Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday live blog, Vol. 3

You want to read a college football live blog? You come read mine! I update continually throughout the day! I'm a man! I'm... well, maybe not 40, but I'm a man!

11:15 p.m. No live-blogging of College Football Final this week. Today was tough enough to watch the first time. I'll be back with some more thoughts in the next day or two. Until then, I'm calling it an early night. As always, thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

11:01 p.m. Troy won. Perfect in the Sun Belt. That's good, right? Please, I just need to come away from today with something that puts even the semblance of a smile on my face. Hey, the moon is shining brightly. It's a beautiful, clear night. Definitely a plus.

10:46 p.m. USC gets the onside kick to end it. Chaos pauses.

10:44 p.m. Washington gets tired of waiting for Christmas and lunges for that big package under the tree. A blocked punt is inside, and it's worth seven points. USC clings to a 27-24 lead with under a minute left. This could bump the Trojans below LSU.

10:28 p.m. Yep. The Gators lose. Chaos theory rules the day. Your new No. 3 team looks to be the Cal Golden Bears. After that, who knows? Ohio State? Wisconsin? Hawaii? Maine?

10:21 p.m. Auburn is going to beat Florida. We have a minute and a half left, but it's going to happen. Again. Unreal.

10:10 p.m. Washington hasn't given up yet. The Huskies are down seven with nine and a half minutes left against the nation's No. 1 team that isn't named LSU. Reunite Tyrone Willingham with Notre Dame look-alike uniforms and watch the magic. Or something.

10 p.m. The Tebow plows into the end zone to tie it at 17-17. This game has no business being tied in the middle of the fourth. But on a day when nothing has made sense, it makes perfect sense. With Quentin Groves hurt on the sidelines, the Gators have all the momentum. Could Brandon Cox be a comeback master?

9:42 p.m. Virginia is 4-1 now after losing to Wyoming? Really? How did this happen? Oh, wait, consecutive games against teams led by Chan Gailey and Dave Wannstedt. Yep, that'll do it.

9:39 p.m. The Gators opt not to pack it in yet. Florida cuts it to 17-10 with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.

9:33 p.m. Don't be a I-AA team playing Texas Tech the week after it loses to a team that got obliterated by Troy. Things like 75-7 happen. Mike the Pirate is angry.

9:10 p.m. The Tebow lofts up an air ball to no one in particular that Auburn decides to claim. The Tigers just have Florida's number, year after year after year. It doesn't have to make sense.

9 p.m. The Tebow gets some traction and mounts a drive that bogs down in the shadow of the end zone. Another field goal attempt. This one isn't blocked, for a change. Auburn, 14-3.

8:48 p.m. Out on the West Coast: California edged Oregon in the game of the day, which ABC deemed us Southern types unworthy of seeing. USC just scratched and clawed its way to a three-point halftime lead over Washington on a perilous upset Saturday. And the Bruins are holding off a stiff challenge from the Beavers up in Corvallis. Again: Only Utes beat UCLA.

8:14 p.m. Auburn leads 14-0 at the Swamp. I really wish Tulane hadn't torn open that space-time continuum earlier today.

8:03 p.m. Auburn blocks a field goal. And goes on the move. Sly Croom beat this team. I don't know what to think anymore.

7:58 p.m. Brandon Cox has become the Destroyer of Worlds against Florida, which seems to be an annual occurrence. Auburn leads 7-0, but the Gators are driving. Look, teams that score! In the first half! Such a novel concept.

7:42 p.m. Now we see Jimmy Johns in the game. With an onside kick bouncing off his helmet. It's over. Later, I might have words for what I just witnessed. But not right now. Now is the time for other football. Other football that doesn't hurt so much to see.

7:37 p.m. Alabama scores a too-late touchdown to make it look a little better in the record books. Also, Keith Brown is lucky to be alive after a violent hit at the goal line. FSU, 21-14. It's still over.

7:16 p.m. Unfortunately, D.J. Hall doesn't play defense. Florida State seals it right away with a 70-yard bomb. It's 21-7.

7:12 p.m. D.J. Hall single-handedly refuses to let Alabama lose this game. Touchdown. Unreal catch. FSU still leads, 14-7.

7 p.m. Laughter. Sweet laughter. It makes the pain go away.

6:41 p.m. Alabama has the ball again. I'm going to zone out and go to my happy place. It's safe and warm there.

6:34 p.m. FSU leads, 7-0, after three quarters. I wonder if Alabama will ever score again. Didn't the NCAA ban scoring?

6:29 p.m. Alabama really, really shouldn't be having to punt right now. The ball was on the FSU 24. But here comes the punt. Again. Thanks, penalties. I needed to see another punt.

6:25 p.m. Two straight complete passes! To D.J. Hall! At last!

6:15 p.m. Prince Hall saves the game. No exaggeration. Thank you, sir, for your dedication and loyal service to the Crimson Tide. And, you know, for that interception, too. I liked that. A lot.

6:13 p.m. Then give up a 58-yard bomb deep down field. Damn.

6:09 p.m. Can't get anything going? Just give the ball to Terry Grant a few times and see what happens. Then stop that and punt after yet another incomplete pass.

6:04 p.m. Touchdown, Seminoles. Their coaches settled their offense down at the break. Let's see if ours did the same.

6:01 p.m. We've now found the one way this game could get even worse: FSU is driving the ball with the greatest of ease.

5:58 p.m. Back for the second half. Please score points, Alabama.

5:43 p.m. We emerge from the abyss to look around the country. K-State is mopping the floor with Texas for the second year in a row. Clemson is deep inside its annual reversion to primal self, this time against Georgia Tech. And Maryland just went up 10 on Rutgers. Good day for upsets. But not for Alabama offense.

5:34 p.m. Alabama and FSU finish a first half miserable enough to cure a normal person of any desire to watch football ever again. No score as they head to the locker rooms.

5:31 p.m. Michigan State and Wisconsin are in a shootout in Madison. That means those teams have scored. That means teams can score in football. Someone should send a fax to Jacksonville.

5:22 p.m. P.J. Fitzgerald annihilates the punt for 56 yards. The tide has turned in the field position war. It's something, OK?

5:19 p.m. Andre Smith recovers an Alabama fumble on third-
and-long. That's good enough to vault him to an early lead in the chase for Player of the Game honors. I wish I were kidding.

5:11 p.m. Is every single player on the field going to be injured today? Every time I think this game can't get any uglier, it defies all rhyme and reason and does.

5:04 p.m. Well, it looks like one first down will have to do. More punts. You can never have enough punts. The kids love 'em. On the plus side, Grant walked off the field under his own power.

4:59 p.m. Alabama's initial first down of the game may not be worth the cost. Terry Grant is down after a sick-looking landing on top of his head. All around, this just hasn't been a good day.

4:55 p.m. The Seminoles' long, languid drive goes nowhere in particular and ends with a punt that pins Alabama inside its own 5. Maybe terrible field position can make this better.

4:44 p.m. FSU put together some semblance of a drive, but the Alabama defense was holding as the first quarter ended. That was one of the worst quarters of football, by both sides, that I've ever seen. Mistakes galore and 59 combined yards of total offense, including only 16 for Alabama. Nasty and brutish, but not short.

4:36 p.m. Another punt? Yes, thank you, don't mind if we do.

4:34 p.m. A Florida State field goal attempt goes wide right for the first time in history. We're still scoreless.

4:31 p.m. And the Tide still hasn't gotten a first down. FSU only has one, but it also has the ball in great field position.

4:29 p.m. Alabama tight end Travis McCall is back up after a collision that looked horrifying. Good to see.

4:25 p.m. So, um, Kansas State is beating Texas. Again. By 10. What has happened to my beautiful, beautiful Red River Shootout?

4:17 p.m. Sloppy game all around so far. Nick Saban nearly burst a blood vessel over that delay of game penalty a minute ago. Just hope that intensity carries over onto the field soon.

4:10 p.m. Good Tide defensive stand. Getting it back at the 20.

4:06 p.m. Another three-and-out start. Not what I like to see.

4:02 p.m.
The Alabama game has kicked off down in Jacksonville, which sounds about somewhat less than neutral. The Crimson Tide doesn't even get to wear home colors, for crying out loud.

