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Saturday, December 6, 2008

SECCG Live Blog

PREGAME: We're roughly a half-hour from kickoff and the players are on the field for warm-ups. The Georgia Dome is already nearly full, which may have as much to do with the nasty weather outside as any desire to get an early start on the cheering indoors. Much to the consternation of Florida fans, it's just not quite jorts weather today.

-- Interesting note for Alabama: In the past 10 years, a top-2 BCS team has lost on the final weekend of the season 11 times.

-- There's also this info from FanIQ -- Did you know Alabama's strength of schedule was worse than both Boise State and Utah this year? Of course, the flaw in that statistic is that the Tide still have this game against Florida to significantly boost that number, while Utah and Boise State are done for the year.

-- Another feather in the cap for Alabama: Percy Harvin is not expected to play. Although word is that Tim Tebow simply pulled a Mr. Miyagi in the locker room and Harvin should be fine now. No word on whether Tebow threw in a free circumcision.

-- Va Tech seems to be taking care of business against B.C., thus ruining what -- in my opinion -- would have been the worst BCS bowl matchup in history: Boston College vs. Cincinnati.

-- Was reading an intersting story the other day about how Saban and Urban are both good friends with Bill Belichick. Why is that not the least bit surprising? I assume they get together in the offseason and take fishing trips to club baby seals or visit old folks homes and switch around the residents' prescriptions just for fun.

-- As a quick side note, I'm working on another story whilest covering this game, so if you're looking for in-depth analysis, you're better off paying attention to the CBS broadcast. If, on the other hand, you are interested in the occasional snide remark about Nick Saban or extensive discussion of the dessert menu at the Georgia Dome (the carrot cake is excellent, and since it's made from carrots, I can only assume it is good for me), then you're in the right place.

More after kickoff...

FIRST QUARTER

-- The last time I was at the Georgia Dome, Michael Vick was playing. No joke here. Just saying.

-- SEC legends are being introduced before kickoff. Tennessee's Doug Dickey holds the dubious honor of being booed heartily by both Alabama and Florida fans. See, who says rivals can't agree on things. I think we can all hate an old man who did nothing wrong and whom most of the people in the stands couldn't pick out of a lineup. That really gives me hope for the future.

-- There's an empty seat next to me in the press box. The seat is designated for someone from the Sabetha Herald, which a quick Google search reveals is apparently located in Kansas. In addition -- and I'm not making this up -- to view the online efforts of this fine newspaper that would travel all the way from Kansas to cover the SEC championship game, you only need to shell our $45 for an Internet subscription. I guess that's how they afford such a lofty travel budget.

-- Reader question of the quarter: I need to sit one of the following running backs in a crucial fantasy football game tomorrow: Frank Gore vs. NYJ, Reggie Bush vs. Atlanta, Tim Hightower vs. the Rams or Maurice Jones-Drew at Chicago?

-- As a side note from last night's MAC championship game, if Syracuse doesn't hire Turner Gill as its next head coach, I'm through giving to the alumni fund. OK, so I haven't ever given anything to the alumni fund. Well, I'll stop repaying my student loans then!

-- I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if Mel Kiper and John Parker Wilson switched hairstyles for a day. I think Wilson's draft stock would certainly go up.

-- Seems odd to watch a kickoff of an SEC game and then not immediately complain about Blair Walsh.

-- Three-and-out for Alabama. Chris Rogers had a chance to light up Brandon James on the return but seemed to hold up for a second to avoid an early hit.

-- Man, Florida's offense is good. I just don't know what you do to stop them. Looking back, that Ole Miss loss is completely inexplicable, and I think Ole Miss is a good team. Since that loss, Florida has outscored its opponents 414-97. I think it's fair to say that if UF goes on to win this game and the national championship, it might be fair to call this one of the best teams the SEC has seen in a long time. OK, too early for that kind of talk? Fair enough.

-- TD pass, Tebow to Carl Moore. SCORE: Florida 7, Alabama 0.

-- Here's a fun fact: Among the notable natives of Sabetha, Kansas is Wilbur Bestwick, the first sergeant major in the U.S. Marine Corps. Thanks, Wikipedia.

