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Saturday's Slate: Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead!

Posted: Sep 27, 2008

Of course, this means that the two perennial pretenders that stand in our way, Ohio State and USC, have both lost and neither appear to have the right kinds of games left to springboard back into the national title hunt.  That should mean that the national championship game will finally be a "Swampland Showdown" pitting conference champions from one of our Tribal Fever conferences.

Let's look at the best of today's slate:


Alabama @ Georgia - The Tide rolled over Clemson to start the season and all of a sudden Nick Saban's impact on the Alabama program became just a little more real to folks around the SEC.  Most expected improvement, but today's game has the potential to put Alabama squarely into national title contention.

Unfortunately for Alabama, some bulletin board material has surfaced.


That is Alabama assistant Scott Cochran that can be heard around the 1:07 mark of the video saying that Georgia is "wearing black because they are going to a motherf---ing funeral."  Pat Forde of ESPN writes a good column on the subject of the Alabama-Georgia rivalry.  Forde forgot one of the most infamous moments of this rivalry, however.  Let's not ignore the Wally Butts controversy from 1962.

Georgia and Alabama are looking at new days ahead for their legendary programs.  Has Alabama already turned the corner or is this truly Georgia's year to get the SEC glory.  Tune in tonight!  With USC going down, the winner of this game moves into pole position.

Tennessee @ Auburn - Both of these teams experienced crushing losses.  For Auburn, it set their yearly goal of winning an SEC West crown back significantly.  With Alabama on the rise as previously noted, the pressure's on Tommy Tuberville.

Phil Fulmer hasn't beaten Urban Meyer since he came to Florida.  Last Saturday's home loss to the Gators brought about calls for Fulmer's head by some of the Vol faithful.

Both teams are down.  Both teams are trying to find new offensive identities this season.

Only one team will get back on track.  The other gets thrown to the wolves (ie their fans).

Ole Miss @ Florida, Miss State @ LSU - Speaking of being thrown to the wolves, both Mississippi schools have to go on the road to play two of the SEC's best.  On paper, both seem to be easy wins.

Ole Miss has already had a good season under Houston Nutt.  They've competed and been in games losing only extremely close games to rising TF programs Wake Forest and Vanderbilt.  Florida will be the Rebels first test of how they look against the "big boys".

Mississippi State's season has been as disappointing as last season was surprisingly hopeful.  Don't expect the Tigers to show MSU any more mercy than Georgia Tech did last week.

At this Mississippi moment it appears that Sylvester Croom may be in trouble.  With a potential Egg Bowl loss on the horizon, this season could be one of the Bulldog faithful's most disappointing in years.


As we've written already, the ACC's supposed demise was way overblown.  The conference is young and its fundamentals are still strong.  Georgia Tech's thumping of Miss State proved that the ACC can compete.  Too much was simply made of Clemson's loss to Alabama in Atlanta in the opening weekend.

North Carolina @ Miami - Today's game in his old stomping grounds is pivotal for UNC coach Butch Davis.  Future success at UNC depends mainly on Davis' ability to recruit in hotbeds like south Florida.  Beating a young, up and coming Hurricane team on it home turf would send a powerful signal kids in south Florida that might be considering playing for Davis in Chapel Hill.

Losing his starting QB won't help matters, but both of these schools appear to be on the right track.  Miami's supposed to win, but TF won't be surprised if Davis and his boys pull an upset.  Much like Nick Saban, Davis is paying off more quickly than anticipated.  Despite strong early recruiting, Randy Shannon still has much to prove.

Maryland @ Clemson - Both of these schools bear responsibility of the ACC's early season reputation as a patsy.  Clemson got "Roll Tided" in Atlanta by Bama and the Terps lost to Middle Tennessee State.  Since then, neither team has lost.

Consider these two programs to be on notice.  They are "old guard" ACC programs who need to show that they can be competitive against the new wave of coaches entering their league.

Virginia @ Duke - Speaking of old guard/new guard, Virginia coach Al Groh may be seeing the last of his coaching days in Charlottesville.  All of the promise of his hire (NFL cred, Virginia roots, etc) hasn't panned out.  The Cavs had a nice season in 2007 winning a lot of close games, but the talent Groh has recruited has shown better in the NFL Draft than it has on the field as far as producing wins.

If David Cutcliffe's revived Duke program wins today, consider Groh to be on the hot seat.  Like Ohio State, Virginia was largely responsible for USC's high, yet unearned national regard.  Losing to Duke could set the final nail in place that the Hokies can drive home later in the season.

Houston @ East Carolina - The Pirates blew an OT game they led most of the way in Raleigh last weekend.  After bringing credibility to C-USA, the conference is back off the radar screen.  The Pirates need to win this game to at least run their conference table and stay in the polls.  That alone would be a victory for this emerging conference that can't seem to get out of its own way at times.

UCF @ UTEP - Speaking of conference problems, these two programs are first rate examples.  C-USA has become the soft landing spot for coaches who failed, one way or another, at the bigger echelons of college coaching.  Mike Price's record at Washington State was enough to land him the Alabama job until he was caught with a stripper and stripped of his job before the season even began.  Initially, Price's arrival at UTEP brought success, but his 0-3 start to the 2008 season seems to be further signs of a downward trend.

Like Price, George O'Leary got and lost his dream job before the season began.  O'Leary moved from Georgia Tech to Notre Dame but was removed after inconsistencies on his resume were discovered.  O'Leary rebounded by landing at UCF and bringing the Knight into the realm of credibility.

