login | Register

TF Saturday Preview: The Saban Bowl

Posted: Nov 02, 2007

While the pro football world is waiting for the Colts-Patriots showdown, the Tribal Fever Footprint has a game that means something more in our Footprint - the Saban Bowl. 

By now, everyone knows the story, but it is the stories and the personalities that make college football unique in the Footprint.  This week, the attention is on coaches.  These are the men entrusted with guiding the football glory of their "tribes."  They are more than a coach.  They are a reflection of each school's fans.  They look at their coach like they look in the mirror.

(They had better like what they see because unlike a true mirror's image, the image of  the coach they see can be and often is changed.)



(3) LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
(17) Alabama (6-2, 4-1 SEC)

From stories of Bear Bryant to Billy Cannon, sometimes it seems like SEC football isn't the same as it used to be - until you think about the "Saban Bowl."  The last time an SEC coach left one program for another, it was Tommy Tuberville going from Ole Miss to Auburn.  That stung a bit, but sorry Rebels fans, Tub's move was understandable.

Nick Saban going from LSU to the Miami Dolphins to Alabama is unprecedented.  Period.

First, LSU and Alabama are considered, especially in recent years, to be programs at the same level.  In other words, both have the goods (recruiting base, alumni support, etc) to be top echelon teams that compete for SEC titles every year.

Second, Alabama outbid an NFL team for Saban's services.  Maybe Saban's second season in Miami wasn't the best, but he was coming back if not for Alabama's bid to bring him back.

Well, one plus two equals three which means that Saban's last three coaching moves put the Alabama job on top of not only LSU but also the NFL.  That stings in Bayou country, just a little bit. For that and other reasons, Paul Finebaum claims that regardless of the score today, Saban has already won.  This is probably true. 

From LSU's perspective, commentary has been reserved like Carl DuBois of the Baton Rouge Advocate to cocky like Lousiana politico James Carville.  Carville downplays Saban's importance, but he also admits, "As long as Les Miles keeps winning, he's great. If he starts losing, I'll pack his bags for Michigan."

Let TF be the first to say it, Les Miles has to win if he wants to stay LSU's coach.  Maybe he can survive a loss in the short term (say one more season), but he was already living in Saban's shadow before Coach Nick returned to the SEC.  Losing to him when it is widely assumed that LSU has the better team on paper will only confirm his detractors' worst fears. 

So here we are, it is the ultimate litmus test for a coach.  Les Miles let's see what you are made of.  SEC guru Tony Barnhart is picking the Tide.  Things could get ugly in Baton Rouge if that happens.

For TF, it's about the drama.  This has been one of the greatest SEC seasons ever.  This weekend could be the ultimate moment.

Vanderbilt (5-3, 2-3 SEC)
(20) Florida (5-3, 3-3 SEC)

Many people don't realize or accept this fact, but Vanderbilt could win the SEC East by winning out their games.  Before you guffaw, remember that Vandy beat South Carolina on the road two weeks ago and almost beat Georgia as well.  They have Florida, Kentucky, and rival Tennessee left on the schedule.

History says that Vandy will get waxed down in the Swamp, but this has been the strangest of strange seasons.  In a year where the SEC East champ is likely to have no fewer than 3 losses, why not Vandy?

South Carolina (6-3, 3-3 SEC)
Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC)

Ouch!  This season started exactly as the Ol' Ball Coach wanted with wins against Georgia and Kentucky.  Losing to Vandy was so uncharacteristic of Spurrier teams who rarely ever lose games they are expected to win.

Arkansas may be one of the best one conference win SEC teams in years.  Playing at home with Houston Nutt coaching for his job makes this one very interesting. 

In a year when only one SEC is officially not going to a bowl game (Ole Miss), it is hard to talk about separation.  However, Spurrier and the Gamecocks need to do just that in Fayetteville.

Tennessee Tech (4-5, 2-5 OVC)
(16) Auburn (6-3, 4-2 SEC)

Finally, Tuberville gets a breather.

Northwestern St (3-5, 2-3 Southland)
Mississippi (2-7, 0-6 SEC)

The one winless SEC team.  Again, it will be nice to have a breather.  How much longer will Ed Orgeron last?

