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Articles on this Page
- 08/15/12--16:01: _COUNTDOWN: 15
- 08/16/12--07:24: _THE CURIOUS INDEX, ...
- 08/19/12--17:29: _Dolph Ziggler Belie...
- 08/19/12--19:21: _For Some Reason, Su...
- 08/19/12--20:04: _THE CURIOUS INDEX, ...
- 08/15/12--15:13: _The Pac-12 Networks...
- 08/20/12--09:07: _YOU'RE LOOKING LIVE...
- 08/20/12--11:20: _THE TOP 25 REVIEWED...
- 08/21/12--06:58: _THE CURIOUS INDEX, ...
- 08/21/12--08:12: _USC AND TENNESSEE: ...
- 08/21/12--12:06: _COUNTDOWN: NINE
- 08/22/12--06:39: _THE CURIOUS INDEX, ...
- 08/28/12--08:09: _THE GREAT PRESEASON...
- 08/28/12--14:50: _COUNTDOWN: 2
- 08/29/12--06:27: _THE CURIOUS INDEX, ...
- 08/29/12--15:30: _COUNTDOWN: ONE
- 08/29/12--16:44: _COUNTDOWN: ZERO
- 08/29/12--07:38: _SEC Football 2012: ...
- 08/29/12--20:46: _10.15.94
- 08/30/12--14:23: _OPENING NIGHT THREA...
- 08/15/12--16:01: COUNTDOWN: 15
- 08/16/12--07:24: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 8/16/2012
- 08/19/12--17:29: Dolph Ziggler Believes He Can Fly, Touch Sky
- 08/19/12--19:21: For Some Reason, SummerSlam Has An Official Song
- 08/19/12--20:04: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 8/19/12
- 08/15/12--15:13: The Pac-12 Networks: Broadcasting To You Live From The Future
- 08/20/12--09:07: YOU'RE LOOKING LIVE...AT TWO MORE YEARS OF LOOKING LIVE
- 08/20/12--11:20: THE TOP 25 REVIEWED: EVERYONE IS TERRIBLE
- 08/21/12--06:58: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 8/21/2012
- 08/21/12--08:12: USC AND TENNESSEE: CLEARLY YOUR 2012 DOPPELGANGER TEAMS
- 08/21/12--12:06: COUNTDOWN: NINE
- 08/22/12--06:39: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 8/22/2012
- 08/28/12--08:09: THE GREAT PRESEASON HARMFUL THOUGHTS PURGE
- 08/28/12--14:50: COUNTDOWN: 2
- 08/29/12--06:27: THE CURIOUS INDEX, 8/29/2012
- 08/29/12--15:30: COUNTDOWN: ONE
- 08/29/12--16:44: COUNTDOWN: ZERO
- 08/29/12--07:38: SEC Football 2012: The Every Game Preview
- 08/29/12--20:46: 10.15.94
- 08/30/12--14:23: OPENING NIGHT THREAD: THE SEC QB TURNOVERTURE
JERRY KILL IS GETTING THE SAME TREATMENT THE REPLACEMENTS GOT, MAN. Minnesota football's done everything they were supposed to do to attract fans except for winning: build a new stadium, hire a new coach, revamp their marketing, and everything else in the "revive program" playbook. Look back at that part about "not winning." Weirdass Minnesotans, it turns out, are not so different than the heartless bastards you call friends.
"We lose a lot, so there's not really a reason to go to a game," Jessica Shudy, a sophomore from Minneapolis, said as she sat in the school's student union. She said she thinks she went to three games a year ago -- she can't recall, exactly -- and is not sure she will go to any this year. "It was pretty bad," she said of watching the team last year. Among her friends, she added, the football team is "not really a big thing."
Jerry Kill also rode around campus in a golf cart handing out free tickets. Please imagine Nick Saban doing this, and now you are dead from mirth. "COME TO OUR GAME YOU SNIVELING C#$&TS. Please."
GEOGRAPHICAL UPDATE: We're on the West Coast and flying back today, so posting will be slow. The Pac-12 launch was fascinating, and not just because Larry Scott turned on the tv network with a touchscreen tv. (LARRY SCOTT BE TURNIN' ON YOUR TVS WITH TVS AMERICA.) Our piece on it will be up tomorrow, but we say this without reservation: by necessity, the Pac-12 had to do something that skipped a few iterations on the evolutionary progression because they're the Pac-12, and don't have quite the automatic football spigot the SEC has.
That said, we really fear for the shitty, farmed-out product the SEC could produce due to the laziness near-infinite demand, because the Pac-12's entire plan is brilliant, and had to be. The SEC's might not have to be, and that could make for a pedestrian product on the digital side. Did you know the Pac-12 is going to live-edit games and post hour-long cuts for easy digestion? That you can watch at your leisure? You do know, and it will be beautiful.
In short, after seeing this, we desperately do not want the SEC to suck when "Project SEC" comes out. They also have little reason not to suck, and that's the worst part of the whole thing.
JUST SAYING. Watching TAMU 2012 slowly seduce Bill C. and steal his mind has been a magnificent thing, even if it all might be tempered by the Aggies announcing that freshman Johnny Manziel would start at quarterback.. Then again, Manziel did take a shirtless mugshot after being arrested in a barfight, so maybe that itself is countered by "we are a team led by a quarterback who barfights shirtless at a young age." As it should be, dammit.
NORMALLY TAKING KANSAS' LEAVINGS WOULD BE A BAD THING. And yet if it's "I left Kansas because Charlie Weis didn't have any use for me," we somehow think this is a compliment.
WISCONSIN HAS ALREADY OFFERED THIS CHILD. 6'1", 297 pounds in the seventh grade means that yes, that is Bret Bielema is driving by your practices in a windowless van waving ice cream out the open door. Please ignore the men with capture nets and tranq dart guns standing behind him. (Being college football's most dedicated chubby chaser has to be more fun than we know.)
THIS IS GOING SO WELL. It's been a special week PR-wise for Will Muschamp. Please stop making him talk. He hates it, and is not particularly good at sentences where he can't spit out formations and line calls as statements of fact.
DON'T EVER GET IN A FIGHT WITH THE INTERNET. They will use tools you cannot combat like facts.
HEY HEY HEY HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS ROOMBA THING. Rick Reilly writing about college football, just stumbling into the room and giving you the hottest sports takes of 2005.
Fly away, Dolph Ziggler. Be free. Chris Jericho's finishing move is one of the least practical in the history of any real or imagined martial art, but once he manages to get you in it you will flap your arm like a hungover man desperately trying to stop the bleating of his alarm clock. Be advised: if you make a lucky fortune cat that is just Dolph Ziggler waving his arm in this exact position, I will buy it right now for any price.
SummerSlam, for some reason, has an official song. Kevin Rudolf's "Don't Give Up," is available on Cash Money Records, and is also proof that Vince McMahon recently lost a large sum of money to Baby in a poker game, and is a bit short on liquid funds right now so hey you wanna get your boy on camera?. Being "an official song of something," it was "bland, but also somehow terrible and overlong even at the 30-second mark."
The announcers liked it, because they have to like it.
The crowd, however, did not. Neither did singer Kevin Rudolf, either, who got winded before the end of the song, and fell asleep mid-verse.
GOTTA WORK THAT CARDIO NEXT TIME, BRO. The band gamely finished through the coda, and then Rudolf was thrown off the stage by a still-enraged Alberto Del Rio.
BOTTLE SERVICE NOW AVAILABLE AT EVERY LOCKER. USF is located in Tampa, Florida. If Portland is the town where you can and should put a bird on anything, then Tampa is the city where everything will eventually be turned into a light fixture or decoration from a strip club.
The neon may or may not be your thing, but the locker room DJ? OFF THE HOOK. (Via)
THAT'S NEVER GOOD. MIssissippi State wide receivers coach Angelo Mirando resigned for "personal reasons" just 13 days before the start of the season. Wide receivers coach has been the exploding drummer for the Miss State coaching staff, with five different coaches playing the role (including Mullen.) The staff will "weigh their options," which probably means leaning hard on the grad assistants and picking up the recruiting slack themselves because, you know, 13 days before the season.
THAT'S NEVER BAD. Wisconsin keeps the instant transfer magic track rolling as Danny O'Brien, late of Maryland and a refugee from the Edsall Deforestation Zone, will be the starter going into the 2012 season for the Badgers. O'Brien threw for 22 TDs his freshman year at Maryland before the Crowton effect set in, and will play in the usual beef-forward Wisconsin attack: giant linemen, a rolling slab of a running back, and bigass play-action passes thrown over the top of the defense.
SEEMS ACCURATE TO ME, PAWWWWWLLLL. Alabama did not lose a game last season, per important members of the Alabama media guide family. Points just tell half the story, man.
THE FALSE START OFFENSE BEGINS. Brent Pease's offense contains multitudes. To be more specific, likely hundreds of false start penalties, and definitely an accepted teamwide use of the phrase "brainfart" as a technical term.
AT THIS POINT AIRBHG'S REALNESS GIVES HIM HIS OWN ADDRESS. You have got to be kidding but no, no you really aren't, reality, are you?
KEVIN SUMLIN IS UNAFRAID. Mike Leach backed him up on that re: the SEC, but seriously Kevin Sumlin was already there by several thousand miles in the total lack of fear department. (He coached at Houston. THE ENTIRE CITY IS MADE OF FEAR. And humidity.)
THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT, MITT. That is how you get 32 handwritten scholarship letters sent to your home, Mitt. And to Matt Romney of Peoria, Illinois, and to Mick Ronley of Melbourne, Australia, and also to Murt Tromblo of Koupio, Finland, because Hugh Freeze just likes giving scholarships to everyone even if they're not going to the right heaven.
IN LAME DUCK NEWS. It's not unobvious news, but if a duck is already lame, then BC's Frank Spaziani is your totally legless duck after the exit of the AD who hired him. BC should look at hot young coach talent like, you know, Jeff Jagodzinski. Just spitballin' here.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND SADNESS DIVISION. Someday they will fix this with better terminology.
