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Alabama Football is Really That Good

Every week I watch college football I am amazed at the inconsistencies of programs that should be national title contenders. This past week Georgia and Stanford went down to teams that were not as talented. Seven of the top 25 lost and several teams had their national title hopes dashed. This is week in and week out in college football which is what makes it the greatest regular season in sports. Who would guess an undefeated Michigan team would lose to a Penn State team that was just throttled by Indiana? For those that may not know, Indiana is terrible in football. The ups and downs of college football are amazing but one team remains consistent – the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban Changed the Alabama Culture

Prior to Nick Saban arriving in Tuscaloosa, Alabama the Crimson Tide were about as inconsistent as most teams are today. Saban won a national championship at LSU in the early 2000s and he tried out the NFL. His time with the Miami Dolphins was short as he wanted to get back into the college game. The Crimson Tide were willing to pay him and his assistants which lured this defensive genius back to the college ranks. In his first year at Alabama he had some growing pains. Some people will remember that loss to Louisiana Monroe in Bryant Denny Stadium. His first full season at Alabama was not extremely successful. They went 7-6 and won the Independence Bowl. Since then, Alabama has been the best team in football. There is no argument to be made.

Since that difficult first year the Alabama Crimson Tide have never finished the season outside the top 10. They have won three of the last four national championships and they are sitting at the top of the polls right now. Most would agree that Nick Saban is the best coach in college football. Some could argue that he is the best modern day coach. If he wins another national championship this year I would argue he is in the conversation as one of the best college football coaches in history. With recruiting and the NFL changing college football as we know it, it is nearly impossible to consistently keep a team in the top 10. To win four of five national championships is unheard of. No one, I repeat, no one would have been able to do this other than Nick Saban at Alabama.

How Does Alabama Remain Consistent?

Alabama owns the line of scrimmage. They recruit stud offensive and defensive linemen every year. When their quarterback is having a bad game they can simply hand off to a five star running back and let him carry the load. Even if the offense cannot move the ball they can resort on the defense finding a way to win the game. Minus the Texas A&M game this year the Alabama Crimson Tide have given up 26 points. Yes, 26 points in five games. This either says that Texas A&M has an amazing offense or Nick Saban is a genius for adjusting his game plan to win that game in College Station. Maybe there is a little bit of truth in both.

There are very few teams in the country that can run the ball and stop the run year in and year out. Nick Saban’s recruiting efforts have lead him to multiple national championships. It is important to note that recruiting at Alabama is much easier than recruiting at Memphis or Kentucky. That said, coaches before Nick Saban did not dominate the SEC the way he is doing it. It is a combination of Saban being a stellar coach and winning big games early in his career. If Saban had gone 7-6 the first three seasons he was at Alabama things might have been a little bit different. That was not the case and now he is talked about as one of the best coaches in history.

Something else that Nick Saban does is instill culture. He knows what type of product he wants to put on the field. He does not deviate in any way. Even when his team is losing a game he does not change his game plan. Earlier this year the Texas A&M Aggies were up 14-0 on Alabama and most coaches would have completely ditched the playbook. Nick Saban did not. He had confidence in his senior quarterback AJ McCarron and he remain patient even though his team was down by two touchdowns and Kyle Field was rocking. As soon as the Alabama offense walked on the field being down 0-14 you could feel the confidence of the team. This was not a team that was going to let the Texas A&M Aggies run all over them. They methodically worked down the field and scored a touchdown. Five drives later and the Alabama Crimson Tide were up 28-14. They never looked back.

Nick Saban is a defensive minded coach but he knows all aspects of the game. This is something that some coaches struggle with. A few defensive minded coaches are not good with clock management or special teams. That is not true with Mr. Saban. He realizes that all facets of the game are going to come into play at one point or another in a championship season. His teams do not have to be #1 in the country in all facets of the game but they have to be above average and consistent. Just watch the Alabama punt team or the kicking team the next time you watch a game and you will see a team that is very well coached.

Why Are Some Teams Not Well Coached?

This a question that has been asked millions of times by fans over the last several decades. Some teams have the talent but they are just not well coached. Some fans may not even understand what being well coached means. Before I explain why some teams are not well coached let’s look at what it means to be well coached. Great coaches make each player aware of the situation. If it is 3rd and 22 in the third quarter there is absolutely no reason the offense should call a timeout. This is a timeout wasted because the odds of converting a 3rd and 22 are slim to none. Instead of wasting a timeout that will be needed later in the game it is better to take a five yard penalty. There isn’t much difference in a 3rd and 22 and a 3rd and 27.

