Bill Maher once cautioned against saying anything "truthful but unflattering" about a woman. I feel the same way about Alabama football.
Last year, I took many a shot at Nick Saban for being, well, Nick Saban. There's no question that the Nicktator's unceremonious escape from the Miami Dolphins came across as kind of sleazy. The man had earned a reputation as a two-timer and I felt quite comfortable making the joke over and over and over again -- that is, until the threats in the 'Bama fans' e-mails became alarmingly believable.
Earlier this season, though, I flip-flopped and found it within myself to praise Saban for his coaching prowess. A snake or not, the dude can flat out coach. He's shown that clearly this season, as the Crimson Tide enter this Saturday's SEC title game as the only 12-0 team in a BCS conference, and the No. 1 team in the country.
But I'm here to tell you that I'm not buying it. Sorry. I don't think this team will win the national championship. I don't think this team will win this Saturday. And it's not because I'm trying to play devil's advocate. It's because there's still a part of me that believes Saban the devil himself.
Of course, Saban's Crimson Tide have to be the top-ranked team in the country. They've won every game on their schedule, which is about all a team can do, and they're the only unbeaten team from a BCS conference, for which they deserve plenty of clout. However, with arguments over team credibility raging louder than ever before, I'm wondering why more people aren't poking at Alabama (even if only to fire up the SEC homers).
Let's not forget Alabama's 79th ranked schedule (it seems this is always a viable argument against Big Ten teams, but not SEC teams) and let's not forget the lack of veracity of 'Bama's three big wins (Clemson, Georgia and LSU haven't really been relevant since September).
And finally, if you're going to e-mail, could you resist the urge to threaten to track me down and find where I live? I'm still getting used to the new locks.
If you think that this weekend's showdown between USC and UCLA will be painfully unwatchable, you're probably onto something. However, that doesn't mean the game is completely meaningless. In fact, Pete Carroll seems to have brought one of the NCAA's strangest rules to the forefront by attempting to forge his own tradition. Carroll announced this week that he plans on dressing his Trojans in their home, cardinal-colored jerseys despite playing on the road at UCLA. Doing so would violate an NCAA rule that states away teams must wear their white jerseys. It's the penalty for breaking the rule, though, that is the real kicker. The NCAA will let you wear a different jersey if you really want, but your team will be forced to surrender one timeout per half.
This, of course, begs several important questions. For starters, who decided that a two timeout hit was the proper penalty? Was it the same guy who figured that three sets of clothes were enough to get you over a river in Oregon Trail? And furthermore, what would four timeouts buy a team? What about all six? Is there any combination of sacrifices that could buy a team an extra player, a fifth down or free points? Can timeouts be used as currency? These seem like logical questions.
Yeah. Will all defeated and mildly embarrassed Penn State alumni please raise their hands? (Raising hand.)
Two weeks ago, I put out a call to any and all fans planning to watch the maligned "Apple Cup" between Washington and Washington State. My feeling was watching the game would be about as enjoyable as working disaster relief in a third-world country. So, you can imagine my excitement upon receiving an e-mail from Steve M., a Washington student and current Peace Corp volunteer who is, you guessed it, doing actual relief work in Benin, an actual third-world country! Quick Slants: Entertaining hapless Husky fans in Western Africa since 2007!
An abridged version of Steve's synopsis of the game:
I suppose I should have known what I was in for after the Huskies returned the opening kickoff 58 yards, only to have the return nullified by a personal foul. I should have realized then that I would end up writhing on the ground in agony by the time it was over. But it takes a very special brand of gutlessness to have the lead and the ball with under a minute to play and still manage to lose (albeit after two spectacularly unspectacular overtimes).
Yup, Washington lost 16-14 in double overtime. Steve, perhaps you can recruit some Beninese to come back to Seattle and help with the cleanup of the football program.
With ESPN preparing to broadcast the Bowl Championship Series starting in 2011, I have one question for the four-letter network: Can you use your global reach and marketing genius to come up with one decent commercial for the BCS? Sounds ridiculous, but I'm serious. In light of Fox's half-hearted ads that were set to Fall Out Boy tunes and jammed between Animation Domination commercials, ESPN needs to do something more to make people care and forget about the system's injustices. Especially now that the most powerful brand in sports media will be crushing any and all anti-BCS sentiment for the foreseeable future. Might I suggest reviving the old "Y2K" SportsCenter commercial and repurposing it with a BCS context? Seems like it'd work.
1. Better Tennessee decision: Hiring Lane Kiffin or firing Phil Fulmer?
2. Better bowl sponsor: Gaylord Hotels or Roady's?
3. Better French fries:McDonald's or Burger King?
4. Better NCAA first name:Quan or Jacquizz?
5. Smarter TV mammal:Flipper or Lassie?
6. Quirkier formation: Pistol or flexbone?
7. Likelier Charlie Weis fate: Fired or retained?
8. Likelier Britney Spears fate:Low-budget Cinemax movies or VH-1 reality show?
9. Better rivalry name: "Bedlam" or "Civil War"?
10. Better NCAA '09 maneuver: Jumping the snap or attempting the "sway pitch"?
Florida (-9.5) vs. Alabama
Oklahoma (-17) vs. Missouri
Virginia Tech (+1) vs. Boston College
Two weeks ago: 0-3. Season: 10-11.
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every week. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his podcast at SolidVerbal.com.