While we're pleading with the universe for things like Larry Fedora in Juggalo makeup, let's discuss the highly regarded 2014 prospect saying Alabama's getting a waterfall in its locker room. "It's Alabama" is the answer to so many recruiting whys, but defensive end Davon Godchaux tacked on a splashy new twist in a Sunday conversation with Rivals, saying: "Honestly, Alabama just has the best of everything. It's Alabama. They are about to have a waterfall in their locker room. It's spectacular."
In case you were busy listening to Steve Winwood, wondering when you would be back in the high life again, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Despite being denied a late winner in regulation because of a delayed concurrent penalty call, Brent Seabrook's overtime goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 2-1 Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks advance to the Western Conference finals, where they will face the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. If they beat the Kings they will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they will be forced to forfeit after being held by the Kingsguard for attempting to usurp the throne. Justice will come quickly, as the Stanley Cup monarchy does not wait for due process or jury trials, and punishment will be severe. The Kings' public enemies are few at this point, and while many may support the Blackhawks, when the guillotine falls those supporters will stay silent, lest a similar fate befall them. Hope is a forgotten word in the NHL, but, futile as such wishes may be, best of luck to all four conference finalists!
While recovering from his fourth wrist surgery of the offseason, sources are reporting that Rob Gronkowski will undergo back surgery that will put his participation in the New England Patriots' training camp in doubt. While many are concerned about Gronkowski's long-term ability to contribute in the NFL with his continued injury issues, personally, I am concerned that Gronkowski is abusing his deductible. We get it Rob, you blew past your annual maximum on arm surgery no. 3. You don't need to rub your ability to receive quality medical care in our faces.
In case you were busy doing hilarious takes to a nonexistent camera when your friends and associates said absurd things, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
In a conclusion to a magnificently contested series that makes me wish to wax poetic, the San Antonio Spurs overcame a poor shooting night from their backcourt to oust the Golden State Warriors from the NBA playoffs with a 94-82 Game 6 win. Despite its premature end, twas a series in which all of the participants were worthy of the title warrior, even those generals who bestrode the sideline battling with their wits rather than their bodies. Sing oh muses of the ankle of Steph Curry, son of Dell, which brought countless ills first to his enemies, and then to himself! Such was the sovereign doom of a cursed team, and the will of Stern writ large: There shall be contested yet between famed warriors The Bron and Timothy Who Dunks a Finals that shall split the world in twine!
In a non-conclusion to an adequately contested series that makes me wish to speak plainly, the Knicks kept their hopes of an Eastern Conference finals showdown with Miami alive, beating a depleted Pacers team, 85-75, at Madison Square Garden. "Just taking it one day at a time," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson after the game, "because if we do more than that we'll become aware that the winner of this series gets the Heat and oh, no that's terrible! The winner of this series gets the Heat! Oh no, they have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Oh man, they also have Chris Bosh. Why did I stop taking it one day at a time? Why?"
The news came out Tuesday that college football's new four-team playoff system will be called "College Football Playoff." It's a safe choice for the BCS, which decided to play it simple. But the decision came at the end of a lengthy debate, and this morning Grantland received a sheet of paper from a BCS source with a handwritten list of 50 names it considered and ultimately rejected. Some of them are predictably masculine, some are cynical attempts to play off pop culture phenomenons, and some are just bizarre. Throughout, you'll notice a strange fixation on Nick Saban. In a few cases, clarifying parenthetical notes accompany the names. We now present the unedited list:
Last Saturday, Nick Saban offered a scholarship to an eighth-grader. Saban is the best coach in college football because he is also its most zealous authoritarian, and yet, in this case, what Saban did is not quite as Machiavellian as it sounds. For once, he was actually playing catch-up with a trend: The eighth-grader in question, Dylan Moses, is a 6-foot-1, 215-pound running back who runs a 4.46 in the 40 and was already offered by LSU last summer (watch him ravage the Alabama Louisiana middle school countryside in this highlight video — I highly recommend 2:11, when Moses actually makes a tackle by using an opponent as a projectile).
Moses is not the youngest football player to be offered a scholarship in recent years: Quarterback David Sills committed to USC at age 13, and another quarterback, Tate Martell, committed to Washington at Moses’s age of 14. And none of this is particularly new: Back in the fledgling years of the previous American century, a Princeton recruiter named Charles E. Patterson trolled the greens of Exeter and Andover in search of talent. “He sent into the Princeton entrance examinations boys one, two, even three years away from college,” wrote muckraking journalist Henry Beach Needham in McClure’s magazine. “‘Go in and try it,’ he told them. ‘There’s no harm in trying. You might get through.’”