ETC: This horse is the single greatest video game character of all time. A wise person once told us you haven't lived until you've had a horse killed for the insurance money, and if that is true then no one ever lived more than these dudes. No one's ever really nailed Florida writing-wise, but this is close. RIP, Tony Scott. We owe you for Top Gun forever, and for Days of Thunder on selected offseason Thursday nights.
SB Nation's Spencer Hall was on the scene for the launch of the Pac-12's new TV network, an operation far beyond anything else in college sports.
Of course Larry Scott has a standing desk. All people in the future have standing desks because they are healthier, and the offices of the Pac-12 are located in said future.
Larry Scott is neither Apple nor PC: he has one of each on his desk, an Airbook and a Samsung desktop. The office looks freshly occupied, just decorated enough to make you think someone had been there for six, possibly seven months or so. A garden tended by residents of a nearby nursing home sits out one wall of windows, diagonal rows of flowers and vegetables basking in an unusually sunny, fog-free San Francisco day.
The impression that someone just moved in here is not an inaccurate one: the offices at 370 3rd Street were only chosen in December. The high ceilings in the studio downstairs--a space that looks like something between the NBA on TNT set and a hunting lodge--were empty. The executive vice president, as clueless as anyone as to where the network would be, rented a house halfway between Oakland and San Francisco, hedging her bets on a commute between two possible locations.
The PR people ferrying us around the office hummingbird into Larry Scott's office. They return, and Larry is busy.
"Larry needs a minute. Could you please just wait over here?"
He is busy. He's sending emails, god knows to whom: Chinese ministers, Mike Leach, moles at Apple, Google, any other number of Pac-12 namechecks Scott is fond of tossing out, Nike. He could be IM'ing Phil Knight for all I know on one of his two computers. Let's assume he is emailing Phil Knight, and plotting the next shocking Oregon helmet variation involving Daft Punk-style LEDs built into the braincase itself. Let's assume he is doing all of this, because each in turn could be true. (After all, the day before had the Chinese professional basketball team, the Beijing Ducks, wandering through the Pac-12's offices, sadly sans Stephon Marbury.)
He is busy, and everyone else is busy, and should be. Young staffers in pressed shirts and ties work in quadrants of cubicles, impressively put-together for a group of people running on the fumes of a seven-month caffeine and enthusiasm bender, when the guts of the Pac-12 Networks were mostly theoretical, and Pac-12 Enterprises' full-time employees could be counted on one hand.
The digital department, the only department not uniformly wearing business standard clothing, works around a flatscreen streaming Google analytics and traffic graphs. The big spike on the red line marks the spot in time when Pac-12.org switched to Pac-12.com. It looks like an electrocardiogram of a sprinter leaping out of the blocks or a heart attack patient. At this point in the day, five hours or so before the launch of the Pac-12 Networks, either simile could be appropriate.
Seven months ago, the Pac-12 Networks existed on paper only. It is mid-August, and the very extant and functioning Pac-12 Networks will launch in three hours.
Rick Neuheisel's disembodied head is yelling at me from a flatscreen on the wall. The volume is on mute, but he's clearly yelling, and his Teutonic blondness and the football coaching rageface he is sporting makes him look like a Panzer commander screaming out silent orders. Poor Rick Neuheisel, locked in the flatscreen where no one can hear him, like a Harry Potter painting, appears in cycles throughout the clean, sparsely decorated offices.
They have sugar-free ginger ale in the employee refrigerator because, duh, future drinks only for the Pac-12.
An orange data drive sits on the desk of executive vice president Lydia Murphy-Stephans. It reads "Oregon-Arizona." It is the entire 2009 Oregon-Arizona game, and it is one chunk of the Pac-12's very short memory. Unlike the Big Ten, the Pac-12 has no archive of at-the-ready game footage, and has had to assemble it in pieces just to put together previews, much less for future broadcast of classics.
"Nothing existed," says Murphy-Stephans. "Unlike the Big Ten, we didn't bring in a media partner, so we didn't have any infrastructure in place. We had no library of footage, no archives to tap into. We owned the rights going forward, but the conference had no reason to create a library of what they had the copyright for. We started with nothing, which has been one of our biggest challenges."
The network, the wiring, the contracts, the people: those are all things the Pac-12 did not have on Jan. 1, 2012, and that is daunting enough. But to give you an idea of how blank the canvas was, consider that the Pac-12 did not even have its own history in one place, and thus had to assemble it, too, going to ESPN, Fox, the NCAA, anyone who had footage the conference could use in putting together.
The Pac-12 had to build everything from scratch--including its memory.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has no time, but we are in his office anyway. In the foyer on a generic file cabinet sits a delivery vase of orange flowers, four bottles of Veuve-Clicquot Ponsardin champagne, and a candy dish. Like all the offices, Scott's is separated from the rest of the workspace by a glass wall so the employees of Pac-12 Enterprises can watch their superiors work away like goldfish.
"They made it easier because there was a proof of concept," says Scott. He is talking with his hands and doing so very quickly, sometimes hunching up and folding his arms when he wants to think carefully about his next words. He is never in this pose for longer than three seconds or so. He is also talking about the Big Ten, which he admits invented the siege campaign of building a conference-owned network.
I ask the backdoor question about the SEC and other conferences, and their impending networks.
"Do you think other conferences think of content the way you do?"
He goes into the contemplative pose, this time for a full two seconds or so. Then, the hands start fluttering and chopping invisible objects in the air.
"I don't really know what other conferences are thinking."
"Do you think the way you think is unique?"
"I think our vision for Pac-12 Enterprises is pretty novel, the idea of having seven TV networks instead of one. Forget college sports. There's never been a sports network with this regional and national concept. The idea of having a digital and television network at the same time that are clearly companions, and a sales group internally ... it is very much cutting edge."
And here's where the big vision thing kicks in, something Larry Scott might owe to being an outsider to the world of college athletics, a jungle of oddly aligned interests acting in conflicted, ever-shifting patterns and alliances. Scott got the job of Pac-12 commissioner coming from tennis, and rather than assume anything about what he was looking at in the Pac-12, he went on a hundred-day walkabout around the conference. (Jet-about. Car-about. Whatever.)
So you know, if you're not the guy who knows what he's looking at, why not call up Phil Knight and talk about rebranding the Pac-12, and just chill with the geniuses from Wieden+Kennedy, Nike's custom advertising and marketing commandos, for two unscheduled hours in an afternoon? Why not go to Los Angeles for graphics? Why not go to cable companies first, and find out that while a Pac-12 network would be nice, seven of them with a regional focus in each market would be even better, since they could sell highly targeted local ads at higher prices?
More importantly, why not drive 30 miles down the road and pick the brains of their alumni, the ones toiling away in the datamines of Silicon Valley? Of course Larry Scott is namedropping, but it's namedropping with a multifold purpose: not only does Larry Scott want you to realize the Pac-12 full of wealthy, brilliant alumni with enough money to make you weep at your own poverty, it's full of alumni in powerful places the Pac-12 is all to happy too catch the reflected sunshine off of, and in turn get some of that glow on its shiny new logo.
When digital comes up, Larry Scott's hands start moving again. (Hand motion pattern: defusing and rewiring an invisible ticking bomb.)
"A lot of networks that have launched in the past didn't even think about digital. They did it and kind of cobbled it together after the fact. Frankly, being out here on the West Coast and having ready access to companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, YouTube, who we talk to all the time, there's a certain DNA in the conference. There's a heavier emphasis on technology and digital than there is with any other conference because of where we're situated, who our alumni are. The reason we put ourselves in San Francisco rather than L.A. was to be closer to those tech areas. We're embracing it in a pretty unique way."
Larry Scott excuses himself to watch some new television, or content, or whatever you call the thing the Pac-12 Networks will generate for anything you care to watch it on anywhere, anytime, and on any device of your choice.
Launch might be a deceptive word for what's happening down in the studio. The feed for the Pac-12 Networks, the third conference-affiliated network in collegiate sports, has been up and running for a month, showing nothing but the 21st century equivalent of a test pattern: the conference logo, an big schwoopy wave crashing in the midst of a mountainous pile of lettering. On Wednesday that switched to a countdown to launch, a signal originating in the basement studios of the network.
The signal is everything here, and has to be because of the Pac-12's tremendous geographical space. The studio in San Francisco is the node for the network, connected to each member school by gigantic Internet connections. From there the signal bounces along more gigantic connections to Denver, where master control coordinates the broadcast.
"We work like they're on the other side of that wall," says Hal Reynolds, senior VP of technology. Like everyone here, he is a senior vice president of something, but his role here is clearly that of battle engineer, field medic for wounded technology, and the obvious casting choice for "guy who matches the right wires and gets the escape pod to work in space thrillers."
The Pac-12 Networks is his 15th network launch. He sits at the broadcast board bouncing the signal around for us like an excited geek. The signal can come from the schools in the form of content piped up from Pullman, from Boulder, from Tempe, just waiting for them in the form of practice reports, raw video, and whatever else the schools want to make. It can bounce out to cable partners in the form of seven different networks, each tweaked to conform to regional content demands, each with its own ad partners selling hyperlocal advertising on those seven networks. It can go live with ease; it can live-edit those live programs into easily digestible hour-long recaps on the fly, and the repost as soon as the live event is over.* They can then make this available online immediately. The only real limitations are the speed of the human hands cutting up the footage and the limits of fiber-optic technology.
*That is correct: hour-long game summaries on tap for the East Coast-based football addict.
"Live is the easy part." This is what Hal Reynolds says because he is an engineer, someone who does not have to worry about identifying player numbers, figuring out what the hell just happened on a play, or any of the other mayhems of live sports coverage.
"For live, you just park a big truck out, hook it up, and that's it. The hard part is setting up all this," he says, gesturing around him.
"Have you ever done a setup this quickly?"
"No, no," he says. "This is the fastest setup I've ever done."
"Did this look like the Batcave six months ago?"
He takes this question very seriously. Like most engineers his brain is probably literally calling up the images to compare, making notes, diagrams, point-by-point comparisons, and then translating it back to the thoughts of a normal human being.
"Yes. Pretty much, yeah."
