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The good folks over at RollBamaRoll are taking the mic this week. Below are my answers to their questions. You can check there for a round-up on Friday.
1. We have a poll up at RBR about what was the biggest SEC upset from last season. What is your pick and why? I’m gonna have to go with the Kentucky-LSU game. As great a year as Kentucky had, they still finished 3-5 in the conference. Top beat the eventual national champion is a big, big deal. I believe that it was a case of LSU beating themselves more than Kentucky whipping them but never-the-less the Wildcats kept themselves in position to win the game and thus deserve the credit. You could also view Tennessee’s dumb-luck landing in Atlanta as a major upset. Their team did not deserve, except in the completely technical sense, to be there.
2. Looking ahead to this season’s schedule, what games do you see as being the deciding factors in who will win the SEC? Not to give a non-answer, but you just really can’t know, and that is the thing I love about college football. The textbook, regular media answer is: LSU/Auburn in the West and Florida/Georgia in the east. You can go one level deeper and say the West contender’s games against Alabama and the East contender’s games against Tennessee. You also have to consider the intriguing intra-division interdivision match-ups this season like LSU/Florida, Tennessee/Auburn, and Georgia/Alabama. Ole Miss and South Carolina will also, in my opinion, have a loud voice in deciding things this year. Just about every week something is on the line – you gotta love that.
3. Phil Steele and Athlon have Florida ranked #1 in the country with UGA coming in at #9 and #5, respectively, while Lindy’s likes the Dawgs at #1 and Florida at #6. Obviously both teams can’t represent the East in Atlanta, so which team do you think will wind up playing for the title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl (or National Championship Game), or do you think it’s possible neither team will be there at the end of the season? The more I think about it the more I am convinced that while loaded, Georgia’s schedule is just going to be too tough. Therefore I think that Florida, with comparable talent and a more favorable schedule will represent the East in Atlanta. Between the two I think the Gators have a better chance but I wouldn’t go as far as placing money, or even emphatically saying they will be there.
4. It’s a little early for a “traitor’s draft” since we don’t know who the starters are going to be until the fall, but since football is a year long affair let’s go ahead and have one. If you could trade two Alabama spring starters, one offensive and one defensive, for their counterpart on any other SEC team, who would you trade and why? As much as I like Terry Grant, trading him for Knowshon Moreno would just be too much of a no-brainer. A back like Moreno just makes it so hard for teams to defense you if there is any threat of a passing attack to complement him; he just always falls forward.
On the defense, and I hope I regret saying this, but I’d like to trade Brandon Deadrick for Ole Miss’ Greg Hardy. Alabama could really use a disruptive force on the D-line.
5. Finally, and just for fun, give me one non-Alabama game you’d love to attend this season (there’s a list of the “Top 40″ non-con games of the season here if you need a little help). I would love to attend the Cocktail Party. It would be hard not to enjoy that game.
Number 8: Georgia (26) at Alabama (23), September 22, 2007
I was born in Atlanta to a father that grew up in Rome which is about an hour to the northwest of Atlanta. My grandfather used to take my dad via train to Atlanta to watch Tech games at Grant Field. My grandfather, who was and still is my hero, loved Georgia Tech. He wanted my father to go there and I am sure that had he been alive when it came time for me to make those decisions would have encouraged me to go to Tech as well. As with many Tech fans of his time, he did not care for Alabama. He knew that I would grow up loving Alabama, since we moved to Tuscaloosa when I was still very small, and while I am sure this bothered him he never said a word, but I think I was probably twelve and a full-fledged fan before he ever purchased anything for me with Alabama on it.
As much as he disliked Alabama, he absolutely loathed Georgia. He preferred that the terms silver britches, bulldogs, or the word Herschel not be spoken in his house. It is out of my deep love for him and his memory that I still do not care for the Georgia Bulldogs to this day. Granted it is not on the level of disdain that I harbor for Tennessee or Little Brother- Alabama does not play them enough to cultivate that- but I dislike them none-the-less.
