Friday, August 29

The Friday Random Ten+5 sticks its neck out. Barely.

Last night began the college football season with a South Carolina-N.C. State tilt that ranged from "ugly" to "mildly interesting" to "colossally boring as the Gamecocks simply tee off on a team that has clearly packed it in," but football, like sex or pizza, is still pretty good even when it's not that good at all -- and either way, my life has been made whole once again. I actually participated in a liveblog of the game over at Dr. Saturday's joint that was really more along the lines of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Presents: Gamecocks vs. Wolfpack," but hey, it was fun. (And yes, I made a Smelley/'Cocks joke. You knew it was coming.)

So now is as good a time as any to make some last-minute predictions about the season to come, and while 2006 has rendered me extremely cagey about making sweeping, season-wide predictions before the games even start, there are still a few scraps I feel reasonably confident in throwing out about the Dawgs. Thus, this week's +5 is Five Random Predictions Of Varying Degrees Of Ballsiness Regarding Georgia's 2008 Season:

Georgia won't be #1 anymore when September ends, but it won't be their fault
Paul Westerdawg came up with this long before I did, but the Bulldogs' hold on the preseason #1 spot -- in the coaches' poll, at least -- is precarious enough that it's unlikely to last past the titanic Ohio State-Southern California matchup on September 13. Consider that, as Paul points out, Georgia has 22 first-place votes in that poll while the Buckeyes and Trojans combined have 28, and the hype over their game will be such that, barring the ugliest 6-3 defensive struggle in football history, the winner of tOSU-USC is likely to snatch up nearly all the other team's #1 votes. In theory, Georgia could play superbly over the next two weeks, a few of their top-5 neighbors could turn in a lousy performance or two, and enough first-place votes would move over to the Dawgs that their standing could weather the tOSU-USC tilt intact, but as long as Mark May's face is still showing up on national television, I don't see that being likely.

The black jerseys will be brought out again at least once, probably against Tennessee
I can't remember where I read it, but I remember hearing something from Mark Richt that sounded an awful lot like we'd bust out the black jerseys again sometime this season; the only real question in my mind is when. There's a small chance we could bring them to Baton Rouge in October, since LSU is well-known for wearing white at home, but that'd probably be seen as an unnecessary tweak to a wild Tiger Stadium home crowd that certainly doesn't need any extra incentive to be in full-throated Three Hours' Hate mode against us that night. No, we'll almost certainly wear them at home, and I'm guessing they get brought out against Tennessee. That's going to be a huge game for us after the last couple of ugly blowouts in this series, and while you'd think past embarrassments would be motivation enough, we thought the same thing last year and it clearly didn't work. So maybe it's time to pull out the motivational stops, even do another stadium-wide blackout. I sure enjoyed the last one.

Georgia won't cover the spread, whatever it is, against Vanderbilt
Georgia's only 2-3 ATS versus Vanderbilt over the last five seasons, and one of those wins was by 17 points when the spread was -16. Now look at where the Vandy game is situated this season: right after that epic grudge match against Tennessee and right before a trip to LSU that will present the biggest threat to our national-title hopes the entire season up to that point. You think we'll have our minds entirely on the Commodores, whose best-case scenario will be entering Sanford Stadium at .500? Me neither, and while some will say, "C'mon, Doug, it's Homecoming," but fat lot of good that did us last year. My advice -- and I promise this is better advice than when I told you to take UTEP over Buffalo last night, is to put your money on Vanderbilt plus points, however many points it ends up being.

Georgia Southern will play us closer than Georgia Tech will
That's a minor variation on a prediction Kyle King already made, and it's a bit riskier after the Jackets popped Jacksonville State 41-14 last night, Tech got two touchdowns off of drives of 27 and 44 yards and benefitted from a +2 turnover ratio; not to mention that even last year's drag-ass Tech offense managed to lay 69 points on D-IAA Samford. It was a promising first showing by Paul Johnson's offense, to be sure, but the defenses they'll be facing only get much tougher from here. And I have a feeling that somebody on the Flats, be it Paul Johnson or a player, will say something just stupid enough in Georgia's direction between now and Thanksgiving that we'll be even more motivated to punch them in the mouth than usual.

We won't go undefeated
Again, nothing you probably haven't heard already from numerous Dawg fans, but I figured I might as well go ahead and fess up to it now -- we're gonna lose to somebody this year. After all the shit I've talked about Urban Meyer the past few months, God is probably just waiting to lower the karmic boom on me and send the Dawgs to their doom in Jacksonville. But that doesn't mean we can't make a credible national-title run anyway, and if it comes down to a Pepsi Challenge between a one-loss Dawg team and any of the big national contenders from other name-brand conferences, I'm still takin' the Dawgs.

And now the Ten:

1. The Pretenders, "If There Was a Man"
2. 3rd Bass, "Kick 'Em in the Grill"
3. Talking Heads, "Slippery People" (live)
4. The Roots, "3rd Act: ? vs. Scratch 2 . . . Electric Boogaloo"
5. U2, "City of Blinding Lights"
6. Jesus & Mary Chain, "She"
7. Q-Tip, "Go Hard"
8. Lemon Jelly, "The Staunton Lick"
9. U.N.K.L.E., "Inside"
10. Ice Cube, "Who Got the Camera?"

And now for your Random Tens, as well as your predictions -- about Georgia, about another team, about hurricane season, the election, whatever tickles your fancy -- in the comments.

Thursday, August 28


I'd been thinking about putting something like this up for a while, and the last part of this post at Snarkastic finally inspired to get it all out there. Warning: weapons-grade soapboxing ahead.

It's been a busy week for me. Tuesday night I had Hillary's DNC speech on in the background while we were doing our fantasy-football draft; last night my attention was divided between assembling the roundtable roundup and watching the Democrats nominate by acclimation the first minority presidential candidate of a major party in American history. And tonight I expect I'll be flipping back and forth between Barack Obama's acceptance speech and South Carolina-N.C. State on ESPN.

These three days should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about where my head's going to be at the next three months. Between the most expectations-laden Georgia football season since I became a Georgia fan and the most important presidential election of my lifetime, I'm going to have a lot occupying my time and attention.

That last sentence probably sounded stupid to a lot of you, but perhaps for different reasons. Some of you are no doubt wondering, "How can you be concerned about football when there's an election going on?" while others are muttering, "God, shut up about the fucking Democrats and get back to the football already." I know there are more than a few people out there who share both my Dawg-love and my enthusiastic intention to vote for Obama in November; I also know there are plenty of readers of this blog who are diehard Dawg fans but would sooner allow themselves to be circumcised by Tim Tebow than vote for a Democrat, just as there are plenty of readers who love talking liberal politics but couldn't give less of a shit about football if you put guns to their heads.

Well -- how to put this gently? -- you're all just going to have to suck it up.