4:01 p.m. Colorado thins the herd a little more at the top of the heap, blasting a last-second field goal to knock off Oklahoma. Huge win for Dan Hawkins, who really needed one.

3:44 p.m. That would be a touchdown for Colorado to knot it up at 24 with four minutes left. I've gotta say, setting homecoming for the week the nation's No. 3 team comes to town is, um, somewhat unorthodox. But you can't question the results so far.

3:39 p.m. Louisville has rebounded from the complete and utter collapse against Syracuse last week, jumping out to a 10-0 lead at N.C. State. The Orange, meanwhile, have built on the momentum by trailing Miami by only 14 at halftime. No, not that one. The other one. The original one. From Ohio.

3:28 p.m. So it doesn't look like LSU will suffer much in the polls for its early struggles against the Green Wave. Oklahoma is clinging to a late seven-point lead in Boulder with the Buffaloes on the march. Anything can happen. College football rules.

3:13 p.m. No, that's fine, ABC. I didn't want to see California-
Oregon anyway. It's only the national game of the week. No one cares about that sort of thing down here. We'd much rather watch USC mutilate yet another average Pac-10 team tonight.

3:07 p.m. No letdown from an emotional win for Georgia this week. After some early struggles, the Dawgs are cruising, 38-17, against The Orgeron. At press time, Colonel Reb was crying and unavailable for comment.

2:44 p.m. Michigan has survived Northwestern. Purdue has survived Notre Dame. It's arguable which is less impressive.

2:36 p.m. Navy is up 11 on Air Force and just recovered a fumble. Say hello to that Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, guys.

2:32 p.m. Illinois has officially crushed Penn State's hopes and dreams in what was probably the game of the day so far. Be careful in how you approach Beano Cook for the next few hours.

2:27 p.m. Beware the second coming of Appalachian State: Late in the third, really good I-AA team Massachusetts trails unbeaten Boston College by only three. The lesson: Don't schedule really good I-AA teams. No good can come of it.

2:16 p.m. LSU has grown weary of your doubts. It's 34-9 now.

2:10 p.m. Notre Dame... rallying? On the road? In the fourth quarter? But... but it's been so long. I'm not sure if I'm ready.

2:05 p.m. That punt that South Carolina just blocked could be significant. And is, because Chris Smelley just gave the Gamecocks the lead on the next play. It's 24-21 for the garnet and black.

1:46 p.m. The guys from Starkville lead a good South Carolina team on the road. If I'm in charge at Mississippi State, I beg Lincoln Financial to send the Daves to every one of my games.

1:37 p.m. Kentucky refuses to lose to something called "Florida Atlantic," even if it's coached by Howard Schnellenberger, and even if he did play for Bear Bryant at Kentucky, and even if that means he's been a UK man for a very long time. It's 28-10, and these Wildcats look very much legitimate. They may not win the SEC East, but they'll definitely help decide who does.

1:20 p.m. LSU 13, Tulane 9. Middle of the third quarter. Really.

1:15 p.m. Kirk Ferentz is earning that $2.8 million a year in style right now, assuming that trailing Indiana at home in the third quarter is the latest thing on the runways of Manhattan.

1:07 p.m. Speaking of Duke, things may be looking up there. The Blue Devils broke their epic losing streak two weeks ago, then lost a heart-breaker at Navy. Now they're only down three late in the third quarter at Miami. At this rate, they may get fans remotely interested in something that doesn't involve a basketball.

12:57 p.m. You may have heard at some point that Michigan lost to a I-AA team to start the season. Then the Wolverines beat down previously undefeated Penn State. Today, they're losing at halftime to Northwestern, which two weeks ago was polite enough to break Duke's 22-game losing streak. Big Ten fever: Catch it!

12:33 p.m. Tulane leads a football game. Against LSU. The space-time continuum has been torn asunder. Napoleon and Abe Lincoln are floating outside my window.

12:23 p.m. OK, so LSU has no rushing yards and just gave up a safety to Tulane. It's 7-2 late in the second quarter. Renewed rivalry or not, this isn't exactly helping the case for No. 1.

12:17 p.m. The talking heads keep warning that Notre Dame could open 0-8 before the Navy and Air Force games arrive. But that assumes the service academies would lose to the Irish. Why would you assume that anyone would do that at this point? Purdue is up 20-0 and driving again. This is awful. It's even worse than that 10-turnover party that purported to be football last night.

12:05 p.m. Mississippi State has tied it up in Columbia and has rebounded nicely from that opening drive. Is Sylvester Croom turning the corner at last? Too early to tell right now.

12:04 p.m. LSU is only up 7-0 midway through the second quarter. I blame the white helmets. And the pelican patches. And no one actually paying attention to this game.

11:56 a.m. It may be coming together at Illinois. Or it may be coming apart at Penn State. Whatever it is, the Illini lead in the second quarter. Be sure to tune in to the Big Ten Network for all the action! If you can. Which you probably can't.

11:45 a.m. LSU and Tulane? Someone should tape this, because I get the feeling that key portions of the Geneva Conventions that are neither "quaint" nor "obsolete" will be violated today.

11:30 a.m. Ah, the day has begun the way it should: with the Daves formerly known as JP Sports bringing me an SEC game that no one else wanted. So far, it looks like Steve Spurrier is in good shape to avoid the morning upset his friend from the Plains got.

More quick hits from the home state

Is it usually this busy at the end of September? I blame the fiscal year for taking the coward's way out and ending instead of staying the course. Time for a few highlights from this week:
  • Terry Everett, that seventh guy you can't remember when you're trying to name Alabama's congressmen, will leave Capitol Hill in 2009. So far, it seems Gov. Bob Riley's horse Sandman and I are the only ones in the entire state who aren't considering a run to replace Everett. The district is a very likely Republican hold, even given that 2008 is shaping up as a terrible year for the GOP nationally.
  • Given that no one listed on its board appears to have known they were considered board members, can we be sure that the state two-year college system's foundation even exists? Any chance we're all just having a mass hallucination?
  • OK, Troy, seriously? You can stop now. It's not helping.
Another Saturday live blog? Don't mind if I do. It's coming next.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why do you all keep staring?

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, totally doesn't know any gay Iranians. Because there aren't any, he told the world today.

And OK, even if there were some -- which, again, there absolutely aren't -- he certainly wouldn't know anything about who they are, or where they live, or what they like to do. Look, what you need to understand is that he's not the kind of guy who would spend his time just hanging around a bunch of gay people.

Which is convenient, because there aren't any in Iran. Which is where he lives. And gay people don't. None.

Support the Bald Eagle Apple Pie Act of 2007

I'm wary of any government act or entity that feels the need to wrap itself in any form of the word patriot. It was that way even before the Patriot Act, and whatever the state's new Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission does, I don't see that changing.

Its name aside, the commission is interesting not so much for what it may end up saying -- federal law largely controls in the realm of illegal immigration, even if states bear most of its costs -- as for the rift it may reveal among Alabama Republicans. The legislative force behind the panel's creation, Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, asserts in today's Huntsville Times that business and industry groups so dominate the group that its findings are preordained.

It may seem a bit surprising to hear a GOP politician arguing that businesses are getting too much say in something. That's especially so when you consider that five of the nine business representatives on the 21-member panel are there because Beason's fellow Republican, Gov. Bob Riley, put them there.

Remember, though, that Beason for a time last year considered a grassroots run for Alabama Republican Party chairman against Riley's favorite candidate, Mike Hubbard, before deciding not to fight that battle. Beason remains a strong force among the state GOP's social conservatives, so his remarks about the immigration committee lead one to wonder if Riley needs to engage in some intra-party fence-mending.

After all, it would be the patriotic thing to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday live blog, Vol. 2

It was so much fun the first time that I'm reviving it. A shamelessly partisan Alabama fan with a television full of college football and an Internet connection? Maybe some good can come of this. Updates will come more or less continually throughout the day.

1:04 a.m. The only game that hasn't gone final is in Hawaii, and considering it involves an unbeaten I-A team and something called "Charleston Southern," I'm not too worried about that.

