Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A good read

Click here for a fine story by Slate's Josh Levin on Tim Tebow, head trauma and the culture of football.

A word of advice to our ACC brethren

Don't even think of it.

Don't waste your brain cells and our time with any extended crowing IF Georgia Tech beats Mississippi State this weekend.

Predictably, some genius named Anonymous will take keyboard in hand and declare to the world that the gap between the SEC and ACC is much narrower than the fans of the former would like to admit.

Here's what we will admit:

1. Tech should win.
2. The teams hang from different rungs on their conference ladders. Mississippi State is at the bottom of the SEC. Tech, on the other hand, will participate in the ACC's annual scrum to see who plays in the country's worst conference championship game. Given the SEC's superiority, don't be surprised if the Bulldogs keep it close.
3. For a more informative comparison of the two leagues, let's turn to Alabama-Va. Tech. Tech, apparently the ACC's best team once again, was a couple of special team plays from being run out of the Georgia Dome. N.C. State did even less with South Carolina.
4. The ACC is already home to the season's most embarrassing loss -- William & Mary won't do, Virginia -- AND the most embarrassing win -- Florida State over JSU (that would be Jacksonville (Ala.) State University). Bobby Bowden's resume was further adorned by Saturday's thumping from South Florida.
5. Just when you thought Miami would become the first ACC football team in almost a decade to grab a chair on the national stage . . . poof!
6. ACC schools have also lost to Middle Tennessee and Richmond and have been scared silly by a subpar App State squad. Bowden won't leave. Al Groh and Ralph Friedgen won't be staying.

Now the good news. Tech, whose pummeling of North Carolina raised serious questions about Butch Davis' restoration project in Chapel Hill, should knock MSU around come Saturday.

If they don't, the floor disappears under an ACC season that's been sliding off its foundation from the start.
-- Michael Gordon

P.S. from RTR -- All defenders of the ACC would be wise to heed the words of Tallahassee (could there be a better name at a better moment?) in the new movie "Zombieland" ... "It's time to nut up or shut up."

Best pregame speech. Ever.

October 14, 1922: Vanderbilt opens its newly built Dudley Field by hosting mighty Michigan. Dan McGugin (above) is the head coach of the Commodores, who are a national power. (McGugin would end up with a record of 197-55-19.) McGugin gathers his team before the game and, referring to a nearby miliary burial ground, says ...

In that cemetery sleep your grandfathers ... and on that field are the grandsons of the damn Yankees who put them there.

(What McGugin did not say was that he himself was the son of a Union officer. Sadly, the exact quote seems to have been lost to time, but what you see above is close and makes for a pretty good telling.)

The game ended in a 0-0 tie. It was the only blemish on either team's record that year.
-- R. Trentham Roberts

SEC coaches: Any lifers out there?

Nine years in and going on 10, Georgia's Mark Richt is the dean of SEC coaches.  Here's the question: In this day and age of big money and bigger pressures, will we see any coaches stay for, say, 20 years or so?

Current coaches and their years on the job, along with each school's longest-tenured coach:

Georgia - Mark Richt, 9 years (Vince Dooley, 25 years)
Vanderbilt - Bobby Johnson, 8 (Dan McGugin, 30)
Kentucky - Rich Brooks, 7 (Fran Curci, 9)
Florida - Urban Meyer, 5 (Steve Spurrier, 12)
LSU - Les Miles, 5 (Charles McClendon, 18)
South Carolina - Steve Spurrier, 5 (Rex Enright, 15)
Alabama - Nick Saban, 3 (Bear Bryant, 25)
Arkansas - Bobby Petrino, 2 (Frank Broyles, 19)
Ole Miss - Houston Nutt, 2 (Johnny Vaught, 25)
Auburn - Gene Chizik, 1 (Shug Jordan, 25)
Mississippi State - Dan Mullen, 1 (Jackie Sherrill, 13)
Tennessee* - Lane Kiffin, 1 (Bob Neyland, 21)

* Note that Kiffin's two predecessors, Johnny Majors and Phil Fulmer, had the job for 16 and 17 years, respectively. If Kiffin manages a similar stint at the helm of the Volunteer Navy, that'll take him to the ripe old age of 50.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What We Learned -- Week 4

Tommy Tomlinson: Georgia 20, Arizona State 17 -- Yes, Julio Jones over at Alabama is a stud. But he's not the best WR in the SEC right now. He's not the best sophomore WR in the SEC right now. He's not even the best sophomore WR wearing no. 8 in the SEC right now. On Saturday against Arizona State, Georgia's A.J. Green caught a 56-yard touchdown pass, blocked a potentially game-winning Arizona State field goal, caught a 36-yard pass to get the Dawgs in field goal range, and mixed the sweet sweet Jack-and-Cokes of victory back at the dorm after UGA kicked the FG on the final play to win. (I'm not positive about that Jack-and-Cokes part. But that's what I would have done.)

If he washes the uniforms, mows the Sanford Stadium field and takes over the defensive play-calling, we've got a shot against LSU.

In other news, my condolences to Mr. Roberts and all other Mississippi State fans... but when you punt from midfield, you sort of deserve to have it run back for a TD. And Florida fans, don't worry about Tebow. He'll be good as new on the third day.

Peter St. Onge: Auburn 54, Ball State 30 - I'm not particularly worried that Ball State scored second-half touchdowns against an Auburn defense that included members of the scout team. I am concerned about what our offense will do when SEC defenses put eight men in the box, which our most recent opponents have tried, but have quality defensive backs to cover our receivers - which our most recent opponents have not had. My suspicion is that Gus Malzahn has unveiled only as much of his offense as he's had to. For Auburn's sake in October, that'd better be true.

Michael Gordon: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7 - Greg McElroy seems to be having more fun than any quarterback in the SEC right now. He looks like a freshly licensed 16-year-old who's been given the keys to the world's best family car. Plus, he's got the conference's best defense riding shotgun. That defense is a little less daunting with the loss of linebacker Dont'a Hightower, meaning some young member of Nick Saban's recruiting windfall could be pressed into service. The Tide's first two road games beckon at Kentucky and Ole Miss. Yet, this appears to be a team that will not be shaken by a little noise. Traps remain, and Tebow's eyes have yet to clear, but the conference again is shaping up as a two-team affair.

Oh . . . and then there's this:

R. Trentham Roberts: LSU 30, Mississippi State 26 -- Didn't see the game. Don't plan on looking up any video. Three cracks at 1 yard with zero results are about all the numbers I need. But can't help wondering if it means State is really heading in the right direction, or if LSU is going to be out of sorts all year long.

South Carolina 16, Ole Miss 10 -- Still hard to believe that South Carolina's three-man rush could give the Ole Miss offensive line such fits. To their credit, the ESPN crew (Chris Fowler, Craig James, Jesse Palmer) called the name of USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson early and often. But a weekend of "let's see what so-and-so has dialed up" is already making my ears bleed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Who ya got? (weekend edition)

Two things we know Houston Nutt excels out: Calling brunette TV reporters and laying in the weeds. He doesn't have much experience running at the front of the pack, and based on the Thursday night performance of his team, he's not much good at it.

For much of the night, the Ole Miss team played with the physicality of astral projections. By the time the actual players showed up, they had very little time to catch Carolina but just enough time for Nutt's playcalling to close the deal . . . for the Chickens.

'Nutt said.

Moving on . . . .

Michael Gordon

ARIZONA STATE at GEORGIA: Just how much has Georgia got left after the windsprints vs. Arkansas and Carolina? Enough for the likes of Arizona State, which is coming south after earth-shaking wins against Louisiana-Monroe and Idaho State. Y'all come back, y'hear. Georgia 42, ASU 28.

ARKANSAS at ALABAMA: Best offense that the Tide has seen this year rolls into Tuscaloosa. But this is the best defense Arkansas will see for years, and the Bama offense ain't bad either. Tide 40, Hawgs 24.

FLORIDA at KENTUCKY: Urban Manhood is not happy, and Florida, though mortalized last week by Tennessee, is still good enough to brighten their coach's mood. Gators 35, Kentucky 10.

OHIO at TENNESSEE: OK, so Tennessee ain't great. Ohio is just bad. Every Smokey has its day. Vols 35, Ohio, 3.

VANDERBILT at RICE: Maybe Vandy should just face facts, save its football money, and join the ACC. 'Dores, 17, Rice 14.