There's going to be a lot of football on this blog over the next few months, the majority of it Georgia-centered. There's also going to be a fair amount of politics, which will skew markedly toward the liberal pro-Obama side. And while that may indeed be a weird marriage, the fortunate thing is that most of you seem to be intelligent, thinking people capable of tuning out, rather than throwing a pissy snit fit over, the stuff you don't like. You're a liberal who has no interest in my thoughts on how Knowshon Moreno will fare against South Carolina's front seven? Ignore it and move on. You're high off the vapors of the Dawgs' most recent victory and have no time to hear me explain why Obama's foreign-policy judgment is superior to McCain's? To steal a line from Jay-Z, if you don't like my lyrics you can press fast-forward. You're grown-ups, you know how to do this.

Well, let me back that up a second. You don't have to ignore it. No matter what your sporting or political affiliations are, you're welcome to participate in any discussion taking place in any comments thread you find interesting, whether your opinion jibes with mine or not (as long as you can do better than "georga sux" or "HUSSEIN Obama = muzlim"). All I'll do is make a couple of eminently reasonable requests.

• Don't tell me what to blog about. I don't come to your shack in the middle of the woods and tell you what to put in your latest batch of meth; don't come to my blog and tell me to stop writing about (or write more about) X, Y, or Z. I don't make enough money off this blog to care whether the daily readership drops to single digits, so I'm going to write about what I'm going to write about, and if for whatever reason my conflation of sports minutia with political haranguing so offends you that you can't take it anymore, feel free to patronize another blog. E-mail me and I'll even suggest a few good ones that won't offend your sensibilities.

• Stay on topic. Here are two specific examples of what not to be: Don't be that unfunny asshole who tries to score Clever Points by injecting political attacks into a sports discussion, i.e., "Wow, you sure laid into Central Michigan for being weak on defense, too bad you won't hold Obama accountable for being the same way LOL ROFL PWN3D ETC ETC!!11!!!" Similarly, don't be the nannying wannabe peacemaker who tries to defuse a particularly heated political debate by throwing unrelated sports stuff in there: "Hey, wow, uh, how 'bout everybody calm down and let's talk about Georgia's chances against the Gators, huh?!?" We don't need that. Now, I've never banned people from commenting before and have no intention of starting, but I can tell you with some degree of certainty that if you bring either of those tactics into a comments thread, you're not going to change anyone's mind or make any friends; you're only going to look like a douche.

Again, commenters who run afoul of these conditions will not be banned, but they will be referred back to this post as a reminder, and mocked as necessary.

Look, I'm not trying to be an asshole here. Even in the moments when I'm working up a good purple-faced rage over something, be it politics or football, I have a lot of fun writing this blog, and my only real goal in doing so is for y'all to have fun too. But I can't make any legally binding guarantees of fun, so you're kind of proceeding at your own risk. If you're a big enough boy (or girl) to handle that and be civil even about the stuff you disagree with, excellent. If not . . . maybe you should start exploring other options.

Lecture over; enjoy the football season/election/both/neither. As for me, the potent combination of stress over the future of our country and stress over Georgia's national-title hopes may be enough to put me in the ICU in the very near future. But as long as I live long enough to see President Barack Obama invite the 2008 BCS National Champion Georgia Bulldogs to the White House, I can die happy.

Blatant self-promotion? You're soaking in it!

The first two steps in my diabolical plan for global domination are complete. My first weekly picks column at Dr. Saturday, alluded to earlier this week, went up this morning. And as if that weren't enough, none other than Clay Travis at Deadspin asked me a while back if I'd be kind enough to contribute to their series of Top 25 previews; my assorted thoughts on Georgia, who ended up #1 in their rankings, went up today as well. Give it a read (or in the event that you don't think I have anything of insight or originality to offer, simply look at the purty pictures and ponder just how much ass Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno must be getting in Athens right now).

If this were a Scorsese film, this'd probably be the point at which my success starts to turn me cocky and reckless, I take up with a ridiculously hot dancer with a coke problem, and I embark on a series of increasingly dodgy business deals that eventually put my very life in danger.

Eh, I've had a good run.

A family reunion, with punching: The Georgia Southern preview.

Thus begins the series of previews for each week's opponents sort of like the ones I did last year, though they're sort of a combination of the "A Bulldog Tempts the Wrath of a Vengeful God" series that I didn't do this year with the in-week game-by-game previews. My goal is for them to be just as informative as they were last year, though that's a low bar to jump over. By the way, I'm still looking for as many UGA-GSU tickets as anyone's willing to sell me, so shoot me an e-mail if you know where I can find and/or trade sexual favors for some.

And now: the Eagles.

Hometown: Statesboro, Georgia.

Last season: The Eagles missed the I-AA playoffs in Chris Hatcher's first year as head coach, but did finish with a 7-4 record, and were one of only two teams to beat eventual FCS champion Appalachian State (the other of which, quite conspicuously, was not Michigan).

Hate index, 1 being Zaxby's chicken fingers, 10 being chlamydia: Two. Maybe even one and a half. They don't even play in our division, so why bother pointing hate-daggers at them? Plus, not only are they the team that legendary Georgia DC Erk Russell turned into a I-AA juggernaut, one of the coolest chicks I've ever dated in my life got her degree from there. So no animosity for you, GSU. Like Jesus, you're just all right with me.

Associated hottie: Former GSU student Meredith Laine is listed in her IMDb filmography as having appeared in a straight-to-video version of "War of the Worlds" and a 2007 film called "Once in a Lifetime: Just Go For It." What this bio doesn't answer is whether she's the same Meredith Laine who's made several appearances in the "Bikini Classroom" series of saucy computer tutorials, but for right now let's just assume that she is, because that gives me an excuse to post this video of a chick in a bathing suit 'splaining Windows XP:

There's actually not a lot of T&A once you get into the meat of the tutorial, but still, I think this kicks the ass of whatever Video Professor's putting out there. John W. Scherer, consider yourself replaced.

Celebrity preview: Dennis Miller reports on the Eagles here.

What excites me: Southern put up a bundle of points last year in the "Hatch Attack" spread system, but those points were posted mostly against D-IAA defenses, and Hatcher only has three returning starters on his offense this year. Jayson Foster, who could literally play every single skill position on the offense and who was signed as a UFA by the Miami Dolphins in the spring after winning the 2007 Walter Payton Award and Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors, is not one of them. So even if GSU somehow finds success scoring on their SoCon rivals, I doubt they're going to find the same kind of success scoring on the Dawgs. Particularly not when Georgia, along with the rest of the country, has been put on Code-Fuchsia Upset Alert regarding FCS opponents after last year's Michigan-App State shocker. I'm not saying Georgia's going to be treating these guys like the Gators, but it's safe to say they're taking them a little more seriously than they would have, say, four or five years ago.

Defensively, Southern allowed 31.6 points per game last year, which again, aside from a season finale against 3-9 Colorado State, was put up by D-IAA offenses. Not only are they going up against the likes of Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, they'll be doing so without a number of starters. Yes, Georgia's going to be a little short-handed themselves thanks variously to injuries and scrapes with the law, but in the end, the team you'd rather be coming into this game is still the Dawgs.

