Thursday, December 3, 2009



Attend any football game pitting an SEC team against a team from another BCS conference, and you will more often than not a) watch the SEC team win, and b) hear the fans of the victorious team start an "S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!" chant.

Fanbases from other conferences do not do this, and have come to despise this chant. This hatred manifests itself most often in the form of mocking. No, that's wrong. It doesn't. In order to mock, these fanbases would have to witness their team defeat the SEC opponent more than is presently the case. So, to put it more accurately, this hatred most often manifests itself in the form of coming up with bullshit reasons for the chant.

99 times out of 100 the proffered "reason" always comes back to inferior Southerners having a chip on their shoulder about one thing or another. About a third of the time there is some implied incest joke about the "SEC family". More than half the time the reasoning is in the "they are so proud because that's all they've got" line. Finally,  and I kid you not, I have even seen serious arguments that the S-E-C chant is the South's modern day way of fighting the Civil War. Seriously.

What those Northern Aggressors fail to pick up on in their rush to belittle is that fans of the SEC, while sometimes slow of wit and even slower of tongue, get it. It being, in this case, that conference pride helps ALL members of the conference. That the present dominance of the SEC helps ALL members of the SEC. It's so simple to SEC fans that it really befuddles us that fans in the Big Ten or Big XII or PAC-10 haven't figured it out yet.

The school of thought that the SEC is home to the best teams, top-to-bottom, is borne out most bowl seasons when the sixth or seventh bowl selection of the SEC defeats the second or third, or even first bowl selection of another conference. It is borne out when LSU in 2007 loses not one but two conference games, makes the BCS National Championship Game, and defeats Ohio State convincingly. Sure, they were a controversial participant, but they overcame that by dominating the game. They earned it, and in the process put a HUGE feather in the cap of the Southeastern Conference.

The S-E-C chant during that game was, among other things, a tip of the cap to the rest of the conference, whose collective power generated LSU the benefit of the doubt, for lack of a better phrase, to be in that game in the first place. Other fanbases may not like that benefit, but it's hard to dispute at the moment. The last SEC team to play a complete season without losing a conference game was Auburn in 2004. They went undefeated on the year, 14-0, and were snubbed for the national title. Since then, the SEC has won three BCS titles. What do you think the odds are of another situation like Auburn's in 2004 happening again?

As an Arkansas fan, I don't cheer for the SEC in these big games so much for the particular school, as Florida and Alabama are both pretty much reprehensible to me. I cheer, as an Arkansas fan, because I want to take advantage of that benefit of the doubt the conference has earned on the shoulders of its depth and parity. Be it the Gators or the Tide, I want them to do the conference proud because next year or the year after I want the same chance. Fans of other schools scoff when this reasoning is given by fans of "lesser" SEC schools, but they shouldn't.

Since 1992, when the SEC expanded to two divisions, added a conference championship game and for all intents and purposes began the modern era of college football, the Southeastern Conference has had four different members win the national title. That is 33% of the conference, and that doesn't even include Auburn, who gets no credit for their undefeated season in 2004. Fully more than half of the teams in the conference have the tradition, facilities, and deep pockets necessary to win a national title. This, in my opinion, is what sets the SEC apart, and also what validates that chant.


So who wins this Saturday’s SEC Championship Game between #1 Florida and #2 Alabama?  It’s a rematch from last year, once again matching the top two teams in the country in the biggest game of the season.  Last season, I really thought that Alabama was the best team going into the game, but Florida came away victorious.  This season, I again feel that Alabama is better.  More imposing physically.  When I play the game out in my head, I see Alabama winning.  But really, I have no idea whatsoever.  As good as these two teams are, anything could happen. 

The only thing that is already determined regarding the SEC Championship game is that the winner will advance to the BCS National Championship for the fourth consecutive year.  They will be favored by Las Vegas oddsmakers.  And if the past three years are any indication, they will  defeat their competition and establish themselves as college football’s best.  In the final minutes of the game, as the players of the game are being determined by network commentators, a repetitive chant will rise up from a jubilant half of the stadium. 

S-E-C.  S-E-C.  S-E-C.  Fans from other conferences hate it, and can you blame them?  The better question that these fans will fail to consider, however, is if history repeats itself and the SEC claims its fourth straight…. can you really blame us?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mr. Mid-November


“That’ll be $8.42.  Credit or Debit?”

In a world of steroids and supplements, the needle, The Cream and The Clear, aren’t you surprised and relieved to know that some finely tuned athletes can prepare themselves to tackle greatness for less than a ten spot?

A six-pack of Coors Light and a bag of ice.  That’s all I need.

It’s the next-to-last game of the 2009 Fall Softball Season at Interstate Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, and my team, Team Oinkx, is scheduled to play at 8:30 against a team of youngsters named Give It a Yankee.  That might be a clever name in a kickball league, but in lower level softball, it just makes them seem like a bunch of tools. 

Anyway, Give It a Yankee is undefeated, untied, and untested.  They have demolished every single team they have played this year, including Team Oinkx in two previous meetings.  15-0 and 19-2.  There is a run-rule in effect for this league, and Give It a Yankee has run-ruled their opponent in nearly every game this season.  And looked good doing it.  They are the sharpest outfitted team out there.  Old (but not too old) high school baseball pants.  Old (but not too old) Legion pants.  Old (or, more aptly, out of eligibility) Razorback red pinstripe pants. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  Give It a Yankee boasts a former Hog.  Very newly former, I might add.  College World Series in June.  Bottom level beer league softball in September.  Dave Van Horn would certainly well up with pride at the news.

Anyway, it’s 8:30.  And it’s cold.  There had been talk of simply not showing up to play.  The last team to play Give It a Yankee had walked off the field in the middle of an inning, trailing by more than three touchdowns.  The fate of Team Oinkx isn’t any more promising, and Hooters is warm and has cold beer and hot wings.  And other things. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I voted for Hooters, by the way. 

I am voted down.  Team Oinkx will honorably fall on its sword.  Walk into the Coliseum with head held high.  But at least we’ll do it with a buzz. 


Warming up for me is a pretty simple process.  The way I see it, at 28 and unathletic, my joints and muscles are roughly 1/3 through a collision course with rigor mortis that no amount of stretching can derail.  If injury is in my future tonight, stretching will not prevent it, but I at least need to get the blood pumping.  I stretch my quads.  My hamstrings.  Then run high knees to the fence,  and butt-kicks back. 

Our coach is out of town on business, so we don’t even have balls to warm up with.  We have two game balls, and two bats.   After somebody fetches a couple of spare softballs from their car, I toss a little with Terry, our left fielder and one of our best athletes.  Once our arms are warm, we head to the dugout for a pregame beer to discuss strategy. 

The goal tonight is simple:  limit their extra bases due to throwing errors.  Out opponents  are easily the fastest team in the league, and run the bases aggressively.  Consecutives base hits up the middle for Team Oinkx will typically result in runners on first and second.  Those same hits for Give It a Yankee can easily end up as a run scored and a runner on second due to their speed and aggressive baserunning.  We must get the ball in quickly and refuse to engage in futile efforts to gun their runners down. 

The umpire comes over and explains to us that the batter gets one bat and the player on-deck gets two bats, and only those three bats may be outside the dugout.  He says this very sternly, as if he is somehow privy to our plans to gallivant around the infield with multiple bats in each hand.  Nobody bothers to tell him we have only two bats.  It would have ruined his impassioned explanation of a critical rule. 

8:30.  Finally.  Batter up.  Let’s get this debacle over with.


The game starts off slow, and Team Oinkx actually leads after one inning, 1-0.   There is no excitement.  Encouragement, yes, but certainly no hope.  We led after the first inning in our last meeting as well, and that one ended badly.  All there is to do is to keep swinging on offense and keep catching the ball on defense. 

My first at bat is a weak line drive to shortstop off the handle of the bat.  I hate this pitcher.  He throws high and inside, and I am not a pull hitter.  Not pleased. 

Give It a Yankee take the lead over the next couple of innings, but do not take control of the game.  There are no dropped balls in the outfield enabling them to clear the bases.  Our right fielder Jeremy catches numerous balls that would drop against any other team, including a spectacular diving catch that turns a two-run inside-the-park-home run into an out.  The infield is playing solid, too.  No booted balls.  No errant or unnecessary throws. 

We keep catching the ball, but Team Oinkx just cannot seem to score.  Getting runners on is easy enough, but getting them across the plate is exceedingly difficult.  We hit into no fewer than three double plays, and their shortstop gobbles up everything in sight. 

Finally, in the top half of the sixth inning, after clawing to within one run at 6-5, the Oinkx bats wake up for good.  Rex, our EH, blisters a ball right down the line.  Steve, our left-centerfielder places a ball with precision in a soft part of their defense.  And  I finally get a hit, a well-hit single up the middle, but nothing to write home about. 

