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Questions, Questions and More Questions

Jul 02, 2014 -- 9:44pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Some work trips are easier made by plane. Others are more efficient by car. This week has been the latter, which means there has been plenty of time for thinking while on the road in Louisiana and Texas this week.

While the windshield time may have created questions, it sure did not always deliver answers. If you have them, send me a note on twitter.

  • Why do football fans who claim to hate defensive struggles and love the HUNH offense have such a sudden infatuation with soccer? A game where scoring is at a minimum.
  • Has Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops brought his Wildcats along further and faster than Bret Bielema has the Razorbacks when you consider where each started?
  • Does the more Steve Spurrier talk lead you to believe that his team is going to be really good or is he just looking for a limelight?
  • Why do people who call in to sports talk radio shows always thank the host for having them on? Were they invited to provide expert commentary?
  • Why are people so high on Alabama this year? No experience at QB, less than dominant offensive line, big questions in the secondary and very little kicking game.
  • Why is it that Dan Mullen will never be fired at Mississippi State?
  • LSU has plenty of talent on the roster this year, but will inexperience at key positions keep them out of the national title race?
  • Why do I think the SEC will be lucky to even get one team into the four school college football playoff?
  • Is any city more aptly named than Starkville, Mississippi?
  • How good can Ole Miss be if the Bo Wallace from the LSU game last season shows up every week? Wallace was 30-39 and 346 yards in the Rebels 27-24 upset win.
  • Why is the food in Louisiana so really, really good?
  • How many fewer points per game will Texas A&M average without Johnny Manziel at quarterback? Last year the averaged 44.2 points per game and led the SEC.
  • How many more points will the Aggies defense give up per game? They were dead last in the SEC in scoring defense giving up 32.2 points per contest.
  • Whatever happened to Tennessee football?

Again, these are the questions. Really need some answers.  

 

SEC News? Links

Jul 02, 2014 -- 9:10am

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

It is the really quiet time for SEC football, but here are some interesting and newsworthy items from around the conference.

David Climer of The Tennessean considers what SEC football coaches may be on the hot seat. Florida’s Will Muschamp heads the list, and is just about all of the list. One coach who will never get fired…Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.

HA HA Clinton-Dix may just be the anti-Manziel. The Green Bay Packer rookie and former Alabama star signed his first NFL contract and made good on a promise to buy a home for his mother.

Speaking of Johnny Manziel, just last week he was talking about how he would like to not find everything he does in the news. Well, partying with Justin Bieber and a bunch of other celebrities at a party where the cops are called twice because of the noise is not a good way to achieve that goal. Here is the pic and more about the celebrity gathering.

 From all accounts former Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen was a great young man and one that people had a great deal of respect for. Sadly, Lutzenkirchen died in a single car accident last weekend. Many call this a tragedy, but if reports are accurate it is more sad than tragic. According to initial reports Lutzenkirchen was not wearing a seat belt when he was thrown from the vehicle and police suspect that all the passengers had been drinking. First, buckle your seat belt. Second, never get in a car with someone who has been drinking. This death was preventable.

What schools would the SEC add if the league expanded again? Edward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf from ESPN consider this question.

Hope this gives you an SEC fix for a few days.

Don't Call Team USA Soccer a Success Yet

Jun 26, 2014 -- 9:02pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Today I have done something really, really bad. I’m talking really bad. This is what I posted on my twitter and Facebook pages:

U.S. is 1-1-1 in World Cup play and we are calling it success. In the SEC they would be looking for someone to fire unless Dan Mullen was the HC.

It was not the Mullen comment that got people talking. It is the idea that team USA was not a success in group play despite advancing. No. This team is not a success right now. They have advanced, but they are not a success.

Here is why.

In sports success is defined as winning. Take it one step further, it is winning while playing within the rules of the game.

This team is not winning games.

In the opening round the United States earned a 2-1 victory over Ghana. It was a great win, and one this team could build from. It was of particular significance because Ghana is the team that knocked the United States out of the last two World Cup competitions.

1-0

Now, the U.S. controlled their own destiny. All they had to do against Portugal was win and advancement was theirs. Millions of Americans watched the riveting game and was believing the U.S. was going to earn the win and get to the knockout round with a win. That is, until just seconds remained and Portugal scored a beautiful goal to even the contest at 2-2.

