Friday, January 08, 2010

Four on the Trot

Thoughts on Bama's Big Night in Pasadena:

  • It's fitting in a season that was marked by the holy trinity of quarterbacks - Bradford, McCoy, and Tebow - all having underwhelming seasons that the national title would be won by a team whose signal caller threw for 58 yards on 11 attempts. One of the legacies for 2009 will be that this is the year that defenses started to make a comeback. Scoring and yardage were down a little and by the end of the year, we had a defensive tackle making a serious run for the Heisman.

  • I'm not much on the "send a message to your team" school of thought, but the silver lining to Nick Saban's bizarre decision to call for a fake punt from his own 20 on 4th and 23 was that he was telling his defense "I don't care where Texas gets the ball; I have faith that you will not permit them to put it in the end zone."

  • At one point in the second quarter when the game was 7-6, I posed the question to Der Wife "do you think that Alabama could win this game if they took a knee on every offensive snap going forward, Coach Red Beaulieu style?" As it turned out, the answer was no. When we were discussing it, I put forward the thought that Texas would respond by throwing Hail Marys on every snap and inevitably, they would catch one and kick a field goal. As it turned out, their offensive success in the second half came from throwing deep. The lesson for coaches that have to deploy an understudy under center: deep passes down the sidelines. Over and over again, my love.

  • Note to the Wall Street Journal, which seems to think that the recruiting rankings are a crock: the true freshmen who were thrust into the limelight last night when McCoy and Ingram were hurt - Garrett Gilbert and Trent Richardson - were both five-star mega-recruits.

  • Alabama's totals when they beat Miami to win the 1992 national title: 267 yards rushing, 18 yards passing. Alabama's totals when they beat Texas to win the 2009 national title: 205 yards rushing, 58 yards passing.

  • Watching Nick Saban lift another crystal ball while thinking "OK, now how is it that human beings are supposed to smile?", I was reminded of a column that Ivan Maisel wrote at the outset of the SEC coaching arms race (probably after South Carolina hired Steve Spurrier) in which he noted that SEC teams should be looking for hungry, young, up-and-coming coaches instead of legends because no coach has ever won a national title at two different schools.

  • SEC national titles in the last four years: four. Big Ten national titles in the last forty years: two. This is part of why Brian Cook's attempt to limit the Big Ten's post-season perception problem to USC and the BCS is misplaced. (In Brian's defense, he does limit his statement to recent perception problems.) The Big Ten has a history of not winning national titles and any casual observer of the sport knows this. Since Bo Schembechler became the coach at Michigan in 1969 and started the Ten-Year War (or, as Michigan fans like to refer to it, the "modern era"), the Big Ten is 12-26 in the Rose Bowl. One of the basic precepts on which I grew up in the 80s was that the Big Ten champion always lost in Pasadena. When an SEC wins a national title in the Rose Bowl, it highlights the Big Ten's two big, related failings: not winning the national title and having a poor record in the Rose Bowl. Since the SEC is the Big Ten's only rival in terms of fan interest and revenue generation, it's natural that the two conference would be compared against one another (or maybe I'm just weird because I went to a Big Ten school, but grew up and live in the South).

  • My first thought when Marcell Dareus took an interception in for a touchdown at the end of the first half: Jack Squirek! Touchdown Raiders! I know that Mack Brown claimed that he was making a safe call, but what the hell are you going to accomplish with a middle screen with ten second to go in the half?

  • I'll bet that there were a bunch of crusty old Alabama fans in the crowd last night who took particular relish in finally getting to sing "Hey Longhorns, we just beat the hell out of you!"

  • To continue with the SEC/Big Ten theme, I wrote after the Orange Bowl about how Big Ten teams were dominating games, but not getting results on the scoreboard commensurate with the way that they were winning. Alabama showed how to exploit the initiative in the second quarter last night.

  • Kudos to Kirk Herbstreit for an astute point last night that Garrett Gilbert's biggest problem as an inexperienced quarterback was setting protections. Sure enough, Bama salted the game away with a fumble that resulted from a blitzer coming in totally unblocked (despite the fact that Bama was only rushing four, if I recall correctly). If only Kirk wouldn't have made the "Alabama doesn't yet have a sack" comment right before the big sack. And I wish that Kirk would quit it with the "it's pass interference if a defender doesn't turn around" canard.

  • Does anyone doubt that Musberger had points on the Horns last night?

  • I would love to know Pete Carroll's private thoughts while watching that game. Something along the lines of "I'd like my team to play defense like that again." It's interesting to me that Big Ten and Big XII teams are the constant foils for both USC and the SEC Champions, but USC hasn't met the SEC Champs (at least as long as I can remember).

  • If I were a Texas fan, I would have few complaints about the game. In a turn of terrible luck, Texas lost its star quarterback on its first series, after which they had little rational expectation of winning the game. The Horns put up a fight and gave the Tide a scare in the fourth quarter before giving in. The only aspect that would bother me would be the performance of the Texas receivers. When McCoy went out, the rest of the team needed to rally around the backup. Instead, the Texas wideouts (with the exception of Jordan Shipley) were the worst unit on the field.

  • For as long as I can remember, Alabama teams have never been centered around one player. This is one of the reasons why no Tide player had won the Heisman until Mark Ingram did so. The advantage to that approach was on display last night. Both teams lost their offensive star, but Alabama kept chugging along, whereas Texas losing McCoy was debilitating for a long stretch. No one player on the Crimson Tide was irreplaceable, which is a fitting homage to the '92 champs and all of those great Bryant teams.


Anonymous said...

People touting Northwestern's (5-3) close loss to Auburn (4-4) as an indication of the Big Ten's strength will be in for a rude awakening next September, when Northwestern visits Vanderbilt and loses. I guess Northwestern's loss to Syracuse (4-8, 1-7) and 3 point win over EMU (0-12) don't matter anymore because they played Auburn tough, but that's going to be a nice Big Ten-SEC head to head gauge.

That, and PSU-Alabama.

Jeff said...

Are you suggesting Bama did fine with Ingram out? I know Richardson and Up hur h had their moments but neither helped move the chains in the way Ingram did. It's not a coincidence that Bama had 3 yards of offense in the 3rd quarter with Ingram out.