A voice barks from the studio console behind him. "Let's turn that down." He turns a knob, and then another. A voice from the studio keeps on woofing away from the speakers.
"Hmm. That knob ... isn't doing what it's supposed to."
The clock ticks away behind him. Fifteen minutes to launch.
Larry Scott stands at the dais.There is no button, at least no physical button to start the Pac-12 Networks. Instead, there is a button on a touchscreen television, meaning when Larry Scott pressed that button, he literally used television to "turn on" the show. Turning on your television with a television is a geeky recursion joke from an XKCD comic, but here we are watching it happen as a room full of people just sit there and watch nodding, grinning, and then nodding again.
After some thank yous and remarks by Scott and others, a plague of sport coats breaks out in the lobby of the Pac-12 offices. Wealthy alumni, school officials there on expense account, television people with their second wives, young staffers awkwardly grabbing free drinks, and Rod Gilmore, looking small and lonely without Joe Tessitore stitched to his hip, all pass through a mob scene of handshaking and business card exchanges. The sport coats always appear at these things, appearing from nowhere for the shots of gazpacho with truffle oil handed out by caterers, and for the open bar, and for the chance to simply bask in presence of other sport coats.
A staffer walks through the conference room for media and announces: "We ran our first ad!" The network, in theory, has officially begun paying for itself, and for the brilliant future Larry Scott has lined up for the conference that already has taken the new money from Scott's TV deals, and with it purchased better coaches, facilities, marketing, and all the other amenities necessary for survival in college sports.The Pac-12 Networks, combined with those new TV deals, are projected to earn more revenue than any conference in collegiate athletics as a result of Scott's reengineered media apparatus. It is only seven months old, and already a beast in the making.
In almost every sense, it is a coup worthy of a plague of sport coats and an open bar soiree. The first ad I see on a flatscreen: a spot for Samsung wall unit air conditioners. It is the kind you might find wedged into the window of a football player, or a volleyball player, or a basketball player sitting in a modest dorm room or off-campus apartment somewhere in the Pac-12's constellation of universities. The AQV09NSD model costs around $1,100, or roughly 1/17th of a Division I scholarship athlete's allowed cash stipend for the year.
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel:
Brent Musburger just needs two more years, baby. Two more years, Chan Lo, and the Triads will get their money. Hell, with a little luck, Ol' Brent might even have a business proposition for you when it's all said and done. Three words: Manila Hissing Cockroach Fighting. No drug test on the planet can prove you're injecting them with liquid methamphetamine, and believe us, buddy, that's something we know from happy experience.*
*Unlike apes. Damn you, Dick Pound. Damn you and your little cups of piss to hell. I almost had the deed to Davos, and you had to stick your urine-scented nose in there. We had a good thing going in Dubai, and you just had to ruin it, you bastard.
Plus the suits are willing to pay for it, so there's no sense in rushing things. You think I haven't been dangled off the side of a freighter before? Please. Norby Williamson did worse to me in the first three days I knew him, rookie. You go ahead and let me drop, because where I'm from that's called a "gambler's jacuzzi."
That place is Montana. Did I mention I know bears who will do unspeakable things for flats of expired domestic beer. They've seen bear bile extraction videos, Chan Lo. They wouldn't take it easy on you, even if you're not like the other insane, murderous Chinese gamblers I know. And love. Let's never forget the love, Chan Lo.
The AP top 25 came out over the weekend. It made little sense, but this means nothing bad for you in 2012 because years that make no sense are immensely entertaining.
1. USC. The most sensible pick in the 2012 poll is by consensus a team with a mediocre defense, a new starter at left tackle, and no established running back. This is not insulting USC: this a fine pick for number one, and thus an insult in general to the field of college football teams legitimately considered contenders in 2012. Matt Barkley is also beautiful and perfect, and this is why Nick Saban hides in the corners of his office at night stabbing a picture of him and going I'LL MAKE YOU FEEL MY PAIN, YOU TALL BEAUTIFUL PERSON! YOU'LL FEEL UGLY! I'LL MAKE YOU FEEL UGLY!
2. Alabama. "It's hard to replace that many starters on defense and a Heisman-quality running back, especially with questions about their ability to stretch a defense at the wideout position."
3. LSU. Voters wanted to move them down to six after Mathieu's departure, but Bama would only let them get halfway there.
4. Oklahoma. Further proof no one ever looks at depth charts, because Oklahoma's is so injury-riddled that it will literally start to bleed from the frame of your computer if you look at it in Chrome. But, um...Landry Jones and stuff!
5. Oregon. Less a belief in a football team's particulars, and more of a video game franchise because a.) new graphics every year, and b.) same reliable gameplay no matter who "QB 1" and RB 2" are. New Mascot Game feature includes 11 Chip Kelly's on a team! Aw, wook at the widdle legs a-pumpin'!
6. Georgia. A Mark Richt team with high expectations is the bluest meth of all.
7. Florida State. "104th rushing offense in college football in 2011, and did that playing in the ACC." "SOLD!"
8. Michigan. We would laugh, but they won 11 games last year with a defense made of mannequins and Greg Robinson's All-MAC all-stars. Ol' Pizzafarts is capable of this, and besides writing in "Denard Robinson" in the "why" column, we have no real answers as to how he accomplishes it.
9. South Carolina. The entire season rests on a strip of tissue 38 millimeters wide located in Marcus Lattimore's knee, and on Connor Shaw preventing the theft of the Declaration of Independence by a crazed Stephen Garcia.
10. Arkansas. If John L. Smith is your coach, colors are a more appropriate way of representing your team's value. Current color: deep orangey-yellow for piss that is both hot, and yet still disturbing in shade like a John L. Smith team should be.
11. West Virginia. [COMPLETELY BIASED CANNOT JUDGE SHOULD BE TEN SPOTS HIGHER IT'S NOT GAY IF IT'S WITH Y-CROSS AND STICK/DRAW]
12. Wisconsin. Numbers of beers in a pack/number of Wisconsin football in national rankings/#illuminattylite
13. Michigan State. You see how pollsters work, don't you? They all literally got to the teens, realized they didn't actually have the Big Ten's championship game participants in, checked for eligibility (good move in the Big Ten these days,) and then just sandwiched them in order of finish. This is literally what they did here, but it doesn't make this a bad spot for Michigan State. It just makes polls dumber than they should be thanks to a total lack of creativity.
14. Clemson. No one says enough positive things about Clemson's consistency on defense, and it's about time we do that. For instance, there was that time when they . And what about ? People forget about both of those things too often.
15. Texas. Deeply underrated here, most likely due to Case McCoy's tragic Brittle Bone Disease. LIke a bird's bones, the doctors say.
16. Virginia Tech. The novelty of Virginia Tech being underrated is fun, isn't it cartwheeling Bud Foster?
17. Nebraska. Consistently the best four loss team in the United States in the Bo Pelini era. That's something we can't take away from them, so sure, 17 sounds like a great, arbitrary place to put them.
18. Ohio State. Creeping feeling that a team ineligible for things (and not roster-ravaged like Penn State) will play like demons with nothing to lose, but then again 1994 Auburn is one of teams that lives under our bed forever, so we would think this.
19. Oklahoma State. A 12 win team at 19, even with a freshman quarterback, just bellows "underrated."
20. TCU. Just the spot where you put teams not in major conferences who are pretty good, even though TCU is totally in the Big 12 this year, and 50% of pollsters likely forgot this. Thus the seat in the balcony, TCU. (Please don't tell anyone, as this is deeply embarrassing to pollsters, TCU.)
21. Stanford. See "Oklahoma State, Pac-12 version."
22. Kansas State. All Bill Snyder does is win football games and stock his office with terrifying Pinocchio dolls. The Zodiac Killer was never found, and was active on the West Coast from 1968-1970. Bill Snyder coached in the state of California from 1967 to 1972. These facts are randomly arranged; make no connections between them.
23. Florida. LOLOLOLOLOLnope [dies]
24. Boise State. Lost their entire offense, and yet still the bones tingle with hints of underratedness. Or cancer. They feel the same way, we're told, but don't see a doctor, that's for pussies, bro. Take some Jack3d and you'll be fine.
25. Louisville. Dammit, we were THIS close to getting a preseason ballot without a Big East team, and will just have to wait until the end of the season for this sweet, entirely probably dream to come true.
POP TARTS ARE SO VERY IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW. It's so very hot in here right now, like our soul's been placed in a...toaster.
The Florida one makes so much sense, because we really are a kind of pop-tart fanbase: only around since the 1980s or so, amalgamated into one durable, tasty, and utterly artificial whole through the magic of science, and usually consumed with some degree of regret and shameful pleasure. The Michigan one is the one we love because LOL MICHIGAN WHEN LLOYD CARR FINDS OUT ABOUT THIS YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHAT A POP-TART IS TO LLOYD CARR.
Twitter pretty much ran the pop-tart jokes into the ground last night, but we have to remark that the Wisconsin pop-tart would just be a box of smokes and some beef jerky.
DODGY AND ENTIRELY PLAUSIBLE. It's likely complete bullshit, because as Florida and Miami fans know, weed makes you a better football player, not a worse one.
YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT THIS IS OUR REFRAIN. Bill C on the Gamecocks is pretty much every Spurrier Gamecock team ever, meaning utterly unpredictable after you get to six wins no matter how much talent they have.
YOU SING THE SONG OF TECMO BOWL, YOU WIN OUR HEARTS AND MINDS. Chris Brown on how the predictive playcalling system and combination of packages in a single play has utterly changed football. Whatever makes coaches look stupid for watching fifty hours of gametape in a week is something we totally stand behind.
ARKANSAS IS VERY PROUD OF ITS HEIGHT. Every wide receiver on the roster this year is over six feet tall, which is really just an elaborate scheme to make Nick Saban feel bad about himself.
STOP BLEEDING, OKLAHOMA. Okay, he never played a down, but still: Oklahoma's roster situation is not exactly optimal at this point, making the Sooners one of at least three top ten teams with what one might call serious roster issues. The top ten this year is not pure ass, but it does have hints of butt followed by notes of derriere.
