Tag Archives: SEC Fooball

Overconfidence Killed the Cards

As one of my favorite Youtubers Spencer Owen would say, “That was a misery compiler!”  UofL once again came out and disappointed us against a subpar team who the Cardinals should have easily dispatched.  Blame who you want, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss and that goes for the whole team.

With losses now to two unranked teams (thanks, Memphis), Louisville will surely plummet out of the top 15 and possibly out of the top 20.  A team that started with so much promise and college football playoff hopes just a mere two weeks ago is now just another above average team. Where did it all go wrong?

First off I’d like to give Kentucky the credit they deserve. The Wildcats had every right to just accept the idea that losing this game was inevitable, but instead they came out guns blazing and took it to the UofL defense.

Last week I said we would have to watch out for the dangerous rushing attack of UK, and though they did rack up 243 rushing yards, no individual broke 100 yards on the day so that was a win for the defensive line. Unfortunately the secondary decided they didn’t want play football and gave up a whopping 338 yards on 16-27 passing from Stephen Johnson, who just last week against Austin Peay went 5-9 for 101 yards.  Now one of the three bombs he threw for touchdowns was undoubtedly luck with Lamarques Thomas pulling up with a hamstring injury. This injury freed up Garret Johnson for a pitch and catch touchdown, but like they say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Then, at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the game tied at 31, Dorian Baker should have been called for offensive pass interference  but instead made a spectacular grab to take a seven point lead in the fourth.  But these are just 14 of the 41 points that the Wildcats scored against the UofL defense.

The real culprit as to why the Cardinals lost this game are the Cardinals themselves.  The big difference in this game was turnovers. UK finished with two and UofL had four, including a costly fumble by Lamar Jackson that eventually lost the Cardinals the game.  And even though Lamar did throw for 281 and had 171 yards rushing, he had three interceptions to add to his costly fumble.

Jackson will still win the Heisman but this was definitely a game he will want to forget.  But not all the blame can be put on Jackson, once again we saw a Cards offensive line that couldn’t keep pressure off the quarterback, though only allowing 1.5 sacks they disrupted the rhythm of Jackson and forced him to run more than he would’ve liked.  And though Jackson did fumble and give Kentucky the last possession of the game, that possession started at their own 10 with 1:48 left in the game. Austin MacGinnis did have to kick a 47-yard field goal to win, that’s still no excuse for why the Louisville defense couldn’t get a stop on 3rd down and let Kentucky drive down the field and get into field goal range.

These last two weeks are a lot like saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”  Houston fooled the Cards when they came out with more tenacity and never let the Cards in the game.

With UK the Cards have no one to blame but themselves, they knew it was a rivalry and still they just couldn’t get the job done. Petrino has some thinking to do to get this team sorted out before its bowl game.

 

Photo: Wikimedia

Saban-Harbaugh Satellite Camp Debate Fueling Big Ten-SEC Rivalry

Jim Harbaugh has proved he is willing to think outside of the box when it comes to recruiting and getting the best talent to become Wolverines.

Whether it’s sleepovers with top recruits, satellite camps, or signing day parties featuring some of UM’s most successful athletes, Harbaugh has done things in the recruiting world that have never before been implemented.

However, none of Harbaugh’s recruiting tactics have caused waves across the college football world like the recently reinstated satellite camps.

Since Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor, we’ve seen verbal spats between Harbaugh and SEC coaches regarding whether allowing satellite camps to exist was the best idea for the game.

Nick Saban is one of the SEC coaches that has been opposed to these type of camps from day one, saying consistently that satellite camps are bad for the game.

At one point last offseason, SEC schools were banned from participating in satellite camps while Big Ten schools were permitted, so naturally this caused friction between the two conferences.

Earlier this week, Nick Saban went on a classic Saban rant while being questioned about Satellite camps, and the effect they have on college football, and more specifically his Alabama Crimson Tide.

Harbaugh responded to Saban’s comments in a way we’ve become all to familiar with, via tweet.

Both coaches have their stance, and neither seem prepared to back down on their stance anytime soon.For Harbaugh, it is giving him the opportunity to recruit nationally, showing his face to kids who may never get a chance to see it otherwise. It gives an opportunity, and for some kids that one opportunity is all they need to prove their worth. As much as Harbaugh preaches satellite camps giving kids an opportunity, Saban is right, it is simply all about recruiting and getting the Michigan brand out their nationally, not just in the midwest.

Saban argued that high schools are benefiting from using the name of schools such as Michigan and Alabama in order to draw more kids to their camps and make more money. In my opinion, this is exactly right. High schools do benefit from having powerhouse programs host satellite camps in order to promote their camps to the public.

