I'll preview the championship game, but before I do I want to address some of the goings on. Coach Fran did the right thing. He is a a much better coach than I thought and he proved it this year. Alabama is in huge trouble. There won't be many coaches lining up for the job that don't have ties to the Tide. I thought the fact that Texas A&M waited until after the Alabama game to announce the firing of R.C. Slocum was key. A firing before the game would have been a huge distraction to the Tide players. All the media would have spoken about was the A&M opening. When they announced the following Monday I felt certain that Fran was on his way back to the lone start state.
Things are about to heat up again at Alabama. With sworn testimony on the record painting a much darker picture of the Crimson Tide recruiting practices, one would wonder how severe the penalties will be. Bama is currently on the 5-year NCAA plan, so it would be reasonable to assume the hammer will swing hard. Even though we probably should, I don't think we'll see the Death penalty. If the NCAA finds out that U of A withheld key information we may see a new level of NCAA fury. Alabama appealed the sanctions and rubbed the NCAA's nose in it by scheduling themselves a bowl game. I am sure the ole boys from Indy are more than happy to reopen this case. As I said before, Coach Fran did the right thing.
Joe Lee Dunn will no longer patrol the sidelines as a Mississippi State Bulldog. While I know progress is sometimes painful, this still saddens me. Joe Lee, in a lot of ways, was the identifying figure for the Bulldogs. I know Jackie has his share of fans and non-fans, but Joe Lee was respected and feared by nearly all. It was a dark day at MSU when our five assistant coached were "reassigned". It's water cooler conversation for a lot of people, but Joe Lee was part of the family. It's much more personal. This will sound crazy, but I wasn't sure about hiring Joe Lee after his time at Mississippi. In some ways I felt that if you were once a Rebel you'll always be a Rebel, but Joe Lee will always be a Bulldog to me, regardless of where he goes.
I am sure many people will accuse me of taking the company line, but I'm still a Bulldog. We all knew things had to change and change they have. I am anxious to hear who the official replacements are. The names I have heard from good sources all sound like good choices. Recruiting season is upon us and we need as many Dogs barking as we can get. I have had many people e-mail and ask questions about replacements. I never believe the rumors, but I know this. Whether we hire Long, Mazzone, Spurrier, or Lombardi as offensive coordinator, I'll be cheering my lungs out on Saturdays next fall for the Maroon and White.
The bowl picture is still very cloudy and won't really take shape until Monday. LSU and Mississippi all watch this weekend's games with great interest. If Notre Dame gets locked out of the BCS they may go to the Cotton Bowl which would send LSU down the ladder to the either the Music City or the Independence. The Indy bowl is a better fit if that occurs, which leaves Mississippi out. I am sure they'll catch on somewhere like the New Orleans bowl vs. Tulane. If that happens I am sure they'll be plenty of tickets available if your interested. I am sure they'll find a place for the Rebels somewhere. Latest word is Cotton Bowl wants LSU, but I am sure the conference will have some say in that. What is ironic to me is that the SEC West champion could go to a lower bowl than the #2 and #3 teams in the West. Some folks are projecting Auburn in the Capital One Bowl, LSU in the Cotton, and Arkansas in the Music City. It may shake out like that, but it shouldn't. In my opinion, which counts for little, it should be like this. (Sugar) Georgia (Capital One) Florida (Cotton) Arkansas (Outback) Auburn (Peach) Tennessee (Music City) LSU (Independence) Mississippi. I have seen Auburn projected in the Capital One Bowl which makes no sense. They were 2nd in the West and Arkansas and Florida are more deserving of the SEC #2 tie in. Something must be said for winning on the field. I am still bitter about us going to the Independence Bowl instead of the Outback Bowl in 2000. The SEC owes us an upgrade and hopefully next year Jackie can collect on it.
Arkansas vs. Georgia
While not many people are surprised to see UGA here most are to see the Pigs. The Hogs yanked the red carpet right out from under the LSU Tigers last weekend. LSU found out a little about the law of average last week. While I have found plenty of angry LSU fans, I haven't found too many willing to admit that LSU was fortunate to even be in that position. Had the Blue Grass miracle come up snake eyes, last week's game would have been to decide between the Hogs and Auburn. Matt Jones was an absymal 4 of 14 in the game passing. LSU has ahead 17-7 with about 8 minutes left when a funny thing happened. LSU had the Pigs stopped on 3rd down and Matt Jones slithered away and made the 1st down. A few plays later Fred Talley broke a long one to make it 17-14. LSU got a little conservative in the red zone and had to settle for a short field goal. The rest, as they say, is history. Many have been very critical of St. Nick for playing prevent defense in the final minute. I think it's the right call. Jones was 2 of 11 at that point. The big question to the secondary is, "How did you let someone get behind you in a prevent situation?". You have to give Arkansas credit; they started 1-3 and looked bad. After losing to UT in OT the UPigs grew up to UHogs.
Georgia arrived on schedule in their year to champion the East. It took a little more drama thanks to an upset loss to Florida. The Bulldogs are for real and the fact that they are 3rd in the BCS should mean something. It would be really interesting to see how the Dogs could match up with Ohio State. I think a Miami loss just isn't enough for the SEC Champs to leapfrog the defending national champs. The most likely scenario is the UGA/FSU Sugar Bowl. Richt vs. Bowden. UGA is loaded for bear and has taken most of their strides behind QB David Greene. Greene survived another QB controversy and has the Bulldogs right were they wanted to be all along. The defense is much improved and I am anxious to see the Hogs attempt to run wild on this D. The Georgia O line poses some big problems for the Arkansas D. LSU had the Hogs beat, but ran our of gas. The UGA O-line may be the best this side of the NFL. They will control the line of scrimmage unlike their counterparts from Baton Rouge.
Arkansas is a very one-dimensional team, but they are extremely good in that dimension. They run and run and run. They hang around, and despite the Auburn game, they keep the games close. If they can stay with UGA to the final possession, they have a chance. I think this one will be close at the half with UGA making the right adjustments at the half to stave off the upset hungry Hogs.
Georgia 24 Arkansas 14
Next time we get together it'll be time to discuss the bowl season and we'll have news about Mario. My guess is Xavier may want to pack a lunch. It's basketball season for us Dogs now, but we've got a little more Football business to handle in the coming weeks. To those departing coaches best of luck and thanks for being part of the Bulldog family. To the incoming coaches, we fans are on a one-year program. Our kids deserve to win. After all the cowbells have fallen silent, the Egg Bowl wishes have been scrambled, and the Rebel print media types have had their laugh, it's still great to be a Bulldog. The greatest part is that we'll have the last laugh.
Until next week,
P.S. If you are near the Baton Rouge area come join us as we celebrate a Bulldog Christmas with Ron Polk this Monday night.
Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.