Thursday, December 31, 2009

Play "Free Bird"! And they do.

Nothing says "beat Northwestern" quite like a Lynyrd Skynyrd medley on the beach. (It starts around the 1-minute mark.) Happy new year, War Damn Eagle band.

Among those interested in Texas Tech job ...

... is one Tommy Tuberville. Click here to read more.

SEC can't hold a candle to Big 12 ...

... when it comes to coaches being great copy (and video). Let's review:

Mike Leach, gone from Texas Tech.
Mark Mangino, gone from Kansas.
Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy: "I'm a man!" 

We'll let Leach have the last word:

Attention recruitniks

Here are the rosters for Saturday's Offense-Defense Bowl in Myrtle Beach, along with where the players are heading. And SI's Andy Staples tells the story of a Mississippi kid who's not getting much love from big-time programs. Plays QB. Last name Favre.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meanwhile, in Kentucky ...

Coach Rich Brooks says he's 80% out the door, though AD Mitch Barnhart said Tuesday night he wants Brooks to stay. If Brooks does leave, Joker Phillips would take over as just the second black head coach in SEC history.

Here's a little background on Phillips, and here's SI's Pat Forde on how "this may be the winter when college football drags itself out of the plantation era and finally joins the 21st century."

And while Kentucky football will probably always be the red-headed stepchild to Wildcat basketball (sound familiar, ACC fans?), it's worth noting that the football program is on solid ground: 4 straight bowl games and, since 2006, wins over Georgia (twice), Arkansas (twice), LSU and Auburn. -- RTR

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When quitting is not an option . . .

Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price, a Chapel Hill grad, delves deeply into Urban Meyer's psyche and finds more than a cyst. He finds a man torn by obligations and a desire to succeed that goes far beyond mere drive. Read more.


On stress: Saban prefers his day job

How does Nick Saban handle the pressure of being a big-time football coach? He says he has no choice.

He and one of his players also say nice things about Urban Meyer. Read on.

Billy Cannon on Tim Tebow

The folks down at the Times-Picayune have plenty on their plate right about now, not just with the Sugar Bowl game itself, but with all the Urban Meyer intrigue and Tim Tebow's last hurrah (not to mention the Who Dats in fine fettle). They asked a bunch of people from the college football world to weigh in on Tebow. Here's one that stood out -- it's not about his character or his religion or his legacy, it's just about the guy as a football player. It comes from LSU's own Billy Cannon.

"I can say this without fail: Inside the 20-yard line, he has the greatest knack for getting into the end zone through physical ability since Paul Hornung, and I saw some of the great ones between Paul and Tim."

Click here for that and other hosannas. Nearby you'll also find Tebow's 10 defining moments (all 11 of them). -- RTR

Monday, December 28, 2009

Change of heart, change of life

Urban Meyer's about face has been out for 18 hours, but this is still the best thing I've found on the Florida coach's personal dilemma: doing the thing that he loves more than life in a life-changing way.

The comments of his wife and father are quite illuminating, especially the former. Meyer announced Saturday he needs to spend more time with his family. Yet his wife and kids were among the last to know of his change of heart.

Meyer's old man is right: Change is hard, particularly changing the very things that brought approval from a demanding father, and fame and riches from an insatiable public. The coach may find that to be a far more confounding task than winning the SEC East.

Your thoughts?


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Florida's shifting sands . .

Is it . . .

Bob Stoops?

Chris Peterson?

Jon Gruden?

Kyle Whittingham?

Will Muschamp?

Dan Mullen?

Bill Cowher?

Which way will Florida turn to replace Urban Meyer? It won't aim low. Like Alabama, the school has made its 'loyal-assistant" mistake. It won't Ron Zook-it again. So don't look for Charlie Strong to turn the moving van around, or Dan Mullen to bolt Starkville.

Florida needs a big name like Stoops or Peterson or Gruden to rally a shell-shocked fan base, hold together one of the country's best recruiting classes, and successfully launch Gator Nation into the uncertainty of a Post-Tebow World.