I'm calling it a night. Thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

12:49 a.m. Washington, down 10 with four and a half minutes left, is trying for a furious comeback in Pasadena. You usually need to recover an onside kick for that, though, which seems to be a problem. UCLA will win at home, proving once again that the Notre Dame fan base was right all along about Tyrone Willingham, or something, because the Irish clearly wouldn't get run out of the stadium against the Bruins this year. So there.

12:25 a.m. Utah has followed its cold-hearted dismemberment of UCLA by getting trounced 27-0 at UNLV. That brings this year's record to 1-3. Sorry, Bruins: Only you get to lose to Utes.

12:23 a.m. Yeah, that 100-yard pick-six by Wake should be the game changing performance this week. The LSU fake field goal also would be acceptable, but only because it rocked.

12:10 a.m. Wake Forest had the best win of the day. Going from a yard away from falling down 28 against a conference rival to winning in overtime? That's the kind of game that saves seasons.

12:03 a.m. The GameDay folks remind everyone that Notre Dame is still really, really bad. Question: Could an 0-8 "start" really be considered a start in a season that consists of only 12 games? That'd be like saying President Bush really got off on the wrong foot from 2001 to 2007, but now his tenure has really begun.

11:59 p.m. A pick-six puts UCLA up by two TDs at the Rose Bowl. Maybe now you'll forget that the state of Utah even exists, huh?

11:57 p.m. A fellow Tide fan speculates that Alabama and Arkansas took so much out of each other last week that their losses this week were inevitable. I see some validity to that.

11:53 p.m. More Holtz: "You've gotta stop tackling like you're Venus de Milo and you don't have any arms." Age brings wisdom.

11:48 p.m. Lou Holtz is doing quadratic equations, or rambling about crazy people, or maybe having a seizure. If someone in Bristol is reading this, please give Sweet Lou a sizable raise and a guaranteed lifetime contract. I need this entertainment on my TV.

11:46 p.m. Louisville makes me feel better, because Alabama isn't Louisville. My team did not, in fact, lose to a bottom-feeder.

11:43 p.m. Hey, live football is still available. Washington and UCLA are duking it out in the middle of the night for the right to finish in the middle of the Pac-10 standings. Someone notify the Las Vegas Bowl representative ASAP.

11:41 p.m. Rece Davis restores the happiness with a joke about Les Miles' tight-fitting hat. Yes, you had to be there.

11:35 p.m. Endless talk about the Alabama game. I zoned out for a while there, trying to ignore the visiting fans' celebration.

11:30 p.m. College Football Final is here. They open with Arkansas-Kentucky. It's only a matter of time until Alabama.

11:25 p.m. Addendum to an observation from earlier today: Penn State is now in fourth place in the Southern Conference, thanks to Wofford's stirring victory over Appalachian State.

11:11 p.m. Further reflection confirms that this wasn't a bad loss for Alabama. Georgia had better talent and set the tone for much of the game, but the Crimson Tide still conjured the heart to mount a comeback and force overtime when it had no business doing so. Alabama started things very slowly, probably due to a hangover from last week, but the team only had one turnover and never gave up, even down 10 in the fourth quarter. Nick Saban is squeezing all he can out of the talent he has on hand, and that's all you can ask. There's no shame in losing a nail-biter to Georgia.

10:36 p.m. Why exactly is Kirk Ferentz getting paid $2.8 million a year? I'd be perfectly willing to rack up mediocre seasons and inexplicable losses to Iowa State for a tenth of the price.

10:32 p.m. Memo to Wisconsin fans: A stadium full of football fans shouldn't be singing "Build Me Up Buttercup" with two minutes left in a tight conference game. That's just weird.

10:28 p.m. Time to seek relief in football in which I have no emotional investment whatsoever. Wisconsin is still burnishing those Top 10 credentials -- a near-miss against UNLV, a shootout with The Citadel -- by taking a four-point lead at home late in the fourth quarter against a team that just lost to Iowa State. Also, the unstoppable Oregon Ducks now trail Stanford. Yay, I guess.

10:21 p.m. And that does it. Georgia hits a mirror image of the South Florida touchdown that beat Auburn two weeks ago on the first play from scrimmage in OT. Dawgs, 26-23. That hurts, even if Georgia by all rights should have won in regulation.

10:20 p.m. Alabama has its first lead of the night, under the most uncomfortable circumstances imaginable. Tide, 23-20.

10:17 p.m. Alabama's up first, and the Tide needs a touchdown. If this becomes a kicking contest, Alabama can't keep up.

10:13 p.m. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Georgia's Kicker of Doom misses from 47 yards. Overtime. Hope remains.

10:11 p.m. Don't end like this. I'll be sick if it ends like this.

10:04 p.m. Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Wilson takes it in himself for the second time tonight, and we're tied at 20.

9:55 p.m. YES! YES! YES! YES! Huge completion inside Georgia territory. Come on, guys. Do this thing.

9:51 p.m. All-world stand from the Alabama defense. Plenty of time and a full complement of timeouts for John Parker Wilson's guys to drive the length of the field. Let's see who wants it more.

9:45 p.m. Georgia's defense still being what it is, Alabama settles for the chip-shot field goal. 20-13, UGA. Six and a half minutes left. This can still happen, however improbable it seems.

9:42 p.m. Reversed. Finally. Punch it in, guys. We need this TD.

9:39 p.m. That is a catch by D.J. Hall. That is the clearest catch that there ever was. This call must be reversed.

9:37 p.m. A good drive almost ground to a halt thanks to a comedy of errors. Thank you, obvious pass interference call, for keeping my Crimson Tide alive.

9:33 p.m. First downs. As in more than one of them. Baby steps.

9:30 p.m. Keith Brown snares a big-time open-field catch to put a little life back in the stadium. It's not over quite yet.

9:24 p.m. The Alabama defense stiffens to hold Georgia to a field goal try. The Kicker of Doom puts it through. 20-10, Dawgs. The way this game has gone, that may be an insurmountable lead. Still lots of time left if the Tide wants to start doing something, though.

9:18 p.m. Georgia shouldn't keep getting first downs on second efforts, but it does. The Bulldogs just want it more. Maybe this will turn around in the fourth quarter, but I have my doubts.

9:11 p.m. Alabama should have smothered that punt. Then again, Georgia should be up by 20, too, so pick your battles, I guess.

9:08 p.m. Sometimes dropped passes and holding penalties are your only friends. Just be glad you have friends.

9:05 p.m. Alabama can't keep Georgia's defensive linemen out of the backfield, and it can't get receivers open down field. These things pose certain problems when your goal is to score points.

9 p.m. Moreno bulldozes into the end zone to give Georgia a 17-10 lead. Not good. Not good at all.

8:58 p.m. The Alabama secondary is being shredded piecemeal during a long drive. This would be considered a problem.

8:50 p.m. Touchdown, Alabama! John Parker Wilson punches it in, and Leigh Tiffin ties it with the PAT. That's what we needed.

8:46 p.m. Terry Grant! Terry Grant! Terry Grant! Run, Terry!

8:45 p.m. Rashad Johnson and Prince Hall team up to force a Stafford pick. Alabama has to turn this into points.

8:42 p.m. Oh, it is? Well, all right then. Here's another punt.

8:40 p.m. Just a first down or two, guys. Just enough to give the defense a breather. That's not too much to ask, is it?

8:37 p.m. Brandon Coutu, the Kicker of Doom, actually misses a field goal. Alabama should be down by about 20 points by now, but the margin is still only seven. I'll not complain a bit.

8:36 p.m. Thank you, thank you, thank you for that stand, guys.

8:35 p.m. Well, damn. There goes that.

8:34 p.m. Alabama gets the ball to start the second half. This desperately needs to be a sustained drive.

8:31 p.m. Kentucky has finished off Arkansas. Defense may win championships, but offense certainly can win a lot of games.

8:26 p.m. Brian Brohm threw for 555 yards today for Louisville, and he has no chance at the Heisman. That's what two losses in September will do for you. Don't feel too bad for him, though; the NFL money is still going to spend quite nicely.

8:20 p.m. Iowa State is following up its inspiring upset of Iowa -- its seventh win over the Hawkeyes in 10 years -- by falling behind a winless MAC team. The Big 12 Network: Demand it!

