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Musings from Arledge: Alabama, National Titles, and Meat Juice

Chris Arledge01/21/20
Article written by:On3 imageChris Arledge
Clay Helton

I was upset even when I thought Carol Folt, Mike Bohn, and Board of Directors were only hurting the USC community with their inept handling of the football program.  That was bad enough.  But now I’m really steamed.  I’ve discovered that we’re also hurting the finepeople of Alabama.  And I must say, I feel terrible.

According to an Alabama football writer from Bamahammer.com, scheduling USC for the opener next year is a big mistake.  USC is bad, and playing the Trojans is going to hurt Bama’s strength of schedule, just like Bama was hurt by playing Duke in its opener last year.

So, listen, I know how important football is to the people of Alabama.  It’s a huge part of the history of the state, and frankly, it’s the only part of Alabama’s history that isn’t depressing to talk about.  Cotton isn’t king in Alabama; football is.  It ranks somewhere ahead of literacy, apparently.  (The good people of Alabama concede that 35% of the people of West Alabama are illiterate.)  We can’t fix that literacy issue, Trojans.  Even if all USC graduates immediately moved to West Alabama, it wouldn’t move the needle that much.  We just don’t have the numbers.  We could probably get the number down only to 23 or 24%.  

So let’s talk about the thing that is still somewhat within our control: our failure to help Alabama football reach its God-given potential in 2020. We’re apparently not doing our part, and it makes me sick.

So Mr. Bamahammer – can I call you Bamahammer? – I’m sorry.  We’re all sorry. 

That doesn’t mean we don’t have a few questions, of course.  Let’s start with this: do you really think that Duke is to blame for Alabama’s failure to make the college football playoff last season?  Granted, the Blue Devils were bad, and it’s a little unfair to Alabama that they were; I mean, who could have predicted that Duke would field a bad football team?  When you guys scheduled Duke, you probably expected them to be a final four team again like they always are.  But sometimes college football is just so unpredictable, and you guys just got caught in the unanticipated – no, unprecedented – situation of scheduling Duke when Duke wasn’t very good at football.  Not much you could do about that.

Still, I wonder if Duke was the biggest problem for the Tide.  Losing two games in the division might have been a bigger obstacle to your dreams.  If you want to make the playoff then, sure, schedule somebody better than Duke or USC.  That will help.  

But also – and this is important, Tide fans, so listen carefully – don’t give up 46 points in a home loss to LSU and please don’t give up 48 points to a one-dimensional Auburn team with a freshman QB in a brutal loss to your little brother.  We should be able to agree that’s not great, and it might have damaged your playoff chances almost as much as Duke’s failure to uphold its end of the bargain.

I also can’t help but wonder If USC is really the biggest threat to Alabama’s strength of schedule.  I know how deeply you guys care about only scheduling the very best competition every single week.  After all, the Tide have played Western Carolina, New Mexico State, Arkansas State, Citadel, Mercer, Western Kentucky – Hey!  Western Kentucky! We know those guys! – and Chattanooga, among other blue bloods – all within the last four years! Nobody runs that gauntlet unscathed.  

And Bamahammer concludes that 8-win USC is the problem with Alabama’s strength of schedule!?

Listen, I understand that the Trojans have slipped over the last decade.  Alabama fans should understand what that’s like.  Tide fans, do you think the rest of the country has already forgotten about the Mike Shula and Mike DuBose years?  Four losing seasons in ten years, guys?  That’s grim.  USC has three in the last 29 and we’re full of rage.  Four losing seasons in ten years is UCLA-level ineptitude.  (Just kidding.  Four in a row for our Bruins, but who’s counting?  Anybody up for an 8-count?)  

Alabama hit pay dirt with Nick Saban, but these things never last.  There’s a new Mike DuBose lurking up ahead, ready to take the reins and drive your football program into the ground, where Alabama football will no longer rise to the glorious level of the other components of your fine state.  I’m telling you, it’s coming eventually. So brace yourselves.

I’ll give you credit, though.  Your school is at least committed to winning football games.  USC, currently, is not.  The USC brain trust seems committed to cementing USC’s place in the Top 25 universities in the country and as a hub of the Asian-Pacific region.  I think we could do that and field a football team that can keep contain on outside running plays, but what do I know?  I’m not a trustee.  

I assume that Alabama is also run by academics, right?  So I suspect Alabama might be tempted to go the same route as USC and overemphasis academics (and, to be fair, bribery) over athletics… if Alabama had that option and wasn’t the 10th ranked academic institution in the SEC.  Yep, you read that right.  Ten of 14 in the SEC.  That’s like being in the 10th percentile for best bodies at fat camp.  It’s not great, really.  That 10th-place ranking puts Alabama behind such academic luminaries as LSU, Kentucky, and – gulp! – Auburn.  

That kind of ranking probably breeds a little bit of an inferiority complex.  Maybe Bama fans are just a little envious of the Trojans.  I’m pretty sure that’s what Mike Garrett would say.  After all, USC is known for the Song Girls; Alabama is known for fans that wear actual toilet paper rolls on their heads.  USC is known for Sam Bam; Alabama is known for doggedly maintaining segregated football until Sam Bam’s cleat marks on your chest left you with no real alternative but to abandon that all-white secondary.  USC is known for Traveler; Alabama is known for … an elephant?  Really?  You guys aren’t the “Elephants” or even the “Pachyderms.”  Why would you have…?