Where I differ from Saban, however, is seeing this as an issue for Alabama or any other institution. Yes, the high schools are benefitting from using the college’s name, but the college program is also benefitting by having access to kids it may never have seen before. It is a win-win situation for both.

On Wednesday, June 1, Michigan held a satellite camp on rival turf. Springfield High School in Springfield, Ohio, less than 50 miles from Columbus, hosted Harbaugh and staff Wednesday evening. Being a Springfield Alum myself, I was lucky enough to attend.

Current Arkansas and former Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema brought up the thought of a Big Ten/SEC challenge. Who wouldn’t mind seeing these two coaching giants face off in that scenario?

SEC Football: It’s Good to be the King

If you’re a college sports fan, and you know you are, then you’ve undoubtedly been pulled into the football versus basketball argument which revolves around two questions:

Is your school a football school or a basketball school?

Is your school’s conference a football conference or basketball conference?

Personally speaking, I consider my school to be a football school and my school’s conference to be a football conference. My program of choice is the Missouri Tigers and their conference is obviously the SEC.  Yes, Damien Bowman, we know all about geography and the Mason-Dixon Line and all of that stuff, but Mizzou is in the SEC. Trust me.

The reasons for Missouri being a football school and the SEC being a football conference are simple. For starters, Missouri couldn’t be worse on the basketball court. The football team may have faltered in 2015, but make no mistake about it; Missouri is all about football at the moment. And as for the conference, well, nobody would pin the reputation of the SEC on its basketball programs. In terms of both athletic and financial performance, the SEC is king of the football world.

Not only do I consider Missouri and the SEC football entities first and foremost, but I extend that bias to everyone’s school and conference of choice. Everyone’s school and conference should be driven by football. Like I said, it is a bias, but we all have a few and it’s easier to just admit it and move along in the conversation.

I respect schools whose primary money makers are top tier basketball teams and I do respect conferences whose positive reputations have been built upon the basketball court. But I have been transparent about my bias that football is king.

The 2015-2016 bowl season was a lucrative one for the SEC. Not only was Alabama a participant in the College Football Playoff, but Ole Miss also played in a New Year’s Six bowl game. When the payout from those high profile games was combined with the $51 million base payment for being a Power 5 conference, the total revenue created during the bowl season was roughly $63 million. Oh, and that isn’t even accounting for the $40 million the SEC receives just for playing in the Sugar Bowl nor does it account for the revenue brought in by the remaining 8 bowl games the conference had representatives in. Those are a lot of dollar signs.

College basketball is finishing up March Madness and the 2016 basketball post season has been good to the ACC. Teams from the ACC comprised half of the Elite Eight and, since you can do math, you know that means that the ACC makes up half of the Final Four.

Just as success in football creates a jolt to the bank account, so does success in basketball. The success of this year’s ACC basketball teams has created a record revenue stream for the conference. It’s not north of $63 million, but it’s still a nice total.

The ACC is clearly a basketball conference, at least based on the current success of its basketball teams and the SEC is clearly a football conference based on its compounding bank account. Being considered either a football conference or basketball conference is fine since either one will bring notoriety and a healthy paycheck.

But if the full picture is considered, football is king. And it’s good to be the king.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

 

*Featured image courtesy of youtube.com

Missouri Tigers Drink Jumbos – kansas jayhawks Sip from Shot Glasses

Do you want to know what attribute makes a college football program a PROGRAM? Going to a BCS bowl game. At least that is what makes a program a PROGRAM in the collective mind of the kansas jayhawk (they don’t deserve to be capitalized) football fan base.

On what seems like a daily basis, some ku yahoo hops on twitter to preach about the virtues of the ku football program being superior to Missouri’s football program. And do you want to know what their argument revolves around? That’s right, the 2007 BCS Orange Bowl appearance that ku bought…I mean, earned.

For starters, Missouri has been to a total of 4 Orange Bowls in the history of their program while ku has been to a total 3. In the mind of ku fans, the only one that matters is the 2007 one because that Orange Bowl has “BCS” next to it. Let’s talk about that 2007 season.

Both ku and MU had fantastic seasons in 2007. Missouri went 12-2 and ku went 12-1. With the Big 12 North title on the line, Missouri beat ku 36-28. Not only that, but this victory vaulted Missouri to the number 1 ranking and earned them a trip to the conference championship game. A trip to the national championship was on the line when Missouri ultimately lost to Oklahoma in that conference championship game.

We need a quick recap: Missouri was ranked number 1 in the country and was a game away from the national championship game. Buuuut……ku fans believe not only that their team had the superior season, but also that they have the better overall football program historically, based on “BCS.”

GIVE. ME. A. BREAK.