I'M JUST CALLING TO VERIFY THAT MARK RICHT HAS LOST CONTROL OF ME. It's not that they're harassing recruits and violating NCAA recruiting rules, it's that they really do call random Georgians asking "How 'bout them Dawgs?" before hanging up. We are not lying, and wish we were.
WHYYYYYYY. Cowboy Altitude clearly is a subsidiary of Aperture Science, and doesn't care if it kills people in its experiments because science is not about why, but why not?
YOU WANT SOMETHING ON THE A-GAP BLITZ? Whoa holy hell does the Only Colors have something on the A-Gap blitz.
Tennessee and USC may be doppelgangers. The evidence, shocking as it may be, is there, but let's be clear on the relationship: USC is the light-side Jedi side, and Tennessee is the dark, smudgy mirror image, the other with less talent and a predilection for the dark side.
SHARED FACTORS INDICATING DOPPELGANGERNESS
A. Doofus Prince Coach. Both come from coaching royalty, and both are utter dorks by different degree raised in the conclaves of the college football coaching offspring's elected orphanage. Neither is very good at talking for longer than two minutes without placing a foot in their mouth. Per the light/dark dynamic, Lane's better at his job.
B. Janus Quarterback Dynamic. If Janus' two faces aren't working for you, then use Youth in Revolt. Matt Barkley is Nick Twisp: polite, all sunshine and touchdowns and thank you notes. Nick Twisp would do a Reddit AMA, just like Barkley did, and thank everyone who asked a question. Meanwhile, Tyler Bray is Francois Dillinger, tossing beer bottles off the jet ski and insisting you live life a bit more dangerously while wearing a black suit to media days. (Which he did, like the skinny grandchild of Johnny Cash and a WNBA player mistress.)
Again, Barkley's better, but that's part of the dynamic here.
C. All Wide Receivers. Both teams are just hoping to throw competition into submission via QBs and their superior wide receiving corps, and have no real solid established run threat. USC has a better shot at this, of course, because they are USC and managed to snag Silas Redd as insurance, but again, USC is the lightside of this pair. Tennessee will just suit up Isaiah Crowell under the pseudonym "Marlon Navarone" and hope no one notices.
D. Middling Defense. Not what you're watching either team for in the least. (Shh. Tennessee's is actually pretty good, but it ruins our argument. Keep going.)
E. The Light/Dark Oppositions. Like any good doppelganger, the similarities are balanced with contrasts. USC fans have no pubic hair, while Tennessee fans universally agree you shouldn't be looking down there unless you're a doctor, and even then you have to do it in the dark. USC will win many games, while Tennessee will [CAT IN A THEORETICAL BOX.] USC fans might dab at a slice of pizza to clear extra grease off the top, while Tennessee fans would stare at you with a homicidal glare in their eyes for even thinking of doing that. Tooth whitening versus "toothening."
RESULTS: Tennessee is clearly USC's cousin, but raised in the store room of a Dollar General store and fed nothing but expired sticky buns for the first 12 years of its life.
When we remember, we are counting down to the season and helping Dan Devine choose a team because he was cruelly not raised around college football.
It's okay to choose a team based on a player. Sometimes that's easiest, since players tend to gravitate towards the teams they deserve.
For instance, Peyton Manning really couldn't have ended up anywhere else. The Tennessee fanbase's dominant key is dour. A deep ingrained suspicion lives among them that at any moment, the sky will cave in, and that it's better to leave in the third quarter before you have to watch the pain live and in brilliant color. The lyrics to Rocky Top are, after all, basically about a hard mountain place where you drink and avoid people from the government, and how great that is even though you're singing about poverty, alcoholism, and how you don't live there anymore because you like money and food, schools, and opportunity. It is also the song of a fanbase that at any age is around fifty years old, no longer lives on the farm, and sometimes still misses the mules in between long dark spells of getting the boring, drab shit of everyday life done.
Peyton Manning was born fifty years old and holding an invisible briefcase, and was thus perfect from the start: demanding, pissed off, less consumed with the joy of doing and more with the disappointing gap between his self-estimated potential and what happened on the field. Shushing you for talking during the lecture, Peyton was water at the wrong level in college, dissatisfied even in victory that a certain route hadn't bent a certain way, or that he'd misread a Cover 3 and thrown an inconsequential interception. Peyton was fascinating even in college because he was miserable, perpetually seeing the three passes he missed, the missed blocks, the gap in the defense they left unexploited, and not the four TDs he threw. He seemed less to enjoy football, and more to savor the hatred he could mine endlessly from the seams of the imperfection around him.
As it turns out, this would be Peyton Manning not just at Tennessee, but everywhere: the NFL, the offseason, the film room, at the laundromat. He would be good at Tennessee: oh, so very good. He would not be the one to lead Tennessee to a national title, though. The salutatorian, efforting his way through every second of his existence, was a brilliant robot surrounded by amateurs. In his wins, he saw the math unfolding steps ahead of his own teammates. In his losses, especially in his three losses to Florida, he threw balls professionals would have caught, and college players fumbled, dropped, or simply missed due to misreads that were disappointingly human, and to no one more than Peyton himself.
He'd move on and hop easily into the pros, always flustered, always yelling, always redfaced and staring intently at a fresh printout on the sidelines. His unhappiness made him great in the NFL, where he could devote his whole being to the deformed and lucrative pursuit of football precision. If you read A Beautiful Mind, there is this description of the lounge in the Institute for Advanced Study, a kind of cordoned-off mutants rec room where guys like John Nash just stared at newspapers and thought impractical, terrifying things all day. The NFL for Peyton Manning was that place, the only place where his discontent and obsession could find full enabling. It was, for someone who watched his athletic adolescence, thrilling to see. Tennessee would ultimately be a kind of finishing school in frustration for him: the one b-plus a year he got was the Florida game, something he never quite mastered.
Somewhere in this world there is a 15 year old prodigy filled with all the anger in the world at how unfair it is that he has to sit through this shit. 99 of 100 of these little Max Fischers are wrong, half as smart as they think they are and less talented than that by half. Peyton Manning was the one of 100 who was right, which is sort of what made him perfect for Tennessee.He was happy everywhere but on the field, where he was perpetually miserable in the most finicky yet productive cloud of unhappiness Tennessee had ever had.
It was, in its best moments, utterly endearing, especially when he was so obviously the kid who wore a tie to middle school and carried a briefcase dreaming of sweet, burdensome adulthood. Peyton Manning wasn't very good at being young. That's not always a bad thing in the right places, with worried, forever gloomy and glorious Tennessee football being one of them.
FIELD OF BLOOD. In case you were wondering, Eastern Washington still plays on the most gruesome field in college football, and it remains as eye-searing as you remember.
In other color-related stadium modifications, LSU is trying out some new business that makes the entire stadium look like the world's janketiest spaceship or a toxic candy bowl. Both would be entirely appropriate.
WHEEEEEEEEEE YAAAYYYYYYYY. The quarterback battle at Florida could go all year, something concerning us less than it perhaps should because this is a.) nothing too entirely new at Florida, and b.) like Will Muschamp gives a shit about offense anyway, particularly about throwing the ball. If you need us, we'll just be on the internet watching Florida's offense implode as we make a lot of Moonbase Alpha noises AAAHAHHH AEIOU AEIOU JOHN MADDEN JOHN MADDEN JOHN MADDEN.
Also, fine tickets are still available, and will likely be available for visiting fans throughout the season.
USC AT LAST CAN STOP WORKING OUT AT THE GOLD'S GYM DOWN THE STREET. The downtrodden USC football program can at last join the ranks of the Pac-12's elite.
YES, THE FOOTBALL GODS DO HATE YOU THAT MUCH. It's not because you denied Mike Leach, though. Football Gods hate everyone, but especially you, Randy Edsall. Ask "why" again, and they will take another linebacker's ACL and use it for dental floss.
DUELLING PREVIEWS. Pre-Snap Read covers the dazzling offensive potential and defensive mysteries of West Virginia, while Bill C. looks at Mizzou and sort of sees something better than disaster and less than the ten-win mark for Mizzou in their first year in the SEC.
WELL LOOK AT THAT IRRELEVANT PROGRAM PUSHING PAPER. One Foot Down's season preview of the irrelevant Notre Dame football team is on Apple's front page for e-books, showing once again how insignificant the Irish are in the scheme of college football.
NEVER SAY NEVER. Mississippi State's Angelo Mirando could return in theory, because Dan Mullen is a tender lover and understands the ways of the heart.
STEELE JANTZ FACTS ARE IMPORTANT. And are back, thanks to Jantz being named the starter again in Ames.
Our team purges their minds of their final, improper, and indecently honest offseason thoughts before the season gets underway.
Texas, I will pretend like you have a quarterback, and not a sack of batteries on a dolly, at quarterback.
Miami, please stop and think before you become the Lost Boys of the Sudan version two.
Kansas, seriously, what happened to Charlie Weis? He used to be such a sweet little kid.
Auburn, you now have to make a bus full of toddlers into a football death squad. Fortunately, you live in Alabama, where this is the only thing the public education system does well.
Texas Tech: the recent expansion of 3G coverage across much of Lubbock will make Tommy Tuberville's coaching the team via FaceTime from his lake house a much more feasible proposition in 2012
Wisconsin: Everything will be fine so long as you didn't let Danny O'Brien cough on y-wait, he did? CDC THIS IS AN EDSALL ALERT ACTIVATE QUARANTINE TEAM DELTA. Also, no YOU'RE racist for not acknowledging Bret Bielema as bilingual for greeting the Hispanic FedEx guy twice a week with "Hola, amigo!"
South Carolina: We cast aside doubts about Marcus Lattimore's knee, Connor Shaw's passing, or your new defense. There is nothing a Palmetto Stater cannot fix with four pieces of baling wire and a good attitude, except for everything in the state of South Carolina.
Vanderbilt: [nerd takes her hair down] [is actually Herb Hand in drag with a sledgehammer] [as long as you kill Georgia too we're okay with it]
North Carolina: Their are fore grammar and usage errors, in this sentince. Find them all, or don't, because fuck books.
