There’s an empty spot on the walk of fame at Alabama for Nick Saban, who brought Alabama back to the national championship in the Rose Bowl and coached the university’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram
by Glynn Wilson
The University of Alabama Crimson Tide is back on top of the football world, hanging on to prevail over the Texas Longhorns in a game of unexpected twists and turns, including the early hit by Marcel Dareus that knocked Quarterback Colt McCoy out of the national championship game in the first quarter.
Dareus later scored on a 28-yard interception return just before halftime, earning him the award for defensive player of the game.
“I was thinking about grabbing the guy with the ball, but then I said, `Let me just grab this football.’ I wasn’t even thinking about the highlight,” Dareus, a native of Birmingham who played at Huffman High School, said after the game. “I was so excited. My legs were weak, my muscles were crazy, and I made it.”
This Alabama team will go down in football history for going through 14 games undefeated and for Mark Ingram’s Heisman trophy, Alabama’s first. Ingram earned offensive player of the game honors for running for 116 yards and two touchdowns. His roommate, Trent Richardson, ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
The No. 1 Crimson Tide held off a rally by second-ranked Texas and beat the Longhorns 37-21 on Thursday night in the BCS title game with help from a late fumble recovery by Courtney Upshaw at the Texas 3-yard line. Ingram scored a clinching touchdown from 1 yard out with just about two minutes left in the game.
The victory makes Alabama head coach Nick Saban, now called Saint Nick in Alabama, the first coach to win BCS titles at two universities, Alabama and LSU.
Note: This post originally appeared in our sister publication, The Locust Fork News-Journal
Editor’s Note: A controversy rages in Alabama over whether to continue calling the Alabama-Auburn game the “Iron Bowl.”
Over at Tuscaloosa News columnist Tommy Stevenson’s new blog, he’s asking the question.
We raised the issue last year in this story, which should tell you where we come down on the subject: It ain’t “The Iron Bowl” no more.
What do you think? Sign in below and give us your comments. Onto the story…
by Paul Rockne
It’s Traditional Rivalry Week for Southeastern Conference football.
Photo by Glynn Wilson
|Funny, when Paul “Bear” Bryant was alive, it was hard to get a picture of him where you could see his eyes, especially on the football field. Now, with the sun behind Bryant-Denny Stadium, it’s hard to get a photo of his new statue with his eyes in the picture…
There are three of these throw-out-the-record-books games, in which the outcome is the be-all and end-all for rabid fans, on tap this weekend – headed by the Iron Bowl, which annually pits Alabama against Auburn.
In the state of Alabama, polls have shown that over the years some three-fourths of the population – young and old, women and men – watch the Bama-AU battle if it is offered on TV. This year it is being carried live on CBS (not a good omen for Alabama, which has fared poorly on that particular network in the past few years).
Outside of Alabamians, few football fans in the other 49 states will be tuned into CBS Saturday because they will be tuned into the big No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan game over on ABC that will determine the Big Ten title and put the winner into the BCS national championship game.
The Tide-War Eagle game is more important than life or death to a good number of the teams’ fans. While it doesn’t quite mean that much to the teams and players – winning or losing won’t mean a winning or losing season for either and a win won’t put either into the Western Division title game – it does have it’s importance to both.
For Alabama, it will mean stopping a four-game losing streak to Auburn. A Bama win would also be big in that it would be the first-ever for the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Right now Auburn owns a five-game winning streak in T-Town, owns the Alabama home field. Add to that the fact that, so far, Bama Coach Mike Shula is 0-for against Auburn. No coach can last for long at Alabama if he can’t beat Auburn – and Shula knows that.
A win for Auburn would erase the two losses this season and send the Tigers a-bowling with a good taste in their mouths. It would also be win No. 10 for the season for Coach Tommy Tuberville’s team. And it would probably mean a new version of the “Fear the Thumb” T-shirts that AU unveiled after last year’s Iron Bowl triumph.
People outside Alabama have a hard time understanding exactly why the “Iron Bowl,” if we should still call it that, is such a big deal (although ESPN announcers have been debating among themselves if it is or isn’t the nation’s fiercest rivalry, thus giving the game more national attention).
