Sunday, September 30

If you pass the test, you can beat the rest . . .

Ah, yes, the hair of the 'dawg (which will now be referred to as the Thomas Brown).

The hangover was in full freakin' effizzect, all right. Down 7-0 and outgained 188-87 after the first quarter? Thirty-six inches away from carrying a 14-0 deficit into the second? When Seth Adams completed his pass to Marshay Green down to the Georgia 1, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't contemplating which of my personal possessions would be least missed if they somehow got heaved off the balcony.

I'd also be lying if I said Adams's ensuing fumble at the 1 was anything other than an act of God, or Loki, or the lonely ghost of Jasper Sanks wandering the earth seeking vengeance for the ills that were visited upon him in his earthly life. But even though I should be a little embarrassed at needing a Rebel miscue that fluky to spark the momentum shift that spurred Georgia on to their eventual victory, I'm not; I dare say Florida would've been thrilled to receive something that fluky against Ole Miss last week. Or, hell, against Auburn this week.

On the other hand, 328 rushing yards? Not a fluke.

Actually, there were plenty of teams on Saturday that would've loved the opportunity to benefit from a fluke like that. So on a weekend when Georgia matched their season high for points production while six teams ranked above them got donkeybonked by supposedly inferior competition, I'm not going to spend too much time stewing about needing blind luck to accomplish this, that, or the other. Especially when the momentum didn't get permanently swung in Georgia's favor until a certain crossroads later on in the game, one that was the product not of luck but of a very astute and confident coaching staff.

Late in the third quarter, Ole Miss has tied the game up at 17 after an epic 18-play, 84-yard drive that burned more than nine minutes off the clock. On the ensuing drive, Georgia strikes quickly, going 80 yards in less than two and a half minutes too put Thomas Brown in the end zone for a second time, and then -- exhibiting a pair of big brass ones every bit as big and brassy as the ones he had midway through the third quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Richt calls for an on-sides kick that catches Ole Miss completely unaware and gives the ball right back to the Dawgs.

Now, the kick by itself didn't end up meaning that much, since Stafford got sacked twice on the ensuing drive, with Georgia thus being held to a three-and-out and forced to punt to the Ole Miss 26. But it was important in two ways: First of all, it threw Ole Miss for a loop psychologically and put a hitch in the not-inconsiderable offensive rhythm they'd established, and second of all, it gave our defense a few extra critical minutes to catch their breath from the workout they'd just been put through on Ole Miss's marathon opening drive. Granted, I didn't get to see the game, instead having to listen to the streaming audio broadcast over the good ol' World Wide Net Web, but I have to ask: How does a defense go from allowing an 18-play drive that included 3-of-4 on third-down conversions and 1-of-1 on fourth down to holding their opponent to two straight three-and-outs and then stopping them on fourth-and-1? Again, I don't have a visual reference from which to judge, but I gotta think that on-sides kick, and the disruption it caused in Ole Miss's momentum, had something to do with it.

Ed Orgeron was so disheartened by the kick recovery that he didn't even have the energy to rip someone's still-beating heart out of his chest, like he usually does.

Yeah, I know -- had it failed, you might be reading a completely different post right now. But it didn't, and instead I get to laud my coaching staff for making a gutsy decision that helped out the team in ways that might not have been immediately apparent. You think Oklahoma fans wouldn't have liked for Bob Stoops to come up with a gut check like that when the Sooners were getting their asses handed to them in the fourth quarter in Boulder? Or that West Virginia fans wouldn't have appreciated some kind of slap to the face from Rich Rodriguez to get his guys to stop tripping over their own feet in the first half against USF? I won't pretend that I've been thrilled with every single decision our coaching staff has ever made -- certainly last year featured some head-scratchers that were well-documented here -- but as this season wears on I'm growing increasingly confident in their ability to adjust to the changing flow of a game and put the team in a position to succeed instead of piss away an obvious opportunity to win like we saw so many teams do this weekend. No more Vanderbilts-in-'06, in other words.

And no, the team isn't perfect by any means, but more and more I see the kind of spark from them that indicates they're going to be a lot better at the end of the season than they were at the beginning, which is all you can really ask for. There's still work to be done, for sure, and each week we see future opponents who didn't look all that tough come up with something that indicates they might present a considerable challenge after all. But we're growing and maturing in an area that seemed most deficient through last year's embarrassing midseason stretch -- mental focus and toughness -- and I'm really looking forward to where things are going to go next.

As is Willie Martinez, who is VERY! EXCITED!

And now for some other crap:

· I realize that complaints about ESPN's booth announcers talking about anything other than the game they're actually attending are practically on the same level as complaining about the weather or other drivers at this point. I also realize that South Florida's win over WVU on Friday was a big deal. But seriously, guys, was Auburn's 14-0 halftime lead over #4 Florida really so un-shocking or uninteresting to you that you had to cut to a phone interview with Jim Leavitt in the middle of the action? You've got ample opportunities to air stuff like that -- "College Gameday Final," "SportsCenter," the halftime show, whatever. But I was watching Auburn-Florida because I wanted to see how Auburn and Florida would do, not because I wanted to hear a USF-WVU rehash. Stop this infuriating habit, or I will kidnap Lou Holtz and start sending pieces of him to you in the mail.

· And on that note: War Eagle, motherfuckers.

Oh, yes, let me taste your tears! Your tears are so yummy and sweet!

I was actually kind of conflicted about whom to root for in that game. On the one hand, certainly I want Florida to lose as much as humanly possible, but on the other hand, did I really want Auburn to turn out to be good? I mean, obviously the chances are good that we're going to have to absorb a loss from the Gators this year, so isn't it better for Auburn to suck than for both teams to present real threats to Georgia this season? (Then there's the desire to avoid the coals-to-Newcastle situation of Tommy Tuberville's ego getting inflated any more than it already is.)

But in the end I went with my heart and cheered on the Tigers, and even took the once-unthinkable step of hollering "War Eagle" at a few of my Auburn homies in Birmingham today. Obviously both Auburn and Florida are going to be tough this year, but I'm not convinced that either is an automatic loss. And I do like the fact that a strategy for beating the Gators -- to wit, stuff Tim Tebow at every available opportunity, and to hell with everything else -- has been somewhat clearly laid out for us.

· Even so, given the opportunity I probably would've traded the Florida upset for Steve Spurrier getting Croomed in Columbia earlier in the day. Oh, well.

· Incidentally, I was watching the game with a friend of mine who did not attend UF but grew up near there and is a fairly intense Gator fan, and I have a fairly weird history of football-watching with her. Through the 2003 and '04 seasons, Georgia suffered only five losses, yet for three of them -- LSU and Florida '03 and Tennessee '04 -- she watched the game with me (and was in Auburn for the '04 loss to the Tigers). Needless to say, I picked her out as a horrible, horrible jinx and informed her that I would not watch any more Georgia games in her presence. But all it took was one Florida loss for her to deem me (and my little dog too) a jinx and all but throw me out of her house. Tough break, lady! But you're welcome to come on over and watch Florida-LSU at my place this week.

· Folks in the Southeast were treated to a fascinating display of football physics Saturday when Chan Gailey Equilibrium collided with Tommy Bowden Equilibrium -- a more recent discovery, but no less powerful -- in spectacular fashion on the Flats. That, for the record, is why I only had Clemson at #20 in my most recent BlogPoll ballot and probably won't have Tech on my next one despite their victory. By the end of that game, did anyone seriously think they weren't looking at a pair of 7-5 teams who'd be jockeying furiously for Champs Sports Bowl position by late November?

"Sorry about this, bro."
"Hey, y'all are 2-2, we're 4-0 -- it had to happen."

· I'm still scratching my head at how Alabama managed to do so little against Florida State last night, but the postmortem that went up at Roll Bama Roll this morning gave me a clue to their continuing struggles on offense:

John Parker Wilson was terrible, end of story. His quarterback play thus far this year has been the worst we've had from any starter since John David Phillips in 1998.

