Friday, November 30, 2012

Quotable: Danielson on Bama vs UGA

The Quad: Danielson's Take: Alabama vs. Georgia
Published on NYT College Football | shared via feedly

Just look at their schedule. They played Ole Miss at home, before Ole Miss really got going; Auburn, which is a disaster; they crushed Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. When other teams were playing big games Georgia was playing nobody.

That’s one side.

On the other side of ball, Alabama was considered hands-down the best team in the country, almost unbeatable. But when an opponent had a competent quarterback, Zach Mettenberger of L.S.U. or Johnny Manziel at Texas A &M, they had trouble. You wonder if Alabama has some holes in their game. They’re not as elite as they appear.

So you go into the game and the two teams have a lot of question marks. Can Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray do what Mettenberger and Manziel did? He has lost his top two receivers. Will it matter? And can Georgia’s Jarvis Jones upend AJ McCarron, the Alabama quarterback, so much that it determines the game?
Here's the real skinny: Against every good offensive line they've faced, Georgia's defense has been quite generous in the running game. They've given up 230+ and 300+ yards to teams that like to run the football and if you know anything about Alabama, they like to pound the rock.

The game of football is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. In the college game, that's even more so. If you depend on the quarterback to win games for you, you'll win most but anytime you face a squad that blocks and runs better, you're in trouble.

On the flip side, UGA's offensive line has struggled against some of the better defenses they have played and it shows in Aaron Murray's stats. Likewise, Alabama has sometimes struggled to protect AJ McCarron against the better defensive lines it has faced.

This shouldn't come down to QB play. Instead, it should come down to who can establish the run and who is better at stopping it.

Make your head spin: Vols' never offered Gruden

Sources: Vols' search not focused on Gruden
Published on ESPN.com - College Football | shared via feedly

On Wednesday, Gruden appeared on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike In The Morning" and said there was "no truth" to a report by Memphis television station WREG that he was considering an offer to coach the Vols that would also give him part ownership of the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are owned by Jimmy Haslam, the son of Tennessee's most prominent booster, Jim Haslam, the founder of Pilot Oil.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported Friday morning that Gruden was extended a lucrative offer by Tennessee and that there was no firm deadline for him to make a decision. That report said a possible holdup could be whether Gruden received enough money to assemble the staff he wanted.

However, multiple sources told ESPN.com that Gruden was never offered a contract and that specific financial parameters were not discussed when Tennessee officials talked with him last week.
Mash here.

Earlier this morning, this site relayed the report from the Times Free Press, along with an update indicating that Gruden himself closed the door on his hiring.

Earlier this week, we also relayed the report that included the Browns' denial that an ownership stake was part of Gruden's alleged offer. 

As it all turns out, Tennessee did want to meet with Gruden but he declined the opportunity. Thus, contract details--be they ownership stakes in NFL teams or hefty packages for his staff--were never discussed.

Gruden never got an offer because he made it clear he wasn't interested.

WREG and the TFP are both mainstream media organizations. If it weren't so sad to see such organizations getting caught up and running with internet rumors and sensationalist hysteria, it would be funny. 

Grumor: Vols make lucrative offer to Jon Gruden

Former Super Bowl winner Gruden mulls Tennessee Vols' offer
Published on TFP College | shared via feedly
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has learned from sources close to the process that Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden has been extended an offer to succeed Derek Dooley.

Sources confirmed that while details are still being negotiated, the university's offer is very lucrative and there is no firm deadline on a decision.

Gruden's decision likely will hinge on the money the school is willing to pay for his potential staff, the sources say.

"Right now, the money is there for him [Gruden], but they aren't as close as he would like for his assistants," one source said. "It could happen as soon as this weekend or go into next week, but he's pretty firm where he is and has already spoken with the guys he wants to be on the staff with him."

According to a different source, "He's told them they aren't close enough on money for the staff. He's very interested, but if they don't come up with what they need for the assistants, he's told them he's out."
Mash here.

What would a Tennessee coaching search be without breathlessly reported rumors that Jon Gruden might be the Vols' next coach?

Earlier this week, rumors swirled that Gruden's compensation package included an ownership stake in the NFL's Cleveland Browns franchise. Both Gruden and Browns representatives quickly shot that down.

Gruden has been mentioned and coveted in every coaching search since he was cut loose by the Buccaneers in 2008. And every year, he's right back in the booth at ESPN. Is it different this time?

UPDATE: Apparently, it's the same-old same-old.



Morning Six Pack: November 30, 2012

Closing the books on another November and opening another six pack of college football stories from around the country.

Monte Kiffin to resign after Trojans' bowl game

USC assistant football coach Monte Kiffin will resign after USC's upcoming bowl game in order to pursue opportunities in the NFL, he announced Thursday.

Alabama and Georgia have a history of battling for major recruits

Alabama and Georgia have a history of battling for elite recruits, particularly since the arrival of Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. Take a look at six major recent recruiting battles between the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs.

Weekend Watch List: Turning attention from turmoil to conference title games

With conference realignment and the coaching carousel dominating the news cycle, Dennis Dodd just wants to put some focus back on the field. And there's plenty to talk about besides the SEC title game.

Banged-Up Bridgewater Leads Louisville to BCS

Teddy Bridgewater had a brace on his arm and a protective boot on his foot after the game. He said that while he was playing, the sore ankle hurt more than the broken wrist.

Buzz surrounds vacancies: Rumors swirl around SEC

College football's silly season of riding the coaching carousel is in full swing, and the SEC is leading the charge in speculation, rumor and innuendo.

Quotable:

Avoiding costly mistakes will be key in a game featuring the SEC’s two top pass defenses.

“I think all QBs want to make a big play in a big game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “All players want to make a big play in a big game. There’s a time and place for everything. You have to understand when a play presents itself, then you make the big play. If it doesn’t present itself, burn the ball, get rid of it. “

A win also might wipe out some forgettable performances in key games for Murray. He was 16-of-40 passing with two interceptions in a loss to LSU in last season’s SEC championship game and was picked off twice again in a bowl defeat to Michigan State.

This season, he completed just over a third of his passes for career-low 109 yards in a blowout loss to South Carolina and threw three first-half interceptions before righting himself in a 17-9 win over Florida.

That’s the one that ultimately got the Bulldogs to the brink of an SEC and national title.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

In the middle of a coaching search, Auburn has come up with a new fight song

Seems fitting.

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ESPN does an EA Simulation of the SEC Championship Game

Those expecting a close, hard-fought game in Atlanta Saturday night will probably like this highlight reel from ESPN’s EA Sports simulation.