What worries me: This, obvs. And while I know I just said Georgia would be taking the Eagles a little more seriously this year for that very reason, I'd be lying if I said I was 100-percent confident in Georgia's focus and determination. I was in Sanford Stadium for both this game and this one, and while the final scores both look respectable at a glance, they don't reflect the sloppy play I remember witnessing both times. And considering that all the talk in the preseason has been about how Georgia's schedule is loaded with Top-25 title contenders like Florida, LSU, and Arizona State, GSU definitely wins the Most Likely to Be Overlooked award.

And we all know how that has the potential to turn out.

The spread system that Southern will be bringing to Athens this weekend isn't exactly the same as the older-school triple-option attack that gashed a future-NFL-draftee-laden Dawg defense for 294 rushing yards in 2004, but it's similar enough that I'm preparing myself for at least one or two big Eagle plays in the early going. Of course, a lot of that comes down to tackling fundamentals, and while my memory may be faulty here I seem to recall a few of GSU's plays becoming bigger than they should have in '04 thanks to Georgia defenders not fully wrapping up their guys and taking them all the way down. Hopefully we'll be as solid in that area as our wealth of talent on defense says we should be, but again, in these early-season supposed-to-be-gimme matchups it's hard to tell.

Player who needs to step up: LT Kiante Tripp. With the Dawgs fully expected to be hitting on all cylinders at every other position against GSU, all eyes are going to be on the OL's blindside guy to see whether he can fill the injured Trinton Sturdivant's substantial shoes. And given that Sturdivant's absence has already prompted some pundits to start bumping the Dawgs down from the #1 spot, Tripp needs to be near-perfect -- I'm willing to bet that if Stafford gets sacked even once, substantial portions of the pundit class will begin sounding the funeral bells for Georgia's national-title hopes. Got all that, Kiante? OK, now get out there and have fun!

What I think will happen: I think it'll be a fun weekend, for starters -- with little on the line and the outcome not really in doubt, these quadrennial UGA-GSU matchups are like laid-back family reunions, with fans on both sides running into people they went to high school with and compliments flowing freely about each side's team. Maybe the GSU partisans will be emboldened enough by last year's App State shocker that they'll carry a little more piss and vinegar with them into Athens than usual, but even then I expect a good time will be had by all.

Whether that good time has anything to do with the actual play on the field, of course, is anyone's guess. Outside of GSU, I've been vocal in my displeasure with seeing FCS opponents tacked onto our schedule, partly because I think it's beneath us, partly because those games usually suck: Last year against Western Carolina, a shitty team even by FCS standards, we dicked around and were leading only 10-6 halfway through the second quarter. The previous year, we thumped Western Kentucky pretty good, but not enough that the dumbass mistakes (Mikey Henderson's punt-return shenanigans, an inexplicable safety in the fourth quarter) weren't still the most memorable part of the afternoon. And GSU 2004, while a 20-point victory, was still a game we were pretty happy just to see end.

A tackle would be nice here. Just sayin'.

Given that this year's Georgia Southern team probably won't be as good as either WKU 2006 or GSU 2004 -- this site, for example, has them finishing fifth out of nine in the Southern Conference -- we should perform a little better than in either of those games, but between suspensions, the distractions of being the #1 team in the country, and simple early-season rustiness, there will still be ample opportunity for silly-ass mental errors. Even when not really trying, though, we've still consistently scored in the forties against D-IAA opposition, so I'm going to guess we go into halftime ahead by a ho-hum margin of something like 23-10 before our superior depth takes over in the second half and we win by, like, 47-17. Statistically, the game won't be anything to get excited about, as all our top RBs will probably get pulled before any of them can break 100 yards and several of our scores will be set up by special-teams plays or turnovers.

Of course, if God has decided that Georgia has used up their reserve of grace and good will and GSU ends up pulling an App State, I was drunk when I wrote all this. Not that it'll matter, since I will have dropped a toaster oven into the bathtub long before anyone has a chance to come on here and gloat.

If you're trash-talking: This doesn't meet the classical definition of "trash talk" exactly, but in the unlikely event that you run into a particularly mouthy GSU fan who insists that last year's App State upset means doom for the Dawgs, you could remind him or her that Southern wouldn't have a football program at all were it not for UGA. Erk Russell, the legendary Georgia D-coordinator under Vince Dooley, left Athens in 1982 to resurrect a GSU football program that had been suspended at the start of World War II and hadn't played a game since. Russell then led them to a I-AA national title in just four seasons.

No word on how many headbutts he gave, though, since that statistic wasn't officially kept at the I-AA level until the mid-nineties.

Why you should root for Georgia even if you don't care about this game: Because Uga VII, the latest in Georgia's proud lineage of mascots, will be "unveiled" in a ceremony right before the game, and why would you want something as wonderful as that to be overshadowed by what would certainly be Georgia's most humiliating defeat ever?

I will run up and down Highland Avenue in front of my apartment building wearing nothing but a Georgia flag if: Georgia breaks the half-century mark on the scoreboard. Not that I'm particularly interested in humiliating the Eagles, mind you, it just seems like dropping a 50-bomb on somebody is something that the truly elite teams do at least once every couple years or so -- most of them even turn it into a 60- or 70-bomb -- but Georgia, surprisingly, hasn't done it since 2004. Your phun phact of the day is that nobody has won a national title in the BCS era without laying 50 points on somebody at least once, so Mark, we might as well get it out of the way now. I know you've scrupulously avoided being a run-up-the-score kind of guy and everything, and that's admirable, but my parents are going to be there, so just this once, couldn't you light somebody up?

God, I love this state.

I was on the phone the other night with someone who recently started law-school classes at Alabama, and of course the subject turned to football, and somehow the question got posed as to how long it would take to find an Alabama fan on a blog or message board pushing true-freshman WR Julio Jones, Bama's top recruit from this past year's class as a Heisman candidate.

Took me about 10 minutes.

Lefty I saw the 7 on 7s and Julio was like a man among boys. He only dropped one pass the whole time and that was due to JPW throwing it low and behind him and yet Julio almost made that catch. Laugh now but the kid can possibly be considered for the Heisman as a true freshman. His new nickname is "Gamebreaker" and the title appears to be well deserved.

But that's not even the funniest thing about this thread. The next commenter in the thread responded with, "Ladies and gentlemen! The next superstar at the University of Alabama! Julio Jones!" To which "Stoney" replied . . .

What happpened to being cautiously optimistic and not letting the cat out of the bag? We want to sneak up on these teams not go trumpeting our secret weapon. Sheesh!

Uh-huh. Man among boys . . . considered for the Heisman . . . "His new nickname is 'Gamebreaker' " . . . that's cautious optimism. But don't go hyping him! We don't want to trumpet our secret weapon! . . . &c &c &c.

This is why, even as a Georgia fan, I think there may be no finer place from which to experience an SEC football season than right here in Alabama. The crazy gets ratcheted up to 11 by August and only increases from there. I can't wait.

Roundtable Roundup: It's so close I can taste it!


This is it, people -- college football starts again tonight. Too-freaking-nite. I'm seriously on the verge of tears here.