The answer is sitting there right in front of you, Tide fans, and it is this: You must limit your quarterbacks to two names only. You didn't see Brodie Croyle insisting that people call him John Brodie Croyle, did you? Then make Wilson go by just "John" or "J.P." and be done with it. The one overriding conclusion I came away with from the game in Jacksonville was that it featured two extremely pretentiously named quarterbacks; "John Parker Wilson" and "Drew Weatherford" should be schmoozing their dads' friends in the bar of the country club after 18 holes, not throwing passes for major D-IA programs. But "J.P. Wilson," now, he's got a chance.

· Something else weird from Saturday: Purdue, despite winning, was outgained by Notre Dame's offense. If that doesn't convince you that Purdue's defense is absolute shit (they're currently 92nd in the country against the pass), I don't know what will.

· Finally, it's time to truck out two weekly features -- one new one, and one that's being brought out after a modest hiatus.

First of all, the weekly Wofford Terriers watch: Like Georgia's dogs, Wofford's exhibited a bit of a hangover from a big win the previous week, leading one-win Furman by only three at halftime, but busted out with 21 straight points after halftime to sock the Paladins 45-20. Wofford is now 2-0 and sitting atop the Southern Conference, a game ahead of the only other team with an unblemished SoCon record, the Citadel.

Terriers: Hell on spaniels, even worse on Furman.

And now for the weekly Cheerleader Curse Watch, which I began researching and reporting on last season. The curse whiffed in its 2007 debut, with Ohio State still managing to put away Washington despite the selection of OSU's Allison Humbert as Cheerleader of the Week, but this past week's featured cheerleader was . . . well, see for yourself:

This unfortunate young lady is Stephani DeBrucque, whose Oklahoma Sooners got whacked by an unranked Colorado team on Saturday. Does the curse live? Oh, yes, it lives. It's certainly more alive than the Sooners' national-title hopes, at any rate.

SI, if you pick a Georgia girl as Cheerleader of the Week, I am fully prepared to set off a dirty bomb in your corporate headquarters. Otherwise, you're doing a great job! Kisses!

Friday, September 28

Aspirin, black coffee, and a pack of cigarettes, stat: Revisiting Ole Miss.

Yeah, just stand there and look pretty.

What I said at the time: Orgeron was brazenly mocked -- brazenly, I say! --

. . . [W]hile Ed Orgeron’s recruiting has been (allegedly) superb, there is a considerable level of un-ripened-ness behind the front four. . . . I know I’m risking life and limb by saying this, but I remain unconvinced that he's got any business coaching in the SEC. There are not enough drugs in the world to whisk me off to the alternate reality in which The Ogre is still employed on December 1, 2008.

— and a convincing, multiple-score win was predicted:

The Rebels played Georgia a lot closer than anybody expected last year, but Georgia will be a lot better on offense than they were in ’06, while Ole Miss . . . well, that’s anybody’s guess. . . . Ole Miss just isn’t going to have enough offensive balance to keep up with Georgia on the scoreboard; if the Dawgs can build a big enough lead, Ole Miss will have to start passing instead of just dumping the whole game on [BenJarvus Green-Ellis]’s back, and that’s going to spell trouble for the Rebs. Georgia should be able to win by at least two touchdowns.

Orgeron doesn't just know I said that; he could hear me typing it.

What's happened since then: Georgia shrugged off a dispiriting loss to South Carolina and beat #16 Alabama on the road to sit at 3-1, 1-1 in the SEC; Mississippi held off Memphis in their opener but went downhill from there, losing by multiple scores to Missouri and Vanderbilt before managing to look not all that horrible in a loss to then-third-ranked Florida last week.

Care to amend your initial statement, sir?: Yes, in the sense that I'm no longer confident that Georgia is going to win by nearly that much. It sounds strange to say that mere days after Georgia walked out of Bryant-Denny with a win over the #16 team in the country, but that very same Alabama team provided an object lesson in just how difficult it is to follow up an important, emotional win with an equally stirring performance. After making an inspired -- and, by recent Alabama standards, rare -- comeback against Arkansas in week three, the Tide came out rather flat against Georgia in the first half, getting held to just 114 total yards and five first downs until they put together a field-goal drive and got some points on the board right as the first half expired. Granted, they came back impressively in the fourth quarter and forced overtime, but they showed very little of the pop they had displayed in piling up a 21-0 first-quarter lead against the Razorbacks the previous week.

Well, now Georgia is in the position of having to come up with an impressive sequel to a big conference win, which is easier said than done, as anyone who witnessed the Georgia-Tennessee game in 2004 will attest. Or, hell, anyone who saw Ole Miss take Florida down to the wire just last week. Nothing against the Rebels, but I seriously doubt that QB Seth Adams just suddenly figured out how to throw for 302 yards right before he was to face the #3 team in the nation; more likely, that statistic has to do with an underclassman-heavy Florida defense that was perhaps a wee bit hung over and focus-deprived after crushing Tennessee the previous week.

Just go on and complete you passes or whatever, dude. My head is killing me.

If that's the case, then the best-case scenario for Georgia -- Ole Miss isn't really that good, they were just able to take advantage of a team that wasn't paying attention -- isn't really best-case at all, since Georgia is every bit as likely to come into this game hung over from a big victory as Florida was from theirs. There are some mitigating circumstances here, of course; Georgia has the home-field advantage for this one, which the Gators didn't, and it's possible that Ole Miss could be bummed out by letting an amazing upset slip through their fingers and will thus come into the game every bit as flat as Georgia. Nevertheless, given Georgia's longstanding penchant for playing down to the level of its opponents (anyone remember how long it took for them to put away the Rebels last year?), I can't picture this game being a whole lot of fun for Bulldog fans to watch.

Now, in the preseason preview, I predicted that tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis would be the workhorse for the Ole Miss offense against Georgia, but more than half of his 408 rushing yards this season came against one team, Missouri (whose rushing defense is currently languishing at 73rd in the nation despite a fairly cupcakey early schedule). Take away that outlier and he's only got 182 yards on the season (and a per-carry average of 3.3); this leads me to believe that he may not be the biggest threat on the Rebels' offense after all. Even if a substantial portion of Adams's passing production has come in late, desperate comeback attempts against Missouri, Vandy, and Florida, he's still got this passing game moving a hell of a lot better than Brent Schaeffer ever did, and after last week it wouldn't surprise me to see Ed Orgeron get a wild hair and test Georgia down the field early on.

Based on the Rebels' performance so far this year, they might as well be holding up a sign that says "We Want Unicorns."

Fortunately, Ole Miss's defense is bad bad bad -- they're 91st in the nation against the run and even worse against the pass, allowing more than 280 yards per game. So Georgia should be able to get some useful production out of an offense that could still use some fine-tuning. I'm worried, though, that our defense -- which really looked gassed by the end of the Alabama game, despite their impressive stand on Bama's overtime possession -- is going to get caught unawares. It shouldn't happen, of course, but that doesn't mean it won't. Senator Blutarsky sounds the wake-up call with some additional (and insightful) cold water here.

I'd be surprised if Ole Miss held a lead for much of the game this weekend, if at all, but I'd also be surprised if Georgia ever led by more than, say, 10 points -- the oddsmakers say Georgia should beat Mississippi by 15, but that seems like a spread that's tailor-made for Georgia to not beat in situations like these. Georgia would still have to fuck up pretty badly to lose this one at home, but I'm dialing down my margin-of-victory to a single TD -- final score, something like 27-20, with at least one of our RBs breaking the century mark but Adams throwing for close to 300.

I will run up and down Highland Avenue in front of my apartment building wearing nothing but a Georgia flag if: Georgia wins by 20 points or more. I mean, given the talent and coaching disparities in play here, we should win by that many. The popular refrain we've been hearing for the last few days is that the Dawgs "grew up" in their win in Tuscaloosa, but if they can keep their foot on the gas even in the wake of that victory and maintain enough focus to lay an appropriate hurtin' on a team that they shouldn't have much of a problem with, then I'll know that they truly have the maturity to take on anyone, anywhere.

