National Championship Tale of the Tape

The 2016 season’s College Football Playoff national championship game will be a repeat of the 2015 game:  the University of Alabama (Southeastern Conference champion) versus Clemson University (Atlantic Coast Conference champion).  Each team has a rich history.  The following contains some facts about each school: first football season, overall record, national championships (Awarded by the Associated Press and/or the designated coaches’ poll at the time. Claimed titles while on probation do not count.), conference titles, consensus All-Americans (players voted first team, second team, or third team by the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Football Foundation), players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, and Heisman Trophy winners.

 

  1. Alabama Crimson Tide

 

First Season:                                                    1892

Overall Record:                                               872-309-41

National Championships:                             16

Conference Titles:                                           30

Consensus All-Americans:                             61

College Hall of Famers:                                  24

Heisman Trophy Winners:                            2

 

  1. Clemson Tigers

First Season:                                                    1896

Overall Record:                                               715-456-45

National Championships:                              1

Conference Titles:                                           22

Consensus All-Americans:                             27

College Hall of Famers:                                   6

Heisman Trophy Winners:                             0

 

 

Last year’s game between the schools saw a lot of offense and great plays throughout the game:  Alabama prevailed 45-40.  This year, both teams boast mobile quarterbacks and great defenses.  The odds makers have made the Crimson Tide a 6.5 point favorite, and the game should be an old fashioned donnybrook.  Make no mistake about it—blood, sweat, and tears will accompany this game.  Fierce battles will take place in the trenches. Spectacular plays will be made on both sides of the ball.  The coaches will be on edge and quick to anger.  The tension will mount with each play as the game progresses.  Only one team will walk away victorious.  Will it be the Crimson Tide or the Tigers?  Whoa Nellie! Let’s bring it on!

 

The Iron Bowl

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This rivalry goes by the title of “The Iron Bowl.” The name conjures images of gritty blue-collar men working in blazing hot steel foundries. In fact, the name comes from the iron and steel industry located in Birmingham, the home of the rivalry for 44 straight games, and the intensity and heat associated with the rivalry make the name even more appropriate. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers battle one another to the death each season in the Iron Bowl game. Auburn College Football Hall of Fame coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan came up with the moniker before the 1980 contest. The venom and disdain that the fans from one side have for the other do not just commence during the days leading up to the game, as in most rivalries, but rage on every day of the year. Alabama fans refer to Auburn people as “Barners,” in reference to Auburn’s early years as an agricultural school, while Auburn fans claim that Alabama’s most famous graduate is Forest Gump.

Justin Hokanson, in a 2008 article for “bleacherreport.com,” breaks down the rivalry within families.

Brothers and sisters watch the game in separate rooms, maybe even separate houses,

because they don’t want to kill each other in the process. Parents and children don’t

talk to each other. There are even parents that don’t allow their children to go to one

school or the other simply because they graduated from the rival school.

Alabama leads the series 44-35-1. Auburn won the first two games in 1893 in Birmingham, then Montgomery. Alabama picked up its first win in 1894 in Montgomery while Auburn took the next two in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery. The series took a brief hiatus from 1896 through 1899 before resuming in 1900. The schools then met every year through the 1907 game, after which the series ended for almost 40 years. At that time, Auburn led the series 7-4-1 and the games had been played in Birmingham the last four years. Tuscaloosa is much closer to Birmingham than Auburn and Auburn officials demanded more per diem for the players. Auburn also wanted to allow more players to travel for the game and a different process for choosing the officials for the game. Alabama officials would not agree to any of Auburn’s demands and the series ended.

After pressure from the state legislature, the two school presidents agreed to re-start the series in 1948 in Birmingham because 44,000-seat Legion Field was the largest stadium in the state. Before the game, the presidents of the respective student government associations buried a hatchet in Woodrow Wilson Park to represent the end of the argument. Alabama proceeded to win the game 55-0, the most lopsided victory in the series.