To mark this most wondrous day of days, here's the roundup of the answers to the BlogPoll roundtable I tossed up here last week. This is the first time I've hosted one in the preseason, so I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I'm going to have fun going back to this post in January and seeing just how dumb all our predictions were. "Kent State as a sleeper mid-major pick? What the fuck was I snorting when I picked that one?"

Read, enjoy, dissent until you're blue in the face in the comments section, but above all, be sure to patronize all these wonderful blogs regularly. Now we begin:

1. In his "visiting lecturers" series posted on Every Day Should Be Saturday over the past few months, Orson Swindle asked each participant to explain which country, during which historical period, their team most resembles. Let’s bring everything up to the present day and ponder: Which current sovereign nation is your team? Or to look at it another way, how does your team fit into the "world" of college football?

Not surprisingly, established superpowers or near-superpowers were popular here. Conquest Chronicles said Southern Cal is the U.S., which sounds presumptuous until you consider a) he was at least apologetic about it and b) USC can pretty much do whatever they want at this point. Buckeye Commentary, Double T Nation, and My Opinion on Sports compared Ohio State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma, respectively, to the just-short-of-world-domination United Kingdom. Two different nations, Burnt Orange and Rock M, say they're the China of the college-football world. Nice, guys, but just because you're both burgeoning economic powerhouses doesn't mean either Austin or Columbia, Mo., get to host the Olympics.

Beyond that, though, several respondents were surprisingly willing to look toward the Axis of Evil (which I think is so much funnier when said in a Sir Simon Milligan voice) for their teams' analogues. Kyle King of Dawgsports swings for the fences in comparing UGA to North Korea, and Kim Jong Il to "Evil Richt" (though Kim's birthday is within two days of Richt's . . . creepy); Corn Nation, in a statement that makes me want to just give them a hug and scoop them some ice cream, says "Maybe we’re Iraq -- everything we knew was blown to hell and we’re trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what’s going to happen next."

"You like burning stuff too? Then you're my team, 'Eers."

Mountainlair and Subway Domer, though, chose Worst Most Dangerous Horrible Country In The History of Ever Du Jour Iran as their focus of comparison. So says Mountainlair:

Yes, you don't want any part of that kind of crazy! And [they're] big enough that because of your current situation you really don't want to meet them on the field of battle. But small or insignificant enough that you're just not believing that they could actually win the whole thing. Come on! I'm talking about your perception, not mine. We used to not matter so much in the big scheme of things. But now you know who we are and like it or not, you have to deal with us.

One more before I move on, because as the offspring of two UVA grads, one of whom is of Slovak ancestry, I shed a tear for From Old Virginia's response:

We are the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is a beautiful country, or so I'm led to believe because I've never been there. People always say so. They say that a lot about Charlottesville too. Like the CR, that's just about all they say, most of the time.

Don't be too down on yourselves -- as the Czechs are well aware, there are worse things in the world than being pretty.

2. Every preseason roundup has to have some discussion of who's overrated, but let's go beyond that. Which team do you think is poised to crap the bed in the biggest way this season relative to high expectations, and which game do you think will begin their slide into ignominy?

If the CFB blogosphere is even remotely prescient, then the Kansas Jayhawks are f$#@ed eight ways from Sunday this year, because Tar Heel Mania, From Old Virginia, Subway Domer, My Opinion On Sports, Double-T Nation, and Dawgsports all picked KU to swallow the biggest pipe of any of this year's contenders or near-contenders; no other team got more than two mentions. Most of them pegged the Jayhawks' trip to Oklahoma -- not coincidentally, a trip they didn't have to take during last year's surprise 12-1 run -- in mid-October as the first stop on their trip to Sucktown, but Subway Domer says a trap game versus Colorado will be the start of a seven-game season-ending schneid; Kyle King says the 'Hawks will have long since been exposed by a September 12 trip to Tampa to play South Florida.

Maybe everyone was just afraid of offending the roundtable host, but I'm positively gobsmacked that nobody thought to throw my Bulldogs under the bus with this question, particularly established Georgia-hater Garnet and Black Attack, who evidently thinks a Tennessee upset at the hands of UCLA this Monday will be more embarrassing than anything Georgia does this year. In fact, the only place Georgia showed up was as some other team's destroyer of dreams -- specifically Arizona State's, which Conquest Chronicles says will be crushed on September 20 thanks to "a quarterback who has been planted in the turf like a tent peg."

Ironically, Buckeye Commentary and MGoBlog -- never a shy one about giving his knife one or two more twists in the gut of Rich Rodriguez's former employer -- are in agreement that West Virginia is due for a slide that will probably start with a Thursday-night home loss to Auburn. My choice of Clemson was seconded by MGoBlog and College Game Balls, but Rock M Nation instead chose Virginia Tech, generally thought to be Clemson's most likely opponent in the ACC title game this year, and Boston College blog BC Interruption conspicuously avoided choosing the Tigers so that they could instead make what's probably the ballsiest upset pick of this roundtable:

[L]et's go with Oklahoma. We'll predict that Oklahoma's BCS bowl woes finally extend out into the regular season with a loss to TCU on September 27. If the Horned Frogs don't upend the Sooners, look for Oklahoma to crap the bed with back-to-back home losses to Texas and Kansas in early October.

Ballsy, yes, but hardly unprecedented.

3. On the flip side of that coin, which team do you think is going to burst out of nowhere to become 2008's biggest overachiever -- this year's version of Kansas '07, as it were -- and what's going to be the big upset that makes us all finally sit up and take notice of them?

Unlike the previous question, there was nothing approaching consensus here, though a few teams were picked by a couple blogs. Two more nations, Double-T and Corn, picked Wisconsin, with Corn Nation going so far as to predict a Wisconsin upset of Ohio State. Buckeye Commentary and Rock M Nation, while not predicting a 12-1 season for the Bearcats, still pegged Cincinnati as a surprise team this year. Conquest Chronicles and Mountainlair picked BYU -- though perhaps somewhat less than enthusiastically, for as Mountainlair says,

Like Kansas last year, they play absolutely no one of consequence besides UCLA. So yeah, they play absolutely no one of consequence. They should be just as good if not better than last year's Cougar team. Things are crazy out west, but there's no reason to think they won't be undefeated by the time bowl season comes around. And then they'll play the No. 2 SEC team in a BCS bowl and wish they would have thrown the Colorado St. game.

Some bloggers were so bold and/or self-effacing as to pick potential sleepers that their own teams have to go up against this season. From Old Virginia (along with Garnet and Black Attack) picked ACC Coastal Division rival North Carolina; Subway Domer (along with BC Interruption) picked Michigan State, although Domer does hedge a little:

So they beat Cal, EMU, FAU, and then they play ND at home where the away team has won the last 7 games. I'll put a "L" here since I'm a big homer anyways and then they start their Big Integer season.

Anything to avoid a repeat of this.

