Because even as Alabama, Auburn and Jacksonville State ready for Saturday’s season-openers, we’re hardly running out of silly season.
Auburn enters game week for its season-opener against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff fresh off of more off-field news — center Reese Dismukes’ early-Saturday arrest for public intoxication and resulting suspension.
There has been plenty of real and disturbing off-field news around Auburn since the 2011 season, but we’re talking silly season here. Dismukes’ suspension comes just weeks after reports about Auburn recruit Reuben Foster’s transfer to Auburn High School were off by one governing body.
It was the Alabama High School Athletic Association, not the National Collegiate Athletic Association, who looked into his transfer. Oh, and the AHSAA was cool with it.
As for Jacksonville State’s opener Saturday at Arkansas, what else to discuss, besides JSU coach Jack Crowe’s history with Arkansas? The game is not exactly a highly anticipated national matchup.
It was amusing, however, to see news of JSU players dunking Crowe on Friday — almost exactly 20 years after Arkansas did something similar.
At least Alabama will play a highly attractive matchup against Michigan in the Cowboys Classic, but let’s have one last hurrah for silly season. Research has turned up some history-based silliness.
Hint: Al Borges.
Auburn: Center of attention
While Auburn reels from yet another off-field episode, Dismukes’ suspension has scary on-field implications for the Tigers.
The center anchors the offensive line, and Dismukes was one of only two returning starters who started every game at his position a year ago.
He’s also the guy who has to get the ball to the quarterback, one of those seemingly automatic football details until it’s not. One missed center-quarterback exchange can become that one turnover that makes all the difference in a close game.
That missed exchange seems even more likely, considering that Auburn has a new starting quarterback, just named Thursday.
Also, the Tigers’ quarterbacks have spent this offseason learning to work under center again in new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s pro-style offense. This comes after four years of shotgun work in spread offenses.
What could possibly go wrong with a sudden change at center a week out from the season-opener?
Auburn just gave back whatever edge it might have gained with Clemson suspending wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Alabama: The Borges factor
OK, so this is one of those just-sayin’ segments that cites history and implies implications for the present.
Borges is Michigan’s offensive coordinator. He has a dangerous college quarterback in Denard Robinson, and he’ll face an Alabama defense playing its first game after replacing a bunch of departed stars.
So, beating Borges in the present would be noteworthy for this Alabama team, but the fact that Alabama hasn’t beaten Borges’ teams in the past would make it sweeter.
Borges was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2004-07, and Auburn won those Iron Bowls 21-13, 28-18, 22-15 and 17-10. That last one, in 2007, was Borges’ last game at Auburn.
There’s also the matter of Alabama’s 35-24 loss to UCLA in the 2000 opener. Borges was in his last year with the Bruins then.
Borges’ offenses faced only one Alabama defense influenced by current head coach Nick Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart (2007), and Borges’ old teams didn’t exactly catch Alabama at its best. A promising 2000 devolved into a meltdown, and the losses to Auburn came as the Tide suffered the reaching effects of NCAA sanctions and coaching turmoil.
Then again, the Crimson Tide came into those games with the higher-ranked team twice. It was third-ranked Alabama against unranked UCLA in 2000 and No. 8 Alabama against No. 11 Auburn in 2005.
Did we mention this was a just-sayin’ segment?
It will be interesting to see if Saturday in Dallas becomes Big Al’s day or just another day for big Al.
Jacksonville State: Memory lane
It’s possible to overblow Crowe’s history with Arkansas. Half of Arkansas’ current students weren’t born when he last coached a game there, and the other half was in diapers.
It is, however, interesting to review twists and turns that have befallen Crowe and Arkansas since Frank Broyles canned him one game into the 1992 season.
Crowe has long since moved on and exorcised the demons of that loss to The Citadel in the 1992 opener, beating Ole Miss in JSU’s 2010 opener. He’s coached long enough to be on both sides of an App Stating.
He’s now 13 years into by far the longest gig of his coaching career, the “dean of Ohio Valley Conference coaches,” and his JSU bosses hardly seem reactionary. He appears likely to coach out his contract, even as some elements of JSU’s fan base crow for change.
Arkansas has an all-new cast of characters, and it just fired the coach many saw as its best chance to reach college football’s pinnacle.
Arkansas fired Bobby Petrino for reasons far more embarrassing than a loss to a lower-subdivision team. Some at Arkansas might have wished for an on-field distraction as revelations about Petrino’s ride with a female employee half his age (and not his wife) gained legs.
Is there a moral to time’s twists and turns for Crowe and Arkansas? Nope. Did I mention it’s possible to overblow this thing?
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.