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One of the things I love about college football is that you can never know for sure what is going to happen. Most of the the time the “experts” and pundits get it right, but the underdog is alive and well, especially at this time of year.

When I ponder the game this weekend, I think about something I heard last week: “Auburn cannot beat us, we can only beat ourselves.”

I don’t think a truer statement has been made.

There is a lot of talent at Auburn. Their defense is stingy and they have good athletes on offense, and their return games is probably better than average. Even if they haven’t been able to put it all together, they still have the ability to win any game they play. But…

If both teams line up and play mistake free ball, based on the evidence of the season almost completed, Alabama will win the contest ninety-five times out of a hundred with the teams they have this year. Just like Southern Cal would win out against Oregon State. They are just a better team.

The crucial element to almost every single upset is mistakes by the better team.

To that end, if Alabama comes out Saturday and shoots itself in the foot, Auburn can and will win the game.

I don’t like the double-digit line, but Alabama should win the game.

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From the beginning of this blog, for the most part, I have always tried to be somewhat reasonable and stay away from the types of things I consider to fanatical one-sided ranting with complete disregard for logic and the consideration of others. I’ve tried to be honest, with a decidedly pro-Alabama slant, without the mindless name-calling and unintelligent drivel I read on a few other blogs; my team and its fan base are not infallible. Just because I love the Crimson Tide and root for them without exception, that does not mean that everything their coaches, players, administrators, boosters, and fans do it above inspection, criticism, or reproach.

Furthermore, I have many good friends who went to and support Auburn. It is a fine institution that is full, for the most part, of fine individuals. I see them in the business and social worlds. I sit by them at church, I wave to them in the neighborhood and I am truly glad to see them when our paths cross. They are my brothers and sisters in this fine state that we all call home. There I feel better for having said all of that and that will continue to be the company line come next Sunday. But starting today…..

All that is out the window. We have officially started Iron Bowl Week. And do you know what that means?

It means that until the conclusion of the game this coming Saturday I hate the Aubs.

I hate their colors. I hate their mascot. I hate their big-eared, egotistical-dress-up-as-friendly-good-ole-boy head coach. I hate their former snitching-ass offensive coordinator. I hate their new offensive coordinator that was too stupid to be an offensive coordinator and is now the offensive coordinator again because the aforementioned head coach was too stupid to figure all this out ahead of time.

I hate Tigers. I hate Eagles. I hate Teagles.

I hate Plainsmen. I hate villages. I hate the Plains. The fact that these bumpkin-ass slack jawed yokels think they live on the plains is proof positive of how dumb they are. They’re pastures, people. Pastures. The plains stretch for thousands of miles. You can’t swing a dead cat (or bird- would you please make up your freaking minds?!) in Auburn without hitting a pine tree. That does not constitute plains. Pastures. You live in pastures.

I hate little brothers. I hate sociology degrees. I hate the Department of Animal and Dairy Science.

I hate people that besmirch one of my childhood heroes by claiming that he was a mumbling drunk and then name a field after Pat Dye. Have you heard Pat Dye lately? I’m pretty sure Coach Dye doesn’t even know what he’s saying.

In short, and in closing for now. I hate Auburn. And other than the few short moments in which I participate in the blessing before my Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, I will let that hatred consume me for the next five days. And in case you didn’t think I was serious, Picture Me Rollin will be known as “Go to Hell Auburn” for the next six days.

Having completed week seven, we are at the halfway of the 2008 football season. Sad isn’t it. Of course if you’re an Alabama fan, up to this point, you really can ask for nothing more. Here is quick look at where conference teams are, where we thought they would be and what’s coming in the future:

Alabama

After week seven Alabama stands as the only undefeated team in the conference, a consensus number two in the major polls, and a projection from major media outlets as a player in the BCS championship game.

Wow! Just wow!

After coming off a 7-6 campaign that defined mediocrity and being picked to finish third in the division only the most delusional fans would have predicted this. Yours truly predicted the Tide to have two losses at this point. The rise of Alabama to this point has been nothing short of miraculous.