1-0-1

The loss was heartbreaking, but team USA still could be sure of advancement by just ending the game with Germany in a tie. Just tie the game and advance. They lost to the Germans 1-0.

1-1-1

Team USA advances, but it did not experience success.

Success is finishing things off when you control your own destiny. Not counting on someone else to get your work done for you.

How can we call advancing genuine success when Iran and Nigeria in Group F may have to toss a coin to see which team gets to keep playing?

Success in sports is defined the same way in each outing. Winning.

Here are the arguments some people presented tonight on why the U.S. was a success:

  • They were big underdogs.
  • They did better than expected.
  • Their group was incredibly difficult.
  • You don’t like soccer.
  • You don’t understand the game.
  • Success is not just winning.

Great. I’m proud of them. They represented the United States well. Hopefully they will keep representing well in the next round.

Just don’t say they are a success.

Want a success story?

The 1980 Winter Olympics U.S. hockey team.

Guess what? They were underdogs. They did better than expected. They faced really stiff competition. I did not really understand the game.

They also measured their results by what the scoreboard said at the end of the games.

In group play they went 4-0-1. They controlled their own destiny, even in games where they were not the favorite or most talented.

They advanced to the medal round where they faced off against one of the biggest and baddest hockey teams ever fielded. The Russians were expected to squash the little Americans in the game. But Team USA did the unexpected. They won. Again.

Everyone who love sports can still hear ABC broadcaster saying, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Oh, the game with Russia was not even for a medal. It was not until they faced Finland that the U.S. secured a gold. Down 2-1 in the third period Team USA rallied to win 4-2.

That is success.

When you go 1-1-1 in group play and fail to control your own destiny, no one asks if you believe in miracles. Win the tournament, then we will call you a success. Until then, we can say Team USA represented well. It can be said that we are collectively proud of them.

What you can’t say is that they were a success. In sports that means winning.

Unless you are Dan Mullen.

Of this, there can be no debate.

 

 

 

The O'Bannon Lawsuit: What to Know

Jun 22, 2014 -- 9:17pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

If you are like most people in the world, you are probably not paying much attention to the daily testimony of the trial that is currently going on between former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and other plaintiffs against the NCAA.

If you are on twitter you have been subjected to lazy analysis and biased tweets from many in the college sports media who believe the battle between the plaintiff’s legal team and the NCAA is similar to a pairing of Alabama and Arkansas Tech on the football field, with O’Bannon’s team wearing the Crimson.

Here is what you need to know.

What is the trial about?

The plaintiffs have sued to overturn the NCAA rules that allow players to profit from the use of their names, images and likeness. Like most lawsuits, it is about money.

What is at stake for the NCAA?

Primarily the definition of what an amateur athlete is. The NCAA has taken a strict view of directly paying student-athletes and there is an evolving school of thought that given the significant dollars being generated that this idea is antiquated and should be changed.

In addition, this lawsuit will have a significant bearing on shaping definitions and arguments that will be presented in an upcoming case filed by Jeffrey Kessler that seeks to actually have players be paid for play.

What will be the impact if the plaintiffs win?

Players will have the right to market their own likeness for money. There will also be an attempt to allocate a portion of television and other broadcast rights to players.

The form of how this would happen is unclear and most likely subject to significant litigation and debate. Do you pool money and pay players or allow them to negotiate individually? Should athletes receive payment while in school or after their eligibility is expired? What is the impact on paying athletes in profit producing sports while not paying those that generate little revenue? What are the Title Nine considerations? These are just a few examples of issues that would have to be considered.

What will the NCAA do if they lose this case?

They will appeal and many legal experts believe they stand a good chance of having a negative ruling overturned on appeal based on prior rulings by higher courts. If the plaintiffs lose, it should also be expected that they would file an appeal as well.

What is the practical outcome on college athletics if the plaintiffs win? Some say this will change the landscape of college athletics. How?

They are right.

As an example, imagine how recruiting will change. There is nothing that will stop boosters from openly paying players for endorsement deals.