Remember, this is a series that was put on hold for 41 years over a dispute – following a tie game – over a referee and per diem money paid to players to travel. Alabama owns a 38-31-1 edge in the series, with the lone deadlock coming in that final game before the 41-year break. There have been 22 shutouts in the series (meaning a close, low-scoring game benefits the Tide?), while Auburn owns a 4-1 record in one-point games in the series (meaning a close game is a good omen for AU?).
One final historical fact does seem to lean the Tide’s way. This is the eighth time since the series was rekindled in 1948 that both teams come into the Iron Bowl off losses. Alabama holds a 5-2 edge in games that followed the double losses.
The other two other rivalry games set for Saturday include Ole Miss (3-7, 1-5) at No. 9 LSU (8-2, 4-2) and No. 22 Tennessee (7-3, 3-3) at Vanderbilt (4-7, 1-6). The schedule also includes one big non-rivalry matchup – No. 5 Arkansas (9-1, 6-0) at Mississippi State (3-7, 1-5). Arkansas can clinch the Western Division crown with a win over the Bulldogs, or a win over LSU next week.
Other league games on tap this week include a trio of cremepuffs with the SEC taking on two Sun Belt Conference squads and one Divison 1-AA team: No. 3 Florida (9-1) will get no computer points for its national title game bid with a win this week. The Gators host Division 1-AA Western Carolina (2-8). South Carolina (5-5) looks pretty assured of getting that sixth win to become bowl eligible as the Gamecocks host Middle Tennessee (7-3). Kentucky (6-4) will be at home against Louisiana-Monroe (2-7).
Saturday’s weekend TV football lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:
Miami at Virginia, 11 a.m. (WB)
Yale at Harvard, 11 a.m. (WGN)
Iowa at Minnesota, 11 a.m. (CSS)
Maryland at Boston College, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Michigan St. at Penn St., 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Buffalo at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Oklahoma at Baylor,11 a.m. (FSNS)
Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 11:30 a.m. (Lincoln Financial)
Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina, 12:30 p.m. (SS)
Army at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m. (NBC)
Michigan at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Auburn at Alabama, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Alcorn St. at Jackson St., 2:30 p.m. (CSS)
Kansas St. at Kansas, 2:30 p.m. (FSNS)
Bethune Cookman at Florida A&M, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
San Diego St. at TCU, 3 p.m. (VS)
Arkansas St. at Troy, 6 p.m. (CSS)
Washington at Washington St., 6 p.m. (FSNS)
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
South Florida at Louisville, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Rutgers at Cincinnati, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
California at Southern Cal, 7 p.m. (ABC)
UCLA at Arizona St., 9:15 p.m. (FSNS)
The return of the king … a different kind of homecoming … the oldie-but-goodie hit song, “The Boys (make that “boy”) Are Back in Town” … all could be the theme for the SEC Game of the Week in this, the second week of November, 2006.
Steve Spurrier, the ex-Florida Gator head coach who brought the national championship trophy to Gainesville in 1996 and built a dynasty on the way to the title, returns to The Swamp Saturday, bringing his South Carolina Gamecocks in to face Urban Myer’s version of the Gators.
This game has more story lines than a national election. Spurrier is the winningest coach in the SEC, with a 95-21 record at Florida and now South Carolina. His name stands atop a list of legends. No. 2 is Tennessee’s Gen. Robert Neyland. No. 3 is Alabama’s Frank Thomas, followed in fourth place by Alabama’s (and Kentucky’s) Paul Bear Bryant.
Spurrier, who won a Heisman Trophy while playing for Florida, will be making his third trip to Gainesville this season and he is only hoping the third trip will be as pleasant an experience for him as the first two. Spurrier attended a reunion for the ’96 national title team in early September and then later in the month came back to be inducted into the Florida Ring of Honor.
Another question Saturday in Gainesville is can Spurrier keep his winning streak alive in Florida-South Carolina games? Spurrier has never been on the losing sideline of a Gator-Gamecock matchup. He posted a 10-0 record at Florida against South Carolina and is 1-0 at S.C. vs. the Gators. Spurrier’s Gamecocks beat Meyer’s Gators last season in Columbia, S.C. – the first and only time Florida has lost to S.C.