BALL STATE at AUBURN: No truth that the Aubies' real schedule begins around Halloween. In the meantime, the love affair with the new coaching staff gets to third base. Tigers 42, Ball State 3.

LSU at MISSISSIPPI STATE As unimpressive as LSU has been, it's unfathonable that they can't outscore the Bulldogs. LSU 28, MSU 7.

Tommy Tomlinson:

Arkansas at Alabama: Ryan Mallett is 6-7. He'll be about 6-2 after getting pounded into the turf all day. Tide, 38-10.

LSU at Mississippi State -- Last week's friskiness (we beat Vandy!) not enough for the Bulldogs this week. Tigers, 27-17.

Arizona State at UGA -- Possible trap game for Georgia -- LSU comes to Athens next week, and UGA handled Arizona State easily last year -- but Joe Cox is so happy to be playing that I can't imagine he'll let down. Dawgs, 33-14.

Kentucky at Florida -- Hell hath no fury like a Meyer scorned. Gators, 63-6.

Ball State at Auburn -- Making up for all those points they didn't score under Tony Franklin. War Damn Eagles, 45-10.

Ohio at Tennessee -- My guess is, the Ohio coach will blame the swine flu. Vols, 42-12.

Vanderbilt at Rice -- The Chicago Bears have FIVE players on their roster -- including four regulars -- who went to Vandy. I wouldn't lay the mortgage on the Bears making the Super Bowl this year. Rice, 24-21.

Peter St. Onge:

ARKANSAS at ALABAMA: Elite defenses smother very good offenses, most every time. A win so impressive for Alabama that Tiders count it as another national title on Sunday morning. Alabama 27, Arkansas 17.

ARIZONA STATE at GEORGIA: A writer for the Wall Street Journal, located in the college football hotbed of NYC, makes a statistical case that the PAC-10 is a better football conference than the SEC. Left unmentioned: The SEC plays and wins more bowl games each year, historically beats PAC-10 teams in bowls, and has won the last three national titles. And by the way: Georgia 38, ASU 24.

FLORIDA at KENTUCKY: NFL scouts increasingly skeptical about Tim Tebow's capacity to read defenses on Sunday. No worries on Saturdays yet. Florida 37, Kentucky 14.

OHIO at TENNESSEE: Tennessee charm offensive continues, this time from basketball coach Bruce Pearl. Thank goodness for Pat Summitt. Vols 34, Ohio 7.

VANDERBILT at RICE: Your close SEC game of the week. Rice = decent O, iffy D. Vandy = iffy all over. Rice 21, Vandy 20.

BALL STATE at AUBURN: Really, we won last week. Exhale. Tigers 49, Ball State 10.

LSU at MISSISSIPPI STATE: Do we really think LSU yawns its way through a third straight game under Les Miles? If it's close, it's not an effort issue. LSU 31, MSU 10.

LSU at Mississippi State

Here's all you need to know:

LSU has won nine straight against Mississippi State, including last year's 34-24 victory in Tiger Stadium. During that 9-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, LSU has outscored Mississippi State, 374-105.

This one will be ugly, too: LSU 33, Mississippi State 9

- Cliff Mehrtens

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Have a nice day

True story, just happened:

Stopped by the grocery store for gametime victuals. The cashier looked to be late 50s, early 60s. Something about her earrings caught my eye. Stared at one. Then the other. ROLL TIDE, they said.

"Alabama?" I asked. "I saw your earrings."

"Why, yes," she replied sweetly.

"I'm from Mississippi," I said.

"Ole Miss or Mississippi State?" she asked.

"State," I said. "Y'all always beat up on us."

And then I could have sworn I saw the kind of faint smile that said, "And we always will."

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Who ya got? (Ole Miss-South Carolina edition)

R. Trentham Roberts: Everybody finally gets a look at what Ole Miss is all about. Tough way to start SEC play for the Rebels -- short week, at Columbia, against a team with a much tougher schedule up to now. I know the Gamecocks will bring their game, I'm just wondering which game it will be -- the clampdown defense (a la N.C. State) or the hellzapoppin' points parade (see Georgia). Guessing it ends up somewhere in the middle. Ole Miss 21, South Carolina 20.

Tommy Tomlinson: You know Mr. Roberts created the post when it's the "Ole Miss-South Carolina edition" instead of the "South Carolina-Ole Miss edition." I want Ole Miss to be good -- it's always good for the SEC when one of the non-traditional powers makes a big run -- but fourth in the country? The fourth-best team in the country should be able to handle these Gamecocks with no problem. I think this is the game when the Rebels start to give off the whiff of fraud. USC 23, Ole Miss 17.

P.S. Point taken. Rebs couldn't breathe in that rarefied air -- rtr

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Poll watch: Results, not reputation

Maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea after all, ranking the SEC schools the way we did a couple of days ago.

Some of the folks who vote in the weekly AP poll also try to answer the "Who have you played/beaten?" question in casting their ballots.

This week's top 10 from Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Houston
4. Cincinnati
5. Florida
6. Boise State
7. Texas
8. LSU
9. California
10. Michigan

And this week's top 10 from Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News:
1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Texas
4. LSU
5. Florida
6. Virginia Tech
7. Houston
8. Cincinnati
9. Boise State
10. California

Click on The Quad link on the right to hear more from Lesmerises.
Wilner's blog is at

Line of the week (OK, the midweek)

We redshirt Miss Americas.

-- From the Ole Miss blog Red Cup Rebellion (link at right).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In the words of a sore loser

Strong-willed, pompous, loud-mouthed coaches are nothing new to the SEC. In fact, I think those are some of Steve Spurrier's most endearing qualities (besides being an offensive genius and an outstandingly successful coach at Florida). I have no comment on his performance thus far at South Carolina. I like to forget he's at another SEC school, and thankfully due to the team's performance under his tutelage thus far, that's not too hard to do. 

But Tennessee's Lane Kiffin is just a dufus in my opinion. He has been shooting off his mouth since day one (literally) without any achievements upon which to stand. He falsely accused Coach Meyer of a recruiting violation. He also promised to beat Florida his first year as the Volunteers' head coach. And after he failed, he once again took a shot at Florida and coach Urban Meyer.

After the 23-13 win over Tennessee, Meyer said several of his players had been hit by the flu. The next day, when asked whether he was worried about the flu hitting Tennessee, Kiffin said: "I don't know. I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick."

What a loser. 

The fact is, several Florida players were sick during Saturday's game. Meyer did not use it as an excuse for a poor performance. Florida WON. Sure, we didn't blow out Tennessee as we wanted to. But, WE WON. And Coach Meyer didn't even have to hire his daddy and other NFL lackeys to do it. 

Read the Associated Press article about Coach Kiffin's comments here.

- Bonnie Kunkel

Deciphering three weeks of football

Jess Nicholas, who provides the journalism for the site, offers his thoughts on what the season has taught us so far. Plenty of SEC stuff, but some national context as well.

Some highlights:
The winner of Florida/Alabama is in line to play Texas for the national championship.

Auburn's schedule will catch up with them.

Is the Pro set DOA?

The Hogs' QB makes Arkansas perhaps the conference's most-dangerous opponent.

Florida is not clicking; Alabama has been the more impressive team.

And Layne Kiffin may be Mike Shula's evil twin.

Enjoy and tell us what you think.
Michael Gordon

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Official* Expats SEC Power Poll

* As only this scribe sees it ...

The good folks at SEC Rivals (see the link on the right) have asked the Expats to join in their SEC Power Poll, ranking the teams each week from 1 through 12. Here's my list, submitted on behalf of, but lacking actual conversation with, fellow Expats. (I heard from them soon enough.) It's based in large part on the answers to two questions: "Yeah, but who have you played?" and "Yeah, but who have you BEAT?" By that measure, Florida should probably be fourth, not third. Oversight on my part. -- R. Trentham Roberts

1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Florida
4. Auburn
5. Georgia
6. Ole Miss
7. South Carolina
8. Arkansas
9. Kentucky
10. Tennessee
11. Mississippi State
12. Vanderbilt

What We Learned -- Week 3

The week that was: Florida-UT is surprisingly un-murderous, Auburn fans start to pop their collars, Georgia and Arkansas play pinball, Mississippi State shows some friskiness, and Kentucky wins the Bourbon Bowl. (SEC vs. The Rest of the Universe this year: 19-2.) What we learned:

Peter St. Onge: Auburn 41, West Virginia 30 - You know those games where you can't figure out how the final score shows you winning? Uh huh. But while everyone in Tiger nation is talking about heart and gut checks, this one was mostly about coaching. For the third straight game, Auburn put together a fine second half, but unlike La Tech and Mississippi State, the difference didn't come from superior athletes. West Virginia remained as quick and lethal in the third and fourth quarter as it did in that 290-yard first half, but Auburn's defense began surrounding instead of attacking the Mountaineer QB and RB - and contained those big plays. The offense? It took what the Mountaineers gave, then took something different when WVa adjusted.