Let’s go to the mattresses on this one.

kansas had a great season, but that does not trump the historical comparative numbers between the jayhawks and Tigers. ku’s all time bowl record is 6-6. Missouri’s all time bowl record is 15-16. Yes, that is correct, Missouri has won more bowl games than ku has been to in the history of the jayhawk program. In the history of their program, ku football is 30 games below .500 while Missouri is 129 games above .500.

Since their program-defining BCS bowl game, you know, the one that was going to vault them to national prominence, ku has a 25% winning percentage and that includes a completely win-less 2015 season. Missouri, on the other hand, has won 65% of their games since 2007. You remember that 2007 season. It was the one that made Missouri football irrelevant in the mind of jayhawks everywhere.

Since 2007, ku has used up 4 head coaches. They may still be paying most, if not all of them. Missouri is getting ready to hire their second head coach and it’s only because Gary Pinkel chose to retire after winning 118 games. I’ll take wins. jayhawks can have their oranges.

But ku fans everywhere believe Missouri fans should bow their head in shame when comparing football programs.

Do you want to know what else came out of that 2007 season for Missouri? National respectability. Yes, Lew Perkins bought an Orange Bowl appearance for ku, but Mike Alden negotiated something even better. Alden negotiated the Tigers out of the Big 12 and into the SEC. Without 2007, I don’t believe that happens.

David Beaty appears to be a solid coach for ku.  In Beaty’s team I see  one that is well coached. The problem is that ku is about 20 scholarships short and lacks any semblance of talent. I believe Beaty even made a comment after arriving at ku that the program looked like it was coming off of probation. To make matters worse, Beaty had to go door-to-door handing out free tickets to ku home games.

But to the ku fans, this doesn’t matter. They just continue to carpe orange.

I don’t care who Missouri hires to replace Gary Pinkel- they will not go winless next season. They won’t go winless in a far superior conference because the Tigers have the better program. Missouri could scrape the bottom of the juicer and hire David Beaty, and Beaty wouldn’t go win-less at Missouri next season.

Go ahead ku, continue to sip from your shot glass of orange juice. Missouri is content being more than just a sip of juice. Gary Pinkel and Mike Alden poured the Tigers a jumbo.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

Photo: Elisha Cook Jr/Flickr

Eagles impressive in Loss to Mississippi State!

Southern Miss(C-USA-West) will take Saturday’s night 34-16 loss to Mississippi State (SEC-West) as a Big Step in the right direction. If a team on Saturday put their first foot forward in the 2015 season, USM gets the nudge. Straight out of Southern Miss playbook was a few sandbox plays that all were a success including an on side’s kick. Most MSU fans thought this game would be a slaughter and had not given to much Credit to Southern Miss or even to the University as a whole. Saturday night Southern Miss gave now 25th ranked Ms. State all they could handle and all they wanted. It was obvious in the second half that MSU opened up their playbook to keep the offense of Southern Miss off the field and the ball in State QB Dak Presscott. Turning point of the game was likely the Goal Line Stand that kept USM out of the endzone.

“Hats off to Todd (Monken) and his staff and you can see what they are trying to do here. Great crowd and environment tonight and I think it is great to play in this in state rivalry. If the people stayed up to watch, I think they got to see a pretty good ballgame.” Said Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen after the win. “The Goal line stand was a huge lift for our Defense and a turning point in the game.” USM Head Coach Monken said “I don’t know if it turned then because it was still 14-10 at halftime. Does it sting? Sure it does. I knew I was going to be aggressive tonight. We weren’t going to hold any bullets back. It is disappointing. I don’t regret it. We are going to look back at it as a staff. It is part of what we do. That is what we get paid to do, make those calls. We didn’t get in. We have to go back and figure out how to do it better. We get down to the one inch line, we are not kicking it. We are going to figure out a way to get it in.”

Junior QB Nick Mullens had just completed one of his 30 passes on a WR throwback to QB play to get the Eagles down to the three yard line and first and goal. USM opted to go four straight times and the heart of the Bulldog defense and couldn’t budge the bullies back. MSU dug in on fourth and goal with everyone thinking that the Eagles may do something different but in the end it was a dive play and stuffed again was USM. How in the world do you not score from first and goal. State was so clogged in the middle with 9 guys in the box that anything outside would have gotten a score. The 100 yard Kick-off return for a TD and a blocked punt (really the kicker just punted it straight into the defender) that gave MSU their first 14 points but certainly you have to score.

Mullens finished the game with an eye opening 311 yards and one TD against the MSU secondary. Mullens did play a little too conservative in some spots and has got to learn to get out of the pocket quicker. But for the most part the QB played a very solid ballgame. “He made some really good throws under duress and we will have to work more on third down plays.” Said Monken. Fans were also pleased for the most part with Mullins but did wonder where TCU transfer Tyler Matthews was hanging out and not playing. Simply put that Mullens did not do anything to lose his role as a starter.

