HBCU Huddle: The Art Briles Saga

On today’s show: CJ and Mike get on a tangent immediately to start the show by discussing the importance of Black History Month. The duo also discuss coach Prime’s comments about being broke after competing in the Southern Heritage Classic and the Art Briles saga at Grambling.

HBCU Huddle: Behind the Scenes of the Coach Prime Documentary With Dana Bahrawy

On today’s show: CJ gets a behind the scenes look of Barstool Sports’ ‘Coach Prime Documentary’ with the show runner for the series Dana Bahrawy. Dana shares what its like being behind the scenes with JSU and coach Sanders, the most interesting things he has seen so far, behind the scene moments he looks forward to sharing with the audience, the the possibility of Snoop Dogg narrating the series again and more. CJ also discusses Hampton’s move from the Big South and more.

Lang’s World: The Georgia Bulldogs are good enough, after all

I did not believe.

Let’s start right there. On Monday night, the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football National Championship Game, to win UGA’s first title in 41 years.

But yeah, in retrospect, I’ll admit it: I did not believe.

In whom did I not believe? Well, there’s a long list.

First and foremost, Stetson Bennett: I did not think the former walk-on was a good enough quarterback to lead the Georgia Bulldogs to a National Championship. He certainly has an inspirational story, but a great background tale is traditionally not enough to beat the devil himself, Nick Saban.

I also did not believe that Kirby Smart was a good enough football coach to defeat Nick Saban. After all, Kirby Smart had lost four straight times to Saban, and didn’t really seem to be any closer to solving that puzzle than he had been four years ago, when Saban last beat UGA in a title game. Smart is undeniably a gifted recruiter, but he has not been able to get his football team past Saban’s.

Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning had recently been hired as the head coach at Oregon, but I didn’t believe that he was any closer to understanding how to stop Alabama than he had been 37 days ago when Bama put up 41 points against this vaunted Dawgs defense.

Zamir White? George Pickens? William Poole? Dan Jackson? AD Mitchell? All terrific players, who contributed to UGA being 13-1 heading into the National Championship game. But were they the kind of players who would help UGA win their first title in 41 seasons?

Well, I didn’t believe that they were. In fact, I didn’t think UGA was going to beat Alabama in the National Championship game. Perhaps this was a conditioned response to years of Alabama beating UGA, but in the days leading up to the game, I found myself at peace with the thought of Alabama beating UGA. There is an order to life, after all, and Georgia losing to Nick Saban’s Alabama teams just seemed like part of that natural order.

I also had trouble believing because I’d been hurt before. I still clearly remember 2017, and I remember 2012. I remember Eric Zeier and Jacob Eason and all the QBs who were supposed to lead us to titles. As someone who has rooted for the University of Georgia Bulldogs for my entire life, I was led to believe that we just weren’t good enough.

And the Dawgs certainly began the game like they were outmatched. On the opening drive, Stetson Bennett fumbled (and recovered) the ball, then drew a delay of game penalty before UGA was forced to punt. Better warm up JT Daniels, our five-star back-up QB, I thought. When UGA had 6 points at halftime, I once again thought about Daniels and wondered if he would get a chance.

The good news, at least for UGA, was that they blitzed the Tide early and often, and continued to bring it throughout the night. It was a simple adjustment, one even a pedestrian like myself noted might be prudent, and it turned out to be correct—when Bryce Young was on the run, he struggled to complete passes. Once Jameson Williams went down with a torn ACL, the Tide seemed even shorter on options to stretch the field.

(I understand that Alabama was already without wide receiver John Metchie III, and then they lost Williams. Yet I find it hard to believe that a team with a top three recruiting class year after year after year only has two wide receivers who are any good on their depth chart. But I digress…)

UGA opened the second half with another punt, and I was really getting antsy. UGA’s defense was playing well, holding Alabama to field goals whenever they reached the red zone. UGA got an interception and took over inside the 50, but had to punt again. This much I knew for sure: Stetson Bennett was not good enough. Kirby Smart wasn’t going to take Bennett out. And UGA was not going to beat Alabama.

Then UGA ran the ball four plays in a row and went 80 yards for a TD. Alabama ripped off 9 points to go ahead 18-13.

Which was when Stetson Bennett turned into Aaron Rodgers, leading UGA on consecutive TD drives (one 75 yards, one 62 yards) to go up 26-18. I didn’t think he had it in him. I didn’t believe. But Bennett believed.