Wake Forest: We know you are an insurance scam dressed as a school. Whatever. Please continue embarrassing Florida State.
Colorado: Hey, buddy, wake up! It's time for football seaOHMYGODHEISNOTBREATHING
Oklahoma: Landry Jones will be just fine behind that offensive line SCREEN SCREEN DRAW SCREEN SLANT.
Arizona: We told you there was no such thing as a "holistic medicine pass rush."
Arizona State: You're damn right Todd Graham accepted your invite to Linkedin.
Oklahoma State: The loss of Justin Blackmon means you can no longer enjoy OK State football from the comfort of your living room because he will no longer be driving his truck through the middle of it.
Michigan: We found that picture of Jim Harbaugh you have hidden in your sock drawer.
Iowa: No one prepares like Kirk Ferentz, and this is why he has 43 frozen ACLs from iowa running backs in his office freezer.
Iowa State: Paul Rhoads is so damn proud to already be talking about taking the Auburn job when Chizik goes 4-8.
Georgia: The appearance of We-Evil Richt in 2012 means short your cotton commodities, and hope he lays eggs in Nebraska when they meet in the Gator Bowl.
Notre Dame: Doing everything fine, wouldn't change a thing! A plus plus!
Arkansas: If his name were really John-El Smith, and he really were from Krypton and had fathered Superman, then he would have sent him directly into the sun instead of Earth because WHY MESS AROUND WITH THE MIDDLEMAN, SON, GET YOUR PISS AS HOT AS IT CAN POSSIBLY BE. (Also, Superman would be named "Rusty.")
Missouri: True to his name, Truman the Tiger will find himself in a new role in the SEC, struggle, and then take out his frustrations by incinerating hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians.
UCLA: Maybe you are placing too much value on your anytime minutes?
Kentucky: "Most of us will go pro in something other than sports" is an observation, not a piece of training advice.
Washington: Heart worm pills and Xanax crush down to really sniffable lines. Just sayin'. From a friend. No one in particular.
Washington State: "Most people said I couldn't win six games without a defense," said Mike Leach." Well...
Oregon State: There are cameras in the stadium. Everyone can tell that playbook is just a collector's book for state quarters.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer's Congo transplanted baboon heart is working just fine, thanks for asking! He'll be in Columbus for a dozen years, or more! [Meyer demonstrates tool use by using Mike Vrabel to clean cement mixer]
Utah: SLC is the 8th most stressful city in the USA, and would be higher if Kyle Whittingham didn't work out shirtless on an overpass over I-15 during rush hour every night.
Mississippi State: Like, a thousand times better off than they were when Sylvester Croom was coaching offenses that never got out of the 100s in national rankings.
Pitt: Have you ever seen "Strangers On A Train?" Rent it tonight. Invite Syracuse over.
Maryland: /googles "get away with insurance arson
Syracuse: According to Sources, Doug Marrone's "Let's All Find A Way Out Of Upstate New York Plan" has united this team like nothing else he's ever done.
West Virginia: "Force equals ass times sexceleration. That ain't math, but add the two of us together and we'll see who sums first." —WVU Physics Professor Dana Holgorsen
Boise State: No one's realized Joe Southwick is just some candle salesman from Emmett Bench who ate the wrong mushrooms and is in the midst of an 18 month hallucination that's culminated in him starting under center for Broncos.
TCU: Would be higher on them if and only if their starting quarterback had been caught on camera wearing Superman underoos. Oh, if...
Alabama: AMERICA'S MOST EXCITING SNUFF FILM.
Florida: In this year's version of A Christmas Story, Ralphie turns the decoder ring, writes down the last letter, and bitterly realizes he's just spent six weeks waiting for "MUSCHAMP IS STUMPY ZOOK."
South Florida: BJ Daniels is just one third-grader standing on another's shoulders, and has been for four years, but if no one's figured it out yet the NCAA is just gonna let it slide.
Central Florida: George O'Leary just reads his lastest bloodwork results as pregame speeches. When the cholesterol's dangerously high, the gleam of hope in the players' eyes is all the inspiration a team could need.
Boston College: You...you really ate an entire quart of hummus? By itself? Just go to your room.
Clemson: Those offseason INSANITY workouts completely transformed you, Tajh Boyd!
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio's just got one more man to dispose of to win that tontine.
Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer. Bud Foster. Ruby. Emerald. Moon Beam. This would make perfect sense if you'd been at their last Skull & Bones key party.
Virginia: It's not funny to Mike London when you beat him at home. It's hilarious when you're pulled over by the VHP and they find the bag of heroin he planted on you at the post-game handshake, though, isn't it Tom O'Brien?
Florida State: Oh, really excited in the year where your best defensive lineman is a big white German. That's not obvious at all, SSeminoles.
Kansas State: Bill Snyder will coach Kansas State for but another 800 years before he decides to transcend the limitations of his physical vessel and lead scrappy JUCOs in the astral plane to January bowls.
Georgia Tech: Paul Johnston doesn't give a shit what you think. Meth addict drifter blood tastes *EXACTLY* like blue agave margaritas.
On Bryant: "My favorite Bear story was I sitting in his office one day in Tuscaloosa, and he said, 'You see that helmet over there? That's Lee Roy Jordan's helmet. He was the greatest hitter I ever had. You look at that helmet real close, you'll see the color of every team we played on there.'
"There was a little orange for Tennessee, a little maroon for Mississippi State.
"I said, 'Who's your artist, Bear? I know you all polish the helmets after every game. C'mon.'
"He said, 'Goddamn sportswriters. It works on recruits.'"
--Dan Jenkins, the greatest goddamn college football writer ever.
THE STUPIDEST STATE ACCUSATION IS GETTING HARDER TO DODGE. Dammit, old people from the Northeast. You ruin everything, including the proper tint of the Sunshine State in important and scientific national polls.
(Via) Texas, Dan Jenkins' mythical crib of college football, is also shamefully lavender. You belong in the SEC, state of Oregon, and you know this. FOOTBALL STARTS TOMORROW. THIS IS ALL REAL. TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF AND BURN THEM THEY ARE NO LONGER NECESSARY.
OH MY GOD HE DID IT. Bill C finishes his long march through every team in college football preview with Bama, who Bill says will be good and perfect forever. Also, this:
So remember that 10-2 would be an utter failure hahahahaaha you already really think that, Alabama fan. No need for the reminders! Acceptance really is the only strategy the rest of us have until Nick Saban inevitably returns to the NFL to go .500 and yell at underlings who look him in the eye.*
*He really did and still does this. A grown man. You don't make $4 million a year for being normal or sane.
OH LOGAN THOMAS. It's going to be so much fun watching VT use him as a cudgel this year along with the usual VT hammerback attack, so really the Hokie offense is just going to be the Hephaestusbone all year long: two hammers, a lot of fire, and still sort of crippled because Stinespring's still at the helm.
MONTEE BALL IS NOW SAFE. As if he weren't before with the Wisconsin offensive line ready to sit on any threat that gets near him, but now with the three guys who attacked him in custody, he's like, ultra-Madison safe. (That is, still vulnerable to beer and weird hippie ladies' charms.)
IT WILL REAPPEAR. Most likely reassembled inside Jim Mora's bedroom, because Lane Kiffin does not go halfway with his prankdom
YOU HAD US AT "LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE TIME I SHIT MY PANTS." Great moments in tailgating from the finest damn Iowa State blog in the world.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD DISCOVERS THE TASTELESS WORLD OF COLLEGE T-SHIRTS. Hahaha, Jezebel fell into a puddle of college football.
ETC: It's not the greatest sports movie ever, but it does have a very strong resume including Charles Barkley talking about that time he may or may not have had sex with Madonna. Really, Jason and ourselves can really do this.
...to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Fourteen SEC teams will play many, many college football teams this year. Someone really ought to write up a preview for every last one of them all at the same time. Oh, here we go.
Related: Bill Connelly previews the entire SEC in depth, team by team.
Aug. 30, 2012
South Carolina Gamecocks at Vanderbilt Commodores. Steve Spurrier is the Wilson of the SEC's "Home Improvement." He's old, he wears a funny hat, and he dispenses sage advice while standing behind the fence separating South Carolina from the rest of the world. He also steals your flatscreen while you are not looking. Old people are evil, James Franklin -- especially Steve Spurrier. Wilson stole thousands of things from Tim, including Jill on selected afternoons when Tim wasn't around.
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (Shreveport, La). Now postponed until Oct. 13 because Mother Nature did not want to watch two Air Raid teams try to throw in a blustering gale. Nature has ZERO SENSE OF HUMOR.
Tennessee Volunteers vs. N.C. State Wolfpack (Atlanta). Derek Dooley is the man who has the winning shot lined up, clicks the cue against the cue ball and then scratches to lose the game. It seems unfair, but Tom O'Brien says there have to be rules, man. (T.O.B. has no fewer than five balls on the table, and has scratched the felt three times.)
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Michigan Wolverines (Arlington, Texas). A.J. McCarron liked this script better when it was called "Alien vs. Predator, Except The Predator Is Played By An Elderly Matthew Broderick Wearing A Varsity Sweater." It's a very short and unimaginably violent film.
Jacksonville St. Gamecocks at Arkansas Razorbacks. John L. Smith will turn his hearing aid off with a 30-point lead in the early third quarter. The thing in his ear is not a hearing aid, but don't tell him what to call a Zune playing an endless loop of Slim Whitman, greenhorn.
Bowling Green Falcons at Florida Gators. Bowling Green as a school almost landed in Van Wert, Ohio, a town known for cheese and getting hit by an F4 tornado. YOU COULD HAVE BEEN SOMETHING, VAN WERT. Will Muschamp will try to avenge your loss. No, he'll try. That's all he can promise at this point, really. :(
Buffalo Bulls at Georgia Bulldogs. Buffalo has a player named "Dwellie Striggles," and the United States Federal Witness Protection Program should stop pulling their aliases out of Lemony Snicket books.
North Texas coach Dan McCarney: "Yup. Feelin' good, though."
Les: "Hope so."
[Les Miles pushes Dan McCarney backward over a prone Mike the Tiger as accomplice.]