-- Wilson to Julio Jones for a 64-yard gain to the 18. As good as Florida's offense is -- and it's great -- I've yet to buy in to the defense, and that's why.

-- Glen Coffee runs 18 yards for the score on the next play to tie the game. Here's the thing with Florida: The only team to hang with the Gators early has been Ole Miss, and the Rebels won. The defense has had the great benefit of playing with a huge lead all season. It will be interesting to see how the Gators hold up if the game stays close into the second half. SCORE: Alabama 7, Florida 7.

-- Three-and-out for Florida. Alabama gets the ball back with some nice field position at the UF30 after a brilliant, helmet-popping return by Javy Arenas. A 5-yard penalty puts the ball at the Gators' 25. Additionally, Dish Network seems to be having some good deals according to the commercial I just watched on the lovely flat-screen TVs in the press box. Good stuff.

-- JPW is 3-for-3 passing so far in an offensive game plan that looks a lot like the one Bama ran against Georgia.

-- Some good penetration by the Florida rush holds Bama to a field goal. SCORE: Alabama 10, Florida 7.

-- According to a text message poll on the Jumbotron, 53 percent of the people here want Alabama to win. Wait, no, 56 percent. OK, down to 55 percent.

-- Checking out the exit polling from the final 56-44 split in favor of Alabama, 71 percent of those voting for Alabama said they didn't approve of Urban Meyers' selection of Sarah Palin as his offensive coordinator.

-- There's a guy sitting in the front row of the press box who looks an awful lot like Kenny Rogers circa 1986. Say what you want, the guy makes a good bird.

-- Second Tebow pass nearly intercepted. Florida's receivers haven't gotten a step on the Bama secondary so far, and you have to wonder how much UF has missed Percy Harvin. That's another three-and-out for the Gators.

-- Breaking news for fantasy football owners: Dallas has ruled Marion Barber OUT for this week's game. Hope y'all picked up former Yellow Jacket Tashard Choice on waivers.

-- You have to love that Alabama is not the least bit afraid to run the ball right at Florida. That's the beauty of a Saban-coached team. They aren't going to be intimidated by anyone. END OF THE FIRST QUARTER with the score Alabama 10, Florida 7.

SECOND QUARTER

-- This is the third straight drive Alabama has been in Florida territory. Glen Coffee picks up a first down on third-and-1 to the 46.

-- OK, second quarter reader question: If Alabama loses this game and goes to New Orleans, what's the best headline you can come up with that some hack newspaper editor will write playing off Glen Coffee at the Sugar Bowl? "Coffee With Your Sugar"? "Coffee Creams Utah in Sugar Bowl"? "Coffee Enjoys Nutrasweet Performance at Sugar Bowl"?

-- She's just a small town girl, livin in a lonely world, she took the midnight train going aaaa-neee-where!

-- Did you know that Providence's basketball arena is the Dunkin Donuts Center? That makes me happy. I bet they love Glen Coffee there.

-- Bama stopped on fourth down to give the ball back to Florida at the 31. That was a big defensive stand for Florida. The long timeouts between quarters and for TV really helped the Gators kill some Tide momentum.

-- After hitting on his first three passes, JPW has now missed three straight.

-- Speaking of passing games, Alabama is not giving Tebow much to work with. He's 4-of-8 but three of his incompletions have been brutal throws.

-- OK, I take that back. Tebow just hit a wide open Riley Cooper who badly beat Javy Arenas for 51 yards.

-- Florida bangs home a short field goal to tie the game at 10. Interesting factoid: Florida has outscored its opponents 304-41 in the first half of games (which has really helped its D, as I stated earlier), and Bama has outscored its opponents 234-47 in the first half this year. So perhaps it's no surprise we're tied at 10.

-- I think Javy Arenas might have money on Florida. He just fielded a kickoff along the sideline at the 4 and immediately stepped out of bounds.

-- Darius Hanks has a potential first-down reception sail through his hands forcing Bama to punt. I won't say the momentum has completely shifted -- it kind of feels neutral right now, and even the crowd has fallen into a little bit of a lull -- but Florida will get the ball at the Bama 40 to start their next drive and has a chance to really take control.

