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Rest easy and thank you, John Prine, the best that ever was

That’s what I looked like when I was in high school. I look different now, but when I heard we lost Mr. Prine, I felt like that kid again.

I went to a record store and found John Prine’s first album when I was 15, a couple of days after hearing a redheaded girl singing “Hello in There” at a party where a lot of underage drinking was going on. Some guy played the piano, she had a great voice, and can still hear the way she delivered the killer line, “We lost Davy in the Korean War. I still don’t know for. Don’t matter anymore.” As if she was 50 years old instead of 15. I gasped at the sudden clarity and hard truth of it – a common reaction to John Prine lyrics, I would learn.

That song made a lot of us kids realize there was an old person inside, biding their time, just waiting to come out. Mine is writing this now, with my burning eyes.

I have that girl – wherever she is and whatever her name was – to thank for inclining my trajectory toward my lifelong mentor. I have John to thank for saving my life and sanity time and again in the years before diagnosed atypical depression and Prozac, when I was just another moody kid who thought about the Big Issues too much, with no perspective to draw any meaningful conclusions. That job fell to John, who explained the human condition for me and the other moody kids who grew up into slightly less moody, better medicated old men and women, waiting for someone to say “Hello in there. Hello.”

I am certain that I have a better understanding and more forgiveness in me than I would have had I not gone to that long-ago party. And I am certain I wouldn’t be suffering such a strong sense of loss at the death of a man I never got closer to than an orchestra seat while he played his guitar onstage, his right arm circling, fingers flying, picking out just the right notes from the distinctive, instinctive, three or four chords that rang through quiet bars and theaters where he performed.

I would not be as funny. I appropriated his humor, a hard thing not to do when you listened to his tunes the way I did: repeatedly, with headphones on, ignoring all else. I wouldn’t write as well. I studied his lyrics to try to learn how to hook words together to make them say more than they were designed to.

John’s been gone a little more than a week, now, taken by the God damned coronavirus. I haven’t been listening to any of his tunes yet, because I’m already self-quarantined against the foul pestilence alone in the apartment. I’m trying to keep busy, and I know listening to all those old songs would make me wind up on the floor watching the shadows cross the ceiling.

But I have been singing the words I can’t forget as they popped into my head. I whisper them softly, like a monk saying his rosary. Call me a John Prine Christian who trusts completely without any pretense of knowing it all, without faith or even full belief. Just trusting the Word of John, my own beloved apostle, taking comfort in the knowledge that he’s drinking vodka and ginger ale and still smoking on that cigarette that’s nine miles long.

Humor, Sports, Uncategorized

THE POTATO: One more game left in college football, but the drama never stops

LSU vs. Clemson in New Orleans for the College Football Playoffs National Championship kicks on January 13. Both teams are nicknamed “Tigers,” and both play in stadiums called “Death Valley.”

This has nothing to do with anything, but it’s a little bit interesting, isn’t it?

How they got to the championship game

Clemson beat Ohio State in a close, exciting, horribly officiated game and LSU beat the ever-loving snot out of Oklahoma, which the past two seasons has puked on its shoes in the playoffs and has yet to play a lick of defense. Hey, man, they lost to Kansas State. Let’s face it. The Big 12 just isn’t worth a damn, generally speaking.

Last year, there was only one week between the semifinals and the national championship game. I don’t know if this is some kind of TV scheduling thing, or if they realized that Clemson played Notre Dame, which would have finished fifth in the SEC and the ACC, so Dabo and his guys could spend about six weeks working on Alabama, whom they clobbered in the title game.

Alabama played Oklahoma, which was close to a real football team that had Kyler Murray at quarterback, so Bama had to spend a little time to watch some film on them.

I have no idea if the committee decided both teams should get a couple of weeks to get ready between the semis and finals so they could put on a better show in the finals, or if the committee even thinks about that kind of thing.

I still think it’s a good idea. And I really wish the NFL would push their playoffs back a week so that the college football national championship game could be played on Saturday, as God intended. It was super great last week when the semifinals were on Saturday. Those two games were The Show all day long. New Year’s Day was on a Wednesday, which turned out to be great, even if some poor bastards had to get up and go back to work on Thursday and Friday. For me, it was a lot of fun to wake up early, eat chicken wings for breakfast and watch football all day long lying on the couch in my bathrobe, which is what I do every Saturday during college football season because it’s the greatest thing in the world.

LSU’s Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy this season. If I had a time machine, I would go back to last year and place a prospect bet on that and LSU winning the national title, and I would be writing this from my new beach house. But he had a hell of a year in that offense that everybody’s talking about, which looks like it pretty much boils down to this: LSU sends one or more of its kick-ass receivers into the vicinity behind the linebackers and in front of the secondary, Joe throws them the ball and there they go.

If you attack at the line, Joe runs around and dodges all the tacklers and throws it to one of his guys who got open, or he gives it to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who ran for 1,200 yards and caught a bunch of passes and just generally wrought havoc on everybody who tried to tackle him. He’s 5-foot-8 and weighs 209 pounds, which is also great, because he’s one of those low-running guys so it’s hard to get low enough to grab a leg, and bigger defenders bounce off him like a pair of wadded-up socks off a rolling bowling ball.

Their defense has been none too impressive, but unlike the Big 12, they do tackle people eventually, usually after a long run or longer pass.

Clemson benefits from being in the ACC, which offers token resistance to the Tigers and to each other while the fan base spends football season putting together their wardrobe and planning road trips for basketball season.

When you are a good football team, and you are beating the wax out of your opponents, you leave the starters in for a while and work on the stuff you’re not very good at – like a scrimmage. So Clemson had 12 chances to do that (North Carolina played them a real football game) before they got to Ohio State.

They also benefited from Justin Fields being hurt and not able to run well enough to be a threat.

But Clemson’s defense did a good job on keeping the Buckeyes out of the end zone in the first half, when they were running up and down the field with abandon, and later in the game when they destroyed everything they tried to do.

Clemson’s got a good defense, which should make the LSU game interesting. They lead the nation in points allowed per game, which is hard to do even against ACC competition. And they did hold Ohio State when the chips were down.

They beat Virginia 62-17, and just shut the Wahoo offense down, which didn’t surprise anybody at the time. Virginia went on to to the Orange bowl and played Florida down to the ground in the Orange Bowl – Florida won 36-28. It means absolutely nothing, but Florida played LSU tough in Death Valley, losing 42-28, but LSU scored a cosmetic touchdown late in the game.

Clemson’s got a great quarterback who has the prettiest hair in American sports. When he goes pro after next season, he could make a fortune doing shampoo commercials. Trevor Lawrence is 6-foot-6, weighs about 220 pounds, has a howitzer on his shoulder and we found out last week against OSU that he can run like a bat out of hell. It was like watching Cam Newton if he had on a shoulder-length blonde wig, which sounds like something Cam would wear to a press conference if it ever occurred to him.

Here’s the thing about Trevor Lawrence. He will beat your ass. Clemson was behind OSU with three minutes left, Clemson had the ball. So Trevor shook back his flowing locks, put on his helmet and said “unh-hunh.” He took his down the field almost too fast, scoring a touchdown just under two minutes left. He’s 25-0 as a starting quarterback, which means either he’s due for a fall or maybe he’ll never lose again.

Running back Travis Etienne is from Louisiana, so of course, crazy LSU fans are sending him hate Tweets threatening to kill him and all things short of that. C’mon, guys. You have a hell of a starting running back from Louisiana – Baton Rouge, for crying out loud – and isn’t that enough? Maybe Travis, who gained 2,500 yards his senior year at Jennings High School was afraid that Clyde, who gained about 500, would beat him out, so he went to Clemson where he’d have a chance to start. Maybe he was the first to see Clyde’s boundless potential.

Anyhow, he’s strong and fast, and yeah, he only got 36 yards against Ohio State, but he was busy blocking and drawing fire for Trevor, who spent 17 plays running for 107 when he happily noted that before him lay huge swaths of green, green grass utterly devoid of Ohio State players.

Sports, Uncategorized

THE POTATO: Football season is over.

That’s the first sentence of Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide note. The man could really write a lede.

The rest of the note was uncharacteristically not very good, which goes to show what happens when writers hit the wall. It reminds me of what Jack Nicklaus said in his late 70s about his golf game. He said he could turn in a great round anytime, but he couldn’t do four in a row anymore.

You can’t get by writing one good sentence followed by a few shitty ones and then another good one. They’ve all got to work together, like a good offensive line. Write like a nickel, not five pennies. Three metaphors already. Close to my quota.

This is Army Navy weekend. The only college game on the air. It’s very patriotic. Every player on the field and all the kids in both student sections are willing to die to defend us – and foreign oil fields in a country that sent a guy over here to train at the Navy base in Pensacola. He got a hunting license, which enabled him, as a foreign visitor, to buy a 17 shot, 9 mm Glock 45. The news is, he got mad because one of his instructors nicknamed him “porn stash” because he had a mustache that resembled one that might be worn by a pornographic actor. He also resembled Pablo Schreiber, who played a prison guard with the same nickname in the Netflix comedy-drama about a women’s prison called “Orange is the new Black.”

The gunman, Mohammed Alshamrani, lacked the necessary acculturation to understand American humor and was clearly an easily threatened paranoid narcissist who had no business being in or around the military, ours or that of his own country, which floats on a sea of oil. I guess we should be thankful that he at least tipped his hand as a murdering psycho before learning how to operate an F/A 18F Super Hornet. Saudi Arabian lunatics flying airplanes really make me uneasy.

Among the slain was Joshua Kaleb Watson, a recent graduate of the Naval Academy and a native of Enterprise, Alabama, which is right down the road from where I live. He was standing guard duty when he was shot, but before he died, he told security where the shooter was.

Cameron Waters, from Effingham, Georgia, was a cheerful, positive guy who always hyped up the people around him to do the best they could, a former commander said. A leader from within.

The third victim was named Mohammad Sameh Haithem, the son of 20-year Navy veteran Evelyn Brady. He probably could have helped Alshamrani with his self-esteem problems if he’d come to talk instead of shoot. Haithem was a track star at his high school in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he stuck up for a freshman classmate who was being bullied by his teammates. Haithem talked to the bullies, and that was that.

He died shielding others from the gunfire.

Go Navy. Go Army. Everybody play your best.

Uncategorized

THE POTATO: Yeah, yeah, it is championship weekend, do your Christmas shopping instead

Oklahoma vs. Baylor, noon, ABC

Since Utah puked on its shoes and got stomped by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, it looks like this one could be for the fourth spot in the playoffs. LSU needs to beat Georgia pretty good, and it’ll open up for the winner of this game.

The last time these two teams played, Oklahoma helped Baylor to a 25-point, second-half lead by committing two turnovers that led to two touchdowns, a scenario that will give broken-hearted Alabama fans a frisson of foul memory after last week’s Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide’s former quarterback, Jalen Hurts, led a furious second-half comeback, and the Sooners had a field-goal kicker who could make a field goal, so they won a thriller 34-31 to hand the Bears their only loss. The Sooners had dropsy again and lost three turnovers the next week and squeaked out a 28-24 win over TCU. Then the next week, their rival Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had a press conference, and with his mullet and spit flying, declared the Oklahoma offense a glorified wishbone – as if that was an insult, because the wishbone will kick your ass if you aren’t careful. So Hurts went out and ran for 160 and threw for 160 hitting 13-0f-16 to eight different receivers that included himself against token resistance and beat Gundy like he stole something, 34-16.

Unlike everybody else in the league, Baylor does have a defense, but Oklahoma has Jalen Hurts. I like Jalen. Again.

Georgia vs. LSU, 4 p.m., CBS

Not many people are giving Georgia a chance. But I still believe that anybody with a good defense has a chance. Georgia’s offense is sketchy at best, but LSU’s defense is a cruel joke.

LSU is probably in the playoffs unless they lose really bad. I don’t think Georgia can beat them really bad – if they do it’ll be because somebody missed an extra point or fell down covering a punt or something. Georgia’s got a bunch of injuries, but the one that matters is receiver Lawrence Cager, who is the big dog. The Dawgs are a different team with him in the game, which means they’re a hell of a different team when he’s not, and not in a good way. Devonte Wyatt is nicked up – he’s the other slightly smaller big dog. Without them, Jake Fromm is a really ordinary quarterback. Running back D’Andre Swift is also dinged up, and if he’s not able to do much, then Georgia effectively has no offense, a thing ordinarily required to win a football game.

If LSU wins, it’ll probably win big enough to get Oklahoma in the top four and play them in the first round, which may be a big mistake.

Clemson vs. Virginia, 7:30, ABC

Oh, Dabo. Please stop whining. This week he said we’d all missed out on a “beautiful football team” because nobody gave them any respect and blah, blah, blah.

Look, basically, Clemson has 12 light scrimmages from August to December and is far enough ahead by the third quarter of every game to work on all the things they need to work on to get better. With this schedule, Clemson should be Playstation 5 set to “juggernaut” by now.

Virginia is an exciting little team, and I like their quarterback. I hope they enjoy their trip to the Orange Bowl after Clemson cleans their clock.

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, 8 p.m., FOX

This is the best chance for a competitive game, and it’s not real good. Wisconsin has a plain, old team that plays big boy football. They block, run unspectacularly but efficiently; if the quarterback throws it, and it’s close enough to the receiver, he’ll probably catch it. The defense is solid, everybody looks like they know what they’re doing and they all face the same way when they line up.

Ohio State will probably murder them.