8:16 p.m. Emerging briefly from my crimson-clad bunker, I find Kentucky down two and driving near midfield with five minutes left. Arkansas is at home and probably needs this one more, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

8:12 p.m. Two overthrown touchdown passes in the last few minutes. Leigh Tiffin converts a badly needed field goal from 40 yards away to put the halftime score at 10-3. Alabama is so very, very lucky to be down only seven. Aside from that last drive, it's been complete domination by the Bulldogs thus far.

8:08 p.m. John Parker Wilson almost got beheaded. Scary sight. Good job of working the sidelines at the end of the half.

8 p.m. Arkansas clings to an eight-point lead over Kentucky. Auburn has clawed its way back in front of New Mexico State. And Alabama's offense still hasn't registered any vital signs. Maybe the next hour will be better. How about another punt?

7:58 p.m. Look, I know Todd Blackledge was just in Tuscaloosa last week. But I promise there's more than one place to eat in that town. You don't have to limit yourself to the Quad.

7:55 p.m. Another flailing drive full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This is getting old. Time for another defensive stop.

7:49 p.m. Brandon Coutu drills a field goal that would have been good from Bessemer. 10-0, Georgia. The Tide was lucky to hold them out of the end zone. Now the offense has to get going.

7:47 p.m. Keep imploding with penalties, Dawgs. Yes, like that.

7:44 p.m. Matthew Stafford has turned into Peyton Manning in his Super Bowl prime. Georgia can't do anything wrong right now.

7:37 p.m. Well, that didn't turn out like it should have. Georgia takes over at its 30 after John Parker Wilson is unable to produce an otherwise absent receiver out of whole cloth.

7:32 p.m. D.J. Hall corrects that "no passing game" problem. Now it's just a matter of keeping it going.

7:30 p.m. Alabama has precisely no passing game right now. And that makes it tough to have a running game.

7:28 p.m. They made the stop. That was crucial. Good field position after the near-block of the Georgia punt.

7:24 p.m. Third and 11 coming up for the Bulldogs when we return for the second quarter. Please make the stop here, guys.

7:21 p.m. As I feared, Alabama still doesn't look like it's over that Arkansas game. Georgia is hungry for this one.

7:14 p.m. So, um, Auburn is losing. Again. To New Mexico State. Whatever. More important business is at hand, such as figuring out that stifling Georgia defense.

7:12 p.m. And there's that three-and-out the Tide didn't need.

7:09 p.m. INT! INT! INT! There's that break the Tide needed.

7:08 p.m. Knowshon Moreno gets swarmed under. Alabama needs more of that. The rain is really coming down now.

7:01 p.m. Great defensive schemes by Georgia. Here's the punt. This is the first slow start of the year. Alabama somehow has to grab the momentum back or it could get ugly.

6:59 p.m. Terry Grant is a running back of some renown and considerable talent. Perhaps you've noticed.

6:55 p.m. Alabama's defense didn't know what in the hell was happening there. As is often the case, that leads to a touchdown. A ludicrously easy opening drive gives Georgia a 7-0 lead.

6:53 p.m. No, sir, I don't like this. I don't like this at all.

6:51 p.m. Matthew Stafford is doing a good job of establishing the passing game. Great run by Sean Bailey to get the first down.

6:47 p.m. Kickoff. Georgia gets the ball first. Get loud, everyone.

6:45 p.m. I wish this song ESPN is foisting upon me would go away. I can watch football without 50 Cent involved, I promise.

6:44 p.m. Bryant-Denny is rocking. The Crimson Tide has taken the field. It's Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. It's great to be alive.

6:40 p.m. Did you know Connecticut is still undefeated? Neither did I. Do you actually care? Same here.

6:30 p.m. One reason Darren McFadden might not snag the Heisman: He plays for the most erratic team in the country. Arkansas struggled for three quarters against Troy, then got buried by Alabama only to bounce back sky-high only to crash hard back to earth. Tonight, the Razorbacks were on their way to destruction of Kentucky before suddenly handing the Wildcats a game-saving fumble return for a touchdown. In the immortal words of the football masters at Every Day Should Be Saturday, "Avoid depending on [Arkansas] to even exist."

6:12 p.m. Darren McFadden just obliterated the Kentucky defense. That wasn't even fair. He's so clearly better than any other player on the field that it isn't even funny. Yet something tells me the Heisman still will go to the latest in a line of interchangeable quarterbacks for some overhyped top-five team that will get exposed in an embarrassing bowl game misadventure.

6:03 p.m. LSU may be punished in the polls for South Carolina's late rally. It shouldn't be. The Gamecocks are better than anyone USC has played thus far. Not that things like that matter.

5:56 p.m. Is it wrong that I really wanted to see the end of the Ohio-Wyoming game? Yeah, you're right, it is. My apologies.

5:47 p.m. Lloyd Carr likes having work after all. Michigan once again makes Penn State call it daddy, dropping the Nittany Lions to third place in the Southern Conference standings.

5:43 p.m. A field goal, Steve? After all that work? A field goal to cut it to 18 in the fourth? Please, think about the click-clack.

5:38 p.m. Number of Appalachian State touchdowns in the Big House: Four. Number of Penn State touchdowns in the Big House: Zero. I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.

5:33 p.m. I missed that LSU fake field goal flip pass that sent it to 21-7 when it happened, but I just caught it on replay. Simply a beautiful piece of trickeration. This is a scarily good team.

5:22 p.m. I'm really tired of hearing about Gary Danielson's jacket. This is the third time, and I've only watched intermittently.

5:21 p.m. Arkansas has jumped all over Kentucky early. This could bode well for Alabama's chances tonight.

5:18 p.m. Mike Hart is trying to will Michigan single-handedly to victory. And it's working. Penn State's down 14-6 midway through the fourth. Someone should break the news to Beano Cook.

5:08 p.m. We're a little under two hours away from kickoff in Tuscaloosa, and I don't have a very good feeling about this one. Too many teams have slumped today after emotionally draining games, and no game last week was more emotional than the Crimson Tide's roller-coaster win over Arkansas. And that's not to mention that Georgia's defense easily is better than any that Alabama has seen thus far. With that said, I've learned not to doubt the Saban-era Tide until the clock reads triple zeros.

5:01 p.m. Penn State has to get over that mental block against Michigan if it ever hopes to rejoin college football's elite year in and year out. JoePa's crew stalls out in the red zone and hits another field goal to make it 7-6, Wolverines. Appalachian State hasn't lost nine in a row to Michigan. Why should Penn State?

4:54 p.m. Jacob Hester plows into the end zone. 28-7, LSU. This team should frighten any reasonable observer.

4:45 p.m. Steve Spurrier really shouldn't have gone for it on fourth down there. The literal floodgates are already open. Now the metaphorical ones are about to be, too.

4:38 p.m. LSU is slowly grinding down South Carolina in a rainstorm. I still think this is the nation's No. 1 team, especially now that USC's win at Nebraska looks nowhere near as impressive as it did before a MAC team almost did the same thing today.

4:26 p.m. Once you get beyond Oklahoma and Texas, the Big 12 just isn't very good. A Miami team annihilated in Norman turned around and destroyed Texas A&M on Thursday. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State got firebombed in Troy (no offense to Troy, but you know, Sun Belt) but is in a shootout with perennially good-
but-not-great Texas Tech. And you can't forget that Ball State problem for Nebraska and that "losing to a I-AA team" problem for Iowa State. Does anyone actually want to try to keep up with the Longhorns and Sooners anymore? Kansas? Missouri? Bueller?

4:05 p.m. Around the Big Ten today: Ohio State is introducing Northwestern to ruthless aggression to the tune of 45-0 before the half. Michigan is still very much in Penn State's head, despite that pick to end the half. Michigan State is letting Notre Dame stay in it. And Illinois somehow has managed to open 3-1, perhaps because its last three games have been against Western Illinois, Syracuse, and Indiana. The Big Ten Network: Order now!

3:59 p.m. The Tigers didn't capitalize on that fumble, but that beautiful circus interception I just saw may be a different matter.

3:40 p.m. LSU snags a fumble as the rain pours down. It begins.

3:34 p.m. Navy drills a dead-center perfect field goal with no time left to beat Duke at home. That'll be 46 very excited push-
ups, and one more reminder that a win is a win.