The game remained in Birmingham through the 1988 contest, after which Auburn moved its home games to Auburn. Alabama continued to hold its home game in the series at Legion Field through 1998 but began hosting Auburn in Tuscaloosa in 2000 after the expansion of Bryant-Denny stadium to over 80,000 seats. The games have rotated between the two campuses since then. Alabama owns a 32-15 record in games played at Legion Field, while Auburn is 5-3 in Tuscaloosa and 8-5 in Auburn.

The winner of each game receives the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship trophy, named after James E. Foy, a former dean at both schools and the Faculty Secretary of  Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society at both schools. The trophy is presented at halftime of the winner’s home basketball game against the loser. After the presentation, the Student Government Association president from the losing school sings the winning school’s fight song. Granted, the singing sessions may have had many memorable moments over the years but probably will not top any of the memories from the gridiron battles.

The 1967 game at Legion Field became known as the “Run in the Mud.” With Auburn leading Alabama 3-0 in a torrential downpour in the fourth quarter, Tide quarterback Ken Stabler broke loose for a 53-yard touchdown that gave the Tide the lead and an eventual 7-3 victory.

The 1981 game, also at Legion Field, became the 315th career victory for Alabama Hall of Fame coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant passed Amos Alonzo Stagg for career wins for a Division IA coach.

Freshman Bo Jackson broke Auburn’s nine-game losing streak in the series in 1982. With the Tigers trailing 22-17 late in the fourth quarter, Jackson, on fourth-and-goal, took a handoff from quarterback Randy Campbell, then leaped on top of the Tide defense before stretching the ball over the goal line. Auburn broke the streak with a 23-22 victory.

For Auburn fans, the second most memorable game in the series may have occurred in 1989. With the addition of the west upper deck in 1980 and the east upper deck in 1987, Jordan-Hare Stadium reached a capacity of over 85,000 seats, the largest stadium in Alabama at that time. Auburn fans always felt Legion Field was a home-field advantage for the Tide. Now that the school had a stadium bigger than Legion Field, the time was right to move their home games in the series to Auburn. After the 1987 game, Auburn athletics director and coach Pat Dye requested that all future Auburn home games in the series be moved to Jordan-Hare. The first game in Auburn took place on December 2, 1989. With over 85,000 rabid Tiger fans in attendance, Auburn beat Alabama, 30-20. After the game, a member of the media asked Dye what it felt like leading the team on to the field. Dye responded, “I’m sure that (the scene) must have resembled what went on the night the wall came down in Berlin. I mean, it was like (Auburn fans) had been freed, and let out of bondage, just having this game at Auburn.”

The 2009 game in Auburn was a different story. Undefeated Alabama trailed a 7-4 Auburn team into the fourth quarter, but the Tide went on a seven minute, 15-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead, 26-21. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy hit receiver Julio Jones four times during the drive and finished it with a four yard pass to running back Roy Upchurch for the go ahead touchdown with 1:24 on the clock. The Tide defense turned away a last minute Auburn drive to secure the victory. Alabama then beat Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship (SEC) game before besting Texas for the national title.

Finally, the most memorable game for Auburn fans and arguably the most memorable game in series history is the game known as the “Kick Six.” With the 2013 contest tied 28 all at Jordan-Hare, Alabama lined up for a 57-yard field goal with one second on the clock. A Tide victory would send Alabama to the SEC Championship game and a possible chance for a fourth national title in five years. Alabama kicker Adam Griffith’s attempt fell short and Auburn corner back Chris Davis caught it. As Davis began to run up the field, Alabama’s defenders seemed to be caught off guard, unsure if the play was still live. Indeed it was. Davis outran the few defenders trying to stop him for a 109-yard touchdown with no time on the clock. Auburn won the game 34-28, shocking the Tide and the rest of the college football world.

Intensity, heat, bitterness, and pride are some of the words that describe the emotions of the Iron Bowl. This rivalry is more than just a game. It is a way of life for people in the state of Alabama. For the victors, a certain satisfaction and euphoria permeate their souls for the next 365 days. For the vanquished–bitterness, rancor, and a sense of doom live with them until the possibility of redemption associated with the next game. Of all the great Deep South rivalries, the Iron Bowl may be the greatest of all.