Frankly, my dear, the Friday Random Ten+5 doesn't give a damn.

This week's +5: Five Lines I've Always Wanted To Use On Somebody. As you'll see, these are useful only in a very narrow set of circumstances, but hopefully I'll get to use them one of these days.

"My business is pleasure."
I've always wanted to say this to someone at, like, an airport or something, but the problem is the only people who ask the business-or-pleasure question anymore are customs agents, and they probably wouldn't find this answer funny.

"Fuck You. That's my name."
I think this one was originally uttered by Alec Baldwin in the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross." I may actually get the opportunity to use this on my landlord before too long.

"Here. Go buy yourself something pretty."
Preferably spoken to a concierge or cocktail waitress in Vegas right after I've tossed her a $1,000 chip. If I ever get one of those -- or have $1,000 cash at my disposal at any given moment -- I'll be sure to let you know.

"Wow, I didn't know we'd become such good friends -- because if we had, you'd know that I give head before I give favors, and I don't even give my best friends head, so your chances of getting a favor are pretty fucking slim."
Originally used by Timothy Olyphant's drug-dealer character in the underrated movie "Go." This is another one I may actually get a chance to use in the near future.

"No, YOU'RE out of order!"
I've never been called as a witness in a court case, but if I ever do, I hope I get to yell this from either the gallery or, better yet, the witness stand. I think it'd be worth a $100 contempt charge.

And now the Ten:

1. 3rd Bass, "Product of the Environment"
2. Nine Inch Nails, "Ruiner"
3. Jane's Addiction, "Been Caught Stealing"
4. Charles Mingus, "II BS"
5. Robert Palmer, "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On"
6. Helmet and House of Pain, "Just Another Victim"
7. New Order, "60 Miles an Hour"
8. Johnny Cash, "The Long Black Veil"
9. Sting, "Fragile"
10. Pet Shop Boys, "London" (Genuine Piano mix)

Your own Random Tens, and the lines you've always wanted to whip out on somebody, in the comments.

Thursday, September 27

A YouTubealicious Thursday Mystery Meat.

I got some good comments in response to this post asking why the ball wasn't called down on LSU's fake-field-goal attempt against South Carolina last week. Ivan Maisel addressed the question directly in his "I-Formation" column this week, and obtained what I guess we can call the definitive answer from the NCAA:

Fake field goals are the only plays in which a passer may throw from one knee. A reader inquired why the ball is not dead. The rule dates to 1955, when Columbia coach Lou Little, speaking for the American Football Coaches Association petitioned the NCAA Rules Committee for the ball to remain alive in the holder's hands.

The coaches, according to NCAA rules secretary-editor John Adams, said, "We want to have a fake field goal. We don't want the holder standing up. That gives it away."

The committee passed the rule, and tweaked the language in 1985 to make it clear that the holder may pass from the kneeling position.

That, incidentally, also marked the last time the NCAA "tweaked" a football rule for the better.

As for that other football controversy -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's anti-media rant last weekend -- I had some post planned about how it was awfully convenient that so many columnists are lining up to tut-tut about what a naughty, naughty boy Gundy is, but I'm already bored with the whole thing, and plus there's nothing I could possibly say that would top Sunday Morning Quarterback's take from yesterday.

So I'll simply say this: The greatest postgame coach's rant in history is still Jim Mora's "diddly-poo" tirade from back when he was coaching the Saints, and it's not even close. Yes, it's even better than his "Playoffs?!?" rant from his stint with the Colts a few years later, because of the range of emotion: You actually see Mora's condition devolving right before your eyes. At the beginning of the Saints rant, Mora's trying to censor himself -- that's where the "diddly-poo" comes from -- but by the end of it, he's gone ahead and let loose with "horseshit." In that rant, the realization finally dawns upon Mora that his career with the Saints is more or less over, so why not bust out with some profanity, he's got nothing to lose. And you witness this epiphany occurring right in front of you. It's a truly powerful moment in sports history; Mike Gundy should be so lucky to have a moment like that if his career ever really hits the skids in Stillwater.

This video, which I first saw at Orson's site toward the end of last week, seems to be making the rounds of the Internet as the new oh-shit-look-at-this viral video du jour (weak of stomach, exercise caution):

Sorry, Kid Who Got Tasered In Front Of John Kerry, your 15 minutes have expired. Swedish Lady Who Booted On Live TV, you're up!

Anyway, for some reason -- the Scandinavian language, perhaps, or maybe the fact that I still had "The Terrier Song" on the brain -- my memory was jogged of this "Kids in the Hall" sketch from back in the day.

It's a big music month coming up for me: The Pet Shop Boys and Underworld both have new albums coming out in the first couple weeks of October. I'm just warning you about this now, because you will be hearing about them again before too long.

And finally, I don't think I even need to describe how awesome this is; thus I submit it without comment.

You. Hey, you. The one in white. No, the otherone.

Gee, thanks. It's been minutes since the last time you reminded us about that.

Why, yes, I am a hero, thank you for noticing.

Years ago, GQ columnist Joe Queenan described Ridy Giuliani as having "a face only a motherfucker could love." These days, I'm wondering if even a motherfucker could love him:

WASHINGTON — A supporter of Rudy Giuliani’s is throwing a party that aims to raise $9.11 per person for the Republican’s presidential campaign.

Abraham Sofaer is having a fundraiser at his Palo Alto, Calif., home on Wednesday, when Giuliani backers across the country are participating in the campaign’s national house party night.

But Sofaer said he had nothing to do with the “$9.11 for Rudy” theme.

“There are some young people who came up with it,” Sofaer said when reached by telephone Monday evening. He referred other questions to Giuliani’s campaign.

Interesting how everyone involved is backing away from taking the credit for this -- the Giuliani campaign has "no comment," Sofaer says somebody else came up with the idea -- yet apparently nobody's embarrassed enough by the plan to give it the 86ing such a crassly exploitative effort deserves.

I know I've asked this before, but can anyone give me one single reason why Rudy Giuliani should be elected president? Does he have any planks in his campaign platform other than "I was president when 9/11 happened"? I can remember back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running, how people slagged off his candidacy because Clinton was only the governor of Arkansas and there was no way the governor of a dumb-hick state like that should be elected to the most powerful office in the world. Well, Giuliani was only a mayor, so why the hell does anyone thinh he's qualified? Yeah, I know, biggest city in America, blah blah blah, but seriously, what kind of foreign-policy experience could he have possibly gained from that?

Not frickin' much, if one is to infer anything from this opinion piece in Foreign Affairs, which doesn't even wait 10 words before invoking 9/11 (again). Say what you will about Barack Obama's lack of experience at this, that, or the other, but at least he's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and appears to have formulated opinions based on a modicum of deep thought rather than just regurgitated Bush talking points. Giuliani, on the other hand, fritters away nearly 6,000 words without coming up with anything more substantial or well-thought-out than a term paper you might get from a high-school freshman halfway through his first world politics class.

Seriously, aside from managing not to shit his pants on 9/11 and not hating Teh Gheys, what's Giuliani's selling point? Can people really not see this particular emperor's dick swinging in the wind?

Tuesday, September 25

BlogPoll ballot #5: The football been berry, berry good to me.

Not much commentary necessary this time around -- what can I say? You already know exactly how my weekend went.

Games watched: Oklahoma-Tulsa, the first part of LSU-South Carolina, most of Florida-Ole Miss and Michigan-Penn State, and, of course, Georgia-Alabama (in person b1tchez!1!1!!!!one)

1. LSU (last week: 1)
Here's how good LSU is: Allowing 16 points and 261 total yards to South Carolina actually qualifies as a defensive meltdown by their standards.