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Is it time to reallocate student tickets at Bryant-Denny?

image This debate has raged on Alabama message boards for more than a decade. Thanks to Marc Torrence at Crimson-White—the Alabama student newspaper—we now have some hard data to look at, and the powers that be at the Capstone has a hard question to answer: is it time to open the upper deck of the student section to people who have been waiting years for the chance to buy season tickets?

Photo Credit Drew Hoover/CW  

The numbers compiled and analyzed by Torrence are sobering and frankly, might make some long-standing Tide Pride members angry:


Alabama’s season opener against San Jose State in 2010 drew the most students since 2008, when the University started using ACT Cards for football tickets and the earliest that data was made available. Of the 17,000 seats given to students, only 13,638 were filled for the game. That means 3,362 tickets went unused, and the section was just over 80 percent capacity.

And only 69.4 percent of student tickets were used in 2012, the lowest rate since 2009.

Western Carolina was the least-attended game by students in 2012 and since 2008, with just 5,995 students showing up. Auburn was the second-least with 10,851. The highest-attended game of the season was Ole Miss (13,486) followed by Mississippi State (13,483) and the Tide’s home opener against Western Kentucky (13,459). Alabama’s only loss of the season to Texas A&M was viewed by 13,385 students, while 11,959 attended the Tide’s game against Florida Atlantic.

The second-highest attended game by students since 2008 was Arkansas in 2011 (13,564), followed by Penn State in 2010 (13,522).

The “Game of the Century” between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU on Nov. 5, 2011 drew just 12,646 students.


To be fair, some of the problem might be the fault of the athletic department, which for years has made it difficult for students who actually want to go the games. In a C-W story last year, some of the issues faced by ticket-holding students were brought to light.

Students face long waits and long lines just to get into the stadium before marquee games like last year’s LSU and Arkansas games. People who have grown up with microwave popcorn, instant messaging and broadband smartphones don’t like waiting for anything.

That said, lifelong Alabama fans who’ve been on the season ticket waiting list since their now teenaged children were in diapers don’t like waiting either. If the university took a look at student attendance numbers and decided to reallocate some of those sections and shorten the list, the tickets would be snapped up.

The student body at Alabama is not monolithic. There are some students who don’t miss a home game and don’t leave early. One is quoted in Torrence’s story. Another—a neighbor and recent business graduate—never missed one either. Those kinds of devoted students need and deserve the privilege of watching Alabama football.

The fans that have supported the program for their entire lives deserve the privilege, too. Some hard evaluations need to be done, and a hard decision needs to be made.

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Podcast with Leather Helmet Blog’s Greg and Soc

I spent some time talking football with Greg and Soc from the Leather Helmet Blog. LHB is as serious about Georgia sports as IBCR is about Alabama. These are two classy and knowledgeable Georgia fans (I know, right) and some serious football discussion was had.

The first segments dealt with the coaching search and NCAA turmoil at our common rival. Shocka: These guys don’t like Auburn very much either.

Give it a listen and follow LHB for Georgia football coverage.

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Morning Six Pack: November 29, 2012

Thirsty Thursday brings another six college football stories from around the country.

Tracking all the coaching changes around the country

Tommy Tuberville’s sitting by the phone and Jimmy Sexton’s got that particular sparkle in his eye. 

Jenkins latest in Cody's shadows: Defensive lineman anchors middle of Georgia's defense

Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith was asked what he thought about the impending matchup between Alabama All-America center Barrett Jones and teammate John Jenkins. 'I guess that'll be like 'Clash of the Titans,' Smith said. “It’s going to be good old-fashioned football. People are going to be excited to see it. That’s what we play the game for.”

Auburn football coaching search: A deeper look at possible candidates

Rumors and speculation continue to swirl as Auburn's football coaching search begins its fourth day following Sunday's firing of Gene Chizik.

Greeson: Is Gruden the right solution for the Vols?

The questions about Jon Gruden and the University of Tennessee have consumed the state.

Time Runs Out, but Not the Money in Coaches’ Firings

University administrators appear willing to pay coaches of struggling college football teams huge sums of money to go away and make room for new hires.

Quotable:

During Saturday night’s Notre Dame-USC game, ABC announcer Brent Musburger uttered a sentence that summed up the stance of much of the old guard. Forget Manziel’s freshman and SEC record 4,600 yards of total offense, Musburger, who is also a voter, said there are those "who will not under any circumstances, vote for a freshman."

But the question is, will they vote for a strictly defensive player? No one has ever won without playing some offense – which Te’o hasn’t – or finished among the top two vote-getters since Pitt defensive end Hugh Green in 1980. If older voters aren’t willing to change their tune for the most dynamic offensive player of the year, regardless of his age, will they be willing to do so for a linebacker?
Which brings us to Kansas State’s redshirt senior quarterback and the importance of playing on that final weekend before votes are due.

A year ago with his biggest challengers, Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson, watching from home in the final weekend of the regular season, Robert Griffin III took advantage. He carved up Texas and parlayed it into his school’s first Heisman.

The impact of leaving voters with a dominating performance has been evident, with each of the last four winners all in action during championship weekend and it certainly aided Griffin.

Over the first two weeks of voting, it was Luck that led, while Richardson was a clear second and RG3 was well behind. But over those final days, Griffin gained over 35 percent of the vote and wound up winning by 280 points over Luck.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The clash between college controlled content and social media reporting

College-controlled content collides with traditional media coverage
Published on National Sports Journalism Cente... | shared via feedly

Broadcast rights are one thing, but some in the media think it may be more about old-fashioned competition. Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton told shermanreport.com his paper's relationship with the University of Washington as antagonistic and "it's not a partnership at all."

Washington employs its own writer who tweets on his own account during games and the school hosts live chats during the week – something a Seattle Times reporter was doing until the school said such activities infringed on its broadcast rights.

"We started doing live chats almost every day at noon and had beat reporters do it, and the University of Washington liked it, so they did it themselves then stopped the Seattle Times, [saying] it infringed on broadcasting rights," Shelton told shermanreport.com. "It's not a partnership at all; it's definitely an antagonistic relationship."

New media has redefined that relationship between traditional media outlets and the teams they cover. They are both seeking to reach their audiences with exclusive content on their own platforms. The "need" for schools to get media coverage – which formed that original partnership – is obsolete.
This is an interesting column from Ronnie Ramos, the NCAA's Managing Director for Digital Communications. Traditionally, schools and their conferences have relied heavily on the legacy media to provide coverage of their athletic events. Almost since the dawn of sports news coverage, media outlets have assigned beat reporters to a particular school, conference or sport to produce news, analysis and opinion on college athletics.