Three weeks ago, the Gators had surged to the cusp of a third national championship in four years. Then they lost badly to Alabama. They said goodbye to a century player and team. Now their century coach follows them out the door.

There was something about Meyer's demeanor as the enormity of the Alabama loss bore down that clearly indicated he was struggling terribly with failure. By the end, he looked drained, shrunken. Meyer was hospitalized after the game. Sports Illustrated had earlier revealed the cyst on his brain. At 45, he's walking away from the sport that defined and consumed him, walking away, perhaps, while he still can.

We wish him well. And once again we're reminded that there's very little in life firmly set in stone. Three weeks ago, Meyer was at the controls of college football's burgeoning dynasty. Now, in a manner of days, the team has lost its greatest player and perhaps its greatest coach.

Seldom have the sands shifted so quickly and taken so much.

Michael Gordon

Urban Meyer leaving as Florida coach

It's all developing as we speak. He's resigning for health reasons. Orlando Sentinel has it covered here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"A game that the Longhorns may very well steal"

Sports Illustrated scribe Austin Murphy talks up Texas' chances against Alabama. Story here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Forbes' pick for most valuable SEC program: Guess who?

We'll start with a few hints:

SEC champion. 24-game regular-season winning streak. Heisman Trophy winner.

Am I boring you yet?

All these accomplishments apparently have monetary as well as intrinsic value. Or so says Forbes, which picks Alabama as the most valuable college football program in the SEC.

Texas takes the top prize, and their balance sheet is something straight off a "Dallas" rerun.

Money, however, doesn't bring you happiness. Too often, it brings you Albert Means.

And the last time I looked, the Longhorns and all their bucks were decided underdogs Jan. 7.

In other words: All hat, no cattle.

No crown, either. RTR.

-- Michael Gordon

(P.S., the SEC teams listed are: Alabama, 5th; Florida, 6th; LSU, 7th; Georgia, 9th; South Carolina, 12th; Tennessee, 13th; Auburn, 14th; and Arkansas, 17th.)

Another definition of team speed

Everybody knows Florida is fast. But this fast?

The Expats are confident all accounts will be paid in full before the NFL exodus of alligators begins, exactly one minute after the end of the Sugar Bowl.

Just goes to show, Urban really does recruit speed(ers).


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Colin Cowherd on why the SEC is best

For starters, according to ESPN's morning radio host, we have the most passion, the best players and coaches, the best TV contract . . .

This we all know. But this morning, Cowherd also pointed to the SEC's bowl lineup.

Three weeks ago, Oregon State played for the PAC 10 championship and lost a riveting game to rival Oregon. Three weeks ago, defending national champion Florida fell to Alabama in the SEC Championship. That game wasn't close.

Yet compare the consolation prizes. Florida goes to a mammoth payout in the Sugar Bowl. Oregon State? They ended up in Las Vegas, playing in a 41,000-seat stadium, in miserable conditions, against BYU from the Mountain West. The Beavers lost their pelts.

Check out the comparative bowl trips for the rest of the PAC 10 vs. the SEC. The Left Coast crew should be embarrassed. The SEC takes care of its schools far better.

Cowherd, a Left Coast guy, put it this way. It's like inviting a girl out to a five-star restaurant and at the last minute not being able to get in. The SEC picks up the phone and immediately lands a great table in a four-star place. The PAC 10 tells its date: "Want to walk across the street to Der Wiener Schnitzel?"

So add this to the SEC's superiority: We really know how to treat our women.

Michael Gordon

Recruiting violation at ... Vandy?

Yep. It happened during the wooing of junior college QB Jordan Rodgers, who signed Monday with the Commodores. (He's the brother of Green Bay QB Aaron). Go here to find out more.

In light of this transgression, perhaps we should amend our earlier statement -- "Never let it be said that the Expats have it in for the state of Tennessee." 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A blink of an eye, a entirely different football season

What might have changed if one second hadn't been put pack on the clock. Think about it: one second, about the time it takes to mash here.