Nike founder Phil Knight has donated $300 million to Oregon athletics over the last twenty years. Much of this has been given to build better facilities in order to attract the best football players to the program. What if Knight decided to shift, say, 20% of that to graduating high school athletes to help them decide to become a Duck? That would give Oregon a war chest of $3 million a year to work with. How many schools can compete with that?

If the judge finds for the plaintiffs, the greatest value a player will have is BEFORE signing a scholarship. That is when the really big dollars will flow to the top 100 players.

Second, big name players will become a target for boosters looking to give their program a boost.

Sure a player might have to sit out a year by transferring, but that would be a small price to pay if Arkansas really wanted that All-American linebacker who had proven they can perform at a high level in the SEC while at Ole Miss. What is to keep a Walton family member from paying that budding superstar to do a few personal appearances while they waited for the chance to put on a Razorback uniform? The good news? The contract with the booster would require them to play out their college eligibility with the Hogs.

Third, as more dollars are directed to these types of activities for football and basketball players private source donations for smaller sports will decrease and this will lead to a decline in facilities and related support for these athletes, if not the outright cancellation of their sports program. There will be a particular impact on men’s sports.

Finally, expect the number of football scholarships to be reduced.

As the cost of an individual player increases, schools will look for ways to reduce the costs associated with this expense. The reduction won’t come in coaching salaries, but the number of young people presented an opportunity to play college football. Basketball may also experience a similar fate.

This is just one of several legal issues facing the NCAA currently. As mentioned earlier, there is the Kessler lawsuit and another antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of former West Virginia player Shawne Alston. Another pending issue is the certification of a union at Northwestern University and the vote by their players to be dealt with.

The landscape of college athletics is going to evolve. The real questions remains whether it will be good or bad for the game.

 

SEC Football: FAQ

Jun 19, 2014 -- 9:54pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

Last week I gave you my answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Arkansas football team in 2014. Today you get the answers to the other SEC questions that I’m asked most often.

How many SEC teams will qualify for the first ever college football playoff?

One. That is all. The powers that be, a.k.a the selection committee, is going to make sure that two don’t make it into the mix. The basis they will use is the perceived weakness of SEC out of conference schedules as presented by haters from the media and outsiders. Be assured, there are no schools that would opt to play in the SEC West to get an easier road to the playoffs when compared to their present situation.

Which SEC team will make the playoffs?

There are only a handful with a real shot. Start with Alabama and Auburn at the top of your list. The other candidates are South Carolina and Georgia. If Missouri, Arkansas or Florida win the league title there will be no SEC school in the playoffs.

Is Will Muschamp going to be out at Florida at the end of the season?

Nope, and expect the Gators to be an outside player to win the East. This team will be better on offense and Jeff Driskel is better than most people think. Don’t discount the significance of injuries in the disastrous 2013 Florida season. Fifteen players were lost for the season to injury and five others missed at least one game.  How would any school in the conference do losing their top two quarterbacks, three best offensive tackles, two leading tacklers, starting tailback and best defensive player?

Will Jacob Coker be as good as billed for Alabama?

No idea. He has thrown a total of 41 college passes, with most of those coming in mop up duty. Jimbo Fishers and others say he is going to be solid, but he has had very limited opportunities to work with the receivers. Here is what you can know for sure. If Coker is not as good as billed, the Tide will not be a top ten team.

Is Leonard Fournette going to be the next great college running back?

If you look at his high school play, physical build and speed the tools are all there. Will he be the next coming of Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson or Earl Campbell? That is not something I’d predict.

What will it take for Dan Mullen to be fired at Mississippi State?

It will never happen. No matter how few SEC games he loses, no matter what he does Mullen is safe. Forever. Next question.

Has Hugh Freeze put together the best young talent in the SEC at Ole Miss?

Uh, no. The list of SEC schools with more young talent includes at least Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia. The young guys just don’t get on the field as early at these places because they also have very talented older players.

Is Tennessee set for a breakout season in 2014 under Butch Jones?

Not yet, but he is laying a solid foundation. The Vols will be better this year, and I’m calling for a bowl with a record of 7-5 at best and 6-6 on the downside.