2. Southern California (2)

3. Oklahoma (3)

4. West Virginia (5)

5. Florida (4)
Had to knock them down at least a little for letting Ole Miss look like they could actually play some offense, but I think that has more to do with a young defense not knowing how to follow up the dominating performance against Tennessee than anything else.

6. California (6)

7. Ohio State (9)

8. Rutgers (7)

9. Oregon (13)

10. Boston College (11)

11. Wisconsin (8)
Somebody let me know when these guys actually put together a complete performance on both sides of the ball.

12. Texas (16)

13. Kentucky (17)
Is Kentucky really the 13th-best team in the country? Probably not, now that the Louisville win has been devalued faster than Enron stock and Arkansas has been pretty clearly exposed as a team severely lacking in defense or defense-like substance. But then, I didn't really think much of them last year either until they whacked Clemson pretty convincingly in the bowl game. So I guess the Wildcats deserve some benefit of the doubt for the time being.

14. Arizona State (22)
A 12-point win over a not-as-good-as-advertised Oregon State team probably doesn't merit an 8-spot jump all by itself, but I've also probably been undervaluing ASU for a while now.

15. South Carolina (15)
How do the Gamecocks stand fast in the rankings despite getting whacked by LSU? Two reasons: One, I don't feel like I can put them below Georgia or Alabama t this point, and two, if you think about it, if LSU is the best team in the country and South Carolina the fifteenth best, 12 points on the road is probably the number of points they should've gotten beaten by. In a vacuum, at least. If Chris Smelley doesn't provide a noticeable boost for the SC offense, though, they'll probably get moved down some.

16. Georgia (20)
Not sure about putting Georgia this high, either, since as I've already explained, their win over Alabama was not exactly a pretty one -- but if they can win in Tuscaloosa, ugly or no, then they can win in Knoxville and Atlanta (not to mention a few in Athens along the way).

17. Alabama (10)

18. Penn State (12)

19. South Florida (18)

20. Clemson (NR)

21. Virginia Tech (24)

22. Michigan (NR)
Obviously this may be highly premature, but I kinda get the feeling that the Wolverines are back -- not back in the ready-to-contend-for-the-Big-10-title sense, but at least in the not-nearly-as-godawful-as-they-looked-the-first-two-weeks sense.

23. Arkansas (14)
There's a part of me that thinks "As long as they've got Darren McFadden, they're not completely out of it," but that voice gets quieter and quieter with each passing week.

24. Hawaii (NR/26)

25. Missouri (NR)

The next five: Georgia Tech, Brigham Young, Cincinnati, Nebraska, Tennessee.

Dropped out: Louisville (19), Georgia Tech (21), Nebraska (23), Texas A&M (25).

Monday, September 24


In the wake of LSU's 28-16 win over South Carolina on Saturday, my uncle had an interesting question for me while I was finishing up my laundry this evening.

So the most eye-popping play of the game was the fake field goal LSU executed to absolute perfection toward the end of the first half, with quarterback/holder Matt Flynn flipping the ball over his shoulder to kicker Colt David, who ran it in for a 15-yard score. It was a thing of beauty, with the announcers even marveling at how well Flynn had sold the fake by planting the ball and everything before he no-looked it over his shoulder to David.


If Flynn planted the ball, and his knee was down -- as you'd think a holder's would be -- wasn't the ball downed at the 22?

Look again:

The knee's on the ground, the ball's on the ground . . . does anybody know the exact rule here that would explain why it's not first and 10, South Carolina, at the SC22?

(Either way, when they make the movie about this, I think it's pretty obvious from this clip that Joe Don Baker is going to play Les Miles. I mean, come on.)

I'm kind of shy and dry and verging on ugly, they wonder what that I have got that they have not . . .

142-Z-Takeoff: It's what's for dinner.

As we were walking down the aisle of section NN at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, exhausted but smiling after Georgia's overtime victory over Alabama, I said to my friend Kristen who had come down from Maryland for the game, "The over-under on the first Alabama fan to begin publicly doubting whether Nick Saban is worth all that money they're paying him: 5:35 p.m. tomorrow."

Turns out it was a sucker's bet from the start. In the "Instant Sound Off" section of the Birmingham News this morning, Tom O'Fallon of Trussville writes:

I'm writing about the Sound Off letter in Friday's paper informing us that Nick Saban is worth every penny of $4 million after last week's win over Arkansas. The writer obviously knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing. After Saturday's abysmal showing, how much does Saban owe the school in the form of a refund?

Ahh, yes -- the unforgettable moment at which the rabid college-football fan's eyes flutter open and he rolls over and discovers that the chick who's been in bed with him all night is not quite who she seemed with the beer goggles on at 2 a.m. I'm not saying Saban is the equivalent of some coyote-ugly skank, but Tide Nation would've had us believe for the past nine months that he was a Voltron formation of Melissa Theuriau, '60s-era Sophia Loren, and the last twelve Playmates. Sorry, guys, but he's really not that much hotter than any of the rest of 'em.

"No, you have the best hair in the SEC. I really mean that."

And that, I think, is the most satisfying part of Georgia's win -- the fact that the Great Alabama-Wide Nick Saban Fellati-O-Rama has been quieted down a little, for the next week, at least. You Dawg fans who are comfortably ensconced in your suburban-Atlanta environs and get a regular diet of Buck Belue rather than Paul Finebaum can't quite understand this, but the level of Saban-worship in my neck of the woods has been fucking unreal; I don't even know that "worship" covers it, exactly, because some of these folks talk about Saban in ways that they don't even talk about Jesus. The merest hint that Saban's kind of a dick, or that even he can't recreate the kind of dynasty that Bear Bryant did, gets you flamed as an idiot or worse on message boards and call-in programs all across the state. I'm quite confident that whatever radio silence we're experiencing from those folks right now is only temporary, but as a Dawg fan, all that matters is this: For the next 360-something days, I and the rest of the Georgia partisans stationed behind enemy lines in the B-hizzy are officially immune to any smack talk. Huzzah!

That was the most satisfying thing about Saturday night for me, because honestly, I don't think we played all that great. The dropped passes of 2006 are continuing in earnest; how Tripp Chandler could have thus far failed to make use of Martrez Milner's '06 season as a cautionary tale is an absolute mystery to me. As a result, the passing game is kind of like an '87 Jaguar XJ6: a sight to behold when it's running properly, but when it's not, it could very well end up leaving you stranded and crying in some Southeastern city you realize you really don't want to be in. The defense got some nice stops throughout the game, but not enough to keep Alabama from erasing two separate 10-point deficits. And there's a killer instinct that we had in, say, 2002 and 2003 that we just haven't quite recreated yet. You have never seen a grown man closer to tears than I was about five minutes into the second half Saturday night, after Georgia recovered a muffed KO return in Bama territory and returned a punt to the 45 on their first two drives, yet somehow Alabama was the only one who came out of that stretch with any points.

Trust me, this only looks like a sure thing.

But I'm done bitching about it, because seriously, if you can play sorta-crappy and still beat the #16 team in the country in front of 91,000 screaming Tuscaloosans who want. You. Dead, then you must be doing something right, mustn't you? And I'd certainly rather win nine ugly games than go 6-6 pretty. If you play in the SEC, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter, certainly not points, and winning ugly is something you just have to accept not as a bug but as a feature. I know every fan in the SEC wants to win their gimme games 70-0 and beat their big rivals by at least two TDs, but the biggest test of a team's character comes when a) things that usually go right for them aren't necessarily going right and/or b) when a rival you supposedly had dead to rights has suddenly leaped right back into the game. Alabama passed that test of character two games ago when they managed to beat Arkansas despite pissing away a 21-point lead, and Georgia passed it in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

Even though Alabama was probably slightly overvalued coming into this one, it still qualifies as a big win for Georgia, one that they really needed. It may not be pretty when we go up to Knoxville in a couple weeks, or when we face Tech at the end of the season, or even when we host Ole Miss this coming Saturday, but in a weird way, it does feel good to know that even if things get ugly, we've still got a chance.