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THE POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 14: Rivalry Week, Separation Saturday, the weak fall, the strong advance

Alabama at Auburn, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Auburn is ranked (15), and has something to play for other than just ruining the hated Alabama’s season. Ranked Auburn teams have, legend has it, never lost to ranked Alabama teams when playing in Auburn on November days where the temperature is between 55 degrees Farenheit and 71 degrees Farenheit with a light covering of clouds and the trees of Lee County unleaving.

A win here would give Coach Gus Malzahn his third win over Nick Saban in seven years – better than it sounds – quiet the wolfish fans who howl for his head every time their team loses a lead in the third period, and provide the opportunity to tack on a 10th win in the bowl game, which would not justify his bloated salary, but would help the people who write the checks a little less queasy about signing their names.

Gus has acquired the onus of being considered a 9-3 coach – that is, he goes 9-3 when he has a good team, about every three years, and does a little worse than that in the interim seasons while he’s carefully building his masterpiece out of three-star recruits and seasoned assistant coaches who are paid more than a lot of head coaches and will either go on to a head coaching job or get fired in a few years, depending on the rise of the ever undulating sine wave that depicts Auburn football fortunes.

Amplitude equals victories, each rise and dip represents one season

Come to think of it, Gus may not be generating a perfect sine wave. It’s probably more like a cardiogram of a guy having an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, a type of heart attack that might well afflict a few fans of both teams this afternoon.

There are two ways of looking at this game for Bama fans. It’s an opportunity for this team to enter into the lore of the great teams that fucked around a lot but managed to come through in the pinch, when the chips were down, the cards were on the table, when the hopes of all the land were upon them, and prevailed. And if their team can’t beat Auburn, you can take comfort in the fact that you won’t be embarrassed in the playoffs by Ohio State or Clemson again. If this game is really a play-in, Alabama’s got to show it’ll show up against the undefeated monsters who still roam the smoking ruins of what were once other teams’ broken dreams and false hope.

This Bama team has has terrible injury luck all season, and it’s not stopping this week. They lost their two best shotcaller linebackers before they’d put on pads. They lost Tua to afreskish broken HIP of all things, against MISSISSIPPI STATE of all people. And the defensive line, which hasn’t been at full strength all season, is beat to a pulp at the worst possible time. A lot of inexperienced players will play today, the very experienced, most talented guys could be riding bikes on the sideline, drinking water with Tua, who’ll be sitting in a golf cart, sending good thoughts.

Freshman Auburn QB Bo Nix is the kind of player you need to get in on, rush hard, knock him down or at least contain him, which is what Florida, LSU and Georgia did. Bo’s best play is when he goes back to pass and nobody’s open – which probably won’t happen much against Alabama’s extremely talented secondary, which has inexplicable difficulty covering guys. Seriously, he’s better at weaving his way between flailing defenders than he is at hitting wide-open receivers between the numbers. He is a gamer, so if he ever does start to click throwing the ball, this could be the day.

Sophomore Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is playing his first big boy game since he stepped in for the fallen Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, lost in that war against the Trojans in a freak accident. Shot in the heel. Can you believe it?

Mac has played well against two teams that I could have played quarterback against and completed most of the short and mid-range passes. But if I were playing behind Alabama’s inexplicably flaky offensive line, I’d have been killed dead late in the second period – about the same time everybody blew their assignments and let those two giant Mississippi State guys through so they could run over and break Tua’s HIP.

But Mac’s been pretty smooth running the team, and he throws a good ball – nothing like Tua’s, of course, which float like a zither in a soft summer dream for yards and yards on a perfect trajectory that enters the the one 6-inch square spot in all the universe where one of the Four Wide Receivers of the Apocalypse can at full speed without breaking stride reach out, snuggle the ball to their bosom and run as far as they have to to get what they want. But on a less-than-superhuman level, Mac can make long throws over the middle, to the left and the right.

If he has time. This is huge.

We’ll see how he does it with those four creatures in the Auburn defensive front crashing through Alabama’s half-assed offensive line and hurling their massive bodies onto his hip and other places. Mac’s got a quick release – he’s probably going to need it a lot today. The weakest link in Auburn’s defense is the secondary, which has been had in the big games. If Steve Sarkisian has come up with some kind of plan to move Mac around in the pocket, and if the offensive line coach has held intensive blocking drills (and don’t jump offsides on third and 1, and don’t come up behind LSU players 10 seconds after the whistle and commit assault in front of the referee, on TV) – if the OL can give the kid three to four seconds, one of those sons of bitches will get open, and he can throw it to them.

Oh, and Alabama’s kicking game. It’s hideous, maybe more than usual. And did you know this date, Nov. 30, is the exact day on which Auburn’s Chris Davis fielded a barely missed field goal 9-yards deep in his own end zone as the final horn sounded, and ran like a bat unimpeded out of Hell into the Alabama end zone in the all-time, most dramatic heart-staking of a hated rival who needed to win to go the national championship game.

Ohio State at Michigan, noon, FOX; and Wisconsin at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ABC

It’s a rivalry game, and you can throw the records out the window. These two teams don’t like each other. The memories made on this field will last forever in the lore of this great college rivalry.

On the other hand, looking at the position-by-position breakdown, the statistics, the Tarot cards, tea leaves and astrological charts, it looks like Michigan is the snowball and Ohio State is Hell.

In other news, two-loss Wisconsin travels to one-loss Minnesota to play in the snow in a game that might be called “Gateway to Getting Crushed by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.”

I don’t know what happened to Wisconsin – early in the season they looked so good. They always have a big, physical defense, and a lot of giant offensive linemen who can block. They looked like a grand old football team from a golden age, with a dazzling running back who could get 200 a game if they played things right. That defense could stop anyone, it seemed.

Then it all went out the window and down the drain, and the Badgers looked like they woke up and realized they were Wisconsin, who is always good but not quite good enough.

Minnesota has a cool-ass coach with the cool-ass name of P.J. Fleck, and he’s got them playing out of their minds over their heads and into the hearts of a yearning nation. If they beat Wisconsin, they’ll play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Minnesota’s the one team in the world that’s lucky enough, just talented enough and has the spirit of the true believer deep in their hearts that could help them upset Ohio State, wedging their way into the playoffs as the conference champion. It could drop Ohio State to maybe fourth place in the CFP standings (screwing Alabama in the process, provided it beats Auburn today, a big if), giving the Big Ten two teams in the playoff. Which would be acceptable on first glance, but it omits the critical data that the Big Ten, on the whole, sucks. The three good teams in the league have spent a season racking up wins against over-ranked and over-rated teams buoyed by the likes of ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, who looks at the thing he loves and sees only beauty. I believe that Clemson and LSU could beat every team in the Big Ten in ruthless sequence if that’s what it took to win the national championship.

Clemson at South Carolina, noon, ESPN

Clemson has run the table against the lesser-lights of the ACC, survived a scare at North Carolina 21-20 when UNC, after a brilliant game, ran the worst play imaginable for a two-point conversion that would have won the game and put Clemson in the Orange Bowl playing Notre Dame or somebody.

South Carolina has amassed an underwhelming four wins this year, but one of them was against Georgia, the current No. 4 team in the CFP rankings. Georgia looks to be at least as good as Clemson. Well, almost as good. Or at least worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.

So could lighting strike again. Could South Carolina defensive super-genius Will Muschamp come up with a plan to stop Trevor Goldenlocks and his arsenal of offensive destroyers? And then figure out a way to score a few points that would be more than Clemson?

Let’s put it this way. If this game were a dogfight, Clemson would be a pit bull and South Carolina would be a Chihuahua. Chihuahuas are spirited, fearless, mean, bark a lot, and in a fight with a pit bull always get their heads bitten off.

Georgia at Georgia Tech, noon, ABC

See above. Except Georgia Tech is not a Chihuahua. They’re more like a turtle if it didn’t have a shell.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m., FOX

Oklahoma has to win pretty to stay alive in CFP playoff contention. The Sooners are more than capable of this, but haven’t looked as good the last few weeks as they did early in the season. That’s not the way it’s supposed to go.

It’s not just that they are playing tougher teams – which is problematical in the Big 12 – but the offense has been tragically mistake-prone. They have lost seven more turnovers than the opposition in the last four weeks. I think that’s right. I don’t really feel like looking it up.

Most Alabama fans still love Jalen Hurts, who transferred to Oklahoma when he lost the starting QB job to Tua. Who could blame him? Playing is a lot better for your professional future than drinking water on the bench and saying, “Nice throw, Tua.”

But followers of the Tide also know that Jalen tends to fade late in the season for some reason. He throws bad passes and makes unwise decisions running the ball, on keeping the ball or handing it off to the running back. Two years ago in the Iron Bowl, Jalen looked helpless out there and Bama lost 26-14, which was a worse whupping than it looked like. However, all the right people lost the next week, Alabama backed into the Playoffs and won the whole shooting match when Tua burst onto the scene in the second half of the title game against Georgia trailing 13-0, getting Bama into position to win the game on a last-second chip shot field goal, which the kicker missed, of course. Then in the second overtime, after being sacked for a 16-yard loss, trailing 23-20, he threw a 46-yard scoring strike to Devonta Smith to break Georgia’s heart even worse than usual.

I’m bringing this up because a Jalen fade could take Oklahoma out of the picture and put Baylor back in the picture if they can beat the Kansas Jayhawks today (yes) and then pound Oklahoma in the conference title game.

And also because Auburn has a chance to do to Mac Jones what they did to Jalen that day – flush him out of the pocket, leave no running lanes, and make him sprint east-and-west for the sideline so he can throw an incomplete pass past the first-down marker in the instant before he gets sacked.

And there’s a backup quarterback named Tagavailoa on the Bama bench, Taulia, the younger brother of Tua, with two good hips … just in case….

Utah and Oregon

The PAC-12 duo with a pulse play dogs today – One-loss Utah’s got five-win Colorado at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Two-loss Oregon goes to five-loss Oregon State. Both should leave destruction in their wake, but it’s the Pac-12, so you never know.

If Utah beats Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game next week, they have a good claim to the No. 4 spot in the playoff, but it’ll take a more complex series of reactions than it takes to ignite a small thermonuclear device. One of which could happen today if Auburn upsets Alabama.

Uncategorized

THE POTATO: BAMA FAN’S IRON BOWL PRAYER

It is time once again to reflect on the great danger that confronts our nation. We must unite against a singular evil and make our hearts full, our eyes clear and our minds focused.

There is no greater threat to our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy than the perfidious Auburn War Eagles. The Eagles are a good team, with a solid defense and something that at times closely resembles an offense.

May we in this hour not forget the similar wretched conquest of another great evil that to this day bedevils our lives. With this in mind we devote our will our energy and our spirit to conquer the evil that now assails us, for if there is no victory only misery will be left behind.

May there be no peace for the Eagle of War, whose dark soul brings with it always the stench of putridity. God Bless Roll Tide, and God Bless Alabama, and may the bold spirit of the fallen Tua inspire us who live for justice and fight for right.

Amen.

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THE POTATO: Race for playoffs heats up – as hot as it ever gets because Ohio State, LSU and Clemson are in

Western Carolina at Alabama, noon, ESPN

Life without Tua begins for Bama. The Crimson Tide can do little else but get work for backups Mac Jones and Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s baby brother. Then they have to beat Auburn next week, no small order. and hope all the right teams lose. There are a bunch of them.

Alabama’s got marquee value, as proven by this turkey being on ESPN, and that’ll have to weigh into any hope the Tide has of backing into the playoffs – and probably getting clubbed like a baby seal without the star quarterback. The highlight of the game today will come when Tua hobbles out onto the field (he’s back on campus after hip surgery in Houston earlier this week), and all the fans stand up and cry and cheer and stuff.

Penn State at Ohio State, noon, Fox

I’d have thought Penn State might have a chance today until I saw them get butchered by Minnesota, who promptly lost to Iowa the next week. Today’s line started out at about 17 and went up to 18 1/2, which means many millions were wagered on the Buckeyes. Penn State’s best receiver suffered a head injury and is unlikely to play, and the only chance the Nittany Lions have is to go over the Buckeyes’ defense. The only way they could run on Ohio State is if they let the tailback ride a horse.

Texas A&M at Georgia, 3:30 p.m., CBS

The Aggies are Florida’s last hope to back into the SEC Championship Game next month. The chance of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa’s hip miraculously healing are better. However, an apocalyptic rain is likely for Athens, Georgia this afternoon, so maybe there’s some degree of divine intervention in effect.

Texas at Baylor, Fox Sports 1, 3:30 pm.

Here’s Texas’ chance to let the fans down again. Here’s Baylor’s chance to stay in the hunt for a Big 12 championship and a snub by the playoff committee.

Oregon at Arizona State, ABC, 7:30 p.m.

One-loss Oregon, a high double-digit favorite today, is in the playoff picture if they can win the Pac-12 championship. Interestingly, Oregon has lost its last three games in Arizona. Why that should have anything to do with this mismatch has more to do with magical thinking than reality.

Sports, Uncategorized

THE POTATO: Tua was the best I ever saw; player and person

When Alabama’s Tua Tagavailoa went down and didn’t get up last week my heart sank. Head down, on his hands and knees, he was bleeding from the nose and mouth, obviously in great pain. He was fighting back tears. I was terrified.

I prayed out loud about football for the only time in my life that didn’t involve a game I had money on. Oh, God, don’t let him be dying. That’s how bad it looked.

Full disclosure: I graduated from The University of Alabama and worked for the athletic department when I was in school. I hope I developed a reporter’s professional distance in a long career of being a reporter, but I am still grateful to the University, its athletic department and the people there who helped me grow up – sort of – and are largely responsible for every honest dollar I’ve made in my life, few though they may be.