The rights to broadcasting those events--be it via television, radio and now the internet--have belonged to the schools and conferences. For championship events sponsored by the NCAA, those rights belong to the league. Those broadcast rights are worth billions.

Enter the advent of social media and the traditional relationship changes. The same sports journalists that the schools relied on to provide coverage--and to whom they granted incredible access--are now seen as competitors when they "live tweet" or "live blog" an event.

At what point does live tweeting and blogging become a competitor? If you tweet too much or update the live blog too often, are you seriously infringing on the school or conference right to provide live coverage?

As Ramos points out,  both the institutions and the media are constantly looking for new ways to engage and inform their audiences. Both have taken to social media as a way to do so. If a reporter with 40,000 followers on Twitter is providing more frequent coverage of a live event than the school's twitter feed with around 16,000 then the reporter's reach might be seen as a threat to the school's ability to draw a greater following.

Frankly, until someone figures out how to monetize a twitter feed this issue isn't going to cause a big storm. Yes, some fans may elect to follow a twitter feed rather than tune or log into a broadcast. And yes, the feed with the greater reach and credibility is probably going to get more action than the smaller one.

It's only when those billions in revenues are threatened--or when a new source of revenue draws competition--that things can start getting hairy. The Washington beat writer who received the reprimand might next see his credentials yanked for tweeting too much. At that point, Mr. Sports Reporter becomes no more influential than the Average Joe watching the game from the stands, on TV or the internet.

Social media is changing how fans get information. That's as true in sports as it is in politics and pop culture. The question is how these changes will affect the depth and quality of the information they get.

May you live in interesting times, indeed.

ACC heads west, steals Louisville from Big East

ACC votes to add Louisville in 2014
Published on Trib College Sports | shared via feedly
So long Maryland, hello Louisville.
Presidents from the Atlantic Coast Conference barely allowed the ink to dry on Maryland's exit papers for the Big Ten when they unanimously voted to add the University of Louisville for all sports starting in 2014.

Louisville is the No. 1 college basketball television market in the country and operates with an annual athletic budget that is more than $25 million greater than Maryland's last reported fiscal athletic expenditures of $57.35 million.

The Cardinals also have an improved product on the football field under coach Charlie Strong, who has a 23-14 record in two seasons before Louisville plays for a BCS bid at Rutgers on Thursday night. Maryland is 15 games under .500 in the past four seasons.

Well-known basketball coach Rick Pitino and the traditional power of his team brings instant cachet to a conference that will also bring in Jim Boeheim and Syracuse next season.
 Mash here.

Cleveland Browns deny that Gruden might be offered a stake in the team as part of UT coaching deal

News Channel 3 Learns of Tennessee's New Twist To Lure Jon Gruden
The following statement was sent to us by Neal Gulkis, Vice President of Media Relations for the Cleveland Browns:

"Jimmy Haslam has no involvement in the University of Tennessee head coaching search, and the report that Jon Gruden would potentially have an ownership stake in the Browns is completely erroneous."
Last night, WREG in Memphis ran with an internet rumor that the Haslams were working with Tennessee's coaching search team to craft a deal that would grant the coveted Jon Gruden a stake in the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise.

The idea was too good to be true.

As noted by Mark Wiedmer in Chattanooga, Gruden could end all of this silliness by issuing a statement either confirming or denying his interest in the Tennessee job. He hasn't yet, which allows internet rumors like the Browns deal to proliferate and get even sillier.



Georgia preview: In a contest of immense talent, intangibles might make the difference

Georgia preview: In a contest of immense talent, intangibles might make the difference
Published on Tidefans.com | shared via feedly
This is, after all, the program that orchestrated a “blackout” in 2008 when Alabama came to visit Athens, was penalized en masse once after the entire team celebrated a touchdown against Florida in 2007 and has been criticized for too much flash over substance for several seasons, occasionally landing Richt on somewhat of a hot seat. 

 It makes for an interesting dichotomy for Richt, who outwardly projects the image of family man and a man of strong faith, but whose football team seems to take most of its cues from Richt’s alma mater, the University of Miami. It’s reflected somewhat in the amount of penalties each team gets – Alabama received the fewest of any SEC team, while Georgia ranked 10th in the conference in the stat, averaging nearly 7 flags a contest to 4 for the Crimson Tide. 

 It would seem, looking at the way these two teams have prepared for the game thus far this week, Alabama is going about its work in a business-as-usual fashion. With Georgia spending so much time concerned about image, “swag” and the importance of the game itself, the Bulldogs look to be wound as tight as a Titleist.
No spoilers here--go read the rest for Jess' prediction on the 2012 SEC Championship Game.

Jess may be a Bama homer (he freely admits it) but he's an honest and objective one. He calls'em like he sees'em and few prognosticators are willing to back up their judgment the way he does.

Go read the whole thing. Whether you're a bammer or a bullpup, you'll agree that it's a sound analysis.

Morning Six Pack: November 28, 2012

Coaching searches always go better with six cold ones. So, here are six college football stories from around the country.

“Pooo Sig Wooie!”

According to a report from Times-Picayune/NOLA.com on Tuesday a source close to LSU confirmed that Arkansas is pursuing LSU head coach Les Miles for the vacant Arkansas head coaching position. The offer is reportedly for five years and $27.5 million.

NCSU-Dykes marriage rumors heating up

Thanks to a stellar, relatively speaking, three years at Louisiana Tech, Sonny Dykes has become one of the hottest commodities on the collegiate coaching market.

Ex-Buffs coach blames racism for Embree firing

Former Colorado coach Bill McCartney said racism was a factor in Jon Embree's firing from the Buffaloes position after only two years on the job in Boulder.

Lacy getting healthy at the right time: Tide running back coming back from nagging injuries

Alabama running back Eddie Lacy has gained a whole new perspective on turf-toe injuries. After recovering from one for about a year, he appreciates how good he feels these days.

AP Source: ACC leaders to discuss expansion plans

The Atlantic Coast Conference's presidents and chancellors have scheduled a conference call for Wednesday morning to discuss plans about replacing Maryland, a person familiar with the situation said.

Quotable:

The funniest part of all of this for those who don't bleed orange is that Philadelphia Eagles fans are apparently becoming as convinced as Volniacs that they're going to land Gruden.

They may or may not be as excited about it as Tennesseans -- one Internet poll has consistently ranked Gruden the favorite of 53 percent of the UT fan base with Stoops a distant second at 11 percent. Those rates have held fast for more than a week, whether the total votes were 3,000 or close to 30,000.