It starts with an injury list that is virtually empty, superior play from some guys on the roster that no one though were capable of such, and an influx of incredible new talent. Alabama has played a little too up and down for some but has been there when it mattered.

The season opening Clemson win looks less and less impressive as the fighting Bowdens spiral into oblivion and the low scoring affairs with Tulane and Kentucky are not exactly huge accomplishments. The win over Georgia, in Athens, stands as the best accomplishment on their resume. The Arkansas win gained a little more luster after the weekend, even if that’s only within the confines of our great state.

The rest of the season looks manageable but scary. Alabama will begin the second half of the season with a target squarely on its back. For teams like Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and now, Auburn, beating Alabama would be a high point for less-than-stellar seasons. LSU might be the only team left that Alabama will be an underdog against and that is a big, might.

Fan-in-me aside: I’ll admit it. I am very excited about this season but it makes me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory. There isn’t a team Alabama plays that cannot beat them if they are not ready and committed. The Tide can beat everyone on the schedule, but Auburn could have beaten Arkansas. Will I be content with 9-2? Probably not now although it would be a definite improvement. It’s easy to look at the present tenuous situation that all of our rivals are in and say Alabama should role but all three of those teams can be very dangerous to an unprepared team and Alabama has yet to trail. How will they respond when they do? Tennessee worries me and worse than that LSU and Auburn are still, despite the recent troubles, the proud holders of streaks over Alabama that fill up at least one hand. Nothing is proven until those streaks are reversed.

Hold on. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

To be continued…

If you are an Alabama fan and, like me, you’re getting prepared to start tailgating then I think it’s probably a good idea to get out your Bloody Mary and Mimosa recipes. Breakfast casseroles and pigs-in-a-blanket and breakfast burritos are probably going to be in high demand too. Why you ask, do we need to get these morning delicacies ready for consumption? I’ve already done some game predictions for the year and now I’m going to go ahead and do some game-time predictions as well.

I believe that several of Alabama’s games this year, especially home games, are going to be on Raycom/Lincoln Fianancial/Jefferson Pilot. In fact, I’m betting the Daves already have some rooms booked- maybe even a condo or townhouse rented for the fall.

Clay Travis at Deadspin has released what he says is a leaked schedule for CBS – the primary broadcaster of SEC football games – this fall. I’ve looked over it and, while one could debate the legitimacy of the document in question – I’m sure CBS has a plan but would be foolish to lock in a season’s worth of games before the season – but the list that is presented makes sense based on a look at the schedule right now.

The good news is that there are a lot of great games this season in the SEC and there are quite a few weekends that I could be locked in a room with a working television, some snacks, plenty of beer, and a place to relieve myself I would be utterly content from 9:00 in the morning until I passed out sometime that night. The bad news is that most of those games take place in stadiums other than Bryant-Denny.

I believe that the consensus is that Alabama’s home schedule is weak this season, but the full effect of that weak schedule is going to play out, I predict, with quite a few 11:30 kick-offs. Here, I’ll break it down for you (keep in mind that on all but one week of the season CBS has first pick and they have two picks one Saturday, ESPN picks second and then Raycom gets whats left):