Understanding the situation at all times is imperative for a good team. There are some times it is smart to take a penalty and sometimes it is a terrible decision. When the opposition has the ball and they are in a 3rd and 4 situation all defensive linemen should realize the quarterback is going to use a hard count to get them to jump offsides. This is common sense and everyone knows it. That said, each and every Saturday there will be a defensive lineman that jumps offsides on a 3rd and 4 to give the opposition a first down. Something else that is important is to understand is where you are on the field. If you are on offense and you are deep inside your own territory, ball protection is key. It is absolutely essential. A turnover is handing the other team points. With this being the case there is no reason to take risks throwing the ball or trying something silly. A good coach will make his team aware of that during fall practice drills.

Practice makes almost perfect. I think some of the better coaches in the United States practice the way their team should play. They explain time and situation throughout the entire practice period. Nick Saban has obviously practiced offense with his team being down more than 10 points. He has also practiced key third down situations. Even when he was at LSU his defenses were known for being one of the best third down defenses in the country. If a defense can get off the field on third down there is a very good chance the team will be above average. If a defense is committing penalties it is going to be quite difficult to get off the field during third down situations.

One of the reasons I feel that teams are not well coached is the coaches are not smart across the board. They may be smart when it comes to their area of expertise but they are not smart with the entire game of football. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched a game when the head coach did not know how many timeouts they had left. I have also seen games where the head coach did not know that the clock stopped with every first down. This is common knowledge that every college football fan knows. Why would a coach use a valuable timeout when they just got a first down? This happens time and again. Alabama knows the rules of the game and they have a coach that is great during practice. This is the reason they are just that good.

The B1G Conference is Really That Bad

Every year I hear B1G, formerly the Big 10 Conference, fans rant and rave about how they are just as good as the SEC. This comes on the heels of getting demolished in the previous bowl season. In 2013 it was more of the same. Some of my close friends that live in B1G Conference territory were talking up the conference from top to bottom. After seven weeks we can all laugh at them. The conference is just as bad as it has ever been. There is no way they can compete with the SEC. In fact, the B1G might be considered the fifth best conference in college football in 2013. It is a tough pill for many to swallow, but it is the truth. Sometimes it hurts to hear our favorite teams or conference is subpar but we need to accept it. Here are a few reasons the B1G Conference will continue to struggle in the years to come.

Recruiting Kills the B1G Conference

I entered college in 2000 and that was the changing of the tides when it came to recruiting. I can clearly remember sitting in my dorm room and having a debate with my roommate that teams north of Tennessee and North Carolina simply could not compete in terms of recruiting. Why would a high school senior want to go play in State College, Pennsylvania over Miami, Florida? He could enjoy the nice warm beaches and beautiful women in Miami or he could suffer through the cold winters in Pennsylvania.

Years ago, when travel was much more difficult, these northern schools could recruit because coaches would convince players to stay home. There is no more staying at home. Home is the entire United States. A college football player can hop on a plane and travel the entire country in less than a full day. In fact, if he is a very good college football player that has the ability to go pro he may be able to get from one end of the country to the other in just a few hours because of personalized aircraft. This was not the case in the 1980s and even early 1990s. It is also true that recruiters used to encourage kids to stay home so their parents could watch them play.

Today there are more games than ever on TV. If mom and dad cannot travel to the away games they will be able to watch little Johnny on ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 or the SEC Network. If little Johnny is going to a team that will compete in a BCS conference there is a very good chance that 90% of his games will be on television. Now that mom and dad can watch the games on TV there is no reason to worry about travel. This makes me ask the question, why would any high school student want to play in a cold weather climate?

I can understand the argument to play in cold weather if that is your brand of football. If you are the type of player that excels in cold weather climates it might be a good idea to play for Penn State or Notre Dame. Unfortunately for these schools, those types of players don’t really exist anymore as most high school football players want to run up and down the field and score 30 or 40 touchdowns a season. It is no longer the case that three yards and a cloud of dust is attractive like it was in the 1970s.

Where Do High School Players Want to Go?