 

 

Alabama-LSU Football History

 

 

 

Courtesy Gamezero05

                        Courtesy Gamezero05

When one thinks of University of Alabama Crimson Tide  and Louisiana State University Tigers football, his thoughts must certainly conjure up images of big, fast teams with strong defenses, power running games, and lots of future professional players (LSU has had 93 players drafted by National Football League teams since 2000 and Alabama has had 86). These two programs have arguably been the most powerful in the nation since the turn of the century. Alabama has won three Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and three national championships since 2009 while LSU has four SEC titles and two national championships since 2001. Generally, the winner of the Alabama-LSU game positions itself for the SEC championship and the national crown on an annual basis, so the importance of the game has been well documented among the regional and national media. However, that has not always been the case. Alabama dominated the rivalry through the Paul “Bear’ Bryant era. Although the Tigers won the first game in 1895, 12-6, Alabama leads the overall series, 50-25-5.

The games have been played over the years in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. The schools began playing on an annual basis in 1964, alternating between Legion Field in Birmingham and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Alabama shifted its home games to Tuscaloosa in 1988. The visiting team has won an inordinate amount of the games in the series. The Tide is 25-9-2 in Louisiana while keeping the Tigers winless in Baton Rouge from 1971-1998. LSU has won 11 of 16 games in the state of Alabama since 1982. Four overtime games have been played with the road team winning each one. College Football Hall of Fame coach Bryant lost to the Tigers only three times from 1964-1982. After Bryant retired, the series became a true rivalry. Since then Alabama has won 19, including the 2011 national championship game, lost 14, and tied one. Future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban has played a prodigious role in the recent series. Saban coached LSU from 2000-2004 and beat Alabama four out of five tries. Since taking over the Tide in 2007, he is 7-3 against the Tigers. The rivalry has produced some memorable stories and games.

Bear Bryant seemed to own the Tigers and was not the least bit intimidated by Tiger Stadium.  He had a pre-game ritual that would enrage Tiger fans and calm his players. Bryant would slowly walk towards the northwest corner of the field where the LSU students sat. His players dressed in suit and ties would then walk around the field while Bryant ambled on over to the left hash mark around the 10-yard line. The Bear, completely composed, would have a nonchalant conversation with a security guard or a member of his staff while the LSU fans were screaming and yelling all sorts of things at him. After about 10 minutes, Bryant would wave to the LSU students which prompted further abusive language and a chorus of loud boos. When leaving the field amidst the yelling and screaming, Bryant would walk right by Mike’s cage, the live tiger mascot. The purpose of this ritual was to show the team that playing at Tiger Stadium in front of 80,000 plus screaming, rabid fans was really not an issue. Bryant’s record against LSU in Baton Rouge proves the point.

When former LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama coach Nick Saban battled, their teams played to their respective strengths–aggressive, physical, smash mouth football. So it was unusual that a trick play helped to decide one of these games. Such was the case in 2010 when Number 6 Alabama met Number 10 LSU in Baton Rouge. With Alabama leading 14-13 with 9:26 left in the game, LSU had fourth and one at the Tide 26. Instead of trying a 43-yard field goal to take the lead,  Miles reached into his bag of tricks. He called for an inside reverse to a tight end who had never had a rushing attempt in his college career. DeAngelo Peterson took the hand off and ran all the way to the Alabama 3-yard line. The Tigers took the lead for good moments later and eventually upset the Tide 24-21.

The regular season game in 2011 in Tuscaloosa is a classic example of the smash mouth football so typical when the two teams get together. LSU came in undefeated and ranked Number 1 while Alabama was undefeated and ranked Number 2. This marked the first time in SEC history that two undefeated teams were meeting in the regular season ranked one and two in the country.  Before 101,821 rabid fans, LSU won the game 9-6 in overtime. LSU kicker Drew Alleman made all three of his attempts, including a 30-yarder with 1:53 to go in regulation. His 25 yard field goal won the game in overtime. Alabama’s kickers made only two of six of their attempts, but the real story were the defenses. Alabama gained only 295 yards while LSU gained a paltry 239. Alabama would gain a large measure of revenge and the national title with a 21-0 victory over the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January, 9, 2012.

