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After a night of covering the Florida-Little Rock basketball game at the renovated O-Dome, an abbreviated thoughts of the day.
THE NEW O-DOME
Since we didn’t get a brand new arena, this is the next best thing. There are fewer seats, but it’s a more comfortable place to see a game with better sight lines and improved seating. There is actually leg room and those horrible plastic seats have been replaced by cushioned chairbacks. No bleachers. It’s a beautiful place to see a game and it should help Mike White recruit.
The fans are a bit farther from the court so there isn’t quite the intimate feeling there was before so we’ll have to wait to see if it still has the old intimidation factor, but it still holds the noise in and it’s certainly a far better place to see a game than the old dump.
I’ll give it an A grade.
THE BEST EVER?
Prior to the basketball game, I ran into an acquaintance from way back who asked me, “Is this Alabama team the best college football team of all time?”
Before I gave him my answer, I asked him if he thinks so and his response, “I think this Alabama team could beat any team in any era.”
I told him that before we declare this the best Alabama team ever, there is that teensy matter of Washington in the semifinals and if Alabama wins that one, either Ohio State or Clemson in the championship game. Both games are winnable and both games are losable. Washington is a far better team than most are giving credit largely because (1) the Huskies played on the west coast and nobody really saw them play; (2) in non-conference play the Huskies were matched against a convent, a homeless shelter and the winner of the powder puff flag football league from The Villages; and (3) top to bottom the Pac-12 really wasn’t very good this year. Even with those three strikes against them, the Huskies are coached by Chris Peterson, who proved in his Boise State days that when he’s given weeks to prepare for a game he’s capable of beating teams with superior talent. Washington isn’t talent-less and the Huskies have players capable of rising to a high level on a big stage. As for Clemson and Ohio State, Clemson was within a whisker of beating Alabama for the national championship last year and returns the player who almost got the Tigers to the promised land in Deshaun Watson. Ohio State is coached by Urban Meyer. I know a lot of Gator fans despise him but he’s another one who has proven that if you give him weeks to prepare for a game, he rarely loses (see Ohio State in 2006, Oklahoma in 2008 and Alabama in 2014).
So, yes, Alabama could indeed lose. The Tide looks like the best team but it’s not like Washington, Clemson or Ohio State will just roll over and die.
If Alabama wins both games and dominates defensively the way it has since October 22, then any discussion about the best ever will likely include this year’s team. If the Crimson Tide loses one, they’ll go down as a very good team but not a great one.
I’m not going to try to compare eras here, but I will offer the 10 best teams I’ve ever seen in college football:
1. Nebraska, 1995: The Huskers averaged 53.2 points and 509.9 yards per game while giving up 174 points and 269.6 yards per game. The Huskers had only two games out of 12 in which they failed to score at least 40 points.
2. Miami, 2001: This was a National Football League team biding its time in college uniforms. The Hurricanes only had one close game the entire season, a 26-24 win over Virginia Tech in the final regular season game. They averaged 42.7 per game and gave up 117 points in 12 games.
3. Southern Cal, 1972: Pat Haden quarterbacked a team loaded with future NFL talent that averaged 38.9 points per game and gave up only 138 in 12 games. Anthony Davis was the offensive star, playing in a backfield with Sam “Bam” Cunningham.
4. Alabama, 1979: This was the last great team of Bear Bryant. The Crimson Tide averaged 31.9 points per game and gave up only 67 points and 167.1 yards per game while going 12-0.
5. Miami, 1987: Jimmy Johnson went 12-0, won the national championship and next season was coaching the Dallas Cowboys. His unbeaten Miami team averaged 34.3 points per game while giving up just 10.4. Michael Irvin was the offensive star while the defense featured 20 future NFL players including Bennie Blades. An unsung star of that team was Florida interim DC Randy Shannon.
6. Southern Cal, 2004: Because of Reggie Bush and NCAA matters, the national championship was stripped from this team but they were the best team in the country with Heisman winner Matt Leinhart, Bush and Steve Smith leading an offense that averaged 38.2 points per game and a defense that gave up only 279.3 yards per game and 169 points.
7. Florida, 2008: The Gators proved how good they were by taking down the #1 team in consecutive games – Alabama in the SEC championship game and Oklahoma in the national championship game. Tim Tebow led the Florida offense that averaged 445 yards and 43 points a game while the defense gave up just 285.3 yards per game and 181 points in 14 games.
8. Oklahoma, 1974: The Sooners were in the NCAA jailhouse so they couldn’t play in a bowl game but they went unbeaten, averaging 43 points per game while the defense, led by Lee Roy Selmon, gave up only 92 points all year.
9. Alabama, 2012: Alabama lost to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M and had close calls with LSU and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but this team was loaded with future NFL talent and when Nick Saban had the Tide at peak performance nobody could touch them. Ask Notre Dame.
10. Florida State, 2013: As much as it pains me, FSU 2013 was a truly great team that scored at least 34 points in all 14 games, averaging 51.6 points while giving up only 170 all year. Jameis Winston won the Heisman. Offensively, this was as good a team as there has been.
Special mention: Alabama, 1961. I saw the Tide play on television but I was only 10 years old and really had no clue what was going on. Still, any team that goes unbeaten and holds opponents to 25 points and without a touchdown in the last seven games of the season should be mentioned somewhere.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
How would you rank the best college football teams (of any era) that you have personally seen?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I listened to an old Kenny Loggins CD while driving to and from Waldo where I had a clandestine meeting with Hollywood Bob. “Nightwatch” featured three extraordinary songs but my favorite was “Whenever I Call You Friend” which featured Stevie Nicks in duet on the vocals.