As mentioned earlier, most high school kids want to go to the cool and exciting college campuses. When visiting South Bend, Indiana in late November there is going to be a chill in the air and most of the students will be bundled up. Take this same trip to Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee or Miami and you are going to see a much different campus. There will be many students wearing jeans but tshirts or short sleeve shirts will be common. It may even be the case that some of the girls are walking around in shorts or skirts. The only girls walking around in shorts or skirts in the northeast or midwest will be considered crazy.

Trust me when I tell you that teenage boys are going to go where the girls are. I think we all have a story about one of our friends deciding to go to college because of that lucky lady. Most of the time that lucky lady never ended up with our friend but it did cause him to go to a specific school. With Facebook, Twitter and social media now being a huge part of the recruiting process high school athletes know where they want to go to enjoy the scenery. In fact, some universities have created groups of females to help show recruits around campus. This is just another attractive feature of a campus in the south. These female groups started in Texas and the SEC. It comes as no surprise as girls love their football in the south.

If young men want to go where the girls are and enjoy the beautiful weather why would they decide to go to Michigan, Penn State or Notre Dame. In the past these three school dominated in terms of recruiting and having teams in the top 10. These are three of the most storied programs in all of college football with more wins than any other teams. Why can they not bring in the big named recruits anymore? It is all about location. If Notre Dame were located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana you can be rest assured they would have a top 5 team every year. If Penn State were a university in south Georgia or Florida they would be in the BCS title game every other year. Unfortunately, there is nothing they can do about their location. This makes recruiting very difficult and it may cause programs to change their mind when it comes to the overall direction of the football team. A good example of this is Oregon.

How Oregon Built a National Title Contender

The Oregon Ducks realized that playing traditional smash mouth football was not going to work because of their location. They could not recruit stud offensive and defensive linemen every year so they needed an alternative. The alternative was a very unique offense that was built on speed rather than on power. Oregon was more than willing to take players that normally would not play at the big schools like USC, Texas or Oklahoma. They used these smaller, faster players to develop a brand new style of offense. Instead of trying to run the ball on first and second down they decided to spread it out. The Oregon offense throws to set up the run. They also have a spread offense that rarely uses two tight ends. Heck, most of the time the single tight end is lined up as a wide receiver.

This new style of offense is very attractive to high school athletes that might be extremely fast but not that strong. When anyone watches an Oregon game during the fall months they can clearly see that most of the players are slim yet quick. This is something that Alabama, LSU and Florida would never had to do. These SEC schools can recruit five star offensive and defensive linemen every single year. This allows them to play a different brand of football. High school athletes will go to these schools just because of their location and history.

Oregon vs Ohio State

Oregon recognized that location was not in their favor so they went a different direction. We are seeing something very similar going on in Columbus, Ohio right now. Urban Meyer has brought the read option to Ohio State and he is recruiting more speed players. This will allow him to get enough speed on the field to compete with the big boys from the SEC. Something interesting about Ohio State is they do have the history to get some great five star recruits. If you can combine five star recruits with a unique offense the sky is the limit.

The only problem that Ohio State has right now is the location. Columbus, Ohio is not the most attractive area for high school athletes. When you think of vacation hotspots Columbus is not at the top of the list. Although this could cause problems in recruiting Urban Meyer knows how to get athletes for specific roles in his offense. Over the next two or three years it will be interesting to see if the location of Ohio State holds them back when it comes to a national championship run.

Something that will likely hold them back from a national championship run in 2013 will be their conference. The B1G has shown they are not ready to compete with the SEC and other power conferences. Until the B1G has several good teams (in the top 15) it will be the case that no one is willing to give Ohio State respect. They are not playing the toughest conference schedule so they may not be worthy of a spot in the BCS National Championship game.

Are the Georgia Bulldogs the Real Deal in 2013?

The Georgia Bulldogs had a ridiculous first month of the college football season. The Bulldogs opened the season against the top 10 Clemson Tigers. They took a loss in Death Valley and many analysts felt as if Aaron Murray could not win the big game. They had to come back the next week and take on another top 10 team in the South Carolina Gamecocks. This game was at home and the Bulldogs pulled out the victory. After a layup game versus North Texas the Bulldogs had to take on yet another top 10 team; this time it was the LSU Tigers. Another win between the hedges put Georgia at 3-1 to end one of the most difficult months in recent college football history. Does this mean that Georgia is the real deal?