Alabama gained the rematch with LSU but not without controversy. Many writers and fans believed Oklahoma State, the number two team in the computer rankings, deserved a shot at undefeated LSU since the Tide and Tigers had already met. However, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) decision makers believed a one-loss Alabama team a better foe than anyone else in the nation. The game marked the first and only time in the BCS era that two teams from the same conference met for the national title.

The defenses once again dominated the game. Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley made three of four field goals to give the Tide a 9-0 lead at the half. LSU could muster only one first down and never crossed the 50-yard line in the first half. The second half was much the same. LSU compiled four first downs and crossed the 50 only once. Shelley kicked two more field goals and running back Trent Richardson added a 34-yard touchdown run with only 1:39 left to account for the final score. While LSU won the SEC championship, Alabama won the national title.

The Alabama-LSU rivalry ranks as one of the Deep South’s best. Conference and national title aspirations normally accompany the battle. Two southern behemoths line up facing the other with muscles flexed, helmets strapped on tight, and a collective iron-sharpened will and determination to vanquish its foe. This is Alabama-LSU football. This is college football at its best!

Third Saturday in October: Alabama-Tennessee Rivalry

 

 

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The Third Saturday in October can only mean one thing: the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (Tide) and the University of Tennessee Volunteers (Vols) are about to strap on the helmets extra tight in anticipation of another physical, blood-letting battle on the football field. One of the fiercest rivalries in the Deep South used to take place on the third Saturday in October but when the Southeastern Conference split the league into two divisions in 1992, the game began to gravitate among dates somewhere between the middle to late October. For decades Alabama and Tennessee fans have had a saying: Don’t get married on the third Saturday in October. Sports journalist Beano Cook added, “Don’t die on the third Saturday in October, since the preacher may not show up.”

Alabama officially leads the series 52-38-7. The National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA) forced Alabama to forfeit the 1993 game, a 17-17 tie, and vacate the 2005 game, a 6-3 Alabama win, because of rules violations. The series has been marked by winning streaks on both sides, and generally, those were directly correlated to the side that had the College Football Hall of Fame coach at the time.  The first game in 1901 between the two schools ended in a 6-6 tie in Birmingham. From 1903 through 1913, Alabama forged an 8-1 record against Tennessee while holding the Vols scoreless. The series took a hiatus until 1928.

Alabama Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade led the Tide to three national championships from 1925-1930 while Hall of Fame coach Robert Neyland, known as the General, began his tenure at Tennessee in 1926. The coaches became friends and agreed to re-start the series in 1928, a 15-13 University of Tennessee (UT) win. Neyland’s Vols won a tight 6-0 victory over Wade’s Tide in 1929 but Wade gained a measure of revenge with an 18-6 triumph on the way to the 1930 national championship. Wade left for Duke University after that memorable 1930 season and the series pendulum swung in Neyland’s and Tennessee’s favor. Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-1952, with the exceptions of 1935 and 1941-1945. His record against Alabama was 12-5-2.

Alabama won the 1935 game, 25-0. In that game, senior end Paul “Bear” Bryant played the entire contest with a broken leg. After the game, Bryant shrugged it off stating, “It was one little bone.”

Such toughness inspired the University of Kentucky to hire Bryant as its head coach in 1946. Kentucky played Neyland’s Volunteers seven times during Bryant’s period as coach, but the General outflanked the Bear winning five times, with no losses, and two ties. In his book Third Saturday in October, Al Browning stated that those losses to Neyland fueled Bryant’s intense desire to defeat Tennessee while serving as Alabama’s head coach.