So to be Hart is to clearly know your fans' collective choice, despite the fact that Gruden has never been a college head coach.

Yet to be Hart is also to know that winning the news conference is not necessarily winning the war. Slimy though he may be, Bobby Petrino has a far better collegiate pedigree than Gruden. Bob Stoops is a no-brainer if available. And Cincinnati's Butch Jones may be the best of the bunch -- Notre Dame's Brian Kelly in training pants.

Point is, it doesn't have to be Gruden to become an impressive hire. But it seems to need to be Gruden to tame a savage fan base.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Headline of the Day: Stoops There It Is

Stoops There It Is
Published on Friends of the Program | shared via feedly
 
Unexpectedly, Kentucky is the first to fire a shot across the head coach searching bow by hiring Mark Stoops and thus allowing me to reference Tag Team…so thanks for that BBN.  Stoops is, of course the shorter, red headed little brother of Bob and Mike, and served as defensive coordinator for FSU this season.  There is no confirmation as of yet to the completely made up rumor that Stoops was hired because his name, out of all the candidates, rhymed most closely with Big Blue Nation's main priority.
Via Bunkie.

One and Done: Ellis Johnson out at Southern Miss

One year after taking over the Southern Miss team that had won 12 games, Ellis Johnson reversed that and lost 12. All 12.


Statement:

“Following a thorough assessment of our football program, I made the recommendation to our University President that we not retain Ellis Johnson as our head football coach. Dr. Lucas accepted my recommendation and earlier this morning I informed Ellis Johnson that he will not return in the future as our head football coach. At Southern Miss we expect to compete hard and succeed both in the classroom and on the field. This is not the exception…This is in fact the standard, the norm, our identity and who we are. In this regard, we have already initiated a search for a new head coach. We will move rapidly in this effort seeking a dynamic leader with the character to lead our program back to prominence. Today marks a new beginning, a new season and a new start. Thus I ask all members of the Southern Miss Family for your support, now more than ever."

SEC Championship Game Tickets Still Available

image

Via our friends at SeatCrunch.com, there are still tickets available for the matchup between Alabama and Georgia.

Game tickets are available from about $380 and SEC Fanfare start at $20 (Fanfare tickets are not game tickets).

Parking passes are also available.

Full disclaimer: IBCR is a member of SeatCrunch’s affiliate program and receives a small commission on each sale.

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Ole Miss gets $5,000 fine for storming the field

Via SEC Media Relations:

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Nov. 27, 2012) – The Southeastern Conference announced today that Ole Miss will be fined $5,000 for a violation of the league’s access to competition area policy.

                The policy states that “access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times.  For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.  It is the responsibility of each member institution to implement procedures to ensure compliance with this policy”

                The violation occurred following Ole Miss’ 41-24 win over Mississippi State on Nov. 24 when fans entered the competition area of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

                The policy imposes financial penalties for violations in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, at the discretion of the Commissioner.  Institutional penalties range from $5,000 for a first offense to fines of up to $25,000 for a second offense and up to $50,000 for a third and subsequent offenses.  If an institution is penalized and subsequently does not have a violation for a period of three years from the date of the last violation, that subsequent violation shall be considered a second offense.

                This is Ole Miss’ first violation of the league’s access to competition area policy, which went into effect on December 1, 2004.

Mark Richt has lost control of his players’ mouths

image It’s one thing to be facing an Alabama team gaining steam in its drive towards history. It’s quite another to be facing that Alabama team when it’s pissed off. The Tide needs absolutely no extra motivation to play its best in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. That isn’t stopping Georgia football players, who are spewing streams of locker room material. Mark Richt has totally lost control, you guys.

Baccari Rambo, speaking via telephone on ESPN’s College Football Final, said "I feel like we are more talented. We have better players at each position, across the board, especially on defense.” Really? Across the board? Rambo is a heck of a defensive back and he’s a lock for either first or second team All Name honors. But he’s not very smart.

“I think we’re the best defense in the country,” senior cornerback Sanders Commings said Monday after practice.

“I think confidence is just another word for swagger. We step on a field and our swag is turned way up, like we can shut anybody down and shut anybody out. In order to be good, you have to be confident. You have to have that swagger.”

UGA noseguard John Jenkins has been quoted as saying that Alabama’s offensive line—widely regarded as one of the best in college football—is “nothing special.” When specifically asked about his counterpart Barrett Jones at Center, he said he couldn’t really tell the difference between him and any of the others.

Smack talk like this is a major reason why Nick Saban limits media access to only certain players on the team and it’s absolutely the reason he doesn’t let freshmen talk at all.

It’s Ok to express confidence in your team. It’s Ok to think that you’re good enough to beat anybody you play. It’s borderline insanity to directly compare yourself to an upcoming opponent and trash them.

Both teams are 11-1. They are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the BCS, and the winner will play Notre Dame for the national championship. You don’t reach this level in college football by being “nothing special” and that’s especially true in the country’s toughest conference.

Alabama Strength and Conditioning Coach Scott Cochran is a master at using opponents’ trash talk to motivate the football team. You can bet that every bit of smack coming out of the mouths of the Bulldog players is either being plastered all over the weight room, or being played back through the audio system.

Whoops.

Update: I originally had both teams at 10-1. I guess I’m still stuck in the 90’s.

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Morning Six Pack: November 27, 2012

A few good reasons for drinking and this just entered my head: If a man can’t drink when he’s living how the hell can he drink when he’s dead?

Column: Johnny Football Should Be Johnny Heisman

This was it, our first opportunity to hear from the quarterback himself why he feels he should win the Heisman Trophy. Turns out, he's not much of a lobbyist.

Forde-Yard Dash: Breaking down college football's major coaching openings

From Tennessee to Colorado, The Dash ranks this winter's top coaching vacancies.

Balancing wins and losses with dollars and cents

Deciding whether to fire a college football coach often comes down to balancing wins and losses with dollars and cents.

Embree suggests he got a raw deal

A choked-up Jon Embree suggested Monday that the only way he could have turned around the University of Colorado's flailing football program in his two years as head coach was to take shortcuts in the classroom and on the recruiting trail.

Chizik failing to commit to QB, run attack played part in bad season

His ethos may have been 'All In,' but Gene Chizik's failure to commit to a quarterback until late in the season or to the run-first offense he sought by bringing in Scot Loeffler to be his offensive coordinator, in part led to a historically bad 3-9 season.

Quotable:

On the other side, there is a crystal football trophy and a fleet of visible-from-the-exosphere gold helmets. In the meantime, there is the business of earning the title of best team in the nation's most rabid, swaggering conference.

