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This week’s edition of the Rountable bids a fond farewell to Memphis Tider as he ceases blogging on his site this week. I completely understand this thing called real life and how it interferes with activities like blogging. There comes a point when you have to pare down things in your life because there are just too many of them. Best wishes, Memphis Tider!

On with the questions:

1.After hearing as much as I have about BJ Scott, Dre Kirkpatrick, Rod Woodson, etc, is it possible that the secondary this year may actually be better than last year’s squad?

I guess that anything is possible and it would seem that the premise is that raw athletic ability will make up for the lack of experience but it just seems that experience is just too important. As talented as they are they are bound to see some things that make them think and as we all know at this point, if you’re thinking you’re not reacting. Really elite football teams react. The most likely scenario is that this groups surprises us by their rapid development as the season progresses. The early conference tests set up well for being tested and learning early.

2. How will all of the awards and honors, especially from his hometown, affect Mark Ingram’s performance this season?

Ingram seems to be a humble enough kid that it shouldn’t affect him. The unfortunate thing is that he is very unlikely to produce this year like he did last – it was, in fact, a record breaking performance, he stayed relatively injury free, and Richardson emerged as a viable option in his own right and that should reduce some of the load and thus opportunities this year. There is a faction out there that will blame his relative woes on a big head if the numbers drop. Tebow remained humble after his trophy and although his numbers were never as good as his Heisman year he remained an effective player. I believe that Ingram is made of the same type of stuff. At least I hope he is.

3. Could you see Greg McElroy as a legitimate early round selection in the NFL draft next year? Why or why not?

Admittedly I know very little of what constitutes an early round pick in the NFL but if McElroy improves some and is consistent (I suppose that would be his improvement) there is a possibility he could be an early draft pick.

4. James Willis was a master recruiter and one hell of a linebackers coach. We haven’t talked much about what the loss of him means to our staff. Tell us what you think the effect will be with him gone to Texas Tech.

What a great question. First Saban has shown that winning is not a function of consistency in staffing so I believe that as long as he’s piloting the ship, the course will remain the same. As far as how he’ll do at Texas Tech, his addition to the staff has to be a boon for Tuberville. Willis’ knowledge of defense has got to help the Red Raiders and surely his recruiting prowess will be helpful. But overall, Texas Tech will probably never be a football “power” and that is mostly for the same reasons that Mississippi State will never be: there is really no tradition from which to build and the location is horrible. I believe that as a coach selling a program you’re better off selling a new program than you are one with a history of mediocrity. Also, and I mean no offense to Starkville and Lubbock, unless you are raised with an affinity for these institutions, there really isn’t much in the way of enticement to spend four or five years of your life there. Sure some would argue that you could say the same of Tuscaloosa, and on many levels I’d agree, but the difference  is that Tuscaloosa is a football town – it doesn’t take very long for even the most football obtuse to realize that – and there is an established history of football excellence here. If you’re going to spend four to five years in a location that doesn’t fit your idea of paradise, you at least want the opportunity to win while you’re there. To conclude and be concise with my response: Willis will do well in Lubbock because he is a good coach, but there would seem to be a glass ceiling on the level of accomplishment that is possible at Texas Tech.

5. Have you ever seen a state whose political views can be switched by football rumors? The Tim James fiasco is absolutely incredible to me how much football can mean to a state.

I must be out of the loop more than I thought because I don’t know all the details. I don’t listen to Finebaum because he’s an instigator and tends to bring out the worst elements in the football loving public of our fine state. As far as I can tell most folks that would seek to be callers on Finebaum’s show are exactly the kind of person that can’t wait to vote for James.  So I’ll provide two responses: First, good or bad, football is our thing in this state. Despite the ridiculous heat that unpacks its bags  and moves in for four to five months this time of year and the ignorance that abounds in this state (the very fact that there is even the remotest of possibilities that Tim James could become governor proves the astounding amount of ignorance) there is no place in the world I’d rather be as September rolls around than right here. Football is what we do.

Second, Tim James represents the worst element of this state, the ignorant masses who attend church every Sunday and still believe that it’s acceptable to hate and oppress, the hypocrite, those with two-story houses in their eyes that stand up and yell about the splinters of their neighbors eyes, those who would gladly lead a prayer in a school unless of course it was a prayer to Allah or in Hebrew, those who teach English in schools and still say “ain’t” and end sentences with “at”, those who believe God and the founding fathers stand firmly with them despite the fact that the only verse of scripture they know  is John 3:16 and couldn’t tell you anything of the fathers other than that they were “Christians”, basically the people that love Rick and Bubba. James  is counting on their vote to become governor. That is reprehensible. He is the definition of a politician and I loathe him for that.  I contend that we need a leader. Someone who will embrace the future and the changes that must take place in this state if we are ever to move beyond where we are now.  Someone who will put an emphasis on education despite the fact that it doesn’t play well politically. OK, I’m done now. I’ll stop before I get really worked up.