Bryant took over the reins at Alabama in 1958 and coached there until his retirement after the 1982 season. The Hall of Fame coach swung the series pendulum back to Alabama. Bryant’s teams struggled against Tennessee from 1958-1960 as the Volunteers tallied a 2-0-1 record against the Bear. However, the Tide broke through in 1961 with a resounding 34-3 victory. After that game, Alabama trainer Jim Goostree, a UT graduate, started a tradition that continues today. Goostree dispensed cigars to the players and coaches to celebrate the victory. After every game since then, the winning team has broken out the cigars. The NCAA considers this practice a violation of its rules, so the winning team immediately reports itself afterwards.

Under Bryant, Alabama dominated the series with 16 wins, seven losses, and two ties and won 11 in a row from 1971 to 1981. The Bear used the games against Tennessee as a barometer for his teams. According to Browning, the Bear once declared, “You found out what kind of person you were when you played against Tennessee.”

From 1983 through 1991, Alabama won six of the nine games. Tennessee coach Johnny Majors beat the Bear in 1982 but proceeded to lose six out of the next eight, which directly led to his termination. The pendulum swung back to Tennessee when Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer took over as coach in 1992.

Fulmer compiled an 11-5 record against the Tide, including the forfeited 1993 tie and the 2005 vacated Alabama win. During Fulmer’s tenure, the Vols won nine of 10 versus Alabama from 1995-2004. Arguably, his most memorable game facing the Tide came in 2003 when the Vols beat the Tide in five overtimes, 51-43. Fulmer had great respect for the rivalry, “It’s important for our players to realize that the guys on both sides that have worn the orange and white or the crimson and white forever look at this third Saturday of October as being special.”

When future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 2007, the pendulum swung hard back to the Tide. Saban has led the Tide to nine consecutive victories over the Volunteers by an average score of 34-12.

The games played on or close to the Third Saturday of October have seen Hall of Fame coaches strolling both sidelines, gutty performances on the field, and an intensity only a few rivalries in any sport can claim. This rivalry symbolizes everything that people love about college football. So whether you are a fan of Alabama or Tennessee or some other school, light up a victory cigar to celebrate all those people who have given their all or who will give their all on the Third Saturday of October or any date during the college football season.

 

 

Alabama Nicknames

 

 

CrimsonTideAlogoMany of you know that the University of Alabama football teams are commonly referred to as the Crimson Tide or the Red Elephants.  But how many of you know the stories behind the names?

In newspaper accounts of the 1900 Alabama football team, the squad was referred to as the “Varsity” or the “Crimson White” because of the school colors.  By 1906, writers were referring to the team as the “Thin Red Line.”  Birmingham Age-Herald sports editor Hugh Roberts is credited with the first use of the term “Crimson Tide.”  Alabama and Auburn played in Birmingham in 1907 and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win.  The underdog boys from Tuscaloosa played Auburn to a 6-6 tie in the red mud.  Roberts called the Tuscaloosa boys the Crimson Tide and the name stuck like the mud on the Alabama team’s jerseys.

Alabama’s association with the elephant goes back to the 1930 team coached by icon Wallace Wade.  Alabama and Mississippi battled one afternoon.  Atlanta Journal writer Everett Strupper reported that Wade started his second team line, which was bigger than the Mississippi line.  However, the Mississippians held their own for most of the first quarter.  At the end of the quarter, according to Strupper, “The earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow.  Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.”  Strupper and other writers  continued to refer to the Alabama linemen as the Red Elephants…the color referring to the crimson jerseys.

Incidentally, that 1930 Alabama team went undefeated and held the opposition to a total of 13 points.  After blanking Washington State in the Rose Bowl, the Red Elephants were declared national champs.

 

Alabama-Georgia Gridiron History

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Courtesy of Beussery at English Wikipedia

Courtesy of Beussery at English Wikipedia

While the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia do not play football against the other every year, the games seem to have conference and national implications when they do meet. In 2015, both schools rank highly in the Coaches’ Poll, Georgia sixth and Alabama 11th.  Alabama lost to Ole Miss earlier this season and another loss would keep the Tide out of the college football playoffs. Georgia wants to remain undefeated, thereby keeping alive its goals of conference and national championships. The game will mark the 67th meeting between the two schools; Alabama leads the series 37-25-4 while averaging 16.5 points per game to Georgia’s 12.1.