Sooner fan My Opinion On Sports, with all too recent knowledge of Texas Tech's potential, picked the Red Raiders as a potential 11-win team in '08 (while still hoping for revenge for last year's upset in Lubbock). And Burnt Orange Nation not only nominates week 1 opponent Florida Atlantic as his sleeper pick, he concedes a small chance that his own Longhorns could be the mark that sets up a big season for the Owls:

Let Texas fans all pray together that it's not Florida Atlantic, which is the clear conference favorite and, if they knock off Texas in Austin next Saturday, could have a Boise State-like run.

Aw, hell, even giving Texas the nod next weekend, I'm still choosing FAU, and if we're not the upset that turns heads nationally, I'll say the Owls get some national love by knocking off two Big 10 opponents on the road in back-to-back weeks: Michigan State and Minnesota.

College Game Balls, picking UConn as his come-out-of-nowhere team, makes the rather astute observation that "parity in college football" is killing off the very concept of a "come-out-of-nowhere team"; finally, we have one more mention of a TCU-over-Oklahoma upset, this time from Tar Heel Mania:

I put TCU at #25 in my Blogpoll ballot. The Horned Frogs are perhaps the most consistently good mid-majors in the nation, and they’re expected to bounce back from an 8 win season in 2007, which is actually mediocre by Gary Patterson’s standards (56-18 since 2002). If they catch Oklahoma by surprise like they did in 2005, everyone will be on TCU’s spike-laden bandwagon.

4. Here's an "I'll hang up and listen" question. I put Ohio State and Oklahoma #1 and #2, respectively, despite their recent high-profile BCS face-plants. Where did you rank those two teams, and did those BCS issues have anything to do with it?

The thinking behind this question may have been a little presumptuous on my part, as Ohio State and Oklahoma came in at #2 and #4, respectively, in the preseason BlogPoll; clearly they're not being shown that much disrespect by BlogPoll voters. And the majority of roundtable participants had both the Buckeyes and the Sooners in the top four on their ballot.

But some didn't, including BC Interruption, who had Ohio State at #8 (the lowest ranking any of the roundtable participants would give either OSU or OU); however, they said their lack of confidence wasn't a result of the Buckeyes' BCS bedwettings but rather a "bearish" outlook on Big Ten football in general in 2008. Similarly, Corn Nation said they placed the Sooners at #6 not because of Bob Stoops's inability to win a BCS game but because they "don’t expect Sam Bradford to repeat an excellent rookie season."

Only a few bloggers openly confessed to dinging the Buckeyes or Sooners specifically for their recent BCS impotence, but you have to give them points for being unapologetic about it, if unapologeticness is your thing. Over to you, Garnet and Black Attack:

First, a rant. If one of the things you're considering in your poll is past performance -- and it should be -- then why is it somehow perceived as unfair or shallow to count the BCS waxings of the two Os against them? Should we just put on blinders when it comes to those games? Pretend it didn't happen? Then please do the same for South Carolina's last five games of the year, and rank the Gamecocks at No. 1. It is entirely fair to count those games against Oklahoma and Ohio State as much as you might count their losses to Colorado or Illinois against them.[/end rant]

Mountainlair was similarly vociferous, possibly because his West Virginia Mountaineers have very intimate experience with one of those teams' weaknesses:

Oklahoma? Meh. I felt like them being in the top 10 was a bad judgment on my part, and worse that no WVU fans called me on it. Their lines can't handle speed for shit. They have quality speed at the skill positions, but no skill anywhere else. I fart in their general direction.

Don't hold back, guys, tell us how you really feel.

Oh, that wasn't nice! Now look what you did!

5. Last season was a statistical outlier in countless ways, not the least of which was the fact that we ended up with a two-loss team as national champion. Do you think anyone plays a strong enough schedule to get MNC consideration as a two-loss team this year? Conversely, do you see anybody managing to sail into the national-championship game undefeated?

The prospect of a second straight two-loss national champion was not an especially popular one with the roundtable respondents, but I noticed something interesting (and, as an SEC obsessive, amusing) from those who said it was a possibility. Buckeye Commentary probably spoke for a lot of people when they grudgingly conceded that "the Karl Rove spin control of the SEC" was the main reason for the SEC being the most likely conference to put another two-loss team in The Show -- but every single blogger who answered "yes" to the first part of this question named an SEC team (sometimes multiple SEC teams) as the one who'd be able to do it. So even if the perception of SEC superiority is due more to "spin control" than to actual on-the-field product, it's apparently working.

As for the second part of the question, the concept of an undefeated team (or teams) was generally considered far more likely than a two-loss MNC aspirant, but nobody in the SEC was given as a serious possibility (possibly another hint at the widespread respect for the diabolical level of competition in the SEC? OK, seriously, I'll shut up now). In fact, only four teams seemed to be given any shot at making it through an entire regular season unscathed; if our roundtable entrants are correct, then the only unbeatens this year are going to come from the Ohio State-USC matchup in 16 days and/or a potential Oklahoma-Missouri tilt in the Big 12 title game.

And even that may not be enough for some people. Mountainlair declares that "the winner of tOSU vs. USC should be slapped if they don't go undefeated," while Kyle King of Dawgsports wears his SEC pride on his sleeve in pooh-poohing an undefeated team from any other conference:

. . . I believe that any team that goes into the B.C.S. title showdown without a loss will have gotten there for reasons having less to do with the contender’s quality than with its opponents’ lack thereof. If Ohio State catches Southern California during a brief downcycle brought about by question marks at quarterback and goes on to finish without a scratch, or if West Virginia survives the Big East gauntlet unscathed, it most probably will be because the teams they played were overrated, not because they were underrated.

Accordingly, if a once-beaten Big 12, Pac-10, or S.E.C. champion goes to the B.C.S. championship game to play an undefeated A.C.C., Big East, or Big Ten champion, I believe the battle-tested one-loss team will beat the comparatively untried undefeated team.

Roll your eyes at Kyle's last comment if you must, but, well, don't roll them too high.

6. OK, time for some Olympic fever. Which athlete from the Beijing Olympics -- any sport, any country, with the exception of USA basketball since those guys are already pros -- would you most want to add to your team's roster this season? No worries about age, eligibility, or even gender; we'll worry about that crap later.

Evidently "Olympic fever" was beginning to graduate into "Olympic fatigue" by the time some bloggers got around to jotting down their responses, as more than a few of them declined to answer this question at all. But amongst those who did, Jamaican sprinter and unofficial Fastest Man in the World Usain Bolt was an obvious choice. Even though (as Double T Nation pointed out) Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is already laying the groundwork for a major recruiting push in Jamaica, I'm going to settle this dispute myself by awarding Bolt to South Carolina, as Garnet and Black Attack is still clearly in need of something to salve the memories of what Darren McFadden did to the Gamecocks last year.

A few folks specifically turned down a chance at Bolt, however. BC Interruption chose Team USA's Bryan Clay, assuming (probably correctly) that a gold-medal decathlete is likely good at a whole bunch of things. Subway Domer picked German super-heavyweight weightlifter Matthias Steiner, and already has a position picked out for him as a pass rusher: "This guy will pick you up and fucking piledrive your ass on top of the QB. Word." Tar Heel Mania picked Russian pentathlete Andrey Moiseev, a two-time gold medalist, simply for being "a badass," not that any other reason is required. Buckeye Commentary will take 6'2½" volleyball goddess Kerri Walsh to block field goals.