As I’m standing on first, I notice that the umpire is looking at the bat.  I am befuddled.  Did I sling it?  I don’t think so.  Is there even a rule against that anyway?  What is going on?  Finally, I realize that the catcher has asked the umpire to check the bat TO MAKE SURE IT’S LEGAL.  Really? Not sure what was so impressive about my routine single up the middle, but I’ll take it as a compliment. 

The ump determines my bat is legal, and suddenly we are excited and encouraged and just plain pissed off.  I make it to second on a hit, and after another hit, I am running full steam for third base.  My buddy Marc, the acting third base coach, is waving me home. 

“Go four!  Go four!  But you damn well better GO if you’re going!”

I hit the bag at third and start to turn for home, but momentum and inertia and every other law of physics apparently dictate at this point that my turn be a little wider than normal.  Like, honestly, probably the widest turn anybody has ever made rounding third base.  So wide, in fact, that I run into Marc.  I feel like one of the outer planets at the far end of their orbit, and when my legs are finally completely back under me I am halfway to home plate and easily fifteen feet off the base path.  I beat the throw, however, and when we get our third out, we have put five runs up and lead 10-6. 

Give It a Yankee get two in the bottom half of the sixth, and with one inning to go we hold a 10-8 lead.  We are guaranteed not to get run-ruled.  We are guaranteed to get our complete hour in.  But now we are concerned with winning.  Our opponents are visibly tense.  They haven’t trailed this late in a game all season.  Their voices strain as they shout encouragement to each other.  They never should have had the umpire check that bat.  They might as well have held up a sign reading “Rattled”. 

Amazingly, Team Oinkx has another monster inning in the top of the seventh.  We get men on base early, before registering outs, and the pressure that this puts on their defense is palpable.  I get my best hit of the season after I finally figure out how to wait for their pitcher to throw a pitch outside.  I get the fat part of the bat squarely on the ball, and experience that “hum” of catching one flush.  It rockets off the barrel, and out of the corner of my eye I can see the left fielder sprinting backwards as I run to first.  A stand up double for a slow fellow like me feels great.  Our right-centerfielder Dillon follows me up with another shot and I get to cross the plate once more.  After the dust settles, we have put five more runs up and lead 15-8 going into the last half of the final inning.  Could this really be happening?

Give It a Yankee are not going down without a fight, and unleash a barrage of hard-hit balls back up the middle in their last half inning.  We only need three outs, though.  There’s a fly ball to right.   One down.  Who cares if a runner advances.  No bad throws!

More balls up the middle.  They are moving station to station now.  Scoring when it’s available, but running the bases cautiously.  Keeping them full and awaiting a big hit.  There’s another fly ball.  Two out.  We just need one more. 

With the meat of their order coming up, one of their players hits a shot into left field and instinctively goes for two.  Terry, in left field, makes a break on it and cuts it off efficiently, getting it to Marc, the cutoff man, who is preparing to throw in front of the lead runner.  Standing on second, I see the batter round second, and inexplicably keep going.  He let himself get way too far off the bag.  I yell to Marc “TWO! TWO!” and he wheels around to find the runner dead-to-rights. 

Marc plays the situation perfectly and charges the frozen runner, forcing him to commit to a base.  He chooses to dive back toward second base and Marc fires a perfect throw to me.  I catch it cleanly and snap my glove down in front of the base just as the Yankee’s head slides into it.  The leather of my mitt right on the button of his ballcap.  There is little doubt about this one, but just to make sure, I inform him.  “You’re OUT!”

We’ve done it.  15-11.  There is little celebration.  Even less trash talking.  The “good game line” after the game is brief, but extremely satisfying.  We beat an undefeated team.  A team that managed to ooze arrogance and inject tension into a league designed for recreation.  After embarrassing every team out there, Give It a Yankee finally gets a taste of what it’s been dishing out, and my team facilitated it.  What an incredibly great feeling.

All of that for $8.42.  What a return on investment.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Play’s at first, infield.

I feel good about this one.

Arkansas hosts the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday, and though it happens rarely, I already have a feeling how this one is going to go.  South Carolina is beaten up, coming off a loss, and are facing their second consecutive road game against an SEC opponent in a “must-win” game scenario. 

Arkansas found itself in this exact scenario when it traveled to Oxford to play Ole Miss, and we all know how that worked out. 

If things play out the way I think they should, Arkansas will take advantage of the suspension of FS Chris Culliver and pick on whoever is playing in his place.  If Mallett is able to get the ball to Joe Adams over the middle of the field, and Michael Smith can get going early, either Greg Childs or Jarius Wright could have a field day on deep passes out of play action.

In every game played at Razorback Stadium this season, the Hogs have played well to start the game.  Even in the loss to Georgia, Arkansas blazed to an early 21-10 lead in the first quarter.  If the Razorbacks play well early on Saturday, it will be interesting to see just how much fight South Carolina has.  Beat up, on the road, and with an offense that has struggled to score points, I could see the Gamecocks folding if things go south for them early in the game. 


In other football news, the Battle of the Ravine will also be played on Saturday between the Tigers of Ouachita Baptist University  (B.A. ‘03) and the Reddies of Henderson State University.  One of the most unique rivalries in college football, and one I’ve had the pleasure of attending several times.

There may be another rivalry in which the visiting team’s empty stadium is visible from the attendants of the game, but I’m unaware of one. 

There may be another rivalry where going “on the road” to face an opponent is actually done after dressing for the game,  but I’m not aware of one.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Battle of the Ravine, Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State are two small universities located in small Arkadelphia, Arkansas (population 10,000).  The schools are separated by a small ravine, a narrow state highway, and the chasm of state funding.  They don’t always hold true to form, but the stereotypes you might draw upon are there.  Ouachita Baptist is smaller, private, and for its part plays well the role of snooty elitist.  To an extent.  Henderson State is larger, public, and seems to naturally play the role of Joe Sixpack in contrast to OBU’s Bible Thumpers.  To an extent.  The difference is that in a town of 10,000, you’re forced to share things with each other.  Like Wal-Mart.  And Brookshire’s.  And even church.  USC and UCLA this is not.  There’s just not enough room for hate.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, do yourself a favor and drive through both campuses.  It won’t take long, as they are across the street from each other.  Tour Henderson first, and then make your way over to Ouachita.  You might think both schools seem exactly the same.  You might think they seem totally different.  And what’s unique about Arkadelphia, and Ouachita and Henderson, is that you’re absolutely right either way. 


Hopefully next week I’ll have the time to write a nice, well reasoned piece about SEC football, with abundant research and thoroughly fleshed out theories and zany, entertaining opinions.  That’s what I was shooting for this week, but four softball games in four days was just too much.  After four consecutive days of “Where do I throw it if it comes to me?”, all creative energy is shot. 

Paid off, too.  I never threw it to the wrong person.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Triple Word Score

  It’s raining.  Like, Biblically.  I’m not sure when it started.  I know it had already started when I was on my way to work this morning.  It was raining at lunch when I walked outside.  It was raining as I drove across town to meet my family for dinner.  It was raining hard as we left the restaurant.  As we drove to my mother’s to visit following dinner.  As we drove home.  And now, 16 hours later, it is still raining as my wife slowly invades my side of the bed.  This is no Shermanesque land grab, mind you.  No raping, pillaging, burning.  This is measured and methodical, but make no mistake.  If I don’t hurry the hell up with this post, I’ll be finishing with one cheek on the precipice of disaster. 

It’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow as well.  Little Rock is closing in on 70” of rain, and 2009 is already on record as the 7th Wettest Year on Record.  And we’re not even to November.

So Stephanie and I will take off for Fayetteville tomorrow.  In the rain.  Because Saturday is homecoming for the University of Arkansas.  The Razorbacks are playing Eastern Michigan University.  On Halloween.  In the cold.  After a flood. 

We are SO there.



That’s where the Eastern Michigan University Eagles are from.  Yes, that’s right.  The EMU Eagles from Ypsilanti.  If this football team were a child, you’d wonder why its parents hated it so much.  That’s a rhetorical question, of course, but if one were looking for an answer, it might be “because it’s so very bad at football.” 

Last week, the EMU Eagles from Ypsilanti went off in search of their first victory of the season.  They were playing the Cardinals of Ball State, also winless on the season.  Rynearson Stadium’s very own version of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.  Try as they might to avoid it, one of these teams would leave the field a winner. 

Through sheer determination, the EMU Eagles of Ypsilanti got it done.  It’s not easy to lose a game in which your opponent gains ONE SOLITARY PASSING YARD, but Eastern Michigan was not to be denied.  They willed themselves to ineptitude, surrendering a 14-point 2nd quarter lead to lose a 29-27 decision. 


