When I was a kid I had a book that allowed me to make decisions and alter the story I was reading based on the decisions. Basically, the story was not set in stone; there were many directions that you could take the tale. College football is exactly like that and as much as the experts -and wannabe experts -like to drone on about who will do what, there really is just no way to know. It is a large part of the appeal of the sport to me.
Welcome to Week 2, where the landscape has changed completely.
I made some predictions a while back and while some are proving to be wrong, others are proving to be somewhat more prophetic. For instance, I predicted, in one of the roundtables, that Nick Fanuzzi would be the second stream quarterback. Fanuzzi left the team after not being listed on the depth chart. On the other hand I stated that Tennessee would lose to UCLA. One thing that I don’t like in a lot of football pundits is that when they are wrong they really never discuss it after the fact. Sure, there are many unknowns and it is impossible for anyone to be right all the time. There is analysis and there is instinct and I believe that you have to have a good mix of the two to do a good job and be respected in your picks. I readily admit that I am far weaker on the analysis than I should be – this isn’t an excuse, I just don’t have the time. One thing I do have in ample supply is instinct. Which I confuse sometimes with emotion.
I don’t bet on college football. I am the first to admit that I get too emotional about it and my judgment is often clouded, especially with teams that I love or hate.
With that being said, I wanted Alabama to beat Clemson and in my heart expected them to beat Clemson. Looking at it on paper however, I just couldn’t get over some things that stared back at me. I freely admit that I love Alabama and am biased toward them but I also want to keep at least a little bit of perspective as I look at games involving my alma mater. Anybody can bet Alabama is going to win every game and be right part of the time. Usually when the team pulls that upset they’re the first ones yelling, “I told you so”. That doesn’t endear you to many people.
Growing up an Alabama fan in the time that I did you just believed that Alabama could win every game. It has been hard to let that go, even when all factors point the other direction. In my heart, I still believe that Alabama can win every game – that’s part of the reason I still go even when it’s unlikely that they will – but in an effort to be objective, when the facts say otherwise I feel the need to follow my head instead of my heart.
I picked Clemson to win not once, but twice prior to the game. I don’t regret that decision. Given the information I had I made a wise choice and the majority of the sports world backed me up. I was wrong and I’m glad I was wrong. There, that’s my mea culpa.
Back to the changing ending deal I was talking about earlier. Alabama’s win has enabled them to have a very different ending to the season. Let’s look at the facts:
- Last week, Alabama would have been an underdog in five, maybe six, of its twelve games. It was an underdog in the first and will now be a dog in only two more contests(Georgia and LSU). Today, after Saturdays season opening win, Alabama would not be a dog against Arkansas, Tennessee, or Auburn – maybe pick-em but not dogs.
- That means that today, one could make an argument for Alabama to finish the season 10-2. That’s a far cry than where they were. I think Tim Brando said that Alabama fans were crazy to be believe better than 8-4. Todd McShay, who picked 10-2, on the other hand, looks pretty smart today.
I will say this, just as Alabama was not back on October 4, 2005, after its defeat of Florida, it is not back after this defeat of Clemson. Remember the feeling you had in the third quarter Saturday night, like this one is not nearly over? You need to have that feeling for the rest of the year. Things are static for only this week. Anything can happen. My advice is to enjoy this victory until kickoff for Tulane (that’s for fans only, the players should have been done with it Sunday night) and keep your head down and your mouth shut about what “we’re gonna do”. Alabama has the potential for a great year. Clemson had the potential for a great year until game time. Wait until January 8, 2009 to tell me Alabama’s back or that Saban’s process has worked completely.
One thing I wasn’t wrong about, at least for the week, was the continued demise of Tennessee Football. The Vols were the better team and didn’t come away with a win. They will be the better team only three times before November. There is the possibility that it will take a win against Alabama for them to reach .500 at 4-4. Either way, I’m sticking with my predictions that UT will be out of the conference race by the Third Fourth Saturday. I did pick a UCLA win back in the summer but honestly that was more of a hope type thing because on paper UT should have won, but it also speaks to my adamant belief that the glory days of Tennessee Football, at least under Phil Fulmer, are gone.
Finally, Auburn shut-out a team that beat Alabama last year. I watched none of it and I’m not ready to buy in to the “death of the spread eagle” I’m hearing about . But, if Tuberville has done anything in his time at Auburn it is that he has improved them from the beginning of the season to the end. That started the season with a shut-out victory. That’s a great platform to build from. Nitpicking the way they did it is tantamount to making fun of a guy that’s driving an old beater when you can’t drive. Judgment about Auburn, at least from me, will wait for at least three more weeks.
I can’t wait for the next game.