Georgia’s Defense

Although the Georgia Bulldogs are 3-1 after the brutal September schedule I have not been impressed with their defense. They have given up 35, 30, 21 and 41 in four games. If they did not have a senior quarterback that has NFL talent there is no way they would have won three games. In fact, the SEC is known for defense yet this Georgia team is winning in shootouts. As long as Aaron Murray stays healthy the Bulldogs will be able to score but it may be the case that they run into a game in which they need to hold someone to win. If that is the case I don’t like the Bulldogs chances. Clemson and LSU walked up and down the field on Georgia. I would think that Alabama will be able to do the same thing. Until the Georgia defense gets better I cannot put them in the BCS National Title talk.

Now that the Georgia defense has survived a difficult first month I will be interested to see how they settle in during the easier part of the schedule. If they can put things together, stop the run and improve on their total yards given up this team could be very good. There is no argument to be made that the Georgia Bulldogs can score points. The only issue is if the Georgia Bulldogs can stop the other team from scoring points. Giving up over 21 points in all four games of the season, so far, is a cause for concern.

Georgia’s Offense

The shining star for the Georgia Bulldogs has been Aaron Murray. He will go down as the SEC’s most prolific passer after passing fellow Bulldog David Greene. Even though many have criticized Murray for not being able to win the big game he has now beaten a top 10 team twice in the same month. It is important to note that both of these games were at home. When Georgia plays between the hedges they seem to be a much different team. Even though they don’t have many extremely tough road games coming up they will still be challenged just because it is the SEC. Even the bottom half of the SEC causes problems when teams have to hit the road.

If Georgia is going to be a national title contender they need Aaron Murray to continue to be the quarterback he has been in the past month. A strong running game will only improve Murray’s game. One of Georgia’s strengths is their running game. An improved offensive line and rushing attack will make this a very potent offense. Before we make any long term predictions about the overall strength of the Georgia offense we will need to see how they play on the road. This week they go to Knoxville to play a Tennessee team that is not very good. If Georgia cannot score over 27 points on this Tennessee team in Neyland Stadium there might be some cause for concern. If Aaron Murray and the offense put up some huge points we might be talking about an SEC Championship game lock.

The SEC Championship Game

Just the other day I heard a few experts mention that Georgia was a shoe in for the SEC Championship game. Before we crown them SEC East Champions I want to see them go on the road and win some games. Playing at home is one thing but going on the road and winning in a hostile environment is another thing. Having a senior QB that will be the most prolific passer in SEC history sure helps when it comes to winning big time road games. That said, there are still some that are worried about the Bulldogs defense. If the Bulldogs defense cannot stop anyone at home how are they going to stop anyone on the road. A few road trips will help us make a much better assessment of this team. Right now, they definitely deserve to be in the top 10 but I would not give them the SEC East title just yet.

Florida and South Carolina are not playing their best football right now but anything can happen in the SEC. We have learned this over the past several years. Florida often gets better as the season goes on. If Florida can get on a roll they may end up beating Georgia in Jacksonville and heading into the SEC Championship. Some people discounted Florida solely because they lost their starting QB for the year. If the Florida defense plays as good as most people think they can they will be able to compete with any team in the country by shortening the game.

There are very few teams that have the ability to shorten the game in college football these days. Alabama had to score 49 to beat Texas A&M and Oregon scores 60 points a game. If the Florida defense can slow down the opposition’s offense and Florida can run the ball this might be a way to win some ugly games. Georgia has proven they cannot stop anybody. With this being the case Florida may be able to run it right down their throat, every single play, until Georgia does something to stop them. If Georgia decides to bring up the safeties and put more men in the box we will see Florida go over the top for some long gains. This is old school football that has worked for the last century. Whether or not Florida will be able to run the ball right at Georgia, Texas A&M or Alabama has yet to be seen.

Running the Ball in the SEC

Anyone that has read my columns or talked college football with me knows that I feel as if some teams can run the football and stop the run to win a national championship. There are a few teams that can install a new offense that scores a ton of points to win games but these programs are few and far between. The teams that can play old school, smash mouth football tend to be the traditional schools like Texas, Alabama, Florida and LSU. The teams that want to toss the ball all over the field and score points are Oregon, Louisville and Texas Tech. Interestingly, the high scoring offenses seem to do very well in the regular season but they do not do so well when a big game is on the line. Oregon has won BCS Bowl Games but they have not won a National Championship game.

