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After one of the best games, and overall experiences surrounding a game, this past weekend in Baton Rouge, I’m not sure why all the negativity I’ve been reading and hearing this week has gotten to me, but it has.

Finebaum, amongst others, thinks that LSU and their fans are scum. I’ve read and heard a few comments from some Alabama fans echoing the same thing.

Doug thinks that, between the two, Alabama fans are “douchier” than Auburn fans. First off, you’ve got a problem if you use a form of the word douchey to describe anything. That’s tantamount to saying assier or dickeyer, or any other word that works perfectly in one form only to be bastardized by someone trying to sound cool.

There are mass comments about how Florida is way better than Alabama and the Tide doesn’t really have any big wins, especially now that Clemson’s season is officially in the toilet. Alabama has only beaten four teams with a winning record -although they usually miscount or give the overall record of Alabama’s opponent (as if that is that much different for any team at this point in the year) and use that as justification that they are no good. Then they throw the fact that both Florida and Georgia hung half-a-hundred on LSU and since it took Alabama overtime to win the game they must not be that good.

These same people seem to forget that Florida lost to Ole Miss, at home. The same team that Alabama went to sleep on in the second half and still won against. These people forget that football is a game played on a field and regardless of what the stats say you still have to compete. I don’t give a damn how good Florida looks now. They lost a game. You don’t get do overs. Saying their playing the best football now is like a guy bringing rubbers to his girlfriends house six weeks after he knocked her up. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are now, the damage is done.

This Alabama team will never set any records. Offensively or defensively. They just aren’t going to set anyones hair on fire. But what they will do is play physical football for sixty minutes. A little more if need be. Alabama looked as bad in the first half in Baton Rouge as they have all year. They turned the ball over three times. One of those resulted in seven points and the other two kept ten to fourteen off the board. Alabama tied the score up by halftime and never trailed the rest of the game. Despite the worst performance of the year by the rush defense and the three turnovers they still won the game. Isn’t that the sign of a good team; you put forth less than your best effort and you still win?

Out in Lubbock, Texas Tech, who I will add is impressive, puts it on an Oklahoma State (a two-loss) team whose biggest win is to a two-loss Missouri team, and all of a sudden their the gaining style points and first place votes. Mike Leach is the best thing since sliced bread and all the quaterbacks in the Big 12 are just so awesome. Not saying they aren’t good but John Parker Wilson would look like a Heisman candidate against those defenses. Of the four teams from the Big 12 South that are soooo good, the best defense (total yardage) belongs to Oklahoma, who slides in at 51st  in the nation. The other three, Texas Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma State, check in at 57th, 60th, and 84th respectively. Those stats are compiled against more FCS teams (4) than BCS conference schools (3) out-of-conference -two of the three BCS teams were Washington and Washington State who are a combined 1-18 and the other against Arkansas who is in a dead heat for worst in the SEC – and exactly one Top 25 team in TCU.

Again, I’m not saying those schools are bad, only that their body of work shouldn’t give anybody any reason to declare them the best in the country. Remember Missouri and Chase Daniels’ run to the Heisman? That should be notice to all that putting up a gazillion points is not the mark of a great football team. Only one that can put up a bunch of points.

Back to LSU and Baton Rouge. I’ve been there for games a half-a-dozen times and believe it or not, I have never been beaten up and left for dead in the swamp. And that includes a visit to the student section wearing a crimson pullover.

I sat in an LSU section the other night and had a blast. When the game was over almost every single person that was sitting near me and and I had spoken with shook my hand. Granted, I didn’t act like a jackass and there were a few, “Florida is gonna beat the hell out of y’all” type comments offered up but no one threatened me with bodily harm.

Some of the best experiences around the sport of college football, win or lose, have taken place at LSU. I will definitely be going back.

So I’m always puzzled when people talk bad about Baton Rouge. I thought about it a lot and I have come to the following conclusion:

If you go into a place, and this goes for any stadium in the conference, and either expect to be treated badly, so much that you are defensive about everything that happens, or you are a jackass and invite reply, scorn, and ridicule by your jackassy actions, then you are not going to have a good time.

Yes, if you go to Tiger Stadium and you wear colors of the opposing team someone will yell “Tiger Bait” at you. Your personal feelings on the appropriateness of that have no bearing on the situation. Your reaction does. Smile and yell “good luck” or even better, “Is that Jambalaya y’all are cooking?” and everything will be fine. Shoot them the bird or tell them what you think of cajuns and things will go badly.

Here is another example. If you live in a state where the predominant fan base pulls for one of two schools from that state and you spout off about being the proud fan of a school from another state and people will give you a hard time or act “douchey” to you. Mainly because they don’t give two continental dams about your school, especially if your school holds any type of streak over theirs and all they read from that fan base reminds them of not only that streak but also how inbred everyone from your state believes them to be.

