It’s an Everything Bagel

A/K/A, A Hodgepodge

Belated happy start of the college football season! This week’s picks, for entertainment purposes only:

Auburn (+5) at Clemson
It’s almost impossible for me to not type “Clempson”. It’s just how I was raised. My PE coach in middle school played football at Clemson. On the wall in his office hung half of a Clemson helmet and photograph of his college team. I don’t think that he was on the ’81 National Championship team, since he had coached PE for a few years before I got to the middle school in the early 80s (yes, I’ve lived through some awesome decades). Maybe he did. Someone from Tarrant will let us know. Anyway, this will be a close game or, hold your coffee with two hands, Auburn will win by 3 touchdowns. Auburn can run the ball, they play great defense, Daniel Carlson is automatic for the people…Auburn is a good team. Clemson and Auburn played teams with less depth and talent last week, so it’s hard to know for sure, but I’d take Auburn plus the points.

Fresno State (+44) at Alabama
Years ago, only a few brave souls north of Nashville dared to visit the panhandle of Florida and the Gulf Coast of Alabama during for the summer. Now they come in droves. On Saturdays this summer, the 80 mile stretch of I-65 between Birmingham and Montgomery stayed bumper to bumper – in both directions (Saturday is check-in/check-out day for beach rentals and, therefore, heavy travel days).You were doing well to make that drive in 90 minutes, but at peak times it was closer to a 3-hour drive. Partly due to never-ending construction, but mostly due to peeps from Michigan and Indiana and Illinois and Ohio – the whole Big 10, visiting the Alabama and Florida beaches. I tried to work in a line about the war of northern aggression, but it’s either too soon, too early in the morning, not a good line, or I’m not good enough to pull it off. Anyway, people from the north come, complain about the heat, humidity, traffic, everything being fried, and the accents for a week. It’s a lot of fun. The response used to be “yes, we are aware of the heat and humidity, please just spend your money and go home.”

Anyway, this game is kind of a “same but different” scenario. The State of California has barred state employees from traveling to other states that hold varying political and social beliefs. I honestly don’t know if it’s gay marriage or immigration — neither of which Alabama has embraced as tightly as California — but California employees aren’t supposed to spend state money traveling to states that don’t agree with what California believes. Except, in this game, Fresno State is taking home with them $1.4 million. So, it’s more of a “yes, we are aware that we disagree on some political and social issues of the day, here’s your check $1.4 million and a checkmark for your loss column. Now you can go home.”

I actually like Fresno State plus the points in this one, simply because this Alabama offense can’t score 44 points. Alabama wins, probably by 4 or 5 touchdowns.

UAB at Ball State (-14)
Great return to college football for UAB last week. There was a great crowd at Legion Field last week (45,212), but not just in numbers. There was excitement and energy and an almost palpable sense of pride in and around the stadium last Saturday. The team is made up of newcomers and, largely, of players who needed a second chance. Scrolling through the roster, other universities and colleges were listed beside a great number of the players, indicating that they played somewhere else before coming to UAB. Many had lost the opportunity to play at their previous schools due to injuries that didn’t heal quickly enough or due to bad grades or due to whatever. They needed time away from football to work and to concentrate on themselves. At UAB, they found that opportunity.

Someone asked me this week if UAB could be competitive in their conference, and I believe that they can. UAB didn’t just start practicing in August. They’ve been working, training, and studying film for a long time. There’s a difference in practice speed and game speed, and that will take some adjustment, but I believe that they can be competitive. I think that they’ll be competitive against MAC appointment Ball State (David Letterman went to Ball State) this weekend, but I think Ball State wins at home.

BONUS PICK
Georgia at Notre Dame
Great out of conference game for Georgia. I don’t know what the line is, but I like Georgia to win a close one, less than a touchdown. Either way, get your check UGA and go home.

There you go. Someone let me know when Coach Floyd played at Clemson. I believe it was probably mid to late-70s, but I really can’t remember. I know it was a color photo on his wall, so it was at least after the advent of color film.

Gotta run. Have a great weekend!