Michael Gordon

Monday, December 21, 2009

Follow the money

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" has started a big series about problems with the NCAA, a topic with much fertile ground to cover. It's worth the time to go root around in the whole thing, but here's the red meat for SEC football fans: Salary and incentive numbers for SEC coaches and assistants. Is your school overpaying enough? Time to find out!

-- Tommy Tomlinson

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Think what the team GPA would be if they didn't sell their books!

Here's a little compensatory information concerning the University of Alabama's decision to cancel three days of classes so students can attend the BCS Championship in Pasadena next month.

Turns out the Tide's academic performance rates almost as highly as its gridiron's. Mash here.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Let the record show . . .

. . . that fairness is the SEC Expats' middle name. With that in mind, the SEC F. Expats are happy to provide further context on Tennessee's continuing daytime drama of recruiting violations.

Two things we learn:
2. Blondes do have more fun (or get caught by camera in the act more often.)
3. Juwan James, the Atlanta suburban kid who decommitted from Alabama in part, he says, out of fear of the NCAA whip in the textbook scandal, sure knows how to pick his schools.


In the Matter of Alabama v. Texas et al.

By now you've heard the story of the Alabama lawyers seeking a continuance of a court case because it would conflict with their attending and/or enjoying the Jan. 7 championship game.

Quotes from the proceedings:

"... the fact such an event only comes infrequently during a person's lifetime and is an achievement of such a magnitude that all involved in this litigation should want everyone to fully participate in this achievement." -- attorney Jon B. Terry, for the defendants.

"Simply stated, some things are more important than football." -- attorney Rip Andrews, for the plaintiff.

"If I didn't, they'd say, 'He just didn't grant it because he's an Auburn fellow.' I wouldn't do that to them." -- Circuit Judge Dan King, indicating he will allow the delay.

"The Crimson Tide will soldier on just fine without eight extra lawyers getting hammered in the Rose Bowl parking lot." -- Deadspin.

"Texas can't hope to match the football fanaticism of a state where 'Roll Tide' constitutes a principle of law as sacred as habeas corpus." -- The American Spectator.

That was the decade that was

Various sites are looking back at the Aughts, or Naughts, or whatever it is you call the years since 2000. SI's Stewart Mandel calls Tebow and Meyer the player and coach of the decade (go here for that). And the blog Team Speed Kills takes us back to the days of Mike Price, Ron Zook, etc.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

BMOC: Booster Money On Campus

"The Longhorns ... have what is, hands down, the nation's biggest, wealthiest and most eccentric collection of college football boosters."

Full story here from The Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

" . . . It's a simple game. You throw the ball . . ."

Wonder why the SEC is so good? Check out the Associated Press' All-American team. Almost half of the players are from our schools. Alabama's six first-teamers are an all-time record.

Yes, the conference has become a shark tank of great coaches. Yes, we have the biggest television contract, the best TV slots, the prettiest girls, the best stadiums. But if you're making lists, have a peek at every credible recruiting ranking from the last three years. Florida, Alabama, LSU and Georgia will be among the Top 10. This year, Tennessee and Auburn have joined them.

So, yes, it is a simple game. Get great coaches who attract great players, then turn them loose on the world.

For the record: The Big 12 had 7 on the AP team. That gave them and the SEC 19 of the 25
spots. The national championship game between Texas and Alabama will feature 9.

Among those also receiving votes . . .
The ACC: 2.
The Big 10: 1.
The PAC 12: 1.

The remaining spots went to Notre Dame (where great recruiting classes leave to join the priesthood), Idaho and TCU.

The SEC breakdown:

Mark Ingram, running back.
Mike Johnson, guard.
Leigh Tiffin, kicker.
Terrence Cody, tackle.
Rolando McClain, linebacker.
Javier Arenas, cornerback.
Aaron Hernandez, tight end.
Joe Haden, cornerback.
South Carolina:
Eric Norwood, linebacker.
Eric Berry, safety.
Drew Butler, punter. (They have a outstanding long snappah, too.)


For a change: A conspiracy not involving Tennessee . . .