Sorry to get sidetracked, Hammer, but the elephant is a little weird.  Still, let me try to be nicer to you guys.  That’s certainly been our practice over the years.  We even gave you half of our national championship in 1978. That’s pretty generous, no? 

To be honest, we didn’t even think you guys would even accept it.  Half of the Board of Trustees was drunk when they came up with the idea.  The sober side of the room thought it would be taken as an insult.  It seemed kind of embarrassing to us, accepting half a national title from a team with an identical record that curb-stomped you on your own field that very season.  We thought you guys would have too much pride to accept that kind of charity.  But, no, you gobbled it up, smiling and sipping on your moonshine the whole time.  You put that trophy right on the shelf with the other national titles that you clearly didn’t deserve.

By the way, Hammer, Bleacher Report is joking, right?  You guys don’t really claim that 1941 title when you lost twice in the SEC and finished  20th in the AP poll, do you?  (Oh, geez, there it is right there on p.108 of the media guide.  They really do claim that national title.  That’s, um, pretty tough to, um, understand and … I’m kind ofembarrassed for even bringing it up.)  

Okay, listen, let’s forget about that.  You guys accept titles that nobody, anywhere believes you deserve.  That’s cool.  Glad we could help you out in ’78, give your lives a little bit of extra meaning. 

But in light of our kindness over the years, it’s a little odd that you seem so determined to kick us while we’re down.  

And kick us you will.  Please, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not belittling your football program.  You guys are elite, and we’re not.  You may not be the undisputed top dog anymore, but you’re still great.  And we all know what’s going to happen in that opener.  Nick Saban will beat Clay Helton like a rented mule.  Of course, he will.  Nick Saban may be the greatest college football coach of all time.  Clay Helton running a blue-blood college football program is … comedic?  Yeah, that’s it, it’s funny.  Clay Helton running USC football is like Homer Simpson running the safety department of a nuclear power plant.  You can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of putting that guy in that position.  It’s funny.  Or not funny, depending on whether you care about USC football. Our university president doesn’t, so she probably thinks it’s funny.

So, yes, you guys will roll the Trojans.  Clay Helton will tip his hat to you in the post-game interview, and he’ll point out that his group of warriors were only 17 plays away from possibly winning that game. That’s the kind of spin he likes to give, Hammer.  It will seem strange to you since you don’t see it every week.  But we do.  Just roll with it.

So, yes, you’ll blast us.  Yet you won’t get the credit that you would have gotten for beating a Pete Carroll-led USC team. And you’re upset about that.  And rightly so.

Of course, you weren’t willing to schedule us back then.  Your AD probably couldn’t find our AD’s number back when we were rolling everybody.  Or maybe you just saw what happened to the SEC teams that did call us.  But we’ll let bygones be bygones.  You’re scheduling us now that we’re eminently beatable.  And, it appears, also complaining that we’re too beatable.

So, yes, let me apologize in advance.  We’re sorry for sucking so much.  We hope it doesn’t keep you guys out of the playoff.  

Avoid giving up almost half a hundred twice in your division next year and maybe we’ll see if it does.

Still waiting for those promised strategic enhancements? Not anymore: welcome (reportedly) new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.  

Before getting to the substance, let me just say that Mike Bohn is selling, people.  If you’re going to keep Clay “Good To Great” Helton and hire the guy who was just run out of Austin for fielding a defense that never stopped anybody, you need to gin up some excitement.  You talk about “strategic enhancements” to get everybody excited.  

This stuff is important.  I was at a restaurant the other day, and the server offered me some “meat juice” with my meal.  Now, “meat” is one of those words that is rarely good enough for me.  I tend to need more information when I hear the word “meat.”  What kind of meat are we talking about?  Beef?  Chicken?  Coyote?  And what kind of juice?  Bottom line: if she had given it a better name, I might have said yes.  But I couldn’t say yes to “meat juice.”

Mike Bohn wants us to say yes, so he gives us “strategic enhancements,” not “we’re going to maintain the status quo of this failing, once-proud program.”  Salesmanship, people.  

And now he gives us Todd Orlando.  Is this a good hire?  I don’t know.  The guy killed it with Ed Oliver.  Maybe Oliver is coming with him?  I started to look up Texas’s defensive statistics from last season, but then it occurred to me that I didn’t really need to bother, since I saw Texas play Kansas on TV.  That told me all I need to know.  

Was this a rushed hire?  Maybe.  Apparently, Clay Helton made the decision to fire Clancy Pendergast at the end of the regular season, which means he’s had only eight weeks to hire a replacement.  I honestly don’t know how anybody could hire a defensive coordinator in only eight weeks, so we’re just going to have to hope he did his due diligence here.  

Again, I don’t know.  In fairness, the guy had a better track record as a coordinator than Clay Helton did before he got the big job, so maybe he really is qualified.  Anddoes it really matter?  As long as the head coach continues to wrap his guys in bubble wrap Monday through Friday who cares if Bill Belichick takes the D coordinator job?  

Besides, we don’t even know that Orlando will still be here come August.  Sometimes our new coordinator hires don’t last more than a couple weeks.  Maybe he’ll leave.  Maybe the grass will be greener.  If so, I say don’t replace him.  I say don’t hire anybody.  Let Clay do everything.  Then we know exactly who will have to be replaced after the 2020 season.

Cathago delenda est.