Stetson Bennett celebrating

In the waning moments, when Kelee Ringo picked off Bryce Young and weaved his way to the end zone, running 79 yards for a TD, putting UGA up for good, 33-18, I stood in my mancave and silently danced in a little circle. In that moment, I thought about the symmetry of Ringo wearing number 5, like Garrison Hearst wore back when I attended UGA, and like DB Damian Swann wore a decade ago. I thought about all the other players who have come and gone without winning a title. I thought about all the time I spent on that campus, all the days I spent wandering around downtown Athens, wondering what I was going to make out of my life. And I realized that it was happening. UGA was actually going to win a National Championship. I sat back down on the couch and smiled and felt a little woozy.

Your favorite teams aren’t supposed to win titles every year. Championships are the rarest of achievements, built through years or even decades of work. Alabama could go one hundred years without winning another title, and I would feel no sympathy. You aren’t supposed to get six titles in 13 years, or whatever it is that Saban has done at Alabama, or what Jordan did in Chicago, or what Wooden did at UCLA. Maybe you have an incredible circumstance and get back-to-back rings or something like that, but for the most part, a championship is an incredibly rare and precious thing.

Which is why we cherish the sensation the way we do. That’s why we cry when our teams win, it’s why we hug strangers and high five random people because of the t-shirt they’re wearing. It’s why I got a million text messages and DMs on Monday night, and it’s why I’ve been making intermittent barking noises in public over the last few days.

It was a journey to get here, but finally, my college football team won it all. And now I’m sitting in my office, listening to R.E.M. (shoutout Athens) the morning after the Georgia Bulldogs finally beat Nick Saban to win a National Championship. What a time to be alive.

Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.

Grizz win 9 straight, NFL playoffs are here, and CFB National Championship picks | 3-Point Stance

3-Point Stance: Grizzlies win 9 straight, NFL playoffs are here, and CFB National Championship picks

Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 103, Jon Roser and Meghan Triplett discuss:

(0:00) Intros
(0:15) Grizzlies winning streak
(3:57) NFL playoffs
(7:14) CFB National Championship picks

The Odds Couple: Hard Work Works OR Week Barkteen OR Buckets Of Chicken

On today’s show: Rob, Lang and Roser preview the CFP Championship Game, discuss the impact of John Metchie III being out for Alabama, talk about what Kirby Smart needs to do to get over the Nick Saban hurdle and more. The guys also give their picks for the week too.

Lang’s World: Alabama, Georgia, and rat poison

It started with a squirrel.

A few months back, one day we heard what sounded like a scratching noise coming from inside the eaves over our garage entrance. Well, I thought, I guess we have a critter in there. My wife, an aspirant naturalist, immediately told me that under no circumstances would we call an animal control specialist to remove the little beast. It must need shelter, she reasoned. Why else would it colonize our home? And since the eaves isn’t actually attached to our home, how much damage could it do?

A few days later, my neighbor texted me a video of the squirrel poking his head out of his forced entrance hole on the edge of the eaves. The squirrel was calmly looking up and down the street, surveying the neighborhood like Tony Soprano wearing a bathrobe at the end of his driveway. This is ridiculous, I thought.

A few weeks later, I woke in the middle of the night and heard the squirrel scratching against the interior wall that separates the eaves from the actual house. A day later, an animal control expert we had to pay dearly rousted the squirrel, sealed the hole and set a trap in case Lil Tony Soprano managed to return. If we’d just dealt with it at the beginning, maybe we would have avoided the cash expense? Letting it linger only caused problems.

The squirrel seemed to move on, perhaps to a roomier home in the suburbs, but literally one day later, I was outside the back door of our house when I saw a small brown mouse dart past me toward a weep hole in the foundation. Nah, I thought, there’s no way he’s going into the house. We’ve lived here for almost five years, and we’ve never had a problem with rodents. Now they’re all coming after me at once, like I’m Doctor Doolittle?

A day later, I opened the pantry and found several packages of food chewed through, and the bottom shelf sprinkled festively with tiny turds. After cleaning up the party detritus, I found a slim gap in the back of the pantry, which we taped over until we could manage to seal it more effectively. A day later, the tape was chewed through, and a different shelf had been turded.

