Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What we think we know: Week 9 (post-election edition)

Sorry for the two-day delay, but we at The Observer were covering a small inter-squad scrimmage called Democracy. Now back to the big games.

1. Even though we picked Georgia-Florida down to the very last Dawg turnover, there's no crowing this morning -- just an unsettledness that has nothing to do with wins and losses and everything to do with what a football program stands for.

We're talking, of course, about the sideline antics of Todd Grantham. The Georgia defensive coordinator screamed and F-bombed Florida kicker Chas Henry -- while giving him the universal choke sign -- as Henry lined up for the winning overtime field goal.

Henry says when he first noticed Grantham's signs of support, he took off his helmet and blew him a kiss, a gesture that appears to have really set Grantham off.

But let's be clear here: Grantham was caught on camera violating the trust given to him as an adult and a highly paid coach (he makes $750,000). To date, neither he nor head coach Mark Richt has apologized, though Richt in his folksy, faux humble, you just know I'm a great guy kind of way has talked about the "heat of the battle," "learning from mistakes" and moving on.

That's not his call. Georgia President Michael Adams, who's never been shy about injecting himself in athletic matters, has been mum on the incident. Maybe he's out of breath. Adams has already fired Athletic Director Damon Evans after he was charged with DWI while in the company of a young woman, not his wife, who had somehow misplaced her underwear. Adams also has had plenty to say about the rash of player arrests, and about holding the football program to a standard of behavior it has so far failed to meet.

Consider, too, the reactions of Georgia fans, who are mounting defenses as embarrassing as Grantham's teaching moment.

Trust me, Alabama fans know embarrassing: From the Albert Means scandal to Mike Price's cavorting with strippers to Mike Dubose's affair with his secretary, then saying he was angry at Jesus for costing him a win at Tennessee . . . we'll match bad headlines with anybody.

But here's the point: On each of those occasions when my school was diminished, I felt diminished, too. That's the deal you make with college sports: For better or worse, you're part of something bigger than yourself.

If we're lucky, we can still remember what it meant to be a college student, how it set us apart, made us feel special, and gave us an institution that we could root for in all aspects of life because we felt pride in it and, indirectly, in ourselves.

The song says "Glory, glory to old Georgia," so here's the question Michael Adams should be asking this morning: Do Georgia fans feel proud? Does he?

2. Perhaps the best matchup in SEC football takes places in Baton Rouge on Saturday. Not Alabama vs. LSU, but Patrick Patterson one-on-one with Julio Jones.

Both players are easily in the Top 5 in the SEC, if not the nation. Jones is relentless, setting a school receiving record against Tennessee two weeks ago while playing with a broken hand. Patterson, though, is one of the few defensive backs anywhere with the size and speed to compete physically with the Tide All-American. This will be their third battle; Alabama won the first two. As freshmen, Jones made his remarkable overtime catch with Patterson practically in his uniform. As sophomores, Jones's game-changing, fourth-quarter catch and run came with Patterson on the sideline with cramps. With the Western Conference title and possible BCS championship on the line, Alabama needs Jones to make plays and LSU needs Patterson to prevent them. It's the game within the game Saturday, and a big one.

3. Auburn is clearly the best team in the SEC, and it's Alabama's task to show it should be included within the borders of the same conversation. First, the Tide must beat LSU in Death Valley, then it must take care or ornery Mississippi State. Win those two, and the Iron Bowl turns platinum.

4. You heard it here: I don't think South Carolinas has the emotional and physical toughness to beat Arkansas and Florida and get to Atlanta. I hope I'm wrong, but the Gamecocks are spewing fragility.

5. This week's power rankings:

1. Auburn

2. Alabama

3. LSU

4. Mississippi State.

5. Everybody else.



Anonymous said...