-- Apparently Dennis Felton held a team meeting after Georgia's brutal loss to Illinois, which apparently was the worst for the Dawgs in four years.

-- Dont'a Hightower comes within millimeters of knocking away a Tebow pass, but instead its first-and-goal for the Gators at the 5. Hightower was always my favorite character in the "Police Academy" movies. Well, him and the guy that does the great sound affects.

-- Tebow to David Nelson on third down for the score. Impressive drive for Florida. SCORE: Florida 17, Alabama 10.

-- What percentage of CBS's non-reality programming is some sort of procedural cop drama? 96 percent? 98? Here's how I assume CBS execs come up with show ideas. Take one star of a previously successful show on another network. Give him/her a job that involves tracking down criminals but is not a cop. Set it in an upscale urban environment, add one random quirk, a song by the Who for your theme music, then come up with a catchy name that is preceded by the article "the," and voila! You have yourself a hit show. Let's give it a try: How about Richard Moll as a dyslexic bike cop in Houston, set it to "I Can See For Miles" and call it "The Cyclist." That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure we can come up with better.

-- OK, well typing that out took up an entirely boring drive by Alabama that gives Florida the ball back with 14 seconds to play. A seemingly late hit on Alabama wasn't called, which sparked a chant of "Bull-Sh*t" from the Gator faithful. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman then immediately suspended the crowd for five games.

OK, we're heading to the half -- and more importantly, the dessert stand -- with the score Florida 17, Alabama 10.

THIRD QUARTER

-- The beverage line goes like this: Ice, then soda fountain, then cups. No word on whether Mike Bobo came up with that game plan.

-- OK third quarter reader question, and this is important given the slice of peanut butter-chocolate cheesecake I just ate: Any good gym recommendations in Athens?

-- Hey, THIS is good news.

-- So this was the first time this year that Alabama has trailed at the half. Statistically, it was an astoundingly evenly played half for both teams. Total yards, UF 179-166. Rushing, Bama 74-69. Passing, UF 110-92. TOP Florida 15:42, Bama 14:18. Urban Meyer beat up two handicapped people, and Nick Saban set one orphanage on fire. Biggest difference: third-down conversions: Bama 2-of-7, Florida 4-of-7.

-- Bama gets a three-and-out on Florida's opening drive of the third quarter, but Gators' punter Chas Henry booted his second huge kick to back the Tide up to the 9 to start their first drive of the half.

-- You know, given the state of our economy and the fact that the auto industry wants a $34 billion bailout, there's just something about those commercials where a woman gives her husband a new Lexus for Christmas that really bothers me.

-- Phil Trautwein was Florida's offensive captain for today's game. Just thought there might be someone out there who was interested in that fact. Hi, Paul.

-- No turnovers yet in the game. Have to think at this point that the first one could be the difference in the game.

-- JPW has looked very sharp on this drive, which has probably been the most impressive by either team in the game. Alabama is getting it done in old-fashioned, grind-em-out SEC style.

-- JPW rolled out and directed traffic and had Julio Jones wide open in the end zone, but threw it just over his head. Man, gotta say, Julio and A.J. Green are going to be a lot of fun to watch for SEC fans over the next few years. BTW, Jones is over 100 yards receiving today.

-- Coffee is up to 93 yards on the ground today. CBS notes that Alabama is undefeated when Coffee rushes for 100+ this year. Guess what, CBS. Alabama is undefeated when he doesn't, too.

-- Did you know that Sabetha, Kansas has more jobs than residents, due in part to the large Wenger Manufacturing plant that produces extruders and related equipment?

-- Um, what's an extruder?

-- Coffee grinds his way down to the 5 yard line for a first-and-goal. (Get it? Coffee grinds? I know, classic.) That puts Coffee over 100 yards for the day, which as we all know, guarantees an Alabama victory. (REVISION: It was Ingram that had that carry, thus ruining a perfectly good Coffee Grinds joke.)

-- Ingram finds the end zone to tie the ballgame. That was a very impressive drive. SCORE: Alabama 17, Florida 17.

-- Interesting stat from CBS: Alabama is 12-0 this year when they show up to play a football game.