Texas A&M scores tons of points but they struggle when they are in a big game against a team with an excellent defense. Ultimately, the teams that run the ball straight at Texas A&M often end up beating them. Texas A&M scores very quickly which means their defense will be on the field much more than their offense. This can cause fatigue for the defense and when they need a stop they just don’t have the energy. I have seen this time and again with Oregon and Texas Tech. When a defense doesn’t have time to rest they are going to be a little bit lazy when they are on the field.

I can remember watching the early 2000s Texas Tech teams score 50 and 60 points a game. They would win nine or 10 games a year but they could never beat Texas or Oklahoma. Teams that ran the ball straight at them ended up tiring out the defense. As soon as the Texas Tech offense got on the field they would try to score as quickly as possible. Even if they were successful scoring it did not allow their defense to get any rest. This is a recipe for disaster and injuries. Some coaches have learned they need to learn to slow down and run the ball. In the SEC it is almost always the case that the team that runs the ball better ends up winning the game. If Georgia can run the ball very well, control the clock and stop the run they will be a contender for the 2013 BCS National Championship.

LSU vs Georgia 2013

On Saturday, September 28th, 2013 Athens, Georgia will hold the attention of millions of college football games. The Bayou Bengals from LSU will come to town to take on the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges. This is a huge game for both teams as it matches up the #6 LSU Tigers vs the #9 Georgia Bulldogs. The winner of this game will be sitting pretty when it comes to a BCS spot come college football bowl season. One game, a season does not make, but this one game could break Georgia’s season. The Bulldogs lost to the Clemson Tigers to open the season and another loss might ruin their hopes of going to a BCS Bowl Game without an SEC conference championship. Here are a few things to watch for in this game.

The LSU Defensive Line

It is amazing to see the rotation of the LSU defensive line year in and year out. In 2013, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis has a two deep that will challenge any offensive front in the country. This has been true for many years with LSU. I don’t know what they feed the kids down there in Louisiana but it is not what I ate as a child. Last year LSU had a defensive end that weighed 250 pounds and could run a 4.4 second 40 yard dash. Even though he graduated, LSU reloaded and still has some amazing talent along the defensive front. One thing that is unique with this LSU team is the defensive backfield is a little more experienced than the defensive front. This means that Georgia QB Aaron Murray might not be as big of a factor as the Georgia running backs. Listen for the name Todd Gurley during the CBS broadcast on Saturday afternoon.

If the LSU defensive line can get interior pressure during the game in Athens it will be interesting to see how Georgia reacts. Running the ball is necessary to win big games in the SEC but some teams have accepted they need to throw the ball to set up the run. I honestly don’t know if that will be possible against LSU. If there were ever a year in which teams could run the ball on first or second down this might be the year. If you want to throw on LSU good luck. LSU is currently giving up 136 rush yards a game which is a huge number for any LSU team. As stated earlier, the front seven is younger than usual so this team is sure to get better. How quickly they will improve might be determined this week at Georgia.

The Georgia Running Backs

With the LSU defensive line being a little bit young this might be the year that Georgia has a running back run for over 150 yards versus the Tigers. In the past decade not many teams have been able to run the ball down the throat of the LSU Tigers. In fact, the opposite was often true. The national championship LSU teams were known for getting the ball and methodically running a 15 to 20 play drive that just deflated the other team. If Georgia can do that on Saturday it will be interesting to see how the young LSU defensive line reacts. By putting more pressure on these young players the Georgia running backs could end up winning the game when all is said and done.

Anyone that is on scholarship to be a running back at Georgia has talent. Some end up doing better than others by their senior year but they are all very talented. Something very interesting in the SEC is running backs that have a few big games at a time. It is shocking to see how many running backs have a two or three game stretch in which they are amazing. As the season progresses a few things slow them down. Defensive coordinators get game tapes on their tendencies and the physical wear and tear on their bodies makes it difficult to keep up the pace. This is why the running backs that have an amazing full season in the SEC are often up for the Heisman Trophy.