P.S. Les Miles thinks "a stroke" means "West Nile virus."
Central Arkansas Bears at Mississippi Rebels. "We're going to have to live with what's on the scoreboard" has been Hugh Freeze's motto all offseason long. The scoreboard has jets that shoot blood out of it. So, you know, same as last year.
Jackson St. Tigers at Mississippi St. Bulldogs. Dan Mullen did not spray-paint "Our State" on the Jax State charter buses. That's acrylic. Good luck getting that @#% off, y'all.
SE Louisiana Lions at Missouri Tigers. The URL for SE La.'s sports department is Lionsports.com, which is misleading at best because no lions are involved, and dammit, now we're just imagining lions trying to platform-dive and distance-run. (Lion Marathon ends in 400m with deep napping.)
Kentucky Wildcats at Louisville Cardinals. Some men just want to watch the world burn, but Joker Phillips would be content with just his truck and now dammit the whole house is on fire that's the last time he tries to change his own oil --
Auburn at Mississippi State. Gene Chizik will already be secretly fired by this point, and will be played by veteran character actor David Keith. I am only half-kidding here.
Florida at Texas A&M. To simulate TAMU fans meeting Florida fans for the first time, drive a church youth-group bus full of illegal exotic pets at high speed headlong into a strip club. Observe results. Report data.
Georgia at Missouri. All Georgia has to do to ensure clear sailing until November is win this game. Georgia will therefore lose this game. These are Mark Richt's rules, not ours.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Alabama. You might think WKU's mascot would make the most disturbing mascot/adult film star, but you'd be wrong. That's Purdue Pete, and his scenes with Stoya are banned in 46 countries.
ULM Warhawks at Arkansas (Little Rock, Ark.). Arkansas plays its home games in two locations, and John L. Smith doesn't care that the schedule says "Fayetteville." He's gonna stand right there with a whistle until the game comes to him.
Kent St. Golden Flashes at Kentucky. The Golden Flashes: both a MAC football team and a medieval description of a malnutrition-related skin condition that probably made you the king of your tribe or something in the stupid, dirty, awful past.
Washington Huskies at LSU. "Sarkisian? I hardly know her!"
"What, Steve? You not into humor?"
"Les, I appreciate that, but that doesn't even make sense."
"Eh, what does, kid?"
[Les Miles pushes Steve Sarkisian backward over a crouched Mike the Tiger acting as accomplice.]
UTEP Miners at Ole Miss. You'll have to live with what's on this scoreboard, which is just a bunch of quail skulls and the head of Houston Nutt in kabuki makeup mouthing the word "UNCLEAN" over and over again. (Note: scoreboard is still bleeding.)
East Carolina Pirates at South Carolina. Not played at ECU, which is a shame because "Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium" should really be said out loud more often by television announcers. ECU is full of people from North Carolina who actually care about football, also known as South Carolinians.
Georgia St. Panthers at Tennessee. Tyler Bray's wristband for this game: just 15 diagrams of pass routes made to look like cartoon penises. This is his playbook for every game he has ever played.
Vanderbilt at Northwestern Wildcats. Win or lose, someone's getting an Audi Quattro station wagon, khakis and an exaggerated childhood food allergy out of this game.
Alabama at Arkansas. John L. Smith's greatest achievement as a coach will be winning this game, and then losing to Rutgers the following week at home.
Florida at Tennessee. The Temple of the Dog of matchups: a collaboration last heard of in the 1990s and overrated from the start.
Western Kentucky at Kentucky. If Kentucky loses this game, Western Kentucky will ascend to the SEC and relegate UK to the Sun Belt. Derek Dooley will pay you SO much money to lose, WKU.
Idaho Vandals at LSU. Idaho coach Robb Akey named his children "Jack" and "Daniel." He might never leave Baton Rouge or be allowed to leave Louisiana. (As Idaho is going to be homeless and independent next year, they may as well stay.)
Texas at Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze will have to live with what's on the scoreboard, which would be something horrible and terrifying you could see if it weren't being broadcast on the Longhorn Network. The five people who can see it? All ruined for life. Trust us.
Mississippi State at Troy Trojans. I like Troy. They're like antimatter Auburn: just on the other side of reality, mysterious and kept in a mirror world across town. Also, like antimatter, when they're let into the real football world, from time to time they result in horrible explosions and kill entire teams in the process.
Arizona St. Sun Devils at Missouri. Arizona State coach Todd Graham will have a great plan for this game. (He has already left this preview for another preview closer to his family.)
UAB Blazers at South Carolina. UAB is the Reliant Robin of football programs: it looks like it's going to turn a corner and then rolls violently because someone only gave it three wheels from the beginning.
Texas A&M at SMU Mustangs. Playing for the historical Banana Yellow 1984 Trans Am In Mama's Name With An Assload of Unmarked Bills In The Glove Compartment Trophy.
Presbyterian Blue Hose at Vanderbilt. The Presbyterian College mascot is the Blue Hose. SMURFY PROSTITUTION HOMOPHONE JOKES GO HERE.
Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn. This marks the game where Bobby Petrino starts coaching Auburn through a tiny earpiece in actor David Keith's ear. Think "Ratatouille," but with real people and one lizard wearing human flesh playing the key parts.
LSU at Auburn. "Hey, Gene, how you doin'?"
"Great, um ... (checks cheat sheet) ... Les."
"Hey, you look ... different. You do something with your lips?"
David Keith whispers into his headset: "We are compromised."
"Tell Bobby not to take any sharp corners."
[Les Miles pushes David Keith playing "Gene Chizik" over a kneeling Mike the Tiger and snickers.]
Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Arkansas. "It's no shame to lose to them! These men invented college football and chemical warfare! How else do you explain New Jersey if not 'tragic mustard gas accident!'" -- John L. Smith in the postgame speech after a shocking defeat at home.
Kentucky at Florida. Now a real game thanks to Western Kentucky's promotion to the SEC in week four. Will Muschamp comments on this game by running a Bowie knife over his newly shaven skull and murmuring something about "humbling them old-country way."
Vanderbilt at Georgia. James Franklin may lose the game, but your tires are so slashed in the parking lot, Todd Grantham.
Missouri at South Carolina. Gary Pinkel is going to learn so many things in the SEC: the depth of the defensive lines, the overwhelming speed and the existence of diet Skoal-spit at the concession stands at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Florida Atlantic at Alabama. Frank Stallone facts, via IMDB.com!
Seldom has a performer been strongly considered for an Academy Award in both acting and music, yet Frank Stallone has managed to pull it off.
So much more amazing than we ever knew! Carl Pelini and FAU will not almost win this game.
Ole Miss at Tulane Green Wave. This being New Orleans, that thing you have to live with on the scoreboard, Ole Miss? It's a live webcam of Dr. John taking a bath. No, there are no obscuring bubbles, and the loofah is going right where you feared it would go.
South Alabama Jaguars at Mississippi State. If Mississippi State can't beat Alabama, they're going to rehearse for it by beating every non-SEC team in Alabama in one season, dammit.
Akron Zips at Tennessee. "Say hello to your fathers for me," says Nick Saban to Terry Bowden and Derek Dooley. Nick Saban's father may not have been a famous coach, but he was the toughest ATM in West Virginia. His last receipt may have said, "I require service," but Nick knew it meant, "I love you."
S. Carolina St. Bulldogs at Texas A&M. "Saw ... bulldogs? Horns off? BULLDOGS DON'T HAVE HORNS. REWRITE! COPY!"
Ole Miss at Alabama. Hugh Freeze must live with what's on the scoreboard, which is probably some Alabama fan who, as an adult, waves a pom-pom he insists on calling a shaker. For once, this is a universal horror, Hugh, and we all have to commiserate along with you.
Arkansas at Texas A&M. John L. Smith calls a fake punt from his own 18-yard line. On second down. To be fair, they did not in fact see it coming, just like he said.
Tennessee at Georgia. Mark Richt losing to Derek Dooley would be the Christian thing to do, especially because even Christians like keeping wins on the schedule.
South Carolina at Kentucky. "Kentucky football is a step ahead of Kentucky basketball on one thing. They vacate wins before the season ever starts." -- Steve Spurrier, probably, after this game.
Towson Tigers at LSU. "So, where's Towson, coach?"
"Well, Les, it's in Maryland."
"Not aware of any college football teams there, coach."
"Me neither, Coach Miles. We're the only one."
[Les Miles pushes Towson's coach over a kneeling Mike the Tiger, snickers.]
Missouri at Central Florida Knights. What's less likable than George O'Leary? Nothing. Nothing in this whole godforsaken, cursed world. That's the joke.
Arkansas at Auburn. You can't tell a cat not to pounce, and you can't tell John L. Smith not to shoot wildly at a hawk endangering his team and an entire stadium full of people. No, he doesn't have a license for that gun. This is America.
LSU at Florida. "Hey, Will, I just wanted to tell you--"
[Will Muschamp stumbles over a kneeling Mike the Tiger all by himself without any help or prompting. Les Miles snickers.]
Georgia at South Carolina. Jadeveon Clowney pockets Aaron Murray, keeps him in a man-purse like a French bulldog because the ladies adore it and his CALL IT A EUROPEAN CARRY-ALL IF YOU DON'T WANT TO DIE, BRUH.
Texas A&M at Ole Miss. Thing Hugh Freeze will have to live with on the scoreboard: Texas A&M's only locked conference win of the year. That, and the continued geysers of blood shooting out of it.
Vanderbilt at Missouri. "Hey, did you know we have a really good journalism school?" And thus did James Franklin conceive the "blogger defense" that decimated Missouri for three decades.
Mississippi State at Kentucky. Dan Mullen does not trust Joe Schad, who will report the news of this blowout three weeks after the fact.
Alabama at Missouri. Missouri as a state has a high number of video porn rental places. This is good, because Nick Saban just happens to need to return some ... videotapes. (Playbook just reads "FEED ME A CAT" over and over again.)
Kentucky at Arkansas. If this were a concert, Hologram Bear Bryant would take the stage and tell you all how ashamed he was of all of you. Then he would perform a tear-jerking rendition of "Dear Mama."