-- Florida gets back to work quickly. Tebow hits Louis Murphy for 34 yards. Man, he's so frustrating for defenses because you just can't ever let your guard down. He's hit six different receivers so far (on just nine completions) and three have gone for 20+ yards.

-- Gators missed a 42-yard field goal wide right to preserve the tie. This game has really as advertised -- tons of fun to watch.

-- JPW has used the bootleg to perfection today. The Alabama passing game is really underrated, and JPW has come into his own this year after being one of the more disappointing QBs in recent SEC history through his first couple of seasons.

-- Alabama can't convert on a third-and-8 from the 10-yard line. The Tide, however, are able to connect on a short field goal by Leigh (Don't call me Lane) Tiffin to take the lead. SCORE: Alabama 20, Florida 17.

FOURTH QUARTER

-- Dont'a Hightower with a beautiful tackle on Jeffrey Demps on a fourth-and-4, but he was flagged for a facemask to give Florida new life. When this is over, that flag could be the key play of the game.

-- Regardless of who wins this game, it was a joke that Alabama was a 10-point dog. Of course, had I bet on the game Florida would be up 60 right now.

-- Aaron Hernandez take a pitch from Tebow down to the 3 to set up a first-and-goal. Man, Florida has a lot of weapons. Demps finishes the drive with a 1-yard run into the end zone to retake the lead for Florida. SCORE: Gators 24, Alabama 20.

-- Today's attendance: 75,892, a new Georgia Dome record. After the game, Tim Tebow will go around and personally thank each fan for coming. That's just how great a guy he is.

-- OK, Bama, it's time to energize this crowd with some Coffee! (Yeah, I agree, it's getting a little old.)

-- Nice return by Arenas, who gives the Tide the ball at their own 41-yard line.

-- Just an observation here: ESPN's Pat Forde dresses far better than I do. ESPN's Chris Low does not.

-- Do you think O.J. Simpson gets to watch this game from his prison cell since he gets a Heisman vote? And shouldn't there be a rule that after your third felony, you lose your Heisman vote? College football needs to be tougher on crime.

-- Huge three-and-out by the Florida defense which was spectacular on that drive. The Gators will take over at their own 35 with a chance to put this game away.

-- Big win for the Pittsburgh Figthin' Wandt-staches, who are now headed to the Sun Bowl. Good for them.

-- Tebow converts a third-and-1 to the UF 45 on a 2-yard run, then follows it with a long bomb down the sideline to Louis Murphy for a gain of 33. I'm going to go ahead and call ballgame right here. Nice effort by Bama, but this one is about to be on ice.

-- What are the chances that Florida wins this close game over Bama, which as we've already discussed has a fairly weak strength of schedule, and ends up No. 3 behind Oklahoma and Texas in the final BCS rankings? Unlikely, sure, but not impossible, right? And if it happened, would that not be the single biggest blow to the BCS?

-- Of course, even bigger news is that if Florida wins this game, Alabama's record when Coffee runs for more than 100 yards will suffer significantly.

-- Third-and-goal for Florida from the 5, and once again Tebow makes a perfect throw, connecting with Riley Cooper in the front of the end zone. Tebow gets a big hug from Percy Harvin on the sideline afterward, which miraculously heals Harvin's injured ankle. Wow, the guy is good. SCORE: Florida 31, Alabama 20, and once again I'm an idiot. Apparently that 10-point line was set just about right.

Well, that about does it for Alabama, and it about does it for me. I'm heading down to the field. It's been fun, folks. Let's do this again next year.

POST GAME

Lots of hilariousness after the game, but this is really the best part. Remember when I wrote this midway through the fourth quarter:

"-- Today's attendance: 75,892, a new Georgia Dome record. After the game, Tim Tebow will go around and personally thank each fan for coming. That's just how great a guy he is."

Well, guess what... HE DID! Tebow literally circled the stadium shaking hands with every person he could reach. In his postgame press conference he said it was the most tiring part of the game. Just comic gold. (Gold, Jerry. Gold.)

(And yes, that literally should've been followed by "on a high wire.")

2 comments:

CCS said...

Great work, man. Had me in stitches, too.

Anonymous said...

That is the most awesome game blog I have read in my LIFE. Great job.