And while the storyline being watched by most is that of Meyer trying to escape the shadow of Spurrier’s legend at Florida, there are some real-time storylines as well. Spurrier bringing his 5-4 Gamecocks into Florida hoping for a win that will make his team bowl eligible and send South Carolina bowling for a second year in row. Meyer has his 8-1 Gators in the national championship mix, ranked No. 6 in AP and No. 4 on the BCS list.
Other league games on tap this week include: Georgia (6-4, 3-4) at Auburn (9-1, 5-10), Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5) at Kentucky (5-4, 3-3), Tennessee (7-2, 3-2) at Arkansas (8-1, 5-0), Alabama (6-4, 2-4) at LSU (7-2, 3-2).
This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight with Texas El-Paso at UAB live from Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:
N.C. St. at Clemson, 11 a.m. (WB)
Samford at Jacksonville St., 11 a.m. (CSS)
Wisconsin at Iowa, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Cincinnati at W. Virginia, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Minnesota at Michigan St., 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia at Auburn, 11:30 a.m. (Lincoln Financial)
Baylor at Okla. St.,11:30 a.m. (FSNS)
Miami at Maryland, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
South Carolina at Florida, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Michigan at Indiana, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas Tech at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. (FSNS)
Tennessee at Arkansas, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Duke at Boston College, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Alabama at LSU, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Wake Forest at FSU , 7 p.m. (ABC)
The SEC spotlight will shine on Rocky Top this weekend as 5-2 (2-2 in league games) Alabama invades No. 7 (or 8 depending on which poll you like) Tennessee (5-1, 1-1).
Overall, it’s a ho-hum lineup for SEC teams, with no other league team facing a ranked opponent. But there’s enough intensity, rivalry and drama in the game in Knoxville for an entertaining Saturday.
The Tide and Vols first locked horns on Nov. 18, 1901, and after four quarters of play, nothing had been decided with that first meeting ending in a 0-0 tie and 2,000 fans on the field at Tuscaloosa fighting. The two teams have met on the third Saturday in October every year since 1928 except 1943 during World War II.
The game has always served as a measuring stick for the two teams. Legendary Tennessee coach Gen. Bob Neyland, for whom the stadium in which the game will be played Saturday is named, always said the stiffest test for his team was when it played Alabama. Bama’s Coach Bear Bryant said, “We never know what kind of team we have until we play Tennessee.”
That is the case this year with both teams coming into the game with winning records but many question marks. The rap on Alabama is that it wins against creampuff opponents but can’t beat quality foes. Tennessee has been erratic, looking good for parts of games and bad in others.
Tennessee comes into the game ranked eighth nationally in passing offense and Vol QB Erik Ainge’s passer efficiency rating leads the SEC and ranks seventh in the nation.
One interesting statistical anomaly that will be interesting to see how it plays out will come when Alabama gets a first down inside the Vol 20. Alabama has been miserable in red zone situations this year, having to settle for a field goal most of the time and often not making them. But Tennessee is just as futile in defending the red zone. Vol opponents have scored all 13 times they’ve reached the red zone – nine TDs, four field goals.
While everyone expects Tennessee to mount an aerial attack, the question is will Alabama go to its running game to try and melt the clock, shorten the game and keep the potent Tennessee offense off the field? Or will the Tide lean on its passing game to move the ball. Bama QB John Parker Wilson has racked up seven-straight 200-yard-plus passing games.
Other league games on tap this week include Tulane (2-4) at No. 8 Auburn, Ole Miss (2-5) at No. 15 Arkansas (5-1), Mississippi State (2-5) at Georgia (5-2), South Carolina (4-2) at Vanderbilt (3-4) and Fresno State (1-5) at No. 14 LSU (5-2).
This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight, Friday, with
West Virginia at Connecticut at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:
Texas at Nebraska, 11 a.m. (ABC)
North Carolina St. at Maryland, 11 a.m. (WB)
Michigan State at Northwestern, 11 a.m. (CSS)
Wisconsin at Purdue, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Illinois at Penn State, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Indiana at Ohio State, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
UCLA at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m. (NBC)
Boston College at FSU, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Alabama at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Tennessee State at Jacksonville State, 2:30 p.m. (CSS)
Washington at California, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
TCU at Army, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
North Texas at Arkansas St., 6 p.m. (CSS)
Colorado at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Rutgers at Pitt, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Southern Miss at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia Tech at Clemson, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Fresno State at LSU, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)