To me Georgia is a bunch of Johnny-come-latelys. They act as if they invented football and that no one has ever been as good as they are when the truth is that only in recent history have they had success against Alabama. My big gripe though, is that they always seem to be looking down their nose at Alabama -as a state and a football program. I’ve been to Fayette County. Trust me, you don’t have it much better in Georgia than we do in Alabama. Congratulations on your recent success, I’m really happy that Baby Jesus is doing well in Athens, but I’d have to say that in the same period of time – the Georgia resurgence – LSU has had better success. Hey – Alabama beat Hawaii – and finished the season in Shreveport. Nobody gave them national championship dreams for doing it. It’s not that big of a deal. Get over it.
As seems to be the pattern every time Alabama and Georgia play, this game was really hyped up. For the second time in as many visits by Georgia, Gameday was in town and with it a peculiar buzz about town that often shrouds Tuscaloosa the week before a big game. Georgia struggled early in the season losing to South Carolina in Athens but rebounded the next week by wolloping Western Carolina. Alabama on the other hand was undefeated and coming off a big win against Arkansas. Georgia was the favorite and to be honest I had felt like they were, but we were all believing in the magic that Nick Saban had infused the program with.
The day didn’t start well for me as my wife and I miscommunicated about lining up the the babysitter which caused us to get to the tailgate about two hours before kickoff. I’m about a big of a fan of that as I am not having Sunday liquor sales. It’s just not right.
We got to the tailgate to find it inundated with Georgia fans toting around portable iPods (jamming Widespread no less) and drinking microbrews. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a microbrew but if you are too good to drink swill beer while tailgating you probably should have gone to Ole Miss and not Georgia. They were nice enough – and all related in some way or another to one of the tailgate regular’s wife – but it just didn’t feel like home. Needless to say, we left for the game a little early.
The hyped up Alabama crowd, fueled by a fresh dose of “believe” from the past weekend’s heroics, got quited fairly quickly. Georgia played really well. They seemed to be controlling the game. I’m pretty sure that had Tripp Chandler not had hands made of cinder blocks that day that it would have gotten ugly, but every time that I was ready to give up Alabama would show a spark and pull back within reach.
All close games, especially ones where your team is trailing most of the way, are emotional roller coasters. The three hours and change that the game is played in can stretch to about four days worth of exhilaration and depression. My mood probably doesn’t change as often in the entire month of July as is did that night in my seat in the upper deck of Bryant-Denny.
Late in the fourth quarter, as Alabama came form behind and tied the game, I was certain that the time in the desert was over. Sure Alabama wasn’t very talented, but every once in a while the less talented team plays with an emotion and a passion that transcends the talent level on the other sideline. We call it heart and it had been sorely missed in Tuscaloosa for a while. But here early in the fall, after the chilly winds have breathed their sweet promise of return and the brutal hand of humidity rushes back in and reminds us that we are in the South and not someplace where football and all that it entails are afterthoughts, I believed that the return was eminent. I am sure I wasn’t the only one either. 82,000 of us were about descend the steps with our heads held high. The pride was returning.
Except that it wasn’t.
Not yet anyway.
As is usually the case after a crushing defeat, I sat in my seat for a while to let the crowd clear out some. We made it back to the Quad and as I sat down in the closest chair I could find I overheard one of the invading horde of Bulldog fans say, “Well, I’ll give you guys this – your stadium is very loud.” I immediately stood up and started walking. My wife says, “where are your going?” “Home”, I replied. After having my still beating heart ripped from my chest I wasn’t about to sit there and be patronized by one of my “guests”.
Oh sure, the sun came up the next day, but there was no transcending beauty in it. It was just another day and once again my dreaded thought that we had just another run-of-the-mill football team was confirmed.
See, that’s the really tough thing about losing; even though it is a fleeting emotion, after a win – especially over a hated opponent – your team is a little bit special. It is the exact opposite after a loss. We are all longing for that special feeling to return.
But it was not going to on that day.