Big 12

(15) Texas (7-2, 3-2 Big 12)
Oklahoma St (5-3, 3-1 Big 12)

As this week's biggest game puts coaches in the spotlight, Ok State's Mike Gundy deserves notice for making a name for himself over this season.  Since he went after a reporter in a press conference, the Cowboys have been playing very good football.

Texas is vulnerable this season.  A win by Gundy's team could set up a showdown with their rival for the Big 12 South crown.

Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2 Big 12)
(6) Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1 Big 12)

Dennis Franchione has been coaching for his life all season.  He needs this game, but it's doubtful he will get it.  Oklahoma is still in the national title hunt.  They will take care of business at home putting one more nail in Coach Fran's coffin.

(9) Missouri (7-1, 3-1 Big 12)
Colorado (5-4, 3-2 Big 12)

Mizzou has been meeting tests all season.  This may be its toughest yet.  Colorado coach Dan Hawkins has the Buffs back competing in his second season.  They are still in the Big 12 North hunt.

The Tigers need to win this game to set up their showdown in KC against Kansas at season's end.

Nebraska (4-5, 1-4 Big 12)
(8) Kansas (8-0, 4-0 Big 12)

Bill Callahan's clock is ticking in Lincoln.  He's done.  Kansas has had back to back solid road wins against Texas A&M and Colorado.  This might be a blow out.

Texas Tech (6-3, 2-3 Big 12)
Baylor (3-6, 0-5 Big 12)

The Red Raiders have crumbled over the last few weeks.  Their shoot out loss to Oklahoma St left them with a hangover that has yet to subside.

Watch out for an improved Baylor team.  With all the bowl eligible teams in the Big 12, Texas Tech needs more than just 6 wins to play after the regular season ends.

Kansas St (5-3, 3-2 Big 12)
Iowa St (1-8, 0-5 Big 12)

Er... who really cares about this game outside of these two schools small fan bases?  It's matchup like this that makes the Big 12 not so compelling as a conference - two small market teams with little football history of relevance.  What do either of these schools bring to the table?


The ACC continues to astoud TF with its complete mediocrity.  How did Virginia Tech choke away their win against BC last week?  That win could have meant a national title game berth for the Hokies.  They rebounded by winning against Georgia Tech (tick, tick Mr. Gailey) on Thursday, but who really cares at this point?

Florida St (5-3, 2-3 ACC)
(2) Boston College (8-0, 4-0 ACC)

ACC fans can claim to support the idea that an undefeated BC team in a national title game is good for ACC football.  However, they all know secretly that their participation in any national title game would be a total and complete fraud.  That is why everyone in ACC is hoping that the Noles stand up and show something. 

There is no school that is more important to the ACC's long term football fortunes than FSU.  Bowden's team is the only ACC school that has a consistent history of national relevance with the same coach at the helm.

(There is also a side note regarding the Noles.  OC wunderkind, Jimbo Fisher, might be one and done if Les Miles leaves LSU.  Fisher's ties to that school would put him on the list for that head job should it become vacant.  That would be another blow to Bowden and his team who are trying desperately to recapture old magic without having to retire due to old age.)

A loss to BC will send the Noles even further down the drain taking the ACC with them.

North Carolina St (3-5, 1-3 ACC)
Miami (FL) (5-3, 2-2 ACC)

Miami is a weird team.  They have quite a few national titles, but it seems as though everyone knows the game in college football has changed leaving on the ouside looking in. 

With Saban's contract upping dollars paid to top coaches, it will be harder and harder for Miami to compete.  The best thing the Hurricanes have going for their program is their recruiting base.  Their attendance is shoddy when they are going undefeated.  They are moving to Dolphins Stadium in a couple of years in hopes that they can draw from a larger pool across south Florida.

Still, Randy Shannon is the right guy for the job because he will be there long term assuming he wins.  It is doubtful that Shannon has NFL aspirations.  Removing the fired Larry Coker from the equation, the last 4 Miami coaches all went pro after leaving the school.  (Howard Schnellenberger went to the USFL briefly before returning to Louisville.)

Miami needs to start beating some teams convincingly.  The Wolfpack had a nice win last week.  They are on their way up with Tom O'Brien at the helm.  Randy Shannon can't afford to lose to another NC team this season.