Auburn at Ole Miss. Thing Hugh Freeze will have to live with on the scoreboard: a random win, because life is weird and terrifying not just for people named "Hugh Freeze?" Yes, this.
Florida at Vanderbilt. Still playing two quarterbacks each game wasn't the plan. Neither was tying their legs together and making them work like a three-legged man, but if nothing else is working, try the insane, says offensive coordinator Brent Pease. (Florida technically yields two sacks for one in an amazing deal available for a limited time only, because FIRING.)
South Carolina at LSU. "Hey, Steve, good to see you. Say, I--"
[Les Miles trips over a kneeling and confused Mike the Tiger. Steve Spurrier snickers.]
Tennessee at Mississippi State. Tyler Bray throwing a cowbell for a TD doesn't count in the standings, but it does in your heart.
Alabama at Tennessee. One of the South's most bitter rivalries, along with "Truck versus Deer!" Tennessee's the deer.
Auburn at Vanderbilt. Brian VanGorder's mustache leaves the Auburn coaching roster at this point. It opens a car detailing business in Mobile, and is very successful.
South Carolina at Florida. Your exit exam at Florida is hiding a body in a swamp successfully, so technically Steve Spurrier has done everything he's going to do in this game already.
Georgia at Kentucky. Just when you think Joker Phillips is down for the count, he staggers up, and then goes down for the count for real this time.
LSU at Texas A&M. A renewal of the old rivalry that destroyed the halfway point of Beaumont, Texas, three times in the 1960s and 1970s. All three times were regarded as improvements on the prior Beaumont.*
*Have never been to Beaumont and I'm sure it is perfect, lovely, and has no problems. Please enjoy your Internet.
Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders at Mississippi State. I took the Blue Raiders to seven straight national titles once in EA's "NCAA Football." My coach had an orange mullet, and looked like Jerry Kill with a serious drinking problem and gout. This has nothing to do with this game, and neither should you.
Ole Miss at Arkansas (Little Rock, Ark.). I refuse to choose between a battered Ole Miss team working with a blocking sled at left tackle and an Arkansas team coached by John-El. Passion forbids it; reason refutes it.
Texas A&M at Auburn. Kevin Sumlin, Bobby Lowder is NOT offering you the Auburn job by pressing his bare nipple to the chest of the luxury box, but he's not NOT offering it, either.
Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.). Oddly, the one thing Mark Richt does have control of will be the Florida offense.
Kentucky at Missouri. In SEC gangland initiations, Kentucky is Combo and Mizzou is the 11-year-old wannabe who has to shoot him on a street corner for selling in their territory. This is a meth joke about Missouri. It will not be the last.
Tennessee at South Carolina. The game of the year for those who enjoy watching Tyler Bray morph into the next Nick Foles. (In a losing effort, and going 54-for-83 with six touchdowns and five interceptions in a losing effort.)
Mississippi State at Alabama. What color is Nick Saban's parachute? Whatever color skin he can find and make a parachute out of, mostly.
UMass Minutemen at Vanderbilt. The Minutemen versus the Commodores in a battle of teams who should be playing a double bill at Mohegan Sun on Aug. 4.
Alabama at LSU. They saved their rollover points from last year, so the winner should get to 13 this time.
New Mexico St. Aggies at Auburn. Auburn wins. Not in life, but in this football game.
Missouri at Florida. If we had to tell people what to prepare for as Mizzou fans visiting Gainesville, we'd say: The open-container laws are strict, particularly in regards to methamphetamine production. Use chemical hoods and filtration systems appropriately.
Ole Miss at Georgia. Jesus loves both of these men, and you, and everyone. He hates Ole Miss, though. He hates Ole Miss like nothing else in this world.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky. If I were a rail baron and started my own university, I'd make sure they had a cooler name than Commodores. It would still reflect my rank, though, and that's why the Hall University Barge Thieves would exist.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State.This would be a terrible game for Mississippi State to lose, and a really bad one to lose by two points. That's good, because they therefore lose this one by one as Starkville's chief import is pain.
Troy at Tennessee. Derek Dooley at this point will touch the Troy Antimatter just to end 2012.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Arkansas. Todd Graham shows up out of habit. Embarrassed, he asks someone for a ride to the airport.
Texas A&M at Alabama. Aggie fans leave wondering how such a hippie school could be so very good at football.
Arkansas at South Carolina. Ace Sanders earns the nickname "Ace" in this game for two punt returns for TDs and because South Carolinians are not very creative people.
Georgia at Auburn. The South's oldest rivalry echoes tradition! Someone from somewhere north tramples helplessly over someone who lives further south and then burns their stuff to the ground.
Mississippi State at LSU. Rob Bolden's seeing the field for LSU in this game, most likely as a punter with an unconventional style: throwing it. "The rugby throw is a real weapon," says Miles.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss. The thing Hugh Freeze will have to live with on the scoreboard: an in-stadium re-broadcast of James Franklin's horrible version of "Somebody That I Used To Know" that he posted on YouTube because "the kids like it." No upper vocal register whatsoever. (And the blood. The never-ending gushing of blood from the scoreboard.)
Missouri at Tennessee. Derek Dooley looked before him and saw a pale horse / with a pale rider / and it was Gary Pinkel / on a horse / because his license is still suspended / and you'd think he'd get a rental car / but I guess he's into horses / oh god Tennessee is going to lose to Mizzou aren't they / stupid-ass five-horse-wide offense
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns at Florida. The Ragin' Cajuns will not beat Florida, but they will leave crawfish shells all over the place, and that's how you get rats and seagulls fighting for your entertainment at the post-game tailgate. A sawbuck on the rat for the win! Thanks, UL Lafayette.
Arkansas at Mississippi State. Bully is the heart-healthy bulldog in the SEC. He's fit, can breathe, and seems as happy as a dog can be. If Mississippi State fans saw him in real life, they'd probably pet him. Arkansas fans have a violent, angry wild pig as their mascot, but would probably still try to pet it if they'd had enough liquor. What does this say about this game? Nothing, but it does say a lot about why Arkansas hired Bobby Petrino. If you'll pet a psychopathic pig and dare call it your own, hiring Petrino is nothing. (P.S.: Do not try to pet wild pigs. They hate everything.)
Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Auburn. I wish an HBCU band would really do the thing they always say they'll do when they brag -- "We're better-conditioned than the football team, put us out there." Then again, maybe I just want the Alabama A&M band to have a shot at beating Auburn, which, depending on how bad things get, might be a life possibility. (Don't get angry, Auburn fans. This much pessimism ensures eight wins, minimum.)
Ole Miss at LSU. Thing Hugh Freeze will have to live with on the scoreboard: the LSU fan who decides to come dressed as "LSU Ho White." This fan will be a man. You cannot prepare for it no matter what else you look at.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt. No worries, Tennessee fans. If Tennessee does one thing well, it's kick Vanderbilt's ass INTO THE SEC TITLE GAME WITH A WIN. Derek Dooley might say this, if he's as far around the bend as we think he could be here.
Western Carolina Catamounts at Alabama. I saw this church flyer when I was in North Carolina. My first thought: "Man, the Catamounts are NOT f*&$ing around with their marketing this year."
Syracuse Orange at Missouri. Syracuse can enjoy the relief of playing a game in the moderate, cool outdoors instead of inside the hellish Carrier Dome. And no, Doug Marrone will not turn the thermostat down because his prize orchids are integral to the success of his football program.
Jacksonville State at Florida. THAT'S A WIN, WILL MUSCHAMP. (I think. Oh, God, please let it be.)
Georgia Southern Eagles at Georgia. Erk Russell's head is the trophy. Literally. It's still talking, and is very disappointed in what a bunch of nancies you all turned out to be.
Samford Bulldogs at Kentucky. It is so rude of you to be measuring the drapes in Joker Phillips' office, Tuberville. But home decor, unlike Kentucky football, never takes a day off.
Wofford Terriers at South Carolina. The terrier has his own house on Wofford's campus, making him South Carolina's fifth-richest resident.
Sam Houston St. Bearkats at Texas A&M. Sam Houston State: still pining for the sadistic touch of Mike Leach's whip, but accepting Kevin Sumlin's thrashing as a dull substitute.
LSU at Arkansas. "TIM AND ERIC'S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE," but the football version.
Auburn at Alabama. "The Iron Bowl just isn't the same without Dennis Franchione." -- one really insane person, probably.
Kentucky at Tennessee. A Native American warned early settlers of Kentucky that they were purchasing "a dark and bloody ground." John Calipari has no idea what they were talking about ... yet.
Mississippi State at Ole Miss. What Hugh Freeze will have to live with on the scoreboard: a video of Dan Mullen fast-forwarding through "The Blind Side" in his living room, going, "Where's the part where I kick your ass, MeximElton John?"
Missouri at Texas A&M. Pass defense is turned off pregame for old times' sake. It's in the options menu no one ever uses. Nick Saban is in the sixth season of the sickest dynasty mode game right now.
Florida at Florida St. Seminoles. E.J. Manuel, after beating Florida, confesses to rival coach Will Muschamp that his throwing hand is basically that big fake arm Carl Weathers has in "Happy Gilmore." "Just like Tebow's," Muschamp mutters.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Georgia. You think a team couldn't win with a 175-pound nose tackle, but Paul Johnson would like to know that yeah, you're right, that was not a very smart idea.
South Carolina at Clemson. I wish robot football was real. Clemson's robots would all just run down the hill and pile up in a beeping, whirring, struggling mess at the bottom every time.
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Unfair to make two national title contenders play this late in the season, but no one said college football is fair.
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel:
On October 15th, 1994, the actor Jean Dasté, star of French classics L'Atalante and Zéro de Conduite, died at the age of ninety in his native country of France. The number one album was R.E.M.'s Monster, and the number one film was Pulp Fiction. Jean-Claude Van Damme's TimeCop held the top spot two weeks prior, and this is important because "Jean-Claude van Damme."
