Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catching up: Only in the SEC

* We haven't heard from Lane Kiffin in a while, but Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban have been kind enough to provide us with our weekly SEC coaching bitch-fest. After Spurrier claimed Sunday that Alabama's holder on field goals and extra points had been using tape to spot the ball (which is technically illegal but probably provides minimal benefit), Saban said it wouldn't happen again ... and then he followed up with the always-mature "everybody's doing it" excuse:
"We certainly don't want our players to do anything that's illegal. It is a 5-yard penalty if you do anything to enhance the spot," Saban said. "We've done some research on it, and over half the teams in the league do something with it."
Saban says other teams get away with it because they use grass or mud to mark the spot, adding that "we even saw verification where last year South Carolina's kicker did it." I don't know if this is true or not, but the response is quintessential Saban; he's always able to walk that fine line between respected coach and complete asshole. Whenever he decides to retire from Alabama, he'd be a perfect fit at some big high school in Texas where the coach has way too much power and is a total dick but nobody ever calls on him on it because he's so damn good at winning football games.

* There will be a pregame moment of silence and handshake at the UConn-West Virginia game Saturday in Morgantown in honor of Jasper Howard, the 20-year-old Connecticut cornerback who was fatally stabbed at a school dance early Sunday morning. The Huskies will also wear Howard's initials and will bring his jersey and helmet to all away games for the remainder of the season. I didn't really know much about Howard -- I knew his name because he was a solid starter and a pretty good punt returner, averaging almost 11 yards a return last year and over 9 per return this year -- but regardless of his skills on the football field, this is one of those tragedies that should remind us not that sports are unimportant, but that sports can be an amazing thing for people to rally around. Karma owes UConn a couple big wins, and the Huskies will have their chances: the next four games are at West Virginia, home against Rutgers, at Cincinnati and at Notre Dame.

* Terrelle Pryor's high school coach spoke out Wednesday with some criticism for Jim Tressel, saying Ohio State could be using Pryor more effectively to take advantage of his skills. Response: Duh. To be honest, I'm not sure OSU could be using him much less effectively -- they've basically removed his biggest strength (improvisation) and emphasized his biggest weakness (mid-range passing). Almost all of Pryor's runs are designed, and it's a lot easier to load up and stop those than it is to contain him after he's broken out of the pocket. This quote says it all:
"There is no question that Rich Rodriguez's offense, for example, would be more apt to suit Terrelle's skills," Reitz said. "But Ohio State sold him on the idea that they would prepare him for the NFL and that they don't run 'zone read' in the NFL. Jim Tressel is a great coach. But I can tell you there is more to Terrelle Pryor than what we've been seeing."
Being "prepared" for the NFL is all well and good, but Ohio State's offense will be a joke until either Pryor finds his light switch and his passing skills improve drastically (unlikely) or Tressel starts building his gameplan around Pryor's athleticism (plausible, although as Brian Cook points out, that sort of transition would be pretty difficult for Ohio State's mammoth offensive linemen and would be somewhat counterproductive).

* The SEC has finally had enough with the stupid officiating, as the crew responsible for A.J. Green's controversial celebration penalty in Georgia's loss to LSU and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Arkansas in Saturday's loss to Florida (which the conference said afterward was incorrect) has been suspended for two weeks. I'm 100% in favor of punishing officials for poor performances: I know they're trying their best, but if someone's not getting the job done, give them some time off and get them properly trained rather than letting them continue to embarrass themselves and the sport on national TV.

* Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is continuing his noble quest to rid the world of the BCS by seeking help from President Obama, who obviously isn't busy with trying to stabilize the economy or rebuild the nation's health care system. I'd love to see the BCS be torn down in favor of a six-team playoff, but I'm not holding out hope and I realize that the people in power have other priorities and better things to do. Good luck with that, Orrin.

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