So when I’m not on the clock, I’m for Alabama. That’s my alma mater. I’d be a disloyal, sorry individual unworthy of anybody’s respect if I were not. That’s how I was raised. That’s the world I live in, and I’ll own it.

I admire athletes who play to win and honor the game, and I like the college game more than the NFL, which lost me several years ago. I like Joe Burrow, I like Bo Nix, and that Trask kid from Florida for stepping in when the starter went down. Justin Fields, at Ohio State, Jalen Hurts, of course, at Oklahoma. I really liked poor, old Johnny Manziel, and hated to see his own demons consume him.

But Tua was special. Not only because he was crazy talented, and not just because he was playing for Alabama, my home state that doesn’t get a lot of good ink for a lot of good reasons.

A kid from Hawaii ended up here and brought the family. It was cool. After the game, when the stands were empty, they all went down to the field and sang hymns together. As somebody who has always related religion to football, I like that.

Tua showed those of us in his adopted state the spirit of Aloha, which means hello and goodbye, of course, but which literally means “divine breath:” love, peace, compassion, kindness.

Never more than when, while he awaited major surgery to fix his mangled hip, a video surfaced of him playing the ukulele and singing. That’s how you do it.

He lives in joy and reminded us that football is, after all, just a game – but sometimes is can be something more. Football was his platform, which he used to demonstrate a really good way to live.

He was a great ambassador for his team, his school, and the college game itself. He was admired by his oft-beaten opponents – when he was carted off the field for the last time, Mississippi State fans stood and gave him the “cowbell salute,” standing up and cheering and clanging those damned bells. I heard they’d never done that for a player not wearing their team’s uniform. That’s a hell of a thing if you think about it.

Tua’s the only person who could make me want to give Nick Saban a hug. The coach, who is, you know, kind of a bastard, was heartbroken and hurting, and said as much in a wavering voice at his Monday news conference.

The bottom line, Tua’s got class, something sorely lacking today in sports and America in general.

He was born to it. He’s a champion, and he shared his gifts gladly to all.

They say he’ll be all right. That he’ll get well, and may be able to play again. Hey, God. Me again… A little help.

Aloha.

Sports, Uncategorized

THE POTATO: College football analysis, Week 12, with all hell broke loose and the Witch of November a howlin’.

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when ‘is lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

November is a witch goddess who in her kindness blesses disciples of college football with the glorious, cold, blue autumn afternoons we all remember when we remember the games of November. We only remember the good stuff: the spice and heat of hot wings and icy bourbon on the tongue, the warm metal of the hood caressing our asses where we sit and take it all in. A parking lot barely in sight of the stadium knowing there’s a long, jostling walk ahead joined with the drunk, the crazy and the screaming, traffic-dodging, slow-moving herd. At last inside the cathedral of pain, soothing with bourbon from the smuggled flask, behold: the warriors arrive, pouring out of the home-side tunnel and onto the field. A hundred thousand voices roar so loudly the 200-member marching band loses, and becomes only a brass pulse in the maelstrom or sound, and look! Up in the sky! Roaring warplanes appear from nowhere in attack formation, screaming 50 feet over the stadium so low the hot wash of air blows your hat off your head.

Damn, it’s exciting. A spectacle seen nowhere but in America that puts all other sports related mayhem to shame: the running of the bulls in Spain is a croquet match by comparison; the drunken thugs of Manchester United rioting in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, the citizens of Rome on their feet as gladiators bleed in the dust of the coliseum, chanting “Nunc autem eum occidere“, echoing in eternity.

But then the damned witch of November rides in cackling on the icy wind, smites your players, who fumble, throw interceptions, miss blocks and tackles and suddenly, all that once was glorious and gold transforms into a flaming pile of shit.

The College Football Playoff Committee tries to make sense of chaos, fails

Like Eric Bana as Hector impaled on the sword of Achilles-playing Brad Pitt before the walls of Troy in a so-so 2004 action movie, old warrior Alabama fell to the ascendant LSU last week. The Crimson Tide, which has been a disorganized mess all season but still did pretty good because the players are all NFL prospects, played its worst first half in modern memory, and LSU struck like a bayou alligator dismantling an unsuspecting family of carefree otters. They turned three unforced Alabama turnovers into 17 points and led 33-13 at the half.

Bama’s offense got it together in the second half and made a run, but the defense continued to mostly look over at the sideline tying to decipher the signals from their frantically gesticulating coaches while LSU snapped the ball and Joe Burrow threw another bullet to another wide-open receiver who had made another member of the Alabama secondary, twist, turn, jump, break-dance and fall down. (Note to Bama coaching staff: Defenses do a lot better when they are facing the other team, not you).

Alabama only lost by 5, which looks better than it was. At no time did Alabama even get possession of the ball when they came within one score of taking the lead. The defense couldn’t get a stop when they had to have one, and barely got any at all.

The resultant rankings for the College Football Playoffs produced great consternation – Alabama fell from No. 3 to No. 5, which the haters felt was not punishment enough. One-loss Oregon, which lost to Auburn on a last-second pass in the first game of the year, is sixth. LSU took over the top spot after Ohio State beat Maryland 73-14. Football karma may catch up to the Buckeye because he went for an onside kick and recovered it leading 52-7, which is just a shitty thing to do.

Clemson can stop whining, now that it’s ranked third the week of the great showdown with Wake Forest, which is probably the third or fourth best team in the egregious ACC and a 34-point underdog.

Georgia is ranked No. 4, that lone fluky loss to South Carolina the only gray mark. This has created the situation where Alabama fans have to cheer for Auburn to upset Georgia, because that’ll move Auburn into the top 10. Alabama has played one ranked team – at home – and bled out under the flashing disco lights of Bryant-Denny Stadium. But the reasoning is, if Alabama can beat Auburn at Auburn – which is anything but a foregone conclusion – it’ll be a win over a semi-decent team, which will improve the optics.

Undefeated Minnesota is ranked 8th and Undefeated Baylor is 13th, proving the little guy gets no love in America, where members of the College Football Playoff Committee and ESPN officials familiar with TV ratings know that a final four of LSU, Clemson, Minnesota and Baylor will attract fewer viewers than “The Beverly Hillbillies – the Missing Episodes” on Roku.

Alabama at Mississippi State, Noon, ESPN

Alabama’s a 21.5 favorite going on the road to Starkville, where Bulldogs Head Coach Joe Moore has put together a 12-10 composite record the last two years and is on thinner ice than usual for a Mississippi State coach. Running back Kylin Hill leads the SEC in rushing with a little more than 1,000 yards and 114 yards per game. Anything good on anybody’s offense presents a true and present danger to Alabama’s defense, which has a lot of talented guys running around like a kicked-open anthill. There’s probably a slightly better chance for me to play quarterback for Alabama than Tua Tungavailoa, whose Heisman hopes are pretty much out the window, even though he’s a really good passer, but always gets hurt before big games.

Nick Saban said he suspended a player for this game for not going to class. Nobody knows who it is. Bama fans have called the prayer chain to ask God not to let it be Najee Harris, the personification of the Alabama running game; after him there is no other.

No. 11 Florida at Missouri, Noon, CBS

The Gators have a slim chance of elbowing their way into the SEC Championship Game if Auburn and Texas A&M beat Georgia the next two weeks. It could happen – but don’t put any money on it. Florida’s a 7-point favorite over Mizzou, which has put together an ugly 5-4 record studded with things like a loss to Wyoming, a 7-point loss to Vandy and a 29-point loss to Kentucky, a convincing 34-14 win over South Carolina, the team that beat Georgia, but a convincing 27-0 loss to Georgia its ownself. At one point in the season I might have thought Florida was flaky enough to lose to Missouri, but I don’t feel that way now. The Gators should win – but should and will are two different things with these guys. Call it a landmine game.

No. 4 Georgia at No. 12 Auburn, 3:30 p.m. CBS

Georgia’s incentive to beat Auburn is clear – best shot at getting in the playoffs with two losses if LSU beats them in the Championship Game. Auburn’s incentive to beat Georgia is more ephemeral – you beat your second-biggest rival raising the hopes of your greatest rival, whom you can then beat at home and crush their souls, fuck up their recruiting and rightfully declare yourself the slayer of the Nick Saban Dynasty. At least until next year.

Georgia’s a three-point favorite, which I guess means somebody thinks Georgia kicker Rodriguez will have a good day. His toe was a killing machine last year, right up to the SEC Championship Game, when he missed a 30-yard field goal that would have given the Dawgs a 17-point lead over Bama, but he shanked it, and the Tide came rolling back to win. He missed an OT field goal against South Carolina, the game Georgia lost this year. He’s not like Alabama’s kickers. He’s not bad. He’s good but sometimes has bad days. He better hope today’s not one of them, because putting up any kind of points against Auburn will be crucial. Auburn’s got a very good defense, and is built to take down an offense like UGA’s.

Georgia’s got a better defense, I beg your pardon. They have not allowed a rushing TD this year. They’ve shut out three teams this year. Georgia is the last team on earth playing God’s football – let the defense beat on the other team’s offense, control the ball on offense, run the clock. The only drawback is that Georgia’s run game has not blossomed the way I thought it would this season. It’s good, but it’s not dominating. D’Andre Swift has great numbers – 921 yards going into today’s game, 6.3 yards per carry, 7 TDs, 15 catches for 170 yards and one TD. He’s the kind of guy, though, who could bust loose late in the season and become America’s hero. So, we’ll see.

No. 2 Ohio State at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Here’s another godawful Big Ten game that will end badly for Rutgers, a hopeless amalgamation of sorrow and futility in shoulderpads and cleats. Rutgers is a 34-point dog, but anything less than 60 should count as a loss for tOSU.

But the Buckeyes’ lazy days are over after this. They close out the season against Penn State and Michigan, both of which suck, but are good in the context of the Big Ten.

Indiana is playing Penn State this week – the Hoosiers are ranked 24th, which is different from the way things usually are. No. 15 Michigan plays Michigan State and should kill them and make barbecue out of them, but don’t bet on it. Michigan is half-assed.

Wake Forest at No. 3 Clemson, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Wake Forest is one of the better teams in the ACC, but they’re still pretty awful. Clemson, at last back in the CFP Top 4 and whine-free, is a 5 touchdown favorite, which sounds about right. The Tigers seem to playing their best ball of the year, and peaking at the right time is something Dabo Swinney teams do real well. But it’s hard to tell, because it seems like a lot of these ACC schools have football because people need something to do until basketball season starts.

No. 8 Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa, 4 p.m., FOX

Minnesota spent a lot of emotional energy taking out Penn State last week. They lit up the Nittany Lions offense in ways somebody not familiar with Big Ten defenses would have thought impossible. The Golden Gophers do pitch the ball around and roll up and down the field. But now they have to go play a pretty decent Iowa team, who has only lost to Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State, all closely. So they’re almost as good as those guys, and Minnesota, well, they eked out wins over San Diego State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern to start the year. How good are those GGs? This one will be another indication of their playoff worthiness.

No. 1 LSU at Ole Miss, 7 p.m., ESPN

Well, here’s the thing about Ole Miss. They lose a lot, but have been losing by fewer points than they did earlier in the season. They lost by 11 to Missouri, 7 to Texas A&M and 6 to Auburn. Auburn played LSU close. I guess I’m trying to build up some enthusiasm for this turd, but the fact is, LSU is probably going to stomp them flatter than a runned-over nutria rat on Pontchartrain Drive in Eden Isle.

No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Can Oklahoma save the world from an undefeated Baylor waltzing into a semifinal demolition at the hands of Ohio State or LSU? It’s not that done a deal, because the Bears, unlike anybody else in the Big 12, sort of play defense a little bit. That could be enough to be the difference. But win or lose, these two teams could meet again in a few weeks for the Big 12 Championship Game because they have this wonky deal where the top two teams just play each other and the winner gets a trophy.

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Couch Potato College Football Week 11: When was the last time four undefeated teams played each other and it wasn’t September? I don’t know, but I bet it’s a long time.

No. 3 LSU at No. 2 Alabama, CBS, 3:3o p.m.

The highest echelons of college football have put a damper on the best teams in the country this week.

The College Football Playoff committee kind of screwed up the whole “Game of the Century” thing when they dropped Alabama and LSU below Ohio State in their first ranking this week. It’s tough to bill 2 vs. 3 as the anything of the century – but that was before the NCAA came down on No 1. Ohio State’s marvel defensive end Chase Young for taking money from some guy the summer before his freshman year. Young said he paid back the guy, whom he describes as a family friend.

The latest version says he borrowed money from somebody to fly his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl last year and paid it back by April. I don’t think it matters. The NCAA screws up more things than the CFP committee. Kirk Herbstreit tweeted Saturday morning that it would be four games but could be reduced – that would put an end to his regular season. The last two games are against Penn State and Michigan. The NCAA voted about two weeks ago to allow college athletes to make money off their name – but not until 2021, which won’t help Chase.

Or will it?

It looks like Alabama’s QB Tua Tungavailoa is going to play after surgery for a high ankle sprain 20 days ago when a Tennessee guy fell on top of him. In two years as the Tide starting QB, Tua has one good joint left below the waist – he sprung a knee early last season, then had a high-ankle sprain on the other ankle in the SEC Championship Game after sucking all afternoon, which paved the way for current Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts to come in and enable Georgia to choke in a big game again.