Legends were made last night, in the same way they always are. At game’s end, with a third title in four years secured, a coach already cast in bronze was doused in Gatorade. A quarterback with the perfectly smeared eye black and the perfectly telegenic girl kissed a hunk of crystal. Everything about Alabama’s 42-14 win seemed the pristine image of college football lore — except, of course, that its best player spent all night with his gut spilling out of his shirt.
Last year, Alabama’s defense earned much of the credit for Nick Saban’s second title run. Six Tide defenders went in April’s draft — four in the first two rounds. It was touted as one of the best college defenses ever, and in Bama’s 21-0 rolling of LSU in the national championship game, AJ McCarron and friends hitched along for the ride. Against the Irish, the point total may have doubled, but the players of the game still didn't earn a single one of Bama’s 529 total yards. They won this one up front, and they wasted no time in showing how.
From the first drive, it was clear that the Alabama line was set to take it to Notre Dame all night. Irish star Louis Nix had an admirable showing against All-American Barrett Jones in the middle of the field, but to either side, the night belonged to the champs.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
The Lakers came back from an 18-point third quarter deficit to top the Bobcats, 101-100, and avoid what would have been the most embarrassing moment of their already difficult season. It was a Pyrrhic victory for some Lakers, including Pau Gasol, who suffered his latest humiliation when Kobe Bryant shoved him into the scorer's table to create a distraction just before hitting the winning bucket. "Make sure you whimper," Kobe hissed. "Really Gasol it up."
The most interesting thing college football coaches did this month was to stay put. If you believe what you read, Charlie Strong, Mike Gundy, James Franklin, Gary Patterson, and Chris Petersen all had chances to leave their schools for bigger, more storied programs. None of them did. Collectively, they are college football’s new middle class, a well-paid group in no hurry to move.
College football, like America, has its rich and its middle class. Unlike an electrician, of course, a middle-class college football coach makes millions even when he fails. But stick with the analogy for a second.
Take Alabama and Vanderbilt. Bama is a rich school, with lots of national titles (some of them legit) and athletic revenue that last year topped $125 million. Vandy is a middle-class school, and that’s mostly because of its membership in the SEC. “When I took this job in 2003,” Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said recently, “this was a stepping stone for coaches.”
This is it, gang. This is the last Semi-Ignorant Guide of the year. Thank you for joining me on this ride as I spouted half-truths and outright lies, took credit for lucky upset predictions, and generally learned nothing of value. This, in the end, is what being a sports fan is all about. Let's get right to the top 10 games (all times EST).
10. No. 16 UCLA at no. 8 Stanford (Friday, 8 p.m.)
I've told you before about my college football pool, in which 18 of us pick the 10 most prominent games each week against the spread. So far the leader has 68 points through 13 weeks, for an average just barely above .500. All but two people are at .500 or below. Some of us know football pretty well, others are clueless, but it doesn't matter. It's impossible to pick games against the spread. But over the course of the season, I've come to realize that Las Vegas knows everything. Every once in a while, there's a point spread that seems absolutely ridiculous. Last week, when Louisville (undefeated in the Big East) was an underdog against Pittsburgh (1-4 in the Big East, 4-6 overall), everyone in the pool thought it was a gimme. The result? Pittsburgh won, 27-6. Somehow, Vegas knows all.
When Nick Saban and Will Muschamp get into a pissing match, there’s only one thing to do: Call Paul Finebaum and wait on hold. But in this case, we’ve got to do more, because Saban vs. Muschamp points out a sneaky flaw in the upcoming college football playoff. Call it the loser’s advantage.
Here’s what happened: Florida, which plays in the SEC East, is 11-1. Georgia, which also plays in the SEC East, is 11-1. In October, Georgia beat Florida, so the Bulldogs won the division and will play Alabama in Saturday’s conference championship game.
Advantage, Dawgs, right? This year, that’s true. Bama-Georgia is a mini-playoff for a shot at Notre Dame. But what if this game were taking place in 2014, when we’ll have a four-team playoff? The Bama-Georgia winner would definitely snag a spot in the playoff. And Florida, at 11-1, would also snag one. But the Bama-Georgia loser would be eliminated. Meaning, by virtue of losing their division and skipping a tough 13th game, the Gators would get a leg up. That’s the loser’s advantage.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Cam Newton threw for 302 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as the Panthers topped the Eagles 30-22 in Monday Night Football. After the game, fired Auburn coach Gene Chizik greeted Newton in the parking lot with a sarcastic slow clap. "Well, look at Mr. BigShot," he said with a sneer, before toppling to the ground and bruising his ribs on an empty vodka bottle.