Remember all the talk about Alabama's schedule actually being tougher than its No. 2 ranking (behind Miss. State, Mr. Roberts) because so many of its biggest opponents didn't play the week before?

Turns out the Bama fans smelling big, fat institutional rodents were right. Next year, Alabama will play six teams coming off byes. Since 2007, they will have played 16 of those games. The next highest number for an SEC opponent? 5 for LSU.

Sort of challenges the premise that Alabama was ever irrelevant. Even when we stunk, teams sure seemed to want an extra week to prepare.

The SEC has promised adjustments. Mash here for details from the Tuscaloosa News.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fast Eddie, the pride of LSU

Comes the news that a new biography of Edwin Edwards -- former Louisiana governor, current federal prisoner and LSU Law School grad, class of 1949 -- is flying off the shelves down there. (Click here to order yours.) In reading up on it, I found this little gem from the book "The Saints, The Superdome and the Scandal" by Dave Dixon. This has to do with the Edwards-David Duke gubernatorial runoff in 1991:

Out of my own pocket, I paid for the following message, booked via our ad agency, at half a dozen north and central Louisiana TV stations, markets where Edwards needed help the most. "I'm Dave Dixon. I want to tell it to you just the way it is. It's goodbye LSU Tigers or it's goodbye David Duke. Take your choice. If David Duke is sitting in the governor's mansion, how can we recruit the best football talent in America to come to LSU? Take your choice: LSU Tigers or David Duke.'

Thirty days later Edwin Edwards came into our office on Royal Street to show me a Mason-Dixon poll. "Here I am thirty days ago, actually a little bit behind this clown. Today we're 250,000 votes to the good, and we're going to win by 350,000 votes on Election Day." He actually won by 384,000 after trailing at the beginning of the runoff. "You know what all of this tells me?" he questioned. Dutifully I asked "What?" Edwards continued, "This tells me that 250,000 Bubbas, Rednecks and ex-Ku Kluxers have suddenly decided that they like LSU football a whole lot more than they dislike blacks."

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Just a friendly little bet between friends

In this case, the picture DOES say it all.

Click here for the story from WVUA.

Monday, December 14, 2009

So, anything happen over the weekend?

An Alabama player won the Heisman. No, really. And here I thought they only won national championships. Still, Mark Ingram was as deserving as any of the other candidates (though I would have voted for the kid from Stanford). I thought his most impressive moment came against South Carolina, when the Tide was nursing a 13-6 lead with 8 minutes left and the ball on their own 32: six straight rushes, 68 yards, touchdown. -- R. Trentham Roberts

And speaking of Johnny Musso (before M. Gordon gets a chance to) ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Young lady, if you don't stop doing that, we've got a problem."

More details on hostesses and a deepening investigation of Vol recruiting. Sources in this New York Times story paint a picture of Orange Pride, the gracious and super friendly group of really nice Tennessee co-eds, as "aggressive and well-organized."

One father of a recruit said there was much touching between the women and the recruits -- and in his case, the dad -- and that the girls reduced the high school players "to blubbering idiots."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Numbers are in for SEC on CBS

And they show the network had its highest ratings since college football returned to CBS in 1996. The 4.4 rating was up 29% from last year. (Ratings represent the percentage of all households with TVs tuned into a program.) The title game between Alabama and Florida had an 11.1 rating -- and in Birmingham, that number was 50.2. (Sources: CNN, Florida Times-Union.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Playoff talk for real this time? (another update)

"With all due respect, I really think we have more important things to spend our time on."

-- Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., who on Wednesday voted against a measure that would do away with the BCS set-up.

And from the other side of the aisle, here's what Rep. Lee Terry, a Republican from Nebraska, had to say about his support of the bill:

"Do I think there are problems and corruption based on money in this system? That was clear on Saturday night."