Here’s the deal on Tua: Once he started getting dinged up last year, he wasn’t as amazing as he was when he was unhurt. I understand that. I’m not as good as I used to be either because I’m old and can’t drink as much. Tua was also facing better competition late in the season. I’m not so sure I could make that excuse.

So how good will he be against LSU? Last year, Tua, who is like Grandmother’s delicate, lovely fine china cup that you take out only when the preacher comes to dinner and Christmas morning breakfast, was pretty chipped up against LSU. The Tigers aimed low when they tackled him, and it seemed to piss him off. He ran for like, a 40-yard touchdown on his bum knee, and Alabama won by a score of many to nothing. I guess it pissed off Alabama’s defense even more because LSU’s offense was helpless.

But that was the old LSU offense that got squelched. This is the new, super awesome sexy cool, bodacious splendid LSU offense that amassed victories over Texas (5-3, probably set to get beat by Kansas State today, and overall pretty half-assed, though they were ranked high back then); Florida (5-2, which got its ass kicked by every decent team it’s played and almost lost to Miami and Kentucky, who are terrible); and Auburn (good defense, no offense at all, beat Oregon but almost lost to them and seems to be deteriorating, almost losing to the egregious Ole Miss last week).

Joe Burrow is a hell of a quarterback, and I would much rather have a beer with him than with Tua, who probably doesn’t drink. But if I had to pick sides on the schoolyard, I’d pick the Hawaiian kid before I picked Joe. Even hurt. LSU’s got some hellacious wide receivers, and Alabama’s secondary has talent, but still neglects to cover opposition guys occasionally and doesn’t tackle as deadly as it used to back in the olden days, when Bama tackled guys and they stayed tackled. Watch out for poor No. 5 for Bama. Teams like to pick on him.

Both teams have flaky defenses after years of being dominating kill beasts that destroy offensive game plans and leave broken dreams in their wake. But I think Alabama’s has been getting better this season, and I’m not so sure about LSU. Their best pass rusher and general havoc-wreaker Michael Divinity got kicked off the team this week – my God, what did the guy do to get kicked off the team the week of the Bama game? Badass safety Grant Delpit got hurt at the end of the Auburn game, but that was two weeks ago and if he can walk, he’ll play. But if he’s not 100, Bama’s Four Wide Receivers of the Apocalypse will be on him like a largemouth bass on a wounded shad.

I will say that in the past few years, though he’s lost to Bama with alarming regularity, coach Ed Orgeron has had a good defensive plan for Alabama. Other teams copied him and either beat or gave Alabama fits the rest of the way. And yeah, Alabama’s schedule is backloaded with the good teams.

I reckon Ed’s defense, such as it is, will be well coached and will have a wicked scheme. If Tua plays lousy his first few drives, look out. He’s a confidence guy. This is the first good team Alabama’s played since the national championship game. Tua threw a pick-six on the first drive, and he never got over it.

Oh, both teams have a pretty good running back, and both wear No. 22, so that’ll be easy to remember (Clyde Edwards-Hillaire for LSU; Najee Harris for Bama). Clyde’s got 680 yards against better defenses and Najee’s got 640 yards against, you know, who he’s played). So if all else fails, Tua and Joe can give it to the big dog and let him eat.

Oh, yeah. President Donald Trump is going to be at the game, and officials told the crowd to get to the 2:30 p.m. local time game by 11:30 a.m. so they’ll have time to go through the security screening. Everybody should be really drunk by kickoff.

No. 4 Penn State at No. 17 Minnesota, ABC, noon

Coach P.J. Fleck has led Minnesota to a hell of a season this year, which means he’s at the top of the list for teams that’ll be firing their coaches here directly, despite his new seven-year extension with the Golden Gophers. See, they gave him a one-year extension each of the past two seasons, which is a school’s way of saying, we wish we had somebody better and the first time you slip up, you gone.

It could also mean his agent sucks. And their undefeated season definitely means they’ve played a lot of shitty teams so far. For instance, they beat San Diego State by 7 and Fresno State 38-35 in overtime in the first two games this year. Teams named for cities in California never seem to come up in championship conversations.

So this is a big game for Minnesota, and especially for P.J. If he wins this one, he could maybe get a job someplace warm. Not California, though. No, he better not go there.

Penn State is undefeated and has pulled out some close wins – against Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State, all of whom suck, but were rated high at the time. I really don’t know how good they are. They’re in the Big Ten, which is worse than the ACC, another reason Dabo Swinney is pissed that Clemson isn’t ranked higher, but let’s face it – the ACC really sucks, too.

On the whole, Penn State has played a better schedule than the Gophers, so I guess they’ll win. But I don’t know. Minnesota really lights it up on offense – like against Fresno State, wow.

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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 10: Waiting for Godot and Alabama-LSU next week; Georgia vs. Florida is the game today

HOUSTON at UCF, noon, ESPN2

Houston’s having a miserable season under first year coach Dana Halgorson, and this week’s trip to Orlando is not likely to help matters.

The dispirited Cougars are playing UCF – two Group of five teams that have been to New Year’s Six Bowls in the past four years. Both went to the Peach Bowl and won attention-grabbing games. UCF beat Auburn, which had upset Alabama, which then wedged its way into the playoffs and won the national championship that year. That started the Knights’ fake national title proclamations, pissing many people off, which was a big part of the objective. They had a parade and got rings and everything, which was slightly pitiful, but it did get the program national publicity, and UCF probably could have covered 14 against Bama that year. Houston, under then-coach Tom Harmon, beat the hell out of Florida State in 2015, which started the Seminoles’ fiery tailspin into Football Hell that persists to this day. Coach Willie Taggart is on a greased rail out of town, two years after Jimbo Fisher escaped that fate by taking over the Texas A&M program for $7.5 million a year.

Anyhow, UCF is going to wear their space-themed jerseys this week, so tune in early to see those sartorial masterpieces before they get all dirty running up a big lead on the struggling Coogs.

GEORGIA vs. FLORIDA in Jacksonville, FL, 3:30 p.m. CBS

Barring cataclysm, the winner will represent the East Division in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Florida’s ranked higher because their one loss is better than Georgia’s. The Gators went to Baton Rouge and peed down their leg late in the game and committed game-turning turnovers that gave No. 1 in the nation LSU all it needed to win 42-28, which wasn’t as bad as it looks like.

Georgia went to South Carolina and strained like a Pekingese puppy passing a peach pit in a 20-17 loss. UGA has not been as awesome as it was in past seasons when it rolled over all foes en route to blowing leads and losing to Alabama in championship games.

But Georgia’s a 6-point favorite or so, and that could be about right if quarterback Jake Fromm and the offense show up, which is problematical.

Fromm said this week that the off week came at a good time, but Georgia fans shouldn’t look for big changes in the offense – except that they’ll do the same old shit better.

Fromm’s stat line is a lot less awesome than it was his first two years. He threw 24 touchdowns his first year, 30 last year and has totaled just 9 this year against three interceptions. The Dawgs are not passing as much this year, and the receivers have, for the most part, sucked. They do get receiver Lawrence Cager back this week, so let’s see if he can add a spark. They’re going to need it.

Running back D’Andre Swift has almost as many carries (110) as Fromm does passing attempts (123), and he’s got 752 yards and 7 touchdowns this year, which is good, but he’s no threat to win a Heisman Trophy.

Florida’s been resilient this season, fighting injuries much of the way. But they’ll get two defensive starters back for this game, linemen linemen Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard.

That’s big, because if the Gators can significantly slow down the Georgia running game, they can win this game. But maybe Fromm will snap out of his funk and the receivers will start getting, you know, open, and joyful shall the Bulldog be. Hint: Don’t bet on it.

MIAMI vs. FLORIDA STATE 3 p.m. CBS Sports APP

I’m including this game only because it’s so sad. These used to be two major badass teams in a clash that could change humanity’s timeline, and now you have to download an app so you can watch the game on your phone.

Both teams define mediocrity: Identical 4-4 records, both riding a 1-game winning streak. FSU coach Willie Taggart is probably not long for this position, but it’s not really his fault. Fortune spins the wheel and we are cast up and cast back down. Ozymandias, king of kings, gets his ass kicked and his statue is all covered up with sand and shit in the middle of the desert.

It’s a hard life wherever you go. Especially in college football.

OLE MISS at AUBURN, 7 p.m. ESPN

Well, here we are again. Auburn is playing for fun after losses to Florida and LSU. The Tigers gave LSU a fight, losing only 23-20 and were an onside kick away from having a chance to pull out a miracle win. Florida kind of beat their asses.

The good news: the Tigers have the home field the rest of the way. But wait! Two of those four opponents are Georgia and Alabama, who will beat your ass if you aren’t careful, and at who will likely be playing to hold onto a berth in the SEC Championship Game.

Ole Miss is at the point in a dismal season where you compare losses for signs of positivity, and in the last two games, the Rebels have only lost by a touchdown – to Missouri and Texas A&M. Neither has a defense anywhere near as good as Auburn’s.

If Auburn clicks and clobbers Ole Miss by 40 points or something, they’ll have confidence going into the Amen Corner of a brutal schedule. If the offense struggles, and Ole Miss is able to put some points up and maybe cover that 19 points – then, uh-oh. An Auburn slide could be on the way.

OREGON at SOUTHERN CAL, FOX

Oregon is the only team in the Pac-12 with a shot at the playoffs, and Southern Cal has incentive to win because the Ducks cruise into L.A. every year and make off with all the talented recruits. Trojans Coach Mario Christobal, who has engineered a flaky 5-3 record this season, would love to make a good showing and maybe even pull out a win, destroying the league’s hopes of getting any of the big money for playing in the four-team show.

Southern Cal is only a 4 point underdog.

This is the sexy upset possibility of the week.

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COUCH POTATO WEEK 9 GAME DAY: Offense wins championships and sells tickets, defense is there to allow the offense to talk to their coaches a few minutes while the other team scores

Wisconsin at Ohio State and Auburn at LSU – defensive teams head like lambs to the slaughter in the new world of college ball

Today, we see the last two teams in America that even try to play defense taking on two of the best offensive teams since the Big Bang, playing on their home fields.

Wisconsin goes to Ohio State, and Auburn goes to LSU.

Wisconsin hurt me so bad, losing to Illinois. I had bragged on the Badger, getting those old-school unis muddy and blood-stained, tackling people and all, just like the olden days. Then they shit the bed. Illinois ran up and down the field like velociraptors on meth, and they kicked a last-second field goal and everything.

Ohio State will kill them.

Auburn will field what will be the last remaining decent defense to be faced by the rampaging Tigers of the Louisiana swamplands. Florida had a good defense. Joe Burrow shredded their ass and hung 42 on them, but got a big boost from the other quarterback, that Trask kid, accidentally throwing the ball to LSU guys.

Auburn has a great front four. So good that they really haven’t blitzed much, because the fat boys with high numbers do such a good job of winning the line of scrimmage and pressuring the quarterback, because they run like bats out of Hell. You know what I bet? I bet they blitz some today and say “There’s six of us and five of you, see what you can do with this.”

Because LSU has really good receivers, and they like to send everybody long. Auburn’s safeties will not be able to cover them one-on-one. So the front seven has got to put some heat on Burrow.

Auburn has a flaky offense, but LSU’s defense kind of sucks, which creates an atmosphere in which the War Eagle might thrive. Bo Nix, 12-year-old quarterback, with his baby face and agile athleticism, would be a good choice to play Spiderman in the next movie. He looks the part, and would probably be better than the regular guy. Bo, like child actors and young quarterback the word over, operates on confidence, momentum, sheer talent, and running around dodging defensive linemen until somebody gets open – a style of play that could really work against LSU. If he could complete a few passes early, if the running backs could you know, just get a few first downs on third-and-short and things like that, if they could score a few, maybe even take the lead. If Nix struggles like he did in the loss to Florida, start recruiting early.

Because Auburn is playing with a strong sense of desperation. WIth one conference loss, if they lose this one, they’re playing for fun the rest of the year. Also Auburn’s fans have the sort of relationship with Gus Malzahn kind of like largemouth bass have with wounded shad. They attack and eat them. Gus will be a wounded shad if he loses to LSU here with Georgia and the Crimson Tide remaining on the sked.

I don’t really think Auburn will win. But I bet they cover that 11.5-point spread.

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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Week 9, Wisconsin at Ohio State, noon, FOX; Auburn at LSU 3:30 p.m. CBS; Tua-less Bama home vs. the egregious Arkansas 7 p.m. ESPN; and a few more

Wisconsin at Ohio State, noon, FOX

What was once a semi-interesting game dived over the cliff of irrelevance last week when the BAD-gers showed up dressed in Wisconsin’s uniforms and inexplicably lost to Illinois. The GOOD-gers had compiled a 6-0 record before the collapse, and had looked pretty good doing it. However, the titanic struggle to get by the wretched Northwestern 24-15 two weeks ago was our first clue that all was not well. Ohio State, which is rolling, beat Northwestern 52-3 on Friday night last week, a powerful indication of disparity in the Big Ten. (Why does the best team in the nation play on Friday night? Does the Big Ten not have somebody who negotiates TV contracts?). Ohio State, which managed to rid itself of Urban Meyer after last season, looks born again hard under Ryan Day, the journeyman assistant who took his place and may turn out to be the Ed Orgeron of the Great Midwest. He can prove himself once again this season by not suffering an inexplicable loss that disqualifies the Buckeyes from playoff consideration, a frequent mishap of his predecessor. Early in the season, Wisconsin had the look of an old-school badass team that played savage defense and whose offense consisted primarily of handing off to running back Jonathan Taylor and cheering him downfield as he ran over and by everybody on the other team. Ohio State is not likely to fall victim to this sort of thing – their defense has improved every week and their transfer quarterback Justin Fields has been amazing, and might even have beaten out former Buckeye and current Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow of LSU. LSU vs. OSU would be a good game. We might get to see it in January sometime.