3:33 p.m. LSU can beat you with the pass, too. Matt Flynn puts the Tigers up 14-7. The Gamecocks haven't surrendered yet, but it still feels like LSU is about to break the game open.

3:28 p.m. A clutch interception and a huge QB draw have Navy near field goal range with 21 seconds left. Come on, guys.

3:25 p.m. Navy has come back to tie Duke at 43. Blue Devils ball. Ninety seconds left. You better believe I'm watching this.

3:17 p.m. LSU doesn't like to trail, so it decides it won't. Trindon Holliday rumbles untouched through a manhandled South Carolina defensive line to tie the game at 7-7.

3:10 p.m. Huge news in Baton Rouge: The Ol' Ball Coach has taken an early lead on LSU. Death Valley is deafeningly quiet. In far less important news, Notre Dame finally has an offensive touchdown, and it didn't even take 13 full quarters to do it. It's probably still somehow Tyrone Willingham's fault, though, right?

3:04 p.m. Early on, Michigan is handling undefeated Big Ten favorite Penn State pretty easily. Michigan got schooled by a I-AA team three weeks ago. This suggests uncomfortable things about the state of Big Ten football.

2:55 p.m. Nebraska has notched a late touchdown and survived a wide-left field goal attempt to capture a one-point thriller in Lincoln. Remember, though: A win is a win. Even when it's against David Letterman University.

2:50 p.m. Ole Miss fails to convert on the most obvious fake punt in this century. Florida is three minutes away from a tough win over a team that Vandy handled last week. No weeks off in the SEC.

2:46 p.m. Syracuse has finished off Louisville. Could be a long season along the banks of the Ohio River if they don't right the ship in a hurry, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

2:40 p.m. What is it about the Gators when they play mediocre teams in the state of Mississippi? Ole Miss holds Florida to a field goal to make it 30-24 with five minutes to go.

2:32 p.m. Allow me to take a moment, belated though it may be, to share my condolences with the folks in College Station after yet another spectacular wipeout against a big-name opponent Thursday night. Still want to gloat about your shiny new coach?

2:27 p.m. Courageous effort by Army, which is hanging tight with Boston College in the third quarter. The Cadets seem to want it more than the Eagles, but I'm not sure that'll be enough.

2:14 p.m. Ole Miss has cut the lead to three. I am sorry for underestimating you, The Orgeron. Please spare the innocent ones. They deserve not your fearsome wrath.

2:12 p.m. David Letterman University won in Annapolis last week and leads by 10 at Nebraska in the fourth quarter. This leads to the inevitable question: Just how good is Miami of Ohio?

2:09 p.m. Touchdown, Virginia. That's about right. Cavs, 28-23.

2:08 p.m. Georgia Tech has rebounded to grab a two-point lead in Charlottesville. And as soon as I type those words, the Yellow Jackets muff a punt and give it back to the Cavaliers in excellent field position. I should know better than to compliment them.

1:57 p.m. The Orgeron is being mastered by an even more indomitable SEC force: The Tebow. It's 27-9, and the margin is probably going to grow from there. Nice job by Florida to ride out the kind of emotional high that can only come from brutally and thoroughly abusing the hated Tennessee Volunteers last week.

1:50 p.m. ESPN2 has euthanized the broadcast of Rich Rod's massacre of ECU and replaced it with Syracuse's Last Stand. The Orange -- not the Orangemen, they'll have you know -- are up 10 and have the ball near midfield early in the fourth. Fairly or not, this would end the "Brian Brohm for Heisman" talk once and for all.

1:42 p.m. OK, maybe it's not that bad for Navy to lose to Ball State after all. The Cardinals from David Letterman University lead at Nebraska midway through the third quarter. An 11-point halftime deficit to Duke, however, is still as bad as it seems.

1:33 p.m. This is the worst Notre Dame team in modern history. It hasn't even scored an offensive touchdown yet, three games into the season. By any and all objective measures, it should be easy pickings for Navy finally to break that 43-game losing streak against an abysmal Fighting Irish squad. So of course this year's Midshipmen would lose to Ball State last week and trail Duke at home just before halftime this week. It's just not fair.

1:25 p.m. And we're back. Louisville is still turning in the epic choke job of the day. Elsewhere in the Big East, South Florida and West Virginia are in cruise control. Looks like those two will pair up with Rutgers to decide that conference.

12:45 p.m. No finer time for lunch than now, before all of the SEC action cranks up in earnest. Back in a bit.

12:37 p.m. Rece Davis drops a "Tell 'em about it, Jo Jo!" reference to The Orgeron, revealing once again why all other ESPN talking heads must seek shelter in the shadow of his greatness.

12:35 p.m. Letdown alert continues in the early games. Louisville has gone to the locker room down 21-7. Georgia Tech trails 21-14. Florida clings to a one-point lead in Oxford. And Nebraska is knotted up at 7-7 with Ball State.

12:23 p.m. Syracuse leads 21-7. The Orange already have scored more points in the first half against Louisville than they have in any of their first three games. Papa John can't like this.

12:21 p.m. Ole Miss boldly kicks another field goal. Unfortunately for them, Florida opted to score the touchdown earlier. Gators, 7-6. Someone give The Orgeron another Red Bull.

12:19 p.m. Forfeit your shot at a national title with blown pass coverage against your in-state rival last week? Why not follow it up by losing at home to the worst Syracuse team in decades, if not ever? Louisville, down 14-7 late in the second quarter, looks like it's trying to do just that.

11:54 a.m. Ole Miss mounts a good drive to the red zone against Florida, then promptly remembers that it's Ole Miss and kicks a field goal. The Orgeron has a home lead, which means no throats will be torn out in northern Mississippi. For now.

11:50 a.m. Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, and USC have emerged, in various orders, as everyone's top four teams. West Virginia looks like it wants to become the fifth. Rich Rod's crew is up 17-0 on an East Carolina team that's winless but much better than you think.

11:44 a.m. Make that 21-7 for Virginia. Guess the Yellow Jackets aren't back from that watery grave where BC sent them last week.

11:39 a.m. Georgia Tech and Virginia are doing battle. Which team will revert to primal self first? Which coach will manage to wring the most mediocrity out of yet another disappointing and agonizing season? Early, the Cavaliers are up, 14-7.

11:30 a.m. Football has begun, but it's a little tough to stay focused on it without any personal rooting interest. South Florida is showing precisely no signs of a post-bye letdown after the Auburn win, which has lost a bit of its luster thanks to that Crooming at Jordan-Hare Stadium last week.

11:15 a.m. College GameDay was in Tuscaloosa this morning for the first time since... 2005. It wasn't that long ago, but it seems like forever. Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit split on the main event, with the old QB from The Ohio State University picking the Georgia "upset" (not sure I'd use that word) and Corso clumsily donning an elephant head. Among the best crowd signs: "Brandon Cox for Heisman" and "Rushing Yards: N.D.: -14, Me: 0."

Quick hits from the home state

This week has been one for the road, so that "post an update at some point in the next week" thing didn't work out so well. Let's look at a few of the things that have gone down in my absence:
That's about it for now. Your second-ever Saturday football live-blog is coming momentarily. It's good to be back.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sorry to disappoint

I won't have a live blog of the college football action today -- other obligations and all that -- but I'll try to post some thoughts, musings, and reflections later tonight or Sunday. And fear not, half-dozen avid weekend readers: The live blog will be back soon because it was too much fun for me not to do it again.

Roll Tide, and enjoy your football Saturday.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Remember, he's in until 2011

You might be the kind who foresees a hot pennant race between the Devil Rays and the Royals in the near future. Or maybe you're the sort who projects a showdown between Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich in fall 2008. Perhaps you have a long list of reasons to believe these things.

If so, go ahead and ignore this post about Troy King's latest antics. Otherwise, let's read along with today's Birmingham News, where we learn that Alabama's attorney general has removed the Shelby County district attorney from a capital murder case. Why? Because the DA had the gall to suggest that the judge should convert someone's death sentence to life behind bars.

Sure, you might say the defendant didn't actually shoot anyone. You might note that the person who actually did the killing can't be executed because he was a juvenile at the time and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it's unconstitutional to execute offenders for crimes they committed when they were under 18.