The Kiffin Hire: Epilogue (I Still Like It)

Lane Monte Kiffin, born May 9, 1975, is an American football coach who is currently the head coach of the Florida Atlantic University Owls.

I wrote the post, The Kiffin Hire: I Like It!, almost three years ago. From both a writing and a prophetic perspective, it may be my best work ever.

I liked the Kiffin hire when it happened. I liked the hire when Kiffin turned a former running back recruit (Blake Sims) in to a quarterback and installed an offense around his talents and abilities. I liked the hire when Kiffin took Jake Coker, who is currently a “free agent”, and revamped the offense to match his talents and abilities on the way to a national championship. I have to admire the hire when Kiffin took an 18-year old freshman (Jalen Hurts) and installed an offense around his talents and abilities and inexperience – an offense that will be playing for the national championship tomorrow night.

The statistics, and there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, are not really as impressive as some would have you believe. Compared to the three years previous, points per game during Kiffin’s three years increased slightly to 37.5 from 37.23. Yards per game increased to 460.9 from 443, while average touchdowns per year actually dipped a little, to 58.3 from 58.6. Without dispute, the three years with Kiffin as OC have produced a 40-3 record, three straight SEC championships, and one national championship with another in the balance.

Kiffin accomplished what Nick Saban wanted him – needed him – to accomplish, and that was to change the offensive mindset, the offensive identity, of The University of Alabama.

As long as Nick Saban is the head coach, Alabama will try to win games with a stifling defense. Saban recognized, however, that times were changing and offenses were changing with them. As much as he likes to “run the d@#% ball!”, Saban likes to get the best of the best recruits. Those recruits like to run deep routes and catch homerun balls. They like the opportunity to make a play, not just block for a run play off tackle. Alabama’s “grind it out” persona didn’t really resonate with today’s high school athletes who have grown up in offenses that attempt to get the ball to skill players in space. I think Saban realized that when he decided to hire Lane Kiffin.

The story goes that, as Saban flew from Miami to Tuscaloosa, he turned to then Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore and asked, “what do you think you’ve got with me as a coach?” “The best football coach in the country,” Moore answered. “No,” Saban returned, “but you got the best recruiter that ever lived.”

Though many may disagree, and there have certainly been times that he has tried to prove me wrong, I think that Lane Kiffin is one of the premiere offensive minds of our generation. He may not call a perfect game, but (when focused) he can scheme up a near perfect game plan. The kind of game plan star recruits like to watch and in which they like to picture themselves starring.

Make no mistake, Lane Kiffin was not coming back for a fourth season under Nick Saban. Not by design. Not by choice. Not by default. I think Saban was as tired of giving the @$$-chewings as Lane Kiffin was tired of receiving them. Their oil-and-water relationship, as beneficial as it was to both of them, was over.

I liked the Kiffin hire when it happened. I like it now. I liked it when he signaled a touchdown before the quarterback ever threw the ball. I liked it when he trailed Derrick Henry down the sideline, stiff-arming the ghosts beside him, and maybe some of the ones behind him also.

Good luck, Coach.

PHOTO: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Hey, It’s Football Season!!!

I was on a conference call with a guy in Chicago yesterday. We were the first two on the call and we were making chit-chat as we waited for a couple more people to join the call.

“There will be football on your television tonight,” I told him.

“Really? I don’t think the Bears play tonight. They aren’t very good anyway,” he answered. Well, he answered the first part. I made up the part in italics because I’m like that some times.

Anyway, based on Google Analytics, my readers probably don’t need to be reminded that college football starts this weekend. Most of you probably flipped from Tennessee and Appalachian State – you know you pulled for App State, just a little – to Vandy and South Carolina. Not really because you care about any of those teams, but all of you want to say that you were watching when Will Muschamp’s head exploded. I know that’s a little gruesome, but 50 years from now when television has moved to some transmission method that isn’t compatible with digital recording, you’ll want to tell your grandkids the story. “It was a pass interference call that went against him. I saw it coming, was waiting for it. His carotid artery turned bright red like a lit fuse and two seconds later his head just exploded. I mean, just BOOM. He stood there for a couple of seconds, headless, his body turned toward the offending ref, arms bowed out like the bulldog figure that he was. Then the strength coach came over with a towel and salt tablet. I don’t think that he really knew what to do. Craziest thing I ever saw on TV and, remember, I lived when shows like The Bachelor were popular. Anyway, South Carolina came back to win 16-10.”