Auburn at LSU, 3:30 p.m. on CBS

We will get to see Auburn play LSU right soon. This is one of the three upcoming games of which Gus Malzahn needs to steal at least one to keep the faithful, faithful on the Plains. The other two are Georgia and Alabama – one of which seems possible, since Georgia came apart against South Carolina and Alabama will be playing with an at least diminished Tua, who injured the only good ankle he had left last week when a giant Tennessee guy fell on it.

Auburn might have a puncher’s chance, because the Tigers do have a good defense – but so did Florida, and LSU hung 42 on them with ease. Florida had dismantled Auburn the week before, which might have been an outlier now that I think about it. Auburn might have just had a really bad day. A really, really bad day. OK, Auburn’s offense is not that good.

LSU’s defense has been giving up a lot of points – but much of that is because they’re exposed a lot. Joe Burrow and his offense go tear-assing down the field all the time and scoring touchdowns before the defense has had a chance to get a drink of water, and the rules require that you kick off to the other team when you do that.

Here’s something to look at – Auburn’s freshman QB Bo Nix runs about most sprightly when his protection collapses and nobody has gotten open yet, which happened a bunch against Florida. Take a look at how LSU handles that, then imagine how poor, old Tua will do against the same onslaught hopping around on a bad wheel, provided he can play at all 20 days after surgery that requires drilling two holes in a couple or three ankle bones.

Arkansas at Alabama, 7 p.m., ESPN

The nightmare of every Alabama fan and ESPN programming executive came true last week in the form of Tennessee defensive tackle Greg Emerson, who swam by 6-7, 330 pure freshman offensive tackle Evan Neal as Tua rolled left and right into the unblocked rusher. Tua almost scooted by, but Greg dove and got him by the right ankle, which he then fell on top of with the full force of a 309-pound man running full tilt. The slow-mo replays would have made you want to vomit even if you handn’t given Alabama minus 34. Tua spent the rest of the game riding in ambulances to the hospital and discussing options with doctors and his mom and dad in the locker room while second-stringer Mac Jones took over in unspectacular if serviceable relief.

By the next morning the worst had been confirmed. It was a high ankle sprain, just like last year, only this time it was the right one instead of the left. Tua had “tightrope” surgery on his ankle. The idea of the surgery is to drill holes in the ankle bones and weave some medically engineered string through them to hold everything together real good and speed healing. But damn. Getting holes drilled in your bones? That’s got to hurt.

I, too, have had a high-ankle sprain. I missed the bottom step going downstairs summer before last and the side of my foot rolled up to briefly touch the inside of my lower shin. I saw something like a flash of bright light, and when no dead relatives showed up to usher me into the afterlife, I realized that I was not dead, but my left ankle was, I believe the medical terminology is, “fucked up.” I didn’t have surgery, but I can say that now, about 18 months later, I am getting around all right on it, but am even slower than I was before the swelling went down, and have plans to never run again.

So, anyhow, for the foreseeable future, Alabama is Jones’ team. I have a feeling that all those people who have been saying that Tua’s passing stats are inflated because he throws it 10 or 12 yards to one of the Four Wide Receivers of the Apocalypse, and they run about 50 more to score. It’s harder than you think to look receivers open, to hit them in the hands in full stride and to check down to make sure you are throwing it to the one with the best chance of catching it and scoring.

Alabama’s going to become a running time for the time being. Give it to Najee and tell the OL to run block until Tua gets back, then pass block better than they did on the play he got hurt.

Alabama’s defense needs to keep other teams from scoring points, which is the objective. The days of holding them to 31 and letting Tua do the rest are over.

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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL SUNDAY UPDATE: Oct. 20, Tua’s hurt again

The national championship race got a lot more interesting in the second quarter of the Alabama-Tennessee game last Saturday.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa has one of the best arms ever bestowed upon a human, but his ankles are straight out of the Family Dollar Store bargain bin. The Alabama superstar suffered an ugly, ugly rolled ankle against Tennessee which Nick Saban said is a “high ankle sprain” and he’ll probably be back “in a week or two” though he admitted he really didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when he elaborated. It was the same time last year, the seventh game, when Tua suffered a high ankle sprain against Missouri, another SEC team that didn’t have a prayer. He was never the same after that.

Last year, it was his left ankle, this year it’s his right. I don’t know if that makes any difference. Last year, he was able to play with diminished speed, mobility and passing accuracy until Georgia got him good in the SEC Championship Game, which paved the way for substitute Jalen Hurts to come in and save the day. Once again, an injury to Tua affords him great opportunity, this time to win the Heisman Trophy with his chief rival riding the bicycle on the sidelines.

The grim fact is, even a mild high-ankle sprain requires about six weeks to get completely well. A moderate injury takes six-to-12 weeks. A severe one requires surgery, like Tua got last December after the Georgia game, and he said himself that he didn’t feel well until May and gained 18 pounds from lack of activity, which would be a lot even for me. He’s Samoan-American, both of which are good at gaining weight.

So, Alabama lost its best defensive player and kicker – yes, kicker – to injury and now its best offensive player is in trouble for the foreseeable future. The good news is, the offensive line has looked competent since “Cornbread,” offensive guard Deonte Brown, returned after an unexplained suspension two weeks ago. Incidentally, he’s called Cornbread because he used to weigh 400 pounds and now tips the scales at a scant 320. These Bama boys can eat.

The running game is improving. Najee Harris is future NFL and Brian Robinson is close. They’ll be getting the ball more.

The defense will have to change the mind-frame of “hold them to 35 and we’ll win.”

Is Alabama still the SEC’s best team if Tua can’t return? Probably not.

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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 8: Yeah, OK, it’s Saturday so let’s all turn on the TV and waller like hogs while giant young men in plastic armor collide

9 Florida at South Carolina noon, ESPN

South Carolina, the team that turned Kirby Smart into Marc Richt 2.0, hosts Florida, which hung with LSU for a while until QB Kyle Trask suddenly started accidentally throwing the ball to the wrong team at the most inopportune times possible. The Gators’ defense is a little dinged up, but not as bad as you’d expect after getting run over, under and through by LSU. South Carolina’s quarterback hurt a knee against Georgia, but they evidently did OK without him. He’ll be back this afternoon, if you care, and will continue to play unless Florida beats him up, which they often to to quarterbacks who aren’t Joe Burrow. He kicks their ass. The Gamecocks’ defense ruined Jake Fromm’s career last week and dropped him from an NFL project into a future high school coach, so God only knows what they will do to poor Trask. Coach Boom is cute but a little bit psycho, and he can coach the hell out of defense.

11 Auburn at Arkansas, noon, SEC Network

Auburn gets a chance at something resembling redemption after turning into a pumpkin two weeks ago at Florida. There’s probably a better word than redemption, I just can’t think of it right now, but one does not redeem in the grandest sense against Arkansas, which is just wretched this year. Auburn is about a 20-point favorite, which sounds about right.

12 Oregon at 25 Washington, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Here’s a great game to watch if you want to see the two best teams in the West face off, which is a little like attending a concert featuring the two best piccolo players in Montana play polkas. I’m sorry this isn’t funnier, but I didn’t get much sleep last night because I ate Vienna sausages, which so help me God, I will never do again.

2 LSU at Mississippi State, 3: 30 p.m., CBS

LSU will poun Mississippi State into whatever repugnant slime they make Vienna sausages out of.

16 Michigan at 7 Penn State, 7:30 pm., ABC

Here’s an outstanding opportunity for Jim Harbaugh to underachieve at the highest level on national TV. Penn State looks like an actual football team this year, a rare thing in Big Ten. I expect the Nittany Lions will run rampant in the coming weeks, setting the scene for a big showdown against Ohio State, led by the electrifying quarterback Kirby Smart ran off to keep Jake Fromm, the Vienna sausage of SEC quarterbacks.

Tennessee at 1 Alabama, 9 p.m., ESPN

There was a time many years ago when the Tennessee-Alabama game was a great reckoning between two southern powers with legendary coaches. Then all the wooly mammoths died after the glaciers receded and now it’s a contest to see how much hell Nick Saban can beat out of another former assistant who got a head coaching job he wasn’t ready for. The only cool thing about this stinker is that Alabama is finally at home in the dark and will get to unveil its multi-million dollar LED lights that flash red and blue and, one assumes, purple if they turn on the red and blue lights at the same time. The lights flicker like a disco ball – and I have to wonder, that stadium holds around 102, 000 people, and in that cohort, wouldn’t you think there’d be at least one person with epilepsy who could have a seizure while beneath the throbbing illumination Bama fans roar F-bombs to the tune of “Dixieland Delight?”

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COUCH POTATO WEEK 7: College football has actual decent games, in open defiance of the broken system that produces the egregious regular season

Michigan at Illinois, NOON ET, ESPN

Here’s another game that presents overrated Michigan yet another chance to lose to a team they should beat. May it be so because Harbaugh sucks.

Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas, Noon ET; Fox

Oklahoma has rolled up astonishing statistics this season against wretched competition. Texas is not wretched. The Longhorns barely lost at home to LSU, who has become the darling of all those who want somebody, anybody, to beat Alabama. Will Jalen be able to explode through the middle of the Texas defense and thread the needle to Cee Dee Lamb far downfield to score dozens of points? Or will be end up feeling heat from surging Longhorn creatures, breaking right, flashing his 4.3 wheels to make it to the hashline so he can throw another one out of bounds for another third down incompletion and bring on the punter – like he did at Alabama before they handed the reins to Tua? Please, God, let Jalen find room to run and execute the offense because 1. he’s a good man and 2. It’s harder to watch than video of Mexican kids sleeping in cages on the Texas border.

South Carolina at Georgia, Noon, ESPN

South Carolina is just good enough to make you think, maybe they can cover the what, 25-point spread today? Then you have another sip of coffee and go, “Naaaah.”

Florida State at Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ABC

Another shitty ACC team that can’t beat Clemson, which is not terrible this year, but nothing to clutch your bosom and say, “Oh, my my.” The ACC is a dog conference, so tell me, why doesn’t Notre Dame join it, win their half every week and then try to scoot one past Clemson to go to the playoffs all the time instead of showing up like locusts – every eight years, make a lot of noise, then die.

Alabama at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. CBS

Well, of course Alabama has a boatload of injuries on defense against Texas A&M, which would be a bad thing if Kellen Mond hadn’t forgotten how to play football since last year. The Tide has added about three more guys to the list of Walking Dead with blown knees, clobbered ankles and arrow wounds to the liver (I made that one up) who won’t be seen again until next season, if then. Texas A&M gave up significant yardage to Auburn and Arkansas, who are not in the same universe as Tua and the Four Wide Receivers of the Apocalypse, so it should be cruel and unusual. However, the Ags are relatively good at tackling running backs, so expect the running game to suck again this week, unless the OL learned to block all at the same time instead of intermittently, when they feel like it.

USC at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Here’s a rivalry that old men on Social Security are able to remember being good. Notre Dame, whose claim to fame this year is playing Georgia close in Athens, but still LOSING, is a 14-point favorite. USC might could screw up and cover that, since they have their main man quarterback back after a ridiculous string of injuries. And he returns just when the seventh-string guy was beginning to learn the plays.

Florida at LSU, 8 p.m., ESPN

Florida got a lot more cred than they probably deserved by removing the wheels and burning the tires of Auburn’s creaky offense last week. I’d bought in, I was all believing that this Cox freshman at Auburn was the second coming of Johnny Football only not a manic-depressive with a drug problem, and then, BOOM! Florida’s defense squashed him like a bug. It was bound to happen someday, Auburn was not all that good, but they really were starting to believe, and since time immemorial, when Auburn plays on pure emotion, they beat teams they don’t have any business beating. I just wasn’t sure that Florida was good enough to hit them in the mouth hard and often enough to level out the feel-good hormones in the War Eagle Nation’s brains. Evidently, they were.

Florida’s flaky, man, but they’re just a big, old ugly team that does what their coach tells them. They drag you down into the mudhole and get you to play their mudhole game and you do not beat a mudhole team in a mudhole. I like that redheaded quarterback, who didn’t go in the transfer portal because he loves being a Gator. Last week against Auburn he gets hurt, goes over to the sidelines, spits on some dirt and rubs it into the wound, then limps back out there and throws big, ugly passes to big, ugly receivers – who are actually prettu good. I also like that little No. 2 who Auburn said wasn’t fast enough to play for them, so he broke loose on an 88-yard, heart-spiking scoring run in the fourth quarter and outran everybody in a white shirt.

But can Florida beat LSU? Well, my first impression is not freaking likely. LSU has a really good team. But they had a really good team last year this time, and then they played Alabama and got beat 29-0, because Alabama missed two extra points, of course. So Ed Orgeron said “Yow yow! Yow yow yow yow!” Which means, “Goddamn it, we’re going to throw the ball and do all that fancy-dancy stuff and score like a big ole alligator eatin’ a bowl full of crawfish boudin balls.”

And boy, do they throw the ball. Their transfer quarterback, Joe Burrow (sounds like a train robber in the 1880s, doesn’t it? Great name.) fires dimes to that flock of wide receivers that some folks say is better than Alabama’s, but nah, I’ll believe that when I see it. But they are damn good, and they roll up and down the field like engines of helldeath, scoring 50 a game.

