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Well, here we sit a mere four days from the first game, trying to work, and not having much success. I’ve read until my eyes hurt and it hasn’t even remotely quenched my thirst for football. There is but one thing that will do that and that my friends is actual live football (although Erin Andrews screen caps help).

This is the time of year that everyone tries to wrap the story lines and general predictions into neat little bundles. I’m not sure why, maybe to get the wanna-be fans that jumped on the bandwagon this past week up to speed. In my opinion, if you’re just tuning in now you aren’t a real fan anyway. You should have been with us back in February when my phone was blowing up with text messages like I was a fourteen-year-old girl every time Nick Saban landed another highly-touted recruit. Since he did this with consistency similar to the way Kenny Loggins recorded soundtrack music in the 1980’s, my phone was blowing up a lot.

You should have been here during Spring Practice as we clamored for the tiniest shred of news, no hope, that our team will be better this year and that yes, the dreaded streak will end.

You should have been here when the summer started when we were scrounging message boards to hear the latest rumors about who was in camp and who was going to be ineligible. When we were counting with calendars and hands and toes to determine exactly how many days there were left until the addiction would be fed. When we were planning tailgates and trying news recipes that tasted great and could be prepared successfully while impaired from a day of drinking or worse, while hungover from a night of drinking. When we were committing the schedule to memory. When we were planning road trips and booking flights and calling in favors for tickets and rooms from long-lost friends and relatives.

Just as long as you know that we know that you have a life other than football and that we resent that about you we’ll let you play along. Sure, be a fan when it’s convenient, but know that when you jump up and diss John Parker before it’s quite time to, we will know what a fair-weather, gained all your knowledge-listening-to-Finebaum-on-the-way-into-town, douchebag you really are.

Without further ado, here are my predictions, both bold and not-so-bold, for Alabama, the SEC, and college football in general this season.

Alabama’s Season – Even though I want to jump on the happy-feel-good vibes coming from the football complex, I’m sticking with my assessment earlier in the summer. 9-3 with losses to Clemson, Georgia, and LSU. I’ll get to Clemson in a minute but I really don’t think we can beat both the dawgs and the tigahs on the road.

The Streak with Auburn – will end this year. Don’t worry about reasoning or logic or the lucky underwear I’ll be wearing into Bryant-Denny. Six is enough. What I am more interested in though is how this empire Auburn has built will crumble when the only truly remarkable event of the greatest period of Auburn history ends. As bad as some Alabama fans have taken this streak, when it turns, I believe that the Aubs will take it much, much worse. I think we could handle the streak running to seven, or even eight (God forbid) better than they will take it when it ends. It seems sometimes like it is all they have. I want to predict that the winner of the Iron Bowl will represent the West in Atlanta, but that is just day-dreaming and is counter to my overall prediction. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it.

This is Phillip Fulmer’s last season in Knoxville – After opening with conference losses to Florida, Auburn, and Georgia the pitchfork wielding crowd will be at the gates. The second consecutive loss to Alabama will be more than even the annual cakewalk through November can overcome. I believe he’ll take his dignity and the lifetime Krispy Kreme rider in his contract and leave the program. And as I brush a tear (of absolutely satisfying mirthful glee) from my eye, I’ll wish him the best of luck with knowledge that the conference won’t be the same without him.

While starting in the Top Ten both West Virginia and Clemson will not finish there. I could give you my reasons but what the hell for, that’s just what’s going to happen. Write it down. (and notice that I’m still predicting a Clemson victory against the Tide).

The Spread Eagle will not fly. At least not in the vision that Auburn fans think it will. Your offense will still be similar to last seasons and the seasons before. Auburn wins by controlling the clocks and playing good defense. That’s what their talent does and Tuberville would be a fool to try to do differently like. It’s kinda like you in college, you did well with the girl-next-door type. She was cute and fun to be around. Yeah she wasn’t model material but she was acceptable. She was your wheelhouse and every time you forgot that and out kicked your coverage it ended badly and awkwardly for everybody involved. So you went back to the girl you saw studying at the library and left the cast of the Hills to the product sporting douchebag with not much substance but really sweet trust funds. Tommy Tuberville has never had product in his hair in his life. He ain’t taking anything over a 7 and-a-half out of the bar. He may try but after the lame attempts at being cool countered by the silly looks and under-her-breath comments to her friends he’ll go back to the wheel house. That’s why he’s the best damn coach in Auburn history (WEH!). By the Tennessee game, the Tigers will be pounding the ball up the middle and throwing on third and long.