So all in all, a pretty good Saturday, no?

We goin' to Sizzler!

Elsewhere in the land of the free:

· Now that I've bagged on Tide Nation a little bit, let me backtrack and say that I had an absolute blast in T-Town on Saturday, and were treated respectfully by the vast majority of Bama fans we ran across. Roll Bama Roll contributor Joel opened his blessedly air-conditioned apartment to Kristen and me Saturday afternoon, and his family members even gave up seats on the couch for us; rather than wonder how two Georgia fans had ended up in the Alabama section, the guy sitting next to us marveled approvingly at how many Georgia fans had managed to invade Tuscaloosa for the day.

And as someone who had never actually gotten to see a game in Bryant-Denny before, I was amazed at the stadium and the improvements made to it over the last few years; that place has become a palace on a par with any NFL stadium I've ever been to. The new north facade is gorgeous, the skyboxes are incredible, and I'm jealous of the jumbotron screens in both corners of the north end zone. And the place is loud -- louder than Jordan-Hare, louder even than Neyland, at least in my limited experience. I'm kind of glad our offense got a little baptism-by-fire there on Saturday, because if they can handle themselves with composure in an environment that loud, they have a right to be confident anywhere else they go. Big ups to the Bama fans for making life that difficult for the opposing team; I wish we could make Sanford that loud on a regular basis.

Never ran into these two, though -- and I gotta say I'm a little disappointed.

· Since Georgia had to sit by and watch as their shot at beating Florida in 2005 went up in smoke with an ill-timed D.J. Shockley ankle injury, I think it's only fair that God find a way to knock Tim Tebow out for a week or two next month. While the Gator defense fucked around for a few quarters and let Ole Miss's cadaverous offense look strangely competent, Teebs piled the team on his back and supplied four TDs and 427 total yards -- 166 of which came rushing, meaning that Tebow outrushed four SEC teams on Saturday and came within 7 yards of Darren McFadden's total against Kentucky's not-exactly-monolithic front seven. Come on, God, you don't have to mess up the kid's ankle -- just give him a busted pinky or avian flu or projectile diarrhea or something. Can you not let us catch one lousy fricking break in this rivalry? Please?

· Here's a hypothetical situation for you to play around with: Notre Dame vs. Louisville at a neutral site. The Irish "offense" vs. the Cardinal "defense." What's the final score?

· Then again, Notre Dame did move solidly into positive rushing yardage -- and actually scored not one but two offensive touchdowns -- in their loss to Michigan State on Saturday. But it almost seems like Notre Dame fans are issued a sheet of talking points each week by the same central information clearinghouse that supplies talking points to Republican TV and radio commentators, because the rationales that they've used to convince the rest of us that Irish football isn't going completely down the shitter seem strikingly similar from person to person, particularly the defenses of QB Jimmy Clausen. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard these two things in the past few weeks: "He's poised" and "He gets up after every hit." Here's an activity for y'all to do: Write down a list of QBs who get up after every hit and a list of QBs who don't, and I'll bet you cash money that the first list is longer than the second. Are we really facing an epidemic of quarterbacks who don't get up after every hit, but rather lie down on the field and kick and scream until someone picks them up and carries them to the sideline? Is this where the bar for Notre Dame football sits these days?

Jimmy remains in an upright position . . . and the Clausen legend continues to grow.

· Virginia 28, Georgia Tech 23. The Charlottesville Curse lives. Still, take heart, Techies: With 230 yards passing and 121 rushing (versus 233/121 for the 'Hoos), your offense is almost exactly as good as Virginia's.

· I have to give a shout-out to Jonathan Tu of the truly kickass blog 82 Sluggo Win, whose fascinating months-long journey through dozens of college football venues all across the United States took him through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa this past weekend. Dude, I can only hope that your memories of my adopted home state are positive ones, though if your comments about the Georgia and Alabama co-eds who descended upon Tuscaloosa on Saturday were genuine, I'm going to go ahead and assume "yes" for the time being. Good luck the rest of the way, and I hope our paths will cross again in Athens in a few weeks.

Jonathan, let me know if you decide to detour through Spartanburg, South Carolina, at any point this fall -- the hometown Wofford Terriers did, after all, knock off the Appalachian State juggernaut 42-31 on Saturday. SoCon football ain't nuthin' ta fuck wit, and neither are the Terriers. To honor my favorite I-AA team for their historic achievement, I'll let Bruce McCulloch of the Kids in the Hall sing me out on this one.

Friday, September 21

Do you reject Saban and all his empty promises?: Revisiting Alabama.

An extremely rare photo of Nick Saban actually having time for this shit.

What I said at the time: Insolent tweaking of the Great and Powerful Nick . . .

Obviously the upgrade from Shula to Saban at head coach has to be worth some wins all by itself, but just how many is open to debate; even Saint Nick didn't win a national title in his first year at LSU (and in fact managed to lose to UAB). And the last time Mark Richt faced off against Saban, Richt sent him out wearing tight pants and lipstick following a 45-16 blowout.

. . . and the digging-up of fond memories of the season-making game that the Dawgs won in Tuscaloosa in 2002:

Somehow I can see this one stacking up a little bit like the "man enough" game in 2002, which Georgia won by operating a very consistent rushing attack while preventing any of Bama's rushers from getting into a rhythm . . . As with the 2002 game, Georgia builds an early lead with smart QB play and by holding down the Alabama ground attack, then watches that lead disintegrate as Alabama adapts to what we're doing, but gets a big punt return late (say word Mikey Henderson) and a game-winning FG from Brandon Coutu.

Yup, of all the games to relive, that one would be right up there.

Care to amend your initial statement, sir?: Well, in the sense that Bama already looks way better than I thought they would, yes. While I lauded their offense, particularly the passing game, in that preseason preview, I was secretly hoping that their offensive line and RB committee would still be getting figured out by the time Georgia came calling, but those units seem to be pretty solid, with Terry Grant doing very impressive work as the presumptive featured tailback.

There are, however, some weaknesses that remain to be exploited if the Bulldogs can figure out how. Roll Bama Roll does an excellent job here explaining why the causes of Bama's second-half defensive "meltdown" are not quite what they seem; based on that analysis, it looks like Arkansas was let back into the game by a Tide defense that is talented but lacking in depth, and that wasn't helped out by an offense that couldn't stay on the field for more than a few plays at a stretch.

Does this bode well for the Bulldogs? Yes and no. Certainly, Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown are not up to the level of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but if your goal is to grind some yardage and wear out an opposing defense, you could do much, much worse than a Moreno/Brown tandem -- so Senator Blutarsky's recommendation to "stick with the running game" seems like pretty sage advice here. On the other hand, recreating Arkansas's second-half success against Alabama will also require creating some turnovers, if the RBR commentary is any indication, and I'm less confident in Georgia's ability to do that. Through three games, Georgia has only one takeaway, a late interception against Oklahoma State; after sacking OSU quarterback Bobby Reid five times, they only notched three total sacks against South Carolina and WCU. Against Alabama, we've got to do much better in both areas. John Parker Wilson is a talented passer with a wealth of receiving weapons at his disposal, and the Dawgs can't afford to give him any extra decision-making time; they've simply got to get more pressure than they've gotten in their last two games.

Looks like somebody needs a hug!

Fortunately, Georgia has played fairly clean football themselves in terms of turnovers -- only two so far, one of them a tipped-ball pick on what was basically a Hail Mary against South Carolina. They've given up six sacks, which is not terrible for such a young offensive line, and Alabama has only notched four sacks themselves. Even if Stafford is unspectacular in the stats department -- as he was against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech at the end of last year -- Georgia will be OK as long as he continues to avoid turnovers. (That shouldn't keep him from shying away from long-ball opportunities, though; Casey Dick, usually the equivalent of a third nipple for Arkansas's offense, had a solid three-touchdown day against the Bama secondary, so Georgia's coaches need to trust Stafford to air it out when a favorable matchup presents itself.)