Overall Southern Miss is vastly improved from the past three seasons and will most definitely win some games and possibly make a run at the C-USA West Title. The Eagles played awfully hard from the opening kickoff the the end of the fourth quarter. Hats off to everyone that works for Southern Miss because the campus was Amazing and it was the place to be for a College Football game. The series is over with MSU but there is no Doubt that if you were at the game this past Saturday you saw one great game no matter who you were pulling for to win. It was great for the State of Mississippi and great for both Universites. There is no since for Ole Miss and Mississippi State to go out of State to play other Non-Conference teams when you have Southern Miss in your backyard. It was really good to see USM’s campus with some visitors other than former students at a Football game. A record crowd of over 36,000 witnessed a game that had everything from a Kickoff Return, blocked punt, trick plays, on sides kicks, fumbles and goal line stands.

Next up for Southern Miss is Austin Peay in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is set for 2:30 Saturday at” The Rock”.

Pac-12 Notebook: Devils Dealing with Defeat

Week one is in the books and if you’re attached to the Sun Devil football program in any way you had a rough weekend. The much anticipated match-up between Arizona State and Texas A&M went the way of the Aggies on Saturday night to the dismay of Sun Devil fans, coaches, and anybody who roots for the Devils.

The Sun Devils came into the game as a team that could take down a similar team to them from the SEC, but the Aggies were the ones who made the plays when needed and didn’t make as many critical mistakes, and as a result, they were the ones who came out victorious 38-17 in Houston, Texas.

What went wrong for the Devils? During his Monday press conference Head Coach Todd Graham seemed to point the finger at break downs in the coaching of his players. He did not like the play of the special teams which gave up two huge returns for touchdowns from Phoenix native Christian Kirk, but pointed out the deficiencies in special teams coverage is a coaching mistake and that it can be corrected.

“We underachieved in the punt game. That’s coaching though. We need to have the best guys out there. We didn’t have the best guys out there during special teams.” Coach Graham stated.

Yeah. That would be a good move to make sure that their best guys are out there, and by that I mean the guys who should be out there during those special team moments. Coach Graham is right when he says it’s a coaching mistake. He talked about his players trying to be in the right spot, but they went to the exact opposite spot on special teams allowing the big returns for touchdowns with Christian Kirk.

During the press conference Coach Graham was upbeat and talking about how the team was remaining positive and seeing that their team goals were still right in front of them. Something echoed by quarterback Mike Bercovici.

“We’re excited for next Saturday. Coach Graham is keeping our heads up and keeping us positive despite the loss on Saturday.” Bercovici said.

When asked about the absence of running back Kalen Ballage and how that affected things with the offense. Ballage who flew back to Phoenix before the game due to contracting mono was a big missing piece for the Devils and Coach Graham wasn’t happy about sending him back to Phoenix.

“That is something that I can’t control and I have to do what is best for the team and the player in those type of situations.” Graham added.

Not having Ballage available for the offense was a big loss. Anytime you lose a player that is 6’2’, 225lbs and can run like a deer it’s a loss that is hard to overcome. The return for Kalen Ballage to the team is about 10-14 days, but it’s hard to tell with mono. With Kalen out, they had to play guys in spots where they may not have been ready and that can hurt a team’s offensive flow.

“Kalen is a huge part of what we do offensively, especially on special teams.” Graham added when asked about how Ballage’s absence affected rotations on the team.

“He’ll return when he’s 100% and our doctors say he is healthy.” Coach Graham said.

With the “coach” speak going on between Coach Graham and quarterback Mike Bercovici to the media on Monday, there is a certain amount of spin happening, so that the Devil fans don’t lose their faith after just one game.

“I have a lot of confidence in what we are doing. The sky is not falling. We will rise again.” Graham added as he left the podium.

I do have confidence in Coach Graham to keep the players heads up and to keep thinking positive. To think that this is the end of the Sun Devils dreams for the 2015 season would be a bit premature at this point. The Devils next two games are against inferior competition and they should be coming out of the first three games 2-1.

What the Devils need to worry about is the next two games after that. USC at home on September 26 and an away game at UCLA the following week. Kalen Ballage needs to be back by then to give the Devils as much firepower as needed against the upper echelon of the Pac-12 South.

Somehow they need to get D.J. Foster more involved in the offense. Against Texas A&M he seemed a bit out of sorts. He has switched to being a receiver, but earlier in the summer Coach Graham said he would see plenty of touches as a running back. Well coach, where was it on Saturday night? Foster is a difference maker for the offense and opens things up for other players like Mike Bercovici. The quarterback knows how valuable D.J. is and the type of pressure he puts on opposing defenses.

