With the start of Fall practice a mere week away, things around RBR will really start to ramp up in the coming weeks. Accordingly, we'll tune up the football coverage immensely, and by mid-August we'll practically be in mid-season form in terms of producing football-related content. On the downside, though, the season can be overwhelming and can make it very difficult to get to other topics, so for the time being, while we wait out the final grueling six days of the offseason, a few random blurbs:
The "All Hell Breaks Loose" What If at Tailback
I do find it a bit strange that we still have no confirmation of the Eddie Lacy injury rumors almost 48 hours since such rumors appeared. That's effectively an eternity in the Internet age, and perhaps it's baseless optimism, but I tend to think that if the injury were overly serious we would have some confirmation of it at this point.
Nevertheless, as a discussion piece, assume that Lacy (or Richardson) gets injured at some point this season and is in turn forced to miss a meaningful amount of time during the season. Assume further that the Brent Calloway train keeps on wreckin' (which is a pretty short-leap assumption, I might add) and he does not qualify academically. What happens next at tailback? Clearly we will have to move players from other positions, but who will get the nod(s)?
Keep in mind you already have two power backs, but do you have someone who can hold up in pass protection or be a receiving threat out of the backfield? Chris Jordan and Blake Sims are the easy choices, but Jordan would be another short-yardage power back, and if Blake Sims ever pass blocked anyone it was probably on his Xbox playing Madden. Do we put a walk-on in the game? How about moving over Jabriel Washington or Christion Jones? Discuss amongst yourselves if you wish, but it's a tough question with no obvious answers, and unfortunately it's entirely possible we'll have to address this at some point during the season even if the latest Lacy rumors turn out to be harmless.
Pay Attention to the Guy with the Hank Williams Jr. Obsession
Todd may have taken his fair share of flack for his recent "Now or Never" piece, but fundamentally speaking he's right. Many people won't like that, but the unpleasant aftertaste produced by such a notion doesn't make it any less accurate. We have several key seniors on this team, and the NFL Draft looks to once again take away several major pieces, players who will leave early to play on Sunday. It's a safe bet to say that for better or for worse, 2012 probably won't be as good as 2011. With that in mind, 2011 looks to be shaping up to be something of a fortuitous season, and we had best take advantage of the opportunity .
And, yes, I understand we are recruiting at a very high level, and in all likelihood will do so as long as Nick Saban resides in Tuscaloosa, which means we will likely be one of the more talent-rich programs in the country come 2013. All that notwithstanding, you simply cannot project anything that far out with any real degree of accuracy. Coaches will leave, schemes will change, can't-miss recruits will be busts, competitor programs will improve, the overall landscape will change. You can generally forecast the upcoming season relatively well, and you can make some reasonably accurate speculation about the following season, but any projection of any program two or more years out is really nothing more than a wild guess. No one knows what the 2013 Crimson Tide will look like, for better or for worse.
Besides, even if you can assume we maintain this run for many years to come, a national championship is far from guaranteed. Regardless of how good you are, it's extremely difficult to win a national championship in any given year, and repeats are not guaranteed even for powerhouse programs. After all, what do Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, and USC have in common? They were all consistent powerhouses for the past decade, and yet they all have just one BCS National Championship to their resume. In due time, it's possible we could join that list.
The point? Let's just win the damn national title this season and let 2012 and beyond play out however it plays out.
Re-examining "Offense Sells Tickets, Defense Wins Championship"
You've heard that quote, often attributed to Bear Bryant, many times. It's a great line when your favorite school just pissed away a two-possession fourth quarter lead, but in all honesty I think that might be one of the most useless precepts in modern college football.
First and foremost, from a general prospective, the basic argument that one side of the ball is inherently more important than the other strikes me as unconvincing. Bryant, too, knew this, and despite the notion of him being a defensive-minded coach -- though clearly his strength was as a defensive tactician -- his offenses were generally both highly effective and conceptually advanced. And yes we've traditionally won with teams led by great defenses, but that's not to say you cannot win with a prolific offense leading the way, and many teams have done just that throughout the years. In truth, offense and defense isn't an either / or proposition, you need to consistently execute both at a high level in order to compete at the upper echelons of the sport.