Immediately, I drove to Home Depot and picked up a half dozen glue traps, as well as some of that expandable hardening foam stuff I could use to fill his entryway. But first, before filling the hole, I baited the traps with peanut butter and chocolate and left them in the pantry. A few hours later, while I was at work, my wife reached out.

“The mouse is stuck on the trap,” she texted.

“Great,” I responded. “I’ll be home in a bit.”

“I’m putting it in a box in the laundry room. Our son is in love with him, by the way. He’s super cute.”

“I’m going to kill it,” I said.

It had taken me a while to reach this moment, but I was at a breaking point. I had done my best to be understanding, to forgive and accept, to respect life and nature. But in doing all of those things, I was losing. I was ready to win. It was time for me to win.

Next week, my Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football National Championship game. The Dawgs are currently 3-point favorites in the game.

Alabama has beaten UGA seven straight times, which includes Tua coming off the bench four years ago to throw a game-winning score in UGA’s last trip to the National Championship game. Of course, those seven games stretch past the beginning of the Kirby Smart era, as Smart himself is on the hook for just four of those losses against Saban. It feels like it stretches back forever: My son was born nine years ago, and we were discharged from the hospital just as Aaron Murray led UGA on a final, fruitless drive down the field against Alabama in the SEC Championship.

For years now, Alabama coach Nick Saban has called media attention “rat poison,” but after Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC Championship game a few weeks ago, he spun “rat poison” in a different direction. “The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal,” Saban said, “but the rat poison that you put this week was yummy.”

Kirby Smart and Nick Saban handshake

It was a strange analogy, and his delivery made it a bit creepy, but I think what Saban meant was all the experts and pundits predicting an Alabama loss were feeding into the underdog narrative Saban was selling to his squad. (How in the world Nick Saban convinced his team of defending national champs and five-star recruits and a Heisman winner that they were the underdogs in any matchup is another column altogether.) What’s really wild is Saban had Alabama believing they were the underdogs, and that tactic worked and they won, and now this week they’re playing the same team that they beat before, and somehow now they actually are underdogs!

I love the Dawgs, but I don’t know if I believe UGA can actually beat Bama. A large part of the blame for Georgia’s recent failures has fallen at the feet of QB Stetson Bennett, who is 0-2 when he starts against Alabama. At the same time, EVERY QUARTERBACK who has started against Alabama over the last three seasons has gone a total of 3-37. Beating Alabama is really, really, really hard, and there’s no shame in Bennett failing at the two chances he’s had to defeat the Tide. Would backup QB JT Daniels be a better option for the Dawgs? Perhaps – you could argue he wouldn’t do any worse than Bennett has done — but Bennett was terrific last week against Michigan (20-30, 313 yds, 3 TDs/0 INTs), and it’s hard to believe there’s anyone in the UGA quarterback room who is any hotter than Bennett at the moment.

Perhaps UGA is favored because Alabama will be without WR John Metchie, who helped Bama torch UGA’s secondary in the last matchup. But Alabama has plenty of fine receivers, and that “next man up” mentality is particularly applicable at a school loaded with five-star recruits.

The only way I think UGA stands a chance is if they try and speed up Alabama QB Bryce Young. During the SEC Championship loss, UGA seemed content to sit back and let Young pick them apart. And so he did. As Seth Emerson wrote in The Athletic

“Yes, Georgia did use plenty of four-man rushes: By my count on re-watch, 22 of Young’s 48 dropbacks saw Georgia only rush four, while there was also one three-man rush. Almost all of Alabama’s big plays came out of those. Meanwhile, there were 12 five- or six-man rushes, and they went much better. There were also 14 other passes where the ball got out so quickly it either wasn’t evident how many rushed or it didn’t matter.

The results: Young was 13-for-19 for 297 yards and three touchdowns when Georgia rushed four or fewer defenders. When Georgia rushed five or more, Young was 1-for-11 for 24 yards. So…yeah, pretty stark.”

Alabama is great because they drill down on whatever your weakness is and they relentlessly attack that weakness. Against UGA they passed down the field. Last week, against a smaller Cincinnati team with a good secondary, Alabama ran for over 300 yards on their way to a blowout win.

Bryce Young vs. Cincinnati

Alabama hits you where it hurts. Now it’s up to UGA to be prepared for that possibility. It’s been a long haul for UGA to get to where they are this week, and they’ve got the mouse (the elephant?) cornered. Instead of poison, however, perhaps this time they’ll try a glue trap? A wooden trap? Anything other than rat poison. We’ve seen how Nick Saban loves rat poison.