A century before the Saturday evening that will forever be recalled for the painful death of Bill Snyder’s 16 preceptsin Waco, and for the gumming up of Phil Knight’s fast-twitch widget-production apparatus in Eugene, and for Les Miles’s epic Lebowski Speech — tell me he doesn’t resemble Jesus Quintana just a little at the 1:39 mark — Notre Dame was just a tiny Catholic college in Indiana with a progressive strategy and a dream of defeating the U.S. Army. This goes back to the summer of 1913, when Irish quarterback Gus Dorais and an end named Knute Rockne worked together as lifeguards in Sandusky, Ohio, practicing a newfangled stratagem on the beach known as “the forward pass.” They unleashed it on the first day of November, against a bigger and stronger West Point squad; the Irish won, 35-13, and an epoch’s worth of treacly film scores were birthed.
I have an admission to make: Several times this season I've tried to watch Alabama play an entire game, and each time I've failed. Sure, I’ve watched quarters of football here and there — the bludgeoning of Michigan, the decimation of Arkansas, and the tidy strangulations of Mississippi State and Tennessee. But watching this team methodically squeeze the life out of opponents is similar to what I imagine it’s like to play against it — occasionally awe-inspiring, but somewhat exhausting. That was again the case until the waning moments of Saturday’s comeback victory against LSU.
For much of the night, Alabama had been outplayed. LSU's offense, which looked flat-out dysfunctional for much of the year, absolutely took it to Alabama's vaunted defense. The Tiger passing attack, in particular, went from awful in previous games — against Florida, South Carolina, and Texas A&M Zach Mettenberger had completion percentages of 44, 48, and 37.9 — to something resembling the Montana–to–Jerry Rice 49ers, hooking up on 25 of 36 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers defense played a stout game as well. Before going 4-for-5 on the final drive, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was 1-of-7 for seven yards in the second half.
The Tide’s trademark slow suffocation was being used against them. But down just three late in the fourth quarter, there was still enough time for one of those awe-inspiring moments. Games like that can't be reduced to just one play, but if it was going to be, oh what a play it was. AJ McCarron's screen-pass flip to T.J. Yeldon — who took it the remaining 28 yards to the end zone for the game-winning score — already has its place in football history, known simply as "AJ to T.J."
If you watch college football on TV, you find yourself watching commercials for Aflac, Home Depot, and colleges. Ads for the University of Texas say, “What starts here changes the world.” Ads for Texas Tech say, “From here, it’s possible.” The former is a boast, while the latter is more of a timid suggestion. I can’t think of a better way to explain the difference between Texas and Texas Tech.
Before we dive into the aesthetics of college ads, which are called “institutionals,” we should note that these things are weird for a couple reasons. First, what’s the point? They’re plopped in the middle of a game — as mandated by the conference TV deal — to prove that there’s a university attached to the football program. “It’s coeds, cellos, and sports,” an ad executive told the Wall Street Journal’s Darren Everson. Essentially, the school is reminding us, “We put the ‘student’ in student-athlete,” and it makes that label look like even more of a crock.
The other weird thing is that the football game is often a better ad for a college than the actual ad. Alabama’s CBS telecasts have slick graphics, “honey shots” of the cheerleaders, and Verne Lundquist. Alabama’s TV ad has a bunch of robotic, smiling students and looks like it was cut together in the basement of the communications building. Which one makes you want to go to Tuscaloosa?
I’ve gone through the latest BCS standings and reviewed each school’s attempt to market itself. I’ve mixed past ads with present ads, because college commercials don’t seem to have aesthetic “periods.” I’ve also skipped schools like Kansas State, which have boring ads. (You could argue this is a perfect reflection of the Kansas State football team, which is seemingly boring but beats Oklahoma on the road.) Here are the best commercials from the Top 25 (click the team name to view the ad):
If I learned anything from The Grey, it’s that inevitable doom can be a big help with self-reflection. That’s why as I sat on my couch Saturday afternoon, waiting for Nick Saban to dismember my alma mater’s football team, I started thinking about how exactly it was that we got here. My four years at the University of Missouri were the most successful in the football program’s history. From 2006 to 2009, Mizzou won 38 games. In 2007, they spent a week as the no. 1 team in the nation. From 2009 to 2011, only Alabama produced more first-round picks than the Tigers. Still, when the dust from The Great Realignment Shakedown of 2010 cleared, and the Big 12 powers found their respective dance partners, Missouri was left at home, alone, in sweatpants.