All of these ingredients together seem to be the recipe for a game played with an intensity level on par with the sun’s as of late.  A routine cupcake victory, lots of points for the Hogs, few or even zero points for the Eagles.  Very few exciting moments after halftime, and perhaps even fewer spectators in the stands to witness them.  The Razorbacks will not have to work hard to blow out EMU, and the EMU Eagles of Ypsilanti will not have to work nearly as hard as last week to maintain their own brand of perfection.

So, why go?

It’s Halloween, and Stephanie and I both have nieces and nephews we’d like to see dressed up.  I have candy I’d like to be stingy with so I can eat it later myself.  Plus, the game is televised.  In HD, for that matter.  And it’s not like Homecoming is a big draw.  Neither one of us are alumni.  

We go because that’s our thing.  At the very least, it’s my thing that Stephanie goes along with so I can pretend it’s our thing.  Even meaningless games against scrub teams in seasons where our best hope is a mid-tier bowl.  We go because it’s something to look forward to the entire week.  I wrote about it a couple of months ago, and it really is true.  The drive up to Fayetteville for a football game is a really special experience for me.  I look forward to it all week.  If I knew that there was a game being played this weekend and people were going and I could go but instead was choosing voluntarily to do something else?  That would seriously mess with my head. 

I watched Game 1 of the World Series last night.  Cliff Lee, pride of Saline County, was magnificent in Yankee Stadium, helping the Phillies capture the first game of the series.  As I was watching, I thought back to our trip to Yankee Stadium a couple of months ago, and it was really cool to see a place that we had recently been to on such a grand stage.  At the same time, however, I took notice that for all of the drama and fanfare that Game 1 brought,  it still held my interest far more poorly than the certain blowout against the hapless Eagles will this Saturday.  Even as I watched the World Series, my anticipation for the blowout victory against the weakling on Halloween was growing. 

Why do we go?  Because, in a few short months, the only thing to anticipate watching on Saturday, while watching a baseball game on a Wednesday… will be another baseball game.  But for now, we’re still clinging to October, and football is plentiful. 

Stephanie has finished her March to the Edge of the Bed, causing me to flee downstairs in her wake.  Our cat just joined me.  It’s 11:43.  I’ve been up for 17 hours.

And it’s still raining.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Halfway Never Felt So Far

I am a huge fan of The Masters. One thing that makes The Masters so great is the volatility of the leaderboard on Sunday. As the saying goes, “The Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday.” And year after year, this is illustrated when CBS puts up a graphic of what is essentially a time-lapse leaderboard. Displaying in chronological order what the top of the leaderboard looked like at different points throughout Sunday afternoon, viewers get a chance to step back and see how all the individual swings and holes paint such a compelling picture over about three short hours.
It’s not the perfect analogy, but fans of the SEC know that in Green Jacket parlance, we are making the turn on Sunday afternoon. If recruiting season was Thursday and Spring Ball was Friday and Fall Camp was Saturday, that means the first half of conference play would be the front nine on Sunday, and the second half would be the back nine. And that’s exactly what we’re currently staring down the barrel of. So let’s see where we’re at, and what we’ve learned. It may foreshadow some of what lies ahead.

EASTERN DIVISION Conference Overall
School W-L Pct. PF PA W-L Pct.
Florida 4-0 1.000 100 43 6-0 1.000
Georgia 3-2 .600 159 153 4-3 .571
South Carolina 2-2 .500 87 97 5-2 .714
Tennessee 1-2 .333 80 68 3-3 .500
Kentucky 1-3 .250 74 121 3-3 .500
Vanderbilt 0-4 .000 29 95 2-5 .286
WESTERN DIVISION Conference Overall
School W-L Pct. PF PA W-L Pct.
Alabama 4-0 1.000 115 36 7-0 1.000
LSU 3-1 .750 76 61 5-1 .833
Auburn 2-2 .500 112 111 5-2 .714
Ole Miss 1-2 .333 36 45 3-2 .600
Miss. State 1-2 .333 65 82 2-4 .333
Arkansas 1-3 .250 112 133 3-3 .500


  • Alabama is the best team in the country. Questions about Greg McElroy were legitimate questions, but he has performed well when needed, and above all, has managed his team. Remember, the Tide went undefeated with Jay Barker back there. Trent Richardson is having a great freshman campaign, gaining over five yards per carry. Mark Ingram leads the SEC with a 129 yds/gm average and is sneaking into the Heisman race, but the real star is the Crimson Tide defense. They are second in the SEC in scoring defense, first in total defense, and tied for first in turnover margin. In fact, there really has been only one player for the Crimson Tide who hasn’t lived up to preseason billing…

  • A.J. Green is better than Julio Jones. I said it here before the September 19 game between Arkansas and Georgia:

Oh yeah, then there is A.J. Green, who just might be the best receiver in the SEC. Yes, even better than Julio Jones.

There are actually several receivers building justified cases to claim they are better than Jones. You won’t find him in the top ten of a single statistical category for SEC receivers. To be fair, that undoubtedly has to do with the attention he creates, as well as the reluctance Saban has shown to throw the football without reason to. However, Green gets attention from defenses, too. That hasn’t stopped him from leading the league in receptions per game, yards per game, and touchdown receptions. His touchdown grab against LSU on Georgia’s final drive was one of the finest plays of the season, thus far. Unfortunately, it was also one of the most controversial…

  • Florida is missing something. Dan Mullen’s input. It’s hard to accuse the SEC’s leading offense in points and yards of being a disappointment, but it’s also hard not to think that if you watch the games. Florida dined on two courses of cupcake to begin the season, but have sputtered in SEC play, topping 40 once against Kentucky, but failing to hit even 30 in their other three contests. The absence of Percy Harvin is usually first brought up when Florida’s offensive woes are discussed, but I believe the departure of Dan Mullen to Mississippi State is playing a much bigger role. The 2009 Gators look the same from a distance, but upon closer inspection one notices that the playbook has been pruned, the execution is not as sharp, and the knack that Meyer has for calling the perfect play at the perfect time seems to be, well, not so much of a knack anymore. Put all that together and consider that Mullen had been with Meyer since they were at Notre Dame together in the late 1990s and it’s not too much of a leap to consider that Mullen was the creative force behind the offensive juggernauts that Meyer took credit for.

  • Houston Nutt, you are who we thought you were. At the very least, you are still who I knew you to be. Taking a team full of talented players recruited by the coach you succeeded, you shocked the world in 2008 with nine wins including a Cotton Bowl victory. Riding that momentum, and on the wings of a top ten preseason ranking, you coach your 2009 squad to a flat opening win against lowly Memphis, rise to #4 as other teams fall, and, with the world watching during a primetime Thursday night showdown, proceed to score 10 measly points in your SEC-opening loss against unranked South Carolina. Your offense has scored only four touchdowns in three SEC games, and was kept out of the end zone in the massively anticipated matchup against Alabama. You asked Rebel fans for their support that day, and they responded by setting a new attendance record for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. And not one soul among those 62,657 got to see a single Rebel touchdown that day.

  • There is no bigger enigma than LSU’s offense. Unless it’s Les Miles poker strategy. Seriously, how do you take a group of skill players that includes Charles Scott, Trindon Holiday, Brandon LaFell, Richard Dickson, and Terrance Tolliver, put them together with an experienced offensive line and a mobile and adequately armed quarterback, and not score points? And not gain yards? With all of that talent, LSU is 11th in scoring offense, and LAST in total offense. Amazingly, in another massively anticipated contest with another attendance record set, another home team failed to cross the goal line, as the Tigers accounted for just three points against Florida on October 10, only hours after Ole Miss suffered the same fate at the hands of Alabama. If not for a ridiculous punt return by Chad Jones against Mississippi State, and the unfortunate penalty against A.J. Green in the Georgia game, LSU could easily be 1-3 in SEC instead of 3-1. Miles must walk around on two huge rabbit’s feet.

  • The suckass officiating in the SEC has reached critical mass. To use a highly scientific adjective. After inserting themselves into the winning equation in at least two high-profile games this season, referee Marc Curles and his crew find themselves suspended until November 14, which is pretty much unprecedented (to my knowledge) in the Southeastern Conference. The poor officiating during the waning minutes of the Georgia-LSU game earlier in the year was highlighted by an excessive celebration call against A.J. Green following his touchdown catch in the YouTube clip seen above. That was bad, but Curles and his crew outdid themselves last Saturday with their ineptitude in calling a game between Arkansas and #1 Florida in Gainesville. Just watch:

Something has to be done. The SEC is all about superlatives. The best conference. The most money. The worst officiating. Can’t we, just on this one issue, strive to be mediocre?


Where else? We’re headed for a matchup between #1 Alabama and #2 Florida in the SEC Championship Game for the second consecutive year. Last year, I thought that Alabama was the best team, and I was wrong. This year, I again feel like Alabama is better than Florida. I think they are head and shoulders better than Florida. Than anyone. I’ll be shocked if I’m wrong on this two years in a row.

What else?