  • Clemson – In Atlanta; night game on television (ABC)
  • Tulane – Bryant-Denny Stadium; 6:07 kickoff on PPV
  • Western Kentucky – BDS; 6:07 kickoff on PPV
  • Arkansas – Fayetteville; probable JP game (I’m sorry, it may be Raycom now, but it will always be JP in my heart) LSU plays Auburn and Florida plays Tennessee that same day. One of those certainly will be CBS and the other the ESPN night game. Georgia plays Arizona State, which is an ABC game. Vandy and Ole Miss, which in theory sounds like a JP game, might get the morning slot but ESPN would have to take the Tide and Hogs as the second night game. I’m, not sure they want to air three SEC games that night on their family of networks plus UA and UA may both be 2-1 with losses to Clemson and the probable pantsing at Texas the week before.
  • Georgia – Athens; this almost certainly an ESPN night game. Auburn and Tennessee should be the CBS game with Ole Miss versus Florida and State at LSU battling it out for JP honors.
  • Kentucky – BDS; Not the best day in the SEC this season. Florida is at Arkansas (meh – but supposedly on the radar for CBS along with the UK/UA game. Other scorchers this day include, USC (cocks) and Ole Miss and Vandy at Auburn. Honestly that’s four JP worthy games. If Ole Miss and South Carolina are playing well (should/could both be 4-1) the there may be ESPN interest but Kentucky should be, in all honesty, undefeated when they visit T-town and hopefully that will win out for the ESPN game but I don’t see them both being on during prime-time. I’ll say 30% chance of Dave honors.
  • Ole Miss – BDS; According to the Deadspin list CBS has LSU and South Carolina, which makes sense but if Ole Miss is a one loss team at that point it will be because they beat South Carolina -giving them their second loss – 14 days before. Both Alabama and the Rebels come off bye weeks so CBS could opt for that game. Georgia plays Vandy which is typical JP fodder except for the recent closeness of those games, Arkansas is at Kentucky (two teams who should be losing interest at that point) and State is at Tennessee. There again, this is a day full of, what seems right now, mediocre match ups. While I’d say that Alabama wasn’t a lock to play the JP game that day I’d say they are 50-50 to though. The thing that helps is the possible resurgence of a Nutt-inspired Rebel squad and the competitiveness of these games the last few seasons. This could just as easily end up on ESPN as it does JP.
  • Tennessee – Knoxville; Unless some miracle happens and the Vols and Tide are undefeated then CBS will broadcast Georgia and LSU – which should be a phenomenal game. I just don’t see a replay of last years step-child treatment to the Third Saturday in October. Kentucky/Florida and Ole Miss/Arkansas just don’t offer the same prime-time meat that Alabama at Tennessee does.
  • Arkansas State – BDS; While nothing official is out yet, since this is Homecoming it is all but guaranteed to be a 2:00 PPV game.
  • LSU – Baton Rouge; This is almost certainly the CBS game. Deadspin says that Georgia and Kentucky are possibilities but unless Kentucky is undefeated or only has one loss, I just don’t see that game bumping Saban’s return to Tigah Stadium. All eyes will be on Baton Rouge that day but I’m sure given their druthers, the LSU fans would prefer the night game.
  • Mississippi State – BDS; The “leaked” CBS schedule has the option of South Carolina and Florida or Georgia and Auburn and one of those is certain to be called by Uncle Verne while the other goes to ESPN. Vandy and Kentucky reeks of JP, but if ESPN decides to only broadcast one SEC game that day then Croom’s return to Tuscaloosa might get the Dave treatment. The only thing that helps this situation is State’s streak of two-in-a-row, both on JP, could create enough of a story to warrant prime-time. State’s three-five losses coupled with Alabama’s three-four to that point might negate that interest. This has a 70% chance of being JP bound.
  • Auburn – BDS; On the newly formed SEC Rivalry Day, Florida and South Carolina both play their in-state, ACC rivals in their stadiums, excluding them from consideration. LSU and Arkansas as well as State and Ole Miss will have played the day before as has become their tradition. That leaves Georgia Tech and Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and Alabama and Auburn to battle it out for the CBS slot. The Jackets and the Bulldogs are definitely the bigger market game but the match up just doesn’t carry the umph that the Tide and Tigers do. I don’t think that any of the games that day get Daved, but to be honest with you, I’d rather be the ESPN game. There is just something about a night game. This is the first year that the game has been this late in the year and in Tuscaloosa. The change to standard time coupled with the waning hours of daylight guarantee that (if kicked off at 2:30) this game will finish at night, which is good enough. It will also probably be good chili and bourbon weather. Remember, Tennessee and Kentucky were the CBS game last season and the Iron Bowl was on ESPN.