The UGA Crowd

Home field advantage in the SEC is huge. It is hard to place into words how important it is to get the crowd involved in these types of Saturday games. One of the biggest advantages of the home team is getting off the ball. When LSU is on offense the crowd is going to be extremely loud. This makes it hard for the offensive lineman to hear the quarterback. Some teams will use a silent snap in which the quarterback simply lifts up his foot. Unfortunately, the defensive players can see this and they get a quick jump off the ball. There is no argument to be made that most of the big sack games for defensive players happen when they are at home. Not having to worry about anything but the quarterbacks foot is a huge advantage for any player coming off the ball. Watch for this on Saturday.

The home field advantage is usually worth about a field goal in a college football game. In the SEC it might be worth a little bit more than that. The crowd in Athens will be ready to go by 3:30 pm. The fact that this is the SEC game of the week on CBS means a large percentage of diehards will be out several hours before the game. Tailgating and the overall atmosphere is very special in the south. It will come as no surprise that some fans will start the tailgating process on Friday night. Getting geared up for a game for several hours means Sanford Stadium will be rocking at 3:30 pm est. If you have never been to an SEC football game on a Saturday afternoon it is definitely worth the experience. Fans know their football and they are willing to get very loud.

Aaron Murray

Over the past several years the quarterback of Georgia, Aaron Murray, has built up a reputation for losing the big game. Prior to beating South Carolina earlier this season Murray was thought of as the worst big game quarterback in the SEC. After that win the critics have pulled back a little bit, but they will be out again if LSU wins the game at Georgia. Against top 15 teams Aaron Murray is simply a different player. All the blame cannot be placed on him as football is a team sport. That said, after more than five or six losses some of the blame needs to go on the quarterback that has been there through all of those losses.

I have never been a huge fan of Aaron Murray. I have nothing against him as he has been a good kid while in college but he hasn’t been able to consistently win the big game. I am not sure if it is coaching or just the inability to deal with the pressure. During the LSU Tigers game on Saturday afternoon Murray will have many things in his favor. He will be at home and the LSU defensive front is not nearly as good as it was in past years. That said, the LSU secondary is unreal. This is one of the tallest and most physical secondaries I have seen in quite some time. I do not expect to see Aaron Murray throw for 300 yards versus LSU. In fact, he may not even need to throw for 200 yards. He needs to manage the game and not make the big mistake. This is sometimes difficult for a quarterback that has been known to make mistakes in the past.

I feel as if Aaron Murray can truly silence the critics if he can beat the LSU Tigers this weekend. He has already beaten South Carolina. A win versus LSU will put Georgia ahead of the pack in the SEC East to go to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. The schedule is not easy for Georgia so a win against the Bayou Bengals will go a very long way towards helping their argument for a BCS spot during the bowl season. All of this will be a moot point if Georgia can win out and win the SEC Championship game. If Georgia wins out and wins the SEC Championship game there is a very good chance they will be in the national championship game.

An SEC team that goes undefeated is guaranteed a spot in the BCS national championship game. A one loss SEC team has a great shot at the BCS national championship if the cards fall in the right way. I firmly believe a one loss SEC team is probably in a much better position to compete for a national title than an undefeated team in some of the other conferences. That will be the topic for tomorrow so check it out.

BCS National Championship Ends at the Rose Bowl

It is all too fitting that the final BCS National Championship game will take place at the Rose Bowl near Los Angeles, California. For several decades the Rose Bowl has been known as the “Granddaddy of Them All”. This phrase was coined years ago when the Rose Bowl game often determined the national championship. This was well before the BCS was part of the college football bowl system. This season the Rose Bowl will host the “Granddaddy of Them All” but it will take place five days after the Rose Bowl game. The Rose Bowl will take place on January 1st while the BCS National Championship will be played on Monday, January 6th, 2013. This is sure to be one of the most sought after tickets in BCS Championship history because it will be the final championship game in the current format.

How the BCS Works

In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series was formed to crown the NCAA college football champion. Prior to the BCS it was often the case that the top two teams in the country did not play for the championship at the end of the season. In the 1980s and 1990s there were several split national championships because bowl games had conference affiliations that did not allow the top two teams to play. In fact, as I child I can remember the #1 team playing the #11 or #12 team in a bowl game. It was not good for the fans nor the sport. This was the reason we have seen the BCS over the last fifteen years. As the college football landscape has evolved it has changed many things about the bowl system. One issue with the current BCS is the computer system that is involved. In the 1980s and 1990s computers did not factor into the ranking system. Today they are a very big part of the BCS ranking system.