Yes, Auburn is thin. Our QB makes at least two or three flag football, see-what-happens passes a game. But this from a Tommy Tuberville fan: We are very well-coached.

Michael Gordon: Alabama 53, North Texas 7 - With Arkansas coming to town this week, Big Boy SEC Football begins for the Tide. If Greg McElroy stays at his current level, it won't matter. Since the second half of the Va. Tech opener, he's clearly been the top-performing quarterback in the conference (among those born with original sin, that is). Even with Julio sitting out, McElroy picked out receivers like he was handing out presents to needy kids. Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram took care of the ground game, and the Alabama defense hardly broke a sweat.

What to watch this week: Can Alabama pressure Ryan Mallett? Can the secondary hold its ground against Petrino's offense? Will kicker Leigh Kiffin suffer flashbacks from his horrendous freshman performance at Fayetteville? (He got a good head start Saturday, missing two PATs against North Texas.)

Those notes aside, Bama Nation is gulping wading pools of high-potency Crimson Kool-aid these days. If Alabama skewers the Hogs this week, I'll join them. Kool-aid and Basil Hayden goes great with ribs.

Bonnie Kunkel: Florida 23, Tennessee 13 -- I learned that Florida (and Tim Tebow) can be slowed.. not stopped.. but slowed. Tennessee's defense played a great game. You never know how big SEC rivalry games are going to turn out. Often, ranking and record have nothing to do with the outcome. This was not the rout us Gator fans wanted.. but it's a win.. and we'll take it.

R. Trentham Roberts: That while you can't spell GENUFLECT without the UF, there's no reason to make it part of your weekend ritual just yet. Tennessee cooked up a pretty good formula for beating the Gators: Run the ball. Play some defense. Catch a couple of breaks. And try like hell not to let the other quarterback (or your own, for that matter) do any real damage.
* That Arkansas really needed that Georgia game to give their season some traction. Here's what they're looking at in the next month: Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss.
* That no matter what happens the rest of the year, Washington's Steve Sarkisian is the coach of the year: Inherits 0-11 team. Loses opener by 8 to LSU. Two weeks later beats Southern Cal.
* That the state of Mississippi could have laid claim to the best head coaches' names anywhere if only MSU hadn't cut loose Sylvester Croom. Imagine hiring this law firm for your next divorce: Fedora, Nutt and Croom.

Tommy Tomlinson: UGA 52, Arkansas 41 -- I thought Joe Cox would be pretty good. I had no idea this would be the most entertaining Georgia team since the Eric Zeier Era in the early '90s. And by "entertaining," I mean "could score 50 and/or give up 50 in any game."

I was cruising the fan sites Sunday and the hardcore Dawg fans were calling for the head of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. But here are the lengths of the Georgia scoring drives Saturday night: 2:27, 2:47, 0:54, 7:11, 0:35, 1:46, 0:41, 3:47, 2:09. It's hard to play defense when you never have time to catch your breath. Plus: We scored 52 points! Be happy! I am suddenly giddy about the rest of the season. Florida might score 106 points on us... but we might be good for 105.

Side note: It really pains me to say this, but... Lane Kiffin and his all-star coaching crew are legit. Tennessee is going to be good again.

Your thoughts on the weekend's games?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Who Ya Got ?? (Week 3)

Steve Harrison:

Tennessee-Florida: Urban will treat the Vols as General Tarkin treated planet Alderran: A perfect victim to demonstrate the full power of his offense. Florida 52-21. Only burning question: In interview after Ohio State win, USC quarterback Matt Barkley praised God four times. How will Tebow respond?

UL-Lafayette-LSU: LSU plays its best game of the year, Russell Shepherd scores twice, and the Tigers beat the school formerly known as USL 48-3. Tiegah fans feel good about team's direction, then realize Nick Saban once beat ULL 48-0. LSU nation enters deep depression.

Georgia-Arkansas: 17-14 Hog win begins round of pontificating about the SEC's superior "depth" etc. etc. But perhaps this Georgia team just isn't very good.

West Virginia-Auburn: Nice guy Larry Coker, er Bill Stewart, gets perhaps best win last week against Pirates. But Auburn's freaky turnaround continues. After 31-10 Auburn win, Barn administration names Gus Malzahn as "coach in waiting."

Vandy-Mississippi State: Vandy has experience - 18 starters back - and a physical secondary. This game shows how empty Croom left the cupboard. Vandy 21-10.

Louisville-Kentucky: Has a national title contender ever fallen so fast? Steve Kragthorpe has been at Louisville for three years, but it seems like he's been on the cliched "hot seat" for five. Kentucky 28-7.

North Texas-Alabama: Is Alabama required, by NCAA statute, to play every cupcake close for two quarters? Alabama QB Greg McElroy makes his former high school coach Todd Dodge proud, but not a winner: Gumps 42-17.

SE La-Ole Miss: For the record, SLU is a much bigger dog than ULL. Ole Miss 45-0.

Florida Atlantic-South Carolina: The SEC's Thursday night team, in rare Saturday game, wins easily. The coronation of Stephen Garcia lasts for another week: 35-10.

From Courtney St. Onge:

Florida 38, Tennessee 10
Georgia 31, Arkansas 27
Auburn 28, West Virginia 20
Miss. St. 24, Vandy 21
Kentucky 21, Louisville 17
And for the rest, really, what's the point besides a home game and a few hundred thousand dollars?
Alabama, a lot, N.Texas, a lot less
LSU, little less than Bama, Lafayette, a little more than N.Tx

From Bonnie Kunkel:

Florida 58, Tennessee 12
We're not going to hear Rocky Top too often this Saturday. I think Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow are going to put a hurting on the Volunteers. I think Tebow will play longer than he needs to and Florida will go for a touchdown as time runs out despite having a substantial lead. Cheating? No way. Rubbing it in? Well, ok.. maybe a little. But it feels so good!

UGA @ Arkansas
Georgia 32, Arkansas 10

Florida Atlantic @ South Carolina
South Carolina 28, FAU 3
I still can't seem to root against the Ol' Ball Coach, but I am secretly hoping the Owls from my hometown of Boca Raton, Florida make him toss his visor a few times. When Spurrier tosses his visor, drink. When it gets tangled in his headset in the process, finish your beer.

Mississippi State @ Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt 21, Mississippi State 6

Louisville @ Kentucky
Kentucky 38, Louisville 28

SE La @ Ole Miss
Ole Miss 52, SE La 3

North Texas @ Alabama
Alabama 28, North Texas 7

Louisiana-Lafayette @ LSU
LSU 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 10

West Virginia @ Auburn
Auburn 42, West Virginia 41
I hate both of these teams, but I guess I'd rather the SEC team win. The WV fans were so obnoxious at the 1994 Sugar Bowl (which Florida won 41-7) it made me hate the Mountaineers forever.

So Cal @ Washington
So Cal 48, Washington 21

Kansas St @ UCLA
UCLA 34, Kansas State 6

Cincinnati @ Oregon State
Cincinnati 60, Oregon State 21
From Peter St. Onge:

The good games:

Auburn 35, West Virginia 31: Nervous? I am. Auburn has shown a softness in the middle of its defense. But the Tigers should exploit a similar issue in the W.Va middle. Oddly, this will be high-scoring, ball control game.

Vanderbilt 20, Mississippi State 14: Painful to hear Fox Sports Net folks attempt to talk up this TV matchup last Saturday.

Arkansas 28, Georgia 24: Important game for Petrino, even moreso than Dawgs. Hogs need to beat a top tier SEC program in Fayetteville. Only did it once last year.

Kentucky 20, Louisville 17

The used-to-be-good games:

Florida 49, Tennessee 14: I want Urban to go for it on 4th-and-1 with under a minute to go. I want him to then say something like "We wanted to practice game-like situations," as if Tennessee is merely scrimmage-worthy. Nobody thinks Urban is nice. Be yourself, Urban.

