Unfazed by 'Radio Riots'

People tell me there have been near radio-riots the past couple of weeks. It seems Alabama's margins of victory and less-than-stellar performances against doormats Duke and Ole Miss had the loudest radio talk-show hosts shrieking about their ratings -- I mean, clamoring for something or other to happen with the coaching staff at Alabama.

I'm not exactly sure what they're saying, but the way I understand it, they're raising a ruckus.

What else is new? Ruckus -- with some real mature name calling thrown in -- supposedly equals ratings.

Don't know, don't care. I don't listen and I'm all the happier for it.

Anyway, there is clearly some angst among the Crimson masses, and there should be, no matter what's being babbled about on the radio. Alabama missed a golden opportunity to play a bunch of second- and third-teamers against Duke, which will make next year's team all the less experienced. It allowed a cruddy Ole Miss team to lead at halftime and throw a touchdown bomb to force overtime.

Good teams don't fiddle around with D-I leftovers like Duke and Ole Miss, they mop the floor with them. That the Crimson Tide did not wallop those inferior teams reflects poorly on the coaches and the players.

However, there is another side to this Crimson Tide, one that does not play footsie with feeble foes.

This Tide goes toe to toe with giants, like it did when controlling much of the action at No. 5 Florida for three quarters. This Alabama team, if it shows up converting third downs and putting a few drives into the end zone, and shuttling Erik Ainge & Co. to the sideline with a handful of three-and-outs, can pull off a stunning upset of resurgent Tennessee tomorrow. If the home version of the Crimson Tide shows up, the Vols will be doing some mauling.

When you do the big-picture drop-step on Alabama football you realize it is truly one chip-shot field goal at Arkansas away from being 6-1 overall and in a dog fight with the Razorbacks and Auburn for the SEC West lead.

How would our perception of Alabama be changed if it had converted that fourth quarter -- or first overtime -- field goal at Reynolds Razorback Stadium and done everything else since then the exact same way? I'll tell you what I think. I'd say at 6-1 this Crimson Tide team would be ahead of expectations and truly one of the surprise teams in the conference this season.

Just one blown opportunity, like the lost game in the Ozarks, can taint a season. Alabama has gone 2-1 since then, but squandered great chances at Florida before coming apart in the fourth quarter, and looked somewhat disconnected in its next two games. As it is, 5-2 is where a big chunk of analysts saw Alabama at this point of the season. It failed to capitalize on a wildly dominant final 20 minutes against the Razorbacks, who themselves have been the surprise team in the SEC in the first half of the season.

It is Alabama's game-to-game inability to maximize scoring chances, capitalize on turnovers and punch out possessions in the red zone that makes it difficult to rationally call for an upset at the orange-and-white colossus. I'm not saying it can't happen, just that the chances are remote and that Alabama would have to play at a consistently high level that we haven't seen this season to knock off the Vols.

This Third Week in October has seemingly gone back to some old-school Alabama-Tennessee rivalry rhetoric. Reporters at Alabama have asked few, if any, of the once-staple questions about Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and his role in spurring the NCAA's investigation, and subsequent punishment, of Alabama football.

Only Alabama running back Kenneth Darby brought it up, rather obliquely, saying he wasn't even sure what's the deal between "Phillip Fulmer and Roll Tide" was.

So this rivalry is headed back to a healthier state.

Wish the same could be said for our radio entertainers, who will crank up their verbal slashing with even greater force should Alabama return from the Smokies at 5-3. If Alabama happens to pull off the big upset in Knoxville, well then they'll conveniently forget what they said the last two weeks, do a 180, and heap praise on the Tide.

It's knee-jerk journalism and should be turned off.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Moblie Register. He is a contributor to BamaMag.com and 'BAMA Magazine.

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