Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review....Favorite Moments of 2011

So, it took me a while to detox from the whooping I got in the GA Dome. But I wanted to reflect on the season a little bit. I have this little personal tradition. After a win, I change my computer wallpaper to a play from the game. I try to find a nice picture of the 'play of the game' or at least one of the star of the game. I never put a picture from a loss up there. Do you know how long I had a picture of Justin Houston running a fumble back for a TD against Tech in Athens in 2010? A long time. Having said that, this team gave me great joy this year. I got to change that picture for 10 straight weeks. And in hindsight, a victory over Boise and subsequent lose to USCjr. Would have meant having the pro combats on my screen for 2 weeks, which would have been unfortunate.

We did all I asked of this team of it after an 0-2 start -- we beat our rivals. A season in which you beat UT, UF, Auburn and Tech is a resounding success. There's no other way to say it. On top of that you win your division and it's a really good season. Maybe a great season. We got better as we played. And we did much of it with smoke and mirrors on offense with the running game. Our defense was one of the most fun to watch in recent memory. This season and this team was much, much like the '03 team and in many ways a mirror image. That team was very talented. We lost to LSU and Florida. LSU ended up being a better team. Florida was in our heads. That team played some ugly, ugly games. We played terrible in Nashville and trailed 2-0 at the half. We also struggled against UAB, winning 16-13. Yes, we beat UAB 16-13. But that team also showed flashes of dominance, pummeling UT in Knoxville and beating Auburn into submission at home. We closed with a 34-17 win at Bobby Dodd in a game we controlled from start to finsih, much like our 31-17 win this year. That team had a dominating, dominating defense and a questionable running game. We bounced around with Michael Cooper, Tyson Browning, Tony Milton and Lumpkin came on later in the year. It was sad. We went to the dome and played a deeper, better LSU team en route to a National Championship. We ended up in Florida vs. a Big 10 team. I loved that 2003 team. I loved this team.

Having said that, this bowl game is very, very important. The fact remains that if we lose, we'll have lost to the best 4 teams we played. It'd be great to beat a team with 10 wins. They're good. I feel like we're going come out ready to play. And, their D is good, but I'll hedge my bet that they don't have a guy that can cover #26. I also believe this game is a great opportunity for Isaiah. We need him to be good. But, I'll say this. I left that dome very encouraged. The bottom line is that we're way farther along than we were last year. We played toe to toe with probably the best team I've ever seen us play. I was trying to think about that, but I'm pretty sure it is. And we had them. I'm not one for moral victories, but as far down in the dumps as our program was, it's about steps. And we took a lot of steps this year. A couple of highlights for me:

My favorite freshmen: Malcom Mitchell sure is something.
Players I'm looking forward to watching for their career: Conley and Bennett. Boy, they're going to to make a young Christian LeMay's life a lot easier one day.

My favorite player: Uh, #29. It sure is fun to have a player like that on your team.
Player I'll miss most: Boykin. We got about all we could out of him this year, finally.
Coach of the Year: Olivadotti. What he did w/ our LBs with injuries coming off an August with his daughter in Scottish Rite was pretty amazing.

Favorite game: Auburn. Best I've seen us play in a long, long time. Probably since that '04 LSU game. Or at least since the '08 Sugar Bowl.

Favorite O play of the year: Whew, the TD to TK in Jacksonville was pandemonium.
Favorite D play of the year: Bacarri's INT return vs. Auburn
Favorite moment: Going for it on 4th down from the 50 in Knoxville. To me, it showed a mentality that has been missing with Richt for a while. I truly think he's changed. We saw it time and time again throughout the season.

Play of the year: Drew Butler's game saving tackle. I shudder to think what we turn into if Vandy scoops and scores on that punt block. I think we implode.

It sure does seem hard to find a coach these days. I'm really glad we're getting to keep ours and he got his act together. It's nothing short of a miracle, and it might be the last time we see something like this happen in CFB again. And I really like Shawn Williams.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting to know Texas A&M

After Texas A&M’s brutal domination of the Big 12 over the years, the next step is obvious. They are coming to slay the college football dragon that we know as the Southeastern Conference, and there is nothing that can stop them.

Texas A&M has been scheming for this move for some time. They started making minor preparations dating back all the way to the early 1900’s, when a few cadets in the Texas A&M fake army soldier club skipped fire-building practice one night, and discussed what they could possibly do to have the upper hand against Florida in the Swamp in 2012. After hours of deliberation they knew what had to be done. Instead of having attractive, under-dressed female cheerleaders with dainty voices jumping and flipping on the field, they would elect 5 boys each year with funny haircuts to dress up as janitors in white jumpsuits to run around the sidelines yelling at everybody. They were sure that it would instill fear in opposing teams and fan bases, and they could not have been more correct.