I’m not sure what snitching-ass Tony Franklin will do our what the new company line will be to all the Auburn faithful, but you ain’t going to light it up and score gobs of points. Nor do you have to to win.

Sylvester Croom will not repeat last year’s success, but he won’t miss it by much. State will beat at leat two teams that they aren’t supposed to. Something tells me LSU is one of them but that just seems almost too crazy to write down.

Houston Nutt will not. Earlier I thought they would be better, but Jevan Snead beside, they still just aren’t going to have it. The losses to injury on the d-line are just way too much for them early in the season and a team like that needs something to build from – like say, a win – and they aren’t going to get it early in the year.

No team will run the table in the SEC and at least one of the teams in the championship game will have two losses. I don’t think I’m being Nostradomas here.

Baby Jesus and his end-zone dancing group of petty criminals will not win the National Championship. Or even the conference. [ eds. note:Jimmy Johns and Jeremy Elder (who was from Georgia by the way) think the Bulldogs string of misdemeanors (and assaults to be fair) are chicken shit.] As Rick Bragg said in All Over but the Shoutin, “Georgia is obnoxious anyway, with Herschel Walker they were unbearable”. Moreno is everything to the silver-britches about Hershel except that he isn’t Herschel. Would I love for him to be on my team, yes, but that’s beside the point. Richt and the Bulldogs are good and I’ve gone through this ad nauseum but the last seven games last year were special but they do not entitle you to walk into Miami a week after New Year’s day. In fact the only game they’ll play in Florida the whole year will be in Jacksonville and I just don’t see them beating Florida this year. It should be merciful though because Spurrier is already in Richt’s head and when they lose at Columbia the dreams should be back down to reality.

Alabama will lose to Clemson on Saturday. I believe that the game will be fantastic and I hope that I am wrong but Clemson has just seen this situation too much in comparison to Alabama. They played in the same location with just as hyped a crowd as will be there and Alabama, at least the freshman who are depended on for so much, has not. Alabama is just too young at too many positions. I hope I’m wrong and I’ll definitely be cheering for them to win but I’m setting emotion aside. You can look at every match-up on the field and Clemson wins it. Clemson’s O-line versus Alabama’s D-line might be the only exception but you’d logically have to say that given the unknown nature of each, the nod goes to Clemson who has more in support. If Alabama wins the game it will be because of an as-of-yet undetermined superiority in this battle.

Now for the promised links:

Gump for Heisman did a helluva job of predictions himself. These are hilarious. (HT:Gerry Dorsey)

Bama Sports Report takes a look at yesterday’s practice. These guys are quickly becoming one of my favorites and daily reads.

Senator Blutarsky links Barnhart’s AJ-C piece on the ESPN-SEC deal and add some insightful commentary.

Orson brings a hired gun to help channel your inner-defensive coordinator and you don’t even have to put on polyester shorts with a belt first.

This is the fourth installment in my chronicles of the worst Alabama football games I have personally attended. The goal is to gain a little perspective about where we (as a fan base) have been and contrast the bad games with the good games in the past (and future).

You can find the previous entries here: No. 10 was the losses to Mississippi State in ‘06, UCF in 2000, and ULM in ‘07. No. 9 was the loss to State in ‘98 and No. 8 was the defeat against Georgia in ‘07 and No. 7 was the loss to Auburn in 2000.