The not-supposed-to-be-good games:

Ole Miss 42, SE Louisiana 10
LSU 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 13
Alabama 45, North Texas 21
South Carolina 34, Florida Atlantic 6
From Tommy Tomlinson:

Tennessee at Florida: I think this year Urban goes easy, like the gangster who puts his arm around the informant and asks about his family. NEXT year: the concrete shoes. Gators, 28-13.

Georgia at Arkansas: When in doubt -- and there's a lot of doubt -- go with the team you root for. Dawgs, 27-21.

West Virginia at Auburn: This ought to be the best game of the week, and if Auburn wins, commence the strutting. Strutting Auburn fans are almost as insufferable as strutting Alabama fans. Almost. War Eagles, 33-20.

Mississippi State at Vanderbilt -- the battle for supremacy of the second tier begins. Vandy, 31-19.

Louisville at Kentucky -- Always root against the school that employs Rick Pitino. Wildcats, 21-10.

North Texas at Alabama -- This is the kind of game where you look up in the third quarter and Bama is only up 13-10. Before Saban, you'd look up at the end and they'd be down 17-13. No more. Tide, 41-10.

UL-Lafayette at LSU -- The tailgating should be sublime. Tigers, 52-3.

SE LA at Ole Miss -- The Parade of Cupcakes continues. Rebels, 42-6.

Florida Atlantic at USC -- Finally, a Florida team the Cocks can beat. USC, 44-0.

From R. Trentham Roberts:

As we fondly remember the late Henry Gibson -- actor, poet, environmental activist and former Air Force intelligence officer ...

So much written, so little actually said. This is as good a preview as any.

THE ALLIGATOR, by Henry Gibson

The alligator is my pal
He could be your pal too
He will if you'll just understand
That he's got feelings too.
He loves to play and swim about
He never sings the blues
You'll like him better as a friend
Than wearing him as shoes.
Alligator! Alligator! Alligator!
He could be your friend
Could be your friend
Could be your friend

Could be, but won't be. UF 33, UT 10.

Arkansas 27, Georgia 24
Vanderbilt 16, Miss. State 13
Auburn 23, West Virginia 21
Kentucky 24, Louisville 10
Ole Miss 35, SE Louisiana 7
LSU 40, Louisiana-Lafayette 13
Alabama 35, North Texas 6
South Carolina 31, Florida Atlantic 3
From Michael Gordon

Tennessee-Florida: Mr. Trentham Roberts, my learned colleague from Mississippi (mull that concept for a moment), quotes Henry Gibson. For inspiration I turn to Tony Joe White. Vols go the way of Poke Salad Annie's grandma. Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp chomp. 42-7.

Georgia-Arkansas: With a winning margin over USC no wider than a paw, Georgia leaves the hedges again to face the SEC's most underrated home crowd. Big game for Georgia. Bigger game for the pigs and the future job prospects of their mercenary coach. Arkansas. 35-31.

West Virginia-Auburn: For all the talk of Florida running up the score, just watch what happens here if Auburn gets on top early. Chizik and his team need a solid win for the program and to prove to everyone, including themselves, that they're for real. Next week maybe. Auburn: 24-16.

Vandy-Mississippi State: Bullies were consistently bad under Croom. Now even those kids are gone. Dores, 28-10

Louisville-Kentucky: How many Pitino signs Saturday at the UK stadium? One for every blade of bluegrass, that's how many. Both teams are straddling relevance. First QB to play well, wins. Kentucky, 21-20.

North Texas-Alabama: Swine flu easing in Tuscaloosa, and while there are injuries this week, no one got shot. This is a good thing. Tide, 45-7.

UL-Lafayette-LSU: Would love to hear the audibles in this one. Tigers need to impress. Incroyable! They do. Sort of. LSU, 38-10.

SE La-Ole Miss: The answer: Look away, look away. The question: How do Ole Miss fans respond when the subject is their team's laughable schedule? Another really brave stand this week by the Rebs: Ole Miss, 38-7.

Florida Atlantic-South Carolina: Last week, South Carolina's supposedly great defense got torched. This week, Spurrier's offense will play like it hasn't practiced all week. Talent gap rather than superior coaching carries the Chickens through, but not impressively. 24-16.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's in a name...

I love the Cajun flavoring.

Not just on food, but on LSU’s football roster.

It’s comforting when I see the familiar names, the ones I grew up among. This year’s Tigers include Theriot, Domingue, Hebert (two of them), Francois and Alleman.

I read those names and instantly crave boiled crawfish, gumbo or jambalaya. Luckily, I married a woman who also grew up in New Orleans and is a wonderful chef, so the cravings don’t last long.

The flavoring will be even stronger Satuday when LSU plays Louisiana-Lafayette (the epicenter of Cajun land).
The school produced a quarterback named Delhomme (yep, that guy in Charlotte), and this year’s team includes Benoit, Desormeaux, Dupre, Falgout, Gautier, Guilbeaux, Leblanc, Ledet and Troullier.

Pass the hot sauce, mon cher !

The Cajun names remind me of a warm, proud, fun-loving people that are unique. Eat. Drink. Smile. Dance.

Even though my surname is German and doesn’t end in a sexy “eaux” sound, when you grow up in Louisiana, there’s always going to be a little Cajun flowing through you.

- Cliff Mehrtens

How to while away your working hours

Go to MapGameDay.Com (click here) and give your inner geek some elbow room. 

If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can take 3-D tours of college stadiums. (And, yes, Boise State's field is just that blue, even from space.)

So plant yourself in The Grove at Ole Miss (it's empty at the moment) and make your way to the stadium, just like the Rebels do on gameday.

Walk through the shadows of the Valley of Death at LSU. Add some music by the Golden Band from Tigerland -- you can find an assortment of fight songs here -- and it's just like being there on a steamy Saturday night. Except that you're sitting all alone in your cubicle, pathetically reliving your glory days. (On the plus side, you're not bleeding from a little misunderstanding in the beer line and your date hasn't stormed off because you were eyeing her friend.)

And to answer a question frequently asked this week by UT fans: The site WILL let you jump from the railroad bridge into the Tennessee River and end it all anytime during the coming beatdown.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't be such a Bama

The Washington-Baltimore axis, the cultural touchstone that has given us the West Wing, the Wire and Joe Wilson, has apparently long been the center of an interesting colloquialism: a Bama.

My wife, who regularly works in suburban D.C., heard the term for the first time on her current trip. A kid she's known for years dropped it in a sentence that went something like this: Don't be so Bama. Asked for a translation, he said, "You know, a Bama, a loser." He called it a "Baltimore-Washington thang."

So I turned to another B-W thang, that would be Tonya Jameson of the Observer staff. She grew up in Maryland and, like me, graduated from Alabama. She said the expression has been around since she was a kid, 20 to 25 years ago. To her, again in that Baltimore-Washington thang sense, Bama means more country or rube-like. Like a Spelling Bee contestant handed an unfamiliar word, I asked for the derivation. "Baltimore-Washington thang," she said. Then I asked her to use it in a sentence. "That's some serious Bama stuff," she offered, except she didn't offer stuff.

Peter St. Onge, who married into a 47-generation Auburn family, listened to the exchange and piped up. "I promise we don't use the word at home." Translation: We can't wait to start.

With similar abuse pending, I've decided my best defense is a syllabus of alternate meanings for other SEC team. I hope I don't violate any Baltimore-Washington sensibilities. The rest of you, I could give a rip. Let's begin:

An Auburn: a noun/adjective that describes an unnatural obsession with another person, group, or, here's a real stretch, football team. Sentence: "You're telling people my son cheated because he made a better grade than Billy? Can you be more Auburn?"

A Georgia: Prone to exaggerate and yap about individual exploits. In other words, the compulsion to emotionally lick oneself. Sentence: Steve, you should be proud about getting everybody's lunch order right. But drop the Georgia, it's hurting morale.

A Tennessee: A tendency to shoot off one's mouth, lacking the ability to back any of it up. Sentence: Sources close to the Alamo negotiations say a truce was about to be signed when Crockett stormed in the room and went Tennessee all over Santa Anna."

A Florida: An unnatural assortment of unpleasant personalities who underachieved somewhere else now united and a need to act out; alcohol or other substances often involved. Sentence:
Sheesh, this prison yard turned Florida in a hurry.

There are others of course. Just keep them reasonably clean.