When asked about the importance of D.J. Foster to the offense, Mike Bercovici stated, “D.J can make a meal out of a crumb.”

That is true. I’m positive that OC Mike Norvell knows that and will do whatever he needs to do to make sure that Foster is more involved next Saturday night against Cal-Poly.

At the end of the day, the Devils know that they did not perform to the best of their ability against the Aggies. The team can spin the negative any way they want, but there are things that need to be addressed and fixed. Special teams play, creating offensive flow, and making sure Bercovici gets the ball out quicker to create “tempo” for the Sun Devils. As I stated earlier, the next two opponents will probably allow the Devils to do just that.

Don’t lose faith Sun Devil fans. Get your Forks Up next Saturday night and enjoy the 2015 ride.

Pac-12 vs SEC: The Ongoing Debate

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West Coast against the South or is it the other way around? Is this even a question to fans in the South? Somebody is as good as the SEC? Could it be that the mighty SEC not be as good as they once where? That real possibility exists these days in major college football and the debate is sometimes contentious, sometimes fun, but it is certainly entertaining.

To put it mildly, this is a debate that has become a big part of the college football conversation. What has happened to cause this? Well, the Pac-12 has become a power in college football. The coaching has become much better, they are paying their coaches as well as any other conference, and that means they are paying their coaches like the SEC does. When you can attract top notch coaches to your conference you can attract top notch talent, and that is exactly what has happened.  However, let’s take a look at the numbers and see how they compare.

After the 2014 season, including the bowl season it was obvious to everybody which conference played the best and maybe made the statement as to who is the top Power 5 Conference in the country. The bowl season was great to the Pac-12. They finished the post season 6-3, while the mighty SEC finished a very disappointing 2-5 in the bowls, including 0-4 in the New Year’s Six bowl games. If people want to talk about match ups, whatever, because if you are THAT good as a conference you beat anybody that lines up across from you. Not only did the Pac-12 have the better record than the SEC, they scored eight more points per game than there opposition during the bowls. Oregon, Stanford, and Utah won their games by 24 points. Arizona State, USC, and UCLA won close games. With the final polls, the Pac-12 finished with six teams ranked in the top 25.

In college football, and football in general if you have a quarterback that is steady, consistent and can make plays, you can win more often than not. In the Pac-12 they have had the benefit of having some phenomenal quarterbacks. However, that should not come as a surprise because if you compare the style of play in each conference, quarterbacks are going to thrive more in the wide open style on the West Coast.  Quarterbacks like Sean Mannion, Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck, Brett Hundley, Mike Bercovici, Anu Solomon, Cody Kessler, Connor Halliday, and Kevin Hogan are just a few that have been taking snaps for Pac-12 teams the past few years. When you have that much talent just at one position you put your conference in a spot where they are going to win a ton of games and bring the profile up of the conference. These quarterbacks have done just that for the Pac-12. It’s a quarterbacks league out here in the West and high school talent has recognized that.

This argument between the fans of both conferences is entertaining to listen to, but me being a West Coast guy and recognizing that the SEC is a conference of teams to be reckoned with it’s a discussion that will continue to heat up as the Pac-12 continues to show that they are worthy of it. I simply believe that from top to bottom the Pac-12 is the best conference. You have Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Utah, Oregon, Stanford, Washington, and don’t sleep on California this year either that can line up against any of those SEC teams and either beat them or give them all they can handle. The SEC just doesn’t show up anymore and intimidate teams. Ask Alabama about Ohio State or Auburn about Wisconsin. You may get some interesting thoughts there from the coaches, players, and fans.

How can we settle this argument once and for all? The obvious answer is by playing each other more often than what the norm as been. Traveling west of Texas for a lot of the SEC is not something that they do to many times. The last time an SEC team came out West was 2013 when Tennessee visited Oregon. However, things are starting to change this year as Arizona State travels to Texas A&M, but compelling match ups are coming in the years to follow. Alabama/USC, LSU/UCLA, Arizona/Mississippi State, LSU/Arizona State, UCLA/LSU, and Georgia/UCLA are coming down the pipeline for college football fans.

I will say this. Some of these match ups don’t happen for 5-8 years which is a crying shame, but it certainly gives us something to talk about in the years to come. I’ve always thought the scheduling for games shouldn’t go so far out in years. To me there is no reason for it. Go like 2-3 years out, and if something comes along that needs changing, then you can change it and get a match up that’ll bring fans to the stadium. Just a thought.  As a fan and writer of college football, I’ll talk any match up that we can get between the two conferences. Beggars can’t be choosers right? With all these match ups coming, here are a few that many fans still clamor for.

