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
* 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
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.
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.
SATURDAYS ARE NOT FOR LUNCH.
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
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.