published Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

5 at 10: UTC hoops, coordinator carousel and Nick Saban's National Champions

Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama  won 21-0. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

From the "soon to be determined studios" here we go...

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    Alabama's Trent Richardson celebrates after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. Alabama won 21-0. AP Photo/Dave Martin)

All Alabama

Wow, it's hard to remember one of these "game of the century" or "Showdown" or whatever pregame tag or moniker you picked for the Alabama-LSU title game that turned from dream matchup to this big of a whipping. For the game stuff, here are the litany of stories our SEC super-ace David Paschall delivered on tight deadlines last night (Bama kicks LSU 21-0 for BCS title win), (Zach Mettenberger now No. 1 quarterback for LSU), (SEC again big bowls success). (By the way, Paschall also had thee other by-lines in today's TFP, which means he was the Alabama Crimson Tide of sports writers on Monday.)

By now, the 21-0 Alabama suffocation has been much-discussed. It was more than a landslide; it was a domination that truly accomplished the unthinkable in the following regards:

— It eliminated any debate about a split national title, which was the hot topic du jour (hmmm, soup of the day, I think I'll have that). Hey, we all know Alabama fans have zero problem claiming anything remotely resembling a split national title, but this will never be one of them. It made LSU's regular-season 9-6 overtime win over Alabama seem like a fluke and changed the perception of what was the best regular season in LSU history.

— Heck, Alabama's dominance silenced all the plus-1 talk and the playoff chat at least for the moment. (Granted the BCS power brokers are meeting today to discuss possible options for the future, but Bama and Nick Saban did them a huge favor with this outcome.) There was much debate whether Alabama deserved to be in the title game since the Tide didn't win the SEC title or even the SEC West title. After that whipping, there was only one question being asked: What did Jarrett Lee do to get that far in Les Miles' doghouse that Miles stuck with a deer-in-the-headlights Jordan Jefferson until the bitter end?

— It made us feel somewhat duped. No, not the Bama fans — they never doubted for a second that the Tide would roll. No, the rest of us who wanted this game to be as good as we hoped it could be. And Alabama simply forbid that from happening. We were hoping this rematch would be more like an "Empire Strikes Back," a sequel that was every bit as good, if not a bit better than the first. We got "Caddyshack 2," instead.

— As talented as they are, the Tide are the cream of college football right now because they simply impose their will on every opponent. Period. Think about the last three years: 2009, unbeaten and national champs; 2010 three losses (one at South Carolina when the Gamecocks played a near-perfect game, one at LSU when the Mad Hatter pulled out a bunch of the stops, and one against Auburn, which had Cam Newton, who arguably had the best single season in college football history); 2011 national title with one loss (against LSU when the Tide kickers missed four field goals).

— How about the redemption for kicker Jeremy Shelley? Nice moment for a guy that had to be asked about it about four times a day by friends, family and fellow students since the Nov. 5 debacle. Dude kicks five field goals in the win Monday night.

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    LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson (9) lays on the ground after being hit during the second half of the BCS National Championship college football game against Alabama Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

— Monday night stars on the field: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, who looked calm and collected and was money throughout; Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood, who came off the bench to replace the injured Marquis Maze and looked awesome; the entire defense which held LSU to 92 yards; offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who has taken some heat from some Bama fans we know, but forever secured his legacy in T-town before heading to Colorado State with a brilliant game plan.

— Forget Tyrann Mathieu being the "Honey Badger," if there's anyone in college football that is "Taking what they want" — the original premise of the "Honey Badger" nickname — it's Alabama coach Nick Saban. He has three BCS titles in his last seven years as a college football coach. He really takes what he wants as a recruiter (and Bama-haters, you may have noticed that there were a lot of juniors and seniors in the starting line-up for the Tide last night, but know there is talent in the wings and there are so many five-stars coming to Tuscaloosa, you'd think there was a secret Pentagon generals' meeting scheduled). Heck, Saban has become such a force and such a figure that he seems UNDERPAID at $4-plus million per year. Wow, read that again. (That said, Nick needs to avoid wearing the white coaches shirt, especially when there may be a Gatorade bath involved. Dude, wear the Crimson, or wear an undershirt. Is that too much to ask? Sir.)