There are those who might argue either Georgia or Alabama playing for a national championship is a bit redundant after playing for the Southeastern Conference title. Those people are known as SEC football fans, and while the game participants might not share their sentiment, looking past Saturday would be like shrugging at a coming tornado.

"If you need any added motivation to be a champion in any way, shape or form, something's wrong with you," Georgia receiver Tavarres King said. "If we win this game, we're SEC champions. That alone is enough motivation for us to get after it this Saturday.

"We do know what lies ahead. We win this one, and we'll have the opportunity to play Notre Dame."

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Quotables: Auburn cleans house

“Winning three games is unacceptable,” he said. “We have high standards here at Auburn, and we’re going to keep them high. That’s what it boiled down to.”

Jacobs also said off-the-field issues concerned him when evaluating the program as well.

“Overall discipline is something that always is a foundational thing in any team you have,” he said.

* * *

Listening to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs on Sunday while announcing the firing of Gene Chizik as Auburn’s head football coach, you got the impression he was aware of the collapse all along.

Not only aware of it, but disturbed by it. Good for him.

Every Auburn fan throughout the country watched it painfully unfold over the last three months.

But how Jacobs gets off the hook for this mess is beyond me.

What could he possibly have told Auburn president Jay Gogue to keep from losing his own job?

“Hey, prez ... can’t believe what’s happening out there ... will look into it ... but hey, Coach Chiz is a good guy ... great character ... we’ll get someone in here to turn this around ...”

* * *

"I think we did what he deserved and we gave him a standing ovation and clapped for him," he said. "There's so much love for coach Chizik on this team. Would we have loved to see him get another year, another opportunity? Yes, but at the same time we understand where Jay Jacobs is coming from. Three wins isn't going to cut it in our league."

Defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker said, "It's kind of crazy right now. I had a special bond with Coach Chizik."

Chizik inserted tailback Tre Mason on the final play against Alabama to get him to 1,000 yards. The next day, Mason saw his coach get fired.

"It was a rough day for everybody," Mason said. "It's tough. There are going to be a lot of tears shed because there are a lot of relationships that may be put on hold or come to an end today. I have nothing negative to say about coach Chizik. He's done a lot for me and this program. I wish him the best of luck in his future."

* * *

When Auburn finally fired Gene Chizik on Sunday, I couldn't help but think of Reuben Foster. Who is Foster? He's the star high school linebacker who originally committed to Alabama but flipped to Auburn in July. How did Foster celebrate his decision?

By getting an Auburn tattoo that spans one of his forearms.

Few things in college football should ever be commemorated with permanent ink. Not verbal commitments. Not conference affiliations. Certainly not coaches. Foster loved the coaching staff at Auburn so much that his affection for the group played a major role in his decision to have the school's logo inked into his skin. But no amount of love can overcome 0-8 in the SEC.

* * *

Any time a program changes coaches, the prospect of players transferring rises. 

And although athletic director Jay Jacobs said that at least one player told him after Sunday's meeting that all of the players would still be here, the reality is that some players will have tough choices to make in the weeks ahead. 

"It's going to be a challenge because people's minds go everywhere, 'Should I leave or should I stay,'" Auburn running back Tre Mason said. "I'm pretty sure people will probably stay and stick together as a family."

* * *

Long before Alabama 49, Auburn 0, official and unofficial Auburn power brokers were told during the past off-season that Gene Chizik’s football program was coming apart at the seams.

Some of the problems, like a number of arrests and behavior issues, were public and obvious. Others were readily apparent only to insiders, and several of them spoke to al.com on condition of anonymity.

Some players weren’t going to class. Others weren’t working out. What should have been mandatory workouts became optional, and the authority of head strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall was severely undermined.

Chizik was informed of at least some of the issues, and he raised the academic issue with his assistant coaches at one point, but did the head coach really follow through or was he sending mixed signals?

* * *

"We will move as quickly as possible in the search for our next head coach," Jacobs said.

"We will be guided by the benchmarks we expect in the leader of our program. Those benchmarks are a track record as a proven winner, a commitment to playing within the rules, and student-athlete academic success."

The coaching search committee is Jacobs, Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Mac Crawford. 

"This is a real, working committee and I’m proud to be part of this distinguished group," Jacobs said.

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Morning Six Pack: November 26, 2012

No coach search should begin until you’ve had six refreshing college football stories from around the country.

Chizik among five college football coaches fired

Gene Chizik, Frank Spaziani and Danny Hope got the pink slips many expected were coming after disappointing seasons.

Nick Saban’s alma mater is BCS surprise

The Golden Flashes are No. 17 in the BCS standings and just five spots away from earning the non-AQ automatic berth. This is unprecedented because this is a Kent State program that is going to its first bowl game since 1972.

Players from non-AQ schools sweep Camp honors

Every Sunday throughout the season, the Walter Camp Foundation honors two players, one offensive and one defensive, for their performances from the previous day.

SEC Holds National Bragging Rights Yet Again

It appears that for the second year in a row the powerful SEC will be the only league in the country to send a team to the national title game.

Inside Alabama: Saban gets his teams championship ready

No. 2-ranked Alabama opened Sunday afternoon as a 7.5-point favorite over No. 3 Georgia in Saturday's SEC Championship Game, and if you check history, that's a good pick.

Quotable:

When Chizik's head-coaching career is considered in full, the season just concluded is not the aberration. It is the 14-0 record of 2010.

As well as Newton played, he had the benefit of 23 seniors around him, left for Chizik by his predecessor and former boss, Tommy Tuberville. Newton left, All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley left and the seniors graduated. After Auburn fell to 8-5 in 2011, Chizik swapped out offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn for Scot Loeffler and defensive coordinator Ted Roof for Brian VanGorder. Whatever Chizik's motivation, it proved to be a miscalculation.

The Tigers started out as a team yearning to be mediocre and never improved. In fact, by the end of the season, Auburn set school records for ineptitude. The Tigers lost to their biggest rivals, No. 3 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama, by a combined score of 87-0. An Auburn coach could be forgiven many things, several of them prosecutable, before he could be forgiven those losses.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Auburn dismisses Gene Chizik – UPDATE: Statement from AD

Fresh from a 49-0 Iron Bowl smackdown that capped an 0-8 SEC record and a dismal 3-9 record overall, Auburn has dismissed head coach Gene Chizik.

Gene Chizik's star-crossed coaching career at Auburn is over. 

The university fired him Sunday, AL.com has learned, after Auburn completed its worst season in 60 years Saturday.

Chizik told his assistant coaches Sunday and was to tell his players in a team meeting at 1 p.m.

