jessiemiller

Chasing A Dynasty

December 31st, 2012 at 10:39 pm by under FOX10 Sports, Jess Sports

In 2006 the Alabama football program was on a downward spiral and in search of redemption; looking for a spark to ignite the championship caliber team that fans and pundits alike had become accustomed to. After a disappointing 6-6 season and the ensuing firing of Mike Shula, 2007  would bring about change that would affect college football, the SEC and “Roll Tide” nation forever.

University of Alabama Athletic Director, Mal Moore, saved the tradition of Alabama football with the hiring of Nick Saban. Saban’s impact on the Alabama program was felt immediately, as he channeled his longtime predecessor Paul “Bear” Bryant, through his will to win and superior recruiting abilities.

Bryant was the leader of Alabama’s first modern day dynasty in years (1961-66, 1973-79).

Alabama would forever be apart of a small group of programs to achieve something so extraordinary, that it only happens about once in a decade.

The rest is history…
… And how rich that history becomes is contingent upon the results of the BCS National Championship game.

On Jan. 7 2013, No. 2 Alabama will face No. 1 Notre Dame for its unprecedented place in history. A win in Miami would solidify the Saban era’s mark in history books and its impact on college football for decades to come.

Alabama would become the first team since the inception of the BCS to win three national titles within a four year span. Alabama is vying to achieve what no other team has since Nebraska became a dynasty 15 years ago, between 1994-1997.

Alabama is currently the nation’s most dominant football program and has proven year in and out why they are the team to beat.

Notre Dame; with its historical stamp on the sport, is the most storied.

For countless football fanatics and analysts, this match-up has generated a new and obviously rampant proverb: this will be the biggest game in BCS history.

Just one more win…

…And the tide’s dynasty goal will be clinched but it will not be an easy task.

While the SEC and University of Alabama’s dominance over college football has given the Crimson Tide the edge, both Notre Dame and Alabama are quite comparable in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

Notre Dame touts the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing only 10.3 points per game; at No. 2 is none other than Alabama. The Crimson Tide is No. 1, however, in total defense allowing a mere 246 offensive yards per game.

Similar to Alabama and other SEC teams, the Irish’s front seven have both size and talent, with their four linemen tipping the scale at 300 pounds or more. Notre Dame is ranked No.4 against the run.

Like Alabama, the Irish’s pass rush has struggled, allowing opponents over 194 yards through the air, a per game average.

The Alabama secondary finished fifth in passing yards allowed but, SEC quarterbacks, such as LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray, all found success against the Alabama threat, each throwing for over 250 yards.

Key players, match-ups, and special teams play are likely game changers

We all know that Manti Te’o is the captain of Notre Dame’s defensive ship, but other important players that Alabama must contain include defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who has 12 sacks and 13 tackles for loss; tight end Tyler Eifert, who has 44 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns on the year; and possibly quarterback Everett Golson, but he has to utilize his dual threat abilities to attack the Tide’s only weakness, its secondary.

Alabama defensive backs will be crucial in limiting the success of Golson’s passing game.

With just under one week to go before kickoff, Alabama’s award-winning offensive lineman Barrett Jones has yet to practice for the BCS title game. Jones suffered a sprained foot injury during the SEC championship against Georgia. The absence of Jones could be detrimental to Alabama’s offensive line. He’s the foundation that holds the Tide’s offensive front together, and the match-up between Jones and Notre Dame’s nose guard Louis Nix is key.

Without Barrett Jones, the Tide may double-team 340-pound Nix.

Nick Saban wins games big by dominating field position. The Alabama Crimson Tide boasts the nations’ 18th ranking in punting, often nailing the opposition deep within its own territory, then allowing its front seven to force three and outs.

There is  no doubt that field position will be significant and could determine the games’ outcome. but also key, is the Irish’s ability to stop the dual threat of Alabama’s running game; the Lacy and Yeldon machine.

Finally, the BCS got it right…

…And, by right, I mean that the BCS has done what it was designed to do: match the top two teams for the National Championship game.

Last year’s rematch between LSU and Alabama left most non-SEC fans feeling both cheated and annoyed. As a result, many experienced a sudden case of what some have called Southeastern Conference fatigue.

This year, the Alabama fan base is preparing to tout title No. 15, while Notre Dame fans are anxious to dethrone Tide nation and, the SEC, to reclaim the storied program’s former glory.

Will Brian Kelly emerge as South Bend’s new Lou or will Nick Saban convince the Alabama faithful to replace hounds tooth fedoras with straw hats?

What we do know is that this is a game for the ages. A game between two of the most decorated and traditionally sound teams in college football history.

The last meeting between these two programs was in 1987. Notre Dame leads the series 5-1. How that record changes on Jan. 7 remains to be seen.

Photo courtesy of Marvin Gentry USA TODAY Sports

It’s Cam Newton against Cameron Newton

October 24th, 2012 at 1:19 pm by under FOX10 Sports, Jess Sports

We have seen it before, the elite rookie NFL quarterback defying all statistical odds, winning on and off the field with rookie of the year honors, pro bowl invitations, and lucrative endorsements. The Sophomore season turns into the second year slump, and it is less than impressive. The athlete’s rookie accomplishments are in question leaving fans, teammates, and franchises wanting more.

Cam Newton, to many, is now falling into this same slump. The Carolina Panthers quarterback is leading his team to another losing season, (1-5), which is the worst in the NFC. This is after Newton vowed to carry the team on his back and take the franchise into its glory years. Newton is clearly feeling the pressure after not walking the walk.