Full story here and here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Catching up with "Big Cat Weekend"

Never let it be said that the Expats have it in for Tennessee -- between the coach's words and the players' actions this year, they've been way too much fun to hate on. Anyway, we were reminded that we had been remiss in not talking about the fallout from Auburn's "Big Cat Weekend" -- 6 assistants were reprimanded and the program had to stop recruiting 6 players for 6 weeks. (6 ... 6 ... 6 ... just sayin'.) You can read all about it here and here.  (As it happens, one of those players was Marcus Lattimore, who was quoted in the story about the UT investigation. Not sure what to make of that particular recruiting karma.) -- RTR

A prize recruit sums it all up

"You don't want to go where they ain't pretty."

-- Marcus Lattimore of Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., referring to the influence of Tennessee's recruiting hostesses. The NCAA is investigating UT about it; full N.Y. Times story here. (Meanwhile, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal says the running back has narrowed his choices to South Carolina, Auburn, Penn State, Oregon and Georgia; story here.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Bama-Texas: A short history

1902: Texas 10, 'Bama 0.
1915: Texas 20, 'Bama 0.
1922: Texas 19, 'Bama 10.
1948: Texas 27, 'Bama 7 (Sugar Bowl).
1960: Texas 3, 'Bama 3 (Bluebonnet Bowl).
1965: Texas 21, 'Bama 17 (Orange Bowl).
1973: Texas 17, 'Bama 13 (Cotton Bowl).
1982: Texas 14, 'Bama 12 (Cotton Bowl).

January 1, 1965: Joe Namath's last college game.
Alabama still wins national championship -- last polls came out before the bowls.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A few post-games . . .

The answers to the Gainesville Sun's 5 key questions.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bowl games

* Alabama-Texas in BCS title game in Pasadena.
* Arkansas-East Carolina in Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
* Auburn-Northwestern in Outback Bowl in Tampa.
* Florida-Cincinnati in Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
* Georgia-Texas A&M in Independence Bowl in Shreveport.
* Kentucky-Clemson in Music City Bowl in Nashville.
* LSU-Penn State in Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
* Ole Miss-Oklahoma State in Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
* South Carolina-UConn in Bowl in Birmingham.
* Tennessee-Virginia Tech in Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

... and the SEC-against-the-world bowl breakdown ...

Big 12: 3
Big 10: 2
Big East: 2
ACC: 2
Conference USA: 1

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Well, my stars . . .

32-13. Roll Tide

Michael Gordon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Title game picks, plus "The Blind Side"

Before we get to the current Game of the Century, a few words about "The Blind Side" -- and what it teaches about the SEC.

I finally saw the movie Thursday night, and it ain't "Chinatown" but it's a lot better than I had hoped. (I'm assuming we're among friends here and I don't have to explain the story of Michael Oher.) If you've read Michael Lewis' book, you'll notice that the movie is fairly faithful; the one big exception was a made-up scene where Oher cleans house with a drug dealer and his thugs. Sandra Bullock was just fine, although as a blonde in high dudgeon, she started to look distressingly like Dennis Quaid in "Great Balls of Fire."

But here's the important part. As you've probably heard, several SEC coaches play themselves in the scenes where Oher was being recruited (I think this would be 2003 or '04). Here's the coaches and their schools:

Nick Saban, LSU
Tommy Tuberville, Auburn
Lou Holtz, South Carolina
Phil Fulmer, Tennessee
Houston Nutt, Arkansas
Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss

What's interesting about that list? None of those coaches are at those schools anymore. Tuberville, Holtz and Fulmer are out of the business; Saban's at Bama; Nutt's at Ole Miss; and Orgeron is off somewhere trying to communicate with his home planet.

The point: Enjoy your coaches now, Gators and Tide. Nothing is forever.

I want to pick Alabama in this game, and if I was in Vegas, I'd bet them with the spread. They're better on the ground, have more playmakers on defense, and Saban will have them boiling with desire after losing last year. But you know what? As much as it kills me to say it ... I believe in the Tebow. I think the Tebow will do what he has to. Short of a concussion or broken bone, he's not losing this game. Florida, 26-24.

-- Tommy Tomlinson

Note to Tommy, Quaid's the blond who burns pianos and wears more eyeliner. I hope that helps.

On the other hand, I want to pick Florida. Best all-around team. Great bunch of leaders. Funky offense that seems almost impossible to prepare for in a week, and, of course, there is HE WHO CANNOT GO UNNAMED.