Arkansas will win their final six games of the season and turn a 1-3 start in the SEC into a New Years Day bowl season.

Mark Richt will be legitimately on the hot seat after his Bulldogs fail to get any momentum whatsoever for the entire 2009 season. How hot will his seat be? That will depend on the outcome of the Bulldogs annual Thanksgiving game against Georgia Tech.

Auburn will complete a successful first season under Gene Chizik, although there will be a faction of fans ready to fire him after being humiliated by Alabama. Tiger fans will pray that they can hold on to offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn for just one more year.

Ole Miss could potentially miss out on a bowl game after being ranked in the preseason top ten. This is because the magic number for the Rebels is seven wins, due to the scheduling of two Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) teams. They need three more wins, and have only one gimme. It could happen. Oh, please, let it happen.

The only thing for certain is that the second half of this SEC season, like the first half of this season, and every season before it, will be marked by the routine occurrence of the completely unpredictable. Maybe Ryan Mallett will have a 98 yard touchdown run. Maybe Florida will get beat by Vanderbilt. Maybe Steve Spurrier will realize he has become a defensive coach. Maybe Lane Kiffin will make headlines for actually coaching football. Better tune in. You just never know. Except about Houston Nutt.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Get your hate on

My mother taught me that one should never hate people.  That whatever negative effect that emotion might have toward the target would be equally doled out upon the emitter.  She’s right, too.  I try not to hate anyone.

But, man, I cannot stand Tim Tebow.  I think I really might hate him.

He offended my sensibilities right from the start.  In 2006, as a true freshman, you would have thought he was the team captain.  Emotional.  Fiery, even.  Completely over the top.  Gator fans ate it up.  As #12 Chris Leak was leading their team to a national championship, Florida fan after Florida fan went all-in with #15. 

At this point it was an annoyance.  There was no lore to speak of.  There were other football stories out there.  Tebow Fatigue had not yet set in.  My ire was drawn by mostly trivial things.  The stupid assed way he slaps his hands out of the shotgun like some self-congratulatory seal after successfully begging for an anchovy.  That, and the way he absolutely goes berserk after a four-yard run for a first down.  Springing up off the ground, ball in hand, and imploring fans to get up and cheer.  This in itself sounds pretty harmless, but it’s just the way he does it.  Herky-jerky, almost rigid from the exertion, vein bulging visibly from his neck, with zero doubt of a matching one on his forehead hidden behind his helmet.  Shit, man, just go back to the damn huddle.

I probably could have handled my disdain for Tebow if things had ended there.  But nooooo, he had to go win the freaking Heisman.  As a sophomore.  ON A TEAM THAT LOST THREE GAMES.

Granted, he did have a pretty decent year, breaking SEC records for rushing touchdowns in a season (23) most touchdowns accounted for (55), and was the first player ever to rush for at least 20 touchdowns and pass for at least 20 touchdowns in the same season.  As a by-product, he demolished the record for the post-touchdown-glance-skyward-accompanied-by-the-earnest-point-to-God maneuver. 

Because of this performance, he was able to steal the Heisman from Darren McFadden.  The irony being, of course, that McFadden was essentially the player who gave Tebow the opportunity to win.  McFadden, the runner up in 2006 as well as 2007, effectively greased the wheels in 2006 for Tebow’s victory in 2007.  Clearly the most dominant player in 2006, McFadden lost first and foremost because he was a sophomore, and also because Troy Smith, the senior quarterback from undefeated (at the time) Ohio State, had already been anointed as the next recipient.  After Smith was exposed against LSU in the BCS National Championship Game, some began to question the informal tradition of awarding the trophy to upperclassmen only, opening the door for Tebow in 2007.  Hopefully Tim at least sent Darren a thank you card.

Any hopes that Tebowitis was in remission during the 2008 season were eradicated during a press conference following the Gators home loss to unranked Ole Miss.  Later in the week, in typically understated Tebow fashion, the Savior from the Sunshine State made an emotional, heartfelt, voice-cracking vow that no team, no player would ever play harder than he and his Gators would for the rest of the season.  And, of course, they did, winning out and winning the BCS National Championship.  Gator fans undoubtedly remember just where they were when they first heard Tebow’s promise.  Similarly, fans of others schools remember just where they were when they first considered violence toward an electrical appliance as a means of escaping that damned speech.  One year later, and it’s still getting played ad nauseum by ESPN.

How in the world can you top a teary-eyed performance in which you essentially call your shot, Babe Ruth style, and then execute it?  What could Tebow possibly do in 2009, and how deep would he have to dig to make my hatred for him further develop?  Simple.  He went all CDC on us.  That’s right.  Tim Tebow got the swine flu. 

Not really.  It was later reported that Tebow was suffering from an unspecified respiratory illness that was not H1N1, but this came out only after Tebow was flown to the Gators’ game against Kentucky in an aircraft separate from the rest of his team.  Really?

Apparently that wasn’t enough, because during the game Tebow suffered a concussion after a brutal hit caused the back of his head to strike the knee of a teammate.  The impact knocked him unconscious, and he was motionless on the field for several minutes.  After getting back to the sideline, Tebow began vomiting.  On national television.  Upon the decision to take him to the hospital for observation and testing, camera crews gave viewers a shot through the back window of the ambulance as it pulled away to verify that, yes, it really was Tim Tebow in there. 

Really, what more is there?  Aren’t his fans even getting a little tired of it at this point?  Seriously.  In spite of Tebow being, by all accounts, a genuinely good guy as well as a fierce and worthy competitor, aren’t people just a little bit over all of it?  Even if you like him, aren’t you sick of him after four years of this?

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for the Age of Mallett to begin.  Hopefully it begins tomorrow in Gainesville.  Tebow’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir squaring off against Mallett’s Eminem.

I know which one I’d rather listen to.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can’t ride home on a bowl of goat…

chili First time in my life that I suffered from chili before I ate it.

I told you this would happen.  From my blog during our Off Week:

The sun will rise again tomorrow.  College football fans all over the country will greet it with that familiar knot in their stomach.  Their team is playing tomorrow, and they get to experience again the best time of the year.  Me?  No Hogs.  No other big game to plan around.  No home-cooked dinner at Mom’s.  No catching up with friends.  Hell, not even a wedding.  This sucks all around, and will prove to be a problem later in the year.  For the Razorbacks and myself.  Mark my words.

I really should pay more attention.  A couple of weeks ago, after the Auburn game was announced as a likely 11:00 a.m. kickoff, Stephanie asked me if we could go home after the game was over instead of on Sunday morning.  Her dad is driving down from Lexington because he has Columbus Day off.

I figured “What the hell?” and told her sure, we could go back on Saturday. 

Not until yesterday did the critical error I made dawn on me.  Arkansas and Auburn kick at 11:00.  Then Ole Miss and Alabama kickoff at 2:30.  I can’t miss that.  Saban will absolutely dismantle Nutt, and I will maniacally enjoy every second.  And THEN… LSU and Florida kick off at 7:00.  Two top five teams battling for supremacy, with the possible storyline of Saint Timothy literally risking his life for The Jort Nation.

So, when, exactly, am I supposed to drive us home on Saturday?


I quickly devise a plan.  I conclude that the best course of action is simply to be honest.  I will explain the situation to my lovely wife.  Explain that this is one of the biggest Saturdays of SEC football in the past decade.  Explain that Houston Nutt is revved up and ready for Fail on the biggest stage in the land, the CBS Afternoon game.  Explain that Tim Tebow’s life could actually be in danger if he plays, but gee whiz, the Gators NEED him.

“She’ll understand,” I tell myself. “She’s awesome.” 

So I work up my courage and trot out my story.  I lay it all out there.  Nutt.  Tebow.  The works.  She considers my plea for a moment.  Okay, a second. 

“But my dad is making chili for lunch Sunday”


Weekends like this are the reason the SEC is the superior football conference in America.  Singularly.  Without competition. 

The marquee matchup is obviously between No. 1 Florida and No. 4 LSU, the only two schools with claim to more than one BCS National Championship.  Saturday night in Death Valley.  I remember another matchup between these two schools that sold me for good on SEC football 12 long years ago.  It was 1997.  Arkansas wasn’t very good, and hadn’t been very good since joining the SEC.  As a teenager, my fandom wasn’t what it is now. 

I remember sitting on a couch watching #14 LSU run up and down the field with their stable of great backs.  Kevin Faulk.  Rondell Mealey.  Cecil “The Diesel” Collins.  The Tigers beat #1 Florida in typically Tiger dramatic fashion.  The students spilled over onto the field.  I knew what I was watching was something special, and something that didn’t happen in the Southwest Conference that Arkansas had departed five years prior.  There was just something about the atmosphere.  College football in the SEC was more authentic than college football anywhere else that I could see.  And it has only gotten better.