— We were asked last week for the best college football defenses of all time. Without getting into debates about different eras and some of those old-school powerhouses that allowed 20-some-odd points in an entire season, this Alabama defense is the best ever. Period. LSU was averaging 38.5 points per game entering the Superdome on Monday, and the Tigers crossed midfield once. And that was in the fourth quarter.

— Yes, there's a lot of Tide love going on right now and they earned it. But we do have one beef — why is the Alabama fan base treating Harvey Updyke like a cult hero. Dude willfully and purposefully attacked an Auburn landmark when he poisoned the trees at Toomer's Corner, and if anyone should respect and honor tradition, you'd think it would be Alabama fans. Instead, Updyke was being given the royal treatment during the entire title game experience.

Feel free to offer up your thoughts.

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    Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder greets his team as they come off the field after holding Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the goal line in the fourth of an NFL football game in Atlanta Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

As the DCs turn

We're going to move quickly from here on in. Auburn hired Brian VanGorder to coach its defense, and that seems to be a slam-dunk hire. (Know this, when an SEC team makes a hire and its rival SEC teams are hacked off at the move, you know it was a good hire. And there were a lot of Georgia and Alabama fans hacked off by Auburn adding BVG.)

Plus Auburn head coach Gene Chizik got to discuss the hire on the BCS pregame show last night. (For what it's worth, here's saying that rival coaches should not be involved in the pregame bowl shows; too much is at stake and there's an obvious conflict of interest. We though that last year when Saban was on the set before Auburn's BCS title, and we feel the same about Chizik getting face time before Alabama's BCS championship. And Chizik's LSU yellow tie and pocket kerchief were not lost on anyone with SEC connections. But, again, no one asked us.)

VanGorder's has had success at every stop as a defensive coordinator, including his recent run as the top defensive coach for the Atlanta Falcons. And yes, you have to figure Auburn made a big-money offer to get an NFL defensive coordinator to accept the same job on the college level. Friend of the show, Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) calls it "money-whipping" someone. Well, consider BVG money-whipped.

As for just plain-old whipped, Derek Dooley needs to hire a DC ASAP. Friend of the show Jomo posted this gem late Monday night, " has just confirmed that Phil Bennett of Baylor was offered the UTK defensive coordinator job and turned it down. . . . . Is this another blight for Dooley?" Well, if that's true — that a Baylor assistant turned the Vols down — then this seems like a pretty big blight for Dooley. The unrest is growing so bad among the fan base, friend of the show Ghost would welcome Ron Zook on the UT staff to help with recruiting and to end the uncertainty — and he's got some legit points.

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    UTC coach John Shulman, right, talks to Chris Early during a game at McKenzie Arena in this file photo. Early was dismissed from the team on Monday, he had been on suspension since Dec. 16 when disparaging tweets about Shulman were revealed to the coach.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Comings and goings of college hoops

Chris Early's UTC basketball career was closed Monday, when coach John Shulman announced Early had played his last game for the Mocs. Early was suspended for a barrage of anti-Shulman tweets last November. It's a sad deal all the way around, as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer notes astutely here (Wiedmer: Chris Early dismissal not the easy call for UTC Coach John Shulman). Early is obviously remorseful and understands the decision — we know this because our UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama talked to Early on Monday (UTC Mocs' Chris Early dismissed from basketball).

Our take: It stinks — not the decision per se as much as the whole mess. For Shulman, for Early, for the Mocs and even the fans. Sometimes these things happen, and like Weeds wrote, there's no winning or losing, just pain. And each side has its detractors. Here's hoping that the theme of Early finishing his degree is the lasting story line from this episode. That, and the always wise lesson of "Be wary of the Twitter."

On the same day, however, UT was welcoming Jarnell Stokes to practice. Stokes, a five-star power forward from Memphis, graduated high school early and enrolled this week at UT. Here's our UT ace Patrick Brown's story on Stokes' first-day (Jarnell Stokes on floor at UT) (and there's some bonus video within the story).