But you know what, I'm tired of selling my own team short. Both teams will be playing their best opponents by far. Florida is certainly the favorite. But they'll earn every yard, and this year they fall a few yards short. Tide, 21-20.

-- Michael Gordon

There's been so many times when what was predicted to be an "epic defensive struggle" turns into a shootout. This time, UA ends up one big play bigger than UF. Alabama 38, Florida 31.

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Danielson: "Florida and Alabama saved college football this year."

Perhaps the most controversial -- I say the best -- analyst in college football adds his thoughts to the pregame chatter.

Gary Danielson has a to-do list for both teams IF they hope to reach the national championship game next month.


Defining the decade

The name ring a bell, Auburn fans?
It's where everything began to unravel in 2003.

The folks over at the Dr. Saturday blog posted their top players of the '00s the other day. Go here for the list. (Hint: Tim Tebow is NOT No. 1 ... yet.)

This follows their earlier best-ofs, in the categories of Teams, Sleepers, Plays, Games, Villains, Innovations, Scandals* and Upsets. Go here to start reading those highlights.

* Special order of demerit goes to the SEC in this category, which has just 4 entries. Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn are 3 of them.

-- RTR

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Five reasons the Gators will win, and five reasons they won't

Five reasons Florida wins:

1. They are the best balanced team in the country.

Nobody does more things well. They run the ball. They throw the ball. They catch the ball. They defend the run, they defend the pass. They cover kicks, they cover punts, and with Brandon James they are a special-teams threat at all times. We didn't mention that their cheerleaders are cute and their coach has good hair. We will if we need to.

2. They show well in big games.
Say what you want about every team being different, Florida is a program that's accustomed to winning. Granted, there is no Percy Harvin. There will be no Carlos Dunlap. And maybe Tim Tebow has been slightly off form since he got kicked in the head. But Florida owns the country's longest winning streak, and it was sewn together with scalps from the country's strongest conference. 'Nuff said.

3. Florida's offense, for one game, is almost impossible to defend.
If the SEC championship were best two out of three, maybe this would be different. But the task of controlling the Gators' spread/veer is too much to ask even from Alabama. Too much speed, too many variations, too well executed. Mt. Cody will look like a mountain, as the Florida backs and receivers speed right around him. Too many Alabama players must make the right decisions on too many plays to keep the Gators in check. And even if they do, Tebow ain't shabby at improvisation.

4. As good as they are, Florida is underrated in two key positions.
The Florida defensive backfield is the best in the country -- big enough to stop the run, fast enough to shut down passing games. That ability will give Gator lineman, even without the suspended Dunlap, time to pressure Greg McElroy. If Mac can't throw, Alabama won't be able to run. On the other side of the ball, Florida has the most quietly efficient passing game in the country. Short or long, Tebow seems to make his best throws in big games, even though he winds up like Mariano Rivera. Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez have proven to be almost unguardable, and if it's near them, they catch it.

5. Tebow.
The best college football player and leader of my lifetime.

Five reasons Alabama wins:

1. They're the underdog.
As Dawg Tomlinson puts it, this hasn't been a great year for the Overdogs. Tiger gets caught on the back 9 of the PGA, Tebow gets bonked, Tiger really gets caught . . . In last year's classic, Alabama led Florida well into the fourth quarter, until they were Tebowed on back to back drives. They've had a year to measure themselves against that performance. More importantly, Nick Saban has had a full year to brood and scheme. And would it surprise anyone if he asked his former boss Bill, as in Belichick, to drop by and watch some film?

2. Alabama has improved.
The defense is better. The offense has more playmakers. The quarterback has a better feel for the entire field. In Javier Arenas and Rolando McClain, Alabama has two of the best defensive players anywhere. Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch are the best backfield threesome in college football, and Julio Jones is healthy again. Spencer Tillman of CBS says the Tide will control Florida's receivers, forcing Tebow to run. When you know he's coming he's a little easier to defend, meaning he's a lot easier to hit. If that happens, it will be Alabama controlling the fourth quarter, not the defending champs.