Only in the Southeastern Conference would second billing go to a game like #20 Ole Miss hosting #3 Alabama.  Even though the Crimson Tide hold an absurdly lopsided advantage in the series, winning over 80% of the contests between the schools, the scores have been close and the action has been fierce in recent years.

The last meeting in Oxford between the two teams saw Ole Miss lose a heartbreaker after a long completion to Shay Hodge nearly assuring a Rebel victory was overturned.  Livid and liver-hating fans responded by throwing all manner of items on the field, most notably a single red high-heeled shoe.  This is Ole Miss, after all.  Be a drunken ass if you must, but for God’s sake, at least do it pretentiously!

Normally this would be an early kick, as the Rebels typically know their place against the Tide, but this year is supposed to be different.  Riding high off a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech last New Years’ Day, the Rebels began the season in the Top 10 and worked their way up to #4 before pissing their pants the first chance they got against South Carolina.  This Saturday presents Houston Nutt with a perfect opportunity to score the big upset he is famous for and get his team some momentum.  It also presents him with another opportunity to appear underprepared and overmatched against a superior coach with superior talent.  This will not end well for the Right Reverend.

The matchup between Arkansas and Auburn has all kinds of storylines.  Petrino coached with Chizik under Tommy Tuberville at Auburn.  Tiger offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was the Razorback offensive coordinator in 2006, and coached against the Razorbacks last year as the OC of Tulsa.  Petrino was secretly contacted in 2003 to replace a struggling Tubs, but Auburn finished strong and that clandestine airport rendezvous was lambasted.  To bring everything full circle, Petrino’s first SEC victory last year against the Tigers was one of the final nails in the coffin that sealed his fate at Auburn.  Such is life in the Southeastern Conference.

With all of the shadowboxing going on between coaches Saturday, there will also be a game played on the field, and it’s important to note that the home team has not won in this series since 2004.  That doesn’t bode well for the Razorbacks, but by all accounts this year’s matchup feels different than previous ones. 

For the longest, Arkansas and Auburn have seemingly seen their success come from the legs of the endless supply of tremendous running backs each school produces.  In the case of the Tigers, I really think it’s some cyborg that gets a fresh coat of paint and a name change, because it is always the same guy back there.  Big.  Fast.  Impossible to tackle.  Cadillac Williams.  Ronnie Brown.  Rudi Johnson.  Brandon Jacobs.  Ben Tate.  And I’m leaving out several.  Arkansas counters with Madre Hill, Cedric Cobbs, Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, and of course, Fred Talley, whose 241 yards on The Plains in 2002 still haunts Tiger fans to this day.

While Auburn possesses a superb running attack with Ben Tate as the workhorse and shifty Onterrio McCaleb providing big play spark, they will look to pass more than they have in years past.  Gus Malzahn has turned Chris Todd into an effective if not outstanding SEC quarterback, which is 180 degrees from where he was in 2008.  Of course, Arkansas counters with Ryan Mallet and a stable of speedy, sure-handed receivers that have been covered on here before.  The ball will get thrown around a lot on Saturday, and judging from the defensive units of both teams, it may not hit the ground very often.


Chili is a very big deal in my wife’s family.  Stephanie’s dad has won multiple church chili cookoffs, to the point that he was “term limited” from competition.  It really is excellent chili.  Stephanie and her sister both rave over it, and Steph can be a very picky eater.  But is it so good that it requires us to come home a full 18 hours before consumption?  Causing me to miss a substantial portion of the biggest football weekend of the season to date, and one of the biggest for the conference in years?


And then… chili happened.

What it comes down to, though, is that my wife wants to spend time with her Daddy.  He lives 10 hours away, and she wants to see him Saturday night and she doesn’t want to wait until Sunday and she doesn’t give a damn if it messes up my watching LSU/Florida and Ole Miss/Bama or not.

Hell, we’ve got DVR.  The games, literally, can wait.  I haven’t gotten to hang out with her dad in a while, either, and I’m looking forward to that. 

And it really is excellent chili.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Southwest Classic: A Rivalry Regurgitated

Hey Norm!  If you were a "rivalry game” between two teams who hadn’t played in 18 years, would you incessantly promote yourself?

I know I would.

I’d smother myself in TV rights and $300 tickets.  A sparkling new stadium and a catchy name like “Southwest Classic”.

I’d taste soooooooo good.

Arkansas meets Texas A&M this Saturday at Cowboys Stadium, affectionately known as JerryWorld.  It is the first of ten consecutive meetings between the two schools.  A clash of the two best conferences in the nation, the SEC and the Big XII, and a rebirth of a great rivalry from the long-dead Southwest Conference. 

I am 27 years old.  I was 10 years old when Arkansas played its first SEC conference game.  I have watched the Razorbacks play every SEC team.  I have been to 5 of 12 SEC stadiums.  I have been to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. 

I can speak fluently in SEC.  Yea, Alabama.  Geaux Tigers.  War Damn Eagle.  I know the significance of 18 miles per hour in Oxford, Mississippi.  Of Mr. Two Bits.  Of Smokey and Uga.  I.  Love.  SEC.  Football.

On the other hand, I do not and cannot give a crap about Texas A&M.  I’ve tried, and I just can’t.

I have never watched Arkansas play Texas A&M in football.  Never been to College Station.  I know no more about the Texas A&M Aggies than I do the Oregon Ducks or the Minnesota Gophers or the West Virginia Mountaineers.

I understand that the Aggies have a lot of traditions they hold dear.  A dog.  A fire.  A unique band.  A highly organized student section.  Too bad it’s all so dreadfully boring.  A&M is a football school, and I can name as many former Aggie basketball players as I can former Aggie football players:  one. 

Don’t get me wrong;  I think this is a great game for the Razorbacks.  It’s an out-of-conference game against an opponent from the conference that is closest to the SEC in football.  It should be nationally televised each year, and, by all accounts, the facility it is to be played in is far and away the most impressive in the country, if not the world. 

Notice that none of these reasons have anything to do with rekindling old flames from conferences past.  And we haven’t even gotten to the two main reasons Jeff Long lined up this game for the Razorbacks.  The same two reasons any businessman makes any decision:  Money and power.

Shortly after the renewal of the series was announced in March of 2008, reports of $5 Million payouts to each team began to hit blogs and message boards.  Even in the financially dominant SEC, that is serious money for a regular season football game.  It is nearly 10% of the Razorbacks’ entire Athletic Budget.  One game!  Not even counting television! 

To lock in a deal like that for an entire decade is a tremendous boon to the University of Arkansas.  Made possible by the the benevolence of alumnus Jerry Jones, the Southwest Classic is without a doubt a sweetheart deal that the other 11 schools of the SEC are green with envy over.  At least they get their fair share of the television revenue.

Additionally, this game carries with it the opportunity to bore out further a recruiting pipeline that Arkansas has been the beneficiary of for decades. 

When it was a member of the Southwest Conference, Arkansas was dependent upon getting football players from the state of Texas.  Good and great players from within Arkansas were usually sewn up as Razorbacks before their recruitment ever started, and still the Hogs depended mightily on the Lone Star State to provide enough quality players to put a winning product on the field.

As the Razorbacks have settled into the SEC, the dependence on  Texas has waned as pipelines into regions across the southeast started to emerge.  Louisiana.  Georgia.  Florida.  And though the talent in Texas was ever-present, the exposure for the Razorbacks was no longer there.  And when you combine a decrease in exposure with a reduction in allocated resources, a decline in the number of Texas-bred Razorbacks is the logical outcome.  Yes, we still get a great many players from Texas, but not like we used to.

This series presents a chance for the Razorbacks to reacquaint Texans with the Razorback program.  However, instead of being dependent upon talent from Texas as it was in the days of the Southwest Conference, the Razorbacks can use their pipeline into Texas as an advantage that the rest of their conference does not have.

The sting of recruiting and missing on a blue-chip recruit from Jackson, Mississippi or Jackson, Tennessee is two-fisted.  Not only have you wasted resources on recruiting that player, but you will likely have to compete against him yearly.  Miss out on a blue chipper from Lake Jackson, Texas, and he’s most likely a Longhorn, which is a dreadful fate, but better than him being a Rebel or Tiger or Volunteer.

Arkansas has before it a unique opportunity to turn its perennial negative into a positive.  The knock on Arkansas has always been that it is out of place.  The Razorbacks never fit in competing against eight schools from Texas in the SWC, and they don’t fit in with the East-of-the-Mississippi mentality of the SEC, either.  Yet they competed in the SWC and compete in the SEC with respectable success.  If Arkansas can use their newest inroad into Texas to gain some recruiting momentum there without losing steam in the southeast, it might be just what the Hogs need to jump that last hurdle keeping them from being an elite team in the conference.

See?  Money and power.  That’s why this game is so great for the Razorbacks. 