It was a widely anticipated move. No team in the BCS era has fallen so quickly after winning a championship. Since that January 2011 game, Auburn is 11-14 overall and 3-13 in the SEC.

The Auburn defense—once a traditionally stout and stingy unit—has had its worst four year run in history with Chizik as the head coach.

In four seasons, no Auburn team posted a shutout against even vastly inferior opponents, another historically significant statistic.

The search for Chizik’s replacement will begin immediately. Names frequently mentioned include Bobby Petrino, former OC Gus Malzahn and Louisville’s Charlie Strong.

Update: Official Statement from AD Jay Jacobs

Nov. 25, 2012

Dear Auburn Family,

First and foremost, I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have reached out to me in recent days and weeks to express your concerns about our football program. You are the best fans in the country, and I appreciate your passion and love for Auburn University.

We have talked a lot in recent years about building the foundation it takes to consistently compete at a high level in the nation's toughest conference. Despite substantial investment in personnel and facilities made possible by your support, the football program did not live up to our expectations. The results of the 2012 football season are simply unacceptable at Auburn.

After suffering some tough losses in a transition year in 2011, we had hoped our team would show improvement this season. Unfortunately, it has not. The competition in our league is fierce and is currently at an all-time high, and we cannot risk falling further behind by waiting another year and hoping for improvement.

That is why after careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of our football program, I have recommended that Coach Gene Chizik not be retained. President Gogue has accepted my recommendation. Earlier this morning, I informed Coach Chizik that he will not return as head coach.

My primary consideration in making this recommendation was doing what is in the best interests of our current student-athletes and the future of our football program. That has always been my top priority, and it always will be.

While I am disappointed that Coach Chizik's career here has come to an end we will long cherish the memories of our first National Championship in 53 years. Gene and his staff will always be a part of the Auburn Family, and we wish them and their families the best.

This season demonstrated that we need a different direction to get where we want to go. We will move as quickly as possible in our search for a new Head Coach, guided by the benchmarks President Gogue and I expect. Those benchmarks are a track record as a proven winner, a commitment to playing within the rules and student-athlete academic success.

I am pleased to announce that we have put together an outstanding search committee to find our next head coach. The committee consists of several great Auburn leaders who share our commitment to competing at the highest level and who understand what it takes to succeed at Auburn. I am honored that Mac Crawford, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan have agreed to join our efforts to find the best coach possible for our student-athletes, the students of Auburn University and the Auburn Family. I'm proud to be part of this distinguished group.

A press conference will be held later today to formally announce this change. In the days ahead, you can expect rumors to swirl and inaccurate reports to surface about who is under consideration to be our next Head Coach. That is the nature of coaching searches at this level. I will not respond to rumors or speculative reports during the search process, but I do look forward to announcing our new Head Coach once the search is complete.

I regret that the Auburn Family, and especially our season ticket holders and Tigers Unlimited donors, have had to endure a frustrating and difficult season. You expect and deserve better.

It is time to heal and turn the page to the next chapter of Auburn football. It is time to pull together and forge ahead to the brighter future that awaits us.

We have endured tough times before, and we have always emerged stronger. I have no doubt that will be our course once again.

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Alabama begins week as early favorite against Georgia

Per his Twitter account, USA Today Sports Analyst says Alabama will be a six point favorite over Georgia in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.

He gave his opinion in response to a question from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, an unabashed Alabama fan.

image

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Morning Six Pack: November 25, 2012

Win or lose, nothing makes Sunday better than six cold, clear and refreshing college football stories from around the country.

Alabama 49, Auburn 0 - Steamroll Tide: Bama bashes Tigers on way to SEC title game

Combine an Alabama team on the verge of playing for a national championship and an Auburn team suffering one of the most dramatic falls in college football history, and this apparently is what you get.

No One Can Call Gators Soft After Comeback Win Over FSU

This one meant a lot. And after it was over, no one was calling the Gators soft.

Heisman Watch: Manziel v. Te’o

This season has been an up and down roller coaster of Heisman speculation, and after Week 13, many believe that it could come down to Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te’o, or the freshmen quarterback from Texas A&M, Johnny “Football” Manziel.

The weird, wacky and wow from the weekend

Oklahoma never led in regulation but still outscored Oklahoma State to win "Bedlam" in OT.

Notre Dame sticks with winning formula to earn BCS championship berth

A 22-13 win over USC gave Notre Dame a 12-0 mark and a trip to the BCS title game. They stuck with what worked all season -- run the ball and stop the run.

Quotable:

Since 2007, Nick Saban’s arrival at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has been building toward some kind of climax in this series. The eventual terminus of that buildup wasn’t known to anyone, but everyone had a pretty good guess: It would end, to one degree or another, with an Alabama team making an Auburn team look like it didn’t even know how to play the sport.

Turns out that day was Nov. 24, 2012. The 2007 game was probably closer than it had any right to be, and Alabama would have stood a good chance at an upset had D.J. Hall not dropped a sure touchdown pass. The 2008 game polished off Tommy Tuberville’s career. The zenith of Gene Chizik’s career – the final handful of weeks in the 2009 season, through the Cam Newton-infused 2010 championship season and its follow-up season – produced two Alabama wins, one by blowout, and another game that Alabama should have won. And then we have Nov. 24, 2012.

Auburn didn’t look like it even cared to be on the field with Alabama, much less do anything to actually slow down Alabama or score on Alabama. Auburn made Alabama’s first drive into four minutes of honest work; after the Tide finally scored a touchdown to cap the drive, the Tigers checked out. A team full of Signing Day prime cuts turned into an Iron Bowl full of spoiled hamburger.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Morning Six Pack: November 24, 2012

Iron Bowl Saturday. Enjoy these six college football stories about the country’s most heated rivalry.

Tide unsung hero ready for his final Iron Bowl

Four years ago, Nico Johnson sat in the stands at Alabama’s 36-0 Iron Bowl win, eager to put on a crimson jersey. A five-star prospect out of Andalusia High, he took his official visit to Alabama that weekend, even though he already had committed to the Crimson Tide almost three months earlier.

UA defense watchful of McCalebb - Alabama

Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb averages 6.3 yards per carry. Stopping him will be one focus for the UA defense Saturday in the Iron Bowl.

With UGA Looming, Focus Must Remain on Auburn

Following the conclusion of the weekly post-game workout this past Sunday, senior Alabama defensive end Damion Square addressed his fellow teammates in a team meeting and counseled them about the week ahead.

Auburn trying to ignore underdog status as Tigers prepare for the Iron Bowl

A 32-point underdog, Auburn's coaches and players say they've been focused on preparation instead of predictions this week.