The big one would be Alabama against Oregon. These two fan bases have been “quacking” at each other for a few years now and the different style of offenses would be fun to watch. A power offense against the no huddle, spread offense.

Stanford against Auburn would be fun. Auburn has scheduled California for a future home and home, so just go down the road 45 minutes and play the Cardinal. The match up would be great to watch between David Shaw and Gus Malzahn.

Utah against Missouri would be a match up of two teams that don’t get as much credit or respect as maybe they should. Even though these two teams have had some very good success in the past few seasons, they still continue to fight for respect, so to see them battle it out would be phenomenal.

At the end of the day, what do we know? We know that both the Pac-12 and SEC are the two top conferences in the country. Are we splitting hairs trying to figure out who is the best conference? Probably, but it’s so much fun. For me, it’s the Pac-12, they have the talent on the sidelines, the talent on the field, and with their winning in the post season to show me that by a slight margin it’s the Pac-12 who should be atop the mountain in the Power 5 Conferences. Will there be disagreement with this? Yes, but that is what makes college football what it is today. Back the Pac!

Leave a comment below, e-mail Mike at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @pigskinopinion.

The College Quickie: Getting Sober, Rehab, One Day At A Time

GETTING SOBER

That’s the harsh reality for many fan bases as this incredulous 2014 college football season moves into the home stretch. Didn’t it seem like just yesterday that we were drunk with enthusiasm, passion and hope? Visions of a place in the new College Football Playoff danced in our heads. Now reality, like a stern judge banging his gavel, has set in and it’s time to look to bowl games and 2015 to find that, sometimes elusive and flirtatious, silver lining.

Stay with me Georgia, UCLA, South Carolina, Oklahoma and yes, my fellow Auburnites. SIGH, we were once highly ranked and oh so pretty on paper. You can now wad up that piece of paper, throw it in the trash and tear off a new sheet from your legal pads. It’s time to start drawing up plans for next year.

Hope doth spring eternal.

National Signing Day is just around the corner.

Spring practice will follow shortly.

Hoorah!!!

REHABScreen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.09.47 PM

Now, as they shake the hangover from drinking the highly spiked Kool-Aid, where do the teams’ fans listed above go for some reflection? Where does the arduous rehabilitation process begin? How can they get better?

First you have to admit you have a problem.

Let’s take it one team at a time, beginning with the team with the highest preseason ranking and moving down. We will use the AP poll.

Oklahoma

The Sooners came into the season ranked #4. They now find themselves at #16. I had them picked as a playoff team as did MANY others. Problem? Is it Big Game Bob? Do they need a breath of fresh air? Could Stoops revitalize TWO programs by stepping down in Norman and relocating to Gainesville? Lincoln?

AuburnScreen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.00.25 PM

Oh mercy. Down from #6 to #21. OUCH!!! Just a mere three weeks ago my Tigers had just returned from Oxford with a scintillating 35-31 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels. They were #3 in the College Football Playoff Poll. The next game was against struggling Texas A&M. Piece of cake, right? WRONG! The Tigers proceeded to lose their remaining SEC games. Problem? Well, they admitted they had one and fired DC Ellis Johnson. Now the recovery process continues by hiring a strong replacement. Muschamp? Pelini?

South Carolina

Preseason #9. Today, unranked with a 6-6 record and bowl prospects in Birmingham or Shreveport. OUCH #2!!! Did they really beat Georgia? Oh well, we now know that the Head Ball Coach will return to the sidelines in Columbia. What will the ole rascal do to invigorate the Gamecocks? Problem? Defense? D was a huge reason for their shortcomings. Do I hear an echoooooo… Muschamp? Pelini?

UCLA

From #7 to #17. Not as big a drop as those mentioned before them. But it was a large disappointment to lose to Stanford and miss out on the PAC-12 Championship Game. Problem? Well, maybe they only lose a few games every year much like someone in denial only has a few drinks with dinner. Wink. Could Jim Mora Jr. confront them? It remains that he was/is one of the hottest names in FBS coaching circles. “Should he stay or should he go..” to (fire up the echo machine again) Gainesville? Lincoln?

Georgia

Okay, so the Bulldogs only fell from #12 to #15 but the hand wringing, whining and howling continues in Athens; especially after the defeat at the hands of hated rival, Georgia Tech. Between the Hedges no less. They are the perennial bridesmaids. “Mark Richt is a great guy. He’s such a good Christian man. I really like Mark Richt. He’s a class act.” We hear these mantras over and over, year after year. Problem? And I quote Bill Shanks of the Macon Telegraph, “I don’t care what Richt does on Sunday. Saturday is the concern.” And so, who organizes the intervention here?