These aren’t new ideas.  People identified these positives immediately after the announcement of the series.  But instead of saying that we are playing this game for the money and for the recruits, we prattle on about a rivalry renewed.  Old-timers tell war stories of games from the 60s and 70s, when both programs were in their prime.  We talk about dogs, and fires, and bands.

That’s all well and good, and I am happy for everybody who is so excited about this game.  Any reason for excitement over the Razorbacks is a good thing as far as I am concerned.  I just can’t muster up the additional excitement for this week, however.  I could do without all the ballyhoo.  I just want to see my Razorbacks go into Dallas and get the victory, the money, and the recruiting power. 

And then I want to relish getting to play Auburn.  Followed by Florida.  Followed by Ole Miss.  War Damn Eagle.  Mr. Two Bits.  Hotty Toddy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


This is a picture of the utter despair from Gator fans as their savior lay motionless on the field after receiving a crushing hit from a blitzing Kentucky Wildcat.

I don't hate Tebow as a player the way so many do, but I sure have a lot of disdain for Gator fans. And this picture serves as a one-stop shop as to why.

You want a quick count? That's two jerseys, two Shrek ears, one crooked visor, six collagen injections, a bottle of hair dye, a Gator-themed "LiveStrong" bracelet, and one of those gay-assed Live radios I made fun of last month.

And is that Kige Ramsey in the background? I cannot wait for his take on Tebowgate.

Anyone who says that woman doesn't live in Ocala and live for Gator football, show dogs, and diet pills is lying to himself.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bobby Petrino doesn't give a flip what you think about The Georgia Game

Going to do my best to make this a weekly feature of games I attend in person. I've read no articles, and have seen no highlights except for a clip of Childs' TD catch and no stats except for Mallett's line. This is my view from the cheap seats, 100% accurate except for those parts clouded by beer, a poor night's sleep, and the eight year-old down the row who, I swear to God, got up to get food or drink 10 freaking times during the game. So here we go.

* Ryan Mallett has an unbelievable gift. I wasn't completely sold on him until last night. The majority of his passes were thrown well before receivers came out of their break. We have heard so much about his arm strength that his touch has really been overlooked. He did it all last night. The first touchdown pass to Childs was absolutely perfect. Like, so good it almost seemed like a fluke, especially after four years of Casey Dick.

With that said, the red flags are there. When we got down and time was getting tight, Ryan seemed to try to get everything at once. He will try to make the impossible throw when the easy throw is there, and even when the easy throw looks to be the best option for a big gain.

Also, he's got to work on his composure. The slide two yards shy of a first down was disconcerting for a couple of reasons. First, I understand that sliding is probably what Petrino would have him do, but I like to think that if it were me, I wouldn't be sliding in that situation. I like to think that sliding wouldn't even be an option that close to the goal line, regardless of down or game situation. Of course, I would also like to think that I wouldn't piss my pants in that situation. I understand I'm likely wrong on all counts. More importantly, jumping up and running over to the official made my eyes bulge. That's asking for trouble, and I wonder if he did that because he immediately regretted not sliding. It was around that time that his accuracy started to take a serious dip. That was really his first mistake, and he started pressing to make up for it. It didn't work out.

* The defense is atrocious. Also, water is wet and the sun rises in the east. I don't know if Willy Robinson is a bad gameday coach, because his defenses are so bad fundamentally that it really doesn't matter what he calls. Losing Franklin certainly didn't help. They are getting behind us on the outside, so we go cover two to help the corners. That opens up the seam route with their tight end. Willy schemes to stop that, and Green gets an untested corner on an island with no safety support. Want to double Green? That leaves their other capable receivers with the same opportunity, and opens up the running game as well. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Regardless of his ability as a gameday coach, the lack of preparation and apparent lack of skills displayed by Robinson's defense falls back on him. We had guys unsure of where to line up. We had unnecessary penalties and inopportune times. And we had starters...talented players we depend on, displaying such a grotesque lack of composure that it was embarrassing to be a Hog fan for that one play.

Who is our leader on this defense? Who could it be? Certainly nobody on the line, as they were the opposite of intimidating last night. Jerico Nelson? Not when he's committing offsides on crucial third downs that enable a stalled drive to continue. Matt Harris? Just not seeing it. Who is it? It's certainly not Franklin. We are leaderless on the field, and it looks like they aren't getting much direction when they go to the sidelines. I am anxious to read what Robinson has to say in defense of the job he did.

* Far more troubling to me than the nonexistent defense was the absolute chaos that was special teams. I gave him a pass after Missouri State because it was mostly problems with executions, but after last night, I have to wonder what the hell John L. Smith is doing. Last night we had a delay of game on a punt when the ball was already inside our own five yard-line. That punt went less than 30 yards.

We had the kickoff return team line up on the wrong end of the field. This is Division I football. And they lined up on the wrong side of the field.

Finally, on one punt return, I'm pretty sure we used ten players. And if I'm not mistaken, we had NINE out there and ran one more on at the last second. To cover their gunner. Who was standing by himself. I really hope I'm mistaken.

But hey, Tejada made all his kicks, and we kept all of our kicks in-bounds.

* I don't know what happens to cause it because I'm always seem to look at something else, but we have a play where our outside receiver runs a crossing pattern and somehow rubs his man off, and this is going to be a bread-and-butter play all season. We ran it at least twice with Adams and once with Wright, and I have never seen a receiver so wide open. It's good for 25 yards every time, as long as Mallett puts it on the money, because it's a tough throw across the field. I was surprised we didn't go to it more last night, because Georgia NEVER figured it out.

* The jury is still out, but I think Joe Cox might be a little better than he has been given credit for. It should take NONE of the heat off of our defense, but he threw some really great passes last night. We made him look like an all star, but he is much better than the Casey Dick/Jonathan Crompton comparison he's been getting. I think he looked like a legitimate SEC quarterback last night.

After the game, a buddy offered this up regarding the rest of the season. "We are going to score 40 points a game. If you can score 50 on our defense, you'll win. If not, you'll lose." I agree in theory, except I am concerned that our passing attack won't be nearly as effective if our running game is exposed. Georgia had to respect it last night, and we made them pay.... once they abandoned that, Mallett wasn't nearly as effective. Something else that concerns me is how we scored most of our points. 1st and 3rd quarters, when the plays were almost certainly already scripted. Petrino seems to not do as well on the fly.

If Alabama starts out selling out against the pass and we can't run it well enough to make them stop, we are going to be in serious trouble. Like... "new guy at Sing Sing" trouble. It will be ugly early.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Look for the Pylon: The Athens Music Scene predicts The Georgia Game

Vince Dooley came to the University of Georgia in 1964. Herschel Walker arrived in 1980. And the 40 Watt Club opened in 1978, helping usher in an explosive music scene an hour northeast of Atlanta. Dooley left the University of Georgia in 2004. Walker left in 1983. 40 Watt Club is still kicking without signs of slowing down. Longevity matters little to a Georgia Bulldog, however, as they take pride in their ability to stay rooted in their best moments, regardless of factors other things and people succumb to…like, you know, time. Much like Bears fans with Ditka and Alabama fans with Bryant, Georgia fans have become so obsessed with finding their next Walker, it has become not only a black mark against their reputation, but also a detriment to their program. Because of this, I think it is only fair to let the least heralded, yet most productive member of this triumvirate offer its opinion on this weeks game. So…what does the music of Athens have to say about Saturday’s matchup? I’m glad you asked.

“Home Field Advantage”

This Drive By Truckers song from their Brighter than Creation’s Dark album is not one of my favorites from the Athens-based band, and that makes it all the more appropriate in this instance. Critical in the SEC, a home field advantage is something that the Razorbacks have gone without in recent years. Consistent almost as the passing of the seasons, big games in Fayetteville seem to come, go, and get checked with an “L”. It’s not that Razorback Stadium doesn’t get loud. It does. It’s just that the crowd has never been given a reason to stay loud. There always seems to be a major catastrophic moment that manages to take the wind out of 75,000 sails simultaneously. Any true Hog fan can tick off the major tailgates they have attended in Fayetteville over the past ten years. Ask us how the victory party after the big game was, however, and all you will get is a dirty look.

This year is different, however. A new coach brings a new attitude. This may be Bobby Petrino’s second season in Fayetteville, but this is his first truly big game. For the first time, he has everything in place. The personnel. The opponent. The setting. Primetime doesn’t get much more primetime than a 6:45 p.m. kickoff on ESPN against the Georgia Bulldogs. A still sparkling Reynolds Razorback Stadium, one of the prettiest settings for football in the country, even has a little new bling to show off. A new LED ribbon board, new stadium speakers, and most importantly, a new playing surface have been installed. Bobby Petrino wants a fast team on a fast surface, and in just his second season, he has accumulated both. If things work out the way Petrino thinks they should, the Hogs’ home field advantage will be as much literal as figurative.