Stokes is already a big-time win for Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin since he's a legit five-star recruit and he's the first big-time star out of Memphis to pick UT since Tony Harris in the late 1990s. And that's before he even steps on the floor — a decision that the Conz does not have a timetable for at the moment.

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    Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow runs during an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears in Denver, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

This and that

— Darren Rovell, who is one of the top sports reporters working, had this interesting factoid on the Twitter: How hot was Tim Tebow on social media during Denver's upset over Pittbsurgh on Sunday — "Tebow tweets/second (9,420) beat out Royal Wedding (3,966), Bin Laden Raid (5,106) & Steve Jobs Death (6,049)." Wow.

— Barry Larkin was selected to the baseball Hall of Fame on Monday. We're OK with that. Dude was a stud — and was the best at his position for an extended period. We're also OK with the names that didn't make it such as Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith and Tim Raines. We've always had the view that if you're debating some one being included in a Hall of Fame, and you have to pause for more than three seconds to form an opinion, then the answer is no.

— There could be a decided Georgia Tech feel to the new Penn State coaching staff. New PSU coach Bill O'Brien is reportedly interested in adding Ralph Friedgen and Ted Roof to the Lions staff. (Side tangent: With all the stuff going on at PSU, and they can add two known names like that, why can't Tennessee hire a defensive coordinator?)

— Quick side note as a proud sports editor — there is a ton of local-generated stuff in your TFP sports section today. A slap ton. Enjoy.

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    Alabama's Trent Richardson (3) is tripped up in front of LSU's Tyrann Mathieu (7) during the first half of the BCS National Championship college football game Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Today's question

We ran a short column in today's TFP about the top 12 for 2012. Read it here (Greeson: LSU, USC, Tide head early top 12 for '12).

(Got to say, if the several Alabama pieces come back — especially on defense — there's no way the Tide won't start the year No. 1. It's just hard to see Trent Richardson or Dre Kirkpatrick or Dont'a Hightower leaving first-round money on the table.)

What's your preseason top 5? Who did the 5-at-10 leave out (and yes, for our new Washington friends, we know your Huskies will be improved, but the loss of running back Chris Polk hurts)?

Bring it, and remember we're just 233 days from the Thursday night season-opening game between Vandy and South Carolina on Aug. 30. (Tear.)

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Redlegs11 said...

Random thoughts on the BCS title game.

Kind of fun to see Les Miles with that deer-in-headlights look he has for EVERY game finally get hit by the truck.

Now that Trent Richardson probably going pro how long before he challenges Shawn Kemp for supremacy in fathering kids out of wedlock? And on a side note: how long before alimony payments bankrupt the dude?

Noticed the Saban gatorade bath as well but also noticed the prince of darkness has been deep in the bottle of rograine. Where did his bald spot go?

Saw this note on Facebook and it was too good not to share: if God's miracle is Tim Tebow than Bama title is the work of a jealous devil. Makes sense. How else do you explain Iowa State win over OSU?

With what LSU returns look for them to be SEC king next year. Counting the juniors it looks like 13 of 22 starters for Tide to replace. Southern Cal and our good buddy Lane Kiffin should be in the crow's nest next year and probably had the only team that could have competed with Tide last night.

January 10, 2012 at 10:36 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Did anyone get tired of Brent Musburger constantly saying :Honey-Badger last night ?

January 10, 2012 at 10:58 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Also, Jay could this from The TimesFreePress be hurting UTK's coach search " The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine, has released a list of the gayest cities in America for 2012 and Knoxville has made the list at number 8 " ?

January 10, 2012 at 11:01 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

Well, I got Bama's score right...21 pts. But that was all.

Every time I looked at the game Bama had the ball. I NEVER did see LSU with it. LSU really did look unprepared. Guess they thought it was going to be a "cakewalk". Now their win over Bama earlier DOES look like a fluke, just as you said.

As for Harvey Updyke...well, just what does THAT say about the classiness of Bama fans???!!....

January 10, 2012 at 11:15 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Redlegs —

For the first time in a long time Miles seemed lost. Can't say that's never happened before, but it's been a long time since it has happened. (Although, LSU people complaining about Miles need a reality check. Seriously. Dude has built a mega-program that will be just as stout next year.)