The series dates back to 1895 when Georgia defeated Alabama 30-6 in Columbus, Georgia. Alabama earned its first victory over the Bulldogs in a 1904 game in Tuscaloosa with a 16-5 victory. The two schools, between 1895 and 1930, played in six different cities—Athens, Atlanta, Birmingham, Columbus, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. Interestingly, Georgia was Alabama’s first opponent in the Birmingham Fairgrounds (1905), Cramton Bowl (1922) in Montgomery, and Legion Field (1927) in Birmingham.  Alabama was the home team for 21 of the first 25 games. Beginning in 1934, the schools began a regular home-and-home series.

Many of the games have been memorable. Joe Namath made his debut against the Bulldogs in 1962, a 35-0 win at Legion Field. Georgia executed a hook-and-ladder play to defeat the Tide in 1965 in Athens by the score of 18-17. Alabama quarterback Jay Barker dueled with Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier in the 1994 game won by the Tide in Tuscaloosa, 29-28, and Georgia kicker Billy Bennett hit a game-winning field in 2002 for Georgia’s first victory in Tuscaloosa, 27-25. The last time the Bulldogs and Tide met in Tuscaloosa, 2007, Matthew Stafford hit Mikey Henderson for a 25-yard touchdown in overtime to lift Georgia to a thrilling 26-23 victory.

Yet arguably the greatest game in the series, and the one with the most at stake for the teams, took place in 2012 during the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  Alabama was ranked second in the polls while Georgia was third. The Tide took a 10-7 lead into halftime behind a Jeremy Shelley field goal on the last play of the half. The game appeared to be a tough SEC defensive battle, then the second half unfolded as an offensive display of power from the two behemoths. Georgia took the second half kickoff and marched down the field.   Bulldog running back Todd Gurley ran the ball seven times, including the final three yards. Georgia led 14-10. Next, the Tide held the ball for more than five and a half minutes before calling on Cade Foster to boot a 50-yard field goal, but Georgia’s Cornelius Washington blocked the kick and teammate Alec Ogletree returned the ball 55 yards for a touchdown. Georgia led 21-10. Alabama then drove the field behind the passing of quarterback AJ McCarron and the running of T.J. Yeldon.  Yeldon bulled his way the final 10 yards to the end zone and carried again for the 2-point conversion that pulled Alabama within 21-18.

After Georgia punted on its ensuing drive, Alabama used running backs Eddie Lacy and Yeldon to march to the Georgia one-yard line as the third quarter ended. On the first play of the final period, Lacy covered the final yard that gave the Tide a short-lived 25-21 lead.

During Georgia’s next possession, quarterback Aaron Murray hit receiver Tavarres King for 45 yards and Gurley scored from the 10-yard line to put Georgia back ahead, 28-25. The drive took less than two minutes.

McCarron gave Alabama the lead for good at the 3:15 mark after a 45-yard scoring strike to Amari Cooper. Down 32-28, Georgia summoned the red and black spirits of past gridiron greats and marched back down the field through and over the Tide defense. Murray hit Arthur Lynch for 15 yards, then 23 to King, and again to Lynch for 26. The ball rested at the Alabama eight-yard line as the clock ticked down and the Bulldogs out of timeouts. With nine seconds to play, Murray dropped back looking for the end zone and a victory that would go down as one of the greatest in Georgia history. Instead, a defender tipped Murray’s pass and Chris Conley caught the ball before falling at the five-yard line. As Murray hurried his teammates to the line for another play, the clock struck zero. Alabama escaped and later destroyed Notre Dame for the national championship.

The 67th installment of this great series takes place Saturday “Between the Hedges” in Sanford stadium in Athens. Odds are that fans on both sides will be breathing heavily and have hearts racing by game’s end.