That makes four strong candidates for JP honors this year and every home conference game with the exception of Auburn. Either way, Alabama is probably going to be on CBS only once or twice tops. I think that’s a good thing. I prefer night games over day games any time, but if I’m at a game at 11:30 then I’m out by 3:00 and have the rest of the day to absorb what else is going on around the country. The other silver lining of that cloud is that I only have to listen to the Daves one time at the most. No matter who you pull for, I’m sure you can agree that that is a good thing.

Thanks to Gerry Dorsey for this week’s fascinating questions:

1. what team will be the biggest surprise in the sec in ’08?? the biggest disappointment??

I’m sticking with my prediction that Ole Miss is the sleeper in the conference and I will add that I would not be surprised to see the Cocks (hehe – he just said cocks – absolutely never gets old) do well this year. The Vawls are this years train wreck waiting to happen; no defense + new offense = disaster.
2. we appear to know who our qb is going to be for the season barring something crazy, but not all offensive skill positions are so certain. as the season progresses, who do you see stepping up to be this squad’s most productive rb?? and wr??

Terry Grant is due. But I also believe that Saban likes the committee style running back so I look for either Jimmy Johns (my bad, couldn’t resist) Roy Upchurch or Glen Coffee to make their mark this year. As far as receiver look for Nikita Stover to lead all categories, but I believe there will not be a lot of difference between the group as a whole. You should notice a trend here – I believe that if this offense is successful it will be because the ball is spread around and keeps the defense guessing. We’ve been used to one running back with all the carries and one WR leading all others by a large margin. I don’t think you’re going to see that this season and if you don’t the most important stat, W, will be greater that it has been lately.

3. obviously “the saban” is lord and savior, and created the heavens and the earth, but if you were forced to trade saban for another active coach, who would it be and why??

Similar to Gerry’s answer for the trade-a-player question a few weeks ago, I’m standing pat. There is no one else I want. I think that Saban is the perfect coach at the perfect time for Alabama. To give a little bit of an answer I’ll say that I like the way that Mark Richt is running things at Georgia and I think that Tubberville is doing about as well at Auburn as any coach can, and he is to be commended for that but I quite happy with who we have and neither one of those guys would come to Alabama now anyway. Our next coach will be coordinator somewhere with a lot of success or a mid major coach with the same characteristic. But I hope that in at least 5-7 years, minimum.

4. some people view bama fans as insane. while “insane” is an awfully strong word, many bama fans have a disturbing obsession with their team. what is the most significant/unique/valuable/weird piece of bama paraphernalia you have and why??

As soon as I wake up on a game day before I do anything else I place my crimson flag with the white scripted A in its place on the front of our house. Only football games, whether home or away; so this happens twelve or thirteen times a year, but it is the most crucial thing I do that day and I am obsessive about it. If I am at the site of the away game I call my wife and make sure she has it up (she hasn’t traveled much since the children arrived- that’s changing this year and I’m not sure what I’m going to do – well, there goes any hope for productive work today.) Also when out of towns guests are stating with us, they are awakened by “Yea, Alabama” very loud. Hungover or not.  In ’99, after I put the flag up I would go get Hardee’s biscuits and got to my dad’s and we’d read the paper, eat, drink coffee and discuss the game. We won the SEC that year. I guess I’ve got to start that again. OK, I’m very OCD about game days. Game days are the best.

All that pissing and moaning I did yesterday;forget about that. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Yeah the situation is bad – for Jimmy Johns. For most of us it will be forgotten, completely, in about 66 days. No matter what happens, opposing fans are going to make fun of our school and us likewise. There is nothing we can say or do that will prohibit that. They are still going to deride the Saban – I mean look at the facts, the man give $1million to the school for scholarships and rival fans say it’s a make-up for a mediocre season.

Saban can’t win. If he keeps everybody and tries to help them, his efforts as a disciplinarian are laughed at. If he cuts everybody then he sacrificing “good kids” for the sake of winning. No matter what he does he can’t win… unless he actually wins.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: we are talking about college football and college football only. At the end of the day, it’s all about wins and losses. You could be Nelson Mandela and if you don’t win enough football games you are not going to make it as a coach.