“Everybody Hurts”

R.E.M. is the king of Athens-born rock bands, and this song from 1992 is one of its biggest hits. It’s also seemingly an anthem for both schools as injuries have already taken a toll in this short season. The Razorbacks lost senior starting receiver London Crawford, one of just a few upperclassmen on the two-deep, for several weeks in their September 5th opener against Missouri State. The Bulldogs have been even more plagued. Just one season after watching a much-hyped Georgia squad underachieve due in part to a decimated offensive line, followers of the Red and Black must be experiencing déjà vu after losing left tackle Trinton Sturdivant and defensive end Rod Battle for the year in the first two weeks of the season experiencing déjà vu after losing left tackle Trinton Sturdivant and defensive end Rod Battle for the year in the first two weeks of the season.

The most excruciating pain the Bulldogs are feeling, however, is likely a vicious case of phantom limb pain. Matthew Stafford gone. Mohamed Massaquoi gone. Knowshon Moreno gone. Hurts, doesn’t it, Dawgs? Very reminiscent of the 2008 Razorbacks, who were suddenly without the services of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Marcus Monk, and Peyton Hillis. 5-7 was the result, and with the SEC as brutal as ever, that conceivably could be the result for Georgia.

“Keep Your Hands to Yourself”

Although this Georgia Satellites hit is technically the product of an Atlanta band, it’s just too fitting to pass up. The team that can best keep its hands to itself, namely avoid holding and pass interference penalties, is likely the team that will prevail. What sounds easy in theory, however, is quite another matter when things go live and the x-factor known as “game speed” shows up.

Both teams have plenty of speed at receiver and will look to put opposing defensive backs in vulnerable positions. Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, and Cobi Hamilton all can burn, while Branden Smith of Georgia, while technically not a receiver, can flat out fly. Oh yeah, then there is A.J. Green, who just might be the best receiver in the SEC. Yes, even better than Julio Jones.

In what is likely to be a shootout, an ill-timed holding penalty might be the only thing able to effectively kill a drive and force one team to play catch-up. Conversely, a defensive pass interference call could prolong a flagging drive in a game where every stop is huge. With the Bulldogs next to last in the SEC in penalties with 20 infractions over two games, but first in opponent penalties, enjoying 102 yards per game off of the opponents, it seems likely that nobody, including the officials, will be keeping their hands to themselves.


Try as they might to persuade you otherwise, this B-52s ditty is not nearly as pertinent to the game Saturday as a Bulldog fan would have you believe. Like the psychotic girl with a death grip on her phone awaiting a call three days after a bedfellow slipped out in the murky predawn, Georgians STILL have not forgiven Bobby Petrino for leaving the Falcons. Never mind that the bill of goods he was sold (the chance to develop Michael Vick) never materialized. Never mind that Petrino and Authur Blank had agreed ON THE FRONT END that Petrino could opt out for the college ranks at any time if he felt the NFL wasn’t his cup of tea. Never mind that the Falcons had recently enough had to replace another coach with three games left in the season… Dan Reeves, who Blank unceremoniously fired. And you just thought that smell at Sanford Stadium was sewage. Now we know what hypocrisy smells like.

Of course, I have been told a hundred times before that the Falcon fan base and the Bulldog fan base don’t really overlap. That Bulldog fans don’t hold any grudges against Petrino. Poppycock. I don’t buy it, and the article I linked from Georgia’s largest newspaper doesn’t do much to dispel it. Neither does a trip to any of the UGA message boards. They hate them some Bobby P.

“Shut Up and Get on the Plane”

I fully intended in using R.E.M’s “End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” for my conclusion of a level-headed, just-the-facts-ma’am breakdown of the game. But I got riled up during that last paragraph, so instead I am going with this fantastic song from the Drive By Truckers, who kicked this whole thing off. It’s really better that I am angry at this point. It’s game week. That means I’m breathing. I was ten the last time the Razorbacks beat the Bulldogs in SEC play. The only time the Razorbacks beat the Bulldogs in SEC play. That changes Saturday. As I mentioned above, a new coach. A new attitude. And all that Georgia Bulldogs fans will have to take with them are memories of victories past. And as I pass the dejected Bulldogs following the game Saturday, I’ll smile to myself and sing in my very best Mike Cooley, “shut yo’ mouth and get yo’ ass on the plane.”

We win this one. Big.

For a much better, more in-depth breakdown of this game, head over to my buddy Malvie's. He actually uses stats and names and stuff. And he can actually remember the games he attends. Great job as usual!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


There is no game this week.  I am really pissed off about this.  Only one week into the season, and the Arkansas Razorbacks get to enjoy the season’s only Off Week.  This is nothing good.  A week of rest following the least taxing game of the season, and then we are staring down the barrel of three months of non-stop football.  11 consecutive weeks, starting with the Georgia Bulldogs, ending with the Louisiana State Tigers, and featuring midseason appearances by the Florida Gators, Ole Miss Rebels, and Alabama Crimson Tide.  Yeouch.  That’s 33% of the Preseason Top 15, by the way  But enough about the team, let’s talk about who this Off Week really screws up… ME.

For me, the Off Week is something of a necessary evil.  Sure, the absence of Razorback football on an otherwise perfect fall Saturday is unwanted, unwelcome, and unequivocally wrong, but it does serve a purpose.  Three, in fact, and I shall take this opportunity to flesh them out.  And then tell you why this particular Off Week falls short. 

1.  People love me.  It’s true.  I can’t help it.  There is apparently just something about me.  In fact, so many people love me that there is just not enough to go around during football season.  Round about midseason, family and friends alike will begin the barrage of passive-aggressive cries for attention.  A non-ticket-having buddy sends a text about losing me to “football season friends.”  Mom leaves a voicemail “making sure you are still alive…”  The Off Week gives me a chance to give these wilting relationships a super-concentrated dose of water and sunshine that will sustain them until basketball season.

Normally.  Not this year.  It’s too early.  Too soon.  Nobody has had a chance to miss me yet.  No wilted relationships to water.  No texts.  No voicemails from mom.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that they may still be a little tired of me after the BVC-heavy summer I graced them with.  I do, after all, try to cultivate their adulation judiciously.  This is no good.  This ill-timed Off Week is just laying down the foundation for a distraction during the late season push.  The team needs me at tip-top condition for the LSU game, and how can I get there when I have to split time between prepping for the game and coming up with an excuse for not getting back with the friend who wanted to catch up over lunch… on SATURDAY. 


They are for one thing.  Attending, or at the very least watching on television, your favorite football team.  And before and after that, every college football game you can feast your eyes on.  Don’t get me wrong, food plays a very substantial role in this… it’s just that “dining” and “catching up” do not.

2.  Fall Weddings.  For some reason, women love to get married in the fall.  The idea of a fall wedding, with fluttering leaves of blazing red and vibrant orange dancing about, is a very romantic one.  It is also terrifying to the groom.  And his friends.  And the spouses of her friends.  And pretty much every male…everywhere.

This is an issue near and dear to my heart.  The sanctity of football season and the sanctity of marriage can coexist, even if sometimes it seems the dexterity required to balance both can rival that of a laid out flanker trying to land with that first foot in.  When I was engaged, I even went so far as to seek counsel from author and SEC guru Clay Travis: 

Trent Woolridge writes:

Clay, belated congratulations on the success of Dixieland Delight: A Football Season on the Road in the Southeastern Conference. It is definitely one of the most enjoyable reads that I have had in a long time, though I wish you had gotten to experience a better game in Fayetteville.

Anyway, I come to you seeking input into and advice concerning what I consider to be a very critical issue. I recently got engaged, and my fiancée and I are currently bandying about possible dates. To her credit, she has taken off the table all dates that would coincide with the Razorbacks' football schedule, home or away. However, she has suggested the date of Sept. 27, 2008, which is an open date for the Hogs.

My question is this: What, if any, obligation do I have to negotiate on behalf of fans of other schools? Should a television at the reception be mandatory? Lastly, is this covered in Man: The Book? I am ashamed to say that I've not yet read it. Any light you can shed on this issue will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

This is a question worthy of an entire column but I'm going to try and answer it here. Basically it's my contention that southern weddings should never occur during football season. At least not if you have lots of family of varying allegiances. Thanks to the guy who always does the SEC football helmet schedule (that inevitably ends up e-mailed to me 14 times after I lose it over and over again), you can break down the SEC games on that day. Here's the helmet schedule link.

Thanks to television deals you can sort of project who will be on television come Sept. 27 and at what time. At 11:30 a.m. CT, JP/LF/Raycom will probably accidentally carry Tennessee-Kentucky from 1998 (legitimate guess -- they will carry either Miss. State at LSU or Ole Miss at Florida, say the latter because LSU fans don't want to have to get up and go to a football game that early). CBS will carry either Alabama at Georgia or Tennessee at Auburn (my guess is Alabama at Georgia). ESPN will take the one left over (likely Tennessee at Auburn) for the night kickoff.