Can't speak of the Rogain, but at least Saban smiled during the Gatorade bath this year.

We have no comment about the powers of good and evil in football.

Jomo —

You have had a pretty good time digging on the Interwebs the last 24-48 hours, no?

Yes, the natives are getting restless about a DC in Knoxville. And no the level of gayness in a city (not that there's anything wrong with that) has nothing to do with the football program finding a DC.

ER8 —

"Unprepared" is a really good way to describe the LSU offense. It's hard to explain. It's also hard to think of a productive college player who had a worse exit than Jordan Jefferson. Wow, he was awful.

Updyke is trash. Period. Every fan base has them, we suppose, just don't know why he gets the play and attention he so craves. And it's hard to believe he was not given a ticket by some Alabama fan since he has talked at length about his financial hardships. So it goes.

— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at 11:25 a.m.
patrickd said...

From Honey Badger's Facespace page. Thoughts, 5at10?

Why are all these Bama fans posting on my page?!! GTF off my d***. We still had the better season 13-1...y'all cried to voters to get in!!! But if yall feeling that cocky, we won in your house, and y'all won at a neutral site. Put the title up for another game next month in Tiger Stadium!

January 10, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.
Redlegs11 said...

Honey badger has a point.

January 10, 2012 at 11:40 a.m.
jgreeson said...

PDavi —

Wow. Honey Badger whines when wants. Let's get this straight: He's bellyaching about Bama whining to get a rematch, yet he's whining to get a rematch? OK.

Isn't this the same guy that said was talking world-class smack on social media before the game?

Let's go old-school, PawPaw 5-at-10 cliche as a touch of advice: "Don't start none, won't be none."

Amen, pass the green beans.

— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.
Redlegs11 said...


You wouldn't be one of those bama fans on his Facebook site now would you?

January 10, 2012 at 11:43 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Redlegs11 —

If Honey Badger has a point, then that's the first point LSU has scored since December.

That said, rival fans (Honey) badgering college players on social media sites is not a good trend. At all.

— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at 11:43 a.m.
mcpell3 said...

Woo hoo finally cracked Mrs McPell's secret code. Every time I looked, the honey badger was getting abused. I think he must have read too much press.

January 10, 2012 at 11:57 a.m.
jgreeson said...

McPell —

Welcome to the party. Pull up a chair and stay a while.

And yes, the Honey Badger was left in no-man's land on several occasions by the renowned tandem that is McCarron-to-Norwood. (If you had Kevin Norwood as a meaningful piece in this BCS game, you need to go buy as many lottery tickets as you can afford. Now.)

McPell and Redlegs, who you got in your preseason top 5 for '12?

— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at noon
Redlegs11 said...

I think he has a point that LSU had a better season.

January 10, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.
Redlegs11 said...

In no particular order: southern Cal, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Wisconsin. If bama keeps the juniors they will be there but as auburn showed you can't replace 13-16 starters no matter how talented the young kids are.

January 10, 2012 at 12:20 p.m.
patrickd said...

Alabama has a better trophy.

January 10, 2012 at 12:33 p.m.
Redlegs11 said...

Not wanting to get in a pee pee match just saying he had a point that the season LSU had was more impressive and given the number of top 10 wins compared to Bama's schedule, he has a point.

January 10, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Just a drive by today...

Mr. Plainsman, you were right and fechancellor was wrong about Bama betting on McCarron's arm, although, I will continue to maintain even a serviceable running game remains a "fundamental truth" in the SEC.

January 10, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
jharvey1984 said...

I don't know if i would call the superdome a "neutral" site. Anyway, whatever happened to sportmanship and just taking your ass whippin and saying, "dang, they whipped our ass. guess i'll try harder next year"? Top 5 LSU USC (but doesnt really matter) Arkansas Okie Oregon Wisconsin

January 10, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Redlegs —

LSU's complete body of work is more impressive no doubt. As Paschall pointed out, the Tigers beat the BCS winner, the Orange Bowl winner, the Rose Bowl winner, the Cotton Bowl winner and the Chick-fil-A Bowl winner. Great year.