And they play the worst defense you ever saw. It’s hard to believe, because LSU has always had a decent defense except when the chips were down against Alabama. As we’ve said before, Alabama’s defense has been far less murderous than usual this season, but at least they have an excuse – more injuries than the Avengers after that big guy, Thanos, pushes all the buttons on that glove thing. Oh, yeah. SPOILER. If you haven’t seen a three-years old movie yet. I hate you spoiler people, who want us all to keep a secret so your viewing experience isn’t diminished because you’re too lazy to get off your butt, go to the movie theater and watch the thing.

I still think LSU’s defensive backs are good enough to cover Florida’s receivers, such as they are. And their defensive line is good enough to get back there and chase Kyle Trask out of the pocket, because I am faster than Kyle Trask, and I’m slow as a cold stink bug.

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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Alabama is No. 1 again, but they aren’t the best team right now: Auburn is; Clemson has been sucky, but they always are this time of year

Guys, if Alabama’s the best team in the country right now, the others in the top 10 are not as good as I think they are. Alabama has made its beat-ass reputation running and stopping the run since the 1880s, but not this year. Boy, that Tua can pass and the four wide receivers of the apocalypse can catch, great God O mitey. But a good defense can put a stop to that. Bama has yet to confront anything remotely resembling a good defense.

Last week, Ole Miss, who got stoned by Memphis, gained 500 yards and scored 31 on Alabama with a second-string quarterback who can’t throw it across an average living room. But he ran through Alabama like water through a mountain stream as linebackers took bad angles and missed tackles when they did get to the ball, and defensive linemen waved as ballcarriers went by and hollered to the safety, “Here he comes! Get him!”

You know who’s running and stopping the run right now? Auburn. They’ve become true believers in themselves, that 12-year-old quarterback is playing like a wild man, and Gus Malzahn is hell when he has a team that can score. The defensive front is looking like the best in ball right now. If Dan Mullen isn’t coming up with a brilliant game plan and coaching the hell out of Xs and Os and Jimmys and Joes, Florida is going to get killed dead on their home field like a possum on the Interstate.

If the Iron Bowl were this week, Auburn would win. They’d have to hold Bama to about 40 points, which I think they could do, and the 12-year-old quarterback would run around behind the line for a minute and a half until somebody got open.

Poor LSU had an off week so they dropped to No. 5, leapfrogged by Ohio State, who got too much credit for pounding a weak Nebraska team into goo. The Buckeyes are good, though. Nebraska is horrid.

Oklahoma is in sixth place – you know the CFP Committee and ESPN executives are hoping hard for a first-round clash between Bama’s Tua Tagavailoa and the guy he beat out, Jalen Hurts, who is a hell of a player, too. Actually, I’d love to see that, myself.

Wisconsin, the last team in America that still plays football as God intended, by blocking and tackling hard, and handing the ball to Jonathan Taylor, who is the best running back in the nation (if you don’t count Hurts, who has a low number, lines up behind the center and passes occasionally.) The Badgers wore throwback jerseys and only beat Northwestern by 9, which is a lot of points when you play defense and run 12 minutes off the clock on a 47-yard, scoreless drive.

There’s parity in college football this year, at least going into Week 6. I think there are about 12 teams that could win the national championship if the chips fell right.

I have a theory on that. Two years ago, Alabama didn’t finish first in recruiting, they were what? like seventh? So Nick Saban ran off everybody but the water boy after a national championship season. Do they still have water boys? Probably not. They just let the players drink water like the lazy guy on the construction crew.

America’s gone to hell, and back when there were water boys, we were winning World Wars, all the daddies had good jobs so the mamas could stay home and make sure the kids didn’t grow up to be assholes, and football players, who got a drink of water about three times a week, were tough. Teams threw about six passes a year whether they needed to or not, and final scores were like 9-7 because a straight-legged kicker knocked through a conference-record, 27-yard field goal in the third quarter, and the defense made the lead stand up. I wasn’t actually alive then, but that’s what my grandfather told me. He’s dead now.

But anyway, Alabama didn’t sign all the good players, so there were one or two left over for everybody else. This is the year that’s starting to show. Enjoy it while you can.

OK. That’s that.

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COUCH POTATO COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 5: Entertainment abounds if you like watching one team beat the other one like they stole something

No. 18 Virginia at No. 10 Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC

This is the best game this week. Hard to believe, I know. How did Virginia get ranked No. 18, anyway? They have beaten Pittsburgh, William & Mary, Florida State and Old Dominion which have an accumulative record of 7-8 against Colgate. They all played Colgate or the equivalent every week. Notre Dame, which took Georgia to the wall last week, is an 11-point favorite. You’d have to bet $450 on Notre Dame to win straight up to win $100. That’s a better deal than it appears to be. Notre Dame has nice helmets. They look really cool on TV. That’s the best reason to watch this game.

Clemson at UNC, 3:30 p.m., ABC

Clemson is a 27.5 point favorite over North Carolina, coached by Mac Brown, who is 68 years old in his first year at Chapel Hill, a powerful indication that they couldn’t get anybody else to take the job. Clemson has covered the spread in six of its last seven games. You’d have to bet $1250 to win $100 if Clemson wins straight up. So if you bet $12.5 million you’d win $100,000 right? That’s only $30,000 less than the hush money Stormy Daniels allegedly got because she allegedly slept with an allegedly high-ranking government official and then didn’t stay hushed. So it’s a better deal than that.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma, noon, FOX

The over-under is 71.5. That’s a flock of points until you think, if Oklahoma wins 49-23, you win. Is 49-28 that hard to imagine, even with Texas Tech’s quarterback out for weeks and weeks with a shoulder injury?

Ole Miss at Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Ole Miss is just awful. But the Rebels beat Arkansas, which is just unbelievably bad, and would probably mop the floor with Tennessee, which goes to show that there are some incredibly bad football teams in the SEC this year. Alabama is not one of them. This will be a bloodbath.

Mississippi State at Auburn, 7 p.m., ESPN

It’s time to start talking about Auburn as being real this season. The Tigers pasted Texas A&M last week, which goes to show that Jimbo Fisher is overpaid. So is Gus Malzahn, but he’s 4-0 right now, and the Tigers are feeling their oats. Mississippi State is coming off a home win over Kentucky, which is showing signs of folding their tent unusually early this year. Auburn should hammer them flat, raising spirits on the Plains ever higher. The Tigers still have to play Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Do you believe in miracles?

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COUCH POTATO WEEK 4: After three weeks of little, a bounty of games that have meaning in the vast, indifferent universe that holds eternity

Tennessee at Florida; Southern Miss at Alabama; California at Ole Miss, Noon, ESPN, ESPN2 and SEC, go find out for yourself which one.

Tennessee and Florida are such flaky teams this year that it wouldn’t surprise me if the Vols won. Florida lost Felipe Franks last week to a stomach-turning ankle injury, but Kyle Trask came in and did just fine, leading the Gators to an unlikely comeback win over Kentucky, which did more to help Florida win than Florida did. Florida’s got enough offensive weapons around Trask that he could be an effective, game-manager kind of dude they can win with, especially against a team that gave up 38 points to Georgia State and lost at home. Both teams have been painful to watch because they profane the game of football. They’re playing the early game, so make a bloody Mary to help you through it.

Alabama is a 39-point favorite against Southern Miss, which I don’t think will stand up because Jack Abraham is a good passer and Alabama’s pass rush isn’t good enough to pressure him and the defensive backs often neglect to cover all eligible receivers. I don’t really blame Alabama’s defense for sucking – they’ve had more injuries than many overloaded passenger buses that plunged off a cliff. Most recently, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray messed up his foot or something and is out for six weeks, and Antonio Alfano, that five-star DL from New Jersey, has apparently decided he likes sitting in his room playing video games more than going to school and playing football. Nick Saban said they’re operating under the assumption that he has quit, which is a reasonable conclusion when a guy doesn’t come to practice or go to class. Alabama needs to wrap Tua in bubble wrap like a precious china teacup, tell him to throw passes to the Four Wide Receivers of the Apocolypse, and score enough to put in Mac Jones as soon as practicable. If Tua gets hurt, Bama’s a solid top-20 team with a good chance at going to the Gator Bowl.

California has slid to a two-point dog at Ole Miss, a team that I cannot understand. But I think they’ll win, because California is good at a lot of things, but not college football.

Michigan at Wisconsin, Noon, Fox

I’ve seen Wisconsin play twice and they are a good football team. They always are. But this year, they have quite a few people who could beat me in a footrace, vastly improving their chances of winning the egregious Big Ten and maybe even making the playoffs. Jonathan Taylor is a holy terror at running back. Unless Michigan has done something I have heretofore seen no evidence of, He’ll go through their defense like shit through a short dog. Michigan has been just good enough not to get the uber-expensive Jim Harbaugh sent on the road to perdition, but this could be the year.

Auburn at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. CBS

All right, now, here we go. We got a ballgame, folks. Texas A&M has to win or it’s their second loss of the year, their first in the league, and they’ll be playing for funsies the rest of the year. QB Kellen Mock got smushed two weeks again in a decisive loss at Clemson, because Clemson’s defense bounced his head off the turf a few times, which will make you see the world entirely differently. Auburn’s defense is – I’m not kidding – about as good as Clemson’s. But the big question is, will this be the week that the wheels come off Auburn’s offense? The Tigers have gotten better each week, QB Bo Cox, who’s 18 and looks 12, has made some freshman flubs but also a few great plays, and they have four runningbacks who are all fair, but when you switch them in and out they’re better because the one in the game is usually better rested than the linebackers who’ll be chasing him. But still … Being an Auburn fan this year is a little like that movie, The Matrix, where you wake up from a beautiful dream of life and find you’re in a box full of goo serving as a battery in a dark, giant machine that cares not for you nor any human. On the other hand, this Auburn team reminds me of a bunch of other ones that were flawed, but kept finding ways to win until they started believing they were good and then, what do you know, they were good. Auburn fans love teams like that – that do goalline stands, make opposing star quarterbacks underperform, give up 99-yard touchdown passes, but then run back a 50-yard field goal attempt 99 yards with no time left to win.

Notre Dame at Georgia, 8 p.m., CBS

Excuse my SEC bias, but I think Georgia is the best team in the country right now, and I’ll be stunned if they don’t hand Notre Dame their head this Saturday. The defense is swarming and cruel, and QB Jake Fromm gets far less attention than he deserves. He’s a sweet, smiling friendly guy who is cold-blooded killer on the field, and he made former five-star Justin Fields say “screw it,” jump into the transfer portal and land at Ohio State, where he’s raising all kinds of Hell in the Big 12. Notre Dame is always pretty good, always plays a weak schedule, and gets far more credit than they are due for beating teams that couldn’t win a 5A high school state championship in Georgia. Georgia’s a 14-point favorite, and I think that’s low.

 

 

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COUCH POTATO’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL SUNDAY REVIEW, Sept. 8, 2019 – Will Florida be better with the backup QB?

Will backup QB Trask make Florida more consistent?

Poor Felipe Frank mangled his ankle against Kentucky when two 300-pound Wildcats scissored him at high speed and and his right ankle went one way and he went the other. It was horrible to watch, and harder to watch was our boy, the high-strung, emotional, hard-trying, inconsistent, water-and-gasoline Felipe in obvious pain, wiping tears from his red face with a towel trying to put on a tough-guy face and give his team a thumbs up as trainers toted him off the field on a stretcher with an air cast on his foot. He’s gone for this season, off to long months of rehab and long years of grinding pain. Dislocated ankles as bad as that one looked are a bitch – you do get better but you don’t get well.

But then, what do you know, here came Kyle Trask, perhaps the only good second-string quarterback in America who didn’t hurl himself into the transfer portal and teleport to a program far, far away. He settled the Gators down and paced an 11-point, comeback win over Kentucky, who was playing with their backup quarterback after a horrid injury to their starter. The Wildcats missed a makable field goal with 54 seconds left to pull out the defeat, then Florida tacked on a decorative touchdown on a long play in the waning seconds.

All in all, it was an exciting game and we learned a lot of stuff. Kentucky’s a program, and won’t die easy this year – they’d have won if their kicker could have poked the ball about a foot to the right so it went between the uprights instead of sailing harmlessly by the upright, leaving Florida’s then 22-21 lead intact.

I think it’s safe to say that Florida is one of those emerging teams that has some talent sprinkled throughout, but makes up for lack of talent by playing ugly. They drag you down into their swampy comfort zone and cheerfully beat you wallering in the mud, biting reptiles, stinging bugs, brain-eating amoebas and general hideousness.

Trask, a redshirt junior who has graduated and could have gone anywhere else to play, may be a steadying influence. If nothing else, he loves being a Gator, or else he’d be long gone.

If he doesn’t try to do too much, gets the ball to the guys around him who can go with it, and the offensive line steps up its game just a touch, the offense could come together enough to be a big, old ugly team that can’t do anything right but beat you.. The defense was always semi-good, in a scattered, sputtering, fail-and-recover sort of way.

The Gators, 3-0 now with a conference win, look more like a spoiler than a contender this year. But we’ll know more next week when Tennessee comes to Gainesville.

The Vols finally got a win – 45-0 over Chattanooga, which wasn’t much of a team. But when you’re stuck in the kind of nightmare tailspin the Big Orange was in, it doesn’t matter how you come out of it. That victory does not mean there aren’t a few hundred thousand Vols fans who didn’t read that demented column last week suggesting that Athletic Director Phil Fulmer fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt and take over himself to lead the Vols back to the towering heights attained under his leadership before, you know, everything went to shit.

Is Auburn’s offense starting to show up?