An Iron Bowl win wouldn't change the disappointment of Auburn's season, Jake Holland says

An Iron Bowl upset could springboard Auburn into next season, but Holland says that simply winning the game doesn't make up for the Tigers' 3-8 campaign and lack of bowl appearance this season.

Quotable:

"This is a special day for the 21 seniors we have on the team coming up on Saturday," Saban said. "I think there are nine scholarship guys and 12 walk-ons. A lot of the guys that were originally in this class are no longer here, because we've had quite a few draft picks and that type of thing.

"This class has done a fantastic job of representing the University of Alabama and representing our program. They've contributed to a large degree the leadership and success that we've had in this organization, and I think it's great to recognize them in our stadium for the last home game and have the community and everybody sort of thank them for the great job they've done in representing the University of Alabama."

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Twas The Night Before The Iron Bowl: An Alabama Poem

By: @LivingCrimson

Twas the night before the Iron Bowl, and all through Auburn chests,
Not a hope was stirring, not even the barner obsessed.
Jonna Chizik's prayers were posted on Facebook with care,
In fear that St. Nicholas Lou Saban soon would glare.

When out in the media there arose such a clatter,
Coach Chiz sprang up from his scrapbooking to see what was the matter.
Away to the NCAA mailbox he flew like a flash,
Tore open the letters, and threw up a gasp.

Then, what to his watering eyes should appear,
But an NCAA array announcing "We're here."
More rapid than eagles the interviewers they came,
And he whistled for Pat Dye, and shouted, and called him names.

"Now Trovon, now Demetruce, now Jonathan Wallace,
tell them our recruiters left your academics spotless.
To the tops of Toomer's Oaks, to the top of Samford Hall,
now proclaim away, proclaim away, proclaim away all!"

And then in a twinkling he heard on his cell,
Jay Jacobs ringing, announcing his death knell,
The call was dress'd all in legalese and throughput,
And behold Chiz's contract pronounced ashes and soot.
So he ended the call, went to bed and slept not sound,
For to Tuscaloosa and the Iron Bowl the next day he was bound.

Out on the field St. Nick approached with a growl,
And Gene knew this would be no Tiger Prowl.
A wink of Saban's eye and a twist of his head,
And Chiz understood he had even more to dread.

Nick spoke not one word, but walked away with a smirk.
Then Alabama's defense lined up, all to work.
And giving a nod, Saban let loose the flood,
Of the Crimson Tide menace out for rivalry blood.

O'er 60 minutes they played like a team on a mission,
And the Tide sent the barners down the road to perdition.
Chiz heard Saban exclaim ‘ere he walked out of sight,
"Roll Tide to all, we made his ass quit … Aight."

Morning Six Pack: November 23, 2012

Black Friday, baby. But before you leave for shopping, check out these six college football stories from around the country.

NCAA violations could eliminate Gene Chizik's Auburn buyout

Gene Chizik could lose his job next week. It would take longer, but the Auburn football coach could lose something else down the road. His generous buyout.

Brown feeling the heat again at Texas

The Longhorns suffer through a listless home loss to TCU.

Arkansas eyes role of spoiler against No. 8 LSU

Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson would love nothing more than to play the role of spoiler this week.

Oregon vs. Oregon State Rivalry is Civil but Quirky One

The Oregon vs. Oregon State rivalry is one of the oldest in college football, dating back to 1894. But for the longest time, it lacked a central ingredient to any rivalry: something to win.

Lane Kiffin has support of Chip Kelly heading into game against Notre Dame

For Notre Dame, the path to the BCS championship game is simple. Beat USC and the Irish are in. For No. 2 Alabama, the path is also simple, albeit a bit longer. Beat Auburn and then Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Quotable:

So that whole keep-the-SEC-out-of-the-BCS-title-game-thing lasted all of a week. Great job, other conferences. Johnny Football hands you the keys to the kingdom, and you say, "No thanks. We're perfectly happy with our non-crystal footballs and deep-seated inferiority complexes." You had your chance. All you needed was Kansas State to beat a team that entered the game with the worst total defense ranking in the FBS and Oregon to beat a team it usually beats by three touchdowns. But you couldn't handle that, could you? Now you're probably one Notre Dame loss to USC and one Florida win against Florida State away from another all-SEC BCS title game.

But fear not. Seven teams have a realistic shot at playing for the national title, and only three of them are from the SEC.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Non-Sports: I need trucks

I urgently need trucks for a debris mission job related to Hurricane Sandy.

I would really like to have 80 cubic yard (cy) self-loading double-haulers.

My client can work with 60-65 cy dump trucks, but they’d have to accept sideboards to get their capacity up a bit. Those don’t have to be self-loading. Smaller capacities are insufficient.

We can hire entire fleets, but the trucks must work a 24 hour cycle so each truck would need at least two drivers.

We pay the company/owner $148 per hour.

If you (or anyone you know) has this kind of equipment available for deployment beginning Monday, please send me an email at admin@ibleedcrimsonred.com

Auburn and the NCAA: Have we learned anything new?

JailAubie By now, everyone has seen the stories from Yahoo, al.com and ESPN regarding an ongoing NCAA investigation into Auburn University’s football program. The stories all cite sources who say that the NCAA is looking into—among other things—the recruitment of Memphis standout Jovon Robinson. Have we learned anything new? Do we know anything now that we didn’t know before Pat Forde’s story dropped yesterday afternoon?

Here’s what he wrote:

According to multiple sources, NCAA investigators have spent weeks looking into potential improprieties involving Auburn recruits, players, coaches, representatives of the school's athletic interests and third parties. Assistant coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper have been scrutinized by the NCAA, sources said. Taylor is the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach, while Luper coaches running backs and is the recruiting coordinator.

Both Taylor and Luper were taken off the road recruiting several weeks ago amid the NCAA probe, sources said. Taylor was a finalist this season for national Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the American Football Coaches Association.

The only real surprising news here is that an assistant coach on a team that’s 3-8 was a finalist for the AFCA Assistant COY. The rest isn’t news to anyone who’s been following this story. Possible recruiting irregularities and possible academic fraud were first reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal in August.

It was also widely known in October that the two assistants were grounded from off-campus recruiting, with several recruiting websites reporting the situation. Although this information never made it into print or on-line mainstream media, it was talked about extensively on talk radio and internet message boards. If you followed college football in the south, you knew this was out there.

From ESPN’s version of the story:

Lynch, 62, who said she retired as a counselor at Wooddale High School in May to care for her ailing husband and mother, wouldn't specifically identify the teacher who she says instructed her to change Robinson's academic transcript.