Computers are used to gauge many factors related to college football teams. It would be impossible to explain all the metrics. In short, the computers will analyze a team based on the opponents they have played and, more importantly, the opponents they have defeated. Unfortunately, a team cannot determine what other teams do with their schedule. It is also true that college football programs create their schedule years in advance. If Texas schedules LSU in 2013 for the 2018 season they expect LSU to be a top 15 program as they are now. If LSU loses their coach and some of their recruiting classes are not stellar it may very well be that LSU is not a top 50 program when they play Texas five years from now. Is this the fault of the Texas athletic department? Absolutely not. The computers will not like the schedule simply because of circumstances Texas does not control.

Another issue with the current BCS system is the fact that three undefeated teams cannot play in one game. If Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State go undefeated in the 2013 season one of these teams will be left out of the BCS National Championship in January of 2014. This is a huge cause for concern as fans in different parts of the country will have their issues with who gets it. Is Oregon a better team than Ohio State because they play in the Pac-12? Is Alabama better than both Oregon and Ohio State because they have won three of the last four national championships? These are questions that will be answered much differently by different experts and fans.

The ultimate goal of the BCS was to place the #1 and #2 teams in the national championship game. No matter what fans may say about the current BCS there is no argument to be made that the #1 and #2 teams will play on January 6th, 2014. Whether or not these are the two best teams in the country is an argument for another time. In the future this argument will not be valid as there will be a college football playoff in which the top four teams will get in. It will be the first time in college football history that a playoff will be part of the championship process.

The Rose Bowl and the BCS have had a great relationship since 1998. The BCS currently has four bowl games before the BCS National Championship Game. These bowl games are the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl. All four locations are in warm weather climates as this attracts fans from all over the country. Many fans from northern teams love to travel south for New Years. Some will even make it a long holiday and travel to Los Angeles, California for the Christmas holiday as well. There are very few bowl games, in general, that are played in cold weather climates as January in the United States is not enjoyable in some of the states that are in the northern part of the country.

Los Angeles and the Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl Stadium is located in Pasadena, California but most people consider it in Los Angeles. It is in Los Angeles County and the University of California at Los Angeles plays their home games in this stadium. The first Rose Bowl game was played in Pasadena in 1923 and there has only been one Rose Bowl game played outside of the stadium. The 1942 Rose Bowl was played in Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. Even the most diehard college football fans do not know this tidbit of trivia.

When visiting Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl and/or BCS National Championship in January 2014 many fans will look in to some of the local attractions. The Parade or Roses will take place during the day on January 1st, 2014 and it is quite the event. If fans are taking the long vacation for both games it would be smart to plan ahead. Even though Los Angeles is one of the largest cities in the world it never hurts to come up with a plan instead of just winging it when you get there. Los Angeles County is huge and those from small towns in the south might be overwhelmed with all the options. Teams in the Southeastern Conference may be excited to go to Hollywood but it takes a little bit of preparation. Those in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Eugene, Oregon or Tuscaloosa, Alabama love the college town atmosphere but that is very much different than the bright lights of Hollywood.

With the advancements of smartphones, tablets and mobile Internet access it is much easier to navigate a large city. Google Now allows users to ask Google for suggestions. This service continues to get better over time as Google better understands the type of food one may or may not like. Apple has something very similar with Siri. Instead of wandering around Los Angeles aimlessly anyone with a smartphone can now get walking directions to the closest sushi bar or steakhouse. This was not possible just five years ago. One of the best ways to navigate the Rose Bowl area is to take advantage of the Google Maps and Yelp apps. These apps are priceless when it comes to dining and entertainment options. Even if you want to get in a quick round of golf you will be able to find options through these two apps.

Booking a hotel or a place to stay in Los Angeles is another tough decision for diehard college football fans. In small college towns it is not hard to drive a motorhome to the stadium and stay for a few nights. Some families have a parking spot right outside the stadium they have used for several decades. This is not going to be possible at major bowl games. It is definitely not possible at the Rose Bowl as the stadium staff will have to clean up the stadium after the Rose Bowl on January 1st for the BCS National Championship game that will take place on January 6th. It might be hard for some fans to fly to LAX, rent a car and book a hotel room. This is something they are not accustomed to when it comes to watching their favorite team play in a college football game. Anyone that has been to big time football in the southeast knows that fans have their way of life and they enjoy it just the way it is.