More to the point, though, this logic is fundamentally at conflict with the evolution of the modern game. College football has transformed itself into a multi-million dollar business, in which case selling tickets is highly important, arguably even more important to many than mere winning (which some would see as merely a means to an end of generating more money for the school, increasing admissions applications, etc.). Maybe selling tickets didn't count for a great deal sixty years ago when head coaches were making $5,000 a year, general admission tickets were $1.25, and almost no one outside of New York City owned a television set, but in a sport where billions of dollars are on the line, you damn well better be good at the business aspect.
And say what you will, but the majority of people prefer to see the scoreboard lit up. I guarantee you that if you take a poll of the average college football fan and ask them if they would rather see a 38-35 shootout or a 6-3 stalemate, the shootout will win hands down every time. And when you start seeing athletic directors giving out pink slips to successful coaches to bring in an unproven assistant to install some newfangled offense to "generate excitement in the fanbase" -- read put asses in the seats and money in the university coffers -- it's time to reconsider the old idea that the world revolves around defense.
It's Kind of Like the Larry Flynt Business Model, Just Different
Clay Travis-gate in a nutshell: Homer writer launches new site. Homer writer needs traffic for said new site. Homer writer doesn't want to become homerless (it's a pun, folks). Homer writer immediately proclaims huge scandal at rival school.
And you couldn't see that one coming from a mile away?
The real issue here is not that Travis is basically just some glorified message board pot stirrer -- though he definitely is that (okay, so actually I think he was a lawyer or something, then a blogger, and then he suddenly he became a radio jockey, then he got way too much into Twitter, and now he apparently wants to be a serious journalist and come to the City and marry SportsbyBrooks or something). The real issue here is that people go bonkers over college sports scandals. They may never want to admit it, but college sports fans absolutely love a good scandal (assuming their team is spared, of course), and any potential scandal drives traffic like you wouldn't believe. Just as some fans get more excited about the melodrama surrounding some entitled high school jock who hasn't even finished Driver's Ed yet, I'd wager a fair amount of fans would much rather see a big scandal blow up a major program than watch a 3rd and 8 in late October.
In essence, smut sells. Appeal to the lowest common denominator. You take all the stuff that's not fit to print and you print the hell out of it. People eat it up and you make a killing producing it. And when you give incentive for something, guess what? You get more of it. 'Ol Milton taught me that one a long time ago. Clay Travis may be a hack, but he's a hack in a growth industry. Expect more from him and more who want to be like him in the near future.
Everyone Was Arrested, Including the Arresting Officer
I think the NCAA enforcement framework tends to work well when you have scandals like, say, Albert Means and Eric Ramsey. In effect, you hammer a program for supposedly egregious conduct, you assume compliance by everyone else (ridiculous as though that is), and then you leave said program a smoldering ash heap and move on with this little laughable notion of near universal compliance by everyone else fully intact.
But what happens when everyone gets caught? And at the same time?
I ask that because, in essence, everyone has been caught. The NCAA is twelve months removing from dropping a proverbial bomb on USC. Ohio State, Oregon, Auburn, Tennessee, and North Carolina are all currently involved in major scandals. West Virginia and Michigan recently placed themselves on probation, and LSU was also recently put on probation for violations directly committed by an assistant coach (with more possibly on the way with Will Lyles). Hell, we're one of the lucky ones at the moment, and even we are still on probation for the umpteenth time.
So what do you do now? Can you really hammer all of these programs, especially with an already hammered USC essentially leaving the entire college football landscape west of Austin weakened and up for grabs? It's an interesting question because, again, the fiction behind the NCAA enforcement framework is shattered if practically everyone gets caught at the same time, which is effectively what is happening now. And when such a thing happens, you can either completely change the rules of amateurism and start paying players a small fraction of their fair market value (never happening), nuke everyone in sight (also never happening), or you make examples out of a couple of programs, be surprisingly blown away by the outstanding professional conduct and proactive compliance and administrative officials at the other programs, and then everyone can go about their merry way with their nonsense fiction intact as much as reasonably possible. My money is on the latter.