It's an SEC Expats thang.
Michael Gordon

P.S., 2:15 p.m. - Peter St. Onge: Although it's surely self-affirming for a Bama fan to think Auburn folks have an unnatural interest in his school, a look at any Tide or Tiger message board would indicate that Alabama folks share an equally passionate interest in Auburn. It's called a "rivalry."

So let's make one addition to Mr. Gordon's syllabus:

An Alabama: A person who was once popular and thinks everyone still cares as much as they used to.

Ole Miss, from Meredith to Manning

It's true, old times there are not forgotten.

On October 1, 1962, Air Force veteran James Meredith enrolled as the first black student at Ole Miss. It came after months of state defiance and a night of resistance run riot -- federal marshals and troops called in by the thousands, scores of people injured, two shot dead. The nation hears of Molotov cocktails, bayonets drawn, snipers on rooftops.

Skip ahead five years.

A red-headed country boy named Archie Manning is a quarterback on the freshman team. He would become the most heralded player in school history, dazzling viewers in the country's first prime-time college football telecast, a 33-32 loss to Alabama on October 4, 1969.

There's a statue of Meredith at Ole Miss now, walking toward a gateway framed by the words courage, perseverance, opportunity and knowledge.

The campus speed limit? That's Archie's old number.

In the '60s, everybody knew about Ole Miss.

For better and for worse.

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You can't spell Butt-whoopin' without UT

Before we start the bidding on the margin of victory in the Vols-Gator altar call Saturday, a couple of factors to weigh (and we'll channel the great Vol broadcaster John Ward to help) . . .

1. Urban Meyer's manhood -- at least his honesty -- has been challenged. It takes moxie or dementia to call out a coach who's won two national championships in the 15 minutes he's been on the job at Gainesville. Throw in the fact that Meyer can detect animus in a falling leaf, and he should have no problem getting lathered up over the spewing that rolled off Rocky Talk earlier this year. Make no mistake, the Gators view this as nothing short of a crusade, with nothing less than the total annihilation of the Invading Infidels an acceptable outcome.
The Ward Factor: Give them 17!

2. As much as Lane Kiffin's mouth has put a bullseye on his posterior, it has also given his team its only fragment of a psychological edge. Word out of Knoxville is even Smokey has raised his leg on the Vols' chances. Yet, there's a certain liberation in certain ruin. Tennessee will fight hard. How long? Well, that will be an early referendum on whether their coaching staff is clueless as well as shirtless. The Ward Factor: Touchdown, Tennessee!

3. Florida is deeper, faster, more talented, angrier and will again play at home. (Only Mickey Mouse plays host in the Sunshine State more often) Yet, the gap at quarterback is the Gators' biggest advantage. Tebow vs. Crompton is the most outlandish mismatch since Vesuvius vs. Pompeii. It will be interesting to see how many Tennessee players get back on the bus, and how many are encased in lava and sent to a Gainesville museum for immediate display. The Ward Factor: Give them 31.

Add them up: Florida, 48-7.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What we learned - Week 2

Turns out Georgia and South Carolina have offenses, after all. Tennessee, not-so-much.

What else did we learn from a week of conference matchups, non-conference softies and inexplicable early season vacations (Ole Miss, Arkansas, Kentucky)?

Tommy Tomlinson: Georgia 41, South Carolina 37 - Here's what we know: Georgia can put up 41 points on a USC defense that gave up just 3 the week before. Georgia can also give up 37 points to a USC offense that scored just 7 the week before. If not for a blocked PAT and a tipped pass at the end, we'd be 0-2. And the team that beat us in Week 1 laid an egg at home to Houston.

Yikes -- I'm turning into one of those nothing-is-good-enough SEC fans. OK. Deep breath. Joe Cox looked great, mostly. We won the game. And we sent Spurrier home with a fresh round of ulcers. Not a bad weekend, all in all.

R. Trentham Roberts: That Auburn's got itself a little bit of firepower, but that the West Virginia game will be a better barometer.

* That I'm not even sure what an upset is anymore (though I'm pretty sure Jacksonville State over Florida State would have qualified). Too many good players, coaches and programs out there. I say put a bunch more of those teams that aren't from the biggest conferences into the bigger bowl games. Don't think they can hang? Ask the state of Oklahoma before you answer.

* That Vandy's program is getting to the point where the Commodores can stay with pretty much anybody for a good long while. They'll be back in a bowl game.

* That if I'm a coach in need of a good game plan on offense, I could do worse than having Miss Serena Williams enunciate it for me.

* That Lane Kiffin has absolutely everything going against him this weekend -- a dispiriting loss, folks ragging on his quarterback, and now a trip to the Swamp against a pretty good team that he's royally ticked off. This should be fun.

* That I'm starting to like Southern Cal to win it all -- they got the "Lean on Me" man on their side. (Check it out here.)

Peter St. Onge: Auburn 49, Mississippi State 24 - Auburn officially has an offense that can put 21 points up at the half on an SEC defense and feel like it's kinda grinding things out. Yes, another day of 550-plus yards is fun, and yes, I suppose that was an SEC defense that was supposed to test us. But Auburn's big numbers are diverting eyes from a defense that needs to firm up in the middle for the real SEC offenses to come, and our QB threw a few too many floaters that won't come down in the right hands a month from now - or perhaps even next week against West Virginia. But still, for now, giddy.

Michael Gordon (enthusiastically posted Sunday): That as good as their defense and running backs looks, the Vols are in a fix until J. Crompton gets better or is replaced.

That Florida will beat the Vols just as badly as they can, but it should be interesting for a quarter or two to watch the Pretty Boys actually play a defense somewhat their own size.

That Stephen Garcia may turn out to be the best quarterback Spurrier has had in more than a decade. Yet the OBC's South Carolina teams' greatest strength is beating themselves. They've shot themselves in the foot so often it's a miracle they aren't playing on goat carts. For too many plays, Spurrier's defense looks like it does.

That the Georgia's defense, and I expect Mr. Tomlinson to wade in here, has real problems -- even with their pint-sized linebacker making more plays than the other 10 kids combined. Amazing that the Dawgs couldn't put more heat on Garcia, given how often he was slinging. On the other hand, Joe Cox's performance certainly eased the anxious drooling of the sensible faction of his fan base.

That LSU still sputters along on one piston. All that ability and size hasn't come close to playing as a team yet. Talent doesn't always turn the talented into good college football players, but it ain't a bad place to start. Pretty soon, Les and his boys have to start owning up to their performances or the growling already bubbling up out of the bayou will drown out Mike the Tiger.

That Auburn's momentum is building. Forty-nine points, even against the Maroons, can make for a crowded bandwagon. A win next week against West Virginia will have the Chizikians standing on each others shoulders. (Despite a few, um, small personal biases against the Plainsmen, I do believe the conference is better when both Alabama and Auburn are playing well. Just so you know, that will be the last civil comment I make to or about them for the next calendar year.)

That Alabama can gain 500 yards, give up only 1 defensive touchdown, have their rookie quarterback set an all-time consecutive completion record and still look so-so. Bright spots? A couple: The Tide's defensive intensity in the second half was scary, as was true freshman Trent Richardson's performance with the ball in his hands. The lack of consistent run blocking is beginning to be a concern. Saban's to-do list this week didn't get a whole lot shorter.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A bump for the ball coach

Via Get the Picture... check out the troopers in the back:

-- Tommy Tomlinson

What did we learn from Week 2 . . .

That as good as their defense and running backs looks, the Vols are in a fix until J. Crompton gets better or is replaced.

That Florida will beat the Vols just as badly as they can, but it should be interesting for a quarter or two to watch the Pretty Boys actually play a defense somewhat their own size.

That Stephen Garcia may turn out to be the best quarterback Spurrier has had in more than a decade. Yet the OBC's South Carolina teams' greatest strength is beating themselves. They've shot themselves in the foot so often it's a miracle they aren't playing on goat carts. For too many plays, Spurrier's defense looks like it does.

That the Georgia's defense, and I expect Mr. Tomlinson to wade in here, has real problems -- even with their pint-sized linebacker making more plays than the other 10 kids combined. Amazing that the Dawgs couldn't put more heat on Garcia, given how often he was slinging. On the other hand, Joe Cox's performance certainly eased the anxious drooling of the sensible faction of his fan base.

That LSU still sputters along on one piston. All that ability and size hasn't come close to playing as a team yet. Talent doesn't always turn the talented into good college football players, but it ain't a bad place to start. Pretty soon, Les and his boys have to start owning up to their performances or the growling already bubbling up out of the bayou will drown out Mike the Tiger.