I do tire of the superior attitude that is projected by the Aubs right now but something happened yesterday that put it all back into perspective:

I got an email from a friend. The email began as a mass email to several people when the news of Johns’ transgressions broke. As is usually the case when this happens recipients started adding their two cents and replying to all. Well, one of the repliers was an Auburn fan and his addition to the conversation was to express his glee that Alabama had what he referred to as thugs. Only thugs wasn’t the noun, it was the adjective describing the noun, which in his case was the n-word. He also expressed satisfaction that Auburn didn’t have any of those and closed it all with a heart felt “War Eagle”.

So in 2008, there are people that describe fellow human beings, in emails to dozens of people that they don’t know, as racial slurs that have been taboo for a long time. And they are Auburn fans. Nice!

See, it wasn’t near as bad as I made it out to be.

Thanks Auburn. Just when I think it can’t be any worse, you do something like this. And totally redeem yourself.

War Eagle indeed.

Dear Little Brother (or Disgruntled Auburn Fans*),

I know we haven’t talked in a while, and granted, the impetus was probably on me to come to you first, but hey, I’m here now so let’s talk. I’ll admit, it’s been a little hard to talk to you these days, you’re going through a period of success and to be honest you’re not very humble about it. Trust me, humility is a tough lesson to learn (actually, it’s taken me quite a while to learn it and I’m sorry if that has affected you negatively).  Honestly, after our contest and latest set-back in November I was really wanting to avoid you. But it’s been a few months now and we’ve had some good things happen so I’m ready to move on.

Since we haven’t really talked in a while it’s only polite for me to congratulate you on your recent success. These are indeed halcyon days for you and honestly you deserve it. You had to stand in our shadow for a long time. It’s good you’re finally getting some recognition, I mean it isn’t like your that recognizable outside the Southeast. I mean there isn’t a state named Auburn. I can’t really think of any other schools named after their home town that are major players in our world of college football. And when you get beat it’s not like those that do it are tearing down goal posts or renting billboards. It’s hard to think that you don’t matter anymore when people still celebrate defeating you the way they do. But, at any rate, you do have a good streak going, especially with us, and by no means will I try to belittle that. Kudos Little Brother.

Our recent struggles also seem a little magnified in light of your relative success. Maybe that has caused the riff to be a little more pronounced and you know you haven’t been all that sensitive about it. Not that you have to be, mind you, I know we can get to teasing pretty bad and I’m sure your feelings are still a little raw about it all. But you see the thing is, when we tease you now you just get so, so… well defensive.

Just because we poke a little fun at you doesn’t mean we don’t like or more importantly that you aren’t “worthy” of your accomplishments, it’s just that you have to try and compare them to ours.  I mean, come on, when you were little and we beat the shit out of you constantly did you just stop having pride in yourself. No, you fought back and you know what, you even won on occasion. That’s the spirit we like in you. I just can’t understand why when we try to exhibit a little pride ourselves or josh around with you have to get all mad and try and tear us down more (trust me, we absolutley know you won six in a row. We know it. No, seriously, we were there at all six and remember them). And please don’t get me wrong, it’s not an ego thing. Trust me, we have self confidence in spades.  It’s just that it gets kind of tedious and annoying and the neighbors are starting to talk about it.

I know this is going to sound kind of bad especially in light of the present situation but I’m a little worried about you. You just seem on edge lately. I’m worried  becasue when the success slows down a little you don’t show the solid reasoning to be able to handle it. Trust me on this, the success comes in cycles and we’ve gone through plenty of them. You’re up one year (or several) and then you’re down. But there are absolutes with all of this; you are never at the top or the bottom too long. It flucuates. I’m scared that when this little streak ends, and it will (and maybe not even this year) you won’t have much to cling to. You’ll shout six (or seven) and I’ll just kind of roll my eyes and move along. It will be more annoying then than it is now.

