From the "soon to be determined studios" here we go...
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.
- 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.
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, "Footballscoop.com 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.
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.
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.
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.)