But Bama's dominance Monday night overshadowed that.

And you're spot on about replacing experienced stars with talented youngsters — there is always growing pains.

PDavi —

Bama may have a better trophy (BCS), but LSU has more (SEC West and SEC). Just saying.

FE to the C —

You're spot on about having to run to win in the SEC. Period. Always has been that way — even when Spurrier was Fun-n-Gunnin' at Florida, he always had a big-time back like Errict Rhett or Fred Taylor — probably always will be.

JHarvey —

What's this "Sportsmanship" stuff you're talking about? (Kidding, mostly)

Sadly, we have no idea. Sportsmanship went the way of the Do-Do Bird and VHS tapes in this age of social media (we don't care that you're going to Subway for lunch or whatever the status updates that everyone thinks people care about) and look-at-me sports stars.


— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

My preseason top 5 in particular order with current non-graduating personnel: Bama, USC, Ok St, Oregon, Boise St. Next 5 LSU, Ohio St (yes Urban will have a huge bump this next year, Fla St, Ark, Michigan.

January 10, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.
John_Proctor said...

Funniest comment of the night IMO. 5 minutes left in the game, and Musburger says

"Honey Badger, fear the Tide."

Almost fell out of the man chair laughing so hard at the tone in his voice.

January 10, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

Mr 5at10, with all due respect, Tony WHITE, father of current Moc RonRico White, is from Charlotte & played at UT in the 1980s. You must be referring to Tony HARRIS from Memphis that played in the 1990s. Of course, beloved Vol Dane Bradshaw is from the Memphis area, but was not highly recruited. While "From the RonRico White Studio" has a nice ring to it for the 5 at 10 home base, I suppose it would not be appropriate since he is not 21 or a pro yet (?)

January 10, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Reading some of the national commentators call last night's game a dud and other such refuse. What's wrong with watching good defense and watching two good defensive teams knock the snot out of each other? That was as hard a hitting game as I have ever seen, at any level. Plus, you've got two defenses that know how to tackle. They hit, lock up, drive through, not reach out like they're trying to catch a falling pinecone or simply throw a shoulder into somebody like they're trying to carve some space on a subway train.

January 10, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.
jgreeson said...

McPell —

We thought about adding Urban and THE Ohio State into the top 12 for '12, but we felt it may be a year too early.

Mr. Proctor —

We missed that one, but Musberger was in rare form (and not always in a good way) last night.

Quick side question: As the parent of a 4-year-old who loves "Cars 2," a movie in which Musberger has a part as an announcer named Brent Mustangberger, everytime we see Brent now, we picture him as Mustangberger. Does that happen to anyone else or is it just us?

Mr Scott —

Thanks for the help. You're correct, and we did mean Tony Harris. We have corrected that.

Spy —

There was some stout defense last night for sure. And LSU's defense kept that game from being an even bigger runaway.

That said, the dud-factor could be blamed on the lack of drama, and the overall stinkified play of LSU's offense and Jordan Jefferson. Gross.

P.S. — BVG says hello.

— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at 2:20 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Jordan Jefferson ... played more like Weezy Jefferson. Or Mr. Bentley. But I digress....

January 10, 2012 at 2:57 p.m.

Jay, you are such a follower of the herd. Lazy, man. Just lazy.

January 10, 2012 at 3:27 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

5 - I agree that it may be a year early for Urban, but next year it'll be the "Urban's back love fest" and he'll get love from media and othe coaches. 2013 will correct back a little. Watch out for 2014 if he doesn't retire again.

January 10, 2012 at 3:32 p.m.
jgreeson said...


OK. Not sure what you're speaking of, but OK. I've been called a lot of things, although lazy has never been one of them.

McPell —

Meyer better win quick before his family realizes he's not in the rec room getting Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit set up. You're spot on, though, about Meyer's short stint at ESPN has set the stage for a surefire Urban love-fest this year.

— 5-at-10

January 10, 2012 at 3:42 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

My old man always wondered what happened to the bottle of RonRico White in the liquor cabinet. The BISpy4 remained quiet about its continued "evaporation."

January 10, 2012 at 4:23 p.m.
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