By the way, I got home from work and found myself summarily overruled regarding the mouse. My wife and son had rescued him from the glue trap and placed him in a shoebox. My son and I then drove to a field a few miles away and released the mouse, where he cautiously stumbled out of the box and trotted off into the tall grass. As my son and I drove away, I started doing the math in my head, trying to figure out how long it might take that mouse to make it back to my house for another all-he-can-squeak buffet.

To be honest, I am totally expecting that mouse to show back up at my house in a day or so. We removed our pest from the equation, but we didn’t take him out when we had the chance. If there’s anything we’ve learned from Nick Saban, it’s that you have to take advantage of that opportunity when it’s presented.

Because otherwise, the rat can start to enjoy the poison.

Lang’s World: The College Football Season That Was

Normally we spend this week, unceremoniously wedged between Christmas and New Year’s Day, tuning into random bowl games that take place during weekday afternoons. This year, however, that seems to be a descending opportunity, as bowl games are getting canceled left and right due to health and safety protocols.

So, as we cross our fingers and wait for the bigger games to come around on December 31, I took the last week to reflect on the college football season that was. Things still aren’t the way they were before COVID, but this season seemed closer to what we’ve experienced in the past.

And as always in college football, there was plenty of weird stuff to go around.

MVP: The Transfer Portal

I don’t think anything has had as significant an effect on college football this season as the transfer portal. Players no longer have to wait a season to change schools, and as such, we are seeing tons of big names leave big schools and change the competitive balance. It has made college football way more interesting, as we’ve seen literally dozens of players the last two weeks switch teams like they’re playing NCAA 14. Does it make life harder for coaches and school administrators? Probably. Does it make college football more interesting for fans? Yeah, I think it does.

Least Interesting Development: NIL Money

For so long, opponents of the free-market system warned everyone that if we started allowing college football players to make money, college football as we knew it would be a disaster. So, this year we started allowing college football players to capitalize on their fame by signed licensing deals, and guess what? Nothing really changed. I mean, I guess some players made more money than they would have cleared under the cafeteria table, but it didn’t fundamentally change the playing field in college football. I know, some haters are still hanging in there, pointing to Florida State losing the number one recruit in the country, Travis Hunter, who flipped to Deion Sanders and Jackson State, perhaps because of some potential NIL money. But if Florida State is losing players because they can make more NIL cash at other places, doesn’t that mean Florida State isn’t playing things the right way?

Player of the Year: Bryce Young

Bryce Young was supposed to be the next Michael Vick, a wildly athletic QB who would continue Alabama’s dominance. But after a start that was closer to Marcus Vick, Young got going as the season went along, and I guess we can give this nod to Young. He led the Crimson Tide through a topsy-turvy season that ended, as it always seems to do for Nick Saban, with a trip to the playoffs. While his season was similarly topsy turvy, Bryce Young was the best player in arguably the biggest college football game this season, when Alabama bested UGA in the SEC Championship Game. There were other players who were probably more integral to their team’s success, and did it with less help surrounding them—Matt Corral in Oxford comes to mind immediately, as does Kenny Pickett at Pitt—but Young was good enough.

Video of the Year

I thought a lot about all the videos that went viral this season, but man, I don’t know if there was anything as emotional or heart-wrenching as this video from the Texas A&M upset over Alabama. With two seconds left on the clock, Aggies kicker Seth Small came on to attempt a field goal to knock off the number one team in the country. Smartly, videographer Cam Worthy smartly spun around and shot this video of Small’s parents and wife experiencing all of the feels as he entered the game and then drilled the game winner. When Small’s wife hopped the railing to run on the field, I felt like running out there also.

Upset of the year: Wait, Kansas beat Texas?

Kansas has been hapless at football for as long as I can remember. Despite a few attempts at halfhearted flashy reboots—Les Miles! Charlie Weis!—Kansas has never been able to get things on the right track long enough to make any sort of tangible impact. The most recent person in the coaching lineage is Lance Leipold, who won his opener against South Dakota, and then lost 8 straight games. For his tenth game? Leipold and Kansas knocked off friggin’ Texas in overtime, 57-56. Now, Kansas has defeated Texas before, back in 2016, but the two teams scored a combined 45 points in that game. To see the Jayhawks beat the Longhorns while lighting up the scoreboard was unbelievable.