When these fan bases go to other major cities it is not easy to adjust. That said, they are willing to do anything to watch their favorite college football team play. If the team in the BCS title game is their alma mater they may have waited decades to watch them win a championship. This is not the case with Alabama as they have won three national championships in the last four years. Teams like Notre Dame, Oregon and Clemson have not won national championships in decades so their fans will be ready to roll into Pasadena and take over the Rose Bowl.

By Jesse Wojdylo

Can Anyone Beat Alabama?

Can Anyone Beat Alabama?

Can Anyone Beat Alabama?

Just three weeks into the season and already the questions are buzzing around. How good are the Alabama Crimson Tide? Can they be beaten? Head coach Nick Saban is the master of minimizing the probability of losing. It’s very simple, really. Don’t turn the ball over, force turnovers on defense, run the football aggressively using zone and power run schemes, and pass out of play action, which are safer throws for the quarterback.

Is there anyone on the schedule that can defeat the Crimson Tide? Well, they all have the opportunity to beat them, but talking and doing are two very different things. How in the world can anyone win against Alabama?

Alabama has a far superior defense (giving up just 4.6 points and 58 rushing yards per game) than most. To beat it, a team will have to find an advantage that slows ‘Bama down play after play. Western Kentucky, for example, used a variety of shifts and motions to get some type of advantage by formation (didn’t work that well as they were crushed 35-0 by the Tide in week two).

An opponent must play within their system to beat Alabama. If you are a power running football team, you must stick to it and not try and become a spread offense in a week. It won’t work. And, while you’re at it, do not turn the ball over. One turnover and Saban’s troops will make you pay.

The Alabama offense is notorious for its power running game that uses zone and power runs. The offensive line is big, fast, and just plain good. And, ‘Bama has a slew of running backs that will just keep pounding on a defense. The running game sets up a very good play-action passing game where QB A.J. McCarron is very effective at making all the necessary throws. In order to beat this offense, an opponent’s defense has to sell out and take away what the offense does best. In this case, do whatever it takes to stop the run! Then you pray that the passing game doesn’t beat you.

A ‘Bama opponent can gain some knowledge by looking at some of the Tide’s past failures. For example, in wins over Florida and Tennessee last year, Saban was livid late in those games when both the Florida Gators and the Vols used a two-tight end formation and his defense could not get aligned correctly. The result? Florida and Tennessee were able to move the ball against the Tide, albeit versus mostly second- and third-teamers. Interestingly, both Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Tennessee head man Derek Dooley coached under Saban at some point.

If you plan on beating Alabama, you must have a head coach who is well-schooled in the art of JEDI mind tricks. You know, the type of narrative that Lou Holtz would deliver before his Fighting Irish would take on Navy or Rice. “I just don’t know how we’re going to beat them,” Holtz would say to reporters. If your coach can encourage that the team is outmanned and there is no way that it can win, you may have a shot.

Finally, what team has ever won without believing it could? To beat the best, which Alabama can surely lay claim to, you must believe that you can (whether you can or not). There weren’t many who believed that a bunch of amateurs could beat the world’s best in Olympic ice hockey back in 1980. But a group of young Americans and their coach believed…and they won, defeating the powerful Russian team on their way to a gold medal.

Looking at the Tide’s schedule, there is really only one opponent that has what it takes to defeat Alabama. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are not on the schedule this year and while Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are improving, they are not yet ready to compete with Alabama. And there will be the big rivalry game with Auburn on Thanksgiving weekend, but the Tigers have struggled in the first three weeks of the season.

Only the LSU Tigers, which was Alabama’s only blemish in the national championship run a year ago, has what it takes to beat the Tide. The Tigers have a defense capable of taking away ‘Bama’s running game. They will find advantages and benefit from past Alabama failures, and they will believe they can win…they’ve done it before. LSU will not attempt any drastic changes and coach Les Miles will stick to what he does best. Plus, Miles will work wonders in the media as he and Saban offer up their best versions of the JEDI mind tricks.

Can anyone beat Alabama? It remains to be seen. The Tide have another “tune-up” game with Florida Atlantic before getting into the SEC schedule. November 3rd is the date with the LSU and Saban’s squad will have to travel to Baton Rouge. If anyone can beat Alabama, LSU will have the best shot on the first Saturday night in November.