Do you have questions on SEC football or the Razorbacks? Send them to me at Twitter: @cfbupdate

 

 

 

Arkansas Road Trip: The Auburn Game

Jun 18, 2014 -- 8:54pm

By Gary Brown

Follow on Twitter at: @cfbupdate

(Note: Hey Auburn fans, what did I miss? Let me know at the twitter account above. It will be passed along!)

Traveling to a road game in football to support the Razorbacks needs to be about more than getting to the game, rushing in the stadium and leaving before the clock expires to beat the traffic.

Going on the road should be about experiencing the atmosphere on the opposing school’s campus and traditions. This includes the food, traditions and other quirks that make each campus special.

Too help you get ready for each Arkansas road game, I’ll be providing tips to help you clue in with the locals during your trip so you can make the most of your opportunity to embrace college football more deeply.

A few general rules for you when it comes to food. I don’t like fine dining. In addition, when traveling, my general rule is to avoid chain restaurants and eat locally. Why travel hundreds of miles to eat the same food that can be found at home? An exception is made for small chains that may not be available in my part of Arkansas. Finally, all suggestions are places I have had a meal or come from a person I respect for their food judgment, which means I’ve been to a place they have suggested before.

Road trip 1: Auburn

The Food

If you want really good home style cooking then the place to go is Pannie-George’s Kitchen where the fried chicken is the star of the menu. Don’t leave without eating a piece of pie though. Eat breakfast at Byron’s Smokehouse. Yes, it is a BBQ place, but if you have ever had breakfast at a real BBQ place, then you know just how flavorful it can be. For BBQ the place of choice is Mike and Ed’s Bar-B-Q. The Boston Butt is their calling card and their slogan is “You can smell our butts all over town.” There is an Auburn option of having your meat chipped which is like chopped, just much finer. While there, eat it like they do.

On the Road

Here is a couple of helpful suggestions to make your on the road experience a little better. Tired of dirty gas station bathrooms? When you stop to take a nature break, find a hotel chain like Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express. They all have bathrooms near the lobby which are usually clean and the family has a comfortable to wait as everyone takes a turn.

MapQuest shows that from Little Rock you will travel to Memphis, across Mississippi and into Alabama. Here are a few places you might want to consider enroute.

Stop for food in Memphis. On the way down make the trip downtown to eat at Gus’s Fried Chicken. Only the original location counts. When returning home find your way to Interstate Barbecue and make sure you get a side of the BBQ spaghetti.  

If you are an Elvis fan you can get a twofer in. There is Graceland in Memphis and the birthplace of Elvis in Tupelo. If you want to choose the shorter tour of the two, go with his birthplace. Not much to it.

Update: Auburn fans have let me know in large numbers that you must get a lemonade at Toomers Drug Store. MUST.

The Traditions

Like most SEC schools, Auburn has plenty of traditions that make attending a game a unique event. Here are some you will want to say you caught while in town.

The most impressive part of the Auburn pre-game celebration is the Flight of the Eagle. It does not matter who you pull for, the sight of this majestic bird making its flight over the stadium is a great moment. This will occur about twenty minutes before the game begins.

Aubie, the Auburn costumed mascot, is perennially one of the best in the nation.  He started as a cartoon character in 1959 and has been a consistent top performer at the Capital One Mascot Competition. Keep an eye on him during the commercial breaks.

If the game is deemed big enough, you might want to make your way to Toomer’s Corner afterward. For years Auburn fans congregated there to celebrate a victory by rolling the old oaks located there. The trees may be gone now, but the spirit is still alive. Of course, if you are on the losing end you might not feel like being part of this. On the other hand, it might be insulting if Auburn fans don’t find their win significant enough to head there if they get the better of Arkansas.

Prior to the game you might want to witness the original “Tiger Walk.” Teams all over the country now have their own version, but from what can be found, Auburn’s is the original. Starting in the 60’s, the Auburn version might just be the best of them all. It will be approximately two hours and twenty minutes prior to kickoff.

A new tradition in Auburn is Autumn Nights held on Friday evening. This event features a pep rally with Aubie, the Auburn band and cheerleaders. Following the pep rally local bands entertain the locals and visitors alike.

There is a start on your weekend visit to Auburn to watch the Hogs. Like all football road trips, I have found a win sure makes the ride home a lot easier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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