Then there were the people who went really far afield, none more so than From Old Virginia, who looked back on the Cavaliers' history of good luck with walk-ons in picking "the Olympics' ultimate walk-on: Congolese swimmer Stany Kempopo Ngangola, who got in on the IOC's wild card rule." Conquest Chronicles went for rowers, specifically Hamish Bond (NZL) and Robin Bourne-Taylor (GBR). And College Game Balls, apparently satisfied with VaTech's level of on-field talent, instead looked to shore up their coaching staff in highly creative fashion:

I am going to go with the Chinese Table Tennis Team. While they wouldn’t play a down Virginia Tech could finally replace dumb-fuck Bryan Stinespring at offensive coordinator with this six man brain trust.

And last but certainly not least, Mountain Lair, who's apparently also satisfied with his team's actual roster, answered this question with the same picturesque brevity he demonstrated in the last roundtable I did:

Just because.

And to those of you who are asking, "What the fuck was that?", I can only reply, "Obviously you're not a golfer."

Thanks to everyone who participated in the preseason roundtable, and good luck to all of your teams, except when you're playing us. And have fun tonight getting your fix again after all these months.

Tuesday, August 26

A memo from the desk of Arnold T. Pants, Esq.:
NEED THREE FOUR (OK, six), horrifying sea creatures, and a new gig.

· First things first: I need tickets. Three Four of them, to be exact. I'm hoping to take my family to the Georgia-Georgia Southern game this weekend so they can see a) what will hopefully be a resounding ass-whupping to kick off Georgia's title run with a bang and b) Uga VII's coronation, so if anyone's got a trio quartet of tickets they're looking to unload, I'll be willing to go $50 apiece. In fact, if you have a whole bunch sitting around that you need to get rid of, a couple of my Tent City co-residents are hunting for them as well, so that'd make . . . six? Whatever. If you've got extra tickets, holla.

I've also got a Facebook friends who's got two Alabama-Clemson tickets ready to move for face value plus 20 percent, whatever that adds up to. If you're interested in those, you can e-mail me at the above address.

· Now then: You diehard college football fans have no doubt followed Sunday Morning Quarterback's move to the cash-money-earning promised land of Yahoo/ with his new blog, Dr. Saturday; as of tomorrow (in theory, at least), I will be a contributor to said blog. I will be writing a weekly picks column from the point of view of a schmuck who's never actually had enough money to bet on anything, CFB-related or otherwise; if you don't read it for actual wagering advice -- and you probably shouldn't -- you can at least read it so that you can pat me on the head later and say, "That was good, honey! I'm so proud of you!" OK, maybe only my mom is going to do that. But still. Boost my ego a bit and check it out.

· Nothing I write at any point during the season, however, will be as funny as this:

Imagine showing up for work and your boss saying:

“OK (your name), what we need you to do today is to go to a college campus full of hot pussy and be good-looking on national television. Oh, and be sure to watch plenty of football, talk about plenty of football, and hang out with plenty of uber-famous football coaches. Anyway, here’s your hotel key and a few extra copies for any big busty sluts that happen to throw themselves in the general vicinity of your cock during the upcoming Thursday-Sunday time frame.”

You love you some Herbstreit. And please, no comments about the gelled hair. You aren’t fooling anyone. You’re jealous. You’d gel your pubes with hot kitchen grease if it meant taking Kirk Herbstreit’s job for 15 minutes.

Why do you think your girlfriend lets you watch College Gameday, you dense fuck? Because while you’re busy geeking out over which cartoon-animal-face Lee Corso is going to put on top of his head, she’s going for an imaginary ride on Kirk Herbsteit’s pelvis.

If I'd been drinking any milk when I read that this morning, it would've been sprayed all over my keyboard. Read the whole thing, and say a silent thank-you to my college buddy Kevin W. for having directed you to it.

· Also hilarious, "The Top 10 Chick-Repellent Items of 2008," made all the more wonderful by the comforting realization that I don't currently own any of these things. Not even a Bluetooth headset, which, I swear to you, is one day going to be looked back upon as the Members Only jacket of the 2000-aughts.


· And finally, courtesy of Blog of Hilarity, a warning that goes for this blog as well as for the University of Michigan.

Monday, August 25

Pick this.

I'm doing another college football pick 'em group this year on Yahoo -- same as last year, it involves picking each week's Top 25 games against the spread. If you want to join, go hyah and enter league ID# 18356 and password "stafford" (all lower case).

Unlike previous years, this year we'll be dropping everyone's worst two weeks of picks, so if you miss a week or two it won't permanently bone you in the overall standings. The winner gets an old piece of Georgia memorabilia of my choosing (and of minimal value), as well as the unbridled joy of being smarter than everyone else, and really, who can put a price on that?

Friday, August 22

The Friday (Semi-)Random Ten wants its MTV, its Nintendo, and its Ford Taurus station wagon.

I was walking home for lunch yesterday and a weird thought occurred to me out of the blue: Whatever happened to the keytar -- you know, the keyboard designed to be worn on a strap hung around the neck and played like an electric guitar? You hardly ever see anyone playing an honest-to-goodness keytar lately -- I can't remember having seen once since, like, 1989. And yet it's made a weird sort of postmodern comeback with Guitar Hero. I mean, if you really think about it, that's what you're playing.

But that's just one of the aspects of the 1980s I've been feeling unaccountably nostalgic about lately. The '80s spanned ages 1 to 11 for me, which you'd think would be too young to have much of an effect, but I still consider that decade to have had as much of a formative effect on my personality and cultural tastes as any other decade, if not more. And there's a lot I wouldn't mind bringing back, even now. So that's why this week's +5 is Five Things I Miss About the '80s.

The Cold War
This probably doesn't reflect well on me, but when Russia began their ongoing beatdown of the former Soviet republic of Georgia earlier this month, a part of me felt . . . relieved. You know, that we might finally be getting back to a situation where we've got a unified, flag-carrying monolith of a superpower for a sworn enemy rather than these ragtag, stateless, cave-dwelling, suicide-bombing terrorists we've been fucking around with for the past seven years. Admit it -- despite the incipient threat of mutual nuclear annihilation, the Cold War years were pretty rad: James Bond storylines were easier to come by, Slavic women were even hotter because they were taboo, and the binary nature of the US-vs.-USSR conflict made international relations a lot simpler and less mentally taxing. And since Osama bin Laden hates the Russkies every bit as much as he hates our asses, maybe we could turn one against the other, sit back, and watch the show for the next 20 years or so.

New Wave music
Eighties music wasn't all cheeseball pop (not that '80s cheeseball pop was such a terrible thing) -- there were a lot of genuinely good bands that came out of that decade. Joy Division, The Police, The Cure, The English Beat . . . if you think about it, those acts really laid the groundwork for the alternative/grunge wave that started bubbling up in the late eighties and lasted through the mid-'90s, which was pretty much the last time popular music didn't suck giant hairy donkey taints.