(25) Clemson (6-2, 3-2 ACC)
Duke (1-7, 0-5 ACC)

Lost in his father's struggles, TF has to wonder how much longer Tommy has at Clemson.  It has been so long since the Tigers were in the national discussion.  Now Spurrier has them as second fiddle in their own state.

It might be time to send Tommy back to C-USA.

Big East

Cincinnati (6-2, 1-2 Big East)
(18) South Florida (6-2, 1-2 Big East)

This should have been the Big East's title showdown game, but neither of these teams handled their early season success very well.  The inexperience of being on the national stage for the first time caught up with both coaching staffs.

South Florida is getting a lot more good will in the polls than they probably deserve.  Losing to UConn was embarrassing.

No team has gained and lost as much in a season as have the USF Bulls.

Rutgers (5-3, 2-2 Big East)
(13) Connecticut (7-1, 3-0 Big East)

Consider this the battle for NYC, a city thoroughly disinterested in college football.

Syracuse (2-6, 1-2 Big East)
Pittsburgh (3-5, 1-2 Big East)

No comment.

Interconference Matchups

Troy (6-2, 5-0 S. Belt)
(10) Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC)

Mark Richt finally showed something in last Saturday's win against the Gators.  He showed that Georgia can compete in this new high-powered SEC led by the big payday coaches, Saban and Meyer.

Psst... Don't sleep on Troy, Mr. Richt.  They're pretty darn good.  Just ask Mike Gundy.

Louisiana-Lafayette (1-7, 1-3 S. Belt)
Tennessee (5-3, 3-2 SEC)

Phil Fulmer also made it known that he wasn't done.  Beating South Carolina last week showed that Fulmer can still rise to the challenge when necessary.  This week's a breather, but he still has Kentucky and Vandy on the schedule.  In year's past, these were easy wins.  This season, they might both be losses.

Having to dismiss RB LaMarcus Coker is just one more sign that Fulmer's best days might be behind him in Knoxville.

Conference USA

C-USA has been a mixed bag this year, but there are signs that this conference has a long term upswing potential.  SI.com has an article about the conference's two top RBs who are also the two top RBs in the country, UCF's Kevin Smith and Tulane's Matt Forte.  This conference has talent.

Marshall (1-7, 1-3 C-USA)
UCF (5-3, 3-1 C-USA)

This is UCF's homecoming game.  The Knights answered a lot of questions by beating Southern Miss on the road last Sunday.  They have another sell out in their new on campus stadium.

Still, even if they win out, UCF needs a little help to go to the C-USA title game.

East Carolina (5-4, 4-1 C-USA)
Memphis (4-4, 3-1 C-USA)

That help could come from Memphis.  Tommy West's team has rebounded to have a fine conference season, but their loss earlier to UCF puts them on the outside looking in right now.  Any conference hopes rest with a home win against the East leading Pirates.

Southern Miss (4-4, 3-2 C-USA)
UAB (2-6, 1-3 C-USA)

Southern Miss is out of the race barring several collapses by other teams in the East.  UAB needs to find themselves going into next season.

Tulsa (5-3, 3-2 C-USA)
Tulane (2-6, 1-3 C-USA)

Tulsa must keep winning to keep hopes for a title berth alive.  The emergence of the aforementioned Forte has made Tulane a much tougher out in recent weeks.

UTEP (4-4, 2-2 C-USA)
Rice (1-7, 1-3 C-USA)

Mike Price has the Miners in the hunt but losing a close one to Houston didn't help.

Sun Belt

Florida International (0-8, 0-3 S. Belt)
Arkansas St (3-5, 1-3 S. Belt)

Arkansas St should win an easy one.  FIU is a disaster.

Middle Tennessee (4-5, 3-1 S. Belt)
Louisiana-Monroe (3-5, 3-2 S. Belt)

Middle Tennessee has reall come on strong since Sun Belt play began.  The conference crown could come down to their end of the season game against Troy.

related tags


Wireless from AT&T


Please login or you can to leave a comment.

If you aren't registered, Register Now to start leaving comments.

Copyright 1998-2018 by Swampland Inc. All rights reserved.