My thoughts:

* - After 8 weeks of seeing Cam Newton run over every defense in his path, we now present to you, Cam Newton the PASSER. I told a bunch of folks in late summer that Newton was probably going to set some rushing records this year, but I was concerned about his passing accuracy. I feel a lot better after the Misipi game. His catching a TD wasn’t that big a deal to me – Kellen Moore caught a TD this weekend as well – but the pass Kodi Burns threw was a thing of beauty. It seemed to hang in the air for a month and dropped right into Newton’s hands. Burns isn’t receiving nearly enough credit for that pass. Not bad for a guy that couldn’t beat out the incredibly average Chris Todd for the QB job.

* - I’m not really surprised my guys dropped to #2 in the BCS standings. Our offense is as good as Oregon’s but our defense definitely isn’t. What is driving me nuts is the assumption all the talking heads are making – that ‘Bama has no chance of losing the Iron Bowl. I watched the BCS countdown on ESPN Sunday night and they spent about 20 of the show’s 45 minutes debating whether a 1-loss ‘Bama team should go to the BCS title game ahead of an undefeated Boise, TCU or Utah. It’s as if they think the ‘Bama – Georgia State game is the Iron Bowl. Jesse Palmer even took time to explain that if ‘Bama faces South Carolina in Atlanta, and whips them for revenge for their one loss, making an example of SC, that should absolutely vault ‘Bama to the title game ahead of an undefeated team from a non-AQ school.


Memo to all talking heads: The Iron Bowl is on November 26 in Tuscaloosa, and Auburn is 100% certain they will be there to play the game. And they have a hell of a good shot at winning it, too. Can we put the ‘Bama title scenarios to the side until if/when they actually beat Auburn?

* - And while I’m on a conspiracy theory roll, what was up with the last 5 minutes of the show where the talking heads spent the entire Heisman discussion trying to find ways to take the trophy from Newton and give it to LaMichael James? Yes, James is wicked good. But Saturday should have enhanced Newton’s case, not detracted from it.

* - Much as I hate to do it, I must give kudos to Gordon for his correct prediction of Missouri and Michigan State going down in flames. I expected both could lose, but I did not anticipate the beat-downs they received. Next up – Utah. TCU has the most under-rated defense in the country. They will shut the Utes down and bring the undefeated list down to 4.

* - This year’s Cocktail Party game was dramatic, but not very well-played. If either of these teams get to Atlanta (and God would have to intervene for UGA to get there now), they will be blown out by whoever wins the West.

* - That being said, South Carolina had better start playing 60 minutes each game instead of 40, or they’re going to get their doors blown off by Ar-Kansas and Florida. The Tennessee game should have been over by halftime. UT is so bad they couldn’t even win the ACC this year. Hell, they probably couldn’t win Conference USA. My biggest belly laugh of the year came Saturday when Andre Ware said, “I absolutely believe Derek Dooley is going to get it done at Tennessee.”

* - Now, if you want the name of a rookie coach that is a lot closer to “getting it done,” think Joker Phillips. He’s going to need to improve that defense considerably, but the near-misses against Auburn and Misipi St and the win over SC gives them hope. They should drill Charleston Southern, Vandy and Tennessee and go to a decent bowl at 7-5.

* - I'll talk more about this in my week 10 predictions, but something has to be done about these late-season games against FCS teams and other cupcakes. Why are we allowing the SEC season to be interrupted by such nonsense?

Michael said...

Good thoughts, J, particularly this one: Alabama's inevitable return to the title game.

To say it's premature is like saying Todd Grantham, in tribute to SEC great Warren Zevon, is an Excitable Boy.


Bama Brother said...

There are ways in which Auburn's steamroller season reminds me of Alabama's 1989 team with the Homer Smith offense that scored tons of points but ran aground in the historic first game played against Auburn in Jordan-Hare. But Alabama did not have a quarterback like Cam Newton, whom no one has been able to stop. Because they don't have someone like him now, I can easily see them returning home from Baton Rouge this weekend with a second loss.

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