That Auburn's momentum is building. Forty-nine points, even against the Maroons, can make for a crowded bandwagon. A win next week against West Virginia will have the Chizikians standing on each others shoulders. (Despite a few, um, small personal biases against the Plainsmen, I do believe the conference is better when both Alabama and Auburn are playing well. Just so you know, that will be the last civil comment I make to or about them for the next calendar year.)

That Alabama can gain 500 yards, give up only 1 defensive touchdown, have their rookie quarterback set an all-time consecutive completion record and still look so-so. Bright spots? A couple: The Tide's defensive intensity in the second half was scary, as was true freshman Trent Richardson's performance with the ball in his hands. The lack of consistent run blocking is beginning to be a concern. Saban's to-do list this week didn't get a whole lot shorter.

That's what I saw yesterday. What say y'all?
Michael Gordon

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calling all Vols . . .

Just saw the Mr. Crompton make his most significant contribution to his team -- that would be drawing a 15-yard penalty on his scramble.

Monte's kids are doing their part. But Lane's offense is struggling -- and will continue to do so -- until he has a quarterback who can play somewhere above dead.

Vol fans. How do you see it?
Michael Gordon

Today's TV games

* Troy at Florida, noon -- WAXN (Channel 10 on Time Warner Cable in Charlotte)
* UCLA at Tennessee, 4 pm -- ESPN (39)
* South Carolina at Georgia, 7 pm -- ESPN2 (68)
* Vanderbilt at LSU, 7 pm -- ESPNU (138)
* Mississippi State at Auburn, 7 pm -- Fox Sports South (40)

And if that won't do you, you can spend an hour with the 1997 Ole Miss-Miss. State game (SportsSouth, 3 pm, cable channel 60). The game was 15-14 Ole Miss, but it's better remembered for the big pregame brawl.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week 2: Who ya got?

This week the SEC starts intraconference play, a/k/a cousin-on-cousin violence; Tennessee wanders outside the league for a big-boy game; Alabama and Florida take little kids' lunch money; and Ole Miss, Arkansas and Kentucky decide it's already time for a week off.

Michael Gordon

UCLA at Tennessee: Battle of the Ken dolls in Pumpkinland. Monte and the Vol defense bring the heat, with just enough BTUs to allow Ken 2.0 to slip by. And his hair was perfect. 24-20 Vols.

USC at Georgia: Another Beatles' song, Nowhere Man, sums up the offenses in this one. Home crowd carries Georgia the extra yard. 17-14, Dawgs.

Vandy-LSU: Tigers still feasting on too many cupcakes to shed pounds after their out-of-shape performance against Washington. This week's dessert, the SEC's traditional snack food. Who's making coffee? 24-7, Tigers.

MSU at Auburn: Last year's thrilling World Cup match . . . Never mind. Both coaches responsible for the 3-2 fiasco are gone, allowing Auburn and Miss. State to start their SEC schedules on a fresh note, or as least as fresh as two ag schools can muster. Barnyard (Alabama chapter) 24; Barnyard (Mississippi chapter) 16.

Troy vs. Florida: The Men of Troy go into the Swamp to do battle with the Chosen One. Wrong men. Wrong Troy. Same Florida. 55-14, the Chomps.

FIU vs. Alabama: If Mike Shula were coach, the combination of too many headlines and too many cases of swine flu would have Tide fans sweating the outcome. No sweat this time. No letdown either. 44-7 Alabama.

R. Trentham Roberts

Tennessee-UCLA: Two games in, Lane Kiffin gets a chance to define his program. Having his daddy run the defense is going to get him there that much quicker. Tennessee 28, UCLA 10.

Georgia-South Carolina: Both teams looking to run the hurry-up offense, as in they better hurry up and find some. Down the stretch, it's Spurrier by a nose. USC 17, Georgia 14.

LSU-Vanderbilt: Tigers need to pipe down about the tough turnaround from going out to Washington and back. Hey, Central Arkansas had to spend the weekend in Hawaii and you don't hear THEM complaining. Vanderbilt 24, LSU 23.

Auburn-Mississippi State: Last year's 3-2 epic was the ugliest, most entertaining game I saw all year. Relive the magic for yourself:

More points this time around, both style and scoreboard. Auburn 20, Mississippi State 16.

Florida-Troy and Alabama-Florida International: They're probably already looking ahead to the big conference showdown. So are we. October 19: Troy at FIU. in the meantime ... Florida 56, Troy 3 and Alabama 35, FIU 13.

Courtney St. Onge

Florida 56, Troy 10 Tebow's crusaders might score a little less against what amounts to a high school varsity defense than it did against last week's jv. Or maybe more starters rest a little before the real season begins.

Alabama 42, FIU 6. (Holding my nose)

LSU 27, Vandy 14 The lesser Tigers didn't look great last week, but still ... Vandy.

Auburn 30, MSU 20. A ten-fold increase over last year's point total, thankfully.

UGA 24, SC 14. Gamecocks still looking for an offense. Joe Cox settles in a bit between the shrubs.

UT 28, UCLA 20. Berry and Co. rattle a young offense in Neyland.

Peter St. Onge

Tennessee-UCLA: Battle of the blow-dried Cali unlikeables. Tennessee 17, UCLA 13

Georgia-South Carolina: Woe to the school that faces a strong team after a poor opener. Georgia 27, USC 13.

LSU-Vanderbilt: See "woe/strong team/poor opener." LSU, 34-14.

Auburn-Mississippi State: Coaches spent week talking about how 37-point Auburn offensive effort was "too slow" last week. Giddy until shown otherwise. Auburn 33, MSU 24.

Florida-Troy: Florida 48, Troy 10.

Alabama-FIU: Alabama fan on this blog says he's nervous. I'm a Red Sox fan, so I get the whole paranoia thing. But still... Alabama 42, FIU 3.

Tommy Tomlinson

UCLA at Tennessee: Man, I want to pick UCLA here. But the real Kiffin -- Monte -- will have the UT D sufficiently fired up, and the Volunteer Navy deserves one moment of catharsis before heading into the vale of tears that is the conference schedule. UT, 27-20.

South Carolina at UGA -- Even in good years, this game requires half a bottle of Zantac. This year, neither team knows if it's any good. I'm not sure we'll know afterward either. UGA, 13-7.

Vandy at LSU: I see Mr. Roberts up above picked the Commodores. As the prophet David St. Hubbins once said: It's such a fine line between stupid and clever. LSU, 31-10.

Mississippi State at Auburn: Last year Auburn won 3-2 on a walk-off homer in the ninth. But this year, offenses UNLEASHED! Mississippi State, 4-3.

Troy at Florida: Some games should count for only half a win. Tebows, 63-7.

Florida International at Alabama: Crimson Tide is not even playing the best team in Miami. Then again, last week Florida didn't even play the best team in Charleston. Tide, 49-0.

Previewing Vandy at LSU

Glad that LSU is back at Tiger Stadium; wishing I could get Mike Easley discounts on things I buy.

LSU hasn't seen a lot of Vanderbilt recently - the last meeting was a 34-6 victory in 2005. The Tigers have won the past five meetings.

It will help playing in front of 92,000 friendly fans in the home opener Saturday, but as the Tigers proved last year, it's no quarantee. LSU lost its last three SEC games at home last year.

The Tigers gave up too many yards (478) in last week's win at Washington to be comfortable, but Jordan Jefferson-to-Terrance Toliver emerged as a dynamic passing combination.

Vanderbilt's run game rolled up 433 yards in a 45-0 rout against Western Carolina last week. Freshman Warren Norman ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and Zac Stacy ran for 133 and a score.

I don't think Vandy will be able to run that effectively against LSU.

LSU 33, Vanberbilt 13

- Cliff Mehrtens

Mr. Two Bits

You'll find a lot of bragging and trash-talking on this blog, but with opening opponents like Charleston Southern and Troy, it seems useless to brag about Florida's performance thus far. There will be plenty of time for that later.

So, instead I'll brag that the University of Florida has the best cheerleader in the history of the SEC. Well, had anyway.

For 60 years, George Edmondson, Jr., better known as Mr. Two Bits, led Gator fans in his signature "Two Bits" cheer. He'd roam the stands, wearing a yellow button-down shirt, khaki pants and orange and blue striped tie. All of a sudden, he'd be sitting next to you - waiting for the play to end. Then, he'd hold up a sign announcing it was time for his cheer. Silence. Then hundreds of fans would scream "Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar. All for the Gators stand up and holler!"