Run the ball, pressure the QB, limit turnovers -- even if they do all these things, the deck is still stacked against the Dawgs in the sense that they're playing in a highly unfriendly venue, they still don't quite have the passing game hitting on all cylinders, and they don't necessarily have the confidence of a team that's gained momentum with three straight wins and knocked off a ranked opponent. But there are some intangibles that may work in their favor.

Chris, Lee, and Herbie decide which team they should doom with their mere presence on Saturday.

First, ESPN's "College Gameday" is going to be in Tuscaloosa this weekend, and while that isn't exactly good news for either team -- Alabama is only 3-6 when "Gameday" is in town, Georgia only 2-7 -- it may actually be worse for Bama: All three of their "Gameday" wins came way back when Gene Stallings was coach, while three of Georgia's losses are to Florida, which virtually puts them in the "preordained from the Big Bang" category. And here's something else weird, something I never would've guessed: Georgia has never lost a true road game at night under Mark Richt -- they're 8-0, in fact. Some of those wins are against scrubs, of course, but they also include the 41-14 ass-beating of Tennessee in 2003 and last year's shutout of Spurrier in Columbia.

This speaks to an aspect of Georgia's general attitude under Richt that has confounded and overjoyed Bulldog Nation in nearly equal measure over the last six-plus seasons: As bad as we might look in games that we should win easily, we somehow do a miraculous job of preparing and focusing for the subsequent games in which we look like we should have no chance at all. Last year was an obvious example, with our ugly 1-4 midseason stretch being followed by a 3-0 tear against ranked squads, but it holds true for the 2002 season as well. A sloppy outing against Clemson, a major struggle against what turned out to be a pretty mediocre SC team, and two disinterested outings against scrub opponents were what led Pat Dye to famously suggest that we weren't "man enough" to win in Tuscaloosa the following week -- yet we ended up doing just that. If you think about it, the end of 2005 followed a similar pattern -- close losses to Florida and Auburn that should've been wins, so-what win over Kentucky, win over Georgia Tech that was way closer than it should've been to any Reggie-Ball-quarterbacked team, but then we came right back out and punched third-ranked LSU in the mouth to claim the SEC title. We looked like crap against South Carolina and looked like we'd rather be taking a nap against WCU, but if history is any guide, very little of that is going to have any bearing on what happens in Tuscaloosa tomorrow.

Not just anyone can lose to Kentucky and then annihilate Auburn the very next week . . . but we can!

What will have bearing on the game is talent and coaching, and I don't think Georgia needs to concede anything to Alabama on either of those points, even if Alabama has a statement win on their record and Georgia doesn't. In fact, if the scuttlebutt from Tony Barnhart is any indication, the big win over Arkansas may be exacting a price from the Tide in the sense that they "laid it all on the line" last week and will be hard-pressed to dial up that level of emotion for a second week in a row.

No, I know there's really no reason on paper to think Georgia will win here, but I can't help it: I think they've got a good shot. So I'm throwing caution (and karma) to the wind and allowing my initial prediction to (mostly) stand. Georgia scores early, holds a small lead for most of the game, sees that gap narrow (if not evaporate entirely) in the fourth quarter but gathers themselves up to drive for a late FG and the win.

I will run up and down Highland Avenue in front of my apartment building wearing nothing but a Georgia flag if: We win, period. Whether it's by an overtime FG or by 30 points, I don't care. A win is important enough to me that I'll gladly trade some public embarrassment (and, theoretically, a kidney) for it; the entire city of Birmingham, and even large swaths of the UAB campus, are crawling with Bama fans, and I'd just as soon not be another scalp on Nick Saban's belt. I would, however, love for the Dawgs to go down in history as the team that handed Saban his first loss with the Tide -- because then I get to hear dozens of rabid Bammers calling in to Finebaum bitching about Saban being overpaid since "We ain't payin' him $4 million to LOSE." Honestly, who (outside Tide Nation, of course) wouldn't find that entertaining?

Here's to handing Alabama their most expensive loss ever. Go Dawgs!

Georgia-Alabama roundtable: Inside the minds of the Sabanists.

When Mark Richt closed the Bulldogs' practices to the media for the entire week leading up to the Alabama game this Saturday, information about the team was reduced to a trickle -- to the point where the Crimson Tide diehards at Roll Bama Roll actually had to come crawling to a dumbass like myself for analysis of the Dawgs. (Well, they also got some legitimately useful insight from Georgia Sports Blog's Paul Westerdawg, but still.) In return, Todd and OTS from Roll Bama Roll were kind enough to spill their guts to Paul and me about the current state of the Tide. Paul's questions are answered here, and their answers to my questions are as follows:

1. What was going through your mind when Arkansas pulled ahead 38-31 in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game? Did you honestly think Alabama had a chance to make a comeback, or were you thinking, "Oh, well, we'll get 'em next season"?

Matt Cadell whups the "sooey" out of the Hogs with his game-winning TD catch.

Todd: My first real thought was, "Okay, this is still winnable." Ever since the blocked FG against Penn State I've had an unfailing belief that the Tide would somehow miraculously pull out a win no matter how grim it looked, and have somehow managed to hold onto that belief through the DuBose/Fran/Shula years. I did, of course, immediately start to panic, thinking that even if we did get a TD to tie it up (or at least a FG to put us within a TD of winning) we wouldn't be able to get a stop in time to get the ball back or, worse, would let them score again. When we did get the stop, though, I knew we were going to win.

OTS: I'll be honest, I thought we were beat. Don't get me wrong, a comeback is always possible, but teams that choke twenty-one-point leads by giving up four touchdowns in just around eight minutes usually don't come back to win. I thought we were dead to rights.

2. John Parker Wilson had a great game (obviously) against WCU, really struggled against Vanderbilt, and then had another very productive outing against an Arkansas defense that obviously still needs some work. What's your assessment of JPW so far? Has he performed up to your expectations?

Todd: Not yet, but I've really been cutting the kid some slack since this is a new offense and I'm sure he's still a little gun shy after last year. He's still quick to throw without setting his feet, and I imagine that's a product of his having to either release the ball as soon as it was in his hands or scramble for his very life last season. He obviously still has some improving to do, but it looks like he's getting better each week and feeling more comfortable in this offense and trusting in the guys around him, and I'd be very surprised if, by the end of the season, he isn't hitting his stride and living up to all the potential we think he has.

Nick Saban smiling? This picture makes me feel very uncomfortable.

OTS: Well, he looked decent against WCU, terrible against Vanderbilt, and hit or miss against Arkansas. He played a big role in getting us the lead and in the comeback, but his turnovers and inconsistent play were a huge factor in the meltdown. He looks okay, but is still making some very poor, ill-advised throws. He looks pretty good, but improvement is definitely still needed.

3. What about the defensive front seven, which was generally considered to be the team's major weakness coming into this season?

Todd: I think they've really done a great job so far, and guys like Rolando McClain and Darren Mustin have really stepped in and played like they've been in this system for years. They have, however, overachieved so far, and the lack of depth was very evident in the second half against Arkansas, so it's still a weakness for us if the offense struggles and can't give the defense a breather here and there.

OTS: The defensive front seven has been a nice surprise. The defensive ends have played well, and the linebacker corps has played really well, all things considered. Rolando McClain is as good as advertised, and Mustin is playing very good football. Washington was the main concern at nose guard, and while he's likely the weakest link, he's played relatively well. So they've looked pretty good, but it will be interesting to see how well they do against an offense as balanced as what Georgia brings.

4. Before the season began, the general consensus seemed to be that Bama would be good in Saban's first season but probably still a year or two away from really contending in the SEC. After the Arkansas win, though, a lot of those same people now seem to be saying that the reconstruction project is a year ahead of schedule and the Tide might be in a position to contend already. Are you buying into this enthusiasm yet, or hedging your bets until Bama really gets into the meat of its conference schedule?

