Well, college football has only the bowl games left, and that Alabama-Texas game should be fun. So after another year of surprises and disappointments, it’s time for some more truths (as I see them).
— Alabama is winning differently: The Crimson Tide has played five games on Georgia soil in the past two years, and is now 4-1. University of Georgia-Tuscaloosa coach Nick Saban has everyone wearing those porkpie-hat souvenirs and remembering the Bear’s glory days. But Alabama fans seem different now. When I was growing up there, a touch of arrogance prevailed. Now the fans have had some relative lean years since Bryant retired in ’82. (For the record, ‘Bama won the national title in 1992, but also learned what it’s like to lose to Memphis State and Louisiana-Monroe). They appreciate winning and know it’s not an entitlement.
Observation: The last time Texas played for a national title in Pasadena, I was watching from my home in Orange County, CA, when a fellow named Vince Young turned hero in upsetting an opponent that boasted two Heisman winners. Anything can happen.
— Georgia will be different in 2010: Mark Richt shook up his coaching staff recently after a second straight disappointing season. The Bulldogs have not appeared in the SEC title game since 2005 and are now a second-tier SEC team. But my feeling is that the talent is there. A more disciplined approach is needed to cut down on mistakes, and the Crimson Tide this year proved again that championships are won with a hard hitting defense that forces turnovers. Tim Tebow’s eyes said it all. Nobody likes to lose.
— Georgia Tech gives Bulldogs hope: Hey, this UGA alum likes the rebuilding job done by Paul Johnson, an Erk Russell protege from the Georgia Southern days. As a high schooler, I sold Cokes at Tech home games; try peddling one in November while holding a serving rack. Like Nick Saban, Johnson always looks grumpy on the sidelines. And like Nick Saban, he has turned a mediocre program into a BCS bowl team in two years. On a football field, nice is overrated.
— Florida is more likable, too: I always have to struggle to say something nice about the Gators, Georgia’s fiercest rival. But Tebow and Co. won in a much more likable way than Florida did under Steve Spurrier. Back then, running up scores and outrageous stats seemed just as important than winning. Spurrier was trying to instill a winning attitude, but he won no admirers about the way he did it. A QB with Bible verses painted on his face makes it easier to take.
— SEC rules: It says it all when on the last weekend of the regular season, both teams in the ACC title game (Georgia Tech, Clemson) lost to unranked SEC teams (Georgia, South Carolina). The SEC has won four national titles in this decade and can make it five next month. The reason? TV money and exposure. The league gets lots of loot from CBS and ESPN. That attracts top-tier coaches, and top players also want to go where they can be seen by pro scouts and perform in exciting rivalries and top bowl games. The rich get richer.