It’s hard to tell a lot about how Auburn performed against Kent State, who didn’t put up much of a fight.

Auburn’s defense has been the strength of the team, buying time for the offense to catch up.

But the Golden Flashes caused a moment of discord when quarterback Dustin Crum gashed the Tigers secondary with a 53-yard scoring pass. A lot of people were suddenly thinking, Oh, Lord, if this guy can do that what are Joe Burrow, Jake Fromm and Tua do?

The Tigers ran the ball the best they have all year. Baby Bo got more work under center and gets smoother all the time. They piled up more than 600 yards – but again, it was, like, you know, Kent State.

We’ll find out Saturday when AU goes to Texas A&M, which has a lot to prove after laying an egg at Clemson – even though Clemson had a lot to do with that.

It’s a big game. If Auburn wins, Texas A&M is playing for funsies. If Auburn loses, the Tigers will be behind the eight-ball from here on out.

And they’re young and growing and all that – except for the OL, which is mature and just not real good, but the feeling so far is that Auburn’s offense has been wobbling along at high speed like a car racing down the interstate with a loose wheel. You’re just waiting for those lugs to pop off.

Is Alabama that good? Is Clemson?

Yeah, yeah, they are. It’s just that we expect them to be flawless and destroy all that dares stand before them.

Alabama’s offensive line still looks sketchy at times – though it did show signs of stabilization after a miserable first quarter against South Carolina. Then Tua got uncrunk and here he went again, 444 yards and four touchdowns like it was nothing.

The defense got beat a few times by … South Carolina … and that makes you wonder what it’ll do against better teams with actually hellacious offenses. But let’s face it – Alabama’s schedule is cake. Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee are awful, and Mississippi State was pitiful losing at home to Kansas State. A trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 10 is nothing to look past, but it’s not as ominous as it once was. LSU, way up there on Nov. 11 should be a dilly, but it’s at Tuscaloosa and if Alabama hasn’t worked the kinks out by then, it’s not going to. Auburn has a good defense – and if the offense catches up and builds come confidence the regular-season finale in Auburn could be a bitch. But if Auburn loses a few games and the offense sputters, they’ll be done for by late November.

Clemson’s waltz to the postseason is even easier. There’s not a team on their schedule they shouldn’t stomp.

Alabama will have to get past Georgia, probably, in the SEC title game if all goes as expected, and the Dawgs look damn good. That Jake Fromm is a smooth operator. He just calmly drops back into the pocket and murders you, and those two running backs are horror shows. The defense is hellish.

There seem to be a lot more pretty good teams this year. Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are all scary, and could beat anybody on a good day. Maybe even any day.

But it still looks like Clemson, Bama and Georgia in that order again this year – if nobody gets hurt, which has a bad habit of happening. Oh, and if LSU keeps torching defenses and smushing opposing offenses, put them in the mix, too.

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COUCH POTATO: College football Week 3, Sept. 14, 2019 A few halfway-decent games to watch instead of mowing the grass

Arkansas State at Georgia, ESPN2, Noon ET

Were you the kind of wicked little child who on hot, summer days enjoyed getting a magnifying glass and vaporizing entire ant beds by focusing searing light on the helpless insects? If you were, you might tune in to this game. It’ll be in the high 90s in Athens, Ga. and the searing southern sun will beat down on Georgia beating down on the Red Wolves in another game of the sort that should be legislated out of existence.

Hate to say it, but Nick Saban is right, again, and damn it, he usually is. The Power 5 schools should be mandated to play five games against other Power 5 or Group of 5 schools. It’s got to be a rule because nobody’s going to do it unless you make them because these days, you can lose two games by 1 point on a safety on a bad call on the last play of the game, and you go to the Peach Bowl instead of the College Football Playoffs.

A few good teams could work UCF into the schedule, because I’m about to buy their propaganda that they are the best team in Florida because the other ones aren’t so hot and the Knights beat the snot out of everybody. But is Georgia going to invite them up to Athens to bake in the blistering sun and run the risk of losing? Is Alabama going to play Penn State? Nope. Because those guys at Alabama and Georgia aren’t dopes.

Alabama at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m., CBS

This could have been almost interesting if South Carolina didn’t lose their starting quarterback in the first game, a loss to North Carolina. They don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Columbia, S.C. as it is.

Bama’s a 25.5-point favorite, which is likely to be eclipsed, I’d think, unless Tua gets hurt. He’s delicate, like his passing touch, when the ball floats beautiful and straight, like a feather pillow, into the fingers of the streaking Jerry Jeudy. He’s a wonder to behold, but I always fear that he’ll shatter like a clay pigeon in a cloud of birdshot if a defensive end gets a clean shot at him. And the way the OL has been playing, that’s possible.

Like a lot of Bama fans and gamblers, I have these recurring dreams, where Tua goes down and the trainers help him off the field, and instead of Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones buckles up his chinstrap. I wake up in a cold sweat, then realize it was only a dream, but just in case I’ve developed precognative powers, I log onto BoDog at 3 a.m. and put a buck on the other team to cover and a quarter on Jalen to win the Heisman.

What the hell do you say about about this game? Tua needs 300 passing and three or four TDs to stay in the Heisman running. It’ll be interesting to see if Alabama’s offensive line and defense have gotten any better, which they’re bound to do sooner or later, but not yet.

As far as saying anything about South Carolina – well, the new quarterback is doing all right, I guess. Bowl bid good? We’ll see.

Stanford at UCF, 3:30 p.m., WatchESPN

If you want to fool around with your computer to see this game on WatchESPN, it might be worth it to determine if UCF is the best college football team in Florida. I think they are, right now. They’re pretty good, and so far, everybody else is sketchy at best.

Well, Florida is sketchy, with a decent chance of turning things around, and today’s game against Kentucky will tell a lot. Florida State and Miami are awful. Miami might improve. Florida State is done like dinner.

Stanford has looked awful this season. Why on earth they’d agree to fly to Orlando to play this band of cutthroats in the middle of hurricane season is beyond me.

Florida at Kentucky, 7 p.m., ESPN

This one was going to be be so good. Then kickass Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson got hurt and can’t play the rest of the season, placing the Wildcats’ 1-game win streak over Florida in jeopardy.

Taking over is Sawyer Smith, a transfer from Troy, who has a cool name and threw for about 1,700 yards last year. I don’t know if he’s any good, but if he were better than Wilson, he’d have started. He was the starter at Troy last year because their starting guy got hurt in the Liberty game and he took over. If he were still at Troy, he’s be running a solid fourth string, so take Florida and give the points.

Florida’s long string of mediocre quarterbacks seems to be continuing with Felipe Franks, the returning starter I thought was going to be really good this year. He wound up last season playing very well, then he’s been flaky as grandma’s biscuits so far this season. He may turn things around any minute now – and this week would be a good time to do it. Or maybe he’ll fall down and throw it to the wrong team and stuff.

Oklahoma at UCLA, 8 p.m., FOX

This should be ruthless. The odds on UCLA coach Chip Kelly getting fired this year are 30-1, which might be a pretty good bet. He’s still showing up for the games as we speak, but I wouln’t be surprised if he started staying home and watching on TV, talking to his assistants on the cell, and checking occasionally to see if the check is still being auto-deposited.

The Bruins are off to a 0-2 start, bringing Kelly’s record there to 3-11, and it’s not like there were any moral victories in that pile of smoking ruin.

Oklahoma’s offense is smoking, and the defense shows up just long enough to earn a letter jacket at the end of the year. But UCLA doesn’t have the firepower to exploit any weaknesses the Sooners have.

It’ll be fun to watch because Jalen Hurts is exciting, unshackled in Lincoln Riley’s swirling offense. Will he get 600 yards? Probably not, but maybe.

I don’t know what the line is, but take Oklahoma and the over.

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Coach Potato: OK, damn it, the College Football Playoff is here: Win or Go Home, bitches

I’ve been watching TV about the Alabama – Oklahoma game and I guess Kyler Murray has never been tackled in his life.

Looking at Oklahoma’s stats this year, I guess that could be true. I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the small, elusive quarterback taking a solid lick, and he does play in the Big 12, where they play defense only because it’s required.

He’s a world-class centerfielder playing quarterback, he was drafted in the first round by the Oakland As and got a few mil, but decided to play quarterback anyway, and he won the Heisman Trophy. He averaged 500 yards a game.

But he’s little. He’s listed on the roster at 5-11, 195 and I don’t buy it.

Dwayne Haskins, 6-foot-3; Kyler Murray 5-11; Tua Tagavaiola, 6-1

Here’s a picture of him standing between the two other Heisman finalists. Dwayne, over there on the left, goes 6-3, and Tua, on the right, is 6-1, and the two big boys weigh about 220. I’m going to say they both look like they outweigh him by more than 25, but it’s hard to tell when guys are wearing suits. But y’all, that guy is about 5-8. That would make Tua 5 inches taller, and Dwayne 7 inches taller. Look closely – he comes up to about the middle of Tua’s nose, and Dwayne could eat a doughnut off his head.

He’s definitely a blue streak and runs an honest-to-god 4.4 40-yard-dash. That’s faster than most wide receivers and all quarterbacks except Michael Vick. He’s got a good enough arm to throw out Trea Turner tagging up after a line drive to deep center.

But I’ve got a feeling that one of those creatures on the Alabama defense who weigh about 270 pounds and run a 4.8 could get an angle on him break him in two. Dylan Moses could spy him and meet him head on after a gain of about two, or Quinnen Williams could beat that freshman center and get in the backfield and say BOOM. At which point, Kyler’s agent may come running onto the field with an armful of bubble wrap.

And I think Alabama will win because they have a defense and Oklahoma doesn’t. Alabama’s defense gets a little confused sometimes and gives up big plays, but Oklahoma’s defense gives up big plays when they all know what they are doing.

Also, Alabama’s guys are mad because Kyler beat Tua in the Heisman. Tua played most of the season hurt.

Maybe they’d like to see how Kyler does after his head bounces off the ground a few times.

Alabama could lose this game, but I’d be really surprised.

Notre Dame vs. Clemson

All the gamblers are loading up on Notre Dame, and the line dropped from 14 to 12. Sometimes lines drop because smart money comes in, and sometimes they drop because a lot of stupid people bet more than a few smart ones.

The few times I have seen Notre Dame play I have been stunned by how slow they are. That is a bad thing to be against Clemson, who is really fast.

I’m sorry, I just think Clemson is going to beat these guys unmercifully. I know you all hope I’m wrong, but how often does that happen, really?

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Couch Potato: OK, so you’re the CFP Committee, what do you do? Who gets in? Who gets screwed?

Georgia kicked Alabama’s ass for 58 minutes and 54 seconds before second-team quarterback Jalen Hurts, in for a busted-up Tua Tagavaiola, ran that winning touchdown in and ascended into Bama Heaven borne on the wings of an angel chorus singing OOOOoooooOOOOOO!

Alabama’s undefeated. They played some cakes along the way but with two hurt quarterbacks and their best defensive back on the sideline they mowed through the last four games of the season and in their wake left broken enemy warriors weeping by the waters of Babylon.

They’re in. Still No. 1.

Clemson and their freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who looks exactly like Sunshine in “Remember The Titans,” stomped Pittsburgh’s guts out and ate them, as anticipated. Could you make a case for Clemson to jump Alabama to the No. 1 slot? The ACC is a clown conference of stiffs and guys who play football because they weren’t tall enough to make the basketball team, so no.

Clemson’s in, No. 2

Georgia played an all but flawless game and would have probably won if not for the dumbest call in the history of football, a fourth-quarter fake punt on fourth-and-11 with the score tied that miraculously gained 2 yards instead of being stoned in the backfield because Alabama saw it coming and blew it up. Jake Fromm played his best game and looked better than the two guys who are going to finish first and second in the Heisman voting – Tua and Kyler Murray. Would you watch these two teams in a rematch? I would. 

Screw it. Georgia’s in, at No. 3, jumping Notre Dame because Notre Dame is slow as smoke off of shit and should be playing UCF in the Astro Bluebonnet Bowl.

But Notre Dame’s in at No. 4 because they’re Notre Dame and nobody else is.

Oklahoma doesn’t make it because their defense is godawful. Ohio State doesn’t make it because their defense is godawful, too. It’s not like their defenses take a lot of chances, give up some big plays but make a lot of interceptions and fumbles and sacks and force the game into the breakneck pace that favors their outstanding offenses. No. Their defenses just suck and suck defenses don’t get in the playoffs because Alabama will score 70 on you with two well quarterbacks and a month to get ready.

There are my picks. What are yours?

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Couch Potato: Championship weekend – Oklahoma vs. Texas and Bama vs. Georgia only ones that matter

Championship weekend would be a lot more exciting if the games weren’t meaningless. Well, except for two, which might affect seeding. 

If things shake out the way everybody thinks it will, Alabama will beat Georgia and Oklahoma will beat Texas, which means we’ll have the battle of the electrifying quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa vs. Kyler Murray in the opening round. Good. Maybe a few people will watch it, which has been a bit of a problem for the College Football Playoffs. 

The viewership of the CFP hasn’t been as colossal as ESPN hoped when it signed a 12-year contract for seventy jillion pillion dollars. People aren’t watching TV as much as they used to because the Internet is destroying the world, and college football fans tend to watch their team with ardor and ignore any other team that they haven’t laid a bet on. 

That’s why we won’t be having an eight-team playoff until they figure out how to make it rain. That, and have eight teams that deserve to be there. 