I just get the feeling that the real meaning of your existence is to beat us. It’s as if that is the best you can do is beat us. It’s just hard to see you limit yourself like that.  I know it’s hard for you to understand but I don’t define our accomplishments by what happens with you (although it’s time for the trend to reverse in our contests). We’ve always tried to shoot a little higher. And we’ve been fortunate in that we have had success with it. I won’t go into numbers but the record is proven, regardless of what you say or think about it. In fact it kind of comes off as sour grapes when you try to attack the record.  I guess the point is, you be you, because I’m going to be me. Stop worrying about what I say in jest because I’m sure not going to worry about what you say.

In closing I just want to say have fun with it. At the end of the day, the things said between us don’t really matter. You’re not going to change my mind about you just like I’m not going to change your mind about me. Comedy is apprecited and comedy is often generated by something new and fresh. Granted you’ve earned the right to throw out “six” as an arguement but I’m expecting it at this point and I’ve been about as humble as I can be about it. Bragging rights doesn’t come with silence from the rival. Trust me on that one.

At the end of the day remember that I respect you and like you (when your not acting like the chicken hawk). Hell, your my brother. We share a lot of things in common. And as far as I’m concerned you’re welcome at my house anytime. Just remember your manners. It makes it easier for me to remember mine.

Love,

Picture Me Rollin

* this is not meant for all or even most Auburn fans, only those that wear their hearts on their sleeves and/or expect Alabama fans to worship them as overlord because the football team has won a few games.

Orson did a tremendous piece on how Coach Bryant’s passing gave him a glimpse of his father (who Orson describes as slippery). It was a beautiful and well-written entry and enjoyed (at least if you judge by the comments) by most who read it. While it focused on Bryant’s passing and the impact it had on his father it was not, at its core, an article about football, most especially Alabama Football or their bitter rivalry with Auburn.

While it did take a while, it became an argument between rival fans in the comment section and I admit that I got caught up and entered the fray. It started when a frequent poster who identifies himself as TIGERinATL took a shot at Alabama fans and their “living in the past” attitude. Several, including myself fired back. Those retorts cheapened the spirit in which the post was written and I apologize for doing that.

What it did was make me want to clarify, not justify, my feelings about the legendary coach. And after all, I am the only one I can speak for.

I remember Coach Bryant. I remember him on the sideline and on his TV show and I remember pulling up next to his car on our way home from greeting the team as they returned, victorious, from State College, PA in 1981. It was a big surprise to look over and see him there, his hat pulled low; he was obviously worn out after the day events. It didn’t stop me from waving and a very gracious Mary Harmon returned my wave and I am sure that I smiled for a week after.

The week before he died my mother saw him on campus(she was in grad school) and when I asked why she didn’t get me his  authograph she replied, “he looked tired and I didn’t want to bother him.”

I was in the 4th grade. When one of the parents came in and gave us the news I thought it was a joke. When the truth sunk in I was devastated. Most of my school went to the lunch room and watched coverage of the funeral. It was surreal. Like thefirst time I can remember Alabama losing (to State in 80) I just couldn’t believe that it had happend.

The point here is not what Coach Bryant really was; he was a man, nothing more nothing less. What he contributed or took away from I’ll leave for other, wiser people to debate. For me he was the epitome of winning and he was larger than life. He gave people in this area a lot of pride in their state, their school, and themselves. If for no other reason he deserves to be remembered.

I made a comment below Orson’s post that if we are wrong in remembering dead people that have done much for us and by us I mean me, then we should start taking monuments and memorials down in our Capitol.  I do not pretend that Coach Bryant stands up with the ranks of Washington, Jefferson, or even Kennedy but that doesn’t mean he should not be honored. See, those men were not perfect, none of them. But they each did something great.

No matter how many times Auburn beats Alabama in a row or how “delusional” you feel we are, the fact that Coach Bryant meant a lot to me, and many many others will not be cheapened by your comments.

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