Todd: I've said all along that a ten-win season is entirely possible. Last year's team was a ten-win wolf in six-win sheep's clothing, and poor decision-making on the sidelines was the only thing that kept the Tide from having a great year, so it's not that big of a stretch to think that Alabama isn't so much a rebuilding project as a quaint fixer-upper. So yeah, I'm buying into the the enthusiasm since I've been enthusiastic since the day Saban touched down in Tuscaloosa. I think it also helps us, though, that the rest of the SEC is looking down, especially in the West. LSU is the clear-cut frontrunner, but Auburn is sitting at 1-2 and looking like they forgot to have fall camp, Arkansas is behind us, and the Mississippi schools are, well, the Mississippi schools. As for our Eastern slate, Vandy is behind us, and the Vols look like they've surrendered and are simply trying to ride out the storm. Your Dawgs are the second biggest concern on the schedule (LSU being the first), and if we can pull off a win on Saturday then contending for the SEC isn't just a pipe dream anymore.

OTS: The enthusiasm comes from two things: a big win over Arkansas and FSU, Tennessee, and Auburn looking terrible. Most expected the Arkansas game to be very tough and the FSU, Tennessee, and Auburn games to be likely losses. But considering how bad they are playing, we are likely the favorite to win all three, and that's really what is moving the projection up. I don't think we're ready to contend for the SEC yet (the West is all LSU's at this point), but nevertheless there does seem to be very legitimate potential to surpass first-year expectations.

5. Here's something on the minds of many Georgia fans at the moment: Was the emotional victory over Arkansas the kind that's really going to build momentum for the Tide and start them off on a tear through the league, or are you worried that the team is emotionally spent -- as Tony Barnhart seemed to indicate in an blog post Thursday morning -- and may not have enough left in the tank for the Bulldogs?

Todd: The attitude of this team has completely changed since Coach Saban has arrived, and letting an emotional victory (or loss) one week spill over and affect the way we play in the next is not something that is going to happen to this team anymore. We collapsed after several of the losses in the past few seasons, and that's something the whole 24-hour rule is supposed to change. We might have a big win, or it might be a crushing loss, but come Monday it's the past and we don't care about the past. All we care about is the game ahead of us. That being said, though, the physical toll of that game might be a little much for an already thin defense, and that's the kind of thing that worries me. They were bullied the whole game by the Arkansas O-line, and it's a real testament to the strength and conditioning program that they were able to get back out there and get that last stop.

OTS: I would like to believe the former. However, the latter is a distinct possibility, as much as Alabama fans would like to believe otherwise.

6. And finally, this one's off-topic, but I have to sate my morbid curiosity: Were you watching the Auburn-Mississippi State game last weekend, and what was your reaction?

Because what would college football be without a Nelson Muntz moment or two, after all?

Todd: I was, actually, and, you know, ha ha, you suck. But at the same time, I was just bewildered at how quickly Auburn has fallen off. Where are all their highly touted recruits? Is this the same OC that engineered a perfect season and turned Jason Fucking Campbell into a first-round draft pick? [That's Jason Motherfucking Campbell, sirs, and he is an all-world kicker of ass -- Ed.] What is going on with Brandon Cox? I mean, this is a team that gave the eventual [2006] national champions their sole loss on the season, and also bested an LSU team that would go on to win the Sugar Bowl in spectacular fashion last season, and now they should be worrying about Hal Mumme's New Mexico State? Things are just strange right now. It's amusing, of course, highly so, yet still very, very confusing.

OTS: Not watching, but listening to the MSU announcers on the way to T-town. It was great, to say the least. My reaction was a mix of "Oh my God they are really that terrible" and "Whooooooo-hoooooooo!"

Much obliged, gentlemen. For your kindness, Hey Jenny Slater salutes you with a shout-out to Roll Bama Roll Official Hottie Katharine McPhee. Good luck to you guys, and if I'm still upright, I'll see you at some point Saturday.

Bama fans: A little nuts, perhaps, but you've got to respect their taste when it comes to some things.

The Friday Random Ten+5 blames it on the rain.

Not all that many people around here in Alabama are picking the Bulldogs to beat the Crimson Tide this weekend, which shouldn't come as much surprise to anyone. Hey, that's fine; I have a long and rich history of liking things nobody else does. We've explored that topic many times before on this blog and will no doubt explore it many more in the future, but for right now I'm applying it to music and making this week's +5 the Five Albums Nobody Liked But Me.

R.E.M., Monster
I still can't quite figure out why so many people, even some diehard R.E.M. fans, hated this CD. Was it because R.E.M. appeared to be following the grunge trend by going with a rougher, harder-edged sound? I got news for you -- after frigging "Shiny Happy People," they probably needed to do something a little edgier. But anyway, I liked this album, and the closing date on the accompanying tour (at the Omni in Atlanta in 1995) is still one of the best concerts I've ever been to.
Best track: "Strange Currencies"

U2, Zooropa
At a point in their career when they could've either a) released something that sounded exactly like the groundbreaking Achtung Baby or b) released something that sounded like grunge (like R.E.M. eventually did), U2 instead chose c) releasing something that sounded like absolutely nothing else anywhere. Plenty of people turned up their noses at it because they didn't want U2 to go techno, which I guess is understandable in a way, but this album still sounded really, really cool -- and honestly I still have more fun listening to it than more earnest efforts like All That You Can't Leave Behind or How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which have been much better received.
Best track: "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car"

Pet Shop Boys, Release
Honestly, I wasn't crazy about this album myself when it first came out; maybe it was because it departed so markedly from the Pet Shop Boys' technopop roots, but somehow it seemed to me like a collection of B-sides that had been separated from more mainstream, more substantial singles somewhere along the line. But then I thought, you know what? Even the Pet Shop Boys' B-sides are a lot better than what most of the rest of the world puts out as A-sides, and I stopped worrying about it. Release still isn't my favorite PSB album, but if you can get over the guitars and give it a chance, there's a lot to like here.
Best track: "I Get Along"

Milli Vanilli, Girl You Know It's True
Go ahead, make your jokes, but deep down you know this album sounded great back when you were in junior high. And if Arista had just marketed it straight instead of arbitrarily fronting it with two random male models they plucked off a runway somewhere in Europe, they might've had one of the best pop albums of the pre-grunge era; it'd still hold up pretty well today (as well as any '80s pop album could, at least) if it hadn't been completely sunk by that silly, embarrassing lip-sync controversy. (Unfortunately, the real singer, Charles Shaw, doesn't appear to exactly be an angel himself, but at least he can sing.)
Best track: "Baby Don't Forget My Number"

Passengers, Original Soundtracks Vol. 1
Yeah, a second U2 album -- because that's really what this was, with the boys collaborating with Brian Eno on an album full of ambient-sounding pieces, instrumentals, and just plain weird tracks they knew would completely ruin them if they released it under the U2 name. So they came up with the name "Passengers," conjured up 100-percent-contrived backstories for the indie films whose soundtracks each of these songs was supposedly taken from, and released it as a side project. Not everything on here works by a long shot, but it's interesting if you don't go into it expecting to hear "Where the Streets Have No Name" or even "Zooropa," so what can I say? I guess U2 is one of those bands I'm willing to give considerable benefit of the doubt.
Best track: "Miss Sarajevo"

Now the Ten, which also might be liked by nobody but me:

1. Pete Heller, "Big Love"
2. Led Zeppelin, "D'Yer Mak'er"
3. Radiohead, "Motion Picture Soundtrack"
4. Underworld, live set from Creamfields 2002
5. Right Said Fred, "I'm Too Sexy"

[Yes, I also like this song still, even if no one else does -- Ed.]

6. David Holmes, "Living Room"
7. Starship, "Sara"

[OK, seriously, iTunes, that's quite enough -- Ed.]

