(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
If Lester is frustrated by not replicating the season he had a year ago, it never shows in his interviews. Lester continues to produce in other areas with 36 tackles, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. Perhaps his greatest contribution is becoming more of a sounding board for some of the up-and-coming players in the secondary, such as safety Vinnie Sunseri. It was evident during the Auburn game when Sunseri replaced safety Mark Barron, who was out with an injury for most of the game. Lester helped reassure the true freshman playing in his first Iron Bowl. He could play a similar role next year if he stays in Tuscaloosa. "I'll still have to take classes next semester to be eligible if I do come back next season," said Lester, who graduated last semester. "Right now, since there's no school I can focus on nothing but football."
There are plenty of reasons why the postseason in FBS college football is arguably the weirdest in all of sports, not the least of which is the nearly two month layoff for some teams between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. The Alabama Crimson Tide will have gone 44 days between games when they play in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 2, one week longer than the LSU Tigers. Unfortunately for the Tide, history is not on their side in that regard. As the Birmingham News points out, the team with the longer layoff has lost five of seven championship games.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1) began bowl preparations last week, holding five practices before breaking for Christmas. Those practices were devoted to fundamentals, coach Nick Saban said. Players compared the drills to preseason camp. Now Alabama is ready to start preparing for its rematch with top-ranked LSU (13-0) in the Jan. 9 BCS Championship Game. The Tide will practice for four days before taking Sunday off. Then it will practice three more days in Tuscaloosa before departing for New Orleans on Jan. 4.
The last time LSU played in the BCS championship game in Jan. 2008 against Ohio State, both schools' bands sat in temporary sections on the floor of the Superdome at no cost. This time, the LSU and Alabama bands will take up a large chunk of seats for which each school must pay. "We were fortunate that we could provide space for the bands in the past, but the seats in the lower bowl are all much better now for the fans and the band," said John Sudsbury, director of media relations and communications for the Sugar Bowl and this year's BCS championship game. "It will be a better experience for the bands." Albeit a pricey one.
Jones’ example is kind of the standard — as a player, as a teammate, as a student, as a friend — that Saban is constantly trying to get his team to hit. "I don’t think there’s enough good things that you can say about Barrett Jones," Saban said last week. "He’s probably about as fine a person as you’re ever going to have the opportunity to be around. I wouldn’t even say that I’ve ever coached — I think that would be an understatement. "He’s, I think, as fine a person as you're ever going to be around — me or you or anyone else — in terms of his willingness to serve other people. I think his teammates think a lot of him. … He really has the right stuff when it comes to doing things you need to be successful in whatever you choose to do."
But the beauty of Barrett Jones didn’t get its holiday shine until yesterday – on Christmas - when the Memphis Commercial Appeal named him as the city’s Sportsman of the Year. That’s right, of all the male and female athletes in the sprawling West Tennessee city, ranging from pro basketball’s Memphis Grizzlies to some of the best amateur golfers and tennis players in the state, Barrett was an easy choice and football, oddly enough, didn’t have that much to do with it. His own explanation is adequate. "I don't want to be a football player who does other things - I want to be Barrett who happens to play football," said the 21-year-old, "That's part of who I am. I love giving back. It really brings me great joy to do that."
Alabama S Mark Barron: Widely considered the top safety in college football, Barron was second on Alabama’s team with 66 total tackles and the anchor of one of the top defensive backfields in the country. He was a consensus first-team All-America selection and one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in America
Penn Wagers has no idea what's going on right now. In the first place, Wagers had no idea what the original call on the field was and made a complete hash of two separate attempts to explain it before going to replay. Then, after an extended conversation with the replay official in the booth, Wagers proceeded to "uphold" the touchdown in another meandering announcement and had to be called back to the replay phone to get the correct call. Which, after more than 15 minutes of utter confusion, he did: First down, Ohio, on the one-yard line. That's how they finally played it, anyway. Based on Wager's ridiculous, contradictory explanations, I still have no idea what he actually ruled.
One of the main critiques of the current bowl system is how schools, more often than not, lose money by going to a bowl game. This year is no different, as Clemson is finding out that its first trip to a BCS bowl game is going to leave the school in the red.
The Nittany Lions are conducting what by their own admission has a been a "deliberate and measured" search for Joe Paterno's replacement and are the final FBS team to fill their 2011 head coaching vacancy. But any complaints would have been quickly silenced if they could become the program that finally pries away Chris Petersen from Boise State. It's no surprise a Penn St. official reportedly visited Idaho twice last week in an effort to make the program's pitch to Petersen. But like every other previous suitor for the Bronco coach's services, that pitch has fallen on deaf ears
Dana Holgorsen had it ready. The West Virginia boss is one of two first-year head coaches to lead his team to a BCS bowl this season. The other is David Shaw of Stanford. "I guess we both got a little bit of luck on our side," Holgorsen said. "Quote unquote, Luck on our side. You might want to use that one, huh?"