Quote Of The Year

There were a lot of weird moments in press conferences and on the fields following games, but the one moment I’ll likely remember the longest came just before Halloween, when Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was asked about Halloween candy. Leach delivered a reasoned, deeply considered treatise on various varieties, flavors and types of Halloween candies. I particularly liked how he handled the question so seriously, as though he’d been asked about a late-game play call or something actually related to the game they literally just finished playing.

Quote of the Year Runner-Up

Let’s stay in the SEC and check in with Alabama’s Nick Saban, who went on his coach’s show and bashed fans who were upset that Alabama wasn’t blowing teams out.

To me, the best part of this video was the way the fans—the very fans Saban is talking about, for what it’s worth—cheer Saban on after each sentence, like the crowd at a WWE show.

Win of the Year: Michigan beating OSU

All things considered, Michigan and Ohio State occupy relatively similar positions when it comes to their places in the college football firmament. They’re both powerhouses in the middle of the country, who have each won plenty of national titles over the years. They have anchored the Big 10 forever, and together they provide sort of a counterbalance to the SEC’s college football weight. But all of that said, Ohio State has owned Michigan for a while now. Before this season, Michigan had beaten Ohio State just once over the last 17 seasons. Current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was 0-6 against the Buckeyes, which produced plenty of grumbles across the Great Lakes. And then finally, it happened. This year Michigan finally knocked off OSU, and they did it decisively, 42-27. The only rivalry I could think of that would have produced a more seismic win would have been if UGA finally beat Alabama. But that hasn’t happened. Yet.

Oddest News Story: The Mike Gundy email leak?

This was such a weird story, and it went away about as quickly as it flashed across social media. Oklahoma State had a really good season, finishing 11-2 and being in the college football playoff hunt right up until the end, losing by literal inches in the Big 12 championship game. OSU coach Mike Gundy, meanwhile, kept the Cowboys in the hunt, and kept himself in the picture also, as usual, by being glib and forthcoming in interviews. But a few weeks ago, as the Florida Gators stumbled through their season and fired coach Dan Mullen, someone reached out to the Gators to pitch Mike Gundy as a possible successor. This kind of stuff happens routinely, certainly, but it’s rare that we actually get to see the pitch emails.

The strangest part to me was in the aftermath, when Gundy claimed he had no idea that any of this was happening, adding that he doesn’t even have an agent. (I guess this was just some random person who pitched Gundy to Florida?)

Florida passed on the unsolicited advice and hired Billy Napier, but either way, it worked out pretty well for Gundy: A few weeks ago he got a raise and a contract extension from Oklahoma State.

How Will We Remember This Season?

Will this be the season that we remember Alabama showing a sliver of vulnerability? Tennessee fans throwing golf balls and crap at Lane Kiffin? Harbaugh finally beating the Buckeyes? Brian Kelly becoming a Southerner overnight

To me, this will be the year of college football coaches becoming fallable. I wrote about it in November,

and it only got worse after may column. By my count, 28 colleges have hired new coaches since the season started, and bowl season isn’t even over yet! I don’t feel much sympathy for these coaches who have been ousted — they are all extremely well-compensated, and they all get into the business with the knowledge that one day they’ll most likely lose their job. It says a lot that college football’s biggest moment west of the Mississippi this season was probably USC hiring Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma. For so long, college football players were the ones who always seemed to have to take the fall. Thanks to the transfers and NILs, maybe coaches will be the ones to have to take some responsibility from now on.

The Odds Couple: Bowl Season In Full Swing + CFB Week 17

The Odds Couple: Bowl Season In Full Swing (CFB Week 17)

On today’s show: Rob and Lang give CJ grief about his Jackson State Celebration Bowl pick, breakdown the Music City Bowl, discuss Memphis’ chances in the Hawaii Bowl, get Mike Leach’s thoughts on players opting out and more before calling Roser and getting picks from every member of the Syndicate.

HBCU Huddle: Post Celebration Bowl

On today’s show: CJ is flying solo in this episode and he talks about his experience at the Celebration Bowl, the difference in styles between JSU and South Carolina State, SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland’s thoughts on the Celebration Bowl seel out, the potential for additional postseason HBCU football games, the inaugural Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic, Michael B. Jordan’s thoughts on supporting HBCUs and more. He also talks to MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas about the health of the conference, the growth of the Celebration Bowl and what is next for him.