Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thank God For Mississippi

We won.

No major injuries. (to my knowledge)

Alabama 17, Kentucky 14.

That's about all the good that can be gleaned from Saturday's win in Tuscaloosa. Coach Saban said it best in his post-game interview: "It should have been 24 - 0 at the half. That would have changed everything". Talk about stating the obvious!

It's important to note that one of the characteristics of a young team is emotional highs and lows. Coach Gene Stallings was a master at keeping his teams on an even keel, never getting too high after a win, too low after a loss. He emphasized a business-like attitude. Ditto Coach Saban. But was anyone listening?

Starting immediately after the big win over #3 Georgia he started preaching focus. The huge win over the nationally ranked Bulldogs would be meaningless if they lost to Kentucky before a nationally televised audience and home standing crowd. One had to look no further than the play of John Parker Wilson to see his point.

Wilson looked like Dan Marino last week. He played like Dan Rather Saturday. And he's a senior. Over throwing. Under throwing. It was clear Georgia was still on his mind. He couldn't have been anymore off target than Barney Frank at the Playboy mansion.

What was on the minds of the officials is anyone's guess. But what is clear is it was another horribly officiated Southeastern Conference game highlighted by an inexplicable offensive pass interference call on freshman receiver Julio Jones.

The Buffalo Wildwings restaurant chain currently is running an amusing television ad featuring a zebra sticking his head in the sideline replay camera boot and asking the crowd at Wildwings if they're ready to go home. After a moment of thought the patrons respond in the negative. Afterwards an official is seen tripping an open player running down the field for a presumed game-ending touchdown. I can't help but believe this commercial was inspired by SEC officiating.

The SEC is supposedly the premier college football conference in the country. Wouldn't it be nice if we could match that with consistently and appropriately competent officiating??

But today the 'Bama Nation turns it's weary eyes to the polls. Alabama came into yesterday's game ranked #2 in the AP and #4 in the USA Today/Coaches poll. After the win over Georgia, Tide fans dared dream of BCS bowl games. As the first BCS poll races toward us, will the lackluster performance drop the Tide from the top five? Is Alabama a legitimate top 5 team?

#1 Oklahoma has beaten Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Washington, Baylor and barely legal #24 Texas Christian. Their combined records are 12 - 15.

#2 LSU? Appalachian St., North Texas, Auburn, Mississippi State. Combined record: 8 - 13.

#3. Mizzou. #20 Illinois, Southeastern Missouri State, Nevada, Buffalo, and Nebraska. 13 - 13.

#4 Alabama. #9 Clemson, Tulane, Western Kentucky, Arkansas, #3 Georgia and Kentucky. Pay close attention. You're looking at the ONLY top five team whose opponents combine for a winning record. 17 - 14.

#5 Texas. Florida Atlantic, Texas-El Paso, Arkansas, Rice and Colorado. Combined? 11 - 16.

Now some will argue (legitimately) that statistics can be twisted to prove anything. But certainly my argument has more basis in fact than sports writers with their regional biases, college sports information directors (who are for the most part the real voters in the coach's polls) and so-called media "experts" with their agendas.

Alabama was also the ONLY top 5 team on Saturday, Oct. 4Th, to play an undefeated opponent.

Despite Saturday's big blue speed bump, not only should the Tide not fall in the polls, they should still be given legitimate consideration for number one.

I'd buy stock in Fannie Mae before I expected that.

Alabama's out of the spotlight with an off-week this Saturday. And there's a legitimate "marquee" match-up for the ESPN/ABC sports monopoly to hype this week (after throwing up all over themselves with that Vandy/Auburn snoozer) in Oklahoma v. Texas. #2 LSU also travels to Gainesville to face (as it stands now) the 13th ranked Gators.

Yet what was old is new again for many in Alabama today for once again we have reason to give thanks for our neighbor of a shared border to the west.

Was it not for the Ole Miss upset victory over Florida, Sept. 27th, and it's subsequent appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the Bermuda Triangle of the sports media, the SI jinx could have easily been the intangible that put Kentucky over the top at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.

Sincerely, thank God for Mississippi and Roll Tide.

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