Game DayONE DAY AT A TIME

That is how one gets sober and stays sober. That is also how one builds a football program. One day at a time. One day at a time on the practice field. One day at a time repeating the fundamentals. One day at a time in the weight room. One day at a time on the recruiting trail.

You get up. You show up. You practice, plan and, yes, pray.

You do all of these things over and over and over until you think you can’t do them any more and you… practice, plan and pray… again and again and again.

That is football.

That, my friends, is also life.

So, as we continue to move forward into this holiday season, let’s look back and give thanks for a wonderful, magical and amazing college football season. (No, I am not channeling my inner Drew Barrymore)

And then look forward to Advent.Notre Dame football is here to stay...whether you like it or not

Advent is defined as, “The arrival of a notable person, thing or event.”

Could that be the shiny, new College Football Playoff?

Auburn: Past, Present and Future

Auburn's future. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson.
Auburn’s future. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

THE PAST

This week in Auburn Football History:

The first football game ever played on November 19th was versus Georgia in 1932, Auburn 14, Georgia 7. The game was played in Columbus, GA. The Tigers went 9-0-1 that year and were Southern Conference Champions.The next year Auburn would join the newly formed Southeastern Conference.

In 1960 Auburn trounced the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 57-21. Ed Dyas kicked his 13th field goal of the season which broke his own national season and career records. But, unfortunately, he was tackled into a bench on the sidelines later in the game and sustained facial fractures. Auburn finished 8-2, ranked 13th in the AP poll and 14th in the UPI.

On 11/19/2005 the Auburn Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide. The final score was 28-18 but did not reflect the dominance the Tigers displayed on that sunny afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle was sacked 11 times prompting bumper stickers urging motorists to “Honk If You Sacked Brodie.”

The last time Auburn played a game on 11/19 was three years ago in 2011. They overcame a spirited Samford team, 35-16. The Bulldogs were coached by Auburn’s first Heisman trophy winner, Pat Sullivan. That bring’s us back to…

THE PRESENT

Auburn (7-3) vs. Samford (7-3). Pat Sullivan remains the head coach at the Baptist school located in Homewood, AL. He heads the list of total wins in a career for a Samford coach with 47. More on Coach Sullivan shortly. First a few, quick notable takes on Samford past.

In 1841 the institution was founded in Marion, AL as Howard College. It is a private school affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention. It was named in honor of John Howard who was noted for his work in prison reform in England.

In 1895 women were first admitted to Howard College.

Bobby Bowden played quarterback at Howard from 1949-1952. Bowden was named offensive coordinator there in 1954 and he went on to become the head coach of the Bulldogs from 1959-1962. Bowden compiled a sterling record of 31-6 during his tenure.

Bowden’s son, Terry, was the head coach at Samford from 1987-1992. He was also quite successful there. He won 45 games while losing 23. One game ended in a tie. Most of us know what occurred with this Coach Bowden in 1993; he took over as the head coach at Auburn where he put together a 47-17-1 record. His .731 winning percentage remains first in Auburn Football history.

Current Florida State head coach, Jimbo Fisher, played quarterback for Terry Bowden at Samford in 1987. He was named Division III national player of the year.

Now back to Pat Sullivan. I have been following Auburn Football very, very closely for the past 54 years. My favorite players, through the years, include Bobby Hunt, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Terry Beasley, Terry Henley, Phil Gargis, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Dameyune Craig, Rudi Johnson and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. Also near the top of that list would be former Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.

I have followed and loved, lived and died with these and a host of other Tiger greats throughout these five plus decades. But the player at the very top of that list of favorites is Patrick Joseph Sullivan.

Pat Sullivan is the epitome of an Auburn man.

In his career, 1968-1972, as varsity quarterback on The Plains he led Auburn to regular season records of 8-2, 8-2 and 9-1. These years included 49-26 and 33-28 wins over cross-state rival Alabama. The 49-26 win over the Tide in 1969 is the most points EVER scored on a Bear Bryant coached team.

In 1968 Sullivan brought the Tiger freshman back from a 27-0 deficit to defeat the Crimson Tide frosh, 36-27.

In the 33-28 victory over Bama in 1970, Super Sully, as he was fondly known, brought Auburn back after trailing 17-0 in the first half. The game, played at Birmingham’s Legion Field, was the first win that I ever witnessed over the Tide. Coach Bryant said that the only thing Sullivan didn’t do that day was sell hot dogs and take up tickets. He was masterful on that beautiful Saturday afternoon.

I can still hear Gary Sanders, the voice of the Auburn Tigers during the Sullivan years, on the small, white Philco radio we were glued to on autumn Saturdays… “At quarterback number 7, Pat Sullivan, a 6 foot 190 pound sophomore form John Carroll High School in Birmingham.”