Furthermore, it’s not like TAMU has no idea what playing an SEC team is like. Trust me, they know, they even beat one in 1995. They come into the league boasting a 58-78-6 overall record against teams from the Southeastern Conference. Quit laughing, a .426 winning percentage is nothing to scoff at – Albert Pujols would kill for a .426 average. So obviously what I am saying is that Texas A&M would be a shoe-in first ballot Major League Baseball Hall of Famer – name one SEC team that can hang their hat on only this? You can’t.

TAMU enters the SEC after basically being the 5th best team in the Big 12 year in and year out. That is pretty good if you ask me. So what, they have losing records against conference foes Colorado and Nebraska (then in Big 12), Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. Big deal. They beat Baylor and Iowa State a lot – that is good kind of. They were even Gallery Furniture Bowl champions in 2001. I highly doubt they would have lost to any Texas high school teams during their time in the Big 12, and we all know how big Texas high school football is.

Texas A&M brings a different element to the college game. This element is spirit. This is intangible. Their fans never, ever, ever give up. One of my most fond memories I have of any football game was the 2005 Cotton Bowl Classic, when the fiery Rick Clausen lit the Aggie defense up for a 38 – 7 route to victory. But what the Aggies lacked on the field, they more than made up for it in the stands. Their fans were relentless. The clock was winding down in the 4th quarter, they weren’t within four touchdowns, but you would think they had just won the Super Bowl with the way they wouldn’t shut up. It almost made me wish Tennessee had lost due to all the fun the Aggie fans were having. “Oh honey! Look! We are down by forty-seven touchdowns – Riffety, riffety, riff-raff! Chiffity, chiffity, chiff-chaff! Riff-raff! Chiff-chaff! Let’s give ‘em a horse laugh: Sssssss!”

So congratulations, Texas A&M. The Big 12 leash that has been holding you back for so long and keeping you distant from any kind of success whatsoever has been severed, and you are finally free to show what you are made of. Honestly, I’m not too afraid to say that in five years from now I just might be writing an article about how Texas A&M is gearing up for their first season as a member of the AFC South.

Watch out SEC, you are about to be gigged. (Whatever the hell that means.)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's the system we're stuck with.

Just a little something to ponder, you can see the list compiled below. Since 1980, we've played in a bowl 28 times…in 11 bowls. That's right, we've played in only 11 different bowls in the last 31 years. That means we've been to most bowls. 2-4 times.

Since 1984, we've played in 24 bowls against only 15 opponents. We've played:


Three Times:
Michigan St.

These are by biggest gripes with the bowl system. Every other school mostly has the same problem. South Carolina went to the Outback to play Ohio St. for 2 straight years. I don't really know the answer. The SEC has the best bowl tie-ins. It's not like we're going to send fans out to the Holiday Bowl or something. But I wish something could be done about the opponents. Could we get more Big 12 matchups, could we squeeze in a Pac-10 match-up somewhere? What about more ACC matchups that include us not playing a team from Virginia or Boston or FSU? How in the world have we not played Clemson or North Carolina in a bowl? Or Miami? How in the world have we not played Penn St. or Michigan all the times we've been to the Ouback or Cap One?

The best answer is to go to Big Time Bowls. Since '80, our matchups in the Sugar or Cotton have been: Notre Dame, Pitt, Penn St, Texas, FSU, WVU, and Hawaii. Not all great tradition schools, but the variety is much better than the standard UVA or Wisconsin matchup.

Year Bowl Opponent
1980 Sugar Notre Dame
1981 Sugar Pitt
1982 Sugar Penn St.
1983 Cotton Texas
1984 Citrus/Cap One FSU
1985 Sun Arizona
1986 Hall of Fame/Outback BC
1987 Liberty Arkansas
1988 Gator Mich. St
1989 Peach/CFA Syracuse
1990 N/A N/A
1991 Independence Arkansas
1992 Citrus/Cap One Ohio St.
1993 N/A N/A
1994 N/A N/A
1995 Peach/CFA Virginia
1996 N/A N/A
1997 HOF/Outback Wisconsin
1998 Peach/CFA Virginia
1999 HOF/Outback Purdue
2000 Oahu Virginia
2001 Music City BC
2002 Sugar FSU
2003 Citrus/Cap One Purdue
2004 HOF/Outback Wisconsin
2005 Sugar WVU
2006 Peach/CFA VaTech
2007 Sugar Hawaii
2008 Citrus/Cap One Mich. St.
2009 Independence Texas A&M
2010 Liberty UCF
2011 HOF/Outback Mich. St.