No one else in the world could command the full attention of rowdy Gator fans during a game. If Mr. Two Bits sat next to you once, it's something you probably still brag about to your friends (I know that I do).

Mr. Two Bits retired at the end of last season at the age of 86. At Gator games now, he and his wife take an elevator to their seats in the Champions Club. We miss you, Mr. Two Bits, but we're glad you're still cheering on the Gators.

Mr. Two Bits in action:

-- Bonnie Kunkel

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The best Alabama player....

....I ever saw.


Forrest Gump.

P.S., 12:35 - RTR: When the coach says, "He may be the stupidest SOB alive, but he sure is fast," I was sure I was watching a documentary.


From time to time, the Ex-PATS will host show-n-tell: posting clips from games or movies that capture why we love whom we love and hate everybody else.

As with all SEC matters, it's appropriate that Alabama leads. Enjoy, and Roll Tide . . .
Michael Gordon

Best team this decade ?

“You lie !”

Oops, sorry, I thought I was at a President Obama address.

This is all truth, in the form of some stats I stumbled upon.

RECORDS IN THE 2000’s (including last week)

Florida …….. 98-29 …. .7716
LSU ………… 91-27 …. .7711
Georgia …… 90-27 …. .769
Auburn ……. 81-34 …. .704
Tennessee ….. 77-38 …. .669
Alabama ….. 66-48 …. .579
Arkansas …. 64-49 ….. .566
South Carolina ..62-48 …. .564
Ole Miss ….. 55-54 …. .505
Kentucky ….. 44-64 … .407
Miss. St. ….. 38-69 … .355
Vanderbilt …. 33-73…. .311

FYI, the leader is Boise State (99-17, a .853 winning percentage).

The worst? Duke is 14-91, a .133 winning percentage.

- Cliff Mehrtens

P.S., 9:48 - Peter St. Onge: Trying to figure out how Alabama might claim another national championship from these numbers. I think the Jefferson County (Ala.) Junior League voted them No. 1 on a poll in 2001.

P.S., 10:14 - Michael Gordon: For Mr. St. Onge and all Auburn fans. The operative number is 12, or twice as many as your finger-puppet routine during your former winning streak. But since big numbers like that are beyond the mathematical skills of most of your fan base, let's change the lesson plan to spelling. It's Chizik. C-H-I-Z- . . .

P.S., 12:10 - R. Trentham Roberts - Boys, boys. Is it going to be like this from now until Nov. 28? How do you guys even manage to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal when you got all that trash talk filling up your funnel?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SEC vs. Pac-10 (pro edition)

Now that pro football is upon us, never let it be said that the Expats forget about our SEC progeny once they've matriculated down the field of life.

Click here to see last year's full video of Hines Ward (Georgia) ending the season of Keith Rivers (Southern Cal) on the fourth play of the game.

Let's see if we can find just the right words for this in the Book of Stale Cliches.

Ah, here it is.


The Beatles do the SEC

The Beatles are the SEC of bands -- they constantly fought with one another, but together they produced greatness and made history. Today, as the band releases its remastered catalog and debuts its version of "Rock Band," we took some Fab Four song titles and adapted them to the Terrific Twelve. OK, this is starting to sound like one of those cheesy ABC promos. Let's just get on with it.

Carry that Weight: In giving up 478 yards to Washington, and never forcing a three-and-out, LSU's defensive line looked slow, soft and heavy.

Fool on the Hill: One guess, three hints: he's got a hot wife, a big mouth and a bunch of assistant coaches who like to rip off their shirts.

Getting Better All the Time: The mantra of all new head coaches in the SEC, especially since none of their teams has played a meaningful game.

Happiness is a Warm Gun: Brandon Deaderick, the Alabama lineman who was shot last week and played in Saturday's game.

Here, There and Everywhere: Better known as the Tim Tebow Symphony.

Her Majesty: What you call a coach who can keep Ole Miss in the top 10.

I Should Have Known Better: all the UGA fans who thought losing Stafford/Moreno/Massaquoi would somehow make for a better team.

I’ve Just Seen a Face: And it belongs to ... Gene Chizik? "Had it been another day, I might have looked the other way."

Magical Mystery Tour: any conversation with Ed Orgeron.

P.S. I Love You: What Urban wrote on the last page of Tebow's playbook.

Sun King / Mean Mr. Mustard: Life with Les Miles.

When I'm 64: Having reached that age, Steve Spurrier should consider these questions: "Will you still need me, will you still feed me" if the offensive genius can’t find an offense.

Yesterday: Done in multi-part harmony by all those fired coaches Auburn still has on the payroll.

You Won’t See Me: On bowl invite day, Mississippi State must regretfully RSVP.

You Never Give Me Your Money: a song SEC recruits rarely sing.

Bonus Track -- Eight Days a Week: Michigan's off-season workout schedule.

(Surely you can do better than this... here's a cheat sheet of Beatles song titles to get you started.)

Let's get ahead of ourselves

Because it's never too early to look too far down the road.

Setting aside the SEC for a moment, here's who might be in the mix for the BCS championship game:

* Southern Cal -- Setting up nicely for a home-field title shot.

* Texas -- Won't be putting their faith in tiebreakers any time soon. And the road just got a lot easier with Oklahoma's troubles.

* Ohio State, Notre Dame -- Both have make-or-break games with Southern Cal.

* BYU, Boise State -- One, maybe both, could go undefeated and find there's still no room in the top two.

* Miami -- Not off one game, but off the first four -- FSU, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma. Sweep those and they're looking at top 5. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What we learned -- Week 1

So the SEC went 11-1 last weekend (thanks to UGA for blowing the perfect game). Not bad, especially when the ACC went 0-2 against the Colonial Athletic Association.

Here's a few thoughts on where some of our teams stand after Week 1. We'll add some updates as people awaken and clear their hangovers after the three-day weekend. Feel free to pimp your team in the comments.

UPDATE: We here at SEC Expats welcome a new correspondent, Bonnie Kunkel, a Florida fan -- because, you know, Florida doesn't get nearly enough attention. Here's her bio:

Name: Bonnie Kunkel
Allegiance: Florida
All-time favorite player: Tim Tebow, of course (although I am old enough to have seen the immortal Emmitt Smith play)
Possibly disturbing fact: As soon as the new Gator logo came out, I got a tattoo of it... but it's backward.

Bonnie Kunkel: Florida 62, Charleston Southern 3 - First of all, how did CSU score three points? I think overall we played pretty well. Brandon James is getting into a groove (finally). I loved the 85 yard kickoff return for a TD. It was the first kickoff returned for a TD in 10 years for the Gators. James promised that UF would break the drought this season... and he delivered in game number one. Nice job, Brandon.

I was also impressed with receivers Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper... although neither seems ready to replace Percy Harvin.

Backup QB John Brantley took a lot of snaps. He's not as exciting to watch as Tebow but what an arm on this kid! And, his daddy was a Gator QB too... gotta love that.

Finally, let the witch hunt begin: who are the two people who voted Alabama #1 in this week's poll?

DOUBLE SECRET UPDATE: Ole Miss 45, Memphis 14 -- Snead and Co. finally caught fire in the 4th quarter against a decent Memphis team. Now the Rebels catch a break: a bye week to rest up from the flu symptoms that have hit a dozen players so far.

Tommy Tomlinson: Oklahoma St. 24, UGA 10 -- Um, yeah, when you lose two of the top 12 picks in the NFL draft, maybe you won't be as good the next year. I had high hopes for Charlotte's Joe Cox -- secretly, I was dreaming of a Tee Martin scenario -- but he didn't show much Saturday. His one major downside was supposed to be the lack of a strong arm, but it seemed to me that he threw a lot of passes TOO hard -- could be he was trying to prove everyone wrong, could just be a lack of touch. It didn't help that his receivers dropped several not-great-but-catchable balls.

The defense actually wasn't bad, it just got killed on field position -- three of OKSt's four scoring drives were 32 yards or less.

Oh, and one of our best offensive linemen is out for the season again.

Peter St. Onge: Auburn 37, Louisiana Tech 13 - We threw the ball downfield. We ran the ball inside and out. We did what an SEC offense is supposed to do with a WAC defense - wear it down with our quickness and bigness. Plus, our new offense coordinator said he really didn't unveil much of his new offense. We're a little giddy about all this.