You also might observe, apropos to nothing, that the Republican DA publicly supported King's Democratic opponent last year. And you might even point out that the judge's ruling quoted King's own damn legal argument, from a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, that it "would defy common sense" to execute the person who didn't shoot but not the person who did.

But you'd just be missing the big picture. The Rays have a great farm system, dude. They're gonna own next year.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why is Osama still on the loose?

Osama bin Laden may well be "virtually impotent," as President Bush's national security adviser, Frances Townsend, put it today, rearing his revolting head only in the occasional formulaic terrorist propaganda video. But that's also not the point.

Bin Laden is a monster who masterminded the 9/11 attacks, a.k.a. the murders of nearly 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil. It's not enough just to keep him running from one hiding place to another, or to be satisfied because he hasn't struck again in the United States. Everything that is good and decent and just in the world cries out for him to be captured and held accountable.

In the famous words of a man who once commanded the world's respect before he got himself stuck in an intractable, seemingly never-ending Iraq debacle he doesn't know how to escape: "There is no question about it. This act will not stand. We will find those who did this, we will smoke them out of their holes, we will get them running, and we will bring them to justice."

Six years later, I can only hope those words still mean something.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The requisite live blog experiment

I've never tried to live-blog a football Saturday before. Why not change that now, with no build-up and a diminished readership since real life led me to slow down my posting? I'll update this post throughout the day -- more or less.

1:45 a.m. No objections to any of the helmet stickers. My own goes to Terry Grant. May he always run, in the words of Rick Bragg, "like something bad is after him."

With that, I close out more than 14 hours of continual posting and wish you all a lovely night. Thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

1:40 a.m. As ever, Rece Davis is a voice of reason in the "Who's No. 1?" debate. Move teams up and down based on what they accomplish, not how you feel about them? Brilliant!

1:37 a.m. Kirk Herbstreit says USC hasn't played anyone yet, so it should stay at the top of the polls. What?

1:35 a.m. That LSU touchdown run was just sick. No clear-cut winner for the game-changing performance this week, though.

1:23 a.m. Troy kept the score respectable in the Swamp, a week after a physically draining trip to Arkansas. Larry Blakeney is doing something right on the Wiregrass.

1:12 a.m. With Boise State, Southern Miss, and TCU all going down today, Hawaii looks like the last great hope for the non-BCS conferences to break into the big bowls. I have my doubts.

1:09 a.m. South Carolina's win looks even better in retrospect. Steve Spurrier could be over the hump at last in Columbia, however odd it may be to see him leaning on the defense. Could the SEC East come down to the Gamecocks and Gators?

1:01 a.m. The Sooners looked good, but Texas won't roll over. That was a solid win over a good TCU team that was out for blood.

12:58 a.m. LSU should be ranked No. 1 next week. No one has ever dismantled a Frank Beamer team like that.

12:52 a.m. OK, Michigan and Notre Dame aren't doing very well. At the same time. And they're going to play each other. We get it.

12:48 a.m. Mike Hart guarantees a Michigan victory next week? Not sure if this is the right time for a Joe Namath moment.

12:45 a.m. College Football Final is here. Yes, I'm live-blogging this. Why not? Rece Davis is a vital part of my football Saturdays.

12:18 a.m. Yeah, about that Hawkins thing earlier? Never mind. Arizona State is in cruise control, and Dennis Erickson, as ever, is building something scary. This time, it's in the desert.

12:02 a.m. The Saturday live-blogging continues into Sunday, as Wisconsin finally dispatches with a Mountain West team that went 2-10 last year. Still, the lesson of the day endures: A win is a win.

11:50 p.m. Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! USF does it, 26-23. This may be the biggest win in the Bulls' history. Even if they won it because Auburn lost it. Big notch in the Big East's belt.

11:45 p.m. USF holds Auburn to a field goal. It shouldn't come down to another kick. But given recent history, it probably will.

11:41 p.m. Excuse me if this is rude, but I don't think a team that trails UNLV midway through the fourth belongs in the top five.

11:39 p.m. LSU mercifully opts not to hang half a hundred on the Hokies. Meanwhile, Tommy Tuberville opts to go to overtime.

11:36 p.m. Another field goal. Good, for a change. Tied at 20-20.

11:32 p.m. Two minutes. Eight yards. Please, no more field goals.

11:27 p.m. By every possible measure, Auburn should be losing big right now. But it's winning. Unreal.

11:17 p.m. Another missed USF field goal. That distinctly wasn't a touchdown. It wasn't even a field goal. Auburn is the luckiest team in the world tonight. This won't work against the SEC schedule.

11:09 p.m. A field goal! A field goal! My kingdom for a field goal! South Florida ties it up -- at last -- at 17-all.

11:07 p.m. LSU is setting ACC football back 30 years. 41-7. Ouch.

11:01 p.m. South Florida is getting chance after chance, but the Bulls can't get anything going. Auburn is doing just enough to win.

10:56 p.m. Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins has never lost a football game. Ever. And with the Buffaloes up 14-7 on Arizona State, that may not change tonight. Lots of Colorado fans figure Dan Hawkins has the answer for the Buffaloes' ills. But how many think he raised the answer from birth?

10:47 p.m. Blocked field goal attempt. There's a quarter left, but Auburn's probably going to win. It's that kind of a night.

10:43 p.m. USF is missing field goals in style tonight. Yet again, no points off a turnover. So Auburn promptly hands them another one. That's four. You may want to consider scoring this time, guys.

10:40 p.m. There's the third Auburn turnover. It's now-or-never time. Once more. USF really needs something to show for this.

10:38 p.m. Quentin Groves is hitting people so hard tonight that he's hurting himself. Still, South Florida keeps hanging in there.

10:35 p.m. Late in the third quarter of its second game, LSU gives up its first points of the season. On a run by Virginia Tech's backup quarterback. Building for the future and all that.

10:20 p.m. Hawaii ekes out a one-point win in a wild one on the mainland. Colt Brennan has to settle for a mere 548 passing yards.

10:15 p.m. USF's Nate Allen is becoming an all-star. Tremendous fumble recovery to keep Auburn from padding the lead.

10:14 p.m. Why is a top-five Wisconsin team playing at UNLV? Why are the Badgers losing late in the first half? And why is it all on that channel that shows bull riding and bicycle races?

10:08 p.m. Hawaii is in overtime at Louisiana Tech. You might think this would be a bar to a BCS bowl. But certain coaches who won't be named have shown that you can make the BCS even after a loss to the Ruston crew. Not if you're Hawaii, though.

9:56 p.m. LSU is administering an epic woodshed job to the Hokies. This is tough to watch. Which is why I'm not.

9:41 p.m. Auburn seizes the momentum and the lead with a TD just before half. The Tigers have dominated the second quarter.

9:24 p.m. Nate Allen snares an INT at the goal line just as I'm about to call an end to South Florida's luck. Without exaggeration, that may have saved USF's chances for victory.

9:12 p.m. Mississippi State has corrected that pesky "not scoring" problem in the Superdome tonight, amassing 38 points and a decisive win over Tulane. Yes, it's Tulane, but last year it was a loss. Unlike certain other games we won't mention.

9:05 p.m. Auburn finds the end zone for the first time tonight. 14-10, Bulls. Time to see if USF can withstand a little pressure.

8:58 p.m. Tennessee leads Southern Miss by eight in the fourth quarter. I've always thought the Golden Eagles deserve more credit nationally. They're consistently good and always a danger, year in and year out. I've long held that if even they joined the SEC, they would be making annual bowl trips within five years.

8:54 p.m. Jim Leavitt is doing the Bear's work at Jordan-Hare. It's 14-3. Jubilation isn't even the beginning of how to describe it.

8:48 p.m. LSU is having its way with Virginia Tech on both sides of the ball. It's already 14-0, and as much as it would pain the ESPN folks, this one could get ugly in a hurry. The Auburn game is a lot more interesting. I'm sticking with it.

8:24 p.m. Huge, huge, huge win for South Carolina. And they earned it. And now I get to see South Florida try to shock the world on the east side of the state. The Bulls just went up, 7-0.

