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Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama


November 13, 2009 1:12 PM

IT IS WHAT IT IS

unicorn2.jpgWhen I first got into this business, an older colleague named Bill Lumpkin used to write a weekly column he called "Hanging out the Wash."

For those of you too young to remember, when clothes were washed they were not put into a clothes dyer, but instead were hung outside on a clothesline to dry.

It was Lumpkin's way of touching on a variety of topics while clearing out his reporter's notebook.

Well, I figured I could do something like that too in a blog at least one day a week, but I was having difficulty what to call it. Some of things I came up with were "Text This," "Twitter Patter," and "At the End of the Day." Those were OK, but since I live in Alabama, I decided to use one of Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban's favorite phrases: "It Is What It Is."    

So, let's begin:  


Paradox of Success

The trap has been set.

Alabama (9-0, 6-0) is coming off an emotional, hard-earned 24-15 victory against LSU that clinched the Southeastern Conference West title and berth in the SEC Championship game against No. 1 Florida.

Mississippi State is coming off a bye and has had two weeks to prepare for the No. 3 Crimson Tide's trip to Starkville, Miss., Saturday night. Plus, the Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3) have made a habit this season of playing Top 25 teams (LSU, Georgia Tech, Houston and Florida) close and they need two wins in their final three games to become bowl eligible.

Angry Saban.jpgBut don't expect Alabama to fall into the trap. Why? Saban's "paradox of success," that's why.

During his weekly media conference, Saban offered this observation: "... What we're all about right now is to correct those things we haven't been doing well, capitalize on the opportunities when we have them in the game and be more consistent in taking advantage of the opportunities that we have, and be smart enough about understanding the paradox of success that you take one step forward in being successful and that you're always at the risk of losing that in the next step that you take. So, the most important thing is to stay focused on the task. It's almost like one season is over and new season is beginning and each one of those games is very, very important to our team and that's the way we'd like for our team to approach it."

With that said the Tide's dominating defense and an offense that generated 452 yards total offense against LSU should spoil the Bulldogs' upset bid ... Alabama 27, Mississippi State 13.

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Shootout between the Hedges

Remember that offensive shootout earlier this season when Georgia and Arkansas combined for more than 1,000 yards with the Bulldogs prevailing 52-41?  

Well, the oldest rivalry in the South - Auburn (7-3, 3-3) vs. Georgia (5-4, 3-3) - could eclipse that when the teams meet for the 113th time Saturday night between the hedges in Athens, Ga.

Both defenses are porous - Auburn ranks 11th in the SEC in total defense (360.9 yards per game) and 12th in scoring defense (26.6 points per game), while Georgia ranks seventh in total defense (332.0 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (26.1 ppg).

Both offenses are explosive - Auburn ranks first in total offense (450.3 ypg) and is tied for second in scoring offense (35.0 ppg), while Georgia ranks 10th (344.2 ypg) and is tied for seventh (27.1 ppg) in those two categories.

Look for Auburn running back Ben Tate (114.2 yards rushing per game, 8 TDs) and quarterback Chris Todd (195.8 yards passing per game, 17 TDs) and Georgia's passing combo of quarterback Joe Cox (209.6 yards passing per game, 17 TDs) and wide receiver A.J. Green (44 receptions, 732 yards, 6 TDs) to run amok.

Usually in this rivalry, home-field advantage means little, but Auburn has struggled away from home this season, so I give the edge to ... Georgia 45, Auburn 38.

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What guarantee

Troy coach Larry Blakeney spent a good portion of his 10 minutes on the Sun Belt Conference's weekly teleconference denying comments that he said his team would beat Arkansas when the Trojans visit the Razorbacks Saturday. The remarks supposedly were made in the preseason.

"Somebody said that I said something about us beating Arkansas, which I have never said that to anyone," Blakeney said. "We're going to do our best to get a plan to go to Arkansas and play as well as we can. We've been close on some of those occasions, but it's still an SEC team and Arkansas is certainly, as good as they're playing now, they'll be a difficult task for us or anybody else. But I've never made any kind of stupid comment like that in my life. I'm not a prediction guy.

 

"I don't make those kinds of statements and I don't do that kind of stuff for my team. "I've never been on anybody's bulletin board with that kind of rank comment. I'm not trying to deny anything that I did. I'm just trying to tell you the straight truth. I've never made that kind of statement."

 

Good thing because the Trojans might be the class of the Sun Belt and quarterback Levi Brown is having a great season, but they have defeated only one SEC team since joining the FBS - Mississippi State in 2001. And they won't be able to handle the Razorbacks and quarterback Ryan Mallett ... Arkansas 38, Troy 20.

 

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Dem Bones

 

175px-Battle_for_the_Bones_trophy.jpg The "Battle of the Bones" has a little added sauce this time because Memphis fired head coach Tommy West on Monday, effective at the end of the season, as the Tigers (2-7, 1-4) prepared to play host to Conference USA rival UAB (4-5, 3-2).

 

It's going to be interesting to see if the Memphis players come out Saturday with some extra motivation.

 

The suddenly resurgent Blazers have their own inspiration, needing two wins in their last three games to become bowl eligible.

 

I have been hard on UAB all season - except for spectacular quarterback Joseph Webb - but I look for the Blazers to claim dem bones ... UAB 34, Memphis 31.

 

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Tradition matters

 

Belated congratulations to the Tuskegee Golden Tigers, who clinched their fourth consecutive SIAC championship in head coach Willie Slater's four-year tenure with a 41-14 victory against Stillman last Saturday. It is Tuskegee's 25th conference title overall.

 

"Each of them has its own special place,'' said Slater, after improving his career record to 40-5. The 40 wins are the most ever for a Tuskegee coach in his first four seasons.

 

Now, instead of heading into the Division II playoffs, the Golden Tigers (8-2, 8-1) won't play again until Thanksgiving Day when they meet the arch-rival Alabama State Hornets in the annual Turkey Day Classic at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.

 

Meanwhile, Albany State, which finished second to Tuskegee in the SIAC, opens the D2 playoffs Saturday at home against West Alabama.

 

Too bad Tuskegee won't get a chance to play for the D2 national championship, but tradition still matters to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

 

*****

 

Quoteworthy

 

"Nothing compares to winning a national championship, but this is my best win since then," West Alabama head coach Bobby Wallace said after his team upset previously top-ranked and unbeaten North Alabama 31-28 in four overtimes last week. Wallace coached at UNA for 10 years and led the Lions to three D2 championships in the mid-1990s.

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