But: Our defense gave up a few sustained drives before switching to man-to-man coverage and shutting La. Tech down. Our unheralded freshman safety got the season's first interception, which seems kind of promising but also reinforces the fact that we're thin enough to have an unheralded freshman starting at safety. We might have to be a team that tries to outscore teams this year. That's not very comforting, but it's a lot more fun to watch.

Michael Gordon: Alabama 34, Va Tech 24 -- Though Greg McElroy got hit too often, Alabama's offensive line did show signs that there is life after Andre Smith.

That when all the dials were turned to a classic Va. Tech win (an offense making the most of its opportunities and a defense fighting for every foot), Alabama seized the day in the fourth quarter by attacking on both sides of the ball. McElroy was key. His eyes cleared in the second half and he started finding receivers all over the field.

Say what you want about recruiting rankings, Alabama's talent is deepening. Last year against Clemson, Alabama played almost a dozen true freshmen from its top-ranked class. Against the Hokies, and again with a top-ranked group of recruits, they played two or three. The caliber of UA players has gotten that much better in that short of time.

R. Trentham Roberts: Mississippi State 45, Jackson State 7 -- Beatdown of SWAC team doesn't exactly light up the night sky with insight. Team gets RB Anthony Dixon back for the first of this season's two separate months-from-hell -- Auburn (improved), Vandy (bowl team), LSU (bowl team), Georgia Tech (bowl team). Even 1 and 3 from that might be too much to expect.

But here's what I really learned while sitting in class listening to the president tell me that I probably won't become the reality-TV star I had always dreamed of being:

That this year's BCS title game will be presented by Citi. That Citi. The Citi of billions in bailouts and bonuses. The Citi that is now 36 PERCENT OWNED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The Citi that has managed to provide each and every one of you with a stake -- a very real stake -- in the national championship game.

So what's a responsible shareholder to do?
Watch your toxic assets at work.
Cheer for your team.
Stand up for America.

Cliff Mehrtens: I learned that staying up till 1:30 a.m. to watch LSU give up about 450 yards made me cranky most of Sunday.

Then again, after traveling 2,500 miles and spotting Washington a 7-0 lead, the Tigers offense made waves. Jordan Jefferson is a mobile quarterback with a good arm, and Terrence Toliver (6-foot-5) had three catches of more than 25 yards. Two were for touchdowns.

LSU gave Washington a throw-away touchdown on the final play, so the outcome was never in doubt.

But LSU's defense concerned me. Too much arm tackling. Too many third-down conversions by Washington. Too sloppy, in a nutshell.

On to Vanderbilt.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Welcome, Tennessee fans

Though we still lack an official correspondent, we've added a UT link on the blog roll and invite all Rocky Toppers to our little scrum. We do this for three reasons:

1. Just to be hospitable.
2. To recognize the powerhouse program that was and no doubt will be again.
3. To keep the Georgia-Alabama-Auburn contingent from dominating the online proceedings. (Say the acronym with me -- GAA!!)

So, again, welcome aboard. Best of luck against UCLA. And here's our pledge to you: We'll never say anything about Lane Kiffin that he wouldn't say about somebody else.

-- R. Trentham Roberts

The Monday morning after . . . for the sad ACC

To sum up the weekend performance of the ACC, we turn to the insights of longtime football analysts Steely Dan:

William & Mary won't do.

Not when they're supposed to be the cupcake, the mimosa, the first oyster of the late afternoon gliding down your throat.

Note to the conference: No cupcakes for you.

Somehow, the controlled setting designed to make a wounded band of schools feel better about themselves inflicted more damage. Virginia loses to W&M; Duke to Richmond; N.C. State to South Carolina; Maryland to Cal; Va Tech to Bama.

North Carolina did handle the Fighting Burrcuts (GOOD JOB, TAR HEELS!). But in no way shape or fashion can anyone ponder the wreckage of the conference's showing and not wince.

Some of these losses were expected. Too many of them were not. It will be interesting to see how and when ACC Commissioner John Swofford and his band of merry button-down shirts will announce that their conference is right on schedule in its inexorable climb to the gridiron elite.

Caulton Tudor of the N&O has a differing take. The ACC, he writes, shouldn't stick a toe outside of its own ranks to start a season for the forseeable future. That way, at least some of its teams are guaranteed not to lose.

Let's be fair here. Nobody wins them all. In its years wandering in the wilderness, Alabama, my school, lost to more hyphenated colleges from across the South than I can Google in an hour.

But it's clear that Picking the Right Patsy, as much as that blocking and tackling stuff, is yet another football art the ACC is taking a while to learn.

Here's the scarier part. As Steely Dan put it, They've got a name for the winners of the world, I want a name when I lose. Maybe the ACC already has one. Maybe it's the tray of cupcakes everyone else can't wait to play.
-- Michael Gordon

Sunday, September 6, 2009

How's that for motivation?

"When you see Brandon go out there with bullet holes in his arm and leg, it's a lot easier to push yourself."

-- Alabama QB Greg McElroy, talking about defensive end Brandon Deaderick, shot earlier in the week during a robbery attempt. Deaderick dressed for the Virginia Tech game and got in a for a few plays.

First Blood

Only three SEC teams qualified last week for the Gundy Award -- yeah, the I'm a Man! guy -- for playing man-sized games on opening weekend: South Carolina, UGA and Alabama.

Florida, Tennessee and Auburn can pound their chests after pummeling opponents half their size. Just what the sports world needed to start the season: another three Tim Tebow touchdowns against a criminally overmatched opponent. Oklahoma, who lost to the Gators in last year's title game, showed far more guts, and from the standpoint of a BCS pragmatist busted on the river card. So be it. Here's to Bob Stoops for risking something to gain something bigger. Oklahoma will be better for this in the games ahead.

South Carolina's opened in Raleigh against N.C. State, the trendy pick as the ACC's hottest team. Yet the Carolina defense made the ACC's best quarterback look like he was headed to a key Division II matchup and made the wrong turn on the Raleigh beltway. The gap in athleticism had Russell Wilson consistently being run down by lineman twice his size. The Gamecock defenders never stopped attacking, never giving Wilson, nor the Wolfpack crowd, a second breath.

Yet as good as South Carolina's defense performed, Steve Spurrier's offense again plodded yard by boring yard. Thus, the Myth of The Visor hangs by one less thread. The Ol' Genius hasn't had a winning quarterback since Danny Wuerffel. And at Carolina, he has neither recruited nor taught anyone to consistently make winning plays in the SEC. Consider this indictment: Goofball Granny Clampett accomplished far more with Phil Petty than Spurrier has with anyone since. And here's what sticks in my craw: He never takes responsibility. He calls out players. He calls out assistants. He acts like he's on Mt. Olympus looking down on the humdrum of the program he's supposed to be building. After the State game, he said he would take a larger role in the offense -- another clear jab at his staff. Maybe that's why he doesn't get the best QB prospects, and the turnover among his assistants is so high. Who wants to play for a coach who seems bored except when he can blame someone else?

Mark Richt can't win. He won big -- but not quite big enough -- when he had perhaps the SEC's best talent. Now, he has to show he can win without it. For the first time in years, Georgia looks like it's running low on high test. Joe Cox wasn't bad but wasn't good either. The offensive line, less than mediocre in 2008, is a year older and up one rung to mediocre. The end result: Georgia made one of the Big 12's worst defenses look Steel Curtain tough. Tough year looming for the Bulldogs. Luckily they get South Carolina at home this week, but they may get Cox killed. This year may define Richt in ways we never expected. It has been a long fall in a short time from last year's No. 1 ranking.

Alabama? Virginia Tech is scarily intense. But at the end of the game, they were being pushed out of the Georgia Dome. Mark my word: Greg McElroy will be a star. In his first start as the Crimson Tide quarterback, he improved throughout the game, and made throws and reads that were beyond the grasp of his predecessor, John Parker Wilson.

When the game was on the line, the Tide's offensive line, still a question mark, mauled the ACC's best defensive front. Receivers like Hanks and Maze finally made plays in the game that they've been making in practice. The defense played fast and hard, though Alabama lineman Rolando Blackman showed less control at the end of the first half than Mark Sanford.

All in all, Nick Saban got the perfect result -- a win, but with enough mistakes that he will have no trouble keeping his players' attention through the next two weeks of cupcakes.

Granted, it's only one game, and call me biased -- I am biased -- but this team appears on the cusp of something special. Michael Gordon