There are 92,000 fans at an Alabama game and other than a love for a football team I share genuine similarities with about 100 of them at absolute best. Almost half of them voted differently than me. More than 90% have different views on faith, what to do on a first date, what type of beer is best, what vehicle they drive and how they feel about gay marriage (well OK, everyone in Alabama hates queers – I’m kidding, just 99% of them). So to sit there and say that ,”all Alabama fans are,” or even “most Alabama fans are” is just asinine. Let’s face it somewhere right now there is a wife-beating, child-abusing, meth-dealing lunatic wearing something with Alabama on it and talking about how much he loves the TIde. He does not represent me nor I, him. But we are both Alabama fans. Now you can extend that analogy to every school in the SEC, except Vanderbilt.

The son of my grandmother’s next door neighbor was the biggest, sorriest redneck loser I have ever seen. Although he never failed to address my grandmother as ma’am, he was a sorry human being by almost any definition imaginable. He love the Georgia Bulldogs. I could choose him as my image to personify everything Georgia related. I don’t – because I know that there are many things better to associate the Bulldogs with.

The point is that folks need to stop using absolutes when discussing college football. LSU is a different experience, but that does not make it bad and there are assholes in every fan base. There are also quite a few gracious ones too. They are the type that no matter how bad you dislike a school, demand your respect. I’d prefer to focus on them. Then again, I’m an optimist.

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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…

The results from the combine are in. I don’t get particulary excited about the NFL (full disclosure: I couldn’t care less about Sunday Football) but the combine and draft are a little interesting because it gives an indication about colleges that are producing NFL caliber talent.

While looking at the top ranked forty times by position I noticed something – there weren’t any Alabama players in the top of the rankings. You had to dig a little deeper to find the current bunch of Alabama players and their times. For example, Alabama’s preseason All-SEC corner Simeon Castille was near the bottom of defensive backs at a scorching 4.7. To put that in comparison, Tyvon Branch (UConn) and Justin King (Penn State) both ran 4.31 to lead all defensive backs. There were 13 sub 4.4 times in that bunch. It appears that Simeon was just a little off the pace. A few of the notable SEC d-backs:

Michael Grant (Arkansas) 4.37

Jonathan Wilhite (Auburn) 4.38

Patrick Lee (Auburn) 4.4

Jonathan Hefney (Tennessee) 4.53

Jonathan Zenon (LSU) 4.56

Chevis Jackson (LSU) 4.58

Matterral Richardson (Arkansas) 4.7 – Seriously? That’s his name? Why have I never noticed that until now?

The Crimson Tide fared a little better with Defensive Lineman. But not much. All-SEC Defensive End and all-around nice guy Wallace Gilberry (he really is a nice guy – one time in Rama Jama’s I asked him if he was ready for the season to start and he replied, “Yes, sir”) who ran a 4.9, which is pretty middle of that pack. Of course it comes nowhere near Marcus Howard’s (Georgia) 4.47. Way to go Simeon! Yeah, that’s a defensive lineman running faster than you. I bet that makes the scouts drool.

Here is an instance of relearning what John Parker Wilson and I already knew – Quentin Groves is wicked fast (relatively). He was listed with the linebackers , but ran a 4.57, which is third amongst invited athletes who played on the line in college. A few othe SEC notables:

Jonathan Goff (Vandy) 4.63

Curtis Gatewood (Vandy) 4.74

Derrick Harvey (Florida) 4.8

The other Alabama notable in the draft, DJ Hall, was a little less than average for receivers with a 4.55. DeSean “Goodbye Tennesee Secondary”(hell, who couldn’t say that) Jackson (Cal) ran a blistering 4.35 to lead the field. Andre “Bubba” Caldwell (Florida) represented with a smoking 4.35 and Kentucky’s Keenan Burton wasn’t far behind with a 4.43.

De’Cody Fagg (FSU) isn’t from the SEC but I like saying his name. Fagg (hee, hee) turned in a 4.63 but had you asked me in late September I would have said he was capable of a 4.20 easy as he left the burnt Alabama secondary to put the game in Jacksonville away.

Another fact to file in the “things you already knew” file, the Arkansas backfield with the exception of Dick (hee, hee – I can’t stop) is fast. McFadden’s well publicised 4.33 leads the group followed closely by Felix Jones’ 4.47 and Peyton Hillis’ 4.58 is nothing to laugh at, just ask LSU (or Simeon “4.7” Castille). The knowledge of their leaving the schedule every year makes me just ecstatic- Bobby Petrino, not so much.

What does all mean you ask. I have no freaking idea. Some say that 40 times are overrated and who am I to argue. It’s easy to make fun, but every one of these guys could run me down if they gave me a mile head start, just ask Clay Travis.

To me it says that the best athletes on Alabama’s team were fair to middlin’ and that was a big reason that the team was fair to middlin’. All things being equal, the team with the most talent wins. Alabama has not had the talent in quite a while and I believe that part of the giddiness of a lot of fans of the program lately is based on the fact that recruiting appears to be raising the level of talent. That relates to better football teams and more wins… over time.

Thanks to commenter Marcus Aurelius for the links and post idea.

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