O'Leary's problem is one of perception.  Florida is one of the greatest states for college football because of its natural talent base.  O'Leary looks like an outsider and acts like an outsider in a state where that leads to certain doom.  The pre-season death of WR Ereck Plancher has led to a serious rift between O'Leary and his hometown paper.

UCF has simply underperformed both on the field and in the recruiting arena under O'Leary.  USF has zipped past them and FAU is closely nipping at their heels.  The Knights can't seem to win out of conference games.  Last week's second half debacle against BC further cemented the Knights' tendencies under O'Leary to be poorly coached, undisciplined teams.

TF expects this to be the last year that Price and O'Leary will meet for postgame handshakes at their respective schools.  O'Leary may be moving on to Syracuse while Price may just be moving on to retirement.


The other conference who gained from USC's loss alongside the SEC has to be the Big 12.  There are four fantastic Big 12 teams this year (Oklahoma, Texas, Mizzou, and Texas Tech).  The rest of the league is strong and improving.  If a team emerges with an undefeated record from this conference, it will be playing for a title come January.

The Big 12 leads off our interconference matchups because they have two of the best.

Arkansas @ Texas - This game was rescheduled after Hurricane Gustav.  Bobby Petrino probably hopes he can push it into the 2009 season.  The Hogs just don't have enough talent yet.  Alabama crushed them last week.  Expect Texas to do the same this week.

However, these old SWC rivals renew a rivalry that should build into a big stakes game in future years wiht recruiting on the line for both schools.

Arkansas fired Houston Nutt and hired Petrino to play with the big boys in their conference.  Today's the day that quest begins.  It's put up or shut up time for the Hogs.

TCU @ Oklahoma - TCU gets ignored because they chose to join the Mountain West rather than remaining in Conference USA.  They have a good program, however.  Today's game in Norman will be a good test.  The Sooners have been rolling teams all season.  Bob Stoops appears to have his eye on returning to the national title game.  This could be the Sooners' year.

Like the Big 12, the Big East has no interconference games after UConn upended Louisville 26-21 last night.

South Florida @ NC State - Although the Bulls entered the national discussion last year rising to the near the top of the polls for a week, this season could be their best shot at a national title run.  The Big East is down, but they still have their BCS bid.  With the Pac 10 and Big Ten (and ACC) seemingly out of the picture to produce a national title contender, an undefeated Big East team could jump into the picture.  Remember that last year's West Virginia team was a win against Pitt away from bumping LSU out of the title game.

NC State lost badly to South Carolina on opening Thursday, but they have looked much better beating potential "BCS Buster" East Carolina last week.  Tom O'Brien knows what he's doing.

This is one of those "under the radar" big games.

Marshall @ West Virginia - This game has gone from a laugher in recent years back to one where the state of West Virginia is at stake.  Mitch Vingle breaks it down here.  No team has fallen as far as the Mountaineers have.  Coach Bill Stewart was a feel good story after the ugly Rich Rodriguez departure that has quickly become a sore point amongst the people of West Virginia.

If Marshall wins today, it could be a train wreck in Morgantown.  Bill Stewart just got a 6 year extension.

Colorado @ Florida State, Virginia Tech @ Nebraska - These two Big 12 North/ACC matchups are great status games for their respective programs.  Colorado and Nebraska are undefeated, but neither has played anyone too tough yet.  (Sorry West Virginia, you remain disfunctional at the moment.)

Florida State needs to rebound from their sad loss to Wake.  Seven turnovers!!!  No one can win a game with that many.  Virginia Tech has rebounded from their early loss to East Carolina by winning a close game against UNC.  These two games should be fun.

UAB @ South Carolina - Tennessee rolled the Blazers.  The Gamecocks should also find them to be the cure that ails them.  Speaking of ailing, legendary coach Steve Spurrier has hit a severe rough patch.  He has student sportswriters at his own school calling for his head.  Chalk this talk up to beast that is SEC football.  It doesn't take long to fall far.

The Sun Belt has no intraconference games this week either.  TF highlights a couple of their better games on Saturday.

Troy @ Oklahoma State - The men from Troy didn't beat Ohio State last week like we had hoped, but they didn't embarrass themselves either.  The Cowboys loss last year to Troy was stunning.  Expect Ok St to show up and pay attention this year.

The Cowboys could be an interesting fly in the ointment.  The Big 12 South remains the strength of the conference.  Let's see if they have a few upsets in them.  Taking care of business against a Sun Belt team that throttled you a year ago should provide enough inspriation to see the best of what the Cowboys can bring on the field.

Arkansas State @ Memphis - This game could also mean trouble for another C-USA coach.  Tommy West has won enough and at the right time to keep his job, but Memphis' boosters have big plans for their school's athletics.  They want to see a football team that shows as well as their basketball does.

If an emerging Arkansas State team comes into the Liberty Bowl and beat Memphis just like they did Texas A&M, Memphis could be looking beyond West for 2009.

Western Kentucky @ Kentucky - Future Sun Belt member Western Kentucky has already built a credible program that should only improve.  With Kentucky leading the way and Louisville holding it own, the state of Kentucky has begun to make noise in the football world.  Kentucky should remain undefeated after this week with their SEC season starting next week at Alabama.  With a wounded South Carolina and an improved Vandy in their division, conference games will be tough to come by for the Wildcats.

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Love the "Wizard of Oz" allusion. Big shakeup in the SEC (and the top ten)yesterday. Who would have predicted the defeat of both number 4 Florida and number 3 Georgia, and who would have imagined that Auburn would barely squeeze out a victory over beleaguered Tennessee and that number 5 LSU would only win by ten points. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra "It ain't over till it's over!" I await the new rankings. It's going to be a LONG season for the teams in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football.

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