The good folks over at Third Saturday in Blogtober are hosting this week and a big, sincere Thank You goes their way.

1. What are your feelings on Alabama’s current position in the polls?  Are we overrated? Underrated? Just right?

Alabama continues to be ranked exactly where they should be. It makes a big statement about the season to date that when my phone started filling with test messages as the polls were released Sunday, those messages were filled with comments about how many first-place votes Alabama received rather than where they were ranked. Up to this point in the season Alabama has been a good team and deserves the lofty rankings they have.

I’ll use this space to give the opinion that I have been formulating since the game clock hit 0:00 Saturday evening and finished in its final form yesterday at lunch: This is a good football team that we have in Tuscaloosa. That does not change because the last victory, over a traditional conference doormat, was secured by an on-side kick attempt sailing out of bounds. This team is made up of solid lines on both sides of the ball, some strong senior leaders, a handful of good skill-position players, and some gritty, determined, and smart defenders. Alabama had a bad game, its worst in many ways as it gave up big plays on defense, had special team miscues, turned the ball over more than its share on offense, and was penalized at more than twice its normal rate. In spite of that it won. In the recent past that probably would not have happened. Beyond Alabama’s mistakes, Kentucky played a good ball game; they were not sloppy on offense, their defense was tenacious, and they never, ever gave up. They will probably win quite a few more games this season.

Southern Cal is undeniably a good football team. They had a less-than-stellar performance against an inferior but determined team and now they have to hope that others lose for them to attain their pre-season goals. Would I have preferred that the Tide put the ball into the end zone every time they were in the red zone and put the game out of reach early? Of course. It would be nice to dominate every game but realistically, and not apologetically mind you, it is impossible to dominate every opponent in this age of college football. Without digging through the record books, my memory serves me, enough to remember that in 2003 Oklahoma ran through their schedule like Tommy Tuberville through coordinators; quickly, mercilessly, and with utter disregard to what other felt about it. It wasn’t even close. That is until they met a obviously over matched Kansas State team that kind of backed its way into the Big Twelve through the utter inability of other teams to stay out of their own way. Oklahoma lost that game. And because the Sooner resume had been so spectacular up to that point they were given a second chance to prove how awesome they were and never really competed against LSU in the championship game Sugar Bowl.

Two bad weeks you say? Yes, I agree but Oklahoma will always be remembered for what it didn’t do that year rather than what it did. If Alabama’s two bad weeks are victories against scrappy teams from Tulane and Kentucky then I am fine with that. The facts are that up to this point, when the eyes of the country were turned to them this Alabama team has responded. And not in that high school quarterback showing out for the nearby practicing cheerleader way either. No they responded in that, you don’t come into my house and sit on my coach and insult my wife kind of way; emphatically and with extreme prejudice.

2. What aspect of the game did Alabama control that shocked you the most?  What aspect of the game was Alabama dominated in that shocked you the most?

Shocked and dominated were not the verbs I would choose this week in my descriptions. Alabama did control the line of scrimmage and I was happy about that because I had a little concern that Kentucky’s defensive line would be physical and problematic. I was pleased to see that Coffe’s vision and break-away speed were not and Arkansas-only aberration.

The penalties were obviously worrisome, but based on the rest of the body of work, those actually should be an aberration. The busts in coverage were also troubling but putting on my happy Pollyanna face I think that they will be less and less of a problem as this defense matures and improves.

3. Name your player of the game on Offense. Also name one on Defense.

Glenn Coffee gets my vote for offense because since the 1996 LSU game we’ve all been looking for that next great running back performance, I just never figured it would come from him. I’m more and more impressed with Julio. He is becoming a “go to” type receiver and when McCoy returns and some of the other guys develop he is going to create big problems. John Parker Wilson is also steadily gaining credibility and thus my faith in him is growing.

On defense I’m going with Rolando McClain. He is just becoming such a force and the heads-up play to secure the error on the screen pass and step in the end zone turned out to be huge. Kareem Jackson was also impressive. Obviously the conference’s acknowledgment means so much more than mine but Booby Greenwood also had one of his best games ever.

When I contemplate the youth of this defense and consider that with the high level of play it makes me absolutely giddy about the future prospects of this program.

4. We’re six games into the Process: Year 2, and the team has made vast improvements since last season. Who, in your opinion, has made the biggest jump since last year?

There is not a single person who has not made significant improvement with the possible exception of Leigh Tiffin. This is a completely different team in almost every conceivable way. The attitude, the discipline, the swagger, it’s all just so different. This team plays with a mean streak and I couldn’t be more excited about that.