I digress. Let’s play some pick ’em!

Game 1: Ole Miss at Florida State (Monday, 8E/7C)
Why do we care about this game? Because we still don’t like Florida State. We don’t like Ole Miss much either, but they’re an SEC school and Florida State ducked the entire conference to play in the ACC where they’d have just one game a year. You pull for the SEC when you can, which is to say, unless it’s your rival and you can give them grief for losing to Appalachian State. Florida State is a 4.5 point favorite in this game, being played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

FSU returns 17 starters from last season, including ALL 11 OFFENSIVE starters. I mean, their entire offense came back. That’s pretty strong and hard to overlook. They should have the entire playbook available to them.

Ole Miss returns 10 starters, 5 on offensive – including perennial Heisman chatter subject Chad Kelly – and 5 on defense.

What will determine the outcome? Who can run the ball. Can Ole Miss’ SHARK defense stuff Dalvin Cook? Can Chad Kelly use his arm to open up Ole Miss’s running game?

ELEVEN STARTERS returning on offense is hard for me to fathom, let alone pick against. I think Florida State wins this one, and then they’re off until October 29th when Clemson rolls in to Tallahassee.

Game 2: Clemson at Auburn (Saturday, 8E/7C)
Auburn begins its season with the first of five straight home games, while Clemson tries to pick up where it left off last season. In the championship game last year, I watched Deshaun Watson make plays over and over and over and over. The kid can put a pass on a dime from a dead sprint, and he can flat out run. Now, he has what Gene Chizik would call a humbleness about him that I don’t particularly gravitate to, but there’s no denying his ability.

Auburn looks to answer its quarterback question again this season, and for Kevin Steele to revamp a defense that was a little too thin last season to make it through four quarters. You saw that against teams with big backs, like LSU and Alabama. At quarterback, a healthy Sean White gets the opportunity to prove himself again. Does he have the abilities to thrive in Malzahn’s offense? I think so, at least enough to keep Auburn in most of its games. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, I think he’ll be okay.

But he won’t be okay in this one. Clemson really is strong. They showed a lot of talent and tenacity last season, and I just think Auburn has some questions that they need to answer as a team before they compete at that level.

Game 3: Southern Cal at Alabama (Saturday, 8E/7C)
Two teams that met in Birmingham, Alabama in 1970 in a game that, many say, changed college football. A fully integrated USC squad, led by Sam Cunningham who rushed 12 times for 135 yards, doubled up the Tide at Legion Field 42-21 and, as Jon Voigt stated in the movie Woodlawn, showed southerners that “it was time.” It’s been said that Sam Cunningham did more for integration in 60 minutes than any single man in history. I’d like to think that’s not true, but I’m too much of a realist. Anyway, you’ll hear that story more than once this weekend.

As for the game itself, Alabama begins another season with a question mark at quarterback. Three of the four last year starters have won national championships, but this feels different. Those first-year starters had Heisman Trophy candidates at tailback and wide receiver, they just had to efficiently get the ball in to those hands.

For Alabama, I’m not sure that Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris are equivalent to Derrick Henry and Eddie Lacy, or if Calvin Ridley is up there with Amari Cooper and Julio Jones. That’s going to put more pressure on a starting quarterback that is a question mark.

Alabama’s defense lost three of the best (A’Shawn Robinson, Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed), but with as many players as Alabama rotates in the game on defense, they shouldn’t fall back too far.

I don’t know a thing in this world about Southern California, except that Tee Martin is their Offensive Coordinator and that some lady that may or may not have been a booster may or may not have bought him some tires when he may or may not have had a flat. Wow, that was a long time ago. There are kids in college who weren’t even born when that story broke. I’m getting old.

Anyhoo, I’ll pick Alabama in this one, if for no other reason, because I’m a bammer. It’s hard to pick against Saban when he has this much time to prepare. It should be a good game.

That’s great weekend of college football. I hope y’all enjoy it!