If Georgia wins, Alabama and Georgia will both go to the playoffs and Oklahoma gets screwed, and so will the advertisers who bought time on the semifinal broadcasts. Ohio State is probably going to get screwed no matter what because Notre Dame went undefeated against a cake schedule, and Notre Dame is Notre Dame and they’re not. 

Anyhow. Whatever. Here we go.  

Big 12, Oklahoma vs. Texas, noon on ABC 

The only reason this game isn’t a yawn is because Texas somehow beat Oklahoma 48-45 during the regular season, which goes to show it can be done.  

Texas is weird this season and Oklahoma scores billions and plays no defense at all. The teams hate each other, which always improves watchability.  

Kyler Murray is amazing and fun to watch, but he’s listed at 5-foot-11 in the program and is probably more like 5-9, which means if he goes to the NFL he’ll be a punt returner. 

Sun Belt, Louisiana-Lafayette at Appalachian State noon on ESPN 

Lafayette, Louisiana is one of the greatest towns to eat in that ever was if you like fried food and gumbo, which I do. Boone, NC, is really pretty with mountains and trees and stuff.  

That is all I know about these teams. 

AAC, UCF vs. Memphis, 3:30 p.m. on ABC 

UCF lost its quarterback last week to a pretty grim-looking knee injury, and the new guy is a good runner but doesn’t pass as well. Memphis only lost 31-30 to these guys earlier in the year and could ruin a perfect season and incessant talk of fake national championships and deserving a berth in the playoffs. I have yet to meet an Alabama fan who is not fully in favor of UCF earning the right to challenge the Crimson Tide in the first round of the playoffs, which should tell you something. Memphis got beat by Navy and slaughtered by Tulane, so I gotta think UCF’s got a chance even with McKenzie Milton on crutches. 

SEC, Alabama vs. Georgia, 4 p.m. on CBS 

The one thing I see in Georgia’s favor is that there’s a close-to-unanimous consensus that Alabama will beat the hell out of them, and when that happens, a lot of the time the underdog wins. However, I’ve felt that way about Alabama’s games with LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, and Alabama beat the hell out of all of them. Nevertheless, Georgia has an elite defense, even if it did give up 36 points to LSU, whom Alabama shut out. The Dawgs also have an excellent running game and Alabama has been less dominant against the run than usual – even underachieving Auburn had a 75-yard TD against them only it was called back by a holding penalty because of course it was. If Georgia can establish the run, make first downs, keep Tua off the field and score about 38 points … yeah, sure. 

ACC, Clemson vs. Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. on ABC 

OK, last week Clemson looked so shitty against South Carolina that Dabo got mad at fans who said so and acted like he might leave and go somewhere he would be better appreciated. Within hours, Auburn started negotiating a cheaper buyout for Gus Malzahn if he wants to keep his job, which would be the dumbest financial decision ever made if Gus signs that piece of paper. Oh, I can have $32 million now and never have to work again, or I can keep my $7 million job another year if I take less than $32 million if you fire me next year after I lose all my best players? Sure! (Pro tip: Take the $32 million and go somewhere you don’t have to play Nick Saban every year). I don’t think Dabo will go to Auburn, but I never thought we’d be getting ready to send people to Mars in a few years, either, so I guess anything’s possible. Except Pittsburgh beating Clemson. Pittsburgh’s just fucking awful.

Northwestern vs. Ohio State, 8 p.m. on Fox 

Ordinarily, I’d say Northwestern and snowballs in Hell have a lot in common against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. But the Buckeyes are so flaky, it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost,  which would make Rose Bowl officials start playing Russian roulette with a full clip and one in the pipe because Northwestern has about 43 fans. But OSU looked good last week exposing Michigan as a big, slow team that played a weak schedule, and with a convincing win today would probably back into the playoffs if Texas could beat Oklahoma. The last time OSU backed into the playoffs against Alabama, they upset the heavily favored Tide and went on to win the national title. Past performance is no indication of future results.

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Cc’d d

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In the time of the virus

It’s spooky outside in the time of the virus. It’s so quiet that you can hear voices from far away, carried on the wind. I heard what sounded like children crying or playing or both in the street. I stepped out on my balcony. I couldn’t hear the children. But a skinny man with pale, pale skin and no shirt, black shorts and a wide-brim black hat ran by my house under the streetlamp, and I clearly heard him say, “Yes, by a magical, or rudimentary lunar strike” into his phone. He noticed I was listening, picked up speed and loped off into the darkness. I could see the light of his cell phone bouncing with each stride as it grew smaller and smaller.

I went to the bathroom and washed my hands. I wash my hands like Pilate now, like lady MacBeth, trusting that the soap is removing the awful thing I can’t see. I let them drip dry, because I don’t want to touch anything to dry them off. Towels are bound to be teeming with the hated thing, along with God knows what all else.

Sleep, 3:45 a.m. sometime in the virus times

I’d like to go back to sleep, but I can’t.

We are stressed. All of us. We live now as if we were in a battle. Our senses are on full alert. But there is no one to fight. So we go into our cave and play dead. We sleep so that we’ll have rested senses if the battle ever comes. I wish it would, and I hope it never does.

Shopping

I’m spending $14 a month and a tip to keep from having to wade through the grocery store in search of what food remains on the shelves that I am able to eat. There’s a delivery service that shops for you, brings it to you and leaves it on your porch. It costs too much, of course. Everything does.

I’m diabetic. Sugar messes me up like a bad ex-wife you still love. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally soothe myself with a few heaping handfuls of cookies every now and then. But the risk of excruciating death by slow asphyxiation has made my almond, coconut and chocolate chip favorites at the Winn-Dixie a lot less tempting.

Back in the 1980s, I was married, and did no swimming in the AIDS pool. But I’m sure, had I not been, the risk of AIDS wouldn’t have kept me from having unsafe sex with sketchy partners, and I doubt this little bastard of a virus won’t completely separate me from brownies, cakes, cookies and pie as I wander the remainder life’s road, however short it may be. And yeah, I’ll probably tie a T-shirt around my nose and mouth and walk over to Winn-Dixie to get it.

I’m a geezer, so let me share the rest of my afflictions with you.

I also have atrial fibrillation, a nagging electrical malfunction that makes my heart beat like a fucked clock when I’m stressed. I’m stressed a lot lately, but they make pills for that.

Like all other American males over 60, I’m overweight. Not as much as I used to be, but enough to give coronavirus an unneeded advantage.

The virus could kill me four different ways or engage all my co-morbidities at once and just stomp the shit out of me.

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THE POTATO: Game Day, Made for TV College Football Playoffs, LSU vs. Oklahoma at 4 p.m.; Ohio State vs. Clemson at 8 p.m.

It just feels weird.

It’s Saturday morning, New Year’s Day is still four days away, and the two college football games that render all other bowl games irrelevant are sucking all the air out of every stadium in the country except the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, where the playoffs take place.

It’s a great life lesson for the the players forced to settle for the upcoming Rose, Cotton, Orange, Citrus, Fiesta, Camping World, Gator, Red Box, Sun, Citrus, Sugar and Birmingham bowls – and my favorite, the First Responder Bowl, which should be the best place to be if you get hurt.

The also rans can take comfort in the fact that they they just weren’t quite good enough. Now’s a good time to get used to it.

The boys on the teams that threw two interceptions that were run back for touchdowns, committed an unforced fumble at the 10, had a star quarterback come back from a high-ankle sprain only to break his hip on a meaningless play in a meaningless game, and those that played on a defense that didn’t tackle anybody are all assigned to bowl season purgatory.

Hanging out in hotel lobbies and game rooms, eating egg white omelets for breakfast, checking out the well-preserved, middle-aged women at the pool and hotel spa, eating lunch at the giant buffet featuring local cuisine prepared by chefs-in-training and trying to show up on time for the bus that’ll carry you to some to some strange high school field on the other side of some strange city so you can practice in helmets, shorts and shoulder pads in front of dad mom and dad, who are looking at the guy taking video with an iPad and wondering if he’s a scout for the Cincinnati Bengals desperate trying to find a guy to draft first instead of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. (Sadly, he’s not a scout. He’s an aging reporter for a newspaper trying to collect some some digital shit to put on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snapcat and all that bullshit in the desperate hope of providing relevant content for the youth of today, who are busy looking at parties at porn stars’ houses and gunfights at shopping malls, not football practices.)

Oklahoma plays No. 1 LSU this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.Imagine a NASCAR race car smoking, shooting sparks, running with one tire off the rim and on fire caroming off the last few cars in the desperate race for the fourth and final slot in the College Football Playoff parking lot … nudging Baylor out of the way, flipping their Green Chevy Impala into an end over end crash ending when it hits the wall and stops dead. From corner of his eye, Sooner driver Jalen Hurts sees Auburn’s blue-and-orange Ford F350 lock its front right wheel with Alabama’s back right wheel causing the crimson Ferrari to explode into a roaring ball of flame while Nick Saban and staff ran for the exits to start recruiting. Then With the engine burning oil and water in the fuel, on intertia alone, Jalen Hurts gets out of the Sooner Red Dodge Challenger, pick it up and carry it to the final slot in the playoff field, where he flips it in the air and it lands standing on its nose.

Meanwhile, LSU, Ohio State and Clemson were already there, waiting, having driven their purple, red, and Dial-soap orange SUVs to the CFP lot, parallel parked perfectly, set up tailgate tables, and played cornhole while they waited for the No. 4 team to arrive.

OKLAHOMA vs. LSU

LSU keeps saying their defense is born again hard. I’ll believe it when I see it. I will say this, it’s been a month since they played so everybody should be healthier than they have been in a while.

Except old Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who’s my favorite player on this team of overachievers. Clyde’s got a tender hamstring, which is a funny injury. It comes and goes. Chances are he’ll play, but don’t know how effective he’ll be. He’s a hard guy not to like. He’s short, muscular, built like a bowling ball, runs low to the ground and when he’s coming at you, all you see is the top of his head and shoulder pads.

He’ll probably play a little, and they’ll use him as a decoy and stuff. They have three really good freshmen who all have different styles and could give Oklahoma’s defense some trouble.

Practically anything could give Oklahoma’s defense trouble. They aren’t real good. And before the game, coach Lincoln Riley kicked two of the best guys off the team. They must have been raising hell to get kicked slam damn off the team the week they play LSU.

It’s all gong to come down to QB play, and I’ll tell you what I think. Joe Burrow is a little bit better than Jalen Hurts, but mostly because he’s got a little bit more around him than Jalen does. Maybe a lot more. The lion has no weapon but himself, said Romantic Poet John Keats, and Jalen’s a lot like that. He is stronger than anybody on the field, he can fly, he throws a good ball when he he’s on. However, he does have a bad habit of throwing it to people in the wrong colored jerseies, and he”ll bolt and run a little before he should sometimes, but that’s not all bad, because his best play is when he goes back to pass and nobody is open.

Cee Dee Lamb is Oklahoma’s best receiver and he’s a beast. Big, tall, jumps, flies, goes up and gets it, breaks tackles, blocks for the other guys. He’s just something. Oh, and he comes from Opelousis, Louisiana, and he always wanted to play for LSU but they didn’t recruit him. Big damn mistake, which Ed Orgeron himself has admitted at every public opportunity.

But LSU has about four Cee Dees. They have a flock of big old fast guys with hands like dinner plates who can go up and get it, which they don’t need to do much, because Joe Burrow can say, “Which one is your favorite finger” and he’ll hit it with the ball from 40 yards away.

LSU ought to win. They have more weapons. But If Jalen goes absolutely wild and Cee Dee gets open a bunch and those fat guys with high numbers can help him just a little bit, he’s a bad enough man to win the son of a bitch by himself.

I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s sure worth watching to see if he does.

Ohio State vs. Clemson

Clemson coach Dabo Swinner reminds me a of a lot of people running for president these days. He just keeps giving the same speech over and over. Poor old Clemson can’t get any respect, we just stay down in our little town and all the boys work so hard and we go play everybody and beat the living daylights out of them and they won’t rans us No. 1 all year and then just give us the championship trophy and make the other three teams play for second.

I’m a little tired of it, but it seems to be working, so what are you going to do?

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has been talking a lot about his poor, old knee which just will NOT get well, and here he is all in the playoffs and playing those Clemsons, who are the best team he ever saw and Lord have mercy, what’s a boy to do?

He’s wearing a brace on the aggravated knee, which is sprained, which could mean a lot of things, but here’s the main thing: He has not missed a rep in practice because of it.

Yesterday he showed up with TWO braces, one a little bigger than the other, and refused comment on his knee but nodded when somebody hollered “you moving around all right?”

If he can’t run, Ohio State will have to find another way to beat them. If he is OK, he’ll be able to run and Ohio State will just beat them the regular way.

I have a feeling he’s OK.

And Dabo and Clemson are, too. Look, here’s the news. The ACC is awful. And while most college football teams schedule way too many cupcakes during the season so that they can work on their system against token resistance, Clemson gets to work on their system 13 times a year, including the championship game. So if they aren’t polished like a perfect, pink pearl by this time of the year, they have nobody to blame but themselves – and maybe Mack Brown, the old coach at North Carolina, who almost beat them.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has the prettiest hair of any football player in America, stands about 6-foot-6 and throws it very far and straight, usually to his intended receiver. What we don’t know is if he’s able to move around in the pocket, because he hasn’t really had to, Like, in his life.

Alabama couldn’t get through his offensive line last year in the title game and he stood back there and sliced up the Tide secondary like a sous-chef in the gumbo line at Commander’s Palace. Here’s a guess that Chase Young might bust through there a couple of times and allow Trevor to demonstrate his scampering skills.