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was preparing to return to Haiti. The number one song was "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men, and the World Series would not be held due to a strike. The average life expectancy for an adult male was 75 years or so, and the infant mortality rate in the United States was 8.0 deaths per every 1,000 live births. Boris Yeltsin had the power to launch nuclear missiles, and was very drunk for a good bit of his time in office. In retrospect, you were so afraid of the wrong things.
The temperature in Gainesville, Florida in the early morning hours on October 15th was 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Visibility was 6.7 miles if you sat on the edge of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and looked out across the glare-stricken green shag carpet of Alachua County. The skies were overcast. The wind panted occasionally off the Gulf, and the humidity hanging in air combined with the permafunk of Gainesville--soggy ground and rotting vegetation. Fall in Florida is living inside a refrigerator running low of freon. Something is going bad somewhere, and you will never, ever pinpoint its exact location.
Florida and Auburn kicked off in the afternoon. Brent Musburger and Dick Vermeil had the call, but I did not know that. I am eighteen years old, as stupid as an empty, grease-stained fast-food bag, and was playing Mahler on a marching French Horn in the Florida Gators Marching Band before marching into the stadium.
Gustav Mahler liked loud noises: when he saw Niagara Falls for the first time, he allegedly said "‘Endlich ein fortissimo!" ("At last, a fortissimo.") His symphonies are not as long as a football game, but come close if you take out commercials and pregame. The Third, the one my stupid, addled, and hungover head was rolling through that day, can go one hundred minutes with some leisurely conducting.
I do not know why the Florida band finished warmups with an excerpt from Mahler, but Gary Langford, the band's director, was a weird, mustachioed man with a pocket cornet who played racquetball like an assassin in a headband and short shorts. It made as much sense as anything else he did: to finish the runthrough of horrendous classic rock songs and fight music, pause for a second, and then have a bleating, perpetually off-key brass organ of a band shot through with shrill, dying woodwinds launch into the final movement of the Third: Langsam—Ruhevoll—Empfunden.
Translated: Slowly, tranquil, deeply felt.
I would like to say I remembered anything from the game but that moment, the moment when mild interest metastasized into something else entirely, the instant when Frank Sanders caught a perfectly thrown smash route for the touchdown, ending Florida's home winning streak against SEC teams. I do not. I only remember the sky glaring above, and the air pressure dropping as sixty thousand people gasped in unison, a small city's worth of humanity cooked sous vide at once.
The play was simple. I'm listening to Terry Bowden talk about it right now, rewinding and listening to him, now the coach at Akron, which is not Auburn, outline the game, but mostly the crystalline end.
We got down to that last play. With 17 seconds left we had a time out, so we flipped the formation. That safety they had--Galloway? He's a doctor now--he was a little shorter. We put a 6'2" receiver on a shorter safety. The corner slipped on the hitch, and the safety was trying to push Frank to the corner, and he was able to jump too high for Gilmore to get it.
I saw none of this. Across the field, there were only bodies, and the quick flutter of the ball flushed from Patrick Nix's hand into a waving maelstrom of arms blurred against the bodies of fans standing in the endzone. Then someone turned off the power to every Florida fan in the stadium, and left the lights on in the Auburn sections, tiny squares of people vibrating like bees in a freshly kicked hive.
The moment in a film when something horrible happens is bad, but it is far worse when the viewer has to go off only what is inferred. I have seen the winning play happen right in front of me, and it is always so much more bearable because of its irrefutability, its undeniable reality. The eyes saw the cold math of the situation, observed the ball go over the line, and recognized the clear outcomes and implications of the moment. Your skill is superior, and the day clearly yours, opponent.
I never saw Frank Sanders come down with that ball. I did hear the random scream of a woman somewhere in the stadium, and feel the clammy, lukewarm nausea of defeat roil through me. The unseen villain off-screen was again so much more terrifying than anything explicit you could ever show. Terry Bowden sprinted across the field to shake Steve Spurrier's hand well across midfield. The word Bowden used for the moment: "youthful."
Spurrier went to the corner to sing with the band, and then forgot that you do not sing after losses, and walked alone into the locker room. The lone safety lined up on Frank Sanders, the one who gave up the TD, was still in shock along with everyone else in the stadium--including a guy named Jonathan who wrote me just to say that he drove back all the way to Auburn just to see himself on VHS tape jumping up and down on television after Auburn's second TD.
The safety on that play was Dr. Michael Gilmore. He specializes in orthopedic surgery. He has three offices in the Florida Panhandle, but he is talking to me from Orlando, where everyone at one point in life must attend a convention. I ask him about the final play.
It was so loud the play wasn't called in, and I wasn't really sure what we were running down on the goal line. Everybody just kind of fanned out, and lo and behold I ended up on Frank Sanders. Before I could even get situated, I remember the quarterback looking over at him and I thought, "Uh-oh, here we go." He caught the ball, and everything happened before i could really even think about what was going on.
It was like putting your hand on a stove burner. "Oh, that's hot."
He remembers it like I do, at least in part: the oblivion of a loss, the shock, the real, dazed, physically recognizable shock of being so invested in a game that cognition is utterly trampled. He remembers more than most do, though. He remembers getting up at 4:30 the next morning to run stadium steps, because Florida was only halfway through the season, and still in play for the SEC title. He remembers returning an interception against Georgia, and then winning the SEC Championship Game in the first game played in Atlanta. They finished in New Orleans, losing to Florida State in the echoey, smokey reaches of the Superdome.
People asked him about it for ten years, when it appeared in Sports Illustrated, through the first semester of med school, through his residency, and into the early years of his practice. I am the first person to ask him about it in five years, he says. Michael Gilmore is frozen in most people's minds in that instant, but twelve hours later, Michael Gilmore was running stairs, probably too groggy to think about anything but the next humidity-stained concrete step in front of him. His job is now putting people back together, setting bones in their place and rearranging spent parts into something new, functional, and whole.
I almost hang up on him when he interrupts my goodbye.
They ended up making a portrait of that, Frank Sanders catching a ball on me. My mom lived up close to the Alabama state line. She went to the mall in Dothan and they had it in a store and she bought it.
Did she buy it to take it home and get it off the shelf, or just to buy it?
She thought it was cool that I was in a painting.
That game will be old enough to early enroll as a freshman this fall. While Michael Gilmore is sewing up soccer injuries, Terry Bowden will coach at Akron, his first FBS job since leaving Auburn in 1998. After winning twenty straight games to start his career, he would leave in the middle of the night in one of those situations you file under "Auburn things." There is a random phrase in my notes from Bowden about that twenty game streak to start his career:
There is absolutely no way you can appreciate the moment, where you are at that point in time.
Survival and time forbid most of that. Terry Dean, the Florida quarterback who threw four interceptions in a half, watched his football career evaporate before it had really ever started, and went to business school. Frank Sanders would have a fairly successful career in the NFL, while Patrick Nix fell out of coaching and into religious work. Danny Wuerffel, who threw the final spite-post* into the hands of Auburn defensive back Brian Robinson for his third INT of the day, first had to move his ministry from New Orleans when it was destroyed by Katrina, and then contracted Guillain-Barré last year. Steve Spurrier broke his "give-a-damn" at Washington before returning to coach South Carolina, where no one ever imagined in 1994 he would end up in 2012.
*Spurrier could have punted, but as Bowden said: "They kept going for the jugular. All you do is run the clock out. Spurrier was mad the whole time. They really had the much better team. I just think Spurrier was mad that they weren't winning by thirty. With about a minute left, he throws a post, and their receiver ran a flag. It went right into his hands, the receiver wasn't even near it." Lucifer the football coach would not go any other way.
They all moved on before even considering the moment, a moment part of my brain still has on permanent pause, jutting back and forth in the mind like a reel-to-reel paused at the moment just before the ball enters Sanders' hands. I can play it whenever I want and relive that horror, that intensity. What I cannot do is turn it off, or every fast-forward too far past it. It just loops, a GIF in the brain with no tiny X in the corner to punch, and thus close something that means less specifically and more universally with the erosion of time and faulty memory.
Even a bad musician--and I was horrendous, an atrocity, a tuneless fartbag of a horn player--knows what happens when you finish. You go back and do it again, because somewhere in the score you missed something. A note came in a hair too loud, or you missed a flat because your stupid brain completely forgot to shift keys, or maybe you hiccuped and missed a note completely. Maybe everyone misses every note. This happens.
Whatever happens, if you are lucky, you get to go back and do it again, this time with fewer imperfections, or at least an exciting new set of mistakes. Steve Spurrier and Terry Bowden, seventeen years and change later, will both go back and replay the score tonight, this time with teams of 1994's brawniest toddlers following (or not following) the wave of the baton. There will be no taglines, no records, and no complications. The clock will read 60:00, expire, and then reset the following Saturday.
And that, more than anything else, is what I want out of this season: I want that absolution, that death of the constantly present memory. It is the best thing about college football that players do not stay, and that people are not perfect, and that a flip of the formation after a timeout would put Michael Gilmore on Frank Sanders, and thus cave the roof in so spectacularly that eighteen years later it and the gigantic classical symphony attached to the catch would still clamp to my brain like a lamprey of the memory.
To arrive where it started, know the place for the first time: that is what I want, and what I get whether I want it or not. Tomorrow I see my second child on an ultrasound. It will look as fundamentally similar to every child every conceived as any, following a certain charted path of development with hopefully little deviation. As a static picture without names or labels, it will be as meaningless as a random illustration.
When you see it in motion, though, it will be the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, and even without a name you will call it yours forever and without reservation or skepticism or caution or regard for repetition. You will take every chance to do the thing a second time, and a thousandth time, and then a thousandth and first, because you missed something and need to go back, to do it again, and thus be resurrected in the moment of being there, of taking the chance to present, alive, and in full thrall of the thing itself.
And thus back to the beginning, and without hurry. There is no need to rush this piece. Note the instructions of the composer: Slowly. Tranquil. Deeply felt. The volume is set to fortissimo. At the end, there will be a long silence. Then we begin again.
Opening night means you dance Gangnam Style to whatever comes on the teevee. Tonight that happens to be the "South Carolina Turnover Overture" followed by "Mike Leach Fondue Inferno," both moving pieces of music that we just made up for the occasion. LET'S GO.