The outrage surrounding Newton does not stem from a lackadaisical attitude on the field or in practice. Nor does it stem from Newton’s lack of overall talent or will to win . There is an outrage because of  Newton’s attitude, lack of leadership and his inability to hold himself together mentally. Need examples? What about sideline pouting, showing disrespect toward the media or not speaking with the media at all, rushing to the locker room after losses, or unsportsmanlike conduct? The Panthers’ horrible offensive play, have added fuel to critics’ fires.

Last season, a confused Drew Brees was spotted on the field, post-game, looking for Newton; allegedly to shake his hand in a  sign of good sportsmanship after the game. Unfortunately for Brees, Newton had already left the field and headed into the locker room to pout over the Panthers’ home loss to the Saints. Ironically, this season, the Panthers’ sole win is a 35-27 home victory over the New Orleans Saints.

After a gut wrenching 19-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Newton’s level of frustration and judgement was exposed, when Newton referred to a female sportswriter as, “sweetheart” while attempting to answer her question about the game’s results. Newton also told media during the same press conference  that he would put out a “suggestion box” in hopes that someone will give ideas on how the Panthers can improve offensively and win games.

Earlier in the season, The Charlotte Observer mocked Newton in an editorial cartoon by depicting Newton in his famed ”Superman” touchdown pose, but not with an “S” on his chest, but a “Hello Kitty” drawing instead. The Cartoon came just after the Panthers’ loss to the N.Y. Giants. It was a game in which Newton was widely criticized for his inappropriate “Superman” celebration following a rushing touchdown in the third quarter. The problem with the celebration was that the Carolina Panthers were down 23-7, a comfortable lead for Manning and the Giants, since they dominated the entire game. Eventually there would be no more touchdown celebrations, and the Panthers were routed 35-7. Newton’s stats were equally unimpressive, as he went 16-of-30 for 242 yards and three interceptions.

After the loss, Newton was spotted pouting on the sidelines to the disdain of his teammates. Later, according to The Charlotte Observer, an outspoken Steve Smith scolded the sophomore QB, saying; “I told him, ”You can get some mental reps or you can sit on that bench and sulk”.  -Charlotte Observer. Newton has also been accused by other teammates of adding negative energy to the huddle.

The Panthers’ loss to the Cowboys was the fourth time of six games this season, that Newton led his team in rushing. despite a trio of overpaid, unproductive running backs including Williams, Stewart, and Tolbert. Newton is the quarterback and the leader of that team. He is required to display leadership, poise, professionalism, humility, and most importantly mental strength.

Ultimately, Cameron Newton is a winner who lacks the mental capacity to deal with losing. He is mentally broken at this point and doesn’t understand why what worked last year, is not working this year. He is on a downhill path of mental destruction. Obviously, I don’t have access to his “suggestion box”, but if I did, I would tell him that the changes need to begin with himself, and what worked last year will never work this year because  opposing NFL coordinators have his number. The time has come in which Newton must re-evaluate his game plan by identifying coverage patterns and schemes, and adjust his game plan accordingly. Now, may also be the time for Newton to embrace the idea of a mind coach, the idea he so vehemently denied in September, if not for the sake of his NFL career, but to save himself, from himself.

 

Note: Photo Courtesy of (Chuck Burton/AP)

 


Gene Chizik; “déjà vu” on the plains

October 14th, 2012 at 7:39 pm by under FOX10 Sports, Jess Sports

 Now more than ever, the controversial image of the angry Auburn fan booing Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and screaming out, “We want a leader not a loser; 5-19 is not what we need. No Chizik. No,” is playing out over and over in the minds of the Auburn faithful. Fans and critics alike are dismayed at the exceptionally poor performance of the Auburn football program this season.

The Tigers are now 1-5 on the season after a heart breaking loss to long-time SEC underachiever Ole Miss, who broke their own 16-game SEC deficit with the win.

Just two years ago, Auburn won their first National Championship in over 53 years. That year was masked by the rare athleticism of a guy named Cam Newton, the consistency of effective role players and the fast paced offensive genius of Gus Malzahn. Excellent teamwork and resilient team chemistry allowed the Tigers to overcome a stifling secondary and go on to win the 2010 BCS National Championship.

Today the fairy tale is long over and Auburn has a losing record, even worse the Tigers are now at the bottom of the SEC brotherhood. Continued success has been a rarity since clinching the crystal ball, and Gene Chizik has lost the support of his fan base, as many are calling for his job. Chizik is now 9-9 (.500) since that perfect season, and 22-33 if you date back to his less than perfect days as the head coach of Iowa State.

Gene Chizik was 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State, which outraged the Auburn community and caused doubt in the coach’s ability to compete in arguably the deepest conference in college football.

Chizik’s tenure at Iowa State is clouded not only by a losing record of 5-19, but a replacement that has succeeded the embattled coach, with upsets against then-No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 22 Texas, and No. 19 Texas Tech. The Iowa State Cyclones are currently 5-1 on the season. These stats only add fire to the controversy surrounding the Gene Chizik era in Auburn.

Right now the only hope for Gene Chizik and his coaching staff’s future is to preserve what they can from this season – namely the teams unity, morale and respect for each other. Only then could they possibly save Chizik’s job and salvage what’s left of an embarrassing season. Where is the curator Jay Jacobs in all of this?