Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama

November 17, 2009 5:19 PM


unicorn2.jpgPardon me boys, we're playing Chattanooga


With the Iron Bowl looming on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) at Auburn and the showdown with No. 1 Florida the following week in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban tried to make it perfectly clear that the Crimson Tide was thinking only about their home game against the Chattanooga Mocs this week.


"Every game has significance," Saban said during his weekly media conference. "There won't be one thing that anybody ever remembers about this season if we didn't have success against a team like this. You can ask me all you want about it, but that's the answer to the question right there.


Saban speaks.jpg"We respect the team. They've got good players.  Their coach has done a great job there. They are 6-4 this year and they have made a tremendous amount of improvement from last year.  Every game is significant and this is the most important game that we are playing and it's the only game that we are going to talk about.  So, that's the way it is."


So, I guess Saban and his staff won't be taking a peak at any film of Auburn this week, getting an early start on their game plan for the Tigers. They will wait until late Saturday afternoon after they have finished putting a beat down on the Mocs.


Yeah, right.

Bowling for Blazers


Perhaps, UAB football hasn't had a tougher critic this season than me. Earlier, this fall I suggested it was time to pull the plug on the Blazers' program because of a lack of interest and later I suggested they were an embarrassment after a lopsided 27-7 loss to Marshall.


But suddenly the Blazers are contenders - for a bowl berth and a spot in the Conference USA Championship Game.


You see what happened is since losing to Marshall UAB has won three consecutive games for the first time since the 2005 season to even its record at 5-5, heading into a road game Saturday at East Carolina. A victory against East Carolina or next week at home against Central Florida will make the Blazers bowl eligible.


"(A win at) ECU would put us bowl-eligible, and again, we're looking forward to playing them," UAB coach Neil Callaway said. "But I don't want to be distracted by all the other talk about whatever. We take care of our business and we're fine."


The UAB-East Carolina game also will have major ramifications on the C-USA East Division race. The Pirates (6-4, 5-1 C-USA) are in first place, while the Blazers (4-2 C-USA) are in a three-way tie for second. Both teams control their own destiny to get to the league's championship game.


"We're all in kind of a playoff deal where we win and we're in, we lose and we're out," Callaway said. "But the biggest thing we have to do is focus on East Carolina. We're not worried about anything else."


Second-round bound


Is there a more unlikely second-round team in the NCAA Division II playoffs than the West Alabama Tigers?


First, West Alabama (8-4) had to defeat then unbeaten and top-ranked North Alabama in its regular-season finale to earn a playoff berth. No problem, the Tigers took care of the Lions 31-28 in four overtimes to secure their first playoff berth in 34 years.


Then, the Tigers had to go on the road in the first round. They escaped with a 24-22 victory at Albany State thanks to two blocked field goals and a missed field goal by the Rams with 16 seconds remaining.


Now, West Alabama heads to Jefferson City, Tenn., Saturday to face Carson-Newman (9-2), the No. 2 seed in Super Regional 2. It's only the second time in school history the Tigers have advanced to the second round.


Will UWA's magical run continue?


"We know how good we are," junior quarterback Deon Williams said after the win against Albany State. "If we do things like we are coached to do, we can be successful."


By the way, UWA coach Bobby Wallace is only the second coach in the Gulf South Conference to lead two different GSC programs to the D2 playoffs. Wallace led UNA to six berths in a decade at the helm of the Lions, including three consecutive national championships in the mid-1990s. Rick Rhoades guided Troy to a berth in 1987 and repeated the feat at Delta State in 2006.


Two-minute drill


Alabama A&M (6-4, 3-3) can clinch the SWAC East title for the first time since 2006 with a home win against Mississippi Valley State Saturday. The Bulldogs regained control of their own destiny last week with a 13-5 win against two-time defending division champ Jackson State and Alcorn State's 34-14 loss to Prairie View A&M. Alcorn State and Jackson State renew their rivalry in the Capital City Classic with an eye on a possible division crown. Each team must win and have Alabama A&M lose to earn a SWAC Championship Game berth. Prairie View already has clinched the West Division title ... The Troy Trojans (7-3, 6-0) can clinch their fourth consecutive Sun Belt Conference title with a home win against Florida Atlantic (3-6, 3-2) on Saturday. "If we win the game we seal our fate," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. "We know that. They know that." ... When the University of North Alabama (10-1) plays host to Arkansas Tech (9-2) for the second time this season Saturday in the second round of the D2 playoffs, two of the top D2 quarterbacks will square off in UNA's Harrison Beck and ATU's Nick Grazziano. Both are Harlon Hill Trophy candidates from Super Region 2. In their first meeting on Oct. 3, Beck threw for 431 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Lions to a 42-17 victory. The rematch with Arkansas Tech will be the 13th time UNA has faced an opponent in the regular season and the postseason in the same year. The Lions are 8-4 in those rematch playoff games.


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