fact that, unlike last year, they will be sneaking up on precisely nobody -- but even then, I can honestly say I would not be surprised if they were 11-0 when they roll into Baton Rouge for their regular-season finale. I do think they'll manage to lose a game somewhere along the line; I'm just having a hell of a time figuring out where.

Runner-up in this category is Oklahoma State, a solid #22 on my ballot but ultimately unranked (technically 32nd) in the overall poll. I can't pencil them in for a serious run at the Big XII title until they muster some sort of defense, but as a Georgia fan I can honestly say there are few teams on the Dawgs' schedule this year (maybe only a couple, actually) that scare me more. As I've mentioned, they were the only team other than Boise State to average more than 200 yards per game rushing and passing last season; you maintain that balance and even a so-so defense will get you into a bowl game. I can only pray that they'll fall short of beating Georgia in the opener, but my guess is they'll ruin someone's shot at a Big 12 title game berth later on in the season.