Well, this is somewhat taking advantage of a controversial and rather disgusting topic. But the recent story about a peephole-style video of ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews made me dig into my own archives. My shots of Andrews and some orange-clad Clemson women are rated PG. (And the “flash card” voice in the video directed at Andrews is not mine. Promise.)
(Updated 9/1/09: Andrews discusses her video controversy with Oprah Winfrey.)
My footage from last summer’s visit to ESPN GameDay in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, before the Clemson-Alabama game in the Georgia Dome, also shows the intensity surrounding football in the South. And it reveals just how quickly fortunes can change for teams and their fans.
Last fall, Alabama was coming off a 6-6 season under Nick Saban, hired at $4 million yearly to rebuild perhaps college football’s best-known program. The Crimson Tide are the New York Yankees of college football, as the national title is all that matters. So Saban had to know that a big year would be necessary to win over the impatient Alabama fans.
Clemson, coached by a member of college football’s first family, was the established program. Tommy Bowden was entering his 10th season with talk of an ACC title.
ESPN sportscaster Lee Corso picked Clemson to beat Bama by donning a Tiger costume head at the end of GameDay. I thought I was gonna get bruised and go deaf from all the jostling and shouting among the Clemson crowd at that point.
Things turned out far different. Alabama used a smash-mouth running game to completely demoralize the Tigers in a 34-10 rout. Clemson never recovered that season, and Bowden was eventually replaced as coach before the season was over.
The Tide continued its dominating play later in the year against Georgia, my alma mater, in Athens. Alabama built a 31-0 halftime lead with a strong ball-control attack and key capitalization on Georgia mistakes. Again, Georgia was the dominant program going in, but Alabama was far more poised in winning, 41-30.
The Tide’s strategy reminded me of a similar approach, Steve Spurrier’s “knockout punch” mentality at Florida in the 1990s. Then, the Gators were known for using a stellar passing attack to build an early lead and demoralize opponents. Alabama simply used a crushing running game to wear down its foes. It worked well enough that the Tide finished the regular season undefeated. Extremely rare these days.
Another season is near … less than two months off. Now Alabama and Florida, winner of two of the past three national titles, have distanced themselves from the rest of the SEC. Alabama will again open the season in Atlanta, which helps their recruiting. Georgia is rebuilding after being picked No. 1 before the ’08 season.
And to show you how intense college football is in the South, the video in this blog post is just one of more than 30 I’ve done. Yet it has gotten far more views than any other, and I doubt it’s just because of Erin Andrews.
GameDay will again visit Atlanta on Sept. 5. And Andrews certainly has her hands full now with the videotape controversy. What a difference a year makes.