But when Lynch was asked whether Wooddale physical education teacher Rhonda Wilkinson instructed her to change Robinson's grades, Lynch smiled and told a reporter, "No comment." Later, when Lynch was asked why she changed Robinson's grades, she said: "You already said her name. Go talk to her."

Robinson's recruitment has been under scrutiny since late August, when Wooddale guidance counselor Valerie Starks-Sykes admitted making changes to Robinson's transcripts and told Memphis City Schools officials that she was "certain someone had asked her to make the changes but was reluctant to name anyone who may have been involved," according to an email obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Again, a lot of stuff we knew back in August from the MCA and others who were covering the story. What we didn’t know—but suspected—was that someone who could easily be defined as a “representative of the school’s athletic interests” (aka, a “booster”) was likely involved with the falsified high school transcript. So while there’s some media confirmation of the dot-connecting many have already done, this story really isn’t any farther along than it was weeks ago.

What is significant is that mainstream national media organizations are confirming what regional and local organizations have already covered. As Miami, Ohio State and USC have painfully learned, having Yahoo! Sports’ team of investigative journalists snooping around your program is never a good thing.

That’s not news, either. But we do know for a fact that there’s certainly some fire to the smoke and now that the national media is covering the blaze, others will start turning over rocks. Sports Illustrated is likely to have a gander. The New York Times may want to talk to some folks in Memphis and Auburn. Fox’s Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans are probably on it. That in turn intensifies the pressure on the local and regional media outlets, who are closer to the story and have access that national types probably don’t. It’s not news, but it’s significant nonetheless.

There has been some conspiracy theorizing speculation that the stories dropping just days before the Iron Bowl is part of an orchestrated effort to inflict maximum harm on Auburn. That’s crazy talk. It implies that these competitive media outlets sat on a big scandal story for several weeks, dropping it only when everyone would be paying attention to the biggest game in the state. It implies that some sinister force controls the media and lets them know when to make things go BOOM. The idea that Yahoo!, ESPN and al.com are mere puppets for the dreaded Red Elephant Club plays well in the 334 area code, but the rest of the college sports worlds points and laughs.

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Morning Six Pack: November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving. Wash down that turkey and dressing with these six cold, clear college football stories from around the country.

LSU vs. Arkansas: What to Watch For

And now we celebrate our annual Friday afternoon slot of death battle with Arkansas. Hopefully for the last time, so that we can all stop pretending that, while this series has been pretty spirited, it is a rivalry on par with any of the others that take place this weekend.

Five future Iron Bowl stars for Alabama and Auburn

Get ready to welcome these star recruits to the cast of characters in the ongoing drama that is the Iron Bowl.

Fighting Irish and Trojans: The Best of a Rivalry

The story goes that college football's greatest intersectional rivalry began when Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne's wife convinced her husband to play USC regularly starting in 1926. From 1928-32 the winner of the game won national championships and between 1962 and 1977 each won three national titles (with USC also winning a split title in the coaches poll in 1974).

Manziel leapfrogs Klein as Heisman betting favorite

In the line of succession for 2012 Heisman front-runners, preseason favorite Matt Barkley begat early-season pick Geno Smith, who begat midseason fave Collin Klein.

Big East could be facing more realignment

The struggling Big East Conference came up short again in the latest round of expansion. The conference lost its fifth member in the past 18 months with Rutgers bolting for the Big Ten Tuesday. Now the league could lose one of its two most prominent remaining football programs.

Quotable:

Chizik, who enjoyed nearly no staff turnover his first three seasons, gambled by ditching the spread offense and using an NFL model on offense and defense. Changing schemes and terminology significantly impacted Auburn, Luginbill said.

"The one thing with Auburn the last three years is you knew exactly what they were on offense," he said. "You knew what their identity was and they had the players to fit within it. Now you morph into an offensive scheme where you really don't know what they want to be. You recruit certain players to be in a certain scheme and maybe you're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole."

But Luginbill added: "Should it take a toll to the point of what's happened to this team? I don't think so. I think this is pretty extreme."

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The 2012 Iron Bowl: Pending blowout or sucker’s bet?

Iron Bowl Logo.pngAlabama comes into the 2012 Iron Bowl with a 10-1 record and a chance to play for both the Southeastern Conference and BCS Championship. Auburn limps in with a 3-8 record and a chance to watch its hated rival go for an unprecedented BCS repeat. The Tide is a prohibitive favorite – SportsBetting.ag has the Tide as a 31-point favorite. History says that the better team almost always wins the Iron Bowl. There have been few upsets and it’s typically a well played game.

Could this year be a repeat of last season’s 42-14 beatdown? Or could it be another “scare” like the 2009 26-21 squeaker?

Look at the history of the series. The average margin of victory is about 15 points. In the BCS era, the margin is 12.5. Only once in the BCS era has the margin of victory been more than 30 points, and that was Tommy Tuberville’s 36-0 swansong loss in 2008. Last year was 28 points and the next widest margin is 24 points, which came in the 31-7 2001 “apply the silencer” shocker.

Every other game since 1998 has been within two touchdowns. With Auburn this bad and Alabama this good, what’s the likelihood that this game turns out to be a bit closer than everyone thinks?

Rivalry games are emotional. In a rivalry this heated, this bitter and this intense, the rivals’ adrenaline lasts a little longer than the first quarter.

Most off the players in this game are from the state of Alabama. They probably played against each other in high school and may have even played against each other in pee wee leagues. Their families know each other. They’ve gone to the same churches, the same schools and played on the same playgrounds. Sooner or later the two teams will settle in and just play football, but this game is always a little more intense than other rivalries.

Another indication that this game might be a bit closer than the betting line has it is that this could be Gene Chizik’s last game as the Auburn head coach. He’s only two years removed from an undefeated season and a national title but in big boy football, it’s always “what have you done for me lately?” The players on the Auburn team know this. The coaches who recruited them and coached them every day in practice might be gone by sunrise Sunday morning. There’s an incentive to play a little harder, run a little faster and hold those blocks a little longer.

On the other hand, there’s also the incentive to just mail it in and get this dreadful season over with.

Alabama’s motivation is the real key here, isn’t it? Knowing what’s at stake—state bragging rights, a berth in the SEC Championship game and BCS title hopes—they’ve got the greater incentive. And when was the last time a Nick Saban coached team took such a big game so lightly? Saban’s losses have rarely been in big games, and there’s no bigger game on either team’s regular season schedule than the Iron Bowl.

Again, history says that Alabama should win this one. The teams’ bodies of work over the season suggest it will be a blowout. But history suggests it may be otherwise.

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