While
I find myself knocking on wood, this is the type of team I’ve been wishing for. Granted, the expectations are already so much higher but then again, high expectations are what Alabama has always been about. To quote Reece Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last”. Whether high on peyote or not, when it comes to football that’s the truth. That’s not to say that I’ll be ready to run Saban out of town after a loss, even one to Auburn but Alabama is positioned to once again compete for the conference if they continue to do what they are doing. When they started the year they were underdogs to as many as five teams. There are six regular season games to play and Alabama will be a dog in possibly only one of those (at LSU). This team is better and this team is better because to a man, these players are better. In every way imaginable.

5. Profess your feelings for Jim McElwain. Prose, poetry, in song, or in any other way you see fit.

As I am not feeling creative at the moment I’ll just say this: If John Parker is happy with you – and he appears to be – then I am happy with you. Please continue to make us better.

Finebaum is reporting that all signs indicate that Snitching Ass Tony Franklin has been terminated but cannot verify.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that Tubs was telling everyone that there were going to be no changes in the staff?

Update: Article up on the Opelika/ Auburn News. (HT: EDSBS)

Update 2: “Let’s make it official jackass. Let’s make it official”

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.

All kind of news events happening in and around the Alabama football periphery. I’ll start with the most important:

Image from Dan Lopez/The Tuscaloosa News (used without permission)

The Houndstooth is opening today. Anyone who has gone to school at the University or been to a game on campus knows at least where the Houndstooth is. It has been a staple to students and football fans for at least twenty years and with the possible exception of Egan’s is the dean of bars on the Strip. To the credit of the ownership they have constantly improved over time, adding the outdoor porch in the late 90’s and conveniently locating the temporary, football-season home of Big Bad Wolves Barbecue immediately next door. Even with the rise of tailgating on the Quad, which was brought about by the advent of portable satellite television, it has remained a popular pre and post game destination.

Well, the newly renovated building is opening today. From verbal reports (and the picture above) it seems that the ceiling height is much greater than the old wood structure. This can only be a good thing for the lungs at least, for as we deduced long ago, the severe hangovers were as much caused by the toxic levels of second-hand-smoke we inhaled as the ridiculous amounts of cheap alcohol and draft beer we consumed there.

I spent many an hour and dollar there through college. I met some of my best friends there -one was a bouncer there for a while in the mid-nineties. It was also a requisite stop on evenings out and the place to meet and celebrate victory or commiserate the loss. While it certainly is not sui generis of college-town sports-bars around the country, it is very unique for Tuscaloosa. It is both a landmark and tradition and with the new, handsome building will hopefully continue to be for a long time in the future. Best of luck and I’ll be on my way soon for the obligatory drink of celebration.

Nick Saban is the most influential coach in all of footballdom. All of it. At least according to Forbes. If anybody knows about such things, I am sure it’s them. I haven’t read it yet and so won’t comment other than to say, “take that Tubbs”. Here, I’ll get it out of the way: … Tuberville owns him just like he does Alabama. Happy? (HT: The Noodle)

Burnthall Quits. In news that, no doubt will be reported by Saban haters who have little else to do but spin the webs of animosity towards a man they have never nor will ever meet in order to feel better about their own pathetic lives, Sam Burnthall quit the team. While he played very little in his first three seasons for the Tide and was not very likely to see playing time this season as well [to be honest I forgot he was on the team. ed.] this will no doubt be spun as Saban forcing kids from their scholarships to make room for the new uber-recruits that Saban has, at this very moment, being constructed from robotic parts and forced pregnancies of human breeding stock chosen only for their athletic prowess and of course, the whole system is manned with underage, Asian, sweatshop workers, and supervised by Nazis who feed them only gruel and beat them with phone books. I’m certain that Brian Cook is doing the scholarship math for his first off-season post titled, “Nick Saban: Spawn of the Underworld”.

Mad props to the WWL. At least one small part of it. Chris Low has been in Tuscaloosa since Tuesday night and has lots of good tidbits from the team on his blog. Chris contributed some to ESPN.com in the past but his addition as a full time and in particular his blog are good thing. Of course, just like Maisel, Forde, Schlabach, and Feldman, I’m certain I’ll vacillate between loathing and jubilant praise with him depending on what he’s saying on any give day, especially when it concerns Alabama. Low is leaving title-town today and heading to Stark-vegas to spend some time with Sly and the Family Croom.

You think you’ve seen goofing off at work? There are now 14 days until the first college football game of the year and 16 until Alabama and Clemson. Get your business taken care of – life is about to get a lot better. At least until Alabama loses the first time, then we’ll all piss and moan, but at least it will be in-season pissing and moaning which is infinitesimally better than the off-season variety.

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