7:57 p.m. Dinner break before the evening's main events begin. Just to notify the half-dozen or so of you who are reading.

7:54 p.m. Western Kentucky makes West Virginia Tech pay for what Florida did to them last week. Maybe 87-0 doesn't make the pain disappear, but it's also not a bad morphine substitute.

7:41 p.m. Steve Spurrier is back. The Gamecocks are dominating, and doing it between the hedges, no less. Plenty of time left, though, and Georgia's offense finally looks like it's clicking.

7:22 p.m. Around the SEC: Missouri is making mincemeat of The Orgeron's squad. Florida, which was tied with Troy a couple of hours back, has rebounded nicely to the tune of a 49-10 lead early in the third quarter. Kentucky is struggling to put away Kent State. Sly Croom's Bulldogs are edging out Tulane in a game that must be painful to watch. And Mark Richt's Bulldogs trail South Carolina 13-6 in the fourth in a game I really need to start watching.

7:07 p.m. The Seminoles bounce back to claim a 10-point lead. As erratic as their play has been, it's far from certain that they'll be able to hold it. But for now, this looks like UAB's annual close-but-
no-cigar upset bid. Whether the Blazers can recover from the disappointment will dictate the course of the rest of UAB's season.

7:01 p.m. Heartbreaker for Fresno State. A&M hangs on to win in three overtimes, 47-45. As good as the Bulldogs are, though, Oklahoma isn't Fresno State. Neither is Texas or Texas Tech, for that matter. Franchione has some long days ahead of him if the Aggies don't step it up. Somehow, I'll hold back my tears.

6:55 p.m. Touchdown, UAB! Blazers never say die.

6:53 p.m. Texas A&M goes up by eight. This may seal the deal.

6:48 p.m. The inevitable has happened in Tallahassee: FSU has taken the lead. Late in the third quarter. Over UAB. A football program that didn't even exist 20 years ago. Just FYI.

6:46 p.m. Texas A&M fans are moving from one end of their upper deck to the other. This is possible only because some fans have left. The game is in triple overtime, and people left. Wow.

6:43 p.m. Georgia and South Carolina are in the third quarter now, and I've barely watched any of the game. That, my friends, is a sure sign of an action-packed football Saturday.

6:34 p.m. Touchdown, Fresno State! The team not coached by Dennis Franchione takes the lead. And there was much rejoicing. Except from Jackie Sherrill, who is still in the broadcast booth.

6:27 p.m. After roughly 30 years of instant replay, Fresno hits a field goal, and we go to double OT at A&M.

6:23 p.m. This replay situation in College Station is one of the most bizarre things I've ever watched on a football field.

6:04 p.m. It still is. Huge clutch fourth-down TD by Fresno State. Overtime. All the air just got sucked out of Kyle Field.

5:53 p.m. Jackie Sherrill is in the broadcast booth for some reason. In other news, Texas A&M's human tractor-trailer smashes into the end zone for the go-ahead score with under two minutes left. Well, it was a nice thought, anyway.

5:34 p.m. Around the country: Washington retains that 14-point lead. Boston College has finished its punishment of N.C. State. And Notre Dame still doesn't have an offensive touchdown this season, even though it's leading in Happy Valley.

5:30 p.m. The FSU comeback begins, as the Seminoles now trail only 17-10. Against, I should emphasize, UAB. In other state football news, Florida and Troy are knotted up at 7-7.

5:26 p.m. That 12th man can't stop the Bulldogs from punching it in and tacking on the deuce. Tie game. This needs to continue.

5:24 p.m. Fresno State has the ball inside the Texas A&M 10, down eight in the fourth quarter. Do this one thing for me, Pat Hill.

5:17 p.m. UAB stuffs FSU on fourth down inside the Blazers' 10. Give 'em hell, guys. (As a side note, I've occasionally encountered puzzled looks when people learn that I'm an Alabama fan who also supports UAB. Why would this be so hard to believe?)

5:14 p.m. Also looking like an unstoppable force of nature today: Oklahoma. It occurred during the Alabama game, so I didn't give it the attention it deserved, but the Sooners' demolition of Miami was so convincing and thorough that Oklahoma has to be the Big 12 favorite right now and at least a sleeper pick to win it all.

5:11 p.m. Oregon pours it on, going up 39-7. The sad, sick realization that this year shall be very much the opposite of what was wished has entrenched itself in Michigan Stadium. The Pac-10, meanwhile, is looking like an unstoppable force of nature.

5:06 p.m. Touchdown, Blazers! UAB stretches the lead to 14. This would be huge. I want this. Neil Callaway needs this.

5:04 p.m. UAB is up 10-3 and inside the FSU 5. I've been silently engrossed for the last half-hour.

4:30 p.m. UAB lost to Michigan State by 37 points last week in a game that wasn't even that close. Now they're up 10-0 at Florida State. Is this really happening?

4:19 p.m. Halftime in Ann Arbor, where Michigan fans are getting their own personal taste of Alabama 2000. They don't seem to be taking it much better than Crimson Tide fans did.

4:14 p.m. Upset watch, at long last, over in Fort Collins. Jeff Tedford's squad dodges a bullet on the road.

4:07 p.m. Dennis Dixon tosses up a thing of exquisite beauty for another touchdown bomb. Oregon leads 32-7 in the Big House. Hope you enjoyed that Rose Bowl last year, guys. You won't be getting another one any time soon.

4:05 p.m. Upset watch back on in Fort Collins. Colorado State is back within six after a furious rally. The Mountain West brings it.

4 p.m. Washington may be for real this year. The Huskies are up two touchdowns on Boise State just before halftime, and they just held the Smurf Turfers to a field goal when they were threatening at the goal line. Good for Tyrone Willingham, a solid coach who has been overly scapegoated by Notre Dame fans in recent years.

3:52 p.m. And just like that, Cal rolls up 14 points to stretch its lead to 20. Upset watch over in Fort Collins.

3:40 p.m. Appalachian State will not have a major-league letdown. The legend-killers from Boone, N.C., are up 38-0 on Lenoir-Rhyne in the second quarter. The AP poll changed the rules Thursday to allow teams like Appalachian State to be ranked. I think they should be, at least next week, on general principle.

3:36 p.m. Could Cal have a major-league letdown on the road? The Bears are only up six at Colorado State in the fourth quarter. The same Colorado State that lost last week to Colorado, which finished 2-10 last season. You just never know from week to week.

3:32 p.m. Tom O'Brien is keeping the game closer than it has any right to be upon his return to Boston College. I still wonder why you jump from BC to N.C. State, no matter how upset you are.

3:18 p.m. Minnesota is locked in a grueling triple-overtime battle with Miami of Ohio to avoid starting 0-2 in the MAC. This might be a very bad omen if they played in, say, the Big Ten.

3:13 p.m. Jesse Palmer is on my halftime show. Why?

3:10 p.m. Michigan may want to reacquaint itself with the novel concept of pass defense. Lloyd Carr is so gone after this year.

2:58 p.m. Initial post-game impression of Alabama-Vanderbilt: A win is a win. The Tide survived some miscues thanks to superior talent, another sterling Terry Grant performance, and a few costly Vandy penalties and turnovers. Lots of people had this one pegged as an upset trap, and even though Alabama didn't pick up a lot of style points today, it'll leave Nashville with a win. That's enough for me. But it's not enough for Nick Saban. That's why we love him.

2:45 p.m. The victory formation seals up a win in the SEC opener. Final score: Alabama 24, Vanderbilt 10. Roll Tide.

2:42 p.m. Under a minute left? Must be Rammer Jammer time.

2:40 p.m. Commodores are getting injured right and left. They've never led. They've still shown no signs of giving up. Vandy fans can be proud of what Bobby Johnson is doing there.

2:37 p.m. Alabama milks that clock. Not pretty in the least, but very effective. Just like old times.

2:31 p.m. Controversial no-call in Winston-Salem. The Huskers hang on by the skin of their teeth to stay unbeaten with USC coming to swim in a sea of red next week.

2:27 p.m. Vandy mounts an impressive drive with its backup quarterback as the rain falls in Nashville. Touchdown pass to Not Earl Bennett in the back of the end zone. Alabama's still up 24-10.

