Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Let's get STAH-TED

Welcome back to Year II of the SEC Expats. Since we're all starting fresh and lovey-dovey, we'll resist calling our recap of the off-season The Red Underwear Diaries.


Let's all agree, and as civilly as inter-conference invective allows, that a lot has happened since Nick Saban almost smiled while hoisting the BCS Championship in Pasadena in January.

For starters, Lane Kiffin rolled out of Knoxville. Let's give Romper Room credit for one thing. In a nation that can't agree on anything, Kiffin can be a unifying force. Given a little more time, he will become the most despised man in America. This guy has real juice. After a single year in Knoxville, he single-handedly rehabilitated Phil Fulmer.

Want to know how much the loss to Alabama hurt? Tim Tebow didn't cry after his rookie, training-camp haircut, that's how much.

In Mississippi, which is big on traditions, it's good to see that Houston Nutt stuck to true self and again showed he'll do just about anything to win. On top of all his obvious gifts, the Right Reverend apparently possesses the singular ability to see the good in exiled Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli, an all-Pac 12 performer last year, was thrown off the Ducks' team after amassing a police jacket only slightly thinner than his playbook. "Let thee who has not sinned cast the first stone . . . " Nutt says. We get it, particularly since no one on Nutt's roster can throw the stone nearly as well as Masoli. So quicker than you can say altar call, Nutt has him a quarterback. What Ole Miss now needs is a mascot. How about something to honor their coach. The Self-Promoting Hypocrites has a certain ring. (Bulletin: Maybe they'll need a quarterback after all. Citing the Oh-Come-On! clause in its bylaws, the NCAA denied Masoli's transfer, and Ole Miss announced its appeal Tuesday afternoon. Since Masoli clearly came to Oxford for its graduate school, the Expats wish him a rich and rewarding year in the classroom.)

Bobby Johnson walked. Texas A&M didn't.

Let's welcome the SEC's newest support group: ABBA. The teams that ALL BUT BEAT ALABAMA. Charter members include Auburn, LSU and Tennessee. The newly formed Board of Directors is considering an out-of-town membership for Texas. The one hang-up: Texas wants to be paid -- big! -- to join.

Meetings start with an official club song. "The Whines of Texas ("wah, Colt's arm, wah wah")" joins a three-verse chorus from the SEC schools.
Tennessee: "He took off his helmet . . . We Wuz Robbed."
LSU: "His feet were in bounds . . .We Wuz Robbed."
Auburn: "How do you spell robed? We Had 'Em Whupped."

The other day on ESPN Radio, Colin Cowherd -- the man who said in a straight voice that Lane Kiffin would be good for USC because he was cut from the same cloth as Nick Saban -- tried to make the case that the SEC is no longer the bell cow of college football, that it and the Big 10 are 1 and 1A. He didn't mention the ACC, which its fans have reminded us, has 37 teams in the pre-season Top 25.

To make his point, Cowherd used the analogy of rock bands. The SEC is the British Invasion. The Big 10 is the American bands.
So the SEC/Brits have the Beatles and Stones (Florida and Alabama). But the Big 10/American bands have more depth, and he listed the Allmans, Aerosmith, The Animals . . . His engineer interrupted -- the Animals were British. OK, Cowherd said, there's The Police. Sorry, Brits again. AC/DC? He asked. Aussies, the engineer said.

Case opened. Case closed. There's a lot of good music out there. There's a lot of good college football. But there's only one SEC. The Expats are glad to be back as the conference goes for its fifth BCS title in five tries. Join us. As usual, ACC schools are welcome.

But you'll need to show your IDs at the door.

Bama-Boise, 1-2. Or vice versa.

A little light reading before game time ...

You won't find a better breakdown of all the FBS teams -- that's EVERY team, all 120 of them -- than Paul Myerberg over at http://www.presnapread.com/ .

And to borrow from the great Casey Kasem, "He's almost at number one." All the teams are accounted for except Alabama and Boise State. We'll know soon enough. (Tuesday night update: Boise State at No. 2.)

Side note: The single most read preview belongs to the No. 73 team in the land ... Mississippi State. When asked about this curious phenomenon, Myerberg tweeted, and I quote, Credit goes to the rabid fans and @kyleveazey. Nebraska coming strong. (Kyle Veazey blogs about the Bulldogs at http://blogs.clarionledger.com/msu/).

-- R. Trentham Roberts

For openers: Southern Miss, BB (Before Brett)

Counting down to Southern Mississippi at South Carolina, Thursday at 7:30 Eastern, check your local listings ...

Well of course there was life in Hattiesburg (OK, maybe not nightlife so much) before the Kiln Cannon brought his act to town. (And let's clear up one thing while we're at it: those 2 and a half feet of intestines Favre had pulled out before the 1990 'Bama-beatin' season? They're long gone. They're part of the lore now, NOT part of the reasonably priced medical-waste collection you're seeing on eBay. Accept no substitutes.)

So let's go back let's go back let's go way on to way back when. The year was 1953. Mississippi Southern College, as it was called then, opens the season against fifth-ranked Alabama (led by some guy named Bart Starr) in Montgomery. We'll let "The USA Today College Football Encyclopedia" take it from here:

Mississippi Southern 25, Alabama 19: Strong-armed Mississippi Southern (1-0) HB Hugh Pepper did more running (115y, including dazzling 66y TD) and catching (45y TD) than he did pitching in huge upset of No. 5 Crimson Tide (0-1). Pepper would go on to hurl one National League win in summer of 1954, but would finish with a 2-8 career pitching mark. Alabama was able to to build 19-12 lead by H on TDs by FB Tommy Lewis, HB Bill Oliver and E Curtis Lynch. Bama regulars wilted in 4th Q, necessitating reserves taking over. Eagles proceeded to score 2 TDs against Alabama subs. Mississippi Southern, it was learned the next day, had made membership application to new ACC, but never accomplished that goal.

Alabama would go on to win the SEC title with a 4-0-3 conference record. Mississippi Southern? Their season would include wins over Georgia (with Zeke Bratkowski), Florida State and the Parris Island Marines.

Why all the fuss over a game almost a half-century ago? Consider:

* The Dixie Darlings were first formed at Mississippi Southern the next year (debuting in yet another win over Alabama) setting hearts a-flutter for years to come.
* Hugh Pepper was my high school football coach.
* And if the name Tommy Lewis vaguely rang a bell in the game summary, maybe you better remember him for this Cotton Bowl moment that year:

Let the games begin.

-- R. Trentham Roberts

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Now quarterbacking at Ole Miss ...

Before we get all high and mighty about Ole Miss bringing former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli -- and his attendant baggage -- into the fold, a couple of things:

* SI.com has already staked out its place in the far corner of the Grove set aside for outrage, injustice and extra ice. "Masoli move latest proof Houston Nutt is a certifably dirty coach" reads the headline over Stewart Mandel's column. (Read it here.) As it happens, sharing space on the SI site is a long piece that paints a more complete picture of Masoli. (Read it here.)

* Have you any idea what it takes to get a master's in park and recreation management? Go here and here for the lowdown on "Leisure Programming for Senior Adults," opportunities with the Army Corps of Engineers and other academic adventures.

* Ole Miss fans have bigger fish to fight. There's still the pressing matter of settling on a new mascot. I personally am on board with the Hotty and Toddy muppets, but only if they sound like the Swedish Chef: "Flim flam bork bork, Ole Miss bork bork!" (Go here for the official mascot site.)

-- R. Trentham Roberts