3. Florida is not as good as everyone thinks.
Sure, Florida has virtually everybody back from their BCS title team, but some of the magic is missing. Brandon Spikes has been beat up or suspended; Percy Harvin left an enormous hole; Tebow may still be seeing stars that have nothing to do with heavenly beings; Dunlap is still asleep on his wheel. When you compare the common opponents, Alabama carries a decided edge in margin of victory. Florida struggled against physical teams. Alabama beat LSU, South Carolina, Va. Tech and Ole Miss to their knees. In their two closest games, the Tide blocked kicks against Tennessee and drove the length of the field against Auburn. This Gator edition also struggled against also-rans Arkansas and Miss. State, two teams Alabama annihilated. Which Florida team will show up? This is no time for Gator schizophrenia.

4. Alabama learned from last year.
The Tide will stay better balanced on offense this year. Like Florida, they can run and throw. But last year's game turned in the fourth quarter when the Tide got pass happy. This year, they will run and throw more effectively. Last year, they kicked too many field goals when they got close to the Gator goal line. This year, they'll push through to the other side. One other thing: The Florida offense, though amazingly effective, won't seem so doggone new.

5. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending.
The Disney ones do, but check out the really old stuff. All sorts of horrible things happen, sort of like in life. Tebow has been a miracle of nature and character. But this year he will learn to deal with major disappointment. In the future, that will make him a better person. For the immediate, Alabama has the better team.

-- Michael Gordon

Quote of the day

"It will be a real interesting matchup. Florida has better players, and Alabama has better coaches, so we'll see."

-- UT's Lane Kiffin (you were expecting somebody else?)
Story here.

Spencer Tillman's pick and why

A better Alabama secondary and a lesser Florida pass rush are among the reasons CBS commentator Spencer Tillman picks the Tide in Saturday's SEC Championship rematch with Florida.

While rightfully gushing about Tim Tebow, he says the Gator QB faces a much better Alabama defense, particular in Bama's cover guys. Another reason: Alabama coach Nick Saban has been thinking about the rematch for an entire year.

Tillman also says the suspension of Carlos Dunlop makes it far easier for Tide quarterback Greg McElroy to use the pass to set up the run.

The resident Bama Skeptic says we'll see. I can't remember a game where the teams appear so balanced, and where the individual battles between receivers and defensive backs, linebackers against backfields, and lines against lines could turn the game one way or the other.

In the meantime, enjoy, then join in . . .
Michael Gordon

We're talking big money

Jeremy Fowler of The Orlando Sentinel looks at the numbers and says the SEC is worth more than any other team or brand in the country: nearly $4 billion.

Click here for the story.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bowl games start to take shape

Various media are reporting that these matchups are either set or soon will be. (Take with the requisite grain of salt.)

* Arkansas vs. East Carolina-Houston winner in Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
* Auburn vs. Wisconsin in Outback Bowl in Tampa.
* Georgia vs. Iowa State or Texas A&M in Independence Bowl in Shreveport.
* Kentucky vs. Miami or UNC in Music City Bowl in Nashville.
* Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State in Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
* LSU vs. Penn State or Iowa in Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
* South Carolina vs. UConn-South Florida winner in Bowl in Birmingham.
* Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech in Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Dunlap, Gators' best defensive lineman, out after DWI arrest

This just out of Gainesville: Carlos Dunlap, last year's defensive MVP of the Gators' national championship game, won't be playing Saturday against Alabama in the SEC Championship after his early morning DWI arrest.

The North Charleston native, the sack leader for his top-ranked team, was found asleep at the wheel of his car this morning, as the engine ran and the traffic signal went from red to green, red to green and back again.

Coach Urban Meyer made the announcement in the last hour. Read more, courtesy of the Gainesville Sun.

Michael Gordon

Spurrier in line for contract extension

USC president Harris Pastides and AD Eric Hyman want to extend the Ol' Ball Coach's contract through the end of the 2013 season. Click here for the full story from The (Columbia) State.