Station wagons
Back in the '80s, when minivans were just starting to get big and SUVs were still driven only by mountain dwellers and park rangers, the Gilletts always had at least one station wagon in the family. And in 1987, Mom got what was then the station-wagon state of the art: a Ford Taurus LX, which at that point was still revolutionary and was the first car we'd ever owned that had rear-facing jump seats in the cargo area, which for an eight-year old was only slightly less awesome than a space shuttle launch. Even now that SUVs have taken over (to society's detriment), you can still buy a station wagon these days, but the only people selling them are the European carmakers, which means you're probably not getting into one for less than $30,000. That said, should Alfa Romeo bring the 159 Sportwagon with them when they return to the U.S. market next year, I will scour my couch cushions for as many pennies as it takes to buy one and camp out at my nearest Alfa dealer like a "Star Wars" fanboy.

Music videos
A strange thought popped into my head yesterday: My generation is part of a dwindling cohort of people who can remember when you could actually watch music videos on television, back in those halcyon days before MTV became a reality-show network whose greatest contribution to American culture was inexplicably spinning Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt into celebrities. (Thanks ever so much for that, mofos.) And videos back then actually told a story, rather than merely being four-minute vignettes of overpaid pop stars lip-synching and grimacing for the cameras. I'm glad YouTube is there to do the job MTV has abdicated and protect some of these true Reagan-era treasures for posterity -- seriously, you can spend hours screwing around and reliving your preteen years on there.

Primitive video games
As amazing as today's Xbox and PlayStation games are, I pick up an Xbox controller these days and I'm confronted with more buttons and knobs than I typically use in my car, and need about as long to figure out how to operate it. So there's something comforting about the up-down-left-right-A-B-start spareness of those old first-generation Nintendo controllers, as well as the 2D simplicity of the games with which we played them. They're kind of like the pot roast of video games: simple, hearty, completely unpretentious, and strangely comforting. In fact, I think my parents still have our old 8-bit Nintendo unit wrapped up somewhere . . . when the nostalgia wave hits for that particular piece of equipment, and you know it's going to one of these days, I'm gonna be surfing that sucker for all it's worth.

And now an all-'80s Random Ten:

1. De La Soul, "Plug Tunin (Last Chance to Comprehend)"
2. U2, "In God's Country"
3. U2, "One Tree Hill"
4. Blue Room, "I'm Afraid"
5. The Clash, "Clampdown"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Heart" (Shep Pettibone mix)
7. Happy Mondays, "Lazyitis"
8. Public Enemy, "Show 'Em Whatcha Got"
9. Nanci Griffith, "Listen to the Radio"
10. The Beastie Boys, "Johnny Ryall"

Your favorite things about the eighties, be they songs or anything else, are welcome in the comments.

Thursday, August 21

The home stretch.

Seven days until the college-football season starts and I can be whole again. We're racing for home now.

(And if you're a big enough Ferris Bueller fan to find that hilarious, you'll probably also enjoy this:)

Wednesday, August 20


One of my fondest dreams, for when I become a fabulously wealthy novelist/screenwriter/kept man/whatever, is to buy up millions of Lego bricks and have a "Lego room" set aside in my house where I can just spread out and build stuff all over the place. But for right now, I'll settle for this.

And this isn't even something that some random guy cooked up in his basement. This is actually going on sale, and if you think I'm too proud to beg for one for Christmas, then you don't know me at all. Every year around the same time, I ask my parents for some big Lego set -- a few years ago it was the "Star Wars" AT-AT, more recently it was the Imperial Star Destroyer -- and every year they're like, "You're thirty years old, Doug. Thirty." But maybe they'll make an exception for the Taj Mahal. We'll see.

(I ended up going out and getting the AT-AT myself. That'll show them.)

Incidentally, for a glimpse of the kinds of things I plan on doing once I get filthy rich and have my Lego room, here's a Lego Beijing Olympic Village and a video of the Lego Kennedy Space Center.

Only a matter of time, people. Only a matter of time.

Tuesday, August 19

SEC Power Poll: Going underneath the headset.

I may enjoy making fun of South Carolina as much as any human being alive, but never let it be said that I don't give them credit in the rare instance when a Gamecock does something right -- as the blog Garnet and Black Attack has done with their weekly SEC power poll. This year, though, they decided to do away with blind middle-of-August predictions and instead have participants rank the 12 SEC coaches in lieu of a preseason ballot. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea, I says.

What struck me as I was putting this together, even after having written somewhat extensively on the topic for Roll Bama Roll's Alabama annual, is the incredible depth of coaching talent in the conference. Even the guys in the bottom half of these rankings are talented enough to get million-dollar checks thrown at them by numerous other D-IA schools in the event they ever decided to go looking for different jobs. So with that in mind, here's my list, which is guaranteed to be purely objective and not biased in any way whatsoever:

12. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt
Kyle King feels bad about putting Vanderbilt's coach at #11 on his list, but I don't feel bad about ranking him dead last. At 0.286, Johnson's winning percentage is actually .002 lower than Woody Widenhofer's record in five years in Nashville. So why is Widenhofer seen as a lovable loser while Johnson is credited with making great things happen with the Commodores? Simple: Because Johnson's expectations are lower. I mean, once you shut down your athletic department and lump football in with the club sports -- as Vanderbilt effectively did in 2003 -- you've made it pretty clear that, for better or for worse, football is no longer a priority. Johnson's a stand-up guy, and he's notched some remarkable upsets during his Vanderbilt tenure, but his overall results over the last six seasons has been a lot closer to typical Vandy than some people would have you believe.

11. Rich Brooks, Kentucky
Now, here is a guy I feel a little bad about ranking this low -- Brooks took over doormat programs at both Oregon and Kentucky and managed to at least make them respectable, so he has to have some idea what he's doing. Both his Oregon and Kentucky teams, though, seemed to have about an eight-win ceiling, so you can't really say that any of his teams exactly achieved elite status, either. Some of that is surely due to not having access to the kind of talent he would've had at an established powerhouse like USC or Florida, of course, and it'd be interesting to see what he might be able to do if put in charge of a program like that. Then again, he did have André Woodson and a team capable of knocking off LSU last year, and the Wildcats still ended up with little better than a second straight Music City Bowl win to show for it.

10. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State
Another guy whose ranking doesn't seem commensurate with his talent, and should Missy State manage to string together a few more winning seasons, the Croominator will get his due. I guess I'm still cagey about calling a guy a genius, no matter how much I like or respect him personally, after just one good season, particularly when that breakout season seems to have had more to do with catching certain teams at the right time than with any tangible improvement in on-the-field production. Still, Croom has been successful in turning around the program's loser attitude, and that plus a perennially strong defense seems to indicate that he does indeed have things pointed in the right direction.

9. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
Kind of crazy, certainly didn't navigate the off-the-field soap opera in Fayetteville as deftly as he could have over the past couple seasons, but still a guy for whom the tired "does more with less" cliché remains entirely accurate. A couple isolated lackluster seasons aside, he took Arkansas teams that rarely had access to the best overall talent pools out there, determined where the strengths of his players did lie, and made the most of their potential. It'll be interesting to see what he can accomplish at Ole Miss, where Ed Orgeron proved you can attract some top-tier players (even if Orgeron had absolutely no idea what to do with them once he had them).

8. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
I hesitated to rank him at all, since he has yet to coach a single game in the SEC, but he does have a good track record (at the college level, at least). Despite his success at Louisville, though, I can't rank him a lot higher than this simply because dominating the SEC is a much more daunting task than dominating the Big East or Conference USA. Becoming a powerhouse in the SEC is at best a medium-term project, and like a lot of people, I have absolutely no confidence that Petrino will stay at Arkansas long enough to see that through. I can grudgingly concede he's probably a step up from Houston Nutt on paper, but that aside, I just don't like the guy.

7. Phil Fulmer, Tennessee
Fulmer is better and smarter than a lot of people give him credit for, but the fact remains that his Vols haven't won an SEC title since 1998, nor have they accomplished much of note period without David Cutcliffe at the OC spot. I get the impression of him as an old-school, mule-stubborn guy who hasn't put much effort into adapting to a rapidly changing conference; that may change with Dave Clawson's new blood and spread-y offensive ideas, but we'll have to see.

6. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Version 2.0 (Florida edition) of Spurrier would be at the top of this list with a bullet and it wouldn't even be close. Version 3.0, however, the South Carolina version, is stuck square in the middle of the pack. Maybe I'm biased against the Evil Genius, but I get this impression of him that he thought coaching up the Gamecocks was going to be a lot easier than it turned out to be, and he's getting pretty annoyed that it isn't. When he first took the Carolina job, I thought that if nothing else he'd be able to break through the mindset of mediocrity that had plagued the Gamecock program for the vast majority of its history, yet it seems like that's the one major thing he hasn't done in three years in the Palmetto State. I mean, when you've got a 6-1, seventh-ranked team that finds a way to lose to Vanderbilt at home and collapse to a bowl-less .500 finish, what more needs to be said about the mentality of the program? And why hasn't Spurrier -- who once upon a time turned Duke into a conference champion, for crying out loud -- had more success in improving it?

5. Nick Saban, Alabama
Yes, he turned LSU back into a dominant, national-title-winning force, but as Steve Spurrier's ranking probably indicated, each coach's performance at his current school is far more heavily weighted than whatever he did previously. And I'm sorry, no SEC coach, not even if they're at Vandy, should be losing to UL-Monroe at home. Like Spurrier, Saban seems to have run into more trouble than he anticipated in changing the attitude of a promising but underachieving program -- with as much talent as Alabama's got, there's no excuse for losing to ULM other than laziness and lack of focus -- and if Alabama's off-the-field issues during the offseason are any indication, he may still be having trouble getting through to certain members of the team. Still, I'm a lot more confident in Saban's ability to ultimately effect a permanent change in that regard than I would be with most of the other guys on this list. A lot of it just depends on how much patience the notoriously finicky Bama fan base will give him -- and how much patience Saban, who's developed a reputation for career ADD that almost rivals Bobby Petrino's, will give himself in Tuscaloosa.

4. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn
Another guy on whom I disagree with Kyle King, who says Tubs "is the most underrated coach in the league"; I say he's one of the most overrated. I mean, he's hardly a bad coach, but let's see what his nine years on the Plains have produced: one SEC title, two division titles, and a single BCS bowl. He's notched some pretty amazing upsets, but for each one of those there's also a head-slapper of a loss that should never have happened, and many of those losses have been enough to bounce the Tigers out of the SEC West lead so that a team like LSU or even Arkansas can take their place. Doesn't seem to foster a lot of consistency with coordinators, either, which may be part of the problem. Good coach, the kind of guy under whom Auburn will never stumble to something like 6-6 or worse, but he's hardly reinvented the wheel, and he's another one of those guys for whom there seems to be a sort of "ceiling" (outside of the somewhat anomalous '04 season) to his success. That said, he's done a spectacular job of building good relations with the fans in the wake of 2003's Planegate -- of course, you beat Alabama six years in a row and you've made your job pretty easy in that regard -- and while his team is still hardly a bunch of choir boys, Tuberville has succeeded in ensuring that the program no longer bears the radioactive glow of scandal that followed it around during the Dye and Bowden eras.

3. Les Miles, LSU
Crazy as a shithouse rat? No doubt. Occasionally prone to the types of WTF losses I just dinged Tommy Tuberville for having? Sure. But the fact remains that, in a year when Miles's LSU program should've began a nosedive had all those "He's only doing it with Saban's players" doubters been correct, he managed to go out and win a national title anyway. Yes, he did it in a freaky-deaky season that allowed a two-loss team to bring home the crystal football for the first time in history, but consider that in the SEC of 2007, Miles had way more opportunities than just Kentucky and Arkansas to piss away the Bayou Bengals' national-title hopes. Faced with mind-blowingly intense circumstances and razor-thin margins for error in games against teams like Florida, Auburn, and Alabama, Miles never got ruffled, he just dialed up another ballsy play call and motivated the team to do what it had to do. And maybe that happened mainly because Miles was too stupid to get ruffled, but if that's what stupidity gets you, then I dare say you could bottle it and sell it to 90 percent of the programs in Division I-A.

2. Urban Meyer, Florida
So what excuse do I have for bumping a national-title-winning coach down to the #2 spot when the one guy above him quite conspicuously doesn't have one? None, other than the fact that I think the guy's an asshole. OK, no, that's really not fair. It's hard to quantify, but I guess I'd have to say I see some creeping instability when I look at his team -- i.e. one year they have an inconsistent offense and a national-title-caliber defense, they next year they score a bajillion points a game but can't stop anybody; one week they're eviscerating Tennessee by 39 points, the next week they're having to survive Ole Miss, the week after that they're losing to Auburn at home; and the fact that the entire offense hinges so completely on one guy. And the referring-to-oneself-in-the-third-person thing doesn't help, either. No doubt, the guy can coach his balls off -- and he's certainly proven the naysayers wrong by making his spread offense work like gangbusters in the SEC (though as we've seen, it's still no substitute for a killer D). Still, with the game on the line against one of the biggest opponents of the season, what I'd really want on my sideline is the levelheadedness and smooth operating of . . .

1. Mark Richt, Georgia
Seventy-two wins, two SEC titles, and three BCS appearances in seven seasons -- out of what has obviously been the toughest conference in the country during that span: Yes, the guy can coach. But as good a field general as Richt has been, it's the way he's progressed in areas outside Xs and Os that make me feel truly blessed to have him as the top Dawg. He's learned new skills as a motivator and leader of young men, even after seven years on the job; he's been able to maintain valuable continuity on the coaching staff, and made shrewd decisions in the rare instances when he's had to make a new hire; and he continues to set a good example in his personal life for players and fans alike. I can honestly say I wouldn't trade him for a single other coach on this list, and if that makes me a homer, so be it.