No. 6: Alabama(23) at Arkansas(24) (2OT), Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas, September 23, 2006

Many years ago I set for myself the goal of attending an Alabama football game at every stadium in the conference. Up until 2006 I had never been to Fayetteville and it was the only stadium of a SEC Western Division school that I had not been to. When my new neighbor, who has business interests in the Fayetteville area invited me to attend the game with him I jumped at the chance.

In my lifetime, Alabama is 297-127-2, and I have been to approximately 120-125 of those games. More specifically, since 1995, when I started attending the University of Alabama, I have been to 111 games -that is every game in Bryant-Denny except one during that time span and all but two at Legion Field plus several away games – and Alabama’s record in those contests is 66-45. That means I have witnessed Alabama lose 45 times in person. What makes me pick ten and place them above the rest as exceptional losses? It’s a finely tuned and not easily explained combination of opponent, situation leading up to the game, what was at stake, and how Alabama performed. There is also another factor that makes a truly horrible experience; situation surrounding the game that have nothing to do with it and still affect your experience. This loss in particular was horrendous because of the simle fact that Alabama litterlly took defeat from the jaws of victory, but there were some other factors at play.

First off- I’m pretty sure that it’s easier to get to Tibet than it is Fayetteville. It’s definitely somewhere you go to and not through. It’s about 550 miles from Tuscaloosa. That’s farther than it is to Gainesville, or Lexington, or Columbia. But to its credit is a very picturesque place. The drive up from I-40 is quite scenic and when you get to the campus, the way the stadium sits on the hill is really pretty.

Because my friend and ride was coming home from vacation that day, we didn’t actually get to leave town until about 10:30 on Friday night. That’s about 16 hours prior to kickoff and we had to drive what seemed like 30 hours just to get there. Oh and there’s the sickness. I almost forgot the sickness. On Tuesday of the previous week I came down with strep throat for the first time since probably high school. On Wednesday I begged the doctor for shots of anything that would help me feel better. By Friday I was just starting to feel like myself again but I was still exhausted. Needless to say, when we arrived in at the tailgate, after about three hours of sleep at a hotel somewhere between Memphis and Little Rock, I was spent.

We passed through a huge rain storm between Little Rock and the interstate connector that takes you into Fayetteville and as we pulled into our parking spot the sky was still cloudy. The clouds surrendered to the sun as we made the steep walk up the sill to the stadium a few hours later.

Coming into this game Alabama was 3-0 on the season and going back to the start of the ’05 campaign was a combined 13-2.  The season had opened as expected with a win over Hawaii in which the team tried to give it a way in the end. They followed that up with a close win over Vanderbilt and an easy victory over La-Monroe (boy those were the days). This was to be the first road test for the Tide and a game they could win. After all the hogs had been dismantled by USC and then rebounded to beat a hapless out-of-conference opponent.

John Parker Wilson Ross’ Brother did a good job as a sophmore signal caller. Actually from what I remember he played very well, maybe even a little over his head. DJ Hall had great catch for a touchdown that put him over 1,000 yards for his career and the defense did admirably in stopping the Arkansas deadly duo of McFadden and Jones. In fact, I’m quite certain that had Alabama not lost a turnover that was returned for a touchdown that we never would have been able to argue about how Shula got all conservative and made the long march for an ill fated field goal attempt instead of going for the touchdown. Tiffin was horrible that day. He missed three field goals and an extra point. The last field goal would have won it in the first overtime and the missed PAT gave the game to the Razorbacks. It was the second time Alabama had lost to Nutt’s hogs in a four year period and the loss gave Shula a 1-2 record against Nutt.

It was heartbreaking to walk away from the stadium with the feeling that the game had been given away. Alabama beat themselves. That is one of the most frustrating types of losses. Losing to better teams isn’t necessarily good but it’s somewhat understandable. Losing to someone you had beat just makes you sit there and scratch your head and way “What just happened”?

In hind sight that became the game that started the wheels coming off of the Shula bus. A win there and the season probably turn out differently. A win there and he gets a little more leeway with the rest of the year. But it wasn’t to be.

After you sit there for a while and let the sting of defeat sink in there comes a point where you realize that you still have to drive home.

Did I mention that it was a long way?

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