The biggest victory, to this point, in Pat Sullivan’s life did not occur on the football field.

In September of 2003 Sullivan was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw and tongue. This resulted from years of smokeless tobacco use. It was grave. He was given less than a 50% chance of survival. It was the toughest battle he ever fought. He was found clear of cancer cells in April of 2004 but the disease took a tremendous toll on Sullivan’s body.

God bless Pat Sullivan.

Sullivan will bring his Bulldogs to play Auburn’s Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday in a 6 PM CST kickoff. I shudder at the sound of that Samford mascot nickname after last week’s drubbing ‘between the hedges’ in Athens, GA. Auburn will not be drubbed Saturday. They will win decisively. I will be pulling for Auburn to win. I will also be pulling for Coach Sullivan. It will be an emotional night for him and for those of us who love him dearly.

THE FUTURE

What does the future hold for Auburn?

When this weekend’s clash is said and done their record will stand at 8-3. They will move up from their current position of 14th in the College Football Playoff poll if someone above them loses. The way things are going here in 2014, that should happen.

Then, on November 29th, they will face the team ranked number one in that poll. The Tigers will face off with the Alabama Crimson Tide, in Bryant-Denny Stadium, that evening at 6:45 PM CST. If Auburn were to upset Bama they would vault in the polls and in the minds of college football fans everywhere.

A win in these next two games would make the Tigers 9-3. That would then conclude a very good regular season and a spot in a prestigious bowl game. That would be a great building block toward 2015 and beyond.

We shall see.

The Long Walk

Last week I encouraged Kentucky fans to dream and boldly dream big. I felt like the fan base had several good reasons to dream. Our young team was flying high after a surprising 5-1 start. The national media was saying that Kentucky was a dark horse to win the SEC East. In fact, some media pundits said the Wildcats could pull off a win at Tiger Stadium against a struggling LSU team. From the opening kickoff in Death Valley the Big Blue Nation saw our dreams become a proverbial and literal nightmare.
A failed trick play on the opening kickoff was made worse by penalties on the ensuing drive that gave the Tigers prime field position without breaking a sweat. Of course, they crossed the goal line and dared the boys in blue to play catch up. When Kentucky’s vaunted offense took the field with an opportunity to answer LSU’s young and talented defense easily dispatched the Wildcat formation that previous opponents labored to stop. By this point a familiar feeling was creeping into the back of my mind, my beloved Cats were going to get whipped.
The sense of foreboding I felt in the first quarter became prophetic. LSU’s never ending supply of physical tailbacks took advantage of UK’s weakness against the run for a handsome sum of 323 yards. Even worse Kentucky’s special teams gave up a punt return for a touchdown and failed to recover a kick that led to an LSU field goal before the half. Self-inflicted wounds such as receivers missing easy passes and the team speed of the Bayou Bengal defense stifled UK’s offense all night long. With the 41-3 lose the dreams of the early season gave way to a harsh and sobering dose of reality for the Big Blue Nation.
Now that the shine is off what do we know about this Kentucky Wildcat football team? Well, the defense definitely is suspect when it comes to defending the run against physical backs. The offense easily stalls when it does not hit the big play and may be too reliant on trickery. Kickoff coverage reared its head as a potential problem as well. When one looks at the upcoming schedule the issues I mentioned above are very troubling.
Mississippi State, this coming Saturday’s, opponent boasts not only a physical tailback but a punishing runner at quarterback in Dak Prescott. The Bulldog defense has also been able to hold high powered offenses such as Auburn and Texas A & M in check. The Athens, Georgia branch of the bulldog family also promises to bring a bevy of physical backs and a stout defense to Commonwealth Stadium in two weeks. At the end of the season Kentucky will face archrival Louisville who also brings a dominating defense to the game. Throw in two tough road games at Missouri and Tennessee the young Wildcats are facing a long walk to a potential bowl bid that looked like a cinch before the beat down on the bayou.
No one will shame Kentucky if they fall to the difficult slate of challengers they face in the second half of the season. A few noble efforts would take the sting out of a potential six game slide to end the year. Also, a number ranked basketball team also helps to heal the wounds of a potentially disappointing football season. And, like I mentioned last week Kentucky fans are used to futility on the football field. Still, despite the long odds one things remains that, in my opinion, which will make this a season to celebrate.
Going back to last season the current crop of Cats don’t seem to know the idea of the word quit. This season has seen much of the same. Already the team has overcome three fourteen point ten point deficits. Even when momentum was against them in Death Valley Kentucky went blow for blow with a physical LSU team in the first half. The will to win and physical toughness will take an underdog team many places, including a bowl game and a winning season. The road to that is a long road but one I believe that this team has the fortitude to do.