8. NFL Films, "Playmakers"
9. David Cross, "'You Go, Girl!'"
10. The Who, "You Better You Bet"

Your favorite unloved albums, as well as your Random Tens, are welcome in the comments -- particularly if they somehow manage to be embarrassing as mine.

Thursday, September 20

BlogPoll Roundtable #3: We're through the rabbit hole here, folks.

Roundtable-hosting duties this week are handed to HornsFan of the blog Burnt Orange Nation who, after closer-than-expected victories over Arkansas State and Central Florida, now has a deeper knowledge of Texas's onside-kick-coverage team than he ever hoped to have. It's all about the knowledge, buddy. Onward:

1. Handicap your team's chances to win your conference championship. If your team is not the favorite, who is?

At best, it's a 119:1 shot. Like HornsFan, I have used a very precise mathematical formula to calculate this.

"Weird. I've entered every possible iteration of data, yet each time the computer just says 'You're fucked.' "

The first thing we'd have to do is win the rest of our conference games -- all of 'em. Even if Florida blows it against LSU and South Carolina — I'm making the not-exactly-earth-shattering assumption that Florida will not manage to lose to Ole Miss, Auburn, Kentucky, or Vandy -- we couldn't afford to lose to them because then we'd both be at 6-2 and Florida would of course win the tiebreaker.

As you're all well aware of by now, Georgia is a miserable 2-of-17 against Florida since 1990, which equates to a mere 1 in 8.5 chance we'll beat them. And that's even before we start talking about any of the others left on our conference slate. I've guesstimated that there's a 1 in 7 chance we'll run the table of our non-Florida SEC opponents, so that works out to a 1 in 59.5 chance that we'll win the Eastern Division.

Then, of course, we'd have to play somebody, probably LSU, in the conference title game. We're 1-1 in SEC championships against the Tigers, so cut the odds in half: a 1 in 119 chance that we'll win the SEC. I managed to snow my superiors into giving me a not-insubstantial raise earlier this week, but even with the extra scratch coming in every month, I do not think I will be betting any money on odds like those.

As much as Florida wowed people by annihilating Tennessee last week, I still think LSU is the favorite in the conference; the very young Gator defense has performed a lot better than most people probably thought so far, but if you're talking defenses, LSU's astonishing stable of name-brand talent is still the one that inspires the most confidence. On the other hand, I think a potential LSU-Florida title match would be a lot closer now than I thought it would be a few weeks ago.

Upon hearing this, Tebow immediately warmed up version 2.0 of Zip Left 29 Slot Gay-Ass Jump Pass Hound Right 959.

2. Outline the (realistic) best-case and worst-case scenarios for your team.

As bad as we looked against South Carolina, the rest of the SEC schedule is not actually that daunting if we get our heads screwed on straight on offense. Even Florida is not an automatic L -- hell, we were 20-point 'dogs to the Gators when they were defending national champions in 1997 and beat the hell out of 'em! Hooray beer, and hooray joyous self-delusion!

Yes! You are a very beautiful team!

That said, even if we shock the Gators, I don't think we're quite capable of winning all seven of our remaining SEC games, nor do I think we'd beat LSU in the SEC championship game. But the best-case scenario would still be a 10-3 record and probably a trip to the Capital One Bowl, which I'd be quite happy with.

Worst-case scenario: We get whacked by Alabama this weekend, lose a shootout to Tennessee in Knoxville, get creamed by Florida in the Cocktail Party, the home-field curse dooms us against Auburn, we lose to Kentucky for a second straight year, and -- vomit -- Chan Gailey finally gets a win over us on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That's a 5-7 meltdown right there, and honestly, even Vanderbilt and Troy are not at all the layups they once were.

But I don't even want to think about that, because 5-7 would be enough to make me start looking for one of these, or, in the event of an unsuccessful search, invent one myself.

Now, do I want Standard Bludgeoning, or pay an extra quarter for Quick 'n' Stabby?

3. We're only three games in to the season, but teams and storylines are starting to take shape. Compare your team to a character or theme from a fable or children's tale.

Well, now that Georgia has, as Steve F'in Spurrier so helpfully reminded us, dropped five straight games to SEC East teams -- losing to each of its division rivals in sequence, even Vanderbilt and Kentucky -- it could be that the Bulldogs are a more efficient Giving Tree than Shel Silverstein could've ever envisioned. But I'm going to hope that metaphor doesn't go any further than it already has.

Instead, I'll say the Dawgs are Alice in Wonderland. We've fallen down the rabbit hole into a mysterious, magical SEC in which Auburn sucks out loud, Kentucky is awesome, Ole Miss can't score on anybody, Tennessee can't stop anybody, Spurrier is coaching the Gamecocks, Nick Saban is coaching in Tuscaloosa, and the only recognizable aspect is the fact that the Jabberwocky, Florida, is still coming to kick our fucking asses. Either way, we're going to be lucky to make it out of this thing alive; it's enough to make me want to hop up on a mushroom with the Caterpillar and smoke that hookah until my eyes are permanently crossed.

When do we get to the "Drink Me" part? And which one of you is Fulmer?

4. Imagine you're the coach of your team. Give three specific changes you'd implement immediately which you think would have the biggest impact on improving the team.

1. Make Knowshon Moreno the starting tailback. He's not a finished product just yet, but he's been the most consistently electrifying weapon in Georgia's offensive stable so far, and he's the one most likely to break a big play against Alabama this weekend.

2. No more playing for field goals. In 13 trips inside the red zone so far this season, Georgia has nine TDs and three field goals -- not too bad, until you realize that all nine came against Oklahoma State and Western Carolina. So far, Mike Bobo's playcalling hasn't completely broken free of the ultraconservative, let's-just-settle-for-a-figgie philosophy that typified Richt's offense before he handed the reins over to a true OC -- and it needs to.

Upon crossing the goal line, Brannan Southerland finds to his surprise that it is not, in fact, electrified.

3. Utilize the tight ends more. I realize our TEs are fairly inexperienced, so throwing to them is going to be a little dicier than it would be if they were, say, Leonard Pope or Ben Watson. But still, Georgia has developed quite a reputation for developing awesome tight ends over the past 10 years or so, and we've managed to do that by utilizing them in innovative ways. Tripp Chandler and Bruce Figgins have caught a grand total of six passes in three games so far, and while that number would probably be higher if Chandler hadn't been suspended for the Oklahoma State game, these guys have way too much potential to be settling for 1.2 receptions per game played.

5. USC, LSU/Florida, and Oklahoma have established themselves as the frontrunners in the early going. Which other team or teams are you eyeballing as potential BCS party crashers?

Boston College's toughest remaining game is at Virginia Tech. If the Eagles can win that -- which they did last year -- and then perform as swimmingly in a potential Georgia Tech rematch in the league title game as they did in stuffing the Yellow Jackets last Saturday, they've got a chance. Yeah, the ACC sucks, but it also means BC has an easier roll to 12-0 than any of the "frontrunners" mentioned in the question -- and there's a decent chance 12-0 Boston College could get picked ahead of a USC or LSU with one late-in-the-season loss on their schedules.

Ohio State is positioned similarly nicely to take advantage of a shit-tastic conference, though I'm not sold on their offense after one good outing against Washington and still think they'll probably lose to either Penn State, Wisky, or Michigan down the stretch. But even with one loss, their name-brand status might be enough to boost them to a title shot if everyone else has taken a hit by the end of the season, too.

As far as non-BCS interlopers? Nope, not this year. The only serious contender that hasn't lost yet is Hawaii, but they're not gonna come within ten miles of the BCS top 12, and the only reason I need to back me up on that comes in the form of the Warriors' opponent this weekend: Charleston Southern, who I didn't even know had a football program in the first place. They'll be the second D-IAA team the Warriors have tricked into coming to Aloha Stadium this season (the other was Northern Colorado, who went 1-10 last year), and if that doesn't automatically disqualify you from The Show, it should.

Let's just say I wouldn't plan on traveling too far for bowl season, homeys.