The good folks over at 3rd Saturday in Blogtober are taking another crack at generating and moderating questions for the original roundtable. Leave it to the Vawl bloggers to start copying what we are doing.
Speaking of Tennessee, did you know that in the last six seasons (’02-’07) – the same stretch that Alabama has gone 1-5 with LSU, 0-6 with Auburn, and gone 43-33 with only three winning seasons overall – Alabama has gone 3-3 with Tennessee? I say all that, to say that even in the midst of one of the worst stretches in the history of the University of Alabama’s football program, they have manged to hold their own against one of their biggest rivals. I believe that there has been no discernible change in direction of the UT program and their fans can speak of the high expectations for the upcoming season but, as much as you can point to indicators of future success you can point to indicators of impending doom. The era of Phillip Fulmer will end in one of two ways; a massive blow-up, as I’ve been predicting for a while – Tennessee will be no better than 4-3 and out of the Eastern Division race coming into the Alabama game – or a continuation of the slow steady march into mediocrity that they are on now. I beleive that Dave Clawson will help the situation, if Fulmer lets him, but I don’t think he’ll have enough time to get it done before the Jabba the Fat is run out of Knoxville. The game has passed Fulmer by.
Also, their loss last season to Tennessee leads me to believe that Georgia isn’t as solid as they appear. Tennessee was a mediocre team, at best, last year – a very mediocre Alabama team handed their ass to them in a paper sack with cute little ribbons on it – and they caught UGA completely off guard. Maybe Richt will use that loss as a reminder, but truly elite teams don’t get surprised like that – I’m not saying they don’t get surprised, but that Georgia was done well before 60 minutes into that one. That wasn’t Stanford surprising USC or even La-Monroe surprising Alabama, that was a major rival shoving it down their throat. Really good teams are up for their rivalries. When you look at Georgia on paper this year they are downright scary but in the age of parity there is not a team out there that can take a week off. Georgia took at least one and probably two weeks off last season, and that’s not counting the other close games – Alabama and Vandy.
I would say that the Auburn game followed closely by the Florida game were the high-water-marks for Georgia last year. The Hawaii game, while impressive in many, many ways, shouldn’t give a true picture of Georgia coming into this season for two reasons. First, Hawaii had no business in that game. If that was played during the regular season it would have shocked no one. Second, I don’t believe that much, if any, momentum is carried from season to season. The Georgia team that takes the field in September will have to find their own identity and set the tone for the coming year. Richt may break through this year, but until he does the thing that will be in the back of my mind is that Georgia had a good team that was coming together and got blown away by a mediocre, at best, Tennessee team last year and that was not unprecedented for a Richt coached team. And it usually happens at home. His road record still amazes me. There is no doubt he can coach and is arguably one of the top two or three in the conference. Now he has to prove he can manage expectations and push through for the big one. If he runs the gauntlet this season he has my non-existent vote for Coach of the Decade.
On to the questions.
What record would you consider “sufficient progress” in the coming season?
The legendary golf coach Harvey Penick said, in one of his great books, that improvement usually comes in bunches. He observed that golfers scores don’t decrease point by point but rather they are lowered in bunches when the golfer improved one of his critical skills. I believe that it is the same in football. A team doesn’t improve by one win a year, at least not real improvement, because that can be as much a function of schedule than anything. Alabama needs to improve in two main areas in a general sense; it needs to beat the teams it is supposed to beat and it needs to beat its rivals that are supposed to be superior to be considered as a better than average team. Alabama will be the pre-season underdog against Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee (maybe), LSU, and Auburn. That means that seven wins would be over teams it was supposed to beat unless something changes to those five listed, and it will to at least one of them. If you do what you are supposed to do then that really can’t be considered improvement although in light of the past two seasons it would be considered so. If Alabama wants to contend or position itself to contend in the future it has to beat some of the teams it isn’t supposed to.
My answer is that for significant improvement, Alabama needs to beat two out of the last three games listed above (UT, LSU, & AU) that it plays this year. I don’t believe they will be improved enough to win the first two but they should be coming together by late October. I would be content with a 7-5 record. I believe that is where we should be statistically. But I will not be happy with another loss to Auburn (I have never been nor will I ever be). If you want it in numbers then I say 8-4 or 9-3 with a win over Auburn and I am more than pleased. Does that expect too much? Maybe, but then again I’m an Alabama fan – I’m not supposed to be content with mediocrity. I also will not call for Saban’s firing or Ross’ Brother to be carted from the field if that doesn’t happen.
Does college football need a playoff? Why?
No. I know who the national champion was last year. How could a playoff improve that? Georgia or USC might not like it but then again they shouldn’t have lost to Tennessee or Stanford. Ohio State would have still been in a playoff, as would Oklahoma, LSU, and then the fight starts all over again for the next spot. Maybe in the future but not now. I think every year but ’04 the BCS has worked, maybe not as well as it could have but certainly no worse than the old system. Call me old-fashioned but just because you’re playing your best ball at the end of the season doesn’t mean you get a shot at the title – this isn’t basketball. The best body of work will still get you there (with Auburn in ’04 being the lone exception). And it isn’t like we’re not tuning in because there isn’t a playoff.
If you’re an Alabama fan and a native Alabamian, then more than likely you became a fan sometime between conception and the cutting of the cord, but what moment do you remember best as being “the moment” that you became an active participant in your fandom?
When my dad parked in front of a house on 13th Street, walked me up 10th Avenue by the old man selling fresh roasted peanuts, into Bryant-Denny Stadium and the crowd rose and cheered in unison. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and still does to this day as I recall the moment. I don’t know how old I was (Dad says four) and I don’t know who Alabama was playing, but I have loved it every moment since.
What rule change would you most like see implemented?
I would like to see them tighten up the rules for roughing the passer – it is clear when the qb has passed the ball and there is a lot of extra activity after that point. The qb should be punished for holding to ball too long or having a lineman miss a block, but once he delivers a pass he shouldn’t be slammed to the ground as a reward.