2:21 p.m. In the game of the day thus far, Wake gets the ball back down three with under two minutes left. Last year was no fluke.

2:15 p.m. Elsewhere in the country: Chan Gailey angry. Enjoy the payout, Samford. Bob Stoops angry, too. Enjoy another hardcore out-of-conference beatdown, Miami.

2:04 p.m. Grant makes himself at home in the end zone. He may want to consider filing a homestead exemption. Nick Saban goes for two and gets it, because he's Nick Saban and he can. Alabama, 24-3. That looked like the backbreaker for Vandy.

2:01 p.m. Our halftime score is our score heading into the fourth quarter. Alabama is inside the 5 and about to change that, though.

1:56 p.m. Wilson probably should work on that "overthrowing wide-open receivers" thing. D.J. Hall should have two TDs by now.

1:55 p.m. It's hateful how good Terry Grant is. Hateful.

1:44 p.m. Alabama's defense is bending but not breaking. The same can be said for Vandy. Tiffin misses another long attempt, and status quo reigns on the scoreboard.

1:28 p.m. Not an auspicious start to the second half for the Tide offense. Great punt, though, if it's any consolation.

1:21 p.m. Halftime is lunchtime. So is the beginning of the third quarter. Posting will be limited for a little while.

1:19 p.m. Upset watch update: West Virginia and Ohio State have pulled away a bit. Wake retains the lead. And Miami has drawn closer to Oklahoma than anyone in crimson and cream would like.

1:04 p.m. Tiffin knocks it dead-center perfect. At halftime, it's Alabama, 16-3. And Nick Saban is not in the least pleased.

1:01 p.m. So was that slew of Commodore penalties. Welcome to the heart of the red zone, Crimson Tide.

12:58 p.m. Vandy's punting woes continue. That one was a gift.

12:54 p.m. The bad news: Tiffin misses a field goal attempt. The good news: It was from 49 yards, which is a really long way.

12:50 p.m. Jimmy Johns is a bulldozer with legs. That is all.

12:48 p.m. Zen question: Do commentators work for Lincoln Financial because they're named Dave, or are commentators named Dave because they work for Lincoln Financial?

12:35 p.m. A good-looking Tide drive stalls just outside the red zone. Leigh Tiffin drills one from 40 yards away, which has to be a big confidence booster. Alabama, 13-3.

12:29 p.m. Vandy gives it back on fourth down. A score there could have swung the momentum. As could that gift-wrapped INT that Vandy just dropped. You take them where you can get them.

12:24 p.m. John Parker Wilson tosses his first pick of the season. Bobby Greenwood answers with a monster sack. Hold 'em.

12:20 p.m. Upsets brewing? Wake Forest is up on Nebraska just before halftime, Marshall is hanging in there in Huntington, and Ohio State just hit a three-run shot to take a 3-2 lead over Akron. Only the first one seems remotely realistic.

12:17 p.m. Second huge Vandy play called back by a penalty. Alabama promptly responds by snagging an interception.

12:12 p.m. Spotted in the crowd: Two fans in body paint, one with "The Bear Is Dead" on his chest and the other with what appeared to be a less-than-genteel attack on Nick Saban on his. Classy.

12:10 p.m. The defense stiffens in the red zone. Just a field goal for you, Vandy. 10-3, good guys.

12:08 p.m. The Commodores are picking the Alabama defense apart on this drive. That doesn't help.

12:01 p.m. Vandy's punts have looked heinous so far. That helps.

11:53 a.m. Gritty goal-line defense by Vanderbilt. I'll take the field goal, though, especially given that it means the Tide didn't miss another field goal. Alabama, 10-0.

11:49 a.m. D.J.! D.J.! D.J.!

11:47 a.m. A fellow Tide fan asks me why Alabama is playing in crimson on the road. I realize that I hadn't even consciously noticed. It just looks so natural.

11:45 a.m. Two weeks, two games that started with quick-strike Alabama touchdowns. I could get used to this. 7-0. It's still early.

11:40 a.m. Javy! Javy! Javy!

11:35 a.m.
The Alabama game is underway. You'll read about little else here for the next few hours. My heart leaped out of my chest before that Vandy catch was called back, but my Crimson Tide responded well to the scare. Good opening defensive stand.

11:30 a.m.
I thought West Virginia would have the Big East locked up after I saw Louisville's no-defense job against Middle Tennessee State on Thursday night. Then came Marshall. Ugly, brutal first half for the Mountaineers, even if it is a rivalry game.

Friday, September 07, 2007

This post updated quadrenially

OK, some people are upset that property tax revaluations are occurring annually in Alabama now, instead of every four years, meaning a lot of folks have to pay a few extra dollars each year that they otherwise wouldn't. (Of course, our state still has by far the lowest property taxes -- and the lowest overall tax burden -- in the country, but that's another post for another time.) I get that.

Here's what I don't get: If annual reassessments are a problem, then why don't we determine all taxes quadrenially? Why stop with only occasionally reappraising property that increases or decreases in value every year? Why not set sales taxes as a fixed percentage of what an item used to cost? Why not see what individuals and businesses make in a given year, then tax them on that amount for the next four years, no matter what?

Sure, inflation will make things more expensive in the intervening years, leading to enormous anger and sticker shock when the sales taxes are finally adjusted. And sure, at some point in those four years, your business might go under, or your income might go down, or you might lose your job, or you might even decide to retire. But why should changed circumstances affect how much you pay in taxes for the next four years?

We're just trying to be reasonable here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Living in the moment

In the end, it was just a football game.

For a lot of reasons, Nick Saban's debut as Alabama's head football coach Saturday was something most of us who were fortunate enough to see it in person won't soon forget. For Crimson Tide fans, it was the dawn of a new era in the proud history of a team with a history few others can match. It was a spirit that even if the Tide suffers a few losses this fall, the program finally is heading in the right direction after so many years off course. It was renewed hope that things once again can be as good as they once were.

It also was a throwaway game against an overmatched I-AA team, 60 minutes of catharsis that provided relatively little certainty of what we will see in the days and weeks to come.

Even so, it was an evening when the positives far outweighed the negatives. Gone were the slap-tackles and endless runs up the middle that have plagued Tide supporters' nightmares in past years. In their place were a steady string of hard hits and a wide array of offensive schemes that kept the opponents -- and the fans -- on their toes, forced to wonder what was next rather than spotting it from a country mile.

Even when some questions arose -- about a still-unreliable kicking game or a Western Carolina touchdown called back due to a penalty -- never was there the sense that the answer was doom, or that no answer existed at all. Instead, the dominant feeling in the air was that these problems would not persist over the long haul, that they were correctable and would be corrected, that they -- like so many other temporary things -- would pass.

The game itself passed soon enough, but not before a host of reminders of what makes the sport so enjoyable in the first place. There were the crimson hordes, complete with their houndstooth hats and their body-painters and their requisite man with a full-back tattoo of Bear Bryant. There were the schadenfreude moments, the intervals of pure, unadulterated mass joy upon the announcement of a Michigan collapse or a Tennessee loss in the making. There were the visceral displays of irrational giddiness for the showing of stadium videos that almost everyone had seen more times than they could count.

Importantly, it was a shared experience. In a state widely known for so many finishes near the bottom of lists that truly matter, Saban's debut was a chance for the more than 92,000 people in attendance and the tens of thousands of others watching or listening at home -- people from every conceivable walk of life -- to lose themselves briefly in something that wouldn't limit them or hurt them or judge them. For those few hours, what mattered was not the degree on your wall but the shaker in your hand, not the money in your bank account but the enthusiasm in your voice, not the color of your skin but the color of your shirt.

Like all other moments, it was fleeting. The teeming masses streamed out of Bryant-Denny Stadium on that warm September night, leaving their echoing cheers to fade gradually back into silent darkness. Saban and his squad quickly turned their attention to this weekend's Vanderbilt game. And around the world, billions of everyday people went about their everyday lives, unaware of or indifferent to something as pedestrian and ultimately irrelevant as college football in the face of real worries like war and famine and pestilence and natural disasters and social injustice.

It was a taste of the unified purpose that is missing in all too many aspects of life. It was an unforgettable experience. In the end, it was just a football game.