So if you have family that are fans of either Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, or Auburn, chances are those family members are going to be cursing you all season. Balance the time for your wedding based on family allegiances accordingly. Is it a night or day wedding? My call would be to go with Saturday night because if you go with a day wedding then you basically cut out everyone's football watching.

If you absolutely must go with a Saturday wedding in the fall, go with the evening. Start at 7:00 (CT) and whatever you do, for the love of God, you absolutely have to ensure that a television is easily accessible at all times.

Depending on the parking situation, here's something that's really cool to do (that your wife and all her girlfriends will hate) -- set up a tailgate in the parking lot of the wedding. Get your buddy who has the satellite dish and the good televisions to set up there just in time for the early afternoon kickoff and make sure he gets the best spot that is easily accessible to an exit from where the wedding or reception is taking place.

People can go outside after the wedding, check the score out and still feel like they're at a game. Of course you'll be tailgating in a suit, but still, it's close. Put someone's eighth cousin twice-removed in charge of keeping an eye on everything outside during the wedding. Good luck.

The problem with this year’s Off Week?  You guessed it.  Too early.  You can’t have a fall wedding when it’s not fall.  We haven’t even celebrated the autumnal equinox!  I have no wedding to attend this weekend.  On the surface, this is a good thing.  But my loyalty to the Arkansas Razorbacks and their propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory prohibits me from looking at this optimistically.  The Off Week being this early can only mean that one of my wife’s college friends who I don’t even know has decided to get married on the day of the South Carolina game, and Stephanie is just hiding to invitation until she figures out what to do.  The other shoe will drop…it’s just a question of when.

3.  I like to watch football.  This seems like a strange purpose for an Off Week, but stick with me.  Whether the game is home or away, early kick or late, watching the Razorbacks is an all day affair.  In the event of a home game, there are travel to and from and tailgating considerations to be made.  For road games, there is typically some sort of a watch party organized.  Long story short, time to sit in front of a television can be diminished.  And what time is available is typically done so under the influence of alcohol.  It just usually happens that way.  Away games offer some opportunity for good football watching, but home games are especially tough.  I remember listening to the Texas-Texas Tech game on the radio on the way home from a home game last year and thinking every other college football fan in the country was glued to his television…except me.

Off Weeks, strangely enough, provide me with an opportunity to watch a lot of different football teams with a clear mind and minimal rooting interests.  I see teams and players I don’t normally see.  Off Week might be my only chance to really pay attention to the play of Matt Barkley or this year’s dark horse mid-major.

This year’s Off Week?  Once again, too early.  What are the marquee matchups?  Who cares?  Time dictates that they will matter little toward the end of the season.  Yes, USC does travel to The Horseshoe to take on Ohio State, and yes, both are ranked in the Top 10.  But really, how big is this game going to be at the end of the season in an “I was *here* when I watched it” sense?  They played early in the year last year.  Do you remember it?  I sure don’t.  Early season college football is great…because it is football.  Not because it is particularly compelling.  It’s one reason why the Red River Shootout is so often forgotten by the end of the season…although that worked out particularly well for the Sooners last year.


The sun will rise again tomorrow.  College football fans all over the country will greet it with that familiar knot in their stomach.  Their team is playing tomorrow, and they get to experience again the best time of the year.  Me?  No Hogs.  No other big game to plan around.  No home-cooked dinner at Mom’s.  No catching up with friends.  Hell, not even a wedding.  This sucks all around, and will prove to be a problem later in the year.  For the Razorbacks and myself.  Mark my words.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coming to my Cit-tay

Message received”

My phone is buzzing.  It is Sunday morning.  Two days after returning from vacation.  Four days before the college football season begins.  Six days before my team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, kick things off.  My wife is catching up on the DVR’d episodes of Drop Dead Diva that she missed while we were gone.  I am scanning the room for heavy, blunt objects.

I open the phone and read my text.  It’s from my friend (and brother-in-law) Jay.  How do you feel about the Big and Rich song?  He needs not explain himself further.  He is talking about the intro song to ESPN College Gameday.   Why else would ANYBODY listen to Big & Rich?


For the record, I respond that I love the song.  It is cheesy.  Over the top.  Too much twang,  But for whatever reason, it is the perfect song for its purpose.  This song is what I look forward to every  Saturday from September until the first week of December every year.  Every Saturday, I dance and sing along with this intro.  I don’t even voluntarily decide to do it anymore.  It just happens.  Every Saturday.   Freaking love it.

But that is not the point.  The point is that it is a week before football season begins, and Jay and myself are completely out of college football to discuss.  The players have been broken down.  The games have been circled.  The record and bowl predictions have been made.  We have been reduced to talking about the intro song for College Gameday.  This isn’t a joke, either.  We aren’t being ironically funny.  We’re seriously giving measured opinions of a Big & Rich song about college football.  This is all that is left.

It started after the Florida Gators dispatched the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS National Championship last January.  After Urban Meyer raised his second crystal football.  After Tim Tebow knelt on the 50, unsheathed a sword, and canonized himself to become Sir Timothy of Jortland.  After the last awkward interviews were stumbled through and the last remaining bit of glory was given to God, there it was.  The beginning of eight long, cold months without college football.  Every serious fan went into a deep and immediate depression.

How does someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes college football make it from January until Labor Day?  We break it up.  The immediate focus turns to recruiting.  We all become suddenly infatuated with “the lifeblood of a program”.  We scour websites like Rivals and Scout and bicker endlessly on message boards about our incoming class and its ranking.  National Singing Day, or NSD, has actually become so important that people will take off from work to monitor any eleventh-hour surprises.  Invariably, these guys chide their teenage daughter for obsessing over Miley Cyrus and shake their heads in disgust at the spectacle of such a young woman being so influential. 

Next is spring practice.  People actually show up to watch the first day of spring practice.  Not only is it practice.  Not only is it spring practice.  It’s the FIRST DAY of spring practice.  The players aren’t even wearing shoulder pads!  This doesn’t matter.  Dutiful members of the media, and more pathetically (and I use that term endearingly), uncompensated fans, show up and soak up every detail so that they may later disseminate it to the masses desperate for a fix.  Talk radio is flooded with armchair experts.  People actually make predictions on the record of their team based on no-contact offseason drills.  The madness builds upon itself, roiling to a climax in…

The Spring Game.  Remember when you were a kid and had soccer practice and mom and dad sat and watched in lawn chairs and you got a sundae from McDonald’s if you did good?  Yeah, not the same.  The Spring Game is a chance to knock the dust off the tailgating gear and watch some football!  Nevermind that the team will have had less than a month of work, will be playing itself, and that the star players will be protected or even held out completely…it’s football!  In April!  Full band.  Full pregame.  Full television coverage.  And full stadiums.  Alabama has drawn over 90,000 before.  The only thing missing is an opponent.

Depending on the fan, the next date to look forward to may be the most important of all.  This is of course the traditional mid-summer release of EA Sport’s latest iteration of its NCAA Football video game series.  Within the span of one generation, we have evolved from the amoeba-like blobs of Ten-Yard Fight to fully rendered, facial feature having football players at the whims of our thumbs.  Stadiums appear true to form, rosters are accurate down to a player’s high school… even the correct situational cheers and chants are in there.  Much easier than running to the computer and hitting play to hear your queued up fight song on Napster after that game-winning pick six against your roommate in college.  Uh.  Not that I was ever that geeky.

Finally, with summer winding down, the final push begins with Fall Camp.  The incoming class, so urgently researched back in February, are reporting, and the internet is abuzz with descriptors of their physique and demeanor.  Can they make an impact?  Can they challenge the veterans for a starting position?  Can they even survive two-a-days?  These questions are answered and asked again daily through the last weeks of the doldrums.  After crunching finite, unchanging statistics since January, our brains are reaching critical mass.  We need new data to manipulate.  So we scour the final scrimmage, extracting every last shred of information we can get out of it.  The running back who will certainly redshirt gets his yards per carry calculated.  The third string quarterback is assigned a QB Rating.  We predict a big year for the little-known and lightly regarded flanker based on his two touchdowns in the second half against the scout defense.  At this point, it feels like Arctic Summer.  The closer we get to college football, the more the days seem to drag.

And here we are.  It is four minutes before midnight on Wednesday, September 2.  I just completed the final lineup revision of my college fantasy team, Beanie Weenies and Malt Liquor.  Less than 24 hours from the beginning of the season.  National Signing Day seems so far away now, and furthermore, it seems so irrelevant.  I got that worked up over some high school kids?  They are all redshirting this year anyway!  The importance of seemingly everything over the past eight months fades as college football prepares to take its rightful place in the sports spotlight.  Who’s playing tomorrow?  Does it matter?  Tomorrow my favorite time of the year begins, and I will celebrate it.  Ass in seat.  Wing in mouth.  Beer in hand.

It’s time.

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